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Art Thou He that should come?
I. The inquiry made by the baptist. It was suggested by the incredulous state of his disciples.
(1) Because if Jesus was Messiah He had not exerted His power for the deliverance of John from prison;
(2) Because they observed that our Saviour had as yet made no public claim to the title; and
(3) Because the manner of our Saviour’s life and conversation had less appearance of sanctity than the life of their master.
II. The reply made by the saviour.
1. AS to the manner of it. It is not direct and positive, but enables them to answer their question themselves.
2. As to the matter of it. Three things deserve to be weighed by us.
(a) The remarkable gradation and rise there is in the particulars there mentioned;
(b) The appositeness of it in relation to the inquirers;
(c) The general force and evidence of the argument contained in it. (Francis Atterbury.)
Marks of convincing miracles
I. They must be above the known powers of all natural causes.
II. They must he done publicly and in the face of the world, that there may be no room to suspect artifice and collusion.
III. The doctrines which they are brought to vouch must be every way worthy of God.
IV. They should carry marks of good-will and beneficence to men.
V. It is the more convincing if such miracles were foretold, and
VI. If there be no appearances of self-interest and design in the worker of such miracles. (Francis Atterbury.)
John’s message to Jesus
It will appear odd that John should entertain any doubt, or require any satisfaction about this matter … John sent this message, not from any doubt which he himself entertained of the matter, but in order that the doubts which his disciples had conceived about it might receive an answer and satisfaction from the fountain head. From our Lord’s answer we are entitled to infer that-
I. The faith which He required was a rational assent and faith founded upon proof and evidence. These were given in His miracles.
II. Our Lord’s miracles distinguished Him from John.
III. Our Lord distinctly put, the truth of His pretensions upon the evidence of His miracles.
IV. Our Lord fixes the guilt of file unbelieving Jews upon this article, that they rejected miraculous proofs which ought to have convinced them. (W. PaIey.)
Proving Jesus to be the Messias
I. The evidence which our saviour gives of his being the true messiah, and to prove this three things were necessary:-
1. To show that He was sent by God, and had a peculiar commission from Him, by the miracles which He wrought.
2. This will more clearly appear by the correspondency of the things here mentioned with what was foretold by the prophets concerning the Messias.
(1) It was foretold of the Messias that He should work miraculous cures (Isaiah 30:4-23.30.6);
(2) That He should preach the gospel to the poor (Isaiah 61:1);
(3) That the world should be offended at Him (Isaiah 8:14).
II. An intimation in the text that notwithstanding all the evidence Christ gave of himself yet many world be offended at him.
1. Consider how the poor came to be more disposed to receive the gospel than others. They had no earthly interest to engage them to reject the Saviour. They enjoy little of the good things of this life, and are willing to entertain good news of happiness in another.
2. What those prejudices are which the world had against Christ. That He wrought miracles by diabolical skill; that He kept company with sinners; that He profaned the Sabbath. (J. Tillotson, D. D.)
I. The prophets declared that the Saviour should be Himself the Everlasting God (Micah 5:2).
II. The family of the Messiah was foretold (Isaiah 11:1).
III. The prophets foretold the time at which the Saviour should be born.
IV. The place of the Saviour’s birth was foretold.
V. The character of the Messiah was the subject of prophecy.
VI. The offices the Messiah was to sustain for His people were foretold by the prophets.
VII. The prophets plainly foretold the manner of Christ’s death, resurrection, and exaltation. Application:-
1. To those who treat with unholy mirth this sacred season.
2. There may be some whose faith in the incarnate Son of God is assaulted by Satan, and perplexed by cruel doubts.
3. There are those who have been effectually taught by the Spirit to believe in Him who came in the flesh. “No man can say that Jesus is the Christ but by the Holy Ghost.” (E. Blencowe, M. A.)
Third Sunday in Advent
I. The word of the Lord stands firm. Forty centuries had passed since the promise of the seed of the woman had been given.
II. The work of the Lord goes on. Men may not understand it; His own servants may be perplexed about it. But there is the secure ongoing of the eternal plan.
III. The consummation cometh-all that pertains to Messianic work He will perform. God has no cause for haste. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
I. John’s doubt. The subject of the doubt-the Messiahship of Jesus.
II. John’s way of acting under the doubt.
1. What he did not do. He did not boast of His doubt. He was not content to remain in this state of-doubt without making an effort to rise out of it.
III. Christ’s answer to john’s doubt. John’s question is, in substance, the question of to-day. But the answer of Jesus is distinct, calm, dignified. (Dr. Ritchie.)
I. That there is No sin in doubting. Some doubts are sinful, when born of irrational prejudices, or bred of unregulated life. But doubt, of its own nature, cannot be sinful. Must be hesitation till evidence be sufficient.
II. But faith is better than doubt. We are never encouraged in Scripture in cultivating an inner habit of intellectual or moral scepticism. Doubt is only a means to faith.
III. There may exist honest doubt, notwithstanding diligent efforts made to remove it.
1. In any attempt to subdue scepticism, regard should be had to the proximate cause of it, or to the real cause of it. Much perplexity has a physical cause. The gospel for the body: rest, change, ocean, may remove this. Doubt has intellectual cause; not to be forced down by acts of will, but by prayer for more light. There are doubts which have a moral origin. Let conscience speak and remove them.
2. That nearly all doubts concerning Christ or Christian truth, ought to be brought in some way before Christ Himself, and given as it were into His own hand for solution. Christ’s reply to the Baptist was clear, prompt, convincing. It is an argumentative reply; fresh evidence is presented. Christ’s work is always open to examination, and testifies to His Messiahship; if it does not then do not believe. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Doubt, a means to faith
What would be thought of a chemist who should conduct an experiment, day after day, making a number of little variations in his method, but always withholding the deciding element from the crucible, or else persistently refusing to look at the result? Or, what would be thought of a merchant, always reckoning up his figures, but never writing down the final sums? Or, what of a captain who should sail his ship in a circle? Or, of a traveller always on the road, never reaching home or inn? (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Conflicts with unbelief.
Martin Luther, of a kindred spirit with the Baptist, and with a like task to perform, had many days of despondency, and passed through many conflicts of unbelief. He writes: “One may overcome the temptations of the flesh, but how hard it is to struggle against the temptations of blasphemy and despair.” Again: “Having all but lost my Christ, I was beaten by the waves and tempests of despair and blasphemy.” Bunyan, who, with his wonderful imagination, could body forth the things unseen and spiritual, as if he could see them with his eyes, hear them with his ears, and touch them with his hands, had many conflicts with unbelief. “Of all temptations I ever met with in my life,” he says, “to question the being of God and the truth of His gospel is the worst, and worst to be borne. When this temptation comes it takes my girdle from me, and removes the foundation from under me. Though God has visited my soul with never so blessed a discovery of Himself, yet afterwards I have been in my spirit so filled with darkness, that I could not so much as once conceive what that God and that comfort were with which I had been refreshed.”
Natural melancholy obstructs the sense of Divine comfort
As it is in clear water, when it is still and transparent, the sun shines to the very bottom; but, if you stir the mud, presently it grows so thick that no light can pierce into it. So it is with the children of God: though their apprehensions of God’s love be as clear and transparent, sometimes, as the very air that the angels and glorified saints breathe in heaven, yet if once the muddy humour of melancholy stirs they become dark, so that no ray of comfort can break into the deserted soul. (Bishop Hopkins.)
Colton declares that in moments of despondency Shakespeare thought himself no poet; and Raphael doubted his right to be called a painter. We call such self-suspicions morbid, and ascribe them to a hypochondriacal fit; in what other way can we speak of those doubts as to their saintship, which occasionally afflict the most eminently holy of the Lord’s people!
Truth not afraid of the light
Here is One evidently, who is not afraid of the light. He will not seek the homage of superstition. Depend on it, Christ is glad of the science of to-day, and its investigations, when carried on in the spirit of reverence and earnestness. He is glad for the broadening light, and for every new coign of vantage whence we can look at Him. Shall we, then, be afraid of the light? When we take a rose, a lily out of the garden, we put it in the clearest light that all its beauty may be seen. We are not afraid of the light for it. We say, “Get the microscope, and let its lenses concentrate the rays upon these flowers of God, and they will glorify Him all the more.” Shall it not be so with this Rose of Sharon, this Lily of the Valley! Ask your question! Push your inquiry! Who is afraid of it? Not Christ. Not we. (J. Brierley, B. A.)
And the poor have the gospel preached to them.
The right of the poor
I. Let us state the sentiment of the text. We understand it to intend the poor in condition, and not the poor in spirit.
1. The gospel is not preached to the poor in order to mix itself with the questions of civil distinctions.
2. It is not that the gospel regards social distinctions as chiefly important.
3. It is not that the gospel takes the same view of these respective classifications which we are accustomed to entertain.
4. It is not that the gospel is merely adapted to the humble spheres and employments of life.
5. It is not that the gospel is unworthy the attention of the most educated minds.
6. This announcement is not only declarative but predictive.
II. Why is the gospel especially preached to the poor?
1. To demonstrate the Divine independence,
2. To explain the apparent inequalities of Providence. If the poor are denied worldly wealth; they can have durable riches.
3. To establish the necessity of a Divine revelation. The poor show the perplexity of other systems; Christianity commenced where they failed.
4. To exhibit the true importance of man.
6. To relieve the heaviest severity of present trouble. The gospel is “ the tender mercy of our God.”
6. To unfold the true genius of the Christian faith.
7. To intimate the spirituality of Christian blessings and rewards.
8. To place before us the value of predispositions in the reception of Christianity.
9. To bind the institutions of the gospel with the perpetuity of an inevitable human condition-“The poor ye have always with you.”
III. The demonstration of the truth of christianity, arising out of this fact, remains to be established.
1. It was the accomplishment of prophecy.
2. It distinguished it from all other systems of philosophy and religion.
3. It took a survey of human nature profound as it was new.
4. It reflects most amiably on the character of the Christian Founder.
5. Its Divine efficacy is proved to be complete.
6. The truth of Christianity borrows new evidence from its operations on the poor, when we remember the nature of the principles which it has inculcated.
7. In this progress of the gospel we must seek an adequate cause. (R. W. Hamilton, D. D.)
The gospel of the poor
We shall more clearly see how it is that Christ’s gospel is for the poor, if we contrast it with some of the many human schemes which we are assured are an excellent substitute for the gospel of Christ.
1. There is that parody of the gospel of Christ which I will call the gospel of philanthropy. This gospel says educate the poor, refine their tastes, open your museums on the Sunday. These things have softening and humanising influence, so long as they are not made substitutes for religion. But there is a refined sensuousness as well as a brutal. These things will not save man.
2. There is the gospel of science. This gospel says to the poor man, “Your condition is the result of inevitable laws. It is the rule of nature that in the struggle for existence the weakest shall go to the wall. If therefore you are weak you must submit to the common lot.” This gospel gives no comfort.
3. There is the gospel of socialism. This says “All men have equal rights. The rich are your oppressors your poverty is the result of cruel laws made by the rich for their benefit.” Wreck these and you will soon correct the inequality. This is a gospel of hate. But the gospel of Jesus Christ is the gospel of power, for it is the gospel of good tidings; of Him who was poor. And what makes this gospel so strong and attractive is that it is a gospel of sympathy. It is also a gospel of hope, because it is the gospel of the resurrection. It is a gospel of brotherhood. (Dean Perowne, D. D.)
Poverty and the gospel
Christ’s gospel was one of mercy to the poor. His conduct fortified His words. His earliest life was of poverty. His miracles were not philosophical enigmas; but of mercy to helpless sufferers. Thus Christ represented the best spirit of the Old Testament. The genius of the Jewish Scriptures is that of mercy to the poor; the prophets denounced avarice. This view of the gospel also fits in with the order of the unfolding of human life and human society. It takes sides with the poor, and so the universal tendency of Providence and of history, slowly unfolded, is, nevertheless, on the whole, going from low to high, from worse to better, and from good toward the perfect. When we consider, we tee that man begins as a helpless thing, a baby zero without a figure before it; and every step in life adds a figure to it and gives it more and more worth. On the whole, the law of unfolding throughout the world is from lower to higher, and though, when applied to the population of the globe, it is almost inconceivable; still, with many back-sets and reactions, the tendency of the universe is thus from lower to higher. Why? Let any man consider whether there is not of necessity a benevolent intelligence somewhere, that is drawing up from the crude toward the ripe, from the rough toward the smooth, from bad to good, and from good through better toward best; and the tendency upward runs like a golden thread through the history of the whole world, both in the unfolding of human life and in the unfolding of the race itself. Thus the tendency of nature is in accordance with the tendency of the gospel as declared by Jesus Christ-namely, that it is a ministry of mercy to the needy. The causes of poverty are worthy consideration.
1. Climate and soil have much to do with it. Men whose winters last nine months, as in extreme north, cannot be rich. Some live on borders of deserts.
2. Bad government is a public source of poverty. Property is insecure.
3. Ignorance or undevelopedness of mind is a great cause of poverty. All property is matter that has been shaped to uses by intelligent skill. It is the husbandman who thinks, foresees, and calls on natural laws to serve Him whose farm brings forth one hundred fold.
4. The appetites and passions of men are the causes of poverty. The men of animalism are always at the bottom of society. All these causes indicate that the poor need moral and intellectual culture. To preach the gospel to the poor is to awaken the mind of the poor. It is a gospel of prosperity. Its primary result is to develop the man himself; to give him such qualities that he will not need relief. The gospel changed from a spirit of humanity into a philosophical system of doctrine, is perverted. Churches organized upon elective affinities are contrary to the spirit of the gospel. Art and intellectual communion right; but must not abandon humanity. The church needs poor men; it needs familiarity with universal human nature. (H. W. Beecher.)
Tendency of the gospel to “level up”
So, make the common people grow, and there is nobody tall enough to be much higher. When you cross the continent on the Union Pacific Railway and reach the Rocky Mountains, you do not know it. You have been running up at a rate that seemed as if you were in a valley almost. It simply was because the grade was so easy on this side that when you got up to the top of the mountains they do not seem any higher than the plains below, and it is rising so gradually that first made them seem so low. But when you begin to go on the other side, and plunge down the gorges and canons, the mountains seem very high from those low points. The general tendency of Christian democratic institutions is to raise the average of mankind, and as the average goes up it becomes harder and harder for single men to stand as much above the level of their fellow-men as they did formerly. (H. W. Beecher.)
Preaching for the Poor
1. That the gospel must be preached where the poor can come and hear it.
2. It must be preached attractively before the poor will come to hear it.
3. It must be preached simply. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The climax of wonders
1. That the tendency of the gospel is to raise society.
2. That the gospel dignifies man independently of his outward circumstances.
3. The great simplicity of the gospel.
4. The freeness of the gospel.
5. The inherent power of the gospel.
(1) The gospel is the only system adapted to man.
(2) It is the most favourable system to the working class.
(3) That it is by the influence of the gospel alone that the world can be reformed.
(4) That those only who believe the gospel can enjoy its blessings. (H. E. Thomas.)
The gospel preached to the poor
I. Its excellency. This provision of the gospel for the poor was a new thing; it was a charity unknown before. The excellency of its effects. What exaltation of hope and character it substitutes for cheerless poverty. It cultivates the moral wilderness.
II. The obligation it lays upon us. Iii. The means of fulfilling it. (N. Paterson.)
The gospel preached to the poor
I. The salvation of God as brought before us in the text-”the gospel.”
II. The mode of its announcement-“preached.”
5. As the Word of God.
III. The objects which are especially brought before us in the text-“the poor.” The gospel knows no partiality. The poor in spirit also have the gospel preached to them. (H. Allen, M. A )
The gospel especially addressed to the poor
1. Because it is peculiarly adapted to their capacities.
2. Also to their means. It is not a costly purchase.
3. It is suited to their opportunities, It is not limited to time or place, but is a thing of the heart, and can be professed consistently with daily toil.
The gospel is glad tidings to the poor.
1. It elevates in rank.
2. It promotes the terrestrial happiness.
3. It lights up the hope of immortality. (H. Stowell, M. A.)
The gospel kindles noble principles within the heart of the poor
Let me here state a simple fact relative to Sunday School instruction by way of illustration. The earliest Sunday School which was instituted, as far as I have been able to collect, was in a valley in Gloucestershire, by a manufacturer, who, though not a man of piety himself, was moved by the state of ignorance of the little ones released on the day of rest from their labours in the factory, and from all restraint; he built a school, and employed a holy old man to bring them into this fold, where they were fostered in simplicity and security. Years rolled on, and that rich manufacturer was reduced by vicissitudes in trade to great distress; and as he was walking in the streets in the midst of his poverty, he was accosted by a man in the garb of soldier, who said, “How glad am I to see you.” The manufacturer replied, “I know you not.” The man rejoined, “Ah! but I know you, sir; it was in your school that I was taught to read the Word of God, which has been my comfort in all my wanderings.” “It cheers me,” said the man of sorrows, “changed as you see me; I was then rich, but am now poor.” “Say you so?” exclaimed the soldier, “I have just received a pension; you cannot work for your broad, but I can work for mine, and that pension shall be yours.” He pressed upon him his little all, for which he had toiled and bled in his country’s defence. “Never,” said the afflicted man, when relating this incident, “did I before comprehend the meaning of that promise, ‘Cast thy bread upon the waters, and it shall be found after many days.’” Oh, what a sublime description-or rather, what a sublime action! It is worth ten thousand sentiments. There was the magnificent character and majesty of soul, which nothing but Christian principle can give, and compared with which, all the deeds of ordinary philanthropy are but the glow-worm’s light to the splendour of the mid-day. That poor man had no learning but what he derived from the gospel; but see how it elevated his soul. (H. Stowell, M. A.)
The gospel for the poor
It is the high-born chiefly that approach the person of the sovereign, enjoy the honours of the palace, and fill the chief offices of the state. Royal favours seldom descend so low as humble life. The grace of our King, however, is like those blessed dews that, while the mountain tops remain dry, lie thick in the valleys; and, leaving the proud and stately trees to stand without a gem, hang the lowly bush with diamonds, and sow the sward broadcast with orient pearl. This is the kingdom for the mean, and the meek, and the poor, and the humble! (Dr. Guthrie.)
And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.
The prejudices against Christianity considered
I. Those prejudices and objections which the world had against the saviour and his religion at their first appearance; also to inquire into those which men at this day insist upon; and to show the unreasonableness of them.
1. That Christianity was a great innovation, and contrary to the received institutions of the world.
2. They objected against the plainness and simplicity of the doctrine.
3. That it wanted demonstration.
4. That the low and suffering condition of our Saviour was unsuitable to one that pretended to be the Son of God.
II. To consider the prejudices and objections which men at this day insist upon against our saviour and his religion.
1. Some that relate to the incarnation of our Saviour.
2. To the time of His appearance. Why did He not come sooner?
3. That we have not now sufficient evidence of the truth of Christianity.
4. That the terms of it seem very hard, and to lay too great restraints upon human nature.
5. That it is apt to despoil men, and to break the vigour and courage of their minds.
6. The divisions and factions that are among Christians.
7. The wicked lives of the greatest part of the professors of Christianity.
III. How happy a thing it is to escape the common prejudices men are apt to entertain against religion-“Blessed is he,” etc. This will appear if we consider-
1. That prejudice does many times sway and bias men against the plainest truths.
2. Prejudice will bias men in matters of the greatest concernment, in things that concern the honour of God and the good of others and our own welfare.
3. The consequences of men’s prejudices in these things prove many times fatal and destructive.
4. There are few in comparison who have the happiness to escape and overcome the common prejudices which men are apt to entertain against religion. (J. Tillotson, D. D.)
Taking offence at the gospel
I. what are the offences which are generally taken at the gospel of Christ?
1. The poverty and meanness in which our Saviour appeared was the earliest objection to the gospel. This prejudice arises from a false conception of the power and majesty of God, as if the success of His purposes depended upon the visible fitness of the instruments He made choice of; or as if the majesty of God wants the little supports of outward pomp as that of man does. But would the advantages with respect to men have been greater had Christ appeared in greater splendour? The majesty of God must be veiled to be seen by the human eye. But did not Christ give sight to the blind, and triumph over death? Do princes and greatest men perform such works? Do these not manifest Divine power?
2. The next offence is that men do not find the wisdom they seek after in the gospel.
(1) But this objection must rise to our creation, with God for not making us wiser than we are.
(2) This objection does not affect the practice of religion.
(3) That the gospel has given us the greatest evidence for the certainty of those things that can be desired.
3. The last offence is that the gospel contains mysterious truths.
(1) This objection does not reach the gospel use of the word, nor can affect the mysteries contained in the gospel.
(2) That the use of the word, which is liable to this objection, does not in any way belong to the gospel; nor are there any such mysteries in the gospel as may justify the complaint made against them. (T. Sherlock, D. D.)
Offended with Christ
I. There are some who are so offended in christ that they never, trust him at all or accept him as their Saviour.
1. Some in His own day were offended with Him because of the humbleness of His appearance. They said, “He is the sun of a carpenter.”
2. There are others who reject Him because of the fewness of His followers.
3. Some are offended with Christ because of the grandeur of His claims. He claims to be God.
4. Some are offended with our Lord because of His atonement.
5. Some are offended because of the graciousness of the gospel. They prefer works.
6. Some are offended because of the holiness of His precepts. They like liberty to sin.
II. There are some who join the church of Jesus Christ who after a time are offended.
1. Because the novelty wears off.
2. Because they thought that they were always going to be happy.
3. Because they have met an opposition they did not expect from their enemies.
4. Because they began to find that religion entailed more self-denial than they had reckoned upon.
5. Because of the hard speeches of those who ought to have encouraged them.
6. Because of the ill conduct of professors.
7. Through trials of providence.
III. There are some who are not offended in Christ, and they are declared to be blessed.
1. Apart from anything else it is a blessed thing to have grace enough given you to hold fast to Christ under all circumstances.
2. Then you shall find a blessedness growing out of your fidelity,
3. But what blessedness awaits you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. Who are the persons that are offended at Christ?
1. Those who discredit the authenticity of His Word.
2. Who deny the Divinity of His Person.
3. Who reject the efficacy of His atonement.
4. Wide despise the influences of His Spirit.
5. Who backslide from the profession of His name.
II. The things at which they are offended.
1. The meanness of His birth.
2. The sufferings of His life.
3. The simplicity of His doctrines,
4. The poverty of His followers.
5. The ignominy of His death.
III. The blessedness of those who are not offended at Christ.
1. Divine peace (Psalms 119:1-19.119.176.).
2. Divine comforts (Psalms 89:16).
3. Divine care (1 Peter 5:7).
4. Divine honours (1 Samuel 2:30).
5. Eternal reward,
6. To be offended at Christ displays the greatest ignorance. (The Pulpit.)
The offence of Christ
I. With regard to those things which render the redeemer an offence to the world.
1. The mysterious constitution of His nature.
2. The humbling tendency of the doctrines.
3. The exclusive character of His religion.
II. The blessedness of those who are not offended in the Saviour. How is it that some embrace the Saviour, and others are offended at Him? The reception of Him is the result of Divine illumination.
III. The best means of attaining this blessedness.
1. Earnest Prayer.
2. Seek God in His Word.
3. A holy life. (E. Thompson, M. A.)
Offences against Christianity no just grounds for infidelity
1. The objections grounded on the nature of the religion, and what it has effected.
2. On the controversies about it.
3. On the conduct of its professors. (S. Jenner, B. A.)
Offended in Christ
The fact that our Lord directed His reply to John himself, for his personal satisfaction. John knew that Jesus was Messiah, but he did not know that His kingdom was to be a spiritual, not a temporal one. Two objections were taken against Christ of old. Jews pretended that His condition of life was too low and mean for what their prophets had taught them to expect; and the Gentiles objected to His doctrine, as not displaying enough of what they called wisdom. He should have come as a philosopher, or as a temporal king. But He did come, unassisted by human power, or dignity, or wisdom, and thus He was-
I. Enabled to be the pattern of all virtue.
II. The spread of His kingdom in so short a time, the more fully displays the hand of God.
III. His miracles acquire a greater degree of evidence, and-
IV. What He taught is now not liable to be charged with those suspicions, which royalty and conquest would justly have raised. (Zachary Pearce.)
Offences taken at Christianity
I. It is not to be expected that a religion, though truly Divine, should be entirely exempt from everything of difficulty, or liable to no manner of objection.
II. Not a few of the offences taken at religion, at that of Jesus in particular, may, they do in fact, arise entirely from men themselves, rather than from any real occasion that religion gives for them.
III. Many of the particular occasions of offence taken at the Saviour had been themselves actually predicted.
IV. No objections brought against Christianity should be considered alone; they, and the evidence it produces in its favour, should be considered together. The chief objections are-
(1) The needlessness of any supernatural revelation;
(2) the want of universality in Christianity;
(3) the weakness of the evidence produced in its favour;
(4) the difficulties found in some of the peculiar and sublime doctrines of the gospel;
(5) the disagreements among those who profess the gospel;
(6) the stress which Christianity lays upon faith;
(7) the difficulties of its precepts;
(8) the inconsistencies of professors. (John Hodge.)
Message of Christ to one beginning to be offended
John, in prison, hears of the great progress of the kingdom he has heralded, and cannot understand why he is left unaided, seemingly unpitied, to perish. Not for want of power, surely; the hand that healed the sick could open the prison. If for want of will, can this be the real King? Why does the axe not smite the overshadowing tree of wickedness; why does the fan not winnow the evil from the good? So he sends his message of remonstrance and indignation. To this Christ gives a twofold answer. He bids John’s disciples tell their master of His works and of His word, of His miracles and of His teaching.
I. Miracles, i.e., not merely things to wonder at, but signs that the supernatural kingdom of righteousness wrought by a power, a will, a voice outside of and acting on nature; telling us that this order of nature may yet be completely changed for a higher and better, in which it shall be as unnatural for man to suffer, sorrow, and die, as it is now natural. But the exercise of this power was limited. Only some of the sick were healed and dead raised. To assure us that eventually all shall be, we need, besides the evidence of Christ’s works, the declaration of His-
II. Word-“to the poor the gospel is preached.” Why is this significant? Because poverty is only another word for human imperfection and weakness. The life of humanity on earth is a life of struggle with nature. In proportion as man subdues the earth, progress, civilization, and wealth increase. But all are not equally fitted for this struggle; hence, while the strong frame, keen intellect, resolute will, conquer circumstances, the weak suffer and hunger. But in the kingdom of heaven there is a gospel for the poor. God has another world, in which to redress the inequalities of this, where the poor shall hunger and thirst no more, and where God shall wipe away the tears from all eyes. This gospel for the poor is no myth or mirage begotten of the fevered thirst of man’s soul. Deeprooted in historic fact lie the reasons of this promise. The city of God that is to come down from heaven has had its foundation-stone laid already upon earth. The gospel for the poor is the gospel of the resurrection. He who preaches it, stands beside an open grave. Moreover, the glory to come is linked with present suffering as its result and fruit. The law of the heavenly kingdom requires that the sin which hinders our happiness should be burnt out by sorrow, and that we should bear the chastening cross in this life. While the rich man is told that if he would walk heavenward he must be ready to part with riches and become poor at Christ’s bidding, the poor man is comforted with the knowledge that weariness, sorrow, toil, suffering, and disappointment, if taken up as a cross, if lifted as a burden the Saviour has appointed, will bear rich fruit in heaven. Thus, out of suffering comes joy; out of sorrow, eternal peace; and so the trials of the poor man in this world are made his spiritual wealth in the world to come. (Bishop W. C. Magee.)
Offended by faithful preaching
Mr. Dodd, having preached against the profanation of the Sabbath, which much prevailed in his parish, and especially among the more wealthy inhabitants, the servant of a nobleman, who was one of them, came to him and said, “Sir, you have offended my lord to-day.” Mr. Dodd replied, “I should not have offended your lord, except he had been conscious to himself that he had first offended my Lord; and if your lord will offend my Lord, let him be offended.”
The ready way to blessedness
I. What it is to be offended in Christ.
1. It supposes some offer and revelation made to us, that grace is brought home to us and salvation offered to us.
2. It implieth such an offence that either they are kept off from Christ, or else drawn away from Him.
II. Upon what occasions men were offended in Christ.
1. They were displeased with His Person.
2. They were offended at His doctrine.
3. The great stumbling-block of all was His sufferings.
III. Was it not proper to that age only? There is danger still:-
1. Because, though the name of Christ be had in honour, yet the stricter profession of godliness is under reproach.
2. It may happen that the stricter sort of Christians are the poorer, and so may be despised of men.
3. Though men be not distasted against Christianity as a whole, yet in part, at some of its ways.
4. There is no man but if he run up his refusal of Christ to its proper principle he will find it to be some dislike, either from the inward constitution of his own mind, or the external state of religion in the world.
What is likely to offend since Christ’s exaltation into heaven?
1. The many calamities which attend the profession of religion.
2. They may take offence at Christ’s doctrine, at the purity, self-denial, the simplicity, the mysteriousness of it.
IV. The kinds of this sin of being offended in Christ.
1. There is an offence with contempt, and an offence with discouragement.
2. There is an offence of ignorance, and an offence of malice and opposition.
3. There is a total, and there is a partial, offence.
V. How is it true that those that escape this sin are in the ready way to salvation?
1. He that is not offended but evangelized, hath the power and virtue of the gospel stamped upon his heart.
2. The esteem produceth uniform obedience.
3. We are better fortified against temptations to apostasy-errors, scandals, and persecutions.
VI. Make use of this caution. Take heed of being offended in Christ.
1. Who are in danger of it.
2. The heinousness of it.
(1) It is unreasonable.
3. What shall we do to avoid it?
(1) Get a clear understanding;
(2) a mortified heart;
(3) a fervent love. (T. Manton, D. D.)
What went ye out into the wilderness to see?
The attractiveness of John the Baptist
What is it in human character that exerts the most powerful influence over the hearts of men?
1. Is it what is generally called amiability? Is it “a reed shaken by the wind?” a character that bends at the first expression of adverse opinion? Is this the character that wins the human heart? That which really draws us to itself is the man who is strong enough to resist with tenderness.
2. Are we, then, generally attracted by the attributes of high station? “Clothed in soft raiment.” Few people are insensible to the attraction of high station; it has often the charm of old associations and achievements. But does it draw our hearts? His life may contradict the high ideal his position would lead us to expect; and these decorations are outside the man.
3. Is it mental power which most powerfully affect us? Many a man bows down to intellect who would not to wealth. Intellect is attractive, but its attraction is not universal; it is not powerful; there are large regions of heart in our nature where it does not touch. Intellect may forfeit its power by being divorced from goodness-“More than a prophet.”
4. The feeling which is always inspired by a great religious soul of whose consistency we are well assured, but which we only half understand. Such a character lives before us evidently in constant communion with God while shrouding from the public eye much which our curiosity would fain explore. Without analyzing their feelings, the multitude felt that in coming near to the Baptist they were like men who stood at the base of a mountain which buries its summit in the clouds of heaven. John was not discredited by his imprisonment; he was a prophet still; so our Lord would have them understand. (Canon Liddon.)
Conceptions of religion
I. There are those whose idea of religion is a weak, vacillating, or vague principle. It has no strong hold in their minds or hearts. To how many is religion hardly more than a mere curiosity, or a transcient excitement, like wind blowing among reeds. But these words are meant to describe the preconceptions of the multitude respecting John. For, after all, it may be said of the mass of men that their feeling in regard to religion is not one of curiosity; there is a deep sense of something in the thing itself, and not in the mere manner of presenting it; but it is not held to be a strong principle, fitted for maturity, or, if they do not conceive it to be vacillating and weak, they hold it fitfully, or else it is merely in a traditional way that men hold religion; or perhaps religion is held by them because it is respectable.
II. That there is a class to whom religion is merely an affair of sentiment. They are represented by those people who expected to see the Baptist clothed in soft raiment. There are those to whom religion is a matter of aesthetic beauty. In another view, religion is to some a matter of soft raiment, from the idea that it is merely a matter of comfort and consolation. Others do not like a religion that has anything to do with agitation or reform. There are some who do not like to hear hard, sharp epithets from the preacher.
III. There are those who regard religion in its supernatural character, They look for nothing less remarkable or worthy than a prophet. They view religion solely in its connection with miracles. The supernatural is not the exclusive element in religion; religion touches our common daily life. What is religion to you? (E. H. Chapin.)
The only real moral power influencing the world is courage in acting up to our convictions
Those who have not this are reeds. They may be classified thus:-
1. The irresolute; the soul which never can be got to take a decided line. But it puts off this necessary reformation; and so, although it has got a full flowery head of good intentions, they all blow away in the wills.
2. The backsliding; sincere in its weak, watery way, desiring to do what is right, but never able to stand alone-always falling for want of a prop.
3. The frivolous; unable to form a serious purpose, or take a grave view of its responsibilities. The frivolous mind is a mind outside the person; there is only emptiness within, and the mind is occupied only with externals. It is a more mischievous reed than the preceding; the winds that blow it about are fashion, folly, pleasure.
4. The timorous; a weak little rush, harmless, not noxious. It will not undertake a duty, lest it should not have strength to carry it on. (S. Baring-Gould, M. A.)
A reed is
1. A light man, inconsistent, tossed to and fro; at one time, impelled by the words of flatterers, he asserts something; again, being driven by detractors, he denies it, as a reed is blown in different directions by different winds.
2. A man devoid of truth, virtue, and consistency-without stamina.
3. One who has no fruit of good works to show.
4. He who is delighted with, and feeds upon, the fluctuating pleasures of the world. For a reed is dry, yet it grows beside the waters. (Lapide.)
The ends of the Sacrament
Based on the expression, “What went ye out for to see?” When we are going to an ordinance, we should consider our aim, and what we are going about. In every action we should reflect upon the principles and ends, the reasons that move us to any duty. The ends of the Lord’s Supper are-
I. To be a badge of profession. Profession is a great matter for two reasons.
1. Cases may happen in which profession is like to cost us dear.
2. We are bound to a profession, not in word only, but in deed. He is not a professor whose life is not a hymn to God. What are the excellences of the Christian profession? Sure principles of trust, or commerce, between us and God, for mercies of daily providence, pardon, and life, excellent rewards, and holy precepts of purity and charity. Now if we transgress any of these, we dishonour our profession.
II. To be a seal of the covenant. On our part an obligation to obedience; God bindeth Himself to be our God, and we bind ourselves to be His people.
III. To be a pledge of heaven.
IV. To be a sign, means, and pledge of our communion with Christ.
V. To be a means of our spiritual growth and nourishment.
VI. To be a memorial of Christ’s death. VII. To be a pledge of his coming. If these be the ends of the sacrament, you see what need there is of preparation. (Thomas Manton.)
How may we give Christ a satisfying account why we attend upon the ministry of the Word?-
I. Those that attend upon the ministry of the word should propose unto themselves some end why they do it.
1. Some propose no end at all.
2. Some propose ends downright sinful.
3. Some propose ends frivolous and trifling.
II. Those that propose a good end must call themselves to a strict account how that end is obtained or lost.
1. He must give such an account as a scholar to his teacher, of what he learns.
2. As a steward to his master.
3. As a debtor to his creditor (Matthew 18:23-40.18.24).
4. As a malefactor to a judge (Matthew 12:36-40.12.37).
III. The strict account we take of ourselves must be frequent. Inferences:
1. It is not the bare hearing of the best preachers that will save you.
2. Remove those hindrances which prevent any soul business.
3. Call yourself to account before and after hearing the Word of God.
4. Christ asks thee here in this world, that thou mayest stand at the last day, when there will be no time to rectify.
5. If you do not give Christ an answer which He will accept, it is vain to expect relief from any other. (S. Annesley, D. D.)
Christ praising the Baptist
The time to praise:-Due praise is to be given to the good parts and practices of others; but rather behind their backs than before their faces, lest we be suspected of flattery, than which nothing is more odious. Aristobulus, the historian, wrote a flattering book of the brave acts of Alexander the Great, and presented it to him. He read it, and then cast it into the river, telling the author that he deserved to be treated as his book was. (John Trapp.)
Men see wheat they go out to see
A geologist and a botanist take a walk together. They go over the same country, but the geologist sees the lie of the strata, the botanist sees the wild flower under the hedge. So it is in the world of the moral and the spiritual. What we are spiritually all goes into our vision. (J. Brierley, B. A.)
The reed of the Jordan
Mr. Macgregor, known as Rob Roy, gives the following precise description of this reed. “There is first a lateral trunk lying on the water and half submerged. This is sometimes as thick as a man’s body, and from its lower side hang innumerable string-like roots, from three to five feet long, and of a deep purple colour. On the upper surface of the trunks the stems grow alternately in oblique rows; their thickness at the junction is often four inches, and their height fifteen feet, gracefully tapering until a: the top is a little round knob, with long, thin, brown, wire-like hairs, eighteen inches long, which rise, and then, recurving, hang about it in a thyrsus-shaped head.”
Which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.
Preparations for Christ’s coming
God does not seem, as a rule, to allow any great truth or blessing to burst upon the world without some sort of preparation. In this case two series of preparations:
(1) Prophecy, educating religious souls among the Jews to look out for a Messiah; and
(2) St. John Baptist, to point Him out when He had come. John’s business was, first of all, to gain the ear of his countrymen, and then to say, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and afterwards to announce Jesus as “ the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” Thus John was, in the kingdom of grace, like those gifted men in the world of thought, or in the world of practical life, who are always ahead of the mass of people around them; they have the inspiration not of supernatural grace, but of natural genius, which is itself a gift of God, though of a different order of value and power. They are like lofty mountains whose summit the sun has already lit up, while he has not yet poured his beams upon the plain beneath. They are alone on their watch-tower; and, if they say what they think, it is only to be smiled down as enthusiasts. Two requisites for work like that of John Baptist:
I. Courage to tear the mask from evils and abuses, and this implies
(1) a firm, definite conviction that certain things are absolutely true, worth working for, suffering for, and (if need be) dying for; and
(2) Independence, i.e., detachment from those motives of subservience which, at critical times, stay the hand and silence the tongue of ordinary men.
II. Disinterestedness. A man may be brave, and yet he may be selfish; he may work and endure, yet only for himself. John Baptist had to resist this temptation. Some of his disciples would have liked him to become the founder of a new religious school. But he himself never yielded to the temptation to make selfish capital, in the way of influence or consideration, out of his popular power. He ever regarded it as his highest work and glory to bury his own miserable self beneath the surpassing greatness of his commission from Heaven. (Canon Liddon.)
John as forerunner of Jesus.
I. ‘Tis written in the prophets that such a messenger she,rid go before and prepare the way of the Messias.
II. St. John was the person, or he of whom this was written.
III. In what manner did he prepare the way of the Lord?
1. Not with any worldly pomp or splendour.
2. Not by calling upon the inhabitants of the earth to meet their Lord in state and magnificence.
3. It was by preaching repentance, and turning men from their sins. (Matthew Hole.)
There hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist.
The least in the kingdom of heaven
Is it contrary to any true theory of John’s prophetical mission that he should be for once seized with a spasm of doubt? Great men are not at their greatest at all times. The heavenly treasure is in earthen vessels. There are two sufficient reasons for his doubt:-
1. Things were turning out somewhat differently from his own programme. He was falling into the mistake we often make of fancying ourselves architects in God’s world, whereas we are only day labourers.
2. John’s message came from the inside of a prison. A man of his temperament, flung back from great activities to mope by himself, was almost sure to get a little strained in his views of things. For such men the difficulty is not to do hard things, but to be kept back from doing them. Note, now, the way in which Christ deals with this message.
How is the doubter received? No word of anger or remonstrance.
1. He gives the messengers clear proof of His Messiahship, and then, when their back is turned, He speaks to the multitude of John in terms of commendation.
2. Observe what Christ says concerning John-“What; went ye out for to see.” Men go out to see what there is to see: what we bring to a thing conditions what we shall bring away from it. “Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” We are all of us higher up than John. We are so by virtue of belonging to a dispensation beyond his. The baptism of Pentecost lifted the world to a higher stage, and we are on that higher stage. It is a glorious thought that, under God, the human race is continually advancing.
3. Take two particulars as regards our dispensation:-
1. We have the advantage of John in the testimony we bear, from the facts we deal with, as compared with those of which he spake. He sketched the Christ in outline; we have the picture filled up.
2. The advantage of the worker in the Christian Church over the Baptist is seen in the kind of effort to which he puts his hand. John’s work was to bring men to repentance; this its limit. But in the Christian Church this work is to be carried on through all the process of sanctification, till it lifts the soul to the topmost heights of holiness. The element of the remarkable and extraordinary is not always the measure of real value. John’s career was extraordinary. We do a work thousands have done before. Yearn not to be eccentric, but deep and real. (J. Brierley, B. A.)
The infinite possibility of manhood
Each generation is on higher ground than the last. Fathers, respect your children, they are older than you. Do people speak of me as some forty years of age, more or less? Nonsense. I am 6,000 years old, at least. I have in me the sum of the lives and consciousness of all who preceded me, and something new added besides. We are trees which, through the root, drink up the virtue of the soil around them-soil made up of the buried generations of trees-and bring forth also something new in their own fruit and flower. In the light of this, what business have we to be always looking to the past, as if there were nothing of goodness or value in the world but what is hundreds and thousands of years old:’ You get people who, in religion, are nothing if not antiquarian. If Quakers, they think there were never such days as those of George Fox; if Methodists, there will never be the like again of John Wesley and his fellows; if Churchmen, they grope about amongst the fathers, and hold that wisdom and worth died with them. This is a wrong mood of mind. We want to take in all our predecessors can teach us: hut, oh, if we have faith in the living God we shall have belief in the boundless possibilities also, of the present and of the future. Man is going on. He is pushed up from behind. He is drawn up from above. Yes [ John is mighty in his generation. But those who come after are higher than he. Onward, upward l Oh, that we may not hinder the progress in ourselves, but spread every sail, stretch every stitch of canvas to the breeze that bears us along to the celestial country! (J. Brierley, B. A.)
Greater than the Baptist.
I. The meaning of the text. The first clause is simple enough; it states that John Baptist was greater than all who preceded him. The second clause is the difficulty least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” What is intended by “the kingdom of heaven”-the kingdom of glory, or of grace, or both? It is of course true that the least in heaven is greater and more privileged than John. It is better to he with Christ than on earth. But the kingdom of glory is not meant here. The term is almost universally used with reference to the kingdom of God on earth. “The kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God, cometh not with observation.” This refers to earth: the heavenly kingdom will come with splendour. The gospel dispensation is intended. Who are the least:’ Not the apostles, but the saint.
II. The reason. In what sense John was greater than all who preceded him.
1. One might take the personal character of John, and his superiority will be seem His zeal was great, he was the messenger before our Lord. This establishes the great superiority of John. No prophet actually prepared the way of the Saviour. Real greatness is approximation to God. The man who knows God best is greatest. Who was ever brought into such near connection with God as John? He was the friend of the Bridegroom. The dispensation of John was peculiar; he stood between the law and the gospel. How is it that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John? Observe the expression “least in the kingdom of heaven.” John was not in the kingdom of heaven. It all turns upon this. Our Lord draws the contrast. John was the greatest of all who went before him; but the least in the kingdom of heaven was greater than he-hot in heaven, but on earth.
The kingdom of heaven, in the sense here intended, commenced with the day of Pentecost; it is essentially connected both with the in-dwelling and out-pouring of the Holy Ghost. John said. “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.”
1. The least in the kingdom of heaven is participator of all that the God of heaven can bestow. Nothing more can be given him.
2. The least in the kingdom of heaven is a member of the bride’s.
3. The least in the kingdom of heaven is a temple of the Holy Ghost.
4. The least in the kingdom of heaven has the spirit of adoption-the spirit of a son.
5. The least in the kingdom of heaven is brought into relationship with each of the Persons in the Trinity, in a sense which John was not.
6. The least in the kingdom of heaven may therefore become the greatest. Let us realize the greatness of the gospel dispensation. (Capet Molyneux, B. A.)
The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence.
Earnestness in religion
1. Earnestness is a distinguishing mark of race-elevation.
2. Earnestness is characteristic of great epochs.
3. Earnestness is a criterion of individual character, men weight according to earnestness; it is more than ability.
4. Of all places for earnestness, religion is the most important and natural. Reasons for earnestness in religion:-
I. It is demanded by the nature of religion itself. It is an earnest thing, demands our best power
(1) as a scheme of worship;
(2) as a series of works;
(3) as a system of duty;
(4) as a revelation of future rewards and punishments.
II. Earnestness in religion is demanded by earnestness in the God whom religion reveals. NO epicurean deity, careless of men.
1. God’s earnestness visible in nature. It is a whirl of terrible forces.
2. It is visible in things permitted and accomplished in Providence.
3. Earnestness visible in God’s self-revelation. God comes nearer to man at every step up to incarnation.
4. The language of scripture as revealing earnestness in God. It contains tender pleading, strong remonstrance. The only thing that can answer God is earnestness in us.
III. Earnestness is demanded by the difficulties in being religious,
1. These are real-“Many are called; few chosen.” The promises are “ to him that over-cometh.”
2. They are not difficulties in religion itself. Abundant grace is supplied.
3. They are in us.
(1) Our unbelief.
(2) Love of the world.
(3) Spiritual indolence.
4. These are complicated by our surroundings.
5. And there is no accommodation of conditions. Religion no respecter of persons.
IV. Earnestness in religion is demanded by our actual dangers and needs.
1. Religion is a scheme of pardon as well as a system of truth. Our exposure is imminent.
2. Here is the supreme reason for earnestness in seeking the kingdom of heaven. It is your life.
V. Now contrast the earnestness so evidently demanded by our situation and the lightness wits which some threat the whole matter.
1. Contentment with slight grounds for unbelief.
2. Then see the lightness with which some turn away to business.
3. Lack of earnestness shown in deferred prayers and broken promises.
4. The feeble beginnings speedily abandoned.
1. Remember the religious earnestness to which Christ exhorts is no fanatical excitement.
2. Remember how soon difficulties melt away before earnestness.
3. Examine the reasons why indifference replaces earnestess.
4. Earnestness is demanded by sour conduct in anything else which you believe will be to your advantage.
5. Appeal for immediate decision. These, the best things for earnestness; will please God; come to them as they come to you. (S. F. Scovel.)
The kingdom of heaven taken by violence
I. From the fact that the Scribes and Pharisees lost the kingdom with everything in their favour, whilst the “violent “ won it with everything against them, we gather that every natural advantage may be forfeited a non-improvement, and that its want may be compensated by strenuousness of exertion.
II. He who would be saved must de saved by violence, and, nevertheless, he can be saved only by grace. Many charge the doctrine of justification by faith with a tendency to undermine exertion. But there is more effort necessary to be saved by grace than by works. Man’s strongest inclinations are on the side of meriting heaven by works; hence the need of violence to resist this. And the violence done to nature by the act of believing, faith, as working by love, will keep men in perpetual activity. A life of faith is a life of self-denial. It is not easy, though God’s grace will prevent it being too difficult.
III. With this proof that they who would be saved must use violence there is given A demonstration that, nevertheless, they can be saved only by grace. The faith which prompts and enables the violence is no human principle, but is of celestial gift. Faith, and all its results, must be attributed to grace. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The Christian must use force
If the wrestler must use force when the athletic arm is raised against him, then must we for we wrestle with principalities and powers. If the warrior must use force when the army cometh against him, then must we use force, for there are squadrons between us and everlasting rest. If the captive must use force when he would wrench off his chains, then must we use force, for the fetters of an evil nature bind us to the earth. If the traveller must use force when there are mountains to be scaled, then must we use force, for a rugged land is before us, and the rocks and the torrents block up our path. Or if the suppliant use force-the force of earnest entreaty, unwearied solicitation, burning tears, and passionate cries, when he would gain a favour from a great one of the earth; then must we use force; we must “pray always and not faint;” we must besiege the mercy-seat, seeing that all we need must come from God; and earnest supplication is the condition on which God bestows. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The kingdom of heaven taken by force
I. The nature of the force here spoken of.
1. A resolution of mind to receive the doctrine and precepts of strict holiness and virtue, though contrary to the ordinary bias of men’s appetites and inclinations.
2. The quitting favourite notions and prejudices, upon sufficient evidence, and with mature, serious, and diligent consideration.
3. Quitting some present worldly advantages for the sake of the gospel, and making a profession of the truths of religion, against much opposition, and notwithstanding difficulties and discouragements.
II. There is also intended A reference to the willing forwardness and resolute zeal of many in embracing the principles of true religion, who, to outward appearance, were the most unlikely of any to have a share in the blessings and privileges of the gospel: such as men of mean rank and low education, men of unreputable character, and Gentiles. (Nathanael Lardner.)
Taking the kingdom by violence
I. The necessity for these strong exertions arises from the immense difficulties in the way:-
1. The world, as comprehending both objects of attention and objects of attachment.
2. The devil and his angels.
3. The flesh with all its passions and lusts.
4. The difficulty of dissolving long-connected associations, of breaking up long-established habits, and of issuing forth into new courses of action.
II. The nature of the violence intended.
1. It must be accompanied with supreme desire, and with corresponding earnestness and diligence.
2. It must be accompanied with true repentance.
3. It must be marked with submission.
4. You must offer the prayer of the destitute.
1. To those who are opposed to any great earnestness or any uncommon movement in religion.
2. To awakened sinners.
3. Where will the prayerless sinner appear? (E. Griffin, D. D.)
I. The characteristic earnestness of the gospel dispensation.
1. These are the provisions of the gospel, complete and full.
2. Its early history.
3. Its work and mission.
4. Its finality.
II. Its effects among men; their treatment of it.
1. Many enter the kingdom violently.
(1) Violence exhibited in their repentance.
(2) In their efforts to believe and acquire holiness.
(3) In the difficulties they are called to overcome.
2. Enemies. (Anon.)
A visitation of strong religious desire
Not one or other among us, but probably every man who hears me, either has already had, or will have, at some time of his life, a strong desire to obey God. One man is checked or is favoured in this respect in one way, another in another. We cannot avoid seeing that some men have, almost by nature, religious feelings which are not given in equal measure to others. But still it is with respect to religion as it is with regard to our own prosperity in life. It is said there is no man who has not once or twice in life a lucky chance, and it depends on the skill with which he uses it whether he turns out a prosperous man or not. So it is with our religious character. However unfavourable his position, however strongly a character may have taken a cold or irreligious tone, still there is scarcely a man who is not now and then awakened by some of what we call the accidents of life, but which are in reality calls from God, and who does not often see Him and His will distinctly-as it was said of Balaam, “having his eyes open.” But did Balaam, when his eyes were open, obey? Did he to whom, more than to God’s own servants, it was given to know God’s will, follow it? No! He was contented to know about God, and made his knowledge of Him a substitute for the obedience he ought to have rendered. So it is with us all, if we forget that the wish to press-nay, the very pressing itself into God’s kingdom, is but the first step towards winning it. It may be a great step; it may change the direction of a man’s whole life; it may realize the proverb, that “ well begun is half done; “ while it may also be the mere turning away for a few weeks, or even days, from vice. God’s kingdom can be really won by nothing but steady, manly perseverance; it is a matter which demands a lifelong energy of prayer and watching, lest at any time we let it slip. (Dean Lake.)
The most religious, the most energetic
Whosoever shall do most violence to Christ shall be accounted most religious by Him. We desire to take His kingdom, His riches, and His life. And He is so rich and so liberal that He does not resist. He does not deny, and after He has given all, He still possesses all. We attack Him, not with swords, nor staves, nor stones; but with meekness, good works, chastity. These are the weapons of our faith, by which we strive in the contest. But, in order that we may be able to make use of these arms in doing violence, let us first use a certain violence to our own bodies, let us carry by storm the vices of our members, that we may obtain the rewards of valour. For, to seize the Saviour’s kingdom, we must first reign in ourselves. (St. Ambrose.)
A struggle to reach heaven
In the life of Perpetua and her fellow-martyrs, we read that in a dream she beheld a golden ladder reaching from earth to heaven, which was hedged in and surrounded on all sides by knives and sharp swords. By this ladder they had to climb up to heaven. At its foot lay a horrible dragon, who sought to hinder the climbers. She saw, moreover, one of her companions, Satyrus by name, bravely mounting the ladder, and inviting his companions to follow him. When she had related her vision, they all understood that they were to suffer martyrdom. And so it happened. Thus let each believer consider that with his utmost energy he must struggle up to heaven, by means of a ladder hedged about with knives.
Heaven taken by storm
The claim for admission into the covenant had hitherto, from Abraham to John the Baptist, been a national one; it now became a solely moral one.
1. We lay down as our first principle that indomitable earnestness is the soul of our religion and the key to all progress.
2. Let no man suppose that this will clash with the doctrines of Divine grace.
3. It is easy to see that there are two ways of taking the kingdom, a weak way and a violent way. Faith may be merely of an educational kind, or strong and personal; the inner life of man may go on easily from (lay to day, or it may contend with evil influences; prayer may consist in empty cries.
4. The promise of success is to the violent.
(1) Not because God is unwilling, but because it is His way to exercise grace that He may increase it. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Fighting a way into the kingdom
The Interpreter took the pilgrim again by the hand, and led him into a pleasant place, where was built a stately palace, beautiful to behold; at the sight of which Christian was greatly delighted. He saw also upon the top thereof certain persons walking, who were clothed all in gold. Then said Christian, “May we go in thither?” Then the Interpreter took him, and led him up toward the door of the palace; and behold, at the door stood a great company of men, as desirous to go in, but durst not. There also sat a man at a little distance from the door, at a table-side, with a book and his ink-horn before him, to take the name of him that should enter therein; he saw also that in the doorway stood many men in armour to keep it, being resolved to do to the men that would enter what hurt and mischief they could. Now was Christian somewhat in amaze. At last, when every man started back for fear of the armed men, Christian saw a man of a very stout countenance, come up to the man that sat there to write, saying, “Set down my name, sir; “ the which when he had done, he saw the man draw his sword, and put a helmet upon his head, and rush toward the door upon the armed men, who laid upon him with deadly force; but the man, not at all discouraged, fell to cutting and hacking most fiercely. So that, after he had received and given many wounds to those that attempted to keep him out, he cut his way through them all, and pressed forward into the palace; at which there was a pleasant voice heard from those that were within, even of those that walked upon the top of the palace, saying,
“Come in, Come in,
Eternal glory thou shalt win.”
So he went in, and was clothed with such garments as they. (John Bunyan.)
Practical religion requires energy
When we look at towns on a map we think the way to them easy, as if our foot were as nimble as our thoughts; but we are soon discouraged and tired, when we meet with dangerous and craggy passages, and come to learn the difference between glancing at the way and serious endea-yours to traverse it. So in matters of religion, he that endeavours to bring Christ and his soul together, before he hath done, will be forced to sit down and cry, Lord, help me! (T. Manton.)
Prayer pulls the rope below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God. Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly; others give but an occasional pluck at the rope; but he who wins with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously, with all his might. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Need inspires energy
After Sir Colin Campbell’s silent retreat from Lucknow in the last Indian war, Captain Waterman was left behind. He had gone to his bed in a retired corner of the brigade mess-house, and having overslept himself was forgotten. At two o’clock in the morning, to his great horror, he found all was deserted and silent, and that he was alone in an open entrenchment with 15,000 furious barbarians just outside. Frightened, he took to his heels and ran himself nearly out of breath, till he overtook the retiring rear-guard, mad with excitement, and breathless with fatigue. But was not his earnestness reasonable, seeing that he realized his danger? And if unconverted sinners realized their danger, would they not be desperately in earnest?
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Hearing the word
I. Take heed that ye hear.
1. This implies willingness to hear; it pre-supposes a mind exempt from prejudice.
2. It implies devout earnestness to hear.
II. Take heed how ye hear.
1. This means that we should seek to understand the gospel.
2. That we should endeavour to experience the gospel.
3. That we should reduce what we learn to practice.
III. Take head what ye hear.
1. You should desire to hear the Word of God.
2. The pure Word of God.
3. The plain Word of God.
4. The sure Word of God.
5. The living Word of God. (J. C. Jones.)
Capacity envolves responsibility
What a man can do, that he ought to do. If he can hear, let him hear; yes, and if he can see, let him see; if he can serve, let him serve; if he can pray, let him pray. Men can hear much that they do not hear. An average ear, we are told, is able to recognize about a thousand musical tones. Speaking roughly, the human ear is so constructed that all tones, from that which is caused by fifty vibrations in a second to that which is caused by five thousand vibrations in a second, can be distinctly received and discriminated. How much we lose, for example, in walking through a wood, if we are ignorant of the notes of the various birds we hear around us; how much the scene gains in interest and charm when we have learned to recognize them, and can call up a picture of the birds in their several haunts. Nay, how many more distinct tones we hear in the sweet general babble of the woods, if we are able to recognize the several notes of which it is composed (Carpus, in “Expositor.”)
Our Lord’s keenness of hearing
Remember what lovely and pathetic parables our Lord was for ever hearing, as well as speaking, when He dwelt among us. For Him the whole realm of Nature was instinct with spiritual significance, and all the relations, occupations, and events of human life. For Him they had voices, and voices that disclosed their inmost secret. The birds of the air spoke to Him, and the lilies of the field, and the sower going forth to sow, and the housewife sweeping her floor or making her bread, and the very children as they played and wrangled in the market-place. What a world that was through which He moved; with what sweet and delicate voices it greeted Him; what tender and lovely stories they were always telling Him; what spiritual messages and consolations and encouragements and hopes they were for ever bringing Him. (Carpus, in “Expositor.”)
Hearing fulfilled in doing
When Julius Mascaron preached before the French Court, some envious persons would have made a crime of the freedom with which he announced the truths of Christianity to King Louis XIV. His Majesty very spiritedly rebuked them, saying, “He has done his duty; it remains for us to do ours.” (Percy.)
The word planted in the heart
There is a story of two men, who, walking together, found a young tree laden with fruit. They both gathered, and satisfied themselves for the present; but one of them took all the remaining fruit and carried it away with him; the other took the tree, and planted it in his own ground, where it prospered and brought forth fruit every year; so that though the former had more at present, yet this had some when he had none. They who hear the Word, and have large memories and nothing else, may carry away most of the Word at present; yet he that can perhaps but remember little, who carries away the tree, plants the Word in his heart, and obeys it in his life, shall have fruit when the other has none.
But whereunto shall I liken this generation?
It is like unto children sitting in the markets.
Excuses of sinners
The Great Teacher on the watch that He might spiritualize what passed before Him; He was probably standing in a Jewish market-place when He uttered these words. The Jews used the pipe at marriages and funerals. This instrument of music, therefore, like our church bells, served alike for the joyful and mournful occasion.
I. The application of the passage to the Jews. There was a marked difference between the ministry of the Baptist and that of our Lord; John presented piety under the form of austerity; Jesus, on the contrary, mingled freely with the people. Thus was brought to bear upon the Jews a great variety moral assault. Both were unheeded. The Baptist had been too repulsive, and now the Redeemer was too conciliating. If they had melancholy music, they wanted lively, and if they had lively they wanted melancholy. They were like sullen children resisting all efforts to interest them.
II. The application of the passage to ourselves. God’s dealings with sinners are still mixed.
In the preaching of the Word there is variety of assault
Boanerges and Barnabas are sent. If the preacher is vehement, then you say that frightening men is not the right way of dealing with them; if he is pathetic, you say there ought not to be an attempt to master the feelings without carrying the judgment. The occurrences of daily life are so many endeavours on the part of the Almighty to win men from unrighteousness. Both prosperity and adversity; men resist the combination. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Caprice and inconsistency
Our Lord clearly charges upon those to whom He personally preached, that they were childish in their treatment of religion.
I. How inconsistent and capricious are many of the objections to Christianity. They assume contradictory forms. Look at some of these objections.
1. “A Divine revelation,” say such men, “ought to exhibit a Divine power.” Is it reasonable to say that Christianity has no power because its work has not been completely finished in eighteen centuries? Then he does not believe in any superhuman power which rises above the laws of nature. The very man who said the gospel wanted power!
2. You find the same principle in regard to the way in which such men treat the evidence on which Christianity is based. Men do well to look to foundations. They object to evidence of religion in books, and cry for something to affect the moral nature; but if you point him to characters changed by religion he says that he “ does not believe in a religion that depends for proof on inward experiences.”
3. But nowhere is this determination not to be pleased so apparent as in their judgment of the personal character and conduct of Christians. Fidelity to truth may not please men, but, by God’s blessing, it will save them.
II. Christianity admits of variety in individual character and work.
1. Variety in experience.
2. In doctrine, too, Christianity admits of variety.
3. In Christian work the religion of Jesus admits of great variety of individual peculiarity. (Bishop Cheney.)
Varied ministries in vain
Have you never attempted the culture of certain plants which “ refuse to hear the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely”? Trust to the showers to furnish them sufficient moisture, and suddenly you find their leaves are drooping as if a drought had cursed the soil. Try to refresh them with water, and you find the roots softening with decay, and the leaves incrusting themselves in mildew. Put them out in the open border, where nature manifests her kindest care, and the sun scorches them like the breath of a furnace. Remove them where a friendly shrub offers its shade, and forthwith they spindle up with a pale and ghastly growth, at once worthless and unhealthy. Fit types of many of the objections with which the faith of the Saviour has been met from the beginning! (Bishop Cheney.)
And above all, in Christian work the religion of Jesus admits of great variety of individual peculiarity. Rising before the dawn you saw the morning star climb slowly up the purple ladder of the eastern sky. It had its work to do. God gave it that work. But no one expects it to light the world and turn darkness into day. That the rising sun must do. Even so widely different was the work of John the Baptist and Jesus the Sun of Righteousness. Both were to work the works of Him who sent them-but in ways utterly unlike. (Bishop Cheney.)
Man naturally seeks variety
In the great print-works of the land are men whose only duty is to make new patterns to be impressed upon the white surface of the snowy cotton. The countless combinations of colours which the kaleidoscope presents are reproduced in an infinite variety of designs. The men whose vast wealth is invested in looms and spindles comprehend human nature, and they know that it demands variety. Just in proportion as tyranny has established its supremacy, it has tried to reduce all the race to a single pattern. The idea of beauty which has filled the mind of despots has always been that of the Dutch gardeners, who clipped and pruned trees that nature would have made lovely in luxuriant growth till each one was precisely like every other. How different when our Lord Jesus Christ came to establish His supremacy. Two men could hardly have been more widely different than Jesus of Nazareth and John the Baptist. (Bishop Cheney.)
Critics hard to please
If a Christian be reserved in his habits and a lover of retirement, they describe him as narrow and ungenial. If he be frank and accessible, they shake their heads over his worldliness and inordinate love of society. He is never quite right in their eyes. He is too strict or too yielding; too gloomy or too happy; too cautious or too bold; too shrewd or too simple. Let not such judgments of men disconcert or discourage any who with an honest heart endeavour to be true to Christ. (D. Fraser, D. D.)
There are three great periods in religion.
1. The period of law; in which the motives are hope and fear-hope of reward and fear of punishment.
2. The period of the gospel; in which the motive is simply the love of what is good without regard to personal results.
3. The transition period, which is that of John the Baptist; when there is the light of the gospel, and yet the terror of the law behind it; in which men, though they love God a little, are still afraid of Him.
The impossibility of pleasing the enlightened conscience and the carnal mind
When a man’s conscience is pulling one way, and his heart is pulling him another way, nothing pleases him. If you ask him to do his duty, and tell him what he ought to be, his conscience assents, but he does not like it. If, on the other hand, you make excuses for him, and tell him he is all right, then his feelings are soothed, but his conscience remonstrates, because he knows you are wrong in saying so. Selfishness is thus always ill at ease, and has no inward unity so long as there is any conscience left.
Fault not in the gospel, but in the evil heart
The trouble is in the men themselves, and not in the institutions that surround them. They are like sick children. Whatever the nurse may bring, whether it be of food, or of drink, or of some object of amusement, the child pushes it pettishly away. Nothing suits the child. It is not because the picture is not beautiful; it is not because the drink is not cooling and palatable; it is not because the food is not good; it is because the irritable nerve is such that nothing seems good, no matter how good it may be, and nothing seems desirable, no matter how attractive it may be. And there are hundreds of men in every community who refuse to bow down the pride of their nature, and who refuse to accept the service of Christ, because of the heart that they carry in them, although the reasons which they allege are reasons of exterior religion. (H. W. Beecher.)
The Son of man came eating.
Christ and common life
I. We have here a strong proof of the humanity of Christ. “The Son of man.” His oneness with men; not exempt from the necessities of our nature; He was subject to the laws under which we live. No manna fell from heaven for Him.
II. Christ ate and drank with men. Not only as others, but with others. He was no recluse. Jesus represents the new order, which is a life of liberty, because a life of love. Religion must be able to endure the strain of life.
III. Here Christ sanctified the common duties of every day. Nothing is so common as eating and drinking; it is commonplace. The temptation is to make the hours for meals mere feeding times, or to become an epicure. Christ’s example guards against this. He taught the dignity of our bodies. He who recognizes the body as God’s gift will never dishonour its appetites. The daily meals may be family sacraments cheered by Christian intercourse. Christ came to fit men for this world as well as for the next. (W. S. Jerome.)
Wisdom is justified of her children
I. The different courses of life wherein john and Jesus appeared.
1. That God sendeth forth His servants with divers dispositions.
2. That men are qualified according to the dispensation wherein God useth them. John, a preacher of repentance, was austere; Christ, as a giver of pardon, mild.
3. That men are apt to complain.
1. Except against what is done by God, and whatsoever methods are used to reduce them to a sense of pardon. The censures of the two things disliked in Christ were not just.
1. His diet. All our food should be sanctified.
2. His company.
II. The reasons why he chose this sort of life.
1. Because He would not place religion in outward austerities and observances.
2. Christ would live a strict, but sociable and charitable life; and did not observe the laws of proud pharisaical separation, but spent His time in doing good.
3. Christ came to set us an example, and would take up that course of life most imitable by all sorts of persons.
4. It was fit His form of life should suit with the nature of the kingdom.
5. Because Christ would not gratify human wisdom, as He would not gratify sense, by choosing a pompous life, so He would net gratify wisdom by choosing an austere life.
6. To show us the true nature of mortification, which consists not in abstinence and retreat from temptations, but in a spirit fortified against them.
III. The observances which we may build thereon.
1. We may observe the humanity, goodness, and kindness of that religion which we profess, both with respect to ourselves and others.
2. That external holiness which consisteth in an outside strictness without love usually puffeth up men.
3. That a free life, guided by a holy wisdom, is the most sanctified life. (T. Manton.)
A friend of publicans and sinners.
A friend of publicans and sinners
I. Our Lord proved himself in his own time to be the friend of sinners.
1. He came among them.
2. He sought their good by His ministry.
3. He showed His patience toward them by the contradiction He endured from them.
II. What Christ is doing now for sinners. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. Christ a friend. In a friend we anticipate finding sincere attachment, affectionate concern to promote our welfare, freedom in fellowship and communication, unflinching fidelity.
II. The duty we owe to him. Friendliness, gratitude, fellowship, integrity, constancy,
III. The advantages resulting from the performance of it. The friendship of Christ affords rich consolation, exhaustless supplies, requisite instruction, eternal inheritance. Address the enemies of Christ, the undecided, and His friends. (Rev. Treffy.)
But wisdom is justified of her children.-
Wisdom justified of her children
I. How wisdom becomes justified to her children. Notice those respects in which the scheme of Christianity is considered foolishness by the world.
1. A strong natural dislike of Christianity is founded on the meanhess of the Saviour’s life and the ignominy of His death. The Christian’s great struggle is with earthly attachments, and he acknowledges with thankfulness the wisdom of any arrangement whose direct tendency is to help him in the struggle.
2. They often allege the disproportion of the means to the end. Reason cannot decide how much the pardon of a sin must cost. The converted man sees the heinousness of sin. He sees that only an infinite sacrifice could put it away.
3. It is regarded as unsuited to the ends which it proposes to effect, and no heavier charge could be brought against its wisdom. The idea of substitution is said to encourage men in sin; hut where can we find higher morality and truer friendship than amongst men who are trusting in Christ?
II. Wisdom is justified through her children to others. This wisdom is so manifest in the effects of Christianity on the lives of its disciples, that enemies are inexcusable in charging it with foolishness. The children of God must vindicate the wisdom of religion, (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Wisdom justified in her children
I. What is the wisdom to which reference is here made. Some suppose our Lord to have meant Himself; in Proverbs it is declared that by “Wisdom” God created the heavens. The term wisdom is also applied to the doctrine of the true God. “The fear of the Lord that is wisdom.”
II. To show how it has been in all ages exposed to the indifference, contempt, or the misapprehension of mankind.
1. Deny her doctrines.
2. Forget her commands.
III. How it has been nevertheless justified in its children.
1. In the life of every saint who has arrived in heaven. “A cloud of witnesses “ prove wisdom is justified of her children.
2. Wisdom is justified in all the social relationships of life. Is he a husband? wisdom will have given him a new affection. (T. Jackson, M. A.)
The world’s estimate of religion
I. Evangelical religion is characterized, as wisdom. As it rightly applies the sublimest knowledge; as it diligently studies the most approved rule; as it zealously prosecutes the most enduring interest.
II. Evangelical religion has been charged with folly. Its principles, its feelings, its practices, have been accounted foolishness.
III. Evangelical religion is justified by the experience on its possessors. They receive her doctrines, avow her service, obey her precepts. (Studies.)
I. What is the wisdom of God in the way of salvation presented by the gospel? The end of the means.
II. That this wisdom is despised and contradicted by the carnal world.
III. How and why it must be justified by the sincere professors of the gospel.
1. It must be approved and received by themselves.
2. It must be professed and owned when it is in contempt in the world.
3. This profession must be honoured and recommended to others by a holy conversation.
1. Because of the charge that is put upon us to testify for God, and justify His ways.
2. Wisdom deserveth to be justified by us.
3. Those who condemn wisdom by their tongues, justify it in some measure by their consciences.
4. If we do not justify religion, we justify the world.
5. Christ will one day justify all His sincere followers.
6. Because of the necessity of justifying wisdom in the times we live in. (T. Manton.)
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsatda!
The damnation under the gospel more intolerable than that of Sodom
There shall be a day of judgment.
II. In the day of judgement some sinners shall fare worse than others.
III. In the day of judgment there will de a distribution of sinners; punishments according to the exact rules of justice.
IV. In the day of judgment it will be more tolerable for Sodom than Capernaum. These two cities may be considered under a threefold distinction.
V. That the worst of the heathen who never had Christ preached to them shall fare better in the day of judgment, than those that continue impenitent under the gospel. Why?
1. Because impenitency under the gospel hath more of sin in it, than any sin of the heathen. It is without excuse. Cannot plead ignorance.
2. Impenitency under the gospel is a resisting the loudest calls of God to repentance, The heathen called to repentance by natural conscience, creation; now by the Holy Spirit. Higher motives are laid before sinners.
3. There is the highest contempt of God in it
(1) of His authority:
(2) of His goodness:
(3) of His threatening.
4. This impenitency is a disappointing of God in His end.
5. This impenitency hath much folly in it, as well as sin.
6. Impenitency under the gospel shows greater wilfulness in sin.
7. Impenitency under the gospel is attended with the greatest resistance of the Spirit.
Wherein the greater intolerableness will consist?
1. Such will suffer greater torments from their own consciences.
2. More than others from the devil and his angels.
3. Christ Himself will appear in greater severity against such.
4. Witnesses will rise up against these more than other sinners.
1. We may hence learn what to judge of the heathen who have not heard of Christ.
2. The greatest favour and privilege to a people, may be the occasion of the greatest evil.
3. How ineffectual the best outward means are of themselves to bring a people to repentance.
4. What little reason men have to boast of their knowledge of gospel privileges, when these may turn to their surer condemnation.
5. To awaken us who have gospel favours above most people under heaven. (M. Barker, M. A.)
I. Does God grant to all mankind a sufficiency of means of repentance.
II. Is it any contradiction to his granting a sufficiency to all, that in the high exercise of his sovereignty he grants to some special assistance.
He gave time to Chorazin and Bethsaida what He granted not to Tyre and Sidon. When I read that Tyre and Sidon would have repented with the same means of grace that were given to Chorazin, I naturally inquire whether the means actually afforded to Tyre were sufficient. Then I ask if Tyre only wanted additional means, how could it consist with the justice of God’s dealings to have refused those means? Lay it down as an axiom that the Judge of all the earth must do right. We forget that Chorazin and Tyre were under different dispensations, one under light of the gospel, the other in darkness of heathenism; one would be judged by the standard of revelation, the other not. And what is there incredible in the supposition that the means afforded to Tyre, in order to obedience, were as ample as those given to Chorazin for raising her to the loftier elevation which the gospel demanded? Means must be judged in connection with this end, and in this connection could their difference or equality be decided. If one man be required to lift one thousand tons, and another only one, it is obvious the arm of either must receive strength before it could accomplish the task. But they do not need the same strength. Tyre had as much help as Chorazin in view of her duties; less is required of the heathen. There are mysteries about the doctrine of election But why does not God give to each of us grace as His omniscience sees will be effectual? But has not God given us enough to render our condemnation just? We have sufficient for our salvation. Means must be kept within certain limits. Means which exceeded them not in Chorazin, would not in the case of Tyre. The means consistent with responsibility in Chorazin might have destroyed it in Tyre. (H. Melvill, M. A.)
The danger of impenitence where the gospel is preached
I. I observe from this discourse of our Saviour, that miracles are of great force and efficacy to bring men to repentence.
II. That god is not obliged to work miracles for the conversion of sinners.
III. That the external means of repentance which God affords to men, do. Suppose an inward grace of God accompanying them sufficiently enabling men to repent, until by obstinate neglect and resistance we provoke God to withdraw it from the means, or else to withdraw both the grace and the means from us.
IV. That an irresistible degree of grace is not necessary to repentance, nor commonly afforded to those who do repent.
V. That the sins and impenitence of men receive their aggravation, and consequently shall have their punishment proportionable to the opportunities and means of repentance which those persons enjoyed and neglected.
VI. That the case of those who are impenitent under the gospel is of all others the most dangerous, and their damnation shall be the most severe. (J. Tillotson, D. D.)
The sentence of Chorazin
We can conceive some inhabitant of these Jewish towns demanding with astonishment how the heathen could be preferred in their stead. The Almighty Judge, in apportioning rewards and punishments regards not the actual amount of profligacy and virtue, but also the means of improvement enjoyed. He could see in Tyre and Sidon, debased as they were, a disposition not indifferent to those proofs of Divine revelation which to Bethsaida and Chorazin were exhibited in vain. He judges according to that hidden temper, not by the acts done. He judges of a degree of faith never actually called into existence.
I. THE first conclusion to be drawn relates to the future condition of those millions of men, who depart this life in ignorance of a Saviour’s name.
II. The probability of our being mistaken in our views of the future judgment.
III. Warning against drawing hasty conclusions from anything which we can interpret as a manifest interference of Divine Providence for the punishment of sin.
IV. Such is the sentence against ourselves if we know these things and do them not. (C. Girdlestone, M. A.)
The woe of Capernaum
While Christ was unmoved at the foreseen decay of Capernaum, He wept at the thought of the desolation of Jerusalem; a sign of His perfect manhood that He should thus have most sympathy with those who were His countrymen.
I. What is implied by the renunciation of Capernaum as exalted unto heaven. The Bible finds man in a garden, it leaves him in a city; intimating that the highest kind of life is social. We are not to regard the accumulation of men into great communities as an unmixed evil. It may be a source of temptation; it is also the means of drawing out some of the holiest charities of the soul, some of the noblest endowments of the mind. It is this selfexaltation which is the snare of evVVV man who is one of a great community. The concourse of men has a tendency to put God at a distance. Hence arises an independent spirit. If we would lead a life safe from the casting down of shame and care, we must keep before us the thought of an ever-present, personal God. Distraction of mind makes men wretched. This is produced by absence of religious obedience. Men are worn out with the eternal strife to reconcile impossibilities. In putting our life under God, lies its own safe exaltation.
II. But it is not only the being independent of God which our Lord charges upon Capernaum; He speaks of it as being in an especial degree insensible to his own wonder-working power. Here Christ appears to lay bare another fault to which large and flourishing communities are peculiarly liable, viz., insensibility to distinct religious impressions. This shows itself by the small proportion of people who attend public service or partake of the Lord’s Supper. Not difficult to see the reason why this should be the besetting sin of those who live in large cities.
1. The personal insignificance of each individual in this place is a snare. One man is nothing the mighty throng.
2. There is never wanting in a vast population the support of others.
3. In living amongst large numbers, we become acutely suspicious of being deceived and misled. We learn to distrust our best feelings. Not more mighty works were done in Capernauru than in our own streets if we have hearts to receive them. All that savours of the supernatural in religion, finds men apathetic. For a little while we catch a glimpse of what is, we know what it is to believe; and then the cold black flood of worldliness and unconcern rolls back and the solemn union grows indistinct and fades away. The spirit of insensibility possesses us again. Then awaits that man a fall more disastrous than ever overtook any earthly city-not the casting down of walls, but the undermining of every high resolve, the decay of every unselfish principle, the ruin of every goodly hope. (J. R. Woodford, M. A.)
The sin and danger of abusing religious privileges
It is a sin of the deepest dye.
1. A great contempt and affront are cast upon God.
2. It shows a man’s determined hardness of heart.
3. Let us consider the privileges we enjoy in this favoured land. (E. Cooper.)
Judgment on Capernaum
I. Capernaum was exalted to heaven because of Christ’s preaching and performing so many miracles there.
1. Here He performed most of His miracles.
2. Here Jesus preached.
3. Here Jesus prayed.
4. Here the Holy Spirit descended, for conversion of souls. So Scotland has been exalted to heaven.
(1) By the preaching of the gospel.
(2) By the pouring out of the Spirit.
II. Capernaum repented not.
1. Some would not go to hear.
2. Some went for awhile.
3. Some followed Him all the time, but did not repent.
III. Capernaum was brought down to hell.
1. According to justice.
2. According to truth.
3. In the nature of things. (McCheyne.)
Because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent.
Why God reveals to babes
The babe is the representative of the receptive spirit-trusting, open to impression, free from prejudice. Wisdom-like wealth and power-is an obstruction, not in itself, but in the temper and frame of mind it is apt to produce. On the other hand, there is, in this preference of the child-spirit, no encouragement of spiritual pride, as if ignorance and mental indolence were things of dignity and worth in themselves. The prime requisites in the child-spirit are unconsciousness and humility. The grounds for God’s dealing thus are as follows:-
I. To reveal to babes harmonizes with God’s character as a father, and illustrates it. “Babe” is counterpart to “Father.” A father’s heart is not attracted to the brilliance or power in his family, but to the want. The child who knows his father will have a knowledge of things beyond the reach of research.
II. To reveal to babes glorifies God as Lord of heaven and earth. The higher and mightier you conceive God to be, the more necessary it is to know that he is lowly, and to have abundant proof of it. But oh I how near God comes; how dear He is to us by His frequent close relationship to the poor and lowly. We are drawn to the mighty God who is drawn to the babes.
III. God thus manifests the supremacy of the moral element. The understanding has but a narrow horizon; the spirit embraces eternity and God. Intellect is the fibre of the plant, the moral and spiritual are the sap that turns everything into flower and fruit. Knowledge and ingenuity are as nothing without righteousness. What inventiveness or brilliancy could ever supply the place of honesty faithfulness, goodwill in the homes of men?
IV. God thus shows his desire to reveal as much as possible, and to as many as possible. Had He revealed specially to intellect, to the wise and understanding, what a little circle, what a select coterie it would have been! The great mass of mankind are burdened with labour, and cannot develop greatly their intellectual nature. But by revealing to babes, God gives hope to universal humanity. While few can be wise and learned, all may become babes. It is man himself that God wants, not his accomplishments, his energies, his distinctions. (J. Leckie, D. D.)
The great paradox
Ignorant men have argued from these words that sound knowledge is incompatible with the child-like spirit. It is possible to forget in the wisdom of this world Him whom the world by wisdom never knew. Our Lord uttered these words when He permitted His disciples to listen to His communings with the Father. We know more of each other when we pray than when we teach.
I. The apparent paradox involved in these words. “Thou hast hid,” etc. All revelation is to some extent a concealment. The veil is drawn aside, but never taken away. When an infinite God reveals Himself to man, by necessity of our nature He hides far more than He manifests. The special revelation which God has made to some individuals, is the very process by which he has concealed Himself from others; for there are two conditions of Divine revelation by which God brings his truth to bear upon the human heart.
1. The external circumstance and event. There can be Be special revelation to any man without a willingness on God’s part to confer upon some events or some teacher His own authorization, and a willingness on man’s part to receive the revelation as such. Therefore the revelation made to some is necessarily a concealment from others.
2. The mental pro-requisites, subjective state or moral condition capable of receiving a Divine revelation. All conditions of understanding and emotion are not equally receptive; hence it is concealed from those who have not right moral conditions. It becomes of great importance to know what is the disposition which most of all fits us for the reception of the Divine message? The highest revelations of God are made to the moral nature, other knowledge is illumined by the higher spiritual wisdom. The humble heart knows more than the massive intellect. It may be mortifying, but it is patent.
II. The redeemer’s judgment, and gratitude concerning it.
1. He attributes this arrangement to the universal Lord-“O Lord of heaven and earth.” The apparent paradox is a Divine arrangement, not an unfortunate accident. There is not more conformity between the eye and light, between the ear and sound, than between the child-like soul and God’s revelation of heavenly things. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” He has determined with royal independence, through what organs, to what condition, He will reveal Himself.
2. The Saviour acquiesces in this arrangement, not simply as an act of universal sovereignty, but as most merciful and good; as the Father’s good pleasure. It was a fatherly way and method.
3. Christ does more than throw the responsibility on God; He thanks God that it is so. He rejoiced because He felt the amplitude of this provision. This principle of discrimination was the widest and noblest that can be conceived. Had it been to intellect only a few could have received the revelation; moral conditions are possible to all. Christ rejoiced in this mode because it satisfied the yearnings of His own heart, for He proceeds to say to the weary “Come unto Me, all ye that labour,” etc. To man distracted by the wisdom of the world He thus appeals. (H. R. Reynolds, B. A.)
The proud and the lowly
I. The inherent propriety of this arrangement.
1. There were great moral disqualifications in the wise and prudent.
(1) They were covetous.
(2) They were proud.
(3) They were prejudiced.
2. There were great preparatory qualifications in the babes.
(1) They were humble.
(2) They were tractable.
(3) They were conscious of their needs. In what frame of mind do you seek gospel blessings?
II. See the reasons of this arrangement in relation to the ministry of Christ.
1. His position was one of self-humiliation, and therefore it was unsuitable that the rich and mighty should be among His followers.
2. His work was peculiarly a work of God, therefore He avoided the appearance of using the wisdom of this world, or any of its carnal agencies.
3. He came for the sake of all classes, and it was needful, in order to elevate all, that He should begin at the lowest. (The Conregational Pulpit.)
“Even so, Father”
I. The saviour would have us attain to an enlightened apprehension of the character of God.
II. Christ would have us carefully observe the discriminating character of God’s grace.
III. The saviour would have his people’s hearts in perfect agreement with the rule and action of God.
IV. Practical use of the text. (C. H. Spurgeon)
The kingdom, of God hid from the wise and revealed unto babes
I. The characters named in the text from whom certain truths are hidden.
1. “The wise “ seem to be those who are seeking to become acquainted with Divine truth by the exercise of their natural faculties.
2. The “ prudent “ man is one who always shapes his course in the path which is most consistent with his worldly interests.
3. “The babe” is the direct opposite of those we have described, and yet one to whom the Lord graciously condescends to reveal these things which He hides from them. The feature of the babe is
(2) ignorance. But we need not limit the “babe “ to the age of infancy.
(3) Great teachability,
II. What are these things that God hides from one character and makes known to the other?
1. The workings of godly fears in the soul is a branch of Divine truth which the Lord hides from the wise and prudent and reveals unto babes.
2. God hides from the wise and prudent a spiritual acquaintance with His law.
3. The operations and exercises of a living faith in a tender conscience are hidden from the wise and prudent.
4. God hides from them the exercise of a living hope.
5. The breathing forth of spiritual affections he hides.
6. He hides all the savour, and unction, and sweetness, and power of truth. (J. C. Philpot.)
Revelation a concealment
The belt of light thrown over some divisions of the great sphere of knowledge leaves the rest in apparently deeper shade. All language by expressing some thoughts conceals many others. Much is repressed by every effort that we make towards expression. If we try to unbosom our hearts to each other, we hide as much as we reveal. We wrap ourselves round in mystery when we are most communicative. All art is concerned as much in hiding what ought to be concealed as in making known what is meant to be expressed. (H. R. Reynolds, B. A.)
Revelation addressed to the heart of man
It should not surprise us when men of acute and powerful understandings more or less reject the gospel, for this reason, that the Christian revelation addresses itself to our hearts, to our love of truth and goodness, our fear of sinning, and our desire to gain God’s favour; and quickness, sagacity, depth of thought, strength of mind, power of comprehension, perception of the beautiful, power of language, and the like, though they are excellent gifts, are clearly quite of a different kind from these excellences-a man may have the one without having the other. This, then, is the plain reason why able, or, again, why learned men are so defective Christians, because there is no necessary connection between faith and ability; because faith is one thing and ability is another; because ability of mind is a gift, and faith is a grace. Who would ever argue that a man could, like Samson, conquer lions, or throw down the gates of a city, because he was able, or accomplished, or experienced in the business of life? Who would ever argue that a man could see because he could hear, or run with the swift because he had “ the tongue of the learned “? These gifts are different in kind. In like manner, powers of mind and religious principles and feelings are distinct gifts; and as all the highest spiritual excellence, humility, firmness, patience, would never enable a man to read an unknown tongue, or to enter into the depths of science, so all the most brilliant mental endowments, wit, or imagination, or penetration, or depth, will never of themselves make us wise in religion. And as we should fairly and justly deride the savage who wished to decide questions of science or literature by the sword, so may we justly look with amazement on the error of those who think that they can master the high mysteries of spiritual truth, and find their way to God, by what is commonly called reason, i.e., by the random and blind efforts of mere mental acuteness, and mere experience of the world. (F. W. Newman.)
Hidden for want of sight
Unconverted men often say, “If these things are so, if they are so clear and great, why cannot we see them?” And there is no answer to be given but this, “Ye are blind.” “But we want to see them. If they are real, they are our concern as well as yours. Oh, that some preacher would come who had power to make us see them!” Poor souls, there is no such preacher, and you need not wait for him. Let him gather God’s light as he will, he can but pour it on blind eyes. A burning glass will condense sunbeams into a focus of brightness; and if a blind eye be put there, not whir will it see, though it be consumed. Light is the remedy for darkness, not blindness. Neither will strong powers of understanding on your part serve. The great Earl of Chatham once went with a pious friend to hear Mr. Cecil. The sermon was on the Spirit’s agency in the hearts of believers. As they were coming from church, the mighty statesman confessed that he could not understand it all, and asked his friend if he supposed that any one in the house could. “Why yes,” said he, “there were many plain unlettered women, and some children there, who understood every word of it, and heard it with joy.” (Hoge.)
The Mysteries of the gospel hid from many.
I. What may be intended by these things?
1. In general, the things pertaining to salvation.
2. More particularly, those doctrines which are in an especial sense peculiar to the gospel, seem here to be intended, such as
(a) the Divinity of Christ,
(b) distinguishing grace,
(c) the new birth,
(d)the nature of the life of faith.
II. Where, and in what sense, are these things hid?
1. They are hid in Christ (Colossians 2:3); therefore
(a) you can attain to no saving truth, but in and by the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
(b) Whatever seeming knowledge you have, if it does not endear Him to you it is nothing worth.
2. They are hid in God’s Word.
(a) They are contained there.
(b) Yet though contained there, they are not plain to every eye.
They are not hid in the sense that seekers shall not find, but that those who seek to cavil shall meet with something to confirm their prejudices. Application: Do not entertain hard and perplexing thoughts about the counsels of God, either respecting others or yourselves. (John Newton.)
Concealment and Revelation
I. Divine things concealed. Not through any deficiency of revelation, nor by arbitrary will.
II. Divine things revealed. The revelation of Divine realities is made to prepared souls. Elicits thankfulness.
III. The unwilling alone suffer privation and loss. God will not force His truth and mercy upon man. (M. Braithwaite.)
Saintliness better than learning
There died five-and-twenty years ago in France a village priest, the Cure of Ars, a small hamlet about thirty miles north of Lyons. He was so devoid of worldly learning that he was long unable to obtain orders, until some bishop had the wisdom to perceive that saintliness was a better claim to orders than technical learning. In that village this priest ministered for many years, preaching, lecturing, hearing confessions all day long. Sceptics came from Paris; and the bursts of his spiritual fire burnt deep into their consciences. During the last year of his life no less than 80,000 persons flocked to his church to listen to his religious advice. Such as he was, a standing argument for Christianity, a standing evidence of its being a living influence, such may every one of us be; for it was not knowledge but holiness that constituted his power. The secret of his strength was his weakness. His power was not his own. His soul lay at the foot of the Cross, his body at the foot of the altar; he was made a temple of the Holy Ghost. He was an epistle known and read of all men. (Canon Adam S. Farrar.)
The things of revelation cannot be seen unless shown
Let me suppose a person to have a curious cabinet, which is opened at his pleasure, and not exposed to common view. He invites all to come to see it, and offers to show it to any one who asks him. It is hid, because he keeps the key; but none can complain, because he is ready to open it whenever he is desired. Some, perhaps, disdain the offer, and say, “Why is it locked at all?” Some think it not worth seeing, or amuse themselves with guessing at the contents. But those who are simply desirous for themselves, leave others disputing, go according to appointment, and are gratified. These have reason to be thankful for the favour, and the others have no just cause to find fault. Thus the riches of Divine grace may be compared to a richly-furnished cabinet, to which Christ is the door. The Word of God is likewise a cabinet, generally locked up, but the key of prayer will open it. The Lord invites all, but keeps the dispensation in His own hand. They cannot see these things, except He shows them; but then He refuses none that sincerely ask Him. The wise men of the world can go no further than the outside of this cabinet; they ,may amuse themselves and surprise others with their ingenious guesses at what is within; but a child that has seen it opened can give us more satisfaction, without studying or guessing at all. If men will presume to aim at the knowledge of God, without the knowledge of Christ, who is the Way, and the Door; if they have such a high opinion of their own wisdom and penetration as to suppose they can understand the Scriptures without the assistance of His Spirit; or if their worldly wisdom teaches them that these things are not worth their inquiry, what wonder is it that they should continue to be bid from their eyes? They will one day be stripped of all their false pleas, and condemned out of their own mouths. (Newton.)
Even so, Father: for so it seemeth good in Thy sight.
Submission to ,our Father’s will
In order to cherish such feelings in the heart-
1. Take fatherly views of the character of God-“Even so, Father.”
2. Remember that nothing could have happened to you, unless it had been first good to you in God’s sight that it should be-“It seemeth good in Thy sight.”
3. The unfoldings of eternity will solve the problems of this world, and justify God in His moral government. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
All things are delivered unto Me of My Father.
All thing delivered unto Christ
I. The important declaration here made.
1. All nations of the earth are delivered to Him.
2. All power in heaven and earth is given to Him.
3. All hearts are His.
4. The gifts and graces of the Spirit are His.
5. Principalities and powers are His.
II. The ground on which this declaration was made. His mediatorial character-“Wherefore God hath highly exalted Him,” etc.
III. To make a practical application of the subject. We may think that if all things are given to Christ, He does not need our puny efforts.
1. That the command of God on this point is imperative and binding upon every one who professes to know His name.
2. God works in and by the use of means.
3. A principle of gratitude will constrain the real Christian to engage, and that heartily, in this glorious work.
4. The Christian will not only be influenced by love to his Saviour, but also by a deep and tender compassion to the souls of his fellow creatures.
5. A dreadful curse is denounced against those who refuse to lend a helping hand to the cause of God.
6. There is encouragement to active exertion in that Christ has promised a reward to every effort made to promote His glory. (W. Bolland, M. A.)
A striking declaration
I. Of our Lord’s personal and mediatorial dignity. His personal dignity-the Son of God. All the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Him. His mediatorial dignity as the Son of Man. All things are delivered unto Him.
II. Of the standing method of the divine dispensations. It is indispensable to the safety and happiness of man that he should become acquainted with God. God, abstractedly considered, is absolutely unintelligible and unapproachable to guilty man, except through a Mediator. Learn: the need of Divine teaching; the importance of humility; the encouragement to the humble seeker. (J. Hirst.)
Christ officially delegated
In times of distress, every man is at liberty to do his best for the public welfare; but the officer commissioned by his sovereign is armed with a supreme right to give counsel or to exercise command. Away there in Bengal, if there are any dying of famine, and I have rice, I may distribute it of my own will at my own charge. But the commissioner of the district has a special warranty which I do not possess; he has a function to discharge; it is his business, his vocation; he is authorized by the government, and responsible to the government to do it. So the Lord Jesus Christ has not only a deep compassion of heart for the necessities of men, but he has God’s authority to support Him. The Father delivered all things into His hands, and appointed Him to be a Saviour. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. The inconceivable dignity of His person-“no man knoweth the Son but the Father.”
1. Nor the wisest man in a state of nature.
2. Neither do His own people know Him in the sense of the text. How little is plain because their love is so faint.
3. The glorified saints and holy angels, who behold as much of His glory as creature can bear, do not know Him as He is. A vessel east into the sea can but receive according to its capacity.
4. This proves His Divinity.
II. His authority.
III. His office-“The Son will reveal Him.” (Bishop Newton.)
Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden.
The burdened directed to Christ
I. The person’s whom our Lord here addresses.
1. As burdened with convictions of sin and the keen remorse of a wounded conscience.
2. That sinners under these circumstances labour to be released from their burden.
(1) They resolve in their own strength to forsake their sins.
(2) There are others who are ignorant of the righteousness of God, and go about to establish their own righteousness.
(3) In looking to the mercy of God irrespective of Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice.
II. Our Lord’s tender solicitude for the happiness of such.
1. The invitation is condescending.
2. It is extensive and unconditional..
III. The promise annexed.
1. Rest in your conscience from the dread of Divine wrath.
2. Rest in the will from its former corrupt propensities.
3. Heavenly rest for the people of God. (R May.)
Rest in Christ for the heavy-laden
I. What it is. “Rest,” not rest in sin, not rest from trouble. It is rest from sin-its guilt, misery, power. It is rest in trouble.
II. Of whom is this blessing to be obtained. The conscious greatness these few simple words indicate. Have you ever tried to comfort a troubled heart? Beyond your power. It is the prerogative of Him who made the soul to give it rest. There is more power in Him to comfort than in the world to disquiet.
III. Who may obtain this rest from him-”All that labour.” These words express the inward condition of man. We do indeed toil. Some weary themselves to work iniquity. The world has worn some of you out. The burden of affliction; guilt-our corruptions.
IV. How they who desire may obtain it-“Come.”
1. Literally, when lie was on earth.
2. Faith in operation. Hagar went to the well and drank, and was saved. Those who have found rest in Christ, remember where you found it. See on what easy terms we may find rest. Some know they are sinners, but are not weary of sin. (C. Bradley.)
Rest for the weary
1. The promise is faithful.
2. It is a precious promise.
3. It is an appropriate promise.
4. It is one of present accomplishment. (D. Rees.)
The way of coming to Christ
1. The most obvious is Christ historically taught.
2. Men seek to come to Him speculatively. Who can find out a being by a pure process of thought?
3. There are those who seek Christ by a sentimental and humanitarian method. This will not fire zeal. How then are men to come to Christ? Through a series of moral, practical endeavours to live the life which He has prescribed for us. (H. W. Beecher.)
Christ’s word to the weary
There are three sorts of trouble.
1. There is head-trouble-to do what is right.
2. There is heart-trouble. The interior grief.
3. There is soul-trouble. Christ gives rest from these. (W. G. Barrett.)
A special invitation
1. It is personal-“Come unto me.” God directs to Christ, not to His members.
2. It is present-“Come “ now, do not wait.
3. So sweet an invitation demands a spontaneous acceptance.
4. He puts the matter very exclusively. Do nothing else but come to Him.
Arguments which the Saviour used:-
1. Because He is the appointed mediator-“All things are delivered unto me of My Father.”
2. Moreover the Father has given all things into His hands in the sense of government.
3. Christ is a well-furnished mediator-“All things are delivered unto Me.” He has all the sinner wants.
4. Come to Christ because He is an inconceivably great mediator. No man knows His fulness but the Father.
5. Because He is an infinitely wise Saviour. He understands both persons on whose behalf He mediates.
6. He is an indispensable mediator-“Neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Invitation based on saving power
In a previous verse our Lord had said, “All things are delivered unto me by My Father: meaning that all power is given unto Him for the instructing, ruling, and saving of mankind; from whence He infers those comfortable words in the text.
I. A gracious invitation made by our Saviour.
II. The persons invited.
III. A promise of ease and benefit.
IV. The way and manner of coming to Christ.
V. A farther encouragement hereunto, from an inward sense and feeling of the promised rest.
VI. A good reason to back and enforce it-“My yoke is easy.” (Matthew Hole.)
Ways of coming to Christ
Coming to Christ and believing, are in Scripture used to signify one and the same thing.
I. The first step in coming to Christ is by baptism.
II. The next step is by prayer.
III. A farther step is by repentance and confession of sin.
IV. We are said to come to God by hearing His Word, and receiving instruction from Him.
V. Also by receiving His Holy Supper: and-
VI. By putting our whole trust and affiance in Him, relying upon Him for salvation, and placing all our hopes and confidence in His merits and satisfaction. (Matthew Hole.)
Coming to Christ
This implies three things.
I. Absence: for what need is there of oar coming to Christ unless we are previously at a distance from Him? Such is the condition of every man. Naturally, all are without Christ as to saving influence; as to a proper knowledge of Him, love to Him, confidence in Him, and union and communion with Him.
II. Accessibleness. We come to Him; we can find and approach Him. Not to His bodily presence. As man He is absent; as God He is still present. He said to His apostles, “Lo, I am with you always; even unto the end of the, world.”
III. Application. For this coming to Him is to deal with Him concerning the affairs of the soul of eternity. (W. Jay.)
I. A negative description.
(1) Rest, not lethargy. A condition in which the powers of the soul are quickened, rendered alive to its capacities, duties, and privileges.
(2) Rest, not inactivity. Release from weariness rather than from labour.
(3) Rest, not confinement. Not isolation or routine.
(4) Rest, not leisure. Not a brief season of relaxation, but a lasting state of peace and strength.
II. A positive description.
(1) Rest, that is, peace. Conscience is at ease. The mind is satisfied. The heart is filled with love.
(2) Rest, that is, fearlessness. Not only is there present satisfaction, but assured confidence in the future.
(3) Rest, that is, fortitude. The burden may not be removed, but Christ gives us such a temper that we are as happy with our burden as though we were without it.
(4) Rest, that is, security. He shields us from every adverse power. He gives us ground for our confidence. (Stems and Twigs.)
Christ relieving us of natural burdens
1. Spiritual burdens.
2. Mental burdens.
3. Providential burdens.
4. Physical burdens. (Bishop Simpson.)
Christianity lightens physical burdens
Go to-day into heathen countries, into Mohammedan lands, and what do you find’? The village on the hill top, the old wails, the spring down near the roost of the hill, the water carried by hand, the pitcher, the goat skin-just as it was in ancient times. The burden is borne by men upon their backs. Go to China, and travel from place to place. It is difficult, and oftentimes the traveller must be carried by men, and, if not by men, by a rude cart. When I was in Palestine, a year ago, there was only one wheeled vehicle in the whole territory, and that had been brought there by the Russian Embassy. Burdens were borne on the back, and in the simplest way-. Turn to Christian lands, and what are they? See what you call civilization-that is, Christianity affecting the minds and occupations of men-how it works! How is this city of a million and a quarter supplied with water? A great engine pumps it up from the river; iron pipes carry it to every house. You turn the tap and have it in almost every room. There is no broken back or burdened frame carrying from some spring this water. Go into countries partly civilized, and you find a few public pumps or wells, and the multitudes go there. It is a mere physical thing, you say. Yes; but it is God working in the subjugation of nature to man’s comfort. Moreover, you turn these taps in your room without thinking of it; and yet you have here a proof that God is taking care of the labour-burdened, and ought to remember how Christ has said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Go out into the fields. What was the old way? Men, bowed down in the heat of an August sun, took the sickle in hand, and tried to reap the harvest. Now the reaping-machine, drawn by horses, moves into the field, throws out its bound-up sheaves without human toil: and the harvest is gathered without man being bowed down to the earth. What is it? “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Go into the house: long ago, needlewomen, from early morn until night, and late into the night, stitched carefully, slowly, regularly, on their endless task. Now look at the sewing-machine, and see the amount of work that can be done without, comparatively speaking, human toil. Turn your eyes over to this light, and whence comes it, and how? Look at the little lamp of old, with its lard and wick, then the tallow candle; and now, wandering through all these pipes, comes this air or gas to be lighted, and what a change in human labour i From the darkness, from the atmosphere around us, men are gathering this electric fluid, and throwing light over the darkest of streets and alleys of your city, and thus enabling thousands of men to work as by daylight in your manufactories. What a change in human labour! There must still be labour, but it is not to be of that toilsome character that it once was. (Bishop Simpson.)
It is not a local coming to Christ, which is now impossible, but a movement of heart and mind to Him.
I. The class of persons that our Saviour wan supposed to have in view.
1. Such as were laden with the burden of ceremonial obedience. The observances of Christianity were few and simple, neither occupying much time, nor incurring much expense. They recommended themselves by their significance and force.
2. Such as are oppressed and burdened with a sense of guilt.
3. Such as are endeavouring to erect an edifice of righteousness out of their own performances.
4. Those who are overwhelmed with worldly calamities-the victims of worldly sorrow.
5. Those who are engaged in a restless, uncertain pursuit after felicity in the present state.
6. Those who are heavy laden by speculative pursuits in matters of.religion. (Robert Hall, M. A.)
A word in season to the weary
Causes of weariness.
1. Wounded affections.
2. The disappointment of our desires.
3. Vacancy of mind and the sense of monotony.
4. The load of a guilty conscience is fatiguing.
5. The burden of earnest thought and noble endeavour. (E. Johnson, M. A.)
Desire outruns faculty anal causes weariness
The result would be something monstrous if their energies and abilities grew as fast as their aspirations or their ambitions. As the eye carries the mind in the flash of a moment over a space of country which it would require hours to traverse in the body, so the hot speed of human Desire outruns our slow and pausing faculties. And this a great cause of fatigue; we cannot keep up with ourselves; one part of our nature lags behind another. Or, no sooner is the goal which we had thought a fixed one reached, than another starts up in the new distance, and Desire is still goading us on refusing us rest. (E. Johnson, M. A.)
Rest not found in mere ceremonial observances
Both the Wesleys, and Whitefield also, fell for a time into the same mistake. In their endeavours to obtain peace of conscience, in addition to attending every ordinary service of the church, they received the sacrament every Sunday, fasted every Wednesday and Friday, retired regularly every morning and evening for meditation and prayer; they wore the coarsest garments, partook of the coarsest fare, visited the sick, taught the ignorant, ministered to the wants of the needy; and, that he might have more to give away, John Wesley even for a time went barefoot. And yet, with all this, they did not obtain the peace for which their souls craved. (R. A. Bertram.)
The reality of rest
“Come,” saith Christ, “and I will give you rest.” I will not show you rest, nor barely tell you of rest, but I will give you rest. I am faithfulness itself, and cannot lie, I will give you rest. I that have the greatest power to give it, the greatest will to give it, the greatest right to give it, come, laden sinners, and I will give you rest. Rest is the most desirable good, the most suitable good, and to you the greatest good. Come, saith Christ-that is, believe in Me, and I will give you rest; I will give you peace with God, and peace with conscience: I will turn your storm into an everlasting calm; I will give you such rest, that the world can neither give to you nor take from you. (Thomas Brooks.)
Rest only in God
Lord, Thou madest us for Thyself, and we can find no rest till we find rest in Thee! (Augustine.)
The weary welcome to rest
A poor English girl, in Miss Leigh’s home in Paris, ill in body and hopeless in spirit, was greatly affected by hearing some children singing, “I heard the voice of Jesus say.” When they came to the words, “weary, and worn, and sad,” she moaned, “That’s me 1 That’s me i What did He do? Fill it up, fill it up!” She never rested until she had heard the whole of the hymn which tells how Jesus gives rest to such. By-and-by she asked, “Is that true?” On being answered, “Yes,” she asked, “Have you come to Jesus? Has He given you rest?” “He has.” Raising herself, she asked, “Do you mind my coming very close to you? May be it would be easier to go to Jesus with one who has been before than to go to Him alone.” So saying, she nestled her head on the shoulder of her who watched, and clutching her as one in the agony of death, she murmured, “Now, try and take me with you to Jesus.” (The Sunday at Home.)
Rest for all
There are many heads resting on Christ’s bosom, but there’s room for yours there. (Samuel Rutherford.)
Rest not inaction
It is not the lake locked in ice that suggests repose, but the river moving on calmly and rapidly, in silent majesty and strength. It is not the cattle lying in the sun, but the eagle cleaving the air with fixed pinions, that gives you the idea of repose with strength and motion. In creation, the rest of God is exhibited as a sense of power which nothing wearies. When chaos burst into harmony, so to speak, God had rest. (F. W. Robertson.)
Rest In trouble
I say that men want rest from their troubles, and that the only worthy rest is rest in our trouble. We have our first real impression of what toil is, when we begin, as an apprentice, to learn some trade. Our first real impression of toil brings the first real desire for rest. But all the rest the young man thinks of is the rest of laying down his tools, and leaving the workshop or the warehouse to spend the evening in manly sports. He has no thought yet of that higher rest, which will come, by-and-by, out of skill and facility in the use of tools. (R. Tuck, B. A.)
Resting on the Bible
In Newport church, in the Isle of Wight, lies buried the Princess Elizabeth (daughter of Charles the First). A marble monument, erected by our Queen Victoria, records in a touching way the manner of her death. She languished in Carisbrook Castle during the wars of the Commonwealth-a prisoner, alone, and separated from all the companions of her youth, tilt death set her free. She was found dead one day, with her head leaning on her Bible, and the Bible open at the words, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The monument in Newport church records this fact. It consists of a female figure reclining her head on a marble book, with our text engraven on the book. Think, my brethren, what a sermon in stone that monument preaches. Think what a stunning memorial it affords of the utter inability of rank and high birth to confer certain happiness. Think what a testimony it bears to the lesson before you this day-the mighty lesson that there is no true rest for any one excepting in Christ. -Happy will it be for your soul if that lesson is never forgotten.
Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me.
The school of Christ
I. There must be docility, obedience, willingness to learn of that Teacher.
II. The school is in the recesses of the soul-it is everywhere.
III. Branches of instruction.
4. Love. (H. W. Beecher.)
Christen effective Teacher
I. Christ’s fitness to be man’s Teacher.
1. He understands man’s nature.
2. He understands all those things which man has need to know.
3. He understands perfectly the art of imparting knowledge.
II. The methods by which He teaches man.
1. By His words, works, character, as made known in the Bible.
2. By the truths He now imparts to the human heart through the Holy Spirit.
III. The effect of Christ’s teachings-“Rest.”
1. This instruction leads to the pardon of sin.
2. To the assurance that we are reconciled to God.
3. To the removal of all fear of evil.
1. The evidence that we are learning of Christ is that we are becoming like Him.
2. All should submit to be taught by Christ. (American Homiletic Review.)
We are taught, and we teach, by something about us that never goes into language at all. (Bishop Huntingdon.)
The advantages of humility
I. Whence we are directed to learn it. We are to learn it from Christ, because it is a grace so peculiarly Christian, that no other institution will furnish us with it. All ancient schemes of morality are chargeable with this defect. They are advanced rather as arguments for men of learning to dispute than as directions of life to be reduced to practice; humility left out of them. And though some have declaimed with great zeal on the contempt of glory, yet we find these men to have declined the applause with greater vanity than others pursued it. The Jews were rendered proud by their privileges. Christianity first taught the true doctrine of humility; Christ its pattern. His circumstances, disciples, are all of lowly character.
II. Recommend from the encouragement here given, that it will bring rest to our souls. Tranquillity of mind is the spring of our present felicity; without it all acquisitions are insipid. When we remember the miseries which arise from resentment of real or fancied injuries, humility recommends itself to us as a support and protection. The humble will keep, without inconsistency, within the bounds of justice and sobriety, neither impatient in prospect nor fretted in the event. Before honour is humility. Humility softens the terrors of death. If we are His disciples, let the humility of the Master correct the pride of His servants. How much our own happiness depends on this disposition. (J. Rogers, D. D.)
Our Saviour’s humility
I. Humility towards God the Father was exhibited in several ways. In not exceeding the bounds of His commission; in obedience and forbearance; He did not employ His illuminating Spirit in the task of refuting error. Humble in the manifestation of His power. How has His humility been imitated by us? True we have no supernatural gifts to exert with humility; but those we have do we so use?
II. Humility is exhibited in His intercourse with mankind. Look at the choice He made of disciples. He told the centurion he would go to his house. Let us not suppose that His humility was allied to weakness or timidity. It was a humility manfully arrayed against vice and pride. It did not stoop nor waver. It did not flatter. It was associated with courage. We need this humility, just estimate of self; only to respect what is true and good, not mere outward show. (F. W. P. Greenwood, D. D.)
The meek and lowly
I. The first quality which jesus claims.
1. Meek as opposed to ferocity of spirit manifested by the zealots and bigots.
2. There is a sternness which cannot be condemned.
3. It is meek in heart.
II. Lowliness of heart.
1. He is willing to receive the poorest sinner.
2. This lowliness leads Him to receive the most ignorant. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. It is something for the Christian to enjoy-”Rest.”
1. Rest from legal servitude.
2. From wrathful apprehensions.
3. From carnal pursuits.
4. From earthly anxiety.
5. From terrific forebodings.
II. Something to bear-“Yoke.”
1. Subjection to the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5).
2. Resignation to the will of Christ.
Why called a yoke?
1. Because it opposes our corrupt nature.
2. Because it opposes the maxims of the world.
3. Because it is repugnant to the schemes of men.
III. Something which the Christian is to be taught-“Learn of Me.”
1. By His Spirit.
2. By His Word.
3. By His example. (The Pulpit.)
The three exchanges
I. The exchange of yokes.
II. The exchange of burdens.
III. The exchange of teaching. (H. Bonar.)
The yoke of Christ
Our Lord speaks of His service as a yoke or burden, because it is so esteemed by all who know Him not.
I. What is meant by the yoke of Christ? It includes-
(1) the yoke of His profession;
(2) The yoke of His precepts;
(3) The yoke of His dispensations.
II. The appointed means by which sinners are enabled to bear this threefold yoke-”Learn of Me.”
1. Are you terrified with the difficulties attending your profession? Learn of Jesus (Hebrews 12:3).
2. Do you find it hard to walk stedfastly in His precepts? Learn of Jesus (Romans 15:3).
3. Are you tempted to repine at the dispensations of Divine Providence? Take Jesus for your pattern (John 18:11).
III. The happy effect of bearing this yoke. Rest, to the soul. This affords the best and most unshaken evidence that He has begun a good work of grace in our hearts. (John Newton.)
The double yoke
If the yoke for oxen is meant, it was a yoke for two: it passed across the shoulders of two animals, and they bore the yoke together, and so the yoke was easier and lighter for each. Jesus is bearing a yoke. His is a yoke for two. He would have us take the vacant place beside Him, and share with Him.
I. Christ’s yoke.
1. His Father’s will.
2. The work given Him to do.
3. All involved in His Sonship.
4. Seeking and saving the lost.
5. Redemption of the world from sin.
6. Winning the world’s heart for God.
II. Christ’s yoke shared by us. Illustrate how Paul shared it. We may share in
(1) the active work;
(2) the spirit of the work;
(3) the joy and reward of the work.
Conclusion:-There is no forced bearing of yokes with Christ, we must choose to come under it with Christ, (R. Tuck.)
Rest in submission
The text suggests a figure. Two oxen are yoked together at the plough. But they toil unwillingly. They fret and chafe themselves. They strive to force themselves free of the galling yoke. They are weary, oppressed with their slavery. Would it not be rest for those oxen if they would cheerfully submit; simply accept the toil before them; encourage their spirit quietly and bravely to suffer, and bear, and do; fret no more at the yoke, but take it, bear it, and in bearing it discover how light and easy and restful the very yoke can become? (R. Tuck.)
The great business of man is the regulation of his spirit. Rest is only found in ourselves in a meek and lowly disposition of heart.
I. Much of trouble comes from dispositions opposite to humility.
II. Humility is the best security against heart-aches.
III. Christian humility is opposed to that spiritual pride which is the worst of all prides. (Sterne.)
There are three causes in men producing unrest:
I. Suspicion of God.
II. Inward discord.
III. Dissatisfaction with outward circumstances. For all these meekness is the cure. (F. W. Robertson.)
The yoke lined
The yoke of Christ will be more easy than we think of, especially when it is lined with grace. (T. Manton.)
We well remember an old man who carried pails with a yoke, and as he was infirm, and tender about the shoulders, his yoke was padded, and covered with white flannel where it touched him. But what a lining is “love”! A cross of iron, lined with love, would never gall the neck, much less will Christ’s wooden cross. Lined with Christ’s love to us! Covered with our love to Him! Truly the yoke is easy, and the burden is light. Whenever the shoulder becomes sore let us look to the lining. Keep the lining right, and the yoke will be no more a burden to us than wings are to a bird, or her wedding-ring is to a bride. O love divine, line my whole life, my cares, my griefs, my pains; and what more can I ask? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Some beginners are discouraged in their first attempts at a godly life, and so give over through despondency, They should remember that the bullock is most unruly at the first yoking, and that the fire at first kindling casts forth most smoke. (T. Manton.)
Imitating Christ the highest art
In the great galleries of art that are the glory of London, Paris, Munich, Dresden, and Rome you may see the artists of the future. Young men toil there day after day, patiently copying the masterpieces of the painters who are world-renowned, learning thus to become painters themselves. Every line, every colour, every gradation of light and shade they put forth their utmost skill to imitate. They are not content that their picture should be something like the original; their ambition is to make their copy so exact that none but an experienced eye shall be able to tell which is the original and which is the copy. To-day, my friend, place yourself before the Lord Jesus; look on His character, so majestic in its righteousness, so tender and attractive in its love, and resolve to become like Him. Let not your ambition be lower than that with which the young artist sits down before some masterpiece of Raphael or Rubens, nor the patience with which you strive to accomplish it less. (R. A. Bertram.)
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Christ’s yoke and burden
some of the particulars in which Christ is reputed to impose a heavy yoke and burden. I know of no obligation chat rests upon me as a Christian which does not equally rest upon me as a man.
1. The burden of duty. Purity, justice, love, industry, are enjoined upon me as a man. This burden Christ makes light and easy.
(1) By giving us clear knowledge of the right in His plain precepts.
(2) By the irresistible motives to duty which He supplies in the love of the Father.
2. The yoke of penitence, the burden of self-reproach. This burden we bring with us into the school of Christ; nor can we get rid of it by remaining from Christ. It has rested far more heavily under Pagan than Christian auspices. But through Christ penitence is the way to peace. Its tears are the dew-drops of the soul’s resurrection morning. Forgiveness is its counterpart.
3. The burden of selfdenial. This not merely a Christian duty, but a universal necessity. Through Christ it is made such as we can carry with joy and gratitude.
4. The unavoidable burden of earthly suffering least of all to be ascribed to Christ. (A. P. Peabody, D. D.)
Christ’s yoke easy
Important that those to whom the ministry of the gospel is entrusted should state with clearness the real nature of religion, neither too easy or too difficult.
I. Christians are under the yoke. Not their own masters; please not themselves. What is the yoke? Obedience to His commandments.
II. It is an easy yoke.
1. In comparison with the yoke of Satan.
2. In comparison with the yoke which self-righteousness imposes on mankind.
3. As it is made easy in itself to those who wear it, Christ renders obedience pleasant to His followers. (E. Cooper.)
Christ s burden a light burden
I. In what it consists.
1. In the daily conflict which the Christian maintains with the sin that dwelleth in him.
2. In the hostile treatment which the Christian experiences from the world.
3. In the chastening which the Christian receives from his heavenly Master.
II. It is light.
1. It is light compared with the burden of the unpardoned sin in another world.
2. It is light compared with the burden of unpardoned sin in this world.
3. It is made light in itself to those who bear it; strength is given to bear it. (E. Cooper.)
Hard to nature, easy to grace
Is Christ’s yoke not easy then? Is there not force and meaning in His own words? Yes, most assuredly; but it is easy only to them who, having heard His voice, have come unto Him at His call, and who have thus received the will, the grace, the strength to take it upon them, and to bear it. A thing is easy to be done just in proportion to the power of doing it. It is easy for a man to lift a weight which a child could not move from the ground. It is easy for the bird to soar into the atmosphere, and for the fish to make its way through the waters; their natures are suited to their respective elements; but it were impossible for man to do either. So, in the spiritual world, what becomes easy to a believing and renewed soul is impossible to a sinner in his carnal state. What is impossible to nature, is easy to grace. (J. Macfarlane.)
The nature and excellence of the Saviour’s discipline
I. That christ has his yoke, his discipline, and that we are never to forget that it is so substantially and really. These are, in the first place, conditions of discipleship.
1. One condition is the entire submission of the judgment of the disciples to the Great Teacher.
2. If any man will be My disciple, so says our Lord, let him deny himself.
3. Taking up the cross.
But the discipline of Christ has its restraints as well as its conditions.
1. Christ lays restraint upon our society.
2. Upon the affections and tempers of the soul.
3. Upon the words.
4. Upon the whole conduct.
Then there is service, too, in the discipline of Jesus Christ.
1. Service of devotion.
2. Charity and zeal.
II. That his yoke is easy and that even his burden is light. Rest can be found in no other way of life. Easy
(1) Because the discipline of Christ is confined to the truth and reality of things;
(2) Because it brings with it a sense of the approbation of the great God Himself;
(3) Because it is part of the religion of Jesus Christ to plant in the soul principles corresponding with everything which God requires of us, it is a regenerating system;
(4)Because it is a discipline which has always a respect to the heavenly state, and whilst it is the only road to heaven, it is the infallible preparation for it. (R. Watson.)
Christ’s yoke easy to the subjects of His kingdom
1. Because having come to Christ they have received the willing mind to bear it.
2. Because there is a pure satisfaction imparted to their mind even in the very exercise of self-denial and self-abasement which He enjoins.
3. Because His Presence is promised to be with His servants to make it easy and light.
4. This yoke ever becomes easier and this burden lighter as the Christian continues to bear it.
5. That it is easy in comparison with that which must otherwise be borne. (J. Macfarlane.)
1. Because of the means of instruction which are afforded us, to teach us how to commence it.
2. Because of the principles on which the Christian acts; not from compulsion, but from filial affection.
3. Because of the helps which a Christian derives while maintaining the discipline of that life.
4. Because of the enjoyments that stand connected with the Christian’s course.
5. Because of the prospect before him in heaven. (E. E. Jenkins.)
Christ’s service easy
Christ’s service is easy to a spiritual mind.
I. It is easy, as it is a rational service: consonant to right reason, though contradictory to depraved nature.
II. Easy, as it is a spiritual service: delightful to a spiritual mind.
III. Easy, as it is an assisted service; considering that we work not in our own strength, but in God’s.
IV. Easy, when once it is an accustomed service; though hard to beginners, it is easy to professors; the farther we walk the sweeter is our way.
V. Easy, as it is the most gainful service; having the assurances of an eternal weight of glory as the reward of our obedience. (Burkitt.)
God knows our burden
A little boy was helping his father to unpack some boxes of dry goods. His father took the pieces of goods from the box and put them on the outstretched arms of the boy. “Don’t you think you have load enough?” said some one passing by. “Father knows best. He knows how much I ought to carry,” replied the boy. How much trust and confidence it shows us. He knew that his father, who loved him, would not give him more than he could carry. And so it is with our Heavenly Father. Sometimes we think He is putting more on us than we can carry, and we become fretful. Sometimes He adds sorrow to sorrow until we think we cannot bear the load, but He knows best, and will not give us more than we can bear, for He is a kind and loving Father.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 11". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent