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The Lord's teaching on the subject of prayer. Again the scene is far away from Jerusalem; no special note of time or place enables us to fix the scene or date with any exactness. Somewhere in the course of the last journeyings towards Jerusalem, related especially in this Gospel, did this scene and its teaching take place.
Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. It seems as though some of his disciples—we know at this period many were with him besides the twelve—heard their Master praying. It appeared to them—no doubt, as they caught here and there a word and expression as he prayed, perhaps partly alone, partly to him-self—as though a friend was speaking to a friend; they would pray like that: would not the Master teach them his beautiful secret? In reply, Jesus repeats to them, in rather an abbreviated form, what, at an earlier period of his ministry, he had taught to the multitudes and the twelve. It was very likely one of the seventy who made this request, who had not been present on the first occasion, when the Lord gave his prayer of prayers to the people. We have already remarked that at this time the twelve, who had heard it, were probably often absent on mission work. It was a usual practice among the more famous rabbis to give prayer-formulas to their pupils. We have no tradition extant of John the Baptist's prayer here alluded to.
And he said unto them, When ye pray, say. The older authorities leave out the clauses erased. The prayer, as originally reported by St. Luke, no doubt stood as follows. The erased clauses were filled in by early scribes from the longer formula supplied by St. Matthew, and spoken at an earlier period by the Master:—
"Our Father which., art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins;
for we also forgive every one
that is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil."
It has been said that our Lord has derived from the Talmud the thoughts embodied in this prayer. If this could be shown to be the case, it would in no way detract from its admitted value and beauty. Indeed, the earthly training of Jesus would naturally lead him to make use of whatever was true and practical in the teaching of the schools of his people. There is no doubt that in the New Testament many a gem of exquisite beauty could be found, drawn from that strange, weird Talmud, where the highest wisdom is mingled with the wildest errors and conceits. But in the matter of the "Lord's Prayer," it must be borne in mind that only a comparatively small portion of its thoughts can be traced to Talmudical sources, and there can be no positive certainty as to their priority, since the Mishna was not committed to writing before the second century of the Christian era, and the Gemara later still. The Lord's Prayer, in the report of St. Luke, contains five petitions. Two have reference to the love of God, and three to human needs. Our Father which art in heaven. It was not now uncommon in Jewish liturgies and prayers to invoke the Eternal of Israel under the dear name of "Father." "Thou, O Lord, art our Father." Hallowed be thy Name. Not only do we pray that the Name of God may be to us a sacred precious thing, not lightly used in trivial speech, still less in bitterness and anger, only in holy reverent prayer; but we include in these words a prayer, too, that tho our thoughts of God may be pure, lofty, holy. Thy kingdom come. No Messianic kingdom, in the old Jewish meaning of the word, is signified here. It is a far onlook to the close of this dispensation, which close, we believe, is hindered by human sin and perversity. It is the prayer for the end, when there will be no more tears and partings, no more sorrow and sin. It tells of the same feeling which John, at the close of the Revelation, expressed in "Even so, come, Lord Jesus." Instead of these words, Gregory of Nyssa, in his manuscript of St. Luke, appears to have read, "Thy Holy Spirit come upon us, and purify us."
Give us day by day our daily bread. There would need no comment upon this—at first sight—quite simple prayer, but for the word ἐπιούσιος, rendered "daily." This word, in all Greek literature, occurs only in these two evangelists, in SS. Matthew and Luke's report of the Lord's Prayer. Now, does this strange word mean "daily," as our translation gives it; or is it the rough Greek rendering of some Aramaic word of a loftier signification? Most probably our Lord was speaking Aramaic in this place, far away from the capital, in the heart of Palestine. Jerome attempts to Latinize literally the Greek compound word with supersubstantialis; hence the Rheims Version renders it "supersubstantial," and Wickliffe "over other substance." Generally speaking, the patristic expositors interpret this famous word in such a way that the petition prays, not for the common bread of everyday life, but for a spiritual food, even the Bread from heaven, which giveth life unto the world. So, with unimportant differences, interpret Origen, Tertullian, Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius, Ambrose, and Augustine. Among the moderns who adopt the same view may be cited Olshausen, Stier, and Dean Plumptre. The last-named scholar's words are an admirable answer to any who would abandon this higher and nobler meaning, for the sake of preserving the reference to the commonplace of everyday life. "So taken, the petition.., raises us to the region of thought in which we leave all that concerns our earthly life in the hands of our Father, without asking him even for the supply of its simplest wants, seeking only that he would sustain and perfect the higher life of our spirit." If, however, the interpretation (on the whole unlikely) of common, everyday bread, be accepted, and the simple reference of Luke 10:42 to the necessity for only one dish at table be adopted, then, with the charge to the seventy contained in Luke 10:7, to eat and drink "such things as they give," and the further instruction to "take no thought … what ye shall eat" (Luke 12:22), we have, in this last period of our Lord's public life, clear expressions on the part of the Master of his wish that his followers should ever content themselves with the simplest human food, avoiding not only all excess, but all extravagance, and even consideration and thought, in providing for anything beyond the simplest daily sustenance.
And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. Unforgiving is unforgiven. Nothing apparently more easy to frame with the lips, and to desire intensely with the heart, than this petition that the Father would forgive us our sins, only, in praying the prayer, how many forget, or at least slur over, the condition of that forgiveness—a condition they impose themselves! We forget the ten thousand talents as we exact the hundred pence, and, in the act of exacting, we bring back again the weight of the great debt on ourselves. And lead us not into temptation. The simple meaning of this concluding petition in St. Luke's report of the prayer is, "Thou knowest, Father, how weak I am; let me not be tempted above that I am able."
Prayer continued. The wisdom of perseverance in prayer is pressed. The Lord introduces his argument by the short parable of the selfish neighbor.
And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves. This whole passage follows naturally the Lord's own formula of prayer. The teaching contained in Luke 11:1-13 may be well summarized as the Master's lesson on prayer. The disciples, when they heard Jesus pray, asked him to instruct them in the holy art. The Lord then suggested to them a series of short subjects for constant prayer, and further gave them words in which they could embody these subjects, and then proceeded to press upon them that this constant seeking help from God should never be interrupted; no discouragements were ever to prevent their praying. "See," said the Master, "this" (telling them the little parable) "is what God appears to be when prayer receives no answer." Of course, he is not what he appears to be (see Luke 11:9). The truth concerning God does not really come out before the words of Luke 11:9; but the parable, grotesque and quaint, and picturing a common scene of everyday life, arrested the attention then as it has done in many a million cases since, and told men out of heart and despairing of receiving any answer to their prayers, to think. Well, here is a case in point; but is God like this? The Lord replies shortly to this mute heart-query. At midnight. The whole picture is drawn from a poor man's house—children and parents sleeping in one room. "With me in bed" probably suggests what is common in an Eastern house, where a divan or raised platform (rendered here "bed") often filled well-nigh half the room. The hour midnight has nothing strained in it—it was frequently the practice in the East to travel by night, and so to escape the great heat of the day.
Because of his importunity, he will rise. The one idea left upon the minds of the hearers of this little quaint homely parable is—importunity is completely successful. The borrower had only need to keep on knocking to get all he wanted.
Luke 11:9, Luke 11:10
And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall he opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Then the Lord—taking advantage of the state of mind into which his strange words had brought his hearers—made, as Professor Bruce well points out, the solemn declaration on which, and not on the parable, he desired the tried soul to lay the stress of its faith: "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you," etc. Jesus here pledges that those who act in accordance with this counsel shall find the event justify it. This statement, that those who pray to God shall surely be heard, rests absolutely on Christ's authority. It is not given as a fact which is self-evident, but as a fact which he, the Speaker, knows to be true. The man in bed is pictured in the parable as utterly selfish, regardless of his poorer neighbor's wants and sufferings. So God seems to us often, as we pray to him day after day, month after month, and our prayer receives no answer; he merely appears to us then as a passionless Spectator of the tragedies and comedies of time. "Children," said the Savior," the selfish man of my story yields to constant importunity. Think ye God, who only seems to be deaf to man's pleading voice that he may deepen his faith and educate his soul—think ye God is not listening all the while, and will not in the end, in all his glorious generosity, grant the prayer? Only pray on."
If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? The Master keeps on adducing instances of the loving Fatherhood of God. All the while men were thinking hard things of him and his sovereignty. "Children," urged the Savior, "such things, such a cruel part as you would in your dark sad thoughts ascribe to the loving heavenly Father, is simply unthinkable in the case of earthly parents. They never really turn a deaf ear to their children's pleading; think you that your Father which is in heaven will refuse to listen to you when you indeed call on him?"
How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? In St. Matthew we find the last portion of this teaching related as having taken place at a much earlier period of the Lord's ministry. It is more than probable that much of Jesus Christ's general instruction was repeated on more than one occasion. There is an important difference between the words reported by the two evangelists. St. Matthew, instead of the "Holy Spirit," has the more general expression, "good things." In both accounts, however, is the Master's assurance that prayer, if persisted in, would ever be heard and granted, and there is the all-important limitation that the thing prayed for must be something" good" in the eyes of the heavenly Father. How many requests are made by us, poor, shortsighted, often selfish men, which, if granted, would be harmful rather than a blessing to the asker! Here the Lord, the Reader of hearts, having taken notice of some of the deep earnest longings, perhaps scarcely crystallized into prayer, of his own disciples, of a John or a James, pictures the case of one who deserves a special deepening of the spiritual life, and prays some prayer for the presence of the Holy Spirit. Such a prayer, says Christ, must be granted.
The bitter attack of the Pharisees. Their accusation of the Lord that he was in league with the evil one. His reply. The grave and terrible charge which was formally made by persons evidently of rank and position sent down from the capital to watch, and if possible to entrap, the hated Galilaean Teacher, was a charge no doubt brought against the Lord on more than one occasion. Of this we have clear evidence in the Gospel narratives. Puzzled and dismayed by the marvellous acts of power worked by Jesus, it was only too easy to say that he had friends and helpers among these spirits of evil which the Jew knew well were working unseen on earth.
The circumstances under which the accusation was made, and the reply of the Lord spoken, were as follows: The scene is still in the provinces, the time somewhere in the period between October and the spring of the last Passover the period which the Master spent in that slow solemn progress, through as yet unvisited places, towards Jerusalem. Learned and experienced members of the Pharisee party, scribes and doctors of the Law, had been told off to watch the dangerous and popular Galilaean Teacher, and, whenever it was possible, to lessen his influence among the people.
Jesus (Luke 11:14) had been occupied in one of his (probably) daily works of healing. He had expelled an evil spirit from a sufferer whose malady had assumed the grave form of insanity which refused to speak. The people around were wondering at this gracious act of power; then broke in voices of accusation, voices to challenge him to show them some sign from heaven, saying that his power was only derived from evil sources. To this the Master replies with consummate skill, knowing the trained minds with whom just then he had to do. He is interrupted by murmurs of approval from the crowd (Luke 11:27, Luke 11:28). He notices these for a me-merit, and then proceeds in detail to reply to that subtle request that he would prove his claims by showing them some sign from heaven.
And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. Some very terrible and apparently helpless form of possession which manifested itself in a mute, possibly in a motionless, melancholy insanity. And the people wondered. Not improbably the professional exorcists had tried here and signally failed; hence the special wonder of the people.
But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils. The accusation seems to have been whispered among the people by the Pharisee emissaries from the capital; the words of the charge were evidently not addressed to Jesus. These men could not deny the reality of the work of healing, so they tried to suggest that the great Healer had dealings with some great evil angel, whom they call, from some old Jewish tradition, Beelzebub. In 2 Kings 1:3 we read that this idol-deity was the god of Ekron. The name signifies "lord of flies." He was very likely worshipped in the low-lying cities of the sea-coast of Philistia as a god who would be likely to avert the plague of flies and insects which infested that locality. So Zeus was adored as Apomuios (the averter of flies), and Apollo as Ipuktonos (the slayer of vermin).
And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven. As in the case of Manoah or Elijah. Some such sign as the pillar of fire these cavilling Jews probably referred to. No doubt, in the course of the public teaching, in the presence of his mighty acts, Jesus was asked for such a sign on several occasions. His questioners would argue after this fashion: "We suspect that these great works of yours, especially your strange power over spirits of evil, are derived from the realm of darkness; now, show us that our suspicion is baseless by some splendid sign of the visible approval of Heaven."
If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. Throughout this argument Jesus assumes the existence of a kingdom of evil, all armed and thoroughly organized to carry out its dread purposes. He concedes, too, in language which admits of no questioning, the existence of a chief of this evil confederacy. Throughout his reply, the Master, while carefully bearing in mind the ability and skill of his enemies who had suggested this questioning to the people, addresses himself to the common sense of the mixed multitude who were present on this occasion. The argument is perfectly simple. It is not thinkable that the prince of evil would fight against himself, which he would be doing if he put such mighty weapons into Jesus' hands.
By whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. But he goes further in his skillful line of argument. "I am not the only one," said Jesus, "who claims to cast out devils. There are those in the midst of you, your sons, who make a similar assertion. Have they too entered into a league with this evil angel?" A question has been raised respecting these professed exorcists of evil spirits whom Jesus here styles "your sons." Who were they? Some, notably the older patristic expositors, have supposed that our Lord here alluded to his own apostles, to whom a measure of this power over unclean spirits was certainly given. Others, that they are identical with the "pupils of the wise," disciples of the great rabbinical schools, such as were presided over by the famous doctors of the Talmud. This is quite possible; but we have no proof that professional exorcists were pupils in any of the known rabbinical schools. It is more likely that by this general term Jesus alluded to the exorcists. These were, at this period of Jewish history, numerous. They are alluded to in Acts 19:13; by Josephus ('Ant.,' 8.2, 5); mention of them is also specially made in the Talmud, which even describes something of their mode of procedure. Our Lord seems to affirm in some cases, to a certain extent, the efficacy of the power of these exorcists. "These, Jews like yourselves," argued Jesus, "some of them, you know, belonging to your own Pharisee sect,—these have in certain cases apparently driven out the evil spirit of insanity: you do not accuse them, do you, of working with an evil angel?" Godet, in the next seven verses, has suggested a new line of interpretation, which, while generally preserving the traditional exposition of the various details, supplies the connecting thought between Acts 19:23 ("He that is not with me is against me," etc.) and the verses which precede and follow. This, apparently, has never been done satisfactorily by any commentator. Indeed, some, e.g. De Wette and Bleek, are frank enough to confess that they abandon the attempt. In these seven verses Jesus draws two pictures, in which he contrasts one of those expulsions of evil spirits which he works with that of a cure worked by an exorcist.
But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. Here Jesus points to a fact well known and thoroughly established. There was no question here; the most obstinate cases of possession had yielded to that "finger" be spoke of here; the fiercest of the, alas! (then) great company of the insane, at the bidding of that quiet, humble Rabbi, for ever shook off the spirit of madness, in whatever form of terrible possession it had been dwelling in his body. There was no question here; the only point raised by his enemies how had that quiet Rabbi done these strange, mighty works—Jesus had answered; and now draws a picture of one of these acts of his. The "finger of God" in St. Matthew, where the same or a similar discourse is related, is called the "Spirit of God." The expression is strange, but is one not unusual in ancient Hebrew phraseology. So the Egyptian magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God" (Exodus 8:19). The ten commandments are described as written on the two tables of stone with the "finger of God." "You have seen by what power the devils obey me; yea, the kingdom of God, for which you are waiting and looking, lo, it is come upon you."
Luke 11:21, Luke 11:22
When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armor wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. The exegesis is easy here. The strong man is the devil; his palace is the world; his goods especially here the poor possessed; the stronger than he is Jesus himself, who, as he paints this feature in the picture, is thinking of the scenes of the temptation, when in good earnest he overcame his ghostly adversary, then he took from him all his armor wherein he trusted, and now he, the Conqueror, divideth his spoils, among which are these unhappy possessed ones now being rescued from the power of their tormentor.
He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. Our Lord here is referring to the exorcists, and contrasting their imperfect work with his, showing how hopeless a task it was to attempt to combat the evil one and his satellites apart from him—Christ. It is particularly to be noticed that Jesus neither here nor elsewhere charges these with imposture. Pretence and ridiculous spells and incantations were doubtless constantly mixed up with their attempts to exorcise; indeed, the term used to describe them in Acts 19:13 is one of contempt; but Jesus assumes in his argument here, what was no doubt the fact, that in these cases there was often, in the person of the physician-exorcist, earnestness and prayer mingled with the deepest pity for the unhappy sufferer, and before these there is no doubt that, in the less severe cases of possession, the evil influence or spirit yielded, and for a time at least let go his victim. "See," said the Master, "he that is not with me is against me in this dire conflict against evil;" for these would-be exorcists were utterly unable, even in those instances where they expelled the devil, to render him powerless to do mischief for the future. "My power sent these dread beings to the abyss, there to wait. The would-be exorcists were unable to replace the hellish tenant which they expelled by another and a holier influence. I bring back the once-tormented soul to its old relations with its God-Friend, and replace the unclean spirit by the Holy Spirit." He goes on to say—
Luke 11:24, Luke 11:25
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. The devil, expelled for a season, watches his opportunity and quickly returns; the exorcist-physician was powerless without the aid of Christ to accomplish anything more than a half-cure; the relapse, as we shall see, was worse than the original malady. The imagery of the "dry place" through which the devil walked (luring his temporary absence from the afflicted soul, was derived from the popular tradition that spirits of evil frequented ruins and desert places (see the Talmud, 'Treatise Berachoth,' fol. 3, a; and Tobit 8:3).
Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. As instances of such a terrible possession, not improbably the result of a relapse such as is above portrayed, might be cited the cases of Mary Magdalene, out of whom we are told went seven devils, and of the Gergesene demoniac, who was possessed by a swarm or legion of these unclean spirits. There is another well-known historical reference contained in these words of Jesus, which speak of the triumphant return of the temporarily banished devil. In this, the chosen people represent the one possessed; the expelled devil was the one besetting sin which from the time of the Exodus to the Captivity—that fearsome idolatry with its attendant mischief—exercised over Israel a strange and horrible fascination. After the return from exile, idolatry seemed driven out for ever. But the house was only empty; there was no indwelling Presence there of the Holy Spirit of the Lord, only an outward show of ceremonies and of rites, only a religion of the lips, nor; of the heart; and so the old state of possession returned under the form of hypocrisy, envy, narrowness, jealousy, covetousness. The Jewish historian, Josephus, has dared to paint the picture of national degradation which closed in the sack and burning of the city and temple (a.d. 70). But this striking application belongs to St. Matthew, who represents our Lord closing his sad sketch of the return of the devils with the words, "Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation." It may have been that Jesus prolonged on this occasion the terrible sermon, and drew out lesson upon lesson suggested by his words; but it is more likely that St. Matthew is writing of another occasion, when, taunted with working with the aid of the devil, the Master spoke similar words, drawing from them other lessons. The general lesson to be learned—if the above exegesis be in the main followed—is the utter hopelessness of attempting any work which has as its object the amelioration of the human race without the aid of Christ. Earnestness and imposture will alike in the end fail here. The case of the one of whom the disciples complained to their Master as casting out devils, but who followed not with them, was very different. Here the Lord said, "Forbid him not: he that is not against us is for us." The good work in this case was done, we read, in the Name of Christ: hence the Divine approval.
And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked! This woman seems to have expressed the popular feeling. The crowds who had seen the great miracle, had listened to the cavilling suspicions, and then heard the Master's wise and skillful reply, were evidently impressed with the wisdom as with the power of the famous but hated Teacher, for they no doubt echoed the lofty and sublime blessing of the woman here. She, perhaps, had in her own person experience of the two kinds of healing just contrasted by the Master; at all events, she had rightly comprehended his words. "How many women have blessed the holy Virgin, and desired to be such a mother as she was! What hinders them? Christ has made for us a wide way to this happiness, and not only women, but men may tread it—the way of obedience; this it is which makes such a mother, and not the throes of parturition" (St. Chrysostom). It has been ingeniously noticed that this is the first direct fulfillment of the "Magnificat"—"all generations shall call me blessed."
But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it. As was invariably his practice, he declines to enter into any discussion respecting the peculiar blessedness which earthly relationship to him might bring. It was not for public discussion. The Lord, in his reply, tells her? however, that there was something even more blessed than that earthly relationship to which she was alluding, and to that something all, if they pleased, might attain.
Luke 11:29, Luke 11:30
And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation. Jesus now proceeds—the crowd was, we read, become denser—to reply to the unbelieving suggestion that he should show by a sign from heaven that it was not by the help of Satan and the powers of hell that he was enabled to exercise so mighty a power over the spirits of evil. No sign of the startling nature demanded would be given to the Jews of his day. Evidence in support of his high claims and lofty assertions was then in process of being supplied. What were their eyes beholding day by day, and their ears hearing? Evidence still more complete would vet be given them, but it would avail nothing! Lo, the solemn sign of the Prophet Jonas, who preached to wicked Nineveh after his strange resurrection—that would be given them. It is clear that St. Luke's account of our Lord's words is abbreviated. To make the symbolism of the resurrection-sign complete, we must compare St. Matthew's report (Matthew 12:39, Matthew 12:40), where in plain terms the Lord's death, and the resting in the tomb, and subsequent resurrection is foretold, and compared to the well-known story of the entombment of Jonah at sea for three days. This simile of the Master's was no doubt one repeated on several occasions. It is likely enough that it was so well-known a comparison when St. Luke wrote his memoir of the life that the evangelist felt it was not needful to go into all the details of the comparison; to mention the simile was enough; no Christian individual, household, or congregation but could at once fill up the details originally spoken by the Lord here. In the catacombs the Jonah-story is, owing to its use by our Lord, an oft-repeated and very favourite representation on those long galleries of tombs of Christian men and women of the first three centuries.
The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. The Queen of Sheba, her visit to King Solomon, and its subsequent results made a lasting impression throughout the East; probably the immediate consequence was that a great commerce was opened up between Yemen, of which she was queen, and other parts of Arabia and the far East. The Talmud and Koran, for instance, have various legends respecting this Eastern queen who was so dazzled and impressed by the magnificent Israelitic sovereign. Such a simile would be singularly attractive to the common folk who were then, we know (from Luke 11:29), crowding round Jesus. King Solomon's wisdom charmed and attracted from far countries the famous queen. Lo! One wiser than Solomon was in their midst: can we not hear from the honest, plain folk around him a murmur of assent here? Hadn't they been just listening to his wise words when the Pharisees tried to prejudice them against him? Hadn't they burst out, in the person of the woman of Luke 11:27, Luke 11:28, with an irrepressible sign of admiration? Lo! the great Arabian queen, when at the day of judgment she arose, would condemn Israel for their blind folly.
The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. And these poor sinners of the wicked city of Nineveh, they, too, will join in approval of the sad condemnation of the chosen people. In Nineveh. when Jonah appeared among them and bade them repent, they obeyed the solemn warning voice. Lo! a greater Preacher far than Jonah was in their midst; but, alas! Israel was deaf.
No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light. The Lord continues his reply to those who asked him to support his claims by a visible sign from heaven, "Do not think for a moment that the sign I speak about, and which was prefigured in the story of the Prophet Jonah, will be an obscure or secret thing. No man lights a lamp to hide: so will it be with that sign which will be given to you." Jesus was speaking all the while of the mighty sign of his resurrection.
Luke 11:34, Luke 11:35
The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. He goes on, though, with his solemn warning words. Plainly visible though the sign would be—shining bright as a lighted lamp set on high—still it, too, was possible to miss seeing it. If the eye, the organ of the body which perceives the light, be sound and healthy, then the illumination given by the lamp is seen, and the whole body, so to speak, is full of light; but if the eye was diseased, purblind, no bright shining light would be seen—the body then would be full of darkness. The word rendered "single" denotes the eye in its natural healthy state; that translated "evil" speaks of the eye as diseased, as incapable of perceiving the rays of light. The imagery to those Orientals, accustomed to parable and allegory in the stories and poems they had listened to from their childhood, was easily translated into the language of everyday life. If they gave way to passion, jealousy, prejudice, impurity, lawlessness in its hundred forms, then for them the spiritual eye of the soul would become diseased, and therefore incapable of rightly discerning any heavenly sign. It was this danger that the Master was pointing out to the crowd. "Ah!" he seems to say, "you ask a heavenly sign which will substantiate my lofty claims; that sign, in a grander and more stately form than ever you have dreamed of, shall, indeed, be given you. Have no fear on that score; rather dread that blindness, the punishment of a hard and evil heart, will come upon you, and render you incapable of seeing the sign you ask for, and which I mean to give you." He was speaking still of his resurrection. Alas, for them! the blindness of which he warned them was the unhappy lot, we know, of very many of those listening then.
If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light. The Lord here completes his allegory, still preserving the same images, with a sketch of the condition of a holy and humble man of heart, who with a "single eye," that is, honestly, trustfully, lovingly, has looked upon the sign and believed. Godet's comment on this hard and mystic saying of the Blessed is very beautiful: "When, through the fact of the clearness of thine eye, thy whole body shall be penetrated with light, without there being in thee the least trace of darkness, then the phenomenon which will be wrought in thee will resemble what takes place on thy body when it is placed in the rays of a luminous focus. Jesus means that from the inward part of a perfectly sanctified man there rays forth a splendor which glorifies the external man, as when he is shone upon from without. It is glory as the result of holiness. The phenomenon described here by Jesus is no other than that which was realized in himself on the occasion of his transfiguration, and which he now applies to all believers." There is little doubt that this teaching had been spoken by the Master on one, if not on more than one, previous occasion. In St. Matthew's report, in almost identical language (Matthew 5:15 and Matthew 6:22), the immediate application was different, and the reference of the lamp put in a prominent place was not to the Resurrection.
In the Pharisee's house. The Lord's stern denunciation of the Pharisee teaching and life. The day was not far advanced, and the Master was probably weary and faint after the long and exciting discussion just related; taking advantage, probably, of this evident weariness, some of the Pharisee emissaries from the capital, to whose presence we have before alluded, suggested to one of their friends, who had a residence in the town where the events just related had taken place, that he should invite the Master to come in and rest awhile and partake of a repast. They wished, no doubt, to get him away from the fast increasing crowd, and, when alone with him, they hoped to entangle him in a fresh discussion, and entrap him into some statement which they would be enabled subsequently to make use of, when they formally accused him of heretical, blasphemous teaching. There is no doubt that at this period of his ministry a deep-laid plot had been formed to compass in some way or other the death of this Teacher, whose words and acts were beginning so deeply to compromise their position and influence in the nation.
He marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner. An elaborate system of utter meaningless ablutions, each carried out with particular gestures, had been instituted by the rabbinical schools. All these senseless forms and ceremonies had been developed out of the original simple directions to secure cleanliness in the Levitical Law. It is probable that our Lord, intending to bring about this discussion. pointedly abstained from even the ordinary ablution on this occasion. The language of Luke 11:37 seems to point to his entering the house and at once sitting down at the table. The Talmud has many references to these practices. R. Akhibha, it proudly relates, died of thirst rather than pass over these preliminary washings. In the same compilation we read that it was currently supposed that a demon sat on hands unwashed.
Luke 11:39, Luke 11:40
And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also? Many of the words spoken on this occasion had been uttered by the Master previously. The variations in them, slight though they be, necessitate often quite a different interpretation. This helps us to come to the conclusion that in these cases the Lord must have spoken such sayings on different occasions. In this place, for instance, in the report of a similar accusation levelled against the Pharisees reported by St. Matthew (Matthew 23:25), the second clause of the verse, which treats of the outside of the cup and the platter, reads thus: "but within they are full of extortion and excess." The meaning of this is—while every care had been taken to purify the cup and the dish, no pains whatever had been paid to the source whence came the contents of these. They were too often the proceeds of extortion, they were too frequently consumed with self-indulgence. But here, in St. Luke, the second clause reads, "your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.'' The meaning of these words is, "In spite of your extreme care for the vessels of your table, your whole moral life is unclean and defiled. Are you not," argues the Master, "fools to lay down such strict rules to avoid outward defilement, while within, in the soul, you allow all manner of wickedness? Surely God, who created the things we see and touch, created the soul also!"
But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. The translation here should run, but rather give the things that are in them as alms, etc. The thought of the contents of these cups and dishes—a thought which came out, as we have seen, so prominently in St. Matthew—here is evidently in the Lord's mind. "Ah!" he seems to say, "what you Pharisees and your schools of formalism indeed want is the knowledge of that great law of love" (the law Jesus was ever teaching in such parables, for instance, as that of the good Samaritan). "I will tell you how really to purify, in the eyes of God, these cups and dishes of yours. Share their contents with your poorer neighbors." "Let them do one single loving, unselfish act, not for the sake of the action itself, not for any merit inherent in it; but out of pure good will towards others, and their whole inward condition would be different" (Bishop Basil Jones, in the 'Speaker's Commentary').
But woe unto you, Pharisees: for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Probably the primitive Law of Moses, which directed that a tenth of every income in Israel should be given up to the service of the invisible King alone, referred to such important products as corn, and wine, and oil, and the like; but the present elaboration of the Law and the Pharisee schools had extended the primitive obligation to the smallest garden herbs, such as mint and rue. The Talmud even condescends to discuss whether, in tithing the seeds of these garden herbs, the very stalk too ought not to be tithed! The Master, ever tender and considerate, does not blame this exaggerated scrupulosity, if it were done to satisfy even a warped and distorted conscience; what he does find fault with, though, and in the bitterest terms language can formulate, is the substitution of and the clear preference for these infinitely lower duties for the higher.
Ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues. These seats were in a semicircle round the pulpit or lectern of the reader; they faced the congregation. And greetings in the markets. The love of these Jews in the time of our Lord for exaggerated titles of respect and honor is well known.
Ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them. Here and in St. Matthew the same imagery was present in the great Teacher's mind—the whitewashed tombs of a cemetery. But in the report of St. Matthew the Master's picture drew a sharp contrast between the fair outward appearance of the clean white tomb, and the decaying, loathsome mass of what represented poor humanity within! When Jesus spoke the saying related by St. Luke here, the imagery was still drawn from the graves in a cemetery; but now he compared his hosts and their school of thought to graves, from the wood and stones of which the whitewash was worn off, and passers-by would walk over them, thus touching them and contracting ceremonial defilement, without being conscious what they were walking over and touching. All contact with sepulchres involved ceremonial defilement; hence the fact of their being constantly whitewashed in order to warn passers-by of their presence. This silent warning of the graves has been compared to the leper's cry, "Unclean, unclean!" with which he warned passers-by of his sad defiling presence. These tombs were whitewashed usually yearly on the fifteenth day of the month Adar. Tiberius on the lake was built partly on the site of an old unsuspected cemetery; no true Jew would reside there in consequence.
Then answered one of the lawyers Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also. It did not follow that all these professed jurists were of the Pharisee sect; some, doubtless, were Sadducees. It seems, however, probable that the greater proportion of these professional teachers and expounders of the Law did belong to the Pharisees. The oral and written Law, based upon the comparatively simple Mosaic code, had now become the absolute guide and director of the whole life of the people in all its smaller details. The various copyists, lecturers, teachers, and casuists, who debated the many doubtful points constantly arising in the perplexing and elaborate system, were all known under the general term "scribes." The lawyer was the scribe who had especially devoted his attention to the unravelment of the difficult and disputed questions which arose in the daily life of the people. This lawyer was certainly, considering the company he was associated with, of the strictest sect of Pharisees. This person could not believe that this able Rabbi from Galilee—for that they must all, after the morning's discussion, have allowed Jesus to be—could include him and his holy order in his terrible denunciations, the truth of which the learned scribe not improbably dimly discerned.
Ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Then the Lord turned to the accomplished Jerusalem scholar, and with withering emphasis pronounced upon his famous and influential order those scathing reproaches which for eighteen centuries have been the woeful inheritance of all hypocritical self-deceivers. How true was the expression, "burdens grievous to be borne," a very superficial study of the Talmud will amply show; for although even the earliest parts of that stupendous compilation were not committed to writing until some time after, yet very much of what we now peruse in those strange, weary treatises existed then in the oral tradition. which it was the life-work of scholars and pedants, like the lawyer to whom Jesus was then speaking, to learn, to expound, and to amplify; and these vexatious and frivolous ordinances which the lawyers and scribes pressed home upon the people with such urgency were often shirked and avoided by the learned and cultured scribe-class as a body.
Luke 11:47, Luke 11:48
Ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. There are still existing four singular tombs at the foot of Olivet, in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. Remarkable objects now to the modern traveler at Jerusalem, in all their fresh beauty they would be still more striking in the days of our Lord. The peculiar composite nature of the architecture of these great tombs has decided antiquaries to ascribe the building of these to the days of the later Herods. It is, therefore, not improbable that these conspicuous objects in the landscape, seen from the temple platform, and possibly others like them, which have since perished, were the tombs and sepulchres especially in our Lord's mind when he was speaking to the lawyer, and later at Jerusalem, when he' repeated, with some slight variations, the same awful woe (Matthew 23:29). It was, indeed, a speech of awful and cutting irony, these words of Jesus. "Your fathers," he said, "killed the prophets; you complete their evil work by building tombs for these slain men of God. In other words, you pretend to make amends for the crimes of past generations by this show of ostentatious piety; but if you really differed from your wicked fathers in spirit, if you indeed honored, as you profess to do by this gorgeous tomb-building, the holy men of God whom they slew, would you be acting as you now are doing—trying, as you know you are, to take my life? Is not my life like the lives of those old murdered prophets? are not my words resembling theirs?"
Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets. "'Therefore"—in other words, "Because of the determined, irreconcilable hatred of you Pharisees, and the people whom you guide, to all that is noble and true and real; because, in spite of your seeming piety, you are fast rooted in impiety"—"Therefore said the wisdom of God, I will send." The expression, "wisdom of God," has been a difficulty to commentators. The words have been referred
(1) to a quotation of the Lord's from a lost apocryphal book of that name; but we have no instance of Jesus ever quoting from an apocryphal book, known or unknown.
(2) St. Luke is here quoting from the similar passage in St. Matthew's Gospel, which, when he was compiling his Gospel, lay before him, and alludes to the earlier memoir as "The Wisdom of God." Against this we have no proof that St. Luke ever saw St. Matthew's Gospel, but a strong probability exists to the contrary; besides which, the expression is never used by an apostolic writer in such a sense.
(3) A reference is here intended to the Book of Proverbs, which in the early Church was known by the title of "The Wisdom of God," and the passage referred to is Luke 1:20 and Luke 1:31. Putting aside all these, it seems best to consider the expression simply as a solemn utterance of the Lord, in which he identifies himself with the "Wisdom of God." And this certainly is borne out by a comparison with the report of St. Matthew of a similar announcement made by Jesus on another occasion (Matthew 23:34). There we read that the Master said, "Behold, I send unto you prophets," etc. The I is emphatic, and betrays the Divine self-consciousness of Jesus. For a moment the poor Rabbi of Galilee is forgotten, and in his lofty indignation, in his profound sorrow over the stubborn heart of Israel, on both the occasions in which he is reported to have spoken these words of awful prophecy, the Redeemer identifies Himself with God. St. Matthew, "Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets," etc.; St. Luke, "Therefore also said the Wisdom of God, I will send them prophets," etc. The form of the prediction and the original thought were both, no doubt, derived by Jesus from the solemn passage in 2 Chronicles 24:19, "Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the Lord;… but they would not give ear," etc. This was followed immediately by the account of the preaching of Zechariah (the instance chosen here by the Lord, verse 51), and how the faithful witness was stoned by the people in the court of the house of the Lord (2 Chronicles 24:20, 2 Chronicles 24:21). And apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute. The title "apostle" is joined here with the well-known title of "prophet." The earthly reward that these his servants, the apostles, will meet with at the hands of the people of Israel will be the same as that meted out to those old martyr-prophets, viz. persecution and death.
That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation. He looked on to his own bloody death; to the day of the last witness of Stephen and of James; to the long series of persecutions which his servants would ceaselessly suffer at the hands of the Jews;—he looked on to the state of Israel growing worse and worse, till the day when the storm of Divine anger at last burst over Jerusalem, and overwhelmed the city and the temple and the nation. That terrible day came in less than forty years.
From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple. The reason, probably, why these two are selected out of the long red list of the noble army, must be sought for in the special position which the recital of these two deaths occupies in the Jewish canon of Scripture; the death of Abel being related in Genesis, the first book of the canon, that of Zacharias in the Second Book of Chronicles, which occupies the last place in the sacred volume (is the Jewish canon). They were simply two martyrdoms of illustrious men at the beginning and at the close of the long many-coloured story of the chosen race. There is no doubt that the Zacharias here alluded to was Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the high priest—a prophet and preacher of righteousness, who at the commandment of the king was stoned in the court of the house of the Lord. This is related in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22, in the same passage which was evidently in the Lord's mind when he pronounced the awful woe upon the generation then living. This martyrdom of Zacharias was to his Jewish listeners a very familiar and painful memory. It evidently ranked among the most terrible crimes committed by their fathers, and was the subject of some wild strange legends in the Talmud. The martyr's blood would not dry up; it was still bubbling when Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans took the temple. No sacrifices availed to stop the awful flow. Tradition assigns one of the four great sepulchral monuments at the foot of Olivet, alluded to above, to the murdered Zacharias.
Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. The Talmud gives us the clue to the Master's words of bitter reproach here. There were very many, in that restless age of inquiry, waiting for the consolation of Israel, who longed to enter into the real meaning of psalm and prophecy; but the scribe, the lawyer, and the doctor, with their strange and unreal interpretations, their wild and fantastic legends, their own often meaningless additions, effectually hindered all real study of the Divine oracles. The Talmud—in the form we now possess it—well represents the teaching of these schools so bitterly censured by the Lord.
And as he said these things unto them. The older authorities here, instead of these words, read, and when he was gone out from thence. Thus, after uttering the last "woe," Jesus appears abruptly to have risen and left the house of his Pharisee entertainers. A crowd of angry men, composed of scribes and lawyers and friends of the Pharisee party, appear to have followed the Galilaean Teacher, whose words just spoken had publicly shown the estimation in which he held the great schools of religious thought which then in great measure guided public Jewish opinion. From henceforth there could be only one end to the unequal combat. The bold outspoken Teacher must, at all hazards, be put out of the way.
Christ teaching his disciples to pray.
"He was praying in a certain place." Might not he have dispensed with the special season and act of prayer? Was not his whole life one continuous act of prayer? Did he not always realize that communion with the Father to which praying is the means? Yes; but even he needed the time and the place of prayer. "Made in all things like to his brethren," he, too, required to recruit the energy; he, too, for power with God and men, must lift up his eyes to heaven. Those who say that they can dispense with the particular form and the definite act; that all places are their oratories, and all words and deeds the form of their conference with the Unseen; have realized a spirituality sublimated beyond Christ's, and, it may safely be said, beyond the truth and limits of our human nature. Is it private or is it social prayer of which the evangelist informs us? It would seem that the disciples heard the "strong crying" of their Master; it may be that he and they were united in prayer—he speaking with them and for them, as the Father of the family, as the Head of the household. Be this as it may, one of his followers, impressed with the action, expresses the desire that such instruction should be given them as the Baptist had given to his proselytes. And the request, by whomsoever proffered, occasions an answer which is full of meaning. Notice its two points—what to pray for, and how to pray.
I. WHAT TO PRAY FOR. This is set forth in the words which are so familiar to the Christian ear. The same words, slightly modified, are found in the sermon from the mount. There they are presented in opposition to the repetitions and much speaking of the Pharisees' prayers; here they are presented as the brief but comprehensive summary of the desires of a true disciple of Christ. "When ye pray, say," etc. Notice two points.
1. A good deal has been made of supposed parallels between the Lord's Prayer and some devotional utterances in Jewish and even in heathen scriptures. Supposing, for the sake of argument, that our Lord appropriated sentences in use by his countrymen: what matters it? Did he not express his innermost feeling on the cross in the words of the Psalter? The affectation of novelty is one of the poorest kinds of affectation. What could have been more worthy of the Divine Teacher than the selection of that which was fitted to nurture the soul-life from the devotional literature which his followers already had, or which had moulded the sweetest elements of the religious consciousness of his nation? And for the rest, if he is the Truth, I should expect to find traces of his thought, rays of the light by which he has lightened all men, in every quarter and age of his world. Truth is always Catholic. The finder of truth unites scattered fragments, and, as he unites, he creates a new thing, a new unity. The thoughts of many generations might be gathered into the prayer which Christ taught his disciples; but not the less on that account would it be a new and blessed fact.
2. Observe, further, there are slight differences in the form of the fourth and the fifth petitions in the prayer as rendered in Luke, and the prayer as rendered in Matthew. May we not infer from this that, whilst the prayer is to be used, whilst it is more than a mere outline, whilst it is indeed the Breviary of the Christian Church, it is not pressed on us as a hard-and-fast rule. For the same reason that rendered it fitting that Christ should teach words, it may well be argued that it is expedient, so far, to prescribe words when the wants of many are to be interpreted, sometimes even when the wants of individual worshippers are to be expressed. But there is an elasticity, a freedom, which is an essential element of spiritual worship. Christ's prayer is not to be slavishly used. His own deviations in the second from the first giving of it are suggestive of flexibleness. And so also his commands. In the Third Gospel we read, "say ye;" but in the first, "After this manner pray ye." Have these sentences in the heart; let the mind realize the fullness that is in them; at times speak them forth; yet take your liberty. As those who have confidence as to their entering into the holiest in the blood of Jesus, let the cry of the Spirit of adoption freely ascend, "praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit."
II. For in teaching to pray, we need instruction, not so much in what to say as in HOW TO SAY IT. "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing." Therefore, no sooner has Christ expounded the rule, or form, than he proceeds to exhibit the spirit of prayer, the right mental attitude, the faith without which the most perfect words are no prayer at all. And this he does, according to his wont, first in the shape of a simple parable, and next through an appeal to and from the heart of Fatherhood. The parable (verses 5-8) is very short, referring to things of commonplace life. A great many meanings have been fastened on every point in this little story. Take it, however, as it is wiser to do, as bringing out the one feature—that if, as between friend and friend, importunity overcomes reluctance; if it triumphs even over surliness; much more effectual will it be when reluctance to give is only seeming—when, indeed, that of which it takes hold is the willingness of eternal love! Therefore ought we to pray, and not to faint. Augustine (quoted by Trench) has some good sayings on this. "When God sometimes gives tardily, he commends his gifts; he does not deny them. Things long desired are more sweet in their attainment … God for a time withholds his gifts, that thou mayest learn to desire great things greatly." It is this great desiring of great things that is the moral of the story. Prayer is not a mere isolated act; it is, as typified in the story of Jacob with whom the angel wrestled, as proved in the history of the Lord himself, an energetic, prolonged dealing with God: "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." An old Greek writer calls it" the silence of the soul;" and there is in it the silence of the soul that ceases from the will of self, and worships only the sweet will of God. But there is another view taken in the word of Jesus. In this word it is described (verses 9, 10) as an asking; beyond this, as a seeking; beyond this even, as a knocking—"an ascending scale of earnestness." To this earnestness the promise is given. Mark how full and unqualified the promise is. The relation of friend to friend can teach much; but there is the relation more intimate still of child to parent, and this can teach more. For here we come into the inner circle of the thoughts which are connected with prayer. Therefore the Lord proceeds to illustrate what it is in his heart to teach by a reference to this analogy. What is it in his heart to teach? Surely, that the Father's good things are open to all his children, and, as the Crown of all, as the Gift of gifts, his own Holy Spirit. This is the climax of all childlike desire. Even in what is lower, the child stretches forth to this as his highest. "Father, give me the Holy Spirit." Is it possible to conceive a refusal? Would a parent who has bread meet the cry of a hungry child with the offer of a stone? Would he torment him by giving a serpent when he asked a fish? or by giving him a scorpion when he asked an egg? If it is so with us imperfect men, if we wish to share our good things with our children, how much more (verse 13) shall our heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to them who ask him? His Fatherhood must be the fountain-light of his children's day. "Fear not," says Christ, "to appeal to it." "Blessed is the man that maketh the Lord his trust." Thus the Lord answers the request of the disciples. Is it not a request as pertinent to us in the nineteenth as to them in the first century? There is a secret in prayer which only the Lord can teach. We may recall a remarkable passage in the life of Coleridge which suggests this: "Shortly before his death he was conversing, solemnly, although familiarly, on his own history and thoughts. 'I have no difficulty,' he said, 'as to forgiveness. Indeed, I know not how to say with sincerity the clause in the Lord's Prayer which asks forgiveness as we forgive. I feel nothing answering to it in my heart, Neither do I find or reckon the most solemn faith in God as a real object the most arduous act of the reason and will. Oh no, my dear, it is to pray—to pray as God would have us: this is what at times makes me turn cold to my soul. Believe me, to pray with all your heart and strength, with the reason and will, to believe vividly that God will listen to your voice through Christ, and verily do the thing he pleases thereupon—this is the last, the greatest, achievement of the Christian's warfare on earth. Teach us to pray, O Lord! ' And then," adds his biographer, "he burst into a flood of tears, and begged me to pray for him. Oh, what a sight was there!"
Christ and his adversaries.
I. THE CONTRAST. "He was casting out a devil, and it was dumb." This was his work. As the Redeemer, he was ever intent on setting the human nature free from its manifold evil by acting on the hidden cause of the evil. It is to be noted that the dumbness is traced to a demon—to the possession of the inner nature by a spirit whose fettering of the man was evidenced in the fettering of the organ of speech. "To cure sorrow by curing sin" is the special service of Christ's Church. In this deeper reference—the reference to sin and the evil one—it is distinguished from mere philanthropy. Philanthropy contemplates the evil, and seeks to remove its occasions in social life or in the personal history. Christianity reaches to the springs of the evil. It contemplates sin; and it sees in sin an enslavement from which the soul is to be delivered by the One stronger than Satan. But see the attitude of the world. There is wonder (Luke 11:14) on the part of some when the long silence is broken, and the dumb speaks. There is (Luke 11:15) the tempting or provocation of the Holy One by the demand for some flaming portent. And there is the devilish opposition of the Pharisees, who always hung on his rear, and who, unable to deny facts, insinuated that there was a league between the Lord and Beelzebub. So it is still. The darkness which will not receive the light has degrees of guilt. The blackest form of the guilt is that which cannot but admit the force that is active amongst men, which sees the results of that force, and yet refuses to acknowledge it to be light, closes the soul against it.
"The deaf may hear the Savior's voice,
The fettered tongue its chain may break;
But the deaf heart, the dumb by choice,
The laggard soul, that will not wake,
The guilt that scorns to be forgiven,—
These baffle e'en the spells of Heaven.
In thought of these, his brows benign
Not e'en in healing, cloudless shine."
II. THE LORD'S DISCOURSE IN REPLY TO THE THOUGHTS WHICH HE READS, The three "ifs" in Luke 11:18, Luke 11:19, Luke 11:20, may well be studied. The first exposes the absurdity of the supposition that he is possessed by Beelzebub. Beelzebub in him divided against Beelzebub without him! the one destroying the works of the other! How could such a power stand? The second takes another ground. Before him there are heads of the state; now, their sons claimed to exorcise spirits by repeating formulas of incantation: would they allow that such exorcism was by Beelzebub? They pointed to it as an evidence of Divine favor; how inconsistent and absurd to see the hand of the devil in his work, and the finger of God in theirs? The third drives the argument home. If the same finger as that which they recognized in their so-called exorcisms is being really put forth, as they themselves can discern, is it not clear that the kingdom of God is come on them, and that to resist this kingdom is their condemnation? The parable and the words which follow (Luke 11:21-26) relate to this. A strong man, fully armed, guards his own court, and all his goods are secure; he and his will stand or fall together. How can the goods be taken? Only by overcoming the strong man, by proving that there is Another stronger than he. It is only through this personal conflict that the possessions can be abstracted. So in the Lord's holy wars, a symbol of which had been given that day. Satan had been holding the afflicted person in his grasp; and the wasted life could be restored only by the mightier power of love—the love incarnated in Christ—"coming upon him, and overcoming him, and taking from him his whole armor wherein he trusted." This he had done; the departure of the malignant spirit, and the restoration of the man, were the sign of his victory to be fulfilled through all the ages.
III. And then follow Two WORDS CONSTANTLY TO BE PONDERED.
1. In respect of this, Christ's holy war, there can be no neutrality. The eye, perhaps, is directed to the groups of the people "wondering," and of those tempting him. They had not actually token part with the scorners; they are now reminded, as all in all times are reminded, that a negative attitude is virtually an attitude of hostility. It is, by so much, a subtraction of the strength to be utilized against the enemy. It is an occasion of stumbling to others. More than this, it withdraws from the attraction of his presence and love, and lays the heart open to alienating influences. Ever to be insisted on is the sentence, "He that is not with me is against me." There is another saying of Christ, one uttered a short time before (Luke 9:50), which may seem to be at variance with the tone of this saying, "He that is not against us is for us." But a glance at the context shows the difference between the circumstances in which the words are spoken, and the references which they bear. The case brought before us in the ninth chapter is this: John mentions that he and his brethren had seen a man casting out demons in Christ's Name, and that they had forbidden him, because he was not one of their company. This was the only offense. The man acknowledged the authority of Jesus, was really receiving the power from Jesus. He wanted only in knowledge el the Lord; the affection and will were right. And the charge of the Master is, "Do not forbid such a one; No one can do a miracle in my Name who will lightly speak evil of me; he that is not opposing me is, in such a ministry, on our part.' In the case introduced in the eleventh chapter Christ is alluding to the attitude of the affections and will. The one sentence is a reproof of exclusiveness of spirit; it is virtually—and truly the lesson is most necessary to-day—"Do not ban one who is seeking the same ends as yourself, who is acknowledging me as you do, because his methods are not yours, or his orders seem of doubtful validity, or he stands apart from your fellowship." The other sentence is a reproof of indecision, of colourlessness in the religious life, of the absence of vital sympathy with the Lord. Virtually it is, "Let every one take his side, and stand by it; be out and out with me; have his share in my war with the devil: for all purposes, the unsympathetic or faint-hearted is my enemy; he whose life by its influence, whose action by its tone and aims, is not gathering with me, is practically scattering." We hear the old cry, sounding ever on, "Who is on the Lord's side?"
2. The picture of moral deterioration in verses 24-26 is most graphic. Those around Christ had been witnesses to the exodus of an unclean spirit. Let them suppose that such a spirit is impelled by a ceaseless activity; "it passes through waterless places, seeking rest, but finding none." It must have some embodiment. It resolves to return to the old home—" the house whence he came out." "How can a devil find rest which the creature can find only in God? He has lost it for ever; he seeks it in vain in all waste places, which otherwise please him; he seeks it especially in vain there where God, the Lord of creation, will have his rest, and where, therefore, the devil, if he can force an entrance, finds himself relatively best—namely, in man. Therefore the desire soon returns upon him to look after his own more peculiar house" (Stier). He finds the old home "swept and garnished.'' "Empty" is a word added—and an expressive word it is—by Matthew. Good the sweeping would have been, if the house had not been empty. God is not there; it is open to the evil one. There is his opportunity. He comes to it, resumes possession, but with reinforcements. "Seven other spirits more evil than himself. And the last estate is worse than the first." Verily, a sketch awfully true! It was applied by the Lord to the generation whom he addressed. Israel had indeed been swept from the corruption of idolatry; it had been garnished by the traditions of the elders, by the scrupulosities of the Pharisees; but it was empty—a living faith in God had been crushed out. And the attitude of its wise men towards the Truth was the token of an occupation by a spirit of darkness, sevenfold more virulent than in the earlier days. But its applications reach to all. "He that hath an ear, let him hear."
Luke 11:27, Luke 11:28
The voice out of the crowd.
The preacher never knows how far his words reach, what responses they elicit, or what chords they cause to vibrate. Here is one "out of the crowd," a witness for the emotion of many hearts which had felt the mighty power of the Prophet. That she had any real insight into the mission of Jesus, or that she was really attracted to the truth uttered by him, cannot be affirmed. It was, perhaps, only a passing excitement, "a most artlessly unintelligent outcry of mere womanly feeling." But the soul had been stirred; "while it had mused, the fire burned, then spake she with her tongue." A woman's word!—the idea with which it is charged being the honor which had been put on her whose relation to the Prophet was that of mother. She was the echo of the angel in his salutation, the pioneer of the generations who should call Mary blessed. The answer of Christ is very striking in respect of—
I. THAT WHICH IT IMPLICITLY CONDEMNS. We see, in this incident, the germ of Mariolatry. A natural interest in the one who had been so highly favored grew, and corrupted as it grew, into a veneration for her person, and the supposed influence of her motherhood. Instead of recognizing the sacredness which had been put on motherhood, and dwelling on the very and real humanity of the Lord, the reverence of the mind was gradually transferred to the image of the woman, as that rose before the imagination of the nameless one of the crowd, nursing the babe. And the mother and her motherhood became, like Gideon's ephod, a snare to the Israel of God. Observe how constantly and expressively Christ bids away from the region of such veneration. His silence as to his mother implicitly condemns it. He recognizes her, not as mother, but in the title "Woman." His last earthly care was for her, but the sentence which conveyed it was," Woman, behold thy Son!" and to John, "Behold thy mother!" And his declinature to allow the praise to pass unchallenged, his call to consider something else as the only legitimate blessedness, confirms the reproof. "What is the preaching of the Reformation more than the word which the Lord here speaks? In the Council of Trent they heard not that voice, but repelled it with anathema—for a maranatha to themselves" (Stier).
II. THAT WHICH IT OPPOSES TO THE CRY OUT OF THE CROWD. Mark the "yea rather." The woman's saying is not denied, but thought is directed to the only legitimate cause of blessedness. The mother herself was blessed because she had given herself entirely to the Word of God. She had felt herself the Lord's handmaiden when the salutation came at which she was troubled; and when the Divine Son, even as a Child, spoke, she kept his sayings in her heart. This, then, is singled out as the "yea rather, blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it." It is a word both of encouragement and of searching. There is a tinge almost of jealousy in her who accosts him. One had been selected for the honor which she might have coveted. "Nay," is the encouragement, "this is the honor which thou canst share with her. If she had it not, whilst thou hadst it, she would have no lasting honor, whilst thou wouldst have praise evermore. If thou hast this honor, thou art near me as she is." The vital question is—What is the relation of the life to the Word of God? To have heard it is well, but there must be both the hearing and the keeping. "He that hath my words, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me." The only relationships which Christ recognizes are spiritual relationships. They are the blood-relationships in the family of heaven. "He stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!"
We are on trial, placed in a scene of conflict between good and evil, and called to make our election. Our whole life is such an election; every day, every action, goes to complete that solemn probation on which depend issues of unspeakable moment. Such has always been the contention of Christian teachers. There is a higher aspect of life than that. To say that life is a Divine education is to give the fuller and nobler conception of God's purpose concerning us. He is not merely testing us; he is training us, disciplining our character, seeking to perfect our moral being. This world is his school, and the influences of which we are conscious, the events which mark our days, the varieties in befalling and condition, are the schoolmasters through which he is stimulating or correcting, guiding or controlling, the natures with which we are endowed. But it is wrong to set this higher, as against the other aspect referred to. The two—that which regards probation and that which regards education—are not opposed. Our part is to refuse the evil and to choose the good, and to stand by our choice. In respect of this we are on trial. We are called to work out our own salvation with fiat and trembling. Yet, in all, God is working in us to will and to do; educating the response of our will to his, that as his dear children we may walk before him in love. In this passage the Lord reminds all to whom he speaks of the relation of the human mind to the truth that looks down from heaven. His discourse bears on the test of inward state supplied by the attitude of the mind to the truth. Let us listen to it as reminding us
(1) of the proper and characteristic force of truth;
(2) of the spiritual condition in which this force is realized;
(3) of the responsibility with regard to it which rests on us individually.
I. THE PROPER AND CHARACTERISTIC FORCE OF TRUTH. Christ is grieved with the generation whose representatives are with him. He had wrought in their presence the works of God; he had spoken to them the words of God. And what did they aver? That he was secretly leagued with Beelzebub; in the ministry of love they saw the malignities of hell, the finger, not of God, but of Satan. Those who shrank from such wilful misconstruction clamoured for a sign—some portent in the skies, some miracle so striking as to prove the Divine Source of his mission. And, feeling the pain of this contradiction of sinners, he says (Luke 11:29-32), "Sign, more than the preaching itself? What Jonah was to the Ninevites—the testimony against them—that the Son of man shall be. Sign, more than the preaching itself? The heathen Queen of Ethiopia shall condemn them; for her the preaching of Solomon was enough, and the Greater than Solomon is here. The people of heathen Nineveh shall condemn them, for they repented when the prophet preached; and yet this generation repents not, though the Son of God is himself speaking to it. Sign? The troth is its own sign. It is open; it may be known and read of all men. It is light (verse 34), not covered by a bushel, but set as a candle on a candlestick, that all who come into the house may see it." This is the abiding characteristic of truth. It is light. Pharisees with cabbalistic lore, so-called philosophers, with their doctrine for the initiated, their pretentious knowledge, are not the light-givers. "Whatsoever doth make manifest is light." When the soul is interpreted or helped; when God in nature, in providence, or in thought, is declared; when the relations and proportions of facts are discerned; when the order of the universe is apprehended and felt; when, if puzzle and problem are not seen through, the light pierces into what is beyond, and the heart is enabled to say, "I cannot understand, I love;"—when thus the truth is known, the truth that is known makes free. It is the freedom of light before which the darkness passes. Let us realize the self-evidencing nature of truth. Signs outward and carnal it does not need. What speaks of Christ in miracle is not the mere wonder. That only called attention to the real sign, the object and the manner of the work. The claim of truth consists, not in what adheres to it, but in what it is. We do not need a sign to tell us that the sun shines; the shining is the sign. We do not need a sign to tell us that a candle is lit; the candlestick shows that. And so with regard to Christianity. As it has eloquently been said, "The central unquestionable miracle is Jesus himself—One from the cradle to the grave, walking in spotless purity, through all temptation wearing a conscience without a scar, treading the great deep of human life and never wetting his feet with the spray; equally at home with saints in the glory of the mount, and with men writhing in misery at its base; elect to wipe away the tear of humanity, to bear it undwarfed and undimmed to the heavenly places, yet to whom we can go when the shame burns in the cheek, and the sweat stands on the brow." Ah! yes; and this miracle is still writing its n,ark on the conscience and life of man. Persons speak dolefully about the decadence of the evangelical faith, and indeed the signs are mixed; but the evangel of the living Christ is still the power of God—never more than now
"The presence of a good diffused,
And in diffusion ever more intense."
Not less, but all the more, as the world waxes old, and the needs of men become more urgent and complicated, is this evangel "the light shining in the darkness, and the darkness will never overtake it."
II. But now observe THE CONDITIONS ON WHICH THE FORCE OF THE TRUTH 1S REALIZED. These conditions, as stated by the Lord, are two.
1. There is the quality of the receptive organ. "The light of the body is the eye" (verse 34). Whatever affects the eye affects the impression of the object beheld. For example, the very common defect known as color-blindness necessarily vitiates the discernment. Any injury to the eye, any disturbance of the wondrously delicate mechanism, mars the vision. All this has its moral counterpart. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." The truth presented to the soul may yet not be apprehended as truth by the soul, and the fault lies in the soul itself. The moral necessarily acts on the intellectual. The intellectual life that springs out of or develops in harmony with a developing spiritual life is the light of the soul. All is then beheld in its real force and its right proportions. But not otherwise. And therefore the great Teacher emphasizes the need of "the single eye," the mind purely intentioned to know God and his will and truth, and this intention undisturbed by appetite of sense, or by prejudice closing against the evidence of the light. Ah, the single eye! The tiniest mote may confuse and becloud. One cunning bosom sin, one aberration from the right, so small as scarcely to be thought of, may yet impair the organ. And once let the eye become evil, "thy body also is full of darkness."
2. There is, as the second condition, a complete enlightenment of mind (verse 36). See to it that every part of the thinking, willing, activity is submitted to the light. The whole being must be yielded to it. "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." It is the partial illumination which we have so often to deplore. The prophet describes Ephraim as "a cake not turned"—one part of it under the influence of the fire, burned; the other part uninfluenced and doughy. So there is often to be noticed an imperfect sanctifying of character, an imperfect acquaintance with the way of the Lord. Men are always apt to measure what is due to God, what is to be kept for themselves. The apostle says, "The God of peace sanctify you wholly." We are often pained by a narrowness of view in Christians, by their failure in learning the lesson suggested by the evangelist, when he speaks of Christ "looking round about on all things." We are often pained, again, by a so-called breadth of view—no height in it, no mountain, forgetful that in the city which lieth foursquare, the length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. Oh, how needful is the prayer to increase in the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding! Offer all, conscience, intellect, emotions, affections, will, all to the light; make an unreserved surrender. "If the whole be full of light, having no part dark, that whole is full of light." Not like a candle burning dimly, flickering and feeble, but as "when by its bright shining it giveth light."
III. Here, then, is THE RESPONSIBILITY WITH REGARD TO THE TRUTH. Men discuss whether we are responsible for our faith. We are responsible for ourselves, and what we are individually will greatly determine what, individually, we believe. This seems most obvious. "Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness" (verse 35). There is a light, a capacity of receiving and verifying the light, in every man—unless, indeed, in rare cases, or in those who are described as "past feeling." In speaking to men, in preaching the gospel to every creature, we assume this. And it is this which defines the responsibility resting on all. For the state of this receptive faculty, for its exercise, we must answer. "Take heed," says the Master. How solemn and expressive his sentence! Not merely "that the light shine," or "lest the light be extinguished," but more strongly still, "that this inner light be not darkness itself"—that what should lead to God does not take from God and become an angel, a power, of darkness. This was the catastrophe already fulfilling in the Pharisees, the catastrophe which he had declared (see parallel passage, Matthew 12:1-50). to be the sin against the Holy Ghost. And the word of warning still confronts us. Take care of all that savours of sophisticating the conscience. Take care of all that cuts off from the light. Take care lest your prayers lose tone, your desires lose fervor, your soul loses interest in Divine things. Take care lest any way of thought, through companions, or literature, or otherwise, blight what is best and holiest in yourselves. The life of God in a soul is very sensitive. It needs to be guarded; it needs to be kept open to all Heavenward influence; it needs to be ever filled anew out of the fullness of God. A very little may destroy the organ, may separate from the vision. "The little rift within the lute by-and-by will make the music mute." Walk in the light. As the Light of God is ever seeking you, so let the light in you be ever seeking him. "Feed daily on Christ in your heart by faith, with thanksgiving." Do God's will with all the strength. Then the life is a beauteous order. Apart from the Light, the life is a chaos, a darkness how great!
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
The influence of devout example, etc.
The fact which is stated in the first verse of this chapter suggests—
I. THE INFLUENCE OF A DEVOUT EXAMPLE. "As he was praying.., one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray." It was the sight of his Master in the act of prayer which prompted this disciple to make his request. Thus devotion in him begat devotion in them. All actions, good and bad, are contagious. Bad actions entice the evil, and good ones attract and inspire the holy and the pure. An oath is an encouragement to the profane, a prayer is an incentive to the devout. Only infinite wisdom can tell whether we produce the greater effect by the unconscious influence of our life, or by the result of direct, verbal persuasion. But we can all see that they go well together; that persuasion to piety with the drawback of a prayerless life would be of very small account. But to be a man of prayer, to be (without ostentation) known to be such, to be evidently "at home" with God, to be felt to be one that continually seeks Divine guidance in the daily conduct of life,—this is to be influential for good. it is to be saying in the most effective way," It is good for me to draw near to God," and indeed to be saying most forcibly also, "It is good for you to draw near to God." The man of sustained piety, of devout habits which he never lays down, who compels men to feel that in his view God is not to be forgotten or his service relegated to the second place, is a power for good; he is living a truth of vital consequence, he is a blessing to the society in which he moves.
II. THE HIGHEST FUNCTION OF A RELIGIOUS TEACHER. "Lord, teach us to pray."
1. Not to instruct in sacred truth, high as that is, enlightening the mind on the greatest of all subjects.
2. Not even to cause disciples to meditate on their spiritual condition, and to consider how they are themselves affected by the truth they have learned.
3. But to lead to God in direct and immediate devotion: the teacher or religious friend who helps another to unburden his heart in prayer to God, to pour out his spirit in submission or in dedication to the Divine Savior, is rendering the highest possible service one human being can render to another.
III. THE OFFICE OF THE DIVINE TEACHER. This is not only or chiefly to instruct or to cause us to inquire, but rather to lead us to God in direct, spiritual communion. This Jesus does by:
1. Opening the way to God; becoming the one and only Mediator between God and man, through whom we have constant and perfect access to the Holiest One.
2. Showing us the efficacy of prayer; and this he does
(1) by his own most strong and satisfying assertion (Luke 11:9-13); and
(2) by revealing God to us as a Father who distinguishes each one of his children from all others, earnestly desires the return of each absent child, and purposes to renew and transform every son and daughter into his own likeness. Such a Father could not but listen and respond when his children cry to him.
3. Giving to us a deep sense of the need of prayer; and this he does by his own example, and also by his teaching. In this he so impresses us with the value of each human soul, with the sinfulness of sin, with the possibilities of spiritual worth and sacred usefulness, and with the grand opening for the faithful soul in the higher spheres beyond, that we are impelled to come to God for his redeeming, sanctifying, strengthening grace.—C.
The true service of the Lord's Prayer.
It is a very painful and pitiful thing that words which came from the lips of the great Master of the spiritual and the living should have been allowed to degenerate into an unspiritual and lifeless form. That this has been the case to a large extent with the "Pater-noster" is a lamentable fact. It is very doubtful whether Jesus Christ ever intended these words which he gave to his disciples to be a permanent formula for the Christian Church. It is clear that the true obedience to his Word is not found in a number of correct and regular repetitions of the phrases, but in the devotion which is rendered in the strain and spirit of the "prayer." The true service to be gained from "the Lord's Prayer" is to gather from it the way in which to draw nigh to God, not only in the worship of the sanctuary, but in the quiet, unseen fellowship of the chamber. What Christ would say to us is this, that in our prayer to God—
I. WE SHOULD GIVE A PROMINENT PLACE TO THE PROGRESS OF HIS SPIRITUAL KINGDOM. Out of six petitions the first three are devoted to the growth of the glory and the kingdom of God. This is surely a very significant fact. It rebukes all selfishness and short-sightedness in the presence of God. It invites us, and indeed it summons us, to make the object of our first and deepest solicitude the cause of Jesus Christ, the exaltation of our Divine Father in the minds and in the lives of men. It suggests to us the consideration whether we are as much concerned as our Master would have us be for this great issue. How much do we care that God's Name is profaned as it is, his will left undone and violated as it is, his claims disregarded as they are, by the irreverent, by the disloyal, by the disobedient children of men? In prayer our mind should turn readily and frequently to this theme.
II. THAT WE SHOULD ASK FOR GOD'S HELP IN THE CONDUCT OF OUR TEMPORAL AFFAIRS. "Give us day by day our daily bread" is a petition that not only warrants, but requires, that we make our bodily necessities and all matters pertaining to our world-life the subject of prayer. It is right to ask for strength and skill, for wisdom and guidance, that we may discharge our daily duties and earn our livelihood honestly in the sight of all men. It is wrong to leave this out of our daily devotion. Jesus Christ would have us look to God for the supply of temporal needs, and ask his blessing and aid in securing it. We shall work all the more worthily, honourably, uprightly, through the day for asking God's guidance at its commencement; we shall make a better use of what we earn it' we continually seek strength of God to earn it.
III. THAT WE SHOULD SEEK EARNESTLY FOR THE DIVINE FAVOUR. "Forgive us our sins," etc. It should be a matter of vital interest to us that we are walking in the light of God's loving favor, our sins forgiven, and ourselves regarded as his beloved children, reconciled to him in Jesus Christ. God's abiding favor should be the very sunshine of our soul, the presence of which makes all things bright, the absence of which throws everything into dark shadow.
IV. THAT WE SHOULD PRAY FOR DIVINE HELP IN OUR SPIRITUAL STRUGGLE. "Lead us not," etc. We should be daily recognizing the fact that our condition here is that of men that are fighting a hard battle against powerful enemies; that we need continual deliverance from evils which beset us; that the worst foes that assail us are those which would lead us into sin and down to shame and death. In this supreme struggle we need the arm of the Almighty on our side. If he be on our side, we shall conquer; if not, we shall be defeated. Therefore let us seek daily help from our heavenly Father for the daily conflict through which we pass on our way homeward.
V. THAT THERE ARE TWO SPIRITUAL CONDITIONS under which alone we can expect to find favor with God.
1. That we breathe a forgiving spirit in our relations with our fellow-men (Luke 11:4).
2. That we shun the path where perilous temptation lurks; for how can we ask God to "lead us not" thither, when we deliberately walk into it?—C.
The will of God.
"Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth." A few very short words with a very large meaning. We may ask what doing God's will here on earth as in heaven—
I. WOULD MEAN TO OUR RACE. It would mean very much more than the triumph of the Strong One.
1. It would mean the rule of the absolutely Holy One—of that One who only wills that which is pure, just, good, in every possible relation. It would mean, therefore, the abolition of all wrongs of every kind, and the establishment of the right and the true in every scene and sphere.
2. Also the guidance of the perfectly Wise One—of that One who chooses the very best means to secure the right ends. It would bring about the adoption of the wisest course in the pursuit of every worthy aim.
3. Also the supremacy of the altogether Benevolent One—of him who desires the 'perfect welfare of all his creatures, of all his children—their temporal prosperity, their spiritual well-being.
II. WOULD MEAN TO OURSELVES. The light in which it would present itself to our minds would, perhaps, be this—that our Divine Father was exalted to the throne of humanity; that he whom we worship and whom we love and obey had become the object of the reverence, the affection, the obedience, of all mankind; that he who, in our heart's deepest convictions, is alone worthy to receive the homage of the race, was receiving it; and in that crowning triumph we should find our victory and our joy.
III. DEMANDS OF US THAT IT MAY BE REALIZED.
1. And the first demand is that we ourselves become subject to his holy will. And to do this we must
(1) accept his Son as our Divine Teacher, Redeemer, Lord (John 7:29; 1 John 3:23);
(2) live in daily obedience to his will as revealed in his Word;
(3) bow in meekness of spirit to his will, whatever he may ordain for us.
2. And the second is that we seek, in prayer for his transforming influence, that the will of evil men may be overthrown, and his holy will be done; that he would send forth noble workers into the great harvest-field (Luke 10:2); that he would greatly bless the labors of those who are sowing the seed of the kingdom, and cause it to multiply a hundredfold.
3. And that by our lives and by our lips we commend the truth of his Word, the gospel of his grace, to the understanding and the conscience of all whom we can affect.—C.
Continuance in prayer.
These words of our Lord are not intended to present God to us as one that is reluctant to respond to our prayer, and that, consequently, has to be besought and entreated with growing energy and ardor, as Baal's prophets imagined to be the case with the deity they worshipped (1 Kings 18:1-46.). Rather should we think of him as of a Divine Father who, for our sake, delays his answer to our prayer, in order that we may be disciplined in devotion, and in order that he may give us what we ask, with a fuller blessing in the bestowal.
I. THE FACT OF UNANSWERED PRAYER. It is a fact attested by the common, if not the universal, experience of the devout, that prayer is often presented to God without any answer being presently and consciously received. And this is not only true of prayer that is not worthy of the name—of mere sacred formalities which proceed only from the sense and not from the soul; it is true of genuine, spiritual devotion. Men honestly and earnestly pray God to give them blessings, and he withholds them. The sickness is not removed, the life not spared, the burden not lightened, the son not reclaimed, the friend not reconciled, the cause not blessed, the wrong not stayed, the faithful not delivered; and the hearts of the people of God are filled with sorrow and dismay; the question that rises to their lips is, "How long, O Lord, how long dost thou not respond?"
II. THE MEANING OF GOD'S SILENCE.
1. It may mean that we ask for the wrong thing—for that which we think will help us, but which God knows will harm us; which (he knows) will do us much more of lasting, spiritual harm than confer on us present bodily or temporal relief.
2. It may mean that we are expecting the answer in the wrong way. Like Naaman, we may have laid down, in our own thought, the precise way in which God is to help or heal us, and it may be with us, as it was with him, that God is purposing to respond in another way altogether—perhaps by some simple means (as in his case), which we are disposed to consider unworthy of the occasion; perhaps by some way in which we shall be taught a lesson in humility or in some other grace.
3. It may mean that we are expecting the answer at the wrong time, much sooner than it would be wise for God to give it, or well for us to receive it.
III. THE REWARD OF CONTINUANCE IN PRAYER. We find, as our Lord teaches us in the parable, that while our friend wilt not always give us our request at once, yet he will grant it if we do but persevere (Luke 11:8). And so with our Divine Friend; he may not answer our prayer at once; he may delay long to respond to us. He may know that if we received immediately everything we desired of him, we should become unduly confident or be otherwise injuriously affected. He may know and may wish us to learn by disciplinary experience that
"His help is always sure,
His methods seldom guessed:
Delay will make our pleasure pure,
Surprise will give it zest."
But sooner or later, in one way or in another, in his own good time, God will reward our persevering prayer with his effectual blessing. We must ask, and go on asking, and we shall certainly receive; must knock, and go on knocking, at the door of his mercy and his power, and it will assuredly be opened to us. This will be found in our seeking:
1. Conscious and joyous acceptance with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
2. Our spiritual growth.
3. Our usefulness in that especial sphere in which we are engaged for him.—C.
The argument from the human fatherhood to the Divine.
Jesus Christ revealed the Father to men, and he revealed him as the Father of men. He taught us to address him as such (Luke 11:2), and to feel toward him.as such. He would have us realize that God sustains to us a relationship very closely indeed corresponding to that which a human father sustains to his child. In the text he teaches us that this analogy is so close and so real that we may draw practical inferences from the lower to the higher one. The particular conclusion which our Lord draws is—
I. FROM OUR GIVING TO HIS. No human father would give his son a stone when appeal was made to him for bread, etc.; would put him off with a response which would only be a bitter disappointment. Such a one would be not only an exception to his kind, but would be guilty of an act that would be simply monstrous in general regard. If, then, we, "being evil," cannot withhold "good gifts" from our children, how much less will the heavenly Father deny his blessings to us, his sons and daughters! What we, with our finite and limited love, could not refuse, it is certain that he, in his infinite goodness and boundless pity, will readily bestow. There are two blessings which we particularly want of God our heavenly Father.—provision for our temporal well-being, and succor for our soul. We cannot live without these. Our bodily nature craves the one, our spiritual nature needs the other. Bread we must have, and all that "bread" stands for, that we may live happily and serviceably as those that tread the path of mortal life. But "man cannot live on bread alone;" he needs those higher and holier gifts which nourish the soul, which feed the flame of piety and zeal, which strengthen him for spiritual conflict, and give him the victory over his worst enemies. For these two great blessings we may confidently ask God, and he will assuredly grant them. It is much more certain that God our Father will provide for our real necessities, and will strengthen our souls with all needful Divine influences, than it is certain that the kindest human father will not mock his beloved children when they appeal for his bounty. With holy boldness, then, may we go to the throne of grace, and pray for all those things that are requisite alike for the body as for the soul. But we may carry this argument with which our Lord has supplied us into other spheres, and may thus "assure our hearts" concerning him.
II. FROM OUR FORGING TO HIS. We may have a difficulty in realizing the great truth that God is willing to forgive us all our sin and to reinstate us fully in his favor. But if as sons we have been forgiven by our parents, or if as parents we have forgiven our children and taken them back into the fullness of our favor, we may argue safely from the human fatherhood to the Divine. If we, "being evil," with such small and scanty magnanimity as we possess, can forgive freely, how much more can he—he whose ways of mercy are as much higher than ours as the heaven is higher than the earth!
III. FROM OUR GUIDANCE TO HIS. How impossible it is for any of us that is a father to refuse guidance to one of our children when he comes to ask it of us! Only the most heartless, the most unfatherly, could think of declining it. And since that is so with us, in all our human imperfection, how positive it is that the Divine Father will guide us by the shaping of his providence, or by the prompting of his Spirit, when we see not our way, but make known our request unto him to "lead us all our journey through"!
IV. FROM OUR SOLICITUDE TO HIS. One of the very greatest questions we propose to ourselves is this—Does God care enough for each one of us to renew our life in another realm when we leave this world? Jesus Christ's declaration is the answer to this question (John 5:24-29). But we find strong, reassuring help here. How much do we care for the continuance of the life of our children? How much do we not care? What words will express our parental solicitude that death should not strike them down, that they should live, and that their life should be large, free, blessed? If that is our concern for them, what will not God our Father desire for us? What will he not care that we do not perish in the arms of death, but have everlasting life in the embrace of his own heavenly love?—C.
Christianity the benignant power.
Lasting power shows solid worth. The corrupt empire falls; the false system is exploded; the demoralizing custom is discarded. That which, under all changes, shows itself strong and enduring, is proved to be sound and good. But add the element of benignity. Jesus Christ adduces his beneficent power in the expulsion of evil spirits from the bodies of men as a convincing evidence of the Divine presence; that being done, "no doubt the kingdom of God is come." Power for good, for healing, for restoring, for transforming, such power continuing for many generations and acting under all skies,—"no doubt" that is from above; it is of God. If we find that Christianity has proved itself to be the one great benignant power in the world, exerting a gracious, redeeming, elevating influence on humanity, then "no doubt the kingdom of God is come" upon us. We shall see that this is so if we consider—
I. THE STATE OF SOCIETY WHEN JESUS CAME. And we have to take into our account the parental tyranny; the position of woman in her state of inferiority and even degradation; the universal sentiment toward the stranger or the foreigner, spoken of and treated as a "barbarian" and an enemy; the prevalence of war, and its conduct with every imaginable cruelty and the most shocking recklessness of life; the prevalence of slavery under a system in which the slaves were regarded and treated as absolutely without any rights or claims whatsoever; the existence of gladiatorial shows, in which the lives of hundreds of strong men in the midst of life were sacrificed for sport to men and even to women; the common usage of infanticide; the abundance of pauperism, existing to such an extent that in the time of Caesar "nearly three-fourths of the whole population of the city of Rome were on the roll of public succor;" the institution of torture; the practice of licentious shows, and of unnatural and unnameable vices. We have here no more than a bare outline of the evils which existed in the world when "Jesus was born at Bethlehem."
II. WHAT AMELIORATION CHRISTIANITY HAS WROUGHT AND IS WORKING. Three things have to be mentioned—one to be admitted, and the other two to be maintained.
1. That there have been one or two auxiliary forces in the field, which have contributed towards the elevation of mankind; but theirs has been very much indeed the smaller share.
2. That Christianity was prevented from doing all it would have done by being bitterly opposed.
3. That its action has been most pitifully weakened by its truth having been so greatly corrupted. But what, notwithstanding, has it accomplished 9
(1) It has cast out the demon of parental tyranny, and made the child to be the object of respect and kindness.
(2) It has raised woman, and made her the helpmeet, in every way, of her husband, causing her to be treated with deference and consideration.
(3) It has mitigated the terrible severities of war, carrying its red cross of succor into the very midst of the battle-field, and, to a large extent, removing its hideous savagery.
(4) It has gone far towards exorcising the demon of slavery.
(5) It has abolished the shameful scenes of the old Roman arena.
(6) It has extinguished infanticide and torture wherever it has authority to legislate.
(7) It is carrying on a stern and victorious campaign against impurity and intemperance.
(8) It has built hospitals, lunatic asylums, reformatories, orphanages, almshouses, by the hundred, by the thousand.
(9) It has opened the school-door in which youth everywhere is prepared for the duties, the joys, and the conflicts of life.
(10) It has sent forth its many hundreds of heralds to carry light, peace, love, purity, wisdom, into the haunts of superstition, violence, and vice.
(11) It is penetrating the worst slums of our great cities, seeking out the prod, me, the abandoned, the criminal; and with its touch of holy pity, which surely proceeds from "the finger of God," it is casting out the demons of sin and shame. At the present rate of progress, another half-century will see a most wonderful and glorious change in the aspect of the human world.
III. THE CONCLUSION THAT WE DRAW. If Christianity has done, is doing, will do, all this, then "no doubt "in its advent we have the coming of the "kingdom of God." No doubt Christ has that to say to us which it is infinitely worth our while to know; that to do for us it is our highest privilege to have done on our behalf; that to be to us which it is immeasurably desirable he should be. Let us learn of him; be led by him into paths of sacred service; and invite him to become our personal Lord and Savior.—C.
These words apply to—
I. THE JEWISH CHURCH. Delivered of the demon of idolatry, and having a house "swept and garnished," perfected with all external religious proprieties, it became possessed of the worse demon of hypocrisy—worse in that it was more hopeless. For the idolater may be and often is convicted of his folly and is led into wisdom and piety; but the formalist and hypocrite is scarcely ever, if ever, won from his unreality and spiritual pride.
II. MANY A CHRISTIAN CHURCH. Delivered from worldliness, from vanity, from vice, in the first instance, many a Church has cherished the cruel demon of persecution, or the evil demon of pride, or the dangerous demon of formality. And it proves to be harder to awaken the sinful Church, living under its Lord's condemnation, to a new repentance and a revival of religious earnestness, than it was at first to conduct it into his kingdom. Its last state is less hopeful than the first.
III. MANY A HUMAN SOUL.
1. Men go a very long way in the direction of heavenly wisdom. They listen, they understand, they feel, they purpose, they pray, they profess, they preach or teach Divine truth to others, they conform their conduct to the requirements of the Word of God.
2. In this good course they are arrested, and they return on their way. Their devotedness slackens; their habits of worship become less regular; their habits of life become less scrupulous; the "spirit of their mind" grows secular, and indeed profane; they fall out of the ranks of the earnest, and, at last, even of the reverent; perhaps they descend to the unworthy, and even to the criminal. Not literally, but metaphorically speaking, there are "evil sprats" in them. They "are gone away backward."
3. Thus returning, they have almost hopelessly separated themselves from Christ; the "last state of that man is worse than the first" (see Hebrews 6:4-6). Not that renewal is absolutely" impossible," but it is so spiritually difficult and so exceedingly rare that it may be said to be morally impossible. You cannot restore elasticity to the spring that has been overbent. You cannot make pungent again the salt that has lost its savor. You cannot infuse new force into truths which an emasculating familiarity has deprived of their virtue and their interest. Far more hopeless is the condition of the human soul that has drifted away from Christ than the one that has never heard of his Name or never been impressed with his claims. Therefore what?
(1) Let the Christian teacher see that his work is deep as well as broad; that the roots of sacred conviction are well planted in the soil; let him not be satisfied with his "converts" when they only manifest feeling; let him be assiduous in his attention, earnest in his prayer, until he is well assured that the soul for whom he is watching (Hebrews 13:17) has yielded himself, fully and whole-heartedly, to the Lord his Savior.
(2) Let the Christian disciple be on his guard; let him "watch and pray" lest he come under the power of some insidious temptation, lest he "lose that which he has wrought," lest the powers and principles that are from God and that have entered and touched his soul should depart from him, lest evil influences that are from beneath should take possession of him; for in that sad event he will be in a far worse spiritual state, more hopeless and pitiable, than if he had never heard the voice of Christ, and never risen at his call.—C.
Luke 11:31, Luke 11:32
Christ and Solomon.
It is one of the strong arguments in favor of our Lord's Divinity that, while there was that about him which made him free to claim for himself the attribute of meekness (Matthew 11:29), and which saved him from the charge of immodesty, yet was there in him a wonderful and wholly exceptional consciousness of greatness. On appealing to his own consciousness, he found himself anterior in existence to Abraham (John 8:58); greater (of more consequence to the nation) than the very temple itself, that object of boundless veneration (Matthew 12:6); living in heaven even while dwelling on the earth (John 3:13); associated in the most intimate way possible and (to us) inconceivable with the Divine Father (John 5:19; John 6:46; John 10:30); wiser and worthier than the "wise man" himself (text). It may not be surprising that One claiming to be a Prophet should believe himself to be superior in worth and work to Jonah; for there was nothing remarkably great either in the moral character or in the professional course of that erratic prophet. But in respect to Solomon? It may be said that only One who could claim to be highest among the highest was entitled to say, "I am greater than he." But the actual superiority of Christ to Solomon is apparent enough if we consider—
I. THE DIGNITY OF HIS PERSON. The Son of David was great, as such; but nothing in comparison with the Son of God. The King of Israel was great, as such; but nothing when compared with the Prince of peace, with him "who sitteth on the throne" of heaven.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THE WISDOM. Solomon was very learned in the knowledge of his age (1 Kings 4:29-34); he was also very skilled in the intellectual conflicts of his time (1 Kings 10:1-29.); he had, moreover, a very keen discernment of the ways and wants and weaknesses of human nature (Proverbs). And he had (what Jesus Christ had not) an acquaintance, gained by his own experience, of the hollowness of earthly greatness, of the pitiful consequences of human folly. But the wisdom of Christ was the wisdom of God. For such he had, and such indeed he was. He was "the Truth" (John 14:6); he was "the Wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24, 1 Corinthians 1:30). He knew and taught mankind, as Solomon could not do, the nature and the will of God (Luke 10:22); the capacities and the possibilities of man (John 2:25); the way home to God (John 14:6); the secret of spiritual triumph (Matthew 10:39); the glory and the shame awaiting the faithful and the unfaithful in the future (Matthew 25:1-46.).
III. THE BEAUTY AND EXCELLENCY OF HIS LIFE. Beginning admirably (1 Kings 3:5), and continuing well for a season, Solomon gave way to dangerous luxury, to selfish and exacting legislation, and at last to moral corruption (1 Kings 11:1-10). The surpassing beauty of the character of Jesus Christ became more manifest as his life continued, and it culminated in a supreme act of self-sacrifice which is the crowning glory of his life.
IV. THE GLORY OF HIS CAREER. Solomon's career began in brilliance, it remained bright for many years; but its light waned as his character declined, and it was concluded in sombre shadows. The career of Jesus Christ began in lowliest obscurity, it continued in struggle and in sorrow for a while; but it has risen into the light, it becomes ever more blessed as his influence grows ever wider and deeper; it will not be complete until all the kingdoms of the earth are in subjection to his holy will.
1. Are we wise in the wisdom of Christ?
2. Are we the subjects of his benignant rule?—C.
The main truth of the text, that the weight of our guilt depends on the measure of our privilege, rests on the solid foundation of—
I. MAN'S MORAL FREEDOM. However much character may be affected by circumstance, it remains true that man is a free agent. When we condemn ourselves or others, as we continually do; when we distinguish between misfortune and sin, between calamity and crime; whenever we apply the word "ought" to our own or to another's behavior;—we practically assent to the doctrine that man is spiritually free; otherwise such action on our part is unjust or illogical, such language improper. But, in truth, a sense of our moral freedom is inwrought in our deepest convictions; we cannot extricate it from our nature, however much we try.
II. OUR ACCOUNTABLENESS TO GOD FOR OUR CHARACTER AND LIFE.
1. God is requiring great things of us—thought, reverence, affection, submission, obedience.
2. He is marking at every moment the life we are living, the character we are forming; he is looking upon us and into us.
3. He is recording all our actions, including among these the thoughts of our mind, the feelings of our heart, the purposes of our will.
4. He will one day call us to give an account of "all the things done in the flesh."
III. A REVEALED PRINCIPLE OF DIVINE JUDGMENT. The men of Nineveh, the great Teacher tells us, will be a source of condemnation to those of Judaea, for with slighter privilege they repented, while the contemporaries of our Lord remained impenitent at the preaching of Christ himself.
1. There is to be punishment in the future.
2. This will be comparative—some guilty servants will be "beaten with few stripes," others with" many."
3. This, again, will depend on the degree of condemnation, whether it will be less or more severe.
4. And on what, then, will God's condemnation hang? Surely on two things.
(1) On the guiltiness of the character and life; for of the condemned there will be those in whom there was the "some good thing," or even many good things; and there will be those in whom there was no good thing toward God, but in whom were shameful things of many kinds.
(2) On the character of God's requirement; for God will require much less of some men than he will of others. What he will require of us depends on the measure of spiritual capacity he has conferred upon us, and also (and very largely) on the measure of the privilege he has granted to us. From those to whom Christ had preached he would require far more than from those to whom Jonah had delivered his brief warning message. And if we reject the gospel of the grace of God, how guilty shall we be in comparison with the men of our Master's own time! Surely we shall be at least as guilty as they. For though, indeed, we do not actually behold the countenance of the Son of man, nor hear the tones of his voice, yet we do "sit at his feet;" we are his disciples; we know the thoughts of his mind; we understand his will; we are familiar with his overtures of love. Indeed, we have certain great advantages which those to whom our Lord was speaking did not possess.
(a) We have the light that shines not only from the whole of his completed life, but also from his death and resurrection.
(b) We have Christ's own commentary, through the writings of his inspired apostles, upon his life and death.
(c) We have freedom from the national prepossessions which misguided those, his hearers.
(d) We have the accumulated experience of the Christian Church through eighteen centuries. If we heed not his Word, and range not ourselves on his side, if, "gathering not" with him the sheaves of righteousness, we scatter abroad the seeds of sin and death, who will there not be "to rise up in the judgment" and condemn us!—C.
"The light of the body is the eye;" i.e. the eye is the organ through which light enters so that the mind perceives; and if our eye is "single," if it is sound, and does not give a double or distorted or coloured impression, then the "whole body is full of light," then the man knows exactly what is about him and how to use his hands and direct his feet; but if the eye be diseased, if it be "evil," giving false impressions, then all is confusion in the mind, and it is as if "the whole body were full of darkness," no member of the body can take its proper part—the hands do not know how to handle, nor the feet to walk. Here we have a parable, very easily understood. "The spirit of man is the candle [lamp] of the Lord." God has given truth to the mind as he has prepared light for the body; he has also given us a spiritual eye, an organ through which Divine truth enters the mind. We may call it mind, conscience, reason, the soul; it is of no consequence what we call it; it is that in us which distinguishes between right and wrong, righteousness and unrighteousness, truth and falsehood, nobility and baseness; it is that which gives us the place we occupy in God's creation. If the light we receive into us is sound, pure, healthy, then our whole soul is full of light, then we "see light in God's light." But if this inward light be confused, disordered, discoloured, our whole spirit is "full of darkness;" that is to say, if our understanding be darkened, if we are habitually judging unrighteous judgment, if our conscience be condemning what is good and be approving what is evil, if our reason be misconceiving and misinterpreting, how hopeless IS our condition! When that which should lead is misleading, when that which should be guiding us into wisdom is betraying us into deadly error, when the light that is in us is darkness, "how great is that darkness" (Matthew 6:23)! But if, on the other hand, our reason is directing us to right conclusions, and our conscience is "approving things that are excellent," then our whole soul is walking and rejoicing in the light of the Lord, our spirit is full of light, it is a house wherein the bright shining of the lamp of truth does give us light. What, then, brings about bad spiritual sight? What are the diseases of the inward eye?
I. PREJUDICE. How that warps the judgment and blinds the eyes of men! Determined to recognize one object only, men can see no other, however it may stand before them in bold relief. It was prejudice that made the men of Christ's time fail to perceive that the kingdom of God had come among them. His wisdom, his worth, his power, everything was distorted and misconceived by them; their inward eye was diseased, and how great was the darkness that resulted!
II. PRIDE. How many men there are walking, strutting, across the stage of life, confident, complacent, contemptuous, that have been too proud to learn! Pride has bent their judgment, has affected for evil the inward eye; the truth has become distorted; there is darkness in the soul. Well does the apostle say, "If a man think himself to be wise, let him become a fool ['in his own opinion], that he may be wise." Pride blocks the path, while humility opens the gates of the kingdom of truth. "The meek will he guide in judgment, the meek will he teach his way."
III. SELFISHNESS. The worst of all diseases spoiling the spiritual sight. The man who lives under its evil dominion "sees double," is mentally confused, wanders in bewildering error. The slave-owner could not see the iniquity of slavery when his temporal interests covered the eyes of his mind with a thick film of falsity. Present prospects, worldly advantages, fleshly indulgences,—do these not form thick scales which cover the eyes of the children of men, leaving them in the darkness of error and of sin? Who can understand his errors? Who of us can be sure that he is not allowing some folly, some unworthy habit of the body or the mind, to intervene between the pure truth of Christ and his own spiritual understanding? The thought of Jesus Christ calls upon us to be humble, vigilant, prayerful, that "the thoughts of our hearts may be cleansed by the inspiration of his Spirit," so that instead of great darkness, or even an imperfect and ineffectual light within us, the whole house of the soul may be illumined with purest heavenly wisdom, "as when the bright shining of a candle dons give us light."—C.
Piety out of perspective.
We have seen pictures in which no regard whatever has been paid to the laws of perspective, and in which, as the consequence, the mountain has appeared as small as the men, the men as large as the mountain. These have been objects of amusement, but not of admiration. Unfortunately, there was nothing either amusing or admirable in these practical pictures of piety which the Pharisees were drawing, wholly out of perspective, in the time of our Lord. In them were—
I. OBJECTS OF GROSS EXAGGERATION. Our Lord pointed out the exaggerated importance which they attached to the outward, to the bodily, to the minute. They made everything of religious observances and customs. To wash the hands after coming from market, before eating bread, was to them quite a serious obligation, which they would on no account neglect; to tithe the small herbs that grew in their garden was to them a sacred duty, which they took pains to observe; to make the outside of their culinary vessels clean was a rule by no means to be forgotten; to carry no smallest stick on the sabbath day was a very sacred law, etc. These things, and such things as these, were made the staple of their religion; their piety was composed of small observances, of conformity to prescriptions and proscriptions which only touched the Outside and not the inner sanctuary, which only affected the body and not the soul; they made everything of that which was only of very slight importance; they exaggerated the minute until these became misleading and practically false.
II. OTHER OBJECTS FATALLY OVERLOOKED OR SLIGHTED. These were:
1. Inward purity. What did it matter if some cups were not quite clean? Something certainly, but very little comparatively; it was a matter of infinitesimal consequence. But it mattered much that their "inward part," their soul, was "full of ravening and wickedness." If they were themselves corrupt, no ceremonial cleanness would avail them. It is of infinite consequence to any man that he should be "all glorious within;" that there should be truth and purity "in the inward parts," in the deep recesses of the soul. It is the pure in heart alone that can see God and that can enter his kingdom.
2. Charity; a kind heart showing itself in a generous hand. Whoso has this disposition to pity, to heal, to help; whoso spends himself in endeavors to do good, to lighten the burdens of the afflicted, to brighten the path that lies in shadow;—this man is one to whom "all things are clean." He who is earnestly concerned to mitigate the sorrow of some bleeding heart, or to extricate some fallen spirit from the cruel toils of vice, or to lead some weary wanderer from the desert of doubt into the bright and happy home of faith and love,—he is not the man to be "greatly moved" because he carries a speck of dust upon his hands, or because a utensil has not been washed the proper number of times in a day.
3. Rectitude. The Pharisees passed over "judgment;" but they should have given to this a front place. To recognize the righteous claims of men on our regard, on our considerateness, on our fidelity, on our truthfulness,—is not this a very large part of any piety that is of God, commended by him and commending us to him?
4. The love of God. This also the Pharisees slighted. But it was of the very first importance. Their Law laid stress upon it (Deuteronomy 6:4, Deuteronomy 6:5). It is the heritage and glory of manhood (see homily on Luke 10:27). To make little of this was so to misrepresent as to lead into ruinous error. Purity, charity, rectitude, the love of God,—these are the precious things which make man great, worthy, dear to God his Father.—C.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
Lessons on prayer.
Luke takes us from "the one thing needful," which Mary's loving waiting on her Lord illustrates, to a kindred subject, viz. the lessons on prayer which Jesus gave his disciples. He had been enjoying what we should now call a "retreat" with them, and had himself led the devotions of the little band. Struck by the beauty of his petitions, one of his disciples asked him to teach them to pray, as John had taught his disciples. To this appeal Jesus responds at once, and in doing so gives them first a form, which was also meant to be a model; and secondly, a theory of prayer, in which we shall have little difficulty in finding its true philosophy. Let us look at these two matters in their order.
I. THE FORM AND MODEL OF PRAYER COMMONLY CALLED THE LORD'S PRAYER. (Verses 2-4.) Jesus is represented here as saying to the disciples, "When ye pray, say," while in Matthew 6:9 it is "After this manner therefore pray ye.' It is evident from this that he meant the words to answer the double purpose—to be a form in constant use, and to be a model constantly imitated. It is consequently most important to look carefully into its contents. And here we have to notice that it sets intercession before petition for personal benefits. Prayer thus becomes a great instrument for rendering us disinterested and unselfish. When modelled on this peerless prayer of Christ, it carries us at once into the wide interests of God's kingdom before we devote any consideration to petty personal interests. The genius of prayer is thus seen to be the subordination of self to the universal interest. The hallowing of the Father's precious Name comes first, then the coming of his kingdom, and then the doing of his will on earth as in heaven. What a statesmanlike view we are thus led to take of the general problem before we even think of the particular and personal problem! The moment we have in our closet entered intelligently and heartily into these three petitions, we have got out of the narrowness of petty cares and troubles into the broad expanse of the Divine love. We are taken to mountain-tops at once, and from the sublime heights of Divine compassion we are led to intercede for the world below us, that it may be as speedily as possible transmuted into something like what heaven happily is. Then for the minor personal petitions, these refer to daily bread, and daily pardon, and daily deliverance from evil—the personal blessings, in fact, which fit the individual for aiding the wider interest and subserving the universal blessing. We are thus warranted in asking for bread to sustain the body, for pardon to relieve the heavy-laden soul, for deliverance amid the further temptations to which we may be ,exposed. And in the petition for pardon, it is clearly implied that forgiveness can only be realized by a forgiving spirit. The soul which will not forgive a brother who asks for forgiveness shows that forgiveness has not been and cannot be realized. In fact, the unforgiving spirit is, as far as we can judge, the unpardonable sin (of. Matthew 18:21-35).
II. OUR LORD'S THEORY OF PRAYER. (Matthew 6:5-13.) When we analyze our Lord's argument here, we find it to be analogical; and the truth is that we are shut up in this matter to analogical reasoning. It can be shown that it is to analogy we owe our knowledge of human beings, of the lower animals, and finally of God above us. In order to ally other than analogical knowledge, we should require to become incarnated, so to speak, in the other being whose condition we desire to know. Seeing that this is impossible, we are shut up to the argument from analogy upon such a subject, £ Our Lord, then, looked around him, and saw that efficacious prayer was embedded as a fact in the very constitution of society. Petition is the form which conscious need assumes in social intercourse; and a response comes forth with more or less promptitude and grace, and demonstrates that the prayer has proved efficacious. It is further to be noticed that our Lord, in pointing out efficacious prayer as existing in the society of his time, gives us first an example of efficacious intercession, and then an example of efficacious personal petition. His illustrations consequently follow the lines laid down in his prescribed form of prayer. To encourage intercession, he presents the picture of the importunate friend begging successfully a supper for an unexpected and hungry guest; to encourage personal petition, he presents the picture of hungry children crying to their father for food; and he would have us to reason from the efficacious prayer among men to the certainty of prayer being efficacious when presented unto God. Let us look at the illustrations in the order given. A kindly, hospitable man is about to retire to rest with his household, having in the last meal consumed the small stock of food which his humble house contains; when, lo! to his surprise, a friend arrives after a long journey, hungry as well as weary—a most fitting object, therefore, of hospitality. What is to be done? He quickly decides. Having most probably arranged for the washing of the guest's feet, he passes out into the darkness, and seeks the door of a friend who can, he believes, lend him as many loaves as he needs. It is not a personal want he is about to urge, but the need of a hungry and weary friend. He stands before the door, consequently, in the simple majesty of disinterestedness. He begins to knock, but at first receives no encouragement. "Trouble me not," says his friend within: "the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee." Nothing daunted, however, and pocketing all his pride, for he knows well it is no selfish plea he is urging, he resolves to knock on till his beleaguered friend capitulates. At length importunity triumphs; the friend in bed sees plainly that the only chance of rest that night for himself and his children is to give in as soon as possible, and let the importunate petitioner have his way; and so he rises and gives him as many loaves as he needs. Here, then, according to our Lord, is a case of efficacious intercessory prayer as between men. It may not receive an immediate answer, but importunity secures an ultimate answer. We are warranted, therefore, in rising from efficacious intercessory prayer among men to the assurance that intercessory prayer will prove efficacious with God. God may keep us waiting, not certainly from any selfish consideration, but for our own good, but ultimately he will respond to every unselfish intercession. Hence our Lord reaches the assurance, "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you," etc. The second case brought before us by Christ is efficacious prayer in the family circle. Hungry children present prayers to parents for food, for bread, for fish, for eggs, as among the humbler classes in Palestine; and the fathers who are asked for such things never think of mocking the hungry ones with a stone, a serpent, or a scorpion. The earthly parent hears and answers the children's prayer; the prayer is efficacious. So will it be, argues our Lord, as we appeal for the needful blessings to our Father in heaven. "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" It is surely instructive to think that earthly parents, in the midst of a "reign of law," which they only partially understand, can yet know how to give good things to their children. Be the times ever so hard, they can generally manage to give the little ones bread and keep them off the parish. Is it not reasonable to argue that the heavenly Father, who knows all "the reign of law," because its Author and Lord, can give the Holy Spirit, or any minor and needful blessing his children crave, unto the prayerful? We have only, in conclusion, to emphasize the fact that the Holy Spirit is the great need of human souls. Let us ask him as God's supreme Gift, and we shall assuredly receive him even in Pentecostal power. It is this Gift which individuals and Churches need to make them truly useful!—R.M.E.
Our Lord had just held out the possibility of Divine inspirations for prayerful disciples, and the evangelist next takes up and contrasts diabolical inspirations with this. Unless we notice the artistic treatment by the accomplished author of the Third Gospel, we shall miss much of his meaning. The circumstance which led to the question of infernal inspiration was the healing of a man who was possessed by a dumb devil. Here was a case, then, where a demon, entering into and possessing a human being, had sealed his lips so that he could not speak. Our Savior expelled the demon, and the man immediately recovered the power of speech. At this the people wondered. But the wise men among his enemies had a theory to meet the case; they insisted that it was because Beelzebub, the chief of the devils, dwelt in Christ that he was able to expel the inferior demon. Others insisted on a sign from heaven to supplement these "signs" on earth. To both classes he gives due answer. Let us look at the two theories, and the interlude which separates Christ's treatment of them, in their order.
I. THE THEORY THAT JESUS WAS POSSESSED BY BEELZEBUB. There was something plausible in this. Assuming that demons are subject to their superiors, the hostile spirits insinuated that Jesus had got the chief of the devils in him, and so was able to order the inferior demons. In the theory there was the admission that the devil, who had made the poor possessed one dumb, had obeyed Christ's command and left his victim. But so far from this demonstrating Christ's goodness to their suspicious souls, it only demonstrated his league with the chief of the devils. It is truly wonderful how unholy hearts can twist the clearest demonstrations into the foulest suspicions and insinuations. The question of infernal inspirations is thus raised, as a set-off and contrast to the Divine inspirations which Jesus showed his disciples were possible for them, and which he illustrated in perfection himself. Let us see how our Lord meets the Insinuation of his enemies.
1. Christ shows that in expelling the dumb devil he had been so far breaking up Satan's kingdom. Although, therefore, it must be acknowledged that Satan and his emissaries do often take suicidal courses, and by fancied wisdom really undermine their kingdom, yet it could not be supposed that the chief of the devils would deliberately restore a man to sanity and the power of speech. This would be too insane a course for the arch-fiend to take. When souls are rendered sane and social, we may conclude at once that it is not Satan's work. Hence in the fact that the kingdom of Satan was being broken up by the philanthropic policy of Jesus, there was proof positive that their theory was false.
2. Christ reminds them of Jewish exorcism, and asks if they have considered the suspicion their theory casts on their own exorcists. [By certain incantations and tedious processes the Jews had been accustomed to expel the demons and cure the demented ones. The difference between the Jewish exorcisms and this one of Jesus was that his was simpler and speedier. Hence if it was Beelzebub that enabled him to exorcise the demon, it must be some other form of diabolic inspiration which enabled their own exorcists to succeed. Our Lord thus used a crushing argumentum ad hominem, which they could not resist.
3. Jesus insists on the victorious character of the spiritual inspiration of which he was at once an Embodiment and the Source. It was by" the finger of God" he expelled the demons, and in his Person the triumphant kingdom of God had come nigh to them. For, as he here shows, there is a contention between two opposing parties for the palace of the human heart. The devil may for a time usurp possession. There is peace throughout the palace; there may even be silence, as in the present case, when the devil had made the possessed one dumb. But the Stronger One comes, the Spirit of Christ enters, overcomes the devil, robs him of his armor in which he trusted, and divides the spoil. Thus graphically does our Lord represent the conquest of the soul and the glorious result of the victory. It is the Mightiest overcoming the strong, and claiming his rights in the palace of the soul. Thus does God's kingdom come within us!
4. Jesus shows the dangers of a vacant soul. Referring possibly to the Jewish exorcisms, wherein the demons were expelled, but no stronger occupant introduced to the palace of the soul, our Lord shows how the vacant soul becomes a prey to demons once more. And the result of reoccupation is generally worse than the first occupancy. How often is it seen that superficial reform is followed by a backsliding worse than any previous sin! The last state of the man is worse than the first. It is essential, therefore, that when a soul is freed from one spirit, it should be tenanted by another and a better. Only the radical change which the indwelling of the Divine Spirit secures can make the soul safe amid the temptations of Satan and his hosts.
II. THE INTERLUDE UPON THE BLESSEDNESS OF OBEDIENCE. (Luke 11:27, Luke 11:28.) As Jesus spake these wise words about inspiration, a woman in the crowd, touched by their beauty and faithfulness, exclaimed, "Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked!" Her idea was that it must have been a great privilege to be related to such a Person, especially to have been his mother. And the blood-relationship, of course, could have no wide radius; only a select few could stand around him in actual relationship. But Jesus interposes at once to show that there is a blessedness which all may realize, a blessedness which his mother or brethren could not monopolize, and this is the blessedness of obedience to God's Word. Motherhood involved many trials in the case of Mary, as well as many privileges; but obedience is an open door into which all may enter. In the keeping of God's commandments there is a great reward. Thus he forbade all discontent and all envy, and put the woman and the audience generally upon the true track in which to realize blessedness. Receiving God's Word in humble faith, trying to keep it in dependence upon God's grace,—this is the secret of true blessedness. Such spiritual relationship is better than blood-relationship. At it all of us should aim.
III. THE THEORY OF INSUFFICIENT SIGNS. (Luke 11:16, Luke 11:29-36.) The miracles of healing, it would seem, were insufficient to convince Christ's enemies that he was from God. They demanded more a sign from heaven; something, that is, which would connect him with the heavenly world.
1. Now, the way our Lord meets this unreasonable demand is by denying their right to such a sign. It was most unreasonable, and to unreasonable clamor our Lord never yielded. His miracles were of such a character, were so numerous, and so instructive, that nothing but wilful blindness could prevent the demonstration from being final and conclusive.
2. Jesus declares that in the history of Jonah they would have a sign. (Verses 29, 30, 32.) Now, in what respect was Jonah a sign to the Ninevites? Accepting as historic the narrative of his flight, his imprisonment in the fish, his release from it, and his subsequent preaching to the Ninevites, we see a striking parallel between it and the history of Christ. As Jonah was buried in the fish, and so the endangered seamen were saved, so Jesus was buried in the tomb, and through his death saved endangered sinners. Again, as Jonah was cast forth from his imprisonment to land and life again, so Jesus by resurrection passed from the imprisonment of the tomb into the newness of immortal life. And as Jonah became a witness to the Ninevites of the truth of God's threatenings and God's mercy, so Jesus, in the persons of his apostles, and in Pentecostal power, became a witness to his generation. Moreover, the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah, and in so doing they would be a standing rebuke and condemnation to Christ's contemporaries, who resisted his preaching and would not repent of their sins. In the light of Christ's subsequent fate, the sign of the Prophet Jonah must have proved striking in the extreme.
3. Jesus declares that the Queen of Sheba would condemn his contemporaries, as she was attracted by the wisdom of Solomon, while a greater than Solomon was here. (Verse 31.) The wisdom of Solomon was not associated with any miracle. It stood alone. It was rendered impressive by a halo of worldly glory; but this was all. Yet it commanded the queen of the south, who came from her distant land and learned wisdom at Solomon's feet. The worth of wisdom is the lesson of her long journey. [But Christ's contemporaries, who have more wisdom by far in his discourses, and who have the miracles backing up the whole, are refusing the matchless testimony. Their condemnation shall be all the greater considering the noble conduct of the queen. How prone we are to despise the present opportunity, and to imagine that the former days were better than these, when the truth may be that now the most magnificent opportunity of all the ages is lying to our hands!
4. The great necessity he shows is singleness of eye. (Verses 33-36.) This is the practical lesson with which our Lord closes his answer to his enemies. There is a light in the world, and it is not hidden. As the Light of the world, he was himself occupying a sufficiently elevated candlestick, and illumining all within the house. But if his hearers and interviewers had duplicity and not singleness of aim, they would miss the illumination and be filled with darkness. This was their danger. Hence he urges singleness of eye. If they but gazed on him with the proper motive, they would find their whole lives illumined, and glory waiting upon their work. He was anxious for this result—hence his warning. We learn, then, the necessity of singleness and simplicity of aim. In such a case we shall need no theories to account for Christ's power, but acknowledge its Divine and gracious character at once. Then shall our whole heart go forth in sympathy to him, and we shall be with him in co-operation and in success.—R.M.E.
Pharisaism and legalism rebuked.
Our Lord, who was eminently social in his habits, accepts an invitation to dine with one of the Pharisees, and meets many Pharisees and lawyers there as guests. Such scenes were, to his pure and philanthropic mind, important opportunities, and as such he entered upon them. In this case he breaks ground at once by deliberately neglecting the usual preliminary ablutions. This was through no slovenliness in his personal habits, we may be sure; for if cleanliness is next to godliness, we may be pretty certain Jesus practiced it. But as it is quite possible for men to put cleanliness in place of godliness, to be scrupulous about outward cleansing and careless about the heart, it was necessary that Jesus should expose the Pharisees' error and danger in this particular. Accordingly, we find him at this dinner-table exposing with great power first, Pharisaic hypocrisy, and, secondly, legalized impositions. Let us look at these in their order.
I. CHRIST'S EXPOSITION OF PHARISAIC HYPOCRISY. (Luke 11:37-44.) Pharisaism was a supreme regard for appearances. Long garments, phylacteries, multiplied ablutions, long prayers in public places, ostentatious tithing of little things, combined to make up Pharisaism, a reputation based upon externals. One who looked upon the heart, like our Lord, could easily see that all this outward decorum was quite compatible with wickedness of heart. And so he told his host deliberately, "Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening ['extortion,' Revised Version] and wickedness." The cure is suggested when he leads him to think of God as alike the Author and Observer of what is without and within. "Ye fools ['foolish ones,' Revised Version], did not he that made that which is without ['the outside,' Revised Version] make that which is within ['the inside'] also? But rather give alms of such things as ye have ['Howbeit give for alms those things which are within,' Revised Version]; and, behold, all things are clean unto you." In this way he tries to lead his Pharisaic host to spirituality of life, to the expenditure of sympathy, of love, of brotherly kindness upon others, instead of indulging in outward acts behind which there was no real heart, but only a desire for personal reputation. Following up this line, he charges them with tithing potherbs, "the mint, anise, and cummin," while the weightier matters, "judgment and the love of God," matters that were within and spiritual, were left undone. Their preference for appearances, for the uppermost seats in the synagogues, for greetings in the markets, and all that goes to form a reputation, showed that they had not weighed aright the matters of the heart. No wonder that he concludes by comparing them to graves—"tombs," Revised Version—that appear not, over which men unwittingly tread. Whited sepulchres they were, beautiful outwardly, but within were dead men's bones and all uncleanness. It was a manly and terrible indictment for our Lord to make against them. And in doing so he exposed the principle of hypocrisy. It rests on appearances, on superficial judgments, on a forgetfulness that God searcheth the heart. It can be got rid of only by our getting down to first principles, and remembering that God "searcheth the hearts and trieth the reins of the children of men, even to give to every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings" (Jeremiah 17:9, Jeremiah 17:10).
II. CHRIST'S EXPOSURE OF LEGALIZED IMPOSITIONS. (Luke 11:45-54.) A lawyer in the company, seeing his Pharisaic friends so severely handled by Christ, complains that his special department was involved also in the reproach. This leads our Lord to handle the lawyers more severely still. Their position was one of monopoly of the Late. To sustain their profession they had to make a great mystery of the meaning of the Law. Though it was largely plain enough for a runner to read and understand, it would have swept away all their privileges and profits to have left such an impression on the common people. Hence they took the Law into their own especial keeping, and interpreted it for the people as they pleased. The result of this was the imposition of heavy burdens upon the ignorant people. This has been the temptation of legal experts always; they increase the burdens of the common people—burdens which they leave the people to carry alone. Not only so, but the lawyers were manufacturing reputations out of the shortcomings of their fathers. Their fathers had murdered the prophets; the sons were now busy building their sepulchres, and so far pretending to dissent from their fathers' murderous spirit. But our Lord shows that this policy is a simple hypocrisy, for, in seeking the life of Jesus, they were demonstrating that the old spirit was still within them. It is easier to serve on a building committee than to entertain kindly feelings towards the Savior. All this hypocrisy, however, will receive judgment in due season. Upon the generation that murdered Christ will descend the judgment which the murderous spirit of so many generations deserved. Our Lord in this way brings out how we may, by our conduct in the present, become involved in the responsibilities of the past. We cannot isolate ourselves from the past; we are not only heirs of all the ages, but share the responsibilities of all the ages by reason of our attitude towards them. History is thus brought into the field of responsibility, and we are either for or against the good in the olden time. It would be well for us to treat history inn sympathetic fashion, and have our hearts in proper training as we review the past. We may sin by hating an old martyr's memory just as really as by despising his counterpart to-day. Our Lord concludes by denouncing the dog-in-the-manger policy of the lawyers, pretending to knowledge, while at once they had lost the key and kept others effectually from finding it. No wonder that, when our Lord came out from the banquet, he found himself violently beset on every side by those he had so exposed, in hope that some such statement would form the basis of his accusation. But they found themselves baffled by his limitless knowledge of human nature. Instead of contending with him, it will be better for us all to submit to his superior judgment and gracious pleasure.—R.M.E.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Luke 11". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26