Great Texts of the Bible
And Jesus answering said, Were not the ten cleansed? but where are the nine?—Luke 17:17.
It was when He was on His last journey towards Jerusalem on the frontier of Galilee and Samaria, that our Lord saw, on the road towards a village which is not named, ten lepers. They might not come near the gates, as being tainted with the fatal disease and lying under the ban of God. They kept together in a band, endeavouring no doubt to find in each other’s company some solace for their sufferings, for their sense of humiliation and disgust, for their exclusion from the civil and religious life of their countrymen.
Misfortune makes strange associates: and of these lepers one was a Samaritan. Illness, too, will make men think of God who have never thought of Him before: and as our Lord passed along the way He attracted the attention of these poor outcasts. Conscious of their misery, they stood afar off; and yet—even if nothing came of it—they must appeal to Him. They might have heard that one of the distinctive features of His work was that “the lepers were cleansed”; they might have heard that He had commissioned His representatives not merely to heal the sick, but specifically to “cleanse the lepers.” They had an indistinct idea that He was in some sense the Healer of mankind; and so, as He passed, they lifted up their voices and said: “Jesus, Master! have mercy on us.” This prayer was itself an act of faith: and, as such, our Lord at once accepted and tested it. There they were, all ten, covered with leprosy, but He bade them do that which already implied that they were perfectly cleansed; they were to take a long journey, which would have been a waste of labour unless they could believe that He would make it worth their while. “Go,” He said, “shew yourselves unto the priests.” To go to the priests for inspection unless they were healed would only have led to a repetition of their sentence as proved lepers; and therefore, in the miracle after His Sermon on the Mount, He first healed the leper and then sent him to undergo the prescribed inspection. Here—it must have perplexed them sorely—He does nothing but bids them go, as if already cleansed. Could they trust Him sufficiently to make the venture, to obey when obedience seemed irrational at the moment, in firm persuasion that it would be justified by the event?
Yes; they took Him at His word: they set out for Jerusalem—a distant journey, along an unwelcome road. But lo! as they went, and, as it would seem, before they had gone far, a change was already upon them. They looked each at the others, each at himself, and they saw that an Unseen Power was there, cleansing them, they knew not how, of the foul disease, and restoring to them the freshness and purity of early years. “As they went they were cleansed.” It was in the act of obedience that they obtained the blessing; it was by assuming that our Lord could not fail that they found Him faithful.
They were all cleansed—all ten. But, like Naaman the Syrian returning with his blessing for the man of God, one of them thought that something was due to the author of so signal a deliverance. He left the others to pursue their onward road; they might go on to claim at the hands of the priests their restoration to the civil and religious life of Israel. He left them; ho turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and then he prostrated himself at the feet of his Deliverer, thanking Him for this act of mercy and power. And our Lord blessed him once more in another and a higher way. A greater possession than even that of freedom from leprosy was assured to the poor Samaritan in Christ’s parting words, “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” But ere He did this our Lord also uttered the noteworthy exclamation, “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God save this stranger.”1 [Note: H. P. Liddon.]
In a sermon on this text, Luther says: “This is the right worship of God, to return glorifying God with a loud voice. This is the greatest work in heaven and earth, and the only one which we may do for God; for of other works He stands in need of none, neither is He benefited by them.” Luther is surely right; for we have nothing to give to God, because what we have is all His gift; but this we may do, we may return thanks to Him for the goodness and mercy with which He blesses us, and that this is well pleasing to Him we learn from His words in the 50th Psalm, saying: “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the Most High.”1 [Note: F. Kuegele, Country Sermons, iv. 547.]
I believe thanksgiving a greater mark of holiness than any other part of prayer. I mean special thanksgiving for mercies asked and received. It is a testimony to prayers being remembered, and therefore earnest prayer. It is unselfish, and more loving.2 [Note: Norman Macleod, in Memoir, ii. 21.]
The subject is Ingratitude. Let us look at—
I. Its Extent.
II. Its Causes.
III. Its Penalty.
The Extent of Ingratitude
1. Ten lepers were cleansed. Nine went on their way, with never a word of thankfulness. The averages of gratitude and ingratitude do not vary much from age to age, and the story suggests that ninety per cent. of those who receive God’s benefits are more or less wanting in gratitude. Man is prone to forget his benefits and mercies. He lays more stress upon what he has not than upon what he has. It is our human tendency to take our blessings for granted and as a matter of course. Man seems to look upon all good things—pleasurable sensations, comforts, even luxuries—as his birthright, upon which he has a natural inalienable claim, giving him just ground for complaint if he does not receive them. A stroke of good fortune, an agreeable surprise, creates only a transient ripple and leaves but a dim impression! Instead of being thankful for it as a sheer gratuity, an extra dividend, the individual only finds in it a reason why he should receive more of the same kind and oftener.
If you search the world around, among all choice spices you shall scarcely meet with the frankincense of gratitude. It ought to be as common as the dew-drops that hang upon the hedges in the morning; but, alas, the world is dry of thankfulness to God! Gratitude to Christ was scarce enough in His own day. I had almost said it was ten to one that nobody would praise Him; but I must correct myself a little; it was nine to one. One day in seven is for the Lord’s worship; but not one man in ten is devoted to His praise.1 [Note: C. H. Spurgeon.]
(1) Those who frankly believe are not all ready to praise. These ten men did believe, but only one praised the Lord Jesus. Their faith was about the leprosy; and according to their faith, so was it unto them. This faith, though it concerned their leprosy only, was yet a very wonderful faith. It was remarkable that they should believe the Lord Jesus though He did not even say, “Be healed,” or speak a word to them to that effect, but simply said, “Go shew yourselves unto the priests.” With parched skins, and death burning its way into their hearts, they went bravely off in confidence that Jesus must mean to bless them. It was admirable faith; and yet none of the nine who thus believed ever came back to praise Christ for the mercy received.
In an address Dr. Wilson once said: “There is a man who has a nickname. In the different parts of the country to which he goes he is known by the name of ‘Hallelujah.’ When he stops at a hotel and goes into the commercial room, the travellers say, ‘Here comes Hallelujuh So-and-So.’ Why? Because he is a praising Christian. I think if I had the choosing of a nickname I would choose that. Supposing that my joy were rightly grounded, I would prefer ‘Hallelujah’ almost to any other name that could be given to me.”2 [Note: Life of James Hood Wilson, 433.]
Many of our modern Christian writers are lacking in true rapture. I took up a book of devotion by a saintly Presbyterian—the Rev. George Matheson—Moments on the Mount, a book of real value. There are one hundred and eight meditations in it, but there is not one that passes into rapturous praise. Again, we all love the Christian Year more and more the older we grow, but the sobriety of tone that it claims as its distinctive note does, I think, deprive us of the note of gratitude amounting to rapture. It is the same with Keble’s Lyra Innocentium; wondrous beauty is there, but he does not strike all the chords at once for the great chorus of praise. It is almost true also of Newman, except in the well-known “Angels’ Song.” I dare to say it is the same with Tennyson and with Wordsworth: and all these were Christian men, some of them fervently and wholeheartedly so to an extent that makes them wear the title “saintly” with absolute propriety.
I then extended my researches further back in time and at once I discovered the note I sought. They were not greater Christians than those I have mentioned, but their note has more rapture. Spenser, George Herbert, Milton, Henry Vaughan, Addison, Ken, Watts, Newton. You cannot read their poetry or hymns without feeling the thrill of rapture. I do not say it is indispensable to a most noble Christianity; yet it works miracles because it means intensity. I have reserved one name for separate mention. I have looked over four hundred and fifty hymns of Charles Wesley, and anyone who does so will allow there is rapture there, and gratitude, and praise deep and returning again and again. And in this respect Wesley has a successor in our Heber, whose name I had also kept back as one who may be called a modern, but who certainly has rapture in his music.1 [Note: Bishop Montgomery, in The Church Family Newspaper, 11th March 1910, p. 202.]
(2) Those who diligently pray do not all praise. These ten men that were lepers all prayed. Poor and feeble as their voices had become through disease, yet they lifted them up in prayer, and united in crying: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” They all joined in the Litany, “Lord, have mercy upon us! Christ, have mercy upon us!” But when they came to the Te Deum, magnifying and praising God, only one of them took up the note. We should have thought that all who prayed would praise, but it is not so. Cases have been where a whole ship’s crew in time of storm have prayed, and yet none of that crew have sung the praise of God when the storm has become a calm. Multitudes of our fellow-citizens pray when they are sick, and near to dying; but when they grow better, their praises grow sick unto death. The angel of mercy, listening at their door, has heard no canticle of love, no song of thankfulness.
It is well to notice that when we draw the closest to God it is not in the exercise of prayer we do so. We draw nearer still in praise, for praise is the eternal and supreme employment of the perfected in heaven. In praise we come to the very foundation of all truth—to that which is deepest in our nature—reverence, love, trust, the overflowing outcome of our whole hearts in worship, and that is the highest exercise in which our souls can ever hope to engage.1 [Note: J. M. Sloan, in Memories of Horatius Bonar, 89.]
The greatest contribution that the Anglican Church has ever made to Christendom is the “Devotions of Bishop Andrewes,” and the reason is that he has culled all that is deepest and highest in the Old Testament and in the New Testament to put in to our utterances before God, mingled with a touch of his own genius. I am not aware of any crime so great, any horror in life so dreadful, that it cannot find fit expression before God in those “Devotions.” Likewise there is no rapture of gratitude and praise which is not also there, nor any intercession or yearning which is not written therein. We are told that Andrewes’ awful penitence is owed to one act he committed under pressure. And if so, then that same act is responsible for the notes of praise also from one who, though a sinner, trusted his God utterly. We are almost tempted (be it said with reverence and as a paradox) to thank God that he fell into one heinous sin, since he made such good use of it for all future generations. If ever the grateful leper of the miracle had a counterpart it was in the person of Bishop Andrewes in his own estimation as he lay for years at his Master’s feet pouring out his gratitude.2 [Note: Bishop Montgomery.]
A joyful and pleasant thing it is to be thankful. Unworthy before let me not be ungrateful after.3 [Note: Bishop Andrewes, Preces Privatœ, 156.]
(3) Those who readily obey do not always praise. When Jesus said, “Go shew yourselves unto the priests,” off they went—all ten of them; not one stopped behind. Yet only one came back to behold a personal Saviour, and to praise His name. External religious exercises are easy enough, and common enough; but the internal matter, the drawing out of the heart in thankful love, how scarce a thing it is!
Begin at once, humbly and simply as a little child, to glorify God in the only way in which it will ever be in your power to glorify Him or that He would value, by making your life worth as much as ever you can in the outpouring of the spirit of good-will, human fellowship, and mutual understanding, upon the struggling weary world.4 [Note: R. J. Campbell, A Rosary from the City Temple, 17.]
2. Our Lord expresses surprise at man’s ingratitude. He speaks with a sort of mournful and painful wonder; and, indeed, it must appear to us a circumstance marvellous and almost incredible; such as we could not understand and scarcely believe, were it not that it is such an exact picture of our own hearts. Notwithstanding all the deceits we put upon ourselves, we cannot but acknowledge it, although there is no truth in the world more sad and melancholy than this; in all our manifold deliverances from sickness and dangers and distresses, we may be full of faith, full of prayer, full of holy resolutions, when we feel God’s chastening hand pressing hard upon us; but when it is removed, this is all gone away and forgotten; the very feeling of thankfulness is but as the morning cloud which passes away, as the morning cloud which catches a few gleams from the sun, and is radiant for a moment, or which lets fall, it may be, a few drops of tears; but, look again, and it is gone away and not found.
Where else, in all our English tongue, will you find the piteous cry of wounded love which you find in King Lear? Where else will you encounter the wild storms which there break over the outraged father’s soul? I remember a great critic describing the Lear which he had just witnessed, its darkness, its splendours, its rage, tears, pity. And he ended his notice with some such words as these: “And so I stepped forth out of the world of the theatre into the real world of the streets. Real? But what is real, if King Lear is not?”1 [Note: C. F. Aked, The Courage of the Coward, 157.]
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
Thou dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remember’d not.2 [Note: Shakespeare, As You Like It, II. vii. 173.]
It is related in the memoirs of Caulaincourt, that when the minister was admitted in the early morning (after the Emperor’s attempt to poison himself), Napoleon’s “wan and sunken eyes seemed struggling to recall the objects round about; a universe of torture was revealed in the vaguely desolate look.” Napoleon is reported as saying: “God did not will it. I could not die.” Why did they not let me die? It is not the loss of the throne that makes existence unendurable; my military career suffices for the glory of a single man. Do you know what is more difficult to bear than the reverses of fortune; It is the baseness, the horrible ingratitude of men. Before such acts of cowardice, before the shamelessness of their egotism, I have turned away my head in disgust and have come to regard my life with horror.… Death is rest.… Rest at last.… What I have suffered for twenty days no one can understand.”1 [Note: W. M. Sloane, Napoleon Bonaparte, iv. 130.]
The Causes of Ingratitude
1. One common cause of ingratitude is thoughtlessness. Those nine who did not come back were simply average and ordinary people in this matter: they did not think. They did not impress upon their own minds that they henceforth owed everything to Christ; that, whatever other people might do or say with regard to Christ, their course was clear. Or perhaps something of this kind happened in their case, certainly the like of it does happen. They had the feeling, of course, that they had been most wonderfully restored, that they had reason to be thankful to God, that Providence had been kind to them. But gradually Jesus slipped out of their thought, even in connexion with their cure, until, long afterwards, if any one of those nine had been asked to recall the circumstances under which he had been healed, he would have said, “Ah! it was very wonderful; we were going along the way when we all suddenly felt that we were clean. No doubt just before that we had spoken to a stranger, who told us to go to the high-priest.” “And did that stranger do nothing that contributed to your recovery?” “Oh dear no! It all simply happened; no one touched us.” Thus they might tell the story afterwards—as an instance of their own good fortune, or perhaps as an example of the general goodness of God working in human lives, but not as an illustration of what, because it happened to themselves, may happen to others who come to a standstill in the journey of their lives, and who out of some despair lift up their broken hearts to Jesus Christ.
Familiarity breeds forgetfulness. If a man has a hair’s-breadth escape from drowning, or comes safe out of a disastrous railway accident, he kneels down and thanks God for such a signal mercy; or if some long-desired but long-denied thing comes into his life, he will say to himself, “What a cause for thankfulness!” But the daily bread that nourishes him, the daily health that makes life a joy to him, the friendships that cheer him, the love of wife and children that fills his home with brightness and comfort, are, or become, so much a matter of course that it hardly occurs to him that they should “be received with thanksgiving.” You see the same kind of spirit in the earthly home; and in this, as in so much else, the child is father of the man. If the father brings home some pretty toy to his child, he is overwhelmed with thanks and caresses; but that same child eats its daily bread and enjoys its daily blessings provided by a father’s toil without a thought of gratitude. This is perfectly natural and blameless in a little child, but surely inexcusable as between a man and his Maker. Should not every mercy remind us of the overshadowing love of God, and help to keep our hearts tender and responsive to our Father in heaven?1 [Note: G. S. Streatfeild.]
The bridegroom may forget the bride
Was made his wedded wife yestreen;
The monarch may forget the crown
That on his head an hour has been;
The mother may forget the child
That smiles sae sweetly on her knee;
But I’ll remember thee, Glencairn,
And a’ that thou hast done for me!2 [Note: Burns, Lament for James, Earl of Glencairn.]
2. Another cause of ingratitude is found in pride. Only the stranger returned to give thanks. Perhaps it was partly just because he was a stranger that he was the one to return. The Jew was apt to take everything that came to him as a matter of right, and wonder that he did not get more, as being one of God’s peculiar people. Any blessing vouchsafed to him was one of the “sure mercies of David.” If Jesus was the Messiah, had not the Jew reason to expect an exercise of power on his behalf? The Samaritan, doubtless, was not without his temptation to spiritual pride. He, too, claimed descent from Abraham; he had his sacred books, his temple, and his holy hill; but, as compared with the Jew, there was less of that spirit of conscious superiority which cried, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we”; less of that temper which the Baptist rebuked when he said, “Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” There was, it may be, a deeper sense of unworthiness in the Samaritan, and therefore a deeper sense of gratitude. Humility is at the root of gratitude, and when we have learned to humble ourselves beneath the mighty hand of God, we shall have learned at least the first principle of gratitude.
I must send you a word that you may know of God’s dealings with us. You know how ill my Mary [Bishop Collins’s wife] has been for long, and for some little time now we have known that it was either a tumour or abscess on the brain, and that there was but little hope of recovery if the latter, none, if the former, since it was evidently so deep-seated. To-day, Sir Victor Horsley operated. They find that there is a very large solid tumour, and that there is no hope at all. So we are trusting that at least she may have relief, and that God of His mercy will give her a peaceful passing. That is all that there is to tell, excepting that she is just bearing it all and using it all as the saint that she is, and that we are not unhappy, and are full of thankfulness. I ought to have nothing but praise for the rest of my life; and we are thankful to have been able to bring her safely from Germany to England; and we have had much precious time together lately and have been able to speak quite openly and get behind and above separation and things present and things to come or any other creature.1 [Note: Bishop Collins, in Life by A. J. Mason, 160.]
3. Men are apt to be thankless, when they do not see their benefactor. When this miracle was wrought upon the lepers, the Worker was out of sight. He had walked towards the village, and they, avoiding the village, were pursuing their way towards Jerusalem. At that moment of awe and blessing they did not see Him. No shadowy form hovered about them to remind them that He was present in power to heal them. No word like the “I will, be thou clean,” which had healed the leper at Capernaum two years before, now fell upon their ears; no hand was raised in benediction; and yet, minute by minute, the foul disease was disappearing, when or how they could not exactly tell: and at last they saw that they were healed. But the Healer Himself they did not see; as now in His Church, so then, He was out of sight, even when His action was most felt and energetic. His words still lingered on their ears, but it was not impossible, amid the distractions of a new scene, to forget their import: and thus, out of the ten men, nine did forget it.
A strong man says in the pride of achievement, “Never since I was a boy have I been under obligation to any human being.” Nonsense! You are under obligation to a hundred unknown, lowly workers, and under obligation, too, to the greatest of mankind. You are debtor to the policeman on his beat, the deep sea fishermen off the banks, the stoker in the furnace-room of the ocean liner, the driver on the swift express or electric car, and the man who drops the fenders between the ferry-boat and the landing-stage! Many years ago, Rudyard Kipling administered a rebuke to the swash-bucklers of Empire who, in time of disturbance, fawn upon the private soldier as though he were one of the immortal gods descended from Olympus, and then, when the war-drum has ceased for a time its feverish throbbing, treat the same man as though he were the offscouring of humanity. You remember:
Makin’ mock at uniforms that guard you while you sleep Is cheaper than them uniforms, and they’re starvation cheap!1 [Note: C. F. Aked, The Courage of the Coward, 160.]
The Penalty of Ingratitude
Ingratitude closes the door against the deeper blessings of life. We cannot be wanting in this great duty of thankfulness without being untrue to the law of our existence—without the worst results upon ourselves. For what is thankfulness such as God demands but that which is at the bottom of all human excellence—the frank acknowledgment of truth? As prayer is a recognition of our dependence upon God amid the darkness and uncertainties of the future, so thankfulness is a recognition of our indebtedness to Him for the blessings of the past. To acknowledge truth is always moral strength; to refuse to acknowledge it is always moral weakness. Accordingly the worst excesses of heathenism are traced by St. Paul to the ingratitude of the Gentile nations for the light of nature and conscience. “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
He who forgets to be thankful, may one day find himself with nothing to be thankful for.1 [Note: Bishop Thorold, in Life by C. H. Simpkinson, 141.]
1. The grateful man received a greater blessing. “And he said unto him, Go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole.” This does not mean that this man alone was ultimately cleansed out of the ten. It was not the manner of Jesus to withdraw His gifts because they were not appreciated at their true worth, any more than it is the Father’s way to take back His blessings from men who misuse them; for He “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust,” and “is kind toward the unthankful and evil.” But in the mind of Jesus, physical healing was the least part of His purpose in bestowing health on people. He ever thought of their souls; and unless the bodily benefit He bestowed blossomed into some spiritual grace, He was troubled and unsatisfied. Those nine had been healed, and remained healed, but they were not “made whole”; only he could be made whole who was lifted into the circle of Divine relationship, and acknowledged God as the Giver of health and all good things.
The secular temper takes everything as it comes, without any realization of its Divine source; the spiritual temper refers everything to its heavenly origin and author. “Where does the corn come from?” “From the ground,” says the materialist. “From the Father of lights,” says the Christian. And there is a whole world of difference between these points of view. If we stop with Nature, which produces corn and wine and fruit, and whose laws become our willing servants when once we learn to understand and control them, we may possess continents, and yet our souls be starved. But he who lifts his eyes above, and sees in every fact a blessing, in every possession a gift, in every incident a Divine influence, will live a life in which all lower good is still his, but crowned with a higher good that redoubles its value and makes it a spiritual treasure beyond price.1 [Note: E. Griffith-Jones, The Miracles of Jesus, 273.]
I thank God for the removal of sickness; but I have been able to give thanks for sickness, for health, for light, for darkness, for the hiding of God’s face.2 [Note: “Rabbi” Duncan, in Recollections by A. Moody Stuart, 221.]
(1) Gratitude is a self-rewarding virtue.—Who can doubt that this man was far happier in his condition of mind, that he felt a more full and ample and inspiriting enjoyment of his cure, that he experienced more exquisite sensations than any of the nine who departed without uttering a word of thankfulness? His supreme joyfulness and exultation are proclaimed in the tones with which he utters them, in the loud voice with which he glorified God. What strength of feeling is here! Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh; he is not silent; he cannot restrain his voice: he cannot bear that his thankfulness should be felt only within his own breast; he must utter it; he must utter it aloud; all shall know how he rejoices for the mercy bestowed, all shall hear him thank God for what He has done for him. How superior his delight in God’s gift, to that of the other nine who slunk away, and how much stronger! We see that he was transported, and that he was filled to overflowing with joy of heart, and that he triumphed in the sense of the Divine goodness. It was the exultation of faith; he felt there was a God in the world, and that God was good. What greater joy can be imparted to the heart of man than that which this truth, thoroughly embraced, imparts?
It was in the last days of his life that Dean Stanley told me how on the occasion of the funeral of Dr. Arnold he spoke afterwards to the widow, pouring out his heart first in gratitude for having been under the great headmaster, and all it meant to him of inspiration; and then he said, “I told her that so long as I lived never should this day pass without her hearing from me in token that I could never forget the debt I owed her husband.” Then he exclaimed, “And she never failed to get that letter!” It is good to dwell on such things, for they are beautiful.1 [Note: Bishop Montgomery.]
(2) Gratitude, powerfully stimulates to active well-doing.—A man will do out of gratitude much more than he will do out of fear, or from hope of reward. Thankfulness for redemption was the motive power of a life like that of St. Paul, as it has been the motive power of all the greatest and most fruitful lives that have been lived in Christendom. Christ “died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves”—this is the motto of such lives. Gratitude, like love, lives not in words, but in deed and in truth. Often those who feel most what has been done for them say least about it; but they do most. Gratitude can work; gratitude can suffer; gratitude can persevere. But one thing gratitude cannot do: it cannot bring itself to feel that it has done enough; it cannot, in this world, lie down with a sense that it has really paid off its debt to the Redeemer.
A few months before the death of Robert Louis Stevenson, certain Samoan chiefs whom he had befriended while they were under imprisonment for political causes, and whose release he had been instrumental in effecting, testified their gratitude by building an important piece of road leading to Mr. Stevenson’s Samoan country house, Vailima. At a corner of the road there was erected a notice, prepared by the chiefs and bearing their names, which reads:
“The Road of the Loving Heart. Remembering the great love of his highness, Tusitala, and his loving care when we were in prison and sore distressed, we have prepared him an enduring present, this road which we have dug to last for ever.”2 [Note: J. A. Hammerton, Stevensoniana, 125.]
A well-known temperance lecturer was once being driven in a carriage to address a meeting. He noticed that the driver bent forward before the front window in a strange way, with his head as much as possible before the glass. The lecturer thought the man was ill, but he answered, “No.” Then he was asked the reason of his conduct, and he replied that the window was broken, and that he was trying to keep the cold draught from the passenger. “But why,” asked the lecturer, “do you do this for a stranger?” Then the driver said, “I owe all I have in the world to you. I was a ballad singer, drunken and disreputable, dragging a miserable wife along the streets of Edinburgh. I went to hear you, and you told me that I was a man, and might live as a man again. I went home, and I said, ‘By the help of God, I’ll be a man.’ God bless you, sir; I would put my head anywhere if it would do you good.”1 [Note: H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, By Word and Deed, 130.]
2. Those nine ungrateful ones did not receive more, they lost even what they had. They did not become leprous again, the gift of bodily health was not withdrawn from them, but they lost their faith and their good conscience. They were now cured, and were free to go to their homes, but they did not carry a joyous heart in their bosom like the Samaritan; they were rather pursued by the consciousness of having acted wickedly towards Him who had restored them to health. So it always is; he that gives thanks to God receives more and more, but the ungrateful loses that he has; as the Lord says, “Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.”
Only one hears the gracious words, “Thy faith hath made thee whole,” or, as the Greek means, “Thy faith hath saved thee.” For a man is neither “saved,” nor “made whole,” by being made sound in body. Whatever his “faith,” no man is a whole or a saved man until faith has unsealed the fountains of wonder and thankfulness and love within him. Better that the body be consumed by the most loathsome disease, so that the soul be in health and prosper, than that the soul dead to wonder and gratitude and love should dwell in the healthiest of frames and the happiest outward conditions. For the soul has the power of weaving a body, and even many bodies, for itself, and is always, I suppose, busily weaving for itself the “spiritual body,” in which it will abide when once it has “shuffled off this mortal coil.” Sooner or later the body must come right if only the soul be right with God. So that these nine thankless lepers—cleansed, but not saved; healed, and yet not made whole—had far better have remained lepers, if their misery would have helped to make whole or complete men of them, if it would have helped to “save” them, by making them feel their need of God, and by drawing them nearer to the Fountain of all love and goodness.2 [Note: S. Cox, Expositions, iii. 398.]
But one alone
Turns back that gift of God’s great love to own,
His thanks and praise to tell;
Son of Samaria’s race,
In him is seen a fuller, worthier grace,
Than aught in Israel.
And is it not so still?
Are not we slow to own the Mighty Will
That works to save and bless?
We, who so much receive,
The speech of joy and praise to others leave,
Whom God endowed with less.
We lose what God has given,
The prize for which our feeble faith has striven
Because we thank Him not;
Though healed the leprous taint,
Yet still the head is sick and heart is faint;
We crave we know not what.
Wilt thou full health attain,
Let thy heart utter joy’s exulting strain;
To Christ who cleansed thee turn;
Then shalt thou know, at last,
A fuller bliss than all thy unblest past,
High thoughts that cleanse and burn.1 [Note: E. H. Plumptre.]
Aked (C. F.), The Courage of the Coward, 153.
Arnot (W.), The Anchor of the Soul, 314.
Blunt (J. J.), Plain Sermons, i. 250.
Cox (S.), Expositions, iii. 397.
Fürst (A.), True Nobility of Character, 66.
Gibbons (J.), Discourses and Sermons, 409.
Griffith-Jones (E.), The Miracles of Jesus, 267.
Hughes (D.), The Making of Man, 32.
Hutton (J. A.), The Soul’s Triumphant Way, 41.
Jones (J. S.), Seeing Darkly, 145.
Knight (G. H.), The Master’s Questions to His Disciples, 178.
Kuegele (F.), Country Sermons, New Ser., iv. 541.
Leathes (A. S.), The Kingdom Within, 205.
Liddon (H. P.), Sermons on Some Words of Christ, 206.
Maclaren (A.), Expositions: St. Luke xiii.–xxiv., 127.
Mozley (J. B.), University Sermons, 253.
Neale (J. M.), Sermons for Children, 204.
Roberts (A.), Plain Sermons on Gospel Miracles, 238.
Robinson (C. H.), College and Ordination Addresses, 125.
Salmon (G.), Sermons preached in Trinity College, Dublin, 190.
Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, xxxii. (1886), No. 1935; li. (1905), No. 2960.
Streatfeild (G. S.), in Sermons for the People, New Ser., vi. 101.
Vaughan (J.), Sermons (Brighton Pulpit), New Ser., xv. (1877), No. 1045.
Williams (J.), Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels, ii. 218.
Wilmot-Buxton (H. J.), By Word and Deed, 123.
Christian World Pulpit, viii. 40 (T. de W. Talmage); xxxviii. 168 (H. S. Holland); xl. 155 (F. O. Morris).
Church of England Pulpit, xl. 184 (J. Silvester).
Churchman’s Pulpit. Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, xii. 65 (H. Goodwin).