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And Jesus went out and departed from the temple.
Judgment of Jerusalem and the world
In this chapter the accounts of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the “end” of the world are so interwoven, that it is not easy to distinguish between them. Many people have been puzzled because they could not draw the line of demarcation arbitrarily, and say where the division was. But the best way of looking at the passage is to regard it as not confused-as one narrative, not two. The destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world are here considered as one event. We who live in the present dispensation are they “upon whom the ends of the world are come.” The narrative is of one thing in two parts; one tale told in two chapters; one drama in two acts. This is why it looks like two accounts. And it is not difficult to see this. It may be felt to be the duty of a parent, who has an unruly, incorrigible child, to administer corporal chastisement, but he would not strike more than one blow at a time. Between each stroke there is an interval, and the parent may, after having begun, suspend the punishment; and then, when the waiting time is over, and the necessity of punishment still continuing, he may finish what had already been begun. The act of punishment is one, though distributed over two periods of time. So with God’s ‘judgments related in this chapter. The destruction of Jerusalem was not merely a prelude to the day of judgment, nor merely a type of it, as is commonly supposed, but it was a part of it. The day of judgment, which is to come upon the whole world, began with the destruction of Jerusalem; and God having struck one blow in one place, is now waiting, with sword still uplifted, to strike again and finish His work. The corresponding account in Luke tells us that God is waiting “until the times of the Gentiles be come in.” The Jew was first in grace; he is likewise first in judgment. But the turn of the Gentiles is coming on. Judgment has begun at the House of God, but it stays not there. The awful drama of the end of the world has two acts, and the time in which we are living is due to a suspension of the judgment already begun. (F. Godet, D. D.)
On the destruction of the temple
I. An instructive question-“See ye not all these things?”-these goodly stones, this stately fabric, this masterpiece of architecture. The question was meant as a reproof;
1. That they so much admired it. As if He had said, “Turn your eyes from hence, and see things of a superior nature; the beauty and excellence of the renewed soul; the gospel Church; the house which is eternal in the heavens, whose builder and maker is God.
2. That which they admired, they imagined He must admire also. But what are earthly temples to Him who meted out the heavens with a span, who Himself dwells in unapproachable light, and before whom the seraphim cover their feet and veil their faces?
II. A solemn declaration-“Verily, I say unto you,” etc. By this Christ may have intended to instruct His disciples-
1. That though God may bear long, yet He will not bear always, with a sinful and provoking people.
2. That the most stately structures and the most splendid edifices, through the pride of their inhabitants, shall one day fall in ruins. Only God’s spiritual temple will not be burnt up, nor any of the materials of it destroyed.
3. That the time was coming when God would no longer prefer one place of worship to another.
4. That the whole frame of the Jewish economy should shortly be dissolved. The substance being come, the shadows are fled. (B. Beddome, A. M.)
The destruction of Jerusalem seemed improbable
There was no outward sign of any such disaster. The indications were all against that prediction. The sunlight which, that day, glorified the -towers of Jerusalem was of the common kind, only, it may be, brighter than ever. There was nothing unusual in the sight which met the eyes of the disciples. They beheld the tide of traffic ebbing and flowing along its noisy streets in the ordinary way. They knew that in the temple the priests stood ministering, just as they had done for years. Therefore Christ’s words, His mournful prophecy, His pitying lament and tears must have seemed to them strange and uncalled for. And yet, although what He saw was so different from what met their vision, though He beheld desolation where they discerned nought save splendour, that difference was but the result of less than half a century’s change. In the crowds then pressing along that city’s prosperous courts, there were some who did not taste of death, till they drank the cup of a worse bitterness in the day when Christ’s word was all fulfilled. (E. E. Johnson, M. A.)
Why Jerusalem must be destroyed
And now there rises the question: Why did not Jesus save that city? The awful peril which He saw impending in the near future was destined to involve not the guilty alone, but the innocent as well; why then did not the Son of God avert the coming tribulation He so bitterly lamented? Why did He not do it at least for the sake of those who had shown themselves friendly to Him, the humble ones who followed Him with a sort of dumb faithfulness until the hostility of the government, which frightened the apostles, filled them also with paralyzing fear? There is no doubt that Christ was able to dispel that storm rising so black and terrible. The twelve legions of angels who were ready to save Him from capture, would, at His word, have saved Jerusalem. The myriads of the army of heaven could have turned to a retreating flight the advancing eagles of the heathen conqueror The destruction of Jerusalem belongs to the workings of that natural law in which there is, after a time, no place and no use for repentance, under which God, for some inscrutable reason, permits the innocent to suffer along with the guilty, and where no regret on the part of any one can save him from the doom of reaping precisely what the community has sown. Christ offered to the Jewish nation, as a nation, deliverance from temporal evil. There is no doubt of that. He stood ready to fulfil for them all the glorious things spoken of Zion by the prophets. Both spiritual and earthly peace lay within their reach. It was bound up in the kingdom preached and offered by Him. He promised to take them out from the realm of natural government, where fixed laws work on regardless of the cry of pain and the supplication for pity, where nothing miraculous ever interposes to avert the gathered lightning of moral retribution, where the storm of judgment breaks over the community that deserves it, even though some who are comparatively righteous must endure thereby what seems temporal wrong. He offered, I say, to redeem that Jewish world from the natural law of sin and death and inflexible justice, and lift it into the higher, supernatural realm of grace and life. But that redemption depended upon their knowing and receiving Him. And their selfishness and pride prevented them from recognizing Him. Their King and Redeemer came, but they cast Him out. They chose to be a law unto themselves. Hence that former law must have its perfect work. The hand outstretched to save the nation drifting to ruin was not grasped, and therefore that nation must whirl on and on, down the rapids and over the brink. The destruction of Jerusalem became simply a question of time. Inward corruption would sooner or later have accomplished what we are wont to regard as solely the result of external force. The fig-tree had ceased to bear fruit; and that fact was of itself a sign of the death which had already begun to work. All that was left of the glorious opportunity was the bitter consciousness that it was past Under the working of this law, the drunkard comes at last to a point where repentance is too late, and where death lies both in continued indulgence and in attempted reformation. And so with nations. The day may come to even the strongest, when on the whole it is not worth saving, when, although there are many pure patriots in it, the only thing left for it to do is to die and be blotted out of the map of the world. (E. E. Johnson, M. A.)
The warnings of judgment
The uncertainty of the day bespeaks our preparedness. When the disciples asked Christ concerning the sign of His coming, He answers them with a how, not with a when. He describes the manner, but conceals the time; such signs shall go before. He does not determine the day when the judgment shall come after. Only He cautions them, with a “Take heed, lest that day come upon you unawares: for as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the earth” (Luke 21:34-42.21.35). The bird little thinks of the snare of the fowler, nor the beast of the hunter; this fearlessly rangeth through the woods, the other merrily cuts the air: both follow their unsuspected liberty, both are lost in unprevented ruin. Against public enemies we fortify our coasts; against private thieves we bar our doors, and shall we not against the irremediable fatality of this day prepare our souls? It is favour enough that the Lord hath given us warning; the day is sudden, the warning is not sudden. The old world had the precaution of six-score years, and that (we cannot deny) was long enough; but we have had the prediction of Christ and His apostles of above fifteen hundred years’ standing; besides the daily sounds of those evangelical trumpets, that tell us of that archangelical trumpet in their pulpits. When we hear the thunder, in a dark night on our beds, we fear the lightning. Our Saviour’s gospel, premonishing of this day, is like thunder; if it cannot wake us from our sins, the judgment shall come upon us like lightning, to our utter destruction. But I will thank the Lord for giving me warning. The thunder first breaks the cloud, and makes way for the lightning, yet the lightning first invades our sense. All sermons, upon this argument of the last day, are thunder-claps; yet such is the security of the world, that the sons of thunder cannot waken them, till the Father of lightning consume them. The huntsman doth not threaten the deer, or terrify him; but watches him at a stand, and shoots him. But God speaks before He shoots; takes the bow in His hand and shows it us before He puts in the arrow to wound us. (T. Adams.)
Christ’s coming no delusion
The first reason why the declarations of Christ respecting the near approach of His coming, although they were not realized in their utmost sense, yet involve no error, is this-that it is an essential ingredient in the doctrine of the advent of Christ that it should be considered every moment possible, and that believers should deem it every moment probable. To have taught it so that it should have pointed to an indefinite distance would have robbed it of its ethical significance. The constant expectation of the return of Christ is verified, secondly, by the fact that Christ is constantly coming in His kingdom; it is relatively true that the history of the world is a judgment of the world, without superseding by the judicial activity of God, as already manifesting itself in the history of the development of mankind, the judgment as the concluding act of all developments. And it is here we find the foundation of the principle, that great events in history, wherein either the fulness of the blessing that is in Christ, or His severity against sin, is strikingly manifested, may be viewed as types of the last time-as a coming of Christ. To this category, so far as respects the fulness of blessing revealed by Christ, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit belongs. (Olshausen.)
The destruction of Jerusalem
I. An illustration of the instability of all earthly grandeur.
II. An instance of God’s punishment of sin in the present world.
III. An example of the fulfilment of Scripture prophecy.
IV. A proof of the abolition of the Mosaic economy.
V. A cause of the dispersion of the Jews. (G. Brooks.)
But the end is not yet.
The end is not yet
I. So far as we have any means of judging, the end is not yet. The negative argument is that there are no conclusive indications of a speedy end, afforded either by the Word of God or the condition of the world. Such are alleged, but rest upon gratuitous assumptions. It is assumed that a certain form or pitch of moral depravation is incompatible with the continued existence of society; but we do not know how much evil is necessary to the end in question. The same is true as to the predictions of the Word of God; they may not be sure signs. Experience renders this clear; all these signs have been misapplied before. Let us look at the positive arguments in favour of the same position; that the fulfilment of Scripture is still incomplete, and will require a long time for its completion. Refer to the grand and comprehensive scale on which the Divine purposes are projected in the Scripture. The language of the Bible indicates a long continued process of change and dissolution. The spread of the gospel; the general vindication of Scriptures from doubt; to exhibit society in its normal state, and the effects of holiness as compared with sin; all will take ages.
II. It is better to assume that the end is not yet, than to assume the contrary.
1. The doubt in which Scripture leaves the day creates a presumption that it was not meant to influence our conduct by the expectation of this great event as just at hand. The expectation of a speedy end would paralyze effort, while the opposite belief invigorates it.
2. No less dissimilar is the effect of these two causes in relation to the credit and authority of Scripture. The constant failure of the predicted signs discredits Scripture.
3. The preparation for death is not secured by a belief in the approach of the great final catastrophe. If men are unprepared to die, they will be as much surprised by death as by the coming of the end. Let us prepare to die and thus prepare to live. “The end is not yet.” Let us not imagine our work done. (J. A. Alexander, D. D.)
The magnitude of the Divine purpose indicates the end of the world as far distant
The natural impression made, perhaps, on all unbiassed readers is, that in the Bible there are vast beginnings, which require proportionate conclusions, even in the present life. There are germs which were never meant to be developed in the stunted shrub, but in the spreading oak. There are springs, in tracing which we cannot stop short at the brook or even at the river, but are hurried on, as if against our will, to the lake, the estuary, and the ocean. Every such reader of the Bible feels that it conducts him to the threshold of a mighty pile, and opens many doors, through which he gets a distant glimpse of long-drawn aisles, vast halls, and endless passages; and how can he believe that this glimpse is the last that he shall see, and that the edifice itself is to be razed before he steps across the threshold? (J. A. Alexander, D. D.)
For nation shall rise against nation.
War for those who reject peace
See here the woeful effects of refusing God’s free offers of grace. They that would have none of the gospel of peace shall have the miseries of war. They that loathed the heavenly manna shall be hunger-starved. They that despised the only medicine of their souls shall be visited with the pestilence. They that would not suffer heart-quake shall suffer earthquake. Or, as Bradford, the martyr, expresses it, they that trembled not in hearing shall be crushed to pieces in feeling. As they heap up sin, as they treasure up wrath, as there hath been a conjuncture of offences, so there shall be of their miseries. The black horse is at the heels of the red, and the pale of the black (Revelation 6:4). God left not Pharaoh, that sturdy rebel, till He had beaten the breath out of his body, nor will He cease pursuing men with His plagues till they throw the traitor’s head over the wall. (John Trapp.)
The relations of Christianity to war are at first sight an extraordinary enigma. The Christian recognition of the right of mar was contained in Christianity’s original recognition of nations, as constituting at the same time the division and the structure of the human world. Gathering up the whole world into one communion spiritually, the new universal society yet announced its coalescence with mankind’s divisions politically; it was one body of one kind, in many bodies of another kind. It gathered up into itself, not only the unions, but the chasms of the human race, all that separated as well as all that united. In some schools of thought there is a jealousy of this national sentiment, as belonging to members of the Church Catholic, as if it were a sentiment of nature which grace had obliterated. Christianity does not abolish but purify nature. It may be said that the tie of country is not inculcated in the New Testament; which, on the other hand, speaks of us as members of the Church which it contemplates extending over the whole world. Hooker says that Scripture, by leaving out, does not condemn, but only sends us back to natural law and reason. The Christian Church adopted nations with their inherent rights; took them into her enclosure. But war is one of these rights, because, under the division of mankind into distinct nations, it becomes a necessity. Questions of right and justice must arise between these independent centres. Christianity does not admit but condemns the motives which lead to war-selfish ambition, rapacity; but the condemnation of one side is the justification of the other; these very motives give the right of resistance to one side. Individuals can settle their disputes peaceably by the fact of being under government; but nations are not governed by a power above them. The aim of the nation in going to war is exactly the same as that of an individual entering a court. It is the same force in principle, only in court it is superior to all opposition; in war it is a contending force, and as such only can assert its supremacy. So far we have been dealing with wars of self defence, which by no means exhaust the whole rationale of war. War is caused by progress, selfish greed, the instinctive movements of nations for alteration and improvement. We must distinguish the moral effects of war and the physical. There is one side of the moral character of war in special harmony with the Christian type; death for the sake of the body to which he belongs. This consecrates war; it is elevated by sacrifice. Is, then, war to be regarded as an accident of society, which may some day be got rid of, or as something vested in it?
I. It is said that the progress of society will put an end to war. But human nature consists of such varied contents that it is very difficult to say that any one principle, such as what we call progress, can control it. But if progress stops war on one side it makes it on another, and war is its instrument; nor does it provide any instrument by which nations can gain their rights. The natural remedy for war would seem to be a government of nations; this would be a universal empire, and can this be accomplished by progress?
II. Are we then to look for a cessation of war from the side of Christianity. It assumes the world as it is; it does not profess to provide another world for us to live in. It is not remedial to the whole human race, but only to those who accept it. Prophecy foresees the time when nations shall beat their spears into pruning-hooks; but this applies as much to the civil governments of the world. It foresees a reign of universal love, when men shall no longer act by terror and compulsion. A kingdom of peace there will be. But Christianity only sanctions war through the medium of national society, and the hypothesis of a world at discord with itself. In her own world war would be impossible.
III. Lastly, Christianity comes as the consoler of the sufferinss of war. (J. B. Mozley, D. D.)
The love of many shall wax cold.
The love of the saints destroyed by the abounding of iniquity
I. When iniquity be said to abound.
1. When those who are set for the defence of the gospel can see its doctrines corrupted without emotion.
2. When those who live in total disregard of practical religion increase.
3. When all classes give each other countenance in crime, and provoke each other to it by example, by solicitation, and by menaces (Genesis 6:5-1.6.7; Genesis 19:12-1.19.13).
II. The abounding of iniquity operates to cool the blood of Christians. (Sketches.)
Declension and backsliding in the Church
I. The external position of the church. Abounding iniquity in the forms of speculative error, obvious and shameful sin, direct opposition to the gospel, etc.
II. The internal state of the church The same circumstances which cause gross wickedness to abound in the world, produce coldness of love in the Church. Antediluvians, Jewish history, etc. The wickedness which abounds in the world is often the fruit of coldness in the love of the Church, and then the reaction, etc. That you may sustain no harm by the abounding of iniquity, guard your attention, affections, etc. Cherish ardent, enthusiastic love to Christ. (A. Tucker.)
Evil example contagious
Conversation with cold ones will cast a damp, and will make one cold, as Christ here intimates; there is no small danger of defection, if not of infection by such; they are notable quench-coals. This both David and Isaiah found, and therefore cried out each for himself, “Woe is me” (Psalms 120:5; Isaiah 6:5). There is a compulsive power in company to do as they do (Galatians 2:14). It behoveth us, therefore, upon whom the ends of the world are come, to beware lest we suffer a decay; lest, leaving our first love, and led away with the error of the wicked, we fall from our former steadfastness (Revelation 2:5; 2 Peter 3:17). The world, says Ludolfus, has been once destroyed with water for the heat of lust, and shall be again with fire for the coldness of love. Latimer saw so much lack of love to God and goodness in his time that he thought verily Doomsday was then just at hand. What would he have thought had he lived in our age, wherein it were far easier to write a book of apostates than a book of martyrs? (John Trapp.)
Temptations of the early Christians to apostasy
There was always, in the converts of Jerusalem, a strong temptation towards a relapse into Judaism; and in those disturbed times which preceded the fall, any man with Jewish blood in his veins, with the traditional Jewish temper, the ancestral beliefs, the intense love for his nation and people, must have been hard beset. Why should he, too, not choose the heroic part, and cast in his lot with the defenders of the sacred walls? Why not with his dying body make a rampart against the on-pressing Roman, rather than slip away in cowardly desertion like a traitor, leaving the glorious city to perish as it might? All patriotic instincts, all that the Jew most cherished, must have drawn the convert in that direction: it was a sore trial to have to make this choice between the Old Testament and the New. It was such a crisis as rarely happens to a man, to a society, to a nation. It broke up the old Church, the old national life. By destroying the centralized worship of the temple, and staying the immemorial sacrifices, it taught Christians to look far afield, it bade them bow down in no single shrine to worship the Father, and it sent them forth to evangelize a world lying in darkness. They learnt, by the fall of the Holy City, that the Christian faith was to be not national but cosmopolitan, and that out of the ruins of a narrower polity a larger and wider world would grow … It was by endurance and self-denial of no ordinary kind that these early Jewish Christians succeeded in overcoming the danger besetting them at every turn. They endured to the end; they learned by patience to get a broader and wiser view of the true position and relation of the faith of their adoption. The sneers of the unconverted Jews, the sense that they had lost their patriotic standing-ground, the oppression and sword of their Roman masters-these were the bitter draughts which refreshed their souls, and nerved them for independence in a larger sphere of life. By these they not only saved their souls, but ennobled their views and aims, till they were able to enter fully into the new conditions of the faith of Christ, and thereby take an active part in the outward movements of a missionary church. (Dean Kitchen.)
Iniquity the cause of unbelief
We are not to expect that apostates will own that iniquity is the cause of their apostasy. They have always assigned other causes of it, which in their opinion clears them from all suspicion of unjust prejudice or prevention. And these are
(1) the immoral and unexemplary lives of the clergy; and
(2) the irrational system of Christianity. (Bishop Warburton.)
Rarity of steadfastness
It is but a “he,” a single man, that holdeth out, when “many “ lose their love and therewith their reward. Eeebolus, AEneas, Sylvius, Baldwin, Pendleton, Shaxton, and many others, set forth gallantly, but tired ere they came to their journey’s end. Like the Galli Insubres, they showed all their valour in the first encounter. Like Charles VIII. of France, of whom Guicciarden notes, that in his expedition to Naples he came into the field like thunder and lightning but went out like a snuff. Like Mandrobulus in Lucian, who, the first year offered gold to his gods, the second year silver, the third nothing. Or, lastly, like the lions of Syria which, as Aristotle reports, bring forth five whelps, next time four, next three, and so on, till at length they become barren. So apostates come at last to nothing, and therefore must look for nothing better than to be cast off for ever; when they that hold out and hold on their way, passing from strength to strength, from faith to faith, etc., shall be as the sun when he goeth forth in his strength; yea, they shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Caleb was not discouraged by the giants, and therefore had Hebron, the place of the giants: so those that hold out in the way of heaven shall be sure to have heaven. Thomas San Paulius, at Paris, a young man of eighteen years, being in the fire, was plucked up again upon the gibbet, and asked whether he would turn. To whom he said, That he was in his way towards God, and therefore desired them to let him go. That merchant of Paris, his case was nothing so comfortable, who, for jesting at the friars, was by them condemned to be hanged; but he, to save his life, was content to recant, and so he did. The friars, hearing of his recantation, commended him, saying, If he continued so he should be saved; and so, calling upon the officers, caused them to make haste to the gallows to hang him up, while he was yet in a good way, said they, lest he fall again. (John Trapp.)
The honour of endurance
There lies a ship in the stream. It is beautiful in all its lines. It has swung out from the pier and is lying at anchor yonder; and men, as they cross the river on the ferry-boats, stand and look at it and admire it; and it deserves admiration. But it has never been out of port: there it stands, green, new, untried; and yet everybody thinks it is beautiful. It is like childhood, which everybody thinks is beautiful, or ought to be. There comes up the bay, and is making towards the navy-yard, another ship. It is an old man-of-war. It has been in both oceans, and has been round the world many times. It has given and taken thunder-blows under the flag of its country. It is the old Constitution we will suppose. She anchors at the navy-yard. See how men throng the cars and go to the navy-yard to get a sight of her! See how the sailors stand upon the deck and gaze upon her! Some of them, perchance, have been in her, and to them she is thrice handsomer than any new vessel. This old war-beaten ship, that carries the memory of many memorable campaigns, lies there; and they look at its breached bow, its shattered rigging, its coarse and rude lines, its dingy sides, which seem long since to have parted company with paint; and every one of them feels, if he is a true patriot, “God bless you, old thing! God bless you!” (H. W. Beecher.)
Not to fail at the end of the Christian life
When Diogenes had spent the greater part of his life in observing the most extreme and scrupulous self-denial, and was now verging on ninety years of age, one of his friends recommended him to indulge himself a little. “What!” said he, “would you have me quit the race close by the goal?”
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness.
The gospel of the kingdom
I. “gospel”-good news, God spell-the information God has to tell us. An epitome of the news. Familiarity with the message takes aways its edge, and blunts its impressions.
II. It is not merely a gospel, good news, but a gospel of something very specific-of a kingdom. This kingdom is composed first of moral and next of personal elements-“The kingdom of God is not,” etc. Who are the personal subjects of this kingdom? Men of every rank and every clime. The gospel is not so cramped as we sometimes think.
III. This kingdom, thus composed, shall overflow all kingdoms. Heathendom is gradually dying out over all the world. Mahometanism is almost gone; the crescent wanes over all the earth, etc. The gospel shall be preached to all the world as a witness. Not to convert all nations, etc. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
The controlling influence of the gospel
I. The kingdom of Christ, as a kingdom of control, set up in the hearts of His followers.
1. It controls the opinions. They who are under this kingdom are obliged to believe all the truths of the Bible.
2. It controls the will. God makes it criminal to choose the evil and refuse the good.
3. It controls the belief of mankind. The subjects of this kingdom are called upon to trust in Christ, and in Him only, for salvation.
4. It controls the affections-“Thou shalt love,” etc. It controls the temper, pride, and all those feelings which are akin to it.
II. There is infinite mercy in such control.
1. Without it the opinions of mankind have ever been tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.
2. There is mercy in a control being exercised over the will. Man is in a wilderness of sin, etc.
3. Were it not for this, every man might form a system of belief for himself, etc.
4. Man’s affections are collected to one point.
III. The gospel shall be preached for witness. Of human depravity. Of the method of reconciliation with God, etc. (R. Watson.)
The gospel of the kingdom
I. The subject of the text. The gospel. The gospel of the kingdom.
II. The mode of its communication. The gospel of the kingdom is to be “preached.” It must be preached freely, plainly, affectionately, faithfully.
III. The extent of its diffusion. The whole world stands in need of it. The gospel is the only remedy for it. It is expressly designed for all.
IV. The great end of its publication, As a witness. It shall witness to man’s mind, state, etc.
1. The responsibility of having the gospel preached to us.
2. Our duty to labour for its diffusion among those who possess it not. (J. Burns, D. D.)
I. The King is our Lord Jesus Christ,
II. The seat of this kingdom is the soul.
III. The spirit of this kingdom is wise and beneficent and holy. Every kingdom has its peculiar character.
IV. The progress of His kingdom is unostentatious; irresistible, yet noiseless, like many of the mightier forces in nature.
IV. The boundaries of His kingdom are the boundaries of the dwellings of human kind.
1. Submit to Christ as a King.
2. Seek the extension of His kingdom by personal exertions, by pecuniary contributions, by payer. (Anon.)
The gospel a witness
1. That there are ends to be answered by the publication of the gospel, over and above the gathering in of a remnant from the mass of human kind. The statement is simply that the gospel is to be preached for a witness.
2. We are bound to ascertain the nature of this witness, in order that we may understand the responsibleness laid on all who ever heard the gospel, and the ends which are answered by its publication.
3. You are sufficiently acquainted with the nature of the gospel to regard it as an authoritative account of all that is benevolent, and all that is awful in Deity.
4. It is not an uncertain and unaccredited witness, but one which carries with it its credentials in all its marchings over the face of the globe.
5. The witness of the gospel hereafter. The gospel is now a witness to warn and direct; hereafter it will accuse and condemn. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The universal witness
The preaching of the gospel throughout the world testifies-
1. To the unchanging mercy of God. He is the same as He was before the flood-would have been warned of the end of their evil courses. Men shall be without excuse.
2. To the character and mission of Christ. Men who accept the gospel shall prove that He is the Saviour.
3. To the invincible hostility of men. They shall have in their own characters a vindication of God’s past judgments.
Universal adaptation of the gospel to men’s needs
The gospel is a plant which is not affected by earthly changes. It is the same in the temperate as in the torrid zone, and as in the frigid. It does not seem to be scorched by heat, or benumbed by cold. Age does not diminish the freshness of its bloom; soil does not affect its nature; climate does not modify its peculiar properties. Among the frost-bound latitudes of North America, and the burning sands of Africa, or the fertile plains of India, we find it still shooting up the same plant of renown, the same vine of the Lord’s right-hand planting, the same “tree of life,” raised up from the beginning of time, “whose leaves were for the healing of the nations,” and under which all kindreds, and tribes, and tongues, and people shall one day rejoice, when privileged to take shelter under its all-covering shade, and draw refreshing nourishment from its perennial fruits. (Dr. Duff.)
Vitality of the gospel
See what vitality the gospel has! Plunge her under the wave, and she rises the purer from her washing; thrust her in the fire, and she comes out the more bright for her burning; cut her in sunder, and each piece shall make another church; behead her, and like the hydra of old, she shall have a hundred heads for every one you cut away. She cannot die, she must live; for she has the power of God within her. (C. H. Spurgeon)
When ye therefore shall the abomination of desolation.
The great judgment
The prophecy was by no means exhausted by what happened to Jerusalem. Though it begins there, it does not stop there. History repeats itself.
1. Were the last days of Jerusalem calamitous days, times of great tribulation, violence, and war-so will it be at the ending period of the present world.
2. Jerusalem’s day of judgment come on in a seemingly natural course of things-so also will it be at the coming of the great day. It will have much less of the immediately supernatural than we imagine.
3. Were those last clays of the old economy days of abounding falsehood and deception-the same is to occur again.
4. The zealots in the days of Jerusalem’s troubles would by no means believe what was before them, or what wickedness they were enacting in the name of truth. They relied on their covenant privileges. So will it be in the end.
5. We are not left without consolation and hope. There was an elect who escaped the destruction when Jerusalem fell. Jesus will save His own in the day of doom. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
Not in the winter.
Winter and how to meet it
The winter season is especially full of temptation, because of the long evenings allowing such full swing for evil indulgences. You can hardly expect a young man to go into his room and sit there from seven to eleven o’clock in the evening, reading Morley’s “Dutch Republic” or John Foster’s Essays. It would be a very beautiful thing for him to do, but he will not do it. Then the winter has especial temptations in the fact that many homes are peculiarly unattractive at this season. In the summer months the young man can sit out on the steps, or he can have a bouquet in the vase on the mantel, or, the evenings being so short, soon after gaslight he wants to retire, anyhow. But there are many parents who do not understand how to make the long winter evenings attractive to their children.
A good use of winter nights
Employ these long nights of December, January, and February in high pursuits, in intelligent socialities, in innocent amusements, in Christian work. Do not waste this winter, for soon you will have seen your last snow shower and have gone up into the companionship of Him Whose raiment is white as snow, whiter than any fuller on earth could whiten it. For all Christian hearts the winter nights of earth will end in the June morning of heaven. The river of life from under the throne never freezes over. The foliage of life’s tree is never frost-bitten. The festivities, the hilarities, the family greetings of earthly Christmas times will give way to larger reunion and brighter lights and sweeter garlands and mightier joy in the great holiday of heaven! (Dr. Talmage.)
This season is not only a test of one’s physical endurance, but in our great cities is a test of moral character. A vast number of people have by one winter of dissipation been destroyed and for ever. Seated in our homes on some stormy night, the winds howling outside, we imagine the shipping helplessly driven on the coast, but any winter night, if our ears were good enough, we could hear the crash of a thousand moral shipwrecks. There are many people who come to our city on the 1st of September who will be blasted by the 1st of March. At this season of the year temptations are especially rampant. Now that the long winter evenings have come there are many who will employ them in high pursuits, in intellectual socialities, in Christian work, in the strengthening and ennobling of moral character, and this winter to many of you will be the brightest and the best in all of your lives, and in anticipation I congratulate you. But to others it may not have such effect, and I charge you, my beloved, look out where you spend your winter nights. (Dr. Talmage.)
Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ.
I. Let us settle what we really want in life, and we may safely shut our ears to many counsellors.
II. Let us learn more and more of the true Christ, and we shall not be led astray by false Christs.
III. Let us give ourselves to earnest practical living, and not gape after wonders.
IV. Let us not think that some other Christ is needed when we are surrounded by great and unwonted troubles. (Anon.)
The glory of the coming of Christ
The coming of Christ will be-
I. Preceded by frequent delusive turnouts.
II. A self-evident manifestation.
III. A time of judgment.
IV. A time of great distress of nations.
V. “With power and great glory.”
VI. For the salvation of the elect. (Anon.)
I. The Christian dispensation is disturbed by attempts of impostors to delude the unwary.
II. These attempts at imposture are accompanied by credentials likely to deceive many.
III. There is in our possession a test sufficient to unmask all pretenders. (Anon.)
Our Lord forewarns-
I. His own people of the danger of being led astray.
II. Of the manner of His coming-sudden, unmistakable.
III. Sinners of the certainty of judgment. Do we heed the warnings? Do we live as if we gave attention to them? (Anon.)
Christ’s advent not restricted
Take as an example of the twilight condition in which the Christian world stands to-day, the different opinions that its members have concerning the Lord’s second coming. Some say He came in judgment when the Roman army encompassed and subdued Jerusalem. “Lo I Christ was there;” and so He was, in that Divine Word of His which then and thus became visibly true. Others affirm that He came in the descent of the Holy Ghost; and so He certainly did, and by that Spirit He still abides and works here on earth, remaining with and in His Church always even unto the end of the world. Yes, Christ is here as well as there, in this temple as well as in that where the first disciples were gathered. Yet another voice says, “The Redeemer comes in every signal manifestation of spiritual life, in each great reformation and revival of faith, in each social uplifting of the people to holier desires and to a better life. In all of these Christ is, no doubt, present. By and in them He is evermore coming. And He comes, moreover, to each individual soul at baptism, at conversion, and in the Holy Communion. He comes into the secret closet of prayer and meditation. He comes to every open heart, and outside the closed door of others He stands, and knocks, and waits. Blessed truths are these, all of them. Christ does come by many paths to help the needy, and He comes with power. But no one of these comings is exclusive of the others. We are not to believe that Christ is altogether “here” or “there,” that His presence is entirely restricted to any single one of the many ways by which He has promised to bestow the blessings of His risen life. And all of these comings put together should not exclude from our minds the belief or the constant thought of that other coming, which is to be not as a combination or succession of separate star-gleams, but as the lightning, a body of glory covering the whole world, and reaching at once from the east even unto the west. (E. E. Johnson, M. A.)
For as the lightning.
The last conflagration
I. Christ’s advent shall be sudden. Unexpected by the masses; like the flash that leaps from the bosom of the black cloud, sweeps through the sky, and completes its journey in an instant.
II. Christ’s advent will be with intense and vivid splendour. The lightning fills the whole world; leaps from the east, and finds its lair only in the remote and distant west. When the searching lightning of that day shall come it will penetrate the cell of the captive, etc. What an arrest will take place. The world will be going on when Christ comes, as it does this moment. There will be signs, and symptoms, and premonitory warnings of Christ’s advent.
1. Some will say, on seeing them, “The whole thing can be explained on the principles of natural science,” etc. It may be so; but certainly these scientific objectors seem to be the successors of a class who are a sign of the times, while they say, “Where is the promise of His coming?” etc.
2. Others will meet all statements on the subject with “Wishes it may not be true,” etc.
3. God’s own people will say, “Come, Lord Jesus; we have been looking for Thee,” etc.
4. The testimony of God’s Word as to the accompaniments of this day.
5. What is the lesson from all this? “What manner of persons,” etc.
6. Seek to promote things that will survive the last fire.
7. The prospect of a dissolving world is a more practical motive force than the prospect of death. This is the apostolic motive power. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
Duty to be done in time of judgment
About sixty years ago, there was in America a universal superstition-not an enlightened belief-that the world was about to close. They believed that the world was about to end, because a total eclipse of the sun took place at noonday. There was all the darkness and the gloom of midnight. It happened that the Congress of the United States was assembled at this hour; half the members of the Congress believed that that dense night, caused by a total eclipse of the sun, was really the darkness that preceded the ushering in the judgment and another state and world. They were in great alarm, and two or three of the most agitated got up at once, and moved that the Congress do adjourn. There was a panic. In the midst of the panic, and while some were proposing an adjournment, an old and venerable Puritan, who had learned noble lessons from the Puritans of England, the salt of the country at that time, rose up and said, “Mr. Chairman, we are told that our duties are always imminent, that they are always obligatory. Some in this house are afraid that the last day is come; it may be they are right; I have some suspicion they are so; but as our duties never cease, instead of moving that the house adjourn, as we cannot see in this darkness to do business, I move that the candles be brought in, and that we proceed to the order of the day.” That man spoke like a Christian, and he lived like a Christian. And may we be found going on with the orders of the day when the light of the last day shall flash upon this world. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
The coming of the Son of Man
The Rev. Edward Irving was once preaching at Perth. The text was taken from Matthew 24:1-40.24.51., regarding the coming of the Son of Man. While he was engaged in unfolding his subject, from out of a dark cloud, which obscured the church, there came forth a bright blaze of lightning and a crash of thunder. There was deep stillness in the audience. The preacher paused; and from the stillness and the gloom, his powerful voice, clothed with increased solemnity, pronounced these words: “For as the lightning cometh out of the earth, and shineth even unto the west; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.”
Christ’s second coming
Here are two opposite yet ever-present dangers. One is of fancying that our Saviour and our salvation are to be found in some extraordinary out-of-the-way fashion of religious manifestation: “Behold he is in the desert.” The other danger is that we shall fancy that our Saviour and our salvation are to be found in particular states of our own interior feeling: “Behold he is in the secret chambers.” The first was superstition; this is fanaticism.
I. Both Christ and his apostles speak repeatedly of a second coming of the Son of Man in such a sense as forbids us to confound the second with the first. The two are put entirely apart in time, though they are internally and morally connected with each other; the one preparing the way for the other, and each being in fact fragmentary and unintelligible without the other.
II. That coming is personal and literal. We may call signal social revolutions, reforms in government, the emancipation of slaves, or great accessions of knowledge or charity, new comings of Christ. The figure is intelligible; but they are not comings of Him. They may be comings of the impersonal power and principles of His religion-partial blessings reminding us of the one great blessing that includes them all; but He is to come. “Ye shall see the Son of Man(not His ideas, but Him) coming in power and great glory.” Nor will it do to tamper with Holy Scripture by such a theory of interpretation as that His coming means our going. The death or departure of the individual is one thing; the Bible often mentions that, meaning just what it says. The Lord’s coming is another.
III. This great coming is to be connected with a separation of the good from the bad, the believers from the deniers, the spiritually alive from the spiritually dead.
IV. There is, however, some reference to a kind of coming of Christ which was to take place in the lifetime of the generation that was on the stage while the saviour was speaking.
V. Inspired writers, apostles, signify their expectation that Christ’s second advent would take place during their own natural life. Were they mistaken, and mistaken teachers of others? A vast amount of ingenious effort has been made to break the force of this objection with out sacrificing the infallibility of the record. For the most part it has failed by taking the purely external or philological method, and without sounding spiritually the depths of the Evangelic purpose. Let us honestly take the language of honest men in its ordinary acceptation. What, then, shall we say? All difficulties are cleared by the following proposition, which is reasonable and reverential: The purpose of revelation, in this matter, was to create in Christians, not a belief that Christ would come at any particular hour in history, but a belief that He is always at hand, and that all Christians should at all times and in all places be ready, as men that stand with their lamps trimmed and burning, to meet Him personally. The date of the event was no part of the Divine communication. In proportion as we rise, in thought, toward the immensity of the life of God, and have “the mind of the Spirit,” the whole period of history shrinks, great distances dwindle, epochs are pressed together, and “a thousand years are as one day.” Besides, the highest authority in modern physical science, in astronomy, and geology, and chemistry, harmonizes singularly enough, as to the issue, with the Apostolic language. It concludes that the machinery of the material universe is wasting, its movements are slackening, its balance is slowly loosening, and that a general catastrophe is inevitable. The sneer of the scientific sceptic of the last century is silenced by the science of to-day. We may say that in the Bible predictions generally, borrowing a phrase from the fine arts, what we may call historical perspective is lost sight of. We are not told at what intervals from each other, or always in just what order, these majestic events, by which eternity seems to open down into time, shall follow on. Chronology is not the object. The facts are what we are to know, and receive, and feed upon in our hearts by faith. The moment we begin to try our petty arithmetic on them we miss the mark, and lose our way. We all know that, even with ourselves, the moments of tremendous peril, when awful events are casting their colossal shadows about us, are just the time when the ordinary measure of succession drops out of sight. We look across the great tract and see other great conjunctions, as if they were nigh at hand. Christ Jesus is not enclosed in time, but time is all in Him. (Bishop Huntington)
Christ’s second coming a revelation
The essential circumstance in this parable or analogy is not so much the suddenness of the splendour that breaks forth from the cloud, as the wide-reaching and supernatural illumination and revelation which come with it. It annihilates all the darkness of the night and of the storm. Each of all the hidden objects stands out clearly manifest. The daylight comes so slowly that we seldom think of its revealing power. Even when we pause to watch its increase, the world has ample time to grow into its old look of naturalness without any shock to us; and, ere the sun has fully risen and disclosed clearly to our sight the familiar objects around us, we have already well-nigh forgotten that the night ever hid them. But it is not so when the lightning comes. That has no twilight. Its dawn is its fullest day. It transfigures the world at once. It divides the light from the darkness somewhat as we imagine God did at the beginning-separating them perfectly, and leaving no neutral ground between them. (E. E. Johnson, M. A.)
For wherever the carcase is.
The carcase and the vultures
Our Lord says, wherever there is a rotting, dead society, a carcase hopelessly corrupt and evil, down upon it, as if drawn by some unerring attraction, will come the angel, the vulture of the Divine judgment. There are many “comings of the Lord” which on a smaller scale have embodied the same principles as shall be displayed in world-wide awfulness at the last judgment.
I. The first thing in these words is that they are to us a revelation of a law which operates with unerring certainty through all the course of the world’s history. God can tell when evil has become incurable, when the man or country has become a “carcase.” There may be flickerings of life unseen by our eyes. So long as there is possibility of amendment, “sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily.”
II. We have here A law which shall have a far more tremendous accomplishment in the future. These days proclaim “the day of the Lord.” In the prophecies both of the Old and New Testament the universal judgment is seen gleaming through the nearer partial judgments. That judgment is to be the destruction of opposing forces, the sweeping away of the carrion and moral evil. There are many temptations to put the “day of the Lord” in the background; such suppression is unfaithfulness.
III. That this is a law which need never touch you, nor need you know about it except by the hearing of the ear. It is told us that we may escape it. Take Christ for your Saviour and you shall have a refuge from the vultures. (A. Maclaren,D. D.)
Suppression of retributive warnings
Such suppression is unfaithfulness. Surely if we preachers believe that tremendous truth, we are bound to speak. It is cruel kindness to be silent. If a traveller is about plunging into some gloomy jungle infested by wild beasts, he is a friend who sits by the wayside to warn him of his danger. Surely you would not call a signalman unfeeling because he held out a red lamp when he knew that just round the curve beyond his cabin, the rails were up, and that any train that reached the place would go over in horrid ruin; and surely that preaching is not justly charged with harshness which rings out the wholesome proclamation of a day of judgment when we shall give each account of ourselves to the Divine-human Judge. (A. Maclaren,D. D.)
Retribution operative in delay
Now that is the law that has been working from the beginning, working as well in regard of the long delays as in regard of the swift execution. There is another metaphor, in the Old Testament, that puts the same idea in a very striking form. It speaks about God’s “awakening,” as if His judgment slumbered. All round that dial there the hand goes creeping, creeping, creeping slowly, but when it comes to the appointed line, then the bell strikes. And so years and centuries go by, all chance of recovery departs, and then the crash! The ice palace, built upon the frozen blocks, stands for a while, but when the spring thaws come it breaks up.
The sanitary order of human life
You know how in Eastern lands, if any beast of burden falls and dies, though the moment before the whole horizon may have been clear, with not a bird in sight, a stream of vultures suddenly appears to wrangle over the unexpected feast. You know how on any tropical ocean, if a carcase be thrown overboard, though at the moment there may not be a speck in the sky, the albatross and other birds of mighty wing appear as if by magic, and scold and fight over the welcome repast. Our Lord, then applies this familiar image of the carcase and the birds of prey to the judicial and retributive forces of human history, and intends to illustrate some law or principle by which they are governed.
I. A certain order underlies the events of human history. Catastrophes do not come by chance, or spring from caprice. The effect always has a cause. Judgment only follows on the heels of offence.
II. This order is a sanitary and beneficent order. Unconsumed, the carcase would but rot and fester and infect the air. All the birds that prey on carrion are scavenger birds, and we owe them nothing short of health and life, for a world without scavengers would soon become a stinking sepulchre.
III. All the strifes and discords of time are parts of that great convict between good and evil in which the ultimate defeat of evil is assured. The calamities and miseries to which men lie open, are intended to remove only that which must be removed if we are to live in health and peace. Wherever there is evil, there also is good, to replace the evil as well as to overcome and destroy it. What greater consolation than to know that the very miseries of men are messengers of the Divine mercy, come to give health and life rather than to destroy, since they come only to destroy that which is fatal to life and health. (S. Cox, D. D.)
Inner reading of history
If only we have eyes to read it aright, to see the Divine will and the Divine laws at work in it, the history of the Kings of England is just as instructive to us as the history of the Kings of Israel, the decline and fall of the Roman Empire as the siege and capture of Jerusalem, the reformation wrought by Luther as the revival of religion under Hezekiah, the French Revolution as the rupture between the ten Hebrew tribes and the two. No historical event is without its religious lesson for us, if only we can trace it to its moral cause; no human life, if only we can read its illustrations of that law-abiding Providence which watches over us as carefully as it did over the Jews, and shapes our rough-hewed ends for us as it shaped theirs. (S. Cox, D. D.)
The need for scavengers
That the vultures gather wheresoever the carcase is, and gather to consume it, is clearly for the health of the world; for, unconsumed, the carcase would but rot and fester, and infect the air; by its infection turning the very breath of life into a minister of death. All the birds that prey on carrion are scavenger birds. Most of the scavengers, from the vulture of the East down to the flies which cleanse our shops and rooms from every morsel of corruption are a little loathsome to us: yet how much we owe them! We owe them nothing short of health and life. A world without scavengers would soon become a stinkingcsepulchre. (S. Cox, D. D.)
Speedy destruction of carcases
On the highway, the ass, mule, or camel, which has fallen under its burden, and is no longer able to rise, is unloaded by its master, its saddle, halter, and even its shoes are taken off, and it is scarcely dead when its skin, too, is hastily removed to be sold to a tanner; the carcase is left where it fell; and as the traveller passes by upon the narrow road his horse is frightened, not more by the repulsive scent and sight, than by the eagles, vultures, ravens, crows, and magpies, that take wing on his approach, or continue, to dispute the prey with hungry dogs. When night comes on, however, the winged devourers withdraw, and give place to sneaking jackals and foxes, and to the hyenas and wolves, which now warily quit their lairs, and hasten to secure a share of the feast. (Van Lennep.)
Immediately after the tribulation of these days shall the sun be darkened.
The manifestation of Christ in judgment
I. There will be a manifestation of Christ in truth and unmistakable reality. Till the moment of His coming, it will be possible to deceive. False prophets were the bane of the old dispensation; false Christs are the bane of the new. Then He will stand before men as the true Messiah. “I am the truth” will be condemnation for millions in that day.
II. Christ will be manifested in universality. At present He is here and there as men carry the message. His coming then shall be like the lightning flash, which penetrates everywhere, awfully beautiful, irresistibly destructive, and fearfully silent.
III. The awful, majesty in which He will appear. This is set forth in the appalling changes that will come over the material heavens.
IV. Christ will be manifested as in search of his own. “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost,” not secretly as before; but His angels shall conspicuously gather together the dead. (E. T. Marshall.)
The sign of the Son of Man
The Jews, with carnal spirit, were continually saying to Jesus, “Master, we would see a sign from Thee.” They were refused. But to His people He does give signs-distinct, striking, and unmistakable-signs which constitute at once the seal and epitome of the truths for which they stand.
I. The sign of Christ’s humiliation. “This shall be a sign unto you” etc. (Luke 2:12). A most disappointing sign this must have been to the shepherds, if they shared the current expectation of a regal and triumphant Messiah. A sign of exquisite tenderness and attractiveness to us.
II. The sign of Christ’s glory. Our Lord, in answer to the question of the disciples, “What shall be the sign of Thy coming,” etc., sketches a solemn prophetic picture of the events that are to precede it-the apostasies, and wars, and famines, and tribulations-and then finishes with this as the final omen, “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in the heavens.” Vast conjecture and speculation have been awakened as to the nature of this sign. The many descriptions of Christ’s coming given in Scripture agree in one particular, that He comes in clouds. Examine this sign, and seek to interpret it … As in the sign of Christ’s first coming there were marks of glory accompanying the marks of humiliation, so in the sign of His second coming there will be marks of His humiliation accompanying the marks of His glory. Both signs are true, they shine on the pages of prophecy as we read, like the dazzling lenses of a revolving lighthouse, first one and then the other; now the glory and now the humiliation; now the suffering and now the conquest. The one has been fulfilled. Glory, then, in the accomplishment of the one. Watch for the appearing of the other. “What I say-unto you I say unto all-Watch.” (A. J. Gordon.)
The last congregation
I. The persons of whom that assembly will be composed.
II. The process by which that assembly will be collected.
III. The manner in which that assembly will be arranged. Only two classes will be recognized. The last division of the assembly will be public and visible. How momentous the events which that division has created and displayed!
IV. The decision which on it will be pronounced. The principles by which the decision will be guided. The consequences which the decision will involve. (J. Parsons.)
Tokens of perdition
I. Vicious habits.
II. A resort to infidelity or universalism to relieve the mind from presentiments of a judgment to come.
III. A false hope and a false profession.
IV. The approach of age without religion.
V. Carnal security.
VI. Satisfaction with worldly good.
VII. A loose and presumptuous confidence in God’s mercy.
VIII. Increasing hardness of heart.
IX. Neglect of prayer and the means of grace.
X. The rejection of many calls. How many of these marks of death do you find upon yourself? (E. Griffin, D. D.)
The kingdom comes in crises of judgment
The kingdom of God is within you, but the crises of judgment are periodical and outward. The kingdom is within the individual the kingdom of habit, which eludes observation; silently formed day by day, growing as seed grows in the earth, full of slow, secret developments; the kingdom of impressions received-no change on the face showing the inner working; the kingdom of life discipline-lessons quietly, privately learned-experiences which only you know of laid to heart-memories hoarded; the kingdom of prayer, aspiration, spiritual communion, into which you can enter alone, none knowing how or when you pray-the Divine Host coming in silently, “without observation.” It comes also, this spiritual kingdom, to nations, “without observation;” slowly beneath its invisible sway slavery disappears; the place of woman is secured; human law brought into nearer affinity with Divine law; the brotherhood of man gradually acknowledged, in theory, at least; even the horror of war alleviated. Thus slowly, without observation, do the kingdoms of the world tend to become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ. But, oh, how much remains to be done! Philosophers talk of the military barbarous phase giving place to the industrial phase in civilization, and we enter the Inventions Exhibition, 1885-that late product of the nineteenth century-and the first things which meet our gaze are certain awful cannons and war implements for the destruction of human life, and the unfaternal torture of human beings. Cold steel, gunpowder, and the big battalions have it all their own way in a world which laughs at arbitration, sneers at right, and still swears by Christ. And now see how the judgment crises of this kingdom within work themselves out, and are as startling and as terrible as any appearance of the Son of Man in the clouds, surrounded by His angelic heralds of judgment. Every time the measure of a nation’s iniquity is full, there comes such a judgment crisis. It came to Jerusalem when the armies of Vespasian, in the year 70, trampled out the heartless and effete ecclesiastical system of the old Judaism. It came to Rome when the unparalleled corruption of the Caesars had spread to the provinces, and in due time the empire went to pieces, under the weakness of its head, and was broken up to be re-constituted in the Christian nations of modern Europe. It came to England when the Reformation stamped the authority of the Pope out of the kingdom. It came again when huge popular oppression and political wrong nerved the people to strike for justice in the execution of an English king. It came to France after centuries of organized selfishness and robbery of the poor by the rich, in the French Revolution and Reign of Terror, 1793. It came again with the overthrow of an adventurer, who in our time rose to power by treachery and massacre, and wielded the sceptre of France for more than twenty years until the judgment fell upon him at Sedan and hurled him from the throne. People were taken in by Napoleon III. and the glitter of his empire. They thought that he at all events had outdone Providence. But neither he nor any one else can do that. One Frenchman at least saw clear-stood firm for the permanence of spiritual principle, and waited for the kingdom of God which cometh not with observation. That was Victor Hugo. Nothing could induce him to enter France whilst Antichrist was on the throne. The day after Sedan he presented himself at the ticket-office in Brussels, and left that night for Paris. (H. R. Haweis, M. A.)
But My words shall not pass away.
The words of Christ
The characteristics of our Lord’s words.
1. The authority which speaks in them.
2. Their elevation.
3. Their awful depth. (Canon Liddon.)
The permanency of Christ’s teaching
1. The words of Christ are abiding because of their special inspiration. His words cannot die by reason of the living power that is in them.
2. The teachings of Jesus have a great and an enduring task to perform. The gospel has the “power of an endless life” which the work before it demands. Great things and great ends require great and large preparation. The Niagara Falls is one, if not the greatest, of the wonders of the world; but the river St. Lawrence was twenty-seven thousand years making the deep cutting in the rock which forms the cataract. The great task before the gospel, of bringing the light of truth to every heart, must be accomplished. The efforts of the Church must not be relaxed until this end has been attained. Whatever changes are woven into the nature of things the continuation of gospel teaching is inevitable. “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”
3. As the gospel has survived the revolutions of more than eighteen centuries, so it will survive those yet to come.
4. The impression which the words of Jesus make on the souls of the redeemed is another proof that they shall not pass away. When the world has passed away, these words will abide in the hearts of men who have believed in Christ. Every portion of the gospel we learn and feel and practice will remain with us for ever. (The Weekly Pulpit.)
The transient and the permanent
“Heaven and earth shall pass away.”
I. It needs some thoughtfulness to apprehend the transient character of these great objects of our interest.
1. The forms of life and activity with which we are familiar pass away. The morning light, buds, seasons, living creatures, soon die.
2. If we extend our vision and take within its sweep not only the life of the individual, but the course of the ages, and the history of the world. These pass away.
II. And yet in all this there is permanence. The form passes, but the material remains. Perhaps even the material may be our name for the unknown nothing, and there remains only the law, only the type, only the order, which unceasingly lives. Thus the form of the living thing disappears, but life remains; and that vegetable life which we saw so busy and so plentiful in forms of flower and leaf and tree, shall next year bring forth new flowers and put out fresh leaves; and when the trees that to-day stand erect, monarchs of the forest, shall, fallen prone, be slowly turning into the fuel of future ages, that same life shall yet be lifting up new pillars of the forest, tall and stately, beautiful and strong, over which new generations of branches and leaves shall wave beneath the sunshine and be swayed by the breezes of the future years. And so is it with the life of the animal and man. This animal, this man, may perish, but man remain. And the human race has not vanished. Babylon, Egypt, and ancient Greece and Rome have disappeared, but man remains, in his essential nature unchanged. The moods of the sensitive nature pass away and follow each other like the shadows on the mountain-side when the fleecy clouds are floating o’er the sky on a summer noon. And yet there is something that remains. There is the subject of these sensations; there is that element which is always present in these conscious states which knows itself and them, and the differences between each state, and the resemblances and the differences between itself and them, and the combination of all into one homogeneous whole. There is something permanent, something that lasts. You cannot destroy, you cannot waste it, you cannot, indeed, change it. It is itself-itself always-eternal, I believe, as the eternal God. Or we might illustrate it again in relation to thoughts, to ideas, to concepts; to those class cognitions of the mind which result from the comparison and the abstract classification of states of sensation, of memory, of judgment. We thus gain ideas-the good, the beautiful, the true, the evil, the human, the Divine. The individual states, the individual acts, the individual persons who, by these acts, produce these states-all these may vanish. They may be only a memory; or even grow in memory dim, and at last fade away from the last reminiscence of the soul; but the ideas we have formed-that abstract beauty, goodness, humanity, or divineness-these remain. Their light will play about other forms; their relations dwell within the caverns of our nature and fill them with music, or make them hideous with discord.
III. Thus the words of Christ seem only to be the following, accompaniment of what we saw on all sides of our quest-that there is a permanent, and that there is a transient. He goes down to the very base of the nature, and declares that a man must be born from above if he is to see the kingdom of God. The spiritual only can behold the things of that kingdom, which are wholly spiritual. The worship of God is to be in spirit and in truth. His own very words are to be interpreted in the sphere of the spiritual and the true, and the work He came to do for men was not to make their lot here easy or hard, not to spread life’s path with flowers or with thorns; it had no respect to these mere circumstances and conditions of outer life. But it went to the very centre of being, to the inner personality of the man. And, as Christ Himself gave up all that He had that was external, material, physical, letting it all go in death, and living only in His living union with the eternal God, so must man live only in that living personality, letting all else die with Christ, and even when living, not living except as Christ lived in him. (L. D. Bevan, D. D.)
The immutability of the words of Christ
I. The permanence and immutability of the gospel are proofs of the perfection of its plan.
II. The immortality of the words of Christ is proof of their perfect adaptability to the constitution and course of nature.
III. Is proof of their perfect consonance with absolute truth.
IV. Is proof of their identity with the ultimate basis of life.
V. Two lessons.
1. He that formulated this immutable scheme and must be Divine.
2. Upon these words of Christ we have an assured and stable basis upon which to build for eternity. (E. S. P.)
The enduring word
I. What word is this?
1. “My Word.” Who spoke this word? Jesus Christ the Saviour. Must not He be God who could fling upon the winds such a prophecy as this, and be sure of its everlasting success? It is not the word of Jeremiah, John, etc. They were the instruments, but Christ’s word is nevertheless audible in all.
2. What are some of the marks and characteristics of Christ’s word?
Given in the Bible.
1. Authoritative. We hear men saying, “We want an authority:” here it is.
3. Spirit and life.
4. “Never man spake like this man.”
II. What does Christ say? of His word? It shall not pass away. Empires, etc., have passed away, but the word of Christ still survives; it speaks with undiluted emphasis; it spreads with uninterrupted speed. All things that threatened to extinguish it have only aided it. Those things that once seemed to rise like mountain obstructions to its march are day by day dissolving like wreaths of snow in the sunshine, in contrast to the advancing and triumphant word of the Lord. And when the new heaven and the new earth shall come, Christ’s word shall not cease. The only change will be, all its promises will be enjoyments, etc. Comfort for the believer. Of the least promise that you choose to select you may say, “Heaven and earth,” etc. Encouragement to the seeker, worker, minister, etc. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
The immutability of the Divine Word
1. The certainty of Divine truth.
2. The words of Christ considered in their necessary imperishableness.
3. The words of Christ shall never pass away, because they form the last of that series of communications given by God to a lost world.
4. Because they are founded on eternal truth, and on the fixed counsels of the immutable God.
5. Because of their connection with His own final glory as Mediator.
6. These are the words preached unto you. (D. Moore, M. A.)
And took them all away.
The moral of accidents
I. What are we to think? Let us now collect and enumerate a few thoughts that we ought to think when we are considering sad things that happen.
1. How many accidents are but slight as to the hurt they do in comparison with the service of the lesson they teach.
2. From how many things “going to happen” we are saved when loss and danger appear imminent.
3. How manifest and honourable are the work and courage of man in averting accidents, and in lessening the harm they do.
4. How incessant is the beneficial operation of the great natural laws, and how varied in kind is their benefit.
5. How careless and untrue is the work of many men; how needful is it that they should have a warning they will heed. And how often, after all, does the right accident happen obviously at the right time and to the right kind of person.
6. How certain it is that unfaithfulness in work will bring disasters, small and great, which are misnamed when we ca!l them “accidents;” for, though we knew not, we might have known that they were sure to happen. And-
7. How certain it is, too, that, if anything favourable to us unexpectedly occurs, we shall not be able to take advantage of it unless we are men of some resource and some character.
II. We come now to our second question: what are we to do? What are we to do, then? We are not to eat, drink, and marry, careless of the way in which we do these things, and unmindful of our duty to God in them, as if the world, that can take care of itself, would take care of us without any good heed of our own. We are to ask and get answered the question, “What must I do to be saved? “ Let us, seeing that so much we have may at any time be the prey of the spoiler, store up the inconsumable, imperishable riches. Many men have lost their lives by accident; no man ever lost his soul by accident. (T. T. Lynch.)
Three rules without an exception-
I. “the flood came and took them all away.”
1. Many in that time were wealthy. Not one rich man could escape with his hoards.
2. There were some in those days who were extremely poor. The pauper out of the ark perished as well as the prince.
3. There were in those days learned men in the world. Their knowledge could not deliver them.
4. There were many who were very zealous in the cause of religion. Their outward religion of no avail.
5. Some of the oldest men that have lived perished.
6. They wondered at Noah building his ark, as contrary to reason; criticised his building; some took his part; some worked for him. All out of Christ perished.
II. The flood found them all eating, drinking, and marrying-this without exception. The mass of men are busy about fleeting interests, and neglect the salvation of their souls. The reason-
1. Men’s indifference about their souls.
2. Universal unbelief.
3. That they were always and altogether given to worldliness.
III. All who were in the ark were safe. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Two women shall be grinding at the mill.
The text speaks of an experience which comes to all of us in our turn, as life gradually builds us round. At first, in our childhood, it is otherwise. This earth seems, then, to have no fixed hardness; the spot on which we stand melts off indefinitely into a dreamlike distance, which is hazy and vague, and peopled with we know not what possibilities, holding within its rays strange fairy worlds which rumours may fill as they will, and everything seems possible, and anything might happen, and no relentless law of undeviating existence has imprisoned our expectations and experience, and the world of our hopes mingles with the world of our senses, and earth and heaven are not afraid of each other; their lines cross without a shock. But, as we grow up, we know how solid and how hard the whole thing becomes. The earth takes its stiff limits and its exact rules; it is seen, and known, and measured-a round ball, rolling in space, compact, and massive, and blind, and entire-a round, rolling ball, and we roll round with it. We are things in it, embedded in it; we belong to it; we have a fixed spot and lot on its surface. To it we are tied; we are bound to definite purposes which we never dream of disputing. So we travel with the moving earth; and our days are settled for us; occupations and holidays repeat themselves, year after year, with stolid regularity, against which gradually we give up protesting; we make up our minds to live out our own parts; and all the emotions that beat against this even tenour of uneventful days-dreams, impulses, alarms, hopes, aspirations-cease to be more than empty visions. The common day closes in upon us, settled and familiar; the common world is about us, with interests that ever increase, with work and play, with rule and habit; and the steady block of endless business fills in all our allotted space of action, fills it in down to every cranny, thick and solid and unyielding. (Canon Scott-Holland.)
Circumstances no index of character
How powerless and immaterial are circumstances for those two! Every single circumstance of life is identical; together they rise at the same hour; right through the day they grind together; at the same hour they go to the evening meal, and at the same hour they sleep. Everything, year after year, repeats itself. They dress alike; they were paid alike; life passed for both on the same level of low, unchanging poverty. To any one looking on they would be wholly alike-two poor women, of the same class, occupation, education, wage, interest, dress. Nothing from end to end of these earthly circumstances could be found to distinguish the one from the other. At the same mill they had turned and turned, to both the earth had been equally harsh and unkind, and no lights shone in upon them, and no changes ever surprised them. On and on together, hand in hand, and face to face, they had ground at the same mill up to the last; and lo! one is for heaven, and one for hell. Within they are as different as black from white, as good from evil; so dominant, so imperial is human character, so free it is from the control of circumstances. Oh, what wide comfort! What can it matter what our conditions may be? Two grinding at the mill; one taken, and the other left. Is there any one who sinks under the sodden monotony of daily routine, who withers under the pressure of everyday sameness; who finds himself chained into that mean, petty, narrow block of circumstances which he knows to be killing out all spiritual emotions in those about him, and yet he cannot break from it, and he dreads to feel creeping over his soul the same melancholy dryness he sees in others? That which kills another may be life to him, if he will use it. He alone is the master And yet, on the other hand, how powerful is circumstance! It is at the mill, at the grinding-there and nowhere else-that the thing has got to be done, the difference is to be created. There, as they ground and ground together, these two poor women built up bit by bit the wall of their separation. It was out of the doing of the same things that one grew readier for the Lord, and the other darkened down to the slothful servant. At the mill, still grinding, the Lord finds them. No one, then, need leave his mill. In the field where men work, there our drama works itself out. Circumstances are nothing, but they are also everything; and we shall discover our weakness if we attempt to ignore them … Strength of character lies not in demanding special circumstances, but in mastering and using any that may be given. Our work and daily contact with our fellows form our scene of action, and God blesses with a peculiar blessing the efforts to put to profit, not some self-selected occasion, but the actual conditions in which we find ourselves. (Canon Scott-Holland.)
Faithful performance of common duties
Philip Henry one day calling upon a tanner, found him so busy tanning a hide that he was not aware of his approach until he tapped him on the back. Starting in confusion, the man exclaimed, “Sir, I am ashamed you should find me thus.” Philip Henry replied with solemn emphasis, “May the Lord Jesus, when he comes, find me discharging with the same faithfulness and zeal the duties of my calling!”
Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come:
The coming of the Son of Man
The warning. Christ’s coming is compared to that of a thief in the night. Seems disparaging, but is remarkably apt (1 Thessalonians 5:2-52.5.4). The dispensation under which we live is emphatically that of night, in comparison with the dispensation which is to be introduced at the day of the Lord, etc. The plans of the housebreaker are all laid beforehand, and yet studiously concealed. So the coming of the Lord and the day of His appearing are fixed with infinite wisdom, but kept secret with a profound reserve. That mystery wears a pleasing or repulsive aspect, according to the preparedness of those to whom the Master comes.
II. The caution. It is remarkable that the Evangelist Luke, while emitting the parable, gives us the most lucid account of its application (Luke 21:34).
III. The precept. A personal preparation for the coming of our Lord is to be regarded as a matter of imminent motive with us all. You may be deceived as to the signs; but you are not to be negligent of the event. “Watch and pray.” Watchfulness is the habit of keeping the eye constantly alive to events; prayer is the habit of keeping the heart constantly lifted up to God. Taking into account the conditions under which we are admonished to watch and pray, the intent becomes palpable that things we are not permitted to know beforehand will be gradually unfolded to us as the events are about to transpire. But the chief motive defies analysis. The holy instinct of loving hearts prompts that ardent expectancy with which “hope” anticipates the appearing of the Lord. (B. W. Carr.)
I. The unexpected arrival.
1. Of what person?
2. In what manner?
3. For what purpose?
4. At what time? Date unknown (verse 36), knowledge might induce carelessness, etc.
II. The unforeseen disclosure.
1. To many, of the character of others. It will be a day of great surprises. We only judge by appearances. God knows thought, intention, character.
2. To many, of their own destiny. Judge not. Leave the judgment with God.
III. The needful watching.
1. With increasing prayer.
2. With unfaltering diligence.
3. With unfailing patience. Biding the Lord’s time submissively, lie will not always tarry. (J. C. Gray.)
Temptations demand watchfulness
I. Temptations may enter the senses without sin, for to behold the object, to touch, or taste, is not to commit sin, because God Himself hath thus ordered and framed the senses by their several instruments and organs. He hath kindled up light in the eyes, He hath digged the hollow of the ear, for hearing, and hath shut up the taste in the mouth or palate, and hath given man his senses very fit for the trial and reward of virtue. Therefore, we may make a covenant with our eye, bridle our taste, bind our touch, purge our ears, and so sanctify and consecrate every sense unto the Lord, which is indeed to watch.
II. They may enter the thoughts, and be received into the imagination, and yet, if we set our watch, not overcome us; for as yet they are but, as it were, in their march, bringing “up their forces; but have made no battery or breach into the soul.
III. The sense and fancy may receive the object with some delight and natural complacency, and yet without sin; if we stand upon our guard, and then oppose it most, when it most pleads for admittance. (Anthony Farindon.)
Them be ye also ready.
I. The coming of the Son of Man. His title. His coming is death. There is certainty in His coming.
II. That man in his unconverted state is unready for his coming. Man is not ready-
1. For he is born under the curse of the law.
2. For he is under the dominion of sin.
3. For his life is one of disobedience to the commands of heaven.
4. For he is unfit for the glorified state.
III. The absolute necessity for being ready.
1. The nature of the readiness. Not being born in a Christian land-not mere profession. Be ready: the act is ours, the grace is God’s.
1. Ready in state.
2. Ready in life.
(1) It is necessary that we are regenerate.
(2) That our generation-work be done.
(3) That the mind be weaned from the world, and fixed on spiritual objects.
IV. The argument used to enforce this necessity-“For in such an hour.”
1. Youthful hour.
2. Hour of health.
3. Hour of carnal amusement.
4. Hour of worldly prosperity. (T. Jones.)
Ready for death
I. To speak of death.
1. At death, the body is dissolved into dust.
2. At death, the soul and body separate.
3. At death, the soul appears before God.
II. Who are ready for death?
1. All who are prepared to die see their lost state by nature.
2. All who love God.
3. All who have God.
III. Reasons why we should be prepared to die.
1. Death is sure.
2. The time is uncertain.
3. This is the only world where you can be prepared to die.
4. Now is the time God has given you to prepare to die.
5. He is a wise man who prepares to die.
6. He is a fool who refuses to prepare to die. (A. Fletcher, M. A.)
Comfort under bereavement
I. The admonition. To be ready for the coming of Christ ought to be the great end of life.
1. To be ready for death, is to have obtained the pardon of all sins.
2. It is to possess renewed natures.
3. It is to have all the graces of the Spirit in vigorous exercise.
II. The motive and argument employed.
1. The uncertainty of the event in question. ‘2. Death may come when, according to human calculation, there is the least Prospect of it.
3. It may call us when our earthly concerns may make it most inconvenient for us to depart.
4. It may approach when we are least ready for its approach. (T. Brown, D. D.)
The shortness and uncertainty of life
I. The scriptural account of the uncertainty of human life.
II. Inquire how the uncertainty of life so seldom leads men prepare for leaving it.
1. Want of consideration.
2. Love of this world and its enjoyments.
3. A vague impression that death is a distant event.
III. Some of the comforts and advantages of being prepared for death.
1. It secures the testimony of a good conscience, connected with the favour of God, and the happiness that results from both.
2. Preparation for death alleviates the afflictions of life, and affords much consolation under them.
3. It frees from slavish fear of that event. (A. Grant, D. D.)
The great business of life
I. The event predicted.
1. His coming at the day of judgment.
2. At the hour of death.
II. The duty enjoined.
1. It is an evangelical readiness.
2. It is a gracious readiness.
3. It is an habitual readiness. (T. Hitchin.)
The second advent
I. What is revealed concerning our Lord’s character and appearance?
1. Preparation made.
2. His first coming was in weakness; His second, in illimitable power. His first, in humiliation; His second, in glory.
II. The effect of His coming.
3. Manifestation. (E. Fisk, LL. B.)
Ready to die
A ship in a port, with all its provisions and sails and men on board, is in one sense of the word, “ready”-ready for sea; but it may not be “ready “ in the sense this text enjoins. Its sails must be in their places, its anchor must be up, every man must be at his post: then it is actually ready for the ocean and its storms. Let the command come, and in a minute or two it is disengaged from the fastenings that held it, lies down to the breeze, and without hurry or alarm is gone. And this is the readiness our Lord has here in His mind-a state of actual readiness, preparedness of mind and heart. (C. Bradley.)
I. A call to a state of preparation. The readiness to which we are called is a state that will give us admission to Paradise. The qualification for such a distinction and privilege is-
1. The possession of Christian acceptance and holiness.
2. A faithful and assiduous fulfilment of trust. Trusts of the most important kind are committed to man, for which he is accountable and responsible.
3. Habitual watchfulness.
II. Our Lord enforces this call by the declaration of an impressive fact.
1. The coming of the Son of Man.
2. The purposes of His coming.
3. Man’s ignorance of the period of His coming. (J. Rattenbury.)
Preparation for death
I. The event for which we are to be ready.
1. At death, the body turns to its original dust.
2. At death, the soul and body separate.
3. At death, the soul appears before God.
II. What is implied in being ready? Great events require suitable preparation. Preparation for death implies-
1. A perception of unfitness for death, without an interest in the favour of God.
2. Faith in Christ, which is instrumental in obtaining pardon of sin, etc.
4. Diligence in the use of the public and private means of grace.
III. Motives to urge us to be ready.
1. Death is sure to come.
2. The time of death’s approach is uncertain.
3. Abundant provision is made to induce this preparation.
4. The present life is the only period in which we can prepare for death.
5. To be ready indicates true wisdom, and gives peace. (W. N.)
I. What are we to be ready for? To be ready to leave all that is about us and all that belongs to us, however cherished.
1. To be ready to leave this world, with all its cares, its troubles, and anxieties, for a better.
2. To be willing to be rid of many things that now burden us, and that every Christian more or less feebly desires to be rid of: sin, sorrow, sickness, appetites, disquiet, etc.
3. To be ready to stand at the judgment-seat of Christ. How do you expect to appear there?
II. Why we are to be ready.
1. It is Christ’s command. Surely that is enough.
2. He who commands is competent to say what the readiness consists in. It is not what we think, nor what the minister prescribes, nor what custom says; but what Christ has inspired in His own holy word. Faith in Christ, etc.
3. He has promised to make us ready. He is the author first, and the finisher next, of our faith.
4. Why is it so important to be ready? We are to see the Son of God, etc.
5. Such readiness will not interfere with the duties of this world. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
Getting ready for heaven
“Mamma,” said a child, “my Sunday-school teacher tells me that this world is only a place in which God lets us live a little while, that we may prepare for a better world; but, mother, I do not See anybody preparing. I see you preparing to go into the country, and Aunt Eliza is preparing to come here; but I do not see any one preparing to go to heaven. If everybody wants to go there, why don’t they try to get ready?”
Sir Colin Campbell, when summoned to go to India to quell the rebellion, was asked, “How long would it take him to get ready?” He replied promptly, “Half-an-hour.” As a good soldier he lived in constant readiness for the call of duty. What a lesson for Christian soldiers! Suetonius tells us that it was a piece of Julius Caesar’s policy never to fore-acquaint his soldiers of any set time of removal or onset, that he might ever have them in readiness to draw forth whithersoever he would. Christ, in like manner, who is called the “Captain of our salvation” (Hebrews 2:10). Our enemy is always ready to annoy us; should we not therefore look to our stand, and be vigilant? Solomon’s wisdom, Lot’s integrity, and Noah’s sobriety, felt the smart of the serpent’s sting. The first was seduced, the second stumbled, and the third fell, while the eye of watchfulness was fallen asleep. (John Trapp.)
Judgment not the less certain because unexpected
Every judgment, coming of Christ, is as the springing of a mine. There is a moment of deep suspense after the match has been applied to the fuse which is to fire the train. Men stand at a distance, and hold their breath. There is nothing seen but a thin, small column of white smoke, rising fainter and fainter, till it seems to die away. Then men breathe again; and the inexperienced soldier would approach the place, thinking that the thing has been a failure. It is only faith in the experience of the commander, or the veterans, which keeps men from hurrying to the spot again-till just when expectation has begun to die away, the low, deep thunder sends up the column of earth majestically to heaven, and all that was on it comes crushing down again in its far circle, shattered and blackened with the blast. It is so with the world. By God’s Word the world is doomed. The moment of suspense is past: the first centuries in which men expected the convulsion to take place at once-for even Apostles were looking for it in their lifetime. We have fallen upon days of scepticism. There are no signs of ruin yet. We tread upon it like a solid thing fortified by its adamantine hills for ever. There is nothing against that, but a few words in a printed book. But the world is mined; and the spark has fallen; and just at the moment when serenity is at its height, the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the feet of the Avenger shall stand on the earth. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
I. The solemn events for which we ought always to be ready.
II. In what this readiness consists, and how it is to be obtained. It consists in a proper arrangement of all our temporal and spiritual concerns. The preparation of the heart for the worship of God on earth and in heaven is from the Lord, and includes-
1. Divine illumination.
2. There must be faith.
3. A life of faith must be evidenced by a life of holiness.
4. We must live a life of prayer.
III. The importance of being always ready, Reasons-
1. It is certain the Son of Man will come.
2. It is uncertain when the Son of Man will appear. (Essex Remembrancer.)
The latter end considered
Why do men refuse to heed the caution, and shrink from contemplations on their latter end.
1. The love of life is a powerful instinct. As men shrink from death by this vital instinct, so the thoughts of it are disagreeable.
2. The sentiments and symbols of men respecting death which have a painful and mischievous effect upon the imagination and feelings.
3. There are reasons which act powerfully from out of the affections, to make men slow to think of death. The mother could think of death except as a separation from her child.
4. Do you fear to come to God because of sin. Christ removes this. The pain of dying is small. We shall enter upon another life divested of the hindrances of this. Why is it not as easy to think of death as a golden gate, as to think of it as a murky gate? (H. W. Beecher.)
Watching for the future no hindrance to present duty
I remark, then, in view of this subject thus far opened, that a proper Christian watchfulness and forethoughtfulness in regard to death and the future life will not abstract us from this world, but return us back to it better fitted to perform our part here than ever before. You are, after a long, weary summer’s day, suffocated with heat, grimed with dust, covered with perspiration, and fretted of skin; and you are permitted to go down to the shore of the ocean, and bathe in its translucent waters; and your body is cleansed and cooled, and reinvigorated; and you return along the shadow of the evening, grateful, and stronger than you went. Now, God’s ocean of eternity is so near, that the soul, moiled with trouble, may cast itself in, and bathe its troubles away, and return to its life again, bright, clear, inspired, strong. If you think of death as a slave, looking upon it as going into servitude under a hard master, then it may weaken you, and take away the comfort that you have; but if you think of it, as every child of God has a right to think of it, as going to your Father’s house, where a rich banquet is prepared for you, and where you shall enjoy the companionship of saints and angels, it will be a source of comfort and strength to you. We can afford to take trouble here for the sake of gaining such an inheritance. What would I care for being poor, if I knew that at the end of one year I should have ten millions of dollars? Men would toil hard, and unremittingly, and without complaint, if they could be assured that the boundary of their toil was within their computation, and that all beyond was to be enjoyment and the amplest wealth. Men do endure everything in the hope of securing wealth and enjoyment. How will they pursue laborious industry in the chilling regions of the North, or how will they plunge into the heat of the tropics, encountering sickness, and the malaria of every delta that has commerce in it, in the hope that they may return to their father’s house, or the village or neighbourhood of their birth, and spend the few closing days of their life in pleasure and comfort. And if such is the strength of the hope of a short period of earthly peace and rest, how much greater must be the strength of that man’s hope who expects, after a few years (he cares not how few, so that God’s will is done) he shall rise out of this world of trouble, and care, and vicissitudes, into the land of glory; God’s land of freedom, of nobility, of purity, of truth? (H. W. Beecher.)
Dying in work
It was Augustine’s wish that Christ, when He came, might find him either praying or preaching. It was Latimer’s wish (and he had it) that he might shed his heart-blood for Christ. It was Jewel’s wish that he might die preaching, and he did so, for presently, after his last sermon at Lacock, in Wiltshire, he was, by reason of sickness, forced to his bed, from whence he never came off till his translation to glory. I have heard the like of Mr. Lancaster, a precious man of God, some time pastor of Bloxham, in Oxfordshire, a man very famous for his living by faith. Cushamerns, a Dutch divine, and one of the first preachers of the gospel at Erfurt, in Germany, had his pulpit poisoned by the malicious Papists there, and so took his death in God’s work. “What l would you that the Lord, when He comes, should find me idle?” said Calvin to his friends, who wished him to forbear studying awhile for his health’s sake. And such a like answer made Dr. Reynolds to his physician upon the like occasion. Elijah was going on and talking with Elisha (about heavenly things, no doubt) when the chariot of heaven came to fetch him. There can be no better posture or state for the messenger of our dissolution to find-us in than in a diligent prosecution of our general or particular calling. (John Trapp.)
Always ready to die
Mr. Wesley was once asked by a lady, “Suppose you knew you were to die at twelve o’clock to-morrow night, how would you spend the intervening time?” “How, madam?” he replied; “why, just as I intend to spend it now. I should preach this night at Gloucester, and again at five to-morrow morning. After that I should ride to Tewkesbury, preach in the afternoon, and meet the societies in the evening. I should then repair to friend Martin’s house, who expects to entertain me, converse and pray with the family as usual, retire to my room at ten o’clock, commend myself to my heavenly Father, lie down to rest, and wake up in glory.”
A minister is a steward
I. What Christ’s ministers are entrusted with?
1. The gospel.
2. The ordinances.
3. The care of the Church.
4. The souls of the members.
II. What ministers may be said to be stewards and rulers; teachers and preachers; elders or pastors?
III. Who are wise, faithful servants of Jesus Christ?
1. Such as serve Christ because they love Him.
2. Such as serve Christ in all humility.
3. Such as serve Him with a perfect heart.
4. Such as feed the Master’s household with all that food the Master hath provided or appointed for them.
5. Such as feeds the whole household.
6. Such as seeks the honour of Christ in all he does, not his own gain.
7. Such as cares for the weak babes, or little children, of his Master’s family. (Benjamin Keach.)
Matthew 24:45; Matthew 24:51
Who, then, is that faithful and wise servant.
I. The particular relation in which we are here represented as standing to the one that is above us.
II. The representation that is here given of that attitude in which the servant is found who is obedient to his Master. There are terms used particularly descriptive of the conduct of the individual.
2. Wisdom is associated with faithfulness-“faithful and wise.”
3. Habitual and persevering continuance in well-doing.
III. The blessedness which is included in this benediction of the Master.
1. Blessed at the appearance of Christ, also while he lives, in his present activity.
2. Positive reward.
3. Contrast the deception of the evil servant. (T. Binney, D. D.)
The faithful servant and his reward
I. The character of the faithful servant.
1. The faithful servant is one whose service is sincere.
2. The faithful servant is one whose service is unreserved, limited only by his capability.
3. His service is uniform.
4. His service is according to the prescribed rule, “If a man strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.”
5. His service is that of faith-the living faith of the heart in the truth of God as revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
II. His reward. The reward is here made to depend upon the servant being found occupying the position assigned him, with all fidelity, “when his Lord cometh.” We must not infer that the faithful servant is not blessed prior to his Lord’s coming, at the hour of death. Nor do his onerous duties diminish, but rather contribute to, the blessedness of the faithful servant. He has to suffer, it is true; but these minister to his blessedness. The master promotes his servant to the highest post of honour because of his fidelity in an inferior position. He is made a “ruler.” These pleasures will be internally progressive. The reward, however, will not be equal in degree. It is a matter of the first importance to determine whether we are in deed and truth the servants of Christ. (R. Scott.)
The activity of service
Christ’s departure from this earth is no reason for His Church’s inaction, but the source of her activity. Far from withdrawing His Church’s interests from earth by His withdrawal, He endows it with more effective energies, larger capacities for action. She can do more on earth, and not less, now He is gone. He shows this by picture after picture. He tells us that we are to be a society carefully and shrewdly organized, and this organization is to he formed with a view to work, production, fruit. We are to be organized with a view to our capacities, so to be arranged as to serve best for direct, present, practical usefulness here on earth; we are to be as a house which a householder has left, in which house every one is in his place, each according to his gift; and in this house there will be careful provision, that each shall have his food in due season-food brought him prepared through the hands of officers appointed for that one service, while at the door will ever sit the porter, who will have the office of watching while the others work. How careful, how orderly it all is! No loose shiftiness to fill up an interval. No indifference as to what may be done in the long waiting time. His going does not destroy or diminish the seriousness or care with which the interval is to be organized. How busy it all is to be. What! did we fancy that the haste and urgency of worldly business would conflict with the solemnity of watching for the Lord? Why, this kingdom of His is to be, during all the waiting time, like a house of business. It will be as a merchant house, in which everybody is bent on making all he can out of the money given him. He gives no picture of a Church ever on its knees at some silent shrine, praying for a far-off time. He foresees a body of men busy and intent, absorbed in the practical use of their gifts, bent on turning five talents into ten or two into four. (Canon Scott-Holland.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 24". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany