Jesus looked around at them with anger and sorrow at their hardness of heart. Then He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." So he stretched it out, and it was restored.
Being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.I. BUT IS ANGER A PASSION WHICH IT WAS RIGHT FOR CHRIST TO SHOW AND TO FEEL? And if it were right for Christ, is it equally right for us? The answer to the first question is simple enough. As the Holy One, the very presence of evil must be abhorrent to Him. He may be reconciled to the sinner, but He can never be reconciled to sin. His whole nature revolts from the evil thing. It was not then the mere ebullition of passion. It was not a sudden outburst of rage. It was righteous wrath. It was the emotion which stirred His whole being, just because sin is the utterly opposite of Himself. The trained eye is offended with that which is distorted and ugly; the trained ear is pained beyond expression with that which violates the very elements of harmony; and the perfect heart loathes and cannot but be angry with sin. Can there be any doubt that Christ's anger with sin in these men also glanced at their relations with other men? "No man liveth unto himself." He was angry at the blighting influence of the men's lives. Yet there was no sin in Christ's anger, although Christ was angry with sin. While His anger was strong His pity was yet Divine. He was sorrowful at the thought of what it all meant, and would yet Himself rescue them from the snare. Anger and grief were blent together in the same mind, just because in His mind there was perfect holiness, and there was perfect love; for it is not the stirring and agitation of the waters that troubles and defiles them, but the sediment at the bottom. Where there is no sediment, mere agitation will not create impurity. There was none in Christ. His anger was the anger of a holy Being at sin, at the devil's corruption of God's creature. His grief was for man, God's offspring. He hated the thing which alienated the sons from the Father. The anger may well make us tremble, but should not the pity make us trust?
II. IF IT WERE RIGHT IN CHRIST TO BE ANGRY WITH SIN, IS IT EQUALLY RIGHT AND BECOMING IN US? We are always right in being angry with sin. But just here is the difficulty. We are angry not so much at sin as at something in it which affects and inconveniences us. It is not that which is opposed to the holy law of God which most commonly makes us angry, but that which brings us some petty discomfort and trouble. We see how sin injures others. Purity will bring its own anger. Remember, however, that anger with sin is not something permitted; it is an emotion demanded. "Ye that love the Lord, hate evil." But our anger must be interblent with pity. Christ sought to give these hard-hearted men another chance. He did not permit them to hinder His work. He would have won them if only they would have opened their hearts to the truth. It is Christ's great love alone which can fill our souls with unwearied compassion for sinners. Beware, then, of thinking that anger with sin is enough. It is but one-half of our work. Pity is the other half.
(J. J. Goadby.)
(J. J. Goadby.)1. We must not be too hasty and sudden in giving way to our anger, without duly considering that there is just cause for it.
2. We must distinguish between the offence done against God and any personal indignity we may have suffered. When these two are combined, as often happens, our anger must be directed chiefly against the sin; the offence against ourselves we must forgive.
3. Our anger must be properly proportioned, according to the degree of sin.
4. We must be impartial, being displeased at sin wherever and in whomsoever we find it; as well at our own sins, as at the sins of others; as well at the faults of friends as of enemies.
5. Our anger must be joined with grief for the person against whose sin we are offended.
6. Our anger against the sin must be joined with love to the sinner, making us willing and desirous to do him any good we can.
(Cornelius a Lapide.)
1. It is the duty of a Christian to sorrow not only for his own sins, but also to be grieved for the sins of others.
2. All anger is not to be considered sinful.
3. He does not bear the image of Christ, but rather that of Satan, who can either behold with indifference the wickedness of others, or rejoice in it.
4. Nothing is more wretched than an obdurate heart, since it caused Him, who is the source of all true joy, to be filled with grief in beholding it.
5. Our indignation against wickedness must be tempered by compassion for the persons of the wicked.
(T. H. Horne, D. D.)
1. He ought to have a holy indignation against those who, out of envy, oppose their own conversion.
2. A real affliction of heart on account of their blindness.
3. A charitable and constant application to those whom God sends to him, notwithstanding all contradiction.
4. He must incite them to lift up, and stretch forth, their hands toward God, in order to pray to Him; toward the poor, to relieve them; and toward their enemies, to be reconciled to them.
(Quesnel.)II. Let us show WHAT IS MEANT BY HARDNESS OF HEART. A hard-hearted man, in the current use of language, means a man void of humanity; a man of cruel habits. In the Bible it is a compound of pride, perverseness, presumption, and obstinacy. It is said of Nebuchadnezzar, "that when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took away his glory from him."
II. THE CAUSES OF HARDNESS OF HEART.
1. By neglecting the word and ordinances of God. There is a salutary power in Divine truth of which it is not easy to give adequate ideas (Psalm 81:11, 12).
2. By our slighting and despising the corrective dispensations of Providence. When painful events do not rouse to seriousness, and fiery trials do not melt to tenderness, we generally see increased levity and obstinacy.
3. By cherishing false opinions in religion.
4. By persisting in any known course of sin (Deuteronomy 29:19).
III. THE AWFUL CONSEQUENCES OF HARDNESS OF HEART.
1. It provokes God to leave men to their own errors, base passions, and inveterate passions.
2. It involves men in utter and irretrievable ruin. "He that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."Learn:
1. How much guilt there is in hardness of heart.
2. Take the warnings of Scripture against hardness of heart.
3. Take those measures which are absolutely necessary to guard you against hardness of heart.
(J. Thornton.)I. THE HEART — figuratively the seat of feeling, or affection.
II. It is said to be TENDER when it is easily affected by the sufferings of others; by our own sin and danger; by the love and commands of God — when we are easily made to feel on the great subjects pertaining to our interest (Ezekiel 11:19, 20).
III. It is HARD when nothing moves it; when a man is alike insensible to the sufferings of others, the dangers of his own condition, and the commands, the love, and the threatenings of God. It is most tender in youth. It is made hard by indulgence in sin; by long resisting the offers of salvation. Hence the most favourable period for securing an interest in Christ, or for becoming a Christian, is in youth — the first, the tenderest, and the best days of life.
(A. Barnes, D. D.)
(Pulsford's "Quiet Hours.)
I. When the obstinacy and perverseness of the heart is in some measure felt and perceived by those in whom it is, and also lamented and bewailed and resisted. This kind of hardness may be, and is, found more or less in the best saints and children of God (Mark 6:52; Mark 16:14).
II. That hardness which either is not felt at all, or, if felt, is not resisted. This is found only in wicked men. It is a fearful and dangerous sin; for —
1. It keeps out repentance, which is the remedy for sin.
2. God often punishes other heinous sins with this sin (Romans 1:28).
3. God also punishes this sin with other sins (Ephesians 4:18).
(G. Petter.)1. If they are not moved to repentance and true humiliation for sin, by seeing or hearing of the judgments of God inflicted on themselves or others; or if they are a little moved for the time, yet afterwards grow as bad or worse than before.
2. If the mercies of God, shown to themselves and others, do not affect them and persuade their hearts to turn to God (Romans 2:4).
3. If the word preached fail to humble them in the sight of God; but the more the hammer of the Word beats on their hearts, the harder they become, like the smith's anvil. These are all evident signs of great hardness of heart, in whomsoever they are found. And it is fearful to think how many there are of this rank and number. Let them consider how fearful their case is, and fear to continue in it. Let them be humbled for it, and lament it.
(G. Petter.)I. Pray earnestly to God to soften our hearts by the work of His Spirit, to take away our stony hearts and to give us hearts of flesh. He only is able to do it, and He has promised to do it if we carefully use the means (Ezekiel 36:26).
II. Be diligent and constant in hearing the Word of God. This is the hammer which will break the stone; the fire to melt and thaw the heart frozen in sin.
III. Meditate much and often upon God's infinite and unspeakable mercy toward penitent sinners (Exodus 34:6).
IV. Meditate seriously upon the bitter sufferings of Christ. It is said that the blood of a goat, while it is warm, will break the hardest adamant; so the blood of Christ, apprehended by faith, and applied to the conscience, will break the hardest heart in pieces, with godly sorrow for sin.
V. We are to use Christian admonitions and exhortations one to another: if we see others fall into any sin, point it out to them in a loving manner, and beseech them to repent of it; and if others admonish and exhort us, let us hearken to it.
VI. Be careful to avoid the causes of hardness of heart; viz.
1. Habitual sin; for, as a way or path, the more it is trodden and trampled upon, the harder it gets, so the more we inure ourselves to the practice of any sin, the harder our hearts will grow. It is said of Mithridates, that through the custom of drinking poison, he became so used to it that he drank it without danger; so the wicked, by habitual indulgence in swearing, uncleanness, etc., make these sins so familiar to them, that they can swallow them without any remorse of conscience.
2. Take heed of sinning against knowledge and the light of conscience.
3. Guard against negligence and coldness in religious exercises, such as prayer, hearing and reading the Word, etc. If we either begin to omit, or else carelessly to perform these duties, by which our hearts should be daily softened and kept tender, then by little and little we shall become dangerously hardened.
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