Project Gutenberg's The Life of Jesus Christ for the Young, by Richard Newton This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: The Life of Jesus Christ for the Young Author: Richard Newton Release Date: March 8, 2004 [EBook #11509] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST *** Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Tonya Allen, Charles Aldarondo and the Distributed Proofreaders
I THE APOSTLES CHOSEN
II THE GREAT TEACHER
III CHRIST TEACHING BY PARABLES
IV CHRIST TEACHING BY MIRACLES
V CHRIST TEACHING LIBERALITY
VI CHRIST TEACHING HUMILITY
VII CHRIST AND THE LITTLE CHILDREN
VIII THE TRANSFIGURATION
IX THE LESSONS FROM OLIVET
X THE LORD'S SUPPER
MAP OF PALESTINE, IN COLORS
41. THE WOMAN OF CANAAN
42. SIMON PETER'S FAITH IN CHRIST
43. THE TRANSFIGURATION OF CHRIST
44. JESUS HEALETH A LUNATIC
45. LET HE WHO IS WITHOUT SIN AMONG YOU
46. ONE OF TEN LEPERS CURED IS GRATEFUL
47. JESUS, MARTHA, MARY, AND LAZARUS
48. JESUS BLESSETH LITTLE CHILDREN
49. THE RESURRECTION OF LAZARUS, FOUR DAYS DEAD
50. CONVERSION OF ZACCHAEUS, A PUBLICAN
51. JESUS RESTORETH SIGHT TO BARTIMAEUS
52. CHRIST'S TRIUMPHAL ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM
53. CHRIST AVOUCHETH HIS AUTHORITY
54. AT NIGHT, JESUS ABODE ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES
55. JESUS WASHETH HIS DISCIPLES' FEET
56. THE BETRAYAL FORETOLD AT THE SUPPER
57. IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE
58. THE ARREST OF JESUS
59. JESUS EXAMINED BY CAIAPHAS
60. JESUS IS THRICE DENIED BY PETER
As soon as he returned victorious from the temptation in the wilderness, Jesus entered on the work of his public ministry. We find him, at once, preaching to the people, healing the sick, and doing many wonderful works. The commencement of his ministry is thus described by St. Matt. iv: 23-25. "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan." What a blessed beginning of the most blessed of all ministries this was! He came to bless our world. He did bless it, as no one else could have done. And here, we see, how he entered on his work.
And one of the first things he did, after thus beginning his ministry, was to gather his disciples round him. The first two that we find named among his disciples are John and Andrew. They had been disciples of John the Baptist. Their master pointed them to Jesus, and said—"Behold the Lamb of God." When they heard this they followed Jesus, and became his disciples. When Andrew met with his brother Simon Peter, he said to him "we have found the Messias—the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus." After this we are told that "Jesus findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me." He was an acquaintance of Andrew and Peter, and lived in the same town with them. He obeyed the call at once and became one of the disciples of Jesus.
Philip had a friend named Nathanael. The next time he met him, he said, "we have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." But Nazareth was a despised place, and had a bad reputation. Nathanael had a very poor opinion of the place, and he asked—"Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip saith unto him—"Come and see."
And this is what we should say to persons when we wish them to become Christians. There is so much that is lovely and excellent in Jesus that if people will only "come and see," if they will only prove for themselves what a glorious Saviour he is, they will find it impossible to help loving and serving him. Nathanael came to Jesus. And when he heard the wonderful words that Jesus spoke to him he was converted at once, and expressed his wonder by saying—"Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel." We can read all about this in John i: 43-51. Nathanael became a disciple of Jesus, and one of the twelve apostles, and is supposed to be the same one who bears the name of Bartholomew in the different lists of the apostles.
After this we read of Jesus calling Matthew the publican, who was a tax-gatherer. This is what is meant by his "sitting at the receipt of custom." "Follow me," were the words spoken to him. He obeyed at once; left all and followed Jesus. St. Luke and St. Mark mention this same call, but they give the name of Levi to the person thus called. This is not strange, for it was common among the Jews for persons to have two names. Sometimes they were called by one of these names and sometimes by the other.
Here we have the account of six persons, who became disciples of Jesus; and of the different ways in which they were led to follow him. No doubt many others were led to become his disciples from simply hearing him preach; and from listening to the gracious words that he spoke.
And very soon after he had gathered together a large company of disciples, he made choice of twelve, out of this number, who were to be his apostles. He wished these men to be with him all the time. They were to hear his teaching, and see his miracles, and so be prepared to take his place, and carry on his work when he should return to heaven.
It was necessary for these men to be chosen. When Washington was appointed to conduct our armies during the Revolution, he chose a number of generals to help him. And it is natural for us to think of Washington and his generals. But just as natural it is to think of—Jesus and his apostles.
And this is the subject we have now to consider—The Apostles Chosen.
And in considering this subject there are four things of which to speak.
The first, is the condition and character of the men whom Jesus chose as his apostles.
The second, is the work these men were called to do.
The third, is the help that was given them in doing this work; and
The fourth, is the lesson taught us by this subject. Or, to make the points of the subject as short as possible, we may state them thus:
The men. The work. The help. The lesson.
We begin then with speaking of—THE MEN—or the condition and character of those whom Jesus chose to be his apostles or helpers.
Now we might have thought that Jesus would have chosen his apostles, or helpers, from among the angels of heaven. They are so wise, and good, and strong, that we wonder why he did not choose them. But he did not. He chose men to be his apostles. And what kind of men did he choose? If we had been asked this question beforehand, we should have supposed that he would certainly have chosen the wisest and the most learned men, the richest and greatest men that could be found in the world. But it was not so. Instead of this he chose poor men, unlearned men, men that were not famous at all; and who had not been heard of before. Fishermen, and tax-gatherers, and men occupying very humble positions in life, were those whom Jesus chose to be his apostles.
And one reason, no doubt, why Jesus made choice of men of this character to be his apostles was that when their work was done, no one should be able to say that it was the learning, or wisdom, or riches, or power of men by whom that work was accomplished. The apostle Paul teaches us that this is the way in which God generally acts; and that he does it for the very reason just spoken of. He says, "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought the things that are; that no flesh should glory in his presence." I. Cor. i: 27-29. The meaning of this passage is that God loves to work by little things. This was the reason why Jesus chose poor, unlearned fishermen to be his apostles. And we see God working in the same way continually.
Look at yonder sun. God made it, and hung it up there in the sky that it might give light to our world. But the light which this sun gives comes to us in tiny little bits, smaller than the point of the finest needle that ever was made. They are so small that hundreds of them can rush right into our eyes, as they are doing all the time, and not hurt them the least. Here we see how God makes use of little things, and does a great work with them.
And then look at yonder ocean. The waves of that ocean are so powerful that they can break in pieces the strongest ships that men have ever built. And yet, when God wishes to keep that mighty ocean in its place, he makes use of little grains of sand for this purpose. Here again we see how God employs little things, and does a great work with them. And we find God working in this way continually. Let us look at one or two illustrations.
"What a Plant Did." A little plant was given to a sick girl. In trying to take care of it, the family made changes in their way of living, which added greatly to their comfort and happiness. First, they cleaned the window, that more light might come in to the leaves of the plant. Then, when not too cold, they opened the window, that fresh air might help the plant to grow; and this did the family good, as well as the plant. Next the clean window made the rest of the room look so untidy that they washed the floor, and cleaned the walls, and arranged the furniture more neatly. This led the father of the family to mend a broken chair or two, which kept him at home several evenings. After this, he took to staying at home with his family in the evenings, instead of spending his time at the tavern; and the money thus saved went to buy comforts for them all. And then, as their home grew more pleasant, the whole family loved it better than ever before, and they grew healthier and happier with their flowers. What a little thing that plant was, and yet it was God's apostle to that family! It did a great work for them in blessing them and making them happy. And that was work that an angel would have been glad to do.
"Brought In by a Smile." A London minister said to a friend one day; "Seven persons were received into my church last Sunday, and they were all brought in by a smile."
"Brought in by a smile! Pray what do you mean?"
"Let me explain. Several months ago, as I passed a certain house on my way to church, I saw, held in the arms of its nurse, a beautiful infant; and as it fixed its bright black eyes on me, I smiled, and the dear child returned the smile. The next Sabbath the babe was again before the window. Again I smiled, and the smile was returned, as before. The third Sabbath, as I passed by the window, I threw the little one a kiss. Instantly its hand was extended and a kiss thrown back to me. And so it came to pass that I learned to watch for the baby on my way to church; and as the weeks went by, I noticed that the nurse and the baby were not alone. Other members of the family pressed to the window to see the gentleman who always had a smile for the dear baby—the household pet.
"One Sunday morning, as I passed, two children, a boy and a girl, stood at the window beside the baby. That morning the father and mother had said to those children: 'Get ready for church, for we think that the gentleman who always smiles to the baby is a minister. When he passes you may follow him, and see where he preaches.'
"The children were quite willing to follow the suggestion of their parents, and after I had passed, the door opened, and the children stepped upon the pavement, and kept near me, till I entered my church, when they followed me, and seats were given them.
"When they returned home, they sought their parents and eagerly exclaimed: 'He is a minister, and we have found his church, and he preached a beautiful sermon this morning. You must go and hear him next Sunday.'
"It was not difficult to persuade the parents to go, and guided by their children they found their way to the church. They, too, were pleased, and other members of the family were induced to come to the house of God. God blessed what they heard to the good of their souls, and seven members of this family have been led to become Christians, and join the church, and, I repeat what I said before: 'they were all brought in by a smile.'"
What a little thing a smile is! And yet, here we see how God made use of so small a thing as this, to make seven persons Christians, and to save their souls forever! Of the God who can work in this way, it may well be said that he loves to work by little things. It is the way in which he is working continually.
How eagerly, then, we may try to learn and to practise what has been very sweetly expressed in
THE MITE SONG."Only a drop in the bucket,
God loves to work by little means. We see this when we think of the men whom Jesus chose to be his apostles. The first thing about this subject is—the men.
The second thing to speak of, in connection with this subject, is—THE WORK—they had to do.
What this work was we find fully stated in the fourteenth chapter of St. Matthew. In this chapter Jesus told the apostles all about the work they were to do for him, and how they were to do it. In the seventh and eighth verses of this chapter we have distinctly stated just what they were to do. "As ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand; Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils."
On this occasion Jesus sent his apostles to do the work committed to them, not among the Gentiles, but only among the Jews; or as he calls them—"the lost sheep of the house of Israel," v. 5,6. But, after his resurrection, and just before he went up to heaven, he enlarged their commission. His parting command to them then was—"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." St. Mark xvi: 15.
When Jesus, their Master, went to heaven they were to take up and carry on the great work that he had begun. Those twelve men were to begin the work of changing the religion of the world. They were to overturn the idols that had been worshiped for ages. They were to shut up the temples in which those idols had been worshiped. They were to "turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." Acts xxvi: 18. They were to go up and down the world, everywhere, telling the wondrous story of Jesus and his love. And in doing this work they were to be the means of saving the souls of all who believed their message, and in the end of winning the world back to Jesus, till, according to God's promise, he has "the heathen for his inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for his possession." Ps. ii: 8.
This was the grandest and most important work that men were ever called upon to do. The apostles spent their lives in doing this work; and then they left it for others to carry on. The work is not finished yet. And, if we learn to love and serve Jesus, we may help to carry it on. We may be apostles, too, though in a lower sense than that in which the first twelve were apostles. An apostle means—one sent. But Jesus sends into the vineyard to work for him all who become his loving children. And, in this sense it is true that all who love and serve Jesus are his apostles. He says to each of us—"Go, work to-day, in my vineyard." St. Matt, xxi: 28. And in another place he says—"Let him that heareth, say, Come." Rev. xxii: 17.
And when we are trying to tell people of Jesus and his love, and to bring them to him, then we are helping to carry on the same great work that Jesus gave his apostles to do. Let us look at some examples of persons who have been apostles for God and helped to do the work of apostles.
"Aunt Lucy." I heard the other day of a good old woman in the State of Michigan, known as Aunt Lucy. She is eighty-four years old, and lives all alone, supporting herself principally by carpet-weaving. All that she can save from her earnings, after paying for her necessary expenses, she spends in buying Bibles, which she distributes among the children and the poor of the neighborhood. Thirteen large family Bibles, and fifty small ones, have thus been given away—good, well-bound Bibles.
A neighbor, who has watched this good work very closely, says that two-thirds of the persons to whom Aunt Lucy has given Bibles have afterwards become Christians. In doing this work Aunt Lucy was an apostle.
"The Charcoal Carrier." One Sunday afternoon, in summer, a little girl named Mary, going home from a Sunday-school in the country, sat down to rest under the shade of a tree by the roadside. While sitting there she opened her Bible to read. As she sat reading, a man, well known in that neighborhood as Jacob, the charcoal carrier, came by with his donkey. Jacob used to work in the woods, making charcoal, which he carried away in sacks on his donkey's back, and sold. He was not a Christian man, and was accustomed to work with his donkey as hard on Sunday as on week-days.
When he came by where Mary was sitting, he stopped a moment, and said, in a good-natured way:
"What book is that you are reading, my little maid?"
"It is God's book—the Bible," said Mary.
"Let me hear you read a little in it, if you please," said he, stopping his donkey.
Mary began at the place where the book was open, and read:—"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work."
"There, that's enough," said Jacob, "and now tell me what it means."
"It means," said Mary, "that you mustn't carry charcoal, on Sunday, nor let your donkey carry it."
"Does it?" said Jacob, musing a little. "I tell you what then, I must think over what you have said."
And he did think over it. And the result of his thinking was, that instead of going with his donkey to the woods on the next Sunday, he went with his two little girls to the Sunday-school. And the end of it all was that Jacob, the charcoal carrier, became a Christian, and God's blessing rested on him and his family.
Little Mary was doing an apostle's work when she read and explained the Bible to Jacob and was the means of bringing him to Jesus.
"The Use of Fragments." In the Cathedral at Lincoln, England, there is a window of stained glass which was made by an apprentice out of little pieces of glass that had been thrown aside by his master as useless. It is said to be the most beautiful window in the Cathedral. And if, like this apprentice, we carefully gather up, and improve the little bits of time, of knowledge, and of opportunities that we have, we may do work for God more beautiful than that Cathedral window. We may do work like that which the apostles were sent to do. Here are some sweet lines, written by I know not whom, about that beautiful window, made out of the little pieces of glass:"Great things are made of fragments small,
The second thing about the apostles is, the work—they did.
The third thing, for us to notice about the apostles, is—THE HELP—they received.
In one place, we are told that Jesus "gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease." St. Matt. x: 1. In another place we are told, that for their comfort and encouragement in the great work they had to do, Jesus said to them, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." St. Matt. xxviii: 20. And if they only had Jesus with them, no matter what the work was they had to do, they would be sure of having all the help they might need. The apostle Paul understood this very well, for he said, "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." Phil. iv: 13.
And then, as if his own presence with them were not enough, Jesus promised that his apostles should have the help of the Holy Spirit in carrying on their work. Just before leaving them to go to heaven, he said to the disciples—"Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you." Acts i: 8. And what this power was we see in the case of the apostle Peter; for the first sermon he preached after the Holy Ghost came upon him, on the day of Pentecost, was the means of converting three thousand souls. Acts ii: 41.
And the same God who gave the apostles all the help they needed, has promised to do the same for you, and me, and for all who try to work for him. There are many promises of this kind in the Bible to which I might refer. But I will only mention one. This is so sweet and precious that it deserves to be written in letters of gold. There is no passage in the Bible that has given me so much comfort and encouragement in trying to work for God as this I refer here to Is. xli: 10. "Fear thou not; for I am with thee; be not dismayed; for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea—I WILL HELP THEE." This promise was not given for prophets and apostles only, but for all God's people to the end of time. You and I, if we are trying to serve God, may take it as ours. God meant it for us. And when we get this promised help from God, we can do any work he has for us to do, and be happy in doing it.
"For Thine is the Power." "I can't do it—it's quite impossible. I've tried five times, and can't get it right"—and Ben Hartley pushed his book and slate away in despair. Ben was a good scholar. He was at the head of his class, and was very anxious to stay there. But the sums he had now to do were very hard. He could not do them, and was afraid of losing his place in the class. Most of the boys had some one at home to help them; but Ben had no one. His father was dead, and his mother, though a good Christian woman, had not been to school much when a girl, and she could not help Ben.
Mrs. Hartley felt sorry for her son's perplexity, and quietly said, "Then, Ben, you don't believe in the Lord's prayer?"
"The Lord's prayer, mother! Why, there's nothing there to help a fellow do his sums."
"O, yes; there is. There is help for every trouble in life in the Lord's prayer, if we only know how to use it. I was trying a long time before I found out what the last part of this prayer really means. I'm no minister, or scholar, Ben, but I'll try and show you. You know that in this prayer we ask God for our daily bread; we ask him to keep us from evil; and to forgive us our sins; and then we say: 'for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.' It's God's power that we rely on—not our own; and it often helps me, Ben, when I have something hard to do. I say, 'For thine is the power—this is my duty, heavenly Father; but I can't do it myself; give me thy power to help me,' and he does it, Ben, he does it."
Ben sat silent. It seemed almost too familiar a prayer. And yet he remembered when he had to stay home from school because he had no clothes fit to go in, how he prayed to God about it, and the minister's wife brought him a suit the very next day. "But a boy's sums, mother! it seems like such a little thing to ask God about."
"Those sums are not a little thing to you, Ben. Your success at school depends on your knowing how to do them. That, is as much to you, as many a greater thing to some one else. Now I care a great deal about that, because I love you. And I know your Father in heaven loves you more than I do. I would gladly help you, if I could; but he can help you. His 'is the power;' ask him to help you."
After doing an errand for his mother, Ben picked up his book and slate and went up to his little room. Kneeling down by the bed he repeated the Lord's prayer. When he came to—"thine is the kingdom," he stopped a moment, and then said, with all his heart—"'And thine is the power,' heavenly Father. I want power to know how to do these sums. There's no one else to help me. Lord, please give me power, for Jesus' sake, Amen."
Ben waited a moment, and then, still on his knees, he took his slate and tried again. Do you ask me if he succeeded? Remember what Saint James says, "If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not: and it shall be given him." Jas. i: 5. That is God's promise, and heaven and earth must pass away before one of his promises shall fail. Ben had prayed to God to help him, and God answered his prayer. He tried once more to work out those sums. After thinking over them a little while, he saw the mistake he had made in neglecting one of the rules for working the sums. He corrected this mistake, and then he found they all worked out beautifully. The next day he was head of the class; for he was the only boy who could say that he had done the sum himself, without getting any one at home to help him.
"And yet I was helped, mother," said Ben, "for I am sure my Father in heaven helped me." But that was not what the teacher meant. After this, Ben never forgot the last part of the Lord's prayer. When he needed help he knew where the power was that could help him.
Here was where the apostles got the help they needed in doing the hard work they had to do. And how much help we might get in doing our work if we only make a right use of this "power which belongeth unto God;" and which he is always ready to use in helping us.
The help they received, is the third thing to remember when we think about the apostles and their work.
The last thing to bear in mind when we think of Jesus choosing his twelve apostles, is—THE LESSON—it teaches us.
There are many lessons we might learn from this subject; but there is one so much more important than all the rest that we may very well let them go, and think only of this one. When St. Luke tells us about Jesus choosing the twelve apostles, he mentions one very important thing, of which St. Matthew, in his account of it says nothing at all. And it is this thing from which we draw our lesson. In the twelfth verse of the sixth chapter of his gospel, St. Luke says—"And it came to pass in those days, that he (Jesus) went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God." And after this, the first thing he did, in the morning, was to call his disciples to him, and out of them to choose the twelve, who were to be his apostles. And the lesson we learn from this part of the subject is:
"The Lesson of Prayer." Jesus spent the whole night in prayer to God, before he chose his apostles. How strange this seems to us! And yet it is easy enough to see at least two reasons why he did this. One was because he loved to pray. We know how pleasant it is for us to meet, and talk with a person whom we love very much. But prayer is—talking with God—telling him what we want, and asking his help. But Jesus loved his Father in heaven, with a love deeper and stronger than we can understand. This must have made it the most delightful of all things for him to be engaged in prayer, or in talking with his Father in heaven. And, if we really love Jesus, prayer will not be a hard duty to us, but a sweet privilege. We shall love to pray, because, in prayer we are talking to that blessed Saviour, "whom, not having seen, we love." And this was one reason why Jesus spent the whole night in prayer, before choosing his twelve apostles.
But there was another reason why Jesus spent so much time in prayer before performing this important work, and that was to set us an example. It was to teach us the very lesson of which we are now speaking—the lesson of prayer. Remember how much power and wisdom Jesus had in himself; and what mighty things he was able to do. And yet, if He felt that it was right to pray before engaging in any important work, how much more necessary it is for us to do so!
Let us learn this lesson well. Let it be the rule and habit of our lives to connect prayer with everything we do. This will make us happy in our own souls, and useful to those about us.
How full the Bible is of the wonders that have been wrought by prayer! Just think for a moment of some of them.
Abraham prays, and Lot is delivered from the fiery flood that overwhelmed Sodom and Gomorrah. Gen. xix: 29. Jacob prays, and he wrestles with the angel, and obtains the blessing; his brother Esau's mind is wonderfully turned away from the wrath he had cherished for twenty years. Moses prays and Amalek is discomfited. Joshua prays and Achan is discovered. Hannah prays and Samuel is born. David prays and Ahithophel hangs himself. Elijah prays and a famine of three years comes upon Israel. He prays again, and the rain descends, and the famine ends. Elisha prays, and Jordan is divided. He prays again, and the dead child's soul is brought back from the invisible world. Isaiah and Hezekiah pray, and a hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrian soldiers are slain in one night by the unseen sword of the angel. These are Bible illustrations of the help God gives to his people in answer to prayer. And the Bible rule for prayer, as given by our Saviour, is, "that men ought always to pray," Luke xviii: 1. St. Paul's way of stating it is—"Praying always, with all prayer," Ephes. vi: 18. In another place he says—"Pray without ceasing," I. Thess. v: 17. And even the heathen teach the same rule about prayer. Among the rules of Nineveh, an inscription on a tablet has been found, which, on being translated, proved to contain directions about prayer. It may be entitled:
"An Assyrian Call to Prayer." These are the words of the call:"Pray thou! pray thou!
This is like the Bible rule of—"praying always."
"Praying for a Dinner." "Grandma, aren't we going to church this morning?" asked a little girl.
"My child, we have had no breakfast, and have no dinner to eat when we come back," said her grandma.
"But the Lord Jesus can give it to us if we ask him," said the little girl. "Let's ask him." So they kneeled down, and asked that God, "who feedeth the young ravens when they cry," to remember them, and help them.
Then they went to church. They found it very much crowded. An old gentleman took the little girl upon his knee. He was pleased with her quiet behaviour. On parting with her at the close of the service, he slipped a half crown into her hand. "See, Grandma," she said, as soon as they were out of church, "Jesus has sent us our dinner."
But when we ask God to help us, we must always try to help ourselves.
"Working as well as Praying." Two little girls went to the same school; one of them, named Mary, always said her lessons well, the other, named Jane, always failed. One day Jane said, "Mary, how does it happen that you always say your lessons so well?" Mary said she prayed over her lessons, and that was the secret of her success.
Jane concluded to try praying. But the next day she failed worse than ever. In tears, she reproached Mary for deceiving her. "But, did you study hard, as well as pray over your lesson?" asked Mary.
"No; I thought if I only prayed, that was all I had to do," replied Jane. "Not at all. God only helps those who try to help themselves. You must study hard as well as pray, if you wish to get your lessons well," was Mary's wise answer. The next day Jane studied, as well as prayed, and she had her lesson perfectly.
The greatest work we can ever do, is to bring a soul to Jesus, or to convert a sinner from the error of his way. Here is an illustration of the way in which this may be done by prayer and effort combined:
"The Coachman and His Prayer." "I was riding once, on the top of a stage-coach," said a Christian gentleman, "when the driver by my side began to swear in a dreadful manner. I lifted up my heart for God's blessing on what I said; and presently, in a quiet way, I asked him this question: 'Driver, do you ever pray?' He seemed displeased at first; but after awhile he replied, 'I sometimes go to church on Sunday; and then I suppose I pray, don't I?' 'I am afraid you never pray at all; for no man can swear as you do, and yet be in the habit of praying to God.'
"As we rode along he seemed thoughtful. 'Coachman, I wish you would pray now,' I said. '"Why, what a time to pray, Sir, when a man is driving a coach!"' 'Yet, my friend, God will hear you,' '"What shall I pray?"' he asked, in a low voice. 'Pray these words: '"O Lord, grant me thy Holy Spirit, for Christ's sake. Amen."' He hesitated, but in a moment he repeated them; and then, at my request, he said them over a second, and a third time. The end of the journey was reached, and I left him.
"Some months passed away, and we met once more. 'Ah, Sir,' said he, with a smile, 'the prayer you taught me on that coach-box was answered. I saw myself a lost, and ruined sinner; but now, I humbly hope, that through the blood which cleanseth from all sin, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I am a converted man.'"
And so, when we think of the twelve apostles, appointed by Jesus to preach his gospel, these are the four things for us to remember in connection with them, viz.:—the men whom he chose; the work they had to do; the help given them in doing that work; and the lesson we are taught by this subject—the lesson of prayer.
Whatever we have to do, let us do it with all our hearts, and do it as for God, and then we shall be his apostles—his sent ones. Let me put the application of this subject in the form of some earnest, practical lines that I lately met with. The lines only speak of boys, but they apply just as well to girls. They are headed:
DRIVE THE NAIL."Drive the nail aright, boys,
Teaching was the great business of the life of Christ during the days of his public ministry. He was sent to teach and to preach. The speaker in the book of Job was thinking of this Great Teacher when he asked—"Who teacheth like him?" Job xxxvi: 22. And it was he who was in the Psalmist's mind when he spoke of the "good, and upright Lord" who would teach sinners, if they were meek, how to walk in his ways. Ps. xxv: 8-9. And he is the Redeemer, of whom the prophet Isaiah was telling when he said—He would "teach us to profit, and would lead us by the way that we should go." And thus we know how true was what Nicodemus said of him, that "he was a teacher sent from God." John iii: 2. Thus what was said of Jesus, before he came into our world, would naturally lead us to expect to find him occupied in teaching. And so he was occupied, all through the days of his public ministry. St. Matthew tells us that—"Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues." Ch. iv: 23. Further on in his gospel he tells us again that "Jesus went about all the cities, and villages, teaching in their synagogues." Ch. ix: 35. When on his trial before Pilate, his enemies brought it as a charge against him that he had been—"teaching throughout all Jewry." Luke xxiii: 5. We read in one place that—"the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching." Matt. xxi: 23. Jesus himself gave this account of his life work to his enemies—"I sat daily with you teaching in the temple." Matt. xxvi: 55. And so we come now to look at the life of Christ from this point of view—as a Teacher. There never was such a Teacher. We do not wonder at the effect of his teaching of which we read in St. John vii: 46, when the chief priests sent some of their officers to take him prisoner, and bring him unto them; the officers went, and joined the crowd that was listening to his preaching. His words had such a strange effect on them that they could not think of touching him. So they went back to their masters without doing what they had been sent to do. "And when the chief priests and Pharisees said unto them—Why have ye not brought him? The officers answered, Never man spake like this man." Jesus was indeed—The Great Teacher. In this light we are now to look at him. And as we do this we shall find that there were five great things about his teaching which made him different from any other teacher the world has ever known.
In the first place Jesus may well be called the Great Teacher, because of the—GREAT BLESSINGS—of which he came to tell.
We find some of these spoken of at the opening of his first great sermon to his disciples, called "The Sermon on the Mount." This is the most wonderful sermon that ever was preached. Jesus began it by telling about some of the great blessings he had brought down from heaven for poor sinful creatures such as we are. The sermon begins in the fifth chapter of St. Matthew, and the first twelve verses of the chapter are occupied in speaking of these blessings. As soon as he opened his mouth and began to speak a stream of blessings flowed out.
It was a beautiful thought, on this subject, which a boy in Sunday-school once had. The teacher had been talking to his class about the beginning of this sermon on the mount. He had spoken of the sweetness of the words of Jesus, when "He opened his mouth and taught" his disciples. "How pleasant it must have been, my dear boys," said he, "to have seen the blessed Saviour, and to have heard him speak!"
A serious-minded little fellow in the class said, "Teacher, don't you think that when Jesus opened his mouth, and began to speak to his disciples, it must have been like taking the stopper out of a scent bottle?" I cannot tell whether this boy had ever read the words of Solomon or not; but he had just the same idea that was in his mind when he said of this "Great Teacher," "thy name is as ointment poured forth." Cant, i: 3. We perceive the fragrance of this ointment as soon as Jesus opens his mouth and begins to speak. If we had been listening to Jesus when he began this sermon, saying:—" Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are the meek; blessed are the pure in heart; blessed are the peace-makers"—and so on till he had spoken of nine different kinds of blessing, we might have thought that he had nothing but blessings of which to tell. It would have seemed as if his mind, and heart, and lips, and hands were all so filled with blessings that he could do nothing else till he had told about these. And the blessings spoken of here are not all the blessings that Jesus brought. They are only specimens of them. The blessings he has obtained for us are innumerable. David says of them, "If I would declare and speak of them they are more than can be numbered." Ps. xl: 5. And these blessings are not only very numerous, but very great. Look at one or two of these blessings that Jesus, the Great Teacher, brings to us. He says, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." Jesus came to bring comfort to the mourners. Hundreds of years before Christ came the prophet Isaiah had said of him that he would come to "comfort all that mourn." Is. lxi: 2. And to show how complete this blessing would be which he was to bring, Jesus said himself—"As one whom his mother comforteth—so will I comfort you." Is. lxvi: 13. A young girl was dying. A friend who came in to see her said:
"I trust you have a good hope."
"No," she answered, distinctly; "I am not hoping—I am certain. My salvation was finished on the cross. My soul is saved. Heaven is mine. I am going to Jesus."
What a great blessing it is to have comfort like that!
When Jesus was speaking to the woman of Samaria, as he sat by Jacob's well, he compared the blessing of his grace to the water of that well. Pointing to the well at his side, he said: "Whosoever drinketh of this water will thirst again. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him, a well of water, springing up unto everlasting life." John iv: 13, 14. This is one of the most beautiful illustrations of the blessing Jesus gives that ever was used. It is a great blessing to have a well of clear, cold water in our garden, or near our door. But, only think of having a well of water in our hearts. Then, wherever we go, we carry that well with us. We never have to go away from it. No one can separate between us and the water of this well. Other wells dry up and fail. But this is a well that never dries up, and never fails. This well is deep, and its water is all the time "springing up unto everlasting life." How happy they are in whose breasts Jesus opens this well of water!
Coleridge, the English poet, in writing to a young friend, just before his death, said:
"Health is a great blessing; wealth, gained by honest industry, is a great blessing; it is a great blessing to have kind, faithful, loving friends and relatives, but, the greatest, and best of all blessings is to be a Christian."
One of the most able and learned lawyers that England ever had was John Selden. He was so famous for his learning and knowledge that he is always spoken of as "the learned Selden." On his deathbed he said—"I have taken much pains to know everything that was worth knowing among men; but with all my reading and all my knowledge, nothing now remains with me to comfort me at the close of life but these precious words of St. Paul: 'This a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners;' to this I cling. In this I rest. This gives me peace, and comfort, and enables me to die happy."
William Wilberforce was another of the great and good men who have been a blessing and an honor to England. When he was on his deathbed, he said to a dear friend:
"Come, let us talk of heaven. Do not weep for me. I am very happy. But I never knew what happiness was till I found Christ as my Saviour. Read the Bible. Let no other book take its place. Through all my trials and perplexities, it has been my comfort. And now it comforts me, and makes me happy."
Here we see "this well of water springing up unto everlasting life." And Jesus, who came to tell us of this water, and to open up this well in our breasts, may well be called, "the Great Teacher," because of the great blessings—of which he tells.
In the second place Jesus may be called "the Great Teacher" because of the—GREAT SIMPLICITY—of his teachings.
I do not mean to say that we can understand every thing that Jesus taught. This is not so. He had some things to speak about that are not simple. He said to his disciples, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." John xvi: 12. This means that there are some things about God, and heaven, of which he wished to tell them, but they were too hard for them to understand, although they were full-grown men. And so he did not tell them of these things. But even among the things that Jesus did tell about, there are some which the wisest and most learned men in the world have never been able to understand or explain. Some one has compared the Bible to a river, in which there are some places deep enough for an elephant or a giant to swim in; and other places where the water is shallow enough for a child to wade in. And it is just so with the teachings of Jesus. Some of the most important lessons he taught are so plain and simple that very young people can understand them.
We have a good illustration of this in that sweet invitation which Jesus gave when he said,—"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matt. xi: 28. Very young people know what it is to feel tired and weary from walking, or working too much, or from carrying a heavy burden. And, when they are too tired to do anything else, they know what it is to go to their dear mother and throw themselves into her arms, and find rest there. And, in just the same way, Jesus invites us to come to him when we are tired, or troubled, that our souls may find rest in him. We come to Jesus, when we pray to him; when we tell him all about our troubles; when we ask him to help us; and when we trust in his promises."Was there ever gentlest shepherd
The prophet Isaiah foretold that when Jesus came, he would teach his doctrines to children just weaned. Chap. xxviii: 9. This shows us that his teaching was to be marked by great plainness and simplicity. And this was just the way in which he did teach when he uttered those loving words:—"Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God." Mark x: 14. None of the other famous teachers known to the world ever took such interest in children as Jesus did. And none of them ever taught with such great simplicity. What multitudes of young people have been led to love and serve Jesus by thinking of the sweet words he spoke about children!
"The Child's Gospel." A little girl sat still in church listening to the minister. She could not understand what he was saying till he quoted these words of Jesus about the children. But she understood them. She felt that they were words spoken for her. They made her feel very happy. And when she went home she threw her arms around her mother's neck, who had been kept at home by sickness, and said, "O, mother, I have heard the child's gospel to-day."
"It's For Me." Little Carrie was a heathen child, about ten years old. After she had been going to the Mission School for some time, her teacher noticed, one day, that she looked sad.
"Carrie, my dear," she said, "why do you look so sad to-day?"
"Because I am thinking."
"And what are you thinking about?"
"O, teacher, I don't know whether Jesus loves me, or not."
"Carrie, what did Jesus say about little children coming to him when he was on earth?"
In a moment the sweet words she had learned in the school were on her lips—"Suffer the little children to come unto me, &c."
"Well, Carrie, for whom did Jesus speak these words?" At once she clapped her hands and exclaimed: "It's not for you, teacher, is it? for you are not a child. No: it's for me! it's for me!"
And so this dear child was drawn to Jesus by the power of his love. And thus, through all the hundreds of years that have passed away since "Jesus was here among men," these same simple words have been drawing the little ones to him.
And so, because of the great simplicity which marked his teaching, Jesus must truly be called—the Great Teacher.
But in the third place there was—GREAT TENDERNESS—in Jesus, and this was another thing that helped to make him the Great Teacher.
It was this great tenderness that led him, when he came to be our Teacher and Saviour to take our nature upon him and so become like us. He might have come into our world in the form of a mighty angel, with his face shining like the sun, as he appeared when the disciples saw him on the Mount of Transfiguration. But then we should have been afraid of him. He would not have known how we feel, and could not have felt for us. But instead of this, his tenderness led him to take our nature upon him, that he might be able to put himself in our place, and so to understand just how we feel, and what we need to help and comfort us. This is what the apostle means in Heb. ii: 14, when he says—"Forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same." He did this on purpose that he might know, by his own experience, how we are tried and tempted; and so be able to sympathize with us and help us in all our trials.
Here is a little story, very simple, and homely; but yet, one that illustrates very well the point of which we are speaking. It is a story about:
"A Lost Horse Found." A valuable horse was lost, belonging to a farmer in New England. A number of his neighbors turned out to try and find the horse. They searched all through the woods and fields of the surrounding country, but in vain. None of them could find the horse. At last a poor, weak-minded fellow, who was known in that neighborhood as "simple Sam," started to hunt the horse. After awhile he came back, bringing the stray horse with him. The owner of the horse was delighted to see him. He stroked and patted him, and then, turning to the simple-minded man who had found him, he said:
"Well, Sam, how came you to find the horse, when no one else could do it?"
"Wal, you see," said Sam, "I just 'quired whar the horse was seen last; and then I went thar, and sat on a rock; and just axed mysel', if I was a horse, whar would I go, and what would I do? And then I went, and found him." Now, when Sam, in the simplicity of his feeble mind, tried to put himself, as far as he could, in the horse's place, this helped him to find the lost horse, and bring him back to his owner again. And so, to pass from a very little thing to a very great one, when Jesus came down from heaven to seek and to save sinners that were lost, this is just the way in which he acted. He put himself in our place as sinners. As the apostle Paul says: "he who knew no sin, was made sin for us," that he might save us from the dreadful consequences of our sins.
And we see the tenderness of Jesus, not only in taking our nature upon him and becoming man, but in what he did when he lived in this world as a man. "He went about doing good." It was his great tenderness that led him to do this. Suppose that you and I could have walked about with Jesus when he was on earth as the apostles did. Just think for a moment what we should have seen. We should have seen him meeting with blind men and opening their eyes that they might see. We should have seen him meeting with deaf men, and unstopping their ears that they might hear. We should have seen him meeting sick people who were taken with divers diseases and torments and healing them. We should have seen him raising the dead; and casting out devils; and speaking words of comfort and encouragement to those who were sad and sorrowful. If we could have looked into his blessed face, we should have seen tenderness there, beaming from his eyes and speaking from every line of his countenance. If we could have listened to his teaching we should have found tenderness running through all that he said. Just take one of his many parables as a sample of his way of teaching—the parable of the lost sheep—and see how full of tenderness it is. The sweet lines of the hymn, about the shepherd seeking his lost sheep, that most of us love to sing, bring out the tenderness of Jesus here very touchingly."There were ninety and nine that safely lay
And all that we know of Jesus as "the good Shepherd," demonstrates his great tenderness for his sheep.
But perhaps there was no act in all the life of our blessed Redeemer that showed his tenderness more than taking the little children in his arms, and putting his hands upon them, and blessing them.
To think of the Son of God, who made this world, and all worlds, and whom all the angels of heaven worship, showing so much interest in the little ones; this proves how full of tenderness his heart was.
"I Like Your Jesus." An English lady who had spent six months in Syria, writes: "Going through the places where the Mohammedans live, you continually hear the girls singing our beautiful hymns in Arabic. The attractive power of Christ's love is felt even by the little ones, as we learned from a dear Moslem child, who, when she repeated the text, 'Suffer the little children,' said, 'I like your Jesus, because he loved little children. Our Mohammed did not love little children.'"
And if we all try to imitate the tenderness of Jesus, then, though we may have no money to give, and no great thing to do, yet by being tender, and gentle, and loving, as Jesus was, we shall be able to do good wherever we are.
"Doing Good by Sympathy." A Christian mother used to ask her children every night if they had done any good during the day. One night in answer to this question, her little daughter said: "At school this morning I found little Annie G----, who had been absent for some time, crying very hard. I asked her what was the matter? Then she cried more, so that I could not help putting my head on her neck, and crying with her. Her sobs grew less, and presently she told of her little baby brother, whom she loved so much; how sick he had been; and how much pain he had suffered, till he died and was buried. Then she hid her face in her book, and cried, as if her heart would break. I could not help putting my face on the other page of the book, and crying, too, as hard as she did. After awhile she kissed me, and told me I had done her good. But, mother, I don't know how I did her good; for I only cried with her!"
Now this little girl was showing the tenderness of Jesus, the Great Teacher. Nothing in the world could have done that poor sorrowing child so much good as to have some one cry with her. Sometimes tears of tenderness are worth more than diamonds. And this is why the Bible tells us to "weep with them that weep." Rom. xii: 15. Jesus did this in the tenderness of his loving heart. And this was one of the things that made him the Great Teacher.
But then there was—GREAT KNOWLEDGE—in Jesus; and this was another thing that made him great as a teacher.
If we wish to be good teachers, we must study, and try to understand the things we expect to teach. If a young man wishes to be a minister, he must go through college; and then spend three years in the Divinity School, so that he may understand the great truths of the Bible, which he is to teach the people who hear him. But Jesus never went to college, or to a divinity school. And yet he had greater knowledge about all the things of which he spoke than any other teacher ever had. We are told in the book of Job that "He is perfect in knowledge." Job xxxvi: 5. And the apostle Paul tells us that "in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Col. ii: 3. This is more than can be said of any man, or any angel. If we could take all the knowledge of all the best teachers who ever lived, and give it to one person, it would be as nothing compared to the knowledge which Jesus, "the Great Teacher" had. He knew all about heaven; for that had always been his home before he came into our world. He knew all about God; for, he was "in the bosom of the Father," John i: 18; and, as he tells us himself, had shared his glory with him, "before the world was." John xvii: 5. He knew all about the world we live in, for he made it. John i: 10. He knew all about all other worlds, for he made them, too. John i: 3; Heb. i: 2. He knew all about his disciples and every body else in the world, for he made them all. He saw all they did; he heard all they said; he knew all they thought, or felt. Wise and learned men have been studying, and finding out things for hundreds of years, about geography and natural history—and astronomy;—about light, and heat, and electricity—and steam—and the telegraph, and many other things. Jesus knew all about these things when he was on earth. He could have told about them, if he had seen fit to do so. But he only told us what it is best for us to know, in order that we might be saved; and kept back all the rest. The things that Jesus did teach us when he was here on earth were wonderful; but it is hardly less wonderful to think of the things that he might have taught us, and yet did not. When we think of the great knowledge of Jesus, as a Teacher, we are not surprised that some of those who heard him "wondered at the gracious words" he spake; or that others asked the question: "Whence hath this man this knowledge, having never learned?"
Some one has written these sweet lines about Christ as—The Great Teacher:"From everything our Saviour saw,
But the difference between Jesus, the Great Teacher, and all other teachers is seen, not only in the greater knowledge he has of the things that he teaches, but in this also, that he knows how to make us understand the lessons he teaches. Here is an incident that illustrates how well Jesus can do this. We may call it:
"The Well Instructed Boy." A minister of the gospel was travelling through the wildest part of Ireland. There he met a shepherd's boy, not more than ten or twelve years old. He was poorly clad, with no covering on his head, and no shoes or stockings on his feet; but he looked bright and happy. He had a New Testament in his hand. "Can you read, my boy?" asked the minister.
"To be sure I can."
"And do you understand what you read?"
"Please turn to the third chapter of St. John, and read us a little," said the minister. The boy found the place directly, and in a clear distinct voice, began:
"There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi."
"What does Rabbi mean?"
"It means a master."
"Right; go on."
"We know thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him."
"What is a miracle?"
"It is a great wonder. 'Jesus answered and said unto him, verily, verily, I say unto thee.'"
"What does verily mean?"
"It means 'indeed.' 'Except a man be born again.'"
"What does that mean?"
"It means a great change, a change of heart."
"Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
"And what is that kingdom?"
He paused a moment, and with a very serious, thoughtful look, placing his hand on his bosom, he said, "It is something here;" and then, raising his eyes to heaven, added, "and something up yonder." This poor boy had been taking lessons from "the Great Teacher," and he had taught him some of the most important things that we can ever learn. Jesus may well be called "the Great Teacher," because of his great knowledge.
But there is one other thing that Jesus has, which helps to make him "the Great Teacher," and that is—GREAT POWER.
Other teachers can tell us what we ought to learn, and to do, yet they have no power to help us learn, or do what they teach. But Jesus has this power. Let us take a single illustration from many of the same kind that occurred while he was on earth. One day he was going about teaching in the streets of Jerusalem. As he went on, he passed by the office of a man who was gathering taxes for the Roman government. The persons who did this were called publicans. This man, sitting in his office, was named Matthew. He was busily engaged in receiving the taxes of the people. It was a very profitable business. The men engaged in it generally made a great deal of money. Jesus stopped before the window or door of this office. He beckoned to Matthew, and simply spoke these two words:—"Follow me."
Now, if any other teacher had spoken these words to Matthew, and had tried to make him quit his business and engage in something else, he would have said: "No; I can't leave my office. This is all the means I have of getting a living. The business pays well, and I am not willing to give it up." But when Jesus spoke to him, he did, at once, what he was told to do. We read that "He left all, rose up, and followed him." Matt. ix: 9; Luke v: 28. He became one of the twelve apostles and wrote the gospel which bears his name. But it was the great power which Jesus has over the hearts of men that made Matthew willing to do, at once, what he was told to do.
And the power which Jesus exercised over Matthew, in this case, he still has, and still uses. And when he is pleased to use this power the very worst people feel it, and are made good by it. And Jesus, "the Great Teacher," uses this power sometimes in connection with very simple things. Here is an illustration. We may call it:
"Saved by a Rose." Some time ago, a Christian gentleman was in the habit of visiting one of our prisons. It occurred to him, one day, that it would be a good thing to have a flowering plant in the little yard connected with each cell. He got permission from the officers of the prison to do so. He had a bracket fastened to the wall, in each yard, and a flower pot, with a plant in it, placed on each bracket. One of these prisoners was worse than all the rest. He was the most hardened man that had ever been in that prison. His temper was so violent and obstinate that no one could manage him. The keeper of the prison was afraid of him, and never liked to go near him. He was such a disagreeable-looking man that the name given to him in the prison was "Ugly Greg." A little rose bush was put on the bracket in Ugly Greg's yard, and the effect produced by it is told in these simple lines, which some one has written about it:"Ugly Greg was the prisoner's name,
And the meaning of all this is, not that the rose itself saved this hardened sinner. No; but it led him to think of the lessons of his childhood, when he had been taught about Jesus, "the Rose of Sharon". It led him to think about his sins. It led him to repent of them; to pray to Jesus; to exercise faith in him; and in this way he became a changed man, and was saved. And so, though we speak of him as—"a man saved by a rose;" yet it was the power of Jesus, "the Great Teacher," exercised through that rose, which led to this blessed change and saved Greg's soul from death.
And thus we have spoken of five things which help to make up the greatness of Jesus as a Teacher. These are—The Great Blessings—The Great Simplicity—The Great Tenderness—The Great Knowledge—and the Great Power connected with his teachings. Let us seek the grace that will enable us to learn of him, and then we shall find rest for our souls!
We have spoken of our Saviour as "The Great Teacher," and tried to point out some of the things in his teaching which helped to make him great. And now, it may be well to speak a little of the illustrations which he made use of as a Teacher. These are called—parables. Our Saviour's parables were illustrations. This is what is meant by the Greek word from which we get the word parable. It means something set down by the side of another. When we teach a lesson we are setting something before the minds of our scholars. But suppose it is a hard lesson and they do not understand it. Then we use an illustration. This is something set down beside the lesson to make it plain. Then this, whatever it be, is a parable.
At the beginning of his ministry, our Saviour did not make much use of parables. But, after he had been preaching for some time, he made a change in his way of teaching, in this respect. He began to use parables very freely. His disciples were surprised at this. On one occasion, after he had used the parable of the Sower, they came to their Master and asked him why he always spake to the people now in parables? We have our Saviour's answer to this question in St. Matt, xiii: 11-18. And it is a remarkable answer. The meaning of it is that he used parables for two reasons: one was to help those who really wished to learn from him to understand what he was teaching. The other was that those who were not willing to be taught might listen to him without understanding what he was saying. These people had heard him when he was teaching without parables. But, instead of thanking him for coming to teach them, and of being willing to do what he wanted them to do, they found fault with his teaching, and would not mind what he said.
Now, there is a great difference between the way in which we are to learn what the Bible teaches us about God and heaven; and the way in which we learn other things. If we want to learn what the Bible teaches us we must be careful that we are having right feelings in our hearts; but if we want to learn other things it does not matter so much what our feelings are. For instance, suppose you have a lesson to learn in geography; no matter how you are feeling, whether you are proud, or humble; whether you are cross, or gentle; yet if you only study hard enough, and long enough, you can learn that lesson. But, if you want to learn one of the lessons that Jesus teaches, no matter how hard, or how long you study it, yet while you are giving way to proud, or angry feelings in your heart, you can never learn that lesson. And the reason is that we cannot learn these lessons unless we have the special help of Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. But this help can never be had while we give way to wrong feelings in our hearts. In learning geography, and other such lessons, we do not need the special help of God. We can learn them ourselves, if we only try. But we cannot learn the lessons that Jesus teaches in this way. This is what the Psalmist means when he says:—"The meek will he teach his way." Ps. xxv: 9. And this was what our Saviour meant when he said: "If any man will do his will, he shall know." St. John vii: 17. We must be willing to be taught;—and willing to obey; if we wish to understand what Jesus, "The Great Teacher," has to tell us.
Some one has well said that truth, taught by a parable, is like the kernel hid away in a nut. The parable, like the shell of the nut, covers up the kernel. Those who really want the kernel will crack the shell, and get it: but those who are not willing to crack the shell will never get the kernel. The shell of the nut keeps the kernel safe for one of these persons, and safe from the others.
But, after the time of which we have spoken, Jesus used parables freely. We are told that—"without a parable spake he not unto the people." St. Mark xiii: 34. He used parables among his disciples for two reasons: these were to help them to understand, and to remember what he taught them.
We have a great many of the parables of Jesus in the gospels. A full list of them will contain not less than fifty. It would be easy enough to make a sermon on each of these parables. But that would make a larger work than this whole LIFE OF CHRIST, on which we are now engaged. It is impossible therefore to speak of all the parables. We can only make selections, or take some specimens of them. We may speak of five different lessons as illustrated by some of the parables of Christ. These are—The value of religion: Christ's love of sinners: The duty of forgiveness: The duty of kindness: and the effect of good example.
Well then, we may begin by considering what Jesus taught us of—THE VALUE OF RELIGION—in his parables.
The parable of The Treasure Hid in the Field teaches us this truth. We find this parable in St. Matt. xiii: 44. Here Jesus says, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field." The words "kingdom of heaven" are used by our Saviour in different senses. Sometimes, as here, they mean the grace of God, or true religion. And what Jesus teaches us by this parable is that true religion is more valuable than anything else in the world.
The next parable, in the forty-fifth and forty-sixth verses of the same chapter, is about The Pearl of Great Price. This teaches the same lesson. It reads thus:—"The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it." By this "pearl of great price" Jesus meant true religion, as he did by the treasure hid in the field in the former parable. And the truth he teaches in both these parables is that religion is more important to us than anything else in the world. Let us look at some incidents that may help to illustrate for us the value of religion.
"Jesus Makes Everything Right." A poor lame boy became a Christian, and in telling what effect this change had upon him, these are the words he used to a person who was visiting him: "Once every thing went wrong at our house; father was wrong, mother was wrong, sister was wrong, and I was wrong; but now, since I have learned to know and love Jesus it is all right. I know why everything went wrong before:—it was because I was wrong myself." And this is true. The first thing that religion does for us is to make us be right ourselves, and then to do right to others.
"Be." A young lady had been trying to do something very good, but had not succeeded. Her mother said, "Marian, my child, God gives us many things to do, but we must not forget that he gives us some things to be; and we must learn to be what God would have us be, before we can do what God would have us do."
"O dear mother, please tell me about being, and then I shall know better about doing."
"Well, listen my child, while I remind you of some of the Bible be's: God says:
"Be—ye kindly affectioned one to another."
"Be—ye also patient."
"Be—ye children in malice."
"Be—ye therefore perfect."
"Be—not wise in your own conceits."
"Be—not overcome of evil."
"Thank you, dear mother," said Marian. "I hope I shall have a better day to-morrow; for I see now that doing grows out of being."
This is a point worth dwelling on, and so I will introduce to your notice here:
A SWARM OF BEES WORTH HIVING."Be patient, Be prayerful, Be humble, Be mild,
Here is a swarm of between forty and fifty bees. The religion of Jesus will help us to make these all our own. How great then must the value of religion be! Surely it is worth while for each of us to try and secure it!
I think I never saw a better view of the value of religion than is seen in the following statement of what it does for us. I know not by whom it was written, but it is put in the form of that sacred sign to which we owe all the blessings of salvation—the sign of
THE CROSS."Blest they who seek
"Leaving it All with Jesus." Annie W ... was a young Christian. In her fourteenth year she was taken with a severe illness, from which the doctor said she could not recover. When she became too weak to leave the sofa, she would send for one and another of the neighbors to come in to see her, and then she would speak to them of Jesus and his great salvation. One day a poor old woman who was not a Christian, came in to see her.
"You are very ill, my dear," she said to Annie.
"Yes," she replied, "but I shall soon be well."
The poor woman shook her head as she looked at Annie's mother, saying, "Poor dear creature; she cannot possibly get well. No: she will never get over it." Then turning to Annie, she said:
"Don't you know, my dear, that you are going to die?"
"I know I am going to live," she said with a sweet smile. "I shall soon be with Jesus in heaven, and live forever with him."
"Oh, how can you know that, my dear? We must not be too sure you know," said the poor woman.
"Oh," said Annie, pointing to a card hanging on the wall, near her bed, on which was printed in large letters the hymn headed—"I leave it all with Jesus." "That's what I do! That's what I do." These are the words of the hymn which gave that dear child so much comfort on her dying bed:"I leave it all with Jesus,
And here we have a beautiful illustration of one of the things which Jesus taught us in his parables, namely—the value of religion.
Another thing we are taught in these parables is—CHRIST'S LOVE FOR SINNERS.
The parable of the lost sheep teaches us this truth: but as we had occasion to speak of this in our last chapter, when illustrating the tenderness of Christ, as the Great Teacher, we may let that pass now. But the parable of the lost piece of money teaches the same lesson. We have this parable in St. Luke xv: 8th and 9th verses. Here we are told of a woman who had ten pieces of silver, and lost one of them. Then she laid the others aside, and searched diligently for the lost piece till she found it. This woman represents Jesus. The lost piece of money represents our souls lost by sin. The efforts of the woman to find the lost piece represent what Jesus did, when he left heaven, and took our nature upon him, and came as "the Son of man to seek and to save that which was lost." And it was the love of Jesus for poor sinners which led him to do all this for us. And everything connected with the history of Jesus when he was on earth shows the greatness of his love. Think of Bethlehem and its manger; there we see the love of Jesus. Think of Gethsemane with its bloody sweat; there we see the love of Jesus. Think of Calvary with its cross of shame and agony; for there we see the love of Jesus.
And the parable of the prodigal son teaches us the same lesson. We read of this in the same chapter, St. Luke xv: 11-32. This son had been disobedient and ungrateful. He had taken the money his father gave him and had gone away and spent it in living very wickedly. And when the money was all spent and he was likely to starve, he went back to his father, hungry and ragged, and asked to be taken in. And instead of scolding and punishing him as he deserved, as soon as his father saw him, he ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him; and took off his rags, and dressed him in good clothes, and made a great feast for him. How beautifully this parable illustrates the love of Christ for sinners!
And when we learn to know and feel the love of Christ for us, it does two blessed things for us.
One is, it makes us good. We hear a great deal about conversion. This word conversion simply means—turning. When a person has been living without trying to serve or please God, and is led to see how wrong it is to live in that way, and then feels an earnest desire to turn around, and live differently, and really does so:—that is conversion. The teaching or preaching of the gospel is the chief means that God employs to convert men. And the thing about the gospel in which this converting power lies is—the love of Christ. Here is an illustration of what this means.
"He Loved Me." An English minister of the gospel was traveling in Switzerland one summer. As he passed from place to place, he preached by means of an interpreter in various churches. One Sunday night he preached from the words, "He loved me, and gave himself for me." Gal. ii: 20. Then he went on his way without knowing what effect had followed from his preaching.
One Saturday evening, several weeks after, the minister of this church was sitting in his study. There came a faint knock at his door. He opened it, when, to his great surprise he saw there a young man, who was known as the wickedest young man in that neighborhood, and the leader of others in all sorts of wickedness. He invited him in, gave him a seat, and asked him what he wished. Judge of his surprise when the young man said he wished to inquire if he might come to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, which was to be celebrated in his church the next day!
"But are you not aware, my young friend," said the minister, "that only those who love Christ, and are trying to serve him, have any right to come to that holy ordinance?"
"I know it, sir," said the young man, "and I am thankful to feel that I am among that number."
"But," asked the astonished pastor, "are you not known in this village as the ringleader in all evil doings?"
"Alas! it is too true that it has been so," he replied, "but thank God all is changed now."
"I am happy indeed to hear it; but pray tell me what led to this great change."
"I was in your church, sir," said he, "some weeks ago, when that English minister preached from the words, 'Who loved me and gave himself for me,' That was the first time I ever understood about the love of Christ. It led to my repentance and conversion; and now I wish to show my love to Jesus by trying to serve and please him."
Here we see how the love of Christ makes us good.
But it makes us happy, as well as good. Here is a little story that illustrates this point very well. We may call it:
"Maggie's Secret." "Maggie Blake, how can you study so hard, and be so provokingly good?" This question was asked by Jennie Lee, who was one of the largest and wildest girls in the school. Maggie hesitated a moment, whether to tell her secret or not. But, presently she lifted up her eyes, looked her companion bravely in the face, and said—"It's for Jesus' sake, Jennie."
"But do you think he cares?" asked Jennie in a soft, subdued voice,—"do you think he cares how we act?"
"I know he does," said Maggie. "And it makes it so pleasant you see, even to study and get hard lessons, when I know he is looking at me, and is pleased to have me working my best for him. He always helps me to get my lessons; and then helps me to say them right. You know I used to be so frightened I could not say them, even when I had learned them well."
"Yes," said Jennie, remembering very well how Maggie had changed in that respect.
"That was before I thought of learning them for Jesus. After that he helped me all along. It makes me like school; and even disagreeable things are pleasant when I think of doing them for him."
Jennie had often watched Maggie, and wondered what made her have such a bright, cheerful, happy look. Now she knew the secret of it. It was doing everything "for Jesus' sake."
She felt she would gladly give everything she had to be as happy as Maggie. She asked Maggie to pray for her, and she began to pray for herself. Then Jesus helped her, and she soon had Maggie's secret for her own. The girls in school wondered at the change which had come over Jennie. But when they heard that she had been confirmed, and had joined the church, they understood it all. They knew she "had been with Jesus;" and that it was learning to know and feel his wonderful love which had made Jennie so good, and so happy.
And so, we see that Jesus was doing a blessed thing for us when he taught the parables which show his love for sinners.
A third thing taught us by some of the parables of Jesus is—THE DUTY OF KINDNESS.
One day, while Jesus was on earth, a young man came to him with the great question, what he should do to obtain eternal life. Jesus referred him to the Ten Commandments; and reducing them to two, he told the young man that these commandments required him to love God with all his heart, and his neighbor as himself; and then said if he would do this he would be saved.
This is perfectly true. Any one would be saved who would do this. But no one ever has done this except our blessed Lord Himself. He "magnified the law and made it honorable" by keeping it perfectly. I suppose that Jesus intended to give this young man some lessons about the commandments of God which would lead him to see that he never could keep them himself; and that he would need some one to keep them for him, and that this was the only way in which he, or any one else could be saved. It may have been that the young man did not want to hear any thing more on that subject, and so he gave the conversation a different turn by asking—"who is my neighbor?" when Jesus said he must love his neighbor as himself. And then, in answer to this question Jesus told the parable of the "Good Samaritan." We have this parable in St. Luke x: 30-37.
Here we are told of a certain man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves. They robbed him; and wounded him; and left him half dead. While he was lying there helpless and suffering, a priest and a Levite came, and looked on him, and passed by on the other side, without giving him any help. Then we are told that a certain Samaritan came by, and when he saw the poor wounded man lying there, although he was a Jew, and the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other very much, yet he pitied him, and went up to him, and bound up his wounds, and set him on his own beast, and carried him to an inn, and told them to take care of him, and said that he would pay all his expenses. Then Jesus asked the question, "Which now, of these three thinkest thou was neighbor to him that fell among thieves? And he said, he that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise."
Thus Jesus taught the duty of kindness. This kindness we must show, not to our friends only, but to our enemies. Kindness to all is the duty that Jesus teaches.
Let us look at one or two illustrations of the way in which we should do this.
"The Honey Shield." It is said that wasps and bees will not sting a person whose skin is covered with honey. And so those who are exposed to the sting of these venomous little creatures smear their hands and faces over with honey, and this, we are told, proves the best shield they can have to keep them from getting stung. And the honey here very well represents the kindness which Jesus teaches us to practise. If kindness, gentleness, and forbearance are found running through all our words and actions, we shall have the best shield to protect us from the spiteful stings of wicked people.
"Androcles and the Lion." Most of those who read these pages may have heard this story, but it illustrates the point before us so well that I do not hesitate to use it here.
Androcles was a Roman slave. To escape the cruel treatment of his master he ran away. A lonely cave in the midst of the forest was his home for a while. Returning to his cave one day he met a lion near the mouth of the cave. He was bellowing as if in pain; and on getting nearer to him, he found that he was suffering from a thorn which had run into one of his paws. It was greatly swollen and inflamed, and was causing him much pain. Androcles went up to the suffering beast. He drew out the rankling thorn and thus relieved him of his pain. His nature, savage as it was, felt the power of the kindness thus shown to him. He became attached to the lonely slave, and shared his prey with him while they remained together.
But, after a while the retreat of Androcles was discovered. He was taken and carried back to his master. The lion also was made a prisoner soon after. Androcles was kept in prison for some time; and finally, according to the custom of the Romans, he was condemned to be devoured by wild beasts. The lion to be let loose on Androcles had been kept a long time without food and was very hungry. When the door of his den was opened he rushed out with a tremendous roar. The Colosseum was crowded with spectators. They expected to see the poor slave torn to pieces in a moment. But, to the surprise of everyone, the great monster, hungry as he was, instead of devouring the condemed man, crouched at his feet, and began to fondle him, as a pet dog would do. He recognized in the poor prisoner his friend of the forest and showed that he had not forgotten his kindness. The kindness of Androcles had been like the honey shield to him. It saved his life, first from the savage beast in the forest; and then from the savage men in the city. Let us all put on this shield, and wear it wherever we go. The lesson of kindness which Jesus teaches in this parable, has been very well put by some one in these sweet lines:
THE LESSON OF KINDNESS."Think kindly of the erring!
The duty of kindness was the third lesson Jesus taught in the parables.
A fourth lesson taught us in some of the parables of Jesus is---- THE DUTY OF FORGIVENESS.
The apostle Peter came to Jesus one day, and asked him how often he ought to forgive a brother that offended him; and whether it would be enough to forgive him seven times. The answer of Jesus was, "I say not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven."
St. Matt. 18: 22. Then Jesus spoke the parable of the two debtors. St. Matt. 18: 23-35. One of these owed his master ten thousand talents. If these were talents of silver they would amount to more than fifteen millions of dollars. If they were talents of gold, they would amount to three hundred millions. This would show that his debt was so great that he never could pay it. Then his master freely forgave him. But not long after, he found one of his fellow-servants, who owed him a hundred pence, or about fifteen dollars of our money. The man asked him to forgive him the debt. He would not do it; but put him in prison. When his master heard this he was very angry, and put him in prison, where he should be punished until he had paid all his great debt. And Jesus finished the parable by saying—"so likewise, shall my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye, from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." And here we are taught the great duty of forgiveness. And this same duty is taught us in the Lord's Prayer, where he says—"Forgive us our trespasses, as we also forgive those who trespass against us." If we use this prayer without forgiving those who injure us, then, in so using it, we are really asking God not to forgive us. And Jesus practised what he preached. As he hung bleeding and agonizing on the cross, while his enemies were cruelly mocking his misery, he looked up to heaven, and uttered that wonderful prayer—"Father forgive them; for they know not what they do." Here we have the best illustration of forgiveness that the world has ever seen.
"Example of Forgiveness." In a school in Ireland, one boy struck another. The offending boy was brought up to be punished, when the injured boy begged for his pardon. The teacher asked—"Why do you wish to keep him from being flogged?" The ready reply was—"Because I have read in the New Testament that our Lord Jesus Christ said that we must forgive our enemies; and therefore I forgive him, and beg that he may not be punished for my sake."
"Good for Evil." At the foot of a street in New York, stood an Italian organ grinder, with his organ. A number of boys had gathered round him, but they were more anxious to have some fun than to hear music. One of them said to his companions:
"See! I'll hit his hat!"
And sure enough he did. Making up a snow ball, he threw it with so much force that the poor man's hat was knocked into the gutter. A gentleman standing by expected to see him get very angry, and swear at the boy. But, very different from this was the result that followed. The musician stopped; stepped forward and picked up his hat. Then he turned to the rude boy, and gracefully bowing, said:
"And now, I'll play you a tune to make you merry!" There was real Christian forgiveness.
"The Power of the Gospel." Years ago some carpenters moved to the Island of New Zealand, and set up a shop for carrying on their business. They were engaged to build a chapel at one of the Mission Stations. One of these carpenters, a pleasant, kind-hearted man, engaged a native Christian to dig his garden for him. When the work was done the man went to the shop for his pay. Another of the carpenters there, who was a very ill-tempered man, told the native to get out of the shop. "Don't be angry," was the gentle reply; "I have only come to have a little talk with your partner, and to get my wages from him." "But I am angry." And then taking hold of the New Zealander by the shoulder, he abused and kicked him in the most cruel manner.
The native made no resistance till the carpenter ceased. Then he jumped up, seized him by the throat, and snatching a small axe from the bench, flourished it threateningly over his head. "Now, you see," said he, "your life is in my hand. You see my arm is strong enough to kill you; and my arm is quite willing, but my heart is not. I have heard the missionaries preach the gospel of forgiveness. You owe your life to the preaching of the gospel. If my heart was as dark now as it was before the gospel was preached here, I should strike off your head in an instant!"
Then he released the carpenter without injuring him and accepted from him a blanket as an apology for the insult. How faithfully this man was practising the duty of forgiveness which Jesus taught!
The only other thing of which we shall now speak, as taught by our Saviour in the parables, is—THE INFLUENCE OF GOOD EXAMPLE.
The parable which teaches this lesson is that of the lighted candle. It is one of the shortest of our Lord's parables, and yet the truth it teaches is very important. We first find this parable in the sermon on the mount. These are the words in which it is given: "Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matt, v: 15. This parable is so important that we find it repeated in three other places. Mark iv: 21, Luke viii: 16, and xi: 33.
We find the same idea taught by one of England's greatest writers. Looking at a candle shining through a window, he says:"How far yon little candle throws its beam!
And the lesson we are here taught is that we should always set a good example by doing what we know to be right, and then, like a candle shining in a dark place, we shall be useful wherever we go. Let us look at one or two incidents that illustrate this.
"A Boy's Influence." Two families lived in one house. In each of these families there was a little boy about the same age. These boys slept together. One of them had a good pious mother. She had trained him to kneel down every night, before getting into bed, and say his prayer in an audible voice, and to repeat a text of scripture which she had taught him. Now the first time he slept with the other little boy, who never said any prayers, he was tempted to jump into bed, as his companion did, without kneeling down to pray. But he was a brave and noble boy. He said to himself—"I am not afraid to do what my mother taught me. I am not ashamed for anybody to know that I pray to God. I'll do as I have been taught to do." He did so. He let his light shine. And see what followed from its shining!
The little boy who had never been taught to pray learned his companion's prayer, and the verse he repeated, by hearing them, and he never forgot them. He grew up to be an earnest Christian man. When he lay on his deathbed, quite an aged man, he sent for the friend, whose prayer he had learned, to come and see him, and told him that it was his little prayer, so faithfully said every night when they were boys, which led him to become a Christian. He repeated the prayer and the verse, word for word, and with his dying lips thanked his friend for letting his light shine as he did, for that had saved his soul.
Here is another illustration of a Christian letting his light shine and the good that was done by it. We may call it:
"The Shilling Bible, and what Came of It." Some years ago a Christian gentleman went on a visit for three days to the house of a rich lady who lived at the west end of London. After tea, on the first evening of his arrival, he called one of the servants, and telling her that in the hurry of leaving home he had forgotten to bring a Bible with him, he requested her to ask the lady of the house to be kind enough to lend him one.
Now that house was beautifully furnished. There were splendid pictures on the walls, and elegantly bound volumes in the library and on the tables in the parlor; but there was not a Bible in the house. The lady felt ashamed to own that she had no Bible. So she gave the servant a shilling and told her to go to the book store round the corner and buy a Bible. The Bible was bought and given to the gentleman. He used it during his visit, and then went home, little knowing how much good that shilling Bible was to do.
When he was gone the lady at whose house he had been staying said to herself:
"How strange it is that an intelligent gentleman like my friend could not bear to go for three days without reading the Bible, while I never read it at all, and don't know what it teaches. I am curious to know what there is in this book to make it so attractive. I mean to begin and read it through." She began to read it at first out of simple curiosity. But, as she went on reading she became deeply interested in it. It showed her what a sinner she was in living without God in the world. It led her to pray earnestly for the pardon of her sins; and the end of it was that she became a Christian. Then she desired that her children should know and love the Saviour too. She prayed for them. She talked with them, and taught them the precious truths contained in that blessed book. And the result was that, one by one, they were all led to Jesus and became Christians. And so that whole family were saved by means of that shilling Bible.
When that gentleman asked for the use of a Bible in the house where he was visiting, he was setting a good example. He was putting his candle on a candlestick and letting it shine. And the result that followed gives us a good illustration of the meaning of our Saviour's words when he said:—"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
And so, when we remember the parables that Jesus taught, among other things illustrated by them, we can think of these,—the value of religion;—Christ's love for sinners;—the duty of kindness;—the duty of forgiveness;—the influence of a good example.
I know not how to finish this subject better than in the words of the hymn:"Father of mercies! in thy word,
We have seen how many valuable lessons our Saviour taught while on earth by the parables which he used. But we teach by our lives, as well as by our lips. It has passed into a proverb, and we all admit the truth of it, that "Actions speak louder than words." If our words and our actions contradict each other, people will believe our actions sooner than our words. But when both agree together, then the effect is very great. This was true with our blessed Lord. There was an entire agreement between what he said, and what he did. His words and his actions, the teaching of his lips, and the teaching of his life—were in perfect harmony. He practised what he preached.
But then, in addition to the every day common actions of the life of Christ, there were actions in it that were very uncommon. He was daily performing miracles, and doing many mighty and wonderful works. And the prophets before him, and apostles after him, performed miracles too; yet there were two things in which the miracles of Christ differed from those performed by others. One was as to the number of them. He did a greater number of wonderful things than anyone else ever did. Indeed if we take the miracles that were done by Moses, by Elijah and Elisha, in the Old Testament, and those that were done by the apostles in the New Testament and put them all together we shall find that they would not equal, in number, the miracles of Christ. There are between thirty and forty of the mighty works wrought by our Saviour mentioned in the gospels. And these, as St. John says, are only a small portion of them. Ch. xxi: 25.
The other thing in which the miracles of Christ are different from those performed by other persons, is the way in which they were done. The prophets and apostles did their mighty works in the name of God, or of Christ. Thus when Peter and John healed the lame man at the gate of the temple they said:—"In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." Acts iii: 6. But Jesus had all the power in himself by which those wonderful things were done. He could say to the leper,—"I will; be thou clean." He could say to the sick man:—"Take up thy bed and walk." When speaking of his death and resurrection, he could very well say that it was his own power which would control it all. His life was in his own hands. It was true, as he said, "No man taketh it from me; but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again." John x: 18. And it was the same with all his other mighty works. He had all the power in himself that was needed to do them.
And these miracles of Christ were the proofs that he was the Messiah, the great Saviour, of whom the prophets had spoken. This was what Nicodemus meant when he said to Jesus:—"We know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." John iii: 2. And Jesus himself referred to his miracles as the proof that God had sent him. John v: 36; x: 25.
And this was what he meant by the message which he sent to John the Baptist, when his disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Are thou he that should come, or look we for another?" Jesus answered and said unto them, "Go, and show John again those things which ye do hear and see; the blind receive their sight; and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed; and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up; and the poor have the gospel preached unto them." Matt, xi: 2-6. These were the very things which the prophets had foretold that Christ would do when he came. Is. xxix: 18. xxxv: 4-6. xlii: 7.
It is clear from these passages that all the miracles performed by our Lord were intended to teach this lesson, that he was the great Saviour of whom the prophets had spoken. But then, in addition to this, these wonderful works of Jesus were made use of by him to show that he has power to do everything for his people that they may need to have him do.
It is impossible for us to speak of all the miracles of Christ. We can only make selections from them, as we did with the parables in the last chapter. In looking at these we may see Jesus teaching us that he has power to do four things for his people.
In the first place some of the miracles of Christ teach us that he has great power to—HELP.
We see this in the account given us of the miraculous draught of fishes. Luke v: 1-11.
Peter was a fisherman before he became a disciple of Jesus. And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were partners with him in the same business. On one occasion they had been busy all night throwing out and hauling in their nets, but without catching a single fish. Early the next morning, Jesus was walking along the shore of the lake, near where their boats were. He knew how tired and discouraged they were, and how much they needed help; and he wished to show them what wonderful power he had to help in time of need. So he told them to cast their net on the other side of the ship. They did so; and immediately their nets were full; and they had more fish than they could well manage. Here we are taught that even in the depths of the sea nothing can be hid from the all-seeing eye of our divine Saviour. He knows where everything is that his people can need; and he has the power to bring it to them.
And then, by his miracle of walking on the sea Jesus taught the same lesson. We have an account of this miracle in three places. Matt, xix: 22-33. Mark vi: 45-52. John vi: 14-21.
At the close of a busy day, in which he had been teaching the people and feeding them by miracle, Jesus told his disciples to go on board a vessel and cross over to the other side of the lake. Then he sent the multitude away, and went up into the mountain to pray to his Father in heaven whom he loved so much. It proved to be a stormy night. The wind was dead ahead; and the sea was very rough. The disciples were having a hard time of it. Tired of rowing, and making little progress, there was no prospect of their getting to land before morning. But, dark as the night was, Jesus saw them. It is true as David says, that—"The darkness and the light are both alike to thee." Ps. cxxxix: 12. He saw they needed help and he resolved to give it to them. But there was no boat at hand for him to go in. True: but he needed none. He could walk on the water as well as on the land. He steps from the sandy shore to the surface of the storm-tossed sea. He walks safely over its troubled waters. The disciples see him. Supposing it to be a spirit, they are alarmed, and cry out in their fear. But presently the cheering voice of their Master comes to them, saying: "It is I. Be not afraid." He steps on board. The wind ceases, and immediately, without another stroke of the oars, the mighty power of Jesus brings them "in safety to the haven where they would be." Other miracles might be referred to as teaching the same lesson. But these are sufficient. And Jesus has the same power to help now that he had then.
Here are some illustrations of the strange way in which he sometimes helps his people in their times of need.
"The Dead Raven." A poor weaver in Edinburgh lost his situation one winter, on account of business being so dull. He begged earnestly of his employer to let him have work; but he said it was impossible. Well said he, "I'm sure the Lord will help." When he came home and told his wife the sad news she was greatly distressed. He tried to comfort her with the assurance—"The Lord will help." But as he could get no work, their money was soon gone; and the day came at last, when there was neither food nor fuel left in the house. The last morsel of bread was eaten one morning at breakfast. "What shall we do for dinner?" asked his wife.
"The Lord will help"—was still his reply. And see how the help came. Soon after breakfast, his wife opened the front window, to dust off the sill. Just then a rude boy, who was passing, threw a dead raven in through the window. It fell at the feet of the pious weaver. As he threw the bird in, the boy cried out in mockery, "There, old saint, is something for you to eat." The weaver took up the dead raven, saying as he did so:—"Poor creature! you must have died of hunger!"
But when he felt its crop to see whether it was empty, he noticed something hard in it. And wishing to know what had caused its death, he took a knife and cut open its throat. How great was his astonishment on doing this, to find a small diamond bracelet fall into his hand! His wife gazed at it in amazement. "Didn't I tell you," he asked, in grateful gladness, "that the Lord will help?"
He went to the nearest jeweler's, and telling how he had found the precious jewels, borrowed some money on them. On making inquiry about it, it turned out that the bracelet belonged to the wife of the good weaver's late employer. It had suddenly disappeared from her chamber. One of the servants had been charged with stealing it, and had been dismissed. On hearing how the bracelet had disappeared, and how strangely it had fallen into the hands of his late worthy workman, the gentleman was very much touched; and not only rewarded him liberally for returning it—but took him back into his employ, and said he should never want work again so long as he had any to give.
How willing, and how able our glorious Saviour is to help those who trust in him!
"The Sailor Boy's Belief." One night there was a terrible storm at sea. All at once a ship, which was tossing on the waves, keeled over on her beam ends. "She'll never right again!" exclaimed the captain. "We shall all be lost!"
"Not at all, sir!" cried a pious sailor boy who was near the captain. "What's to hinder it?" asked the captain. "Why you see, sir," said the boy, "they are praying at this very moment in the Bethel ship at Glasgow for all sailors in danger: and I feel sure that God will hear their prayers: Now see, sir, if he don't!"
These words were hardly out of the boy's mouth, before a great wave struck the ship, and set her right up again. And then a shout of praise, louder than the howling of the storm, went up to God from the deck of that saved ship.
And so, in the miracles that he performed, one thing that Jesus taught was his power to help.
In the next place, among the miracles of Christ, we find some that were performed in order to teach us his power to—COMFORT.
One day, a great multitude of people waited on Jesus from morning till evening, to listen to his preaching. They were so anxious to hear that even when hungry they would not go away to get food. As the evening came on, the disciples asked their master to send the people away to get something to eat. But Jesus told them to give the people food. They said they had only five loaves and two fishes. Jesus told them to make the people sit down on the grass. And when they were seated he took the loaves and blessed, and brake them, and gave them to the disciples, and they gave them to the people. And great as that multitude was the supply did not fail. This was wonderful! Those loaves were very small. They were not bigger than a good-sized roll. The whole of the five loaves and two fishes would not have been enough to make a meal for a dozen men. And yet they were made sufficient to feed more than five thousand hungry people. How strange this was! The mighty power of Jesus did it. We are not told just where, in the interesting scene, this wonder-working power was put forth. It may have been that as Jesus brake the loaves and gave the pieces to the disciples, the part left in his hands grew out at once, to the same size that it was before. Or the broken pieces may have increased and multiplied while the disciples were engaged in distributing them. It is most likely that the miracle took place in immediate connection with Jesus himself. The power that did it was his: and in his hands, we may suppose that the wonderful work was done. As fast as he broke the loaves they increased, till all the people were fed. This was indeed not one miracle, but a multitude of miracles, all performed at once. The hungry multitude ate till all were satisfied: and yet the fragments left filled twelve baskets. Five thousand men were fed, and then there was twelve times as much food left as there was before they began to eat. All this was done to satisfy that hungry crowd, and to teach them, and us, what power this glorious Saviour has to comfort those who are in need or trouble.
And when he healed the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman, as we read in St. Matt, xii: 21-28; when he healed the lunatic child, as we read in St. Matt, xvii: 14-21; and when he raised Lazarus from the dead, after he had lain four days in the grave, as we read in St. John xi: 1-54, he was working miracles to show his power to comfort those in trouble.
And we see him using his power still to comfort persons who are in distress. Here are some illustrations of the way in which he does this:
"Shining in Every Window." A Christian lady, who spent much time in visiting among the poor, went one day to see a poor young girl, who was kept at home by a broken limb. Her room was on the north side of the house. It did not look pleasant without or cheerful within. "Poor girl!" she said to herself, "what a dreary time she must have!" On entering her room she said:
"I am sorry, my friend, that your room is not on the other side of the house, where the sun could shine upon you. You never can have any sunshine here."
"Oh, you are mistaken," she said: "the sunshine pours in at every window, and through every crack."
The lady looked surprised.
"I mean Jesus, 'the Sun of righteousness,' shines in here, and makes everything bright to me."
Here we see Jesus showing his power to comfort.
"Ice in Summer." Some years ago a Christian merchant, in one of our eastern cities, failed in business, and lost everything he had. After talking over their affairs with his wife, who was a good Christian woman, they concluded to move out to the west and begin life again there. He bought some land on the wide rolling prairie, built a log cabin, and began to cultivate his farm. In the midst of the second summer, hard work and exposure to the sun brought on an attack of sickness, and a raging fever set in. They were twelve miles away from the nearest town. One of the neighbors went there and came back with a doctor. He examined the case very carefully, and left some medicine with them, and told them what to do. He said it was a very dangerous attack. If they could only get some ice to apply to the burning brow of the sick man, he thought he might get over it; but, without that, there was very little prospect of his recovery.
As soon as the doctor was gone, the sorrowful wife gathered her family and friends round the bedside of her sick husband, and kneeled down with them in prayer. She told God what the doctor had said, and prayed very earnestly that he who has the power to do everything, would send them some ice.
When the prayer was over, some of the neighbors whispered to each other that the poor distressed woman must be losing her mind. "The idea of getting ice here," they said, "when everybody knows there isn't a bit of ice in all the country! It would be contrary to all the laws of nature to have ice in summer."
The wife of the sick man heard their remarks, but they did not shake her faith in God, and in the power of prayer. Silently, but earnestly, her heart breathed forth the cry for ice.
As the day wore on, heavy clouds began to gather in the western sky. They rolled in darkness over the heavens. The distant thunder was heard to mutter. Nearer and louder it was heard. The lightning began to flash. Presently the storm burst in its fury. It came first in rain, and then in hail. The hail-stones came in lumps of ice as big as eggs. They lay thick in the furrows of the field. The thankful wife went out, and soon came in rejoicing with a bucket full of ice. It was applied in bags to her husband's head. The fever broke, and he was restored to life and health.
This grateful woman never troubled herself with any questions about whether it was a miracle or not. She only knew that she had prayed for ice in summer, and that the ice had come. And her faith was stronger than ever that the gracious Saviour, who did so many miracles when he was on earth, has just the same power now to comfort his people when they are in trouble.
In the third place, we see Jesus performing miracles to teach us what power he has to—ENCOURAGE—his people.
We have an account in St. Luke xiii: 10-17, of the miracle he performed on the woman who had "a spirit of infirmity." This means that she was a cripple. Her body was bound down, so that she had no power to straighten herself or to stand upright. She had been in this condition we are told for eighteen years. How hard to bear—and how discouraging this trial must have been to her! No doctor could give her any relief, and she had made up her mind, no doubt, that there was no relief for her till death came. But when Jesus saw her, he pitied her. A miracle of healing was performed upon her. He laid his loving hand upon her bent and crippled body, and in a moment her disease was removed. She stood straight up, and glorified God. What encouragement that must have given to her!
One day, when Jesus was at Capernaum, the tax-gatherers came to Peter to get the tribute, or tax-money, that was due to the Roman government, for himself and his master. But, it happened so that neither of them had money enough with which to pay that tax. Peter went into the presence of Jesus to speak to him about this matter. But Jesus knowing what was in his mind, before Peter had time to say anything on the subject, told him what to do. He directed him to take his fishing-line and go to the lake, and cast in his line, and catch the first fish that should bite; and said that in its mouth he would find a piece of money with which he might pay the tribute that was due for them both.
Peter went. He threw in his line. He soon caught a fish. He looked into the fish's mouth and lo! there was a piece of money called a stater. It was worth about sixty cents of our money, and was just enough to pay the tribute for two persons. How wonderful this was! If Jesus made this piece of money in the mouth of the fish, at the time when Peter caught it, how wonderful his power must be! And if, without making it then, he knew that that one fish, the only one in the sea, probably, that had such a piece of money in its mouth, would be the first to bite at Peter's line, then how wonderful his knowledge must be!
Peter would not be likely to forget that day's fishing as long as he lived. And when he thought of the illustration it afforded of the wonderful power and the wonderful knowledge of the master whom he was serving, what encouragement that would give him in his work!
And Jesus is constantly doing things to encourage those who are trying to serve him.
Let us look at some of the ways in which this is done. Our first illustration is from the life of Washington Allston, the great American painter. We may call it:
"Praying for Bread." Many years ago Mr. Allston was considered one of the greatest artists in this country. At the time to which our story refers, he was living in London. Then he was so poor that he and his wife had not a morsel of bread to eat; nor a penny left with which to buy any. In great discouragement he went into his studio, locked the door, and throwing himself on his knees, he told the Lord his trouble, and prayed earnestly for relief.
While he was still upon his knees, a knock was heard at the door. He arose and opened the door. A stranger stood there.
"I wish to see Mr. Allston," said he.
"I am Mr. Allston," replied Mr. A.
"Pray tell me, sir, who has purchased your fine painting of the 'Angel Uriel,' which won the prize at the exhibition of the Royal Academy?"
"That painting has not been sold," said Mr. A.
"Where is it to be found?"
"In this very room," said the artist, bringing a painting from the corner, and wiping off the dust.
"What is the price of it?" asked the gentleman.
"I have done fixing a price on it," said Mr. A., "for I have always asked more than people were willing to give."
"Will four hundred pounds be enough for it?" was the next question.
"That is more than I ever asked."
"Then the painting is mine," said the stranger, who introduced himself as the Marquis of Stafford; and from that day he became one of Mr. Allston's warmest friends.
What a lesson of encouragement the great painter learned that day, when he asked for bread, and while he was asking, received help that followed him all his days!
"The Hushed Tempest." A minister of the gospel in Canada gives this account of a lesson of encouragement to trust God in trouble, which he once received.
"It was in the year 1853, about the middle of the winter that we had a succession of snowstorms, followed by high winds, and severe cold. I was getting ready to haul my supply of wood for the rest of the winter. I had engaged a man to go out the day before and cut the wood and have it ready to haul. I borrowed a sled and two horses from a neighbor and started early in the morning to haul the wood. Just as I reached the place, it began to snow hard. The wind blew such a gale that it was impossible to go on with the work. What was I to do? If it kept on snowing, I knew the roads would be impassable by the next day. Besides, that was the only day on which I could get the help of the man or the team. Unless I secured the wood that day it would not be in my power to get the fuel we needed for the rest of the winter. I thought of that sweet promise, 'Call on me, in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee,' Ps. i: 15.
"I kneeled down amid the drifting snow, and said, 'O, my God, this is a day of trouble to me. Lord help me. The elements are subject to thy will: Thou holdest the winds in thy hands. If thou wilt speak the word, there will be a great calm. O Lord, for the sake of my helpless little ones, let this snow lie still, and give me the opportunity of doing what I came to do, and what it is so necessary to do to-day, for Jesus' sake. Amen!'
"I do not think it was more than fifteen minutes from the time I began to pray, before there was a visible change. The wind became more moderate; the sky was calm; in less than half an hour all was still; and a more pleasant time for wood-hauling than we had that day I never saw, nor desire to see. While I live, I never shall forget the lesson of encouragement to trust in God that was taught me on that day." And this was one of the lessons Jesus taught us by his miracles.
In the fourth place, among the miracles of Jesus we see some that were intended to teach us his power to—PROTECT—his people.
And there is no lesson that we more need to be taught than this; because we are exposed to many dangers, from which we are too weak to protect ourselves.
One day, Jesus went into the house of the apostle Peter, and found the family in great distress, because the mother of Peter's wife was very ill and in danger of dying. We judge from the history that she was the head of the family. Her death would have been a great loss to them all, and yet it seemed as if no human power could protect them from that loss. But Jesus performed a miracle to save them from this threatened danger. He went into the room where she lay. He put his healing hands upon her, and at once she was well. Immediately she rose up from that sick bed, and took her place in the family and waited on Jesus.
On another occasion he was crossing the sea of Galilee with his disciples. Weary with the work of love in which he had been engaged, he laid down in the hinder part of the ship and fell asleep. While he was lying there a sudden storm burst upon the sea. The wind howled in its fury. The angry waves rose in their might and dashed against the vessel in hissing foam. The ship was full of water, and in danger of sinking. The terrified disciples came to their sleeping Master with the earnest cry:—"Lord save us: we perish." He heard their cry. He rose at once. Quietly he took his stand by the side of the storm-tossed vessel. He rebuked the winds, and said unto the sea:—" Peace: be still." They recognized their Master's voice and obeyed. "The wind ceased, and immediately there was a great calm."
As long as those disciples lived they never would forget the lesson he taught them by that miracle of his power to protect in danger.
And then many of the miracles of our Saviour were performed for the purpose of showing what power he had to protect his people from Satan, and the evil spirits that serve him. It pleased God to allow these evil spirits to have more power over men during the time when Jesus was on earth than they had before, or than they have now. We often read in the gospels of men who were "possessed of devils." This means that the evil spirits entered into the bodies of these men, and used them as their own; just as you, or I, might go into an empty house, and use it as if it belonged to us. But Jesus performed a number of miracles to show that he was able to control those spirits; to cast them out of the bodies of men and to protect his people from their power. We have an account of one of these miracles in St. Matt, viii: 28, 34; of another in St. Mark v: 1-20; and of another in St. Luke viii: 26-39.
The Bible speaks of Satan "going about, like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." I. Peter v: 8. But he is a chained lion: and Jesus holds the chain. If we are trying to love and serve Jesus, we need not be afraid of this roaring lion. He cannot touch us till our Saviour gives him permission; and he will not let him hurt us. We see this illustrated in Job's case. Satan wanted very much to injure Job in some way. But he could not do it. And the reason of it was, as he said himself, that God had "put an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he had on every side." Job i: 10. This hedge, or fence, means the power which Jesus exercises to protect his people from the harm that Satan desires to do to them. In this way he protected Job. And in this way he protects all who love and serve him.
Let us take an illustration or two to show how he is doing this continually.
"Providential Deliverance." One of the best men, and one of the most useful ministers in London, during the last century, was the Rev. John Newton. Before entering the ministry he held an office under the government. One of the duties of this office was for him to visit and inspect the vessels of the navy as they lay at anchor in the river Thames. One day he was going out to visit a man-of-war that lay there. He was a very punctual man. When he had an engagement he was always ready at the very moment. But when he reached the dock on this occasion the boat which was to take him off to the man-of-war was not there. He was obliged to wait five, ten, fifteen minutes before the boat came. This displeased him very much. But the hand of God was in this delay. For, just as the boat was leaving the dock, a spark fell into the powder magazine on board the man-of-war. An explosion took place. The huge vessel was blown to pieces, and all the men on board of her were killed. That delay of a quarter of an hour saved Mr. Newton's life. In this way that gracious Saviour whom he served protected him from the danger to which he was exposed.
"Willie's Heroism." One summer afternoon a teacher told her geography class that they might close their books and rest a little, while she told them a story. The story was about William Tell, the famous hero of Switzerland. She told the scholars how a wicked governor placed an apple on the head of Tell's little boy and then compelled the father to take his bow and arrow and shoot the apple from the head of his son. He was very unwilling to do it, for he was afraid the arrow might miss and kill his child. But the brave boy stood firm, and cried out—"Shoot, father! I am not afraid." He took a steady aim; fired, and knocked the apple off without hurting his son.
Just as the teacher was telling this story a sudden storm burst from the sky. There was a flash of lightning, and a loud crash of thunder. Some of the children screamed, and began to cry and ran to the teacher for protection. But a little boy named Willie Hawthorne, kept his seat and went on quietly studying his lesson.
When the storm was over the teacher said:
"Willie why were you not afraid like the other children?"
"Because," said he, "I knew the lightning was only an arrow in my Heavenly Father's hand, and why should I be afraid?"
How well Willie had learned the lesson which Jesus taught his disciples when he performed so many miracles to show what power he has to protect his people from danger!
Here is just one other story to illustrate this truth. We may call it:
"The Widow's Tree," Some years ago a violent storm, with wind and thunder, swept through the valley of Yellow Creek, in Indiana County, Georgia. For more than a mile in width trees were uprooted, houses, barns, and fences were thrown down, and ruin and desolation was spread all over the land.
In the centre of the region over which this hurricane swept stood a small cabin. It was occupied by an aged Christian widow, with her only son. The terrible wind struck a large tree in front of her humble dwelling, twisting and dashing it about. If the tree should fall it would crush her home, and probably kill herself and son. The storm howled and raged, and the big trees were falling on every hand. In the midst of all the danger the widow knelt in prayer, and asked God to spare that tree, and protect her home, and save her own life, and that of her son. Her prayer was heard. And when the storm was over, the widow's tree was spared, and strange as it may seem, was the only one left amidst that scene of desolation. There it stood, as if on purpose to show what power our loving Saviour has to protect from danger those who trust in him!
But, in the last place, we see that Jesus performed some of his miracles for the purpose of teaching us that he has power to—PARDON.
A man was brought him, one day, who was sick of the palsy. His limbs were helpless. He was not able to come to Jesus himself, so his friends carried him on a bed. At this time Jesus was preaching in the yard, or court, connected with some rich man's house. In those eastern countries the houses were not built as ours are, with a yard back of them. There is a square yard in the centre, and the house is built round the four sides of this square. This open space is generally used as a garden. It has a fountain playing in it, and a covering of cloth or mats spread over it to keep off the sun. It was in one of these open courts that Jesus was preaching on this occasion. A great crowd had gathered round him, so that the friends of the palsied man could not get near him with the bed on which the sufferer lay. Then they concluded to carry him up to the top of the house, and lower him down inside. This would not be easy to do with us. But the eastern houses are not so high as ours. And then they have flat roofs, and a flight of steps leading from the ground, on the outside, to the top of the house. This made it very easy to get up. When they were on the roof they removed the covering from the inner court, and let down the bed, with the sick man on it, directly in front of our Saviour. When he saw him he pitied him, and said, "Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee." The people were surprised at this. The Pharisees said among themselves "This man blasphemeth." Jesus knew their thoughts and told them it was as easy for him to heal the souls of men, as it was to heal their bodies. And then, to show them that he had power on earth to forgive sins, he said to the sick man—"Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and went to his house," Matt, ix: 1-8. Certainly the object Jesus had in view, in performing this miracle, was to prove that he had power to forgive sins; or to pardon.
And when he healed the leper it was to teach us the same great truth. This disease was not only like all other diseases, the result of sin; but, unlike most other diseases, it was a type, or figure of sin. It affected the body as sin affects the soul. And then, leprosy was a disease which none but God could cure; just as sin is an offence which none but God our Saviour can pardon. And so Jesus performed the miracle of healing the palsied man and the lepers in order to teach his disciples the great lesson that he "had power on earth to forgive sins."
And he has the same power still. Here are some illustrations of the way in which he exercises this power now.
"No Pardon but From Jesus," There was a heathen man in India once, who felt that he was a sinner, and longed to obtain pardon. The priests had sent him to their most famous temples, all over the country, but he could get no pardon, and find no peace. He had fasted till he was about worn to a skeleton, and had done many painful things—but pardon and peace he could not find. At last he was told to put pebbles in his shoes and travel to a distant temple, and make an offering there; and he would find peace. He went. He made the offering; but still he found no relief from the burden of his sins.
Sad, and sorrowful, he was returning home with the pebbles still in his shoes. Wearied with his journey, he halted one day in the shade of a grove, by the wayside, where a company of people was gathered round a stranger who was addressing them. It was a Christian missionary preaching the gospel. The heathen listened with great interest. The missionary was preaching from the words:—"The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin." He showed what power Jesus had to forgive sins and how able and willing he is to save all who come unto him. The heart of the poor heathen was drawn to this loving and glorious Saviour. He took off his shoes and threw away the pebbles, saying "This is the Saviour I have long sought in vain. Thank God! I have found salvation!"
Here is one more illustration of the way in which Jesus pardons our sins, and of the effect which that pardon has on those who receive it. We may call it:
"Pardon and Peace." An officer who held a high position under the government of his country, and was a favorite with the king, was once brought before the judge and charged with a great crime. He took his place at the bar with the greatest coolness, and looked at the judge and jury and the great crowd of spectators as calmly as if he were at home, surrounded by his own family.
The trial began. The witnesses were called up, and gave clear evidence that he was guilty. Still he remained as calm and unmoved as ever. There was not the least sign of fear visible on his countenance; on the contrary, his face wore a pleasant smile.
At last the jury came in, and while the crowd in the court-room held their breath, declared that the prisoner was guilty. In an instant every eye was turned upon the prisoner to see what effect this sentence would have upon him. But just then, he put his hand in his bosom, drew out a paper, and laid it on the table. It was a pardon, a full, free pardon of all his offences, given him by the king, and sealed with the royal signet. This was the secret of his peace. This was what gave him such calmness and confidence in his dreadful position as a condemned prisoner.
And so Jesus gives his people pardon in such promises as these: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow: though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool," Is. i: 16. "Let them return unto the Lord, for he will abundantly pardon." Is. lv: 7. "All that believe are justified from all things." Acts xiii: 39. These promises are like the king's pardon which the officer had received. Faith in these promises brings pardon, and the pardon brings peace. And so, by what he is doing now, as well as by the miracles he performed when on earth, we are taught the precious truth, that—"The Son of man hath power to forgive sins."
Then when we think of the wonderful miracles that Jesus did, let us always remember the illustrations they afford of the power he had to help—to comfort—to encourage—to protect—and to pardon.
Let us seek to secure all these blessings to ourselves, and then we shall find that what Jesus taught by his miracles will be very profitable teaching to us!
If we should attempt to mention all the parables which Jesus spoke, and the miracles which he performed, and the many other lessons which he taught, it would make a long list. As we have done before we can only take one or two specimens of these general lessons which Jesus taught.
We have one of these in the title to our present chapter, which is—Christ Teaching Liberality. This was a very important lesson for Jesus to teach. One of the sad effects of sin upon our nature is to make it selfish, and covetous. We are tempted to love money more than we ought to do. We are not so willing to part with it as we should be. And we never can be good and true Christians unless we overcome the selfishness of our sinful hearts, and not only learn to give, but to give liberally. The Bible teaches us that God not only expects his people to give, but, as St. Paul says, in one place, to give "cheerfully." II. Cor. ix: 7.
And this is the lesson Jesus taught when he said to his disciples,—"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosoms." St. Luke vi: 38.
And when we come to consider these words of Jesus, there are three things to engage our attention. The first of these is the—LESSON OF LIBERALITY—here set before us.
The second is—THE PROOF—that this lesson is taught all through the Bible.
And the third is—THE ILLUSTRATIONS—of this lesson.
And then, when put into its shortest form, our present subject may be thus expressed—the lesson of liberality; its proofs; and its illustrations.
And the lesson which Jesus here taught is all wrapped up in this little word—"Give." Here we learn what the will of Jesus is on this subject. This is not simply the expression of his opinion. It is not merely his advice; no, but it is his command. He is speaking here as our Master—our King—our God. He commands us to—give. And when we remember how he said to his disciples, "If ye love me, keep my commandments," we see plainly, that we have no right to consider ourselves as his disciples if we are neglecting this or any other of his plain commands.
And this command about giving is not intended for any one class of persons among the followers of Christ, but for all of them. It is not a command designed for kings, or princes, or rich men only, but for the poor as well. It is not a command for grown persons alone, but for children also. As soon as we begin to get, God expects us to begin to give.
Jesus says nothing here about how much he expects us to give. But, from other places in the Bible, we learn that he expects us to give at least one-tenth of all that we have. If we have a thousand dollars he expects us to give one hundred out of the thousand. If we have a hundred he expects us to give ten. If we have ten dollars we must give one of them to God. If we have only one dollar we must give ten cents of it to Him. If we have but ten cents we must give one of them. If we have no money to give, God expects us to give kind words, and kind actions, our sympathy and love.
Jesus does not tell us here how often we are to give, but simply—give. This means that we are to learn the lesson and form the habit of giving. His command is—give. And in giving us this command he is only asking us to imitate his own example. He is giving all the time. The apostle Paul tells us that Jesus is "exalted to the right hand of the Father to—give." He never tires of giving. "He giveth to all life, breath, and all things." And if we have not the Spirit of Christ in this respect, "we are none of his."
This, then, is the lesson of liberality that Jesus taught when he said—"give." And that giving is God's rule for getting is what we are taught by our Saviour, when he said—"Give, and it shall be given unto you."
And now, having seen what this lesson of liberality is, which Jesus taught, let us look at some of the Scripture proofs of it. The same lesson is taught in other places in the Bible. Let us see what is said about it in some of these places.
In Ps. xli: 1 David says—"Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble." Considering the poor here, means being kind to them, and giving them such things as they need. And the blessing promised to those who do this means that God will reward them by giving to them good things in great abundance. And, if this is so, then we have proof here that "giving is God's rule for getting."
We have another proof that "giving is God's rule for getting," in Prov. iii: 9, 10. Here Solomon says—"Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine."
When the Jewish farmers gathered in their harvests they were required to make an offering to God, of what had been gathered, before they used any part of it for themselves; and the offerings thus made were called "the first-fruits." God considered himself honored by his people when they did this, because they were keeping his commandments and doing what he wished them to do. And the meaning of this command, when we apply it to ourselves, is that we should give something to the cause of God from all the money, or property we have, and from all the gain, or increase that we make to the same. This is the Bible rule—the will or command of God for all his people. And then, in the other part of this passage we have the promise of God to all who do this. "So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine."
This means that they shall be rich and prosperous. And so we see that this passage from the book of Proverbs, teaches the same lesson of liberality that our Saviour taught when he said—"Give and it shall be given unto you." It proves that "giving is God's rule for getting."
And Solomon teaches the same, again, when he says, "The liberal soul shall be made fat; and he that watereth shall be watered also himself." Prov. xi: 25.
A "liberal soul" means a person who is in the habit of giving; and to be "made fat" means to be prospered and happy. If you undertake to water a garden, you are giving to the thirsty plants that which they need to make them grow and thrive; and when it is promised that the person who does this shall "be watered also himself," the meaning is that he shall have given to him all that is most important to supply his wants, and make him happy. And this, we see, is only teaching what our Saviour taught when he said, "Give, and it shall be given unto you." It furnishes us with another proof that "giving is God's rule for getting."
In the nineteenth chapter of Proverbs and seventeenth verse we have a very clear proof of the lesson we are now considering. Here we find it said: "He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again." Having pity on the poor, as here spoken of, means giving them such things as they need. Whatever we use in this way God looks upon as so much money lent unto him; and we have his solemn promise that when we lend anything to him, in this way, "He will pay us again." And when he pays again what has been lent to him, it is always with interest. He pays back four, or five, or ten times as much as was lent: to him. This proves that "giving is God's rule for getting."
One other passage is all that need be referred to in order to prove that the lesson of liberality which our Saviour taught is the same lesson which the Bible teaches everywhere. In Eccles. xi: 1, God says, "Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days."
If we should see a man standing on the end of a wharf and throwing bread upon the waters, we should think that he was a foolish man, who was wasting his bread, or only feeding the fishes with it. But suppose that you and I were travelling through Egypt—the land of the celebrated pyramids and other great wonders. The famous river Nile is there. During our visit the inundation of that river takes place. It overflows its banks, and spreads its water over all the level plains that border on the river. This takes place every year. And when the fields are all overflowed with water, the farmers go out in boats, and scatter their grain over the surface of the water. The grain sinks to the bottom. The sediment in the water settles down on the grain, and covers it with mud. By and by the waters flow back into the river. The fields become dry. The grain springs up and grows. The mud that covered it is like rich manure, and makes it grow very plentifully, and yield a rich harvest. And here we see the meaning of this passage. God makes use of this Egyptian custom to teach us the lesson of liberality that we are now considering. He tells us that the money which we give to the poor, or use to do good with, is like the grain which the Egyptian farmer casts upon the water, and which will surely yield a rich harvest by and by.
This teaches us the lesson of liberality. And when we think of all these passages, we see very clearly that the Bible teaches the same lesson which Jesus taught when he said to his disciples, "Give, and it shall be given unto you." And what we learn, both from the teaching of Christ, and from the different passages referred to, is—that "giving is God's rule for getting."
And now, having seen some of the Bible, proofs for this lesson of liberality, or for this rule about giving and getting, let us go on to speak of some of the illustrations of this rule. These are very numerous.
And we may draw our illustrations from three sources, viz.:—from the Bible; from nature; and from everyday life.
There are two illustrations of which we may speak from the Bible. We find one of these in the history of the prophet Elijah. You remember that there was a great famine in the land of Israel during the lifetime of this prophet. For more than three years there was not a drop of rain all through the land. The fields, the vineyards, and gardens dried up, and withered, and yielded no fruit. During the first part of the time when this famine was prevailing, God sent Elijah to "the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan," I. Kings xvii: 7-17. There the ravens brought him food, and he drank of the water of the brook.
But after awhile the brook dried up. Then God told him to go to the city of Zarephath, or Sarepta, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and that he had commanded a widow woman there to sustain him. He did not tell him the name of the woman; nor the street she lived in; nor the number of her house. Elijah went. When he came near the place he met a woman, picking up some sticks of wood. I suppose God told him that this was the woman he was to stay with. Elijah spoke to her, and asked her if she would please give him a drink of water. When she was going to get it, he called to her again, and said he was hungry, and asked her to bring him a piece of bread. Then she told him that there was not a morsel of bread in her house. All she had in the world was a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse, and that she was gathering a few sticks, that she might go and bake the last cake for herself and her son, that they might eat it and die. And Elijah said, "Fear not; go, and do as thou hast said; but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee, and for thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth."
This was a hard thing to ask a mother to do. It was asking her to take the last morsel of bread she had, and that she needed for herself and for her hungry boy, and give it to a stranger. Yet she did it; because she believed God. I seem to see her turning the meal barrel up, to get the meal all out. Then she pours out the oil from the cruse, and drains out the last drop. She mixes the meal and the olive oil together, as is the custom in that country still, and makes a cake which can soon be baked. She takes it to the man of God, who eats it thankfully, and is refreshed. Then she returns to the empty barrel and cruse, and finds as much in them as she had lately taken out. She prepares some bread for herself and her son, and they eat it thankfully as bread sent from heaven. The next day it is the same, and the day after, and so on through all the days of the famine. We are not told how long it was after Elijah went to the widow's house before the days of the famine were over. But suppose we make a calculation about it. The famine lasted for three years. Now let us suppose, that the first half of this time was spent by the prophet at the brook Cherith. Then his stay at the widow's house must have been at least eighteen months. And, if this miracle of increasing the meal and the oil was repeated only once a day, there would be for the first twelve months, or for the year, three hundred and sixty-five miracles; and for the six months, or the half year, one hundred and eighty-two more; and adding these together we have the surprising number of five hundred and forty-seven miracles, that were performed to reward this good widow for the kindness she showed to the prophet Elijah, when she gave him a piece of bread, and a drink of water! What an illustration we have here of the truth we are considering, that giving is God's rule for getting.
But the best illustration of this subject to be found in the Bible is given in our Saviour's own experience. He not only preached the lesson of liberality, but practised it. He is himself the greatest giver ever heard of. In becoming our Redeemer he showed himself the Prince of givers. He gave—not silver and gold; not all the wealth of the world, or of ten thousand worlds like ours; but "He gave Himself for us." He can say indeed, to each of us, in the language of the hymn:"I gave my life for thee,
And what is the result of this glorious giving to Jesus himself? St. Paul answers this question when he says, "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him; and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father," Phil, ii: 9-11. Because of what he gave "for us men, and for our salvation," he will be loved and praised and honored in heaven, on the earth, and through all the universe, above all other beings, for ever and ever. What a glorious illustration we have here of the truth of this statement, that "giving is God's rule for getting." These are some of the illustrations of this lesson of liberality that we find in the Bible.
And now, let us look at some illustrations of this subject, that we have in nature.
Solomon suggests one of these when he says, "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth." Prov. xi: 26. He is evidently speaking here of a farmer sowing his fields with grain.
Now suppose that we had never seen a man sowing; and that we knew nothing at all about the growth of grain, or how wonderfully the seed sown in the spring is increased and multiplied when the harvest is reaped. Then, the first time we saw a farmer sowing his fields, we should have been ready to say, "What a foolish man that is! He is taking that precious grain by the handful, and deliberately throwing it away."
Of course, we should have expected that the grain thus thrown away, or scattered over the ground, would all be lost. But, if we could have come back to visit that farmer when he was gathering in his harvest, how surprised we should have been! Then we should have learned that for every handful of grain that the farmer had scattered, or, as we thought, thrown away, in the spring, when he was sowing, he had gained forty or fifty handfuls when he reaped in his harvest. Then we should have understood what Solomon meant when he said, "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth." And we should have here a good illustration of our Saviour's lesson of liberality, when he said, "Give, and it shall be given unto you;" and of the Bible truth we are now studying, that "giving is God's rule for getting."
Yonder is the great ocean; it is one of the grandest of nature's works. And the ocean gives us a good illustration of the lesson of liberality which our Saviour taught. The waters of the ocean are spread out for thousands of miles. As the sun shines on the surface of the ocean, it makes the water warm, and turns it into vapor, like the steam that comes from the boiling kettle. This vapor rises into the air, and helps to form the clouds that are floating there. These clouds sail over the land, and pour out the water that is in them, in refreshing and fertilizing showers of rain. This rain makes the rills start from the sides of the mountains. The rills run down into the rivers, and the rivers flow back into the sea again. In this way the ocean is a great giver. It has been giving away its water for hundreds and thousands of years, ever since the day when God made it.
Now, let us suppose that the ocean could think, or speak; and that it had power to control its own motions. And suppose that the ocean should say:—"Well, I think I have been giving away water long enough. I am going to turn over a new leaf. The sun may shine as much as it pleases. I won't let another drop of water go out from my surface. I am tired of giving, and I mean to stop doing it, any longer." Let us pause for a moment here, and see what the effect of this would be upon the ocean itself.
We know that all the water in the ocean is salt water. But when the sun takes water from the ocean, in the form of vapor, it is always taken out as fresh water. It leaves the salt behind it. Then the water on the surface of the ocean, from which this vapor has been taken, has more salt in it than the water underneath it. This makes it heavier than the other water. The consequence of this, is that this heavier water, on the top of the ocean, sinks to the bottom; and at the same time the lighter water at the bottom rises to the top. And so a constant change is taking place all over the ocean. The water from the top is sinking to the bottom, and the water from the bottom is rising to the top. And this is one of the means which God employs to keep the waters of the ocean always pure and wholesome. But if the ocean should stop giving away its water, as it has always been doing, then this constant change of its waters would cease. The ocean would be left still and stagnant. It would become a great mass of corruption; and the breezes from the ocean, that now carry health and life to those who breathe them, would carry only disease and death. And the thousands of people who now love the ocean and seek its shores every summer, to get strong and well by breathing the air that sweeps over its surface, and by bathing in its foaming surf, would all be afraid of the ocean; and would keep as far away from its shores as they could. And so we see how the ocean stands before us as a grand illustration of the lesson of liberality which our Saviour taught when he said, "Give, and it shall be given unto you." The ocean gives away its water continually, and, in return for this, God gives it freshness and purity, and makes it a blessing to the world. And so the ocean illustrates the truth of the lesson we are now studying, that "giving is God's rule for getting."
And yonder is the great sun, shining up in the sky. We do not know as much about the sun as we do about the ocean, because it is so far away from us. The ocean is very near us. We can walk along its shores, and plunge into its waters, and sail over its surface. We can study out all about the laws that govern it, and what the effect of those laws is upon it. But it is very different with the sun. It is about ninety millions of miles away from us. This is too far off for us to know much about it. And yet, we know enough about the sun to get from it a good illustration of God's rule about giving and getting. The sun, like the ocean, is a great giver. It is giving away light all the time. It was made for this purpose; and for this purpose it is preserved. If the sun should stop giving, and should try to keep all its light and heat for itself, the effect would be its ruin. By ceasing to give it would be burnt up and destroyed. And so, when we see the sower sowing his seed, or the reaper gathering in his harvest; when we look upon the ocean, and see the clouds formed from its waters, as they go sailing through the sky; or when we see the sun rising in the morning, going forth again to his appointed work of giving light to a dark world; let us remember that these are nature's illustrations of the lesson of liberality which Jesus taught when he said, "Give, and it shall be given unto you." They all help to show how true it is, that "giving is God's rule of getting."
And now we may go on to look for our illustrations of this subject from everyday life.
If we are only watchful we shall meet with illustrations of this kind continually. It would not be difficult to fill a volume with them. Here are a few out of many that might be given.
"The Travellers in the Snow." Two travellers were on a journey in a sleigh during a very severe winter. It was snowing fast as they drove along. One of the travellers was a liberal, generous-hearted man, who believed in giving; and was always ready to share whatever he had with others. His companion was a selfish ungenerous man. He did not believe in giving; and liked to keep whatever he had for himself. As they drove along, they saw something covered up in the snow that looked like the figure of a man. "Look there," said the generous man to his friend, "that must be some poor fellow overcome by the cold. Let's stop and see what we can do for him."
"You can get out, if you like," was his reply, "but it's too cold for me. I intend to stay where I am;" and he wrapped his furs closely round him.
The other traveller threw aside his furs and jumped out of the sleigh. He found it was a poor man, who had sunk down in the snow a short time before, overcome by the cold. He shook the snow from him, and began to rub his hands and face and feet. He kept on rubbing for a good while. At last the man began to get warm again and was saved from death. Then the generous-hearted traveller helped him into the sleigh, and shared his wrappings with him. The exertion he had made in doing this kind act put him all in a glow of warmth. He made the rest of the journey in comfort. But when they stopped at the end of their journey, the selfish man, who was not willing to do anything for the help of another, had his fingers, and toes, and nose, and ears frozen. This illustrates the lesson of liberality; and shows that "giving is God's rule for getting."
Here we see the truth of the lines which someone has written:"Numb and weary on the mountain
"The Officer and the Soldier." In one of the terrible battles in Virginia, during the late war, a Union officer fell wounded in front of the Confederate breastwork, which had been attacked. His wounds brought on a raging fever, and he lay on the ground crying piteously for water. A kind-hearted Confederate soldier heard the touching cry, and leaping over the fortifications, with his canteen in his hand, he crawled up to the poor fellow and gave him a drink of water. O, what a comfort this was to the wounded man! His heart was filled with gratitude towards this generous and noble soldier. He pulled out his gold watch from his pocket, and cheerfully offered it to his benefactor; but he refused to take it. Then he asked the soldier's name and residence. He said his name was James Moore, and that he lived in Burke County, North Carolina. Then they parted. This noble soldier afterwards lost a limb in one of the Virginia battles, and returned to his home as a cripple.
The officer recovered from his wounds; but he never forgot the kindness of that Confederate soldier. And when the war was over, and he was engaged in his business again, he wrote to James Moore, telling him that he intended to send him the sum of ten thousand dollars in four quarterly installments of twenty-five hundred dollars each; and that he wished him to receive the same in token of the heartfelt gratitude with which his generous kindness on the battle-field was remembered. Certainly these were two noble men. It is hard to tell which was the more noble of the two. But when the crippled soldier thought of the drink of water which he gave to the wounded officer, and of the ten thousand dollars which he received for the same, he must have felt how true our Saviour's words were, when he said: "Give, and it shall be given unto you." And he must have felt sure of the lesson we are now considering, that "Giving is God's rule for getting."
"The Secret of Success." Some time ago a Christian gentleman was visiting a large paper mill that belonged to a friend of his, who was a very rich man. The owner of the mill took him all through it, and showed him the machinery, and told him how the paper was made. When they were through the visitor said to his friend, "I have one question to ask you; and if you will answer it, I shall feel very much obliged to you. I am told that you started in life very poor, and now you are one of the richest men in this part of the country. My question is this: will you please tell me the secret of your success in business?"
"I don't know that there is any great secret about it," said his friend, "but I will tell you all I know. I got a situation, and began to work for my own living when I was only sixteen years old. My wages, at first, were to be forty dollars a year, with my board and lodging. My clothing and all my other expenses were to come out of the forty dollars. I then made a solemn promise to the Lord that one-tenth of my wages, or four dollars out of the forty, should be faithfully laid aside to be given to the poor, or to some religious work. This promise I kept religiously, and after laying aside one-tenth to give away, at the end of the year, besides meeting my expenses, I had more than a tenth left for myself. I then made a vow that whatever it might please God to give me, I would never give less than one-tenth of my income to him. This vow I have faithfully kept from that day to this. If there be any secret to my success—this is it. Whatever I receive during the year, I feel sure that I am richer on nine-tenths of it, with God's blessing, than I should be on the whole of it, without that blessing. I believe that God has blessed me, and made my business prosper. And I am sure that anyone who will make the trial of this secret of success, will find it work as it has done in my case."
This man was certainly proving the truth of our Saviour's words, when he said—"Give, and it shall be given unto you." And his experience shows most satisfactorily that "giving is God's rule for getting."
"The Steamboat Captain and the Soldier." During the late war there was a steamboat, one day, in front of a flourishing town on the Ohio River. The captain, who had charge of her was the owner of the boat. The steam was up; and the captain was about to start on a trip some miles down the river with an excursion party, who had chartered the boat for the occasion. While waiting for the party to come on board, a poor wounded soldier came up to the captain. He said he was suffering from severe sickness, as well as from his wounds. He had been in the hospital. The doctor had told him he could not live long; and he was very anxious to get home, and see his mother again, before he died; and he wished to know if the captain would give him a passage down the river on his boat. On hearing where his home was, the captain said that the party who had chartered his boat were going near that place; and he told the poor soldier that he would gladly take him to his home.
But, when the excursion party came on board, and saw the soldier, with his soiled and worn clothes, and his ugly-looking wounds, they were not willing to let him go; and asked the captain to put him ashore. The captain told the soldier's sad story, and pleaded his cause very earnestly. He said he would place him on the lower deck and put a screen round his bed, so that they could not see him. But the young people refused. They said as they had hired the boat, it belonged to them for the day, and they were not willing to have such a miserable-looking object on board their boat; and that if the captain did not put him off, they would hire another boat, and he would lose the twenty dollars they had agreed to give him for the day's excursion.
The good captain made one more appeal to them. He asked them to put themselves in the poor soldier's place, and then to think how they would like to be treated. But still they refused to let the soldier go. Then the noble-hearted captain said: "Well, ladies and gentlemen, whether you hire my boat or not, I intend to take this soldier home to-day."
The party did hire another boat. The captain lost his twenty dollars. But, when he returned the poor dying soldier to the arms of his loving mother, he felt that the tears of gratitude with which she thanked him were worth more than the money he had lost. The gentle mother dressed the wounds of her poor suffering boy; and nursed and cared for him, as none but a mother knows how to do. But she could not save his life. He died after a few days; and the last words he spoke, as his loving parents stood weeping at his bedside were—"Don't forget the good captain." And he was not forgotten. For after the soldier's funeral was over, his father went up the river to the town where the captain lived. He found him out. He thanked him again for his kindness in bringing home his dying boy; and made him a present that was worth four or five times the twenty dollars he had lost for the hire of his boat.
But this was not the end of it. For not long after this, the captain and his wife were taken suddenly ill with a fatal disease that was prevailing in that region of the country. They both died; leaving two little orphan children, with no one to take care of them. The soldier's father heard of it; and he went at once and asked that he might be permitted to take the two helpless little ones and adopt them as his own children. He took them home; and was a father and a friend to them as long as he lived.
How beautifully our Saviour's words—"Give, and it shall be given unto you," are illustrated in this story! How clearly we see here, that "Giving is God's rule for getting!"
I have just one other illustration before closing this subject. We may call it:
"The Miser and the Hungry Children." In a village in England were two little motherless girls who lived in a small cottage. Sally, the elder, was about eight years old and her sister Mary was six. They were very poor. Their father was a laboring man, and he found great difficulty in supporting himself and his children.
Once, in the midst of winter, these two little girls were left alone all day, as their father had gone out to work. They had their breakfast in the morning with their father, before he left. But they had no dinner, nor anything to eat during the rest of the day. About the middle of the afternoon, Mary said to her sister: "Sally, I'm very hungry. Is there anything in the closet that we can get to eat?"
"No," said Sally; "I've looked all through the closet; but there isn't a crust of bread, or a cold potato; nor anything to eat. I wish there was something; for I'm hungry too."
"O, dear! what shall we do?" cried Mary; "I'm too hungry to wait till father comes home!"
"Mary," said her sister, "suppose we ask our Father in heaven to give us something to eat? Let us kneel down, and say the Lord's Prayer. When we come to that part about 'daily bread' we'll say it over three times, and then wait, and see if God will send us some."
Mary agreed to this. They both kneeled down, and Sally began: "Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven: give us this day our daily bread; give us this day our daily bread; give us this day our daily bread." Then they waited quietly, to see if anything would come.
And now, while this was going on inside of that little cottage, let me tell you what was taking place outside.
Not far from this cottage lived an old man who was a miser. He had a good deal of money, but he never gave any of it to others; and never would spend a penny for himself, if he could possibly help it. But, on that afternoon, he had left home to go to the baker's and buy a loaf of bread. He got the loaf, and, as it was a stormy afternoon, he put it under his coat before starting to walk home. Now, it happened, that just as he was passing the cottage in which the little girls were, a strong blast of wind blew the rain in his face, and he stepped into the porch of the cottage and crouched down in the corner, to shelter himself from the wind and rain. In this position his ear was brought quite close to the keyhole of the door. He heard what the little girls had said about being hungry. He heard their proposal to pray to the Father in heaven to give them bread. He heard the thrice repeated prayer—"give us this day our daily bread." And then came the silence, when the little ones waited, and watched for the bread. This had a strange effect on the miser. His hard, selfish heart, which had never felt a generous feeling for anyone, warmed up, and grew suddenly soft in tenderness towards these helpless, hungry little ones. Tears moistened his eyes. He put his thumb on the latch of the door. The latch was gently lifted and the door opened. He took the loaf from under his coat and threw it into the room. The little girls, still waiting and watching on their knees, saw the loaf go bouncing over the floor. They jumped up on their feet, and clapped their hands for joy.
"O, Sally," said little Mary, "how good God is to answer our prayer so soon! Did He send an angel from heaven to bring us this bread?"
"I don't know who brought it," answered Sally, "but I am sure that God sent it."
And how about the miser? For the first time in his life he had given to the poor. Did the promise fail which says, "Give, and it shall be given unto you?" No; God's promises never fail. He went to the bakery and bought another loaf for himself, and then he went home with different feelings from what he had ever had before. The warm, soft feeling that came into his hard heart when he gave the loaf to those children did not pass away. It grew upon him. He had found so much pleasure in doing that one kind act that he went on and did more. And God blessed him in doing it. He began to pray to that God who had answered the prayer of those little girls for bread in such a strange way. He read the Bible. He went to church. He became a Christian; and some time after, he died a happy Christian death. But before he died, as he was the owner of the cottage in which the little girls lived, he gave it to their father. What a beautiful illustration we have here of our Saviour's words—"Give, and it shall be given unto you!" This miser gave a loaf of bread to these hungry children and God gave him the grace that made him a Christian! And as we think of this we may well say that "giving is God's rule for getting."
And thus we have considered the lesson of liberality which our Saviour taught; the proofs of that lesson found in the Bible; and the illustrations of it from the Bible, from nature, and from everyday life. The three things to be remembered from this subject are the lesson—the proofs—the illustrations.
I will quote here, in finishing, three verses which teach the same lesson that our Saviour taught when he spoke the words from which I have tried to draw the lesson of liberality. The title at the head of them is taken from Solomon's words in one of the passages from the book of Proverbs, which we have already used.
"THERE IS THAT SCATTERETH AND YET INCREASETH.""Is thy cruse of comfort wasting?
During the earthly life of our blessed Saviour, we see how everything connected with it teaches the lesson of humility. This is pointed out in the beautiful collect in The Book of Common Prayer for the first Sunday in Advent. Here we are taught to say:—"Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in—great humility."
If Jesus had come into our world as an angel, it would have been an act of humility. If he had come as a great and mighty king, it would have been an act of humility. But when he was born in a stable, and cradled in a manger; when he could say of himself, "the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head;" when there never was an acre, or a foot of ground that he called his own, although he made the world and all things in it; when he sailed in a borrowed boat, and was buried in a borrowed tomb; how well it might be said that he was teaching humility all the days of his life on earth! Yet he did not think that this was enough. And so he gave his disciples a special lesson on this subject.
We have an account of this lesson in St. John xiii: 4-15. It is taught us in these words:—"He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel and girdled himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash his disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded." Then occurs the incident about the objection which Peter made to letting Jesus wash his feet, and the way in which that objection was overcome. And then the story goes on thus:—"So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, 'Know ye what I have done unto you? Ye call me Master, and Lord; and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye ought also to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.'"
This was a very surprising scene. How astonished the angels must have been when they looked upon it! They had known Jesus in heaven, before he took upon him our nature, and came into this fallen world. They had seen him in "the glory which he had with the Father, before the world was." They had worshipped him in the midst of all that glory. And then, when they saw him, girded with a towel and washing the feet of poor sinful men whom he came from heaven to save, how surprising it must have seemed to them! And when Jesus told his disciples that his object in doing this was to set them an example, that they should do as he had done to them, he did not mean that they should literally make a practice of washing each other's feet; but that they should show the same humility to others that he had shown to them, by being willing to do anything, however humble it might be, in order to promote their comfort and happiness. It is not the act itself, here spoken of, that Jesus teaches us to do; but the spirit of humility in which the act was performed that he teaches us to cultivate. We might go through the form of washing the feet of other persons, and yet feel proud and haughty all the time we were doing it. Then we should not be following the example of Jesus at all. When Jesus washed his disciples' feet, what he wished to teach them, and us, and all his people, is how earnestly he desires us to learn this lesson of humility. And when we think of the wondrous scene which took place on that occasion, the one thought it should impress on our minds, above all others is—the importance of humility.
And if any one asks what is meant by humility? No better answer can be given to this question than we find in Romans xii: 3, where St. Paul tells us "not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, but to think soberly." Pride is "thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think." Humility is—not "thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think." And humility is the lesson we are now to study. This is the lesson that Jesus wishes all who love him to learn. It is easy to speak of five reasons why we should learn this lesson.
And the first reason for learning it is—the COMMAND—of Jesus.
When he had finished washing his disciples' feet, he told them that "they should do as he had done to them." This was his command to his disciples, and to us, to learn the lesson of humility. And this is not the only place in which Jesus taught this lesson. He gave some of his beautiful parables to teach humility. We find one of these in St. Luke xiv: 7-12.
On one occasion when he saw the people all pressing forward to get the best seats for themselves at a feast, he took the opportunity of giving his disciples a lesson about humility. He told them, when they were bidden to a wedding feast, not to take the highest seats; because some more honorable person might be bidden, and when the master of the feast came in he might say to them 'let this man have that seat, and you go and take a lower seat'; then they would feel mortified, and ashamed. And then he gave his disciples this command: "When thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room," or seat; "that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship"—or honor—"in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee." Here we have Jesus repeating his command to all his people to learn and practise the lesson of humility.
And then we have another of our Saviour's parables in which he taught this same lesson of humility, and that is the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. We find it in St. Luke xviii: 10-15. The parable reads thus: "Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.'" Here we have a picture of a proud man. He pretended to pray, but asked for nothing, because he did not feel his need of anything. And so his pretended prayer brought him no blessing.
And then in the rest of the parable we have our Saviour's description of a man who was learning the lesson of humility, and of the blessing which it brought to him.
Here is a story told by one of our missionaries of the way in which this parable brought a heathen man to Christ.
"That's Me." A poor Hottentot in Southern Africa lived with a Dutch farmer, who was a good Christian man, and kept up family prayer in his home. One day, at their family worship he read this parable. He began, "Two men went up into the temple to pray." The poor savage, who had been led to feel himself a sinner, and was anxious for the salvation of his soul, looked earnestly at the reader, and whispered to himself, "Now I'll learn how to pray." The farmer read on, "God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are." "No, I am not," whispered the Hottentot, "but I'm worse." Again the farmer read, "I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess." "I don't do that. I don't pray in that way. What shall I do?" said the distressed savage.
The good man read on till he came to the publican, "standing afar off." "That's where I am," said the Hottentot. "Would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven," read the farmer. "That's me," cried his hearer. "But smote upon his breast saying, God be merciful to me a sinner." "That's me; that's my prayer," cried the poor creature, and smiting on his dark breast, he prayed for himself in the words of the parable,—"God be merciful to me a sinner!" And he went on offering this prayer till the loving Saviour heard and answered him, and he went down to his house a saved and happy man.
Thus we see how this poor man learned the lesson of humility which Jesus taught, and how much good it did to him.
And it is Jesus who is speaking to us and commanding us to learn this lesson of humility, when we read, in other passages of Scripture, such words as these:—"Put on therefore—humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering." Col. iii: 12. "Humble yourself therefore in the sight of God." James iv: 10. "Be clothed with humility." I. Pet. v: 5. In all these places we have Jesus repeating his command to us to learn the lesson of humility. And this command is urged thus earnestly upon us because it is so important.
When St. Augustine, one of the celebrated fathers of the early Church, was asked—What is the first important thing in the Christian religion? his reply was—"Humility." "What is the second?" "Humility." "And what is the third?"—the reply still was—"Humility."
And if this be true, we need not wonder that Jesus should have been so earnest in teaching this lesson; or that he should have urged so strongly on his disciples to learn it.
The command of Christ is the first reason why we should learn the lesson of humility.
But the second reason why we should learn this lesson is, because of the—EXAMPLE—of Christ.
There are many persons "who say and do not." There are some ministers who preach very well, but they do not practise what they preach. Such persons may well be compared to finger-boards. They point out the way to others, but they do not walk in it themselves. But this was not the case with our blessed Saviour. He practised everything that he preached. And when he gave us his command to learn this lesson of humility, he gave us, at the same time, his example to show us how to do it.
He was illustrating this command by his example when he washed his disciples' feet. And this was only one out of many things in which he set us this example. When he chose to be born of poor parents, he was giving an example of humility. When he lived at Nazareth till he was thirty years of age, working with his reputed father as a carpenter, and during the latter part of the time, as is supposed, laboring for the support of his mother, he was giving an example of humility. When he said, "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister," Matt. xx: 28; and again—"I am among you as he that serveth," Luke xxii: 27, he was giving an example of humility. When he borrowed an ass to make his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem; though he could say in truth, "every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills;"—(Ps. 1: 10), he was setting an example of humility. When he hid himself away from the people because he saw that they wanted to take him by force and make him king, he was giving a lesson of humility. When he allowed himself to be taken prisoner, though he knew that if he had asked his Father in heaven, he would, at once, have sent "more than twelve legions of angels" to deliver him, he was giving an example of humility. When he kept silence, at the bar of the high-priest, of Herod, of Pontius Pilate, like "a lamb dumb before her shearers," while his enemies were charging him falsely with all kinds of wickedness; when he allowed the Roman soldiers to scourge him with rods, till his back was all bleeding; to put a crown of thorns upon his head; to array him in a purple robe in mockery of his being a king; to smite him with the palms of their hands, and spit upon him; and then to nail him to the cross, and put him to the most shameful of all deaths—as if he were a wicked man, who did not deserve to live—he was giving the most wonderful example of humility that ever was heard of. Jesus, the Lord of glory hanging on the shameful cross!—O, this was an example of humility that must have filled the angels of heaven with surprise, and wonder!
And when we think of all that Jesus did and suffered, to set us an example of humility, it should make us ashamed of being proud; and anxious, above all things, to learn this lesson which he did so much to teach us.
"Imitating Christ's Humility." I think I never heard of a more beautiful instance of persons learning to imitate the humility of Christ, than is told of some Moravian Missionaries. These good men had heard the story of the unhappy slaves in the West Indies. Those poor creatures were wearing out their lives in hard bondage. They had very little comfort in this life, and no knowledge of that gracious Saviour who alone can secure, for sinful creatures, such as we are, a better portion in the life to come. These missionaries offered to go out to the West Indies, and teach those slaves about Jesus, and the great salvation that is to be found in him. But they were told that the owners of the slaves would not let them go to school or to church. They would not allow them to take time enough from their work to learn anything about the salvation of their souls. There was only one way in which those poor slaves could be taught anything about Jesus and his love, and that was, for those who wished to teach them, to go and be slaves on the plantations, to work, and toil, if need be, under the lash, so that they could get right beside them and then tell them about the way of salvation that is in Christ Jesus. This was a hard thing to undertake. But those good missionaries said they were willing to do it. And they not only said it, but did it. They left their homes, and went to the West Indies. They worked on the plantations as slaves. And working thus, by the side of the slaves, they got close to their hearts. The slaves heard them. Their hearts were touched because these teachers of the gospel had humbled themselves to their condition. While they were teaching the commands of Christ, they were illustrating and following his example. How beautiful this was! How grand! How glorious!
And yet Christ's own example was still more glorious. He laid aside the glory of his Godhead, and came down from heaven to earth, that he might get by our side. He laid himself beside us that we might feel the throbbings of his bosom and the embrace of his loving arms; and he draws us close to himself, while he whispers in our ears the sweet words, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
And so, when we think of the example of Christ, we should strive to learn the lesson of humility which he taught.
A third reason why we should learn this lesson of humility is because of the—COMFORT—that is found in it.
Just think for a moment what God says on this subject, in Is. lvii: 15. These are his words:—"Thus saith the high and mighty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." Here, the same loving Saviour who gave us the command to learn the lesson of humility promises to give comfort to all who learn this lesson. And the way in which he secures this comfort to them is by coming and dwelling in their hearts. And who can tell what a comfort it is for a poor pardoned sinner to have Jesus—the Lord of heaven and earth—dwelling in his heart? It is his presence in heaven which makes those who dwell there feel so happy. This is what David taught, when he looked up to him, and said—"In thy presence is fulness of joy." Ps. 16: 11. And when that presence is felt, here on earth, it gives comfort and joy, as certainly as it does in heaven. It was the presence of Jesus which enabled Paul and Silas to sing at midnight, for very joyfulness, in the prison at Philippi, though their feet were fastened in the stocks, and their backs were torn and bleeding from the cruel scourging which they had suffered. And it was this presence of Christ in the hearts of his people that good John Newton was speaking of, in one of his sweet hymns, when he said:"While blest with a sense of his love
But it is only those who learn the lesson of humility that Jesus will dwell with. He says himself, "If any man love me, he will keep my words; and My Father will love him; and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." St. John xiv: 23. And among the words of Christ which we must keep, if we wish him to dwell in our hearts, are those in which he commands the lesson of humility. It is only the humble with whom he will dwell. For "every one that is proud in heart is an abomination unto the Lord." Prov. xvi: 5.
The reason why so many people are unhappy in this world is that they do not learn the lesson of humility.
"Learn to Stoop." The story is told of some celebrated man—I think it was Dr. Franklin—who had a friend visiting him on one occasion. When the gentleman was about to leave, the doctor accompanied him to the front door. In going through the entry there was a low beam across it, which made it necessary to stoop, in order to avoid being struck by it. As they approached it the doctor stooped himself, and called out to his friend to do the same. He did not heed the caution, and received a severe thump on his head as the result of his neglect. In bidding him good-bye, the doctor said—"Learn to stoop, my friend; and it will save you from many a hard knock, as you go on through life." This illustrates the comfort which comes from learning the lesson of humility. It is those who are unwilling to stoop; or to be anything, or nothing, as God wants them to be, who have no comfort.
"The Fable of the Oak and the Violet." In a large garden there grew a fine oak tree, with its wide-spreading branches, and at its foot there grew a sweet and modest violet. The oak one day looked down in scorn upon the violet, and said: "You, poor little thing, will soon be dead and withered; for you have no strength, no size, and are of no good to anyone. But I am large and strong; I shall still live for ages, and then I shall be made into a large ship to sail on the ocean, or into coffins to hold the dust of princes."
"Yes," answered the violet, in its humility, "God has given you strength, and me sweetness. I offer him back my fragrance, and am thankful. I hope to die fragrantly, as I have lived fragrantly, but we are both only what God made us, and both where God placed us."
Not long after the oak was struck by lightning and shivered to splinters. Its end was to be burned. But the violet was gently gathered by the hand of a Christian lady, who carefully pressed it, and kept it for years, in the leaves of her Bible to refresh herself with its fragrance. Here we see illustrated the difference between pride and humility.
"The Secret of Comfort." Some years ago there was a boy who had been lame from his birth. He was a bright intelligent boy, but he was not a Christian. As he grew up, with no other prospect before him but that of being a cripple all his days, he was very unhappy. As he sat by his window, propped up in his chair, and saw the boys playing in the street, he would say to himself: "Why has God made me thus? Why have I not limbs to run and jump with like other boys?"
These thoughts filled him with distress, and caused him to shed many bitter tears.
One day a Christian friend, who was visiting him, gave him a book and requested him to read it. He did so; and it led to his becoming a Christian. His heart was renewed; the burden of his sin was removed; and the love of God was shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost. He learned the lesson of humble submission to the will of God. After this, as he looked out, and saw the young people happy at their sports; or, as he gazed on the green earth and the beautiful sky, and knew that he must remain a helpless cripple as long as he lived, he yet could say, with the utmost cheerfulness:—"It's all right. My Father in heaven has done it. I love him. He loves me. I know he is making all things work together for my good." He had learned the lesson we are now considering, and we see what comfort it gave him. And the thought of the comfort which this lesson gives, should be a good reason with us all for learning it.
A fourth reason why we should learn the lesson of humility is because of the—USEFULNESS—connected with it.
Jesus tells us, by his apostle, that "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble." St. James iv: 6. If we have the grace of God we can be useful in many ways, but, without that grace we cannot be useful at all. And this is what our Saviour taught his disciples, when he said to them—"without me ye can do nothing." St. John xv: 5. By the words "without me" he meant without my help, or without my grace; or without the help of my grace. And it was of this grace that St. Paul was speaking when he said—"I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me." Phil, iv: 13.
And we could not possibly have a stronger reason for trying to learn the lesson of humility than this, that our receiving the grace of God, and consequently our usefulness, depends upon it. God will not give us his grace to enable us to be truly good and to make ourselves useful, unless we learn this lesson. And unless we have the grace of God, we cannot be useful. Like barren fig-trees we shall be useless cumberers of the ground.
Now let us look at one or two illustrations which show us how pride hinders the usefulness of men, while humility helps it.
"The Fisherman's Mistake." An English gentleman was spending his summer holidays in Scotland. He concluded to try his hand at fishing for trout in one of the neighboring streams. He bought one of the handsomest fishing rods he could find, with line and reel, and artificial flies, and everything necessary to make a perfect outfit for a fisherman. He went to the trout stream, and toiled all day, but never caught a single fish.
Towards the close of the day he saw a ragged little farmer boy, with a bean pole for a rod, and the simplest possible sort of a line, who was nipping the fish out of the water about as fast as he could throw his line in. He watched the boy in amazement for awhile, and then asked him how it was that one, with so fine a rod and line, could catch no fish, while he with his poor outfit was catching so many. The boy's prompt reply was:—"Ye'll no catch ony fish Sir, as lang as ye dinna keep yersel' oot o' sicht."
The gentleman was proud of his handsome rod and line, and was showing it off all the time. His pride hindered his usefulness as a fisherman. The farmer's boy had nothing to show off; so he kept himself out of sight, and thus his humility helped his usefulness in fishing.
"The Thames' Tunnel Teaching Humility." Most strangers who visit the great city of London go to see the famous tunnel under the river Thames. This is a large, substantial road that has been built, in the form of an arch, directly under the bed of the river. It is one of the most wonderful works that human skill ever succeeded in making. The man who planned and built it was made one of the nobility of England. His name was Sir Isambard Brunel. He was so humble that he was willing to learn a lesson from a tiny little ship worm. These worms bore small round holes through the solid timbers of our ships.
One day Mr. Brunel visited a ship-yard. An old ship was on the dry-dock getting repaired. A quantity of worm-eaten timber had been taken out from her sides. He picked up one of these pieces of timber, and saw a worm at work, boring its way through. If he had been a proud man, he might have thrown the timber aside, and said—"Get away you poor little worm. I am a great master builder. You can't teach me anything." And if he had done so that famous tunnel under the Thames would probably never have been built. But Mr. Brunel had learned the lesson of humility. He was willing to learn from anything that God had made, however insignificant it might be. So he sat down and watched the worm at its work. He studied carefully the form of the hole it was boring. The thought occurred to him how strong a tunnel would be, that was made in the shape of this hole! And when he was asked whether it would be possible to build a tunnel under the Thames, he said he thought it could be done. He undertook to build it. He succeeded in the work. But, in accomplishing the great undertaking that little ship-worm was his teacher.
And now, if any of my young friends who may read this book should ever visit London, and go to see the great tunnel, as they gaze in wonder at it, let them remember Sir I. Brunel, and that little ship-worm; and then, let them say to themselves: "This mighty tunnel is an illustration of the truth that humility helps to make us useful."
"George Washington and His Humility." Here is a story connected with the great and good Washington—"the Father of his country," which illustrates very well this part of our subject.
During the war of the American Revolution, the commander of a little squad of soldiers was superintending their operations as they were trying to raise a heavy piece of timber to the top of some military works which they were engaged in repairing. It was hard work to get the timber up, and so the commander, who was a proud man and thought himself of great importance, kept calling out to them from time to time, "Push away, boys! There she goes! Heave ho!"
While this was going on, an officer on horseback, but not in military dress, rode by. He asked the commander why he did not take hold, and give the men a little help. He looked at the stranger in great astonishment, and then, with all the pride of an emperor, said:
"Sir, I'd have you know that I am a corporal!"
"You are—are you?" replied the officer, "I was not aware of that," and then taking off his hat, and making a low bow, said, "I ask your pardon Mr. Corporal."
After this he got off his horse, and throwing aside his coat, he took hold and helped the men at their work till they got the timber into its place. By this time the perspiration stood in drops upon his forehead. He took out his handkerchief and wiped his brow. Then turning to the commander he said:
"Mr. Corporal, when you have another such job on hand, and have not men enough to do it, send for your Commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again."
It was General Washington who did and said this. The Corporal was thunderstruck! The great Washington, though honored above all men on the continent, was humble enough to put his hand and shoulder to the timber, that he might help the humblest of his soldiers, who were struggling for the defence of their country, to bear the burdens appointed to them.
This is an excellent illustration of the truth we are now considering. And certainly we should all try to learn the lesson of humility which Jesus taught, when we see how it helps to make us useful.
And then there is one other reason why we should learn this lesson, and that is because of the—BLESSING—that attends it.
Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in her noble song about the birth of her wonderful Son, said that God "filleth the hungry with good things, and sendeth the rich empty away." By the "hungry" she meant the humble and by the "rich" the proud. And the "good things" with which God fills them mean the blessings He bestows on the humble. Our Saviour taught the same truth when he said, "he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Luke xiv: 11. Being exalted here means being honored and blessed. These passages teach very clearly the truth of which we are now speaking. They show us that we must learn the lesson of humility if we hope to have God's blessing rest upon us. And it is not more true that two and two make four, than it is that God's blessing does attend and follow those who learn the lesson of humility.
How many illustrations of this truth we find in the Bible! Moses had learned the lesson of humility before God sent him on his great mission, which has given him a name and a place among the most famous men of the world.
Gideon had learned the lesson of humility before God made choice of him to be the deliverer of his people Israel from the hands of their enemies; and then, for years to be their honored ruler. John the Baptist was so humble that he said of himself that he was not worthy to stoop down and unloose the latchet of our Saviour's shoe; and yet Jesus said of him that he was one of the greatest men that ever had been born.
The apostle Paul was so humble that he considered himself "less than the least of all saints," and "the chief of sinners;" and yet God honored and blessed him till he became the most famous and useful of all the apostles.
If we turn from the Bible, and look out into the world around us, we may compare proud people to the tops of the mountains; these are bare and barren, and of little use to the world. We may compare humble people to the plains and valleys. These are fertile and beautiful, and are the greatest blessing to the world, in the abundance of grain, and fruit, and other good things which they yield.
And then, if we take notice of what is occurring in the scenes of daily life, we shall meet with incidents continually which furnish us with illustrations of the part of our subject now before us, that God crowns the humble with his blessing. Let us look at one or two of these illustrations.
"The Little Loaf." In a certain part of Germany, some years ago, a famine was prevailing, and many of the people were suffering from hunger. A kind-hearted rich man sent for twenty of the poorest children in the village where he lived, to come to his house. As they stood on the porch of his house, he came out to them bringing a large basket in his hand. He set it down before him and said: "Children, in this basket there is bread for you all. Take a loaf, each of you, and come back every day at this hour, till it shall please God to send us better times."
Then he left the children to themselves and went into the house, but watched them through the window. The hungry children seized the basket, quarreled and struggled for the bread, because each of them wished to get the best and largest loaf. Then they went away without ever thanking the good gentleman for his kindness.
But one little girl, named Gretchen, poorly but neatly dressed, remained, humbly standing by, till the rest were gone. Then she took the last loaf left in the basket, the smallest of the lot. She looked up to the window where the gentleman stood; smiled at him; threw him a kiss, and made a low curtsey in token of her gratitude, and then went quickly home.
The next day the other children were just as ill-behaved as they had been before, and the timid humble Gretchen received a loaf this time not more than half the size of the one she had on the previous day. But when she came home, and her poor sick mother cut the loaf open, a number of new silver pieces of money, fell rattling and shining out of it.
Her mother was frightened, and said, "Take the money back at once to the good gentleman; for it must certainly have dropped into the dough by accident. Be quick Gretchen! be quick!"
But when the little girl came to the good man and gave him her mother's message, he kindly said, "No, no, my child, it was no mistake. I had the silver pieces put into the smallest loaf as a reward for you. Continue to be as humble, peaceable, self-denying, and grateful as you have now shown yourself to be. A little girl who is humble enough to take the smallest loaf rather than quarrel for the larger ones, will be sure to receive greater blessings from God than if she had silver pieces of money baked in every loaf of bread she ate. Go home now, and greet your good mother very kindly for me." Here we see how God's blessing attends the humble.
"Humility Proving a Blessing." Some time ago a young man went into the office of one of the largest dry-goods houses in New York and asked for a situation. He was told to call again another day.
Going down Broadway that same afternoon, when opposite the Astor House, he saw an old apple woman, in trying to cross the street, struck by an omnibus, knocked down, and her basket of apples sent scattering into the gutter.
The young man stepped out of the crowd, helped the old woman to her feet, put her apples into her basket, and went on his way, without thinking of it.
Now a proud man would never have thought of doing such a thing as that. But this young man had learned the lesson of humility, and did not hesitate a moment to do this kind act.
When he called again to see about the situation, he was asked what wages he expected.
He stated what he thought would be right. His proposal was accepted. The situation was given him, and he went to work.
About a year afterwards, his employer took him aside one day, reminded him of the incident about the old apple woman; told him he was passing at the time, and saw it; and that it was this circumstance which induced him to offer the vacant situation to him, in preference to a hundred others who were applying for it.
Here we see what a blessing this young man's humility proved to him!
And thus we see that there are five good reasons why we should learn the lesson of humility. These are the command of Christ; the example of Christ; the comfort that humility gives; the usefulness to which it leads; and the blessing that attends it.
The first verse of the hymn we often sing contains a very suitable prayer to offer when we think of the lesson of humility we have now been considering:"Lord forever at thy side
If, when Jesus was here on earth, he had shown a great interest in kings, and princes, in rich, and wise, and great men, it would not have been surprising; because he was a king and a prince, himself; he was richer than the richest, and wiser than the wisest, and greater than the greatest. But he did not do this. He took no particular notice of them; but he showed the greatest possible interest in children. When mothers brought their little ones to him, the disciples wanted to keep them away. They thought, no doubt, that he was too busy to take any notice of them. But they were mistaken. He was very busy indeed. He had many lessons to teach. He had sermons to preach; and sick people to heal; and blind eyes to open; and deaf ears to unstop; and lame men to make whole; and dead men to raise to life again. He had all his Father's will to make known to men; and all his Father's commandments to keep. He had to suffer, and to die for the sins of the world; that he might "open the kingdom of heaven to all believers." He was the busiest man that ever lived. Nobody ever had so much to do as he had. And yet, he was not too busy to attend to the little children. He had time to give to them. So he rebuked his disciples for trying to keep the children away from him. He told the mothers to bring them near. They did so. And then, one by one, "he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them and blessed them." And when he had done this, as though that were not enough, he spoke those precious, glorious, golden words:—"Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven," "verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein."
These things are told us by three of the evangelists. St. Matthew mentions them in chapter xix: 13-15. St. Mark x: 13-16, and St. Luke xviii: 15-17.
On another occasion, when he was in the temple, the children sang hosannas to him as the son of David. The chief priests and scribes were greatly displeased, when they heard it, and "said unto him, hearest thou what these say? and Jesus said unto them, yea: have ye never read, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?" Matt, xxi: 15, 16. Here he quoted from the Old Testament (Ps. viii: 2) to prove to them from their own scriptures, that God loves little children, and delights to have them engage in his service, and sing his praises.
And there was one other occasion on which Jesus spoke about the children, and showed his interest in them. This was after his resurrection. We read about it in St. John xxi: 15-18. He met his disciples, one day, on the shore of the sea of Galilee. Peter, who had shamefully denied his Master on the night in which he was betrayed was present with them. Jesus said to him, as if to remind him of his great sin, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?" "Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee," said the penitent disciple. "Feed my lambs," was his Master's reply. Here again, how beautifully Jesus showed his great love for the little ones of his flock!
From these different passages, we see clearly how dear little children are to the heart of our blessed Saviour! He is the only great Teacher who ever showed such an interest in children. And the religion of Jesus is the only religion which teaches its followers to love and care for the little ones. The worshipers of the idol Moloch, mentioned in the Bible, used to offer their children as burnt-sacrifices to their cruel god. Mahometans look upon their women and children as inferior beings. The Hindoos neglect their infants, and leave them exposed on the banks of the Ganges, or throw them into the river to be devoured by the hungry crocodiles. In the city of Pekin many infants are thrown out into the streets every night. Sometimes they are killed by the fall. Sometimes they are only half killed, and linger, moaning in their agony, till the morning. Then the police go around, and pick them up, and throw them all together into a hole and bury them.
In Africa, the children are sometimes buried alive; and sometimes left out in the fields or forests for the wild beasts to devour them. In the South Sea Islands three-fourths of all the children born used to be killed. Sometimes they would strangle their babies. Sometimes they would leave them, where oxen and cattle would tread on them, and trample them to death; while, at other times, they would break all their joints, beginning with their fingers and toes, and then go on to their wrists, and elbows, and shoulders. How dreadful it is to think of such practices! And when we turn from these scenes of heart-rending cruelty and think of the gracious Saviour,—the "gentle Jesus, meek and mild," stretching forth his arms in loving tenderness, and uttering the sweet words,—"Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God,"—what a wonderful contrast it makes!
And when we think of all that Jesus did and said to show his interest in children, we may well ask ourselves such questions as these,—Why was it so? What did he do it for? And when we come to look carefully into this part of the life of Christ, we can see four great things in it; and these are the reasons why Jesus did and said so much about children.
In the first place we see—GREAT LOVE—in the interest Christ manifested towards the young.
It was the same love which brought him down from heaven, and made him willing to become a little child himself; the same love which made him willing to live in poverty—and suffer the dreadful death upon the cross that led him to show such interest in the little ones. But if he had not told us himself how he feels on this subject, we could not have been sure of it. Children might well have said, when they heard about the love of Christ, "Yes, we have no doubt that Jesus does love grown up people, men and women in general. We believe this because the Bible tells us so; but how do we know that he loves us children?" If he had not told us so himself, we could not have been sure of it. But we know it now. And when we hear, or read of the love of Christ, we may be sure that it takes the children in.
During a famine in Germany, a family became so poor that they were in danger of starving. The father proposed that one of the children should be sold, and food provided for those that remained. At last the mother consented; but then the question arose which one of the four should be selected. The eldest, their first-born, could not be spared; the second looked like the mother, the third was like his father, and they could not give either of them up; and then the youngest—why, he was their pet, their darling, how could they give him up? So they concluded that they would all perish together, rather than part with one of their little ones. When those children knew of this, they might very well feel sure that their parents loved them. But Jesus did more than this for us, he was willing to die upon the cross, and he did so die, that "not one of his little ones should perish."
"Being Loved Back Again." Little Alice Lee sat in her rocking chair. She was clasping a beautiful wax doll to her bosom, and singing sweet lullabies to it. But every little while she looked wistfully at her mother. She was busy writing, and had told Alice to keep as quiet as possible till she got through.
It seemed a long time to Alice; but after awhile her mother laid down her pen, and pushed aside her papers, and said:—"Now I am through for to-day, Alice, and you can make as much noise as you please."
In a moment Alice laid down her doll, and running to her mother, threw her arms round her neck, and nestled sweetly in her loving bosom.
"I'm so glad," said Alice, "I wanted to love you so much, mamma."
"Did you, darling?" and the mother clasped the little one tenderly in her arms. "I am very glad that my little girl loves me;" replied her mother, "but I thought you were not very lonely while I was writing; you and dollie seemed to be having a good time together."
"Yes, we had, mamma; but I always get tired of loving dollie after awhile."
"Do you, dear? Tell me why?"
"O, because she never loves me back again."
"And is that why you love me?"
"That is one why, mamma; but not the first one, or the best one."
"And what is the first, and best?"
"Why, mamma, can't you guess?" and the little girl's blue eyes grew very bright, as they gazed earnestly into her mother's face. "It's because you loved me when I was too little to love you back; that's why I love you so."
And what a reason this is why we should love Jesus! He loved us when we were too little to love him back. The Bible says—"We love him because he first loved us." He loved us before we knew him, or had ever heard of him. He loved us before we were born. Before the world was made Jesus thought of you and me, and loved us. This is what he means when he says:—"I have loved thee with an everlasting love." Jer. xxxi: 3. This means a love that never had a beginning, and that will never have an end. This is very wonderful. And when we think of it, we may well sing out our thankfulness in the words of the hymn:"I am glad that our Father in heaven
And when we think of all the kind words and actions of Jesus, by which he showed his interest in little children, the first thing that we see in them is—great love.
Now, let us take another look at this part of our Saviour's life, and the second thing that we see in it is—GREAT WISDOM.
It is wise to take care of the children and try to bring them to Jesus when young, because then they are easily controlled.
Suppose we plant an acorn in a corner of our garden. After awhile a green shoot springs out from it. We go to look at it when it is about a foot high. We find it getting crooked; but with the gentlest touch of thumb and finger, we can straighten it out. We wish it to lean in a particular direction. We give it a slight touch, and it leans just that way. Afterwards we conclude to have it lean in the opposite direction. Another slight touch, and it takes that direction. It is true, as the poet says, "Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclined." But, suppose we let it grow for twenty or thirty years, and then come back to it. It is now a great oak tree. There is an ugly twist in its trunk. We try to straighten it out; but in vain. No power on earth can do that now. You can cut it down; or saw it up; or break it into splinters; but you cannot straighten it.
Suppose, that you and I should go to one of the highest summits of the Rocky Mountains. In a certain place there, we should find two little fountains springing up near each other. With the end of a finger we might trace the course in which either of those little springs should flow. We could lead one down the eastern side of the mountains, and the other down the western side. It would be very easy to control them then. But suppose now we travel down the side of the mountain till we reach the plain, at its base. Now see, yonder is a great river, rolling on its mighty flood of waters. That is what the little spring has grown to. It is too late to control it now. The time for controlling it was up yonder near the spring.
It is easy to control the spring; it is very hard to control the river. Jesus wished to control the spring when he directed us to bring the children to him. And in this he showed his wisdom.
It is wise to take an interest in children, and bring them early to Jesus—because they have great influence in the world.
Who can tell the influence that children are exerting in the world? We have an illustration of this in the words that were once spoken by Themistocles, the celebrated Grecian governor and general. He had a little boy, of whom his mother was very fond and over whom the child had very great influence. His father pointed to him, one day, and said to a friend, "Look at that child; he has more power than all Greece. For the city of Athens rules Greece; I rule Athens; that child's mother rules me, and he rules his mother."
I feel sure our Saviour must have felt very much as some one has done, who writes in this way about
THE GOOD THAT CHILDREN DO."A dreary place would be this earth
And if children have so great an influence in the world it was wise in Jesus to desire to have them brought early to him that they might learn to use that influence in the best possible way.
And then it was wise in Jesus to desire this, again, because bringing children to him prevents great trouble, and secures great blessing.
We are all familiar with Dr. Watts' sweet hymn, which says:
"'Twill save us from a thousand snares
To mind religion young."
Here is a striking illustration of this truth in the history of:
"One Neglected Child." A good many years ago, in one of the upper counties of New York, there was a little girl named Margaret. She was not brought to Christ, but was turned out on the world to do as she pleased. She grew up to be perhaps the wickedest woman in that part of the country. She had a large family of children, who became about as wicked as herself; her descendants have been a plague and a curse to that county ever since. The records of that county show that two hundred of her descendants have been criminals. In a single generation of her descendants there were twenty children. Three of these died in infancy. Of the remaining seventeen, who lived to grow up, nine were sent to the state prison for great crimes; while all the others were found, from time to time, in the jails, the penitentiaries, or the almshouses. Nearly all the descendants of this woman were idiots, or drunkards, or paupers, or bad people, of the very worst character. That one neglected child thus cost the county in which she lived hundreds of thousands of dollars, besides the untold evil that followed from the bad examples of her descendants. How different the result would have been if this poor child had been brought to Jesus and made a Christian when she was young!
"The Result of Early Choice." Here is a short story of two boys, of the choice they made when young, and the different results that followed from that choice.
A minister of the gospel was preaching on one occasion to the convicts in the state prison of Connecticut. As he rose in the desk and looked around on the congregation, he saw a man there whose face seemed familiar to him. When the service was over he went to this man's cell, to have some conversation with him.
"I remember you very well, sir," said the prisoner. "We were boys in the same neighborhood; we went to the same school; sat beside each other on the same bench, and then my prospects were as bright as yours. But, at the age of fourteen, you made choice of the service of God, and became a Christian. I refused to come to Christ, but made choice of the world and sin. And now, you are a happy and honored minister of the gospel, while I am a wretched outcast. I have served ten years in this penitentiary and am to be a prisoner here for life."
Jesus knew what blessings would follow to those who were early brought to him, and we see that there was great wisdom in the words that he spake when he said—"Suffer the little children to come unto me."
In the next place there was—GREAT ENCOURAGEMENT—in what Jesus did and said about children.
If a company of boys or girls should try to get into the presence of a monarch, some great king, or emperor, they would find it a pretty hard thing to do. At the door of the palace they would meet with soldiers or servants, the guards of the queen or king. They would say to the children—"what do you want here?" And if the children should say, "Please sir, we wish to go into the palace and see the queen," the answer would be: "Go away; go away. The queen is too busy. She has no time to attend to little folks like you." And the children would have to go away without getting to see the queen.
But, Jesus is a greater king than any who ever sat upon an earthly throne. He has more to do than all the kings and queens in the world put together. And yet he never gave orders to the angels, or to any of his servants to keep the children away from him. On his great throne in yonder heavens he says still, what he said when he was on earth—"Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not." And he says this on purpose to encourage the children to come to him. And the thought that Jesus loves them and feels an interest in them has encouraged multitudes of little ones to seek him and serve him. Here are some illustrations of this:
"Learning to Love Jesus." "A little girl came to me one day," said a minister of the gospel, and said, "'Please sir, may I speak to you a minute?' I saw that she was in some trouble; so I took her kindly by the hand, and said, 'Certainly, my child. What do you wish to say?'
"'Please, sir,' said she, as her lip quivered and tears filled her eyes, 'it's a dreadful thing; but I don't love Jesus.'
"'And are you not going to love him?' I asked.
"'I don't know; but please sir, I want you to tell me how.' She spoke sadly, as if it was something she never could do.
"'Well,' I said, 'St. John, who loved our Lord almost more than any one else ever did, says that "we love him because he first loved us." Now if you go home to-night, saying in your heart, "Jesus loves me," I think that to-morrow you will be able to say—"I love Jesus."'
"She looked up through her tears, and repeated the words very softly, 'Jesus loves me.' She began to think about it on her way home, as well as to say it. She thought about his life, about his death on the cross, and about his sweet words to the little ones, and she began to feel it too.
"The next evening she came to see me again; and, putting both her hands in mine, with a bright happy face, she said:
"'Oh! please sir, I love Jesus now; for I know he does love me so!'"
Here was a little one encouraged to come to Jesus by thinking of the interest he feels in children.
"Doesn't He Love to Save?" A mother had just tucked her little boy in bed, and had received his good-night kisses. She lingered awhile, at his bedside, to speak to him about Jesus, and to see if he was feeling right toward him. He was a good, obedient boy, but that day he had done something that grieved his mother. He had expressed his sorrow for it, and asked his mother's forgiveness. As she stooped down for the last kiss, he said—"Is it all settled, mother?"
"Yes, my child," she said, "it's all settled with me; but have you settled it all with Jesus?" "Yes, mother: I've asked him to forgive me: and I believe him when he says he will; for doesn't he love to help and save children?" "He does, my child, he does," said his mother, as she gazed on his happy little face, lighted up with the joy of that gospel, so often hidden from the wise and prudent, but revealed to babes.
Here we see how this little fellow was encouraged to seek Jesus from the assurance that he feels an interest in children, and loves to help and bless them.
"Love Leads to Love." A little boy named Charley stood at the window with his mother one morning, watching the robins as they enjoyed their morning meal of cherries from the tree near their house. "Mother," said Charley, "How the birdies all love father."
"They do," said his mother, "but what do you suppose is the reason that the birdies love your father?"
This question seemed to set Charley to thinking. He did not answer at first, but presently he said, "Why mother all the creatures seem to love father. My dog is almost as glad to see him as to see me. Pussy, you know, always comes to him, and seems to know exactly what he is saying. Even the old cow follows him around the meadow, and the other day I saw her licking his hand, just as a dog would. I think it must be because father loves them. You know he will often get up and give pussy something to eat; and he pulls carrots for the cow, and pats her; and somehow I think his voice never sounds so sweet as when he is talking to these dumb creatures."
"I think his voice is very pleasant when he is talking to his little boy," said his mother.
Charley smiled, and said, "That's so, mother. Father loves me, and I love him dearly. But he loves the birdies too I am sure. He whistles to them every morning when they are eating their cherries, and they don't seem a bit afraid of him, although he is near enough to catch them. Mother I wish everything loved me as they do father."
"Do as father does, Charley, and they will. Love all things and be kind to them. Don't kick the dog, or speak roughly to him. Don't pull pussy's tail, nor chase the hens, nor try to frighten the cow. Never throw stones at the birds. Never hurt nor tease anything. Speak gently and lovingly to them and they will love you, and everybody that knows you will love you too."
Now Charley's father, in acting as he did, was trying to make all the dumb creatures about him know that he was their friend; that he loved them, and had nothing but kindness in his heart towards them. In this way he encouraged them to come to him, and not be afraid of him.
And this is just the way in which Jesus was acting when he did and said so much to show his interest in children. He wants them all to understand that he is their friend; that he loves them, and wants them to come to him and love and serve him. And so every child who hears or reads about Jesus may feel encouraged to say:"Once in his arms the Saviour took
And so we may well say that in what Jesus did and said about the children there is great encouragement.
And then there are—GREAT LESSONS—too, in this part of the life of Christ.
There are two lessons taught us here. One is about the work we are to do for Jesus here on earth. When Jesus said to Peter, "Lovest thou me? Feed my lambs," he meant to teach him, and you, and me, and all his people everywhere, the best way in which we can show our love to him. The lambs of Christ here spoken of mean little children, wherever they are found. And to feed these lambs is to teach them about Jesus. When we are trying to bring the young to Jesus and teaching them to love and serve him, then we are doing the work that is most pleasing to him:—the work that he most loves to have his people do. It was thinking about this that first led me to begin the work of preaching regularly to the young. And this is the lesson that Jesus would have all his people learn when he says to each of them:—"Lovest thou me? Feed my lambs."
"The Angel in the Stone." Many years ago there was a celebrated artist who lived in Italy, whose name was Michael Angelo. He was a great painter, and a great sculptor, or a worker in marble. He loved to see beautiful figures chiseled out of marble, and he had great power and skill in chiseling out such figures. One day, as he was walking with some friends through the city of Florence, he saw a block of marble lying neglected in a yard, half covered with dust and rubbish. He stopped to examine that block of marble. That day happened to be a great holiday in Florence and the artist had his best suit of clothes on; but not caring for this he threw off his coat, and went to work to clear away the rubbish from that marble. His friends were surprised. They said to him:—"Come on, let's go; what's the use of wasting your time on that good-for-nothing lump of stone?"
"O, there's an angel in this stone," said he, "and I must get it out."
He bought that block; had it removed to his studio, and then went to work with his mallet and his chisel, and never rested till out of that rough, unshapen mass of stone he made a beautiful marble angel.
Now, every child born into our world is like such a block of marble. The only difference is that children are living stones—marble that will last forever. And when we bring our children to Jesus, and by his help teach them to love and serve him, we are doing for them just what Michael Angelo was doing for his block of marble—we are getting the angels out of the stones. And this is what Jesus loves to have us do.
"How to Get the Angels Out." A Christian mother, whose children had all been early taught to love and serve Jesus, was asked the secret of her success in bringing up her children. This was her answer:—"While my children were infants on my lap, as I washed them day by day, I raised my heart to God that he would wash them in that blood which cleanseth from all sin; as I clothed them in the morning, I asked my heavenly Father to clothe them with the robe of Christ's righteousness; as I provided them food I prayed that God would feed their souls with the bread of heaven, and give them to drink of the water of life. When I prepared them for the house of God I pleaded that their bodies might be made fit temples for the Holy Ghost to dwell in. When they left me daily for the week-day school, I followed their youthful footsteps with the prayer that their path through life might be like that of the just, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day. And night after night, as I committed them to rest, the silent breathing of my soul has been, that their heavenly Father would take them under his tender care and fold them in his loving, everlasting arms."
Let Christian mothers follow this example and they will not fail to bring the angel out from every block of living marble that God has given them.
"The Best Time for Doing This." A faithful minister of Christ had a dear only daughter. She had been a thoughtful praying child. When only twelve years old she had joined her father's church. She now lay on her dying bed. "As I sat by her bedside," says her father, "among the things she said which I shall never forget were these:—'Father you know I joined the church when I was young—very young. Some of our friends thought that I was too young. But, oh! how I wish I could tell everybody what a comfort it is to me now to think of it.' Then reaching out her hand—the fingers were already cold—and grasping mine, she said with great earnestness:—'Father, you are at work for the young. Do all you can for them while they are young. It's the best time—the best time. Oh! I see it now as I never did before. It is the best time—while they are young—the younger the better. Do all you can for them while they are very young.' And then she fell asleep in Jesus."
This is the lesson about the work we are to do for him on earth, that Jesus taught in what he said concerning the children.
But when we think of those sweet words of Jesus—"Of such is the kingdom of heaven," we are taught a lesson about the company we shall meet there. We learn from what our blessed Lord says on this subject that he saves all the little ones who die before they are accountable for their actions. And we know that of all the persons born into our world more than half of them die before they reach this age. And this makes it very certain that more than half the company of heaven will be made up of little children. This is a very sweet thought to those who have lost little ones; and to those who love them.
And some people think that when young children die and go to heaven, they will not grow up to be men and women, but will always remain children. The Rev. Mr. Bickersteth, of England, in speaking of a father meeting his little ones in heaven, who died years before he did, represents him as meeting them there, just of the same age and size as they were when they died. And then he expresses his own thought on this subject in a single line:"A babe in glory, is a babe forever."
But God has not said anything on this subject in the Bible. And when he himself has not spoken on such a point as this, it is impossible for us to say certainly which way it will be. But when we get to heaven and find just how it is, we shall all agree that God's way is the best way.
And then Jesus shows us plainly what our character must be if we hope to go to heaven and join the happy company there.
These are the words he spake on this subject; "Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein." Mark x: 15. Jesus refers here to some of the best things that we find marking the character of a good child. Such a child is gentle, and loving, and kind; and this must be our character, if we hope to enter heaven. Such a child is willing to be taught:—believes all that his parent or teacher tells him; and does everything that he is told to do; and such must our character be if we hope to enter heaven.
And so when we come to study out this part of our Saviour's life, and think of all that he did and said to show his interest in children, we see these four great things in it: viz., great love; great wisdom; great encouragement; and great lessons.
I know not how to express in a better way the feelings which should be in the heart of everyone, young or old, on thinking of this great subject, than in the words of one who has thus sweetly written:"Lamb of God! I look to Thee,
This was one of the most surprising scenes in the life of our blessed Lord. It forms a great contrast to the other events mentioned in his history. He "came to visit us in great humility." When we read how he was born in a stable, and cradled in a manger; how he had "not where to lay his head;" when we read of the lowliness, and poverty, and suffering that marked his course, day by day, we come naturally to think of him as "the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." And though, when we remember how he healed the sick, and cast out devils, and raised the dead to life again; how he walked upon the waters, and controlled the stormy winds and waves with his simple word, he seems wonderful in his power and majesty; yet there is nothing, in all his earthly life, that leads us to think so highly of him, as this scene of the Transfiguration, of which we are now to speak.
The account of this event is given us by three of the evangelists. We find it described by St. Matt, xvii: 1-13. St. Mark ix: 2-13. St. Luke ix: 28-29.
A short time before this took place, Jesus had told his disciples how he was to go up to Jerusalem, to suffer many things, to be put to death, be buried, and be raised again on the third day. St. Matt, xvi: 21. He also told them of the self-denial, which all who became his disciples would be required to exercise. This was very different from what they were expecting and must have been very discouraging to them. They did not yet understand that their Master had come into the world to suffer and to die. Instead of this, their minds were filled with the idea that the object of his coming was to establish an earthly kingdom and to reign in glory. And, for themselves, they were expecting that they would share his glory and reign as princes with him. And so they must have been greatly troubled by his words. To encourage and comfort them, therefore, he told them that, before they died, some of them should "see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."
And then, some days after this, he took three of his disciples, the favored John and James and Peter, and went up with them "into a mountain, apart by themselves, and was transfigured before them." We are not told what mountain it was that was thus honored. Mount Tabor, near Nazareth, on the borders of the Plain of Esdraelon, has long been regarded as the favored spot. But, in our day, many persons think that it was not on the top of Tabor, but on one of the summits of Mount Hermon, where this wonderful event took place. One of the principal objections to supposing that Tabor was the place is, that in those days there was a large fortress on the top of this mountain, and this, they think, would interfere with the privacy that would be desired on such an occasion. But, for myself, I still incline to think that Tabor was the mountain chosen. I went to the top of this mountain, when in Palestine. And though there is a large convent there now, yet the summit of Tabor covers a wide space of ground. And outside of the walls of the convent, and even out of sight of its walls, I saw a number of retired, shady places that would be particularly suitable for such a scene as this.
But, it is impossible to decide positively which was the Mount of Transfiguration. And it is not a matter of much consequence. Those who think it was Hermon are at liberty to think so; and those who think it was Tabor, have a right to their opinion, for none can prove that they are mistaken in thinking so.
And when we come to consider this great event in the life of our Saviour, there are two things to speak of in connection with it; these are the wonders we see in it; and the lessons we may learn from it. Or, to express it more briefly—The Transfiguration—its wonders, and its lessons.
There are three wonders to be spoken of, and three lessons to be learned from this subject.
The first wonder is—THE WONDERFUL CHANGE—that took place in the appearance of our Lord on this occasion.
Jesus went up the mountain with his disciples. It was probably at the close of one of his busy days that he did this. It would seem from St. Luke's account,—chap. ix: 32—that Peter and his companions were weary with the day's work, and soon fell asleep. But, while they were sleeping, Jesus was praying. And it was while he was engaged in prayer that the Transfiguration took place. St. Luke tells us it was—"as he prayed."
Let us notice now, what the different evangelists tell us about this change. St. Matthew says—"He was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light." St. Mark says, "His raiment became exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller"—one who cleans, or whitens cloth—"on earth can white them." St. Luke says—"As he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistening."
These are the different accounts we have of this surprising scene. If the disciples had been awake when this marvellous change began to take place, we cannot for a moment suppose that they would have gone to sleep while the heavens must have seemed to be opening above them and this blaze of glory was shining around them. They were, no doubt, asleep when the transfiguration began. And, as we know that the taking of an ordinary light into the room where persons are asleep will often awaken them, it is not surprising that the disciples should have been aroused from their slumber by the flood of light and glory that was beaming round their Master then. How surprised they must have been when they opened their eyes on that scene! They would never forget it as long as they lived. It was more than half a century after this when St. John wrote his gospel; and it was, no doubt, to this scene that he referred when he said, in speaking of Jesus;—"we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father" St. John i: 14. And, not long before his death, St. Peter thus refers to it:—"We were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father, honor and glory, when there came such a voice from the excellent glory, saying, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." II. Pet. i: 16, 17.
One object for which this wonderful transfiguration of our Lord took place was, no doubt, to give to the disciples then, and to the followers of Jesus in all coming time, an idea of what his glory now is in heaven, and of what it will be when he shall come again in his kingdom. He had told his disciples about his sufferings and death, and the shame and dishonor connected with them; and here, as if to counterbalance that, he wished to give them a glimpse of the glory that is to shine around him forever.
How wonderful it must have seemed to the astonished disciples! When they had last looked on their Master, before going to sleep, they had seen him as "the man of sorrows," in his plain everyday dress, such as they themselves wore: but, when they looked on him again, as they awoke from their sleep, they saw his face shining as the sun, and his raiment dazzling in its snowy whiteness.
To what may we compare this wonderful change? Suppose you have before you the bulbous root of the lily plant. You look at it carefully, but there is nothing attractive about it. How rough and unsightly it appears! You close your eyes upon it for a brief space. You open them again. But what a change has taken place! That plain-homely looking bulb has disappeared, and in its place there stands before you the lily plant. It has reached its mature growth. Its flower is fully developed and blooming in all its matchless beauty! What a marvellous change that would be! And yet it would be but a feeble illustration of the more wonderful change that took place in our Saviour at his transfiguration.
Here is another illustration. Suppose we are looking at the western sky, towards the close of day. Great masses of dark clouds are covering all that part of the heavens. They are but common clouds. There is nothing attractive or interesting about them. We do not care to take a second look at them. We turn from them for a little while, and then look at them again. In the meantime, the setting sun has thrown his glorious beams upon them. How changed they now appear! All that was commonplace and unattractive about them is gone. How they glow and sparkle! Gold, and purple, and all the colors of the rainbow are blending, how beautifully there! Are these the same dull clouds that we looked upon a few moments before? Yes; but they have been transfigured. A wonderful change has come over them. And here we have an illustration of our Lord's transfiguration. The first wonder about this incident in his life is the wonderful change which took place in his appearance then.
The second wonder about the transfiguration is—THE WONDERFUL COMPANY—that appeared with our Saviour then.
At the close of his temptation in the wilderness, Jesus had some wonderful company too, but it was different from what he had now. Then, we are told that "angels came, and ministered unto him." And in the garden of Gethsemane, when he was sinking to the earth, overcome by the terrible agony through which he was passing, he had more company of the same kind; for we read that—"there appeared unto him an angel from heaven strengthening him." St. Luke xxii: 43. But it was not the company of angels that waited on him at the time of his Transfiguration. No: but we read that, "there appeared unto him Moses, and Elias," or Elijah. And if we ask why did not the angels come to him now, as they did on other occasions? Why did these distinguished persons, of the Old Testament history, come from heaven to visit him in place of the angels? It is easy enough to answer these questions. This transfiguration of Christ took place, as he himself tells us, in order to give his disciples a view of the glory that will attend him when he shall come in his kingdom. When he shall appear, on that occasion, all his people will come with him. Those who shall have died before he comes will be raised from the dead and come with him, in their glorious resurrection bodies. And those who shall be living when he comes will, as St. Paul tells us,—"be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye"—I. Cor. xv: 52, 53—and have beautiful, glorified bodies, like the bodies of those who have been raised from the dead. And both these classes of Christ's people were represented by the distinguished persons who formed the company that appeared with Jesus at the Transfiguration. Moses had been in heaven nearly fifteen hundred years when this scene took place. He had died, as other men do, and had been buried. It is supposed by many wise and good men that his body had been raised from the dead, that he might appear in it on this occasion. And thus Moses represented all the dead in Christ, who will be raised to life again at his coming. Elijah had been in heaven for almost a thousand years. He had never died, and never lain in the grave. He was translated. This means that he was taken up to heaven without dying. But St. Paul tells us that bodies of flesh and blood, like ours, cannot enter heaven. I. Cor. xv: 50. They must be changed, and made fit for that blessed place. And so, we know, that as Elijah went up to heaven, in his chariot of fire, the same wonderful change must have passed over his body which we have seen will take place with those of Christ's people who shall be living on the earth when he comes again.
Jesus was transfigured that we might know how he himself will appear when he comes in his kingdom. And Moses and Elias "appeared with him in glory," to show us how the people of Christ will appear when they enter with him into his kingdom. And this was a good reason why these very persons, and not the angels, should have formed the company that came to visit our Saviour on the Mount of Transfiguration. It was wonderful company indeed that waited on Jesus then. But, it was a wonderful occasion. None like it had ever occurred before; none like it has ever occurred since; and none like it will ever occur again till Jesus shall come in the glory of his heavenly kingdom. The second wonder of the Transfiguration was the wonderful company.
The third wonder connected with this great event was—THE WONDERFUL CONVERSATION—that took place between Jesus and his visitors.
All the three evangelists, who tell of the Transfiguration, speak of this conversation. St. Matthew and St. Mark merely state the fact that Moses and Elias "were talking with Jesus;" but they do not tell us the subject of the conversation, or what it was about which they talked. But St. Luke supplies what they leave out. He says, "they spake of his decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem" This means that they talked about the death upon the cross which he was to suffer. And when we remember that these great and good men had just come down from heaven, where God, the loving Father of Jesus dwells, and where all the holy angels are; and that this was the only time when they were to be present with Jesus, and have an opportunity of talking with him, during all his life on earth, we may wonder why they did not choose some more pleasant subject of conversation. And yet they did not make a mistake. God the Father had sent them from heaven to meet his beloved Son on this occasion. And, no doubt, he had told them what subject they were to talk about, and what they were to say to Jesus, on that subject. And then they knew very well how Jesus felt about this matter. And painful as the death upon the cross would be, they knew it was the nearest of all things to the heart of Jesus. It was the will of his Father that he should die on the cross, and it was the delight of his heart—the very joy of his soul to do his Father's will. And here we learn the unspeakable importance of the death of Christ. The apostle Paul was showing his sense of its importance when he said, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus." Gal. vi: 14. He puts the word "cross" of Christ, for the death of Christ, but it means the same thing.
Some one has compared the cross of Christ to a key of gold, that opens the gate of heaven to us, if we believe in Jesus; but if we refuse to hear and obey the words of Jesus, it becomes a key of iron, and opens the gate of destruction before us.
"The Power of the Cross." A heathen ruler had heard the story of the cross and desired to know its power. When he was sick and near his end, he told his servants to make him a large wooden cross, and lay it down in his chamber. When this was done, he said—"Take me now and lay me on the cross, and let me die there." As he lay there dying he looked in faith to the blood of Christ, that was shed upon the cross, and said—"It lifts me up: it lifts me. Jesus saves me!" and thus he died. It was not that wooden cross that saved him; but the death of Christ, on the cross to which he was nailed—the death of which Moses and Elias talked with him, that saved this heathen man. They knew what a blessing his death would be to the world, and this was why they talked about this death. Here is one of Bonar's beautiful hymns which speaks sweetly of the blessedness and comfort to be found in the cross of Christ."Oppressed with noonday's scorching heat,
Moses and Elias understood how the blessing of the world was to flow out from that death upon the cross which Jesus was to suffer; and so, we need not wonder that during the short visit which they made to Jesus, amidst the glory of his Transfiguration, the subject, above all others, about which they desired to talk with him—was his death upon the cross,—"his decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem."
These are the three great wonders of the Transfiguration—the wonderful change—the wonderful company—and the wonderful conversation.
And this brings us to the second part of our subject, which is—the three lessons taught by the Transfiguration.
The first of these is—THE LESSON OF HOPE.
One thing for which the Transfiguration took place was to show us what we may hope to be hereafter, if we are the servants of Christ. We are told how Jesus appeared on this occasion. His glory is described. The brightness and glory that shone around him exceeded that of the noonday sun. But there is no particular description given Moses and Elias. We are not told how they looked. It is only said of them that—"they appeared in glory." St Luke ix: 31. I suppose the meaning of this is that they shared in the glory which Jesus himself had when he was transfigured. Their raiment was as white as his; and the same brightness and beauty beamed forth from their faces which made his so glorious. They shared their Master's glory. And, if we are loving, and serving Jesus, this is what we may hope to share with him hereafter. This is what we are taught to pray for in the beautiful Collect for the sixth Sunday after the Epiphany. These are the words of that prayer: "O God, whose blessed Son was manifested that he might make us the sons of God, and heirs of eternal life; Grant us, we beseech thee, that having this hope, we may purify ourselves, even as he is pure; that when he shall appear again, with power and great glory, we may be made like unto him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where, with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, he liveth and reigneth, ever One God, world without end. Amen."
And it is right to offer such a prayer as this, because the Bible teaches us to hope for this great glory. How well a hope like this may be called "a hope that maketh not ashamed," Rom. v: 5; "a good hope through grace," II. Thess. ii: 16; "that blessed hope," Tit. ii: 13; "a lively hope," I. Peter i: 3. And how well it may be spoken of as "a helmet"—to cover the head in the day of battle; and as "an anchor" to keep the soul calm and steadfast when the storms of life are bursting upon it! Moses and Elias appeared with Jesus at his Transfiguration, and shared his glory on purpose to teach us this lesson of hope, and to show us what we shall be hereafter. We shall be as glorious as Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration! This seems something too great and too good to be true. But no matter how great, or how good it is—it is true. Jesus taught this lesson of hope when he said—speaking of the time when he shall come in his kingdom, "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," St. Matt, xiii: 43. He taught us the same lesson, in his prayer to his Father, when he said, speaking of all his people, "And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them," St. John xvii: 21. And the apostle John taught us the same lesson, when he said,—"We know that when he shall appear we shall be like him," I. John iii: 2. These sweet passages make this lesson of hope very sure. And this is just the way in which we are made sure about other things we have not seen.
"How we Know There is a Heaven." A Sunday-school teacher was talking to one of her scholars about heaven and the glory we shall have when we reach that blessed place. He was a bright boy, about nine or ten years old, named Charlie. After listening to her for awhile, he said: "But you have never been there, Miss D., and how do you know there really is any such place?"
"Charlie," said the teacher, "you have never been to London; how do you know there is such a city?"
"O, I know that very well," said Charlie, "because my father is there; and he has sent me a letter, telling me all about it."
"And God, my Father, is in the heavenly city," said Miss D., "and he has sent me a letter, telling me about the glory of heaven, and about the way to get there. The Bible is God's letter."
"Yes, I see," said Charlie, after thinking awhile, "there must be a heaven, if you have got such a nice long letter from there."
The lesson of hope is the first lesson taught us by the Transfiguration.
The next lesson taught us here is—THE LESSON
The great event of the Transfiguration took place in our Saviour's life for this reason, among others, that we might learn from it how we are to think of Christ. While the disciples were gazing on the glory of that scene, and on the distinguished visitors who were there, there came a cloud and overshadowed them. This cloud, we may suppose, was like a curtain round Moses and Elias, hiding them from the view of the disciples. And, as Jesus in his glory was left alone for them to gaze upon, there came a voice from the overshadowing cloud, saying—"This is my beloved Son; in whom I am well pleased." This was the voice of God, the Father. It spoke out on this occasion to teach the disciples then, and you and me now, and all God's people in every age, what to think about Christ. God, the Father, tells us here what he thinks about him; and we must learn to think of him in the same way. His will, his command is that "all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father," St. John v: 3. Moses and Elias were great men in their day. They appeared on this occasion to add to the honor of Christ. And then they disappeared, as if to show that they were nothing in comparison with him. He is the greatest and the best of all beings. He must be first. Prophets and priests, and kings, and angels even, are as nothing to him. We must love him—and honor him above all others. The words of the hymn we so often sing, show us how God would have us think and feel towards him:"All hail the power of Jesus' name
"How Christ Should be Honored." There is a story told of the Emperor Theodosius the Great which illustrates very well how we should honor Christ. There were at that time two great parties in the church. One of these believed and taught the divinity of Christ—or that he is equal to God the Father. The other party, called Arians, believed and taught that Christ was not divine; and that he was not to be honored and worshiped as God. The Emperor Theodosius favored this latter party. When his son, Arcadius, was about sixteen years old, his father determined to make him a sharer of his throne, and passed a law that his son should receive the same respect and honor that were due to himself. And, in connection with this event, an incident occurred which led the emperor to see how wrong the view was which he held respecting the character of Christ, and to give it up. When Arcadius was proclaimed the partner of his father in the empire, the officers of the government, and other prominent persons, called on the emperor in his palace, to congratulate him on the occasion, and to pay their respects to his son.
Among those who thus came, was a celebrated bishop of the church. He was very decided in the views he held about the real divinity of Christ, and very much opposed to all who denied this divinity.
Coming into the presence of the emperor, the bishop paid his respects to him, in the most polite and proper manner. Then he was about to retire from the palace, without taking any special notice of the emperor's son. This made the father angry. He said to the bishop, "Do you take no notice of my son? Have you not heard that I have made him a partner with myself in the government of the empire?"
The good old bishop made no reply to this, but going to Arcadius, he laid his hand on his head, saying, as he did so—"The Lord bless thee, my son!" and was again turning to retire.
Even this did not satisfy the emperor, who asked, in a tone of surprise and displeasure, "Is this all the respect you pay to a prince whom I have made equal in dignity with myself?"
With great warmth the bishop answered—"Does your majesty resent so highly my apparent neglect of your son, because I do not treat him with equal honor to yourself? What, then, must the Eternal God—the King of heaven—think of you, who refuse to render to his only begotten Son, the honor and the worship that he claims for him?"
This had such an effect upon the emperor that he changed his views on this subject, and ever afterwards took part with those who acknowledged the divinity of Christ, and honored the Son, even as they honored the Father.
And so we see that the second lesson taught by the Transfiguration was the lesson of instruction. We must learn to think of Christ as the Father in heaven thinks of him.
And then there is—A LESSON OF DUTY—that comes to us from this Transfiguration scene.
We are taught this lesson by the last two words that were spoken, by the voice which the apostles heard from the cloud that overshadowed them. These are the words:—"Hear Him." "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: Hear Him." This is God's command to every one of us. To hear Jesus, means to listen attentively to what he has to say, and to do it. And what does Jesus say to us? He says many things. But the most important thing he has to say to the young, is what we find in St. Matt, vi: 33: "Seek ye FIRST the kingdom of God." This means that we must give our hearts to Jesus, and serve him while we are young. We must do this first,—before we do anything else. We cannot hear or obey Jesus in anything, till we hear and obey him in this. And there are three good reasons why we should do this.
We should "hear him" because there is safety in it. We are exposed to dangers every day, and nothing will so help to keep us safe in the midst of these dangers as hearing Jesus, and doing what he tells us to do. Here is an illustration of what I mean.
"Life in the Midst of Danger." There was an alarm of fire one day, near one of our large public schools. The children in the school were greatly frightened. They screamed, and left their places, and began to rush to the windows and stairs. The stairway leading to the door was soon choked up; and although the fire never reached the school-house, many of the children had their limbs broken and were bruised and wounded in other ways.
But there was one little girl who remained quietly in her seat during all this excitement. When the alarm was over, and the wounded children had been taken home, and order was restored in the school, the teacher asked this little girl why she sat still in her seat, and did not rush towards the door, as the other girls had done.
"My father is a fireman," she said, "and he has always told me that if ever there was a cry of fire when I was in school, I must remain quiet in my seat, for that was the safest way. I was dreadfully frightened; but I knew that what father had told me was best; and so I sat still, while the others were running to the door." This little girl heard her father. She minded him. She did what he told her to do, and she found safety in doing so. And if we "hear him" of whom the voice from the Mount of Transfiguration speaks to us—we shall find safety from many a danger.
We ought to learn this lesson of duty, and "hear him," because there is success in it.
In old times, when the racers were running in the public games, if a man wished to be successful in the race, it was necessary for him to fix his eye on the prize, at the end of the race-course, and keep it fixed there till he reached the end. No one could have any success in racing who did not do this.
Here is an incident about some boys at play that illustrates the point now before us.
"How to Walk Straight." A light snow had fallen in a certain village, and some of the village boys met to make the best use they could of the new fallen snow. It was too dry for snowballing, and was not deep enough for coasting; so they thought they would improve the occasion by playing at making tracks in the snow.
There was a large meadow near by, with a grand old oak tree standing in the centre of it. The boys gathered round the tree, and stood, on opposite sides, each one with his back against the tree. At a given signal they were to start, and walk to the fence opposite to each of them; and then return to the tree, and see which had made the straightest track.
The signal was given. They started. They reached the fence, and returned to the tree. "Now, boys, who has made the straightest track?" said one of the boys, named James Allison.
"Henry Armstrong's is the only one that is straight at all," said Thomas Sanders.
"I don't see how we all contrived to go so crooked, when the meadow is so smooth, and there is nothing to turn us out of the way," said one of the boys.
And then, looking to their successful companion, they said—"Tell us, Harry, how you managed to make so straight a track?"
Now mark what Harry said:—"I fixed my eye on yonder tall pine tree on the other side of the fence towards which I was to walk, and never looked away from it till I reached the fence."
The other boys were walking without any particular aim in view. No wonder that their walk was crooked. After the apostle Paul became a Christian, he made one of the straightest tracks through this world to heaven that ever was made. And he made it in just the same way in which Harry Armstrong made his straight track through that meadow. We have seen what Harry said of his track through the snow; now see what St. Paul says of the way in which he made his straight track through this world to heaven. This is what he says:
"One thing I do; forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God, in Christ Jesus," Phil, iii 13,14. This was just what the racer used to do in the ancient games, when he fixed his eye on the prize and pressed right forward till he reached it. And it was just what Harry Armstrong did in his play. He fixed his eye on the big pine tree and never turned to the right hand or to the left till he reached it. The apostle Paul fixed his eye on Jesus, and made a straight track through the world till he reached the glorious heaven where Jesus dwells. And, in doing this, the great apostle was only practising the lesson of duty taught by the voice that speaks from the Transfiguration scene. "Hear him," said that voice. And if you and I listen to it, and obey it, as St. Paul did, it will lead us to follow him as he followed Christ; and then we shall make a straight path through this world to heaven, as he did in his Christian course. There is success in doing this.
And then there is—profit—in learning this lesson, as well as safety and success.
David says, when speaking of God's commands, "In keeping of them there is great reward," Ps. xix: 11. This is true of all God's commands; and it is especially true of the command we are now considering—"Hear him."
Samuel obeyed this command, and it made him a blessing and an honor to the nation of Israel. David obeyed it, and it made him one of the greatest and most successful kings. Daniel obeyed it, and it covered him with honor, and made him a blessing to his own nation, and to the church of Christ in every age.
"The Reward of Obedience." Here is an Eastern story which illustrates this point of our subject. The story says there was once an enchanted hill. On the top of this hill a great treasure was hidden. This treasure was put there to be the reward of any one who should reach the top of the hill without looking behind him. The command and the promise given to every young person who set out to climb that hill, were—do not look behind you, and that treasure shall be yours. But there was a threat added to the command and promise. The threat was, if you look behind, you will be turned into a stone. Many young persons started, to try and gain the prize. But the way to the top of the hill led them through beautiful groves, which covered the side of the hill. In these groves were birds singing sweetly, and sounds of music were heard, and melodious voices inviting those who passed by to stop and rest awhile. One after another of those who set out for the prize at the top of the hill would stop, and look round to see where the voices came from; and immediately they were turned into stones. "Hence," says the story, "in a little while the hillside was covered with stones, into which those had been turned who neglected the command given them when they started."
Of course there never was such a hill as this. But the story gives us a good illustration. Our life may well be compared to such a hill. The treasure, on the top of it, represents the reward that awaits us in heaven, if we serve God faithfully. The songs, and the voices, from the groves, on the hillside, represent the temptations that surround us in our daily paths. The lesson of duty that comes to us from the Transfiguration scene—"Hear him"—is the only thing that can preserve us from these temptations. If we hear Jesus when he says to us—"follow me;" if we give him our hearts and walk in his way, he will carry us through all temptations; he will bring us safely to the top of the hill; and the reward laid up there will be ours. Let us learn this lesson of duty, because there is safety in it; there is success in it; there is profit in it.
And so we have spoken of two things in connection with the Transfiguration; these are the wonders that attended it, and the lessons taught by it. The wonders are three—the wonderful change—the wonderful company—and the wonderful conversation; and the lessons are three—the lesson of hope—the lesson of instruction—and the lesson of duty.
In leaving this subject, let us lift up our hearts to Jesus, and say, in the beautiful language of the Te Deum:"Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ!
Our last chapter was on the Transfiguration. The next will be on The Last Supper. Between these two events in our Saviour's life, how many interesting incidents took place! How many important sayings that fell from his gracious lips during this period are written for our instruction by the four evangelists! There is, for instance, the beautiful lesson about what it is on which the value of our gifts depend. He taught this lesson when he saw the rich casting their gifts into the treasury. Among them came "a certain poor widow, casting in two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all;—for she of her penury hath cast in all the living she had," Luke xxi: 1-4. But, from among all these, we have only room for one chapter. A dozen, or twenty chapters would be needed on this part of the life of Christ. Where there are so many that might be taken, it has been very difficult to decide which is the best. In deciding this matter, I do not think we could do better than join the company of the three favored disciples, Peter, John, and James, and go, in thought with them, as they followed their Master from his last visit to the temple in Jerusalem, up to the top of the Mount of Olives. There Jesus took his seat, and his disciples sat around him, anxious to ask him some questions about what he had said to them in the temple. We read in St. Mark xiii: 1-2, that as he was going out of the temple the disciples called his attention to the beauty of that sacred building and the great size and splendor of some of the stones that were in it. Then Jesus pointed to that great building, and told them that the time was coming when it would be destroyed, and "there should not be left one stone upon another that should not be thrown down." This filled the minds of the disciples with surprise and wonder. They supposed that their temple would last as long as the world stood. They thought that it was the end of the world of which Jesus was speaking; and they were very anxious that he should tell them something more about it. And so, as soon as they were seated around him, on the Mount of Olives, they said, "Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign, when all these things shall be fulfilled?" St. Mark xii: 4.
And now, we may imagine ourselves sitting with Jesus and his disciples on the Mount of Olives. As we look down we see the city of Jerusalem spread out beneath our feet. We see its walls, and its palaces. And there, just before us, outshining everything in its beauty, is that sacred temple, that was "forty and six years in building." Its white marble walls, its golden spires, and pinnacles, are sparkling in the beams of the sun, as they shine upon them. No wonder the Jews were so proud of it! It was a glorious building.
But now Jesus is beginning to speak. Let us listen to what he says. The lessons that he taught on the Mount of Olives run all through the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters of St. Matthew. In the first of these chapters, Jesus gave them a sign, by which those who learn to understand what he here says, might know when his second coming is to take place. These are some of the lessons from Olivet. I should like, very much, to stop and talk about them. But this cannot be now. We pass over to the twenty-fifth chapter of St. Matthew. In this chapter we have three of our Saviour's parables. These are very solemn and instructive. They all refer to the judgment that must take place when Jesus shall come into our world again. The second of these parables is the one we are now to consider. It is called—"The Parable of the Talents." We find it in St. Matt, xxv: 14-30. And the lessons from Olivet, which we are now to try and learn, are all drawn from the words of our Saviour, contained in the verses just mentioned.
This, then, is our present subject—The Lessons from Olivet. And there four lessons, in this part of our Saviour's discourse, of which we are now to speak. The first is—the lesson about the Master. The second—the lesson about the servants. The third is—the lesson about the talents; and the fourth, the lesson about the rewards.
The lesson about—THE MASTER—is the first thing of which we are to speak.
In the 14th verse of this 25th chapter of St. Matthew, Jesus speaks of himself as—"a man travelling into a far country,"—and of his people as—"his own servants." In the 19th verse he speaks of himself as "the lord of those servants, coming back, after a long time, to reckon with them."
In St. Luke xix: 11-27 we have another of our Saviour's parables, very similar to the one now before us. There, he speaks of himself as "a nobleman who went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return." This language was borrowed from a custom that prevailed in those days. The headquarters of the government of the world then was in the city of Rome. The kings and rulers of different countries received their appointments to the offices they held from the Roman Emperor. Archelaus, the son of Herod, succeeded his father as king of Judea. But, it was necessary for him to go to Rome and get permission from the emperor to hold and exercise that office. He had done this, not very long before our Saviour applied to himself the words we are now considering. This was a fact well known. And this is the illustration which Jesus here uses in reference to himself. He is the Head—the Prince—the Lord—the Master of all things in his church. He spoke of himself to his disciples as their "Lord and Master," St. John xiii: 14. He tells us that he has gone to heaven, as Archelaus went to Rome, "to receive for himself a kingdom and to return." He said he would be absent "a long time," verse 19. And this is true. He has been absent more than eighteen hundred years. He said he would "return," or come again. And so he will. It is just as certain that he will come again as it is that he went away. And he will come, not in figure, or in spirit, but in person, as he went. Remember what the angels said about this to his disciples, at the time of his departure. "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken from you into heaven, shall so come, in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven," Acts i: 11. He said he would return, and so he will.
But, in the meantime, he would have us remember that he is still our Lord and Master. No master ever had such a right to be Lord and Ruler as he has. God the Father has appointed him to be "Head over all things to his church," Ephes. i: 22. He is our Master, because he made us. This is what no other ever did for his servants. He is our Master because he preserves us. We cannot keep ourselves for a single moment, but he keeps us all the time,—by night, and by day. And he is our Master because, when we had sold ourselves into sin, and were appointed unto death, he redeemed us. He bought us with the price of his own precious blood. He made our hands to work for him; and our feet to walk in his ways. He made our hearts to love him;—our minds to think about him; our eyes to see the beauty of his wondrous works, our ears to listen to his gracious words, and our lips and tongues to be employed in speaking and singing his praises.
We cannot be our own masters. "I am my own master!"—said a young man, proudly, to a friend who was trying to persuade him from doing a wrong thing; "I am my own master!"
"That's impossible," said his friend. "You can not be master of yourself, unless you are master of everything within, and everything around you. Look within. There is your conscience to keep clear, and your heart to make pure, your temper to govern, your will to control, and your judgment to instruct. And then look without. There are storms, and seasons; accidents, and dangers; a world full of evil men and evil spirits. What can you do with these? And yet, if you don't master them, they'll master you."
"That's so," said the young man.
"Now, I don't undertake any such thing," said his friend. "I am sure I should fail, if I did. Saul, the first king of Israel, wanted to be his own master, and failed. So did Herod. So did Judas. No man can be his own master. 'One is your Master, even Christ,' says the apostle. I work under his direction. He is my regulator, and when he is Master all goes right. Think of these words,—'He is your Master even Christ.' If we put ourselves under his leadership we shall surely win at last."
And as we cannot be our own master, if we refuse to take Christ as our Ruler, there is nothing left for us but to have Satan as our master. These are the only two masters we can have. We must make our choice between them. If Jesus is not our Master, Satan must be. If Jesus is our Master here, he will share his glory with us hereafter. If we serve Satan here, we must share his punishment hereafter. This is one of the solemn lessons that Jesus taught on Olivet. He is speaking of the day of judgment. He represents himself as on the judgment-seat. Two great companies are before him. On his right hand are those who took him for their Master. To them he says—"Come, ye blessed children of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you, from the foundation of the world," St. Matt, xxv: 34.
On his left are those who took Satan for their master. The awful words he speaks to them are:—"Depart from, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." St. Matt. xxv: 41.
This is our first lesson from Olivet—the lesson about the Master.
The second lesson from Olivet is the lesson about—THE SERVANTS.
We are told that before this nobleman went away to the far country, he called to him "his own servants." The nobleman here spoken of means Jesus, our blessed Master. And now the question is—who are meant by "his own servants?" He has three kinds of servants. The first kind is made up of those who serve him ignorantly. This takes in all those things that have no knowledge or understanding. There, for instance are the sun,—the moon,—the stars,—the mountains,—the hills,—the plains,—the valleys,—the rivers,—the seas,—the wind that blows,—the rains that descend,—and the dews that distil; these all serve God, without knowing it. He made them to serve him, and they do it; but they do it ignorantly. "His kingdom ruleth over all," and it makes all these things his servants. They do exactly what they were made for, but they do it ignorantly.
And there is another class of our Lord's creatures who serve him unwillingly. This is a very large class. It takes in all the wicked men, and the wicked spirits who are to be found anywhere. They do not wish to serve God, and yet, in spite of themselves, they are obliged to do it. We see this illustrated, when we think of the way in which the crucifixion of our blessed Saviour was brought about. Satan stirred up the Jews to take Jesus and put him to death. God allowed them to do it. They did it of their own choice—as freely, and as voluntarily, as they ever did anything in their lives. They did it because they hated him, and wished to get him out of their way. So they nailed him to the cross in their malice and their rage. This was the very thing God had determined should be done, that he might save and bless the world. He allowed Satan, and the Jews, to do just what their wicked hearts prompted them to do; and then he overruled it for good. And, in this way, as David says, he "makes the wrath of man to praise him, and the remainder of it he restrains." And thus we see how evil men, and evil spirits, are God's servants unwillingly.
But then, there is another class of persons who serve God willingly. This takes in all those who know and love him. He speaks of them, in this parable as "his own servants." When they find out what he has done for them, the thought of it fills their hearts with love; and then they desire to serve him, and do all he tells them to do, in order to show their love to him. And this is what Jesus means when he says—"Take my yoke upon you; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light," When we really love a person, anything that we can do for that person is easy and pleasant to us. And so it is the great love for Jesus, that his people have, which makes his yoke easy, and his burden light to them.
"How to Become a Willing Servant to Jesus." A little boy came to his grandmother one day, and asked her how he could become a Christian. She answered very simply, "Ask Jesus to give you a new heart, and believe he does it when you ask him."
"Is that all?" said the little fellow joyfully; "oh! that is easy enough." So he went to his room, and kneeling beside his bed, asked Jesus to give him a new heart. He believed that the dear Saviour, who loves little children, did hear and answer his prayer. And he left his room with a happy heart, for he felt sure that he was now one of Christ's own loving children, and willing servants. And this is the way in which we must take the yoke of Jesus upon us, and become his willing servants. And then in everything that we do we can be serving him. As St. Paul says—"whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, we can do all to the glory of God."
A good man once said "that if God should send two angels down from heaven, and should tell one of them to sit on a throne and rule a kingdom, and the other to sweep the streets of a city, the latter would feel that he was serving God as acceptably in handling his broom as his brother angel was in holding his sceptre. And this is true. We see the same illustrated in the fable of:
"The Stream and the Mill." "I notice," said the stream to the mill, "that you grind beans as well and as cheerfully as you do the finest wheat." "Certainly," said the mill; "what am I here for but to grind? and so long as I work, what does it signify to me what the work is? My business is to serve my master, and I am not a whit more useful when I turn out the finest flour than when I turn out the coarsest meal. My honor is, not in doing fine work, but in doing any thing that is given me to do in the best way that I can." That is true. And this is just the way in which Jesus wishes us to serve him when he says to "his own servants," "Occupy till I come." This means serve me, in everything, as you would do if you saw me standing by your side.
"How to Serve God." Willie's mother let him go with his little sister into the street to play. She told them not to go off the street on which their house stood. Willie was a little fellow, and lisped very much in talking; but he was brave, and he was obedient. Presently his sister asked him to go into another street; but he refused. "Mamma thaid no," was Willie's answer. "The thaid we muthn't do off thith threet," said Willie in his lisping way. "Only just a little way round the corner," said his teasing sister. "Mamma'll never know it."
"But I thall know it my own thelf; and I don't want to know any thuch a mean thing; and I won't!" And Willie straightened himself, and stood up like a man. That was brave and beautiful in Willie. And that is the way in which we should try to serve our heavenly Master.
"How a Boy May Serve God." A gentleman met a little boy wheeling his baby brother in a child's carriage. "My little man," said the gentleman, "what are you doing to serve God?" The little fellow stopped a moment, and then, looking up into the gentleman's face, he said:—"Why, you see, Sir, I'm trying to make baby happy, so that he won't worry mamma who is sick." That was a noble answer. In trying to amuse his baby brother, and to relieve his poor sick mother, that little boy was serving God as truly and as acceptably as the angel Gabriel does when he wings his way, on a mission of mercy, to some far off world.
And this is the lesson about the servants that comes to us from Olivet.
The lesson about—THE TALENTS—is the third lesson that comes to us from Olivet.
This parable tells us that before the Master went away, he "called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. Unto one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to every man according to his several ability." verses 14, 15, In St. Luke's account of the parable, what the master gave to his servants is spoken of as pounds, and each servant is said to have received one pound. These talents or pounds both mean the same thing. They denote something with which we can do good, and make ourselves useful. And it is plain, from both these parables, that the Master gave at least one talent, or one pound, to each of his servants. None of them were left without some portion of their Master's goods. And the lesson from Olivet which comes to us here is that every one of us has a talent, or a pound, that our Master Jesus, has given us, and which he expects us to use for him. And the most important thing for us is to find out what our talents are, and how we can best use them, so as to be ready to give a good account of them when our Master comes to reckon with us.
A TALENT FOR EACH."God entrusts to all
"One Talent Improved." One day, amidst the crowded streets of London, a poor little newsboy had both his legs broken by a dray passing over them. He was laid away, in one of the beds of a hospital, to die. On the next cot to him was another little fellow, of the same class, who had been picked up, sick with the fever which comes from hunger and want. The latter boy crept close up to his poor suffering companion and said:
"Bobby, did you ever hear about Jesus?"
"No, I never heard of him."
"Bobby, I went to the mission-school once; and they told us that Jesus would take us up to heaven when we die, if we axed him; and we'd never have any more hunger or pain."
"But I couldn't ax such a great gentleman as he is to do anything for me. He wouldn't stop to speak to a poor boy like me."
"But hell do all that for you Bobby, if you ax him."
"But how can I ax him, if I don't know where he lives? and how could I get: there when both my legs is broke?"
"Bobby, they told us, at the mission-school, as how Jesus passes by. The teacher said he goes around. How do you know but what he might come round to this hospital this very night? You'd know him if you was to see him."
"But I can't keep my eyes open. My legs feels awful bad. Doctor says I'll die."
"Bobby, hold up yer hand, and he'll know what you want, when he passes by." They got the hand up; but it dropped. They tried it again, and it slowly fell back. Three times they got up the little hand, only to let it fall. Bursting into tears he said, "I give it up."
"Bobby," said his tender-hearted companion, "lend me yer hand. Put your elbow on my piller: I can do without it." So the hand was propped up. And when they came in the morning, the boy lay dead; but his hand was still held up for Jesus. And don't you think that he heard and answered the silent but eloquent appeal which it made to him for his pardon and grace, and salvation, to that poor dying boy? I do, I do.
Bobby's friend had been once to the mission-school. He had but a single talent; but, he made good use of it when he employed it to lead that wounded, suffering, dying boy to Jesus.
"Good Friends." "I wish I had some good friends, to help me on in life!" cried lazy Dennis, with a yawn.
"Good friends," said his master, "why you've got ten; how many do you want?"
"I'm sure I've not half so many; and those I have are too poor to help me."
"Count your fingers, my boy," said the master.
Dennis looked down on his big, strong hands. "Count thumbs and all," added the master.
"I have; there are ten," said the lad.
"Then never say you have not ten good friends, able to help you on in life. Try what those true friends can do, before you go grumbling and fretting because you have none to help you."
Now, suppose that we put the word talents, for the word friends, in this little story. Then, we may each of us hold our two hands before us, and say "here are ten talents, which God has given me to use for him. Let me try and do all the good I can with these ten talents."
THE BEST THAT I CAN."'I cannot do much,' said a little star,
"A Noble Boy." "Not long ago," said a Christian lady, "I saw a boy do something that made me glad for a week. Indeed it fills my heart with tenderness and good feeling whenever I think about it. But let me tell you what it was.
"As I was walking along a crowded street I saw an old blind man walking on without any one to lead him. He went very slowly, feeling his way with his cane.
"'He's walking straight to the highest part of the curb-stone,' said I to myself. 'And it's very high too. I wonder if some one won't help him and start him in the right direction.'
"Just then, a boy, about fourteen years old, who was playing near by, ran up to the old man and gently putting his hand through the man's arm, said:—'Allow me, my friend, to lead you across the street.' By this time there were three or four others watching the boy. He not only helped the old man over one crossing, but led him over another to the lower side of the street. Then he ran back to his play.
"Now this boy thought he had only done an act of kindness to that old man. But just see how much farther than that the use of his one talent went. The three boys with whom he was playing, and who had watched his kind act, were happier and better for it, and felt that they must be more careful to do little kindnesses to those about them.
"The three or four persons who stopped to watch the boy turned away with a tender smile upon their faces, ready to follow the good example of that noble boy. I am sure that I felt more gentle and loving towards every one, from what I saw that boy do.
"And then, another one that was made happy was the boy himself. For, it is impossible for us to do a kind act, or to make any one else happy, without feeling better and happier ourselves. To be good and to do good, is the way to be happy. This is our mission here in this world. Whatever talents our Master has given us, he intends that we should use them in this way."
"Tiny's Work for God." Two little girls, Leila and Tiny, were sitting, one summer day, under the tree which grew beside their home.
Both children had been quiet for a little while, when suddenly Tiny raised her blue eyes and said, "I am so happy, Leila. I do love the flowers, and the birdies, and you, and everybody so much." Then she added, in a whisper, "And I love God, who made us all so happy. Sister, I wish I could do something for him."
"Mother says if we love him, that is what he likes best of all," said Leila.
"Yes, but I do want to do something for him—something that would give me trouble. Can't you think of anything?"
Leila thought a little, and said, "Perhaps you could print a text for the flowers mother sends every week to the sick people in the hospital. They are so glad to have the flowers, and then the text might help them think about our Father in heaven."
"Oh! thank you, sister, that will be so nice! I will write—'Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.'"
But Tiny was only a little over four years old, and it was hard for her to hold a pen, but she managed to print two letters every day till the text was finished. Then she went alone to her room, and laying the text on a chair, she kneeled down beside it, and said—"Heavenly Father, I have done this for you: please take it from Tiny, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen." And God heard the prayer, for he always listens when children truly pray.
So Tiny's text was sent up to London, and a lady put a very pretty flower into the card and took it to the hospital. She stopped beside a bed where a little boy was lying. His face was almost as white as the pillow on which he lay, and his dark eyes were filled with tears.
"Is the pain very bad to-day, Willie?"
"Yes, miss; its dreadful-like. But it's not so much the pain as I mind. I'm used to that, yer know. Father beat me every day a'most, when he was drunk. But the doctor says I'm too ill for 'im to 'ave any 'opes for me, and I'm mighty afeard to die."
"If you had a friend who loved you, and you were well, would you be afraid to go and stay with him, Willie?"
"Why no, I'd like to go, in course."
"I have brought you a message from a Friend, who has loved you all your life long. He wants you to trust him, and to go and live with him. He will love you always, and you will always be happy."
Then the lady read Tiny's text, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not." She told him how Jesus had died, and then had risen again, and had gone to heaven, to prepare a place for him, and for many other children. She told him how Jesus is still saying "Come," and his hand is still held out to bless.
So Willie turned to the Good Shepherd, and was no longer afraid. A few days afterwards he whispered—"Lord Jesus, I am coming;" and he died with Tiny's text in his hand.
That little girl used the talent that was given her, and it helped to bring a soul to Jesus.
EVERY TALENT USEFUL."Though little I bring,
Let us never forget this third lesson from Olivet, the lesson about,—the talents.
The fourth, and last lesson from Olivet is the lesson about—THE REWARDS.
The parable tells us that when the Master came back, and reckoned with his servants, he said to each of those who had made a right use of his talents:—"Well done, good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord." In the parable in St. Luke we are told that the servant who had gained ten pounds was made ruler over ten cities; and he who had gained five pounds was made ruler over five cities. This shows us that God will reward his people, hereafter, according to the degree of faithfulness with which each one shall have used the talents given to him. And this is the lesson which the apostle Paul teaches us when he says that, "Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor." I. Cor. iii: 8.
All the willing, loving servants of God will receive a crown of life when Jesus comes to reckon with them. But those crowns will not be all alike. They are spoken of as "crowns of gold:" Rev. iv: 4; as "crowns of glory:" I. Peter v: 4, and as "crowns of life:" Rev. iii: 11. But still there will be very great differences between these crowns. Some will be simply crowns of gold, or of glory, without any gems or jewels to ornament them. Some will have two or three small jewels shining in them. But, others again will be full of the most beautiful jewels, all glittering and sparkling with glory. And this will all depend upon the way in which those who wear these crowns used their talents while they were on earth, and the amount of work they did for Jesus. There is an incident mentioned in Roman history about a soldier, which illustrates this part of our subject very well.
"The Faithful Soldier and His Rewards." This man had served forty years in the cause of his country—of these, ten years had been spent as a private soldier, and thirty as an officer. He had been present in one hundred and twenty battles, and had been severely wounded forty-five times. He had received fourteen civic crowns, for having saved the lives of so many Roman citizens; three mural crowns, for having been the first to mount the breach when attacking a fortress; and eight golden crowns, for having, on so many occasions, rescued the standard of a Roman legion from the hands of the enemy. He had in his house eighty-three gold chains, sixty bracelets, eighteen golden spears, and twenty-three horse trappings,—the rewards for his many faithful services as a soldier. And when his friends looked at all those honors and treasures which he had received, from time to time, how well they might have said as they pointed to those numerous prizes—that he had "received his own reward, according to his own labor," and faithfulness! And so it will be with the soldiers of the cross, who are faithful in using the talents given them by their heavenly Master.
"A Great Harvest from a Little Seed," Some years ago there was a celebrated artist in Paris whose name was Ary Scheffer. On one occasion he wished to introduce a beggar into a certain picture he was painting. Baron Rothschild, the famous banker, and one of the richest men in the world, was a particular friend of this artist. He happened to come into his studio at the very time he was trying to get a beggar to be the model of one which he desired to put into his painting.
"Wait till to-morrow," said Mr. Rothschild, "and I will dress myself up as a beggar, and make you an excellent model."
"Very well," said the artist, who was pleased with the strangeness of the proposal. The next day the rich banker appeared, dressed up as a beggar, and a very sorry looking beggar he was. While the artist was engaged in painting him, another friend of his came into the studio. He was a kind-hearted, generous man. As he looked on the model beggar, he was touched by his wretched appearance, and as he passed him, he slipped a louis d'or—a French gold coin, worth about five dollars of our money—into his hand. The pretended beggar took the coin, and put it in his pocket.
Ten years after this, the gentleman who gave this piece of money received an order on the bank of the Rothschilds for ten thousand francs. This was enclosed in a letter which read as follows:
"Sir: You one day gave a louis d'or to Baron Rothschild, in the studio of Ary Scheffer. He has invested it, and made good use of it, and to-day he sends you the capital you entrusted to him, together with the interest it has gained. A good action is always followed by a good reward.
"JAMES DE ROTHSCHILD."
In those few years that one gold coin, of twenty francs, had increased to ten thousand francs. And this illustrates the way in which Jesus the heavenly Master rewards those who use their talents for him. See how he teaches this lesson, when he says—"Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." St. Matt, x: 42. And in another place we are told that the reward shall be "an hundred fold," and shall run on into "everlasting life." St. Matt, xix: 29. How sweetly some one has thus written about
THE REWARD OF HEAVEN."Light after darkness, gain after loss,
The last lesson from Olivet is the lesson about the rewards. And taking these lessons together, let us remember that they are—the lesson about the Master: the lesson about the servants: the lesson about the talents: and the lesson about the rewards.
The Collect for the thirteenth Sunday after Trinity is a very suitable prayer to offer after meditating on the lessons from Olivet:
"Almighty and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service: Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises; which exceed all that we can desire; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN!"
We are approaching now the end of our Saviour's life. The last week has come, and we are in the midst of it. This is called Passion week. We commonly use this word passion to denote anger. But the first and true meaning of the word, and of the Latin word from which it comes, is—suffering. And this is the sense in which we find the word used in Acts i: 3. There, St. Luke, who wrote the Acts, is speaking of Christ's appearing to the apostles, after his resurrection, and he uses this language: "To whom he showed himself alive, after his passion;" or after his suffering and death.
In the midst of this last week—this passion week—one of the interesting things that Jesus did was to keep the Jewish Passover for the last time with his disciples. This Passover feast had been kept by the Jews every year for nearly fifteen hundred years. It was the most solemn religious service they had. It was first observed by them in the night on which their nation was delivered from the bondage of Egypt and began their march towards the promised land of Canaan. We read about the establishment of this solemn service in Exodus, twelfth chapter. The first Passover took place on the fourteenth day of the month Nisan. This had been the seventh month of the year with the Jews. But God directed them to take it for their first month ever afterwards. They were to begin their year with that month. Every family was to choose out a lamb for themselves, on the tenth day of the month. They were to keep it to the fourteenth day of the month. On the evening of that day, they were to kill the lamb. The blood of the lamb was to be sprinkled on the two side-posts and upper lintels of every door. They were to roast the lamb and eat it, with solemn religious services. And, while they were doing this, the angel of the Lord was to pass over all the land of Egypt, and, with his unseen sword, to smite and kill the first-born, or eldest child, in every family, from Pharaoh on his throne to the poorest beggar in the land. But the blood, sprinkled on the door-posts of the houses in which the Israelites dwelt, was to save them from the stroke of the angel of death as he passed over the land. And so it came to pass. The solemn hour of midnight arrived. The angel went on his way. He gave one stroke with his dreadful sword—and there was a death in every Egyptian family. But in the blood-sprinkled dwellings of the Israelites, there was no one dead. What a wonderful night that was! Nothing like it was ever known in the history of our world. It is not surprising that the children of Israel, through all their generations, should have kept that Passover feast with great interest—an interest that never died out, from age to age. Nor do we wonder that our blessed Saviour looked forward longingly to the occasion when, for the last time, he was to celebrate this Passover with his disciples. As they began the feast he said to them, "With desire I have desired" that is, I have earnestly, or heartily desired "to eat this passover with you before I suffer," St. Luke xxii: 15. It is easy to think of many reasons why Jesus should have felt this strong desire. Without attempting to tell what all those reasons were, we can readily think of some things which would lead him, very naturally, to have this feeling. It was the last time he was to eat this Passover with them on earth. This showed that his public work, for which he came into the world, was done. He had only now to suffer and die; to rise from the dead, and then go home to his Father in heaven.
This Passover had been one of the services established and kept for the purpose of pointing the attention of men to himself as the Lamb of God who was to take away the sins of the world. And now, the time had come when all that had thus been pointed out concerning him, for so many hundred years, was about to be fulfilled. He, the one true Lamb of God, had come. He was about to die for the sins of the world. Then the Jewish church would pass away, and the Christian church would take its place. And then the blessings of true religion, instead of being confined to one single nation, would be freely offered to all nations; and Jews and Gentiles alike, would be at liberty to come to Christ, and to receive from him pardon, and grace, and salvation, and every blessing.
There was enough in thoughts like these to make Jesus long to eat this last Passover with his disciples. In each of the four gospels we have an account of what took place when the time came for keeping this Passover. What is said concerning it we find in the following places: St. Matt xxi: 17-30, St. Mark xiv: 12-26, St. Luke xxii: 7-39. St. John begins with the thirteenth chapter, and ends his account at the close of the seventeenth chapter. He is the only one of the four evangelists who gives a full and particular account of the wonderful sayings of our Lord in connection with this last passover, and of the great prayer that he offered for all his people.
Here is a brief outline of these different accounts. When the time came to keep the Passover, Jesus sent two of his disciples from Bethany, where he was then staying, to Jerusalem. He told them, that, when they entered the city, they would meet a man bearing a pitcher of water. They were to ask him to show them the guest-chamber, where he and his disciples might eat the Passover together. There were always great crowds of strangers in Jerusalem at the time of this festival; and many furnished chambers were kept ready to be hired to those who wished them, for celebrating the Passover. This man, of whom our Saviour spoke, was probably a friend of his, and according to our Lord's word, he showed the disciples such a room as they needed. Then they made the necessary preparations; and, when the evening came, Jesus and his disciples met there to keep this solemn feast.
Many of the pictures that we see of this last Supper, represent the company as seated round a table, very much in the way in which we are accustomed to sit ourselves. But this is not correct. The people in those Eastern countries were not accustomed to sit as we do. On this occasion the roasted lamb, with the bread and wine to be used at the feast, was placed on a table, and the guests reclined on couches round the table, each man leaning on his left arm, and helping himself to what he needed with his right hand.
Various incidents took place in connection with this last Supper. The disciples had a contest among themselves about which of them should be greatest. This led Jesus, in the course of the evening, to give them the lesson of humility, by washing his disciples' feet, of which we have already spoken. Then he told them how sorrowfully he was feeling. He said they would all forsake him, and one of them would betray him that very night. This made them feel very sad. Each of them suspected himself—and asked sorrowfully—"Lord, is it I?" They did not suspect each other; and none of them seems to have suspected Judas Iscariot at all. Then Peter whispered to John, who was leaning on the bosom of Jesus, to ask who it was that was to do this? In answer to John's question, Jesus said it was the one to whom he should give a piece of bread when he had dipped it in the dish. Then he dipped the sop and gave it to Judas.
After this, we are told that Satan entered into him, and he went out and made preparation for doing the most dreadful thing that ever was done from the beginning of the world—and that was the betrayal of his great, and good, and holy Master, into the hands of his enemies. When Judas was gone, and before the Passover feast was finished, making use of some of the materials before him, Jesus established one of the two great sacraments to be observed in his church to the end of the world—the sacrament of the Lord's Supper—or the holy Communion.
This is St. Luke's account of the way in which it was done, chapter xxii: 19, 20—"And he took the bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you." St. Matthew adds, and—"for many."
Such is the account we have of the first establishment of the Lord's Supper. It was to take the place of the Jewish Passover, and to be observed by the followers of Christ all over the earth, until the time when he shall come again into our world.
And this solemn sacrament—this holy communion—this Supper of our Lord, ought to be observed, or kept, by all who love him, for three reasons: these are its connection with the word of his command—the memory of his sufferings—and the hope of his glory.
Jesus connected this sacrament with the word of his command when he said—"This do in remembrance of me." St. Luke xxii: 19. This is the command of Christ. It is a plain, positive command. Jesus did not give this command to the apostles only, or to his ministers, or to any particular class of his followers, but to all of them. It was given first to his apostles, but it was not intended to be confined to them. Jesus does not say—"This do," ye who are my apostles; or, ye who are my ministers. He does not say—"This do," ye old men, or ye rich men, or ye great men; but simply, "This do." And the meaning of what he here says, is—"This do," all ye who profess to be my followers, all over the world, and through all ages. And the words that he spake on another occasion come in very well here: "If ye love me, keep my commandments." And this is one of the commandments that he expects all his people to keep. He points to his holy sacrament, which he has ordained in his church, and then to each one of his people he says—"This do." No matter whether we wish to do it or not; here are our master's words—"This do." No matter whether we see the use of it, or not; Jesus says—"This do." It is enough for each follower of Jesus to say, "here is my Lord's command; I must obey it."
In an army, if the general issues an order, it is expected that every soldier will obey it. And no matter how important, or useful, in itself considered, any work may be, that is done by one of those soldiers, yet, if it be done while he is neglecting the general's order, instead of gaining for that soldier the praise of the general, or of securing a reward from him, it will only excite his displeasure:—he will order that soldier to be punished.
But the church of Christ is compared in the Bible to an army. He is the Captain or Leader of this army. And one of the most important orders he has issued for his soldiers is—"This do in remembrance of me." If we profess to be the soldiers of Christ, and are enlisted in his army, and yet are neglecting this order, he never can be pleased with anything we may do while this order is neglected. We seem to see him pointing to this neglected order, and saying to each of us, as he said to Saul, the first king of Israel, by the prophet Samuel:—"Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice: and to hearken, than the fat of rams." I. Sam. xv: 22.
No age is fixed in the New Testament at which young people may be allowed to come to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. But, as soon as they have learned to know and love Christ and are really trying to serve him, they ought to be allowed to come. And yet ministers and parents sometimes keep them back, and tell them they must wait, and be tried a little longer, before they receive the help and comfort of this ordinance of Christ, even when their conduct shows they are sincerely trying to love and serve the blessed Saviour.
If a farmer should send his servant out into the field, when winter was approaching, telling him to put the sheep into the fold, that they might be protected from the wolves, and from the cold, it would be thought a strange thing if he should allow him to bring the sheep into the shelter of the fold, and leave the little lambs outside. This is a good illustration to show the importance of taking care of the lambs. But it fails at one point. The shelter of the fold is absolutely necessary for the protection of the farmer's lambs. They could not live without it. If left outside of the fold they would certainly perish. But there is not the same necessity for admitting young people to the Lord's Supper. They are not left out in the cold, like the lambs in the field, even when not admitted to this holy ordinance. They are already under the care and protection of the good Shepherd. He can guard them, and keep them, and cause them to grow in grace, even though, for awhile, they do not have the help and comfort of this sacrament. And, if they are kept back through the fault or mistake of others, he will do so. This sacrament, like that of baptism, is, as the catechism says, "generally necessary to salvation." This means that it is important "where it may be had." But, if circumstances beyond our control should prevent us from partaking of it, we may be saved without it. Still, I think that young people who give satisfactory evidence that they know and love the Saviour, and are trying to serve him, ought to be allowed to come forward to this holy sacrament.
Some people when urged to come to the Lord's Supper excuse themselves, by saying that—"they are not prepared to come."
But this will not release any one from the command of Christ—"This do."
What the preparation is that we need in order that we may come, in a proper way, to this holy sacrament, is clearly pointed out in the exhortation that occurs in the communion service of our church. Here the minister says—"Ye who do truly and earnestly repent of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbors, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways: draw near with faith, and take this holy sacrament to your comfort." And there is no excuse for persons not being in the state these words describe: for this is just what God's word, and our own duty and interest require of us. If we have not yet done what these words require, we ought to do it at once; and then there will be nothing in the way of our obeying the command of Christ, when he says—"This do, in remembrance of me," By all the authority which belongs to him our Saviour commands us to keep this holy feast. And the first reason why we ought to "do this," is because of its connection with the word of his command.
The second reason why we ought to "do this"—is because of its connection with the memory of his sufferings.
We are taught this by the word remembrance, which our Saviour here uses. He says, "This do in remembrance of me." This means in remembrance of my sufferings for you. And this is the most important word used by him when he established this sacrament. It is the governing word in the whole service. It is the word by which we must be guided in trying to understand what our Lord meant to teach us by all he did and said on this occasion.
You know how it is when we are trying to understand the music to which a particular tune has been set. There is always one special note in a tune, which is called the key-note. The leader of a choir, when they are going to sing, will strike one of the keys of the organ, or the melodeon they are using, so as to give to each member of the choir the proper key-note of the piece of music they are to sing. It is very important for them to have this key-note, because they cannot have a proper understanding of what they are to do without it. This holy sacrament of the Lord's Supper is like a solemn song. And the key-note of the music to which the song is set is this word—remembrance. It teaches us that the sacrament of the Lord's Supper is a memorial service. And, in going through the music to which the song of this service has been set, every note that we use must be a memorial note. And the language used by our blessed Lord when he established this Supper, or sacrament, must be explained in this way. When he broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying—"This is my body, which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me," he meant that we should understand him as saying—"This is the memorial of my body." And when he gave them the cup, and said—"This is my blood of the New Testament," he meant that we should understand him as saying—"This is the memorial of my blood." And we are sure that this was the meaning, for two reasons.
One reason for believing this is that this was the way in which similar words had been used in the Jewish Passover, which Jesus and his disciples were then keeping.
In the Passover service, when the head of the family distributed the bread, he always said—"This is the bread of affliction." When he distributed the flesh of the lamb, roasted for the occasion, he used to say—"This is the body of the Passover."
But every one knows, and every one admits, that the Jewish Passover was a memorial service. It was kept in memory of the wonderful deliverance of their forefathers from the bitter bondage of Egypt. And the words used at that service were memorial words. And so, when Jesus, a little while before, had given to his disciples the Passover bread, saying—"This is the bread of affliction:" he did not mean to say that that was the very same bread which their forefathers had eaten, in the time of their affliction in Egypt. What he meant to say was—this is the bread which you are to eat in memory of your forefathers' trial and deliverance. And when he gave to each of them a piece of the sacrificial lamb, saying, "This is the body of the Passover;" he did not mean that in any mysterious, or supernatural sense, that was the very lamb of which their forefathers had eaten on the solemn night of the Passover; he only meant that it was the body of which they were to eat in memory of the Passover. The Passover was a memorial service; and the words used at the Passover were memorial words.
And so, when Jesus went on, from the last Passover of the Jewish church, to the first sacramental feast of the Christian church, and began by saying, "This do in remembrance of me," what else could the apostles possibly have thought, but that he intended this new service of the Christian church to be a memorial service, just as the old festival of the Jewish church had been? When he gave them the broken bread, and said, "This is my body;" they could only have understood him as meaning this is the memorial of my body. And when he gave them the cup into which he had just poured the wine, and said: "This is my blood;" they could only understand him as meaning this is the memorial of my blood. And so, the sense in which he had just before used the words employed in the Jewish festival must have led the disciples to understand them in the same way when he used similar words in the Christian sacrament. This is a good, strong reason for thinking of this sacramental feast as a memorial service.
There is indeed, one point of difference between the Jewish Passover and the Christian sacrament, when we think of them as memorial services. The Jews kept their solemn festival in memory of a dead lamb—the Passover lamb that was put to death for them, but never came to life again. We keep our Christian sacrament in memory of the Lamb of God, who died for us indeed, but who rose from the dead, and is alive forevermore. As we keep this solemn festival, we may lift up our adoring hearts to him and say for ourselves personally,"O, the Lamb! the loving Lamb!
And though they are both memorial services, yet this one thought makes a world-wide difference between them. The bread and meat which the pious Jew ate, when he kept the Passover, and the wine which he drank on that occasion, would strengthen his body, but there was nothing connected with those material substances that would do any special good to his soul. It is different, however, with our Christian festival of the Lord's Supper. And this difference is clearly brought out in what we find in the catechism of our church on this subject. In speaking of this holy sacrament, the question is asked—"What are the benefits whereof we are partakers thereby?" And the answer to this question is—"The strengthening and refreshing of our souls, by the body and blood of Christ, as our bodies are by the bread and wine."
Here we see that while the Lord's Supper is a memorial service indeed, it is at the same time something more than that.
And then, the actual bodily presence of Christ with them must have compelled the apostles to understand the words he used on that occasion, in this memorial sense.
They could not possibly have considered him as meaning that the bread and wine which he gave them at that solemn service did, in any mysterious and supernatural way, become his actual flesh and blood; because, these were already before them in the form of his own body. And they could not be in his body and in the bread and wine, at the same time. The sense in which Jesus first used these words—"my body" and "my blood," was clearly the memorial sense. He meant his disciples to understand him as saying "Take this bread in remembrance of my body, which is to be crucified for you;" and "Take this wine in remembrance of my blood which is to be shed for you."
This was what he taught the apostles when he first used these words among them; and this was all he taught them; and we have no right to use these words in any other sense till our blessed Lord himself shall give us authority to do so.
Let us never forget the word—remembrance, as used by our Saviour here. It is the root out of which the whole tree of this solemn service grows. Let us hold on to this root word, and it will save us from the errors into which many have fallen in reference to this subject.
And, surely, there is nothing so precious for us to store away in our memories as the thought of Christ in the amazing sufferings he once bore for us, in the great work he is now doing for us, and in the saving truth he embodies in his own glorious character. The story is told of Alexander the Great, that when he conquered King Darius he found among his treasures a very valuable box or cabinet. It was made of gold and silver, and inlaid with precious jewels. After thinking for awhile what to do with it, he finally concluded to use it as his choicest treasury, or cabinet, in which to keep the books of the poet Homer, which he was very fond of reading. Now, if we use our memory aright, it will be to us a treasury far more valuable than that jeweled box of the great conqueror. And the thought of Christ, not in his sufferings only, but in his work, and in his character, is the most precious thing to lay up in our memory. And if we keep this remembrance continually before us it will be the greatest help we can have in trying to love and serve him better.
Here is an illustration of what I mean, in a touching story. We may call it:
"Love Stronger than Death." Some years ago there was a great fire in one of our Western cities that stood in the midst of a prairie. A mother escaped from her burning dwelling. Her husband was away from home. She took her infant in her arms, and wrapped a heavy shawl round herself and the baby. Her little girl clung to the dress of her mother, and they went out into the prairie, to get away from the flames of the burning buildings. It was a wild and stormy winter's night and intensely cold. She tried to run; but burdened as she was that was impossible. Presently she found that the tall dry grass of the prairie had caught fire. It was spreading on every side. A great circle of flame was gathering round her.
A little way off she saw a clump of trees on a piece of rising ground. Towards that spot she directed her steps, and strained every nerve to reach it. At last she succeeded in doing so.
For a moment the poor mother and her child were comparatively safe. But, on looking around, she saw that the flames were approaching her from opposite directions. Escape was impossible. Death—a terrible death by fire, seemed to be the only thing before her. She might wrap herself in that great shawl, and perhaps live through it. But, there were the children. Of course a mother could not hesitate a moment what to do under such circumstances. Wrapping the baby round and round in the folds of the shawl, she laid it carefully down, at the foot of one of the trees. Then, taking off her outer clothing, she covered the other child with it. She laid her down beside the baby, and then stretched herself across them. In a few moments the helpless little ones were sound asleep. The long hours of the night passed. The raging flames licked up the withered foliage about that clump of trees, and then left their blackened trunks to the keenness of the wind and frost.
The next day the heart-broken husband and father returned to find his home burnt, and his family gone—he knew not whither. He set out to search for his lost treasures. He found them by that clump of trees. There lay his wife—her hair and eyebrows, her face and neck scorched and blackened by the fire—but her body frozen stiff. Whether she perished by the flames or the frost no one ever knew. But, on lifting her burnt form they found, warm and cozy beneath, her two sleeping children. The elder child as they roused her, opened her eyes exclaiming, "Mamma, is it morning?" Yes: it was morning with that faithful mother, in the bright world to which she had gone!
Now, suppose that those children, as they grew up, should have had preserved among their treasures a piece of the burnt dress, or a lock of the scorched hair, of their devoted mother. As they looked at it, every day, it would be in remembrance of her. How touchingly it would tell of her great love for them, in being willing to lay down her life to save theirs! And how that thought would thrill their hearts and make them anxious to do all they could to show their respect and love for such a mother!
And so the broken bread and the poured out wine of this solemn sacrament should melt our hearts in the remembrance of the wonderful love of Christ to us, and should lead us to show our love to him by keeping his commandments.
And as we keep this solemn memorial service, how well we may say, in the words of the hymn:"According to thy gracious word,
But Jesus has connected this blessed sacrament with the hope of his glory—as well as with the word of his command and the memory of his sufferings.
He made this connection very clear when he said at the institution of this solemn service—"I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." St. Matt, xxvi: 29. And the apostle Paul pointed out the same connection when he said, "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death, till he come." I. Cor. xi: 26. This sacrament of the Lord's Supper is the point of meeting between the sufferings of Christ and the glory that is to follow—between his cross, with all its shame and anguish, and his kingdom, with all its honor and blessedness.
We have sometimes heard or read of magicians who have pretended to have wonderful mirrors into which persons might look and see all that was before them in this life. If there were such a mirror, it would be a strange thing indeed to look into it and find out what was going to happen to-morrow, or next month, or next year, or twenty years hence. But, there never was any such mirror. As the apostle says, "We know not what shall be on the morrow." No mortal man can tell what will happen to him as he takes the very next step in life.
Yet, this solemn sacrament is like such a magical mirror. We can look into it and see, clearly represented there, what will happen to us in the future, not of this life indeed, but of the life to come. It leads our minds on to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And a voice from heaven declares—"Blessed are they who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb." Rev. xix: 9. That marriage supper represents the highest joys of heaven. It gathers into itself all the glory and happiness that await us in the heavenly kingdom. And this sacramental service is the type or shadow of all the bliss connected with that great event in the future. If we are true and faithful partakers of this solemn sacrament—this memorial feast, we shall certainly be among the number of those whose unspeakable privilege it will be to sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb, in heaven. There we shall be in the personal presence of Jesus, our glorified Lord. Our eyes "shall see the King in his beauty." And we shall see all his people too in the perfection of glory that will mark them there. And in happy intercourse with that blessed company we shall find all "the exceeding great and precious promises" of God's word fulfilled in our own personal experience.
And then there is nothing that can sustain and comfort us under the many trials of this mortal life like the hope of sharing this joy with our blessed Lord, when he shall come in the glory of his heavenly kingdom.
"The Hope of Glory." A Christian gentleman was in the habit of visiting, from time to time, a poor afflicted widow woman who lived in his neighborhood. She had once been very well off, and was the wife of a well-known and apparently successful merchant. But finally he failed in business and died soon after, leaving her alone in the world, and without anything to live on but what she could earn by her own labor.
After awhile her health failed, and then she was entirely dependent for her support on the kindness of her Christian friends. But she was always cheerful and happy. "On going in to see her one day," says this gentleman, "I found, on talking with her, that she was feeling very comfortable in her mind.
"'Tell me, my friend,' I asked, 'have you always felt as bright and cheerful as you seem to feel now?'
"'O, no,' she replied, 'very far from it. When my husband died, and I was left alone in the world, I used to feel very sad and rebellious. Many a time I was so sorrowful and despairing as to be tempted to take away my own life. But, in the good providence of God, I was led to read the Bible, and to pray for help from above. I became a member of the church. But, for a while, I did not find much comfort in my religion. And the reason of it was that I did not have very clear views of Christ as my Saviour, and of the wonderful things he has promised to do for his people in the future.
"'But, on one communion occasion, my minister preached on the words—"Christ in you the hope of glory." That was a blessed communion to me. I saw then, as I had never seen before, how that sacred and solemn service was intended by him to be to all his people, at one and the same time, the means of preserving in their minds the remembrance of the sufferings he has borne for them in the past, and also of keeping alive in their hearts the hope of sharing in the glory which he has prepared for them in the future. And I have never had any trouble in my mind since then. My communion seasons were always bright and blessed seasons to me as long as I was able to go to church. And though I can no longer go up to the sanctuary and partake of the bread and wine, "the outward and visible signs" made use of in the heavenly feast; yet, blessed be God's holy name, I can, and do partake in a spiritual manner of that which those signs represent. I feel and know what it is to have "Christ in me the hope of glory." And this "satisfies my longing, as nothing else can do." I find peace and comfort in simply "looking unto Jesus." I have had much outward trouble and affliction since then. I live alone. There is no one here to help me. Sometimes I have nothing to eat, and but little to keep me warm. You see me sitting here now. Thus I have to spend my nights. My complaint is the dropsy, and this prevents me from lying down. But I would not exchange my place as a forgiven sinner, with "Christ in me the hope of glory," for all the wealth and the honor that Queen Victoria could bestow upon me!'"
What a blessed Saviour Jesus is, who can thus spread the sunshine of his peace and hope through the hearts and homes of the poorest and most afflicted in the land!
And thus, we have spoken of three good reasons, why all who love our Lord Jesus Christ should keep this solemn sacrament which he has ordained; we should do it because we see in it—the word of his command—the memorial of his sufferings—and the hope of his glory.
And when we partake of this solemn ordinance ourselves, or see others partaking of it, how well we may say in the beautiful lines of Havergal, the English poetess:"Thou art coming! At thy table
"THIS DO IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME."
Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.—St. Matt. xv: 21-28.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
The picture illustrates the scenery and gardens in the neighborhood of Beyrout, which lies on the coast at the foot of Lebanon and within the Syro-Phoenician border.
When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.—St. Matt, xvi: 13-20.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
The site of Cæsarea Philippi is one of the loveliest spots in Northern Palestine. On ground carpeted with an infinite variety of wild flowers, the traveller rests in the grateful shade of oak and mulberry, olive and fig tree. The sound of many waters is heard on all sides as they hasten from the adjacent slopes of Herman to join the head waters of Jordan, bursting in strength from a cavern at the foot of a mighty cliff. Hither, with his handful of followers, came Jesus, weary and in deep depression of spirit, a fugitive from his own people, who had finally rejected him; and here, in reply to searching and anxious enquiry, "Whom say ye that I am?" he received from Simon Peter the memorable confession, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."
And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart. And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.—St. Matt, xvii: 1—8.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
From the days of St. Jerome, when pilgrims first began the attempt to identify sites hallowed by sacred events, Mount Tabor has, until recent years, been regarded as the Mount of the Transfiguration. But closer examination of the text and comparison of dates, and the fact that Tabor itself was at that time the site of a fortified town containing a Roman garrison, combine in this instance to discredit tradition. One of the spurs of Herman must therefore be the alternative and more probable scene of the Transfiguration; the seclusion of this district of mountain, valley, and woodland providing opportunity for contemplation, and preparation for the end which was now imminent, "the decease which Jesus was to accomplish at Jerusalem".
And it came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down from the hill, much people met him. And, behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only child. And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him. And I besought thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not. And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither. And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father.—St. Luke ix: 37-42.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
The picture gives an average representation of the outskirts of a village in Northern Palestine, with its sordid, untidy, mud-built houses, on the roofs of which are seen the reed booths or Succôth, occupied by the inhabitants during the oppressive heats of summer. The snow-capped ridge of Hermon is indicated in the distance.
Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman ...; and when they had set her in the midst. They say unto him, ... Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.—St. John vii: 14-16; viii: 3-11.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
The scene is represented as taking place in one of the great cloisters or porticoes which surrounded the Temple courts, and which like the Forum of Rome, and "Paul's Wall" in Elizabethan, London, served the purpose of a public promenade and place of meeting. These porticoes were of magnificent construction and proportions, the Stoa Basilica alone, upon the south side, with its quadruple colonnade of one hundred and sixty-two pillars, covering a great area. The Eastern Cloister, known as "Solomon's Porch," was probably so-called as having been erected upon the site of a similar construction in the first Temple.
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.—St. Luke xvii: II—19.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
The town of Cana in Galilee, with its background of low hills, as seen from the Nazareth Road, supplies a landscape setting for this picture. The ingratitude of the nine lepers no doubt added to our Lord's sorrow just now at the growing influence of the opposition of his enemies.
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.—St. Luke x: 38-42.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
Bethany is situated on the southern slope of the Mount of Olives, about two miles from Jerusalem. The house of his friends, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, the only place which, during the latter part of his ministry, Jesus could call a home, was probably that of people in easy circumstances, and as such is here represented. In the vineyards of Palestine the vine is cultivated bushlike on the ground; but in gardens, the plant is occasionally trained erect, as in Europe and America, or, as in the present instance, for the purposes of shade, upon a pergola. In the middle of the village of Bethany are the ruins of an important house. Here some years ago a French explorer discovered on the base the remains of an ancient chapel This seems to point with probability to a valid tradition of the site of the house of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.
And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.—St. Mark x: 13-16.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
In the Hebrew Bible—the Talmud—it is stated that, according to pious custom, parents brought their little children to the synagogue that they might receive the benefit of the prayers and blessings of the elders. Rabbis also, of recognized sanctity, were frequently appealed to in a like manner; and his fame as a prophet and benefactor having preceded him into Peraea, infants were now brought to Jesus, that he might lay his hands upon them in supplication and blessing. The architectural setting of the picture is adapted from that of a small square near the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem. This kindly and gentle act of our Lord has been of incalculable consequence to the life of children in the development of Christian civilization.
Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth.—St. John xi: 14., 15,38-44.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
The painting illustrates a form of rock-cut tomb which, though not so common as others in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, is nevertheless selected as being in accordance with the description of what took place in the present instance. It is obviously the type of tomb which is referred to on a subsequent occasion, and explains the meaning of "the stone rolled away from the sepulchre" The entrance of the tomb is at the bottom of a flight of steps, and is covered by a disc-shaped stone, like a mill-stone, which can be rolled back into a slot cut in the rock for its reception. (The kneeling man in the background has apparently just performed this duty?) The entrance is closed by rolling the stone forward, dropping a small block behind it to prevent its recession, and finally by covering the before-mentioned slot with a slab, which, being cemented down, the tomb is "sealed."
And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchæus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchæus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchæus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.—St. Luke xix: 1-10.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
The sycomore tree referred to in the text is a species of fig bearing small, coarse fruit, which is used as food only in cases of necessity. Although occasionally of great size, the tree is easily climbed, as the trunk is short, and the branches are numerous and wide spreading. Jericho, rebuilt by Herod, was a somewhat fashionable town. To signalize the despised tax-gatherer in such a way was to teach a permanent lesson of absolute unworldliness.
And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me. And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they called the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee. And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus. And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.—St. Mark x: 4.6—52.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
The site of Jericho is still an oasis in the surrounding desert, but neither its fertility nor its dimensions bear comparison with those which it attained in former days; and hardly a tree remains of the celebrated groves of balsam, spice, and fruit-bearing trees, and the palms which earned for Jericho the title of "The City of the Palm Trees," and which made its neighboring plain the garden of Palestine—the "divine district" as Joseph us calls it. This fertility was owing entirely to skilful irrigation, traces of no less than twelve aqueducts having been discovered. No class of sufferers more frequently claimed and obtained from Jesus the exercise of his compassion and healing power than that represented by blind Bartimaus. The malady of blindness is grievously common in Palestine, the proportion of those thus afflicted being one in every hundred of the population, whereas in Europe the proportion is only one in a thousand.
And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples. Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them. And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.—St. Matt, xxi: 1-4., 6-11.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
Had Jesus omitted to command to bring its mother along with the colt, upon which he elected to ride, his disciples would probably have brought her as a matter of course. It is the custom of the country; and as journeys are accomplished at a walking pace, mares and she-asses are frequently accompanied by their foals. It may be noted that in this picture one of the gates of Hebron does duty for that through which Jesus makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem; the former being suggestive of far greater antiquity than any which are to be found at the present day in Jerusalem itself.
And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him. And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him. And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders. And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority? And he answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing; and answer me: The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not? But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet. And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was. And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.—St. Luke xix: 47, 48; xx: 1-8.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
The occasion on which Jesus encountered for the last time the opposition of his priestly enemies to his teaching, and when, in the presence of the assembled multitudes, he exposed and denounced their hypocrisy, is supposed to take place in one of the great outer courts of the Temple, the buildings of which, although begun forty-six years previously, were at this time still unfinished, and were indeed never fully completed in accordance with their original design.
And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives.—St. Luke xxi: 37.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
As we ascend towards sunset the slopes of Olivet, and pause to gaze on the scenes beneath, the panorama of the city presented to view is in its leading features essentially similar to that upon which the eyes of Jesus rested, when "at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the Mount of Olives" Yonder stands a temple within that sacred enclosure which, for well-nigh three thousand years, save for the period during which, "the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet stood in the Holy place," has been dedicated to the worship of Jehovah. The citadel of Jerusalem breaks the skyline where stood the tower of Hippicus, and to the left, against the setting sun, the cypresses in a monastery garden mark the spot once covered by the gardens of the palace of Herod. Siloam stands as of old on the hither side, overlooking the valleys of Hinnom and Kidron; while to-day, as in former times, the olive yards beneath and the trees around, might well give the name which it bears to the hill on which we stand.
Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him. Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God. He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.—St. John xiii: 1-10.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
A dwelling house, claiming to be one of the most ancient in Jerusalem, supplied materials for the study of the "large upper room," represented in this and some other of the paintings. The general features of the chamber, with its arched ceiling and flattened dome, its leewans (raised platform) and the entrance-passage of colored stones, where guests leave their foot-gear before stepping upon the mat-covered floor of the room, may, for the reasons adduced elsewhere, be accepted as typical of similar apartments of the period under consideration.
When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.—St. John xiii: 21-30.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
Comment has already been made upon the custom prevailing at this time of reclining at meat. We are aware, from other sources of information, that in partaking of the Passover, the attitude of standing had, as a point of ritual, long been abandoned in favor of the recumbent posture, and this is directly evidenced by the words of the text (v: 23 and 25), which are only compatible with the supposition that on the present occasion the guest-chamber was furnished with couches which ran around the three sides of the table in the usual manner. Authorities differ as to which was regarded as the "highest seat" some maintaining that this was the outermost place on the right-hand couch; others, again, preferring the arrangement followed in the painting, where Jesus occupies the centre.
Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.—St. Matt, xxvi: 36-46.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
As the word Gethsemane means the "oil press" the "Garden" was in all probability an olive yard, whose actual site, though it cannot be determined with certainty, must have been in the immediate vicinity at least of the spot which age-long tradition indicates as the scene of the Agony. The great age of the trees in this enclosure has been urged in favor of the tradition, but it is fatal to their claim as witnesses, that Titus is known to have cut down, for military purposes, all the trees in the neighborhood of the besieged city. This site is now owned by the Russians who have turned it into a neat and trim garden, and built a bright new white church on the upper level with five large gilded bulbous domes.
Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.—Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.—St. John xviii: 3-6; St. Matt, xxvi: 48-56.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
Cunningly conceived indeed was that signal of the kiss; for in the very act of betrayal, Judas thus covered his own treachery; and, had the plot failed, it would even have appeared as if, when "all the disciples forsook him and fled" Judas alone had courage, in the hour of danger, to stand by and openly to acknowledge Jesus as his Master.
And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end. Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death. But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.—St. Matt, xxvi: 57—66.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
The outward ceremonial of the hastily convoked and Irregular tribunal before which Jesus underwent the mockery of a trial was similar to that of the ancient Sanhedrim. The members sat on a semi-circular divan, the president in the centre, and a scribe at each extremity, who recorded the evidence and the decisions of the court. It may be noted, that while laws had been carefully formulated for the conduct of such trials, almost every one of them was flagrantly violated on the present occasion in order to ensure a pre-arranged condemnation. For example, these rules provided that witnesses should be summoned, and that an advocate should plead on behalf of the accused; and they forbade that criminal trials should be conducted at night, that condemnation should be pronounced on the day of trial or on a holy day; and, if the crime were capital, that execution should follow on the day of sentence.
Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.—St. Matt, xxvi: 69-74.; St. Luke xxii: 61, 62.
NOTE BY THE ARTIST
In the East, the houses of the great and official residences usually consist of a group of separate yet connected buildings, surrounding a quadrangular paved court planted with trees and flowering shrubs, and furnished in the centre with an open cistern or fountain. Such was probably the construction of the palace of the High Priest (Caiaphas), and, apparently, this open court, across which Jesus would be conducted to or from the hall of trial, was the place where bitterness was added to his sorrow in hearing himself denied by his friend—and that man who had been the first to profess belief in his Messiahship, and who, but a few brief hours before, had stoutly sworn to stand by him, even unto death.