Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,Luke 8:2-3
This passage, one of Luke's special contributions to the gospel narrative, describes the double circle of Christ's followers.
(a) And with Him, the twelve, i.e. those specially called to high enterprise and service. This represents the circle of people in the Church who are conscious of a definite vocation and moved by the Spirit of Christ to serve the Church with consecrated lives.
(b) But alongside of these are certain women which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, e.g. Mary Magdalene, etc. The dominating motion of their discipleship is gratitude for personal benefits. Theirs is not the vocation of the twelve, but they have their own place and work. The memory of their deliverance moves them to support by their gifts the disciples who form Christ's inner circle (cp. Galatians 6:6). This represents the subordinate role of many in the Church, who rank among the followers of Christ, and who, though they cannot take part personally in the great Christian mission, can make the task of the active servants easier by their liberality and sympathy.
References.—VIII. 3.—J. Baines, Sermons, p. 214. Expositor (5th Series), vol. ix. pp. 118, 121. VIII 4-8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi. No. 308. VIII. 4-16.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 229.
I. We have here, first of all, the Christian work described. It is sowing. But sowing is not the first agricultural process. The soil in its natural state will not receive the good seed and bring forth fruit. There are the primaeval forests to be cleared, there is the tangled undergrowth of thorns and briers to be removed. And then the ploughman must come with his share and break up the soil before ever there can be any harvest from the seed. 'A sower went out to sow his seed.' Not a pioneer with his axe, not a ploughman with his share, but a sower with his seed-basket scattering his seed. And why? Because this is pre-eminently the work of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. There was pioneer work to be done; that was done by the iron ploughshare of the law; that came first. And then, again, it is not merely that the Gospel work is this gentle work of the sower, but the sower gives to the earth that which it had not before; he gives life, he gives that which has life in itself, and which can produce life, by which the mineral can be raised up into the vegetable. The seed, as it were, the Godhead coming down into this dead earth and raising it up into beauteous life. Now this the function of the sower is our function.
II. Notice the loneliness of this sower. A sower. Contrast the loneliness of the sower with the sociability of the reaper. The reapers go forth in bands, the sower goes forth alone. The great Sower was always a lonely Man. All the great sowers of the world have been lonely men.
III. The sphere of the sower. 'A sower went out to sow his seed.' And you must go out And this implies self-denial, it means leaving many comforts, many luxuries, it means going out into the darkness. There can be no real reaping until, first of all, there has been the sorrowful sowing.
IV. The seed must be your own seed. His seed. Not, of course, that he made it. He cannot make it; the seed is something which is far beyond his power. But it must be his seed, he must have toiled for it, it must be the fruit of his last year of labour; it is part of his brain, part of his hands' toil. And so it must be with ourselves. The seed must be ours. Have we this seed? Do we know something of this life-giving power of Jesus Christ? It is only thus that we can scatter the seed. God is calling out for sowers. We are told that when Captain Cook circumnavigated the world, he used to take with him parcels of our English seeds, and leaving his boat's crew down on the beach, he would go inland and empty out one of these packets of our common English seeds, so that he belted the whole world with these same flowers. So we have come into this world, and we want to scatter those seeds of heaven wherever we go.
—E. A. Stuart, Elisha's Call and other Sermons, vol. viii. p. 193.
Subject: All Men are Sowers.
The meaning of the text has been explained by Jesus Himself. The sower is the Son of Man, the seed is the Word of God, which is sown in different people with varying results. We may take the text, however, in another way. We are all sowers. As soon as we know right from wrong, we begin to go out and sow our seed. The child in the nursery, the child at school, the youth entering on life, the busy man or woman, all are sowers, sowing the seed of habit, of character:—
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.
II. Cultivating our Life Garden.—First, there is the weeding. The fairest garden will be ruined if the weeds are not kept under, the noblest life will be spoilt if sins and bad habits are allowed to get the mastery. How to get rid of the weeds. Take two hands to them, and pull them up. That is, clasp your hands in prayer and struggle with the evil, crying out to God to help you. Get the weeds up by the roots.
III. The Seed and the Sowers.—We are all sowers, but we do not sow the same seed.
1. Some sow the seed of frivolity or idle pleasure. To these life has no responsibilities, no serious purpose, the world is a playground, and like the Roman Emperor, they would give anything for a new form of amusement. Their motto is—Gather ye roses while ye may. But the time of harvest comes. To all sowers comes the time of ingathering, and whatsoever we sow, that shall we reap. If we sow only the seed of life's roses, if pleasure be our only aim, the harvest is a sorry one.
2. There are those who sow the seeds of selfish greed. The world is a mere gold mine, where they toil, shut out of the light of God's countenance. If, like the fabled king of old, they have turned all things golden by their touch, they find they have no pleasure in them. They know that they must leave their riches to others, and strangers shall spend the selfish gathering of their lives. Like the French Cardinal, they may walk among their treasures, and weep over the thought of leaving them, but they must leave them all the same. However rich they may be, they die as paupers, for in the land whither they go, worldly money is not current.
3. Some there are who sow the seed of extravagance and dissipation.
4. Men sow the seed of selfishness, and they reap as a harvest a lonely old age, without love or companionship.
If we would have a fair garden, we must sow good seed. If we would have a beautiful life, we must cultivate it for God.
—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Notes of Sermons for the Year, p. 121.
References.—VIII. 5.—F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. i. p. 203. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlix. No. 2843. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. i. p. 123. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 207. VIII. 6-8.—R. Winterbotham, The Kingdom of Heaven, p. 14. VIII. 6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlix. No. 2845. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 454; ibid. vol. vii. p. 390. VIII. 7—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 44. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. i. p. 168. VIII. 9.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. i. p. 236.
The Word As Seed
The similitude is so apt, that it seems to come of itself, and to be so familiar to us that we fancy it must always have been obvious to men. One is surprised to be told that it is not found in the Old Testament. Even in our classic literature parallels that are like it are few, and not very close. In fact, it is our Lord's own, and bears the stamp of His original mind upon it—that truth operates in the sphere of our spiritual life as seeds do in nature, carrying a germinating or fructifying power wherever it meets suitable soil and favourable environment, so that we disseminate the Divine truth among men——like sowing seed broadcast, to grow where it can, trusting to the native vitality that is in it.
I. My first point is that it is the truth of God by which we have to seek for the ultimate power of the new life. Of course, reason forbids us to divorce this truth from the Son of Man. Truth is sought apart from Him who is the Truth. Scripture bids us recognise the Holy Spirit at work vivifying the soul. Truth finds its adequate soil in human nature, and draws its fertilising and transforming energy from the presence within it of God Himself.
II. My next point is that the truth of the Gospel reaches us through the Word of God. I have employed the word 'truth 'in preference to the expression 'the word,' because the latter is wider and governs something else besides. It governs the truth, but it also governs the expression and form and medium of the truth. The 'word 'is thought uttered in language. It is the sign that conveys the idea. It is both in one, and not the one without the other. It seems to me of some consequence that we should rightly comprehend the relation between the Gospel truth and its language or verbal form of utterance. Notice this, language of some sort is essential, and for the truth of God to reach the spirit of man it must clothe itself in something, either in the visible language of symbol, or in the clearer spoken and written word language. Unless it come to us in such a form we could not receive and understand it, or convey it to our fellows, or sow it abroad among men. Through words the truth must come; words acted, spoken, written, and printed. Through that marvellous medium, human speech, God Himself must speak His thought to me. And He has spoken.
—J. Oswald Dykes, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxi. p. 308.
The Parable of the Sower (For Sexagesimal)
Perhaps the Parable of the Sower is the easiest of all our Lord's parables; and happily it is also the pattern of all, the one by which the rest are best explained (see Mark iv. 13). All our Lord's teaching is most truly practical, and it is only when we begin to try to live according to its spirit that its full meaning becomes clear; and even before putting it into practice our best chance of understanding it is to compare it, step by step, with what we already know of ourselves and our own hearts and our own lives.
I. Who is this 'Sower?' None of the Evangelists tell us precisely. Christ Himself says that the seed is the Word of God: and the Sower is often said to represent those whose duty it is to preach, the Ministers of God's word. This is no doubt a lawful application of the figure, but assuredly it is not its first meaning. We may borrow the explanation from the next Parable, 'The Tares'. There we are plainly told that 'He that soweth the seed is the Son of Man'. He, without doubt, is the Sower here. The Parable is about Christ Himself, not merely about what He did or said as a Sower in the days of His flesh, but about His 'sowings 'from the beginning of the world till His Incarnation; His 'sowings 'from then till His Ascension; and from then till now, the sowings He is daily making among ourselves.
II. But how does He sow His seed? Assuredly not by the lips alone; or how little by comparison would be included in the heavenly sowing. We are influenced by much which is never actually spoken. The ground cannot be the ear. That is a mere passage to our hearts and minds. It is there within that the Divine Sower, sowing good seed, and the enemy, sowing tares, are both at work; in the heart. He who sows the good seed is the same that made the ear and the heart, too. Whatever becomes of the seed, He, the Sower, is always the same, and He has a hand in every part of the process. He made us to be His tillage, to be under His constant care. The Heavenly Sower's work is everywhere and at all times.
III. 'He that soweth the seed is the Son of Man.' The (Incarnate) Son of God is known to us as 'The Son of Man'. Thus He speaks to us in the still small voice of our own nature. He can speak straight to the heart, without anything coming between. The difference between good and evil men (and God has spoken to both) lies in how they hear, whether they take heed, and act on what they have heard. It is the same good seed which is sown, whether it grows or perishes.
IV. The different soils require little explaining, if we have any knowledge of ourselves. Have we not often felt and known that seeds from God have fallen on (a) the outside of careless hearts: that we have let them lie there uncared for, till in a week, a day, an hour, we have looked for them, and lo! they were gone? They had no hold on us, and were carried away without our making any resistance or effort to keep them.
(b) Again, we have received other seed easily, perhaps gladly. We have not been hard, we have even been soft-hearted, emotional, enthusiastic; yet, withal with no steady resolve, no resolute conflict with evil thoughts, no quiet endurance; beneath the soft surface there was a rock of hard selfishness, and so the seed grew with a feverish growth, but lacking depth of soil, and moisture, it soon withered away.
(c) Or, again, the plant of God's sowing may be most surely choked and killed; and it will, if we do not see that the space round each seed is free. We all have our cares; we cannot change our place, but we can see that the seed is allowed free growth.
However men may be divided, each of us has all the soils in his heart, and he has the sower always with him. God's ministers may preach, His Bible may teach, but it is within that the true Word of Words is sounding. Though the corn may have failed, He will sow other; He neither faints nor is weary. Whatever resists is not from Him, but from the enemy. When we learn not to harden our hearts against the blessed influences of His Holy Spirit, then all barrenness and failure will cease.
—F. J. A. Hort, Village Sermons.
Speaking of the Norfolk peasantry and their vein of coarseness, Dr. Jessopp, in The Trials of a Country Parson, concludes that it is idle to remonstrate. 'You might as well preach of duty to an antelope If you want to make any impression or exercise any influence for good upon your neighbours, you must take them as you find them, and not expect too much of them. You must work in faith, and you must work upon the material that presents itself. "The sower soweth the word." The mistake we commit so often is in assuming that because we sow—which is our duty—therefore we have a right to reap the crop and garner it. 'It grows to guerdon afterdays.'
References.—VIII. 11.—F. B. Cowl, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xvii. p. 190. F. St. John Corbett, The Preacher's Year, p. 44. C. E. Beeby, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. p. 331. F. E. Paget, Helps and Hindrances to the Christian Life, vol. i. p. 82. VIII. 11-15.—R. Winterbotham, The Kingdom of Heaven, p. 14. VIII. 12.—S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year (2nd Series), vol. i. p. 121. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv. No. 1459.
Seed Among Thorns
The three different instances of failure in this parable represent to us:—I. The seed carried off at the very beginning, before it has sunk into the ground and before it has had time to germinate. The picture of my text is that of a man who in a real fashion has accepted the Gospel, but who has accepted it so superficially as that it has not exercised upon him the effect that it ought to produce, of expelling from him the tendencies which may become hindrances to his Christian life. If we have known nothing of 'the expulsive power of a new affection,' and if we thought it was enough to cut down the thickest and tallest thorn-bushes, and to leave all the seeds and the roots of them in our hearts, no wonder if, as we get along in life, they grow up and choke the Word. 'Ye cannot serve God and Mammon,' that is just putting into a sentence the lesson of my text.
II. Note the growth of the thorns. Luke employs a very significant phrase. He says: 'When they have heard, they go forth and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life'. That is to say, the path of daily life upon which we all have to walk will certainly stimulate the growth of the thorns if these are not rooted out. As surely as we are living, and have to go out into the world day by day, so surely will the thorns grow if they are left in us. Let us make certain that we have cast out the thorns. There is an old German proverb, the vulgarity of which may be excused for its point. 'You must not sit near the fire if your head is made of butter.' We should not try to walk through this wicked world without making very certain that we have stubbed the thorns out of our hearts.
III. Lastly, mark the choking of the growth. Of course it is rapid, according to the old saying, 'Ill weeds grow apace'. You cannot grow two crops on one field. It must be one thing or another, and we must make up our minds whether we are going to cultivate corn or thorn. Our text tells us that this man, represented by the seed among thorns, was a Christian, did and does bear fruit, but, as Luke says, 'brings no fruit to perfection'. Is not that a picture of so many Christian people? They are Christian men and Christian women bringing forth many of the fruits of the Christian life, but the climax is somehow or other always absent. The pyramid goes up many stages, but there is never the gilded summit flashing in the light, 'No fruit to perfection'.
—A. Maclaren, The Baptist Times and Freeman, vol. li. p. 155.
References.—VIII. 14.—W. H. Evans, Sermons for the Church's Year, p. 66. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. i. p. 168. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 208. Ibid. (5th Series), vol. ix. p. 448. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 236.
Patience with Slow Growth
This is part of our Lord's description of the growth of Divine life in the human soul and in the world. If it were not for this allusion to patience with slow growth, we might have imagined that after once receiving the germ of new life in our hearts, we need not expect anything more than the easy, natural, and swift development of it. But here we are reminded that, as a matter of fact, we need patience in regard to it: and this is the point towards which we shall direct our attention.
I. Let us first consider the need there is for the patience referred to in the text. Patience is not indifference; it is not self-contentment, it is not religious indolence—it is self-control in presence of disappointment, suffering, temptation, and seeming failure. It is the capacity to hold ourselves in calmness when our adversary is scorning us: it is the steady resolve which attempts new effort, and hopes for better things even when all seems to be against us for evil. There are few things more likely to bring about failure, whether in the spiritual life or in any other kind of life, than the expectation of failure. We may be helped to resist the temptation to inpatience by the reflection that as a rule what is slowest in reaching its end is highest in nature, grandest in result. You might almost measure the value of an effect produced by the length of time taken to produce it. As the loftiest moral nature is higher than the loftiest mental gift, so its attainment is slower.
II. Let us turn our thoughts to the occasions for patience. (1) Our first application of it shall be to the development of our own Christian character, which is likened to seed, springing upward and rooting downward, appearing first as the blade, then as the ear and afterwards as the full corn in the ear—bringing forth fruit with patience. I can imagine that some get to be disheartened because they do not now seem to make the progress that they did at the beginning. In the first realisation they had of Christ's love and ownership, they abandoned certain practices and changed very considerably their mode of life, but now there is not much alteration from year to year. They should remember that then they had to deal with what was lower, and therefore more swiftly attained; whereas now they are concerned with what is higher, and in it they ought not to be discouraged if only the heart is right and the aim is straight and the love to God is true, for already a process is set up which in God's good time shall conform them to the image of Christ. (2) Apply this to our work for the Master. We are working, remember, in the higher sphere where results are more slowly reached, and are less easily tabulated! (3) I would venture to apply this thought still more broadly. It may give us cheer when we are downcast about Christ's work in general. Christ is patient with the world, and would have us patient too; ploughing, sowing, working, praying, believing that a harvest will come at last, and that we shall see issues by-and-bye which we never saw or even expected here.
—A. Rowland, Open Windows and other Sermons, p. 144.
References.—VIII. 15.—H. Alford, Sermons on Christian Doctrine, p. 150. F. B. Woodward, Sermons (2nd Series), p. 158. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 287. VIII. 16.—Ibid., p. 459.
Compare Lord Bacon's phrase, in The Advancement of Learning, about 'the inseparable propriety of time, which is evermore to disclose truth'.
Reference.—VIII. 17.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 381.
The Transiency of the Unreal
These words are the climax of Christ's discriminating study of those who listened to His Gospel. He has been explaining to His disciples the parable of the seed and the soil, and has told of the different classes to whom His Evangel comes and who receive it with such diverse result. In view of the dark possibility there is of men hearing and receiving His Word in such wise as to bring forth no abiding fruit in holiness of life and character, He warns them to take heed how they hear, and expresses in these sentences the inevitable end of a mere profession which is not verified in actual possession and present experience. There is a law which governs the permanence of all things in the realm of the moral and spiritual just as on lower planes. The real alone is abiding, the unreal is only transient And this is the lesson which the Saviour enforces when He declares that that which a man only seems to have shall inevitably be taken away from him.
I. He is not here declaiming against mere hypocrisy, but is rather warning those who are in danger of self-deception. The hypocrite is one who endeavours to deceive others, but there are many who, though they are far from having such a desire, are nevertheless being themselves deceived as to the reality of the things which they imagine themselves to possess. Reality is one of the keynotes of the Gospel, nor is it too much to say that Christ sets greater store on reality in His followers than on any other possible attitude of heart. For reality conditions all things else, and He is ever seeking for the man who honestly 'willeth to do His will'. Such an one cannot but abide for ever.
Whatever be the cause of self-deception, it is certain that a man's seeming possessions will be taken away from him. This law operates with regard to things material and spiritual alike, and it is only a matter of time and experience for a man to stand before his own conscience, naked and miserable, and blind and poor.
1. For life is made up of occasions of test, first among which are the tests of duty by which a man is tried. He imagines himself to be strong to do the right, but his strength is in reality only a sense which has grown within him by reason of the lack of test Swiftly and suddenly the imperative voice of duty demands the application of the principles of Christ of which he has always thought himself to be master, on some level of life, to some phase of conduct, or regarding some attitude toward men and things, and he suddenly discovers that he is unable to obey the dictates of God and of conscience. The things which he seemed to have are suddenly taken from him. Blessed is the man who in that hour of self-discovery betakes him to the place of forgiveness and renewal, there to exchange that which has profited not for the true and abiding riches.
2. Again, a time of crisis or of special need testa the reality of our spiritual possessions.
3. And then, again, it is certain that a man's seeming possessions will be taken from him when face to face with death. And if this be true of the portal, what can be said of that which follows in the Presence-chamber—the Judgment? Reality alone will endure the trial of the revealing fire, and all the wood, hay, and stubble which has been painted to represent 'gold, silver, and precious stones' will be consumed. In the face of these things how important it is therefore that we assure ourselves as to the reality of our hold upon and by the things of abiding worth!
—J. Stuart Holden, The Pre-Eminent Lord, p. 51.
Seeming to Have
You will observe that when our Lord speaks of the man who seems to have, He is not referring to the hypocrite. The hypocrite deceives others, not himself. But this is a case of genuine self-deception. The man is not practising trickery on anybody. There are things that a man may imagine that he has, and Jesus says he only seems to have them.
I. There is probably no one of us, in pew or pulpit, but is giving himself credit for what he does not possess. Can we detect the causes of this delusion?
(1) The first and the most innocent of all is inexperience. In all inexperience there is a seeming to have, which the rough and pushing world helps to dispel.
(2) Again, this strange deception is intimately connected with self-love. We seem to have much that we do not really have, simply because we love ourselves so well. In all love, even the very purest, there is a subtle and most exquisite flattery. (3) Often, again, we imagine we possess, because of the pressure of the general life around us. There is always the danger of mistaking for our own the support we get from the society we move in. And it is only when that external pressure is removed that we discover how we only seemed to have. Sooner or later, as our life advances, we shall have our eyes opened to these fond delusions.
II. What are God's commoner methods for making clear to us what we only seem to have. (1) One of the commonest of them all is action. We learn what we possess by what we do. There are powers within each of us waiting to be developed; there are dreams within each of us waiting to be dispelled, and it is by going forward in the strength of God that we learn our limitation and our gift. (2) This, too, is one great gain of life's variety. It shows us what is really our own. We are tested on every side as life proceeds, and every mood and change and tear is needed, if we are to be wakened to what we seem to have. (3) And if life fails, remember death is left. There will be no delusions concerning our possessions when our eyes open on that eternal dawn.
III. The words might apply even to those we love. Is it not true, in the realm of the affections, that sometimes we have and sometimes we seem to have. We are thrown into close relationship with others; we are bound to them with this tie and with that. We call them friends; we think we love them, perhaps. Is it real, or is it only seeming? Nothing can tell that but the strum of life, and the testing of friendship through its lights and shadows. Nothing can tell that finally but death.
—G. H. Morrison, Sun-Rise: Addresses from a City Pulpit, p. 114.
In his sermon entitled 'Take heed how ye hear,' J. M. Neale has the following passage:—'Did it ever strike you that how ye hear and what ye hear depends to a certain extent on yourselves? You knew, for example, all of you, when you first got up this morning that I was going to preach to you this evening. Did any one of you, either then or at any time today, ask God that what I said might be blessed to you? I might say what Joseph said to Pharaoh: "It is not in me; God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace". See how St. Paul asks those to whom he was writing to pray for him. "For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through—through what—through your prayers". We can do or say nothing of ourselves, however hard we try, whereas, if God helps us—what then?
—Sermons in Sackville College Chapel, vol. i. p. 92.
References.—VIII. 18.—Phillips Brooks, The Law of Growth, p. 1. T. F. Crosse, Sermons, p. 188. H. C. Beeching, Seven Sermons to Schoolboys, p. 73. T. Barker, Plain Sermons, p. 109. J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons, p. 282. J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii. p. 245.
St. Jerome sent to his friend Heliodorus a tender and eloquent letter, pleading for his return to the desert from Aquileia, where the young officer had adopted the family of his widowed sister. 'Ah!' wrote Jerome, 'I am not insensible to the ties by which you will plead that you are held back. My breast, too, is not of iron, nor my heart of stone; I was not begotten of the rocks of Caucasus; the milk I sucked was not that of Hyrcanian tigresses. I also have gone through similar trials. I picture to myself your widowed sister hanging about your neck, and trying to detain you with caresses; and your old nurse, and the tutor who had all a father's anxieties over you, telling you they have not long to live, and begging you not to leave them till they die; and your mother, with wrinkled face and withered bosom, complaining of your desertion. The love of God, and the fear of hell, easily break through such bonds as these!
'You will say the Holy Spirit bids us obey our parents. Yes; but He teaches also that he who loves them more than Christ, loses his own soul.... "My mother and my brethren," He says, "are they who do the will of my Father which is in heaven." If they believe in Christ, let them encourage you to go forth and fight in His name; if they do not believe—"let the dead bury their dead".... O desert, blooming with the flowers of Christ. O wilderness, where are shaped the stones of which the city of the great King is built! O solitude, where men converse familiarly with God! What are you doing among the worldly, O Heliodorus, you who are greater than all the world? How long shall the cover of roofs weigh you down; how long shall the prison of the smoking city confine you?
'Do you fear poverty? But Christ calls the poor blessed. Are you frightened at the prospect of labour? But no athlete is crowned without sweat. Are you thinking about daily food? But faith fears not hunger. Do you dread to lay your fasting body on the bare ground? But Christ lies beside you. Do the tangled locks of a neglected toilet shock you? But your head is Christ. Your skin will grow rough and discoloured without the accustomed bath, but he who is once washed by Christ needs not to wash again. And, in fine, listen to the Apostle, who answers all your objections, 'The sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared with the coming glory which shall be revealed in us'. You are too luxurious, my brother, if you wish both to enjoy yourself here with the world and afterwards to reign with Christ. Does the infinite vastness of the wilderness terrify you? Walk in spirit through the land of Paradise, and while your thoughts are there, you will not be in the desert.'
—E. L. Cutts, Saint Jerome, p. 41.
References.—VIII. 21.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 288. VIII. 22.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. vii. p. 377. VIII. 22-25.—J. P. Lange, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xviii. p. 370. VIII. 25—H. Allen, Penny Pulpit, No. 1596, p. 163. VIII. 26-40.—C. Perren, Outline Sermons, p. 270. VIII. 28.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii. No. 778. VIII. 35.—F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. v. p. 145. J. S. Maver, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. p. 252. Expository Sermons on the New Testament, p. 80. VIII. 36.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. pp. 213, 216.
Religious Use of Excited Feelings
In his sermon on 'The Religious Use of Excited Feelings,' based on this text, J. H. Newman says:—'Let not these visitings pass away "as the morning cloud of early dew". Surely you must still have occasional compunctions of conscience for your neglect of Him. Your sin stares you in the face; your ingratitude to God affects you. Follow on to know the Lord, and to secure His favour by acting upon these impulses; by them He pleads with you, as well as by your conscience; they are the instruments of His spirit, stirring you up to seek your true peace. Nor be surprised, though you obey them, that they die away; they have done their office, and if they die, it is but as blossom changes into the fruit, which is far better. They must die. Perhaps you will need to labour in darkness afterwards, out of your Saviour's sight, in the home of your own thoughts, surrounded by sights of this world, and showing forth His praise among those who are cold-hearted. Still be quite sure that resolute, consistent obedience, though unattended with high transport and warm emotion, is far more acceptable to Him than all those passionate longings to live in His sight, which look more like religion to the uninstructed. At the very best these latter are but the graceful beginnings of obedience, graceful and becoming in children, but in grown spiritual men indecorous, as the sports of boyhood would seem in advanced years. Learn to live by faith, which is a calm, deliberate, rational principle, full of peace and comfort, and sees Christ, and rejoices in Him, though sent away from His presence to labour in the world. You will have your reward. He will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.'
Waiting for Christ
Why did they not go on? There were plenty of them, a hundred men or a thousand; why did they wait for another man? We pay unconscious tributes to the Son of God. To be waited for is a creed, a faith, an uprising and an outgoing of the soul, a testimony rich as blood, quivering and tender as anxious love. 'They were all waiting for Him.' He was but one, why wait? why not proceed? We know why; the heart always knows why. There is a great gathering in the church, and every attendant has flowers in her hand or his hand; there is a light on every face, there is a subtle joy thrilling the air: why do these people wait? why does the priest tarry? why do all the attendants look at one another? Because the bride has not yet arrived. What, waiting for one woman? Ay! If thou, poor fool, couldst read life aright, that is life—waiting for one, the other one, the completing one, the vital one. I was sitting in a great hall thronged with some five thousand enthusiasts: why did we not go on? Because he had not yet come. Sitting immediately in front of me was Henry Rogers, the famous Edinburgh reviewer, and a great critic and philosopher; and turning round, he said, 'Now we are all ready for the great man'. Rogers himself was immeasurably the greatest man in that assembly, but he, too, was waiting, and presently the whole air rent with a thrilling cheer, a noise of gladness, for John Bright came up the platform stairs and passed to the chairman's side. Now! Why not an hour ago? The magnetic presence was wanting, and the magnetic touch was waited for; no other man could take up just the position which that man was about to assume; when he came, beat the drum, wave the red banner, for the man for whom we have been waiting is face to face with us, and we shall catch his solemn music in a moment. They all waited for Christ.
I. 'They were all waiting for Him.' So shall it be one day with the whole earth. The earth has always been waiting for some one, not knowing the name, and being quite unable to give expression to its own aspirations and mystic desires. What makes you uneasy today? Because he has not come. Who has not come? I do not know, but the mysterious pronoun, the being that is always alluded to rather than specifically indicated. A prophet shall the Lord God raise up unto you. Has He not sent one? He has sent a hundred, but not the one. We are thankful for Moses and the prophets and the great singing ones, the minstrels of Israel, but I am expecting another one that shall gather them all up into a personality more majestic than anyone of themselves could sustain. Are you sure He is coming? Certainly. What makes you so certain? My soul. There is an aching heart that means to prophesy, there is a broken sob that is a fragment of a song; and we know, without being able to tell psychologically and literally why, that there is another coming, always coming, must come; the circle is nearly complete, one more turning of the compasses, and it will be beautiful as the circle of a completed desire and completed love.
II. There has always been a great expectation of another coming one, some one who can interpret the waiting of the world; some man of rare genius who understands what it is the poor dumb world wants, and is looking about for and is quite sure will come, but does not know when he will come; he may come now, or as a thief in the night, or like a flash of lightning, or like an unforetold impression upon the soul. The isles shall wait for his law. There is not a soul that is fully satisfied, but it is to be satisfied tomorrow; it may be satisfied in the dawn, or it may have to wait until sultry midday, or it may be taxed in patience until the gathering shades of the sunset, but tomorrow it will be satisfied, or tomorrow—the other morrow, throbbing, coming, pledged, if God so will. There is a great cry going up from the brokenhearted and disappointed world, saying, Who will show us any good?
III. The congregation that waits for Christ is never disappointed; the congregation that waits for anyone but Christ ought never to be gratified. If we wait for Christ, He will come to us; for He knows that we are waiting for Him, and He knows everything, He never breaks His word. 'Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst.' He is there before they are; He only waits to be manifested, revealed, and set in concrete and unmistakable figure and emphasis; He is there all the time. Said John the Baptist, 'There standeth one among you whom you know not; He it is'. The people had been looking to the horizon when they should have been looking at the man who was standing next to them. God is nearer than we often suppose, and His satisfactions are prepared before our desires are formulated.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. vii. p. 108.
References.—VIII. 40.—J. Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. vii. p. 108. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliv. No. 2593. VIII. 41.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. viii. p. 309. VIII. 41, 49.—Ibid. (5th Series), vol. i. p. 276.
Oh! it is a distressing thing to see children die. A dying child is to me one of the most dreadful sights in the world. A dying man, a man dying on the field of battle, that is a small sight; he has taken his chance; he has had his excitement, he has had his glory, if that will be any consolation to him; if he is a wise man, he has the feeling that he is doing his duty by his country and by his Queen. It does not horrify or shock me to see a man dying in a good old age. But it does shock me, it does make me feel that the world is indeed out of joint, to see a child die.
—From a speech of Charles Kingsley at a Sanitary Association.
References.—VIII. 42.—C. S. Robinson, Simon Peter, p. 196. Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 358. VIII. 42-48.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. liii. No. 3020. VIII. 43.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 456. VIII. 43, 44.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiv. No. 2018. VIII. 43-48.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 242. VIII. 45.—S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year (2nd Series), vol. ii. p. 201. C. Stanford, Symbols of Christ, p. 205.
Here is a story beautiful as it is blessed, the story of how nobody became somebody, and how somebody became everybody.
I. First then, Nobody. The story opens with the picture of a woman not important enough to have a name. Poor and feeble, she comes before us thrust hither and thither in a crowd. And this woman was enfeebled by twelve long years of sickness. She was poor, wretchedly poor. The very sympathy of those about her had spent itself. How many there are in a like evil case who seem to have everything against them, who are shut off from all help, look where they will.
II. But now let us turn to the second chapter of our story, Somebody. We see again this feeble woman wasted and wearied by being pushed and hustled to and fro in the crowd, all unable to hold her own amongst the press. Then suddenly some happy chance brings her close to Jesus. Without a moment's delay, or the opportunity will be lost, she thrusts forth a trembling hand and touches the hem of His garment. Instantly she feels the healing virtue flowing like a tide of new life within her, and she is whole. But see, Jesus stops, and the host of people stand still. 'Somebody hath touched Me.' So then this poor nobody was somebody now; somebody. He who felt the touch read with infallible love all that it meant.
III. Everybody. Look at her at His feet where Jairus had been, she, the poor wasted woman in the place of the ruler of the synagogue! As they stood, and watched, and listened, they saw Him, the Almighty Prophet, lay His hands upon her tenderly, and He said, 'Daughter, be of good comfort'. It fell like healing balm upon her timid soul. 'Be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. Go in peace.' Now is it indeed as if she were everybody—thus to have His tender recognition of her, to hear His benediction, to feel His virtue healing her, to have the blessing of His touch and the sweetness of such a name from His lips, and to go away as into an atmosphere that He has charmed and hallowed. Everything about the Lord Jesus, everything that He said, and everything that He did, and everything that is said of Him, reveals to us this separate and individual love. All that religion really means is a separate, personal work, or it is nothing at all.
—M. G. Pearse, The Gentleness of Jesus, p. 67.
References.—VIII. 47.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiv. No. 2019. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iv. p. 222. VIII. 48.—Ibid. (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 359. VIII. 49.—C. Stanford, Symbols of Christ, p. 233. VIII. 50.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 245.
The Weapon of Ridicule
It is of ridicule, in some of its aspects and suggestions, that I wish to speak.
I. Now the first thing which I want you to observe is how often Jesus was assailed with ridicule. When a man is loved, his nature expands and ripens as does a flower under the genial sunshine. When a man is hated, that very hate may brace him as the wind out of the north braces the pine. But when a man is ridiculed, only the grace of heaven can keep him courteous and reverent and tender; and Jesus Christ was ridiculed continually. Men ridiculed His origin. Men ridiculed His actions. Men ridiculed His claims to be Messiah.
II. Nor should we think that because Christ was Christ He was therefore impervious to ridicule. On the contrary, just because Christ was Christ He was most keenly susceptible to its assault. It is not the coarsest but the finest natures that are most exposed to the wounding of such weapons, and in the most sensitive and tender heart scorn, like calumny, inflicts the sorest pain. Probably it is thus we may explain why ridicule is most keenly felt when we are young. 'He was one of those sarcastic young fellows,' says Thackeray of young Pendennis, 'that did not bear a laugh at his own expense, and of all things in the world feared ridicule most'; and Sir Walter Scott, speaking of the enthusiasms of his own boyhood, said, 'At that time I feared ridicule more than I have ever done since'.
III. It is notable, too, that Christ was laughed to scorn because the people failed to understand Him. The same truth meets us in the story of Pentecost, as we read it in the vivid narrative of Acts. There also, on the birthday of the Church, we light on ridicule, and there also it is the child of ignorance.
IV. We must appraise ridicule at its true value. It is not always the token of superior cleverness. It is far oftener the mark of incapacity. You cannot refute a sneer, said Dr. Johnson; but if you cannot refute it, at least you can despise it. Of course I am aware that in a world like this there is a certain work for ridicule to do. So long as shams and pretensions are abroad, a little gentle ridicule is needed. A jest is sometimes the wisest of all answers, and a little raillery the best of refutations. I should like to say also to those who are tempted to see only the ridiculous side of things, that perhaps in the whole gamut of the character there is nothing quite so dangerous as that. When we take to ridiculing all that is best and worthiest in others, by that very habit we destroy the power of believing in what is worthiest in ourselves.
—G. H. Morrison, The Wings of the Morning, p. 256.
Reference.—VIII. 64.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. iv. p. 381.
And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,
And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.
And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable:
A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.
And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture.
And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it.
And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be?
And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.
Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light.
For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.
Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.
Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press.
And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee.
And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.
Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.
But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy.
And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm.
And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.
And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee.
And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.
When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not.
(For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.)
And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him.
And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep.
And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them.
Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.
When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country.
Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.
They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed.
Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again.
Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying,
Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.
And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him.
And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus' feet, and besought him that he would come into his house:
For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as he went the people thronged him.
And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,
Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.
While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master.
But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole.
And when he came into the house, he suffered no man to go in, save Peter, and James, and John, and the father and the mother of the maiden.
And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.
And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead.
And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise.
And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat.
And her parents were astonished: but he charged them that they should tell no man what was done.