Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. GOD WORKS THROUGH HUMAN AGENTS. The Old Testament had its prophets, the New its apostles. The sheep are scattered if true pastors are wanting; the harvest is unreaped if labourers are not forthcoming. Even the Incarnation did not dispense with a various human agency. Although the Word was now made flesh and dwelt among us, even this human brotherhood of Christ did not make the mission of apostles superfluous. Christ trained twelve men to carry on his work after his brief earthly life was over - nay, to help him while he was on earth himself, preaching the gospel, and healing the sick. To-day Christ seeks for apostolic men to spread his kingdom through the world.
II. CHRIST'S DISCIPLES MUST BECOME APOSTLES. First the twelve were learners, then they became teachers. He who sits at the feet of Christ must listen to the Master's word that bids him rise up and go forth to minister to others. The true Christian is at heart a missionary, and his evangelic spirit will be seen in his active life. If Christ calls any to himself, it is that he may send them forth for the good of the world. Christ lived for men; apostles lived like him for others. So should all Christians live.
III. THE APOSTLES MUST RECEIVE THEIR COMMISSION FROM CHRIST. The twelve were selected from among the followers of Christ. They followed him before they went forth from him. We must come to Christ ourselves before we can be sent out by him. The missionary must be a Christian. Moreover, the closeness of our personal following of Christ is the measure of our power for his service. They are his truest apostles who walk most closely in his footsteps. In the special mission of Christian work it is necessary to be authorized by Christ. All are not called to the highest office, but all are called to some service, and even the lowest ministry in the kingdom is not possible to those who have not listened for the voice of Christ and endeavoured to obey him.
IV. THE SERVANTS OF CHRIST ARE ENDUED WITH POWER FROM ABOVE FOR THEIR MINISTRY. Christ gave a miracle-working faculty to the twelve, so that if they were to do his work they might have some of his power. It would be cruel to send a soldier to the wars without supplying him with ammunition. We do not receive the miraculous gifts, 'rod we do not need them, because our circumstances and our commission differ from those of the apostles. But some grace is needed for every Christian work; without it the ablest and most devoted would fail. Therefore he who gives the command supplies the grace. Christ has now ascended up on high to give gilts unto men (Ephesians 4:8-12), and to different men different gifts - as to the twelve, who were variously gifted, yet each of whom had some power for his special mission. - W.F.A.
ever-comparatively feeble and now dimmed, dying, or dead schools of the prophets are to be succeeded by a scion of Christianity that marks at one and the same time its noblest and most amazing human institution, and Heaven's most condescending gift and human trust. Now begins "the great company of preachers" of the New Testament. They began with twelve;. they very soon grew to seventy; and authorized provision was made by him who first called them, and first "gave them commandment" for their indefinite, "innumerable" increase, by the one method of prayer, their prayer to the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his "great" harvest. With what sublimest of simplicity is it said in the first verse of the following chapter, "When Jesus trod made an end of commanding his twelve disciples"! The commandments were not ten, and, whatever their number, neither were they like those ten master-instructions of the old covenant, and of all time, till time shall end. These commandments breathed the very breath of love, of sympathy, of help. They were charged with trust, and that trust nothing short of Heaven's own-confided trust. The endowments of mighty powers of gift and of grace were enshrined in them. A glorious honour gilded them with deep, rich light. But throughout them, without a break, there ran the "commandment" that meant caution, warning, an ever-present dangerous enemy, thick dangers through which to thread the way. For this necessity, protection and even the very essence of inspiration were the promises vouchsafed. In some analysis of this "commanding of his disciples" we notice -
I. FIRST OF ALL, CHRIST'S PARAMOUNT AUTHORITY IN REGARD OF THE PERSONS WHOM HE COMMISSIONS. Once "he called" them; now "he calls them to him;" he "sends them forth;" and before they go, he "commands them, and he gives them power. Of this authority two things must be said, and unhesitatingly. First, that what it seemed and what it was to these original twelve disciples, such it ever has been since, and still is, toward those who are their true successors, whether they are the successors of such as Peter and John, or of such as Judas Iscariot. Secondly, that the authority in question is one unshared and undivided, except as it is shared and divided, in whatever mysterious way and in whatever unknown proportion, with those very persons themselves, who either first pushed in to volunteer the solemn responsibility, or put themselves in the way to court it and to consent to accept it. The ordination of Judas Iscariot is not less a fact than that of St. Peter; and so has it likewise travelled down the ages of Christendom to this hour. Before this phenomenon we justly quail, and just are we dumb; but we cannot deny it.
II. CHRIST'S PARAMOUNT AUTHORITY IN RESPECT OF THE PRINCIPLES UPON WHICH THOSE HE COMMISSIONS ARE TO FULFIL THEIR ALLOTTED WORK. These are such as follow: Firstly, absolute independence of any supposed dictation on the part of those to whom their mission is. Secondly, absolute undoubting reliance on himself for guidance and protection, and in the last resort for all that is necessary for "life." Thirdly, the exclusive use and encouragement of moral influence over and among those who are to be visited and preached to, and whose spiritual and bodily sicknesses and diseases are to be ministered to. A most interesting and significant exemplification of this same principle is to be observed in the direction given to the disciples to accept hospitality; not only this, but to lay themselves open to the offer of it; nay, to inquire for it, but never to force it. And this exemplification is perhaps yet more powerfully established in the external symbolic, but still moral condemnation, directed to be expressed towards those who refused to "receive them," as also to "hear their words." Fourthly, throughout all that might seem to merely superficial observation special and artificial and supernatural - a religious and grateful obedience to what wise nature and true reason must dictate. They are sent forth "by two and two" (see St. Mark's account; see also of the seventy, Luke 10:1). This is
(1) for the manifest and natural advantages of conversation and mutual support; as also for the yet greater gain of complementary support; that is, that where the characteristics of one lay in one direction, those of the other lying in another direction, would contribute largely to the whole stock. So Bunyan, in his great Master's track, herein sets off his two pilgrims, and they remain together to the end - men of the most diverse character and most diverse Christian adaptabilities. And
(2) for the almost creating, but at any rate the setting high honour on the observing of the relation so novel then - spiritual brotherly affection, Christian brotherly affection. How many causes and motives may unite, have united, men together "by two and two"! How rare this once was! how grand has been its career since! What diverse ages - age itself with youth itself; what diverse characters the gentlest and meekest with the strongest and impetuous - the enumeration were almost endless - has Christian work, the simplest work "for Christ's sake," bound together in alliance as indissoluble as sacred! Fifthly, the practical memory of the fact, that as Christ's supreme, final ministry has for its achievement the redemption of soul and body, so that of his apostles, follow it however humbly, at however great a distance, is for the healing of the sicknesses of the body as well as of the sin of the soul. Perhaps it may be said that in nothing has the career of Christianity more vindicated its worthiness than in this - in that, without a "miracle" worked by human intervention for eighteen centuries, those institutions, and that individual charity, that come of the very breath of Christ's own Spirit, have achieved a stupendous mass of mercy for the body of men down those centuries bereft of literal miracle, that leaves far, far behind all the glories of the miracle age. Sixthly, that there should be an order, however inscrutable for its method, and however inscrutable for its justification (as men would be sure to say or to think), according to which the nations of the world were to be visited with the proclamation of the "kingdom of heaven nigh at hand," and with the priceless blessings of that kingdom. Note how facts have been bearing this out in complete harmony with it all the time, since those words fell on the ears of the disciples, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not." The enfranchising word has, it is true, gone forth in one respect to the very opposite effect now. It went forth round the whole world as Jesus ascended. But what a history to muse, to wonder over, "to be still and wait," and to pray over - the sure but unknown growth and devious spread of the kingdom! The "way" of that kingdom as it travelled after the "beginning at Jerusalem," past and present, and perhaps for long yet to come - it must be said even of it, as of him, who only knows and who only governs it, "Thy way is in the sea, thy path in the mighty waters, thy footsteps not known." Our voice, our mission, our commission, is, beyond one inglorious doubt, to all the world; but who is it teaching and constraining and compelling the order of our doings and of our goings in this grand enterprise? Surely an order there is. We do not stumble on in guilty darkness; we do not hurry on by mere "good luck;" neither do we march on as an army in its strength and in our own strength. We are practically as surely bound by the unseen hand that guides and threads our way over the world as were the first disciples by this spoken word. We ought, after praying to know it, to follow the one as implicitly as the disciples did the other. Seventhly, the principle distinctly laid down that spiritual work is worthy of its reward. St. Paul (1 Corinthians 9:11-18) enlarges on this very principle. The ministers of Christ were to hold that it was the duty of the people to support them. What must be the deeper departure from right of those who rob, or would wish to rob, what has been given, and given from age to age, cannot be imagined; this is not even contemplated here. Let it be distinctly asked on what ground, on what authority, the spiritual labourer is "worthy of his meat" at the hands of that world which does not in the ordinary sense ask his labour or for long time value his works, the reply is that it is on the ground of the paramount authority, the authority of Christ. But the dictum of Christ on this thing must especially apply to those who "are worthy," who would wish to rank themselves among "the worthy," and profess to belong to his kingdom. Eighthly, the highest sanction of the principle or' unstinted, ungrudging "freeness of giving," in what they have to give, on the part of the ministers of Christ, who themselves undeniably have received so freely.
III. CHRIST'S FOREKNOWLEDGE OF THE COURSE OF HIS CHURCH AND KINGDOM; AND THE HOSTAGES HE GIVES HEREIN OF HIS OWN ABSOLUTE AND INTRINSIC AUTHORITY, BY THE BOLD AND FULL DESCRIPTION OF THAT COURSE, AS IN THE FULLEST SENSE THAT OF A DEEP REVOLUTION, A REVOLUTION THAT WOULD REND TO THEIR FOUNDATIONS Tile STRONGHOLDS OF HUMAN SOCIETIES, HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS, WITH ALL THEIR LONGEST CUSTOMS AND FIERCEST PREJUDICES.
IV. THE CALM, IMMOVABLE INTREPIDITY OF ATTITUDE AND OF SOUL THAT IS TO MARK THOSE WHO SHALL SEEM THE CHIEF ACTORS IN THIS MORAL REVOLUTION. This is to rest upon: Firstly, the forearmedness of forewarnedness. Knowledge of themselves, of the enemy, and of him who fights by them, in them, for his own grand works; and who will not fail to fight for them, by himself, and all necessary unseen power. Secondly, the confidence that the Spirit of the Father shall be with them, and speak in and for them at each time of need. Thirdly, in memory of that Master, who is "above the servant " - a memory that has often shown itself so omnipotent an impulse and source of strength, Fourthly, with ever-present memory of the infinite disparity between the ultimate sanctions involved, viz. that of those who can kill the body but can no more, and of him who indeed can kill both, but of whom it is in the same breath said - He notices the fall of a sparrow, and counts the hairs of the head of his servant. Fifthly, that noblest incentive of the safest ambition that was vouchsafed in the words of incredible condescension, "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me." This for some and all. And sixthly, also for some and all the words of tenderest promise, "Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." Thus forewarned, thus forearmed, thus taught, thus given to fear with godly fear, and stimulated thus with promise and present assurance, it might well be that human "weakness" should be, as it was, as it often is, "made perfect in strength." - B.
had it, but they were never able to impart it. There have been men with a strange and mysterious gift for healing disease. They had it, but they have never been able to impart it. No master ever yet gave his power to his disciples. He can teach them, guide them, and even inspire them. He cannot give himself to them. But this is precisely what Jesus could do and did.
I. THE LIGHT THIS THROWS ON CHRIST'S DIVINE NATURE. It may be fully argued and illustrated that "power belongeth unto God," and can only come to man directly from him. Man's gifts are Divine gifts; man's endowments are Divine endowments; man's genius is Divine inspiration. It is an accepted truth that God only can "forgive sins;" it should be an equally accepted truth that God only can "impart power." But here we have Jesus doing as simply as possible what we feel is alone in the power of God to do. We say he has the trust of miraculous gifts; but that is only half the truth. He has the gifts in such a way that he is able to give the gifts, in trust, to others. No argument for the essential Deity of Christ ("God manifest in the flesh") could be so effective as this impression produced on us by the fact that he had "the power to impart power."
II. THE LIGHT THIS THROWS ON CHRIST'S CONTINUING WORK. We may be helped in our endeavour to understand that work by seeing that he still has the "power to impart power," and that he is actually imparting power to his people. Christ gives soul-healing from the diseases of sin; Christ quickens life from the death of trespasses and sins. He is come that we might "have life, and have it more abundantly." We can partly apprehend his work in souls by watching his work in bodies when he was here. But see how much more vivid and forcible the illustration becomes when we see that he can repeat his power, he can give life to men in such a way as will make those men what he himself is - life-givers. Quickening men so as to make them healers and saviours is Christ's continuing work. - R.T.
I. THE PERSONS COMMISSIONED AND CHARGED.
1. They were twelve in number.
(2) As the sons of Jacob were the fathers of Israel according to the flesh, so are the twelve apostles the fathers of Israel after the Spirit.
(3) Twelve is a remarkable number in relation to the things of Christ (see Revelation 7:4; Revelation 12:1; Revelation 14:1; Revelation 21:12, 14). It has, therefore, been distinguished from the "number of the beast" as the number of the Lamb.
(4) In this number the apostles of Christ ever remained. For Paul (not Matthias) filled the place forfeited by Judas. The election of Matthias took place before the outpouring of the Spirit, and of the apostleship of Matthias we read no more (see Introduction in Mosheim).
2. Their names are given in order.
(1) Peter stands first in the lists (ver. 2; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13). He was the first called to a constant attendance upon Christ, though Andrew had seen Jesus before Simon (cf. Luke 5:3-10; John 1:40, 41). But he had no authority over his brethren, or it had surely been mentioned; neither had he any authority over the Church in which his brethren did not share. James the son of Alphaeus presided in the council at Jerusalem (see Acts 15:19). The New Testament gives no countenance to the papal claims.
(2) In the groups we find brothers together. Peter and Andrew; James and John; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbeeus, or Jude. "God here unites by grace those who were before united by nature. Nature must not be deemed a hindrance to grace.
(3) Last in the lists is the name of Judas Iscariot. He has the unenviable distinction of the traitor." Unworthy persons may be found in the holiest societies on earth.
II. THE CHARGE.
1. As to the apostles preaching.
(1) To whom were they to go?
(a) Not to the Gentiles.
(b) Not to the Samaritans.
(c) They were to limit their preaching to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" (cf. Isaiah 53:6; Jeremiah 1.6; Matthew:12; Romans 9:1-4). The gospel must first be preached to the Jews (cf. Matthew 15:24; Romans 15:8). The restriction, however, was temporary (see Acts 1:8; Acts 3:26; Acts 13:46).
(2) What gospel were they to proclaim?
(a) The gospel of the "kingdom." Its spiritual nature. Spiritually, as well as literally, they were to "heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils."
(b) Its near approach. "At hand," viz. when the Spirit should be given on the Day of Pentecost.
(c) Therefore the need of preparation for it, viz. by repentance (cf. Mark 6:12).
2. As to its authentication.
(1) To this end miraculous powers were conferred upon the apostles. These were to continue with them. Unless in the spiritual sense, neither did they raise the dead nor cleanse the leper until after the resurrection of Christ.
(2) These they were to exercise freely, without restriction and without reward (see 2 Kings 5:15, 16, 26). Herein they differed from the exorcists mentioned by Josephus ('Ant.,' lib. 8. c, 11).
3. As to their maintenance.
(1) This they were to receive from those to whom they should minister (vers. 9-12; see also 1 Corinthians 9.; Galatians 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:17). They must be under no necessity otherwise to earn their living.
(2) Where hospitably entertained their peace was to come. "Peace be to this house" was their salutation (see Luke 10:5). "Great is peace," say the rabbins, "for all other blessings are comprehended in it" (cf. John 14:27; Philippians 4:7)..
(3) When inhospitably treated they were to "shake off the dust of their feet," viz. as a witness against them before God (see Nehemiah 5:13; Acts 13:51; Acts 18:6). See that you refuse not the gospel message, for the case of the rejecter is fearful.
1. This sin is worse than that of the men of Sodom (Ezekiel 16:48, 49). Who sin against the clear light of revelation are more guilty than those who offend against the dim light of tradition.
2. The full judgment upon sin is reserved to the last great day.
(1) The men of Sodom have yet to appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. The severest temporal judgments upon sinful men do not satisfy the claims of the offended justice of God.
(2) Terrible as their case will be, it will be more tolerable than that reserved for the rejecters of the gospel, of Christ. - J.A.M.
I. THE BORN LEADERS. Simon, Andrew, James, John. Two sets of brothers, and the only brothers in the apostolic company. Natural leaders, for it is evident they were master-fishermen, managers of their business. Their gift of leadership Christ took over for service in his kingdom. Simon was more prominent than Andrew, and the fact that James was the first martyr suggests that he. was more prominent than John; and so we get this conclusion - two, Simon and James, were leaders by force of character; two, Andrew and John, were leaders by gentleness of character. Those two kinds of leaders are always found.
II. THE BORN DOUBTERS. Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew. The Gospels give illustrations of their questioning, critical disposition. They could not receive anything without well looking round it, and seeing it on all sides. Such men have their mission in the world. Faith is always in danger of becoming superstition, and the born doubters are always compelling us to look to the grounds of our faith.
III. THE BORN WORKERS. James, Thaddaeus, Simon the Canaanite, Judas Iscariot. These were good "seconds;" men who could carry out, in all practical detail, what was arranged by the leaders. Not thinkers, and so not doubters; men who wanted something to do, and found themselves satisfied with the doing. Such men are still among us. - R.T.
trial-mission, in which they were to learn how to fulfil the larger mission which would be entrusted to them by-and-by. When the war-ship is nearly ready for sea, it is required to make a trial-trip; but then its course is strictly defined and limited. But there is something more than this suggested. Our Lord really taught, by these limitations, that every man's work is strictly defined. He should spend his strength on work within his bounds; and neither worry himself, nor let any one else worry him, by pressing claims outside his bounds. One of the great sources of Christian fretfulness is the pressure of claims on men beyond their proper spheres. The man who is only a popular preacher is worried by people because he does not teach. The man whose gift is teaching is worried because he does not preach the gospel, and save souls. The truth is that every man has his limited commission. Each one has no business with Gentiles or Samaritans. Each one has his proper sphere with his Israel, and he is wise if he keeps to it.
I. CHRISTIAN COMMISSIONS ARE LIMITED. The honour of doing a whole thing was never given to a single Christian yet. No man ever yet either sowed or harvested God's entire field. Parts of work are given to individuals. Pieces of the field are given to each. We are seldom, if ever, wise when we go stepping over our borders, breaking down the fences that hedge round our particular work. Within our limits there is sphere for all our powers.
II. CHRISTIAN COMMISSIONS ARE VARIED. These particular men were to go to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel;" but other men were to go to the "Gentiles;" and yet others to the "Samaritans." These were to go and preach; others following them would have to teach. Some have just to live for Christ; some have to sing for him, to write for him, to suffer for him. Happy they who can say, "This one thing I do."
III. CHRISTIAN COMMISSIONS ARE UNITED. In the Divine thought and plan they fit into each other, like the strangely shaped puzzle-pieces, and make up the great whole of service for Christ. This workman and that should be doing well his own piece of work, and so the building will be surely growing into a "holy temple of the Lord." - R.T.
I. SPECIAL PRIVILEGES WERE GIVEN TO THE JEWS. This is not a delusion of their own national pride; it does not depend on their claim to a leading place; it is manifest in history. The fact is apparent in the very existence of the Old Testament; in the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem, a Jew among the Jews; in the appointment of twelve Jews to be the pillars of the Church; in the preaching of the kingdom first among the Jews; in the formation of the first Christian Church of Jewish members, and in the city of Jerusalem. Plainly Israel was favoured, as St. Paul himself asserts (Romans 3:2). There are many favoured people in the present day. All Christendom has privileges from which the heathen are excluded by their ignorance. England is a highly favoured land. Nevertheless, God is no respecter of persons, because
(1) privilege is given for the sake of service, and
(2) at last each will be judged according to his light.
II. CHRIST DESIRES THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL. Undoubtedly the work of the apostles was directed in the first place to saving the Jews. We are thereby encouraged to carry on Christian missions among the Jews. To each race some especial gift is allotted; to Israel is given in a pre-eminent degree the genius for religion. Failure, disappointment, oppression, and, in some cases, wealth and worldly prosperity, seem to have buried the talent. Yet it is Israel's natural heritage. If it could but be brought forth and used, the Jews might yet develop into the missionaries of the world.
III. CHRIST SEEKS THE RECOVERY OF THOSE WHO HAVE FALLEN AWAY FROM EARLY PIETY. They are lost sheep to whom the apostles are sent, The most degraded Israelites are to be the chief objects of the mission. In the past God showed wonderful patience with Israel; even now at the eleventh hour he yearns over the nation, hungering for its salvation. They who have once known God are never forgotten by him. Fallen Christians are not cast off by their Master. Though they have wandered far from him, he has gone out into the wild to seek them. None are so wretched as lost sheep; none so guilty as those who have known the privileges of the fold and yet have forsaken it. Still, even to such the gospel is preached; nay, to them it comes first of all. Christ most earnestly longs for the recovery of fallen Christians.
IV. CHRISTIAN MISSIONARY WORK SHOULD BEGIN AT HOME. Jesus, a Jew, first sought the blessing of Jews. He wept over Jerusalem, and longed to save the great city of his people (Luke 19:41). London is our Jerusalem, England is our holy land. Our first duty is to raise the fallen in our midst. We cannot forget "Darkest England" while we rightly send missionaries to "Darkest Africa." No claims on the Church are so imperative as those of her own home missions. It is a shame and a scandal that any such missions should be needed in the Christendom of these late ages; but while the heathen swarm around our very doors, living ever within the sound of church bells, our first duty is to these unhappy people, our near brothers and sisters. The recovery of lost sheep at home will not hinder missionary work; it will check that paralysis at the heart which is the most deadly foe of foreign missions. - W.F.A.
gift; he never did receive a payment. And our Lord most resolute! - refused to associate his acts of grace and power with money matters. Foreshadowings of this feeling may be found in Elisha, who utterly refused to take any acknowledgment of his cure from grateful Naaman. It is not necessary to controvert the doctrine that "the labourer is worthy of his hire," or that "they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel," or that they "who are ministered unto in spiritual things should minister in carnal things." The point is that if a man becomes conscious of any gift or power unto edification which has come to him by sovereign grace, that man will find his true joy in using his gift freely, "not seeking a reward."
I. OUR GIFTS ARE NOT OURS. This is the point which needs to be brought home to us. Men have no possession in their abilities. They have no right to trade with them for their own benefit. Our gifts are trusts. We trade with them for our Master, and the products of the trading should be such spiritual things as honour him. "What hast thou that thou hast not received?"
II. OUR GIFTS COST US NOTHING. Reference is to spiritual gifts. God distributeth to every man severally as he will. One talent, two, or ten, according as he pleases. No man can purchase, or earn, or win, a spiritual gift. This Simon Magus learned by a most severe rebuke.
III. OUR GIFTS MUST BE USED FOR NOTHING. Our characteristic spiritual power, to help, heal, inspire, or comfort others must never be sold. - R.T.
I. EVERY MAN HAS HIS MORAL OPPORTUNITY, Just as every man, sooner or later, gets his life-chance. This is enshrined in the familiar Shakesperian sentence about "a tide in the affairs of men." In business matters we often say, "He lost his chance." The story of heart-experiences would probably reveal that every man, once at least in his life, stood on the very threshold of the kingdom, and decided whether he would or would not step across. Men's condemnation is this - the gate of the kingdom was opened for you, and you would not enter in.
II. IT IS OUR DUTY TO PROVIDE MORAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR OUR FELLOWS. This we do by preaching the gospel to them; by personal influence and persuasion. God makes man his agent, "co-worker together with him," in making supreme moral opportunities for his children. This is the responsibility of the regenerate.
III. THE MAN HIMSELF MUST DEAL WITH THE OPPORTUNITY. As is illustrated in the passage, the apostle may come to a man's door, and his asking hospitality may be the man's opportunity; but the man must decide whether he will let the apostle in. There must be no dealings with men which even seem to weaken the sense of personal moral responsibility. A common saying illustrates this -
"If you will not when you may, IV. OUR OBLIGATION IS ENDED IN PROVIDING THE OPPORTUNITY. We are responsible for skilfully providing it; for wisely following it up, and for persistently renewing our effort to present it. But we are not responsible for results following. The man must bear them. - R.T.
IV. OUR OBLIGATION IS ENDED IN PROVIDING THE OPPORTUNITY. We are responsible for skilfully providing it; for wisely following it up, and for persistently renewing our effort to present it. But we are not responsible for results following. The man must bear them. - R.T.
I. ALL THE WORLD IS FULL OF EXAMPLES FOR CHRISTIAN CONDUCT. We must be struck with our Lord's freedom in the use of materials for illustrating his teaching. Seeing truth clearly, and living in a spiritual atmosphere of purity, he was in no danger of being misled by the errors and evils around him; he was able to find the good in everything - even to suck honey, so to speak, from the deadly nightshade. The truer and loftier our soul is, the wider will be the range from which we can derive a wholesome diet. It is only the sick man who must be shut up in a hospital, and it is only the sick soul that craves conventual seclusion for the preservation of its purity. Jesus could even go beyond the darker side of nature and find emblems in evil men. He compared himself to a thief (Matthew 24:43, 44). He bade his disciples imitate an unjust steward (Luke 16:2, etc.). But we want the Christ-spirit to see "good in everything," and to extract the soul of goodness from things evil without carrying away some of the evil. A degraded nature sees evil everywhere - contrives to obtain the poison of the asp even from the innocent dove, finds Delilah in a Madonna.
II. THE SERVANT OF CHRIST NEEDS VARIED GRACES.
1. The wisdom of serpents. In Egyptian symbolism, which gives us serpents coiled about the throne of a sovereign, and, indeed, in the practices of nations in all quarters of the globe, we see the repulsive reptile regarded as of threefold significance - as the emblem of eternity, as the representative of guile, and as the incarnation of evil. It is the second of these characteristics that our Lord here selects. We know that he never encourages deceit. But mental alertness, keenness of observation, and nimbleness of thought are invaluable gifts even for Christian work. We should consecrate intelligence in the service of Christ. There is no virtue in dulness. Stupidity is not sanctity.
2. The harmlessness of doves. This is a negative quality. But it is not less important than the positive intelligence. The shaft of wit may wound where no unkindness is intended. A serpent-like subtlety of mind is a most dangerous faculty. It is valuable; but it is only safe when it is balanced by a dove-like gentleness of disposition.
3. The combination of varied graces. The point of our Lord's recommendation is in the union of two very different characteristics. The common danger is that we should select one to the neglect of the other. There are men of mind who lack heart, and there are affectionate creatures who weary us with their senseless ineptitude. The serpent is an awful ideal if it is selected by itself. Its prophet is Machiavelli, and its hero Mepifistopheles. But the dove alone will not suggest the most perfect saint; its gentleness may be feeble. Yet too often people choose one or the other as their ideal of perfection. Christ blends the two in himself; he is skilful in confounding the clever scribes by keen replies, and he is meek and gentle, harmless and undefiled. - W.F.A.
I. THAT THE DISPOSITION OF THE WORLDLING TOWARDS THE CHRISTIAN IS WOLFISH.
1. It is a disposition of hostility.
(1) The wolf is the natural enemy of the sheep. The carnal mind is enmity against God. So is it enmity also against what is Godlike.
(2) Hence the hatred of the world against Christ (John 15:25). A heathen philosopher in commending virtue said, "Were it to become incarnate, such would be its loveliness that all the world would worship it." The experiment was tried. Instead of worshipping, they murdered Christ.
(3) So for Christ's sake (ver. 22) the wolfish world has also hated Christians. It appears by the Apologies that the ancient Christians were liable to be condemned by those who were wholly ignorant of their principles or manners (Tertullian, 'Apol.,' c. 3.; cf. 1 Kings 18:17; 1 Corinthians 4:13).
2. Its hostility is nerved by cruelty.
(1) The hostility of the wolf to the sheep is relentless. Its eyes, teeth, talons, and muscles are fitted to destroy, and its feet are "swift to shed blood."
(2) With cruelty the wicked pursued Christ. Herod (see Matthew 2:13, 16), Pharisees, and rulers plotted his destruction. With the utmost cruelty they executed their purpose. Witness the scourge, the thorn, the cross.
(3) So likewise did the wolves pursue his disciples. Paul, who had scourged others, was himself five times beaten in the synagogues (cf. Acts 22:19; Acts 26:11; 2 Corinthians 11:24). The disciples had also to stand before "governors and kings" (see Acts 23:11; Acts 25.; 26.). In the prediction that these humble men should ever stand before proconsuls and kings tributary to the Romans, we see a miracle of prescience.
3. The cruelty is aggravated by treachery.
(1) "Beware of men," viz. who have the wisdom of the serpent and not the harmlessness of the dove. "Men," viz. more venomous, cunning, and deadly than serpents.
"O shame to men! devil with devil damn'd (2) "Brother shall deliver up brother," etc. (ver. 21). Unnatural was the treachery of Judas. Yet was he the type of the nation whose name he bore. And men, disguising the venom of the serpent and the rapacity of the wolf under the blessed name of Christ, have been the treacherous foes of his true sheep. (3) This treachery has used the synagogue - the pretext of religion. It has used the civil court - the pretext of justice. "The secular arm" was the weapon of the wolf disguised in fleece (cf. Ecclesiastes 3:16). II. THAT THE DISPOSITION OF THE CHRISTIAN SHOULD BE SHEEP-LIKE, BUT NOT SHEEPISH. 1. The sheep is the Christian's type. (1) The sheep is an emblem of innocence. The Christian is innocent, being justified in the blood of Christ. He is, moreover, sanctified by the Spirit of Christ. (2) The sheep is also an emblem of patience. The Christian has his perfect Example in Christ. The "Lamb without spot or blemish;" the "Lamb of God." Brought "as a lamb to the slaughter," and "as a sheep before her shearers." 2. To the innocence of the sheep he must add the wisdom of the serpent. (1) The serpent is a symbol of wisdom. Not because the animal is pre-eminently sagacious. It is not so. But because the devil enshrined his subtlety in a serpent (see Genesis 3:1). The devil was that (הגחש) certain serpent which was "more subtle than any beast of the field" - the animal serpents not excepted. (2) We need the sagacity of devils to cope with their subtlety. Paul displayed this (see Acts 23:6, 7). 3. To the wisdom of the serpent we must still add the simplicity of the dove. (1) The dove is an emblem of the Holy Spirit of grace and truth. Noah's dove resting on the ark was a figure of the Holy Spirit resting upon Christ. So likewise upon the believer taking refuge in Christ, viz. from the floods of judgment. (2) The harmlessness of the dove saves the Christian from that cunning of the serpent by which he is wise to destroy. The dove must influence when the serpent directs. The "wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable" (James 3:17). III. THAT THE SHEEP OF CHRIST ENJOY THEIR SHEPHERD'S PROTECTION. 1. They go forth under his commission. (1) To preach the gospel of the kingdom (ver. 7). A glorious mission. A mission in some form entrusted to every true disciple. "Ye are my witnesses." (2) To gain valuable experience. Experience in patience, stability, endurance (vers. 21, 22). The active graces may be cultivated in sunshine. Passive graces are developed in clouds and storms. In the passive graces Christian character is perfected (cf. Hebrews 2:10; James 1:4). 2. They go forth with his Holy Spirit. (1) That Spirit was their Counsellor in the streets. As the wisdom of the serpent leads him adroitly to shun danger by quickly retiring into his hiding-place, so were the disciples counselled to avoid the persecutor by passing on to another city. Note: (a) The vain spirit which courts cheap martyrdom is discouraged here. It is prudence and humility to avoid persecution when charity and righteousness oblige not the contrary. (b) There is no countenance here given to the spirit of the hireling who for love of life or property would abandon the flock of Christ to the wolf. Christ's soldiers may quit their ground, but not their colors. (2) The Spirit of Christ is also their Counsellor in the civil courts (vers. 19, 20). If the twelve had plenary inspiration giving them words for their personal defence before judges, how much more so when writing the Scriptures] (3) The Spirit of Christ is with his servants working miracles (ver. 8). Moral miracles are the "greater works" which still attend the Word. 3. They are encouraged by the promise of reward. (1) The Son of man shall come (ver. 23). He shall come in judgment upon the nation. He shall come in judgment upon the world. The former is a presage of the latter. (2) He shall come quickly. So quickly that nothing is gained by remaining in a city to contend with persecutors. Jerusalem was destroyed before all the cities of the land were visited by the twelve. So is life too short to overtake all the work to be done in the world. The gospel of the kingdom shall only be preached as a witness before the end of the present dispensation (cf. ver. 18; Matthew 24:14). (3) Then shall the faithful be "saved" (ver. 22). At the destruction of Jerusalem the Christians, by their flight to Pella, were saved. So at the last day the Lord will take them to himself. - J.A.M.
(2) "Brother shall deliver up brother," etc. (ver. 21). Unnatural was the treachery of Judas. Yet was he the type of the nation whose name he bore. And men, disguising the venom of the serpent and the rapacity of the wolf under the blessed name of Christ, have been the treacherous foes of his true sheep.
(3) This treachery has used the synagogue - the pretext of religion. It has used the civil court - the pretext of justice. "The secular arm" was the weapon of the wolf disguised in fleece (cf. Ecclesiastes 3:16).
II. THAT THE DISPOSITION OF THE CHRISTIAN SHOULD BE SHEEP-LIKE, BUT NOT SHEEPISH.
1. The sheep is the Christian's type.
(1) The sheep is an emblem of innocence. The Christian is innocent, being justified in the blood of Christ. He is, moreover, sanctified by the Spirit of Christ.
(2) The sheep is also an emblem of patience. The Christian has his perfect Example in Christ. The "Lamb without spot or blemish;" the "Lamb of God." Brought "as a lamb to the slaughter," and "as a sheep before her shearers."
2. To the innocence of the sheep he must add the wisdom of the serpent.
(1) The serpent is a symbol of wisdom. Not because the animal is pre-eminently sagacious. It is not so. But because the devil enshrined his subtlety in a serpent (see Genesis 3:1). The devil was that (הגחש) certain serpent which was "more subtle than any beast of the field" - the animal serpents not excepted.
(2) We need the sagacity of devils to cope with their subtlety. Paul displayed this (see Acts 23:6, 7).
3. To the wisdom of the serpent we must still add the simplicity of the dove.
(1) The dove is an emblem of the Holy Spirit of grace and truth. Noah's dove resting on the ark was a figure of the Holy Spirit resting upon Christ. So likewise upon the believer taking refuge in Christ, viz. from the floods of judgment.
(2) The harmlessness of the dove saves the Christian from that cunning of the serpent by which he is wise to destroy. The dove must influence when the serpent directs. The "wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable" (James 3:17).
III. THAT THE SHEEP OF CHRIST ENJOY THEIR SHEPHERD'S PROTECTION.
1. They go forth under his commission.
(1) To preach the gospel of the kingdom (ver. 7). A glorious mission. A mission in some form entrusted to every true disciple. "Ye are my witnesses."
(2) To gain valuable experience. Experience in patience, stability, endurance (vers. 21, 22). The active graces may be cultivated in sunshine. Passive graces are developed in clouds and storms. In the passive graces Christian character is perfected (cf. Hebrews 2:10; James 1:4).
2. They go forth with his Holy Spirit.
(1) That Spirit was their Counsellor in the streets. As the wisdom of the serpent leads him adroitly to shun danger by quickly retiring into his hiding-place, so were the disciples counselled to avoid the persecutor by passing on to another city. Note:
(a) The vain spirit which courts cheap martyrdom is discouraged here. It is prudence and humility to avoid persecution when charity and righteousness oblige not the contrary.
(b) There is no countenance here given to the spirit of the hireling who for love of life or property would abandon the flock of Christ to the wolf. Christ's soldiers may quit their ground, but not their colors.
(2) The Spirit of Christ is also their Counsellor in the civil courts (vers. 19, 20). If the twelve had plenary inspiration giving them words for their personal defence before judges, how much more so when writing the Scriptures]
(3) The Spirit of Christ is with his servants working miracles (ver. 8). Moral miracles are the "greater works" which still attend the Word.
3. They are encouraged by the promise of reward.
(1) The Son of man shall come (ver. 23). He shall come in judgment upon the nation. He shall come in judgment upon the world. The former is a presage of the latter.
(2) He shall come quickly. So quickly that nothing is gained by remaining in a city to contend with persecutors. Jerusalem was destroyed before all the cities of the land were visited by the twelve. So is life too short to overtake all the work to be done in the world. The gospel of the kingdom shall only be preached as a witness before the end of the present dispensation (cf. ver. 18; Matthew 24:14).
(3) Then shall the faithful be "saved" (ver. 22). At the destruction of Jerusalem the Christians, by their flight to Pella, were saved. So at the last day the Lord will take them to himself. - J.A.M.
I. OUR SAFETY DEPENDS UPON OUR GUILEFULNESS. This sounds bad. Guilefulness, in the sense of "hypocrisy," receives Christ's most withering denunciations. No such guilefulness can be commended here. But there is a guilefulness which is really "prudence," and this may very naturally be suggested by the quiet, gliding motion of the serpent. There is a simplicity which is foolishness. There is a simplicity which is prudent, watchful of occasions, skilful of adjustments, knows when to act and when to refrain, when to speak and when to keep silence. That "guilefulness" is the practical skill of ordering wisely our life. A company of hermits discussed which of the virtues was most necessary to perfection. One said chastity, another humility, another justice. St. Anthony said, "The virtue most necessary to perfection is prudence; for the most virtuous actions of men, unless governed and directed by prudence, are neither pleasing to God, nor serviceable to others, nor profitable to ourselves." in doing God's work opposition is often needlessly provoked by our imprudence.
II. OUR SAFETY DEPENDS UPON OUR GUILELESSNESS. The dove is the emblem of innocence, artlessness. It has no schemes, no under-intentions, no reserve. What it is you know. All its ways are transparent. If the apostles acted so as to produce the impression that they had ends of their own to serve, they would have set people on the watch lest the apostles should take advantage of them. St. Paul says, "We seek not yours, but you." Prudence and simplicity, guilefulness and guilelessness, can therefore go together, hand-in-hand. - R.T.
blessing in disguise." The calamitous and distressing side of religious persecution has been so often dwelt on that it may be well to "turn the shield," and look on the brighter side. Religious persecution has its important uses and ministries; in one form or other it has been found in every age, and the Church of every age has been the better for it. This does not excuse persecutors or relieve their guilt; but it does bring to us a fuller sense of the Divine overruling of even evil things. The forms that persecution took in the early Church may be illustrated. Tacitus tells us that "the Christians were convicted of enmity to the human race."
I. RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION HAS ALWAYS BEEN A TEST OF SINCERITY. It finds out those who only profess, and those who profess because they possess. Only the men in earnest abide the stress of persecution. A man must care about a thing if he is willing to suffer for its sake. Persecution is a natural process of separating tares from wheat. How many unworthy ones would be in Church relations if religion involved no strain! There is testing social persecution nowadays.
II. RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION HAS ALWAYS BEEN AN AGENT IN CLEARING DOCTRINE. All sorts of ideas, good, indifferent, and bad, are being constantly taught. They would grow into doctrines if they were not subject to some clearing process. A man will suffer for what are deep convictions, but a man will not readily suffer for his fanciful notions. Many an error has been cleared away in times of persecution, but no truth was ever then lost.
III. RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE GREAT INCENTIVE TO ZEAL. Ages of peace too often become ages of ease and indifference. Aggressive Christianity is found in vigour only in persecuting times. Strikingly illustrated in Madagascar. Enterprise, energy, faith, flourish in times of pressure and peril.
IV. RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION HAS ALWAYS PROVED A GREAT HELP TO BROTHERHOOD. The sufferings of some, the perils of all, throw each upon the other's keeping. The story of persecuting days is a delightful record of sweet charities and loving helpfulness in the Christian brotherhood. - R.T.
I. THAT THE POWER OF THE WICKED IS LIMITED.
1. They have the disposition to destroy.
(1) This was evident When they called the Master of the house Beelzebub. This was in the highest possible degree to call good evil.
(2) It was further evident when they crucified the Just One. In so far as they were able they murdered God.
(3) "The disciple is not above his Master." He has no reason to expect a different treatment from the wicked.
2. But their power reaches only to the body.
(1) So far as killing the body, they prevailed against Christ. So far they prevailed against his martyrs.
(2) "But they are not able to kill the soul." Unless the soul consents to its own injury, it cannot be harmed. The soul is killed only by being separated from God. No power can pluck us out of the hand of God.
(3) Note: The soul does not sleep when the body dies.
3. Therefore God only is to be feared.
(1) He can kill the body as certainly as the wicked can. He can, moreover, kill the soul as certainly as the wicked cannot. He can destroy both in Gehenna; and so destroy as to perpetuate punishment (see Psalm 90:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:9). "Men think that death is an end of their troubles, whereas it is only the beginning of them. It is the lot of the wicked that they live in death, and suffer as it were a continual death" (Philo).
(2) God is to be feared still by those who love him. It is not hell-fire we are to fear, but God. The love of God redeems from slavishness his fear.
(3) Those who fear God truly need not fear man. The fear of sinning arms us against the dread of sinners. Even the heathen could nobly set a tyrant at defiance, saying, "You may abuse the case of Anaxarchus; you cannot injure Anaxarchus himself." Seneca undertakes to make it out that you cannot hurt a wise and good man, because death itself is no real evil to him.
(4) It is enough that the disciple be as his Master. The honour of suffering with Christ is glorious (Matthew 5:10; Romans 8:17; Romans 13:5; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 1:29; James 1:12; 1 Peter 2:19, 20; 1 Peter 3:14; 1 Peter 4:14). Wakefield renders Juvenal thus: -
"If ever call'd II. THAT THE FAITHFUL ARE UNDER THE PROTECTION OF A SPECIAL PROVIDENCE. 1. The providence of God is everywhere. (1) It is behind all mechanical forces. Gravitation brings the sparrow to the ground; but it does not fall without our Father. The statement is not that the sparrow does not fall without his notice, but that it does not fall without him. Without the constant active presence of God in nature there would be no gravitating force. (2) It is behind all living forces. If the sparrow descends to the ground for food, it is because God is there to provide the food, and also to give the creature the power of volition (cf. Matthew 6:26; Luke 12:6). 2. It is specially concerned for the servants of Christ. (1) He who feeds his sparrows will not starve his saints. Man, in the estimation of his fellow, is of more value than many sparrows. But how enormous is the contrast between the farthing that will purchase two sparrows and the price paid by God for the redemption of one human soul! (2) But amongst men the believer engages a peculiar loving care of God, and most of all when he is faithfully witnessing for Christ. "The very hairs of your heads are numbered" (cf. ver. 30; Luke 21:18). (3) How different is this doctrine of Christ from that of Pope, who says - "He sees with equal eyes, as God of all, 3. What, then, has the servant of Christ to fear? Nothing can harm us" - even the killing of the body - "if we be followers of that which is good." III. THAT THE FAITHFUL SHALL BE EVERLASTINGLY REWARDED. 1. There is a coming day of revelation. (1) "There is nothing covered that shall not" then "be revealed." In the day of judgment the malignity of the hypocrite who called the Master of the house Beelzebub will come out to the day (Ecclesiastes 12:14). (2) So will the fidelity of Christ's slandered witnesses. Already, even in this world, those who once were counted the offscouring of all things are justified and revered. What an anticipation this of the honour of the saint before an assembled universe! 2. The day of revelation will be a day of retribution. (1) The confessor will be confessed. The confession will be the prelude and passport to the bliss of heaven. (2) The denier will be denied. The truth itself will condemn those who dishonour it. The denial of the wicked will be the prelude to his destruction in both soul and body in Gehenna. 3. Therefore let the witness for Christ be fearless. (1) What Christ tells him in the darkness of parable, that let him speak in the light of clear testimony. What he hears in the ear of privacy he is to proclaim as from the house-top, publicly and openly. The trumpet should have a certain sound. (2) What the apostles delivered they received. They received it in privacy, not for themselves, but as "stewards to dispense the mysteries of God" (Ephesians 3:1-12; Hebrews 2:3). "We preach not ourselves." - J.A.M.
II. THAT THE FAITHFUL ARE UNDER THE PROTECTION OF A SPECIAL PROVIDENCE.
1. The providence of God is everywhere.
(1) It is behind all mechanical forces. Gravitation brings the sparrow to the ground; but it does not fall without our Father. The statement is not that the sparrow does not fall without his notice, but that it does not fall without him. Without the constant active presence of God in nature there would be no gravitating force.
(2) It is behind all living forces. If the sparrow descends to the ground for food, it is because God is there to provide the food, and also to give the creature the power of volition (cf. Matthew 6:26; Luke 12:6).
2. It is specially concerned for the servants of Christ.
(1) He who feeds his sparrows will not starve his saints. Man, in the estimation of his fellow, is of more value than many sparrows. But how enormous is the contrast between the farthing that will purchase two sparrows and the price paid by God for the redemption of one human soul!
(2) But amongst men the believer engages a peculiar loving care of God, and most of all when he is faithfully witnessing for Christ. "The very hairs of your heads are numbered" (cf. ver. 30; Luke 21:18).
(3) How different is this doctrine of Christ from that of Pope, who says -
"He sees with equal eyes, as God of all, 3. What, then, has the servant of Christ to fear? Nothing can harm us" - even the killing of the body - "if we be followers of that which is good." III. THAT THE FAITHFUL SHALL BE EVERLASTINGLY REWARDED. 1. There is a coming day of revelation. (1) "There is nothing covered that shall not" then "be revealed." In the day of judgment the malignity of the hypocrite who called the Master of the house Beelzebub will come out to the day (Ecclesiastes 12:14). (2) So will the fidelity of Christ's slandered witnesses. Already, even in this world, those who once were counted the offscouring of all things are justified and revered. What an anticipation this of the honour of the saint before an assembled universe! 2. The day of revelation will be a day of retribution. (1) The confessor will be confessed. The confession will be the prelude and passport to the bliss of heaven. (2) The denier will be denied. The truth itself will condemn those who dishonour it. The denial of the wicked will be the prelude to his destruction in both soul and body in Gehenna. 3. Therefore let the witness for Christ be fearless. (1) What Christ tells him in the darkness of parable, that let him speak in the light of clear testimony. What he hears in the ear of privacy he is to proclaim as from the house-top, publicly and openly. The trumpet should have a certain sound. (2) What the apostles delivered they received. They received it in privacy, not for themselves, but as "stewards to dispense the mysteries of God" (Ephesians 3:1-12; Hebrews 2:3). "We preach not ourselves." - J.A.M.
3. What, then, has the servant of Christ to fear? Nothing can harm us" - even the killing of the body - "if we be followers of that which is good."
III. THAT THE FAITHFUL SHALL BE EVERLASTINGLY REWARDED.
1. There is a coming day of revelation.
(1) "There is nothing covered that shall not" then "be revealed." In the day of judgment the malignity of the hypocrite who called the Master of the house Beelzebub will come out to the day (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
(2) So will the fidelity of Christ's slandered witnesses. Already, even in this world, those who once were counted the offscouring of all things are justified and revered. What an anticipation this of the honour of the saint before an assembled universe!
2. The day of revelation will be a day of retribution.
(1) The confessor will be confessed. The confession will be the prelude and passport to the bliss of heaven.
(2) The denier will be denied. The truth itself will condemn those who dishonour it. The denial of the wicked will be the prelude to his destruction in both soul and body in Gehenna.
3. Therefore let the witness for Christ be fearless.
(1) What Christ tells him in the darkness of parable, that let him speak in the light of clear testimony. What he hears in the ear of privacy he is to proclaim as from the house-top, publicly and openly. The trumpet should have a certain sound.
(2) What the apostles delivered they received. They received it in privacy, not for themselves, but as "stewards to dispense the mysteries of God" (Ephesians 3:1-12; Hebrews 2:3). "We preach not ourselves." - J.A.M.
I. THE IDEA OF A TRUE LIFE IS LIVING OVER AGAIN THE LIFE OF CHRIST. The disciples of Christ are expected to reproduce their Master's ideas, principles, and even actions; but their own personal stamp is to be quite plain on all their reproductions. A worthy servant does, both consciously and unconsciously, what he sees his master do. Jesus Christ is our Lord and Master in such a sense as makes him our ideal of what the true and noble life is. Reproducing him may be said to involve:
1. Looking at life in the light in which Christ looked at it. It is not for self, it is not for any earth-ends. It is for God, and for God as the Father-God. The true imitation of Christ is the sway in our lives of those principles that ruled his. Wherever we may be, the Christly spirit may be in us, and may be glorifying all our relations.
2. Uttering the Christly spirit by lip and life as he did. Loving words and loving deeds expressed Christ's loving thought and purpose. While motive is the most important thing, it can never be separated from fitting action.
3. Bearing the earthly disabilities of a Christly life as be did. The same, or similar, disabilities come to Christians in every age as came to Christ. The variations we notice are on the surface, and belong only to forms and features. "The light shines in darkness," and is similarly affected by the bad atmospheres. Misunderstandings, reproaches, persecutions, abound still. "If reproached in the name of Christ, happy are ye." Take St. Paul's life, and show how his troubles repeat Christ's, with characteristic variations.
II. THIS IDEA OF LIFE TRUE HEARTS WELL FIND EVER-SATISFYING. The feeling of the Divine worth and beauty of that blessed life of Jesus will ever grow on us as we come into spiritual communion with it. And to reproduce it, to work it out in our own lives, will engage all our thought, and use up all our faculty, in a delightful way What is the fact? Do men learn of Christ from our Christ-likeness? - R.T.
I. THE DISCOURAGEMENT OF NEEDLESS FEAR.
1. In what it consists. This is the fear of man. The apostles were sent out as sheep among wolves. The gathering opposition of the authorities of Israel against their Master was likely to turn against them also if they showed themselves zealous in advocating his cause. The fear of the disciples under these circumstances would be a type of worldly fear. With us this is not the dread of martyrdom; it is a horror of ridicule, a terror of being despised by fashion.
2. Why it is stimulated. There was real danger to the apostles. Men can kill the body, and Christ does not deny this obvious fact. He does not offer his disciples a smooth course; on the contrary, he distinctly affirms that he has come to send a sword (ver. 34).
3. How it is discouraged. Various considerations prove this to be a needless and even an unworthy fear.
(1) The example of Christ. He is ill used. Why should the disciples complain if they receive the same treatment as their Master (vers. 24, 25)?
(2) The future revelation. Hidden things will be made manifest. Then the true life which seems to end in darkness will be brought to light and fully vindicated. It is hard to die under false opprobrium; but this is not the end. There will i.e. a final declaration and justification of the wronged (vers. 26, 27).
(3) The limit of man's power. He can kill the body, but he cannot touch the soul. Epictetus's master cannot destroy his slave's liberty of soul. The Christian's persecutor may rob him of his brief bodily life, but not of his eternal spiritual life.
(4) The merciful care of God, who sees every sparrow that falls and counts the very hairs of our head, watching the least-valued creatures, observing the least minutiae of his children's condition (vers. 29, 30). This we must take on faith; for the sparrow falls in spite of God's watchfulness. But Christ, who knows God, assures us that it is so; and if God is infinite it must be so.
(5) The guilt of cowardice. Dare we shrink from confessing Christ for fear of man? Such conduct will merit his rejection of us (vers. 32, 33).
II. THE CULTIVATION OF LEGITIMATE FEAR.
1. The object of this fear. This is the awful destroyer of souls - he who goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. There is a childish fear of the devil that haunts the minds of superstitious people - a terror that sat like a nightmare on the people of the Middle Ages. Such a fear is but physical. But that which Christ would inculcate is moral - the dread of sin. Our great enemy is the spirit of evil, and he attacks us whenever we are tempted. Christ wants us to have a horror of doing wrong.
2. The grounds of this fear.
(1) Soul-destruction. Man can but kill the body; sin kills the soul. This is the peculiar effect of wickedness. If it only brought pain, the infliction might be a merciful chastisement, leading us to repentance. But it does far worse; it kills the soul. The wages of sin is death; the broad road leads to destruction; evil conduct paralyzes our better self, saps our higher energy, robs us of our faculties, blinds, crushes, deadens the life within.
(2) Future ruin. The power of man only appertains to earth; the results of sin are seen after death. Therefore we do well to be on our guard, not with abject terror, but seeking security in Christ. - W.F.A.
he, in effect, adds, "In doing this you will meet with dangers not a few. You will meet with enemies, some of whom will not stop short - if only their power will reach so far - of bloody issues. But fear not. You are watched and protected at every step, and come life, come death, you are safe." Van Lennep tells us that the edge of the house-top is the favourite station for the sparrows. "There they sit, or hop about and chirp, sharpen their little bills, or carry on their little quarrels; and when the coast is clear in the yard below, down they fly in a body to pick up any crumbs or scraps of food they may chance to find." Sparrows are sold at the smallest price fetched by any game. It was also the smallest living creature offered in sacrifice under the Mosaic dispensation. It was the gift for the poor leper.
I. GOD'S TENDER MERCY IS OVER ALL HIS WORKS. "His way is to look at the lowliest creatures and things as carefully, as paternally, as to the noblest and highest. To him there is nothing great, nothing little. He has a record of all the birds that fly. Sparrows on the earth are as numerous as stars in heaven, 'and not one of them is forgotten before God.' They build their nests in his sight; they hatch their young, and send forth their families every year; and God knows each one - whither it flies and where it rests; and not one of them falleth to the ground by shot of fowler, or spring of cat, or cold of winter, nay, one of them shall not hop down on the ground (so some understand the meaning of the term) without your Father" (Dr. A. Raleigh).
II. GOD'S TENDER MERCY IS OVER ALL HIS CHILDREN. It is an argument from the less to the greater which is suggested. We see it and feel its force at once when we apply the argument in our common home relations. If the house-mother tends so carefully the canary bird in the cage, how much more will she tend carefully and lovingly the child in the cradle! If we are of more value than many sparrows, we may have the fullest confidence that God's dealings with us fit to our value. - R.T.
I. IN WHAT WAYS DOES CHRIST EXPECT YOU TO FULFIL THIS DUTY?
1. Whatever form or order Christ's Church may take, it always has some way in which open and public confession can be made. In that way the duty comes home to us, according to the Church to which we belong. Somehow Christ must be openly and publicly acknowledged before witnesses.
2. You must help in Christian service, and so confess Christ's Name. If you are made "a new creature in Christ Jesus," be sure that he has some work for you to do, some place for you to occupy, some mission for you to accomplish.
3. You must live such a godly life as shall of itself constantly confess Christ. If you do not check the movements of heart-piety, you will find it wants to push out into the light and show itself in holy living. When the spring is purified, all the rivulets that run from it flow clear and pure. When the leaven is put in the meal, it will not keep still until the whole is leavened. Let religion have as much room and power as it may please. Do not let timidity, any more than sin, or passion, or evil habit, check it from its natural and befitting expressions.
II. BY WHAT HINDRANCES MAY YOU BE KEPT FROM OBEDIENCE?
1. The sense of responsibility attaching to making public profession. But that is to forget that responsibility ennobles a man.
2. A sense of personal unworthiness because Christian experience seems so limited.
3. A fear of the possibility of dishonouring Christ by backsliding and sin. But that is to mistrust God's power to keep you unto the end. - R.T.
Matthew 26:52). His kingdom is not of this world, and because it is not, he told Pilate that his servants would not fight (John 18:36). How, then, can he speak of sending a sword?
I. HISTORICALLY, THE ADVENT OF CHRIST PROVOKES OPPOSITION. We know that swords were drawn against the disciples of Christ. James the son of Zebedee heard a warning in these words of Christ that was subsequently verified in his own person - though as yet he knew it not - when Herod slew him with the sword, and he became the first martyr-apostle. Our Lord foresaw persecution and predicted it. But this was not contrary to his peace principles. His disciples did not fight; and neither he nor they provoked antagonism by showing a quarrelsome spirit. The sword was wholly in the hands of the enemies of the new faith. It was not a sword of equal warfare, but a sword of cruelty, tyranny, persecution. Yet Christ did not draw back from the prospect of it, nor did he permit any compromise on the part of his disciples. Truth must be spoken, errors must be exposed, sin must be denounced, at any cost. Let the Christian be prepared for opposition. If all men speak well of him, let him search his conduct to see whether he has been faithful, or whether perchance he may have been speaking smooth things for the sake of ease and comfort.
II. SOCIALLY, THE COMING OF CHRIST STIRS UP DISCORD. This is a sad picture of the sword cutting into the home and separating child and parent (ver. 35). We know that no family is so united as a truly Christian family. Christ consecrates and strengthens home-life. He does not require us to renounce home-ties in order to follow him. How, then, does he come to describe the hideous picture of family quarrels brought about by his coming? We know that his words came true in many a Jewish home where a son or a daughter confessed Christ. They are applicable to-day in Hindoo families that have been reached by missionary influences. Even in England a true, brave confession of Christ may bring great trouble in a worldly home, the habits of which are distinctly unchristian. The explanation is that Christ must be first, and that no domestic claim can excuse us for disloyalty to him. In order that the home may be ultimately glorified as the dwelling of Christ, it may have to be firs; of all saddened as the scene of discord. The larger society is broken and disturbed by Christian influences, and the trouble must go on tilt society is Christian.
III. SPIRITUALLY, THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST BRINGS A SWORD. The Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). The gospel of peace first brings warfare into the soul. It cuts through old habits; it opposes darling sins; it sets nil a new standard at variance with what was loved in the past. The old Adam will not die without a struggle; he fights against the new man. Thus the heart of the Christian becomes a battle-field. To refuse to resist temptation for the sake of peace and quiet is to be unfaithful to Christ, who only gives peace through a faithful endurance of conflict. - W F.A.
I. IT WAS DESTINED TO DISTURB THE OLD FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIETY.
1. The family is the foundation of old Adam's kingdom.
(1) The distinction of sex is everywhere. It exists in man; also in animals; in plants. In the poles of magnetism; in the dualities everywhere present in nature, principles analogous to sex appear.
(2) The offspring of sexual union stand in natural relationships. Thus the household or immediate family is expressed in the terms "parents and children," and "brothers and sisters." This is the first circle, and within it are close endearments.
(3) In the multiplication of families grow up communities, nations, and races. The aggregate of these constitutes the one vast family of man.
2. Sin has demoralized this institution.
(1) By the first transgression the current was poisoned at the fountain. The family is infected in its birth. The race is universally depraved.
(2) Out of the depraved heart rises the demoralized life. First come disintegrations through individual selfishness and ambition; then confederations of evil.
(3) From the family these strifes work outward, giving rise to litigations and violence, heartburnings and revenges. Standing armies are at length maintained by a grinding taxation to wage destructive wars.
3. In grappling with these frightful evils the gospel stirs up new strifes.
(1) It sets up a new rallying-point. It asserts the paramount claims of Christ. He claims a love superior to that which is nourished in the family (ver. 37). He imperiously requires in homage to his love the sacrifice of all selfish interests.
(2) Those who rally round Christ are naturally opposed and hated by those who cleave to the old evil traditions. And the battle begins in the household. The unconverted father is against the converted son, the unconverted mother is against her converted daughter, and so the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law. The battle of principles comes into closest quarters in the house; so a man's bitterest foes are those of his own household.
(3) The hostility rages there even when it is not intended. "The father," says Quesnel, "is the enemy of his son, when through a bad education, an irregular love, and a cruel indulgence, he leaves him to take a wrong bias, instructs him not in his duty, and fills his mind with ambitious views. The son is the father's enemy, when he is the occasion of his doing injustice in order to heap up an estate for him, and to make his fortune. The mother is the daughter's enemy, when she instructs her to please the world, breeds her up in excess and. vanity, and suffers anything scandalous or unseemly in her dress. The daughter is the mother's enemy, when she engages her to comply with her own irregular inclinations, or to permit her to frequent balls and plays. The master is the enemy of the servant, and the servant that of his master, when the one takes no care of the other's salvation, and the latter is subservient to his master's passions."
(4) But the sword is also cast upon the earth (ver. 34). For what are the broad principles of "liberty, equality, and fraternity," properly understood, but noble Christian principles? Yet in the hands of vicious visionaries and atheistical theorists they are so prostituted as to become the motives to insurrections, revolutions, and the fiercest wars. Wars of religion and wars of ideas!
II. IT WAS DESTINED TO RECONSTRUCT SOCIETY UPON' A NEW' AND PERMANENT BASIS.
1. Of this new world Jesus is the Head.
(1) In respect to this he is styled the" second Adam;" "the Beginning of the [new] creation of God;" "the Firstborn of every creature," viz. in this "new creation."
(2) Coming under his blessed influence we are constituted "new creatures." He is the Archetype of the new world as Adam was of the old. So "as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly."
(3) But while the principle of union with Christ is as real as that of natural families, its essence is different. It is individual and spiritual. Hence Jesus never married. In his kingdom there is neither male nor female. In the resurrection they shall neither marry nor be given in marriage, but they shall be as the angels of God.
(4) The kingdom of Messiah shall last for ever.
2. The principle of the new world is love to Christ.
(1) He has a right to our supreme love as our Creator and Redeemer and King. Who but God could justly use such language as "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me"? (ver. 37; cf. Deuteronomy 33:8, 9).
(2) He claims to be loved in his representatives. "He that receiveth you receiveth me." The treatment shown to an ambassador is in fact shown to his sovereign.
(3) This love to Christ, who is himself the Impersonation of love in truth, is the reversal of all selfishness. It requires the lifting of the cross (ver. 38). The cross here is whatever pain or inconvenience, even to the sacrifice of life, cannot be avoided but by doing some evil or omitting some good. The figure is used in prophetic anticipation of the manner in which he should die (cf. Romans 6:6; Galatians 5:24).
3. Hence the promises of the kingdom are to the loyal.
(1) "He that findeth his life shall lose it." Love is life. The love of self and the world is the life of the unregenerate. The love of Christ is the life of the new birth. He that allows self-love to role in his heart must lose the love of God, which is the life of heaven. He that saves his life by denying Christ shall lose it eternally (see John 12:25). Tertullian notes that when the heathen judges would persuade Christians to renounce their faith, the terms they commonly used were "Save your life;" "Do not throw your life away."
(2) "He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." What a man sacrifices to God is never lost, for he finds it again in God. The Lord never permits an evil to befall us unless to prevent a greater, and to do us good.
(3) "He that receiveth a prophet" - one who teaches the truth - "shall receive a prophet's reward." He receives truth in the love of it, which is its own reward. The prophet shall pray for him (see Genesis 20:7; 1 Samuel 7:5; Job 42:8; James 5:14-18). The hostess of Elijah was rewarded in her meal and oil. The rabbins say, "He that receives a learned man or an elder into his house is the same as if he had received the Shechinah."
(4) Even a cup of cold water given in the name of a disciple to the humblest follower of Christ will be rewarded. Love cannot be willed into existence; but it may be wrought into existence. If we give God obedience he will give us love. Love is heaven. Heaven is love. - J.A.M.
right. In that sort of sense Christ used it in our text. Christian duty, sometimes painful, involves crucifixion of self, sacrifice of natural feelings." Dean Plumptre says, "These words would recall to the disciples the sad scenes which Roman rule had made familiar to them - the procession of robbers or rebels, each carrying the cross on which he was to suffer to the place of execution. They would learn that they were called to a like endurance of ignominy and suffering." It is, however, better to preserve the familiar proverbial character of our Lord's allusion.
I. EVERY CHRISTIAN MAN HAS HIS CROSS. Every individual has his cross. We all have to say, again and again, "Things will not be according to my mind." Becoming a Christian may alter our crosses, but it is pretty certain to multiply them. The more active and enterprising a Christian is, the more, and the weightier, will be his crosses. They will always be marked by their demand on the Christian to do what he ought rather than what he likes. A cross is that which puts a man on self-restraints and self-denials.
II. EVERY CHRISTIAN MAN IS REVEALED BY THE WAY IN WHICH HE DEALS WITH HIS CROSS.
1. He may spurn it.
2. He may leave it.
3. He may lift it.
He is disloyal if he spurns it. He is negligent if he leaves it. He is true-hearted if he lifts it. This leads on to the thought that if "cross-bearing" is discipline, and may even be stern discipline, it is always sanctifying. Cross-bearing may even be figured as the "highway of holiness." - R.T.
rejected the messengers of Christ they were to shake off the very dust of their feet as a testimony against the inhospitable people; and now he concludes his address by cheering words on the other side, generously recognizing a friendly reception of his disciples. Local and temporal as was the immediate occasion of our Lord's remarks, they are evidently of lasting application.
I. THE BROTHERHOOD OF CHRIST LEADS HIM TO REGARD KINDNESS TO HIS DISCIPLES EXACTLY AS THOUGH IT WERE OFFERED TO HIMSELF. He is not the Oriental monarch treating his subjects as a race of slaves. He is completely one with his people. Whatever hurts them hurts him; whatever cheers them pleases him. There is a Christian solidarity. The benefit or injury of one member affects the whole body (1 Corinthians 12:26). But if other members of the body are thus affected, much more will the Head, which is in direct communication with the whole, be affected.
1. This is meant as a great encouragement for the servants of Christ. They are not deserted by Christ; he is in all their work, and he feels keenly every kindness or unkindness offered to them.
2. This suggests how we may all have the unspeakable privilege of receiving Christ. Not only a prophet or an apostle, but a little child, may bring Christ to our home. Receiving the least of Christ's disciples for his sake, we receive him.
II. THE CONDITION OF RECEIVING CHRIST IS RECEIVING HIS DISCIPLES IN HIS NAME.
1. Receiving Christ's disciples. He does not speak here of indiscriminate hospitality, nor of the neighbourly love which he elsewhere commends. Here is a specially Christian action. Much is made in the New Testament of brotherly love - love to fellow-Christians. It is a great privilege to be able to help one of Christ's own little ones.
2. Receiving them in Christ's Name. Thrice does our Lord refer to the conditions of "the name" - "the name of a prophet," "the name of a righteous man," "the name of a disciple." This points to a set purpose in the hospitality. The prophet is received as a prophet because we wish to honour prophets; the righteous man as a righteous man because we desire to help the righteous; the Christian disciple as a disciple, for Christ's sake. This is more than mere kindness; it is a distinct recognition of the claim of Christ. We are encouraged to show kindness for Christ's sake, that we may please him - receiving the envoy for the sake of the King.
III. THEY WHO THUS RECEIVE CHRIST'S DISCIPLES ARE DOUBLY REWARDED.
1. In receiving, Christ. They are treated just as though they had shown hospitality to the Lord Jesus Christ himself. But the reward of such hospitality is in the very coming of Christ. When he entered the house of Zacchaeus salvation came there. To have Christ within us is to have a better blessing than could be got out of all the wealth of the Indies or all the joy of a Christless paradise.
2. In receiving God. This thought is nearly akin to the teaching of the Fourth Gospel (see John 14:9, 10). We do not merely receive Christ as a brother-man. Beneath the veil of the humanity of Jesus the very glory of God enters the soul. Thus he who receives a child lop Christ's sake is blessed by having God in his heart, and then his heart becomes a heaven. - W.F.A.