Meanwhile, John heard in prison about the works of Christ, and he sent two of his disciples
the works of Christ. Archbishop Thomson says, "Many Fathers are pleased to say that John had no doubts himself; that his faith was too strong for that, and that he only sent the two disciples to Jesus that they might have their faith refreshed by a stronger draught than their own master could administer. I cannot and do not believe it. There can hardly be a doubt that in thus sending his disciples to inquire of Jesus he wished to satisfy a doubt and a misgiving that had sprung up in his mind. 'Why this tarrying? Why this great delay? Why not proclaim the truth upon the mountaintops and in the city that Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, is come, that the people might bow down to him, and then rise as one man to shake off the Roman yoke?' It was his own misgiving. The faith is still there, but clouded over for the moment by a certain doubt, 'Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?'" Archbishop Trench explains the force of the term "works" as applied to our Lord's miracles. "A further term by which St. John very frequently names the miracles is eminently significant. They are very often with him simply 'works.' The wonderful is for St. John only the natural form of working for him who is dwelt in by all the fulness of God. He must, out of the necessity of his higher being, bring forth these works greater than man's." "These miracles are the fruit after its kind which the Divine tree brings forth; and may, with a deep truth, be styled the 'works' of Christ, with no further addition or explanation."
I. THE PECULIARITIES OF THE CHRISTIAN MIRACLES. It is well to remember that the Christian is not the only set of miracles; their characteristic features can best be seen on comparing them with others, especially those recorded, with more or less authority, in ecclesiastical history. Note these peculiarities:
1. The miracles of Christ were kept within remarkable limitations. The fewness, not the abundance, surprises us. Christ's restraint of miracle is far more surprising than his working miracles at all.
2. The miracles of Christ were purely philanthropic in their character. The apparent exceptions are proofs of the truth, for they were philanthropic to the disciples, parts of their spiritual training.
3. The miracles of Christ were in full harmony with the character and words of their author.
4. Less is made of the miracles of Christ as credentials than we should have expected.
II. THE PURPOSE OF THE CHRISTIAN MIRACLES. The true way to the vindication of the miracles is to show that the reason of a thing affords the best proof of its existence. Some of the heavenly bodies have been discovered, not by sight with the help of the telescope, but by the reason for their existence, which was found in the force of their gravitation, and the aberration of certain neighbouring bodies. It was first shown that they must be there, and then it was found that they were there.
1. The miracles were a necessary part of Christ's mission. He was both Redeemer from sin and Giver of life. His was really a spiritual work; not, therefore, immediately apparent to human vision. He must, in some outward palpable form, illustrate his higher work. He did the outward work of healing bodily disease and driving out evil spirits that he might lead men to look to him for spiritual healings and redeemings.
2. The miracles were also a necessary part of Christ's revelation. He had a mission, and was a revelation. The Father-God was set before men in Jesus Christ. He was "God manifest in the flesh." Christ's character must show men what the Father is; and Christ's works - his miracles - must show men what the Father does. - R.T.
The Son of man came eating.I. We have here a strong PROOF OF THE HUMANITY OF CHRIST. "The Son of man." His oneness with men; not exempt from the necessities of our nature; He was subject to the laws under which we live. No manna fell from heaven for Him.
II. Christ ate and drank WITH MEN. Not only as others, but with others. He was no recluse. Jesus represents the new order, which is a life of liberty, because a life of love. Religion must be able to endure the strain of life.
III. Here Christ SANCTIFIED THE COMMON DUTIES OF EVERY DAY. Nothing is so common as eating and drinking; it is commonplace. The temptation is to make the hours for meals mere feeding times, or to become an epicure. Christ's example guards against this. He taught the dignity of our bodies. He who recognizes the body as God's gift will never dishonour its appetites. The daily meals may be family sacraments cheered by Christian intercourse. Christ came to fit men for this world as well as for the next.
(W. S. Jerome.)I. THE DIFFERENT COURSES OF LIFE WHEREIN JOHN AND JESUS APPEARED.
1. That God sendeth forth His servants with divers dispositions.
2. That men are qualified according to the dispensation wherein God useth them. John, a preacher of repentance, was austere; Christ, as a giver of pardon, mild.
3. That men are apt to complain.
1. Except against what is done by God, and whatsoever methods are used to reduce them to a sense of pardon. The censures of the two things disliked in Christ were not just.
1. His diet. All our food should be sanctified.
2. His company.
II. THE REASONS WHY HE CHOSE THIS SORT OF LIFE.
1. Because He would not place religion in outward austerities and observances.
2. Christ would live a strict, but sociable and charitable life; and did not observe the laws of proud pharisaical separation, but spent His time in doing good.
3. Christ came to set us an example, and would take up that course of life most imitable by all sorts of persons.
4. It was fit His form of life should suit with the nature of the kingdom.
5. Because Christ would not gratify human wisdom, as He would not gratify sense, by choosing a pompous life, so He would net gratify wisdom by choosing an austere life.
6. To show us the true nature of mortification, which consists not in abstinence and retreat from temptations, but in a spirit fortified against them.
III. THE OBSERVANCES WHICH WE MAY BUILD THEREON.
1. We may observe the humanity, goodness, and kindness of that religion which we profess, both with respect to ourselves and others.
2. That external holiness which consisteth in an outside strictness without love usually puffeth up men.
3. That a free life, guided by a holy wisdom, is the most sanctified life.
A friend of publicans and sinners.I. OUR LORD PROVED HIMSELF IN HIS OWN TIME TO BE THE FRIEND OF SINNERS.
1. He came among them.
2. He sought their good by His ministry.
3. He showed His patience toward them by the contradiction He endured from them.
II. WHAT CHRIST IS DOING NOW FOR SINNERS.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. CHRIST A FRIEND. In a friend we anticipate finding sincere attachment, affectionate concern to promote our welfare, freedom in fellowship and communication, unflinching fidelity.
II. THE DUTY WE OWE TO HIM. Friendliness, gratitude, fellowship, integrity, constancy,
III. THE ADVANTAGES RESULTING FROM THE PERFORMANCE OF IT. The friendship of Christ affords rich consolation, exhaustless supplies, requisite instruction, eternal inheritance. Address the enemies of Christ, the undecided, and His friends.
But wisdom is justified of her children.I. How WISDOM BECOMES JUSTIFIED TO HER CHILDREN. Notice those respects in which the scheme of Christianity is considered foolishness by the world.
1. A strong natural dislike of Christianity is founded on the meanhess of the Saviour's life and the ignominy of His death. The Christian's great struggle is with earthly attachments, and he acknowledges with thankfulness the wisdom of any arrangement whose direct tendency is to help him in the struggle.
2. They often allege the disproportion of the means to the end. Reason cannot decide how much the pardon of a sin must cost. The converted man sees the heinousness of sin. He sees that only an infinite sacrifice could put it away.
3. It is regarded as unsuited to the ends which it proposes to effect, and no heavier charge could be brought against its wisdom. The idea of substitution is said to encourage men in sin; hut where can we find higher morality and truer friendship than amongst men who are trusting in Christ?
II. WISDOM IS JUSTIFIED THROUGH HER CHILDREN TO OTHERS. This wisdom is so manifest in the effects of Christianity on the lives of its disciples, that enemies are inexcusable in charging it with foolishness. The children of God must vindicate the wisdom of religion,
(H. Melvill, B. D.)I. WHAT IS THE WISDOM TO WHICH REFERENCE IS HERE MADE. Some suppose our Lord to have meant Himself; in Proverbs it is declared that by "Wisdom" God created the heavens. The term wisdom is also applied to the doctrine of the true God. "The fear of the Lord that is wisdom."
II. To SHOW HOW IT HAS BEEN IN ALL AGES EXPOSED TO THE INDIFFERENCE, CONTEMPT, OR THE MISAPPREHENSION OF MANKIND.
1. Deny her doctrines.
2. Forget her commands.
III. How IT HAS BEEN NEVERTHELESS JUSTIFIED IN ITS CHILDREN.
1. In the life of every saint who has arrived in heaven. "A cloud of witnesses " prove wisdom is justified of her children.
2. Wisdom is justified in all the social relationships of life. Is he a husband? wisdom will have given him a new affection.
(T. Jackson, M. A.)
Studies.I. Evangelical religion is CHARACTERIZED, AS WISDOM. As it rightly applies the sublimest knowledge; as it diligently studies the most approved rule; as it zealously prosecutes the most enduring interest.
II. Evangelical religion HAS BEEN CHARGED WITH FOLLY. Its principles, its feelings, its practices, have been accounted foolishness.
III. Evangelical religion is JUSTIFIED BY THE EXPERIENCE ON ITS POSSESSORS. They receive her doctrines, avow her service, obey her precepts.
(Studies.)I. WHAT IS THE WISDOM OF GOD IN THE WAY OF SALVATION PRESENTED BY THE GOSPEL? The end of the means.
II. THAT THIS WISDOM IS DESPISED AND CONTRADICTED BY THE CARNAL WORLD.
III. HOW AND WHY IT MUST BE JUSTIFIED BY THE SINCERE PROFESSORS OF THE GOSPEL.
1. It must be approved and received by themselves.
2. It must be professed and owned when it is in contempt in the world.
3. This profession must be honoured and recommended to others by a holy conversation.Why?
1. Because of the charge that is put upon us to testify for God, and justify His ways.
2. Wisdom deserveth to be justified by us.
3. Those who condemn wisdom by their tongues, justify it in some measure by their consciences.
4. If we do not justify religion, we justify the world.
5. Christ will one day justify all His sincere followers.
6. Because of the necessity of justifying wisdom in the times we live in.
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