And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem.…
I. Our Saviour means to intimate, that THIS SILENCE WOULD BE VILE. Let us, then, proceed with this dismal business, and arraign this fearful silence.
1. We tax it, first, with the most culpable ignorance. If you found a man, who was entirely insensible to Milton's "Paradise Lost," or Cowper's "Task," dead to the touches of Raffael's pencil, to all the beautiful and sublime scenery of nature, to all that is illustrious and inspiring in human disposition and action, you would be ready to say, "Why, this senselessness is enough to make a stone speak." But where are we now? Men may be undeserving of the praise they obtain; or if the praise be deserved in the reality, it may be excessive in the degree; but there can be no excess here. It is impossible to ascribe titles too magnificent, attributes too exalted, adorations too intense, to Him who is "fairer than the children of men," who is the "chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely." Now to be insensible to such a Being as this, argues, not merely a want of intellectual, but of moral taste, and evinces, not only ignorance, but depravity. He who died, not for a country, but for the world, and for a world of enemies — He awakens no emotion, no respect. Shame, shame!
2. We charge this silence, secondly, with the blackest ingratitude I need not enlarge on this hateful vice. The proverb says, "Call a man ungrateful, and you call him everything that is bad." The Lacedaemonians punished ingratitude. "The ungrateful," says Locke, "are like the sea; continually receiving the refreshing showers of heaven, and turning them all into salt." "The ungrateful," says South, "are like the grave; always receiving, and never returning." But nothing can equal your ingratitude, if you are silent. For you will observe, that other beneficiaries may have some claim upon their benefactors, from a community of nature or from the command of God; but we have no claim, we are unworthy of the least of all His mercies.
3. We tax this silence with shameful cruelty. We arc bound to do all the good in our power. If we have ourselves received the knowledge of Christ, we are bound to impart it. If the inhabitants of a village were dying of a disease, and you had the remedy, and held your peace; if you saw a fellow-creature going to drink a deadly poison, and instead of warning him you held your peace; if you saw even a poor stranger going to pass over a deep and deadly river, upon a broken bridge, and you knew that a little lower down there was a marble one, and you held your peace; is there a person, that would ever pass you without standing still and looking round upon you and exclaiming, "You detestable wretch, you infamous villain, you ought not to live!" "If these should hold their peace, the stones would cry out." How is it, then, that we have so much less moral feeling than the lepers had, when they said, "This is a good day," and reflecting upon their starving babes said, "If we altogether hold our peace, some evil will befall us; let us therefore go and tell the king's household"?
II. Secondly, our Saviour seems to intimate, that THIS SILENCE IS DIFFICULT. Now we often express a difficulty by an obvious impossibility. The Jews said, "Let Him come down from the cross, and we will believe on Him." Their meaning was, that they could not believe on Him; for the condition seemed to them impossible. The Saviour here says, "You impose silence upon these disciples, but this is impossible; yes, they will hold their peace when dumb nature shall become vocal, and not before." "If these should hold their peace, the stones would cry out;" that is, their principles will actuate them, their feelings must have operation and utterance. If you could enter heaven, you would find that there He attracts every eye, and fills every heart, and employs every tongue. And in the Church below there is a degree of the same inspiration.
1. The impressions that Christ makes upon His people by conviction are very powerful.
2. The impressions He produces by hope are very powerful.
3. The impressions He produces by love are very powerful. He so attaches His disciples to Himself by esteem and gratitude, as to induce them to come out of the world, to deny themselves, to take up their cross, and to be willing to follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.
III. Our Saviour here intimates further, that THIS SILENCE WOULD BE USELESS. "If," says He, "those of whom you complain were to hold their peace, you would gain nothing by their silence; there would not be a cessation of My praise, but only a change of instruments and voices; rather than My praise should be suspended, what they decline others would be sure to rise up to perform; if these should hold their peace, the stones would cry out."
1. First, we shall glance at the supposed silence.
2. And, secondly, observe the improbable instruments that are employed to perpetuate the testimony. It is not said, "If these should hold their peace the angels would cry out, men would cry out"; no; "the stones would cry out." Can stones live? can stones preach and write and translate the Scriptures? Can they aid in carrying on such a cause as this? Why not? He can employ, and often does employ, the most unlikely characters. The wrath of man praiseth Him. We see this in the case of Henry the Eighth. It is of great importance to know whether we are God's servants, or whether we are God's enemies; but as to Him, He can employ one as well as another. This was the case with Saul of Tarsus. He was a persecutor once; but then he was called by Divine grace, and preach the faith that once he endeavoured to destroy. All the Lord's people once were enemies: but He found a way into their hearts, and He made them friends. They were all once "stones"; but of these stones God has "raised up children unto Abraham." They were as hard as stones, as insensible as stones, as cold as stones; but they are now flesh, and every feeling of this flesh is alive to God.
3. Thirdly, notice the readiness of their appearance. "If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out." "The King's business requires haste"; both because of its importance, and the fleeting uncertainty of the period in which He will allow it to be performed.
4. Then, lastly, observe the certainty of their appearance, when they become necessary. The certainty of the end infers the certainty of all that is intermediately necessary to it. Upon this principle, our Saviour here speaks; it is, I am persuaded, the very spirit of the passage. "My praise" — as if He should say — "must prevail; and therefore means must be forthcoming to accomplish it, and to carry it on." Let us, first, apply this certainty as the prevention of despair. Secondly; as a check to vanity and pride. My brethren in the ministry, we are not — no, we are not essential to the Redeemer's cause. We are not the Atlases upon which the Church depends; the government is upon His shoulders who filleth all in all. Thirdly; as a spur and diligence and zeal.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem.