Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE GREAT FISHER OF MEN. (Vers. 1-3.) For out of this boat he is really casting his net to catch men. His word spoken is to draw souls into sympathy and service. The art of preaching as thus exercised by Jesus Christ was the fishing for men. The miracle of subsequent success was to throw light really upon this primary attitude of Jesus. Now, let us consider here:
1. The substance of Christ's preaching. It was doubtless about the kingdom of God, about membership in it, and about its prospects in the world. But we must remember besides that he could not, in the very nature of the case, preach the cross. Hence his preaching was the purest morality backed up by a perfect life. So that once, at all events, the preaching of morality got a chance of being most favourably tested. The success thereof we shall mention presently. But Jesus could preach himself as the Saviour of sinners. And this, indeed, is the sum and substance of all preaching. The people, however, did not understand the full meaning of his message at the time.
2. The success of Christ's preaching. There was interest and excitement. But the result of that day's preaching seems to have been very like the night's fishing on the part of the disciples. Ah! this is what illustrates the wonderful consideration of the Saviour. Some one must prepare the way, some one must do the pioneer work. The Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, and Jesus prepared the way for the disciples. It is at Pentecost, after the Crucifixion, when the full gospel can be proclaimed, that the real success begins. The miracle of the fishes subsequent to the preaching of the Master was the type of the order which the good Lord has ordained. The "greater works" done by believing disciples are the spiritual miracles which began in such numbers at Pentecost, and which have been happening ever since (John 14:12).
II. THE MIRACLE OF SUCCESS. (Vers. 4-7.) Our Lord, having been accommodated in Simon's boat, proceeds to show his gratitude for the obligation. He tells the fishermen to "launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught." Simon honestly owns that they have toiled all the night, and taken nothing; still, though appearances are against it, he will at Christ's word let down the net. No sooner has he done so than success comes so overpowering in character that the net breaks. The result is that they have to beckon for the second boat, and both boats are filled, so that they begin to sink. Here, then, is success "exceeding abundantly above all they can ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20). This is to show them that success waits upon the word of Jesus. It is, of course, mere temporal success - success which in a few moments they are enabled to despise; yet it is success obeying Christ's word. We need not inquire into the nature of the miracle. It was most likely a miracle of knowledge. There are great shoals of fish manifesting themselves in inland lakes just in the way demanded by the narrative. But Jesus, in giving the direction at the proper moment and securing the draught at the time that the fish were within reach, showed his command of all the circumstances. So that, as Robertson thought, this miracle, more perhaps than all others, shows the personality of God in Christ Jesus. The laws of nature hold on their way, but the Author of them can calculate to a nicety their working, and accommodate himself or his people through their operation. He is King among his own arrangements, at home among his own laws. The "hierarchy of laws," as they have been called, acknowledge him as High Priest. But we should further notice how he arranges for the disciples' success rather than for his own. As already intimated, his spiritual success was not great, considering the splendid powers he exercised. As Bersier somewhere remarks, no one ever had so little proportional success as he. No wonder that such a passage as Isaiah 49:4, "I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and in vain," may have been often on his lips. But he handed on the elements of success to his successors. They reaped the harvest of which his apparent failure and early death were the seed. The whole arrangement reflects glory on the consideration of the Master.
III. THE EFFECT OF THE SUCCESS UPON THE FISHERMEN. (Vers. 8-10.) They were all filled with astonishment. This is the prime effect of a miracle. It astonishes people. It brings them suddenly face to face with superhuman power. They stare. But after the astonishment comes, and it may be very swiftly, sober thought. It was so here. Peter is broken down at the sight. Goodness has led him to repentance. His sin is now uppermost, and he cries, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord." Did Peter wish to be separated from the Master? Nay; but he felt he deserved to be. And here we may notice how prayer is answered. Peter cries to be separated from his Saviour; but in heart he hopes to remain beside Jesus still. Hence Jesus answers the heart, and heeds not the literal meaning of his prayer The Lord does not depart from him, but abides with him; nay, more, arranges for Peter being always with him. Goodness is meant to break sinners' hearts (Romans 2:4). Success of all kinds should have this effect. It is sad when "Jeshurun waxes fat and kicks" (Deuteronomy 32:15). It is blessed when, like Peter, in presence of unexpected good fortune, we humble ourselves before him who has sent it, acknowledging that we do not in any wise deserve it.
IV. THE CALL OF THE FISHERMEN TO THE MINISTRY. (Ver. 10.) Peter was not the only penitent on board the sinking ships, we may be sure. He was first and chief; but the sons of Zebedee and Andrew were, we may be quite sure, penitent too. Fear predominates; their notion is that they might justly be cast from Christ's presence for ever. This is just the spirit in which special work for God begins. And now let us see how Jesus deals with them. He says to Peter first, but the result shows that the others were included in his call, "Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men." They are to be promoted from being fishermen to be "fishers of men." It is a call, not to the apostolic office which comes later, but to the ministry.
1. It is a call away from a worldly occupation. For the ministry is an order of men set apart from temporal concerns for spiritual work. Worldly occupations are incompatible with it. A minister cannot do his work well if compelled to dabble in business.
2. It is a call to catch men. Now, the fisherman uses every art and artifice to get the fish into his net. He toils during the night, that the fish may not see the net nor evade his wiles. In the same way the minister is to use every art, and even guile itself, as Paul confesses, to get souls into Christ's net. We may object to the methods some people employ to promote the gospel. They may be worldly arts - advertising, music, paraphernalia of all kinds. But, before condemning enthusiastic men, we should ask ourselves the question - Have we left "no stone unturned" to bring men, even by moral compulsion, under the power of Christ and his truth (cf. Luke 14:23)? But:
3. The instruction is to catch men alive ζωγρῶν. It is here the fishing fails us as a figure. Fish are caught and, as a rule, in the catching are killed. They lose their lives in the process. But when souls are taken in the gospel net, they are taken alive - are taken to enjoy life abundantly. In truth, the greatest kindness we can confer on souls is to get them into the net. We never live in earnest till we have been brought to him who is the Life of men. Such, in brief terms, is the meaning of the ministry.
V. THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE MINISTERIAL CALL. (Ver. 11.) We would say, at first sight, that the success was singularly out of place. Why grant a shoal of fish, if the fishermen are to leave them without a moment's hesitation or delay? The purpose was to assure them that temporal success was Christ's gift; and secondly, that spiritual success must be preferred to the temporal, even when the latter is at its height. It was a greater surrender when they had been so successful at their fishing. But the noble men did not hesitate. They brought their ships to land, and then forsook all their "stock in trade" that they might follow Jesus. The fellowship with Jesus during his ministry was more precious than the world's wealth could ever be. He was the great "Fisher of men," and it was from fellowship with him they were to learn their profession. The training of the twelve was a most real and blessed thing. It was more than any theological learning could ever afford. It was learning of Christ himself, who is the embodied Truth. And yet to this same test every soul is sooner or later brought. At death, if not before, we are all asked if we can forsake all to follow Christ into undiscovered lands. May we all stand that test! - R.M.E.
I. FRUITLESS TOIL. "We have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing;" words that have not only been on the lips of the unsuccessful fisherman, but often enough on those of the weary Christian workman - the pastor, the evangelist, the teacher, the philanthropist, the missionary. Weeks, months, even years, may go by, and nothing or little may have resulted. Especially is this the case in missionary labour among savages, or where venerable systems of superstition prevail. The workman goes through all stages, of lessened hope, of surprise at non-success, of disappointment, of despondency, until he may get down very near to despair.
II. THE COMMAND TO CONTINUE. Under discouragement and apparent defeat there frequently enters the thought of abandonment. The worker says, "I will lay down my weapon; it is useless to proceed. I must have better soil, or it must have a more skilful hand." But when this thought is being entertained there comes a manifestation of the Master, who by some means and in some language, says, "Go, labour on: toil on and faint not." To the "fisher of men" he says, "Let down your nets for a draught." This command to continue may cause us to reflect upon:
1. Our Lord's own example; for he laboured on most diligently and patiently under heavy and sore discouragements.
2. The ample means placed at our disposal with which to work for Christ and men; the glorious fulness and fitness of the gospel of the grace of God.
3. The near presence and promised aid of the Holy Spirit.
4. The inestimable value of the souls we seek to save. But whencesoever suggested, the voice we hear is imperative, Divine, "Go, labour on.
III. THE SPIRIT AND ACT OF OBEDIENCE.
1. We may be indisposed to resume; we may feel, as Peter evidently did on this occasion, that there is nothing to be taken by our toil; that for all practical purposes we might as well leave the field.
2. But Christ's will is decisive. Against that there is no appeal. At thy word I will let down the net." This is the true spirit of obedience. To work for Christ under every possible encouragement is easy and simple enough; perhaps it may not take high rank in heaven so far as its spiritual greatness is concerned. To continue at our post under every discouragement, because we believe it is the will of our Lord that we should still strive and sow - that is the trying, the honourable, the acceptable thing. It may be remarked that:
3. Obedience to our Lord is not inconsistent with a wise change of method. Launch out "into the deep." They were to cast their net into the likeliest waters.
"Cast after cast, by force or guile, IV. THE LARGE REWARD. "When they had this done," etc. Patient, obedient work wrought for Jesus Christ will certainly meet with its recompense. "Refrain thine eyes from tears, and thy voice from weeping, for thy work shall be rewarded." We may 'go forth weeping," but we shall doubtless "come again with rejoicing." The success may come: 1. After much labour and prayer and waiting. 2. In a way in which we did not expect it. 3. Only in part while we are here to rejoice in it; 'for often "one soweth and another reapeth." But sooner or later, in one form or another, here or hereafter, it will come; our net will "enclose a great multitude of fishes;" our hearts will be full, even to overflow, with joy and gratitude. - C.
IV. THE LARGE REWARD. "When they had this done," etc. Patient, obedient work wrought for Jesus Christ will certainly meet with its recompense. "Refrain thine eyes from tears, and thy voice from weeping, for thy work shall be rewarded." We may 'go forth weeping," but we shall doubtless "come again with rejoicing." The success may come:
1. After much labour and prayer and waiting.
2. In a way in which we did not expect it.
3. Only in part while we are here to rejoice in it; 'for often "one soweth and another reapeth." But sooner or later, in one form or another, here or hereafter, it will come; our net will "enclose a great multitude of fishes;" our hearts will be full, even to overflow, with joy and gratitude. - C.
I. THE WAY IN WHICH GOD NOW MANIFESTS HIMSELF TO THE WORLD. That way is threefold.
1. Nature and providence. The heavens declare his glory, and so does this wonderful and beautiful and fruitful earth. Not less so do the souls and the lives of men, created with all their faculties, preserved and enriched with all their joys and blessings. "The invisible things of him... are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made." But more than this was proved to be needed by the sad, dark history of man kind. Hence we have:
2. Special revelation. "At sundry times and in divers manners God spake unto our fathers" by Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, etc.; but at a later time he spake unto us by his Son - by his life, his truth, his sorrow, his death, his resurrection. But this did not suffice. Divine love appeared, and human hatred slew it. Divine truth spake, and human error determinately rejected it. So God gives us what we need.
3. The direct influences of his Holy Spirit, to arouse, to quicken, to enlighten, to renew us.
II. THE FIRST EFFECT UPON THE SOUL OF THIS VISION OF GOD. What usually happens is that the soul is smitten with a sense of its sinfulness, and desires to withdraw from the Divine presence. At this we need not wonder. If conscious ignorance shrinks from great learning, poverty from great wealth, obscurity from high rank, human guilt from human purity, well may the consciously sinful soul of man shrink from the near presence of the thrice-holy God. As Adam and Eve hid themselves when they "heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden;" as Isaiah exclaimed, "Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips," when he "saw the Lord" in the temple; - so do we shrink from the felt presence of the Lord in view of our own unworthiness and guilt. Remembering our spiritual estrangement, our great undischarged indebtedness to God, our impurity of heart in his sight, our manifold transgressions of his righteous law, - our souls tremble before him; and if we do not say, "Depart from me, O Lord!" as Peter did, yet our first thought is to escape from his felt presence, to put some distance, in thought and feeling, between ourselves and that Holy and Mighty One in whose power we stand so absolutely, and whose Spirit we have grieved so greatly.
III. THE INTERPOSITION OF OUR SAVIOUR. The sacred record does not state what immediately ensued, but our instructed imagination will very readily supply the remainder of the incident. We are quite sure that our gracious Master, instead of acting on Peter's word, and leaving him, drew nearer to him, and "took him by the hand," and so reassured him. Thus does he treat us now. Instead of withdrawing from us when we know and feel our guilt, he comes nearer to us. Instead of saying to us, "Depart from me!" he says, earnestly and emphatically, "Come unto me!" He says to us, "If, in my teaching and in my life and in my death, there is (as there is) the strongest possible condemnation of sin, so is there also in all these things, in my words and my actions and my cross, the greatest possible hope for the sinner. Come unto me; see in me the Propitiation for your sin, the Way back unto the Father the Divine Friend and Helper of the sorrowing and struggling human soul. Do not leave me; come to me, and abide in me!" - C.
I. THE WAVERING OF A STRONG HUMAN HOPE. Outside the outer circumference of that congregation was a man to whom pity would have drawn us, but from whom an instinctive repugnance would have repelled us. He was one in whom were not only signs and spots of that dire plague of leprosy, but in whom it was seen in its most virulent form - he was "full of leprosy." Suffering in body, and afflicted far worse in mind by the terrible isolation which that disease imposed, there suddenly enters his heart a new and bounding hope; in the dense darkness of his night there rises that morning star. A new Prophet has come to the people of God. He hears of his Name and fame (Luke 4:37); he comes to see; he witnesses the wonderful works which are wrought (Luke 4:40). Will not this great Healer have mercy upon him? Will not he who casts out the devil cure the leper? If the poor paralytic, at his bidding, could rise and walk away with his friends, why should not he, at the command of that strong Voice, be healed of his foul disease, and go home to his family again? So he comes where Jesus is, and listens as he speaks, and when he hears him say, "Ask, and it shall be given you," he resolves that he will ask that a new life may be given him; he will seek: what if he should find? We have never made to man any request on which so much has hung as that which was now hanging on the answer he should receive at the lips of Jesus Christ. To him it was not success or failure merely; it was life or death that was at stake. How must the most eager expectation have wrestled in his heart with tremulous and agonizing fear! with what faltering voice must he have uttered those prayerful words, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean"!
II. THE TOUCH OF THE DIVINE HAND. "Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him." All three evangelists record this significant fact. There were three reasons why he should not do this.
1. Strong instinctive human aversion.
2. The risk he ran in so doing.
3. The prohibition of the Law combined with social usage disallowing it.
But our Lord set aside all these objections. Why? Was it not to show by instant action the kindness and compassion of his heart, to place himself practically by his side as One who felt deeply for and with him, and to teach us that, if we wish to heal the worst disorders, we must do that, not standing afar off, but, coming into close personal contact with the men we are seeking to save, by "laying our hand upon them"? We, too, must be ready, like our Lord, to do that which is distasteful, to run some risks, to disregard conventional proprieties, if we would remove from the land the leprosies which still afflict it.
III. THE RESPONSE OF DIVINE LOVE. That leper must have known, when Jesus laid his hand kindly upon him, that he meant to heal him; yet sweeter to his ear than are the most melting strains of music to the lover of melody and song were these words of the Lord when he said, "I will: be thou clean;" and then he who "speaks, and it is done," spoke the unheard word, and forces of nature came into play, and the life-blood leapt in the leper's veins, "and immediately his leprosy departed." Sin is the leprosy of the soul.
1. It is loathsome.
2. It is diffusive, spreading from faculty to faculty over the whole nature.
3. It exiles; it separates man from God, and man from man also.
4. It is deathful; it is death in life.
When the sinful soul, though he be far gone in sin, "full of leprosy," makes his application to the great Physician, he has nothing to fear as to the result of his appeal..
(1) Be not troubled, far less hindered, because hope is streaked with fear; there may be an "if" in the heart, as there was in that of this leper; the very intensity of the hope arising out of the magnitude of the issue at stake will perfectly account for that - such fear is only the shadow of a prevailing hope.
(2) Be assured that you have no need to fear. Christ's readiness to save is beyond the shadow of a doubt; if we are only in real earnest to be saved from the leprosy of sin, it is certain that the hand of Divine love will be laid upon us, and that the voice of Divine mercy will address us, saying, "I will: be thou clean." - C.
I. CONSIDER THE CURE OF THE LEPROSY. (Vers. 12-15.) It was manifestly a very serious case - the man was" full of leprosy." It was the disease in its worst stage. Humanly speaking, it was incurable. So far as man was concerned, the case was hopeless. Now, in this respect, the leprosy is a type of sin. Sin is leprosy in the soul. It is so far incurable by man. But further, the leper was isolated from his kind, not because the disease was infectious through contact, which seems to be quite disproved, but because in this way God would show his abhorrence of sin and its essentially separating power. The poor lepers, as they went up and down the land with rent garments, and crying, "unclean!" were virtually dead men mourning over their lost and hopeless condition. But this poor leper had heard of Jesus, had come to him, convinced that he was able to save him. He throws himself down consequently at Christ's feet, saying, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." He was convinced of the Saviour's power, and he threw himself upon his sovereign mercy in the matter of the willingness to save. And it is just to this that every sinner must come. Persuaded of Christ's ability to save, he must throw himself upon his sovereign clemency. For the Saviour might justly refuse to save any, though, as a matter of fact, he is anxious to save all. And now let us notice Christ's method in saving him. He might have saved him by a word, but to show his sympathy and freedom from all fear of defilement, he heals him by a touch, saying, "I will: be thou clean." And immediately the leprosy departed from him. In the very same way can the Saviour heal the leprosy of sin. If we only ask him, he will tenderly touch us, and instantaneously the soul's disease will depart. But, when healed, the man has certain duties to discharge at the instigation of Jesus. He is directed first to tell no man; for Jesus wants to be something more than a physician of the body, and he might, through the patient's report, be so overwhelmed with physical cases as not to have sufficient time for the preaching and spiritual work which with him was paramount. Secondly, he is directed to repair to the priest, and fulfil all that the Law of Moses required, "for a testimony unto them." In this way our Lord desired to demonstrate that he had not come, as they basely insinuated, to destroy the Law and the prophets, but to fulfil them and to get them fulfilled. Notwithstanding these precautions, his fame so spread that multitudes came flocking together to hear and to be healed of their infirmities. We have thus presented to us the way of salvation and its results. It is by coming to Jesus that we are saved from sin; it is by doing what Jesus requires that we are made useful among men. Let us test Jesus as the appointed Saviour, and live as our Lord directs.
II. CONSIDER OUR LORD'S RETIREMENT TO THE WILDERNESS FOR PRAYER. (Ver. 16.) There is a certain measure of exhaustion in such work as was performed by Jesus. He bowed to the necessity of private communion with God. Even Jesus could not be always in public; solitude was as needful for his soul's health as society for his opportunity of usefulness. Vinet, in a fine sermon on this passage, says, "We do not believe that we exaggerate when we say that those who do not love solitude do not love truth." It is in the secret place with God that we renew our spiritual strength and are fit for further service. And what perfect prayers our Lord's must have been. No personal sin to confess, but simply to confer with the Father about the salvation of the world and how best he could promote the welfare of men. The time of solitude with God is the most fruitful time. Without it how barren all else proves!
III. CONSIDER THE HEALING OF THE PARALYTIC. (Vers. 17-26.) It was in Capernaum, it is believed, and in the house of Peter, that the miracle happened. The audience was a critical one with whom Jesus was dealing, composed of Pharisees and doctors of the Law, out of every town of Galilee and Judaea and Jerusalem. They had come to pass judgment on the new movement under Jesus. And the Spirit was waiting there as the Agent to apply the healing Word of the Messiah to those not unwilling to be healed. But alas! these hard-hearted lawyers gave him no opportunity. But four friends bring along the street a paralytic neighbour, in the hope that he may be healed by Jesus. They cannot at first get near, and so they repair to the house-top, and proceed to tear up the tiles in sufficient numbers to allow of their lowering their helpless friend to the feet of Jesus. Here was the Spirit's opportunity. And here let us notice the twofold paralysis under which the poor man laboured - the one was the paralysis of the soul, the other the paralysis of the body. Both appealed to the sympathy of Jesus. Besides, he is pleased to notice the faith of the bearers. We are not told that the paralytic at this time had faith in Jesus, but his friends had for him. They believed that if they could only get their friend before Jesus, they would not have to carry him home again. And disinterested faith for a blessing upon others Jesus respects and rewards. But which of the two paralyses will Jesus cure first? The more serious - the paralysis of soul through sin. Hence, in endearing accents he says, "Man, thy sins are forgiven thee." It was a case of absolution, as Robertson boldly puts it in his sermon upon this passage. And to absolution by one whom they regarded as a mere man the scribes and Pharisees secretly objected. They rightly said that none but God alone could forgive sins as against God; they wrongly concluded that Jesus was not Divine. There was no blasphemy, for this was God incarnate. Their objection was not publicly taken. It was a mental note they took of the matter. Jesus soon shows them that he can read their thoughts, by laying bare their objection, and putting his prerogative to the proof. The demonstration he proposes is this: he has pronounced the absolution. It may be deemed easy to do this, since no one can tell that it has not taken place. But he is willing to rest his claim to absolving power by saying the harder word, "Rise up and walk." According as this takes place or fails is he willing to be judged. And so, before his enemies and to the palsied patient, he says, "Arise, and take up thy conch, and go into thine house." Here was a demonstration of his ability to forgive sins as against God, for the paralysis departs and the powerless patient starts to his feet and reaches home with his bed as Jesus commands him. In doing so, moreover, he glorifies God, doubtless, for the double blessing. Now, these miracles are signs and symbols of spiritual things. This healing of the body is a sign of what Jesus is willing and waiting to do for our souls. Paralysis is what has seized on many. What a living death it is! It is only Jesus who can free our spirits from it. If we look to him he will give us his Spirit to strengthen us with all might in the inner man, and to help us to earnestness and action. And first we shall show to all about us that we are able to help ourselves, and will no longer be burdens upon others. The four burden-bearers here were spared their hard work ever after. This is the first manifestation of spiritual strength in the carrying honestly our own share of life's responsibilities! Secondly, we shall glorify God through our spiritual powers. We shall praise him for his loving-kindness and tender mercy towards us. And lastly, we shall lead others to fear and to glorify God too. Hence the great importance of getting rid of spiritual paralysis and of rising into the exercise of spiritual power. We should also learn distinctly from this miracle what possibilities lie awaiting intercessory prayer and disinterested faith. We may do much in bringing helpless souls to Jesus, that they may be healed by him. He is able to do much for our friends as well as for ourselves, and the joy of bringing others to Christ is only exceeded by the joy of coming ourselves. Let us keep coming to Jesus for ourselves and with others, and strange and blessed experiences shall still be ours. - R.M.E.
I. THAT PRAYER BECOMES THE STRONG AND THE HOLY AS WELL AS THE WEAK AND THE GUILTY, Jesus prayed; the One who was holy, harmless, undefiled, he in whom was no sin. He had no guilt to confess, no mercy to implore, no cleansing of heart to seek of the Holy Spirit. Yet he prayed; and prayer was becoming in him because he could:
1. Render adoration to the God whom he reverenced and whom he revealed.
2. Offer gratitude to the Father who ministered unto him even as unto us.
3. Utter his love and his devotedness to him in whom he rejoiced and on whose great errand of mercy he had come.
4. Ask for the guidance and support he needed at the Divine hand for the future that was before him. For such purposes as these prayer will become us as much in the heavenly kingdom as it befits us now. When we have no sins to acknowledge and no forgiveness to obtain, we shall still need to approach the Divine Spirit to express our adoration, our gratitude, and our love; also to ask for the maintenance and the guidance of that strong hand on which, in every age and in every sphere, we shall be dependent as we are to-day.
II. THAT PRAYER IS PECULIARLY APPROPRIATE BEFORE AND AFTER ALL SPECIAL SERVICES. We have good reason to think that these were the circumstances under which our Lord spent much time in prayer. It is probable that he, under the limitations to which he stooped, found it highly desirable if not needful then. Certainly it is so for us.
1. Before special services we are in greatest need - need of strength and inspiration for the work immediately confronting us.
2. After special services we are in greatest danger; for the human spirit is never so exposed to its spiritual adversaries as in that hour when it relaxes after great spiritual excitement.
III. THAT IT IS NEEDFUL TO SEEK AND TO FIND OPPORTUNITIES FOR PRAYER. Jesus Christ could not have poured out his heart to his Father as he did, and gained the refreshment and strength he gained in prayer, if he had remained in the midst of the curious and exacting throngs who waited upon him. He withdrew himself into the wilderness. We have intimation that he had to make a very strenuous effort to escape from the multitudes and to secure the seclusion he desired. But he made it. And we shall be wise if we do the same. If we only draw near to God and have fellowship with him when we happen to be left alone, and when occasions offer themselves to us, we shall be very lacking in our devotion; the flame of our piety will languish on the altar of our heart. We must make occasion; we must seize opportunity; 'we must compel our life to yield the still hour, when, withdrawing ourselves into solitude, we are alone with God.
IV. THAT IF NEEDFUL TO OUR LORD, HOW MUCH MORE NECESSARY MUST SUSTAINED DEVOTION BE TO OURSELVES! If purity needed to pray, how much more need has guilt! if strength, how much more weakness! if wisdom, how much more ignorance and folly! If our Master did not go forth to great trials or temptations without first attuning his spirit and renewing his strength in the near presence of his Father, how much less shall we venture into the arduous and perilous future without first equipping ourselves at the sacred armoury, without first casting ourselves on God and drawing sustaining and overcoming vigour from his infinite resources! - C.
very present Help in trouble." Who can estimate the thousands of thousands of tempest-tossed human souls to whom these words have brought help and comfort! The latter part of this passage is in very close relation to our text. It brings before our minds -
I. THE COMPARATIVE NEARNESS OF GOD TO US. It may indeed be objected that the Omnipresent One, being everywhere, cannot be more truly in one place than in another. Doubtless that is so. But God may be more manifestly present, and therefore more present to our consciousness, in one place than in another. So the old Hebrew worshipper felt as he drew near Jerusalem, as he entered the precincts of the temple, as he went into the court of the Jews, as he saw the priests enter the sanctuary itself. And once in the history of mankind God did so visit us that he was "manifest in the flesh;" he was "Emmanuel, God with us" - with us in a sense in which he was not before and has not been again. There is a sense in which God is nearer to us in the sanctuary and at the table of the Lord than elsewhere. He has promised to meet us there; we go there on purpose to be in his presence; therefore to our consciousness he is in a peculiar sense present with us - our very present Saviour.
II. THE PRESENCE OF HIS POWER. "The power of the Lord was present." Any Israelite of ancient time would have told you that God's power was present in the sky, in the sea, in the corn, in the rain. But he was more impressed with the power of God as manifested in the storm in harvest-time, or in the overthrow of Sennacherib's mighty host. Yet this was only in his imagination; the power of God was as truly and as graciously present in the ordinary and the regular as in the miraculous. We are inclined to think that Divine power is most manifest in the shaking thunder or in the flashing lightning, or in the upheaving earthquake; but the wiser we are, the more we "observe these things, and (consequently) understand the loving-kindness of the Lord," the more we perceive that God's power is as present in the common and the continuous as in the startling and the exceptional, is "very present" in the unfolding morning and the descending night, in the growing of the grass and the ripening of the corn and the blooming of the flowers. God's power is present with us always and everywhere, if we have but eyes to see it and hearts to feel it.
III. THE PRESENCE OF HIS HEALING POWER.
1. A very beneficent power is that of healing; perhaps we never praise God quite so feelingly as when we bless him that "he has healed our sicknesses." God has always been healing men. He has supplied us with the substances which are fitted to restore, and he has given us a bodily system of such a nature that it has great recuperative powers. There are but few among those who have reached manhood and womanhood who have not had occasion to know that the power of the Lord is present to heal us now. In the hour of convalescence they gave him the glory and offered their renewed life to him. What are they doing now that health has been restored and confirmed?
2. And this healing of the body is but the picture and the promise of the healing of the heart. When Jesus Christ went from village to village, healing all manner of diseases, it was partly, if not principally, to say to all men everywhere of every age, "Understand, ye blind souls that walk in darkness, I am the Light of the world; come to me, that you may see indeed! Ye strengthless and sick ones in need of spiritual healing, I am the Divine Restorer; come unto me, that ye may be strong indeed! Ye dying ones, I am the Resurrection and the Life; come unto me, that you may live indeed!" - C.
I. CHRIST'S CONSCIOUSNESS OF HIS OWN GREATNESS. He assumes the right to forgive men their sins (ver. 20), and, when this right is challenged by those present, he asserts it (ver. 24). And he does not dispute that this is a Divine prerogative. When it is claimed that only God can forgive sins (ver. 21), his reply is one that confirms rather than questions that doctrine. To a very large extent our Lord's Divinity was in abeyance. Fie was voluntarily accepting limitations which caused him to be numbered among the human and the finite. But his authority and power were in him, potentially; they were under a commanding restraint. Here and there, now and again, as on this occasion, it seemed fitting that they should be put forth. And it magnifies "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ," that all the while that he was stooping to such lowliness, such poverty, such endurance, he was conscious of the fact that Divine right and Divine power were within him, to be exercised when he would. The Son of man had power on earth to forgive sins.
II. HIS AUTHENTICATION OF IT. His greatness was often questioned, sometimes denied; and often our Master allowed men to think of him as the Teacher or the Prophet whom they were to judge by his life or by his doctrine. But sometimes he vindicated his claims in a way that completely silenced, if it did not convince, his critics. He authenticated himself by some deed of mighty power. He did so now. Not that the exercise of healing power was one whit more Divine an act than the forgiveness of sin; not that an act of pity for bodily incapacity was greater or worthier than one of mercy and succour to the soul. That could not be. But that the working of the miracle was a more obvious and signal indication of the Divine than an act of forgiveness. And by this gracious and mighty work our Lord proved himself to be the One who had a right to say, "Thy sins be forgiven thee." We may say that the gospel of Jesus Christ is now authenticated by its power. We are sure that the message of grace and mercy which we preach does come from God because (among other reasons for our assurance) we witness the mighty power of Christian truth. We find it doing what nothing else ever tried to do - enlightening multitudes of dark minds, redeeming and restoring foul hearts, transforming evil lives, lifting men up from the dust and the mire of sin and shame and bidding them walk in the ways of righteousness.
III. OUR APPROACH TO THE SAVIOUR. It was the approach of this man to the Lord that led to Christ's words of mercy and then to his deed of power. The man could not and would not keep away from his presence; he was resolved to make his appeal to the great Healer, cost what it might to reach his ear. This is the approach that is successful - seeking the Lord with the whole heart, with a fixed intent to seek until he is found. Not a languid interest in Christ, not a pursuit of righteousness which may be turned aside by the first curiosity or indulgence that offers itself; but a holy earnestness which will not be denied, which, if one entrance is blocked, will find another, which knocks till the door is opened, - this is the search that succeeds. Not, indeed, that Christ is hard to find or reluctant to bestow; but that, for our sake, he does often cause us to continue in our seeking that our blessedness may be the fuller and our faith the firmer and our new life the deeper for our patience and our persistency.
IV. THE SUPERABUNDANCE WHICH IS IN CHRIST. This poor paralytic sought much of the Lord, but he found a great deal more than he sought; seeking healing for his body, he found that, and with that mercy for his soul. Christ has more to give us than we count upon receiving. Many a man has gone to him asking only for present relief from a burden of conscious guilt, and he has found that salvation by faith in Jesus Christ means vastly more than that. He finds that the forgiveness of sin is the initial step of a bright and blessed future, that it is the earnest of a noble inheritance, In Christ our Lord are "unsearchable riches;" and they who have received the most have only begun to find what a world of excellency and blessedness they have gained by hearkening to his voice and hastening to his side and entering his holy service. - C.
I. THE COMMANDING AUTHORITY OF CHRIST. It will be observed that he speaks in the imperative; not "Wouldest thou," but "Do thou follow me!" He speaks, also, unconditionally, absolutely, not "Follow me if or when," but simply and without reserve, "Follow me!" Consider what large consequences would result from Matthew's choice - the complete breaking up of his old life, the forsaking of his old pursuits and of his old friends, the entering an entirely new sphere of thought and action. Yet Matthew appears to have recognized the right of Jesus Christ to make this demand of him. Must he not have acted under Divine illumination and guidance to decide so promptly and so wisely? So authoritatively and unconditionally the Saviour comes to us and summons us to his service. His claim rests on incontestable facts which prove him to be the Son of God who has a sovereign right thus to address us, to be the Son of man whose life of love and whose death of shame entitle him to ask the most and the best of us.
II. THE MEANING OF OUR SAVIOUR'S CALL, The form of service our Master desires of us when he bids us follow him is obviously different from that he asked of Matthew. What does he want of us? What is the precise thing he requires us to do? Taking, as we should take, one passage with another, we answer that he desires us to come into the closest possible union which a human spirit can sustain to the Divine; or, more specifically, he wants us cordially to accept him for all that he offers to be to our soul - to accept him as our Teacher from whom we learn all needful truth, as our Saviour in whose redeeming work we trust for God's abounding mercy, as our Lord to whom we dedicate our powers and our days, as our Divine Friend and Refuge in whom we hide.
III. THE EXCELLENCY OF AN IMMEDIATE RESPONSE. Matthew did well that he "left all, rose up, and followed him." Had he waited for another occasion, he would have been more entangled in human relationships and worldly interests; he might never have had so direct and personal an appeal made to him. As it was, by forsaking all to follow Christ, he lost a profitable calling and a company of friends; but what did he find instead?
1. The protection and friendship of Jesus Christ.
2. A new and nobler manhood, an exalted life.
3. The esteem and the gratitude of the Church of Christ for all time to come.
4. Eternal blessedness in the future. And so with us; when the Master comes and calls us, as he may do in one of a number of ways, we act most wisely when we immediately respond.
(1) We lose the least that can be lost.
(2) We make sure of the heritage which the truly wise are determined to gain. Jesus of Nazareth is "passing by;" we must avail ourselves of his offer while opportunity allows.
(3) We gain immeasurable good - peace of mind, blessed consciousness of the favour and friendship of God, spiritual rectitude, a life that is worthy of our origin and our capacities, a hope that maketh not ashamed. That was a supreme hour to Matthew, the crisis of his life: who shall say how soon we may reach the supreme and critical hour of our career? Blessed are they who recognize it when it comes, and who come forth from it having "laid hold on eternal life." - C.
I. THE CALL OF LEVI, AND ITS ACCEPTANCE. (Vers. 27, 28.) Levi was a leading "custom-house officer," as we should now call him, situated at Capernaum, where the caravans from Damascus to the Mediterranean regularly passed. His office was, we have reason to believe, a lucrative one, so that he had every worldly reason for remaining in it. Doubtless he had no position in the Jewish Church, but, considering the Sadducean scepticism which flourished within the Church pale, the worldly advantages of the tax-gathering would reconcile Levi to excommunication. When Jesus found him he was busy at his tax-gathering. The piles of money were possibly before him. He was never more prosperously occupied before. But lo! this itinerant Preacher, who has no settled home, has not where to lay his head, comes along, and calls Levi from his business to become his follower. "Follow me," says Christ; and for Levi it meant the surrender of his worldly calling, and becoming an itinerant preacher of the kingdom of God. The step for Levi was most serious. And here notice what Jesus demanded. It may be expressed in three words: it was faith in himself. In no way could he better test Levi's confidence than by asking him to surrender the comfort and certainty of his worldly calling for the uncertainty of the Christian ministry as carried on by the Master himself. It is the one demand which Jesus always makes, that men should trust him. And Levi surrenders at once. He leaves all, rises up, and literally follows him. It is a farewell to tax-gathering, that he may take service in the retinue of the Prince of peace. Such a surrender without reserve is what Christianity means. Jesus is put before every one and everything, and his command is our law. The following of Christ, moreover, includes the whole Christian morality. If we take his way and carry out his will, and do, day by day, what we believe he would in our circumstances, then we shall find ourselves holy and useful in increasing measure.
II. CONSIDER LEVI'S FIRST MISSIONARY EFFORT. (Ver. 29.) This was in the making of the great feast. Hospitality may be missionary in character. If its design is to bring friends into contact with Jesus, as was literally the case here, then it is distinctly a missionary enterprise. Levi felt that the best thing he could now do would be to get all his acquaintances together and to introduce them to Jesus. And ought not this to be the aim of hospitality still, apart from all cant and hypocrisy? Should not hosts inquire what their motives are in making feasts? Are banquets for display, for the advancement of worldly ends, or for the Master's sake? Moreover, this banquet of Levi shows us the limits of our work. All we can ever do for men is to introduce them to Jesus. We cannot do more for their salvation. It is the personal acquaintanceship with Jesus into which they must enter if eternal life is to be theirs. "This is life eternal, to know [i.e. to be acquainted with] thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). The missionary enterprise through hospitality is only beginning to be realized. Hospitality needs to be redeemed, like many another good thing, from worldly uses. A loving heart wilt enable a faithful Christian to accomplish this.
III. PHARISAIC OBJECTIONS TO CHRIST'S NEW ASSOCIATIONS. (Vers. 30-32.) Eating and drinking in the East are the universal tokens of mutual confidence. After this, the parties will be true to each other until death. Hence the Pharisees with their scribes (so in Revised Version and best authorities) - the legal experts they had brought with them - object to Jesus and his disciples going in "hand and glove" with excommunicated men. From their standpoint it argued great laxity on the part of our Lord. Really it only meant his freedom from Pharisaic pretence. And his defence was complete. He took the Pharisees on their own ground. He assumed that they were spiritually whole, as they supposed themselves to be. Of course, he knew how seriously they were in this matter deceiving themselves. But assuming they were whole, he would, as a Physician, have been losing his time and missing his opportunity had he associated only with them. It is the sick, these publicans and sinners, who need the Physician's care. Hence he hesitated not to enter into Levi's house and mix with Levi's guests. Now, association with others may, like hospitality, be a form of missionary enterprise. This should be our motive in associating with others. Why not be propagandists in all our contact with men? It is not necessary we should be "puritanical;" for that was exactly what Jesus in this case and in every case declined to be. But we may in all our hearty fellowship with others keep their spiritual good clear as a star in view. Our Lord's principle, too, as here stated, is impressive. He did not come to summon to his side the men of reputation, the men of good public character, the pharisaically righteous, but to call "sinners," those who despaired of themselves and needed help. In this he states his grand policy. It is for us to realize its meaning and to imitate him. As self-despairing ones, let us rally round the Saviour, as he calls us to him, and then let us vigorously publish the call to other sinners, that they too may be saved.
IV. THE PHARISEES FURTHER OBJECTED TO CHRIST'S PRACTICE. (Vers. 33-35.) Having defended his association with publicans and sinners, he is next assailed because he did not teach the disciples to fast. The Baptist, in the spirit of the old regime, directed his disciples to fast, but Jesus took a different course altogether. And here we must remember that the Law of Moses prescribed fasting only on the great Day of Atonement, when sin was brought so powerfully to remembrance. The fasting twice a week, in which the Pharisees indulged, arose out of those "traditions of the elders" which in many respects overlaid the precepts of the Law. Against these traditions our Lord set himself firmly. Notice that:
1. Fasting is a comparatively easy form of self-denial. As Robertson has said in a sermon on ver. 33, "All can understand the self-denial of fasting, because hunger is a low want, known to all. But all cannot understand the self-denial of hard mental work, or that of associating with uncongenial minds, or that of honestly pursuing a disagreeable occupation or profession." The coarse minds which proposed to criticize Jesus, therefore, took up fasting as the form of self-denial which they found themselves equal to, and sought to condemn Jesus for neglect of it.
2. There is no good in fasting for its own sake. The person who abstains from food merely to be able to say he has fasted and so fulfilled a human tradition, is not living a noble life. Asceticism had, therefore, no countenance from Jesus.
3. The Divine life is essentially social. The Trinity of Persons in unity declares this fact. God has been social from everlasting, and when he appeared incarnate it was as an eminently social Saviour. Hence he represents himself on thin very occasion as a Bridegroom, and life with him as a bridal feast. Mourning would be as impertinent at a marriage-party as fasting would be when Jesus was present with his people. The sociality of the Christian faith endorses the propriety of the policy of Jesus.
4. Fasting becomes appropriate when fellowship is interrupted. Our Lord refers to his own departure as a being taken away from them, a violent operation - a prophetic note about the cross! In such days will the disciples fast. The felt absence of the Lord should so impress us that fasting would be only natural with us. Through fasting the soul regains its sovereignty over the body, and the gracious presence of the Master as an experience is regained.
V. OUR LORD'S SPIRIT OF INNOVATION. (Vers. 36-39.) The Pharisees expected ha would conform to old customs, as unoriginal minds are wont to do. But they utterly mistook him. He came, as these twin parables tell us, with new cloth and new wine. This can only mean the Christian spirit, social and missionary in its very essence. Robertson is quite wrong, we believe, in making the new wine and new cloth "austere duties and doctrines," and the old bottles and old cloth as the weak novices in the shape of the new disciples (ut supra, p. 196). In what respect these "austere duties and doctrines," were new no one, we imagine, could tell us. They were the old wine and the old garments, easy and palatable to the self-righteous mind, like old wine; but the Christian spirit of sociality and missionary enterprise was the new wine which the self-righteous do not particularly care for. Hence our Lord resolved to initiate no such foolish policy as this, to tack on the free spirit of Christianity to the old pharisaic spirit of fasting frequently and being generally morose. The two would not work, and so he courageously resolved to be an innovator, cost what it would, and to conduct his disciples to a better position than Pharisaism realized. The disciples are the new bottles, and the Christian spirit is the new wine. The free, social spirit, which Christianity fosters, may not be palatable to the proud minds of men, but the humble appreciate and preserve it as the disciples have done down to this day. We ought to have the courage of our convictions, even when it leads us to take new courses for men's sake. - R.M.E.
I. THAT ASSOCIATION WITH BAD MEN ON THE GROUND OF FRIENDSHIP IS AN UNCHRISTIAN THING. The Pharisees would have been right, enough if Jesus Christ had mingled with the mercenary and the vicious only to enjoy their company. His time might certainly have been much better spent than in partaking of so doubtful a source of satisfaction, and he would have left an example that would have been better shunned than followed. For to mingle with the irreverent and the covetous, and, still more, to associate with the positively vicious, simply for the sake of passing gratification, is:
1. To spend time and strength where they are very ill applied.
2. To lend a sanction to those who need rather to be discouraged than sustained in their course of life.
3. To incur the serious danger of being lowered to their level. Some intercourse with the frivolous and the guilty we must have, and there is every reason why our conduct toward them should be as courteous and gracious as possible. But no wise man will establish an intimate friendship with another whose spirit is the spirit of worldliness, whose conduct is that from which purity and sobriety must shrink. Let the young especially remember that lifelong association with the unholy and the unworthy, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, means gradual moral degeneracy, continual spiritual decline.
II. THAT ASSOCIATION WITH THE GOOD IN THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP IS A WISE AND WORTHY THING. "The assembling of ourselves together," as those who are agreed on the same fundamental articles of faith, and who are animated by the same spirit and are promoting the same objects, is admirable for three reasons.
1. We gain spiritual strength ourselves.
2. We impart it to those with whom we unite.
3. We commend the common principles we hold to those who are without by the manifestation of our unity.
Those who try to live a life of spiritual isolation not only make a great mistake by robbing themselves of a source of hallowed influence, but they neglect a plain duty, for they leave unemployed a weapon of usefulness by which truth and worth are materially advanced. But the main lesson of the passage is -
III. THAT ASSOCIATION WITH THE BAD FOR THEIR ELEVATION IS A DISTINCTLY CHRISTIAN THING. Those critics of Jesus Christ failed to see that the presence of a noble, unselfish motive made all the difference in the character of the act. It completely transformed it. It changed it from the unwise and the condemnable into the wise and meritorious. Our Lord mingled with publicans and sinners, not as a Companion to share their revelries, but as a Guide to lead them into other and better ways, as a Helper whose strong hand should raise them from the mire and place them upon the rock. And as he was here to seek and to save, where should he be found but among those who were lost? Where would you have the teacher? In the company of the mature and the literate, or in the schoolroom among the young and the ignorant? Where would you have the physician? In the homes of the healthy, or in the hospital and in the homes of the sick? And where should they be found who have truth to teach and restoration to impart such as no teacher of any human science can make known, no healer of bodily diseases can confer? We are never quite so Christian, we never reach a height so near the level on which our Lord was daily walking, as when we voluntarily and cheerfully forego the pleasanter security to which our character entities us, and mingle freely and frequently with those whose spirit and whose tone is offensive to our taste and our judgment, in order that we may lift them up to a nobler life. And this is the one and only way in which to work out this great and beneficent reform. What legislation will not do, what literature will not effect, what art and science will leave unaccomplished if not untouched, that a holy and loving association on the ground of Christian kindness will secure. The actual and near presence of the pure and kind, the touch and the pressure of the hand of human love, the voice of invitation and of entreaty proceeding from those whose eyes are dim with the tears of a sorrowful sympathy, - this is the power which, coming, as it does, from Jesus Christ, and emanating from his Holy Spirit, will lead sinful souls, covetous men and erring women, into paths of penitence, and raise them to heights of holiness. - C.
I. AN HONEST DIFFICULTY FAIRLY AND EFFECTUALLY MET. It was in no carping spirit that the disciples of John came to Jesus. We do not detect a trace of ill will in their question. It was a spirit of surprise and perplexity that dictated it. They had always thought that fasting was an essential feature of true piety. Their master John had encouraged them in this idea; but they looked in vain for this feature in the doctrine of Christ. What could it mean? Our Lord met this inquiry in a very different way from that in which he might have done so. He might have said, "Where, in the books of Moses, is fasting enjoined on the people of God? On what day in all the year, excepting the Day of Atonement, is this practice prescribed? Is it not a tradition of men rather than a commandment of God?" But Jesus did not meet them thus. He said that his disciples did not fast because fasting on their part would be untimely, unsuitable, and therefore unacceptable. "Can the children of the bridechamber," etc.? "You would not have men fast when they have every reason for feasting? you would not have men show themselves miserable when there is every ground for gladness? you would not have my disciples do such violence to their spiritual nature? You do not act," Christ goes on to say, "with such unnaturalness and incongruity in other departments of life; you do not bring together things that do not agree with one another; you do not put unwrought cloth on an old garment; you do not put new unfermented wine in old skins that will not stretch; if you did, you would pay the penalty in spoiled clothes and spilled wine. Why should, you do anything that is unfitting and incongruous in the realm of religion? If you do, you will have a serious penalty to pay. No; let my disciples rejoice while they have occasion to be glad; the days will come soon enough when they will have a heart for grieving: then will they fast in those days."
II. AN INDICATION OF THE TRUE TONE OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE. The disciples were glad of heart because their Master was "with them." To be the close companions of Jesus Christ is reason enough for a prevailing spiritual joy. As his disciples, indeed, there are certain special sources of sorrow - grief at the sin and misery of mankind, regret at our own slowness of growth and slackness of zeal, etc. But for us as his followers is
(1) the joy of faith;
(2) the joy of fellowship;
(3) the joy of service, the delight of doing good, the blessedness of giving health and peace and hope to those in spiritual weakness and trouble;
(4) the joy of hope, of immortal blessedness. Is it for us, with such a heritage in possession, and with such a prospect as this, to comport ourselves as if we were fatherless, friendless, portionless? Is it for us to go on our way homewards and heavenwards as if we were being conveyed to prison or were going into exile? Not gloom but gladness, not dreariness but delight, should be the prevailing note of our Christian life.
III. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FITTING IN THE SPHERE OF THE SACRED. We learn this, in the text, from the unwisdom of the unfitting in the sphere or' the secular. "No man putteth," etc.; if he does, he spoils his garment, and he spills his wine. So in the sphere of the spiritual: if we force the sorrowful spirit to assume the tone of the happy; or if we reverse this unnatural process, and compel the happy to affect to be sorrowful; or if we require the young to manifest piety in the forms that are suitable to the mature; or if we insist on those who have been trained in godly and virtuous habits showing the same form of repentance which we demand of the vicious and the gross; - we may secure a result which gives us momentary satisfaction, but we shall have a penalty to pay further on. The unnatural is always a mistake. God does not desire to be served in ways which are not fitted to the spirit which he has made, or are not appropriate to the circumstances in which his providence has placed us. Let there be no forcing in the sphere of the sacred. Do the fitting, the congruous thing, and you will do the right and the acceptable thing. "Is any merry'? let him sing psalms. Is any afflicted? let him pray." Is any filled with a sense of the value of this life? let him give himself heartily to holy usefulness. Is any weary and worn with the strife and burden of life? let him find cheer and comfort in anticipating the rest which remaineth for the people of God. Do not try to regulate your spiritual life by any calendar; let it flow on in joy or sorrow, in active service or patient waiting as the hand of God is laid on the springs of your human spirit, and is directing the course of your earthly life. Not the hard, cast-iron service of constraint, but the free, spontaneous service of the full and overflowing heart, is that for which our Lord is looking, and with which he is well pleased. - C.