Deaf Ears and Stammering Tongues.
(Twelfth Sunday after Trinity.)

S. MARK vii.37.

"He hath done all things well. He maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak."

Such was the verdict of the people who saw one of our Lord's miracles. How far more strongly may we say the same, having seen the work of Christ in the life of the Church at large, and in each of our individual souls! We cannot look on the world of nature without echoing the words of the text. No thoughtful man can mark the spring-time coming to the woods and hedgerows, and waking the sleeping plants as with the wand of an enchanter, or see the orchards white into the harvest of fruit, or look into the gold mine of the ripe corn, or gaze at the slumbering earth in winter, wrapped in its white sleeping dress of snow, without acknowledging the truth that God hath done all things well in the creation of the world. No Christian man can look at the earthly life of Jesus, without feeling that He hath done all things well in the redemption of the world. Whether we look on Jesus as the lowly Child, setting an example of obedience, increasing in favour with God and man; or as the humble worker, showing the dignity of labour in the workshop of Joseph the carpenter; or as the Friend of Sinners, teaching the fallen woman at the well; or as the sympathising Brother of Humanity, weeping for Lazarus, and drying the tears of the widow; or as the Teacher, speaking as never man spake; or as the Meek Sufferer, bowed down in Gethsemane, silent before the jibing crowd, praying for those who nailed Him to the Cross, we must accept the perfect life, the perfect pattern, and declare -- "He hath done all things well."

But turning from this subject in its wider sense, let us look specially at the miracle of to-day's Gospel. A man is brought to Jesus, deaf, and having an impediment in his speech. It is a well-known fact that those who cannot hear sounds are usually unable to utter them correctly. Now let us regard this miracle from a spiritual point of view. There are among us many who are spiritually deaf, and cannot speak aright. And it is because they are deaf to the voice of God, that they speak amiss. God utters His voice in many different tones, but their ears have waxed heavy and they cannot hear. God speaks to us by the Voice of Nature. This world has a myriad of voices for those who have ears to hear. There is the voice of praise and thanksgiving going up from singing bird, and rustling forest, and rushing waterfall. Every flower is an altar of pure incense, offering its sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour. "Earth, with ten thousand voices, praises God;" and yet some of us hear nothing of these things because we are spiritually deaf. Again, God speaks to us by the Voice of Conscience -- a still, small voice, speaking from the innermost sanctuary of our soul. And some of us hear it not. They have stopped their ears like the deaf adder, and so they go on wilfully sinning -- deaf to the Voice of God. I have read how a notorious prisoner, who had been convicted of many serious crimes, was found to have the whole story of our Lord's crucifixion marked upon his breast. How utterly deaf to the voice of conscience that man must have been! Although he bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus, yet he was the slave of the worst sins.

My brothers, we all bear the sign of the Cross, given to us in our Baptism, and if our ears have become deaf to the Voice of God, that cross is a witness against us. Sometimes we hear of a man being arrested who has on him a certain letter, which marks him as a deserter from the army. Are there any among us who feel that God has set that fatal mark on them: the sign that they, once soldiers and servants of Jesus Christ, have deserted their Leader, gone back, and followed no longer after Him? Then again, God speaks to us by the Voice of His Church. There is no asylum in the world where you will find so many deaf people as at a service in Church. Their ears are open to listen to the praises of their friends, or the eager talk of the market, and the place of business; but the warnings of God, the message of Christ's pardoning love, the threat of punishment, or the absolving word, fall unheeded upon deaf ears. How often from that altar has the loving message been uttered -- "Come unto Me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden," "Take, eat; this is My Body, which was given for you," and the deaf ears heard not, nor understood? How often has the wickedness of sin been proclaimed in this place, and the deaf ears heard only of another's faults, without heeding the warning cry -- "Thou art the man?" And these people go through life unconscious of their danger, just as a deaf man would walk along a railway and never hear the sound of the advancing train.

Notice, too, that those who are spiritually deaf have also an impediment in their speech. This is shown in many different ways. When I find persons who will not speak out boldly for the honour of Jesus Christ, who will not confess Him before the world, I know they have an impediment in their speech. When I find persons in Church silent throughout the Service, making no responses, singing no Psalm, or Chant, or Hymn, I know they have an impediment in their speech: they will not put their tongue to its right use, which is to praise God with the best member that we have. If I find a man saying what is false, hesitating to give a plain, straightforward answer, I know that he has an impediment in his speech, his stammering tongue cannot utter the truth. If I hear a man wild with passion, using bad language, I know that he has an impediment, he cannot shape good words with his tongue. And so with those who tell impure stories, or retail cruel gossip about their neighbour's character, they are all alike afflicted people, deaf to the Voice of God, and with an impediment in their speech. And now let us look at the means of cure. They are precisely the same as those mentioned in to-day's Gospel. They brought the afflicted man to Jesus. That is the first step. If we would find pardon and healing we must be brought to Jesus. The Holy Spirit leads the sinner back in many different ways. It was the reading of one text of Scripture which turned Augustine from his evil life. It was the single word Eternity printed in the tract which a man had torn scoffingly in two, and which lay in a scrap of paper on his arm, that led him to repent. Sometimes it is a word in a sermon, or a verse in a hymn; sometimes it is the question of a little child, or the sight of a dead face in a coffin; but whatever it is which brings us back to Jesus, that must be the first step to finding pardon and healing.

And next, Jesus was besought to heal the afflicted man. My brethren, our plain duty, as Christians, is to intercede for our fellow men. We are often far too selfish in our petitions. Whilst we humbly remember our own sins, and pray for pardon, let us beseech the Lord also for others. And then Jesus took the man aside from the multitude. The Lord could have healed him with a word in the midst of that crowd; but He took him aside. Why? Surely to teach us a lesson, that if we want to be healed of our sins, we must go aside out of the crowd of our everyday words, and thoughts, and companions. We must seek some quiet time, and place, where we can get away from the world, and be alone with God. So much of the religion of the day is thin and shallow, because people do not think about it enough; they have never gone aside out of the world. The multitude of worldly cares and pleasures, work, money getting, politics, jostle them on all sides, so that they cannot come near to Jesus and be healed. Have you never felt this when you have knelt down to pray? You have not been able to tell your secrets to God, any more than you would tell them to a friend, in the midst of a multitude. You want to go aside out of the crowd, where you can speak quietly. When you have knelt down, although it may have been in your own room alone, yet there is a crowd with you -- a multitude of disturbing thoughts. To-day's work, and to-morrow's pleasure, the money to be paid, or the money that is owing to you, the cares of eating, and drinking, and clothing, the recollection of a trouble, real or fancied, the remembrance of some sharp word that made us smart and tingle, all these things make a crowd, and keep us back from Jesus. I do not say that we can get away from the throng of thoughts entirely, but I do say that we should try every day of our lives to go aside out of the crowd, and find a quiet time, when we can think, and talk to God.

And next, Jesus put His fingers into the deaf man's ears. If we would find pardon and peace, Jesus must touch us. It will not help us to believe only in a Saviour who died, we must acknowledge One who is alive for evermore. It will not avail us to think of a Jesus who has gone away into Heaven, we must look to Christ ever abiding here in His Church. When we draw near to Him in the sacred service of that Church, Jesus puts His Hands upon us. When we have truly repented of our sins, and the words of absolution are spoken, we have the pardoning Hand of Jesus laid upon us. When we kneel at the Altar of the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus touches our every part. Our sinful bodies are made clean by His Body. He lays His Hands upon ear, and eye, and tongue, and heart. He opens our eyes to see the wondrous things of His law; He unseals our ears to listen to the Voices of God; He touches our lips with a live coal from off the Altar, and our mouth shall show forth His praise. He strengthens our tottering feet to walk in the narrow way, and dismisses us with His Blessing, "depart in peace, thy faith hath saved thee."

Never look for Jesus afar off, or speak of Him as though He were lost. Jesus is here, standing in our midst to-day. He is ready now, as of old, to cure all manner of diseases. My brother, what aileth thee? Is it well with thee; is it well with the husband; is it well with the child? Prove to-day the truth of those words, "He hath done all things well. He maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak."

sermon xlvi the grace of
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