The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.Christianity In Families
John 11 "Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha" (
"Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha" (John 11:1).
We can sometimes better understand Jesus Christ's character and spirit when they are brought to bear upon a comparatively small space, than when they are so enlarged as to embrace the universe. Let us, then, study the relationship which Jesus Christ appeared to sustain to this family at Bethany. Let us see how Jesus Christ stands in relation to this family. From what we can learn of his relationship to one household, we may be able to infer something of the spirit in which he administers the affairs of the larger family of mankind. The family was in peculiar circumstances, as we gather from the third verse—
"Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick." (John 11:3)
The family is in distress, and the family, in the midst of its pain and sorrow, sends for Jesus Christ, the one Healer and eternal Friend. There is something very pathetic as well as most instructive in the message which is thus delivered: "Behold, he whom thou lovest is sick." It is no stranger's name that is spoken to Jesus Christ. I am not sure that the name of Lazarus was pronounced at all. Sometimes it is better simply to indicate the character, and to leave the proper name out of the question altogether. The reverence of the man's disposition will identify him at once. So the sisters, gathering up all the affection and desires which Lazarus entertained towards the Son of God, described their brother as "He whom thou lovest." Sometimes people do not send unto Jesus Christ until they are sick. It would appear, from the very construction of this message, that Jesus Christ was on familiar terms with the family at Bethany long before the event described in this verse occurred. Jesus Christ often has a stranger's name handed to him. He has, as it were, to look at the card again and again, and to say—(if I may attribute to him aught of the limitation of human ignorance)—"Who is this? I have not seen this name before. Who calls upon me now?" And he finds that it is a worn-out old life; a shattered manhood, which being unable longer to enjoy the things of time and sense, begs an interview with One who is supposed to have healing and comfort at his disposal. It was not so in this case: "He whom thou lovest is sick. The man thou knowest so well, to whom thou hast spoken so many tender words, whose spirit is dear to thee, lies now at the very gate of death." How is it going to be in our own case? Are we going to defer our religion until the end of our life, and call in Jesus Christ when we have darkened the windows, and have made up our minds that it is a case of extremity? or, are we going at the very commencement of our life to say, "Now, in the very midst of sunshine and prosperity and great progress, join us, O Son of God, and be our companion during the remainder of our days"? Our years are going; they seem to steal away, they fly off, and if some of us be not very prompt in our dealings, behold we shall be old men presently, and our great account to the Living One will yet be to determine! My hope is, that in studying a subject of this kind—so tender and so pathetic, and so calculated to appeal to the best sensibilities of our nature—some will yield themselves to Jesus the Saviour of families, the Healer of the sick, the Redeemer of the world!
Look at the words again, for they are full of meaning as the grape is full of juice. "He whom thou lovest is sick." Would the text not have read much better had it been worded thus: Lord, "He whom thou abhorrest is sick; he who has offended thy law and violated thy commandments and dishonoured thy spirit is in the grip of death"? We think there would have been a natural rhythm in a sentence of that kind. Yet the text reads just contrariwise, "Lord, he whom thou lovest is sick,"—the man whose eyes ought to have stood out with fatness, upon whose cheek ought to have been the ruddiness of health, whose blood ought to have been without taint or stain, because of his love of them and their love of him. This, however, is God's way with men. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? "Now no affliction for the present seemeth to be joyous but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." One can understand a bad man rejoicing over this; pointing out the case with a finger of suspicion and scorn, and saying, as he points it out, "See, I should have thought that if any man loved Jesus Christ he would have been spared the ills of this life! Behold, the loved one is afflicted like other men, and he who honours the name of Christ pines and dies like the blackest atheist amongst us." Men who only see a little of the case may talk in that way. Men who look at the outside only have a very short way to take in order to get at such conclusions as please their own imperfectly trained judgments. When, however, we come to look at circumferences rather than at mere points, to put today and to-morrow and the next day together, and to sphere off divine movement and divine purpose, we come to modify some of our conclusions, and to find that some of our reasonings have been immoral; and we have, with prostration of heart, to cry to God to pardon inferences we have falsely drawn regarding his spirit and his government. Do you know good men who are sick? Can you point to your friend in a given street in London or elsewhere, and say of him, "That man is a Christian; yet everything he touches seems to go to ashes at once"? Are you able to point out case after case of good men, who are always in the dust, who have their breath half taken from them and who are weary of this life? Are you sometimes inclined to jeer over them, to talk flippantly about their piety, and to trace their sufferings to their religion? Beware what you are doing; be careful how you draw your inferences. If we lived altogether upon the space of a finger-nail, you might have some right to your conclusions; because a sense of the divine presence in the soul does keep men back from certain kinds of prosperity. Some of us might have been in better health if we could have trifled with our spirits more. Some men might have been riding in their carriages if they had shut their eyes when they saw wrong, instead of turning aside that they might escape the temptations of the evil one. I repeat, therefore, if the whole case rested upon the space of a finger-nail, some of your conclusions might be right enough. But to time add eternity, to man add God, and wait, for the time of drawing conclusions is not yet. It may be that weakness will turn out to be the highest strength, and some kinds of poverty may prove to be the only enduring wealth. I only ask for a pause; I only beg that men be not rash. We shall have time, by-and-by, to say how things have been managed. The people in Christ's day, who waited and saw his processes and kept themselves in restraint until those processes were completed, said in a shout, in a song, at last, "He hath done all things well!" It shall be so with those who keep a strong and loving faith constantly in exercise in the Son of God. Let us, however, proceed to see how Jesus Christ seems to dally with this case. But before doing so, we shall find one utterance of his that ought to be engraven upon every memory
"When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby" (John 11:4).
Is it not truly beautiful to find that Jesus Christ knows the purpose of every event in our individual and family life? Many a messenger of providence comes to our door, and we are at a loss to see what that messenger signifies. Is it not a comfort to the heart to believe that there is One who knows why he caused our door to be opened, that the strange, mysterious, and oftentimes unwelcome visitor might be admitted? Jesus knew exactly why the sickness had fallen upon Lazarus. "This sickness is not unto death." It is not that death may finish the process that sin began in the history of mankind. But you shall see that in this case circumstances shall so conspire that the result of the whole will be an additional glory given to the Lord of Hosts and to his Son Jesus Christ. The earth and the heavens work together. Things below and things above come into strange union and combinations, and sometimes things have to be broken down that they may be lifted up. Oftentimes, indeed, God comes to us along a path which is strewn with wrecks, with blighted hopes, with thrown-down towers, and plans and projects of divers kinds; and we say when the wind rages very highly, and when things are toppled over into confusion, "Behold, this is death!"—not knowing that in this way, strange though it may appear beyond all other mystery, God is working a way upon which his own foot shall pass. Is there not joy, peculiar and oftentimes intense, in the companionship of a man who has the gift of interpretation? Is it nothing to have at hand a man who can tell you what your dream means, what your pains signify, and what that great loss, which has so impoverished you, was intended to speak to your heart? There are some men amongst us who are gifted with the faculty, if I may so call it, of interpreting things. When they come into a family afflicted and deserted, they can speak so wisely and so sweetly about the affair, as if God had passed down the key of the lock to them and said, "Take that; turn it just so, and behold, you will open it, and bring light and comfort to those who sit in darkness and captivity." If it be so amongst ourselves; if a friend can revive us by suggesting a reasonable interpretation of certain things in our life; what of him who knows the secret of God, who holds that secret in his own right hand, and who can whisper to us amid all suffering and all loss, "The meaning of this, my brother, is that God intends to work out in your life a higher refinement and a nobler strength, a more dignified patience, and to perfect you by trial severe as fire"? This is what Jesus Christ does for men. He tells them the purpose of their sickness, he tells them the meaning of the brevity of time; he explains to them how it is that they have only a certain degree of strength, and why they are kept short of a higher degree still. He interprets things; he gives them their right meanings; he stops men from imperfect, and especially from godless, conclusions. In this way he enriches our life continually. I have taken many a hard case to him. There is not a man who has had harder cases to deal with in life than I have had to encounter; and this I know—and no man shall take away my boasting from me or my joy—that not until I have gone and told Jesus, and explained the thing from my point of view to him, has there come into my understanding and my heart such a sense of the rightness of things as has comforted me, and lifted up my soul from the midst of the lions that had assailed it and the darkness that was gathered around it It is a great thing, amid misinterpretations, and prayerlessness, and worldliness, to hear a man say that, in plain simple English, who affixes his own signature to it, and does not send men into dusty libraries to exhume antiquities to prove it, but who says in his own proper person, "I have received from communion with the Son of God interpretations of sickness and loss and hardship and loneliness and bitterness, which have cheered me and made me young again; and what I have received I wish to give,—having found out a well-head in the wilderness, I wish to tell every thirsty traveller about it. I do not wish, such is the effect of the living water upon a man, to run away and say, I shall keep the secret to myself, for I may want that well again! Contrariwise, I would proclaim that there is in Christ Jesus water for us all to quench the burning thirst of the life, to satisfy the necessities of the spirit and the understanding and the heart." The more we drink it, the more there seems to be. More than that. I wish to say, in English equally simple and direct, that every other well is poisoned, every other well is shallow, and every other invitation is a lie!
"Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus" (John 11:5).
Every member of the family,—there was nobody shivering in the cold outside who was not embraced in this all-redeeming and all-comforting love. There are sad hearts in many homes,—because there is one wanting who ought to be in the company; one young man not in the household who ought to be there,—a very genial, open-hearted, kind, noble young man in some aspects, but drawn off by the insidious tempter, and made corrupt and evil-minded; so much so, that it would not be safe to admit him into the presence of little children, or into the presence of persons who have any sense of purity or right. Nothing is said about him, but the heart goes out after him, sadly, moaningly, and would gladly bring him back again. Do we know a family that is complete in Jesus? We may know more than one such—a family in which we find the father and the mother, and all the children, loving the same Saviour and loved of the same Christ! Is there any picture on earth to be compared with that for simplicity, for beauty, for pathos, and for all the qualities that touch the deepest sensibilities of our nature? Alas, there are other families that are not complete, and you are the absentee, perhaps! I call you home. Your father waits, and your mother and your sisters, and you only are absent, and they cannot be at rest until you come in. They have joy—great joy, that wells over the very sides of their hearts; but what an addition to their joy would come from the fact that you have said, openly and firmly, "I will arise and go to my Father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned!" The joy, which is now very deep and intense, would then be completed,—nought would excel it but the rapture of heaven itself!
"Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus;" and they were all different. Martha was busy, anxious, fretful, industrious, a housewife from her birth, elect to have the control of household affairs; her sister was quiet and thoughtful, contemplative, pensive, silent; and Lazarus represented another side of human character altogether. Jesus loved them all. Oh, wondrous love! Our artificial lights can only give a little relief to the darkness of particular places; but the great sun in the heavens lightens, with impartial glory, the palace and the cot, the great landscape and the poor man's little garden,—it enters every garret and window, as well as penetrates all the sumptuousness of palaces. It is even so with the love of Christ. Some of us can only love particular kinds of character. We feel that we must draw a line when certain persons come into connection with us, for we really cannot understand them, or appreciate them, and therefore our love becomes cramped, and says, "I cannot go any farther on." But Jesus can love us all. He knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are but dust; he understands our peculiarities; he knows through what processes we have passed—processes that have roughened us and made us unlovely; processes that have gone far to break down our very spirit. Yet he sees what is left in us, and with impartial benediction he would bless us all. As the great firmament holds the mighty sun and the tiny asteroid, so that greater heart of Christ folds in its infinite embrace all mankind. Why, then, should one of us—the obscurest, the poorest, the roughest, the worst—stand back, as though he had no God, as though his name had not been thought of when Calvary was made the centre of the universe!
"When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was" (John 11:6).
This is an aspect of the divine government which we have great difficulty in understanding. Would not the sentence have read much better thus: "When Jesus had heard that Lazarus was sick, though he had a great deal of very urgent business on hand, yet he left the whole instantaneously, and sped to Bethany as quickly as he could possibly proceed"? There, we should have said, is the outworking of love; that is precisely how affection shows its genuineness and its depth. Yet we read that Jesus Christ, having heard that his loved friend was sick, remained two days longer in the very place where he received the intelligence. God does appear sometimes to be slow in his movements. Our impatience cries for him, as he sits still, as if we were but noisy children, not knowing what we were talking about. We say, "Speak to us, Lord, or it will be too late," because we measure time by a local standard; we call it astronomical time—time taken from the sun;—but God takes his times from something higher than our standards. We now and again wonder, and sometimes our reverence threatens to break down in the process of our wondering, that God does not make more haste than he appears to do. At such times there comes in this solemn, majestic sound, "A thousand years are in thy sight but as one day, and one day as a thousand years!" A sentence which means that God does not measure himself or his movements by our idea of time. He takes the beat of his step from another standard altogether, and at last he will show that he is not slack concerning his promises, as some men count slackness. Is God delaying? With whom is he delaying? "He is delaying with me," says some poor, fainting heart. Do I doubt it? Far from it. Has he not delayed with myself many a time? Do I not want him now, instantaneously, to come down to my relief? I do. Yet he sits yonder above the sun and stars, away on that great burning effulgent throne, and my prayers seem unable to hasten him in any one movement, I own it; I do not attempt to modify it; I accept it as a solemn and instructive fact. What then? This: Wherever I have been privileged to see anything of the meaning of his delay, I have always found that he has been delaying not for his benefit but for ours; and that when he does come he will bring with him some greater blessing than we had ventured either to hope or expect. Let God be Judge. There can be but one Lord. The child is impatient with you because you do not move so actively as he would like you to move; but you, in your maturer wisdom and deeper love, are acting upon a principle which he cannot understand; and the child will come to know and learn that any impatience on your part, equal to his own, would mean the destruction of your family and the utter ruin of your peace. You must pause; you must be restful; you must be tranquil when others would like to see you excited. You must hasten slowly in some things, for your intent is to complete your work and rest it upon a basis which cannot easily be shaken. There are many mysteries about this side of the divine government. There are mysteries about every side of the divine administration, and we glory in this mystery. To-morrow is the mystery of today; night is the mystery of noontide; immortality is the mystery of death; heaven is the mystery of earth. I would not care to live if all mystery were taken away. It is in the exercise of a deep, tender, loving faith in the Unseen and the Unlimited that I find joy which animates my suffering and wounded heart! In the twentieth verse we reach the point at which Martha and Jesus meet:—
"Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house." (John 11:20)
"Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died" (John 11:21).
"If thou hadst been here." This was an expression on the part of Martha that arose from great love, great trust, but void of a true understanding of the meaning of Christ's presence. What, then, have we to preach? This. We shall all die! Do not let us postpone the intimation of our need of the Son of God until we are so faint that we can only receive him at the side of our death-bed. Do let us be more decent, more courteous, more civil. We shall all die! That is a fact that men have never been able to reason out of human history. If they could come to me and say, "We will guarantee you shall never die, you shall always be as you are—young and strong and active and prosperous," then I might incline an ear to their reasonings more deferentially than I am disposed to do at present. But when they are talking to me against religion and against the deeper life, against faith and spiritual love and service of the unseen, what do I behold? Oh I this: Over their shoulder, a grim, ghastly spectre called Death! Do not let us postpone our prayers until Death knocks at the door, because when he knocks we cannot send him away and tell him to come another time. "Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation."
In selecting this word we are struck with the frequency of its occurrence in this chapter. This would seem to be the field in which the word grows. Some soils suit certain plants; this soil would seem to suit the word "if" admirably. I know not of any other chapter in which it occurs so frequently, so variously, and so instructively. It is not legitimate to choose the word "if" for a text if the meaning be to hang upon it whatever may first occur to an unlicensed imagination. The word "if" is not fantastically chosen, but is chosen from the point of view of an expositor. It is not a little word to be trifled with, a cherry-stone to have an image engraved upon it; it is a keyword, solemn, indicative of serious thinking, and of the philosophies of life. Keep within the bounds of this chapter, and say if this be not so. The word is used by everybody—by Jesus, by the disciples, by Martha, by Mary, and by the chief priests and the Pharisees.
First of all, here is the "if" of wisdom:—
"Jesus answered,... If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world" (John 11:9).
"But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him" (John 11:10).
But will any man be such a fool as to walk in the night when he cannot see his own hand before him? Is not this a dream bordering upon romance, and not far away from insanity? No man will walk in the night. So we should certainly have said; but Jesus Christ points to a different possibility. Who can tell the limits of insanity? Who knows the boundaries within which the evil heart exercises itself in all iniquity? There are men that love the darkness. They wait for it as you would linger for a chosen companion. They look round and say, Would the darkness were here! They cannot stir but in the darkness; they are not children of the light or of the day or of the morning or of the summer; but owls and bats—evil men that work in the darkness with faithful industry. The word "if" as thus used is not indicative of many of those possible actions which are usually associated with the term: the Lord is laying down a great philosophy of work; he is indicating that there are times and seasons for labour, and that not only is work to be done, but done at the proper time—the light for labour, the darkness for rest. "The light he called Day, and the darkness he called Night;" and each has its needful opportunity that will not exchange places. If an irregularity is set up in nature, so that night becomes day, until that irregularity has become custom it disturbs and upsets, and creates painful tumult.
Then here is the "if" of human hope shadowed by fear:—
"Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well" (John 11:12).
We know how that "if" was spoken. We know how many ways there are of passing a lie. We know what it is to give consent with reservation, to yield acquiescence with unspoken reluctance. The disciples seem to have felt that Lazarus was dead, but hearing Jesus say that he slept, the disciples said, "Lord, if he sleep." Who does not know what it is to have a mocking doubter in the heart whilst the tongue is confessing all manner of theologies and orthodoxies? Who does not know what it is to have a spectre overlooking him, even in the middle of prayer, and to hear that spectre whisper with cold breath, Thou liar? Who does not know what it is to say to the sick one, You are better today? It was not the heart that spoke; the visitor or the friend thought it would be well to cheer the sufferer, and therefore said, You look better. How could you say so? You knew that the cheek was whiter than yesterday, the lips more livid, the eyes more lifeless: how could you say so? And yet it seemed to be right to say just that at that time. We cannot be kept back by cold fact, judicial impartial reason; sometimes the heart leaps and outruns the head, and is at the sepulchre before the lumbering Peter can come up. Who would have himself tried by arithmetical rules and geometrical figures? Who would not have many sides to his nature, so that his imagination may be miles ahead whilst his limping reason—poor, shuffling, ambling cripple—is looking round for staff or crutch? Does not a blessing come with those whose ministry is such as to enable them to speak words of hope when their hearts are cold with fear? Do we not sometimes say, It is so,—when we mean, We wish it were so? Do we not play false with grammatical forms, and change moods and tenses at will, coming with holy violence against the custom of speech in order to tell a gospel or sing a line that will cheer the fainthearted? Sometimes we have said, Lord, if there is another world,—if there is a resurrection,—if there is a Judgment Day. We put the case as if we were stating a creed and stating a doubt in the same breath; so it is a troubled utterance, a most tumultuous expression, understood in heaven, and there only can any creed be understood. We do not believe the less because of this shadowing "if"; yea, we would seem to believe the more,—that is to say, we would take more blessing "if" we could, or might. Lord, help our incapacity!
Now we come to another "if," uttered by the two sisters, in almost identical words, probably with identical meaning; but it is the "if" of ignorance:—
"Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died" (John 11:21).
They conversed together, and to that woman Jesus revealed some aspects of his personality and ministry that might have been revealed to an attentive universe. Then Mary comes upon the scene:—
"Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died" (John 11:32).
Is there a tone of reproach in that statement? Does it mean, It thou hadst come, instead of abiding two days still in the same place, our brother would still have been with us, and the little house at Bethany would have been as bright and cheery as ever? Or does it involve a philosophy? Does it say, Lord, where thou art no death can be: death and Jesus cannot be in the same chamber long? Probably the meaning was exhausted by the first view, namely, that Jesus Christ came too late; if he had come earlier the event would not have occurred: the two sisters agreed in that; activity and contemplation found a common resting-place in the assurance that if Jesus Christ had not been in the house death dare not have come in at the front door. This is a beautiful "if," without doubt. It is employed for the purpose of increasing emphasis, deepening and enlarging spiritual certitude, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died": thou didst love him, and though death stood at his bedside ready to leap upon him as a conqueror might leap upon an overthrown foe, yet thou wouldst have kept him back, and my brother had been alive today, leading the household psalm, and distributing the household bread. Yet this is a doctrine marked by ignorance. For death is the servant of God—the black, grim, weird servant who finds his wages in his work; he eats millions a day, and hungers for millions more. Why do we separate the devil as if he had a little universe of his own in which he was sole king, constituting a court that owed allegiance to no sceptre? Why do we think of death as something wholly apart from God? As an enemy that has taken advantage of God's absence from the household of creation? The devil is a chained dog; a beast capable of infinite barking, but the chain is on his throat. And Death—old, old Death—thriving these countless ages upon beast and bird and fish, and then leaping upon man and overthrowing him,—this monster is a servant of the court of heaven. The Lord reigneth! Has not the Lord a right to send for those whom he will, for those who are ready, for those whose mischief upon earth must come to an end? What could the Lord do without death when he has so little space to work upon on the face of the globe? Death is a necessity. If emigration relieves the congestion of nations, so death relieves the congestion of the globe. Death is servant, not master. Yet, a beautiful thought is it that where Jesus is there can be no death.
"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" (John 11:25-26).
Men do not die when Christ is in the house; they ascend. Let Pagans die; Christians must languish into life. Let beasts die; but men must be liberated, must accept the word of emancipation and receive the crown of freedom. With Jesus in the house there can be no death; the little child will not die, but go up like a dewdrop, called for by the warm sun. In the house of the saint bereavement itself becomes a sacrament. Death doth but enlarge the horizon, and show the greater width of the universe.
Then here is the "if" that calls to faith. Only Jesus Christ himself could speak this "if."
"Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?" (John 11:40.)
Could she not see the glory of God without believing? No. Can you see the stars without the telescope? What can you see with the naked eye? You have invented lenses that can search a leaf, a grass-blade, or a water-drop, and that can search the infinite spaces of the heavens,—here is a lens called Faith by which we see the glory of God. If men will not use the microscope, do you say that the microscope is useless, and that there is no under-world to be discovered? If men will not use the telescope, do you proclaim the universe a blank, saying, Even the street lamps have been put out, and death reigns in all the arch of the sky? You say to such people, You ought to use the means. But when the theologian or the Christian or the apostle says, "You ought to use the means," he is called a fanatic. People who distrust the naked eye in everything want the naked reason to discover the metaphysics of the universe. This cannot be done. Lord, increase our faith! God holds nothing back from faith. He would give us a brighter summer if we had more faith; he would send us brighter mornings if we had larger faith capacity to receive them. We could frighten death away if we had faith; we could create harvests anywhere if we had faith. We should have plenty of bread if we had plenty of faith. When we hear that a man has discovered a new star, we never find it added that he discovered it with the naked eye. Sometimes men say to amateurs, "Get the focus right." What has the focus to do with it? Can I not see? Have I not eyes? No, you cannot see, and what eyes you have want assistance,—get the focus right. So say those who teach the inner and upper mysteries of the kingdom eternal: Brother, get the focus right; see that the glass suits your eye; see that you are on the line of vision; see that no hindrance is in the way intercepting the revelation,—"Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?" We cannot have this great telescopic faith all at once: we may have it little by little. Sometimes we begin at a very humble point Who has not in his childhood smoked a piece of glass rather than not have some medium through which to look at the sun, at an eclipse, at some peculiar view, or some startling phenomenon of the heavens? Some of us are no farther on religiously. Understand that a kaleidoscope is not a telescope. There be many who have theological kaleidoscopes: looking through the kaleidoscope they see Methodism—all the Methodist preachers that ever lived; another turn, Congregationalism—all the Congregationalists. You are only looking at pieces of glass; the stars—cold, bright, glorious—are away yonder, and you must have another instrument by which to scan their glory. One man was no farther on than this—it was a poor telescope, but he saw a good deal through it. He said, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." There is a cloud on the glass,— O Blessed One, take it away, then I shall see thee in thy beauty!
Now we come to the "if" of human despair:—
"Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him" (John 11:47-48).
Even the Pharisees must have an "if"—"If we let him thus alone." There are some men who must do mischief, who must circulate evil reports, who must pass narrow criticisms, who must write stinging articles in journals that have small enough circulation to take them in, in the hope that they may sell an extra copy. There are people who must run down other people, depreciate them, who say, "There are spots on the sun,"—there will be spots on the earth as long as they live! So the Pharisees get into a council. There are some men never strong except when they are on a committee. Meet such men one. by one, and they are deferential; let them get together on a committee, a council, or a board of directors, and perhaps a finer set of cowards could hardly be met They assist public deliberations by crying, "Vote, vote!" "Hear, hear!" That is the sum total of their contribution to the illumination and advancement of great questions. The Pharisees must get into council. One will speak and another will say, "Hear, hear!" and the rest will applaud, and nobody can tell exactly who said it. When did a Pharisee boldly and frankly come up to Jesus Christ and face him as man faces man in singularity? Oh, when the pack of hounds met how the hounds barked and yelled! Some men have been killed by councils, killed by committees, killed by numbers of persons who have absorbed their own personality in the troubled existence of other and indescribable lives. This matter is a personal one. We cannot be saved by councils, nor ought we to fear being condemned by them. We cannot be saved by committees; why should we wait for them as if they had it in their power to pervert our judgment or trouble our conscience? Be right, and go on; be sure of your ground, and then stand still, and advance, pray, and consider as the circumstances which come and go may determine.
Were we not right in saying this chapter is fruitful in "ifs"? If I might go beyond the chapter it would be to quote two other "ifs" full of meaning: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Is it possible for a man to say he has no sin? So it would seem, because the supposition is here affirmed. There are people who believe in their own respectability—"not that they wish to be proud," when they are so proud that the universe can hardly find a throne high enough for them to sit down upon. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves "—we deceive nobody else. We are liars, and the truth is not in us. We must make acquaintance with our own sin; we must face it, name it, weigh it, measure it, and call it ours. This may begin the reckoning. But you cannot reckon upon your soul's destiny in the dark. Men must be faithful to themselves, right-down frank with their own spirits.
Now comes that second "if"—a gospel, an opening heaven—"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." How admirably is the statement put in both aspects! "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,"—If we confess our sin God will follow confession by absolution. Thus stands the matter. Let no man trifle with it. For ages men have lived upon these truths: hence the Church; hence all evangelistic effort; hence all holy doctrine; hence all comforting proclamation. There are times when men need precisely such words as these, "If we confess our sins." We are not always in a mood to receive that exhortation: sometimes it comes to us weakly, most feebly; so much so that we resent it, and say that preaching is for churches on Sundays, and not for market-places and the common thoroughfares of life. But, sometimes, even in the city, a man would be glad if he could hear a voice behind him saying, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." He would account the marketplace a church if he could hear that sacred word. When he has been robbing his employers; when he has been playing false with sacred oath and vow; when he has been doing the things he ought not to have done; when he is living in fear of detection because to-morrow the audit will take place and the day after judgment will be delivered; when every wind that blows around him is a breath from perdition, a blast from hell; when every step he takes is a step into a quaking bog; when every voice he hears maybe the voice of judgment final and irrevocable; then if some one could say to him, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins," he might be turned to better thoughts; it might soon be said of him, "Behold, he prayeth!"
"The Jews sought to stone me" would be, for certain natures, a sufficient reason for not again venturing into their presence. Christ teaches us one divine lesson by this act of fortitude, viz., to go wherever there is work to be done. In Judaea there was a sleeper who could be awakened by his power alone; hence he returned to Judaea, in spite of the malignity which he had recently endured. Christ was called, by the sympathy of his own heart, to remove the sorrow which threatened to engulf two bereaved sisters, and to prove his divinity by a miraculous exertion of his power. He knew that in Judæa there were multitudes ready to put him to death; yet his own convictions overbalanced the fury of his enemies, and brought him to the graveside of his beloved Lazarus.
Christianity develops true fortitude. There is a bravery which results from animal passion, there is a courage which arises from ambition, pride, love of applause; but these must be distinguished from Christian heroism. The valour of a Christian is the result of regnant conviction: he is heroic because he is right; he fights to prove his loyalty to divine principles. Can your faith bear stoning? Dare you venture into Judaea when every hand is ready to smite you? These are test-questions. It is but a lean, shivering, pitiable faith that dreads any form of reproach or chastisement.
Clamour is not necessary to the exhibition of true fortitude. Some men cannot fight without acquainting the public with their battles. Christ was often dumb in his sufferings; he had not always the relief which speech or groan often insures, "he opened not his mouth." His was true endurance; his deepest sufferings secretly exhausted themselves. Christ endured many stonings of which history is ignorant. The severest trials of fortitude are not necessarily visible: the deadliest blows are aimed in the sacred hours when eye and pen are excluded.
The Church that fears stoning is useless for practical purposes; it may be ornamental, but its beauty is perishable. It will make no vital impression on a neighbourhood; it is a delicate hot-house plant, that cannot bear the climate of an unsympathetic and ruthless world. Christ in a Church will lift that Church above the fear of stoning; for Christ transforms the churches into his own nature. We shall be surrounded by weaklings and cowards, until the fellowship of professors be entirely impregnated by the spirit of him who never quaked in the presence of danger, or blushed in the enunciation of the principles on which his life was founded.
Almighty God, we would see Jesus as we have never seen him before. This is the glory of the Lord, that he shines with different lights, that his glory varies as we look upon him, heightens as we adore him, and encompasses us round and round like a divine defence. We have seen Jesus at Bethlehem, we have heard his teaching in the Word and somewhat of it in the spirit; we have seen him upon the Cross, and we have seen him ascending into glory; still we want another vision, a brighter, fuller, tenderer disclosure of Jesus Christ's presence and ministry. We have heard that he prayeth for us in daily intercession, taking up our poor cries of need, and magnifying them into prevailing prayer. Give us faith to hold fast by this sweet doctrine, then we shall have more faith in our prayers, because they are taken up by him and made availing through his Cross and blood, and ascension and intercession; yea, they become his prayers uttered from his heart and by his lips, and they must elicit answers that will satisfy our poverty and all our desires. When we read the Holy Book may a new light shine upon it from above, and a fuller glory rise from within itself; then in thy light shall we see light, and there shall be in our souls light above the brightness of the sun. Thine is a marvellous light, O Son of man, O Son of God! We cannot imagine it, we cannot forecast it, we cannot say, It shall be thus; for we know not how great is thy power, how gracious thy purpose of self-disclosure. Surprise us with new light: at midnight may there be a shining as of the dawn, and at noonday may the sun be sevenfold in strength. May we look at everything from the standpoint of Jesus Christ's ministry, specially from Jesus Christ's Cross; then shall we see meanings otherwise undiscoverable, then shall we see the unfolding of purpose, passing the discernment of human sagacity: we shall see God working out his plan of love, caring for all, caring most for the least, mighty in all, but omnipotent in the uttermost weakness. Thus shall we have great contentment of heart, deep tender peace of mind; we shall hail death as a friend, we shall say the garden is not complete until a grave has been dug in it, and we shall know that life is nothing till it is thrilled with the agony of heavenly expectation. We bless thee that we see life's meaning somewhat: it is a poor life in itself, it is a glorious life in its indications and possibilities. Now it is a pain, but by-and-by it will be a joy, and the joy will be greater because of the preceding pain. Enable us to stand upright in the strongest wind, and to look straightforwardly, even though the darkness challenge our vision. May we say, There is no darkness with God; this poor cloud is transient, easily punctured; it may be gone in a moment. Thus in thy strength, thou mighty Bearer of the Cross, may we carry our life with all its burden and all its pain. Grant unto aged servants renewal of youth; grant unto thy youngest children sense of thy nearness, the responsibility and solemnity which come of conscious nearness to God, and to all thy servants who are busy here and there teaching the lesson that they have nothing that is certain except that which they have given away; and thus may all life be blessed, and every day become a gate opening upon heaven. Cheer the despondent; thou knowest how sad the life is and weary: oh for one breath of summer wind, one look of summer light! Guide the perplexed and the bewildered, and lift up the stumbling lest they totter to their fall; and as for those who are weak enough to vow and break the vow, the Lord give them strength from on high, and make the most infantile the most gigantic. Spare us yet a little while, that we may recover ourselves, and smite us not down in wrath; when thou dost call for us let it be by some angel's whisper, not by some great storm. Amen.
"And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: the same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him."
These were not Greek Jews; they were simple Greeks: otherwise translated "Gentiles"; real, indisputable outsiders. That was the thing that made Jesus so glad. There were Greek Jews; but we must not confuse the one class with the other. The whole point of this glowing interview will be lost if we fail to fix our minds upon the one instructive fact that the Greeks were Gentiles, in the simplest, broadest sense of that term. And when Jesus heard of them he said, This is glory, this is daylight, this is the meaning of it all; and such a radiance overspread that face as well-nigh put out the sun. "Certain Greeks": only a few, but not a few to Christ; because Jesus Christ does not reckon by our arithmetic. That is an invention of our own. Without the faintest authority we have said that two and two are four. That is a purely human supposition, and altogether questionable, except on the ground of convenience. "Certain Greeks": quite a handful; perhaps two, perhaps five. But the light must strike some point first: what if it struck these few Gentile wanderers in the first instance? What do we mean by the word "few"? Sometimes we have a contemptuous significance; but if we looked at things really as they ought to be looked at we should regard a few as equivalent to a pledge, the first drops that precede the rich rain. What about the first blade that pierces the dull earth and stands up in green beauty: is it a favourite? No: it is better; it is a harbinger; it says, I have only come first; they are all coming. It is not elected in the sense of other green blades having been blighted underground: it is elected in some sense of precedence; it outran the others; they all started together, but this little one came up first, elected to preach the harvest, called, not to singularity, but to expressiveness, to algebraic suggestiveness, saying, This is the indication that you must presently get your sickles ready, for we are all alive and all unfolding and all coming; to-morrow the land will be green, and the day following it will be yellow with corn. The blade is only first, because there are more to follow. It would be neither first nor last if there were no succession; it would stand alone, it would be without an arithmetical indication at all, except there be some word that signifies loneliness, some figure that typifies isolation; it is either first or last, because there are more.
"The same came therefore to Philip," and "Philip cometh and telleth Andrew." Why that "therefore"? Read: "There were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: the same came therefore—" That is not evident. "The same came to Philip," possibly: but why "therefore"? What is this unexpressed logic? What is this subtle ministry that urges a man to watch, to sleep; that bids him sit down and wait till the traveller comes up who will tell him all the rest? There is a "therefore" that seems to have no antecedent; there is a conclusion which seems to be without premise, major or minor. Poor man-made logic! It touches scarcely anything, and is rich only in principal blunders. Why not live upon this larger "therefore"? Why not avail ourselves of what the logicians call the enthymeme, in a far larger sense, feeling that everything is unexpressed but the conclusion? Why did you call upon me? I do not know. But you had to do it. Why did you not go next door? I could not: I was brought to your door, and you have an answer to my question, and you will give it. There were certain Greeks, and they came to Philip, and Philip to Andrew. Very singular that these are the only two disciples that have Greek names. "Philip" is Greek, "Andrew" is Greek, and "they" were Greek, and they got together: how? We cannot tell. Why did we go? We do not know why we went. Why did we not go? We cannot tell why we did not go. Are there ghosts in the air? Yea, verily. The universe is a ghost: we have made it into something vulgar. How does like come to like? How does the magnet attract its own metal? Why this stirring among all the filings? Is some one breathing upon them? No. Is some one touching them? No. How they move! What is it? A magnet held over them, or under them, or at some little distance from them. It is singular that the Greeks should find the Greeks, and that the Greeks who were found should be only Greek in name. Who can write the history of love, of sympathy, of friendship, of congeniality, of masonry that has no banqueting-table but at the heart? They are the mysteries of life. In old times names had significations; now they have none. A man will call his son "Philip" or "Apollos" without the slightest reason for doing so. Heathenism has given us our names, and yet we are Christians. We owe the name of every day of the week to pagan mythology, and yet we are followers of Christ. We call a man jovial, jolly, jubilant, not knowing that we are talking astrology, that we are going back to the time when the astrologist found in Jupiter the origin and fountain of all these names. We describe a man as "Mercurial," never thinking that the astrologer gave us that name; and we speak of "Saturnine," and "Saturnalia," the dark revel, not knowing that we are talking paganism. Yet we call ourselves a Christian nation. There is a law, inscrutable, indisputable, immeasurable, that brings us together. Every preacher has his own audience. They are all alike, if you could see the right line or stand at the right point of view; their heads are all alike, and their shoulders, and their purpose. We do not see it, because we see nothing, poor moles; but as seen in the right line the preacher and the congregation are one, all moving in the same direction, all excited by the same appetences, all stirred by the same aspiration: the differences are external, superficial, transient; the likeness is a likeness of soul. Why does not a certain preacher get a larger congregation than he does? Because there are not so many people of his sort He cannot get a larger congregation than he has; all that is settled. Why not have gone to some other disciples? Simply because they could not.
What was the appeal, so tender, and so simple, and almost childlike?—"Sir, we would see Jesus." Perhaps it was unconscious, certainly it was imperfect; they did not know what they were going to see, and yet they must see the object of their search. When we come to understand that inquiry the Christian Church will be much enlarged. We cannot all see the same aspect of Jesus; we cannot all take in the same quantity of Christ. One man takes in the good-doer, and follows the Good Shepherd, the good Samaritan, the child-nurse; he cannot go away from him. Another man of another quality and range of imagination takes in all the miracles; he has no doubt about curing the eyes of the blind, unstopping the ears of the deaf, unloosing the tongues of the dumb, and raising the dead, and quieting the seas; he has all that quality of imagination that can take in the whole series; he cannot give up the miracles, the other mind never took them up. A third will find out all the theology, and construct a system for himself, and will put other people in jail who do not adopt what he has written,—he is a broadminded bigot. See as much of Christ as you can. What do you see of him? That is enough; certainly enough to begin with. Have you touched the hem of his garment? By-and-by you shall rest your head upon his beating heart. Did you see him take up a little child and bless it? Hereafter ye shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. Do you say you can understand little parts of the New Testament but not all? Then walk by the light you have, and the light will come more largely as you obey more implicitly. Above all things, do not argue. Obey, serve, sacrifice yourselves; keep close to what little you do see, and ere you are quite aware of it the sun will be in the zenith and you will have as much daylight as you need. Who knows how far his questions reach when they come out of the heart? Blessed be God that we know so little, not because it is little in itself, but because everything we can know is as nothing compared with that which remains to be known. Avoid the men who say they know all things that can be known here and now; and follow implicitly, and honour as with a crown of love, the man who tells you that we know nothing yet as it is and as it will one day be seen, but who charges you with loving exhortation to follow on, to pursue, to press forward. There is life in his voice; it is a resurrection trumpet.
What was the effect of the appeal upon Jesus Christ when Andrew and Philip told him? What did they tell him? See how they went to him and said: "Jesus, there are some Greeks who want to see thee." See the effect. How Jesus Christ erects himself, takes on him the port of a conqueror, and says, Already the fields are white unto the harvest. He did not say, They are only two or three little green blades; we must not make too much of these, presently I will attend to these Greek inquirers.; No: he saw in their coming the fulfilment of prophecy, the coronation of his own wounded head, the uplifting which meant the elevation of the world. In effect he said, They are coming, they were promised to me; I am to have the heathen for mine inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for my possession, and here I see the beginning of the great promise. He says, The rain is ceasing, the storm is crying itself to rest, and out of these black clouds that are left the sun will make a thousand rainbows, and presently you will hear the voice of the turtle in the land. How much good it did him! Christ needed encouragement; the cup was heavy, the darkness was dense, the Cross was a great burden; to have whispered in his ear by two friends that certain Gentiles wanted to see him was to have heaven opened and the earth turned into one grand cornfield, requiring all the angels for its reaping. To Christ this was not a mere inquiry; it was a revelation. Another quality of mind would have limited it to an inquiry, but Jesus Christ's quality of mind enabled him to multiply it into a revelation. Do not despise small numbers. Certain events are to be weighed; for others it will do to number them. Look at events typically: what do they mean? What do they portend? They are index-fingers; they do not terminate in themselves; they say, The meaning of all this is presently to be seen. The proverb declares that one swallow does not make a summer; but the proverb is wrong, as most proverbs of man's making are; they are only clever, they are not inspired; they are only sharp, they are not philosophical. One swallow does make a summer, typically viewed, rightly understood. No swallow was fool enough to mistake winter for summer; when that swallow came, it said, You may think I have made a mistake, I have made none; mine is an exact calculation; whilst you are making your poor little proverb over me I will be joined by a thousand other swallows, and then away goes your proverb, and a dozen more, and the summer will be here presently. Thus Jesus Christ judged of events. Does one man pray? If so, the whole world will presently be on its knees. That one man is the pledge of all men. Christians must take this view of events, otherwise they will often be discouraged. If there has been one man saved, that means the salvation of the whole world, if the world will receive the Son of God. What then becomes of your statistical inquiries? What do they amount to? They amount to arithmetic, not to philosophy, certainly not to revelation. What is the right way of looking at circumstances? To look at them in their typical significance, in their symbolical suggestiveness; not to say, Here is one green blade, but, Here is the beginning of harvest; not, Here is one poor man praying, but, Here is the first man, and the others will presently join him. All events are related, and interrelated, and a mysterious "therefore" connects all the so-called accidents of time.
How Jesus Christ always rejoiced when any outsider came to him! It is most instructive to notice the difference in Jesus Christ's mental mood when any heathen came and wanted to speak to him. Said he on one occasion, "Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." On another occasion he said, "There hath not returned to give glory to God, save this stranger." On another occasion he said that a Samaritan came where the dying man was. Thus he rebuked the Jew; he would not accord to the Jews, locally and temporarily his own nation, the honour of having cured or helped the wounded man; it was upon the head of a Samaritan, a stranger, an outsider, that he put his crown. And the Syrophenician woman overthrew him in the friendly wrestle, lifted him up and threw him by the might of love. He wished to be so overthrown; he loves to be beaten in a controversy when he tries our faith, and momentarily obscures our hope that afterwards he may fill it with a brighter light; he loves to give way under the pressure of that gracious violence which takes the kingdom of heaven as if by storm. How his heart glowed! How he leaped beyond the Cross and entered into his glory! How eloquently he talked when he heard of these Greeks asking about him! Said he,—
"The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour."
How little these Greeks knew what they were doing! How little you know what you would do if you were to return to your human father to-night and say to him, "Father, I have sinned." It would make the old man young again; the midnight would be as the midday, and there would be no fire hot enough in the house to cook the smoking feast. A question may revive and reconstruct a life. Are men to remain outside us always? Is there to be no time of dawn-breaking, heart-yielding, hand-uplifting? You will not always be an outsider. The outside is cold; the inside is home and love and safety. To Jesus Christ all nature was full of symbols: "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." There comes a time when it is difficult to distinguish between the spring and the harvest. There may be four months according to the almanac, but there are not four moments according to the spiritualised imagination, the fancy fired from the holy altar; then the spring is the harvest, the seed-time is the gathering time, the outgoing is the home-coming, and the field is but the road to the granary.
Then he knew there was something to be done. For a moment the depression returned; the Cross had yet to be carried—"Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say?" Note the punctuation of this verse, for everything depends upon that, "Now is my soul troubled; shall I say, Father, save me from this hour?" Put the mark of interrogation after the word "hour"; then you have the whole meaning,—"Now is my soul troubled; shall I say, Father, save me from this hour?" Then he answers himself: "For this cause came I into the world; for this cause came I unto this hour"; I will not say, Save me from this hour: I will say, Father, glorify thy name. Then there came a voice from heaven, saying, "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him." Thus it always is: there are always two explanations of events: the vulgar will call the explanation thunder, and the spiritually refined will call it an angel. Would we see Jesus? Then say so. The very saying of it will be the realisation of it. Say so to the right people. The unbeliever can never show you Jesus. The man who lectures against the Cross can never expound it. Say so with the right spirit; mean it, insist upon it, and there is no cloud in heaven that will not shake out of it the stars that belong to your faith. To have seen everything but Jesus is to have seen nothing. Where can we see Jesus? Really only in one place. We say of certain men, You have never seen them until you have seen them in debate; you have never heard certain men speak until you have heard them in high argument; you have never seen certain other men until you have seen them at home, in the midst of domestic surroundings; other men you have never seen till you have beheld them under some strain that developed their quality and tried their temper. Of Christ we may say we have never seen him until we have seen him on Calvary,
Almighty God, we know thee through thy Son. We see not God, but we see Jesus: it is enough. He fills our vision with glory; his presence is an overflowing blessing in the soul. Lord, abide with us. There is no darkness where thou art; thou art the Light of the world; there is no need of the sun in thy heaven; thou art the light thereof, none other is needed. If we be in thee, thou Light of the world, we ourselves shall become children of light; then shall we let our light so shine before men, that they, seeing our good works, may glorify our Father which is in heaven. May we understand somewhat of the ministry of light, may we in very deed be children of the day; let us say to our souls, The night is over and gone, we now stand in heaven's eternal dawn. May we live in the morning of thy love; may our path be as the shining light, shining more and more unto the perfect day, because in our hearts we are just. Help us to obey thee more and more, with a tenderer love, a fuller obedience, a more persistent constancy: in obedience is growing life, and in growing life is growing light: leave us not, thou Light of the universe. We pray for light whilst kneeling at the Cross; there is no other altar for sinners that are lost. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and we are now found at the foot of the Cross by no will or motion of our own, but by the overflowing and ineffable grace of Christ. There is room for all at the Cross; may the worst know that the Cross was set up most of all for him. May the prodigal return, may the backslider retrace his steps, may the cold in heart be warmed this day; inflame us with heavenly zeal, thou God the Holy Ghost. Amen.