Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!
I. We understand from such a sentence as this, what a true, calm judgment of life the New Testament furnishes. It tells us the worst; it does not gloss things over. Its writers and teachers are not carried away by enthusiasm. They do not paint the world, even as it is to be in the light of Christian truth as a Utopia, a happy dreamland of perfection. We remember who it was that pronounced this sentence. Not one who despaired of humanity, not a cynic to whom its weaknesses were matter for sarcasm, but one who, for all its vice and weakness, "so loved the world," and so hoped all things and believed all things of the world, that He came from heaven to live in it and to die for it. And yet, in spite of this, He could say calmly, "It is impossible"—so God had allowed it to be—and proceed to warn and to persuade and to work for men and with men, as though the necessary existence of temptation did not lessen human responsibility, or make impossible the preservation of innocence or the growth of holiness.
II. Notice two or three applications of our Lord's words. (1) A life of selfish enjoyment can hardly escape being a life through which offence comes. It is hard to live before others a life which is easier than theirs—more guarded and furnished with appliances of comfort and pleasure—without causing some harm to them, it may be by rousing envy, it may more easily be by setting before them a wrong ideal, strengthening in them the dangerous sense that a man's life consists in the abundance of the things that he possesses. (2) Our Lord's words give the key to one side of human sin and wretchedness. "It is impossible but that offences will come"—impossible but that one man's wickedness or folly should lead to sin and wretchedness in others; impossible even in a world Christian in name and profession; impossible even when men are trying in a sense and degree to live as Christians. It is a question that we must be always asking ourselves, whether we are so living as to help or to injure these near us—those who look up to us, those who breathe the same air with us, those who will in any way form a standard from our acts and character.
E. C. Wickham, Wellington College Sermons, p. 232.
Reference: Luke 17:3-5.—Good Words, vol. iii., p. 700.
Luke 17:5There is a twofold difficulty in this passage: (1) The manner in which Christ receives the prayer of the Apostles seems to be not such as we should have expected; and, (2) the connection of thought between the prayer for increase of faith and the Parable of the Unprofitable Servant is far from obvious. I ask then—
I. What was there wrong,—or, if not wrong, at least unsatisfactory or ignorant—in the prayer which the Apostles made to Christ in the text? I believe the explanation is this, that the Apostles betrayed in their prayer an ignorance of the true meaning and province of faith; the Lord had just been impressing upon them a plain practical duty, that of forgiving each other their offences, and the Apostles feeling how hard it would be for human nature to fulfil this command, admitting that justice of the Lord's injunction, and fearing lest they should be tempted to forget it, make the prayer that He would increase their faith—as though faith were a kind of preservative from sin of which the more we had the better, as though a certain amount of faith would prevent a man from falling, just as a certain amount of medicine might cure a complaint; and as though if they had only faith enough given to them by God's grace they could be perfect in their walk through this world, and sure of life in the world to come. What is the Lord's reply? He tells them that if they have faith at all, they have in them that principle which can work miracles, faith no doubt admits of growth, but how? just by the performance of those practical duties which the Lord had enjoined; it is not for a man to say, "I cannot do such and such things, because I have not faith enough;" but rather to strive to increase His faith by doing God's will.
II. Faith, then, is represented by Christ as that which, if only possessed in the magnitude of a mustard seed, may be capable of great spiritual results; it is not the size of the seed which determines its importance, a portion of a large seed is not the same as the whole of a small one; no, the seed contains a principle of life; and so faith in the heart, if it be but genuine, may grow and bear most wonderful fruits. The prayer of the Apostles in the text is at least one which requires caution in the use; and it becomes positively mischievous if it implies the thought that any gift of faith from God, any supernatural influence, any inspiration from above, can be a substitute for the patient development of the seed of God's grace, the watering of it with prayer, the keeping it clear from noxious intertwining weeds, the pruning and dressing of the tree—in fact, the thorough devotion of our spiritual energies to carrying on the work of grace.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 3rd series, p. 168.
Not quite sure—There are no sadder words; none at all. Every other trouble could be borne, if we were but delivered from doubt; if we were but perfectly sure of certain things which good people often say. The prayer of the text for many men and many women is a very old one. Day and night it ought to go up, to where prayer goes; the prayer the Apostle made to Jesus Christ: "Increase our faith."
I. I put quite aside the special use which they, perhaps, wished to make of a strong faith. Perhaps they thought to work mighty works, which we have not the least desire to do. It is faith to believe which we desire and ask for: faith to be perfectly sure. Give us more faith; firmer faith, constant faith; faith that does not ebb and flow: faith that is always there. It is a great thing to ask. There is a thread of the sceptic, even of the infidel, in many a good Christian. There come the agnostic moments into many a saintly life. So we come, we who are professed Christians, to God Almighty, with the prayer made in solemn earnestness: "Give us more faith."
II. It will not do in these days, to pretend that there are no difficulties in the way of a firm belief. But in the face of all difficulties, we take our stand here: that there is evidence adequate to the healthy mind, which proves the grand doctrines by which we live; that there is a God; a future life; that Christ was here; and if here at all, our Sacrifice and Saviour. I need not try to reckon up, or rehearse, the many truths which come of these, which multiply and are ramified into every detail of our daily life, always more and more as we grow older. These are the things we pray to believe. These are the things we have imperfectly in our minds, when we go to God and cry to Him with an earnestness beyond all words: "Oh give us more faith."
III. By what means shall we get increase of faith? (1) By asking it from God in earnest and continual prayer. (2) By keeping out of harm's way. There is a moral atmosphere laden with unbelief. Keep out of the society of unbelievers. Irreverence and flippancy and self-conceit are the characteristics of any whom you are likely to know. Such company cannot possibly do you good. It is almost certain to do you harm. (3) Stand in fear of any permitted sin. Not morally only, but intellectually too, you do not know how it may harm you, incapacitate you, pervert you. Pray with the Psalmist, "Cleanse Thou me from secret faults; keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins."
A. K. H. B., Towards the Sunset, p. 1.
References: Luke 17:5.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxii., No. 1318; J. Kennedy, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 17; H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 420. Luke 17:6.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 253; Expositor, 1st series, vol. ix., p. 307; Ibid., 2nd series, vol. iii., p. 207. Luke 17:7-10.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 350; G. Macdonald, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 149; A. B. Bruce, The Parabolic teaching of Christ, p. 168.
Luke 17:8We want some method of investigating spiritual ideas which will give us enough of results to satisfy the intellect, not fully, but sufficiently to permit the spirit to go on in its course without the sacrifice of the intellect. For we are bound to educate and bring into play all the capabilities of our nature; and to sacrifice any one of them is to injure the whole of our being.
I. There is a spiritual world as extended as humanity, and to assert its existence is no more to beg the question than the assertion of a physical world. I mean by it the world of the human heart in its relations to the idea of God, and to all the feelings and actions which cluster round that idea. Then there are the innumerable facts which have been recorded of the varied and passionate feelings of individuals in their relation to their idea of God, and of the lives which flowed from these feelings: every appetite mental or physical, every passion of humanity being profoundly modified and changed by being brought into contact with certain large religious thoughts. It is ridiculous to deny the existence of these phenomena, or to explain them as diseases of the mind. What should be the method of the sceptic who is desirous of finding truth? He should take all the facts he can find, he should classify them as far as possible, he should not blind himself to any, and he should bring them up to the theories and say to them, "Do you explain that?" He should test religious theories by religious facts. I cannot imagine, keeping myself strictly within logical limits, how the atheistic theory in any form can stand that test It does not explain a millionth part of the phenomena; and in place of any proof, it substitutes another theory, which it gives no proof, that the facts are not what they seem, or that they know nothing about their explanation, which is giving up the whole affair—a very unscientific mode of proceeding.
II. But there are certain grand Christian ideas, which go naturally with each other, which, as it were, infer each other, and which, taken together, form a theory of the relation between God and man, which I do think explains the greater part of the spiritual phenomena of the world of man. Take, then, the facts of the spiritual history of the world and of your own personal life. Bring them to these ideas—to this theory. See if it will explain them, see if it does not of itself arrange them into order, see if it does not harmonise them into a whole; and I venture to say that you will find things growing clearer and clearer, difficulties melting away—or, at least, such light coming upon them that you seem to know that they will melt away. We have faith enough now not to despair, and our cry is this, "Lord, increase our faith."
S. A. Brooke, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 108.
Luke 17:10Reliance on Religious Observances. Consider how this danger of over-reliance on religious observances is counteracted in the case of serious minds.
I. The evil in question—supposing it to exist—is singularly adapted to be its own corrective. It can only do us injury when we do not know its existence. When a man feels and knows the intrusion of self-satisfied and self-complacent thoughts, here is something at once to humble him and destroy that complacency. To know of a weakness is always humbling. Now humility is the very grace needed here. Knowledge of our indolence does not encourage us to exertion, but induces despondence; but to know we are self-satisfied is a direct blow to self-satisfaction. Here is one great safeguard against our priding ourselves on our observances. Evil thoughts do us no harm, if recognised, if repelled, if protested against by the indignation and self-reproach of the mind.
II. But, again, if religious persons are troubled with proud thoughts about their own excellence and strictness, I think it is only when they are young in their religion, and that the trial will wear off; and that for many reasons. It does not require much keenness of spiritual sight to see how very far our best is from what it ought to be. Try to do your whole duty, and you will soon cease to be well-pleased with your religious state. If you are in earnest, you will try to add to your faith virtue, and the more you effect the less will you seem to yourself to do. The more you neglect your daily domestic, relative, temporal, duties the more you will pride yourself on your formal, ceremonial observances.
III. The objection that devotional exercises tend to self-righteousness, is the objection of those—or, at least, is just what the objection of those would be—who never attempted them. A religious mind has a perpetual humiliation from this consciousness—namely, how far his actual conduct in the world falls short of the profession which his devotional exercises involve.
IV. But, after all, what is this shrinking from responsibility, which fears to be obedient lest it should be, but cowardice and ingratitude? To fear to do our duty, lest we should become self-righteous in doing it, is to be wiser than God; it is to distrust Him; it is to do and to feel like the unprofitable servant, who hid his lord's talent and then laid the charge of his sloth on his lord, as being a hard and austere man.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. iv., p. 66.
References: Luke 17:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1541; J. Thain Davidson, Sure to Succeed, p. 279; J. H. Thom, Laws of Life, vol. i., p. 182; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 132; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 32. Luke 17:11-14.—W. Wilson, Christ setting His Face to go to Jerusalem, p. 126. Luke 17:11-19.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 152; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 85. Luke 17:12-14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1635. Luke 17:14-16.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 161.
Luke 17:15-18The Ten Lepers. There are, speaking broadly, three chief reasons for unthankfulness on the part of man towards God—
I. An indistinct idea or an under-estimate of the service that He renders us.
II. A disposition, whether voluntary or not, to lose sight of our Benefactor.
III. The notion that it does not matter much to Him whether we acknowledge His benefits or not.
Gratitude is our bounden duty, because it is the acknowledgment of a hard fact—the fact that all things come of God; the fact that we are utterly dependent upon Him; the fact that all existence, all life, is but an overflow of His love; because to blink this fact is to fall back into the darkness and to forfeit that strength which comes always and everywhere with the energetic acknowledgment of truth. Morally speaking, the nine lepers were not the men they would have been if, at the cost of some trouble, they had accompanied the one who, "when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God... giving Him thanks."
H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 455.
References: Luke 17:15-19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii., No. 1935. Luke 17:17.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. ii., p. 161. Luke 17:17, Luke 17:18.—C. Kingsley, Town and Country Sermons, p. 375; Homilist, vol. vii., p. 207.
Luke 17:19I. Of the unthankfulness which so seriously depresses and blights our whole modern Christian life, one reason, in many cases, is that we do not see our great Benefactor. I do not forget that some of us may feel true gratitude to those human friends who have been kind to us in years past, and who are now out of sight. But take men in the mass, and it is quite otherwise. Little by little, as the years pass, too many of us forget the benefits that we owe to the dead. The pressure, the importunity of the present and of the seen makes us overlook the great debt of thought and love which we owe to the past and the unseen. Then God's very generosity only provokes our unthankfulness. He keeps out of sight, and we take it for granted that He would show Himself if He could, that His agency is only invisible because it is shadowy or unreal.
II. A second cause of unthankfulness is our imperfect appreciation of God's gifts. The true source of this is that dulness, that harshness of spiritual perception which health and prosperity too often inflict upon the soul. We cannot see clearly through the thick film which has thus been formed over the spiritual eye. If we did see, we should own with full and thankful hearts that love is love, blessings are blessings, salvation is salvation, whether we share them with the many or the few.
III. And a third reason in many minds against cultivating and expressing thankfulness to God—men do not mention it, but it is the utilitarian one—men do not see the good of thankfulness. The value of prayer, of course, in Christian eyes is plain enough. Christians believe that certain blessings are to be obtained from God through the instrumentality of prayer, and not to obey is to forfeit the blessings which prayer obtains. "But thankfulness," men say to themselves, "what does it win for us that is not already ours without it? God blesses us out of the joy of doing so; and whether we thank Him or not must be of small concern to such a Being as He is." Certainly, God does not expect to be repaid for His benevolence by any equivalent in the way of thanksgiving that you or I can possibly offer Him. And yet He will have us thank Him, not for His own sake, but for ours. Just as prayer is the recognition of our dependence upon God amid the darkness and uncertainties of the future, so thankfulness is the recognition of our indebtedness to God for the blessings of the past. And to acknowledge truth like this is always moral strength; to refuse to acknowledge truth like this is always moral weakness.
H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 129.
Reference: Luke 17:19.—G. Macdonald, Miracles of Our Lord, p. 93.
Luke 17:20Secrecy and Suddenness of Divine Visitations.
I. It is impossible that the visitations of God should be other than secret and sudden, considering how the world goes on in every age. Men who are plunged in the pursuits of active life are no judges of its course and tendency on the whole. They confuse great events with little, and measure the importance of objects, as in perspective, by the mere standard of nearness or remoteness. It is only at a distance that one can take in the outlines and features of a whole country. It is but holy Daniel, solitary among princes, or Elijah, the recluse of Mount Carmel, who can withstand Baal, or forecast the time of God's providences among the nations. To the multitude all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. The business of state affairs, the movements of society, the course of nature, proceed as ever, till the moment of Christ's coming. Pride infatuates man, and self-indulgence and luxury work their way unseen—like some smouldering fire, which for a time leaves the outward form of things unaltered. At length the decayed mass cannot hold together, and breaks by its own weight, or on some slight and accidental external violence. This inward corruption of a nation seems to be meant in our Lord's words when He says of Jerusalem, "Where soever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together."
II. From the occurrences of this day let us take comfort when we despond about the state of the Church. Perhaps we see not God's tokens; we see neither prophet nor teacher remaining to His people; darkness falls over the earth, and no protesting voice is heard. Yet, granting things to be at their very worst, still, when Christ was presented in the Temple, the age knew as little of it as it knows of His providence now. Rather, the worse our condition is, the nearer to us is the advent of our Deliverer. Even though He is silent, doubt not that His army is on the march towards us. He is coming through the sky, and has even now His camp upon the outskirts of our world. The greater His delay, the heavier will be His vengeance, and the more complete the deliverance of His people.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. ii., p. 107.
I. "Not with observation." "God manifest in the flesh" was a phenomenon the like of which had never yet been seen, and which throws every other event in the annals of man utterly into the shade. And what amount of public notice did it attract? The villagers of Bethlehem could find no room for the heavenly Visitant in their hostelry; they little heeded the manger-grotto outside where He, the, Infinite in human form, was laid alongside of the ox and the ass. Truly then the kingdom of God had come, but "not with observation."
II. And when He who was the Centre and Sun of the Church, Jesus our Lord, had been crucified and had risen and founded His kingdom as His own Church, it still for many a year continued to illustrate this its early and Divine characteristic: it came among men "not with observation."
III. As with the Church so with the soul, the law holds good that the kingdom comes not with observation. The great change of conversion most assuredly "cometh not with observation." All the more solemn and precious incidents in the life of the spirit of man do not court observation, but they elude, they shrink from it.
H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 1,126.
We must be careful to distinguish concerning what kingdom and what coming our Saviour is speaking.
I. The Pharisees—who in common not only with their own countrymen, but almost with the whole Eastern world, were looking at that moment, though not according to knowledge, for the expectation of Israel—demanded one day of Christ "when the kingdom of God should come." And to them He made the answer, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation." Now the answer must have run in the line of the question; and therefore it must have referred to the first and then expected advent of our Lord; and it was concerning the establishment of the kingdom of grace that He said, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation."
II. It is interesting and very important to trace—for it contains a deep, spiritual lesson—how unobservableness is the characteristic of all God's great approaches to man. The workings of God's grace are, for the most part, not only beyond but contrary to, our calculation. God is mounting up to His grand design; but we cannot see the steps of His ascent. We look back, but we marvel at the line of the processes; and as each came in its order it was so simple that it escaped our observation, or so minute that it baffled our perception.
III. It seems to be the general rule of all that is sublime that its motions shall be unseen. Who can discern the movements of the planets—whose evolutions we admire, whose courses guide our path? The day breaks, and the day sets, but who can fix the boundaries of the night, the boundaries of the darkness? You may watch the departing of summer beauty— as the leaves are swept by the autumn wind—but can the eye trace its movements? Does not everything on the earth and in the earth proclaim that "the kingdom of God cometh not with observation"? We must remember that the principle of God's universal government is to produce the grandest issues by the unlikeliest of means. Only give your best and do your best, and thus, by these little ripples, the great tide of truth sets in upon this world. Great opportunities pass by noiselessly, the highest claims plead quietly, and the deepest responsibilities roll in their stillnesses—"for the kingdom of God cometh not with observation."
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 2nd series, p. 257.
Luke 17:20-21God's Kingdom Invisible.
The true character of God's kingdom is ghostly and inward. It has its seat in the hearts of men, in their moral habits, in their thoughts, actings, and affections, in the form and the bias of their moral being; the visible forms we see are but the shadow of the reality. God's kingdom is the obedience of the unseen spirit of man to the unseen Lord of all. We see, then, what it is; and we see, therefore, how we may fall into a fault like that of the Jews, by transmuting the true idea of its spiritual character into the base alloy of earthly notions.
I. If we look for Christ's kingdom among the popular theories of religious and political speculators, we shall look for the living among the dead. We have great need to guard against this danger, for the popular opinion of this day, whether in politics or religion, leads to an earthly conception of the Church, as of a thing subject to the senses and understanding of man. A second danger to which men are now tending is, to think that God's kingdom is to be spread by visible excitement of people's minds. The whole scheme of modern religion is visible motion. All its machinery is on the surface; all its momentum is from without. There has been, from the beginning of the Gospel, an inwardness, an invisibleness, about all great movements of Christ's Church which ought to abash the hasty, talkative zeal of men into a reverent silence.
II. Knowing, then, the character of God's kingdom we shall know how to keep ourselves from these delusive schemes, and how to spread it on the earth. We shall know (1) that the way to spread it is to have it ruling in ourselves, to have our own spirit brought into harmony with its secret workings. It is still by the strength of a holy character that we must leave the stamp of God upon the world. (2) And by knowing the character of that kingdom, we shall know, too, how to make that character our own; that is, chiefly by a life of inward holiness. (3) And to sustain this character within us, at all times, we must remember that God's kingdom is at all times present with us.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. i., p. 172.
References: Luke 17:20.—H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 353; J. H. Thom, Laws of Life, vol. ii., p. 76. Luke 17:20, Luke 17:21.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi. p. 173; Ibid., vol. xxii., p. 121.
Luke 17:21Let us consider the kingdoms which are not material, but of a finer substance than matter, and whose forces and powers are represented by other than materialistic ones. Of these kingdoms we mention three—
I. The kingdom of Mind. (1) Its creations are immortal; (2) its kings suffer no dethronement. At the motion of their hands our thoughts start up for service. Their kingdom is like a sea that has no shore; it is limitless. The race of man, irrespective of local boundaries, irrespective of governmental divisions, acknowledges the supremacy of their dominion.
II. The kingdom of the Heart. Where, in this kingdom, will you find any signs of age, any evidence of weariness, any vestige of decay, any proof that it has an end? Look where you will; sight it from whatever point of view you choose; measure it by whatever standard your ingenuity can invent, and you will find that this kingdom is a kingdom that knows not the measurement of time, that suffers not the infringements of age, that has never felt, and may never feel, the weakening of duration.
III. The kingdom of Soul. The kingdom of the mind naturally suggests man; the kingdom of the heart naturally suggests companionship and social communings; the kingdom of soul represents eternity. It represents God and the beings that are allied to God, and are of Him as the Son is of the Father. But the forces of the kingdom of soul are not to be seen in action like the former, and the reason is because this is not the sphere and the realm of their action. What refers to matter here has reference to earth and time; but soul refers to spirit, and has reference to heaven and eternity; and it is only by a mighty swing upwards, of ourselves, that we can reach that level of contemplation. Ranging our sight along which we behold the multitudinous activities of the soul. It is over this inward kingdom that Christ rules. It is within this kingdom that He energises. It is out of this kingdom that His glory has to proceed. And they who search to discern Him in spirit and life, in holy expression of consecrated faculty, in the energy of capacities dedicated to God, shall find Him; and they shall find that in these He is all in all.
W. H. Murray, The Fruits of the Spirit, p. 334.
Though the "kingdom of God," in its highest sense, certainly occupies space, we are quite sure, nevertheless, that we shall find heaven much more a state than a place. We know already, even here, that happiness does not depend on where we are. Happiness is a condition of mind. We carry about with us a feeling which makes the atmosphere, which determines the colour of the prospect. And what is all this? What is this great moral truth, which commends itself to every man's experience, but an approach to, and a part of, that truth, "The kingdom of God is within you"? But only a part; we have to look at it in a far higher meaning.
I. I believe that every one, in this present world, is gradually but surely ripening, and getting like the state—whichever the state may be—where he is to live for ever and for ever. The final condition of a saint in glory is only the growth and the increase and the extension of his life on earth. He has been constantly assimilating to his own perfected condition in another world. The heaven is in him long before he goes to heaven.
II. Heaven, we are led to expect, will be: (1) Light. But what are the emanations of that light? Truth, clearness, uprightness. And that is heaven. If you are a child of God, there is in your heart, transparency, strict justice, perfect truthfulness. The kingdom of heaven is within you. (2) Harmony. If you are a man that loves unity, if you hate variance, if you are doing all that in you lies to make the Church's unity—then, in so far, the kingdom of God is within you. (3) Singleness of purpose. Whichever of us can say, "One thing I do—whether I eat or drink, whatever I do, I try to do it to the glory of God"—then of that one I assert, "The kingdom of God is within you." (4) Humility—every angel covering his face with his wing. If I see a man very little in his own eyes I know that the kingdom of God is within him. (5) Through all heaven, it is the one felt Presence of Christ which is, to all hearts, all their joy; because He is there, therefore it is what it is. And, just according to what Jesus is to you, and you are to Jesus—the more would an angel of truth, if he visited this church to-night, say of that soul of yours, "The kingdom of God is within you."
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 4th series, p. 15.
References: Luke 17:21.—E. Johnson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 163.—G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons to English Congregations in India, p. 219; C. Kingsley, National Sermons, p. 176; Bishop Boyd Carpenter, Church of England Pulpit, vol. iii., pp. 56, 92; Homilist, new series, vol. ii., p. 371. Luke 17:22.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxii., No. 1323. Luke 17:22, Luke 17:23.—D. G. Watt, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 104.
Luke 17:32We have in this text a warning of a peculiar character; we see in it a type of the just wrath of God against those who, having been once mercifully delivered, shall afterwards fall back. Lot's wife was, by a distinguishing election of God, and by the hands of angels, saved from the overthrow of the wicked. We by the same deep counsel of God have been translated from death to life. She perished in the very way of safety. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." Lot's wife is the type of those who fall from baptismal grace.
I. Any measure of declension from our baptismal grace is a measure of that same decline of which the end is hopelessly a fall from God. I say, it is a measure of the same movement; as a day is a measure of a thousand years. It is a state and inclination of heart which differs from absolute apostacy not in kind, but only in degree.
II. We must also learn from this example, that all such fallings back from our baptismal grace are great provocations of God's most righteous severity. The sin of Lot's wife was not only disobedience, but ingratitude. There are two things which God hates—backsliding and lukewarmness; and there are two which He will avenge—an alienated heart, and a will at war with His.
III. If these things be so, how shall we hold fast our steadfastness? There is no other sure way, but only this—ever to press on to a life of deeper devotion, to a sharper repentance and more earnest prayers, to a more sustained consciousness of God's continual presence, and to a keener watchfulness against the first approaches of temptation; but one or two plain rules is all that can now be offered in particular. (1) First of all, then, beware of remembering past faults without repentance. The recollection of our sins is safe only when it is a part of our self-chastisement. To look back upon them without shame or sorrow, is to offend again. (2) Another thing to beware of is, making excuses for our present faults without trying to correct them. Nothing so wears down the sharpness of conscience, and dulls its perception of our actual state, as self-excusing. (3) Lastly, beware of those particular forms of temptation which have already once held you in their power, or sapped your better resolutions.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. i., p. 34.
References: Luke 17:32.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1491; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 421; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 1st series, p. 303; Homilist, new series, vol. iii., p. 591.
Luke 17:34, Luke 17:36I. Our Lord in order to press upon us the great law of our self-determination, to help us to be honest with ourselves, carries us into the heart of things as they are in a startling fashion. He holds up to us three typical instances of sudden, sharp, and decisive separations which the crisis of His coming will produce. People that look the same now will be seen to be different. The day will declare them. Great occasions evolve character and create divergencies, but these divergencies had their roots long before, in the dark places of many and many a secret determination. In the closest friendship, in the most familiar intercourse, in the meeting of the same kind of circumstances divergencies grow and grow, separations are being evolved more and more decisively and infinitely. So powerless, so less than nothing are circumstances, so impotent to produce a result. So imperious is character, so free from the control of the very circumstances which are its daily occasions.
II. When Christ comes, when He meets me, then shall I know myself. Underneath us now yawns the pit of failure, close to us is the weakness born of past indulgence, but above us and with us is God, our Refuge, our Strength, our Hope. God, who will not be trifled with, who will not let us make excuses because He loves our real selves too well, and sees that they will not help us. Let us turn to Him who is our only Hope amid the treasons of our wills and the disloyalties of our hearts; let us turn to Him as those who have trodden the same road before us turned in their desolation. "Nevertheless, I am always by Thee; Thou hast holden me by Thy right hand.' Thus kept and consecrated the busiest life may be the truest to God, and the most monotonous occupation may be the most fruitful, and the very distractions and infirmities that beset us, and the memories of old sins that haunt us, may drive us closer to God; and we, with all our consciousness of weakness and sin, may be found to be His own in wish and heart and aspiration in that day of separation, when the eagles shall be gathered together, when every life shall openly declare its only true and real desire.
R. Eyton, Cambridge Review, Feb. 24th, 1886.
References: Luke 17:37.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 12; D. Fraser, Metaphors of the Gospels, p. 233. Luke 17—Homilist, new series, vol. iii., p. 359; F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, p. 263. Luke 18:1.—J. Kennedy, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 33; E. W. Shalders, Ibid., vol. xxiv., p. 124; T. B. Stevenson, Ibid., vol. xxxi., p. 394; T. Child, Ibid., vol. xi., p. 51; F. O. Morris, Ibid., vol. xvii., p. 88; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 320; J. M. Neale, Sermons in a Religious House, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 293.
It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?
Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.
So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.
And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.
For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.
But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.
And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.
They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.
Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;
But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.
Remember Lot's wife.
Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.
I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.
Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.