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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Luke 11

 

 


Other Authors
Verse 1

DISCOURSE: 1519

FORMS OF PRAYER, GOOD

Luke 11:1. And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his Disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his Disciples.

SCARCELY any thing can more strongly mark our defection from God, than our inability to pray. It might well be supposed, that, considering how many sins we have to be forgiven, how many wants to be supplied, and how many blessings to be acknowledged, that we should never be at a loss for matter in our addresses at the throne of grace, or for a suitable frame in drawing nigh to God. But the truth is, that there is no duty more difficult than that of prayer: for as, on the one hand, “we know not what to pray for as we ought;” so neither, on the other hand, are we able to plead with God as we ought, unless “the Holy Spirit help our infirmities, and assist us in relation to every part of this duty [Note: Romans 8:26.].” The Apostles themselves felt their need of instruction upon this head, and received from their Divine Master a form of prayer fitted for the use of the Church in all ages. From this circumstance, I shall take occasion to shew,

I. The importance of sound formularies of instruction and prayer, for the use of the Church of Christ—

Every society has some ground of mutual agreement, and some principle on which the members are formed into one collective body. Now the Church of Christ is a society collected out of the world, and united in one common sentiment of adherence to Christ, as their only Lord and Saviour. There have been minor differences between the different parts of this body; and different societies have been formed, to confirm in their respective views the members attached to each. But on the subject of these differences I have at present no call to speak: my purpose, in this part of my discourse, being simply to shew, that, by the common consent of all, certain formularies have been judged expedient, for the marking and perpetuating of their respective sentiments. Some, indeed, have limited their formularies to a statement of principles; others have extended them to forms of prayer: and it is of these latter that I intend more especially to speak. I mean not to condemn those who differ in this respect; but only to vindicate those who, in addition to a statement of their principles, have also adopted a form of prayer.

A statement of principles is good—

[It forms a bond of union between the members of the same Church. Doubtless, if the principles themselves be false, the record that contains them cannot be good: but, supposing the principles to be sound, the forming of them into an accredited and unchanging standard cannot but be a signal benefit to the Church that is governed by them. Such a statement is a great preservative from error; it strengthens the hands of the faithful members, and is a witness against those who are unfaithful; and it serves, in perpetuity, as a rallying point, both for those who adhere to truth and those who have departed from it.]

A form of prayer is good also—

[That there are persons capable of conducting public worship in a truly edifying manner without a form, is readily acknowledged. But the great mass of those who lead the devotions of the people (I mean not to offend any, but only to “speak the truth in love,”) are far from equal to the task: and even those whose gifts are sufficient, find themselves too often destitute of the grace of prayer. They can utter words, perhaps, with fluency: but their words betray the absence of the heart: and the barrenness felt by those who speak, is diffused over all who hear. I grant that there may also be a hardness and barrenness in one who uses a pre-conceived form: but still, if that form express all that a devout spirit could wish, the persons who join in it may themselves, through the influence of the Holy Spirit, supply the unction, which the minister has failed to manifest.

In family devotions, a pre-conceived form is not only useful, but necessary, for the generality of Christians. In ministers, a kind of official fluency is obtained by habit: but in others, even in men of learning and of great intelligence, who can deliver themselves with ease in a popular harangue, there is a straitness, both of conception and expression, when they come before God in prayer; and if they had not somewhat of a form prepared for them, they must abandon the use of family prayer altogether.

As to the lawfulness of such forms, I conceive that to be placed beyond a doubt, by the answer which our Lord gave to the request made to him in our text. His Disciples desired him to teach them to pray, as John had taught his Disciples: and our Lord gave them a prayer, which they were directed to use, either in form or substance, whenever they drew nigh to God at the throne of grace: a clear proof that forms are good; and that in the use of them we may “worship God in spirit and in truth.”]

Assuming that sound formularies are good, I proceed to point out,

II. The peculiar excellence of those which are used and sanctioned by the Church of England—

The Articles, the Homilies, and the Liturgy, are the standard of Divine truth, as embraced and professed by our Established Church. Now,

The Articles are peculiarly excellent, both as to the soundness of their principles, and the moderation of their statement—

[They have evidently been drawn up with a view to comprehend all persons whose views, upon the whole, are right. The Calvinist and the Arminian meet upon the ground there stated, each being satisfied that his own sentiments are contained in them. And this, considering how unqualified the Scriptural expressions, on which their respective creeds are founded, often are, is very desirable. They are articles of peace, and not of war: and they serve to combine in one Church all that is truly good, whilst they repudiate those only who deny some fundamental truth of Christianity.]

The Homilies are a pattern of simplicity and godly sincerity—

[Never was truth more plainly stated than in them. The language in which they are written is indeed antiquated; in consequence of which, the use of them has been discontinued: but, in their mode of stating divine truth, and enforcing it upon the conscience, they never have been excelled by any composition whatever. It were well if they were more regarded as a pattern for popular addresses at this day: for, in comparison of them, the great mass of public addresses, if viewed with candour and with Apostolic zeal, would be found, it is to be feared, exceedingly defective, both in energy and in scriptural instruction.]

As for the Liturgy, no commendation can be too great for it—

[Being of human composition, it must, of necessity, partake of human infirmity. But, taken all together, it comes nearer to inspiration than any book that ever was composed. Only let a person be humbled as a sinner before God, and he will not find in the whole universe any prayers so suited to his taste. They express exactly what a broken-hearted penitent before God would desire to express: yet is there in them nothing of extravagance or of cant: all is sober, chaste, judicious; so minute, as to comprehend every thing which the largest assembly of suppliants could wish to utter; and at the same time so general, as not to involve any one to a greater extent than his own experience sanctions and approves. Throughout the whole, the suppliant is made to stand on the only true foundation, and to urge every request in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, his atoning Saviour, his all-prevailing Advocate. Throughout the whole, also, is the Holy Spirit’s influence acknowledged as the only source of light and life, and implored as the gift of God to sinners for Christ’s sake. In point of devotion, whether prayer or praise be offered, nothing can exceed the Liturgy, either in urgency of petition or in fervour of thanksgiving. In truth, if a whole assembly were addressing God in the spirit of the Liturgy, as well as in the word there would be nothing to compare with such a spectacle upon the face of the earth: it would approximate more to heaven than any thing of the kind that was ever yet seen in this world.

Taking, then, the formularies of our Church in a collective view, I must say, that we have unbounded reason for thankfulness to Almighty God for the provision which has been made for the instruction of our minds, and the assistance that has been given us for our advancement in the divine life.]

Now, then, let me state to you,

III. The claim which the Prayer-book and Homily Society has upon us in this particular view—

[Here a summary view was given of the services rendered by that Society to the world. And they were shewn to be such as to deserve the countenance and support of every pious man. Its having translated our Liturgy into so many languages, renders it an institution of far greater importance than would, at first sight, be supposed: for, if Bible Societies and Mission Societes are useful in gathering Churches, this is useful in confirming, establishing, comforting, and edifying all who are so united — — —]

Let me then recommend,

1. That these formularies be duly estimated by yourselves—

[The Homilies are too much laid aside at this time. It is well that the attention of the world is now more called to them than it has been for the last hundred years. I would recommend you all to read them for your own edification, and to circulate them for the edification of others. The Liturgy, also, is too much used as a form, without a suitable endeavour to enter into the spirit of it. But if we will, from time to time, compare our own frame of mind in prayer with the words which are provided for our use, we shall see how exceedingly defective we are in every thing that is good; and how much we need a supply of the Spirit of God to bring us to any measure of that experience which we are bound, as Christians to attain — — —]

2. That your regard for them be shewn by your endeavours to circulate them throughout the world—

[From the records of that society, you will see that nothing but a want of funds has prevented a still greater extension of their labours than has yet taken place. If the generosity of the Christian public enable them to proceed according to their wishes, there will not be a country under heaven that will not, in due time, be blessed with the same advantages as we enjoy.]


Verses 5-8

DISCOURSE: 1520

THE FORCE OF IMPORTUNITY

Luke 11:5-8. 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; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.

IT is common with proud infidels, when disputing against the doctrines of our holy religion, to reduce Jehovah, as it were, to a level with man; and to argue, that what would be unsuitable for man to do towards his fellows must therefore be unsuitable for God to do in his dealings with mankind. But what know we of Jehovah, that we should presume to judge of him by ourselves? or what claim have we on God, that we render him amenable to us for his dispensations towards us, when we might, every one of us, have been justly left, like the fallen angels, to have taken our portion in the abyss of hell, if He, of his sovereign grace, had not determined to put a difference between us and them? To bring Jehovah to our bar, and to try him there by a standard of our own, is impious in the extreme. His ways and thoughts are infinitely above ours; “nor will He give account to us of any of his matters:” and our province, in reference to his revealed will, is, not to dispute, but to believe, and to obey. Yet there are circumstances wherein we may, with great propriety, draw a parallel between God and ourselves: as, for instance, if there be any thing good which man will do, we may be perfectly assured, not only that God will do the same, but that he will infinitely exceed it. Thus our Lord, having taught his Disciples to pray, and wishing to encourage in them the utmost urgency and fullest confidence of success in prayer, he appeals to them respecting the effect of importunity between man and man, and teaches them to expect still greater effects from it in their addresses at the throne of grace. From this appeal of his, I will take occasion to shew,

I. The force of importunity in our intercourse with man—

[Our Lord supposes a sudden emergency to have arisen. A friend, on a journey, having lost his way [Note: See the marginal translation.], and wandered about till midnight, suddenly comes to our house, oppressed both with fatigue and hunger; and, whilst we joyfully afford him a lodging, we accidentally have no provision, not so much as a piece of bread, to set before him for his refreshment. (This is a case which may very well be supposed; nor is there in it any thing so extraordinary, but that it may fitly serve as a basis for a hypothetical proposition.) To what expedient would you have recourse? You yourself have a friend near at hand; and, whilst the weary traveller rests himself, you go to him, and knock at his door, and entreat him to lend you some bread for the occasion. (This, though undesirable in itself, on account of the unseasonableness of the hour, you would feel justified in resorting to, on account of the greatness of the emergency.) Your friend, who, with his children and servants, are all in bed, not liking to be disturbed at such an hour, and to have the disturbance spread over his whole family, excuses himself, and declines acceding to your request. (This is perfectly natural. What relates to self arises much more quickly in our minds than the concerns of others; and the trouble imposed on us, appears more immediately deserving our attention, than any which we are called upon to alleviate in others.) But you continue to plead with him the necessity of the case: and his friendly dispositions, which had not been sufficient to operate in your favour in the first instance, are awakened and called into exercise by your importunity; and he then arises, and gives you whatsoever you require. (In the whole of our intercourse with our friends, and indeed with the world at large, we find, that a perseverance in urging our requests will prevail, when higher considerations have lain dormant, and been ineffectual for the attainment of our wishes.)

This case is so simple, that it would be obscured, rather than elucidated, by any amplification of mine: it commends itself at once as a very probable occurrence, and as well fitted to illustrate the great truth which it was intended to inculcate.]

Let us, then, proceed to notice,

II. The encouragement to be derived from it in our intercouse with God—

Our blessed Lord himself shews us how to apply the subject; first of all in a way of direct affirmation, “Ask, and ye shall have,” &c.; and then in a way of inference; namely, “If we, who are evil,” will not refuse to supply the necessities of others, “much less will God,” who is so infinitely good [Note: ver. 9–13]. To mark this inference, let the following considerations be duly marked:

1. Importunity, however urgent, will never offend our God—

Man it may offend; and not unfrequently does; and even irritates him to such a degree, as to draw from him expressions, which, in a calmer hour, he would not, on any account, have used. But God will never be offended: on the contrary, he tells us that “the prayer of the upright is his delight.” To what an amazing extent did he bear with the importunity of Abraham, when, in a long strain of consecutive petitions and arguments in behalf of Sodom, he urged the sparing of that guilty city for the sake of fifty, forty, thirty, twenty, yea, even ten righteous persons, who might be there! So, we may be sure, he will never be displeased with us, though we “cry to him night and day,” and “wrestle with him, as Jacob did, refusing to let him go until he bless us [Note: Genesis 32:26.].”]

2. Nor can our petitions ever be unseasonable—

[Unseasonable they may often be, if made to man. His occupations may not admit of his attending to them at the time they are offered. But no hour is unsuited for our supplications to God. He is never disinclined to listen to the case which we spread before him, nor ever so occupied as to defer it to a season of greater leisure. We find the Scripture saints “preventing the night watches” in their addresses at the throne of grace [Note: Psalms 119:148.]; and, however sudden the emergency that calls for his attention, he has shewn himself, at all times, equally disposed to fulfil the desires which have been expressed even by a sigh, a look, a thought [Note: Exodus 14:15. Nehemiah 2:4.].]

3. Nor can they ever exceed either his power or willingness to give—

[The friend who was applied to for bread, might have been in the same predicament with him who made the application: or, as was the case, he might, on some account or other, be unwilling to grant the request. But God is never either unable or unwilling to grant all that we can ask. On the contrary, we are assured, that he is “able to do for us exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask, or even think.” The weakest or the vilest of the whole human race should “find mercy and grace to help him in the time of need,” if only he sought it in Jesus’ name: nor should all the glory and felicity of heaven be withheld from one who applied to God in penitence and faith. “However wide he opened his mouth, God would fill it.”]

4. Importunity is the very mean which God himself has prescribed for our obtaining of blessings at his hands—

[He bids us not only to pray, but to “continue instant in prayer;” yea, to “pray without ceasing,” and to “give him no rest” till we have obtained the blessings which we have desired [Note: Isaiah 62:6-7.]. He has spoken a parable, for the express purpose of shewing us, that “we are to pray always, and not faint [Note: Luke 18:1-8.].” Immediately after my text, the encouragement given by our Lord to importunity in prayer is conveyed with such remarkable repetitions, as cannot fail to strike every attentive reader, and to shew how urgent God is with us, to make us urgent in our supplications to him.]

Application—

1. Seek friendship with God—

[A man may expect to prevail with a friend, for things which he could not hope for as a stranger. And what may we not expect to obtain at God’s hands, if once we are reconciled to him in the Son of his love? Having given us his own Son, what will he withhold from us [Note: Romans 8:32.]? If, indeed, we continue enemies to God in our hearts by wicked works, we cannot hope to obtain any blessings at his hands; for we are warned, that “if we regard iniquity in our hearts, the Lord will not hear us:” but, if we come to him in Christ Jesus, with penitential sorrow, “he will never suffer us to seek his face in vain.”]

2. Whatever you ask of God, ask it in faith—

[If you come with doubtful hearts, questioning whether God be able or willing to relieve you, you cannot hope to obtain an answer of peace [Note: James 1:6-7.]. But the prayer of faith shall surely prevail. Whatever be the petition which we offer, provided only it be really good for us, it shall be given us [Note: John 15:13-14; John 16:7.]. True, the cup was not taken from the hands of our blessed Lord, nor was the thorn taken from the flesh of the Apostle Paul, though both the one and the other urged their petitions with repeated earnestness: but our blessed Lord was enabled to drink the cup of bitterness even to the dregs, and the Apostle had his affliction greatly sanctified to the good of his soul: and therefore, though the blessings asked were withheld from each, as to the matter of them, they were more effectually bestowed on each as to their ultimate effect. Thus, only leave to God to judge for you as to the gift that shall be conferred, and you shall be sure never, in any case, to ask in vain.]

3. Never be discouraged on account of any delay you may experience in the answers to your prayers—

[The importunate widow, though often repulsed, prevailed at last: and though God may not answer us so speedily as we could wish, it shall, in fact, be “speedily,” because it shall be at that precise moment when it shall be most for our eternal good. There are many reasons known to God for delaying to answer our prayers; and which, if known to us, would lead us to acquiesce in, and even to desire, the delay. We need to be stirred up to more importunity in prayer, and to be made more deeply sensible of our need of mercy. We need also to be made more thankful to God for his answers to prayer: and all these benefits may arise from delay. But, beyond the proper season, God will not withhold any communication which, in his wisdom, he sees needful for us. His declaration to this effect may be fully depended on: “The vision is for an appointed time; but at the end it shall speak, and shall not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come; it will not tarry [Note: Habakkuk 2:3.].” Only wait for the Lord, and you shall never be disappointed of your hope.]


Verse 9-10

DISCOURSE: 1521

IMPORTUNITY ENCOURAGED

Luke 11:9-10. I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened [Note: This was written at a great distance of time from that which precedes it, and without any consciousness that the text had been treated before. The reader will excuse a little repetition, for the sake of the different ground occupied in the two Discourses. This was, in fact, preached from Luke 11:5-10. But the insertion of it will shew to young ministers how greatly the same subjects may be diversified; to illustrate which, is an object that the Author has much at heart.].

THE prayer which our blessed Lord taught to his Disciples, and which is contained in the verses before my text, is suited to the Church of God in all ages: and it is a very encouraging circumstance, that, in approaching to the throne of grace, we are able to address the Most High in words which he himself has dictated for our use. But doubts are apt to arise in the mind, whether God will hear the prayers of such worthless and sinful creatures as we are: and, to remove such apprehensions, our merciful and gracious Lord has made an appeal to us respecting our own readiness to assist each other, especially in cases of emergency, and when urged by repeated applications. The appeal, as made by him, carries conviction to the mind. But the argument itself must not be pressed too far. We cannot, in all cases, infer from what man would do, that God will do the same: no, in truth; such a mode of arguing as that would lead, and often does actually lead, to the most fatal errors. I will therefore make the necessary distinctions on this subject; and shew,

I. In what cases this argument is valid—

Certainly it is an argument much used in Holy Writ—

[Our blessed Lord states it distinctly in the words following my text: “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? or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 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 [Note: ver. 11–13.]?” To the same effect he speaks in the parable of the unjust judge: “Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, who cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you, that he will avenge them speedily [Note: Luke 18:2-8.].” From these and many other passages it is clear, that the argument, if properly used, is weighty and conclusive.]

But it is an argument much abused by ungodly men—

[Nothing is more common than for ungodly men to state what they themselves would do, and to conclude from thence what they are authorized to believe respecting God. And, in fact, this is the strong-hold of atheism itself: for there is not a perfection of the Deity which is not practically denied upon this very ground. Hear how God himself represents this matter: for he who knows the heart, and can interpret infallibly its most secret motions, thus declares, respecting the atheistical and ungodly world: “Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the House of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? For they say, The Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth [Note: Ezekiel 8:12; Ezekiel 9:9. See also Psalms 10:11 and Job 22:13-14.]” What is here, but a plain denial both of the omnipresence and omniscience of God? His justice also, and his truth, are alike questioned by them upon the same grounds. St. Paul thus states the objections of an unbelieving Jew: “But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God,” i. e. if our ungodliness be the means of displaying the efficacy and excellency of the Gospel, what shall we say? Is God (i. e. is not God) unrighteous, who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man.) God forbid (replies the Apostle): for then, how shall God judge the world? Then the objector, still pressing his argument, adds, “For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory (i. e. if God has overruled my errors for the illustration and confirmation of his own truth), why am I yet judged as a sinner?” that is, if I am the means of honouring him, whether intentionally or not, it would be very unjust in God to deal with me as if I dishonoured him. To all which the Apostle answers, ‘You may as well speak out at once, and say, “Let us do evil, that good may come:” and the only reply that I shall condescend to make to all such impious objectors is, “Their damnation is just [Note: Romans 3:5-8.].” ’ Thus, as the justice of God is arraigned in reference to what he has threatened; so also is his truth, in reference to his execution of his threatenings: “There shall come, in the last days, scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation [Note: 2 Peter 3:4; 2 Peter 3:9.];” construing thus the forbearance of God into an utter dereliction of his declared purpose. The sovereignty of God is that against which they set themselves with peculiar vehemence. That God should exercise mercy according to his own sovereign will and pleasure, and not according to any desert of man, is an idea which they cannot endure. They consider that as a warrant to cast all the blame of their condemnation upon God himself; and will confidently say, “Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?” But St. Paul’s answer to that objection must silence every human being: “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour [Note: Romans 9:18-21.]?” In a word, the whole that God has revealed to us respecting our fall in Adam, our condemnation by the law, our justification by faith alone, and the eternity of future punishment awarded to all who believe not in Jesus Christ; the whole of this, I say, is no better than “foolishness” in the eyes of unconverted men [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:23.]. And the ground of their accounting it foolishness is, that it is a different mode of proceeding from that which they themselves would follow towards one another: for, as they would not punish to all eternity any offence committed against them, so neither ought God to punish sin in that way; and, as they would reward men according to their merits, so ought God to do. In short, they think “God to be altogether such an one as themselves: but God will reprove them, and, with righteous severity, will set before them the things which they have done [Note: Psalms 50:21.]:” for, however just a comparison between God and man may be in some respects, in other respects it can serve no other purpose than to lead us into the most fatal errors.]

Let me, then, mark distinctly, when, and in what cases, this argument is valid—

[There is a broad line of distinction to be drawn, and such a line as will suffice to keep us from any material error on the subject. When the comparison relates only to what is good and gracious, the argument founded on it is not only valid, but may be carried to an extent that would be utterly inadmissible on any other subject under heaven. For instance, we may not only say, if an earthly parent will be kind to his child, how much more will your heavenly Parent be so? But we may put the argument thus: “If a man will shew the smallest kindness imaginable to his beloved child, how much more will God exercise the greatest possible kindness towards a stranger, provided that stranger call upon him in humility and faith?” This is, in fact, the very statement which our Lord himself gives in the verses following my text: for it is worthy of notice, that, in the latter part of the comparison, he drops the relation of a child, and says, “How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit unto them that ask him [Note: A similar statement we have in the Epistle to the Hebrews (9:13, 14.): “If the blood of bulls &c. will do the smallest thing, i. e. will cleanse the body from a mere ceremonial defilement, how much more will the blood of Christ, &c. do the greatest, i. e. cleanse the soul from all manner of moral defilement, and sanctify it wholly unto the Lord?”]?” But, when the comparison supposes or implies any claim on God, then is it not only vain, but impious in the extreme: for man has no claim whatever upon God. The very devils have as much claim upon him as we, unless we come to him in the name of Christ. On our fellow-creatures we have a claim; but on God we have none: and if we presume to say, I would not act so or so towards a fellow-creature; therefore God will not act so or so towards me; we reduce him to a level with ourselves; we bind him by laws to which he is not subject; and we prescribe rules to him which he will never follow. Of our duties to man we may form some judgment: but “we cannot by searching find out God [Note: Job 11:7.];” who dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, or can see [Note: 1 Timothy 6:16.]:” and if we attempt to speak of him, we only “darken counsel by words without knowledge [Note: Job 38:2.].”]

Having shewn in what cases this argument is valid, I proceed to mark,

II. The force of it, as here applied—

Our blessed Lord here institutes a comparison between God and man, as moved by importunity to exercise kindness towards a suppliant friend. Hear,

1. His statement—

[Who amongst us, if a friend came to him, even at midnight, for bread to set before one who had unexpectedly come from a great distance to take up his abode with him, would refuse his request? We might, probably enough, express reluctance at first, on account of the disturbance it would occasion to our family; but, on his urging his request, we should grant it: though the feelings of friendship should not suffice in the first instance to produce an acquiescence in his wish, his importunity would be sure to prevail. The parallel between God and us is here so obvious, that our Lord forbears to state it; because every one will naturally draw it for himself. For instance: will an earthly friend act thus? What then will not our heavenly Friend do, whose love so infinitely transcends all that ever existed in a mortal bosom? And will an earthly friend do this with such inconvenience to himself and family; and shall his reluctance be overcome by dint of importunity? What then will not He do, who, at whatever hour he be applied to, can experience no inconvenience, and who delights in importunity, as the best possible expression of our love to him? Here the argument is clear and strong; and such as must carry conviction to every mind. Hear then,]

2. His conclusion—

[Justly does our blessed Lord found on this statement an exhortation to us, to be in supplication urgent, and in expectation confident. Let us“ask” whatsoever our necessities require: let us “seek” it, too, in every way that we can devise: and, if our heavenly Friend appear inattentive to our suit, let us stand “knocking” at his door, till he come to our aid. Let us take no refusal. Of his sufficiency we can entertain no doubt; nor should we for a moment call in question his willingness to help us. Delays, instead of discouraging us, should only increase the ardour of our suit: for, succeed we must. Our blessed Lord tells us, “Ye shall,” “ye shall,” “ye shall” succeed. “Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Before we yield to any discouragement as to the issue of our supplications, let us find an instance wherein such importunity was ever known to fail. Let us search the annals of the whole world: and if, from the beginning of the world unto this hour, we find not one single exception, yea, and are assured by Him who knoweth all things, that no exception ever did exist; then let us, like Jacob of old, close, as it were, with our heavenly Friend, and wrestle with him all the night; and tell him plainly, that “we will not let him go until he bless us [Note: Genesis 32:24-28.].” If we act thus, we may as well doubt the existence of a God, as doubt the issue of our supplications: “for every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh (however unworthy he may be of the favour asked), it shall be opened.”

Behold, then, the force of the argument as here applied; and know, that where goodness and grace are the points of comparison between God and man, the argument can never be too strongly put, or the inference be too securely drawn.]

Application—

Are there any here present who doubt the efficacy of prayer?

[Such existed in the days of old; even men who said, “What profit should we have, if we pray unto him [Note: Job 21:15.]?” But on what grounds can such a question be asked? If it be from an idea that God is incapable of attending to the concerns of men, then hear his indignant reproof of this atheistical conceit: “They say, the Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Understand, ye brutish among the people; and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He that planteth the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall not he see? He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct? He that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know? The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity [Note: Psalms 94:7-11.];” aye, and ye will find them vanity too, my brethren, if ye persist in such conceits as these.]

Are there any who think they can be saved without prayer?

[Be assured that, however willing God is to bestow his blessings, he will be sought unto before he will impart them: for the condition he has imposed is this; “Ask” and ye shall have. And if ye will not comply with that, then know, that nothing awaits you but “destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:9.]:” for he has irreversibly declared, that “the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God [Note: Psalms 9:17.].” If ye say, “This shall not be;” then will I bring to your remembrance that awful admonition, “God is not a man, that he should lie; nor the son of man, that he should repent. Hath he said, and shall he not do it? hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good [Note: Numbers 23:19.]?” God’s promises, it is true, are free and full: but “he will be inquired of,” in earnest prayer, before he will vouchsafe to you his proffered blessings [Note: Ezekiel 36:37.].]

Lastly, Are there any who are discouraged by the idea that God will not condescend to them?

[Persons too of this description were found in the days of old, who, in a desponding mood, complained, “The Lord hath forsaken me, and my God hath forgotten me.” But what was the answer of God to them? “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget: yet will not I forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee on the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me [Note: Isaiah 49:14-16.].” Here is the very argument that is urged in my text, and with all the force which has been given to it. Let it come home to all your hearts, and make every one of you to “pray, without ceasing [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:17.],” and without a doubt [Note: James 1:6-7.].]


Verse 21-22

DISCOURSE: 1522

THE STRONG MAN ARMED

Luke 11:21-22. 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 armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.

THE miracles wrought by our Lord were too manifest to be denied even by his most inveterate enemies. Some however endeavoured to evade the force of them by ascribing them to a confederacy with Satan. Our Lord shewed them the absurdity of such an idea. The expelling of evil spirits was a confirmation of our Lord’s doctrine; consequently it tended to the destruction of Satan’s kingdom, and the establishment of his own. This Satan could not but be aware of; he would therefore never concur in an act which must terminate in his own ruin. Hence it appeared that the power which Jesus exercised over the evil spirits, was not only without the concurrence of Beelzebub, but in spite of his utmost exertions to withstand it. To illustrate this truth our Lord delivered the parable before us.

Extreme caution should be used in explaining the parables, that we refine not upon them too much, nor give to any part a sense which it was not designed to bear. But some parables were certainly intended to be minutely applied in all their parts [Note: Matthew 13:18-23; Matthew 13:36-40.]. That which is now before us seems to be of that number; we shall therefore open it in a way of familiar exposition.

Satan is fitly compared to a strong man armed—

[The strength and power of Satan are frequently mentioned in the Holy Scriptures. His very names, Apollyon [Note: Revelation 9:11.], the great Dragon [Note: Revelation 12:7.], and the god of this world [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:4.], evidently characterize him as possessed of exceeding great power. As an angel, he excelled in strength [Note: Psalms 103:20.]; nor, though he has lost his original purity, has his native energy been at all impaired. He is rendered more formidable too by “his armour.” Alas! what fiery darts has he in his quiver [Note: Ephesians 6:16.]! With what inconceivable subtlety does he plan his seasons and methods of assault [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:3. Ephesians 6:11.]! Nor can he have so long engaged in this warfare, without having learned much by experience.]

The hearts of unregenerate men are “his palace”—

[He has the most intimate access to the hearts of men: he entered into the heart of Judas, and prompted him to betray his Lord [Note: John 13:27.]. By the same invisible agency he urged Ananias and Sapphira to lie unto the Holy Ghost [Note: Acts 5:3.]. In the same manner he stimulates all his vassals to the commission of sin: he rules within them as a monarch [Note: Ephesians 2:2.], and lords it over them with most despotic sway [Note: 2 Timothy 2:26.]. Every apartment of the palace is occupied by his attendants: the understanding, the will, the affections, the memory, the conscience, are all under his controul. If seven spirits only possess some, Legion is the name of others [Note: Luke 11:26. with 8:30.].]

While he takes up his abode in them, he keeps all in peace—

[One would think that a soul possessed by him should be filled with horror; but he contrives to divert the thoughts of men from all their spiritual concerns: he blinds their minds so that they cannot see their real state: he fills them with a presumptuous confidence that they shall do well at last [Note: Compare 1 Kings 22:22. with Jeremiah 6:14.]. Perhaps he makes them laugh at the idea of Satanic influence. He suggests that God is too merciful to inflict eternal punishment, and that all apprehensions of divine wrath are the effects of superstition or enthusiasm. If at any time they are impressed by the word of God, he catches it away, lest they should believe it and be saved [Note: Luke 8:12.]. Thus he continually deceives his vassals, and lulls them asleep in a most fatal security.]

There is One however, even Jesus, who is stronger than he—

[Satan indeed is a roaring lion: but Jesus is the all-powerful Lion of the tribe of Judah [Note: Revelation 5:5.]. Satan is the serpent that bruised the heel of Jesus: but Jesus is the woman’s seed that effectually bruised his head [Note: Genesis 3:15.]. Jesus vanquished him in repeated combats [Note: Matthew 4:10. John 14:30; John 16:11.], and at last triumphed over him upon the cross [Note: Colossians 2:15.]: yea, and led him captive in his resurrection and ascension [Note: Ephesians 4:8.]: nor does he exercise less power in his people than he then did for them [Note: 1 John 4:4.]. His grace is sufficient to fortify us against the fiercest assaults of Satan [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.]: nor shall the weakness of his people counteract or retard his career of victory [Note: Revelation 6:2.].]

Nor can Satan any longer retain his hold when Jesus comes to eject him—

[Satan strove indeed to the utmost to keep possession of the bodies of men; nor relinquished them at last without the most strenuous efforts to destroy them [Note: Mark 9:20; Mark 9:26.]. Thus will he maintain a conflict with Jesus in their souls. If he be driven from the outworks, he will defend himself in the citadel. Sometimes he may appear for a season to defy Omnipotence itself; but in due season he is invariably overcome. His strong holds, one after another, are demolished [Note: 2 Corinthians 10:5.], and he is constrained to surrender the palace which he can no longer keep.]

Jesus, having driven him from the soul, will turn all its powers against him—

[A sinner, while under Satan’s dominion, has many things which prove serviceable to that wicked fiend: his wisdom, riches, influence, are all pressed into the service of the devil; all are used to strengthen his power, and to undermine the authority of Christ. But when Jesus has gained possession of a soul, he instantly secures all its powers, and turns the artillery of Satan against himself: whatever wealth or influence the man possessed, is now made subservient to the Redeemer’s interests: the gold of Egypt is formed into vessels for the sanctuary of the Lord; and every talent is improved in promoting and establishing his kingdom [Note: 2 Corinthians 10:5-6.]. Thus does Jesus drive Satan from his fortress [Note: 1 John 5:18.], and enable the once captive soul to trample on him as a vanquished enemy [Note: Romans 16:20.].]

From the parable thus explained we may learn—

1. What true conversion is—

[Conversion does not consist merely in a change of sentiment: it supposes that our false peace has been broken, and that Satan has been made to yield to the victorious grace of Jesus. Jesus himself too is now become the sole monarch of our hearts, and we are cordially serving him with all our power. Let us try ourselves by this touchstone: let us see whether we be indeed new creatures: nor let us rest till we be turned from the power of Satan unto God [Note: Acts 26:18.].]

2. Whence it is that any are converted—

[Men are in themselves the willing slaves of Satan: so far from desiring deliverance from him, they fight against their deliverer. Most assuredly therefore they are not the authors of their own conversion. It is Jesus alone who chooses the objects of his favour: it is he alone who begins and carries on the good work within them [Note: Zechariah 4:9. Hebrews 12:2.]. To him therefore must every redeemed soul ascribe the glory [Note: Zechariah 4:7.]. None can boast as if they had effected any thing by their own power [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:7.]: nor need any despair as though their bonds could never be broken. To every one, who wishes to be made free, there is abundant encouragement in the Scriptures [Note: Isaiah 49:24-25.]. May our eyes be so directed to Jesus that his power may be magnified in our deliverance [Note: Isaiah 45:22.]!]

3. What is the duty of those who are converted—

[As Satan never leaves a soul without reluctance, so does he ever watch for an opportunity to return to it: nor will he fail of accomplishing his purpose, if our hearts be not guarded by the Lord Jesus. Let none then be satisfied with purging out only some grosser sins [Note: 2 Peter 1:9.]. In vain will the house be swept and garnished, if it be not occupied by the Divine inhabitant. Satan will return with seven devils worse than himself; and the last state of such men will be worse than the first [Note: ver. 25, 26.]. Let all then be on their guard, and commit the keeping of their souls to Jesus [Note: 1 Peter 4:19.]. Then shall all the attempts of their enemy be baffled. He who never slumbers will surely preserve them [Note: Psalms 121:4-7.], and they shall be made the habitation of God to all eternity [Note: Ephesians 2:22.]. What we say therefore to one, we say unto all, Watch [Note: Mark 13:37.]]


Verse 27-28

DISCOURSE: 1523

THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE TRUE CHRISTIAN

Luke 11:27-28. 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. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

THE words of our Lord, though made the continual subject of cavil and dispute amongst his obstinate opposers, carried conviction to the hearts of all who candidly considered them: nor was the gentleness of his manners less impressive than the wisdom of his discourses. He had been just exposing the folly of imputing his miracles to a confederacy with Beelzebub: and to such a degree had his discourse wrought upon one of his audience, that she exclaimed out of the midst of the multitude, “Blessed is the womb that bare thee,” &c. This was the most natural language for a woman to use in expressing her admiration of him: and it furnished him with an occasion to declare before all, who, and who only, could with propriety be accounted blessed.

In his answer he sets before us,

I. The character of the true Christian—

Numberless are the ways in which this is drawn in the Holy Scriptures. But there is a peculiar simplicity in the description before us, at the same time that it very sufficiently distinguishes the Christian from all others.

1. “He hears the word of God”—

[Every true Christian considers the preaching of the Gospel as God’s instituted means of converting and edifying the souls of men. Instead therefore of making frivolous excuses for staying at home, he will suffer many inconveniences rather than absent himself from public worship. And when he is there, he will “receive the word, not as the word of man, but, as it is in truth, the word of God.” He will listen to it as the word of God to his own soul in particular, and will apply to himself the truths which the minister, as God’s ambassador, shall set before him.

In this he differs widely from all other persons: for though others may be regular in their attendance on divine ordinances, they do not hear the word of God with that reverence, that self-application, that submission, which become sinners in the presence of their God.]

2. He “keeps it” —

[The godly keep it in their hearts us a ground of hope. They do not come to the word of God, determining to receive nothing but what accords with their own pre-conceived notions; but they desire to know what method God has prescribed for the reconciling of sinners to himself: and when they find that he has sent his only dear Son to die for them, they do not say, How can this be? but they acquiesce thankfully in the divine appointment, and trust in Christ as their only Saviour [Note: They see his suitableness, and sufficiency, and excellency, and say as Paul, 1 Corinthians 2:2. Galatians 6:14.] — — —

They keep it also in their lives, as a rule of conduct. They will no longer regulate themselves according to the maxims of the world, but will inquire, What does my God require of me? What is the way in which he has directed me to walk? Having ascertained these points, he does not turn back because the world calls him precise, or because his own corruptions render his progress difficult; but he holds on in his course with firmness and uniformity. He finds many who endeavour to turn him out of the way; but he keeps the word of God, as “a light,” that points out his path in general, and as “a lantern,” that is to direct every step he takes — — —

It is scarcely needful to observe, that this part of the character is peculiar to the Christian; for there is no other person that can at all be compared with him in these respects.]

Together with the character of a Christian our Lord proclaims also,

II. His blessedness—

We are not to take a general view of this subject, but to consider it in that particular light, in which it is represented in the text.

The Virgin Mary, beyond a doubt, was the most highly favoured of women, in that she was honoured with bringing into the world her incarnate God. So the angel told her; and so she expected that all future ages would consider her [Note: Luke 1:28; Luke 1:48.]. But the true Christian, whoever he be, is incomparably more blessed than she [Note: The Virgin, as a believer in Jesus, was doubtless a partaker of all the privileges that we enjoy through him: but, simply as his mother, she possessed none of them: and all our assertions respecting her must be understood with this limitation.].

1. He has a closer union with Christ than ever she had—

[The union which the Virgin had with Christ was that of a mother with her child. He was bone of her bone, and flesh of her flesh [Note: Genesis 2:23.]. Yet this, close as it was, cannot be compared with that which subsists between Christ and his believing people: for “he is formed in their souls [Note: Galatians 4:19.];” “he dwells in their hearts by faith [Note: Ephesians 3:17.]:” he in them is the hope of glory [Note: Colossians 1:27.]:” and so inseparable is this privilege from the Christian character, that, “if he dwell not in us, we are reprobates [Note: 2 Corinthians 13:5.].” She was one flesh with him: but believers are one spirit with him [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:17.]. Her union was like that which universally obtains between parents and children; but that which believers enjoy, resembles rather that which subsists between Christ and his heavenly Father [Note: John 17:20-23.].]

2. He has a more intimate communion with him—

[Doubtless, till he attained to the age of thirty, she must have enjoyed many sweet seasons of communion with him under her own roof: and during the four years of his ministry, she must have had familiar access to him on many occasions. But, after all, this was no other fellowship than what every parent, and every friend, enjoys. She beheld him only as a man; we behold him as God. she saw him merely as a prophet; we see him in the whole of his mediatorial character, as the King, Priest, and Prophet, of the universal Church. She heard only partial instructions, on particular occasions, with the outward ear: but we have access to him at all times, to hear the whole of his revealed will, and to receive instruction in our inmost souls.

How far preferable this is to his bodily presence our Lord himself informs us [Note: John 16:7.]: and consequently our state is far more blessed than even that of his own mother.]

3. He has richer communications from him—

[She, as his mother, received nothing from him in this world [Note: Matthew 12:46-50.]; nor does she receive any thing in heaven on account of this relation to him [Note: Matthew 22:30.]. But every believer, as a believer, is blessed in him with all spiritual and eternal blessings [Note: Ephesians 1:3.]. Unspeakable are the benefits he imparts to all his people. Whatever grace they possess, they have received it all out of his fulness [Note: John 1:16.]. In heaven also their relation to him shall be acknowledged, and suitable honours be conferred upon them. A throne [Note: Revelation 3:21.], a crown [Note: 2 Timothy 4:8.], a kingdom [Note: Luke 22:29.], are the inheritance that he has reserved for them, and will finally bestow upon them.

Let these things be considered, and, however blessed we may conceive the Virgin to have been on account of her relation to him, we shall see that incomparably greater blessedness is ours, provided we hear the word of God, and keep it.]

Address—

1. Those who do not statedly hear the word of God—

[Upon what principle can you conceive that any blessedness belongs to you, when you prefer your ease, your business, your pleasure, to an attendance on God’s ordinances? Can it be imagined that God is unconcerned about the honour of his word, and that he will not notice the contempt poured upon it? Has he not repeatedly declared the very reverse [Note: Deuteronomy 18:19. Matthew 10:14-15. Luke 10:16. 1 Thessalonians 4:8. Hebrews 2:1-3.]? Whatever excuses then you may make, remember that you have not even the semblance of Christianity, so long as you remain indifferent to the public ministration of the word, and neglectful of it in your secret retirements.]

2. Those who hear the word, but without keeping it—

[There are many who are regular in their attendance on divine worship, but never regard one word they hear. They are taught to come to Christ as their righteousness and strength [Note: Isaiah 45:24.]; but they still cherish self-righteousness and self-dependence. They are instructed to die unto the world, and to live unto God [Note: 1 Peter 2:24. 2 Corinthians 5:15.]; but they still continue alive to the world, and dead to God. But what will their hearing profit them, if they will not keep the word they hear? To what purpose do they cry, Lord! Lord! if they will not do his will [Note: Luke 6:46.]? Let such then know that they deceive themselves [Note: James 1:22.]; and that they must both embrace in their hearts, and exemplify in their lives, the word of God, if ever they would be blessed in their deeds [Note: James 1:23-25.].]

3. Those who both hear and keep it—

[Whatever the world may say of these persons, they are, and shall be, blessed. The Lord Jesus Christ pronounces them so, and will himself impart the blessedness that he has reserved for them. Go on then, holding forth, and holding fast, the word of life [Note: Philippians 2:16.]. You will find numberless temptations to forsake the good way; but keep it steadfastly unto the end. You may meet with trials for your adherence to the word; but your consolations shall be sure to abound above all your tribulations [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:5.]; and strength shall be given you according to your day [Note: Deuteronomy 33:25.]. Even in this world you shall have no reason to repent of your steadfastness; and in the world to come your blessedness shall be complete.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Luke 11:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/luke-11.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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