"The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed,
I. BY THE POOR DIVINE TRUTH IS MOST NEEDED. Their life on earth is the hardest; it is often one of unremitting toil; often one of severe privation, almost destitute comfort and enjoyment; often one of serious and hard oppression, in which the strong will of another robs of all liberty of action. The past is sad, the present gloomy, the future dark. There are no pleasures in recollection, and there is no relief in hope. How precious, how necessary, to these are the joys which earth cannot give and cannot steal - the treasures which enrich the heart, the hopes which reach beyond the grave!
II. BY THE POOR, DIVINE TRUTH IS MOST APPRECIATED. "How hardly do they that have riches enter the kingdom of heaven!" Their time is occupied, their minds are filled, with pursuits and pleasures which are on an earthly plane, and things higher and worthier are hidden from view. The poor, though they have indeed their own temptations and their own errors and failings, are yet more likely to see the Divine hand beckoning to them, and to hear the heavenly voice calling them to wisdom and service and eternal joy. And, as a fact, they do. The common people still hear Christ gladly, while the wealthy and the strong and the famous are sitting at the feet of "the world," to learn its wisdom and to seek its favor.
III. TO THE POOR, DIVINE TRUTH IS CLEARLY AND MARKEDLY OFFERED. It was, in fact, a very great thing to say, "To the poor the gospel is preached." It was one of the "watermarks" of Christianity that our Master made his appeal, not, as philosophy and theology had done before him, and as science in our day is doing, to human learning and influence, but to the unlettered and the lowly, to the multitude and the millions among men, to the common human heart. Other systems had tried to reach the lower levels by affecting the heights of society first. The gospel of Jesus Christ "moves upward from below." It teaches, cleanses, raises the people; and so it purifies and exalts the nation. This is the Divine method, and must be ours. It is for the Church of Christ to follow its Divine Master, to see that the signs of truth are about its handiwork, and amongst them this leading sign, that "to the poor the gospel is preached." If this feature should be absent, it will be time for the Church to be considering where it stands - how near to or remote from its Master. - C.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.said also, in Capernaum (ver. 23). Why then does he introduce this scene at so early a place in the narrative? He has selected it to be the frontispiece of his Gospel, showing by sample the salient features of its contents. Probable that for St. Luke's own mind the emblematic significance of the scene lay chiefly in these two features: the gracious character of Christ's discourse, and the indication in the close of the universal destination of the gospel. These were things sure to interest the Pauline evangelist. It is a worthy frontispiece, in respect both of the grace and of the universality of the gospel.
1. In the first place the text of Christ's discourse was a most gracious one; none more so could have been found within the range of Old Testament prophecy. Made more gracious than in the original by the omission of the reference to the day of vengeance, and by the addition of a clause to make the Messiah's blessed work as many-sided and complete as possible.
2. If Christ's text was full of grace, His sermon appears to have been not less so. That this was so the evangelist indicates when he makes use of the phrase "words of grace" to denote its general character. That phrase, indeed, he reckoned the fittest to characterize Christ's whole teaching as recorded in his Gospel, and on that very account it is that he introduces it here.
3. In respect of the universal destination of the gospel, the scene is also sufficiently significant. The attempt on the life of Jesus foreshadows the tragic event through which the Prophet of Nazareth hoped to draw to Himself the expectant eyes of all men. The departure of Jesus from His own town is a portent of Christianity leaving the sacred soil of Judea, and setting forth into the wide world in quest of a new home.
4. The two features most prominent in this frontispiece are just the salient characteristics of the Christian era. It is the era of grace, and of grace free to all mankind. And on these accounts it is the acceptable year of the Lord. It is acceptable to God. It should be acceptable to us.
(A. B. Bruce, D. D.)Isaiah 61:1. I wish our clergy would always take care to find the right place — the suitable text — the passage in season. In this case it was actually the lesson for the day. So out of routine the Lord brings life. He reads, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me." Ah, without that spiritual concentration in the pulpit as well as in the pew, priest may preach and people may hear in vain: "He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor." Yes, you neglected, suffering people, the Saviour of the world places you on a level with the favoured of the earth. The permanent and the spiritual belongs to you as much as to them; the same Father; the same love revealed; the same heaven beyond — are for you. "To heal the broken-hearted." What a lift there is for the sorrowful in the sympathy of God, that steals like summer light into the darkened room; no despair can ever quite keep it out. "Recovery of sight to the blind." The mists of passion, the clouds of prejudice, the veil of selfishness, the pall of spiritual ignorance, lo, at a touch the scales fall off, you see yourselves as others see you, you know as you are known, your heart grows pure, you see God. "To preach the acceptable year of the Lord." There He stopped. The next words of Isaiah are, "The day of vengeance of our God." He would not break into that new train of thought which might clash with the spirit of His sermon. The last words of the text should be words of peace, though the end was to be tumult. "He closed the book, and sat down" to deliver His sermon. We shall never know what the sermon was. It began with a searching application; no beating about the bush. "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." It ended with that fierce storm of invective which was the Lord's dauntless reply to the rage of an envenomed minority. He has fascinated the majority. They "wondered at the gracious words," &c.; but the conceited gentry could not bear to be lectured by "a Carpenter," and they soon let Him know it. "Enough of that," they cried. "A sign! a sign! you can do wonders at Capernaum; give us a taste of your quality here. A miracle is worth all this talk — unwholesome, democratic talk about the poor, and a message for all men, and pray what is to become of us if we are to be mixed up with the rabble?" It was all over with the sermon. The knot of malcontents expressed their dissent loudly, and were resolved to break up the meeting. So Christ cast His bread upon the waters. The last words maddened His adversaries, but they struck the second key-note of His ministry. The first was "peace on earth; goodwill towards men." A gospel of healing, liberty, illumination, and comfort for all, beginning with the lowest of the people. The second key-note was an implacable opposition to bigotry, heartlessness, and formalism. "You want a sign? You shall have one. My signs are the seals of my teaching. Those who accept my teaching get my signs. You will have none of my message, you shall have none of my miracles. You are no better than your fathers, who persecuted the prophets. Were they not outcasts and rejected wanderers? There were many widows in Israel, but Elias only healed the Gentile's son at Sarepta. There were many lepers in those days, but Eliseus only healed Naaman the Syrian. Syrian lepers and Gentiles go into the kingdom before you." They would hear no more; they rose in their fury, hustled Him out of the building, hurried Him up the steep, rocky path to the summit of the hill, and would have cast Him down, but His friends, doubtless some of those sturdy Galilean fishermen, rallied around Him and got Him clear of the village. In one way or another He passed through the crowd, on His way back to Capernaum and the Galilean shore. He left Nazareth, never apparently to return. The secluded mountain village had indeed cast Him out — the world received Him.
(H. R. Haweis, M. A.)I. I preach that the great atonement for sin has been offered.
II. I preach that the guilty may be forgiven.
III. I preach that the slave may be emancipated.
IV. I preach that the lost inheritance may be regained.
1. Notice the marked connection, in this and other passages, between the preaching of the gospel to the poor, and the gift of the Eternal Spirit.
2. The work of preaching the gospel to the poor is far from being either commonplace or easy. Notice two mistakes which have been made in undertaking it.(1) It has failed sometimes from a lack of sympathy with the mental condition and habits of the poor.(2) The other mistake has been in an opposite direction. Men who have sympathized warmly with the mental difficulties of the poor have endeavoured to recommend the Christian faith sometimes by making unwarranted or semi-legendary additions to it, and sometimes by virtually mutilating it.
3. These considerations, then, may lead us to reflect that the connection implied in the text between the presence of the Spirit and the task of evangelizing the poor, is not, after all, so surprising. To be sympathetic, yet sincere; true to the message which has come from heaven, yet alive to the difficulties of conveying it to untutored minds and hearts; sensible of the facilities which a few unauthorized additions or mutilations would lend to the work in hand, yet resolved to decline them — this is not easy. For such a work something higher is needed than natural quickness of wit or strength of will, even His aid who taught the peasants of Galilee in the upper chamber to speak as with tongues of fire, and in languages which men of many nations could understand. And the effort for which He thus equipped them continues still; and His aid, adapted to new circumstances, is present with us as it was with them.
1. The outward condition of the poor is a hard one, and deserving of our sympathy — though not necessarily wretched. Give them the Christian spirit, and they would find in their lot the chief elements of good.
2. The condition of the poor is unfriendly to the action and unfolding of the intellect — a sore calamity to a rational being.
3. I proceed to another evil of poverty — its disastrous influence on the domestic affections.
4. Another unhappy influence exerted by poverty is that it tends to breed discontent, envy, and hatred — hence crime.
5. I pass on to another sore trial of the poor — the temptation to make up for their anxieties and privations by resorting to debasing gratifications — drink, &c. Yet —
6. The highest culture is in reach of the poor, and is sometimes attained by them. The great idea on which human cultivation especially depends is that of God.
7. We are solemnly bound, therefore, to cherish and manifest a strong moral and religious interest in the poor. Every man whom God has prospered is bound to contribute to this work. The Christian ministry is a blessing to all, but above all to the poor. If there be an office worthy of angels, it is that of teaching Christian truth. The Son of God hallowed it by sustaining it in His own person.
(W. E. Channing, D. D.)
Christian Journal.Some time ago, a Christian young lady was visiting a lunatic asylum, and her soul was filled with sadness and pity with the sights she saw. By and by she was led into a room where there was but one patient, a young girl of the same age as herself. She was standing in the corner of the room, her face almost touching the wall. IN stony hopelessness she stood, immobile and rigid as a statue. She neither looked nor spoke. She might have been as dead as the statue she represented but that she still stood on. It was a heart-breaking spectacle. "Will you speak to her?" asked the doctor, "we can do nothing with her. She has been thus for days; but one like yourself might move her." The young lady, trembling with emotion, with one upward cry to heaven for help, stepped forward, gently laid her hand on the listless form and, with tears in her eyes, spoke one sentence of yearning sympathy and compassion. The poor patient turned, gazed for one moment, her form quivered, and she burst into tears! The doctor exclaimed, "Thank God, she may be saved!" The visitor could never recall the words she had used; but they had done their work. This poor, wrecked girl, who thought that nobody knew or cared for her, had felt the heart that pitied her, the hand stretched our to help her. O the power of tears! the magic of sympathy I It is the sympathy of Christ that calls a mad, despairing world to itself — to its better self.
(Dr. M'Cosh's "Certitude, Providence, and Prayer.")
1. The first blow which Christ strikes for the enlargement of men's liberty wears the appearance of the opposite; it is at the tyranny of sense and sensuousness in the individual. Man cannot run away from himself. Christ emancipates him from this bondage by introducing him into the higher course of nature; into that sphere in which, in his relations to God, he is acted upon precisely as in a family children are acted upon by the living presence and power of a good father and mother. Then the Divine influence becomes more active in him than the flesh, and he achieves a victory over himself — the nobler nature having gained ascendancy over the lower.
2. Christ delivers us from our bondage to secular conditions. The light and life that we receive by faith make us superior to our circumstances, so that we can maintain our manhood, not only in spite of adverse surroundings, but even by reason of them; working out through adversity and trouble what men in prosperity and joy fail to find.
3. Christ is an Emancipator in another way also. There is a power given to men through faith in Him, to set themselves free from the great source of those cares, infirmities, and annoyances which chiefly afflict life. If pride be essential to a noble character-and it is; if the love of praise be one of the civilizing elements — and it is; if both of these influences conjoined under right directions and inspirations tend to ennoble, to soften, to sweeten, and to beautify human nature — and they do: on the other hand, pride and vanity in their corrupt forms tend to bring upon men in the most acute ways many sufferings which afflict them — for our troubles are mainly of our own making. He who is nervously sensitive to praise is in great distress when he fears the withdrawal of praise or popularity. He who has an intense consciousness of his own excellence and desert is continually harried and annoyed and irritated by a lack of that respect and appreciation of which he has himself so supreme a sense. All the world are over-proud, or over-vain, or both; but he who has subdued his pride, and, by the love of God shed abroad in his heart, has turned it to higher and nobler uses; he who, lacking nothing of sensibility to praise, yet believes in the presence of God, wants praise only for supernal things, and disdains the offering of praise for things meagre and mean and low and vile; because he sets his standard, not according to the current ideas of human society, and not according to the ways of men who are unillumined, but according to that higher and nobler manhood which was revealed in Jesus Christ — he is emancipated from this universal bondage.
4. Christ emancipates from the bondage which comes through ignorance and superstition. It is for men to choose whether they will govern themselves or be governed. It must be one or the other.
(H. W. Beecher.)
1. Christ's gospel was a more perfect disclosure of the great natural law as applied to men than had ever been understood, or is understood to-day. There is an unused principle in the human soul which, brought out by the stimulus of the Divine afflatus, can cleanse the whole lower nature of man and deaden the passions, not by direct attack, but by giving principle and authority to their opposites, and shape to the inspiration-the central principle — love. It was there before Christ came, only men did not know it; and so, until brought out by Christ, it was a dead thing. He has put life into it, and through it into men.
2. Christianity never has been, and never can be, contained wholly in the New Testament. The gospel is only a hint and a guide to a higher nature, which needs to be developed. If I take a handful of wheat from my granary, there is a promise of a hundred bushels in it — only a promise, however. It must be sown before the promise can be realized. So with the gospel. Everything of knowledge that tends to the elevation of the human family is an unfolding of Christianity. If there is anything good for man, capable of reconstructing his nature, it is part and parcel of that human nature which is broader than the earth and deeper than eternity; it is part of that Divine nature by which a man is raised up to the glorious florescence of manhood and carried up to the angels; and I hold and rejoice in everything that develops man, and assists in the building of the new world.
3. The progress of this new kingdom has been very much hindered by the materializing influences of man.(1) The incarnation of spiritual forces in outward institutions. Men are always apt to pay more attention to the form than to the spiritual reality it embodies.(2) The substitution of ideas for forces. What is being a Christian but to be the embodiment of tender-heartedness, generosity, self-denial, self-sacrifice — a desire for the welfare of others, even though at the expense of your own? What is Christianity, if not this? Names are nothing; being is everything. The power of the gospel is the promulgation of dispositions. It is the heart-life. The heart wears the crown, ,and the intellect is its servant, walking behind it, asking what it shall and shall not do.(3) The substitution of worship for morality. How can a man who is living in sin love God? How can a man be a partaker of the love of peace and joy if he has not the spirit of long-suffering, gentleness, forgiveness, within him? Morality is God's method when developed to the uttermost. Men will not be accepted for being so obsequious to God, while they remain indifferent to their fellows.(4) The substitution of justice for Divine love. When we can open spring flowers by spring frosts, when we can ripen summer fruits by summer thunder-storms, and bring tranquillity by tempests, then you may by rigour and threat have God's work in the soul — God's humility, love, patience, self-sacrifice, forbearance, temperance. We hardly know our God under such doctrine. Oh, Sun of Righteousness! Thou art not known by the tempest, nor by the earthquake, but by-the still, small voice — love; and religious truth will never be thoroughly understood until men are transformed into love, with that system which enthrones God as the universal cause, who knows how to suffer most because He loves.
4. The road to liberty is a very simple one. Once change the unit and you change the sum; begin with changing individuals, and you transform local public sentiment. Laws, customs, and institutions must take on the same form. No royal road to liberty, largeness, and freedom, except that which comes from the perfection and exaltation of human nature; no true nobility until mankind touch mankind, neighbourhood neighbourhood, nation nation. We are scattered here and there. When are we to collect in communities like bands of Christian graces all attuned to each other, working out a visible result? When that time comes men will say, "Human nature never was so beautiful before as it is here." That is gospel. It appeals to, and changes, the heart.
(H. W. Beecher.)
(E. Irving, M. A.)Leviticus 25. you will see what the arrangements of the Jewish jubilee were. It was intended to cure four great political evils which oppressed that nation, and which have oppressed many nations since — viz., slavery, debt, chronic pauperism, and alienation of the land from the people. The Jewish jubilee was a system intended to abolish by anticipation all these four great evils. Every fiftieth year every man who had been a slave was set free; he could not be kept in slavery after that year of jubilee. Every one was then restored to freedom; the nation took a fresh start of freedom. Men became slaves for various reasons; they might have been captured in war, they might have sold themselves into slavery in the payment of debts, or in several other ways — but in the year of jubilee all were set free. There might have been an accumulation of debts which they were unable to pay off altogether, but at this jubilee debts were all cancelled. Chronic pauperism was to be cured by making certain provisions every seventh year and fiftieth year, by which those who had sunk through incapacity, or illness, or intemperance, or from whatever cause it might be — at this time they had an opportunity of starting again. It was not possible for any family to part with its hereditary property irrecoverably: at the year of jubilee all went back to its original owners. Such was the system; but there is no proof that it was ever carried out. Neither the Old Testament nor any other history affords the slightest evidence that these laws were ever observed as a whole. When they are examined, one can see such difficulties that it would require strong evidence to convince us that such laws had worked at all. Still they remained on the statute-book, and therefore formed the ideal and the hope of the people; but the ideal never came. Why did it not come? Because these laves presupposed a condition of morality, of brotherliness, of good feeling among the people, which never existed. When laws are pitched in too high a key they become as it were dead laws. The laws do not precede morality; they follow it, they perpetuate, they register it. A nation tins to raise its standard of morality; then the laws can be made which will perpetuate that morality; but you cannot make the laws first. It would be of no use for any Government now to make some law far above the standard of existing morality, because the law could not be worked. That was the case in Judah. It would presuppose a willingness to part with their property, a willingness to give up their slavery; it would presuppose willing industry again on the part of the people, and a greater level of mental and moral equality among them than ever existed; and so the law remained simply a dead letter.
(J. M. Wilson, M. A.)
1. Christianity has abolished slavery. Not by preaching direct political action, but by preaching the equality of all men as children of God. It has given men a new interest in one another, and a new relationship to one another, secretly transforming human character, so that slavery became impossible and melted away as ice — which will not melt under blows — melts before the sun.
2. If, again, you consider how cruelly debtors were oppressed, you will see how wonderfully that has been changed by the influence of Christ. Some of the best Romans that ever lived complacently consigned their debtors to slavery; and in other countries debtors were imprisoned and their lives rendered hopelessly miserable; but Christianity has greatly altered such things, and has compelled mankind to treat debtors with humanity.
3. The evil of chronic pauperism still faces us, and we can see no conceivable method of getting rid of it, except by a wider spread of true Christian feeling among the whole population. What else can we look to? Legislation? How can legislation do it? Legislation will not make people industrious, and skilful, and self-restraining. Nothing else but Christian principles of love and virtue will do that.
4. Alienation of land. Legislation could not completely get rid of this evil, for the simple reason that the nation is not yet good enough. If to-day there were three acres and a cow given to every man in England, before ten years, or even one year, had elapsed there would be some with thirty acres and ten cows, and the rest with none. The nation has not sufficiently advanced in morality, industry, and self-control for such an equality to exist, and the attempt to force it would only produce idleness. But reform will come in the way Christ indicated: it will come from the inner spirit. When men become better, then happiness and prosperity will naturally follow. There is no cure for the evils of this world — its competition, and crushing, and failure — except this inner reform of the spirit, the faith in Christ, and the love of God and of man. Like all God's laws, it works slowly; but it is sure, and in the end it will bring about that for which it was framed.
(J. M. Wilson, M. A. .)— In the dark days of American slavery, a very fine Mulatto woman and her nearly white boy were raffled for. Two kind men paid a share each for the woman and her boy, so that they might have two chances for their freedom. After all the others who had a share in that lottery had thrown the dice, the poor woman was so overpowered by hopes, fears, and solicitude, that she could not throw for herself. Her boy, therefore, threw for her, and was unsuccessful. Then the boy had to throw for himself, and there many hopes and prayers that he might win. And he did, and the joy of the mother and son, on acquiring their liberty, was indescribable. So Jewish parents and their children rejoiced in the year of jubilee as they went forth from bondage to liberty, and from poverty to posseses the inheritance of their fathers. But, when "Christ makes us free," by "the truth," from spiritual ignorance, sin, Satan, and evils, into "the glorious liberty of the children of God," with its precious and eternal heritage of blessings, we then feel —
"A day, an hour of virtuous liberty,
Is worth a whole eternity of bondage."
(Henry R. Burton.)
I. THE ACCEPTABLE YEAR OF THE LORD. This expression corresponds to that of Paul, "the accepted time," "the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2); and means that there is a time when God accepts or shows favour to the sinner. It is what Ezekiel calls "the time of love"; what our Lord calls "the time of visitation" (Luke 19:44); and what we usually call "the day of grace." Every era has its character, and the character of this is "grace." In it the long-suffering of God gets full vent to itself, and His almighty love is pouring itself down upon an unworthy world.
II. How CHRIST PREACHED THIS ACCEPTABLE YEAR. This preaching of the acceptable year was to run through His whole life and ministry.
1. In His person He preached it; for His mere presence upon earth among sinful men was an announcement of it. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
2. He preached it by what He did. He went about healing all manner of sicknesses, and all manner of diseases.
3. He preached it by what He did not do. He did no deeds of terror, and wrought no miracles of wrath or woe.
4. He preached it by what He said. His words were all of grace; and even the sharp rebukes against scribes and Pharisees were the warnings of grace, not of wrath.
(H. Bonar, D. D.)I. OUR FIRST INQUIRY SHALL BE RESPECTING THE CHARACTER OR CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE PERSONS DESCRIBED IN MY TEXT.It seems clear that this whole passage is metaphorical! for, allowing that a literal sense may be applied to parts of it with propriety, yet there are other parts which will not bear that sense. These images serve only to present, under different aspects, the sad state of those whom Christ came to deliver, and the blessed effects of that deliverance.
1. Their actual condition is represented as very deplorable; for what image can express greater misery than that of captives treated with the barbarous rigour of those times; immured in dungeons; loaded with fetters; bruised with stripes; perhaps like Zedekiah, the unfortunate king of Judah, deprived of sight as well as liberty. Yet this is a very just image of every man's condition who is under the power of sin.
2. Yet it is possible that there may be this state of sin, comprehending all these awful circumstances of misery and danger, without any concern about it, or even any distinct perception of it. This, however, is by no means the case with the persons here represented. They are not only captives, but they are broken-hearted in their bondage. All such expressions denote the true Christian temper, that which our Lord inculcated under the names of humility and poverty of spirit; and which both Christ and His apostles meant by the more significant word, "repentance." It includes a consciousness of demerit; a due sense of the evil of sin. This frame of mind may comprehend different degrees, or even kinds, of uneasiness, on account of sin. The metaphors which are here used illustrate these. It is one kind of distress to feel the pressure of poverty; it is another to endure the yoke of bondage; and a third, to lose the organ of sight.
II. BLESSED BE GOD, HOWEVER, THERE ARE SOME WHO KNOW THEIR UNWORTHINESS, AND ARE HUMBLED ON ACCOUNT OF IT. These are the persons intended in my text, and such will gladly hear the gracious office which the Redeemer sustains to save them. This office is here delineated under several views. Is the state of sinners described as a state of great suffering? Christ brings them deliverance. As a state of bondage? He grants them liberty. Under the image of a broken heart? He communicates peace and consolation. Or under that of poverty? He tells them of recovered birthrights, and of a glorious inheritance above. Let us briefly consider these several offices.
1. Christ takes away the sin of those who truly repent and apply to Him by faith.
2. They are freed also from the power of sin.
3. It is the office of the Saviour to impart peace to the soul.
4. The title to a glorious inheritance is also conferred by Him upon those that believe. As in the year of jubilee every inheritance which had been sold reverted to its original owners; as every debt was cancelled and every captive set free — in the same way does the gospel proclaim a jubilee to repenting sinners. It institutes a new order of things for them; with new resources, and hopes, and privileges, and prospects.
(J. Venn, M. A.)Lord which Christianity proclaims to the world and the misery thereof.
I. CONSIDER THE JUBILEE OF THE GOSPEL AS REGARDS THE FIRST PROMULGATION by Christ and His apostles.
II. THE PROGRESSIVE CONVERSION OF MANKIND.
III. THE MISERY AND SORROW THIS DISPENSATION HAS BEEN INSTRUMENTAL FROM TIME TO TIME IN RELIEVING. The tendency of Christianity and the gospel is to infuse, in proportion as it is understood, brotherly love, and sympathy with every effort which is made for the relief of individual suffering, as well as for the emancipation of the world. It is directly opposed to oppression and cruelty; it abstains from questions of earthly politics and disputes about particular forms of government; it avoids all factious and dangerous innovations, and goes to the support of existing order, which, although it may in some cases be defective, is infinitely better than the wild disorder of uncontrolled passion and fierce self-love. It therefore enjoins obedience to the magistrates, and calls upon its followers to "fear God and honour the king," giving thanks always for all things unto God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And I apprehend the union of these two points shows the tendency of Christianity to dispose all governors, propagators of laws, and all in authority, towards all measures of relief, justice, equity, and the consideration of the poor. It is the means of communicating every blessing to society, and insensibly tends to break every yoke, and set right every disorder.
(Bishop Daniel Wilson.)I. Let us notice that JESUS CHRIST BEGAN HIS WORK IN NAZARETH WITH A QUOTATION FROM THE BIBLE. The source of all Christian power is in "preaching the Word."
II. It is well to keep in mind that WE HAVE A MUCH LARGER BIBLE THAN JESUS HAD. We have the New Testament as well as the Old Testament: what He spoke as well as what He expounded. It is not what we say about the truth that helps and saves souls, but the truth.
III. When people come to us for help, the thing to do is simply to FIND SOMETHING IN THE WORD FOR THEM.
IV. CURIOUS AND DIFFICULT QUESTIONS THAT CHRISTIANS ASK HAVE THE SIMPLEST SORT OF ANSWERS IN THE WORD. AS to grounding our hope firmly, Matthew 7:24 is better than anything we can say ourselves. To encourage a man who fears ridicule, Mark 10:48 is excellent and effective. Exodus 2:1-10 is a far better illustration of God's care for children than that stock story of the "little child in the corn-field." Once a member of our Church came to me to ask what she ought to try to look at when she shut her eyes in prayer. And all I could think of was to read her two or three verses about Bartimaeus. A smile ran over her whole face as she rose suddenly, and said, "Good morning." Then I asked whether her question had got the answer. "Oh, yes"! she replied, gratefully; "I ought to see what the blind man did before his eyes were opened; he saw he was blind, and he seemed to see Jesus there waiting to be prayed to."
V. WE MUST BE EXCEEDINGLY FAMILIAR WITH GOD'S WORD in order to use it skilfully. The times arrive often very suddenly in which we are called to make answer or to give advice; and to work powerfully one must work ingeniously. The gifted authoress of "English Hands and Hearts" once saw a man close by the brink of a river, and believed he was going to commit suicide. It seemed perfectly clear to her that if she should appear to suspect his purpose, he would avoid her, and wait till she passed out of sight. So she quietly kept on her walk, but, as it approached the spot where he was watching, she said aloud, as if just to herself, Psalm 46:4. It was all she could do. Two years afterwards a speaker in Exeter Hall related the incident in his own sad life, and told how the text saved him and converted him, and now he added the wish that he might some time know the Christian woman who had done him the favour. So they met and clasped hands, and thanked God together. But how did she happen to know the right verse, then? Such a thing did not happen: that lady knew her Bible thoroughly.
VI. We should be PATIENT ANY HELPFUL IS INSTRUCTING OTHERS how and where to find the proper passages for Christian effort.
VII. We can find here the EXPLANATION WE SEEK FOR SOME FAILURES that appear so mysterious, AND FOR SOME SUCCESSES that are so admirable. Those Christians have done most service who have in every instance trusted the Word for the power of the truth in it. Dr. James W. Alexander put in one of his letters, near the end of his career, the statement that, if he were to live his public life over again, he would dwell more upon the familiar parts and passages of the Bible, like the story of the ark, the draught of fishes, or the parable of the prodigal son. That is, he would preach more of the Word of God in its pure, clear utterances of truth for souls. When the saintly Dr. Cutler of Brooklyn died, the Sunday School remembered that he used to come in every now and then during the years of his history and repeat just a single verse from the superintendent's desk; and the next Lord's Day after the funeral they marched up in front of it in a long line, and each scholar quoted any of the texts that he could recollect. The grown people positively sat there and wept, as they saw how much there was of the Bible in the hearts of their children which this one pastor had planted. Yet he was a very timid and old-fashioned man; he said he had no gift at talking to children; he could only repeat God's Word. Is there anybody now who is ready to say that was not enough for some good?
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Sunday School Times.On an artist's table some colours are lying. You glance at them, and that is all, for to you they have no meaning. A month after you come in, and you are attracted by a beautiful picture. The picture has been painted with the colours you saw before, but how different is it now when they are harmoniously blended. So Jesus Christ gathers into harmony in Himself the before ill-understood prophecies and types of the Old Testament; only then we see what they fully mean. It is like the children's picture-block puzzles. Take the pieces from the box, and you have a number of blocks of all sizes, colours, and shapes. Build them back, carefully fitting them into each other, and when each is in its proper place, you find you have a complete picture. So the types and prophecies are only understood when they are fitted into Christ. Jesus, then, takes some pictures from the Book of Isaiah, and declares that these show forth His mission. The first picture is that of a messenger bringing good news to the poor — news of a kingdom prepared for them; the next shows a message of consolation brought to those in sorrow; the third is the picture of one promising liberty to some men shut up in a narrow cell; in the fourth a blind man is receiving his sight at the healing touch of a prophet; in the fifth the bonds are being struck from the feet of men whose limbs have been bruised by the irons; and the sixth shows the open gate of heaven.
(Sunday School Times.)
(T. T. Munger.)
(T. T. Munger.)
(Freeman.)— I could build a Corlears engine, I could paint a Raphael's "Madonna," I could play a Beethoven's "Heroic Symphony" as easily as this world can comfort a broken heart. And yet you have been comforted. How was it done? Did Christ come to you and say: "Get your mind off this; go and breathe the fresh air; plunge deeper into business"? No. There was a minute when He came to you, perhaps in the watches of the night — perhaps in your place of business, perhaps along the street — and He breathed something into your soul that gave peace, rest, infinite quiet, so that you could take out the photograph of the departed one and look into the eyes and face of the dear one and say: "It is all right; she is better off; I would not call her back. Lord, I thank Thee that Thou hast comforted my poor heart. I thought I should go crazy for a while, but the rough sea has become the smooth harbour. Oh, how hard it was for me to give her up, and I shall never be the "man that I was before; but the Lord gave and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord." There are Christian parents here to-night who are willing to testify to the power of this gospel to comfort. Your son had just graduated and was going into business, and the Lord took him. Or your daughter had just left the young ladies' seminary, and you thought she was going to be a useful woman and of long life; but the Lord took her, and you were tempted to say: "All this culture for nothing." Or the little child came home from school with the hot fever that stopped not for the agonized prayer, or for the skilful physician, and the little child was taken. Or the babe was lifted out of your arms by some quick epidemic, and you stood wondering why God ever gave you that child at all, if so soon He was to take it away. And yet you are not repining, you are not fretful, you are not fighting against God. What has enabled you to stand all the trial? "Oh," you say, "I took the medicine that God gave my sick soul; in my distress I threw myself at the feet of a sympathising Saviour, and when I was too weak to pray, or to look up, He breathed into me a peace that I think must be the foretaste of that heaven where there is neither tear, nor a farewell, nor a grave." Come, all ye who have been out to the grave to weep there — come, all ye comforted souls, get up off your knees. Is there power in this gospel to soothe the heart? Is there power in this religion to quiet the worst paroxysm of grief? Tell me. There comes up an answer to comforted widowhood, and orphanage, and childlessness, saying: "Ay, ay, we are witnesses!"
(Dr. Talmage.)I. THE CONDITION OF THE PERSONS SPOKEN OF IN THE TEXT is one of extreme distress and misery. They are broken-hearted. All their happiness is gone. All their hopes are blasted. Nothing is left to them but wretchedness and despair.
1. It implies that they have a sorrowful consciousness of the existence of this evil within them.
2. They are also dissatisfied with their condition, and earnestly desire deliverance from it. Like men oppressed with sickness, they are not in a state in which they can be at ease.
3. They are sensible likewise of the deadly nature of the disease under which they are suffering. They know that it is a mortal disease; not merely painful and loathsome, but dangerous and fatal.
4. To this sorrowful consciousness of their sinfulness, this dissatisfaction with their condition, and this dread of futurity, is added a despair of healing their spiritual diseases by any means of their own.
II. But why does the Physician of souls thus deal with us? Why cannot He apply His healing balm at once to our wounds? WHY MUST WE BE BROUGHT INTO SO DISCONSOLATE A STATE, BEFORE WE ARE MADE ACQUAINTED WITH PARDON AND PEACE?
1. In answer to this inquiry we may observe, that God thus afflicts His penitent children, in order that sin may be embittered to them; that they may have a heartfelt knowledge of the misery and shame which it is able to produce, and thus learn to regard it with hatred and fear.
2. The sinner is made broken-hearted, that he may be willing to be healed by Christ in His way and on His terms.
3. A further reason why the returning sinner is thus torn and smitten, may be, that the deliverance vouchsafed to him may be more highly valued.
4. It may also be the will of God to give the penitent a deep sense of his wretchedness, in order that the great Physician of his soul may be more warmly loved.
III. Let us proceed to consider THE ENCOURAGEMENT WHICH THE DECLARATION BEFORE US IS CALCULATED TO AFFORD TO EVERY BROKEN-HEARTED MOURNER.
1. It plainly implies that it is the will of God that the brokenhearted should be healed. He has sent a Messenger from heaven to bring peace to them.
2. The declaration in the text teaches us also, that God has given to Christ authority and power to heal the broken-hearted.
3. The declaration before us assures us, too, that Christ is willing to heal all the broken-hearted who apply for His aid; that He is ready to exercise the authority and power which He has received. Here, then, is a rich source of encouragement to every mourner. The God against whom he has sinned, has sent a Messenger from heaven to heal him; and He whom He has sent, rejoices to bind up the broken-hearted. He has infinite compassion to pity, as well as infinite power to relieve. A review of our subject points out to us, first, the persons to whom the ministers of the gospel are to administer comfort.
2. The text affords us, secondly, a test by which we may try our spiritual comfort.
3. We may infer also from the text, that true contrition of heart is one of the greatest blessings which God can bestow on man.
4. The text reminds us, lastly, of the sin and folly of despair.
(C. Bradley, M. A.)
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