Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
the triumph of earnestness as illustrated in the story of Zacchaeus.
I. It triumphed over THE PERIL WHICH ATTENDS WEALTH. This man was rich (ver. 2). Riches are unfavourable to religious earnestness; we have Christ's own word for it (Luke 18:24; see homily). They present a very strong inducement to their owner to forsake the fountain of living waters, and to quench his thirst in the lower streams. Far too often they lead to luxury, to indulgence, to spiritual indifference. But Zacchaeus did not suffer this calamity to befall him, this fatal injury to be wrought upon him. His spiritual solicitudes won the victory over his temporal circumstances.
II. It triumphed over THE DEMORALIZING CALLING IN WHICH HE WAS ENGAGED. Our daily vocation must necessarily have a very great influence over us for good or evil; and if it be one that tends to lower and degrade a man, he is placed in the greatest possible peril. Much wisdom of mind, much resoluteness of soul, and much devoutness of spirit must be required to withstand the adverse powers. But though Zacchaeus was engaged in a pursuit that invited avarice and oppression, still he did not lose his religious earnestness.
III. It triumphed over AN EVIL REPUTATION. Few things are more degrading than a bad name. Men quickly become what they are supposed to be and what they are called. Let all his neighbours consider and call a man a rogue, and it will be strange indeed if he maintains his integrity. Yet, although Zacchaeus was denominated and dismissed as "a publican," spoken of by a term which was full of the strongest reproach, he did not descend to that level.
IV. It triumphed over THE OBSTACLES WHICH STOOD BETWEEN HIM AND CHRIST. He could not venture to solicit an interview with this holy Prophet; that he knew was completely barred by his vocation. He found it difficult to secure even a view of him as he passed along; his smallness of stature was against him. But such was his determination that he disregarded all considerations of dignity and decorum, and ran any risk of popular derision and affront, and climbed up, as if he had been a boy, into a tree to command a view of Jesus of Nazareth. So he prevailed.
V. IT WON WHOLLY UNEXPECTED GOOD.
1. The honour of entertaining this great Prophet at his own house; thus securing a standing to which he had long been a stranger.
2. The advantage of a protracted interview, an extended privilege, in which he could not only secure a few sentences from the great Teacher, but could unburden his heart to him and learn his holy will.
VI. IT LED TO NEWNESS OF LIFE. (Vers. 8, 9.) Zacchaeus from that day forth was a new man. His character was thenceforth determined: whatever selfishness or wrongness there had been, it should be renounced, and, where possible, reparation should be made. Character and life were to be cleansed and renewed; and Christ took him up into his favour and friendship. He was to be perfectly restored to the position he had lost. By his pursuit and practice he had become an alien, disinherited, no longer admitted to the services of the sanctuary. But now he was to be, in the fullest and deepest sense of the word, "a son of Abraham," a far truer son of his than many who prided themselves on their descent from the "father of the faithful." Thus earnestness of spirit completely prevailed.
1. Only earnestness will prevail. Indifference will go down to the death from which it is already not far removed. Halfheartedness will go only a very little way towards the goal; it will have to take some trouble and to suffer some pains, but it will not win the prize. Even impulsiveness, ]PGBR> which bears a considerable resemblance to earnestness, but is not the same thing, will fail before the way is trodden and the end secured. Only earnestness wins. 2. It always must. Whatever comes in the way; whatever inward or outward obstacles present themselves; whatever personal or social hindrances intervene; however victory be delayed; notwithstanding that the case may again and again seem hopeless; - still in the end earnestness will succeed. Jesus Christ will manifest himself; he will be found in the home; his presence and his grace will fill the soul with joy; he will declare sonship and heirship to his devoted and determined follower. - C.
2. It always must. Whatever comes in the way; whatever inward or outward obstacles present themselves; whatever personal or social hindrances intervene; however victory be delayed; notwithstanding that the case may again and again seem hopeless; - still in the end earnestness will succeed. Jesus Christ will manifest himself; he will be found in the home; his presence and his grace will fill the soul with joy; he will declare sonship and heirship to his devoted and determined follower. - C.
I. ZACCHAEUS NEEDED A SAVIOUR. For success is not sufficient for any man. He needs besides, salvation from sin, that is, from selfishness, and often from success itself. It is well when even curiosity leads a man to the Saviour, and to a sense of his great need. Zacchaeus's case is instructive for us all. His need of a Saviour ought to emphasize our need.
II. HIS HINDRANCES. IN SEEKING THE SAVIOUR. And of these we shall only mention three.
1. His riches. These are often a great hindrance to souls. They compete with Christ as a ground of trust. Men are tempted to trust in uncertain riches instead of in the living God. Zacchaeus had, however, got over this hindrance, and, rich man though he was, he was not ashamed to climb the sycamore to get a sight of Jesus.
2. His business. For the tax-farming had been denounced and excommunicated by the Jewish authorities, so that Zacchaeus, because of his business, did not enjoy the means of grace in the measure and amount he might otherwise have done. Jesus had, however, overcome this hindrance by his own manly and merciful policy, and insisted on associating with publicans and sinners to save them. Every one should ask himself the question, however, if his business is a hindrance or a help to his salvation. Can we ask Christ to meet us in it and save us in it? or can we only expect him to save us from it?
3. His physical state. His stature hindered him for a time from seeing Jesus, as the physical state of others often hinders them. But when one is thoroughly in earnest, he can overcome all hindrances as Zacchaeus did by climbing the sycamore. Hindrances may be changed by energetic action into helps and spiritual gains.
III. SALVATION MEANS HEARTFELT SYMPATHY WITH A PERSONAL SAVIOUR. For salvation comes to us clothed in loving personality, and the advent of Jesus to our souls, as in the case of Zacchaeus, is the advent of salvation. What we are asked in the gospel to do is to trust a Person, and to accept of safety in his blessed society. There is no abstract and confusing process to be passed through, but a concrete and real fellowship to be entered on and enjoyed.
IV. THE SAVED SOUL PROVES HIS SALVATION BY LIBERALITY AND RESTITUTION. As soon as Zacchaeus enters into sympathy with Christ, he makes a public profession. Here is his resolve deliberately made to Christ, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have wrongfully exacted aught of any man, I restore fourfold" (Revised Version). His riches are now to be made a means of grace, enabling him, in the first place, liberally to make restitution to all wronged ones; and secondly, to dedicate largely to the poor. Contact with Christ has opened his heart and made him open-handed. Murmuring Pharisees might restrict their ostentatious almsgiving to a tenth, but converted Zacchaeus will dedicate a half to the wants of the poor! A rich man may thus make his wealth the basis of princely generosity, and reap a reward in the gratitude of God's poor people.
V. JESUS GIVES ZACCHAEUS A BLESSED ASSURANCE OF SONSHIP. For Zacchaeus, if originally a Jew, had forfeited through his tax-gathering his position in the Jewish Church. No longer would the son of Abraham or Jewish authorities regard him as a heir of the promises. But Jesus interposes and reinstates him in his position of privilege. He declares before the guests that Zacchaeus has been saved by his visit to his house, and that this salvation-visit is because the publican is also a son of Abraham. In this beautiful way the selecting love of God in Christ is set before the people and the assurance of Abrahamic sonship conveyed to the new convert. It is thus the Lord comforts those who trust in him.
VI. CHRIST THUS DEMONSTRATES HIS MISSION TO SEEK AND SAVE THE LOST. Not by the parables of the fifteenth chapter merely does he demonstrate the merciful character of his mission, but also by such a missionary act as the salvation of Zacchaeus. As "the Son of man" he is interested in the welfare of his race, and finds in the lost the sphere of his gracious operation. It is thus he comforts the lost ones, by enabling them to see that they are the proper objects of his compassion. - R.M.E.
I. THE LOSS AND RECOVERY BY ZACCHAEUS of his place in the commonwealth of Israel.
1. He had forfeited this. It was by no means inalienable. Only they were the true children of Abraham who did the deeds, who lived the life, who were possessed with the spirit, of Abraham. So our Lord taught himself (see John 8:39). This was Paul's doctrine also (Romans 2:28, 29; Romans 9:7; Galatians 3:7). The true child of Abraham was he who walked by faith, who was the servant and the friend of God (Isaiah 41:8). But Zacchaeus had lost this true, this real and effectual sonship, For he had been living the life of sense, and not of faith; he had departed from the service of God, and engaged in the practice of extortion and corruption. He had ceased to be the friend of God, and made friendship with an evil world.
2. But now he was in the path of restoration. He was penitent; he was a seeker after heavenly wisdom in Jesus Christ; and this meant renewal of heart and life; it meant rising into a new and elevated region, breathing the pure air of devotion, of service, of righteousness; it meant the recovery of the forfeited birthright. Salvation had come to himself and his household; once more he was "a son of Abraham." We are thus led to look at -
II. THE SAD POSSIBILITIES OF FORFEITURE open to all the children of men. God made us to be heirs of all that is good and blessed - of liberty, of truth, of honour and of love, of himself and of his kingdom. But sin comes in and spoils our heritage; under its evil ban we lose our good estate; our inheritance is forfeited; instead of being the "sons of God" and the "children of wisdom," we become rather the "children of wrath." We may forfeit:
1. Our liberty. We may become, how many do become, enslaved by some evil habit which holds them fast in its strong coils - some bodily or mental habit!
2. Our hold upon the truth. We may lose our faith in, and our appreciation of, the leading and vital doctrines which bring us into close and conscious fellowship with God.
3. Our very manhood. For there are many who suffer themselves to sink so low in the moral scale that they forfeit all claim to be accounted men; their lives are simply brutal.
4. Our rightful place in the estimate of our fellow-men. We may lose all the esteem, the confidence, and (consequently) the affection of our neighbours.
5. The friendship of Jesus Christ. Too often those who once walked with him and worked for him stand aside, and "walk no more" by his side; they leave his service, they lose his loving favour, they cannot be any longer counted among his friends. And with all this there must be the sad and grievous forfeiture of:
6. The hope of eternal life. For when fidelity is lost, hope is lost also.
III. THE BLESSED OPENING FOR RESTORATION provided by the Saviour of souls. There is no "house," however fallen, to which "salvation ' may not come; no human being, however sunk in sin and wrong, who may not be restored in the mercy of God by the power of Jesus Christ the Saviour. It is when he is admitted to the home and to the heart that recovery is attained. In him, for all earnest seekers, is escape from bondage and from error and unbelief; in his service is found the gradual but effectual return of the trust and the love of man; he offers the renewal of his friendship, and opens again the closed door of hope to the penitent and the believing spirit. The slave of sin becomes the son of God; the companion of the evil-doer becomes the friend and co-worker of Christ; the candidate for condemnation becomes the heir of heaven. - C.
I. AN APPEAL TO OUR FINER AND NOBLER INSTINCTS. If you have a hundred sheep, and of these all but one are safely sheltered from the cold and protected from every peril, but that one is shut out, is away shivering in the blast, is exposed to the attack of the wild beast, is nearing the deadly precipice, - your heart prompts you to, leave those that are safe, and to go and seek and rescue the one that is lost. Christ's heart prompts him to find that human soul which is lost in the mazes of error, or caught in the meshes of vice, or starving on the barren plains of unbelief. The most generous instincts of our nature will help us to understand his action when he went to the house of the publican, or suffered the daughter of shame to come in penitence to his feet.
II. AN APPEAL TO OUR HIGHER INTERESTS. We should put forth that labour in the field of sacred usefulness which is most remunerative. But which answers best - attention to the pretentious Pharisee, or to the shamefaced publican? To forgive fifty shillings to him who will first dispute the claim and then think nothing of your readiness to forego it will not be so satisfactory as to forgive five hundred pounds to him who is constrained to acknowledge the indebtedness, and is filled with gratitude to you for cancelling it. To endeavour to convince the scribe and the Pharisee of sin would have proved vain and fruitless work; but to lead some guilty ones to penitence and purity was to earn unbounded gratitude, and to unloose streams of devoted love that should refresh the parched and thirsty soil.
III. AN APPEAL TO OUR SENSE OF DUTY. The physician has several patients; some of them are not very ill, and these have the idea that they know what ails them and what remedies will do them good; but there are two or three that are dangerously, perhaps desperately ill, who do not know what they should do for recovery, and who will gladly take his advice and adopt his measures. To whom should he go but to those who need him most and will receive him best?
1. Let us enter more into the pitifulness of spiritual degradation. Sin is to be condemned, and strong indignation is often a duty and even a grace. But it is also very pitiful. Whether we find it in publican or harlot, in the covetous man or in the degraded woman, it is a thing to grieve over, even as Christ our Lord did, with a generous compassion; to affect our hearts with a pure and even deep distress. And it' we should feel thus as we contemplate the condition of one lost human being, what should our emotion be in view of the multitudes who are sunk in superstition, in wrongdoing, in utter hopelessness and helplessness! When we "see these multitudes," should we not, like the Master, be "moved with compassion for them, because they are as sheep without a shepherd"? May we not well exclaim -
"My God, I feel the mournful scene, 2. Let us avail ourselves of every means for seeking and saving the lost: whether it be individual effort, or action in combination with others, or liberal contribution to the missionary institution, let every opportunity be taken to follow in the path of love once trodden by "those sacred feet." - C.
2. Let us avail ourselves of every means for seeking and saving the lost: whether it be individual effort, or action in combination with others, or liberal contribution to the missionary institution, let every opportunity be taken to follow in the path of love once trodden by "those sacred feet." - C.
vessel far out of its track and drifting toward the rocks where it will find its ruin; it speaks of the traveller lost among the mountains, moving toward the precipice over which he is bound to fall and perish; it speaks of the firm whose affairs have been growing serious and have now become desperate, before which there is no other prospect than the closed door and a place in the gazette; and it speaks of the sad story, old as sin but young as yesterday, of one that has been deceived and led astray, over whose character and over whose future the darkest shadows rest. But our text reminds us of -
I. THE LOST WORLD WHICH CHRIST CAME TO SAVE.
1. There was a day in the history of heaven when it was announced that a new world was lost; that a race created in its Divine Maker's image was lost, had departed from the truth and wisdom of God, had left its home in his love, and had wandered away in guilt and wrong.
2. Only God himself could comprehend what that meant; what evil, what sorrow, what error, what darkness of soul, what wretchedness of life, what degradation of character, what death-fulness.
3. But the Son of God determined to restore it; ordered everything in his holy providence that would prepare for his own personal intervention; in due time manifested himself in the flesh, spake, wrought, lived, suffered, died, arose, reascended; left behind him the great work of redemption in all its fulness and fitness - the gospel of the grace of God.
II. THE LOST SOUL WHICH HE IS EVER SEEKING AND SAVING.
1. The sense in which each sinful human soul is lost.
(1) It has lost its way; it is a traveller going in the wrong direction, away from his home toward the perilous precipice.
(2) It has lost its treasure, its heritage; for it has lost its peace, its harmony, its accordance with all those beings to whom it is most nearly and vitally related; it has lost its hopes.
(3) It has lost its worth, its likeness to the Holy One; it has been brought down to folly, to that which is unbeautiful and unworthy.
2. The fact that Christ is seeking it.
(1) He is tenderly interested in every human soul. At all stages in its history. When it is in the far country he is regarding it with infinite compassion and Divine yearning; when the first thought of returning is kindled in the heart and the beginnings of penitence are seen; when there is earnestness which makes toward, but does not amount to, actual repentance (see Mark 10:21); when the soul is seeking its Saviour
(2) He is endeavouring to win it. He is coming to it various approaches, laying a loving hand upon it at many points, addressing it in many tones, returning again and again to it in patient solicitude. "Behold, he stands at the door, and knocks.
(3) Our only possible response. Not, indeed, that we cannot reject and refuse him; we can; it is open to us to do that. But, then, how can we? If we would not be shamefully and guiltily ungrateful, if we would not make his dying and ever-living love to be of no avail to us, if we have any regard for our own present and immortal blessedness, if we would win the prize and enjoy the heritage of eternal life, the only possible response we can make to the seeking Saviour is to open wide the door of our hearts and bid him enter and take full possession of our grateful and loving spirit. - C.
I. IT IS IN HEAVEN, AND NOT ON EARTH, OUR LORD IS TO RECEIVE HIS KINGDOM. This is the great mistake many have made about Christ's kingdom and reign. They localize head-quarters on earth instead of in heaven. It is not by a democratic vote, by a plebiscite, our Lord is to receive his kingdom, but by donation from the Father. When he went away by death, resurrection, and ascension, therefore, it was to receive a kingdom that he might return crowned. Hence we are to regard him as now reigning over his mediatorial kingdom. He is on the throne. His government is administered from the heavenly places.
II. IT IS PERILOUS TO REFUSE TO ACKNOWLEDGE HIS PRESENT REIGN. The citizens that hate the absent King will be slain before him when he returns for judgment. Hostility, enmity, to Christ, if continued, must lead to utter discomfiture at last. Rebellion of spirit is, therefore, to be diligently uprooted if we would have any share in Christ's kingdom. It is at our peril if we refuse his loving and righteous reign.
III. CHRIST'S SERVANTS LIVE UNDER A LAW OF CAPITAL IN HIS KINGDOM. In this parable we have "pounds," and not "talents," referred to. The question is, therefore, of some equal endowment which all receive in common, not of unequal endowment distributed in sovereign wisdom. In the parable of the talents, given in another Gospel, we have equal diligence exhibited in the use of unequal endowments; and the reward is righteously equalized in the completed kingdom. Here, on the other hand, we have an unequal use of equal endowments, with the unequal reward attached in proportion to the diligence. We discern in the arrangement, therefore, that law of increase which has been denominated the law of capital. But first we have to settle the signification of the pounds. We shall not be far astray if, with Godet, we regard them as indicating those donations of Divine grace which are offered to the Lord's servants, we may suppose, in equal measure. These endowments are put to use in some cases, utterly neglected in others. It will be found at last that the law of capital has obtained in the Lord's arrangements. One man, by judicious use of what the Lord has given, finds his grace growing tenfold, so that by the time the Lord returns he is ready to undertake the government of ten cities. Another man, by diligence, but not so persevering as the former, finds his graces growing fivefold, so that in the final arrangement he is equal to the oversight of five cities. A third is represented as making no use whatever of his endowment, under the impression that the Lord is a grasping speculator, who wants to make the most he can out of men. He ventures to return his trust just as it was. He finds, however, that his selfish idleness is visited with utter ruin. He has the misused endowment recalled and made over to the better trader. "To him that hath shall be given." Accumulated capital tends to increase in proper hands, and it is right it should do so. It follows, then, from this law of capital as thus applied:
1. That we should use diligently every means to increase our Christian graces. Sanctification should be our life-work, and all action, meditation, prayer, should be utilized for the one great object of becoming the best servants of our Master our circumstances admit of.
2. We shall find ourselves thereby becoming rulers of men. It is wonderful the influence exercised by consecrated lives. It is easy understanding how we may become kings and priests unto God the Father. As consecrated by his grace, we begin immediately to influence others for good and to reign.
3. The influence on earth will have its counterpart in the reign enjoyed by us in heaven. For heaven will be the home of order. It will be no happy, musical mob. It will be a great society, with recognized kings of men, under the gracious authority, of course, of him who is "King of kings, and Lord of lords," Influence, character, all that is gracious, is destined to be continued and to abide. Those who have done men most good, and made the most of their opportunities here, shall be rewarded with corresponding influence in the well-ordered commonwealth above.
4. Wrong views of Christ's character may also be perpetuated, with their corresponding judgments. The pitiful servant who thought his Master austere, hard, grasping, was only attributing his own hard character to his superior. He failed to understand him. So is it with some souls. They insist on misunderstanding God, and the result is that their misunderstanding continues and is its own punishment. How important, therefore, that we should have correct views of God our Saviour! It will save us from misuse of his gifts and graces, and from the doom awaiting all faithless souls. - R.M.E.
I. TO TREAT THIS LIFE AS A TIME OF SACRED OPPORTUNITY. The "nobleman" of the parable gave to his servants a certain sum, of which they were to make good use during his absence. His charge was this: "Occupy till I come."
1. The time of the nobleman's absence stands for our mortal life. Whether it be long or short, our present life is a period during which we have to be preparing for another of far greater consequence. It is a probationary period, that on which the larger and more serious future depends. This is in harmony with our experience; for one part of our life is a preparation for another, and the nature of the succeeding period depends upon the character of that which precedes it - childhood for youth, youth for young manhood, etc.
2. The "pound" of the parable stands for God-given opportunity - for the constitutional capacity with which we are endowed; for the favouring circumstances and facilities by which we are surrounded; for the Christian privileges with which we are blessed.
3. The smallness of our endowment affords no escape from responsibility. Only "one pound." It seems a very small sum for a nobleman to give in charge; but clearly it was large enough for a righteous requirement. No plea could be found in the littleness of the sum; it is not even urged. No man is entitled to say that his human spirit is worth nothing to God, his life worth nothing to the cause of righteousness; only God knows how valuable one human spirit, one earthly life, is.
4. No slavish timidity will excuse the most faint-hearted (vers. 21, 22). Our God is not a Being from whose service we have to turn because we shrink from his severity (Psalm 103:8-14; Isaiah 40:29; Isaiah 57:16; 2 Corinthians 8:12).
II. TO LOOK FORWARD TO A DAY OF ACCOUNT AND OF AWARD.
1. There will be a day of judgment. The nobleman will return and call his servants before him (ver. 15). This may stand for some one great day, or we may still better look upon it as the day, when our earthly life terminates, and when we shall, as individual souls, stand before the Judge.
2. God will require of us the use we have made of our opportunity; what we have gained; what we have done in the direction
(1) of self-culture, ministering to the growth of our spiritual faculties;
(2) of the service of our kind, enlightening and aiding and blessing them;
(3) of magnifying the Name of our Divine Lord.
3. He will express his Divine judgment concerning us - his warm approval of those who have been most faithful (ver. 17); his acceptance of those who have not been unfaithful (ver. 19); his displeasure with the unworthy (ver. 22). We are to look for the clearly and fully expressed decision of Jesus Christ upon the character of our life-work, upon the comparative excellency or faultiness of our Christian life.
4. He will determine the measure of our award by the degree of our fidelity (see vers. 17, 19). The more faithful and devoted the life on earth, the larger the recompense, the brighter the crown, the broader the sphere, in the heavenly kingdom. The doctrine of Matthew 20:14, 15 does not contradict this; it simply teaches that those to whom God gives a smaller share of bounty and of grace are not to complain because there are those to whom he grants a larger one. God is righteous, and he not only will not forget our work and labour of love (Hebrews 6:10), but he will not allow those of his servants who have devoted their powers to his cause with the greatest energy, constancy, and self-sacrifice to miss the most generous and gracious recognition at his loving hand. - C.
I. GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY OF OUR LIFE. He is the Divine Lord of our life. It came from him; it is continued by him; it is enriched perpetually and liberally from his bountiful stores; and it is subject to his sway. He has a sovereign right to determine what it shall be - what shall be its aim and its issue. He is the "nobleman;" we are "his servants." if we do think of objecting to his claim (ver. 14), we shall only be disappointed and defeated in our rebelliousness of heart. He cannot be dethroned; against his right to rule there can be no appeal. Submission is our true wisdom, as it is our first and last obligation.
II. THE SACRED CHARGE HE LAYS UPON US. He gives to each of us money (silver) - a talent (Matthew 25.), a "pound" (text), and he says to each of us, "Occupy till I come."
1. The time of the nobleman's absence represents our mortal life, or (more correctly) the period between our first sense of responsibility and the last hour of consciousness.
2. The pound (talent)represents the opportunity of service which he places within our reach. This opportunity is compounded of
(1) our natural capacity - bodily, mental, spiritual; and of
(2) all the favourable circumstances by which we are attended as we pass through our life - education, home influence, capital, facilities for entering a sphere of activity, etc. And this sacred opportunity looks out in three directions:
(1) the cultivation of our own nature;
(2) the service of mankind;
(3) the worship of God, and work in his broad field.
The Lord of our life is saying to us, "Occupy till I come;" i.e. put out this pound, employ this sacred opportunity now within your reach, turn it to good account, use your capacities and your circumstances for high and noble ends - for your own spiritual enlargement, for the good of your brethren, for the glory of Christ.
III. THE REWARD OF FAITHFULNESS. (Vers. 16-19.) Here are two principles on which we may depend as guiding the Divine hand when the day of account arrives.
1. Those who have done well will receive God's gracious commendation and reward. To them he will express his good pleasure, and to them he will give an award.
2. They who have been more faithful will receive the more gracious approval and the larger sphere. He who turns his one pound into ten has a warmer welcome and a more liberal reward; to him are those most gladdening words addressed, and to him are entrusted not five but ten cities over which to rule (ver. 17). "Then shall every man have praise of God." But then shall those who have striven hard and Toiled long and suffered much in the cause of Jesus Christ have a full measure of benediction; and to such will be apportioned a crown that will be bright indeed, a sphere that will be broad indeed.
IV. THE PENALTY OF NEGLIGENCE. (Vers. 20-24.) The slothful servant may make excuses, but they will be brushed aside; he himself will be severely condemned; he will he divested of what he has left him; he will be sent into saddest exile (Matthew 25:30). It is not the atheist, or the criminal, or the perpetrator of vicious deeds; it is not the outward and flagrant transgressor, who is here condemned and sentenced; it is the man who made nothing of his life; it is the man who had no sense of sacred responsibility; it is he who withheld his powers from the service of God; - it is he who is pronounced to be so guilty. To let our lives go by without making them a service and a blessing, to let our powers and our opportunities rust in mere disuse, is to be accumulating a debt which we shall not be able to discharge, and which will make us to appear bankrupt at the great account. - C.
has have more? will he not have too much? Why should he who has but little lose the little he has? will he not be still worse off than ever? Where is the wisdom, where the righteousness of this course? This criticism arises from a pure misunderstanding of Christ's meaning. We shall see what he meant if we consider -
I. THE VIEW CHRIST TOOK OF POSSESSION. When may a man be said to have anything? When he has legal documents to prove that it belongs to him? Or when it is securely locked up in a box or buried in the earth? Not at all. It is when he is using it, when he is turning it to account, when he is making it answer the purpose for which it exists. If a man lets an object rust in disuse, remain unemployed, he has it not, virtually and practically. It is not his at all; it does him no good, renders him no service, is to him as if it were not; he has it not, in truth. This accords perfectly with Christ's usage in Matthew 25. There the men who put out their talents had them; the man who hid his latent had it not. He who does not make use of that which is at his command only "seemeth to have" (or thinketh he has) it (Luke 8:18). It is use that really constitutes possession. This is not a mere fancy or conceit; it is the language of truth, it is the verdict of experience. The miser does not really possess his gold; it answers to him none of the ends which make it the valuable thing it is. He might as well own as many counters. He seems to have (thinks he has)money, but in truth he has it not. It is thus with men of great intellectual capacity which they do not employ; their faculties, unused, are of no value to themselves or to others; they might as well be non-existent. According to the wise and true usage of the great Teacher, we have the things we use; those we use not we have not. Now we can understand -
II. THE DIVINE LAW OF INCREASE AND DECLINE. For this is not a mere action done on one particular occasion; there is nothing exceptional or arbitrary about it. It is a Divine method invariably adopted; a Divine principle running through the whole economy; a Divine law with illustrations on every hand. It affects us at every turn of our life, in every part of our nature. It applies to us considered:
1. Physically. The muscle that is used is developed; that which is neglected shrinks, and in time becomes wholly powerless. To him that has is given; from him that hath not is taken away.
2. Mentally. The boy who cultivates his intellectual capacities becomes mentally strong; every acquisition of knowledge is an increase of power; the more he knows the better he can learn: to him that has is given. But the boy who does not study, but wastes his youth in idleness, not only does not acquire knowledge; he loses the faculty of acquisition: from him that has not is taken away that (capacity) which he has.
(1) Spiritual perception. The little child can readily understand the elements of the Christian faith, and, apprehending them, go on to master "the deep things of God." But the aged man who has learnt nothing of Divine truth through a long life of godlessness, is quite unteachable; he is dull of apprehension: from him has been taken away, etc.; his faculties have become shrivelled.
(2) Christian work. Every one has a certain capacity for usefulness; and he is bound to put it out at once; if he waits until his capacity has grown into a power, he will find that not only will he not gain the skill he is waiting for, but he will lose the capacity he now has. But if, on the other hand, he uses what he has, the exercise of his humblest talent will bring increase, and he will soon acquire the strength and facility he is eager to possess. What, therefore, we wish to be able to do - teach, preach, pray, etc. - we must set about doing; every intelligent, devout effort to do good means not only a little good done, but a little power gained. What we do poorly to-day we shall do fairly well to-morrow; be ourselves to-day, we shall surpass ourselves to-morrow. Aptitude comes with effort and exercise: to him that has is given.
(3) Spiritual sensibility. The little child is open to impression, and, if he yields to the truth he knows, that truth will always be effective; but if he rejects it his heart becomes hardened, and he becomes increasingly unresponsive: from him that has not, etc. Thus God's holy Law engirts us on every side; we cannot step outside it. It is determining our character and our destiny. We must act upon it, must turn it to good account. We must see to it that we really have what we seem to have, that we are using the talent, the opportunity, that is at our command. Then to us will be given - here, on the earth, in the shape of increased faculty and multiplied usefulness; there, in the heavens, in the way of a far broader sphere of celestial service. - C.
honour as with Christian ideas of peace that he should ride, the "King came, meek," but not without attention and acclaim, into Jerusalem. A large company of the curious, the devout, and even the enthusiastic, welcomed him as "the King that came in the Name of the Lord." At last, thought his disciples, his hour is come; at last their Master was entering on his heritage, was assuming his kingdom; at last their long-delayed hopes were to be fulfilled. Gladly they accepted and sustained the greetings of the multitude, and fondly, we may be sure, they hoped that a triumphant issue was at hand. But it had no such ending as they looked for. Jesus went into the temple, healed the sick, received the adoration of the children, whose voices (as we can well believe) were the last to sink into silence, and went quietly back to Bethany. What, then, did it mean? What was the service and significance of the scene?
I. A VALUABLE REMINDER OF HIS POWER OF SELF-RESTRAINT. He had been moving among men as "one that serveth," as one that "ministered." He had moved as a very humble traveller along the path of human life. But how easy it would have been for him to call forth the honour of the people, and to live amid the excitements of popularity, and to reach the high places of power! But this he resolutely declined to do, choosing deliberately the lowlier but the nobler path of humble, holy service.
II. A STRIKING INDICATION OF HIS ACCEPTANCE WITH THE PEOPLE, NO one can say that Christ's teaching was not profound; it was deep as the very fountains of truth. No philosophy went further; he went down into the deep places of the human soul. Yet, while the philosophers made their appeal to the cultured, Christ addressed himself to the multitude, to the common human heart. And "all the people were very attentive to hear him." So here, while the men who prided themselves on their knowledge looked on with angry disdain (ver. 29), the people and the children were enthusiastic in his favour - they recognized in the Prophet of Nazareth the true Teacher that had come from God. Better be numbered among the simple-hearted who can appreciate the Divine than among the wise and learned who misread the providence of God, and stand sullen and silent while everything is inviting to joy and praise. Better be the ignorant cottager whose heart is full of reverence, or the little child who has the songs of Zion on his lips and the love of Jesus in his heart, than the learned critic who never bends the knee or bows the heart in homage to the true and the eternal.
III. A HINT OF CHRIST'S TRUE ROYALTY. The Messiah of the Jews was to be a King. To that conclusion prophecy pointed with unfailing finger, and on that event Jewish faith rested with gathering hope. The Son of David was to occupy his father's throne; the daughters of Jerusalem were to rejoice because "her King was coming." Claiming the Messiahship, Jesus was bound to claim this sovereignty, but how do this without encouraging the current fallacy as to his temporal and visible royalty? Is not this simple scene the answer? Christ then and thus said, "I am the King you are awaiting." But its extreme simplicity and its transiency showed that he did not intend to wear the trappings and be surrounded with the common grandeurs of earthly royalty; it showed that he came not for pomps and pageantries and outward triumphs, but to seek a sovereignty of another kind in another realm altogether. That very simple and passing regal state was only an emblem of the spiritual sovereignty which was immeasurably, higher and more to be desired. Sweet to his ear may have been the acclaim of the populace and the hosannas of the children; but how much sweeter is the voice of man or woman or of little child who goes in glad submission to his feet to offer loyal service to the Divine Redeemer, to place heart and life beneath his gracious and benignant sway!
IV. A PROPHECY OF FAR FUTURE GLORY. Never on this earth will that scene be re-enacted; but there is an hour coming when, in another realm, it will be amplified and perpetuated. Christ will be acknowledged King by all the hosts celestial and terrestrial. The transient gladness of the sacred city will be nothing to the everlasting joy of the new Jerusalem; the passing enthusiasm of that happy demonstration to the abiding blessedness of the life in the heavenly land. Yet may we take that one hour of Jerusalem's acceptance of her King as a prelude and a prophecy of the adoration which the redeemed of every kindred and tribe shall pay him when they cast their crowns at his feet.
"Oh that with yonder sacred throng PRACTICAL LESSONS. We gather: 1. That Jesus Christ is now claiming the real, spiritual sovereignty of ourselves. He is calling upon us not to strew his path with palm branches, but to offer him the first place in our heart; to yield him our perfect trust, our unfailing and unfading love, our cheerful and constant obedience. 2. That the rest of soul which follows such surrender of ourselves is incomparably better than the passing exultation of a triumphal entry. 3. That by loyal and devoted service in his cause we shall gain a place in the acclaiming company that will praise the King in his celestial glory. - C.
PRACTICAL LESSONS. We gather:
1. That Jesus Christ is now claiming the real, spiritual sovereignty of ourselves. He is calling upon us not to strew his path with palm branches, but to offer him the first place in our heart; to yield him our perfect trust, our unfailing and unfading love, our cheerful and constant obedience.
2. That the rest of soul which follows such surrender of ourselves is incomparably better than the passing exultation of a triumphal entry.
3. That by loyal and devoted service in his cause we shall gain a place in the acclaiming company that will praise the King in his celestial glory. - C.
Mark 10:32); they were profoundly impressed with the ardour and intensity of his spirit: "As they followed they were afraid." We may share the Saviour's spirit of holy ardour and elevation as we tread -
I. THE PATH OF HOLY PRIVILEGE. When may we be said to be on the upward road so tar as our activities are concerned? When we are presiding? or when we are ruling? or when we are winning? or when we are rejoicing? It'-racy be so. But assuredly we are then on the way that slopes upward and heavenward when we are in the path of sacred privilege, when we are "on our way to God" - to his nearer presence, to the worship of the Holy and the True One, to communion with the righteous Lord of all, to fellowship with Christ, to gathering at his table of love, to work in his vineyard. Then are we in the high places - " in the heavenly places;" then are we engaged in an exercise of human power which is most worthy of our highest faculties and reflects dignity on our human nature; then are we "ascending" in spirit; and we do well to feel that it is not a time for slackness of speed, for exhaustion of spirit, for signs of weariness. We should show a sacred ardour, a holy eagerness, like unto him who "went before" as he ascended to Jerusalem.
II. THE WAY OF WITNESS-BEARING. To go to Jerusalem was, to our Lord, to go where he should "bear witness to the truth" (John 18:37); should bear witness by words, of which many would be utterly misunderstood, and many treated with high disdain; should bear witness by suffering, by calm, brave, patient endurance of wrong. And to do this was to go up, to ascend; as it is to-day, and will always be. Where shall we find the martyr-witnesses among mankind? Not as we look down, but as we look up - up to the very loftiest altitudes that human foot has ever trodden. Kings and statesmen walk not along such lofty, such truly celestial paths as do they who speak amid derision or suffer without flinching to attest the living truth of God. When we go forward toward self-sacrifice for Christ's sake we "ascend up" to the high places of the kingdom of God. It may well be with no faltering or lingering step, but with a free and forward movement, like him who now "went before," that we move to those sacred and noble levels.
III. THE MOUNT OF TRANSLATION. Jesus went up to Jerusalem, to Calvary, to that wondrous redeeming death which is the world's great sacrifice. We may well say that he ascended to that. That was the culminating point of his career; that not only concluded, but crowned his course. And after receiving all the light which he has shed upon it, we need not be ever speaking of death as a dark valley down which we must descend; we may rather regard it as a mount of translation up which we move. In all things physical, indeed, we descend to die; our powers become lower, our life grows less. But we walk by faith in Christ Jesus. And by faith we regard ourselves as going up to the gateway which admits to the celestial glories. In view of that which immediately afterwards awaits us, we need not lag behind; we may press forward, like our Master, as we draw toward the close, and may eagerly pass on the way which ends in death and victory. - C.
ass, that he might ride into Jerusalem thereon. The marvellous way in which the ass was lent to him indicated preternatural knowledge. Upon this colt, then, he sat, and passed amid the hosannas of the people into the sacred city. But his advent was in tears, and his terminus was not a palace, but the temple. The whole character of the procession and its termination tended to upset all vulgar Messianic hopes and lead thinking minds to reflection. Let us look at the different stages of the royal progress and such lessons as they suggest.
I. THE HUMBLE CHARACTER OF THE PROCESSION. (Vers. 28-40.) For it was on an ass, not on any royal mule, he rode; to fulfil the prophecy of Zechariah, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass" (Zechariah 9:9). The very fact of his selecting such a lowly and despised animal indicated his humility. At the same time, his perfect command of the untrained colt revealed his sovereignty in animated nature - that, like an unfallen Adam, he was lord of the lower creatures. It was akin to his being with the wild beasts and unscathed in the wilderness. But secondly, the extemporized character of the procession was humiliating. A great king gets the parade organized, and knows what will for the most part compose his escort. But this King of kings rests his escort upon the extemporized enthusiasm of the crowd, and values at its proper figure the measure of enthusiasm that is evoked. He knew that the same people who then shouted, "Hosanna; Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest!" would a few days after cry out, "Crucify him!" And so he was humiliated rather than honoured by the shallow enthusiasm of the motley crowd. Thirdly, the unseemly interruptions of the Pharisees rendered it humiliating. So irritated were they that they urged him to rebuke the disciples for crying out as they were doing. But the Lord only declared that, if the disciples were silent, the very stones would get tongues to sound his praise. This Pharisaic jar, this unseemly interruption, must have been humiliating to the Lord. To bear it as he did demonstrated the humility and meekness of his spirit. Truly he was "meek and lowly in heart."
II. THE TEARS OF THE ADVANCING KING ARE NOTABLE. (Vers. 41-44.) For instead of a city welcoming him, instead of this city of the great King recognizing the day of her visitation, and opening her arms for her Deliverer, there was apathy and scorn for his methods and aims. No wonder, therefore, that he had to speak about the siege of Titus, which he saw plainly must come. Pursuing their poor worldly policy, they must be encompassed ultimately by the Roman eagles. And so he wept those tears of deepest sorrow over the impenitence of Jerusalem. How different from the processions of earthly monarchs or great captains! The very last thing looked for on such occasions would be tears. The sympathy of this Saviour for Jerusalem sinners was deep indeed when it led him to such a weeping-time as the processionists witnessed.
III. HIS SECOND PURIFICATION OF THE TEMPLE WAS THE CULMINATION OF THE PROCESSION. (Vers. 45, 46.) The tempter wanted him to begin his Messianic work by a harmless descent from the temple-pinnacle; he began his work by entering into the temple and casting out the traffickers. And now he has to finish his work by repeating the purification. Usually the processions of kings end at palace gates and in palace halls; but the procession of Christ ends at the temple and in its court. He must convert it from a den of thieves to a place of prayer. The meaning of his kingdom could not be better represented. It was really the sphere of religion and of worship that he made his own; in the regulation thereof he was supreme, and exercised his influence.
IV. HE TAUGHT DALLY IN THE TEMPLE UNTIL THE END. (Verb. 47, 48.) He was surrounded by his enemies. They were on the qui vive to secure him and put him away. But now that his hour of self-sacrifice is near, he feels himself immortal till his work is done. It is the interests of others that occupy him. He must teach to the last. And so from Bethany he comes in morning by morning to instruct the interested crowds. What solemn lessons they must have been, those closing ones of Jesus! And they attracted great attention, and their popularity restrained his enemies, although it must have intensified their determination to put him out of the way. Thus we have seen how this humble King entered Jerusalem to work reformation there, and, if possible, save the people by enlightening and teaching them. If his mission failed with most, it succeeded with some, and inaugurated the new kingdom, which is "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." - R.M.E.
I. YOUTHFUL CURIOSITY. Curiosity is an irrepressible thing; it will be satisfied. Age cannot extinguish it, try how it may. It may have occasion to check it, but its true wisdom is to guide it - to take the necessary trouble to satisfy it in the best possible way. Curiosity is not a plant of the evil one; it is rooted in the soul by the heavenly Father; it is a main source of knowledge; it ought to be wisely but amply nourished. If we endeavour to suppress it we shall find that it will not be suppressed, but will find other ways of satisfaction than those we disallow.
II. THE LOVE OF LIBERTY. A desire for freedom and independence is a strong sentiment of the human soul. Where intelligence exists there it will arise and assert itself. It will not be put down; it cannot be put out. Authority may "rebuke" it, as the Pharisees wanted Christ to act on this occasion; but the Lord of our nature knows that it will be heard and must be respected. Neither domestic, nor social, nor national, nor ecclesiastical despotism can survive beyond a certain time. The aspirations of the human soul for freedom will not be denied. If not permitted a wise and rightful form of action, they will take improper and harmful ones.
III. THE RELIGIOUS SENTIMENT IN MAN. Philosophy has tried to silence the voice of faith; it has undertaken to rebuke the disciples; and it has temporarily and superficially succeeded. But it has found that so deep and so strong is the religious sentiment in man that when religion is driven down below the surface it comes out again in superstition in some form or other. The sense of the Supreme, a yearning of the human heart for the living God, is not to be erased from the soul, is not to be removed from the life of man.
IV. DEFINITE RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS. These also are not to be suppressed. Men have taken very various views of the doctrines of the Christian faith; and, as we know too well, opponents have not only "rebuked," but tried arrogantly and forcibly to silence, those who have differed from them. But they have not succeeded. Religious conviction is an inextinguishable force; slain in the persons of its champions, it rises again and reappears, often in tenfold power.
V. RELIGIOUS ENTHUSIASM. To this the words of our Lord primarily and most properly apply. Religious fervour may frequently be disposed to take a form which we do not think the best, or even the suitable and becoming. But we must take care how we deal with it. It is not a thing to be suppressed; it is to be encouraged and enlightened and guided. It is, or it has within it, a true, living power; this power is of God, and is for good. Abruptly and harshly rebuked and silenced, it will only assert itself in other and probably still more questionable forms. Treated with Christian sympathy and encouragement (see Luke 10:49, 50), informed and enlightened by superior intelligence, directed into wise channels, it may do a noble work for the Master and mankind.
1. Let not a young enthusiasm be mindful only of its own exuberance; let it be regardful of the judgment and feeling of experience.
2. Let experience be tolerant of eager-hearted enthusiasm, and be prepared to count it amongst its friends. - C.
I. HIS TENDER SYMPATHY WITH HUMAN SORROW, The grief which now overwhelmed the Saviour was (as we shall see) very largely due to his sense of its past and its approaching guilt. But it was also due, in part, to his foreknowledge of the sufferings its inhabitants must endure. An intense sympathy with human woe was and is a very large element in the character and life of Jesus Christ.
1. It was his compassion for our race that brought him from above - that we by his poverty might become rich.
2. It was this which, more than anything else, accounts for the miracles he wrought. He could not see the blind, and the lame, and the fever-stricken, and the leprous without tendering them the restoring grace it was in his power to bestow. He could not see mourning parents and weeping sisters without healing the heart-wounds he was able to cure.
3. It was this which drew to himself the confidence and affection of loving hearts. It was no wonder that pitiful women and tender-hearted children, and men whose hearts were unhardened by the world, were drawn in trust and love to the responsive Son of man, whose step was always stopped by a human cry, to whose compassion no stricken man or woman ever appealed in vain.
4. It is this feature of his character which makes him so dear to us now as our Divine Friend. For in this world, where sorrow treads so fast on the heels of joy, and where human comforters so often fail us, of what priceless value is it to have in that Everlasting One, who is the Ever-present One, a Friend who is "touched" with our griefs, and who still carries our sorrows by the power of his sympathy!
(1) Let us thank God that we have such a Friend in him; and
(2) let us resolve before God that such a friend will we seek and strive to be.
II. HIS PROFOUND REGRET FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN THE WRONG. With what eyes do we look upon human sin when we see it at its worst? How are we affected by the sight of a drunkard, of a thief, of a foul-mouthed and fallen woman? Are we filled with contempt? Many bad things are indeed contemptible; but there is a view to be taken which is worthier and more Christ-like than that; a view which is more humane and more Divine - a feeling of profound pitifulness and sorrowful regret. It was this which filled the heart of Christ when he looked upon Jerusalem, and that called forth his tearful lamentation. Much was there about that city that might well move his righteous anger, that did call down his strong, unsparing indignation (Matthew 23.) - its spiritual arrogance, its religious egotism, its fearful pretentiousness, its deep-seated hypocrisy, its heartless cruelty, its whitewash of ceremony without with all its corruptness and selfishness within. But Jesus forebore to denounce; he stopped to weep. He was most powerfully affected by the thought that Jerusalem might have been so much to God and man, and was - what she was. Jesus Christ was not so much angered as he was saddened by the presence and the sight of sin. He might have withered it up in his wrath, but he rather wept over it in his pity. This is the Christian spirit to be cherished and to be manifested by ourselves. We must contemn the contemptible; but we rise to higher ground when we pity the erring because they are in error, when we mourn over the fallen because they are down so low, when we grieve for those who are afar off because they are astray from God and blessedness. But we must not only weep for those who are in the wrong because they are in the wrong. We must do our utmost to set them right. "How often" did Christ seek to gather those sons and daughters of Jerusalem under the wings of his love! How often and how earnestly should we seek to reclaim and to restore! - C.
I. THE FUTURE OF THE HOLY LAND. We speak of the land or country, though it was the city of Jerusalem over which he wept. But in the sense in which "Paris is France" Jerusalem was Judaea, was Israel itself. It was the strength, the light, the glory, of the land; it was the centre to which all the inhabitants looked and journeyed; it was the source of the people's habits and beliefs. The capital taken, everything was well-nigh gone, the fate of the country was settled. Concerning this people, this nation, Jesus Christ felt, as he beheld the city:
1. That it had been enriched with peculiar privilege.
(1) Commencing with a signal and glorious deliverance from bondage;
(2) continued with the granting of a Law and a system admirably fitted to save them from surrounding superstitions and impurities;
(3) multiplied by the coming of psalmist and of prophet with inspiring song and elevating speech and life, uplifting their imagination and cleansing their conscience;
(4) enhanced by the strong and severe, but yet kind and merciful, discipline through which they were made to pass;
(5) culminating in the presence, the teaching, the life, of him, in whom One wiser than Solomon, mightier than David, devouter than Samuel, nobler than Elijah and John, "was there."
2. That it was charged with a high and sacred mission. It was designed by God to be the depository and guardian of his Divine truth, to hold fast and to hold high those great verities which are the strength, the life, and the glory of our manhood. Just what part it was to have played, and what exact service it would have rendered our race had it been loyal and true, may be questioned by us. But it would undoubtedly have played a very great part, and been, as a nation, the great factor in the restitution of mankind.
3. That it had now missed its chance, and was hastening to its doom.
(1) The Hebrew faith had become a hollow formality, a mere ritual, from which true reverence, love, charity, earnestness, were all absent; and
(2) the nation was in the very act of rejecting and was about to slay its Messiah, thus going down into the darkest crime and then going on to the saddest disaster. We glance at -
II. THE FUTURE OF OUR OWN COUNTRY. There is no little parallelism between Judaea and England.
1. God has enriched our land with peculiar privileges. We have
(1) a large share of religious liberty;
(2) a good measure of spiritual enlightenment, not indeed without some dark shadows of ignorance and superstition;
(3) numerous and strong organizations covering the land, whose function is to teach, to guide, to guard, to rescue, and redeem. May we not say, "He hath not dealt so with any nation; as for his statutes and commandments, they have not known them" as we have known them?
2. God has given us a high and a great mission to perform. Responsibility goes with privilege; it is, indeed, the obverse side of the same thing. We have not only to present to his view "a holy nation" within our own borders, to raise our own community to the height of Christian knowledge, of social purity, of national well-being in all its forms; but also to diffuse the light of Divine truth far and wide, and to make our influence tell for peace, righteousness, and truth in every quarter of the globe.
3. We have to consider whether we are declining that mission or are fulfilling it. That is's question which cannot be determined bey public professions; nor by the number or character of our sanctuaries; nor by t number or constitution of our Churches. It can only be determined by the actual spiritual and moral condition of our people, of the multitudes and millions of our citizens; and by the earnestness and devotedness of Christian men and women in the field of sacred work. By these criteria we stand or fall. - C.
it is in him to rise. Bring to bear the right influences upon him, and from the very lowest depths of debasement and dishonour he may attain to noble heights of excellency and power. Again and again in the history of mankind and of individual men has this been proved to be true. Illustrative and reassuring instances can be adduced in which whole tribes, or even nations, and in which particular men and women, have been visited with "the truth and grace of Jesus Christ," and have been lifted up to knowledge, to virtue, to piety, to spiritual beauty, to preparedness for the heavenly sphere. But the serious aspect of this truth is that which is here suggested, viz. that God's dealings with us may reach a climax which is ignorantly and fatally neglected. We know how true this was of the Hebrew people. God's dealings with them (see previous homily) were long-continued, varied, gracious; they culminated in the coming of the King's Son. Then Divine Wisdom uttered its voice in their hearing; then Divine Power wrought its marvels of mercy before their very eyes; then Divine Purity lived its life of loveliness; and Divine Love manifested itself in a hundred forms of kindness and of pity in the very midst of them. But "this their day," this "time of their visitation," they did not know. Israel missed its golden chance, and went down, as a nation, to rise no more. But looking at God's redemptive dealing with ourselves, as individual spirits, we see -
I. How OFTEN GOD VISITS US in his redeeming love. In childhood, by a mother's tenderness; in youth, by a father's wisdom; in young manhood (womanhood), by many voices of the home and of the Church, uniting to say, "Thy God hath commanded thy strength;" in prime, by some chastening providence, laying his hand upon us and constraining us to listen and to understand.
II. HOW HIS DEALINGS WITH US CULMINATE in some day of grace. There comes a time in the history of souls - it may come in any period of life - when "the powers of the world to come" are most strongly felt, when God's nearness is most vividly realized, when the claims of Christ most forcibly touch and move the soul, when the kingdom of God is very near, and its gates are seen to stand wide open. It is "this thy day," it is the "time of visitation" to such a human heart.
III. HOW WISE, THEN, IS IMMEDIATE ACTION! How wise and well for us to know the time of our visitation, to recognize our great and priceless opportunity, to flee to the seeking Saviour "swift as the morning light," lest the golden chance be gone, the gates of opportunity be closed! - C.
I. THE SENSE IN WHICH SACRIFICE WAS PRAYER. The temple existed primarily and pre-eminently for sacrifice. There, and there alone, might sacrifices be offered to the Lord. It was the one place in all the land where the sin offerings and the burnt offerings could be presented. Was it not, then, essentially, the place of sacrifice? Truly; but sacrifice, when rightly viewed, was a form of prayer. In it and by it the offerer drew near, consciously, to the loving God; in it he made confession of sin to God; in it he made acknowledgment of his continual indebtedness to God; in it he supplicated the mercy and the grace of God. But this is prayer; it is prayer in the form of offering rather than in words. Less than this - this conscious approach, this confession, thanksgiving, and supplication - is not prayer at all. Inasmuch, then, as the temple was the place of sacrifice, it was the place of prayer.
II. THE FACT THAT THERE WAS ROOM IN THE TEMPLE FOR PRAYER AS WE ORDINARILY UNDERSTAND IT. We gather from our Lord's own words that the temple was the place commonly chosen by the people for the offering of prayer (ch. 18:10). It was toward the temple that the exiled Jews looked when they knelt down to pray in distant lands; and it was in the temple that they stood to pray when that sacred building was within reach. It was, no doubt, regarded as of all places in the world the very fittest in which to realize the presence of Jehovah, and to spread forth the soul's desires and aspirations before him. There were many places for prayer, but that was the place of prayer.
III. THE PLACE OF PRAYER IN THE CHRISTIAN SANCTUARY. By what, above all things else, should the Christian sanctuary be characterized?
1. It should be the place of common assembly. Where all classes of the people meet together, the rich and the poor, and feel that the Lord is the Maker of them all (Proverbs 22:2); where the learned and the unlearned worship and bow down together, and "kneel before the Lord their Maker" (Psalm 95:6); it is the place where human spirits meet, and where earthly circumstances are of no account whatever - where wealth does not weigh, and rank creates no distinction.
2. It should be the place of spiritual enlightenment.
(1) Where the Word of God is read, and should be read (as it may be) impressively and effectually; for there is nothing in literature which is more fitted to attract and interest a miscellaneous assembly;
(2) where the will of God is faithfully delivered, and the gospel of Christ expounded and enforced;
(3) where the cause of the Master and of mankind is fully and earnestly pleaded. But most especially is it:
3. The place of prayer. Here, either in sacred psalmody, or through some prepared formula, or led by the extemporaneous thought and aspiration of the minister, the worshippers draw nigh to God in every way in which he is approached by man - in adoration, in communion, in thanksgiving, in confession, in supplication, in consecration. No worshipper in the house of the Lord can reach a higher level of spiritual attainment than when he pours out his heart in prayer to God in these various utterances; and no minister in the house of the Lord can render to the people gathered together a truer or higher service than when he helps them thus to approach the Father of spirits, and thus to come into direct communion with him. Then is the house of God put to its noblest and worthiest use when it is made by those who meet within its wails "the house of prayer." - C.
I. THE SANCTUARY. When, instead of making it a place of worship, of drawing near to God, of speaking to him or for him, of learning something more of his holy will, we make it a place for distinguishing ourselves, or for advertising our respectability, or for gaining enjoyment which is wholly unspiritual.
II. THE HOME. When that which should be the abode of peace, of love, of purity, of fellowship, of tenderness, of gracious ministry, of quiet growth and joy, is turned into a scene of bitterness, of recrimination, of estrangement, of deterioration, of unhappiness.
III. THE PLACE OF BUSINESS. That might be a sphere where valuable virtues and most acceptable graces are manifested and are strengthened - truth, equity, courtesy, honour, courage, sagacity; too often it is nothing better than a sphere in which deceit, low cunning, dishonesty, a mean and miserable selfishness, are sown and reaped bountifully.
IV. THE HUMAN BODY. In our treatment of this bodily frame, so skilfully and so wonderfully made, so nicely adjusted to receive and convey impressions from and to the outside world of man and nature, we may and we should act as if we were dealing with a very sacred thing. By cleanliness, by moderation, by purity; by entertaining through the ear and the eye God's own truth and wisdom; by employing the tongue to speak his love and to sing his praise; by letting the graces of Christian character write themselves, as they will, in lineaments of beauty upon our countenance; by letting our bodies be, as they may be, the very temples of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 6:19), - we may make them worthy and sacred in the sight of God. But when we regard them as mere instruments of gratification, and make them the ministers of sinful and even shameful pleasure, how great is such desecration before God!
V. HUMAN LIFE. It is here that the Holy One most often sees with Divine regret a pitiful desecration. He gave us our life that it might be spent, through all its stages, in sacred service, in spiritual growth, in elevating joy, in excellent preparation for the larger and fuller life beyond. How grievously is it desecrated when it is turned into a time for mere pecuniary acquisition, or for mere fleshly enjoyment, or for mere emptiness and aimlessness of existence!
1. What a pitiful waste is this I and how it will one day be deplored as absolutely irreparable!
2. How perilous to form such evil habits of the soul, every day becoming more fixed l how wise to hear the Master's voice summoning us to noble service, "Why stand ye all the day idle? go, work in my vineyard"! - C.
I. THREE THINGS IN SPITE OF WHICH HE WAS POPULAR WITH THE PEOPLE.
1. The depth of his doctrine. Many gain a ready audience with the people by carefully restricting themselves to those truths which their hearers can easily understand: superficialities are generally acceptable. Not so with the great Teacher. He struck far below the surface, and was frequently announcing and enforcing truths which the majority of his hearers must have found "hard to be understood." Many of his utterances were "hard sayings" (John 6:60).
2. The height of his purpose. Christ would have "got on "with the multitude much further and faster if he had but brought down his teaching to the level of their national aspirations. But when they were thinking of something as shallow and as transitory as a political revolution, he was laying broad and deep the foundations of a spiritual, universal, everlasting kingdom of God. The strength and straightness of his charge. "Do you suppose these men were extraordinary sinners? I tell you, Nay; but except ye repent," etc.; "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom;" "Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scriber," etc. (Luke 13:2, 3; Matthew 18:3; Matthew 5:20).
II. TWO THINGS WHICH CONTRIBUTED TO, WITHOUT ACCOUNTING FOR, HIS POPULARITY.
1. The illustrativeness of his style. He called to his aid all visible nature, all homely occupations, the familiarities of social and domestic life.
"He talked of grass and wind and taint He spoke of lilies, vines, and corn, 2. The fearless front he showed to those who were the worst enemies of the people. He denounced in unsparing terms the selfishness and rapacity as well as the pretentiousness and actual impiety of those who were fastening the bonds of a merciless and oppressive legality on the necks of their victims; and the people looked on with approval and with enjoyment. Men always listen with delight when oppression is unsparingly denounced. They always like to see the mask torn off the face of falsehood. But it is not here that the secret of the popularity of Jesus is to be found. III. FOUR THINGS WHICH MADE CHRIST'S TEACHING ACCEPTABLE TO THOSE WHO HEARD HIM, and may well make his doctrine acceptable to us to-day. 1. He spoke of those things the truth of which the people most wanted to know. They did not want to know a number of legal niceties and small social and domestic proprieties of which the scribes spoke to them. They wanted to know what God thought of them, and how he felt toward them, and what was the way by which they could gain and claim his favour; what was the meaning and the purpose and the possibility of human life; what followed death; and what was the true hope for the after-time. On such themes Jesus spoke to men, and we need not wonder that "all the people listened attentively" as he spake. 2. He spoke as one that knew. He spoke "with authority, and not as the scribes." "His word was with power. He did not indulge in hair-splitting argumentations, nor in vague and dreamy imaginings, nor in doubtful and unreliable guesses. He spake as one that knew; as one who could speak about God, because he came forth from him, and dwelt with him; about prayer, because he was in constant communion with Heaven; about righteousness, because he himself was pure in heart; about love, because his whole life was one act of self-denial. Oat of the depths of a living soul he gave the known facts of experience, the certain truths of God. 3. His teaching was that of helpfulness and hopefulness. He saw men as sheep without a shepherd, tired out and lying down," wandering, smitten, dying. He grieved over the multitudes that were being misled, and he longed to do them good, to lead them back; he knew that he could help, that he could restore them. So he announced himself as that One who came "to preach good tidings to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captive;" he offered himself as One to whom all the heavy-laden might repair, and in whom they would find rest unto their souls. He stretched forth an uplifting hand to those who were thought by every one else to have fallen beyond recovery. He breathed hope and life into despairing and dying ears. 4. His doctrine was sustained by his character and his life. Men listened to him, not only because he "spake as never man spake," but because he lived as never man lived before - in such perfect purity, in such constant devotion, in such self forgetting love, with such gracious and tender sympathy in his heart and upon his countenance. They listened to him with such wrapt attention because they loved him for his goodness and for his love. (1) Such popularity as springs from such sources as these we may desire and seek to obtain. (2) For these same reasons we should be as attentive to hear the Master as were "the common people who heard him gladly" when he lived amongst us. - C.
He spoke of lilies, vines, and corn, 2. The fearless front he showed to those who were the worst enemies of the people. He denounced in unsparing terms the selfishness and rapacity as well as the pretentiousness and actual impiety of those who were fastening the bonds of a merciless and oppressive legality on the necks of their victims; and the people looked on with approval and with enjoyment. Men always listen with delight when oppression is unsparingly denounced. They always like to see the mask torn off the face of falsehood. But it is not here that the secret of the popularity of Jesus is to be found. III. FOUR THINGS WHICH MADE CHRIST'S TEACHING ACCEPTABLE TO THOSE WHO HEARD HIM, and may well make his doctrine acceptable to us to-day. 1. He spoke of those things the truth of which the people most wanted to know. They did not want to know a number of legal niceties and small social and domestic proprieties of which the scribes spoke to them. They wanted to know what God thought of them, and how he felt toward them, and what was the way by which they could gain and claim his favour; what was the meaning and the purpose and the possibility of human life; what followed death; and what was the true hope for the after-time. On such themes Jesus spoke to men, and we need not wonder that "all the people listened attentively" as he spake. 2. He spoke as one that knew. He spoke "with authority, and not as the scribes." "His word was with power. He did not indulge in hair-splitting argumentations, nor in vague and dreamy imaginings, nor in doubtful and unreliable guesses. He spake as one that knew; as one who could speak about God, because he came forth from him, and dwelt with him; about prayer, because he was in constant communion with Heaven; about righteousness, because he himself was pure in heart; about love, because his whole life was one act of self-denial. Oat of the depths of a living soul he gave the known facts of experience, the certain truths of God. 3. His teaching was that of helpfulness and hopefulness. He saw men as sheep without a shepherd, tired out and lying down," wandering, smitten, dying. He grieved over the multitudes that were being misled, and he longed to do them good, to lead them back; he knew that he could help, that he could restore them. So he announced himself as that One who came "to preach good tidings to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captive;" he offered himself as One to whom all the heavy-laden might repair, and in whom they would find rest unto their souls. He stretched forth an uplifting hand to those who were thought by every one else to have fallen beyond recovery. He breathed hope and life into despairing and dying ears. 4. His doctrine was sustained by his character and his life. Men listened to him, not only because he "spake as never man spake," but because he lived as never man lived before - in such perfect purity, in such constant devotion, in such self forgetting love, with such gracious and tender sympathy in his heart and upon his countenance. They listened to him with such wrapt attention because they loved him for his goodness and for his love. (1) Such popularity as springs from such sources as these we may desire and seek to obtain. (2) For these same reasons we should be as attentive to hear the Master as were "the common people who heard him gladly" when he lived amongst us. - C.
2. The fearless front he showed to those who were the worst enemies of the people. He denounced in unsparing terms the selfishness and rapacity as well as the pretentiousness and actual impiety of those who were fastening the bonds of a merciless and oppressive legality on the necks of their victims; and the people looked on with approval and with enjoyment. Men always listen with delight when oppression is unsparingly denounced. They always like to see the mask torn off the face of falsehood. But it is not here that the secret of the popularity of Jesus is to be found.
III. FOUR THINGS WHICH MADE CHRIST'S TEACHING ACCEPTABLE TO THOSE WHO HEARD HIM, and may well make his doctrine acceptable to us to-day.
1. He spoke of those things the truth of which the people most wanted to know. They did not want to know a number of legal niceties and small social and domestic proprieties of which the scribes spoke to them. They wanted to know what God thought of them, and how he felt toward them, and what was the way by which they could gain and claim his favour; what was the meaning and the purpose and the possibility of human life; what followed death; and what was the true hope for the after-time. On such themes Jesus spoke to men, and we need not wonder that "all the people listened attentively" as he spake.
2. He spoke as one that knew. He spoke "with authority, and not as the scribes." "His word was with power. He did not indulge in hair-splitting argumentations, nor in vague and dreamy imaginings, nor in doubtful and unreliable guesses. He spake as one that knew; as one who could speak about God, because he came forth from him, and dwelt with him; about prayer, because he was in constant communion with Heaven; about righteousness, because he himself was pure in heart; about love, because his whole life was one act of self-denial. Oat of the depths of a living soul he gave the known facts of experience, the certain truths of God.
3. His teaching was that of helpfulness and hopefulness. He saw men as sheep without a shepherd, tired out and lying down," wandering, smitten, dying. He grieved over the multitudes that were being misled, and he longed to do them good, to lead them back; he knew that he could help, that he could restore them. So he announced himself as that One who came "to preach good tidings to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captive;" he offered himself as One to whom all the heavy-laden might repair, and in whom they would find rest unto their souls. He stretched forth an uplifting hand to those who were thought by every one else to have fallen beyond recovery. He breathed hope and life into despairing and dying ears.
4. His doctrine was sustained by his character and his life. Men listened to him, not only because he "spake as never man spake," but because he lived as never man lived before - in such perfect purity, in such constant devotion, in such self forgetting love, with such gracious and tender sympathy in his heart and upon his countenance. They listened to him with such wrapt attention because they loved him for his goodness and for his love.
(1) Such popularity as springs from such sources as these we may desire and seek to obtain.
(2) For these same reasons we should be as attentive to hear the Master as were "the common people who heard him gladly" when he lived amongst us. - C.