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And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples.
The preparatory mission of the apostles
I. Their mission.
II. Their charge.
1. He prescribes their route.
2. He prescribes their doctrine.
3. He prescribes their work.
4. He prescribes the spirit they should display.
III. Their return. (J. Bennett, D. D.)
Gave them power
At first the apostles had a smaller gospel (they had not got the cross to preach) and a larger power of miracles; afterwards less miracles but more gospel; but always a sufficient equipment. You have not to make bricks without straw; Christ gives you power for every duty. (Revelation R. Glover.)
Healing the sick
medical missions. Dr. Duncan Main of the Mid-China Medical Mission, gives a remarkable instance, quoted in the Church Missionary Society’s Report, of what he terms a remarkable case of cure both of body and soul. The Chinese woman he tended is the wife of a tailor, living at Ju-yang. “She was,” says the doctor, “brought to our hospital in the beginning of 1883, suffering from an ulcerated leg of the very worst description. As soon as I saw the advanced state of the disease, I told the husband that there was nothing for the limb but amputation.” To this the man most decidedly refused his consent, “and,” continues Dr. Main, “pleaded with me to allow her to remain in the hospital and attempt a cure on other terms. She remained six weeks, and at the end of that period no signs of healing were apparent, and as the husband could not consent to the operation, he reluctantly took his poor wife home, carrying her on his back from the hospital, both of them in tears. A few months later I visited Ju-yang, where the patient was carried to the Mission-room in a large basket. She was by this time worse in every way, so that when they entreated me to re-admit her and perform the amputation, I declined the risk, until overpowered by their pitiful condition. A week later she was again in the female ward, and after some time devoted to raising her system by diet and tonics, I decided at the husband’s renewed request to attempt the operation. Whilst attending her daily in this interval, Mrs. Main had spoken frequently to her about salvation through Christ, and she gave good evidence of being a new creature in Christ Jesus, which seemed to justify our acceding, with the bishop’s approval and assistance, to her request for baptism, before she underwent the hazardous trial. This was done, and special prayer was offered in the ward next day before the operation commenced. Her cheerfulness at the time was remarkable, and contributed to secure the extremely favourable result. The stump healed rapidly, and a fairly satisfactory wooden leg being made by a native joiner, under my directions, she was actually taken to church, more than a quarter of a mile, to return thanks and confess her faith in Christ, so we had the joy of seeing her walking and praising God. Her husband, who wished to be baptized on that occasion, but was deferred for further instruction, has since been admitted to the church at Ju-yang, whither they returned shortly after the completion of the cure. Her age, as well as the extremity to which suffering had reduced her system, made the successful amputation a subject of special thankfulness to myself and all connected with the hospital.” And we have many well-authenticated instances on record of marvellous answers to prayer in the cure of sickness, even when, from some circumstance or other, medical aid was not at hand. Of course, fanaticism has exaggerated this, and has tried to prove that medicine is of no use, and that it is sinful to consult physicians. As is well known a sect has arisen, professing these doctrines, and calling itself “ The Peculiar People,” but this must not blind us to real facts. Here is an instance from a German tract. “A remarkable answer to prayer is furnished to us by the true Christian and upright statesman, J. J. yon Moser, during the time of his long and unjust imprisonment in the fortress of Hohentivial in Wurtemberg, from 1759 to 1764. ‘In Hohentivial,’ he writes, ‘I was for a long time seriously ill from lumbago and other severe pains in the limbs. I could scarcely move, and had to support myself with a stick in one hand and a crutch in the other. On one occasion, three gentlemen paying me a visit in my prison, I apologized to them for not being able to rise and receive them. One of my visitors, Dr. Eppli, perceiving the crutch and staff lying on the table, exclaimed, “Heaven preserve us. What horrible tools!” I replied, “I thank God that He has made the wood which furnishes these useful supports.” Scarcely had my visitors gone, ere I found myself able to stand. I walked up and down a step or two, and found myself perfectly able to dispense with crutches.’ He never used them again.”
Christ the preacher’s powder
Let our one theme be Christ, not our own whims and fancies and crotchets, but Him. Rather ourselves out of sight, unknown, unthought of, hidden in the excess of light which streams from Him. You are familiar with the story of the artist who undertook the task of painting the portrait of our Lord. When complete, you remember, he thought it needed some embellishments, which were therefore supplied. When the picture was exhibited, to his horror and disappointment the attention of the beholders was diverted from the grand central figure to the flowers and trees which grew around. Without the slightest hesitation or remorse, he grasped his brush and obliterated everything that withdrew the mind from that which should fascinate every eye. The moral is obvious. (Burr.)
Now the names of the twelve apostles.
Thoughts on a list of names
A good deal may be made out of a list of names, but it depends on whose names they are. There is a book which has nothing in it but names-that book would interest the universe-“the Lamb’s book of life.” We may look on the men-
1. They are selected, chosen, set apart by Christ as apostles. The marvellous results which have flowed from this selection. Their story has moved the world. The world persecuted them, but now falls at their feet.
2. The little power naturally there would seem to have been in these men to have produced any great results. Men of no rank. If the work had not been of God, it could not have been done.
3. There is the list complete. Twelve men are selected, yet few of them stand out in full length in the history. Every true worker God observes.
4. The name may be in the list of the apostles, but the man may not be there. Judas in the list, he not there.
II. Personally. We may read it as a list of persons in the Church.
1. The gospel embraces persons of different tempers and tastes, yet all part of one Church.
2. How the good cause may be advanced by relationship. Here are three pairs of brothers in the list.
3. That a catalogue might be made out of a church book of those whose previous lives had been rather questionable.
4. How we can understand the Christian mellowing with age, the better nature grows and is perfected. (T. Binney.)
Called to the ministry
The attorney that pleads at the bar may have as good gifts as the judge that sits upon the bench; but he must have a lawful commission before he sit as a judge: if it be thus in civil matters, much more in church matters, which are of higher concern. Those, therefore, who usurp the work of the ministry without being solemnly set apart for it, discover more pride than zeal, and they can expect no blessing. (T. Watson.)
Groups of apostles
It can hardly be without significance that in all the apostolic lists they are divided into the same three groups. In the first group we should naturally expect to find the men of the largest and strongest make-those whose capacity and force of character would fit them to lead the rest. And this expectation is justified by the event. Peter and Andrew, James and John, are the natural leaders of the apostolic company. We might almost call them the Boanergic group, so marked and emphatic is the strain of passion in their service. In the second group are well-known and well-marked men. They are all reflective men, all sceptical men. Philip is the leader, and he was a man that would rather see than believe. They are excellent and thoughtful men, but they will not do much for the world apart from men of a more forward and adventurous spirit than their own. They all believe, but they all have a good deal of unbelief in them. The third group we may call the Hebraistic or practical group-Hebraistic in virtue of one set of qualities which they have in common, and practical in virtue of another set of qualities. They held stoutly to the older Hebrew forms of truth and righteousness; and they were at least as much Hebrew as Christian even to the end. But, on the other hand, all the apostles of this group were men of evidently practical gifts; and this is especially seen in Judas “of the apron,” Judas “of the bag,” a man chosen to carry the bag because he was careful, prudent, busy, good at buying and selling, conversant with the world. (T. T. Lynch.)
Early Church symbols of the apostles
In a series of enamels, by Leonard Limousin, in the Church of St. Peter, at Chartres, the apostles are represented with different insignia. St. Peter with the keys, as commissioned with the power to bind and to loose. St. Paul with a sword, as a soldier of Christ, armed with the “ sword of the Spirit.” St. Andrew with a cross, shaped as the letter X, the form of the cross on which he is supposed to have been martyred. St. John with a chalice, in allusion to Matthew 20:23. St. James the Less with a book and a club, in allusion to the supposed manner of his death. St. James the Elder with a pilgrim’s staff, a broad hat with scallop shells, and a book, he being regarded as the patron of pilgrims. St. Thomas with an architect’s square, as patron of architects and builders. St. Philip with a small cross, the staff of which is knotted like a reed, and indicates the traveller’s staff, and marks the apostle as the preacher of Christ crucified to distant nations. St. Matthew with a pike (or spear): St. Matthias with an axe; St. Bartholomew with a book and a knife; St. Simon with a saw; these indicating the different modes of their death, according to the legendary accounts. (Dict. of Antiquities.)
John his brother
God often unites by grace those whom He has before united by nature; to show us, that although nature be not a step towards grace, yet it is not always a hindrance to it. (Quesuel.)
Matthew the publican.
Matthew the publican
I. The power, and grace of the divine call. Power is measured by the amount or degree of resistance which it is able to overcome. There were three chief obstacles in the way of this man’s conversion.
1. His business exposed hint constantly to temptations which were well nigh irresistible.
2. The standard of morality recognized by his associates was proverbially low.
3. He had no character to sustain.
II. A sinner’s conversion is a cause of joy.
III. Converted souls desire to promote the conversion others.
IV. Matthew’s chief characteristic was humility. (W. F. Bishop.)
The tax-collector who became a bishop
St. Matthew’s example led to one of the holiest lives recorded in the annals of the early Church. One of the most able and useful men of the North African Church was the Bishop Nulgertius. He had originally been receiver of taxes, but it one day occurred to him: “May I not be like Matthew, become from a tax-gatherer a preacher of the gospel.” He accordingly left his worldly employment, became an ecclesiastic, and was ultimately a most useful bishop.
A humble acknowledger of an unworthy past
We read the histories of such persons with vast interest and pleasure; and there is one circumstance which you generally meet with, and which always peculiarly engages our attention, and that is, the remembrance which these men had in their elevation of the poverty and obscurity from which they had been raised. You will commonly find that they had kept about them some memento of the insignificance of their origin, as though they felt a pride in reminding others and themselves how little they owed to the achievements of ancestors. In the splendid halls in which their latter days were spent, they have delighted to hang pictures of the hovels in which they were born: so that the stranger passing through the magnificent scene, after admiring a thousand gorgeous works of art, and confessing the grandeur and taste of their owner, might come suddenly on the representation of a lowly cottage, and learning that this cottage was the home of the parents of the man who had possessed himself of all this glory, might have a feeling of far higher reverence and wonder, than if there had been spread before him the evidences of a most illustrious pedigree. And it is very curious to observe how the biographers of such a man will labour to throw some “kind of lustre around his origin, as though they could not bear that their hero should be deficient in aught to which the world attaches worth. (H. Melvill.)
Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.
A chapter in human biography
I. Early opportunity. Called to be an apostle. Sharing, too, in the prayers of Christ (Luke 6:12-13). His gifts marked him out for certain work. That work fell to his lot. Possibilities of such a calling.
II. Growth of evil (John 6:64-71; John 12:1-6).
III. The price of a soul (John 13:1-38.; Matthew 26:14-16).
IV. The end (John 18:2-5; Matthew 27:3-5; Acts 1:18; Acts 1:25, with Matthew 27:5). The sentence of the Master upon his life and his work is this, “It were better for this man that he had never been born. (G. T. Kerble.)
A wicked minister
Let us adore the unsearchable judgment of God, in the choice of a wicked minister, whose unworthiness He knew. Let us learn from hence that no merit gives a right to the ministry, but the sole choice of God alone. Jesus Christ would not put saints into it, to oblige us not to judge of the holiness of the Church by certain of her ministers. He would not put into it any of the rich, noble, powerful, or learned, for fear lest men should affix ecclesiastical dignities to temporal advantages. Let us bear with the bad patiently; let us adore Jesus Christ and His authority degraded in them, yet without the virtue of His ordinances thereby suffering anything; and herein let us be assured that it is Jesus Christ who effects all in them, even by the most unworthy workmen. (Quesuel.)
These twelve Jesus sent forth.
Unrecorded workers and heroes
Half of “these twelve” are never heard of again as doing any work for Christ. That fact may suggest some considerations worth pondering.
I. This peculiar and unexpected silence suggests the true worker in the church’s progress. Let us not over-estimate men. What confidence it ought to give us as we think of the tasks and fortunes of the Church!
II. Suggests what the real work of those delegated workers was.
III. How often faithful work is unrecorded and forgotten.
IV. Forgotten work is remembered, and unrecorded names are recorded above. (Dr. A. Maclaren.)
And as ye go, preach.
Preaching and going
I. Who are to preach?
II. What are they to preach? “The kingdom of heaven.” etc. Then we must speak of the King. Tell them He is King of grief, grace, and glory.
III. When are they to preach? “As ye go.”
1. We are always on the go in this busy world.
2. “As ye go”-travelling.
3. While you are walking.
4. As long as you live.
IV. Where are we to preach? “ Go not into the way of the Gentiles,” etc. To kith and kin first.
V. Why are we to preach? “Freely ye have received.” (T. Spurgeon.)
Preaching first to our own kith and kin
Do you remember how it was with Samson? He found honey in the carcase of the lion which he had himself destroyed; and when he found the honey he, like a very sensible man, took of it and did eat; and he went along eating, with his hands full of honey. I do not know whether he had not time to eat it all up before he got to the end of the journey; but I am inclined to think that he was not so selfish as to wish to keep it all to himself. At all events, we read that when he got to the house of his father and of his mother he gave them of the honey, and they did eat. Hast thou found honey? Have it not to thyself? Take it home to those who have it not. And, Saviour, there is no honey that drops from earthly honeycombs like Thy love-“sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.” (H. W. Beecher.)
Heal the sick.
Heal the sick
I. A confirmation of our sincerity.
II. An illustration of the completeness Of Christianity.
1. Its concern with the whole nature of man.
2. Its care for the individual.
III. A revelation Of the Spirit of the Lord.
IV. An undoubted mode of serving the Christ Himself. (U. R. Thomas.)
Cleanse the lepers.-
History of leprosy
Leprosy is a disease with which we are happily so little acquainted in Western lauds that the miraculous power exerted by our Lord and His apostles in connection with it does not strike us with the wonder and admiration it must have occasioned in early times, It is, in the passage before us, distinguished from sickness-“Heal the sick” and” Cleanse the lepers,” being distinct commands. For leprosy was the special disease of Palestine; was looked upon as a type of sin, was in most cases incurable, and was one that necessitated separation, as indeed it does at the present day, though what is now termed leprosy, Elephantiasis Groecorum, is distinct from the Lepra Mosaics to which the Israelites from the period of their bondage in Egypt to the time of our Lord, were subject. But the former disease, like the latter, is of Eastern origin, and is thought to have been brought into Europe by the Crusaders, while others affirm that it was introduced in the tenth and eleventh centuries by the Moors and Arabs, who not only conquered the larger part of Spain, but penetrated much further into Europe than is generally known, reaching, it is believed, even as far as Switzerland. Its frequency in various parts of Europe through the Middle Ages is shown by the word “Lazar,” for hospital, which referred to Lazarus, because he was “full of sores,” and these hospitals were intended primarily for lepers. Most great towns in England had their “ St. Giles’s Gate,” outside which these wretched beings were housed to avoid infection, St. Giles being the patron saint of lepers. This was generally a particularly low and wretched part of the town-St. Giles’s Church in London and the Gilligate at Durham are instances. The laws to prevent the spread of leprosy were very stringent, sometimes even cruel. At Edinburgh, for instance, there was at one time a statute that if any person harboured a leper in their house, he was, among other penalties, to be branded in the cheek. There is only one country in Northern Europe in which this dire disease is still frequent, Norway. From want of vigorous measures to stamp it out leprosy is common in that country, and there is a large leper hospital at Christiania, the capital. In England isolated instances are met with-for instance, at Marazide, in Cornwall, there lived some years ago a person most grievously afflicted with Elephantiasis Groecorum, a form of the disease in which the extremities swell to a great size, and sometimes fall off. In the Holy Land, at the present day, as well as in Greece and Spain, this form of leprosy is far from uncommon. Ewald gives a thrilling account of a village near Jerusalem which is exclusively inhabited by lepers-about one hundred in number at the time he visited it. “This unfortunate and pitiable race,” he says, “are compelled to live separate from all. The malady appears generally when they are about twelve or fourteen years old, and increases every year, till they lose literally one limb after the other. As they grow older their sight fails, their throat and lungs become infected, till death ends their protracted sufferings. They live upon the alms which they receive from pilgrims and others.” In South Africa the disease is very frequent, more especially among the negroes and Hottentots. Very little care was taken to tend or isolate these unfortunate sufferers while the Dutch were in possession of Cape Colony, since they mostly belonged to the despised black race, but when the English came into power in 1810 a settlement was appointed for the lepers at a place called by the Dutch Hemel en Aaede (Heaven on Earth), which seems a most inappropriate name, but that the devoted labours of the Moravian missionary Lehmann sweetened the lot of these unhappy ones. In 1845 the settlement was removed to Robber Island, nearly opposite Cape Town, where the lepers, it was thought, would be more completely isolated, and would enjoy the benefit of sea-air. There the devoted Lehmann continued his ministrations, having under his spiritual charge a motley assemblage of English, Germans, Frenchmen, Malays, Swedes, Africans, only alike in their misfortune.
Freely ye have received, freely give.-
Freely ye have received, freely give
I. A very profitable recollection. Have you received at all? How have we received? “Freely.”
1. Look at your own personal salvation.
2. Look at the abundance of grace given you.
3. Look at the treasures set before you.
II. The constraining obligation-“Freely give.”
1. Think what you have to give, give your own selves, your substance, your prayers.
2. How you are to give. (C. Bridges, M. A.)
I. Consider the privileges which have been so freely bestowed upon us. The value of the gospel seen-
1. From our Lord’s commission to His disciples.
2. The labours attendant on the execution of that commission.
II. The duty resulting from these privileges.
1. Freely give your money, influence, and ability.
2. Freely give your friends and relatives to engage in this great missionary work.
3. Freely give yourselves, your lives to this great work.
4. Freely give your prayers. (J. B. Sumpter, M. A.)
The philosophy of benevolence
I. Giving is an act of consecration.
II. It is an act of grace.
III. It is an act of communion.
IV. It is a privilege. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Freely ye have received
1. Manifested in creation.
4. All these blessings come freely.
5. The favourable administrations of providence. (R. Alliott.)
The best place for a fortune
When a gentleman, who had been accustomed to give away some thousands, was supposed to be at the point of death, his presumptive heir inquired where his fortune was to be found. To whom he answered, “that it was in the pockets of the indigent.”
The gospel gratis
In The Indian Female Evangelist for September of this year, we meet with rather a pleasing illustration of this verse, in the report given by a native Bible-woman, who accompanied the missionary, Mr. Harding and his wife, on an evangelizing tour of 180 miles in the Bombay Presidency, in a bullock-cart. At one place they came to, she says, “We had so many openings in the town here to-day. There were several of us who went, and at times we divided into two companies. We must have gone to six places. One interesting-looking lad followed us around, waiting patiently for his time to come, when we could follow him to his home. We gladly did so, and had a large company in front of his mother’s house and yard. He tried to slip a few coppers into our hands but we refused, for as we have received freely, we are glad to give freely.” But the boy’s offer was gratifying, as showing how the work was appreciated. Freely … St. Helanon healed very many sick persons, but would not receive any gifts from them, not so much as a morsel of bread; for he was wont to say, “Gratis ye have received, gratis give.” He replied to a certain nobleman whom he had delivered from a legion of devils, and who urgently pressed him to receive a gift, at least that he might distribute it among the poor, “Be not grieved, my son at what I do, for I do it for thy sake as well as my own. If I should receive this I should offend God, and the legion would return to thee.”
Provide neither gold.
The enthusiasm of poverty
It is impossible not to admire the noble enthusiasm of poverty which showed itself in the literal adoption of such rules by the followers of Francis of Assisi, and, to some extent, by those of Wiclif; but the history of the Mendicant Orders, and other like fraternities, forms part of that teaching of history which has led men to feel that in the long-run the beggar’s life will bring the beggar’s vices. Yet here, as in the case of the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount, the spirit is binding still, though the letter has passed away. The mission work of the Church has ever prospered in proportion as that spirit has pervaded it. (E. H. Plumptre.)
Without a purse
The word purse here literally signifies girdle, those worn by the Jews were made hollow, so as to contain money. A sort of purse convenient, light, and secure. In like manner, the long sleeves worn by the Japanese serve them in lieu of purses. This custom of missionaries going out with little store of money is carried out in its greatest literality among the Moravians who give their missionaries the incredibly small salary of five pounds a year. For anything they require beyond what this sum will procure, they have to apply to the committee of the missionary society. Once, when St. Antony was on a journey, he saw an immense piece of gold. He admired the size of the piece of metal, and ran as fast as he could to his mountain, as though he were running from a fire. Whenever money was offered to St. Vincent as he was preaching through the villages, he refused it, and forbade his companions accepting it. St. Francis was wont to say that “money to the servants of God is nothing else than a devil and a poisonous snake.” Our Lord gave His disciples this precept for three reasons;
(1) That being free from all earthly affections and cares, they should depend entirely upon God’s providence;
(2) That they should be wholly intent upon preaching the gospel, and give all their thoughts and cares to that;
(3) That they might give to all nations an illustrious example of simplicity, poverty, and contempt of riches, whereby they might draw all men to love and admiration of the heavenly life.
Neither two coats.
No need for two coats
Eastern people are accustomed to sleep in the garments they have on during the (lay: and in this climate such plain people experience no inconvenience Item so doing. (W. M. Thomson D. D.)
And there abide.
(1) That they might not appear changeable:
(2) That they might not hurt the feelings of their first host;
(3) That they might not incur the charge of being gluttonous hankerers after the boards of the rich. (Lapide.)
Free hospitality in the East
When travelling in the East no one need scruple to go into the best house of any Arab village to which he comes, and he will be received with profuse and gratuitous hospitality. From the moment we entered any house, it was regarded as our earn. 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. (Ernest Renan.)
And if the house be worthy.
The happy family
Illustrate the transcendent importance of religion by presenting some of the leading characteristics of the family which is governed by its influence.
I. The general aim of its arrangements.
II. Its department of education.
III. Its every-day pursuits-its ordinary habits and dispositions.
IV. Amid the sacred employment of the sabbath,
V. In its seasons of prosperity and adversity.
VI. In its final union in heaven. (J. Nilson, A. M.)
The peaceful salutation
1. The clergyman is to be the minister of peace.
2. But it all depends upon adaptation-the peace is to the house, but the question whether “ the house “ or any one in it can say, the “peace” turns upon the point of adaptation. “If the house is worthy” i.e., if there be fitness in the house to receive it. What that peace means:
1. It is peace with God.
2. It is peace through the blood of Jesus Christ.
3. It is a peace within.
4. It is peace with the whole world. (J. Vaughan M. A.)
It is a principle which pervades everything. To select the congenial soil, or by art to make it congenial to the seed, is the secret of husbandry. The man of physical science is certain of the properties and powers of natural substances; but his difficulty is to secure that the state of the recipient match with its virtues. In the most exquisite and delicate of modern inventions, the capability of the ray of light to leave its impression, is invariable and undoubted; the science lies in procuring a material which is capable to take and to retain it. Nothing lives, nothing really exercises its being, but in that to which it stands in a certain sympathy and proportion. So grace is to the gracious, and “ peace to the men of peace.” (J. Vaughan M. A.)
Saluting a house
When a Persian enters an assembly, after having left his shoes without, he makes the usual salutation of “ Peace be unto you,” which is addressed to the whole assembly-as it were, saluting the house. (Morier.)
Shake off the dust of your feet.
-The sin of the Sodomites was single, but that of those rejecting the apostles would be manifold, including
(5) rebellion and contumacy against God, contrary to the law of nature, and in defiance of the grace of God. (Lapide.)
The danger of defilement
The danger of course was not from dust on the feet, but from defilement on the life and in the heart. Every apostle was to let his impenitent countrymen know that they were “as heathen men in the sight of the Messiah,” impure in the estimation of the infinitely Holy One. The spirit of the injunction runs through all the ages, and has come down to our day. Its spirit, but its spirit only. And hence a very heavy responsibility rests on that minister of the gospel who gives no intimation of any kind to the impenitent with whom he associates, that they are impure in the sight of God, and in danger of eternal separation from the good. (James Morison, D. D.)
Behold, I send you forth.
Christ foretells coming evils and persecutions to His apostles
(1) that they may learn His foreknowledge;
(2) that they may not suppose such things happen through lack of power in their Master;
(3) that they may not be suddenly overcome;
(4) that they may not be troubled at the time of the Cross. (Chrysostom.)
The forlorn hope
Albanus, the Captain-General of the army of Charles V., had four hundred stout and resolute youths, who were prodigal of life and devoted to death, called the forlorn hope. In a battle he despatched these against the strongest part of the enemy’s ranks, that by their audacity and determination to die, they might throw those ranks into confusion, and so prepare the way for victory. Thus devoted and prodigal of his life let the messenger of Christ deem himself, that he may subdue unbelievers to Christ the Conqueror. Such a one did Xavier deem himself, when he was going to India, and said to his weeping friends, “Do merchants at such expense and such peril, prodigal of life, sail to India from zeal for earthly merchandize; and shall not I go thither for the sake of God and souls?”
Wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.-
The union of simplicity and prudence
These words were addressed by Christ to His disciples when He sent them for the first time to publish the kingdom of God. The dove has been regarded by all nations as the symbol of innocence. Harmless signifies properly in the original what is not armed with horns to attack, what has not teeth to bite, what has not a sting to wound; in a moral point of view, what has no intention to injure. Thus simplicity is unsuspecting, and is the companion of innocence. It extends to all the parts of our being. It knows the truth by intuition. It trusts itself calmly to God. It passes through the most impenetrable labyrinths without embarrassment. Prudence, on the contrary, supposes the existence of evil in man and in the world. We have to” beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” (Matthew 16:6). We must combine simplicity with prudence. Some Christians are simple without having prudence; some are prudent without simplicity. Without knowing how to unite the two, you may by a badly enlightened and rash confidence in Divine Providence reckon on help which you ought to have sought by the right use of means, and so compromise success in the family, or plan, or Church. Through not having tact to choose your means of action, and apply them to different persons, you may do more harm than good for Christ. Through over-confidence you may commit yourself to the first hypocrite. On other occasions the goodness of your heart leads you astray. At other times you hurry on what ought to have been done gradually. Prudence may go too far
(1) when you have undue fear of the approbation of the world for all you do; or when you are destitute of all fear of its opposition;
(2) when it gives undue attention to difficulties which the imagination likes to magnify. (Dr. Grandpierre.)
The serpent as a teacher. Jesus says that, in view of every kind of danger, we are to be as sagacious and prudent as the serpent. The serpent is very careful about its-
I. Healer. Be anxious for the safety of your bodies and minds. Be doubly anxious about the safety of your hearts. Why the Bible says so much about the heart.
II. Eyes. As your bodies have eyes, so have your souls. It is with the eyes of your souls that you are to see your duties to God and man, and the way in which you are to be saved-“Open thou,” etc. Bead a part of the Bible every day.
III. An approaching storm. Knows when a storm is coming, etc. There are moral as well as physical storms. Jesus is the refuge from the storm.
IV. Temptation. In the East there are a great number of serpent charmers, etc. Guard against every form of music which is not healthy, pure, and godly, etc. (Dr. Alex. McAuslane.)
Sheep among wolves
I. Their prominent vocation-“Behold, I send you forth.”
1. These disciples had been with Him, and had been taught by Him, that they might teach in His name. The mode of operation in the kingdom of God is, first make disciples, teach them, and then let them go forth and do the same with others. When one light is kindled other candles are lit therefrom. Drops of heavenly water are flashed aloft and scattered all around like dew upon the face of the earth, and behold each one begetteth a fountain where it fails, and thus the desert is made to rejoice and blossom.
2. To go after the lost sheep.
3. He sent them forth to work miracles. We have not this power; it is more to God’s glory that the world should be conquered by the force of truth than by the blaze of miracles.
II. Their imminent peril-“As sheep in the midst of wolves.”
1. Amongst those who will not in any way sympathize with your efforts. The bleating sheep finds no harmony in the howl of the wolf.
2. Amongst those who would rend them.
3. Amongst those who would hinder their endeavours.
4. We are powerless against them. What can a sheep do if a wolf sets upon it?
5. It is trying “work for the sheep.
6. It is testing work.
7. It is teaching work.
III. Their eminent authority-“I send you forth.”
1. The Lord of the harvest.
2. “I,” who prize you.
3. “I,” who have gone on the same errand Myself.
4. “I,” who overcame in the very character in which I send you.” “The Lamb shall overcome them.”
IV. Their permanent instructions.
1. Be prudent and wise as a serpent.
(1) It gets out of the way of man as much as it can.
(2) It glides along very quietly.
(3) Famous for finding his way where no other creature could enter.
2. The innocence of the dove. (C. H. Spurgeon)
Grace blending the subtle with the gentle
Grace knows how to pick the good out of the evil, the jewel out of the oyster shell, the diamond from the dunghill, the sagacity from the serpent; and by a Divine chemistry it leaves the good which it takes out of the foul place as good as though it had never been there. Grace knows how to blend the most gentle with the most subtle; to take away from prudence the base element which makes it into cunning, and, by mingling innocence with it, produce a sacred prudence most valuable for all walks of life. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Wherein we should not be like the serpent
1. The serpent eats dust (Isaiah 65:24.)
2. The serpent is deceitful.
3. The serpent casts the coat, but another new coat comes in the room; we should not cast off one sin, and another as bad come in the room.
4. The serpent is a venomous creature, and is full of poison (Psalms 58:4.)
5. The serpent is given to hissing; we should not hiss out reproaches.
6. The serpent stops her ear.
7. The serpent casts her coat, but keeps her sting; we should not east off outward acts of sin, and keep the love of sin.
8. Serpents are chased away with sweet perfumes,
Wherein we should be like the serpent
1. The serpent hath a subtlety in his eye, a singular sharpness of sight. Get the serpent’s eye, have a quick insight into the mysteries of religion.
2. The serpent hath a prudence and subtlety in his ear: will not be deluded by the voice of the charmer.
3. The serpent hath a chief care to defend his head; so we our head from error,
We should be as doves
1. In respect of meekness.
2. In respect of innocency.
3. In respect of purity,
Wherein does the Christian join these two together
1. To be sensible of injury but not revenge it.
2. To be humble but not base.
3. To defend the truth by argument, and adorn it by life. (J. Watson.)
In doves there are many things commendable
3. Fruitfulness. Most months in the year they bring forth young.
4. Amity. They love their mates.
5. Unity. They live in companies.
6. Their innocence. (T. Adams.)
Prudence of serpent and wisdom of dove
I. What our lord recommends to our thoughts, esteem, and practice. Wisdom is a solid knowledge of things spiritual, especially such as relate to practice. Harmlessness or innocence intimates purity, and meekness, mildness, and wrathlessness.
II. The way our lord takes to insinuate his advice.
1. The standard that is fixed, or the creatures of whom we are to learn the things recommended.
2. The conformity that is required to that standard.
III. The connection fixed between the two things recommended.
1. There is no real inconsistency between them.
2. They mutually help each other to appear with greater lustre. (E. Calamy.)
Prevalence combined with innocence
This beautifies a Christian, when he hath the serpent’s eye in the dove’s head. We must have the innocency of the dove, that we may not betray the truth; and the wisdom of the serpent, that we may not betray ourselves. In short, religion without policy, is too weak to be safe; policy without religion is too subtle to be good. When wisdom and innocency, like Castor and Pollux, appear together, they presage the soul’s happiness. (T. Watson.)
Wise-not as foxes, whose cunning is to deceive others; but as serpents, whose policy is only to defend themselves, and to shift for their own safety. (Matthew Henry.)
The ‘dove’ qualification helpful in Christian work
As Francis Xavier was preaching in one of the cities of Japan, a man went up to him, pretending he had something to communicate in private. Upon his approach Xavier leaned his head, to hear what he had to say. The scorner thus gained his object, which was to spit freely upon the face of the devoted missionary, and thus insult him in the most public manner. Xavier, without speaking a word or showing any sign of annoyance, took out his handkerchief, wiped his face, and went on with his sermon, as if nothing had happened to interrupt him. By such a heroic control of his passions, the scorn of the audience was turned into admiration. The most learned doctor of the city, who happened to be present, said to himself that a law which taught men such virtue, inspired them with such courage, and gave them such complete mastery over themselves, could not but be from God. Afterwards he desired baptism, and his example was followed by many others. So effectually did the meekness of the missionary promote the success of his work.
For it is not ye that speak.
The Christian ministry a ministry of the Spirit
The text applied-
I. To the apostles.
1. The primary reference is to the apostles.
2. The fact of the Spirit of the Father speaking in the apostles is evident from the effects produced by their word.
II. To ourselves.
1. This is the dispensation of the Spirit.
2. The minister of the Spirit prepares diligently for his pulpit ministrations. (C. Clayton, M. A.)
The intuitional element in lift,
The disciples were a helpless body of men for thinking purposes, and could not imagine beforehand, in their simplicity and rudeness and ignorance, what would be best for them; but if they gave themselves wholly to the ministry of Christ, and then were called before magistrates, it would be given them in that hour what they should say. The range of saying was very limited. It was not that they should understand all theology, providence, learning; but the power of self-defence against magistrates. They were to maintain innocency and simplicity; not to be tricked into casuistry.
1. The nation and times from which the sacred Scriptures came were anterior to the philosophizing period which was ushered in later. Facts, events, things, emotions, belong to the periods which generated the Scriptures.
2. Every man recognizes the fact that the mind acts with different degrees of clearness and certainty under different conditions. The range of the eye is limited, but in perfect health you can see more clearly than when health is impaired; also when atmospheric conditions are favourable. So it is with faculty. The faculties of the mind have a wonderful power of development. The limit to which you can draw out the mind-for that is the meaning of education-is immense. But that is not the only limit of the expansible faculties of the mind. They are subject to instantaneous development. As a grain of powder, which is small, but which, when touched by fire, expands instantly into a thousand times its bulk and diameter, and generates a power that was unsuspected before, so the mental faculties can be touched with a fire that shall give them an immense flash and scope and penetration utterly unlike the ordinary experience of men in life. (Beecher.)
A latent prophetic gift in man
There is a latent spirit of prophecy in everybody who is highly organized. This action of the mind is seen in lower forms. Take, for example, the inspiration which fear breeds. If a man’s leading idea is gold, he has an instinct by which he avoids things unfavourable. Others work on the plane of philosophical power. Scholars have the “critical judgment.” These flashings of inspiration are of the highest value; in business, art. There may be error in these intuitions; so there is in ordinary experience. These flashes of prophecy should be corrected.
1. The primary benefit that comes from these moral intuitions is comfort and direction of the individual. They clear his reason, they furnish an ideal; they redeem him from bondage.
2. These inspirations work mostly beyond the senses, in the invisible. Is it unreasonable to expect a certain degree of excitability of mind in the Divine realm? (Beecher.)
Intuition begotten of fear
A man is walking sluggishly home, and thinking of the drudgery of the day, and he hears the fire-bell, and instantly he says, “Why, that is my district; how did I leave things?” Instantly he thinks of the way in which he left his shop and the tire; and then he says to himself, “If it is there, what treasure I have in that shop, open and exposed! Why, there is powder there!” In an instant that man, not by any slow process of analyzing, but with a flash, thinks of a thousand things; and they are all material things; they are not higher thoughts and realities at all. (Beecher.)
Intuition illuminates, but does not create, facts
Of course, when the flash of inspiration comes to a man in practical matters, there must be material for it to illuminate or act upon. If in a gallery of pictures there is a central electric fire, and the light flashes into the room, a spectator who has a liking for pictures, standing there, feels the inspiration in a minute; and if the light instantly goes out, he exclaims, “I have seen them: I know them; let the light go out;” but if a man is in an empty room, where there is nothing on the walls, if the light were to flash, he might look around and not know anything more than he did before. Let a man store his mind with knowledge, with facts, with realities, with materials of various kinds, and then, when swelling, flashing revelations come, he has something for them to inspire; but they never inspire emptiness or ignorance; they merely give to what a man does know, facts, principles, materials, spiritual or ethical forms and proportions and revelatory power for the future. (Beecher.)
Intuition needs correction
We know, too, that these intuitions, these flashes of prophecy should be corrected. We dig gold out of a vein, and we know that there is dross in it. Gold absolutely pure is seldom found anywhere; but we do not reject the ore if there is only ninety per cent of gold in it. I think that men who buy dry mines, and spend good money on nothing at all, ought to be willing to take a mine that has ninety per cent of pure metal in it. If it has fifty per cent or forty per cent., or even twenty per cent., it is worth working: it more than pays expenses. (Beecher.)
Luther before the Diet of Worms
Never perhaps has this promise been more clearly fulfilled than in the case of Luther before the Diet of Worms. The intrepid monk, who had hitherto boldly braved all his enemies, spoke on this occasion, when he found himself in the presence of those who thirsted for his blood, with calmness, dignity, and humility. There was no exaggeration, no mere human enthusiasm, no anger; overflowing with the liveliest emotion, he was still at peace; modest, though withstanding the powers of the earth; great in presence of all the grandeur of the world. This is an indisputable mark that Luther obeyed God, and not the suggestions of his own pride. In the hall of the Diet there was One greater than Charles and than Luther.
The disciple is not above his Master.
The Master and His disciple
Jeremy Taylor, in exhorting to patience the afflicted of his day, many of whom were sufferers for conscience’ sake from loyalty to Church and king, reminded them that they had seen their sovereign (the unfortunate Charles the First) imprisoned and put to death, and that he had borne his misfortunes with exemplary fortitude. Guatemala the sovereign of Mexico, whom the Spanish conquerors in their cruel greed tortured to make him show them treasures they believed him to have concealed, bore all they inflicted upon him with stoical heroism. One of his followers, also put to the torture, complained of his treatment, and was disposed to give way, at which the chief reproachfully exclaimed, “And I too, am I upon a bed of roses? “ or, as it ought perhaps to be more literally rendered, “Am I enjoying the luxury of the bath? “ If the example of suffering patience in an earthly monarch be so powerful, how much more when it is set us by the King of kings?
But he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
Enduring to the end
We must not enter the work of the ministry without counting the cost.
I. Perseverance is the badge of the saint.
1. It is the Scriptural mark.
2. Analogy shows us that it is perseverance which must mark the Christian. The winner in the race.
3. The common-sense judgment of mankind tells us, that those who merely begin and do not hold out, will not be saved.
II. Perseverance is therefore the target of all our spiritual enemies.
1. The world.
2. The flesh.
3. It will try our perseverance in service, in suffering, in steadfastness, in doctrine.
III. Perseverance is the glory of Christ.
IV. Perseverance should be the great care of every Christian. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Only he who reaches the goal may be accounted a Christian
A ship starts on a voyage to Australia-if it stops at Madeira, or returns after reaching the Cape, would you consider that it ought to be called an emigrant ship for new South Wales? It must go the whole voyage, or it does not deserve the name. A man has begun to build a house, and has erected one side of it-do you consider him a builder if he stops there, and fails to cover it in or to finish the other walls? Do we give men praise for being warriors because they know how to make one desperate charge, but lose the campaign? Have we not, of late, smiled at the boasting despatches of commanders, in fights where both combatants fought with valour, and yet neither of them had the common sense to push on to reap the victory? What was the very strength of Wellington, but that when a triumph had been achieved, he knew how to reap the harvest which had been sown in blood? And he only is a true conqueror, and shall be crowned at the last, who continueth till war’s trumpet is blown no more. It is with a Christian as it was with the great Napoleon: he said, “Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me.” So, under God, conquest has made you what you are, and conquest must sustain you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Perseverance in the midst of trial
When Mr. Smeaton had built the lighthouse upon the Eddystone, he looked out anxiously after a storm to see if the edifice was still there, and it was his great joy when he could see it still standing, for a former builder had constructed an edifice which he thought to be indestructible, and expressed a wish that he might be in it in the worst storm which ever blew, and he was so, and neither himself nor his lighthouse were ever seen afterwards. Now you have to be exposed to multitudes of storms; you must be in your lighthouse in the worst storm which ever blew; build firmly then on the Rock of Ages, and make sure work for eternity, for if you do these things, ye shall never fall. For this Church’s sake, I pray you do it; for nothing can dishonour and weaken a Church so much as the falls of professors. A thousand rivers flow to the sea, and make rich the meadows, but no man heareth the sound thereof; but if there be one cataract, its roaring will be heard for miles, and every traveller will mark the fall. A thousand Christians can scarcely do such honour to their Master as one hypocrite can do dishonour to Him. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
It cannot be guaranteed by-
1. Habit, which may extend only to the outer framework, and not to the spirit, motive, temper of the religious life.
2. Determination. The will can do almost everything except be sure of itself amid circumstances which go against the grain.
3. Indefectible Grace. This doctrine is no part of the New Testament teaching. It reduces the sacraments and ordinances of religion to mere charms. It brings probation to an end, for it practically abolishes freewill. The Christian’s perseverance may be morally, but it is assuredly not mechanically, certain. (Canon Liddon.)
The causes which make endurance difficult
1. Persecution arising because of the Word.
2. False christs and false prophets, which in our day may mean a sceptical friend, an insidious article in a magazine, or merely the dangerous atmosphere of the social circle in which we live.
3. The spiritual weariness which steals over the soul with the lapse of time. We cannot sustain ourselves for ever on the mountains; we must, sooner or later, descend to the plain. Depression ensues, and we find it difficult to struggle on.
4. Trifling with conscience-not necessarily in great matters, but in a number of little matters-omissions or curtailments of daily prayers, neglect of a regular review of conscience, carelessness as to objects on which money is spent, recklessness in intercourse with others. These, and like matters, help forward a dull and inoperative state of conscience, which is itself preparatory to a great failure. (Canon Liddon.)
How to secure perseverance
1. A sense of constant dependence on God. To be self-confident is to be in danger, for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.
2. Prayer for this special grace. To win perseverance, prayer must persevere. Be not discouraged, although your prayer does not seem to be answered all at once. God may be testing your integrity of purpose. It is after describing all the parts of a Christian’s armour-the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of preparation, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit-that the apostle adds, “Praying alway, with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance.”
3. Keeping the mind fixed, as much as possible, on the end of life, and on that which follows it. Death is as certain for each one of us as the how, the when, and the where of its occurrence are uncertain. Let us then set lightly by this life, and embark something less than the best half of our hearts in its concerns and interests. The shore may still be distant, but the sailor keeps his eye on it as he prays for the skill and the strength to weather the passing storm. On those heights which are beyond the valley of death, the eyes of the predestinate constantly rest, and the sight sustains them in times of trouble, darkness, and despair, which would otherwise prove beyond the powers of their endurance. The end is well worth the effort; and, since we are in the hands of infinite Love, the effort will be enduring, if the end be kept steadily in view. (Canon Liddon.)
It is not the fiery, headlong running in the course, nor the rapid, hurried stroke in the boat, which mean victory. The man who has what is called staging power, who “ endureth to the end,” wins. (Wilmot Buxton.)
Perseverance is the only triumphing grace. (St. Bernard.)
But when they persecute you in this city.
-They may go out of the way of danger, though they must not go out of the way of duty. (Matthew Henry.)
An exception to flight
Polycarp (the friend and pupil of St. John) was eighty-six years old at the date of his martyrdom, and this took place, it seems almost certain, in 155 or 156. There had been a long and bitter persecution of the Christians in the East, and the reports of martyrdom after martyrdom reached the aged man in his bishopric of Smyrna, “but,” we are quoting Mr. Holland, “he was not disturbed at the reports, and wished to stay in the city at home; but at the entreaties of his friends, he withdrew to a little field-house, not far from the town, and stopped there, with a few companions, praying continuously for all men, and for the Churches … as was was his habit. As he prayed, he saw a vision … his pillow seemed to him all burning in flames, and he turned to those with him, and said, ‘I shall be burnt alive.’ And to escape the pressure of his pursuers he moved to another field-house, and they, the pursuers, came just after to his first hiding-place, and caught two boys, one of whom, under torture, confessed where his hiding-place was … It was the hour of the evening meal … when the officer of the peace came with fourteen horse and arms, as if against a thief … Polycarp could have fled again, but he refused.” His prediction came true, he was burnt, but God caused his sufferings to be brought to a speedy end by a providential circumstance, which, on first reading it, one is inclined to think too miraculous to be true, but which seems well-authenticated, though the description given by his biographer is probably unintentionally exaggerated. The wind so caught the flames that were to consume him that they took the shape of a hollow, or a sail swollen by the wind, and they despatched him with a sword. Polycarp is thought to have been the angel (i.e., messenger)
of the Church of Smyrna addressed in Revelation 2:8.
What I tell you in darkness.
God’s message and its proclamation
I. Here is A preparatory privilege for all Christians. “What I tell you in darkness,” “and what ye hear in the ear.”
1. It is the great privilege of Christians to realize that Christ is still living with and conversing with them; this consciousness fits for service.
2. Feeling the gospel spoken by Christ directly and distinctly to our own soul.
II. How this privilege really does become a preparatory process.
1. If you get your message directly from Christ there will be a personality about it.
2. It will also give us the truth of God in proportion and purity.
3. If you go to Christ for all you preach you will preach with unction.
4. It will enable you to be certain about the truth.
III. Close by trying to fulfil the command To publish upon the housetops what the master has spoken to us in secret.
1. That there is pardon for the greatest guilt.
2. That by faith the ruling power of sin is broken.
3. That faith in Christ can save a man from every sort of fear in life and death. These things have been whispered in my ear. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Proclamations from Housetops
On the occurrence of a death in the dwelling, mourners, especially priests, are stationed upon the housetops, and attract public attention by their lamentations. And a proclamation is often made, as well as an address to the people, from the flat roof of a government-house which looks down upon the median, or public square. Even the call to prayer is proclaimed from the housetop, where there is no minaret or church-bell. (Van Lennep.)
You sometimes see a man in the community who is always a source of light to his fellow-citizens. His words cast their illumination round every subject. When a great crisis comes men stand and listen until they hear him speak, and when he has spoken the city knows its duty. But do we think that every conviction leaped in a moment into his consciousness? that he has never struggled into the certainties which he gave to other men so clearly? that it is not by some transmission through his experience, often clouded by doubt and bewilderment, that the abstract truth has passed into the clear, sharp, tangible statement of duty which his fellow citizens catch from him? But nowhere was this more evident than in the history of Christ’s disciples. Two books stand next to one another in the New Testament-The Gospel of St. John and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. What are the pictures in the two books? In the one the disciples are hearing Christ speak, and always missing His real meaning. Again and again, on page after page, we seem to see that wistful, disappointed look upon the Preacher’s face. They will not understand Him. He is speaking to them in darkness. In the other book those same apostles are preaching clear, strong, definite truth from Jerusalem to Rome; that which was vague and dim has passed into them and come out from them sharp and bright; the light has been focussed in their natures and characters, and the hearts of men are springing up under its influence as it comes to them. What Jesus had told them in darkness they are now speaking in light. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)
There is a higher motive than fear, viz., trust in the Father who cares even for the sparrows. (Benham.)
Fear not them which kill the body.
-It is prudent to give up the body in order to cave the soul; it is like casting the cargo of the vessel into the sea to preserve the crew from destruction. (Quesnel.)
Body and soul
I. That human nature is made up of body and soul.
II. That the body may be destroyed, while the soul remains uninjured.
III. That the honest working out of duty may expose the body to destruction.
IV. That the neglect of the duty exposes both body and soul to destruction. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
God to be feared rather than man
Christ cautions His disciples against three particular things.
1. Bodily torments.
Which last He cautions against for these three reasons.
1. Because it is but the death of the body.
2. Because hell is more to be feared.
3. Because they live under the special care of God’s ever-seeing Providence, and cannot, therefore, be taken away without His permission.
The words of the text pregnant with great truths.
1. That it is within the power of man to divest us of all our temporal enjoyments.
2. That the soul of man is immortal.
3. That God has absolute power to destroy the whole man.
4. That the thought of damnation ought to have greater weight to engage our fears than the most exquisite miseries that the malice of man is able to inflict. The prosecution of this lies in two things.
I. In showing what is in those miseries which men are able to inflict that may lessen our fears of them.
1. They are temporal, and concern only this life.
2. They do not take away anything from a man’s proper perfections.
3. They are all limited by God’s overruling hand.
4. The good that may be extracted out of such miseries as are inflicted by men is often greater than the evil that is endured by them.
5. The fear of those evils seldom prevents them before they come, and never lessens them when they are come.
6. The all-knowing God, who knows the utmost of them better than men or angels, has pronounced them not to be feared.
7. The greatest of these evils have been endured, and that without fear or astonishment.
II. In showing what is implied in the destruction of the body and soul in hell which makes it so formidable. It is the utmost Almighty God can do to a sinner. When tempted, ponder man’s inability and God’s infinite ability to destroy. The case of Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego. (R. South, D. D.)
Fear, anxious and prudential
There are two kinds of fear.
1. A fear of solicitous anxiety, such as makes us let go our confidence in God’s providence, causing our thoughts so to dwell upon the dreadfulness of the thing feared as to despair of a deliverance. And with such a kind of fear Christ absolutely forbids us to fear those that kill the body; it being very derogatory to God, as if His mercy did not afford as great arguments for our hope as the cruelty of man for our fear.
2. The second kind of fear is a prudential caution, whereby a man, from the due estimate of an approaching evil, endeavours his own security. And this kind of fear is not only lawful, but also laudable. For, to what purpose should God have naturally implanted in the heart of man a passion of fear, if it might not be exercised and affected with suitable objects-that is, things to be feared? Now under this sort of fear we may reckon that to which Christ advises His disciples in these expressions-“Beware of men,” and “ Flee from one city into another. (R. South, D. D.)
Prison better than hell
Pardon me, Emperor, thou threatenest me only with a prison; but God threatens me with hell. (A Primitive Martyr.)
Fearing God rather than man
Bishop Latimer having one day preached before Henry VIII. a sermon which displeased his majesty, he was ordered to preach again the following Sunday, and to make an apology for the offence he had given. After reading his text the bishop thus began his sermon:-“Hugh Latimer, dost thou know before whom thou art this day to speak? To the high and mighty monarch, the king’s most excellent majesty, who can take away thy life if thou offendest; therefore take heed that thou speakest not a word that may displease. But then, consider well, Hugh; dost thou not know from whence thou camest-upon whose message thou art sent? Even by the great and mighty God, who is all-present, who beholdeth all thy ways, and who is able to cast thy soul into hell! Therefore, take care that thou deliver thy message faithfully.” He then proceeded with the same sermon he had preached the Sunday before, but with considerably more energy. Afterwards, the king sent for him, and demanded of him how he dared preach in such a manner. He, falling on his knees, replied, his duty to his God and his Prince had enforced him thereto, and he had merely discharged his duty and his conscience in what he had spoken. Upon which the king, rising from his seat, and taking the good man by the hand, embraced him, saying, “Blessed be God, I have so honest a servant.”
The devil drives but a poor trade by the persecution of the saints; he tears the nest, but the bird escapes; he cracks the shell, but loses the kernel. (Flavel.)
And one of them shall not fall to the ground.
I. The doctrine of providence. It is involved in difficulties. The text justifies the assertion that it is comprehensive and even universal, especially engaged on behalf of man, more particularly directed to the safety, prosperity, and increase of the Church. The special providence of God extends to every individual among His people.
II. The subject is capable of very extensive and important application. Recognize the hand of God in all the events of life. No such thing as chance. Submit to God amid all trials. For comfort and confidence. Let it guide your practice. A powerful argument to recommend religion to the choice of all men. (D. Katterns.)
A particular providence
I. To illustrate and confirm the doctrine which these words exhibit that there is a particular providence. The Bible reveals this doctrine-“His kingdom ruleth over all.”
1. The providence of God extends to a meaner order of things-to raiment, birds, lilies; thus it is concerned with events great and small.
2. The providence of God is more extensive and minute than the care of any one part of the creation over another. The most tender mother never counted the hairs of her child, but God’s providence extends to this.
3. The notion which the Scriptures give us of God. He is said to be Governor, but how can He be unless He attend to all the concerns of those over whom He rules. Where is His wisdom if events take place to meet which He is not provided; or His power, if circumstances transpire over which He has no control.
4. If we reject providence, one great part of Scripture must be resigned, that which we call prophecy.
II. To point out the purposes of utility-experimental and practical-to which this doctrine is to be applied.
1. It is calculated to cheer the ministers of Christ under the various difficulties to their success to which they are exposed.
2. It is calculated to console the true Church of God in all parts of the earth.
3. It may serve to sustain the heart of every individual disciple of Christ.
4. It tends to calm the mind while watching the various dispensations of Providence as it respects nations or individuals. (J. Clayton.)
Particular providence of God
In viewing the attributes of God and His relations to us, there are two questions to be considered.
1. Has God the gracious will, the benevolent inclination, to observe and direct the works of creation? and has He sufficient power to discern all His creatures, and to regulate everything respecting them according to His will?
2. What is thus taught us from the consideration of God is confirmed by an attention to our feelings; a persuasion of the superintending providence of God is incorporated with our very nature.
3. An attention to the history of the world shows us that the providence of God is universal. God has used the smallest things to produce the greatest consequences.
4. In the holy volume(1 Samuel 2:6; 1 Chronicles 29:11-12; Job 5:9; Psalms 75:6-7).
(1) It is of unspeakable importance to keep the remembrance of God’s providence fresh upon the mind; the forgetfulness of it is often mentioned in Scripture as an occasion of sin.
(2) This subject excites deep melancholy when we reflect how many oppose the providence of God, and sin against it.
(3) This subject is full of consolation to the pious. (H. Kollock, D. D.)
Sparrows turned preachers
I. “Though common in human eyes, God cares for me,” chirps the sparrow; “then, man, fear not.”
II. “Though ignorant, God cares for me,” chirps the sparrow; “then, man, fear not.” III. “Though feeble and mortal, God cares for me,” chirps the sparrow; “then, man, fear not.” (G. T. Coster.)
Sale of sparrows
At the present day the markets of Jerusalem and Jaffa are attended by many fowlers, who offer for sale long strings of little birds of various species, chiefly sparrows, wagtails, and larks. These are also frequently sold, ready plucked, trussed in rows of about a dozen on slender wooden skewers. (H. B. Tristram, LL. D.)
A minute providence not unworthy of the Divine Majesty
The continued and universal exercise of wisdom and goodness cannot be inconsistent with majesty. The sun, the brightest natural emblem of its Creator, loses none of its excellence, because it not only enlightens powerful emperors, but also permits insects to sport in its beams. (H. Kollock, D. D.)
Special providence in peril
When George Washington had been graciously preserved amidst the terrible carnage which attended Braddock’s defeat, he was not ashamed to leave on record this evidence of his faith:-“By the all-powerful dispensations of Providence I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me.” His friend, Dr. James Craik, who was with him in the battle, was often afterward heard to say:-“I expected every moment to see him fall. Nothing but the superintending care of Providence could have saved him from the fate of all around him.” Let unbelievers in the special providence of God listen also to the language of the matter-of-fact Dr. Franklin, whom no one will suspect of giving the least countenance to vain theories and “old wives’ fables.” The Convention was in session at Philadelphia to frame our Federal Constitution. Weeks and weeks had passed, but strife and confusion so far prevailed that no perceptible good was done. A proposition was then made for daily prayers, and Franklin rose in his place and said: “In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for the Divine protection. Our prayers were heard and graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favour. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we forgotten this powerful friend? or do we no longer need His assistance? I have lived a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proof I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. (J. Norton.)
God’s care removes our fear
I remember once entering a room where a little blind girl sat on her father’s knee, with one of his arms clasping her. Without saying a word, or making a sign, I stepped quietly up, unclasped his arm, and lifted the child away. As I took her out of the room, her father said, “Louie, are you not afraid? You don’t know who has you.” She answered at once, “No, I don’t know who has me, and I’m not afraid, for I know that you know.” (J. Culross, D. D.)
Said Martin Luther, as his eye caught sight of a little bird among the leaves of a tree, one evening, “This little fellow has chosen his shelter for the night, and is quietly rocking himself to sleep, without a care for tomorrow’s lodgings, calmly holding by his little twig, and leaving God to think for him.”
Small value of sparrows
The value of a sparrow is just about as little as anything that could come under appraisement. Two of them are sold for a farthing (less than a penny of our money). Two for a farthing, says one evangelist; five for two farthings, says another. “A charming discrepancy,” says some one-and, indeed, when we think of it, the discrepancy takes us into the very market-place, and we see the humble trading going on. “How much? … Two for a farthing; but if you take two farthings’ worth, you shall have one thrown into the bargain; you shall have five. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
But the very hairs of your head.
Hairs of your head are all numbered
1. This is spoken in relation to the body. “Fear not them which kill the body.”
2. Our Lord is giving His disciples arguments against fear.
(1) He is their avenger.
(2) Be sure that you are never afraid to pray about the smallest thing.
(3) Do not shrink from feeling yourself a centre about which God is making all manner of kind things to circulate. Love never hurts any one.
(4) Go without anxiety, for it not only hurts you, but grieves God.
3. That man may be said to have the most of the mind of God who attaches the greatest importance to the trifles of life. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
God does not expose His jewels till He has catalogued them. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
The exquisite mechanism of the hair
A “hair” is a very little thing; but its structure is made up of a world of parts. There is a root and there is a stem, and there is a vein, and there is a fluid, and there is a membrane: and every part is arranged, fitted, guarded, and fed; and a thousand functions are going on to sustain that little thread-like thing. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
I. The minuteness of providence. Providence over little circumstances; over minutes of time; in the use of little things. The minuteness of providence seen in the fact that even the thoughts of men are under God’s hand.
II. The kind consideration of God in taking care of his people.
1. In keeping them alive before they were converted.
2. In keeping them out of temptation.
3. In arranging their places.
4. In providing their daily bread.
III. What should be the spirit and temper, of the men who believe this truth.
1. We ought to he a bold race of people.
2. In bereavement, not excessive grief.
3. A calm which renders life happy. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The difference between fate and providence
Fate is blind; providence has eyes. Fate is blind, a thing that must be; it is just an arrow shot from a bow, that must fly onward, but hath no target. Not so, providence; providence is full of eyes. There is a design in everything, and an end to be answered; all things are working together, and working together for good. They are not done because they must he done, but they are done because there is some reason for it. It is not only that the thing is, because it must be; but the thing is, because it is right it should be. God hath not arbitrarily marked out the world’s history; He had an eye to the great architecture of perfection, when He marked all the aisles of history, and placed all the pillars of events in the building of time. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Taken by the Master
You have taken great care with a certain number of roses; you have trained them up, and there they are, blooming in their beauty. You pride yourself upon them. You come one morning into the garden, and you find that the best rose has been taken away. You are angry: you go to your fellow-servants, and charge them with hexing taken the rose. They will declare that they had nothing at all to do with it: and one says. “I saw the master walking here this morning; I think he took it.” Is the gardener angry then? No, at once he says. “I am happy that my rose should have been so fair as to attract the attention of the master. It is his own: he hath taken it; let him do what seemeth him good.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The numbered hairs
1. Its extent.
2. Its source.
3. Its lessons.
4. Its influence.
1. Its character
IV. Preservation-from loss, accident, persecution, etc. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Heads more than hairs
If God numbers their hairs, much more does He number their heads, and take care of their lives, their comforts, their souls. (M. Henry.)
Ye are of more value.
The value of man’s nature
I. From the capacities of that nature.
II. From the fact that he is the object of the special regard and care of Divine providence.
III. From its everlasting destiny.
IV. From the fact that it has been redeemed with the blood of the incarnate Son of God. (Dr. H. W. Williams.)
Bought at a great price
Do we not hold those things precious which we have bought at a great price. Count we not those things among our treasures, for which we make the most careful provision. Are not those things reckoned the most valuable things upon earth, which receive and give out again to our eyes the beams of light, the rays of the sun, as gold and silver, jewels and precious stones? Will not men venture everything, life and all, for them? And shall not, therefore, Almighty God reckon for precious, them, whom His only begotten Son hath redeemed with His most precious blood? Shall He not hold in exceeding value those for whom He has reserved mansions in His heavenly house, where they may abide for ever? Shall they not be to Him as pearls of great price, as jewels to be numbered up with joyful care, who, being conformed to the image of His Son, who is their light and their righteousness, shine in their works, and glorify their Father. (W. Evans, B. D.)
Shall confess Me before men.
I. The nature of that confession which Christianity requires. An open avowal of the Person and Messiahship of Jesus. A conscious adherence to the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. A declaration of the benefits received. Zealously promoting the cause of Christian truth.
II. The honourable distinction with which a steady course of Christian fortitude will be crowned. By an act of reparation. By an approving plaudit. By making them the partakers of His glory. Learn: That the human heart is, by nature, decidedly hostile to the spirit of the gospel. That entire change is essential to a scriptural confession of Christ. That the Christian cannot ultimately be a loser by suffering for righteousness’ sake. (Omricicon.)
Confession of Christ
I. What does our text require? Our confession of Christ before men. The subject of this confession. The persons before whom this confession is to be made. The manner in which this confession is to be made-verbally, practically, passively. Why? Because it falls in with the nature and design of Christianity, to prove your sincerity, in order to be useful, and because He deserves it.
II. What it ensures? His confession of us. More than recognition. The confessor before whom this confession is to be made; the season when this confession shall be made. (W. Jay.)
I. A great duty recommended to us.
1. What is meant by our confession of Christ.
2. What by confessing Him before men.
II. A suitable reward and encouragement annexed to it. What is implied in Christ’s confessing us before His Father. To confess Christ aright is
(1) To acknowledge and adore the Divinity of His Person;
(2) To believe the Divinity of His doctrine;
(3) To acknowledge and rely upon the all-sufficiency of His merits and mediation for us;
(4) To show the efficacy of our belief upon our lives. We must confess Christ both before good men and bad men. (Matthew Hole.)
Mutual confession of Jesus Christ and His disciples
I. This confession of Christ by men.
1. Before we can speak openly of Christ according to His true character, we must know and appreciate Him. Knowledge is ability to confess; appreciation is disposition to confess; both are power.
2. This confession is variously made.
(1) In season it is a verbal acknowledgment of Christ;
(2) By the observance of His ordinances;
(3) By the reception of His disciples and servants, especially of such as most represent Him;
(4) By the worship of His holy name;
(5) By the endurance of shame and persecution for His sake;
(6) By living to Him and living for Him.
II. The confession of men by Jesus Christ.
1. It is connected here with the confessing of Christ by men.
2. It is both present and future.
3. It is full and complete. Lessons: secret discipleship can never fulfil our duties, or exhaust our obligations. (S. Martin.)
The duty of confessing Christ before men
I. The duty specified (Romans 10:10).
1. To confess Christ before men is to show that we are uniformly influenced by a supreme regard to His will (Titus 1:16; Luke 6:46; John 15:14; Nehemiah 5:1).
2. To publicly attest the reality of those hopes and joys which Christianity professes to inspire, and claims as peculiarly her own.
3. To manifest a decided attachment to His people (Matthew 10:40; Matthew 25:40).
II. The difficulties attendant on this duty. Such a decided and consistent testimony to Christ will be attended with difficulties (Matthew 10:36).
1. Common temptations.
III. The promise annexed to the discharge. Christ will confess His people; it is not said He will do so before men; by striking interpositions of providence. While they are partially confessing Him on earth, He is graciously confessing them in heaven. (E. Cooper.)
I. Man’s confession of Christ. It implies
(1) Knowledge of Christ;
(2) Belief in Christ;
(3) Love to Christ:
(4) Reception of Christ. Its characteristics.
1. It is a personal confession.
2. It is a public confession.
3. It is an honourable confession-“me.”
II. Christ’s confession of man.
1. It is a return for our confession.
2. It is a personal confession.
3. It is a confession on the greatest occasion.
4. It is a confession before the greatest Being. (T. O. Griffiths.)
Something more than fifty years ago there was a small dinner party at the other end of London. The ladies had withdrawn, and under the guidance of one member of the company the conversation took a turn, of which it will be enough here and now to say that it was utterly dishonourable to Jesus Christ our Lord. One of the guests said nothing, but presently asked the host’s permission to ring the bell, and when the servant appeared he ordered his carriage. He then, with the courtesy of perfect self-command, expressed his regret at being obliged to retire; but explained that he was still a Christian. Mark the phrase, for it made a deep impression at the time-“Still a Christian.” Perhaps it occurs to you that the guest who was capable of this act of simple courage must have been a bishop, or at least a clergyman. He was not. The party was made up entirely of laymen, and the guest in question became the great prime minister of the early years of Queen Victoria. He was the late Sir Robert Peel. (Canon Liddon.)
The greatest King
On a certain occasion one of the bravest officers of Frederick the Great declined the king’s invitation to dinner, because he intended next morning to receive the Holy Communion. The next time he was present at the royal table the king and his guests began to rally him for his scruples, and to mock at the sacred ordinance. The old man rose, saluted the king, who was no man to be trifled with, and told him respectfully but firmly that there was a greater King than Frederick, and that he never allowed that Holy One to be insulted in his presence. The courtiers looked on in amazement, trembling for the safety of the general; but Frederick, instead of resenting the rebuke, clasped the hand of his brave servant, and expressed his sorrow that he could not believe so firmly, or declare his faith so fearlessly. (Canon Ashwell.)
Confessing Christ:-Signing the Scotch Covenant
As the hour drew near, people from all quarters flocked to the spot, and before the commissioners appeared, the Greyfriars Church and Churchyard, Edinburgh, were densely filled with the gravest, the wisest, and the best of Scotland’s pious sons and daughters, The long roll of parchment was brought, the meaning and purpose of the covenant explained. Then a deep and solemn pause ensued: not the pause of irresolution, but of modest diffidence, each thinking every other more worthy than himself to place the first name upon the sacred bond. An aged nobleman, the venerable Earl of Sutherland, at last stepped slowly and reverentially forward, and with throbbing heart and trembling hand, subscribed Scotland’s Covenant with God. All hesitation in a moment disappeared. Name followed name in quick succession, till all within the church had given their signatures. It was then removed into the churchyard, and spread out on a level gravestone. Here the scene became still more impressive. The intense emotions of many became irrepressible. Some wept aloud: some burst into a shout of exultation; some after their names added the words “till death;” and sonic, opening a vein, subscribed with their own warm blood. When every particle of space was filled there was another solemn pause. The nation had framed a covenant in former days, and had violated its engagements; if they too should break this sacred bond, how deep would be their guilt! Such seems to have been their thoughts, for, as if moved by one spirit-the One Eternal Spirit-with low, heart-wrung groans, and faces bathed in tears, they lifted up, with one consent, their right hands to heaven, avowing by this sublime appeal that they had now joined themselves unto the Lord in an everlasting covenant, which should not be forgotten. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
The confession of Christ
Some confess, but believe not, as hypocrites; others believe, but confess not, as timorous and Peter-like professors in the days of persecution; others do neither confess nor believe in Christ, as atheists; others both confess and believe, and they be true Christians. (D. Willet.)
The best use of the mouth
Had the faith of the heart been sufficient, God would not have given thee a mouth. (Chrysostom.)
The sin of denying Christ
I. What is meant by denying of Christ before men? It is
(1)to deny His mission and Messiahship;
(2) to disown Him for the Son of God and Saviour of the world; and
(3) not to receive Him for the person annointed and appointed of God for the redemption of mankind. It is (a) to deny the Divinity of Christ; (b) the Incarnation or manhood of Christ; (c) the satisfaction of Christ for sin; (d) the resurrection of Christ; (e) the authority of Christ over His Church and kingdom.
II. What are the motives or inducements that lead men thus to deny Christ? The two principal are
(1) Fear of persecution;
(2) Hopes of preferment. Both clap a wrong bias upon the mind, that turns it from Christ to Belial.
III. How, OR in what manner, is this denying done?
(1) Sometimes in verbis, by words and oral expressions;
(2) Sometimes in scriptis, by blasphemous writings; and
(3) sometimes in operibus, by wicked works.
IV. What is meant by Christ denying of when before his father in heaven? It must be His disowning the deniers of Him, as false and deceitful followers of Him, the misery whereof is inexpressible. (Matthew Poole.)
Interest deposed and truth restored
I. How many ways Christ and his truths may be denied; and what is the denial here chiefly intended.
1. By erroneous, heretical judgment.
2. By oral confession.
3. By our actions and practice.
II. What are the causes inducing men to deny Christ in his truths.
1. The seeming supposed absurdity of many truths.
2. Their unprofitableness. To be pious is the way to be poor.
3. Their apparent danger.
III. How far a man may consult his safety in time of persecution without denying Christ.
1. By withdrawing his person.
2. By concealing his judgment.
IV. What it is for Christ to deny us before his father in heaven.
1. The action itself-“He will deny them.”
2. The circumstance-“Before His Father,” etc. A man’s folly will be spread before the angels.
V. The uses which may be drawn from the truths delivered.
1. Confess Him in His truth.
2. In His members.
3. The baseness of a dastardly spirit. (R. South, D. D.)
Think not that I am come to send peace.
I. Why it might naturally be supposed that Christ did come for the express purpose of sending peace on earth. Consider the way in which His kingdom was ushered into the world-”Glory to God,” &c. The tenor of much of His teaching, and the final result of the preaching of the gospel, would lead us to suppose it.
II. That notwithstanding our natural thinkings on the subject Christ came, not to send peace. But a sword Christ’s own life an illustration. Also, the entire history of the Church, and the life of every individual Christian. (R. Abercrombie, M. A.)
These words represent the aggressive, combative side of Christianity.
1. Sin is a fixed, unyielding power.
2. There is an overpowering force which can and will conquer sin. It is Christianity.
3. What results from this conflict, heroically maintained?
2. Moral beauty. (Bishop Hurst.)
Moral beauty derived from victory
What results from this conflict, heroically maintained? Victory. Moral beauty as well. More keenly, perhaps, than any other American writer, has Hawthorne seen into the human heart, and he somewhere remarks that the human face never is so beautiful as when the soul has passed through some great struggle; when it has triumphed in this unseen battlefield, and there is a divine irradiation of the countenance, such as Jacob’s face must have had, when, after that night of wrestling with the angel, the morning light, breaking over the mountains of Gilead, revealed in his features the celestial halo that crowned them. All moral beauty is secondary. It comes from conflict and victory. Thus was the shepherd David fitted to become the monarch of the nation, and the persecuting Saul the preacher Paul. Linnaeus and Humboldt have found, on icebergs, in far-off forests and on Alpine peaks, flowers that had no fragrance; but to which, when care, skill, and patience had been lavished on them a secondary nature was given, so that to-day, under wintry skies, we have them in our conservatories, sweet, as well as fair. (Bishop Hurst.)
I. The strangeness of the fact. This appears when you remember-
1. The object of Christ’s coming.
2. The law of Christ’s kingdom.
3. The character of the King.
II. Explanation of the fact.
1. By the position Christ assumed towards sin.
2. By the character of the gospel.
3. By the natural character of man.
III. Practical lessons.
1. The greatness of Jesus Christ. He has set the world on fire.
2. The slowness of the progress of the gospel in the world, and of sanctification in the believer, is accounted for. (C. Lankester, B. A.)
To set a man at variance against his Father.
The year separation.
I. That union of families in religion is desirable. Because all its members have the same interests at stake; they are all under substantially the same obligations; it promotes the happiness of a family, gives consolation in times of affliction, promotes the eternal welfare of all.
II. That religion does, in fact, make a separation in families, It divides families at the Communion table; in respect of their prospects of future glory, and at the judgment-bar with unerring accuracy. Lessons: Pray more for impenitent children, &c.; contemplate the possibility of a family being united in heaven. (Dr. A. Barites.)
Those who are most near, are most easily divided. (Bengel.)
Children and parents
There is a climax of three degrees. Brother shall be against brother, parent against child, child against parents-each worse than the preceding. The history of the Church has many illustrations of this. Such were the histories of Perpetua and Felicitas, in the persecution of Severus, where the children refused to listen to parents’ entreaties to give up Christ, and died in their steadfastness; and such was the dreadful speech recorded of Philip II. of Spain, who thought that he was showing zeal for God by declaring of the Protestants, “If it were my own son, I would bring the faggot.” (W. Benham.)
Domestic variance occasioned by religion
Too often is this prediction fulfilled in the case of converts (especially those from Judaism) even at the present day-the most devoted son or daughter has too often to feel that their adopting Christianity has severed them from beloved parents. The Rev. Moses Margdionth, in a narrative drawn up in the year 1842, illustrates this by his own experience. Mr. Margdionth had been led, by a remarkable chain of circumstances, to embrace Christianity. He was a native of Poland, but did not receive baptism until his arrival in London, having left his country for the purpose of study, and more especially of acquiring religious knowledge. He felt it his duty as soon as possible to acquaint his parents with his change of faith, and his father at first wrote him an affectionate answer, entreating him to come home and recant his apostacy, but finding that nothing would induce him to renounce Christianity and return to his house, ceased to answer his letters, and for a long time seemed to ignore his existence. Still, however, Margdionth persevered in writing, and at length, to use his own words-“I received a most severe letter from my father, telling me that if I did not return immediately to his house, I should never be permitted to call myself his son: that he should hate me with perfect hatred, and that he should prohibit my writing to him any more. My dear mother wrote again with affectionate sadness, telling me that she had not ceased to weep for me, and had even injured her eyes with weeping.” It is consolatory to find that Mr. Margdionth, who spared no effort or exertion to win hack the heart of his father, was rewarded at length by a complete reconciliation, though we have no ground to believe that his parents ever embraced Christianity. Yet sadder tales meet us in the annals of missions among the heathen. Harriet Winslow, the devoted American missionary in Ceylon, mentions the very sad case of a youth named Tupyen, who had become interested in Christianity by reading part of a Tamil Bible, lent him by another young man. He begged permission to attend the mission school at Tillipally, but when it came to his father’s knowledge that he had there avowed himself a Christian, the poor fellow was, when he next returned home, shut up, and otherwise most severely treated. Once he made his escape to Tillipally, and there told the missionary, Mr. Peel, what had befallen him. He took a Testament, and pointing to this very passage (Matthew 10:31-39), said, with tears-“That very good.” But again falling into the hands of his father, Tupyen was beaten, tabooed, threatened, insulted in every possible way, so that at length, alas, he signed a recantation of Christianity.
Social obstacles to religion
I. The reasons why men labour to prevent their fellows from rising to a vital Christian experience.
1. We are to remember that social life is not merely the accidental juxtaposition of man with man; it organizes itself. Men stand related to each other in such a way that if one goes out of the circle, it is like the going of one out from a quartette of singers.
2. It is frequently the case that the escape of one from a circle towards a true and high religious life, is hindered on account of the social ambitions which prevail. Circles defend themselves against men going to desert for religion.
3. Another reason why persons endeavour to prevent the escape of men to a higher religious plane, is the judgment and rebuke which is always reflected, by such a course, upon their own career.
II. What the motives are by which this social hindrance works.
1. There is the battle of fear into which men go.
2. Next is the battle of interest. Men try to dissuade their fellow-men from true religion on account of the effects which it will have upon their interests in life.
3. Then there are persons who are peculiarly sensitive to praise. They cannot bear the shady side of men’s opinions. A circle, by a judicious silence, can make a man feel as though the fogs of Newfoundland were on him.
4. Then there is the battle of dissuasion.
III. The modes of resistance that one may lawfully set up against these things.
1. It should be made clear that you are in earnest and sincere.
2. That that which is upon you is not a mere whim.
3. Remember that you need and shall have the help of God. (H. W. Beecher.)
The soul’s longing for God not hindered by social obstacles
As birds, when their time of emigration comes, and they feel the impulse to fly to the summer-land, and will not be stopped, either by the snap of the fowler’s gun or by the sweep of the hawk, or by any solicitation, but rise, and fly through night and through day, to find that summer-land: so souls feel the fascinating call of God, and, rising, soar-and must, because the Holy Ghost is upon them. (H. W. Beecher.)
Society troubled by men leafing it for a better life
The smallest wheel in my watch, emigrating, would leave all the rest of the wheels, big and little, in a very sorry plight. Although it may be very small, and stand on its own rights as a wheel, yet, after all, it has been cogged, and notched, and adjusted, so that the whole structure depends on that. You might as well smash the watch as to take that out. Frequently it is the case that the members of a circle are so affiliated, so exactly fitted to each other, that if you take one out, all the rest are dissevered. And it is not surprising, it does not imply any great degree of depravity, to say that where a number of men are living an ordinary, an average, social life, and one of them is inspired with a higher, a holier religious purpose, and desires and means to go up on a level that none of them have been standing on, his emigration upward wrenches them all. And it is not strange that they try to stop it. (H. W. Beecher.)
Unrest a vital process
The unrest of a Christless soul, a Christless nation, a Christless world, is really the beginning of a vital process, which in its first stages is always a travail. The Lord is not afraid of the storm of strife and frenzy which He stirs in the world. We think that these are death pains; He knows that they are birth pains, through which the glorious golden future is being born. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)
A boy’s foes at school
When a boy first comes from home, full of the natural desire of doing his duty, of improving himself, of getting on well, he is presently beset by the ridicule of all the worthless and foolish boys around him, who want to sink him to their own level. How completely true it is that his foes are they of his own household-that is, they who are most immediately about him, those of his own age, and his own place in the school. They become his idol; before their most foolish, most low, and most wicked voices he gives up his affections, his understanding, and his conscience; from this mass of ignorance, and falsehood, and selfishness, he looks for the guide of his opinions and his conduct. (T. Arnold, D. D.)
He that loveth father or mother more than Me.
The Saviour’s claims on our supreme affections
There are three sources from which love, considered as a sentiment, originates in the heart:-
1. The love of sympathy.
2. The love of gratitude.
3. The love of moral esteem.
In all these respects Christ is entitled to supreme affection. Is love valued in proportion as it is disinterested? Compared with Christ’s love man’s is selfishness. Or does the greatness of sacrifice testify to the greatness of love? On this ground Christ claims our supreme love, as no human being has sacrificed so much for us as He, no earthly benefactor so great as He. (H. White, M. A.)
Christ worthy of our highest esteem
Our Saviour puts Himself and the world together as competitors for our best affections, challenging a transcendent affection on our part, because of a transcendent worthiness on His. By “father or mother “ are to be understood whatever enjoyments are dear to us; and from the expression, “he is not worthy of Me,” the doctrine of merit must not be asserted.
I. What is included and comprehended in that love to Christ here mentioned?
1. An esteem and valuation of Christ above all worldly enjoyments.
2. A choosing Him before all other enjoyments.
3. Service and obedience to Him.
4. Acting for Him in opposition to all other things.
5. It imparts a full acquiescence in Him alone, even in the absence and want of all other felicities.
II. The reason and motives which may induce us to this love.
1. He is the best able to reward our love.
2. He has shown the greatest love to us.
III. The signs and characters whereby we may discern his love.
1. A frequent and, indeed, continual thinking of Him.
2. A willingness to leave the world, whenever God shall think fit, by death, to summon us to nearer converse with Christ.
3. A zeal for His honour, and impatience to hear or see any indignity offered Him. (R. South, D. D.)
No divided devotion
1. The audacity of the claim-seemingly opposed to natural affection.
2. Its naturalness on the lips of Christ-all of a piece with His other words and deeds.
3. Either, then, Jesus is God and deserves all He claims, or else an impostor and blasphemer.
4. The dilemma we must either crucify Him or acknowledge His pretensions. (Newman Smyth, D. D.)
Christ more than the nearest relatives
A striking illustration of the love to Christ, that proves so ardent as to supersede that felt for parent or child, is furnished by the history of Vivia Perpetua, the martyr of Carthage. This lady, who was a matron of high position, young (not being more than twenty-two at her death) beautiful, and with everything to make life desirable and attractive to her, met death with dauntless heroism. We are not told whether her husband was a Pagan or a Christian; but her aged, and still heathen, father, obtaining entrance into her prison, endeavoured by every possible argument to shake her constancy, and, as a last appeal, brought her infant son, and conjured her, by her love for himself and for her child, to abjure Christianity and live. But to all these entreaties Perpetua turned a deaf ear; Christ was dearer to her than either her parent or her son, and she bravely met death by being exposed to an infuriated animal in the arena. She suffered about A.D. 205. Even in these modern days instances might be brought forward, from the annals of missionary labour, of those who from love of Christ are willing to leave dearest earthly friends; but in some instances these close human ties become the great obstacles to the reception of the gospel. Speaking of a school at Chumdicully, Ceylon, the missionary, Mr. Fleming, says (quoted in the Church Missionary Society’s report for 1881-82): “There are secret believers in Christ who are not ready to give up all for Him. One of them has confessed that he would like to follow ‘his sisters, who have come out, but his parents look to him to perform the funeral rites for them when they die, and he shrinks from causing them grief … like the man whom Christ called, but who said, ‘ Suffer me first to go and bury my father.’”
Christian love triumphant over maternal
Leelerc, says D’Aubigne, was led to the place of execution. The executioner prepared the fire, heated the iron which was to sear the flesh of the minister of the gospel, and, approaching him, branded him as a heretic on the forehead. Just then a shriek was uttered-but it came not from the martyr. His mother, a witness of the dreadful sight, wrung with anguish, endured a violent struggle between the enthusiasm of faith and maternal feelings; but her faith overcame, and she exclaimed, in a voice that made the adversaries tremble, “Glory be to Jesus Christ, and His witnesses!” Thus did this French woman of the sixteenth century have respect to the word of the Son of God-“He that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” So daring a courage at such a moment might have seemed to demand instant punishment, but that Christian mother had struck powerless the hearts of priests and soldiers. Their fury was restrained by a mightier arm than theirs. The crowd failing back and making way for her, allowed the mother to regain, with faltering step, her humble dwelling. Monks, and even the town sergeants themselves, gazed on her without moving. “Not one of her enemies,” says Beza, “dared put forth his hand against’ her.”
He that taketh not; his cross.
I. What is is peculiar cross? “He that taketh not his cross.”
1. It may be the giving up of certain pleasures.
2. The endurance of reproach or poverty.
3. The suffering of losses and persecutions for Christ’s sake.
4. The consecrating all to Jesus.
5. The endurance of my heavenly Father’s will.
II. What am i to do with it?
1. I an: deliberately to take it up.
2. I am boldly to face it. It is only a wooden cross after all.
3. I am patiently to endure it, for I have only to carry it a little way.
4. I am cheerfully to resign myself to it, for my Lord appoints it.
5. I am obediently to follow Christ with it.
What an honour and a comfort to be treading in His steps! This is the essential point. It is not enough to bear a cross, we must bear it after Jesus. I ought to be thankful that I have only to bear it, and that it does not bear me. It is a royal burden, a sanctified burden, a sanctifying burden, a burden which gives communion with Christ.
III. What should encourge me?
1. Necessity: I cannot be a disciple without cross-bearing.
2. Society: better men than I have carried it.
3. Love: Jesus bore a far heavier cross than mine.
4. Faith: grace will be given equal to the weight of the cross.
5. Hope: good to myself will result from my bearing this load.
6. Zeal: Jesus will be honoured by my patient endurance.
7. Experience: I shall yet find pleasure in it, for it will produce in me much blessing. The cross is a fruitful tree.
8. Expectation: glory will be the reward of it.
Let not the ungodly fancy that theirs is a better lot: the Psalmist says, “many sorrows shall be to the wicked.” Let not the righteous dread the cross, for it will not crush them: it may be painted with iron colours by our fears, but it is not made of that heavy metal; we can bear it, and we will bear it right joyously. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Following Christ by way of the cross
When Alexander the Great marched through Persia, his way was stopped with ice and snow, insomuch that his soldiers, being tired out with hard marches, were discouraged, and would have gone no further, which he perceiving, dismounted his horse, and went on four through the midst of them all, making himself a way with a pickaxe; whereat they all being ashamed, first his friends, then the captains of his army, and, last of all, the common soldiers, followed him. So should all men follow Christ their Saviour, by that rough and unpleasant way of the cross that He hath traversed before them. He having drunk unto them in the cup of His passion, they are to pledge Him when occasion is offered; He having left them an example of His suffering, they are to follow Him in the selfsame steps of sorrow. (John Spencer.)
The cross taken up
The cross is easier to him who takes it up than to him who drags it along. (J. E. Vaux.)
The cross not to be made
We are bid to take not to make our cross. God in His providence will provide one for us. And we are bid to take it up; we hear nothing of laying it down. Our troubles and our lives live and die together. (W. Gurnall.)
“No man,” said Flavel, “hath a velvet cross.” As an old Yorkshire working-man, a friend of mine, said. “Ah! it is blessed work cross-bearing when it’s tied on with love.” (Newman Hall.)
“Welcome the cross of Christ, and bear it triumphantly; but see that it be indeed Christ’s cross, and not thine own. (Wilcox.)
The cross a sweet burden
Christ’s cross is the sweetest burden that ever I bore; it is such a burden as wings are to a bird, or sails to a ship, to carry me forward to my harbour. (Samuel Rutherford.)
A procession of cross-bearers
The Saviour here, in His character of Seer, looks into His own future, and moulds His language accordingly. He sees the cross in the distance. He connects Himself with it. He comes out of Himself, as it were to look at Himself with His cross. He sees Himself bearing His cross. The vision grows into a complete picture. His followers are bearing crosses too! And thus the heavenly procession moves on, until a point is reached where time melts into eternity, and earth is the stepping-stone to heaven. At that point there may occur what men call execution; but, looked at on its upper side, the event is coronation and glorification. The crown surmounts the cross. (James Morison, D. D.)
He that findeth his life.
The love of life
I. The nature and end of this love of life. This attachment not engendered since the fall-a degraded exhibition of some early beauty. Adam loved life; but the life he loved was a fragment of immortality. He loved it as an unbroken walk with the Eternal; we commonly cling to life as a removal from His presence. Adam loved an immortality begun; we an immortality put off. But a Divine purification of our nature and the old lineaments shall start forth from the canvass. This love of life of Divine implantation; it survives all pleasure in life; and is not accounted for by dread of the future. The Almighty appointed that it should act as a powerful engine in the furtherance of His several dispensations. Take it away, and society is shaken in every part. Evidence that man is far even from original righteousness in the eagerness with which he clings to absence from his Maker. The love of life a perpetual source of honour to God by the opportunity afforded for the display of His grace.
II. When the principle takes a right direction, and when a wrong direction. We have shown that the principle which in fallen man is the love of life, was in unfallen man the love of immortality; hence as it is our own aim to return to the privileges of the unfallen state, we give the principle its right direction when we draw it off from the mortal, and fasten it upon the immortal. To find by losing is the principle rightly applied; for this is the mortal surrendered to the immortal. To lose by finding is the principle wrongly applied; for this is the immortal basely exchanged for the mortal. We call upon you to love life, but you must understand what life is; not mere existence. (H. Melvill.)
Nothing to lose
He that would loss nothing, must learn to have nothing. (Farindon.)
Finding by losing
A remarkable instance of the literal fulfilment of this promise, even with regard to this life, is furnished by a circumstance lately mentioned to us by one who knew the subject of it well. A devoted Christian woman had been in the habit of carrying on extensive religious work in a large and important town, especially in the infirmary of the workhouse, which she was constantly in the habit of visiting. When no longer young, in fact she must have been nearly fifty, Miss G-became seriously ill, and her medical advisers pronounced it their opinion that she could not recover. She requested to be told how long, according to their calculation, she could possibly live, and the reply was, “At the longest about a year, but you must take perfect rest, and give up all work and exertion.” “No,” replied Miss G-; “if I am to live so short a time, I must work all the more heartily for my Master.” She did so, continuing her classes, visits, etc., but it did not shorten her life. At the present time, fifteen years after, Miss G-still lives, and still works actively, though between sixty and seventy years of age.
Losing life for others
Ernest entered heartily into the sport of marble-playing when that season came round; and, as he played for “keeps,” it was not long before complaints began to be made against him. He was a good player and did win a good many marbles; and nobody likes to lose at play, be it money or marbles. Ernest resented the hard talk about his playing, and one day when he met his pastor he told him how unjust and unkind the boys were. The pastor listened kindly; he was one of the men who have the good sense and the good taste to love boys. When Ernest paused he said: “Well, Ernest, you do win a good many marbles, don’t you?” “Why, yes, sir; of course I do.” “I wonder, now, if you ever ask the Lord Jesus about this marble playing?” “Yes, sir; I do,” answered Ernest, heartily. “And what do you ask Him?” “I ask Him to let me hit.” “Ernest, do you ever ask Him to let another boy hit?” “No, sir; of course I don’t.” “Why not? … Why, I want to get all the marbles I can.” “It seems as if the other boys might like to win sometimes,” said Mr. Burch, thoughtfully. “Ernest, are you trying to show God to the boys? Yes, Mr. Burch; I am,” very earnestly. “Do you ever talk to them about God? Yes, sir, I do; I’d like to have the boys know Him.” “Well, do they seem to want to love Him much?” “No, Mr. Burch; I think the boys don’t care much about God.” “Well, Ernest, I don’t know that I wonder much at it. The God that they see is your God. He lets you have all that you want, but does not tell you to ask Him to give them anything! You are not showing them the God who laid down His life.” “What do you mean by that, Mr. Burch?” “Giving up the thing that we want is the very heart of Christ’s religion. Christ laid down His life for us, and we are to lay clown our lives for others. If we lose our life-that is, our will, our way, our pleasure, our advantage-for Christ’s sake, we shall find the real life, which He only can give. Try it, Ernest; lose your life among the boys, and see if they won’t think better of your God.”
He that receiveth a prophet.
The reception of prophet
I. What, is the bible meaning of the term, is a prophet?
1. There is first what may properly be called the “seer,” men with burning eye to take in visions of the unseen.
2. Then the word prophet merges into our word preacher.
3. But there are two conditions without which no man has a right to this name; a godly life, a special message from God.
II. The true spirit in which a prophet should be received.
1. The true exercise of our receptive faculties is an important element of our responsibility.
2. Let us receive without prejudice.
3. Let us receive with humility.
4. That such a reception will bring us a “ prophet’s reward.” (J. Brierley, B. A.)
Goodness essential to a true Prophet
In other walks of life man may attain high distinction without this condition. He may be a suecessful lawyer, and, as some modern examples have shown, obtain the chief prizes of his profession without possessing moral character that will bear inspection. A man may obtain fortune and fame as an artist, and be all the while, like Turner, addicted to the lowest pleasures. In fact, a recent French writer has given us the exquisitely French doctrine that immorality is a great auxiliary to art. A man may be a success on the Stock Exchange, and have in him no scintilla of spiritual principle. All this is possible, but a man who in any age takes the name and function of prophet of God, proclaimer of His truth and message, and who at the same time keeps not step in his life to the sublime music of heaven’s highest law, is a self-confessed monstrosity. (J. Brierley, B. A.)
The true prophet has spiritual knowledge at first hand
Like a man who has been teaching geography in a school. His time has been occupied with maps, atlases, globes, and text-books of geography. He knows all the mountains in Europe by name, and the length of the principal rivers. His head is full of this, and he has tried to fill the heads of his pupils with this, and to him and to them it has been a business unspeakably dry”. By-and-by he gets a vacation, and somebody fills his purse for him, and says, “Now go off somewhere and enjoy yourself.” He goes to Switzerland. He sees Mont Blanc and the Rhine, and the Lake of Geneva. It is not a bit like the geography book. These fresh breezes that blow, the deep blue of the glorious lake, the glint up yonder of the everlasting snows, whisper no hint of page sixteen in that odious text-book with its endless names and figures. This is the difference between knowledge at second hand and at first hand. (J. Brierley, B. A.)
The responsible use of our receptive faculties
Physiologists tell us we have two sets of nerves, the afferent and the efferent; the one bringing to us impressions from without, the other acting on the muscles and carrying to the outside world the tides of force that are within. Life is just this contrast, giving and receiving, and the one process needs as much watching as the other. It is not enough to look after the activities of the soul. The call may be for courtesy, sympathy, and unless these are forthcoming, in spite of activities, the man is a failure over half his nature. (J. Brierley, B. A.)
When God’s rains are descending, and His gracious breezes blowing from off the everlasting hills, keep the soul open. It is a grand opportunity on the receptive side. (J. Brierley, B. A.)
The principle of future recompenses
1. By our works shall be decided the degree of our future reward.
2. The reward affixed to an action may be obtained though the action itself has not been performed. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet is to obtain the recompense as though he were himself a prophet. There must be division of labour; all working to the same end receive same reward.
3. If our works are susceptible of reward, it seems necessarily to follow that there will be differences in reward, so that the future portion of the righteous will be far from uniform. What the” prophet” receives is not what the “ righteous man “ receives.
4. That no good work is so inconsiderable as to be excluded from recompense. “Cup of cold water given in the name of a disciple.” But if the “cup of cold water” is not to lose its reward, it must be proffered when he who gives it has nothing better to give. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Difference of office does not preclude sameness of recompense
For instance, what wholly different spheres of duty are assigned to the clergy and the laity! And we are told that he who labours with great earnestness in the work of a clergyman has a reward of peculiar splendour within reach, inasmuch as “ they who turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever.” But it is evident from our text that the same reward is attainable by others who have never been called to the clergyman’s work. They who have not been “prophets” may “receive a prophet’s reward;” and if an individual have upheld a clergyman in his arduous and most responsible calling, strengthening him by such assistances as the occasion demands, sustaining him when assailed, cheering him when disheartened, and all out of love for his office, and desire for his success, so that he receives the pastor in the name of a pastor, we may say of such an individual that in Gods sight lie takes part in the clergyman’s labours. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Sympathy with a character involves likeness to that character
The power of sympathizing with an)” character is the partial possession of that character for ourselves. A man who is capable of having his soul bowed by the stormy thunder of Beethoven, or lifted to heaven by the etherial melody of Mendelsshon, is a musician, though he never composed a bar. The man who recognizes and feels the grandeur of the organ music of “Paradise Lost” has some fibre of a poet in him, though he be but; a “ mute inglorious Milton.” (Dr. Maclaren.)
Sympathy, not action, the condition of reward
The old knight that clapped Luther on the back when he went into the Diet of Worms, and said to him, “Well done, little monk!” shared in Luther’s victory and in Luther’s crown. He that helps a prophet because he is a prophet, has got the making of a prophet in himself. (Dr. Maclaren.)
Holding the ropes
“I am going down into the pit, you hold the ropes,” said Carey, the pioneer missionary. They that hold the ropes, and the daring miner that swings away down in the blackness, are one in the work, may be one in the motive, and, if they are, shall be one in the reward. So, brethren, though no coal of fire may be laid upon your lips, if you sympathize with the workers that are trying to serve God, and do what you can to help them, and identify yourself with them, and so hold the ropes, my text; will be true about you.
“He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet; shall receive a prophet’s reward.” They who by reason of circumstances, by deficiency of power, or by the weight of other tasks and duties, can only give silent sympathy, and prayer, and help, are one with the men whom they help. (Dr. Maclaren.)
Participation in service
As there is a way of partaking of other men’s sins, so in other men’s holy services. (Gurnall.)
A cup of cold water.
The cup of cold water
The doings of this life are had in remembrance: that no humble action in its relation to high principles is lost; but is retained in a future judgment.
I. The duty of acting from christian motives.
1. Our Saviour points out this by three examples.
2. The duty derives its importance from God’s omnipresence and omniscience. The cup of cold water comes under the Divine notice.
II. The influence of our actions upon the destinies of the future.
1. The history of nations and individuals proves how the past acts upon the future.
2. The promise of reward by Christ shows how every simple act done with reference to Himself is made to react upon ourselves in a way we should not anticipate apart from revelation.
3. Things done out of Christ, having no connection with His love, will perish. (W. D. Horwood.)
Giving to the needy giving to Christ
St. Martin, before he was baptized into the faith of Christ, and while still a soldier, showed a rare instance of love and charity. In the depth of winter, a beggar, clothed in rags, asked an alms of him for the love of God. Silver and gold he had none. His soldier’s cloak was all he had to give. He drew his sword, cut it in half, gave one portion to the poor man, and was content himself with the other. And of him it may be truly said, “He had his reward.” That night, in a vision, he beheld our blessed Lord upon His throne, and all the host of heaven standing on His right; hand and His left. And as Martin looked more steadfastly on the Son of God, he saw Him to be arrayed in his own half-cloak; and he heard Him say, “This hath Martin, unbaptized, given to Me.”
Zeal for the young rewarded
I. The objects of compassionate regard alluded TO.
1. In their inherent depravity and their solemn destiny as intended for a state of unending being.
2. In their natural condition of helplessness and weakness amid the circumstances of peril to which they are exposed in their progress through the world.
3. In their influence for good or evil upon the world, and the final account they shall give at the bar of God.
II. The blessedness of those who, under the influence of Christian motives, shall make the young the objects of their devoted care.
1. They shall have their reward in the lovely and appropriate fruits with which the objects of their compassionate regard shall be adorned.
2. In the beneficial influence they shall thus originate and perpetuate.
3. In the approbation of their Saviour and their God. (H. Madgin.)
A good passport
Some few years ago, three small children-a boy and two girls, aged respectively ten, seven, and four-arrived in St. Louis, having travelled thither all the way from Kulin in Germany, without any escort or protection beyond a New Testament and their own innocence and helplessness. Their parents, who had emigrated from the Fatherland and settled in Missouri, had left them in charge of an aunt, to whom, in due time, they forwarded a sum of money sufficient to pay the passage of the little ones to their new home across the Atlantic. As the children could not speak a word of any language but German, it is doubtful whether they would ever have reached their destination at all, had not their aunt, with a woman’s ready wit, provided them with a passport, addressed, not so much to any earthly authority, as to Christian mankind generally. Before taking her leave of the children, the aunt gave the elder girl a New Testament, instructing her to show it to every- person who might accost her during the voyage, and especially to call their attention to the first leaf of the book. Upon that leaf the wise and good woman had written the names of the three children, and this simple statement: “Their father and mother in America are anxiously awaiting their arrival at Sedalia, Missouri.” This was followed by the irresistible appeal-their guide, safeguard, and interpreter throughout a journey over sea and land of more than 4,000 miles-“Verily I say … unto Me.” Many were the little acts of kindness shown to the little travellers, many the hands held out to smooth their journey, by those who read that appeal; and at length they reached their parents in perfect health and safety.
Christ’s appreciation of little services
1. Because they often have great results. A cup of cold water is mentioned here; we can hardly mention a service which one would more naturally think of as a little service, than the giving of a cup of cold water; and yet it may be great in its results. It may allay the fever, and drive away the coming madness of the man who is consumed by thirst-there may be life in a cup of cold water. The fainting traveller in the desert, where the greedy sun has licked all the water up, would die but for the cup of cold water which a provident pilgrim brings to him. Many a castaway on the ocean, drifting on his raft-many a wounded soldier, writhing among the heaps of the smitten on the battle-field-has spent his last breath in crying for a cup of cold water; and a cup of water given at a critical moment would have saved life.
2. When they are the best a man can render.
3. When they are truly rendered to Him. The giving of the cup of cold water, you observe, acquired its character of moral worth from its being given “in the name of a disciple”-given for Christ’s sake. It is possible to work in the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and not serve Christ at all. A soldier may go out in his country’s wars, and make for himself, by his courage and success, an imperishable name, and yet never really serve his country or his king, but only himself; his one impulse throughout may be not loyalty, not patriotism, but the desire of fame, the desire of power, a motive which never takes the man out of himself. (A Hannay.)
Slight services for Christ
1. Slight services are often all we have it in our power to render. What can I do for Christ?
2. Slight services are sufficient to show love for the Saviour.
3. Slight services, after all, may be invaluable services-trivial-“cup of cold water.”
4. Slight services shall be richly requited-“He shall in no wise lose his reward.” (J. Gage Rigg, B. A,)
A small act the embodiment of self-sacrifice
In Bonar and MacCheyne’s narrative of their mission to the Jews in Palestine (Edinburgh, 1839), an incident occurs, illustrative of this passage. “During our ramble” (near Gaza), “ … a kind Arab came forward from his tent as we passed, offering us the refreshment of a drink of water, saying, ‘Jesherhetu mole?’-‘Will you drink water?’” The promise of our Lord seems to refer to cases like this, where the individual, unasked, seeks out objects on whom to show kindness. The least desire to bless shall not lose its reward. We all know how precious a gift a cup of cold water may be, and what self-denial it may involve, from the well-known story of Sir Philip Sidney and the wounded soldier on the battle-field. Sidney, mortally wounded on the field of Zutphen, was about to drink a glass of water which some one had humanely brought him to assuage his agonizing thirst. Just, however, as he was about to press it to his lips, he saw a soldier, in like plight with himself, looking wistfully at it. Unable to resist the pleading eyes of his fellow-sufferer, Sidney handed the glass to him, exclaiming, “Thy necessity is greater than mine.” It is well-known that in Western Australia there is a great want of water, the rivers in that part of the island-continent being few. Mrs. Millett, in her “Life in an Australian Parsonage,” describes the feeling of distress, approaching to despair, experienced by a mother and her child who had missed their way in a remote part of the colony, and who had the dreary prospect, as night came on, of being many hours before they could hope to assuage their thirst; and their astonishment and delight, when, in that remote region, they saw, suddenly emerging from the trees, a woman and a girl each carrying a bucket. “Perhaps,” says Mrs. Millett, “my friend mentally compared the incident to that of all angel’s visit, when the strangers showed her a spring at no great distance, whither they were already on their way to fetch water, having already walked two miles from their own home.” We ourselves remember with pleasure a hot summer evening many years ago, when, tired with a long walk in the neighbourhood of Heidelberg, we asked the mistress of a picturesque German cottage for a glass of water. Readily was it brought, and the peasant-woman, on our thanking her, replied in a tone of true courtesy, “Masser haben wir genug.”-“We have sufficient water.” But, as Jeremy Taylor says, he will have no reward, who gives only water, when his neighbour needs wine or a cordial, and he could give it.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 10". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent