Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.Luke 12:1
The words follow an account of the Pharisees' attempt to ensnare Jesus, and Weiss's contention is that Jesus warns His disciples, not against the 'simulatio' of the Pharisees, who 'cloaked their real disposition under the appearance of extreme piety, but simply against "dissimulatio" in the sense of Galatians 2:13, i.e. the temper which would hide its true convictions owing to the fear of man'. The man who practises ὑπόκρισις of any kind plays a part. He is insincere. But his motives may vary. The real self which is kept in the background may be worse or better than the open actions and words in which the man seeks to come before the public. In one case, ὑπόκρισις may be 'the compliment paid by vice to goodness'; the man may pretend to possess beliefs higher than his real ones. In another case, it may be toll paid needlessly and hurtfully by goodness to expediency and false prudence. The latter case, Weiss holds, was in the mind of Jesus when he uttered this warning.
References.—XII. 1.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v. No. 237. D. Fraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 135. Expositor (7th Series), vol. v. p. 190. XII. 2.—Ibid. (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 381. XII. 2-12.—Ibid. (5th Series), vol. x. p. 344.
It is constantly whispered that it would be dangerous to divulge certain truths to the masses.... If a thing is true, let us all believe it, rich and poor, men, women, and children. If a thing is untrue, let us all disbelieve it, rich and poor, men, women, and children. Truth is a thing to be shouted from the housetops, not to be whispered over rose-water after dinner when the ladies are gone away.
—Prof. W. K. Clifford.
References.—XII. 4, 5.—J. Bolton, Selected Sermons (2nd Series), p. 147. XII. 5.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 208; ibid. vol. iii. p. 283. XII. 6.—C. Bosanquet, Blossoms from the King's Garden, p. 155.
Christ's View of the Modern World
That is a simple saying, and yet how deep! Could any illustration be more homely, or humdrum, more inadequate, or commonplace? And yet Jesus Christ takes it for the purpose of expressing His conception of the substance and soul of our human life—what its contents are; what is the infinite care that is over it and through it, over the whole of it, and through the whole of it, even to its minutest details! And then He shows, by the turn He gives it, to what mighty courage and patient devotion men may be inspired who accept His view of life.
I. What, then, is His interpretation of this complex and bewildering thing we call the world? It is, in brief, that human life is not a weltering chaos but a well-ordered family in a graciously ruled world. This Universe is a Home God is Father and Mother. We are the children of His family.
II. What, then, is it makes the Home? There are four responses that we can give to that inquiry. (1) First of all, the vital factor of the home is the parental. Jesus claims the home as the true type of our human life, and He gives new meaning to the word 'God' when He represents Him as Father and Mother of this Home. It is the glory of our Christianity that it has given us a new conception of the word 'Father,' and that it has authentically applied it to God. (2) What makes the Home? Lift the shutter and look through the window at the family, and you recognise at once that the spirit of the home is love, selfsacrifice, devotion on the part of mother and father to the care and welfare, the discipline and up-bringing of the children. The spirit that rules the life of man is the spirit of selfsacrifice; a Divine sacrifice for our redemption. (3) What makes the Home? Look into it again, and you see that the methods of the home contemplate and provide for the development of freedom. As of the home, so of all our life. He does not put us here as machines wound up to go in a certain prescribed way: He offers us the sovereignty of ourselves, and He Himself undertakes the task of training us in the use of such sovereignty; that is the meaning of temptation and difficulty, of desire and aspiration. Hegel says: 'The history of the world is the gradual development of human free-will'. Slowly but surely God is educating His children in the right use of their divinest prerogative, their power of personal choice. (4) What makes the Home? My last answer to this question is, Service makes the home. We are made for service; and Jesus assures us that the quality of our service and the amount of it both depend upon the view which we take of our life.
—J. Clifford, The Secret of Jesus, p. 35.
While this poor little heart was being bruised with a weight too heavy for it, Nature was holding on her calm, inexorable way, in unmoved and terrible beauty. The stars were rushing in their eternal courses; the tides swelled to the level of the last expectant weed; the sun was making brilliant day to busy nations on the other side of the swift earth. The stream of human thought and deed was hurrying and broadening onward. The astronomer was at his telescope; the great ships were labouring over the waves; the toiling eagerness of commerce, the fierce spirit of revolution, were only ebbing in brief rest; and sleepless statesmen were dreading the possible crisis of the morrow. What were our little Tina and her trouble in this mighty torrent, rushing from one awful unknown to another? Lighter than the smallest centre of quivering life in the water-drop, hidden and uncared for as the pulse of anguish in the breast of the tiniest bird that has fluttered down to its nest, with the long-sought food, and has found the nest torn and empty.
—George Eliot, in Mr. Gilfil's Love-Story.
Clough's lines, entitled A Protest, describe such a confession of faith upon the part of a woman:—
In act to speak she rose, but with the sense
Of all the eyes of that mixed company
Now suddenly turned upon her, some with age
Hardened and dulled, some cold and critical....
The mantling blood to her cheek
Rushed up and overflushed itself, blank night her soul
Made dark, and in her all her purpose swooned.
She stood as if for sinking. Yet anon,
With recollections clear, august, sublime,
Of God's great truth, and right immutable,
Which, as obedient vassals, to her mind
Came summoned of her will, in self-negation
Quelling her troublous earthly consciousness,
She queened it o'er her weakness. At the spell
Back rolled the ruddy tide, and leaves her cheek
Paler than erst, and yet not ebbs so far
But that one pulse of one indignant thought
Might hurry it hither in flood. So as she stood
She spoke. God in her spoke and made her heard.
All varieties of formalism have one quality in common, that the strength they give to religion is not vital, it is only social and external. They have a weakening effect upon faith, even in the faithful. Formalism lowers the temperature, not on one side only, but all round it, like an iceberg floating in the sea. Its disapproval of dissent is accompanied by a chilling want of sympathy with religious earnestness and zeal. Formalism is to faith what etiquette is to affection; it is merely taste, and it is quite as much a violation of taste to have the motives of a really genuine, pious Christian, and avow them (in religious language, 'to confess Christ before men'), as it is to abstain from customary ceremonies. In short, formalism is the world with its usages, substituting itself for Jesus and His teaching; it is 'good form' set up in the place of enthusiastic loyalty and uncalculating self-devotion.
—P. G. Hamerton, French and English p. 177.
References.—XII. 8.—C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 174. XII. 8, 9.—J. M. Whiton, Summer Sermons, p. 161. Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. p. 379. XII. 10.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 26.
His Brother's Inheritance
I. Here is an instance of man's strange tendency to avoid personal application of Christ's teaching to themselves. It is his brother that he thinks about, not himself at all. The last thing a man thinks of is applying religious truth to himself. The same thing is true about all moral truth, about all maxims which have a bearing on life and conduct The Gospel message is essentially Individual.
II. Here is an instance of the operation of worldly cares in shutting out the Gospel. This man listens to Christ, and keeps on thinking his own thoughts all the time—about the estate. Men are so absorbed in their worldly affairs that they pay no heed to the Divine message. While giving all honour to worldly occupation, it is not to be forgotten that (1) it tends to become absorbing and engrossing. (2) It blinds to all high and true thought (3) It specially blinds to Christ's message.
III. Here is also an instance of a very common mistake as to what Christ has come to do. He thinks of Him as a Rabbi, and wants Him to speak to his brother and get him to do justly. He looks upon Christ as a moral teacher who restrains by His word social abuses. You find this view in many different forms. (1) That is often the politician's view of Christianity. (2) That is the sentimental novelist's view of Christianity. (3) That is the view held by all people who have not learned their own sin.
Now look at Christ's answer. 'Beware of covetousness.' Christ's first work is to the individual, then to society. He is Redeemer before moral Teacher. The hope of the world is in the Cross of Christ.
References.—XII. 13-15.—E. Bersier, Sermons in Paris, p. 107. XII. 13-23.—T. Heath, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xix. p. 277. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 337.
Now for jurisdiction, this dear saint of the prelates, it will be best to consider, first, what it is: that sovereign Lord, who in the discharge of His holy anointment from God the Father, which made Him supreme bishop of our souls, was so humble as to say, 'Who made Me a judge or a divider over ye?' hath taught us that a churchman's jurisdiction is no more but to watch over his flock in season and out of season, to deal by sweet and efficacious instruction, gentle admonitions, and sometimes rounder reproofs; against negligence or obstinacy will be required a rousing volley of pastoral threatenings.... In some, his jurisdiction is to see the thriving and prospering of that which he hath planted.' So Milton, in his animadversion in the Remonstrant's Defence, concluding with the definition: 'True evangelical jurisdiction is no more than for a minister to see to the thriving and prospering of that which he hath planted'.
Reference.—XII. 14.—A. Shepherd, The Gospel and Social Questions, p. 3.
Self-centred Or Christ-centred?
I. How came our Lord to use these Words?—They were spoken in answer to a man in the street There had been an interruption by one of the crowd, who called out, 'Master, speak to my brother that he divide the inheritance with me'. But our Lord refused to interfere in this domestic quarrel. Is it not strange that He should refuse to help a troubled soul like this one? I think I may say that our Lord's reason was the same reason that He does not interfere in our own daily affairs. We read of disasters by land and sea, earthquakes in far-off lands, the poor out of work, the children's cry for bread, and though we may not give utterance with our lips, yet in our hearts we wish that the Lord would come and put all things right. But He does not come. Instead, the voice from heaven says, 'In your patience, possess ye your souls—My time is not yet come'.
II. Whilst our Lord Refused to be a Judge and a Divider He did not Refuse His Help Altogether.—He related a parable. And this is the picture that He painted. The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully, and because of this prosperity there followed perplexity, as he said, 'What shall I do? I have no place to bestow all my fruits and my goods.' How easy it would have been for him to have said, 'I will give some of them to my brethren who have not any'. But what do we read that he said? 'This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater, and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods, and I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.' Prosperity and perplexity. Selfishness and shortsightedness. These characteristics are painted very vividly by our Lord in this picture. If there is one thing in this world more despicable than another it is selfishness. Mark the selfishness in the remarks of this man in which the pronoun 'I' seems to predominate. 7 will pull down; this will I do; I will restore; I will build. Is there anything more despicable in the sight of God than a self-centred soul?
III. Self-Centred or Christ-Centred?—You may ask what do I mean by a self-centred soul? One whose thoughts and actions are centred entirely upon himself. He will rise in the morning, and his first thoughts are, 'What shall I put on? What am I going to have to eat? What am I likely to get in the way of work or play?' And his whole day is spent in 'getting' for himself. But his soul is lost in misery. And what of the happy man who possesses a Christ-centred soul? He wakes in the morning, and before he leaves his bed his thoughts go up to God on high, and he thinks of Christ who died for him. In proportion to our holiness is our happiness. 'A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.' 'This is life eternal, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom He hath sent.' This alone will suffice on that day when He returns.
We rarely find Christ meddling with any of these plump commands, but it was to open them out, and lift his hearers from the letter to the Spirit.... And thus you find Christ giving various counsels to varying people, and often jealously careful to avoid definite precept. Is He asked, for example, to divide a heritage? He refuses: and the best advice that He will offer is but a paraphrase of that tenth commandment which figures so strongly among the rest. Take heed, and beware of covetousness.
—R. L. Stevenson.
References.—XII. 15.—W. M. Sinclair, Difficulties of our Day, p. 96. F. B. Cowl, Preacher's Magazine, vol. xviii. p. 94. J. Eames, Sermons to Boys and Girls, p. 95. H. M. Butler, Harrow School Sermons (2nd Series), p. 121. W. R. Inge, All Saint's Sermons, 1905-7, p. 69. W. P. Balfern, Lessons from Jesus, p. 253. XII. 15-21.—C. Perren, Outline Sermons, p. 248. J. M. Whiton, Summer Sermons, p. 89.
Rich and Yet Poor
Why is this man called a 'fool'? The epithet is a strong one. It is one the use of which Christ discouraged. It falls hot from the lips of Christ Himself. What is there in the conduct of this man to justify the use of such an opprobrious term?
I. (1) This man is evidently what is known as a 'successful man'; but surely it does not follow that his folly lay in his success? Presumably it is all due to his own forethought, diligence, and the prolific generosity of 'mother earth'. There is nothing unworthy in any success that is well and wisely gained. (2) Nor can we detect anything like folly, but something very like common sense and prudence, in the man's question, 'What shall I do with my goods'? (3) Nor do we perceive any particular folly in what he determined to do—'I will pull down my barns, and build greater'.
II. There is one thing that is very noticeable in this man's mind and speech, and that is the utter absence of any idea of, or reference to, God. There is a popular saying, if it may be used here without vulgarity, 'He reckoned without his host'. The picture is a common one. It is the picture of a man whom prosperity has made Godless. There are two things a man may never forget; at least, if he do, God will not be slow in reminding him of them—the one is, that what he calls his own is not his, it has been lent him by God; and the other is, that what has been lent him by God is intended to be used for God.
III. This man has literally no sense of responsibility.
IV. But let no one go away, saying, 'There is nothing here for me. I am none of your prosperous men, I have neither money nor goods laid up for "many years!"' Hear me—Thou hast not this—Thou has not that—Thou hast a soul! and the night is upon us, and it might be required of thee—and then?
—J. Thew, Broken Ideals, p. 165.
Want is a growing giant, whom the Coat of Have was never large enough to cover.
References.—XII. 18.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 186. XII. 19.—T. Arnold, Christian Life, Its Hopes, p. 75. Expositor (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 192. XII. 19, 20.—W. H. Evans, Short Sermons for the Seasons, p. 50.
Our Lord's Fool
The word for 'fool' here is the same which St. Paul employs in his argument about the Resurrection. It signifies one who does not perceive what is passing before his eyes. He stands in the midst of life like a senseless statue. And when Jesus terms the man in His parable a 'fool,' He means that he is one who misses the proper significance of life and has no perception of its real values. He does not see the true issues. He is blind, unperceiving.
Now look at the man and observe the justice of this characterisation of him.
I. And, first of all, you will notice that he was not in any sense a bad man. There was no wickedness, no depravity about him. On the contrary, he was a most estimable person. He was rich, but there was no harm in this. Of course there was none. Success is an excellent thing if it be rightly achieved, and it is the stupid or indolent man who cries out against it. It is, to my mind, a good omen when a lad is ambitious of getting on in the world, of fighting his life-battle and winning it.
'I think,' said an old gentleman toward the close of his busy and successful career, 'there are three questions which will be put to us on the Day of Judgment: Did you make all you could? How did you make it? What use did you make of it?' And which of these questions would have convicted the man in the parable? He would have passed the first with the utmost credit. He had made all he could; he had missed no chance. He was a clever farmer. He had skill in crops and herds and understood the ways of the market; and he had prospered amazingly in his harvesting and breeding and buying and selling. And it was all to his credit.
And as for the second question: 'How did you make it? 'he would have passed that too. It is not suggested, you observe, that he had been guilty of any dishonesty, any sharp practice, any unfair dealing in the conduct of his affairs.
But what use had he made of it? Ah! there he had failed. He had a fault, and it is one to which the successful man is ever prone. And it was this—that he was so much taken up with his farm, his crops, his cattle, his buying and selling, that he had never a thought for the higher and more momentous interests of life He neglected the supreme concerns, made no account of them, never took them into his reckoning—the supreme concerns: Death, Judgment, Eternity, God.
II. When a man sells his soul—and he never means to sell it—he not only pays the price but loses the purchase. And so it happened with the Rich Fool. He bartered his soul for the world; and he got the world, did he not? Yes, but he had no enjoyment of it while he had it, and he quickly found that he could not keep it.
There is a grim Italian saying that 'our last robe is made without pockets'. And the supremely important question is what sort of things we are living for and setting our hearts upon—things which need pockets, or the things which the heart carries. It is well for us to pause from time to time amid our worldly employments and consider what the years have brought us and whether it be gain or loss. And it is so easy to determine. Perhaps they have brought us broader lands and fuller barns; and these are goodly things if only we have wisdom to use them. But have they brought us also more love and gentleness and patience and courage and faith and hope, more spiritual-mindedness, a deeper knowledge of God, a closer intimacy with Christ and a fuller sympathy with His mind and will? Whatever of temporal success or failure they may have brought us, the changeful years have brought us nothing but good if the world be less to us than it used to be, and Christ more.
—David Smith, Man's Need of God, p. 125.
We rode by a fine seat: the owner of which (not much above fourscore years old) says he desires only to live thirty years longer; ten to hunt, ten to get money (having at present but twenty thousand pounds a year), and ten years to repent. O that God may not say unto him, 'Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee'.
References.—XII. 20.—D. Brook, Preacher's Magazine, vol. v. p. 33. G. Campbell Morgan, ibid. vol. xviii. p. 154 H. P. Liddon, Sermons on Some Words of Christ, p. 160. XII. 21.—D. O. F. Macdonald, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. p. 205.
The influence of ancient philosophies, and also that of Christianity (so far as it has been taken seriously), have both been hostile to money-making; but the influence of all visible realities is so constantly in its favour, that the word 'success' in the middle classes both of France and England means money and nothing else. The phrases, 'Il a réussi; il est arrivé,' and the expressions, 'He has done well; He has risen in the world,' do not mean that one has attained any ideal excellence, but simply that he has betted money; and in certain classes a man is considered a poor creature if he has not realised a fortune.
—P. G. Hamerton, French and English, p. 377.
If thou turnest in towards thyself to live to thyself, to be happy in the workings of thine own will, to be rich in the sharpness and acuteness of thy own reason, thou choosest to be a weed, and canst only have such a life, spirit, and blessing from God, as a thistle has from the sun.
References.—XII. 22-31.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 342. XII. 24.—J. J. Blunt, Plain Sermons (3rd Series), p. 213.
How the Lilies Grow
They grow:—I. Slowly. So slowly that increase is only noticeable at considerable intervals. It is Nature's usual method. In the stalactite caves of Cheddar though the pendants and pillars are evidently in constant process of formation, there has been no appreciable lengthening or heightening for half a century. And as it is in the realm of the natural, so it is in the realm of the spiritual, e.g. in our personal religious experience. So also in the work of the Church.
II. Mysteriously. 'How they grow.' But who knows how? So in all spiritual experiences and work. We must leave room for the mysterious and inscrutable.
III. Under certain conditions. Absence of sunlight and moisture, poverty of soil, or lack of gentle breezes, will cause the flower to droop and die. So in all spiritual matters; growth is conditional. Let the conditions be observed and strength with beauty of Christian character are secured. Under some conditions spiritual vigour is almost impossible. The Cashmir proverb says, 'A fat man has no religion'. In that quaint fashion we have but a version of 'How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God'.
—H. Windross, The Preachers? Magazine, vol. vii. p. 323.
There are times when I cannot rest in the ethical, when I cannot find any satisfaction in historical facts. The very evangel satisfies me not. I cannot read my Bible, and I cannot pray. But I go out into my garden to consider the lilies how they grow. Μὴ μεριμνᾶτε, they seem to preach: carking care, away!
—Dr. John Duncan.
The highest voice ever heard on this earth said withal, 'Consider the lilies of the field: they toil not, neither do they spin; yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these'. A glance, that, into the deepest deep of Beauty. 'The lilies of the field '—dressed finer than earthly princes, springing up there in the humble furrow-field; a beautiful eye looking out on you from the great inner sea of Beauty! How could the rude earth make these, if her Essence, rugged as she looks and is, were not inwardly Beauty?
—Carlyle, on Heroes (Lecture iii).
Beside the moist clods the slender flags arise, filled with the sweetness of the earth. Out of the darkness under—that darkness which knows no day save when the ploughshare opens its chinks—they have come to light... Yonder a steam-plough pants up the hill, groaning with its own strength, yet all that strength and might of wheels, and piston, and chains, cannot drag from the earth one single blade like these. Force cannot make it; it must grow—an easy word to speak or write, in fact full of potency. It is this mystery of growth and life, of beauty and sweetness and colour, starting out of the clods, that gives the com its power over me.
To us this is a truism. In the first century it must have seemed a paradox of paradoxes.... Almost all Christ's moral precepts might be paralleled or illustrated by something in Hebrew or Jewish literature. This praise of the beauty of flowers cannot, apparently, be so paralleled. And it helps Christians to approximate to a realisation of the spiritual altitude of Christ's conception of beauty and glory in the moral world. Of all Christ's sayings it is the most original.
—E. A. Abbott, The Son of Man, pp. 714, 715.
Reference.—XII. 28.—Expositor (7th Series), vol. v. p. 184.
Wherever I have been I have charged myself with contentment and triumph.
References.—XII. 29.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. 1. No. 2871- A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 349.
Speaking of the idealist Chinese philosopher, Wan Yang Ming, Dr. Nitobé, in his book on Bushido (p. 18), observes that, 'Making allowance for the terms peculiar to either teaching, the passage, Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you, conveys a thought which may be found on almost any page of Wan Yang Ming'.
If you do not happen to have the means to go to Brazil, set out travelling to heaven. It is a longer journey, and you will see more by the way. Nay, I would say to the wealthy, travel in your own township. Put off your fine clothes and go among the poor and oppressed; work at the bench with the carpenter's son, and in the pit with the collier; go on the road with the tramp and lighten the way a little for his feet—and you will hear things you never thought to have heard. You will see things that in all your grand tours you could never attain to see. Like other problems the problem of property is best solved indirectly. That is, not by seeking material wealth directly, but by seeking that of which material wealth is only the symbol. 'Seek ye first the kingdom... and all these things shall be added unto you.' Vaguely metaphysical as these words sound, yet I believe they express a literal fact.... Seeking ease we have found disease; scrambling for wealth, our civilisation has become poverty-stricken beyond all expression; prizing mere technical knowledge, we have forgotten the existence of wisdom; and setting up material property as our deity, we have dethroned the ruling power in our own natures. Not till this last is restored can we possibly attain to possession of the other things.
—Carpenter, England's Ideal, pp. 159, 160.
At a certain time of life certain things cease to interest: but about some things when we cease to care, what will be the use of life, sight, hearing?
An aim in life is the only fortune worth the finding; and it is not to be found in foreign lands, but in the heart itself.
—R. L. Stevenson.
The Gift of the Kingdom
Luke 12:32I. The kingdom of God is the gift of God.
II. The gift of the kingdom includes all other gifts. The greater includes the less.
III. So the children of the kingdom ought to be brave and glad. (1) Keep the kingdom before you. Look far enough forward and you will not be afraid. (2) Interpret all life by it.
References.—XII. 32.—W. J. Brock, Sermons, p. 173. H. Woodcock, Sermon Outlines (1st Series), p. 39. T. H. Barlow, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 392. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 68; ibid. (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 35.
We listen in church with formal assent when the love of money is denounced as the root of all evil. But we hold practically that this language has ceased to be applicable to the conditions of modern society. Energetic men are ambitious, and desire to excel. The only road by which they can now rise to preeminence lies in the accumulation of riches. Success is measured even in literature and art by the money which can be made out of them.
—Froude, Short Studies, vol. iii. p. 152.
Because a man has shop to mind
In time and place, since flesh must live,
Needs spirit lack all life behind,
All stray thoughts, fancies fugitive,
All loves except what trade can give?
But—shop each day and all day long!
Friend, your good angel slept, your star
Suffered eclipse, fate did you wrong!
From where these sorts of treasures are,
There should our hearts be—Christ, how far!
'I declare,' said Wilberforce, during the anti-slavery crusade, 'my greatest cause of difference with the democrats is their laying, and causing people to lay, so great a stress on the concerns of this world as to occupy their whole minds and hearts, and to leave a few scanty and lukewarm thoughts for the heavenly treasure.'
Can you have ownership of inorganic matter—of the mere materials of life?... Can you say to the treasures in chest and closet which the moth and rust are duly and diligently all the while corrupting, Treasures, Treasures, you are all mine, mine, mine? Yes, you can say so; but in what sense exactly do you say so? It is merely in the legal sense that you rub your hands as you gaze bending over them, and say, 'I can prevent any one else from using you'—or is it in a grander sense than this? And if so, in what sense?
—Carpenter, England's Ideal, pp. 144, 145.
Reference.—XII. 33, 34.—D. Fraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 28.
Ursula Rovers was not one of those who serve their Lord with dancing and a shout. Yet she sang to herself, very sedately, as she broke off each bursting pod, amid the fiercer jubilations of the passion-drunk blackbirds and finches:—
Stand then with girded loins, and see your lamps be burning;
What though the sun lies fair upon your paths today,
Who reads the evening sky? Who knows if winds be turning?
The night comes surely. Watch and pray.
—Maarten Maartens, in My Lady Nobody.
This was the passage from which Principal Rainy preached his last sermon on board ship on his voyage to Australia In the course of the sermon, in speaking of the 'watches' in which it is said that the Lord may come, he remarked it is 'perhaps not altogether fanciful' to divide the life of man into 'three watches'. The first is child-life, 'when we have not yet begun to awake to the seriousness of life and only see the bright and joyous side,' and the third is age, 'when our experience is ripe, but when we feel the ties that have bound us to earth gradually but surely lessening their hold upon us and we are forced to look on to the great end'. 'But,' the preacher continued, 'there is a second period of life—let us call it the middle watch, though it may be the last,' and it is 'the time when we are in the greatest danger of forgetting watchfulness'. 'When the cares of business, the pleasures of society, the greed of gain and the glamour of the world threaten most to choke out the good seed from our hearts, then it is we need to pull ourselves together, to strive to realise we are not living for this world alone, and to listen most intently, amid the confusing voices of earth, for the rustle of the angels' wings.'
References.—XII. 35.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 155. XII. 35, 36.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St Luke, p. 358. XII. 35-37.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1643, p. 185. XII. 35-38.—R. Allen, The Words of Christ, p. 245. XII. 35-48. —Expositor (4th Series), vol. iv. p. 52. XII. 36.—J. Bolton, Selected Sermons (2nd Series), p. 308. J. Kelman, Ephemera Eternitatis, p. 325. XII. 37.—C. Bradley, Faithful Teaching, p. 86. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 366. XII. 37, 38.—J. Moffatt, The Second Things of Life, p. 117. XII. 37, 38.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2302. XII. 37, 43, 44.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 373. XII. 38.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. vi. p. 336.
During the Scripture reading with the villagers at the Hall in the evening, he (i.e. Joseph John Gurney, the great Quaker banker and philanthropist) spoke of the awful consequences of delaying preparation for a dying hour, alluding to two deaths which had just occurred, and ending with the words, Be ye also ready, for at such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. The very next day he became unwell; all that week he failed, and—almost without suffering—grew feebler till Saturday evening, when he said to his wife, 'I think I feel a little joyful,' and, with these words, fell into the sleep from which he never woke here.
—Quoted in Mr, Hare's Gurneys of Earlham, ii. pp. 220, 221.
References.—XII. 40.—F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. i. p. 1. W. H. Evans, Sermons for the Church's Year, p. 121.
St. Peter's Weakness and Strength
I suggest for our study the character-sketch of the failure of the very Apostle who spoke to our Lord the words of our text. In it I think we shall find it necessary to make very little allowance for the change in outward circumstances before we arrive at a living, bright lesson for ourselves in that wonderfully human narrative of St. Peter—of his goodness, his weakness, his fall, his penitence, his forgiveness, his new start For nothing will help us more to make progress in the future than clearly to see the reason of our fall in previous encounters; then it is that holy penitence, leading up to God's forgiveness, builds the bridge by which men pass from sin to righteousness. And while we cannot, of course, say that the study of St. Peter's failure can exhibit to us the whole source of the failures of all men, seeing that the reasons of men's sins are as numerous and varied as are men themselves, yet the story of St. Peter's denials, if we read it with a little care, is beyond question very instructive and far-reaching, and we can, I think, see reflected in it the origin and the history of many at least of our own falls.
I. In thinking over the little drama, for such it almost is, we must not dwell on the fall of St. Peter as if it were just the natural sequel to a mere rash boast—as if, I mean, St. Peter had been insincere from the beginning, as if from the beginning he had not been prepared to do or suffer for the Lord. Far from it: when the Lord was arrested in the garden, it is St. Peter who strikes a blow in His defence and thereby exposes himself to great danger, though the Lord's last wrought miracle appears to have saved him from arrest; and when all the others, with the exception of St. John, forsook the Lord and fled, St. Peter more bravely follows to the high priest's house, where his recent act of violence must have placed him in special danger in the company in which he found himself. Of his sincerity when he spoke and declared that, however unfaithful others might be, yet he would be true, of this we need not doubt; the bitter tears which he shed when it was all over tell the same story; it was because he really loved the Lord that he spoke as he did; it was because he really loved the Lord that he wept. The mistake he made was that he compared himself with others, and boasted of his love; for however great it might be, it could offer no reason for the disparagement of others. And then he made the further mistake of under-estimating the difficulty of that which he had taken upon himself; I say under-estimating advisedly, for the temptation to deny the Lord was all the greater because it came in such a comparatively contemptible way. If he had imagined anything clearly, perhaps he had pictured to himself some such scene as that in which he did boldly strike to defend the Lord. The question of a maid-servant and the greater difficulty of meeting that, he had not foreseen. And let me call attention to the fact that, as St. John describes the matter, in the first and second denial St. Peter merely follows the lead of his questioner. The question is so put as to show that it expected St. Peter to say that he was no friend of Jesus of Nazareth, and St. Peter only said what he felt he was expected to say. If the first question had come in a less trivial way, if it had been a formal inquiry, and St. Peter had felt that he was on his trial, the result would no doubt have been different. As it was, he was in rather a difficult position, the company was dangerous; it was a mistake, so he would feel, to contradict any one and begin a quarrel; he simply wished to escape observation, perhaps, with the very purpose of bravely dying for the Lord when the right moment should arrive when he could assist Him. And so with easy compliance, not thinking that there was yet anything to fight about, he simply assented to the lead of his questioner and avoided any unpleasantness.
II. All this is very true to our timid, self-saving nature. Can we not recall occasions when, really being at heart on the right side, we have allowed ourselves to appear to be on the wrong side because we have thought that the occasion was not big enough to call for a real declaration of our principles? Something wrong has been proposed and a young person, man or woman, assents, in the hope that after all it will not be done, and so all will end well, without anything disagreeable being caused by an outspoken protest. Something clever has been said about another, not by way of good-humoured character-study, but possessing its only point in its maliciousness and sting; some risky joke has been made, and Christ's timid follower has not laughed outright, for he could not really approve, and he was not really in the least amused; but he has feebly smiled, enough, so he hoped, to save his conscience on the one hand, and not to make him singular or unpopular on the other. My firm conviction is that in many of the dangers of life the gravest harm will often have as its first step this easy half-pretended assent to the wrong spoken by others, and, on the other hand, Christ's faithful follower will be saved from further attack of wrong if from the beginning he or she meets such remarks with the unspoken but unmistakable dissent of a self-respecting silence, or with just the look that simply and modestly bespeaks a different standard of thought, the look before which a meaner nature by instinct is cowed. And observe, while St. Peter, in his timid effort to avoid anything awkward, had begun to slip further and further away from his high resolve, St. John, who kept near to the Lord, and made no kind of compromise, was not even assailed. What a contrast! What a lesson! The place of faithfulness—true, simple, and complete—will always be the place of safety; when we keep nearest to Christ we have least to fear.
III. We know now that which St. Peter then did not know. Christ must die for Peter before Peter could die for Christ; such is an old comment on all this. But Christ did die for Peter, and in the end Peter was privileged to die for Christ. 'Verily, verily,' so, soon after, the Lord said to him, 'Verily, verily, I say unto thee, when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands and another shall gird thee and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake He signifying by what death he should glorify God.' And some of us in a famous book, accurate and imaginative, have read details of the story of St. Peter's death for Christ. But we need not travel outside the limits of Holy Scripture to recognise the change that came over St. Peter after Christ had died for him and the Holy Spirit had been sent His nature was not altered; God's influence does not change men in that sense; He does not abolish and annihilate the disposition with which we are born; He chastens, and ennobles, and consecrates it. In the Epistle to the Galatians we read that St. Peter still had the same tendencies as ever. But in the Acts of the Apostles we read of his boldness and his defiance of the great authorities of Jerusalem; we read of his public speeches for Christ's name; we read of his love for Christ made good in action; and those humble words of his involving no comparison of himself with others, and only claiming that he had a personal affection for Christ, 'Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee,' were justified by his life and by his death.
—Bertram Pollock (Bishop of Norwich), The Guardian, 21st October, 1910.
References.—XII. 42.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 404. XII. 48.—H. M. Butler, Harrow School Sermons, p. 332. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iv. p. 62.
The Fire Christ Flung on Earth
According to a word of His own, Christ came from the heavenly sphere to fling fire on earth. In language which from any other lips would have been called reckless, He said this and more—that He sent not peace, but a sword. Into a world where already so many sharp swords were busy, He brought another keener than all the rest, that was to cut asunder the nearest and the dearest. Whatever may be involved in the symbol of fire, this, at least, is clear, it means assault and transformation of the existing state. So in the Christ's thought His religion did not come to crown, with a final glory, a fair temple long in building and needing but that to complete it. A religion welcomed by men as sweetly reasonable, accommodated to their imaginings, disturbing but little the peace of their conditions, is not Christianity. To Christ the world as it was needed transformation; out of fervent heat the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness, was to rise.
I. What can be easier than to fling fire? A child may throw the brand and raise a conflagration that will not cease till the great city lies a mass of charred and blackened ruins. Building is slow and difficult, but one needs no skill to destroy. The young reformer is flushed with brilliant anticipations. He doubts not that his own ardours will spread from heart to heart and change the face of things. Christ was wiser. His were the noblest and most kindling thoughts; they dropped from the height of the Divine nature, but they could not set the world ablaze. Though He came to send fire on earth, and longed to see it burning, He bethought Himself that first He must be baptised with the baptism of death, and was straitened till it was accomplished.
That Christ foresaw and meant His death is the key to the true understanding of His life.
II. Christ knew what we have each to discover, that the world is very hard to set on fire. He underrated neither the greatness nor the difficulty of the work He had to do. But He did not despair. It was possible, but possible only in one way. He must die, and so kindle the fire which would never be put out. He knew best, we may be sure. It is not His example that will save men, perfect though it is. We have all of us had examples enough to condemn us, though we had never seen Him. It is not His counsel and wisdom that will redeem a world that has almost been advised into hell. It is His death that absolves us, renews us, brings us back to God. If for the hour thought retreats from the central theme of Scripture, it must return to what St. Paul deemed the very triumph and crown of the Eternal Reason. If the Church begins to forget the death of Christ, her sinking fires will remind her of her loss. To use the old language of the burnt offering, it is the fire kept burning on the altar that burns day and night and shall never go out.
III. The great token and witness of Christ on earth is the life kindled by Him in the beginning and burning on steadily to the end. Perhaps none of us know what such Jives have been and are to us; how our faith and hope hang on them. They always burn on the altar of Christ's death, and may we not say on an altar of their own selfsacrifice.
Christ came nearly two thousand years ago to set the world on fire—has He done it? He has kindled a fire; that cannot be denied. The years are years of the Lord. But will it go out? Many hope that it will. They do their best to extinguish it. First put it out, some of them are telling us, and you will see what our science and politics will do for you. Many fear it. They give heed to despairing voices at home and abroad and see the fire languishing and dying. But it shall never go out. It is burning and it will spread till the whole world is caught and wrapped in its flames.
—W. Robertson Nicoll, Ten Minute Sermons, p. 301.
References.—XII. 49.—W. L. Alexander, Sermons, p. 1. W. H. Hutchings, Sermon-Sketches, p. 128. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv. No. 854. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—St. Luke, p. 381. XII. 60.—J. Keble, Sermons for the Holy Week, p. 24. H. Bonar, Short Sermons for Family Beading, pp. 96, 102.
Luke 12:51, with 2:14
True Christianity is both, and alternately a cement and a solvent.
References.—XII. 54.—Expositor (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 140. XII. 54-57.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1135. XII. 56.—J. G. Rogers, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. p. 235. XII. 57.—T. Sadler, Sermons for Children, p. 77. T. Sadler, Sunday Thoughts, p. 39. XIII. 1.—Expositor (5th Series), vol. i. p. 96. XIII. 1-3.—J. A. Atkinson, The Cholera: Is it the Visitation of God? No. 1. XIII. 1-5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii. No. 408. XIII. 1-9.—Expositor (4th Series), vol. vii. p. 232.
For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.
Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:
But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.
And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.
And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:
For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.
And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?
And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?
Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.
For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;
And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.
Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.
Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?
And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?
Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.
But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?
But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!
Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:
For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is.
And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass.
Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?
Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?
When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.
I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.