Great Texts of the Bible
Admiration or Adoration
And they were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.—Mark 7:37.
St. Matthew tells us in general terms that, when the Lord returned from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon unto the Sea of Galilee, “great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed in their hands, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet, and he healed them.” But of this multitude of cures St. Mark selects one to relate in detail, doubtless because it was signalised by peculiar circumstances. It was that of a man deaf and having an impediment in his speech; one not altogether dumb, if we are to take the original word as our authority, but probably incapable of making articulate or intelligible sounds. This deaf-mute, labouring under mere physical incapacity, his friends now bring to the Great Physician, and “beseech him,” as the Evangelist tells us, “to put his hand upon him.” But it is not exactly in the way they had imagined that Jesus wills to heal him. He first took the man He would heal aside from the multitude, as, in a case recorded in the very next chapter of St. Mark, He took a blind man He was about to restore to sight by the hand and led him out of the village.
1. Now for what reason are we to imagine that our Saviour thus isolated this case? Not for the avoidance of publicity, for then He ought to have done the same alike in all. Was it that He might pray over him with greater freedom? But surely He whose whole life was one unintermitted prayer, needed not solitude for this? And we know that before performing the greatest of all His mighty works, the Saviour lifted up His eyes to heaven and prayed to His Father, in the presence not only of the sorrowing family of Lazarus, but of all the numerous Jews who had come out to Bethany to testify to their sympathy. Perhaps His purpose in secluding from the multitude some of the recipients of His omnipotent benevolence, was to make a more deep and lasting impression on their minds than could be made amidst the din and interruptions of a crowd; even as the same Lord does now often lead a soul apart when He would speak with it and heal it of its spiritual plague, setting it in the solitude of a sick chamber, or in the loneliness of a bruised and deserted spirit, or taking away from it all earthly companions and friends.
Having thus prepared the man’s spirit to receive the full benefit of what was to be done to his body, Christ put His fingers into his ears and spit and touched his tongue, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, i.e. be opened. No sooner was the “Ephphatha” pronounced than the man’s ears were straightway opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. Not only were the powers of hearing and speaking restored, but the full use of those powers seems to have been instantaneously conferred. Well might the people say “He hath done all things well.”
2. Though we are not to suppose that the spectators of this compound miracle were as fully able to appreciate the whole mastery of Nature it exhibited, as we who better understand the mutual relation between deafness and dumbness than the simple peasants of Galilee could do, yet this does not detract from the value of the testimony thus articulately rendered to the double nature of this miracle; indeed, the very circumstance that they could not know as we know that the dumb could not have been made to speak had not the deaf first been made to hear, makes their separate testimony to both parts of the cure all the more valuable, because it proves that it proceeded not from theorising as to what Jesus must have done, but from simple eye-and ear-witness of what He actually did. Whether they drew any further inference as to the character of Him who had wrought this strange and complex cure, we are not told; yet from the silence of the Evangelist as to any deeper feeling than one of astonishment, we may probably conclude that no deeper feeling, no further conviction was excited. The real dignity of Jesus dawned but slowly on His contemporaries. Repeated miracles were requisite to gain any hearing whatever for the claims of the Nazarene; and after all His miracles, except the last and most stupendous, there was always a residue of doubt which vented itself in the desire to see some sign of their own choosing, different from any which He had vouchsafed. When astonishment was really produced, we may be sure it was not without good grounds; and even astonishment did not invariably lead to faith. It was from unbelief, not from credulity, that the contemporaries of our Saviour erred.
The subject may be divided into two parts—(1) From Wonder to Adoration; (2) Adoration.
From Wonder to Adoration
Four classes of men have to be considered.
1. Some men saw nothing in Jesus to wonder at. Did He cast out demons? They had an explanation: He cast them out with the help of the prince of the demons. Did He raise the dead? They had their answer ready: “It is expedient for us that one man die.” The Pharisees and Sadducees did not wonder, because they were too much occupied with themselves. They were too much occupied with their own honour. Jesus did not bow to them and call them Rabbi; He openly rebuked their vanity and their selfishness. Wonder is the first step in the path of knowledge. They did not take that step, because they reckoned that they knew everything already.
There are those still who do not wonder—who do not wonder even at Jesus. And the reason is still the same: they are occupied with themselves.
One of the distinguishing marks of human nature is the sense of wonder. The animal creation seems to have it not. Beasts of the field and birds of the air may be surprised or terrified at the unexpected, but the faculty of wonder seems to be left out of their constitution. For wonder is not mere astonishment at the marvellous, nor surprise at the new; it goes on to ask, How and Why? It is aptly expressed by the old childish rhyme, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are!” That is wonder rising into curiosity as to how this astonishing thing came to be, how it works, and what caused it, what force controls it, the source and secret of its origin. The great philosophical and much debated idea of Causation begins in wonder. Wonder is man’s first step in quest of the unknown, and all the marvellous things of creation, whether of power or of beauty, have their primary office in stimulating the human soul to wonder. Without wonder there would be no inquisitive mind, no eager, breathless desire to search out the secrets of the hidden, or discover the reasons of things. No animal looking up at the stars, if indeed it sees them at all, ever exclaims, “How I wonder what you are!” No lower creature gazing at a “flower in the crannied wall,” says wistfully with the poet, “Little flower, if I could understand what you are!” But this is one of man’s prerogatives; he must find answers to the questions started by the sense of Wonder.1 [Note: J. Wood.]
The man who cannot wonder, who does not habitually wonder (and worship), were he President of innumerable Royal Societies, and carried the whole Mécanique Céleste and Hegel’s Philosophy, and the epitome of all Laboratories and Observatories with their results, in his single head,—is but a Pair of Spectacles behind which there is no Eye.2 [Note: Carlyle, Sartor Resartus, bk. i. chap. x.]
2. Some wondered at Christ without admiring Him. This was the way with His own citizens. When He came into His own country and taught in the synagogue, “many hearing him were astonished,” but they did not approve. “Is not this the carpenter?” they said. “And they were offended in him.” When they saw Hint there was no beauty that they should desire Him.
Have you ever considered what a great teacher the sense of wonder is to children? If you get anybody’s wonder excited, you can teach him anything. But wonder is most natural to the young. What freshness, what eagerness, what expectation, what hope we have in childhood! We have not seen everything yet. Like Charity, we believe all things; we are on the outlook for surprises. We arc ready to know more. The best things do not yet lie behind us. We have not yet settled into the belief, which makes middle life so often a dead, monotonous level, that nothing more is to be seen. We have not shut ourselves to the persuasion, which turns advancing age so often into a timorous, cramped, grudging thing, that nothing better is to be known.1 [Note: R. W. Barbour, Thoughts, 102.]
When wonder first appears it inspires the effort to know; later on this leads up to admire. No doubt there are various kinds of admiration in the world, but that of which I am thinking is born of wonder in the presence of beauty, charmed by it, delighting in it, and solemnised by it, filled with a sense of joy and satisfaction. Wordsworth tells us that we partly live by admiration. He who has ceased to admire, the heart of a man has ceased to beat within him. Now admiration is stirred in us chiefly by the beauty of things. Of course their utility wakens a kind of admiration, but this is a poor passion compared with the stirring of the heart by beauty. There is a chord in the human heart which responds to beauty, and never was this more susceptible of impression than to-day. The older poetical view of nature dwelt more on its utility and active force, its nourishing power, wealth, comfort, and prosperity. Since Wordsworth it is nature as a vision, a sight, a picture, a symbol of the unutterable, that the poets have looked for and opened our eyes to see.2 [Note: J. Wood.]
3. Some admired but did not adore. Perhaps this is all that these men of the Decapolis meant when they said, “He hath done all things well.” “It may be no more,” says Hort, “than a rather unmeaning kind of applause, such as might have been given almost as readily to a conjuror as to the Saviour of men.” This was certainly the way with the Galileans who were fed with the loaves and fishes. They became intensely interested in Jesus, ran after Him, and lavishly Rabbi’d Him. But for what? “Ye seek me,” He told them, “because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled.” They looked at what He did; they did not ask who He was. Here was a bright particular star before them, but they did not, like the child, say, “How I wonder what you are!”
The people of the Decapolis were really astonished; they were overcome with genuine admiration, but they did not surrender themselves to Him. They did not accept Him as Lord. For if they had, they would have obeyed Him. But when He charged them that they should tell no man about the miracle which He had just performed, “the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it.” And it became a sore grief and serious embarrassment to Him. For He was not here on earth merely to heal a few sick and then pass away, leaving the world with its diseases and its sorrows much as He found it. He was not among them only to shed a fleeting gleam of pity over their miseries, and then to withdraw and leave behind Him the darkness more visible by the lost light that had for one brief hour crossed it. He was here to found an everlasting kingdom that should hold stored in it the enduring vitality by which to war against disease and death so long as the world should last.
We cannot measure the sorrow of the tragic loneliness in which He had stood amid the crowd which was so eager to praise Him, while their very praise was a witness how little they had the power to enter into His inner spirit or to understand what He purposed in His heart. Alone, quite alone, He nursed His great hope, though all the world might be praising Him for the things He did so well.1 [Note: Canon Scott Holland.]
4. But some adored. They faced the alternative. The alternative was that He cast out demons either by the help of the prince of the demons or else by the finger of God. Well, then, said some, by the finger of God; and they knew the Kingdom of God and its King were come nigh unto them. The alternative was that He is either a blasphemer or God. For it was true, as they said, that no one could forgive sins but God only. He claimed to forgive sins. And some accepted the conclusion: He is God. Or, again, the alternative was, He is God or He is not good. “Why callest thou me good? None is good save one, that is, God.” And some accepted it. He is good; He is God.
Is it possible to pass from wonder through admiration to adoration? It is quite possible and quite common. The boundary, says Matheson, between spiritual death and spiritual life is admiration. Between seeing the beauty without desiring it and seeing the beauty with desire there seems but a thin line, but it is the line of infinitude; it is the difference between the almost and the altogether. Admiration of Christ’s beauty is the lowest step of the ladder, but it is a step. It may exist where the deeds of life are not yet in harmony with its ideal, but it is the prophecy of the future perfection, the pledge of good things to come.2 [Note: Moments on the Mount, 171.]
Even Liddon, who is emphatic on the difference between admiration and adoration, says, “Certainly admiration may lead up to adoration; but then real admiration dies away when its object is seen to be entitled to something higher than and distinct from it. Admiration ceases when it has perceived that its Object altogether transcends any standard of excellence or beauty with which man can compare Him. Admiration may be the ladder by which we mount to adoration; but it is useless, or rather it is an impertinence, when adoration has been reached. Every man of intelligence and modesty meets in life with many objects which call for his free and sincere admiration, and he himself gains both morally and intellectually by answering to such a call. But while the objects of human admiration are as various as the minds and tastes of men,
‘Denique non omnes eadem mirantur amantque,’
One Only Being can be rightfully adored. To ‘admire’ God would involve an irreverence equal only to the impiety of adoring a fellow-creature.”1 [Note: Bampton Lectures, 362.]
While working at my house on Aniwa, I required some nails and tools. Lifting a piece of planed wood, I pencilled a few words on it, and requested our old chief to carry it to Mrs. Paton, and she would send what I wanted. In blank wonder he innocently stared at me, and said, “But what do you want?” I replied, “The wood will tell her.” He looked rather angry, thinking that I befooled him, and retorted, “Who ever heard of wood speaking?” By hard pleading I succeeded in persuading him to go. He was amazed to see her looking at the wood, and then fetching the needed articles. He brought back the bit of wood and made signs for explanation. Chiefly in broken Tannese I read to him the words, and informed him that in the same way God spoke to us through His book.2 [Note: J. G. Paton, Autobiography, 320.]
Having reached Adoration, we can use the words of the people of the Decapolis and say, “He hath done all things well: he maketh even the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.”
1. There is the universal perfection of the work—“He hath done all things well.” We do not know what the “all things” of these men comprehended, but we know that they express the nature of all Christ’s acts of healing and of all His wonderful works of whatever kind, and His whole work for us men from the beginning to the present day. Hort thinks it likely that St. Mark saw in the saying of the multitude an unintended likeness to the language which the Book of Genesis (Mark 1:31) uses about the finishing of the work of creation: “God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”
2. There is next the particular example or examples—“He maketh even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.”
(1) First of all He gives us our hearing. It is Christ who enables any one of us to hear any of the common sounds that enter into our ears as we walk out on an August day like this. If you have heard the singing of the birds or the running of the stream, or the voices of children as you came to church, then recollect that it was Christ who caused you to hear them. He fills the earth and air with all melodies, and He gives to men the power of taking them in. By giving back hearing to this man who had lost it, He declared this; He said, I am the giver of hearing; the power comes from Me.1 [Note: F. D. Maurice.]
(2) He restores us our hearing. This is the purpose of His coming. He comes for restoration. But not for bodily restoration chiefly. He gives us our hearing at the first that we may hear the word of God and live. As Browning has it, He gives us all our gifts—“such a body, and then such an earth for insphering the whole”—that He may go on and give us the best, the gift of life eternal.
Would it ever have entered my mind, the bare will, much less power,
To bestow on this Saul what I sang of, the marvellous dower
Of the life he was gifted and filled with? to make such a soul,
Such a body, and then such an earth for insphering the whole?
And doth it not enter my mind (as my warm tears attest),
These good things being given, to go on, and give one more, the best?
Ay, to save and redeem and restore him, maintain at the height
This perfection,—succeed with life’s dayspring, death’s minute of night?1 [Note: R. Browning, Saul.]
My little girl came to me the other day with the headless body of her doll. She came carrying it, and in her little hands some of the broken pieces. She had smashed its china head into insignificant fragments. With tears in her voice she said, “Mend it, Papa, mend it.” What was I to do? Her large blue eyes, blue as the Italian sky, looked up at me trustingly and expectantly. She would not understand if I told her I was unable to mend it, for her faith in me was boundless. What was I to do? I could make her forget her distress; and in a moment the broken doll fell from her hands as she reached out for the new delight. The Divine Fatherhood never fails. He does not so cheat us into satisfied forgetfulness. He doeth all things well.2 [Note: H. T. Kerr.]
3. There is the spiritual result—fulness of spirit and life. “We will now,” says Tauler, “consider the seven gifts of the Spirit, given to man through this touch whereby the ears of his mind are opened. First is given unto him the spirit of fear, which has power to rid him of all self-will, and teaches him to flee from temptation, and at all times to shun unruly appetites and licence. Next is given to him the spirit of charity, which makes him sweet-tempered, kind-hearted, merciful, nor ready to pass a harsh judgment on any one’s conduct, but full of tolerance. Thirdly, he receives the gift of knowledge, so that he understands the meaning of his inward experience, and thus learns to guide himself according to the blessed will of God. The fourth gift is Divine strength: through this gift such Divine might is imparted unto him that, with Paul, it becomes a small and easy matter to him to do or bear all things through God who strengtheneth him. The fifth is the gift of good counsel, which all those who follow become gentle and loving. Lastly come two great gifts, understanding and the wisdom of insight, which are so sublime and glorious that it is better to seek to experience them than to speak thereof. That our ears may thus be opened of a truth, that the Eternal Word may be heard in us, may God grant us!”3 [Note: Life and Sermons, 385.]
Ah Lord, Lord, if my heart were right with Thine,
As Thine with mine, then should I rest resigned,
Awaiting knowledge with a quiet mind
Because of heavenly wisdom’s anodyne.
Then would Thy Love be more to me than wine,
Then should I seek being sure at length to find,
Then should I trust to Thee all humankind.
Because Thy Love of them is more than mine.
Then should I stir up hope and comfort me
Remembering Thy Cradle and Thy Cross;
How Heaven to Thee without us had been loss,
How Heaven with us is Thy one only Heaven,
Heaven shared with us thro’ all eternity,
With us long sought, long loved, and much forgiven.1 [Note: Christina G. Rossetti.]
Admiration or Adoration
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Baring-Gould (S.), Village Preaching, 2nd Ser., ii. 99.
Deshon (G.), Sermons for the Ecclesiastical Year, 330.
Ellerton (J.), Holiest Manhood, 78.
Frinder (D.), Worship of Heaven, 48.
Furse (C. W.), Sermons Preached at Richmond, 121.
Gibbons (J. C), Discourses and Sermons, 391.
Hare (J. C), Hirstmonceux Chapel Sermons, i. 245.
Horne (C. S.), The Life that is Easy, 69.
Hort (F. J. A.), Village Sermons, ii. 73.
Maurice (F. D.), Sermons Preached in Country Churches, 10.
Reichel (C. P.), Sermons, 277.
Tauler (J.), Life and Sermons (Winkworth), 380.
Tyng (S. H.), The People’s Pulpit, New Ser., ii. 245.
Vaughan (J.), Sermons (Brighton Pulpit), 14th Ser., No. 1010.
Wilmot-Buxton (H. J.), The Life of Duty, ii. 104.
Wood (J.), in Sermons by Unitarian Ministers, 2nd Ser., i.
Church Pulpit Year Book, i. , 209.
Five-Minute Sermons by Paulists, New Ser., i. 373.
Christian World Pulpit, xlviii. 200 (Holland).
Churchman’s Pulpit (Twelfth Sunday after Trinity), xi. 422 (Winterbotham), 424 (Heard), 427 (Furse), 430 (Clements).
Churchman’s Pulpit Sermons to the Young, 334.
Clergyman’s Magazine, i. 76 (Light); 3rd Ser., xi. 215 (Youard).
Contemporary Pulpit, 2nd Ser., viii. 162 (Furse).