Luke 7:19
We have here -

I. A CONSTANT CHARACTERISTIC OF HUMAN GOODNESS. HOW came John to send this message? Was he really doubtful - he who had prepared the way of the Lord, who had baptized him, who had recognized in him the Lamb of God? Even so. Many ingenious theories account for it in some other way, but they do not satisfy. After all, was it surprising that John should begin to doubt? He had been lying in that lonely fortress by the Red Sea for some months; constitutionally active and energetic, he had been doomed to enforced idleness, and had had nothing to do but to form judgments of other people - a very perilous position; what he heard about Jesus may very well have seemed strange and unsatisfactory to him. Our Lord's method was very different from his own. He was living, as John had not done, in the very midst of the people; he was not drawing great crowds whom he excited to tempestuous feeling, but acting, with calm and deep wisdom, on smaller numbers; he was not living an ascetic life; he was not making any very great way according to ordinary human measurement; and John, writhing in captivity, and longing to be out and about in active work, allowed his mind to be affected, his belief to be disturbed, by what he heard and by what he did not hear. Nothing could be more natural, more human. This is human goodness all the world over. Nobility of spirit, self-sacrifice, devoutness, zeal, and infirmity, the partial subsidence of his faith. Who that knows the history of human goodness can be surprised at this? We must take this into the account in our estimate of good men. Infirmity is a constant element of human character. Perfection among the angels of God; perfection for ourselves further on among the glorified; meantime we may bestow our heartiest affection and our unstinted admiration upon those who are aspiring and endeavouring after the highest, but who sometimes fail to be all that they and we could wish that they were.

II. THE BEST PROOFS OF THE DIVINE POWER AND VIRTUE. Christ adduced two powerful proofs that he was indeed the "One that should come."

1. The exercise of benignant power. In that same hour he healed many that came to be cured, and he said to John's disciples, "Go and show your master what benignant power I am exercising; not smiting my enemies with blindness, but making the blind to see; not punishing the liar with leprosy, but pitying the poor leper and making him clean; not raining down fire from heaven on the obdurate, but calling back to life those who had entered the dark region of the dead; visiting the homes of men with health and life and joy."

2. Love for the lowly. "Go and tell John that I am caring much for those for whom men have not cared at all, instructing in heavenly wisdom those whom other teachers have left untaught, lifting up those whom other reformers have been content to leave upon the ground, making heirs of the outcast, making rich for ever the penniless and hopeless - say that 'the blind receive their sight, and the deaf hear,' etc., and forget not to add that 'to the poor the gospel is preached.'" As these disciples came to our Master, so do some approach us now: they come with serious, earnest questioning. "Is the Christian system which we preach the system for our age? is it still the word we want? Or is not the world awaiting another doctrine, another method, another kingdom? Is Jesus Christ the Teacher for us, or do we look for another?" What is our reply?

1. Look at the benignant power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Follow the broad, deep river of beneficence which took its rise at Bethlehem; see what it has been effecting through all these ages; consider what it has done, not only for the physical sufferer - for the blind, for the lame, for the leper, for the lunatic - but what it has done for the poor, for the slave, for the prisoner, for the savage, for the ignorant, for the little child, for woman; consider what it has done for the sorrowful, and for those laden and crushed with a sense of guilt; what it has done for the dying; consider how it has been enlightening and uplifting and transforming the minds and the lives of men; what a blessed beneficent power it has been exerting and is as capable as ever of exerting.

2. Look at the care which the gospel takes of the lowly. Consider the fact that wherever the truth of Christ has been preached in its purity and its integrity, man as man has been approached; all human souls have been treated as of equal and incalculable worth, the poor as well as the rich, the slave as well as his master, the illiterate as well as the learned, the unknown and untitled as well as the illustrious. The gospel has gone among the people, it has made its appeal to the multitude; it is "the common salvation; "it does not content itself with imposing a faith and a cultus upon the nation; it does not rest until it has permeated the entire people with the knowledge and the love of God, and wrought in them the practice of its own pure and lofty principles. Surely this is not a system for Galilee or Syria; this is not a doctrine for one age of the world; it is the ever-living truth of God. Christ is our Teacher, our Saviour, our Lord; we do not look for another. - C.

Art Thou He that should come, or look we for another?
1. Much discussion has taken place concerning John's doubt, whether it was real or affected; and if real, what was its cause? We believe there was doubt in the mind of the Baptist — serious doubt — arising out of no personal or petty source, but caused by the way in which the Messianic career of Jesus was developing itself.

2. This doubt was not in regard to the identity of the worker of the works reported to John with Jesus, but in regard to the nature of the works viewed as Messianic. But why should John stumble at those works, so full of the spirit of love and mercy? Just because they were works of mercy. These were not the sort of works he had expected Messiah to busy Himself with; at all events, so exclusively. Cf. Jonah's zeal for righteousness.

3. The reply sent back by Jesus to John amounted to this, that the sure marks that He was the coming One, the Christ, were just the very works which had awakened John's surprise.

4. Having recounted rapidly His mighty works, Jesus appended the reflection, "And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me." We are not to find in the words traces either of harshness towards John or of wounded feeling in the speaker. The tone of compassion rather than of severity is audible in the utterance. Jesus felt keenly how much John missed by being in such a state of mind that that in His own work which was most godlike was a stumbling-block to him. Translated into positive form the reflection means, "Blessed are they to whom the mercy and the grace of which I am full, and whereof My ministry is the manifestation and outflow, are no stumbling-block, but rather worthy of all acceptation."

(A. B. Bruce, D. D.)

1. Jesus deliberately declined to rest His claims upon any other grounds than the testimony of His Father, a testimony which shone in the truth of His words, and in the heavenly character of His mission.

2. If the Master Himself is willing, nay demands, to be judged by results, manifestly organizations and churches that claim to be called by His name must not shrink from the same test.

3. The only proof of your being in contact with the living Saviour, the only proof that you rightly apprehend and sincerely embrace Him, is the result in your own hearts and conduct. No religion is worth anything that is not a power.

(E. W. Shalders, BA.)

There are times when, through the disappointments and failures of our personal religious lives, it may be necessary to look for another Christ than the Christ we have already known.

1. There are some who have been restless for months, perhaps for years, about their sin. They have appealed to Christ again and again, and the peace of Christ has not come to them. They are tempted to put this question. Christ may reply by pointing them to the great triumphs of His mercy by which they are surrounded. Go to Christ with all your trouble, and with a clear and vivid remembrance of His death, and you cannot put this question.

2. There are some who feel that their Christian life has not had the power and brightness they hoped for. This, also, often arises from a defective knowledge of Christ. Perhaps you have forgotten that He is not only a Saviour, but a Prince, and that you must accept His law as the rule of your life, and strive to get His will done on earth as the will of God is done in heaven.

3. This question may be suggested by the general condition and history of the world, a large part of the world is still unsaved: the misery Jesus came to console still largely unconsoled. Do you look for another Christ? Can the contents of His revelation be anyhow enriched? Can there be more careful warnings, more glorious promises, more compassion, more gentleness and beauty, than there are in Him and His gospel?

4. We do not look for the coming of another Christ, but the Christ whom we know will come in another form, to complete in power and majesty the work which He began in weakness and in shame.

(R. W. Dale, D. D.)

It seems to me that here the Lord prescribes to His Church the answer she should give in all days when men rise up and question whether He comes from God, when men rise up to say to His Church, "Are you the kingdom of God? are you the Divine society established upon earth to be the home of the new life, and the source of a wide-spreading influence? Are you the city set upon a hill that cannot be hid?" When such questions are asked, the Church must be ready, not merely to give proofs of her ancient origin, her orthodox title-deeds drawn from the dusty safes of her theology, but she must be able to say, "Look at my life, my work. See what I am doing for the poor, the destitute, the oppressed, and judge me as you find me." Can the Church of God, in these days, bear such an appeal as that? Can she say, "Look at the asylums I nave founded and support for the poor, the lame, the halt, and the blind! Look at my children giving devoted labour in the lowest dens of your cities; at my sons faithfully striving for the truth in the halls of your legislature; and see in juster laws and a purer life, and a more brotherly relation between man and man, proofs of the power of my spirit, and of the truth of my labours"? She must answer so, and so must you and I, when challenged to prove that we are of God. We hear a great deal in these days about answers to the infidel, about arguments philosophical, historical, and scientific, which shall have the power, in the hands of skilful men, of silencing the antagonist. But a better argument and a mightier that any of these, an argument that never fails, is that derived from the fruits and results of religion in the life. The man who reads your history with criticism, and meets your argument with argument, will bare his head and bow his neck before the spectacle of a holy and devoted life. That he sees is true, whatever else be false; that is of God, whatever becomes of books and institutions.

(Bishop Moorhouse.)

I. THE MESSAGE. What did it mean?

1. To convince his disciples? Not suited to do it; suggesting doubtfulness in their master; impairing previous witness.

2. To reassure himself? At variance with

(1)his character, testimony, Divine assurance.

(2)Words of the Lord (ver. 24), aimed to prevent the supposition.

(3)The occasion. "When he had heard the works of Christ" — the last work being the raising of the dead.

3. Message not of uncertainty, but of impatience. Things do not go as the Baptist expected. The world left in doubt. Opinion taking wrong turn for want of distinct assertion. Works of Christ, but no proclamation of Christ. It ought to be made. The time is come. He the proper person to obtain it. He will demand it in the interests of all.


1. Answer.

(1)To what was said. The facts are sufficient answer.

(2)To what was meant. The method will not be changed. The Lord must choose His own course. Men must see and judge. Facts first, then assertions.

2. Warning. There is danger in this disposition — danger of questioning God's methods; restlessness, dissatisfaction, diminution of attachment, failure of faith.

(Canon T. D. Bernard.)

1. It is evident John did not clearly apprehend the spirituality of the kingdom Christ was to introduce. Like the apostles, he expected the kingdom of God would come with observation, instead of its being of a slow, quiet, spiritual growth. He looked for something more visible. There were the remains of the old dispensation mixed up with his ideas of its nature; too much of the Old Testament theocracy.

2. The remarkable manner in which the idea of the coming of Christ had taken possession of the minds of men at the time John sent his disciples to inquire respecting it. The familiar designation of the Messiah was "the Comer." "Him that is to come" is but the common version of the world's designation of the Messiah. The Comer, as if with Him came everything else desirable. The coming of all future good depended upon His coming.

3. I might notice the world's slowness in recognizing Christ as the Messiah, and the circumstances which occasioned that slowness to admit His claim.

4. He proceeded to enforce His claim by evidence corresponding with His character, and their necessities, and by evidence alone, the result of which He is prepared to wait (Luke 7:21-23). As if He had said, "Go and tell John My kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, and the employment of other than spiritual means would be uncongenial and obstructive."

5. That our Lord not only employed evidence in contradistinction from worldly display and physical force, but that He presented to these inquirers and the multitude moral evidence as superior to miraculous.


1. Thus on this occasion, the God-like reply to the inquiry, "Art Thou He that should come?" His deeds spoke. He entered into no argumentative defence of His claims — "Actions speak louder than words." "In the same hour He cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind He gave sight." He left the stupendous miracles He had performed to speak for themselves (Psalm 19.l-3). The heavens had done much, and now He is in the world to develop what the heavens could not declare. It was not to be expected that His more full manifestation would be verbal merely, or chiefly, for how can speech, which is but the symbol of thought, convey ideas of what thought cannot grasp respecting "God, who is a spirit," immaterial, infinite, invisible, incomprehensible. Speech fails to do justice to the finite, the visible, the material, and comprehensible; to convey the greatest and best conceptions of our own minds.

2. Christ's verbal teaching related especially to Himself. Each portion of it was either the vindication of acts He had performed, or an intimation of some purpose he was about to accomplish, or a development of the kingdom He was then establishing — relating to its nature, origin, character, or growth.

3. This distinctive and important fact supplies a reply to the following objections.(1) The first objection we refer to, more frequently felt than expressed, relates to the greater fulness of evangelical doctrines in the Epistles than in the Gospels. Although the latter comprise the discourses and teaching of Christ Himself, we reply to this by saying, "Christ came not so much to preach the gospel as to procure it, to establish and confirm it, to perform the deeds, the record of which constitutes the gospel."(2) The second objection urged from the time of Celsus downwards is, that parallels to some of our Lord's sayings are to be found in the writings of Plato, Isocrates, and others. Hence it has been inferred, absurdly enough, that the gospel had been anticipated — that Christianity was not original. To which we reply, admitting the supposed resemblances, the wonder is that they are so extremely few — two or three mere maxims of morality, and these but the distant reverberations of Sinai's echoes of the ancient and moral law. What is Christianity? Nothing but a few maxims of morality? We triumphantly point inquirers for Christianity to her spirit and her works — her resemblance to her Lord.

II. His WORKS WERE WONDERFUL. It is a frequent description given of God in the Old Testament, "He only doeth wonderful things." To achieve wonders is the prerogative of God. "He alone doeth wonders"; and this called forth the grateful praises of His people. Not only is God the wonder-worker, but strictly speaking, all that God does are wonders, only wonders. The atom is as an atom not less wonderful than a world. Both owe their origin to His creative power, and are impressed with the Divine signature. Was it strange then that when "God was manifested in the flesh," that when He appeared amongst us, who was predicted as "the wonderful," His works and deeds should be "mighty signs and wonders." There was a sense in which He could do nothing which was not wonderful; His constitution made it impossible that anything ordinary could emanate from Him.


1. All His miracles were miracles of mercy. Nor was it necessary to alter His laws, imposed at the first on nature, they suffered no violence from His mercy; on the contrary, they harmonized with it. In giving sight to the blind, He was but restoring the eye to the use and exercise of its proper function. His power He used as a trust to be administered for man's good alone.

2. Besides the present happiness, His mercies conveyed in the physical and mental benefits, miraculously bestowed, they had a higher value, a symbolical meaning, pointing to spiritual necessities and supplies, to the things relating to our redemption.

3. His miracles demonstrated His power, and our interest in turning the elements of earth to account of spiritual uses, relating them to heaven. In opening the blind eye He denoted that He came to be the Light of the world, and that we need that the eye of the understanding should be open to receive that light. The greatest wonder was that of His incarnation. In comparison with this wonder, all mere acts of His power were less splendid. This was the long desired and promised wonder. The ancient tabernacle foreshadowed His tabernacling among men. The temple with its indwelling Shekinah symbolically predicted this. Every instance of union between God and man, and the union of soul and body, prefigured this infinitely more mysterious union of the Divine and human natures in His person.

IV. HIS MERCIES, like His acts, by which He replied to John's disciples, WERE ANSWERS TO MAN'S NECESSITIES. This is only another mode of saying that the blessings of His redemption are fully adapted to man's exigencies. It might have been otherwise. His words might have been works; His works might have been wonders; His wonders might have been mercies; and yet, after all, there might have been a want of strict suitableness between our necessities and the mode of meeting them, but the text reminds us that His mercies and deeds are exactly suitable and fully answerable to the exigencies.

1. This correspondence admits of universal application. He comprehended the entire scheme of nature and Providence. No legitimate question on any natural subject can ever arise in the mind of man, which his Creator and Redeemer has not foreseen; to which He has not inserted an answer in the things which He has made. Ten thousand answers are silently awaiting the future questions which shall call them forth. At this moment, while we are assembled here, the Creator may be elsewhere exhibiting similar demonstrations of His perfections in reply to inquirers. In the amplitude of space, hosts of intelligent beings may be collected around the chaos of a world, wondering whether it will ever be restored to harmony and order; whether all creative acts are at an end, and while they are inquiring the fiat may go forth from the Creator again, as "in the beginning," "Let there be light," and the light of Divine power may kindle around them.

2. The lessons of the Old Testament are represented as replies. God was graciously pleased to allow Himself to be inquired of. His replies were called responses or oracles.

3. But now Christ had come as the living oracle; from Him the questions which human guilt and misery had never ceased to agitate, were to receive a full practical satisfactory reply.

V. A PRACTICAL CHRISTIANITY ALONE, A CHRISTIANITY EMBODIED IN DEEDS OF MERCY, ADEQUATELY ILLUSTRATES THE WORKS OF REDEMPTION BY CHRIST. "Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me." Our Lord meant not that His wondrous works should end with Himself. All power was given to Him as Mediator and Head of the Church, as a centre of an ever-enlarging circle. From Him as the Head of all things to the Church all emanates.

(J. Harris, D. D.)

However good and great you may be in the Christian life, your soul will never be independent of physical conditions. I feel I am uttering a most practical, useful truth here, one that may give relief to a great many Christians who are worried and despondent at times. Doctor Rush, a monarch in medicine, after curing hundreds of cases of mental depression, himself fell sick and lost his religious hope, and he would not believe his pastor when the pastor told him that his spiritual depression was only a consequence of physical depression. Andrew Fuller, Themes Scott, William Cowper, Thomas Boston, David Brainard, Philip Melancthon, were mighty men for God, but all of them illustrations of the fact that a man's soul is not independent of his physical health. An eminent physician gave as his opinion that no man ever died a greatly triumphant death whose disease was below the diaphragm. Stackhouse, the learned Christian writer, says he does not think Saul was insane when David played the harp before him, but it was a hypochondria coming from inflammation of the liver. The Dean of Carlisle, one of the best men that ever lived, and one of the most useful, sat down and wrote: "Though I have endeavoured to discharge my duty as well as I could, yet sadness and melancholy of heart stick close by and increase upon me. I tell nobody, but I am very much sunk indeed, and I wish I could have the relief of weeping as I used to. My days are exceedingly dark and distressing. In a word, Almighty God seems to hide His face, and I intrust the secret to hardly any earthly being. I know not what will become of me. There is, doubtless, a good deal of bodily affliction mingled with this, but it is not all so. I bless God, however, that I never lose sight of the Cross, and, though I should die without seeing any personal interest in the Redeemer's merits, I hope that I shall be found at His feet. I will thank you for a word at your leisure. My door is bolted at the time I am writing this, for I am full of tears."

(Dr. Talmage.)

Doubt often comes from inactivity. We cannot give the philosophy of it, but this is the fact, that Christians who have nothing to do but to sit thinking of themselves, meditating, sentimentalising, are almost sure to become the prey to dark, blank misgivings. John the Baptist, struggling in the desert, needs no proof that Jesus is the Christ. John shut up became morbid and doubtful immediately. We are mysteries, but here is the practical lesson of it all: for sadness, for suffering, for misgivings, there is no remedy but stirring and doing.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

During his earlier life Dr. Merle D'Aubigne, the Swiss historian of the Reformation, was grievously vexed with depressing doubts. He went to his old teacher for help. The shrewd old man refused to answer the young man's perplexities, saying, "Were I to get you rid of these doubts, others would come. There is a shorter way of destroying them. Let Christ be really to you the Son of God the Saviour. Do His will. His light will dispel the clouds, and His Spirit will lead you into all truth." The old man was right, and the young D'Aubigne was wise enough to adopt his counsel. He hoisted anchor, and moved out of the region of fogs, and quietly anchored himself under the sunshine of Christ's countenance.

(Dr. Cuyler.)

Active devotion to Christ's service is another cure for spiritual despondency. The faith-faculty gets numb by long inaction, just as a limb becomes numb and useless if it is not exercised. The love-power grows cold if it is not kept fired up. When faith and love both run low, the soul easily falls into an ague-fit. What you need is to get out of yourself into a sympathy with, and downright efforts for, the good of others. When a desponding Christian came to old Dr. Alexander for relief, the Doctor urged him to prayer. "I do pray continually." "What do you pray for?" The young student said, "I pray that the Lord would lift upon me the light of His countenance." "Then," replied the sagacious veteran, "go now and pray that He will use you for the conversion of souls."

(Dr. Cuyler.)

To the poor the gospel is preached.
I. THE EXCELLENCY OF THIS LAW. A new development of a heaven-laid plan to enlighten the poor; to raise them in the scale of being; to sweeten and adorn their lot by the honours of intellectual culture, the comforts of social life, and the hopes of immortality. The wisdom of our text, as a poor's law, excels all the contrivances of men. It does not so much provide for the poor as it prevents men from being poor. It cuts off the causes of poverty.

II. THE OBLIGATION IT LAYS UPON US. The way to the most effective sense of duty is by discovering the need and the worth of the thing that is enjoined; and is this a thing to be countermanded or opposed?: But if the argument from the goodness of precept seem too weak, let us view its peremptory demand. It is the will of our Saviour that none live in a Christian land without hearing the glad sound, that so all may walk in the light of His countenance.


(N. Paterson.)

1. Our Saviour's works were words.

2. His works were wonders.

3. His wonders were wonders of mercy.

4. His wonders of mercy were suited to the necessities of man.

5. The suitableness of His wonders of mercy to the necessities of man is a satisfactory proof of His Messiahship.

(G. Brooks.)

The gospel is especially adapted to the poor, in respect of —

1. Their education.

2. Their resources.

3. Their opportunities.

4. Their prospects.

(G. Brooks.)

John Wesley always preferred the middling and lower classes to the wealthy. He said "If I might choose I should still, as I have done hitherto, preach the gospel to the poor."

Before many a Popish shrine on the Continent one sees exhibited a great variety of crutches, together with wax models of arms, legs, and other limbs. These are supposed to represent the cures wrought by devotion at that altar — the memorials of the healing power of the saint. Poor, miserable superstition, all of it, and yet what a reminder to the believer in Jesus as to his duty and his privilege? Having pleaded at the feet of Jesus, we have found salvation; have we remembered to record this wonder of His hand? If we hung up memorials of all His matchless grace, what crutches and bandages and trophies of every sort should we pile together! Temper subdued, pride humbled, unbelief slain, sin cast down, sloth ashamed, carelessness rebuked. The cross has healed all manner of diseases, and its honours should be proclaimed with every rising and setting sun.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

A celebrated doctor of divinity in London, who is now in heaven I have no doubt — a very excellent and godly man — gave notice one Sunday that he intended to visit all his people, and said, that in order to be able to get round and visit them and their families once in the year, he should take all the seatholders in order, A person well known to me, who was then a poor man, was delighted with the idea that the minister was coming to his house to see him, and about a week or two before he conceived it would be his turn his wife was very careful to sweep the hearth and keep the house tidy, and the man ran home early from work, hoping each night to find the Doctor there. This went on for a considerable time. He either forgot his promise, or grew weary in performing it, or for some other reason never went to this poor man's house; and the result was this, the man lost confidence in all preachers, and said, "They care for the rich, but they do not care for us who are poor." That man never settled down to any one place of worship for many years, till at last he dropped into Exeter Hall and remained my hearer for years till Providence removed him. It was no small task to make him believe that any minister could be an honest man, and could impartially love both rich and poor.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

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