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Expositions of Holy Scripture by Alexander Maclaren

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_Chaps. IX to XXVIII_




_Chaps. IX to XVII_




THE CALL OF MATTHEW (Matt. ix. 9-17)














THE REST GIVER (Matt. xi. 28, 29)



'MAKE THE TREE GOOD' (Matt. xii. 33)

'A GREATER THAN JONAS' (Matt. xii. 41)

'A GREATER THAN SOLOMON' (Matt. xii. 42)


EARS AND NO EARS (Matt. xiii. 9)


SEEING AND BLIND (Matt. xiii. 13)


LEAVEN (Matt. xiii. 33)

TREASURE AND PEARL (Matt. xiii. 44-46)

THE MARTYRDOM OF JOHN (Matt. xiv. 1-12)

xiv. 12; xxviii. 8)

THE FOOD OF THE WORLD (Matt. xiv. 19, 20)

THE KING'S HIGHWAY (Matt. xiv. 22-36)

PETER ON THE WAVES (Matt. xiv. 28)

THB CRUMBS AND THE BREAD (Matt. xv. 21-31)



THE KING IN HIS BEAUTY (Matt. xvii, 1-13)

THE SECRET OF POWER. (Matt. xvii. 19, 20)

THE COIN IN THE FISH'S MOUTH (Matt. xvii. 25, 26)


'Son, be of good cheer.'--MATT. ix. 2.

This word of encouragement, which exhorts to both cheerfulness and
courage, is often upon Christ's lips. It is only once employed in
the Gospels by any other than He. If we throw together the various
instances in which He thus speaks, we may get a somewhat striking
view of the hindrances to such a temper of bold, buoyant cheerfulness
which the world presents, and of the means for securing it which
Christ provides.

But before I consider these individually, let me point you to this
thought, that such a disposition, facing the inevitable sorrows,
evils, and toilsome tasks of life with glad and courageous buoyancy,
is a Christian duty, and is a temper not merely to be longed for,
but consciously and definitely to be striven after.

We have a great deal more in our power, in the regulation of moods and
tempers and dispositions, than we often are willing to acknowledge to
ourselves. Our 'low' times--when we fret and are dull, and all things
seem wrapped in gloom, and we are ready to sit down and bewail ourselves,
like Job on his dunghill--are often quite as much the results of our
own imperfect Christianity as the response of our feelings to external
circumstances. It is by no means an unnecessary reminder for us, who
have heavy tasks set us, which often seem too heavy, and are surrounded,
as we all are, with crowding temptations to be bitter and melancholy
and sad, that Christ commands us to be, and therefore we ought to be,
'of good cheer.'

Another observation may be made as preliminary, and that is that
Jesus Christ never tells people to cheer up without giving them
reason to do so. We shall see presently that in all cases where the
words occur they are immediately followed by words or deeds of His
which hold forth something on which, if the hearer's faith lay hold,
darkness and gloom will fly like morning mists before the rising
sun. The world comes to us and says, in the midst of our sorrows and
our difficulties, 'Be of good cheer,' and says it in vain, and
generally only rubs salt into the sore by saying it. Jesus Christ
never thus vainly preaches the duty of encouraging ourselves without
giving us ample reasons for the cheerfulness which He enjoins.

With these two remarks to begin with--that we ought to make it a
part of our Christian discipline of ourselves to seek to cultivate a
continuous and equable temperament of calm, courageous good cheer;
and that Jesus Christ never commands such a temper without showing
cause for our obedience--let us turn for a few moments to the
various instances in which this expression falls from His lips.

I. Now the first of them is this of my text, and from it we learn
this truth, that Christ's first contribution to our temper of
equable, courageous cheerfulness is the assurance that all our sins
are forgiven.

'Son, be of good cheer,' said He to that poor palsied sufferer lying
there upon the little light bed in front of Him. He had been brought
to Christ to be cured of his palsy. Our Lord seems to offer him a
very irrelevant blessing when, instead of the healing of his limbs,
He offers him the forgiveness of his sins. That was possibly not
what he wanted most, certainly it was not what the friends who had
brought him wanted for him, but Jesus knew better than they what the
man suffered most from and most needed to have cured. They would
have said 'Palsy.' He said, 'Yes! but palsy that comes from sin.'
For, no doubt, the sick man's disease was 'a sin of flesh avenged in
kind,' and so Christ went to the fountain-head when He said, 'Thy
sins be forgiven thee.' He therein implied, not only that the man
was longing for something more than his four kindly but ignorant
bearers there knew, but also that the root of his disease was
extirpated when his sins were forgiven.

And so, in like manner, 'thus conscience doth make cowards of us
all.' There is nothing that so drapes a soul with darkness as either
the consciousness of unforgiven sin or the want of consciousness of
forgiven sin. There may be plenty of superficial cheerfulness. I
know that; and I know what the bitter wise man called it, 'the
crackling of thorns under the pot,' which, the more they crackle,
the faster they turn into powdery ash and lose all their warmth. For
stable, deep, lifelong, reliable courage and cheerfulness, there
must be thorough work made with the black spot in the heart, and the
black lines in the history. And unless our comforters can come to us
and say, 'Thy sins be forgiven thee,' they are only chattering
nonsense, and singing songs to a heavy heart which will make an
effervescence 'like vinegar on nitre,' when they say to us, 'Be of
good cheer.' How can I be glad if there lie coiled in my heart that
consciousness of alienation and disorder in my relations to God,
which all men carry with them, though they overlay it and try to
forget it? There is no basis for a peaceful gladness worthy of a man
except that which digs deep down into the very secrets of the heart,
and lays the first course of the building in the consciousness of
pardoned sin. 'Son, be of good cheer!' Lift up thy head. Face
smaller evils without discomposure, and with quietly throbbing
pulses, for the fountain of possible terrors and calamities is
stanched and stayed with, 'Thy sins are forgiven thee.'

Side by side with this first instance, illustrating the same general
thought, though from a somewhat different point of view, I may put
another of the instances in which the same phrase was soothingly on our
Lord's lips. 'Daughter,' said He to the poor woman with the issue of
blood, 'be of good cheer. Thy faith hath saved thee.' The consciousness
of a living union with God through Christ by faith, which results in
the present possession of a real, though it may be a partial, salvation,
is indispensable to the temper of equable cheerfulness of which I have
been speaking. Apart from that consciousness, you may have plenty of
excitement, but no lasting calm. The contrast between the drugged and
effervescent potion which the world gives as a cup of gladness, and the
pure tonic which Jesus Christ administers for the same purpose, is
infinite. He says to us, 'I forgive thy sins; by thy faith I save thee;
go in peace.' Then the burdened heart is freed from its oppression, and
the downcast face is lifted up, and all things around change, as when
the sunshine comes out on the wintry landscape, and the very snow
sparkles into diamonds. So much, then, for the first of the instances
of the use of this phrase.

II. We now take a second. Jesus Christ ministers to us cheerful
courage because He manifests Himself to us as a Companion in the
storm (Matt. xiv. 27).

The narrative is very familiar to us, so that I need not enlarge
upon it. You remember the scene--our Lord alone on the mountain in
prayer, the darkness coming down upon the little boat, the storm
rising as the darkness fell, the wind howling down the gorges of the
mountains round the landlocked lake, the crew 'toiling in rowing,
for the wind was contrary.' And then, all at once, out of the
mysterious obscurity beneath the shadow of the hills, Something is
seen moving, and it comes nearer; and the waves become solid beneath
that light and noiseless foot, as steadily nearer He comes. Jesus
Christ uses the billows as the pavement over which He approaches His
servants, and the storms which beat on us are His occasion for
drawing very near. Then they think Him a spirit, and cry out with
voices that were heard amidst the howling of the tempest, and struck
upon the ear of whomsoever told the Evangelist the story. They cry
out with a shriek of terror--because Jesus Christ is coming to them
in so strange a fashion! Have _we_ never shrieked and groaned,
and passionately wept aloud for the same reason; and mistaken the
Lord of love and consolation for some grisly spectre? When He comes
it is with the old word on His lips, 'Be of good cheer.'

'Tell us not to be frightened when we see something stalking across
the waves in the darkness!' 'It is I'; surely that is enough. The
Companion in the storm is the Calmer of the terror. He who recognises
Jesus Christ as drawing near to his heart over wild billows may well
'be of good cheer,' since the storm but brings his truest treasure
to him.

'Well roars the storm to those who hear
A deeper Voice across the storm.'

And He who, with unwetted foot, can tread on the wave, and with
quiet voice heard above the shriek of the blast can say, 'It is I,'
has the right to say, 'Be of good cheer,' and never says it in vain
to such as take Him into their lives however tempest-tossed, and
into their hearts however tremulous.

III. A third instance of the occurrence of this word of cheer
presents Jesus as ministering cheerful courage to us by reason of
His being victor in the strife with the world (John xvi. 33).

'In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I
have overcome the world.'

Of course 'the world' which He overcame is the whole aggregate of
things and persons considered as separated from God, and as being
the great Antagonist and counter power to a holy life of obedience
and filial devotion. At that last moment when, according to all
outward seeming and the estimate of things which sense would make,
He was utterly and hopelessly and all but ignominiously beaten, He
says, 'I have overcome the world.' What! Thou! within four-and-twenty
hours of Thy Cross? Is that victory? Yes! For he conquers the world
who uses all its opposition as well as its real good to help him,
absolutely and utterly, to do the will of God. And he is conquered
by the world who lets it, by its glozing sweetnesses and flatteries,
or by its knitted brows and frowning eyes and threatening hand,
hinder him from the path of perfect consecration and entire conformity
to the Father's will.

Christ has conquered. What does that matter to us? Why, it matters
this, that we may have the Spirit of Jesus Christ in our hearts to
make us also victorious in the same fight. And whosoever will lay
his weakness on that strong arm, and open his emptiness to receive
the fulness of that victorious Spirit for the very spirit of his
life, will be 'more than conqueror through Him that loved us,' and
can front all the evils, dangers, threatenings, temptations of the
world, its heaped sweets and its frowning antagonisms, with the calm
confidence that none of them are able to daunt him; and that the
Victor Lord will cover his head in the day of battle and deliver him
from every evil work. 'Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the
world, and play your parts like men in the good fight of faith; for
I am at your back, and will help you with Mine own strength.'

IV. The last instance that I point to of the use of this phrase is
one in which it was spoken by Christ's voice from heaven (Acts
xxiii. 11). It was the voice which was heard by the Apostle Paul
after he had been almost torn in pieces by the crowd in the Temple,
and had been bestowed for security, by the half-contemptuous
protection of the Roman governor, in the castle, and was looking
onward into a very doubtful future, not knowing how many hours'
purchase his life might be worth. That same night the Lord appeared
to him and said, 'Be of good cheer, Paul, for as thou hast testified
of Me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.' That is
to say, 'No man can touch you until I let him, and nobody shall touch
you until you have done your work and spoken out your testimony.
Jerusalem is a little sphere; Rome is a great one. The tools to the
hand that can use them. The reward for work is more work, and work
in a larger sphere. So cheer up! for I have much for you to do yet.'

And the spirit of that encouragement may go with us all, breeding in
us the quiet confidence that no matter who may thwart or hinder, no
matter what dangers or evils may seem to ring us round, the Master
who bids us 'Be of good cheer' will give us a charmed life, and
nothing shall by any means hurt us until He says to us, 'Be of good
courage; for you have done your work; and now come and rest.' 'Wait
on the Lord. Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine
heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.'


'That ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on
earth to forgive sins (then saith He to the sick of the
palsy), Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine
house.'--MATT. ix. 6.

The great example of our Lord's teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is
followed, in this and the preceding chapter, by a similar collection
of His works of healing. These are divided into three groups, each
consisting of three members. This miracle is the last of the second
triad, of which the other two members are the miraculous stilling
of the tempest and the casting out of the demons from the men in the
country of the Gergesenes.

One may discern a certain analogy in these three members of this
central group. In all of them our Lord appears as the peace-bringer.
But the spheres are different. The calm which was breathed over the
stormy lake is peace of a lower kind than that which filled the soul
of the demoniacs when the power that made discord within had been
cast out. Even that peace was lower in kind than that which brought
sweet repose in the assurance of pardon to this poor paralytic.
Forgiveness speaks of a loftier blessing than even the casting out
of demons. The manifestation of power and love steadily rises to a

The most important part of this story, then, is not the mere healing
of the disease, but the forgiveness of sins which accompanies it.
And the large teaching which our Lord gives as to the relation
between His miracles and His standing work, His ordinary work which
He has been doing all through the ages, which He is doing to-day,
which He is ready to do for you and me if we will let Him, towers
high above the mere miracle, which is honoured by being the signal
attestation of that work.

Therefore I would turn to this story now, not for the sake of
dealing with the mere miraculous event, but in order to draw the
important lessons from it which lie upon its very surface.

I. The first thought that is suggested here is that our deepest need
is forgiveness.

How strangely irrelevant and beside the mark, at first sight, seems
the answer which Christ gives to the eager zeal and earnestness of
the man and his bearers. Christ's word is 'Son,' or as the original
might more literally and even more tenderly be rendered, 'Child--be
of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.' That seemed far away from
their want. It _was_ far from their wish, but yet it was the
shortest road to its accomplishment. Christ here goes straight to
the heart of the necessity, when, passing by the disease for the
moment, He speaks the great word of pardon. The palsy was probably
the result of the sufferer's vice, and probably, too, he felt,
whatever may have been his friends' wishes for him, that he needed
forgiveness most. Such a conclusion as to his state of mind seems a
fair inference from our Lord's words to him, for Christ would never
have offered forgiveness to an impenitent or indifferent heart.

So we may learn that our chief and prime need is forgiveness. Amid
all our clamours and hungry needs, that is our deepest. Is not a
man's chief relation in this world his relation to God? Is not that
the most important thing about all of us? If that be wrong, will not
everything be wrong? If that be right, will not everything come right?
And is it not true that for you and me, and for all our fellows,
whatever be the surface diversities of character, civilisation,
culture, taste and the like, there is one deep experience common to
every human spirit, and that is the fact, and in some sense more or
less acutely the consciousness of the fact, that 'we have sinned,
and come short of the glory of God'?

There is the fontal source of all sorrow, for even to the most
superficial observation ninety per cent., at any rate, of man's
misery comes either from his own or from others' wrongdoing, and for
the rest, it is regarded in the eye of faith as being sorrow that is
needful because of sin, in order to discipline and to purify. But
here stands the fact, that king and clown, philosopher and fool, men
of culture and men of ignorance, all of us, through all the ages,
manifest the unity of our nature in this--I was going to say most
chiefly--that lapses from the path of rectitude, and indulgence in
habits, thoughts, feelings, and actions, which even our consciences
tell us are wrong, characterise us all.

Hence the profound wisdom of Christ and of His Gospel in that, when
it begins the task of healing, it does not peddle and potter on the
surface, but goes straight to the heart, with true instinct flies at
the head, like a wise physician pays little heed to secondary and
unimportant symptoms, but grapples with the disease, makes the tree
good, and leaves the good tree to make, as it will, the fruit good.

The first thing to do to heal men's misery, is to make them pure; and
the first step in the great method by which a man can be made pure,
is to assure him of a divine forgiveness for the past. So the sneers
that we often hear about Christian 'philanthropists taking tracts to
people when they want soup,' and the like, are excessively shallow
sneers, and indicate nothing more than this, that the critic has
superficially diagnosed the disease, and is wofully wrong about the
remedy. God forbid that I should say one word that would seem to
depreciate the value of other forms of beneficence, or to cast doubt
upon the purity of motives, or even to be lacking in admiration for the
enthusiasm that fills and guides many an earnest man and woman, working
amongst the squalid vice of our great cities and of our complex and
barbarous civilisation to-day. I would recognise all their work as
good and blessed; but, oh! dear brethren, it deals with the surface,
and you will have to go a great deal deeper down than asthetic, or
intellectual, or economical, or political reformation and changes
reach, before you touch the real reason why men and women are
miserable in this world. And you will only effectually cure the
misery, but you certainly then will do it, when you begin where the
misery begins, and deal first with sin. The true 'saviour of society'
is the man that can go to his brother, and as a minister declaratory
of the divine heart can say--'Brother, be of good cheer; thy sins be
forgiven thee.' And then, after that, the palsy will go out of his
limbs, and a new nervous energy will come into them, and he will
rise, take up his bed, and walk.

II. Now, in the next place, notice, as coming out of this incident
before us, the thought that forgiveness is an exclusively divine

There was, sitting by, with their jealous and therefore blind eyes,
a whole crowd of wise men and religious formalists of the first
water, collected together as a kind of ecclesiastical inquisition
and board of triers, as one of the other evangelists tells us, out
of every corner of the land. They had no care for the dewy pity that
was in Christ's looks, or for the nascent hope that began to swim up
into the poor, dim eye of the paralytic. But they had keen scent for
heresy, and so they fastened with true feline instinct upon the one
thing, 'This man speaketh blasphemies. Who can forgive sins but God

Ah! if you want to get people blind as bats to the radiant beauty of
some lofty character, and insensible as rocks to the wants of a sad
humanity, commend me to your religious formalists, whose religion is
mainly a bundle of red tape tied round men's limbs to keep them from
getting at things that they would like. These are the people who
will be as hard as the nether millstones, and utterly blind to all
enthusiasm and to all goodness.

But yet these Pharisees are right; perfectly right. Forgiveness
_is_ an exclusively divine act. Of course. For sin has to do
with God only; vice has to do with the laws of morality; crime has
to do with the laws of the land. The same act may be vice, crime,
and sin. In the one aspect it has to do with myself, in the other
with my fellows, in the last with God. And so evil considered as sin
comes under God's control only, and only He against whom it has been
committed can forgive.

What is forgiveness? The sweeping aside of penalties? the shutting
up of some more or less material hell? By no means: penalties are
often left; when sins are crimes they are generally left; when sins
are vices they are always left, thank God! But in so far as sin is
sin, considered as being the perversion and setting wrong of my
relation to Him, its consequences, which are its penalties, are
swept away by forgiveness; for forgiveness, in its essence and
deepest meaning, is neither more nor less than that the love of the
person against whom the wrong has been done shall flow out,
notwithstanding the wrong. Pardon is love rising above the ice-dam
which we have piled in its course, and pouring into our hearts.

When you fathers and mothers forgive your children, what does it
mean? Does it not mean that your love is neither deflected nor
embittered any more, by reason of their wrongdoing, but pours upon
them as of old? So God's forgiveness is at bottom--'Child! there is
nothing in my heart to thee, but pure and perfect love.' We fill the
sky with mists, through which the sun itself has to look like a red
ball of lurid fire. But it shines on the upper side of the mists all
the same, and all the time, and thins them away and scatters them
utterly, and shines forth in its own brightness on the rejoicing
heart. Pardon is God's love, unchecked and unembittered, granted to
the wrongdoer. And that is a divine act, and a divine act alone.
Pharisees and Scribes were perfectly right. No man can forgive sins
but God only.

And I might add, though it is somewhat aside from my direct purpose,
God _can_ forgive sin; which some people nowadays say is
impossible. The apparent impossibility arises only from shallow and
erroneous notions of what forgiveness is. God does not--it might be
too bold to say God cannot, if we believe in miracles--but as a
matter of fact, God does not, usually interfere to hinder men from
reaping, as regards this life, what they have sown. But as I say,
that is not forgiveness; and is there any reason conceivable why it
should be impossible for the divine love to pour down upon a sinful
man who has forsaken his sin, and is trusting in God's mercy in
Christ, just as if his sin was non-existent, in so far as it could
condition or interfere with the flow of the divine mercy?

And I may say, further, we need a definite divine assurance of pardon.
Ah! if you have ever been down into the cellars of your own hearts,
and seen the ugly things that coil there, you will know that a vague
trust in a vague God and a vague mercy is not enough to still the
conscience that has once been stung into action. My brothers, you
want neither priests nor ceremonies on the one hand, nor a mere
peradventure of 'Oh! God is merciful!' on the other, in order to deal
with that deepest need of your heart. Nothing but the King's own
sign-manual on the pardon makes it valid; and unless you and I can,
somehow or other, come to close grips with God, and get into actual
contact with Him, and hear, somehow, with infallible certitude, as
from His own lips, the assurance of forgiveness, there is not enough
for our needs.

III. So I come to say, in the next place, that the incident before
us teaches us that Jesus Christ claims and exercises this divine
prerogative of forgiveness.

Mark His answer to these cavillers. He admits their promises absolutely.
They said, 'No man can forgive sins but God only.' If Christ was only a
man, like us, standing in the same relation to the divine pardon that
other teachers, saints, and prophets have stood, and had nothing more
to do with it than simply, as I might do, to say to a troubled heart,
'My brother, be quite sure that God has forgiven you'; if Christ's
relation to the divine forgiveness was nothing more than ministerial
and declaratory, why, in the name, not of common sense only, but of
veracity, did He not turn round to these men and say so? He was bound,
by all the obligations of a religious teacher, to disclaim, as you or
I would have done under similar circumstances, the misapprehension of
His words: 'I use blasphemies? No! I am not speaking blasphemies. I
know that God only can forgive sins, and I am doing no more than
telling my poor brother here that his sins are forgiven by God.' But
that is not His answer at all. What He says in effect is--'Yes; you are
quite right. No man can forgive sins, but God only. _I_ forgive sins.
Whom think ye, then, that I, the Son of Man am? It is easy to say "Thy
sins be forgiven thee"--far easier to say that than to say "Take up thy
bed and walk," because one can verify and check the accomplishment of
the saying in the one case, and one cannot in the other. The sentences
are equally easy to pronounce, the things are equally difficult for a
_man_ to do, but the difference is that one of them can be verified
and the other of them cannot. I will do the visible impossibility, and
then I leave you to judge whether I can do the invisible one or not.'

Now, dear brethren, I have only one word to say about that, and it
is this. We are here brought sharp up to a fork in the road. I know
that it is not always a satisfactory way of arguing to compel a man
to take one horn or other of an alternative, but it is quite fair to
do go in the present case; and I would press it upon some of you
who, I think, urgently need to consider the dilemma. Either the
Pharisees were quite right, and Jesus Christ, the meek, the humble,
the Pattern of all lowly gentleness, the Teacher whom nineteen
centuries confess that they have not exhausted, was an audacious
blasphemer, or He was God manifest in the flesh. The whole context
forbids us to take these words, 'Thy sins be forgiven thee,' as
anything less than the voice of divine love wiping out the man's
transgressions; and if Jesus Christ pretended or presumed to do
that, there is no hypothesis that I know of which can save His
character for the reverence of man, but that which sees in Him God
revealed in manhood; the world's Judge, from whom the world may
receive divine forgiveness.

IV. Jesus Christ here brings visible facts into the witness-box as
the attesters of His invisible powers.

Of course the miracle was such a witness in a special way, inasmuch as
it and forgiveness were equally divine prerogatives and acts. I need
not dwell now upon what I have already observed in my introductory
remarks, that our Lord here teaches us the relative importance of the
attesting miracle and the thing attested, and regards the miracle as
subordinate to the higher and spiritual work of bringing pardon.

But we may widen out this into the thought that the subsidiary
effects of Christian faith in individuals, and of the less complete
Christian faith which is diffused over society, do stand as very
strong evidences of the reality of Christ's professions and claims
to exercise this invisible power of pardon. Or, to put it into a
concrete form, and to take an illustration which may need large
deductions.--Go into a Salvation Army meeting. Admit the extravagance,
the coarseness, and all the rest which we educated and superfine
Christians cannot stand. But when you have blown away the froth, is
there not something left in the cup which looks uncommonly like the
wine of the Kingdom? Are there not visible results of that, as of
every earnest effort to carry the message of forgiveness to men,
which create an immense presumption in favour of its reality and
divine origin? Men reclaimed, passions tamed, homes that were
pandemoniums made Bethels, houses of God. Wherever Christ's
forgiving power really comes into a heart, life is beautified, is
purified, is ennobled; and secondary and material benefits follow in
the train.

I claim all the difference between Christendom and Heathendom as
attestation of the reality of Christ's divine and atoning work. I
say, and I believe it to be a valid and a good argument as against
much of the doubt of this day, 'If you seek His monument, look
around.' His own answer to the question, 'Art thou He that should
come?' is valid still: 'Go and tell John the things that ye see and
hear'; the dead are raised, the deaf ears are opened; faculties that
lie dormant are quickened, and in a thousand ways the swift spirit
of life flows from Him and vitalises the dead masses of humanity.

Let any system of belief or of no belief do the like if it can. This
rod has budded at any rate, let the magicians do the same with their

Now, Christian men and women, 'ye are My witnesses,' saith the Lord.
The world takes its notions of Christianity, and its belief in the
power of Christianity, a great deal more from you than it does from
preachers and apologists. _You_ are the Bibles that most men
read. See to it that your lives represent worthily the redeeming and
the ennobling power of your Master.

And as for the rest of you, do not waste your time trying to purify
the stream twenty miles down from the fountainhead, but go to the
source. Do not believe, brother, that your palsy, or your fever,
your paralysis of will towards good, or the unwholesome ardour with
which you are impelled to wrong, and the consequent misery and
restlessness, can ever be healed until you go to Christ--the
forgiving Christ--and let Him lay His hand upon you; and from His
own sweet and infallible lips hear the word that shall come as a
charm through all your nature: 'Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.'
'Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened; then shall the lame man
leap as an hart';--then limitations, sorrows, miseries, will pass
away, and forgiveness will bear fruit in joy and power, in holiness,
health and peace.


'And as Jesus passed forth from thence, He saw a man,
named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and
He saith unto him, Follow Me. And he arose, and
followed Him. 10. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at
meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners
came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11. And
when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto His disciples,
Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
12. But when Jesus heard that, He said unto them, They
that be whole need not a physician, but they that are
sick. 13. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will
have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to
call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. 14. Then
came to Him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we
and the Pharisees fast oft, but Thy disciples fast not?
15. And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the
bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with
them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall
be taken from them, and then shall they fast. 16. No
man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment,
for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the
garment, and the rent is made worse. 17. Neither do men
put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break,
and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but
they put new wine into new bottles, and both are
preserved.'--MATT. ix. 9-17.

All three evangelists connect the call of Matthew immediately with the
cure of the paralytic, and follow it with an account of Christ's answers
to sundry cavils from Pharisees and John's disciples. No doubt, the
spectacle of this new Teacher taking a publican into His circle of
disciples, and, not content with such an outrage on all proper patriotic
feeling, following it up with scandalous companionship with the sort
of people that a publican could get to accept his hospitality, sharpened
hatred and made suspicion prick its ears. Mark and Luke call the
publican Levi, he calls himself Matthew, the former being probably his
name before his discipleship, the latter, that by which he was known
thereafter. Possibly Jesus gave it him, as in the cases of Simon, and
perhaps Bartholomew. But, however acquired, it superseded the old one,
as the fact that it appears in the lists of the apostles in both the
other evangelists and in Acts, shows. Its use here may be a trace of
a touching desire to make sure that readers, who only knew him as
Matthew, should understand who this publican was. It is like the little
likenesses of themselves, in some corner of a background, that early
painters used to slip into a picture of Madonna and angels. There was
no vanity in the wish, for he says nothing about his sacrifices,
leaving it to Luke to tell that 'he left all,' but he _does_
crave that his brethren, who read, should know that it was he whom
Jesus honoured by His call.

The condensed narrative emphasises three things, (1) his occupation
with his ordinary business when that wonderful summons thrilled his
soul; (2) the curt authoritative command, and (3) the swift obedience.
As to the first, Capernaum was on a great trade route, and the
custom-house officers there would have their hands full. This one was
busy at his work, hateful and shameful as it was in Jewish eyes, and
into that sordid atmosphere, like a flash of light into a mephitic
cavern full of unclean creatures, came the transcendent mercy of
Jesus' summons. There is no region of life so foul, so mean, so
despicable in men's eyes, but that the quickening Voice will enter
there. We do not need to be in temples or about sacred tasks in order
to hear it. It summons us in, and sometimes from, our daily work. Well
for those who know whose Voice it is, and do not mistake it for some

No doubt this was not the first of Matthew's knowledge of Jesus.
Living in Capernaum, he would have had many opportunities of hearing
Him or of Him, and his heart and conscience may have been stirred.
As he sat in his 'tolbooth,' feeling contempt and hatred poured on
him, he, no doubt, had had longings to get nearer to the One whose
voice was gentle, and His looks, love. So the call would come to him
as the fulfilment of a dim hope, and it would be a joyful surprise
to know that Jesus wished to have him for a disciple as much as he
wished to have Jesus for a Teacher. The ring of fire and hate within
which he had been imprisoned was broken, and there was One who cared
to have him, and who would not shrink from his touch. In the light
of that assurance, the call became, not a summons to give anything
up, but an invitation to receive a better possession than all with
which he was called to part. And if we saw things as they are, would
it not always be so to us? 'Follow Me' does mean, Forsake earth and
self, but it means still more: Take what is more than all. It parts
from these because it unites to Jesus. Therefore it means gain, not
deprivation. And it condenses all rules for life into one, for to
follow Him is the sum of all duty, and yields the perfect pattern of
conduct and character, while it is also the secret of all blessedness,
and the talisman that assures a man of continual progress. They who
follow are near, and will reach, Him. Of course, if His servants
follow Him, it stands to reason that one day, 'where I am there shall
also My servants be.' So in that command lie a sufficient guide for
earth, and a sure guarantee for heaven.

'And he arose and followed Him.' That is the only thing that we are
told of Matthew. We hear no more of him, except that he made a feast
in his house on the occasion. No doubt he did his work as an apostle,
but oblivion has swallowed up all that. A happy fate to be known to all
the world for all time, only by this one thing, that he unconditionally,
immediately and joyfully obeyed Christ's call! He might have said: 'How
can I leave my work? I must make up my accounts, hand over my papers,
do a hundred things in order to wind up matters, and I must postpone
following till then.' But he sprang up at once. He would have abundant
opportunities to settle all details afterwards, but if he let this
opportunity of taking his place as a disciple pass, he might never
have another. There are some things that are best done gradually and
slowly, but obedience to Christ's call is not one of them. Prompt
obedience is the only safety. The psalmist knew the danger of delay
when he said: 'I made haste and delayed not, but made haste to keep Thy

Matthew does not tell us that _he_ made the feast, but Luke
does. It was the natural expression of his thankfulness and joy for
the new bond. His knowledge was small, but his love was great. How
could he honour Jesus enough? But he was a pariah in Capernaum, and
the only guests he could assemble were, like himself, outcasts from
'respectable society.' In popular estimation all publicans were
regarded without any more ado as 'sinners,' but probably that
designation is here applied to disreputable folks of various kinds
and degrees of shadiness, who gravitated to Matthew and his class,
because, like him, they were repulsed by every one else. Even
outcasts hunger for society, and manage to get a community of their
own, in which they find some glow of comradeship, and some defence
from hatred and contempt. Even lepers herd together and have their
own rules of intercourse.

But what a scandal in the eyes not only of Pharisees, but of all the
proper people in Capernaum, Jesus' going to such a gathering of
disreputables would be, we may estimate if we remember that they did
not know His reason, but thought that He went because He liked the
atmosphere and the company. 'Like draws to like' was the conclusion
suggested, in the absence of His own explanation. The Pharisee
conceived that his duty in regard to publicans and sinners was to keep
as far from them as he could, and his strait-laced self-righteousness
had never dreamed of going to them with an open heart, and trying to
win them to a better life. Many so-called followers of Jesus still
take that attitude. They gather up their skirts round them daintily,
and never think that it would be liker their Lord to sweep away the
mud than to pick their steps through it, caring mainly to keep their
own shoes clean.

The feast was probably spread in some courtyard or open space, to
which, as is the Eastern custom, uninvited spectators could have
access. It is quite in accordance with the usage of the times and
land that the Pharisees should have been onlookers, and should have
been able to talk to the disciples. No doubt their colloquy became
animated, and perhaps loud, so that it could easily attract Christ's
attention. He answered for Himself, and the tone of His reply is
friendly and explanatory, as if He recognised that the questioners
genuinely wished to know 'why' He was sitting in such company.

It discloses His motive, and thereby sweeps away all insinuations
that He consorted with sinners because their company was congenial.
It was precisely for the opposite reason, because He was so unlike
them. He came among these sinners as a physician; and who wonders at
_his_ being beside the sick? He does not spend his days by
their bedsides because he likes the atmosphere, but because it is
his business to make them well. Now, in that comparison, Jesus
pronounces no opinion on the correctness of the Pharisees' estimate
of themselves as 'righteous,' or of publicans as sinners, but simply
takes them on their own ground. But He does make a great claim for
Himself, and speaks out of His consciousness of power to heal men's
worst disease, sin. It is a tremendous assertion to make of oneself,
and its greatness is enhanced by the quiet way in which it is stated
as a thought familiar to Himself. What right had He to pose as the
physician for humanity, and how can such a claim be reconciled with
His being 'meek and lowly in heart'? If He Himself was one of the
sick and needed healing, how can He be the healer of the rest? If
being a sinful man, as we all are, He made such a claim, what becomes
of the reverence which is paid to Him as a great religious Teacher,
and where has His 'sweet reasonableness' vanished?

Jesus passes from explanation of His personal relation to the
publicans to adduce the broad principle which should shape the
Pharisees' relation to them, as it had shaped His. Hosea had said
long ago that God delighted more in 'mercy' than in 'sacrifice.'
Kindly helpfulness to men is better worship than exact performance
of any ritual. Sacrifice propitiates God, but mercy imitates Him,
and imitation is the perfection of divine service. Jesus here speaks
as all the prophets had spoken, and smites with a deadly stroke the
mechanical formalism which in every age stiffens religion into
ceremonies and neglects love towards God, expressed in mercy to men.
He lays bare the secret of His own life, and He thereby lays on His
followers the obligation of making it the moving impulse of theirs.

The great general truth is followed, as it has been preceded, by a
plain statement of Jesus' own conception of His mission in the
world. 'I came,' says He, hinting at the fact that He was before He
was born, and that His Incarnation was His voluntary act. True, He
was sent, and we speak of His mission, but also He 'came,' and we
speak of His advent. 'To repentance' is omitted by the best editors
as being brought over from Luke, where it is genuine. But it is a
correct gloss on the simple word 'call,' though 'repentance' is but
a small part of that to which He summons. He calls us to repent; He
calls us to Himself; He calls us to self-surrender; He calls us to
Eternal Life; He calls us to a better feast than Matthew had spread.
But we must recognise that we are sinners, or we shall never realise
that His invitation is for us, nor ever feel that we need a physician,
and have in Him, and in Him alone, the Physician whom we need.

The Pharisees objected to Jesus' feasting, and could scarcely in the
same breath find fault with Him for not fasting, but they put
forward some of John's disciples to bring that fresh objection.
Common hatred is a strong cement, and often holds opposites together
for a while. It was bad for John's followers that they should be
willing to say, 'We and the Pharisees.' They had travelled far from
the days when their master had called the same class a 'generation
of vipers'! Their keen desire to uphold the honour of their teacher,
whose light they saw paling before the younger Jesus, made them
hostile to Him, and, as is usually the case, the followers were more
partisan than the leader. Religious antagonism sometimes stoops to
very strange alliances. The two questions brought together in this
context are noticeably alike, and noticeably different. Both ask for
the reason of conduct which they do not go the length of impugning.
They seem to be desirous of enlightenment, they are really eager to
condemn. Both avoid seeming to call in question the acts of the
persons addressed, for the Pharisees interrogate the _disciples_ as
to the reason for _Jesus'_ conduct, while John's disciples ask
from _Jesus_ the reason of His disciples' conduct. In both, mock
respectfulness covers lively hatred.

Our Lord's first answer is as profound as it is beautiful, and
veils, while it reveals, a lofty claim for Himself and a solemn
foresight of His death, and lays down a great and fruitful principle
as to the relations between spiritual moods and outward acts of
religion. His speaking of Himself as 'the Bridegroom' would recall
to some of His questioners, and that with a touch of shame, John's
nobly humble acceptance of the subordinate place of the bridegroom's
friend and elevation of Jesus to that of the bridegroom. But it was
not merely a rebuking quotation from John's witness, but the
expression of His own unclouded and continual consciousness of what
He was to humanity, and of what humanity could find in Him, as well
as a sovereign appropriating to Himself of many prophetic strains.
What depth of love, what mysterious blending of spirit, what adoring,
lowly obedience, what perfection of protecting care, what rapture of
possession, what rest of heart in trust, what dower of riches are
dimly shadowed in that wonderful emblem, will never be known till
the hour of the marriage-supper of the Lamb, when 'His bride hath
made herself ready.' But across the light there flits a shadow. It
is but for a moment, and it meant little to the hearers, but it meant
much to Him. For He could not look forward to winning His bride
without seeing the grim Cross, and even athwart the brightness of
the days of companionship with His humble friends, came the darkness
on His soul, though not on theirs, of the violent end when He 'shall
be taken from them.' The hint fell apparently on deaf ears, but it
witnesses to the continual presence in the mind of Jesus of His
sufferings and death. The certainty that He must die was not forced
on Him by the failure of His efforts as His career unfolded itself.
It was no disappointment of bright earlier hopes, as is the case
with many a disillusionised reformer, who thought at the outset
that he had only to speak and all men would listen. It was the
clearly discerned goal from the first. 'The Son of Man came ... to
give His life a ransom.'

But our Lord here lays down a broad principle, which, if applied as it
was meant to be, would lift a heavy burden of outward observance off
the Christian consciousness. Fast when you are sad; feast when you are
glad. Let the disposition, the mood, the moment's circumstance, mould
your action. There is no virtue or sanctity in observances which do not
correspond to the inner self. What a charter of liberty is proclaimed
in these quiet words! What mountains of ceremonial unreality, oppressive
to the spirit, are cast into the sea by them! How different Christendom
would have been and would be to-day, if Christians had learned the
lesson of these words!

The two condensed parables or extended metaphors, which follow the
vindication of the disciples, carry the matter further, and lay down
a principle which is intended to cover not only the question in
hand, their non-observance of Jewish regulations as to fasting, but
the whole subject of the relations of the new word, which Jesus felt
that He brought, to the old system. The same consciousness of His
unique mission which prompted His use of the term 'bridegroom,'
shines through the two metaphors of the new cloth and the new wine.
He knows that He is about to bring a new garb to men, and to give
them new wine to drink, and He knows that what He brings is no mere
patch on a worn-out system, but a new fermenting force, which
demands fresh vehicles and modes of expression. The two metaphors
take up different aspects of one thought. To try to mend an old coat
with a bit of unshrunk cloth would only make a worse dissolution of
continuity, for as soon as a shower fell on it the patch would
shrink, and, in shrinking, pull the thin pieces of the old garment
adjoining it to itself. Judaism was already 'rent' and worn too thin
to be capable of repair. The only thing to be done was 'as a
vesture' to 'fold it up' and shape a new garment out of new cloth.
What was true as to the supremely new thing which He brought into
the world remains true, in less eminent degree, of the less acute
differences between the Old and the New, within Christianity itself.
There do come times when its externals become antiquated, worn thin
and torn, and when patching is useless. Christian men, like others,
constitutionally incline to conservatism or to progress, and the one
temperament needs to be warned against obstinately preserving old
clothes, and the other against eagerly insisting that they are past

But a patch and a worn garment do not wholly describe the relations
of the old and the new. Freshly made wine, still fermenting, and
old, stiff wine-skins which have lost their elasticity suggest
further thoughts. Now we have to do with containing vessel _versus_
contents, with a fermenting force _versus_ stiffened forms. To put
that into these will destroy both. For example, if the struggle of
the Judaisers in the early Church had succeeded, and Christianity
had become a Jewish sect, it would have dwindled to nothing, as the
Jewish-minded Christians did. The wine must have bottles. Every
great spiritual renovating force must embody itself in institutions.
Spiritual emotions must express themselves in acts of worship,
spiritual convictions must speak in a creed. But the containing
vessel must be congruous with, and still more, it must be created by,
the contained force, as there are creatures who frame their shells
to fit the convolutions of their bodies, and build them up from their
own substance. Forms are good, as long as they can stretch if need be;
when they are too stiff to expand, they restrict rather than contain
the wine, and if short-sighted obstinacy insists on keeping _it_ in
_them_, there will be a great spill and loss of much that is


'While He spake these things unto them, behold, there
came a certain ruler, and worshipped Him, saying, My
daughter is even now dead: but come and lay Thy hand
upon her, and she shall live. 19. And Jesus arose,
and followed him, and so did His disciples. 20. And,
behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of
blood twelve years, came behind Him, and touched the
hem of His garment: 21. For she said within herself,
If I may but touch His garment, I shall be whole.
22. But Jesus turned Him about, and when He saw her,
He said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath
made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from
that hour. 23. And when Jesus came into the ruler's
house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a
noise. 24. He said unto them, Give place: for the maid
is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed Him to
scorn. 25. But when the people were put forth, He went
in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose.
26. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.
27. And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men
followed Him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David,
have mercy on us. 28. And when He was come into the
house, the blind men came to Him: and Jesus saith unto
them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said
unto Him, Yea, Lord. 29. Then touched He their eyes,
saying, According to your faith be it unto you. 30. And
their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them,
saying, See that no man know it. 31. But they, when they
were departed, spread abroad His fame in all that
country.'--MATT. ix. 18-31.

The three miracles included in the present section belong to the
last group of this series. Those of the second group were all
effected by Christ's word. Those now to be considered are all
effected by touch. The first two are intertwined. The narrative of
the healing of the woman is embedded in the account of the raising
of Jairus's daughter.

Mark the impression of calm consciousness of power and leisurely
dignity produced by Christ's having time to pause, even on such an
errand, in order to heal, by the way, the other sufferer. The father
and the disciples would wonder at Him as He stayed His steps, and be
apt to feel that priceless moments were being lost; but He knows His
own resources, and can afford to let the child die while He heals
the woman. The one shall receive no harm by the delay, and the other
will be blessed. Our Lord is sitting at the feast which Matthew gave
on the occasion of his call, engaged in vindicating His sharing in
innocent festivity against the cavils of the Pharisees, when the
summons to the death-bed comes to Him from the lips of the father,
who breaks in on the banquet with his imploring cry. Matthew gives
the story much more summarily than the other evangelists, and does
not distinguish, as they do, between Jairus's first words, 'at the
point of death, and the message of her actual decease, which met
them on the way. The call of sorrow always reaches Christ's ear, and
the cry for help is never deemed by Him an interruption. So this
'man, gluttonous and a wine-bibber,' as these Pharisees thought Him,
willingly and at once leaves the house of feasting for that of
mourning. How near together, in this awful life of ours, the two
lie, and how thin the partition walls! Well for those whose feasts
do not bar them out from hearing the weeping next door.

As the crowd accompanies Jesus, His hasting love is, for a moment,
diverted by another sufferer. We never go on an errand of mercy but we
pass a hundred other sorrowing hearts, so close packed lie the griefs
of men. This woman is a poor shrinking creature, broken down by long
illness (which had lasted for the same length of time as the joyous
life of Jairus's child), made more timid by disappointed hopes of
cure, and depressed by poverty to which her many doctors had brought
her. She does not venture to stop this new Rabbi-physician, as He
goes with the church dignitary of the town to heal his daughter, but
lets Him pass before she can make up her mind to go near Him; and
then she comes creeping up behind the crowd, puts out her wasted,
trembling hand to the hem of His garment,--and she is whole.

The other evangelists give us a more extended account, but Matthew
throws into prominence, in his condensed narrative, the essential

Notice her real but imperfect faith. There was unquestionable
confidence in Christ's power, and very genuine desire for healing.
But it was a very ignorant faith. She believes that her touch of the
garment will heal without Christ's will or knowledge, much more His
pitying love, having any part in it. She thinks that she may win her
desire furtively, and may carry it away, and He be none the wiser nor
the poorer for the stolen blessing. What utter, blank ignorance of His
character and way of working! What gross superstition! Yes, and withal
what a hunger of desire, what absolute assurance of confidence that
one finger-tip on His robe was enough! Therefore she had her desire,
and her Healer recognised her faith as true, though blended with much
ignorance of Him. Her error was very like that which many Christians
entertain with less excuse. To attach importance to external means of
grace, rites, ordinances, sacraments, outward connection with Christian
organisations, is the very same misconception in a slightly different
form. Such error is always near us; it is especially rife in countries
where there has long been a visible Church. It has received strange
new vigour to-day, partly by reaction from extreme rationalism, partly
by the growing cultivation of the aesthetic faculties. It is threatening
to corrupt the simplicity and spirituality of Christian worship, and
needs to be strenuously resisted. But the more we have to fight
against it, the more do we need to remember that, along with this
clinging to the hem of the garment instead of to the heart of its
Wearer, there may be a very real trust, which might shame some of
those who profess to hold a less sensuous form of faith. Many a poor
soul clasping a crucifix clings to the Cross. Many a devout heart
kneeling at mass sees through the incense-smoke the face of Christ.

This woman's faith was selfish. She wanted health; she did not care
much about the Healer. She would have been quite contented to have
had no more to do with Him, if she could only have stolen out of the
crowd cured. She would have had little gratitude to the unconscious
Giver of a stolen good. So, many a Christian life in its earlier
stages is more absorbed with its own deep misery and its desire for
deliverance, than with Him. Love comes after, born of the experience
of His love. But faith precedes love, and the predominant motive
impelling to faith at first is distinctly self-regard. That is all as
it should be. The most purely self-absorbed wish to escape from the
most rudely pictured hell is often the beginning of a true trust in
Christ, which, in due time, will be elevated into perfect consecration.
Some of our modern teachers, who are shocked at Christianity because
it lays the foundation of the most self-denying morality in such
'selfishness,' would be none the worse for going to school to this
story, and learning from it how a desire for nothing more than to
get rid of a painful disease, started a process which turned a life
into a peaceful, thankful surrender of the cured self to the love
and service of the mighty Healer.

Observe, next, how Christ answers the imperfect faith, and, by
answering, corrects and confirms it. Matthew omits Christ's question
as to who touched Him, the disciples' reply, and His renewed
asseveration that He was conscious of power having gone forth from
Him. All these belong to the loving method by which our Lord sought
to draw forth an open acknowledgment. Womanly diffidence, enfeebled
health, her special disease, all made the woman wish to hide herself.
She wanted to steal away unnoticed, as she hoped that she had come.
But Christ forces her to stand out before all the crowd, and there,
with all eyes upon her,--cold, cruel eyes, some of them--to conquer
her shame, and tell all the truth. Strange kindness that; strangely
contrasted with His ordinary desire to avoid notoriety, and with His
ordinary tender consideration for shrinking weakness! He did it for
her sake, not for His own. She is changed from timidity to courage.
At one moment she stretches out her wasted finger, a tremulous
invalid; at the next, she flings herself at His feet, a confessor.
He would have us testify for Him, because faith unavowed, like a
plant in the dark, is apt to become pale and sickly; but ere He bids
us own His name, He pours into our hearts, in answer to our secret
appeal, the health of His own life, and the blissful consciousness
of that great gift which makes the tongue of the dumb sing.

His words to her are full of tenderness. She receives the name of
'daughter.' Gently He encourages her timidity by that 'Be of good
cheer,' and then He sets right her error: 'Thy faith'--not thy
finger--'hath made thee whole.' There was no real connection between
the touch of the robe and healing; but the woman thought that there
was, and so Christ stooped to her childish thought, and allowed her
to prescribe the road which His mercy should take. But He would not
leave her with her error. The true means of contact between us and
Him is not our outward contact with external means of grace, but the
touch of our spirits by faith. Faith is nothing in itself, and heals
only because it brings us into union with His power, which is the
sole cause of our healing. Faith is the hand which receives the
blessing. It may be a wasted and tremulous hand, like that which
this woman laid lightly on His robe. But He feels its touch, though
a universe presses on Him, and He answers. Not the garment's hem,
but Christ's love, is the cause of our salvation. Not an outward
contact with it or with Him, but faith, is the condition on which
His life, which knows no disease, pours into our souls. The hand of
my faith lifted to Him will receive into its empty palm and clasping
fingers the special blessing for my special wants.

The other evangelists tell us that, at the moment of His words to
the woman, the messengers came bearing tidings of the child's death.
How Jairus must have grudged the pause! A word from Christ, like the
pressure of His hand, heartened him. Like a river turned from its
course for a space, to fill some empty reservoir, His love comes
back to its original direction. How abundant the power and mercy, to
which such a work as that just done was but a parenthesis! The
doleful music and the shrill shrieks of Eastern mourning, which met
them as they entered Jairus's house, disturbed the sanctity of the
hour, and were in strong contrast with the majestic calmness of
Jesus. Not amid venal lamentations and excited cries will He do His
work. He bids the noisy crowd forth with curt, almost stern, command,
and therein rebukes all such hollow and tumultuous scenes, in the
presence of the stillness of death, still more where faith in Him
has robbed it of its terror, in robbing it of its perpetuity. It is
strange that believing readers should have thought that our Lord meant
to say that the little girl was not really dead, but only in a swoon.
The scornful laughter of the flute-players and hired mourners
understood Him better. They knew that it was real death, as men
count death, and, as has often been the case, the laughter of His
foes has served to establish the truth. That was not worthy to be
called death from which the child was so soon and easily to be
awaked. But, besides this special application to the case in hand,
that great saying of our Lord's carries the blessed truth that,
since He has come, death is softened into sleep for all who love
Him. The euphemism is not peculiar to Christianity, but has a deeper
meaning on Christian lips than when Greeks or Romans spoke of the
eternal sleep. Others speak of death by any name rather than its
own, because they fear it so much. The Christian does so, because he
fears it so little,--and, as a matter of fact, the use of the word
death as meaning merely the separation of soul and body by the
physical act is exceptional in the New Testament. This name of
sleep, sanctioned thus by Christ, is the sweetest of all. It speaks
of the cessation of connection with the world of sense, and 'long
disquiet merged in rest.' It does not imply unconsciousness, for we
are not unconscious when we sleep, but only unaware of externals. It
holds the promise of waking when the sun comes. So it has driven out
the ugly old name. Our tears flow less bitterly when we think of our
dear ones as 'sleeping in Jesus.' Their bodies, like this little
child's, are dead, but _they_ are not. They rest, conscious of
their own blessedness and of Him 'in whom they live, and have their
being,' whether they 'move' or no.

Then comes the great deed. The crowd is shut out. For such a work
silence is befitting. The father and mother, with His foremost three
disciples, go with Him into the chamber. There is no effort, repeated
and gradually successful, as when Elisha raised the dead boy; no
praying, as when Peter raised Dorcas; only the touch of the hand in
which life throbbed in fulness, and, as the other narratives record,
two words, spoken strangely to, and yet more strangely heard by, the
dull, cold ear of death. Their echo lingered long with Peter, and
Mark gives us them in the original Aramaic. But Matthew passes them
by, as he seems here to have desired to emphasise the power of
Christ's touch. But touch or word, the real cause of the miracle
was simply His will; and whether He used media to help men's faith,
or said only 'I will,' mattered little. He varied His methods as the
circumstances of the recipients required, and in order that they and
we might learn that He was tied to none. These miracles of raising
the dead are three in number. Jairus's daughter is raised from her
bed, just having passed away; the widow's son at Nain from his bier,
having been for a little longer separated from his body; Lazarus
from the grave, having been dead four days. A few minutes, or days,
or four thousand years, are one to His power. These three are in
some sense the first-fruits of the great harvest; the stars that
shone out singly before all the heaven is in a blaze. For, though
they died again, and so left to Him the precedence in resurrection,
as in all besides, they are still prophetic of His power in the hour
when they 'that sleep in the dust' shall awake at His voice. Blessed
they who, like this little maiden, are awakened, not only by His
voice, but by His touch, and to find, as she did, their hand in His!

The third of these miracles, which Matthew seems to reckon as the
second in the group, because he treats the two former as so closely
connected as to be but one in numeration, need not detain us long.
It is found only in this Gospel. The first point to be observed in it
is the cry of these two blind men. There is something pathetic and
exquisitely natural in the two being together, as is also the case in
the similar miracle, at a later period, on the outskirts of Jericho.
Equal sorrows drive men together for such poor help and solace as
they can give each other. They have common experiences which isolate
them from others, and they creep close for warmth and companionship.
All the blind men in the Gospels have certain resemblances. One is
that they are all sturdily persevering, as perhaps was easier for
them because they could not see the impatience of the listeners, and
possibly because, in most cases, persistent begging was their trade,
and they were used to refusals. But a more important trait is their
recognition of Jesus as 'Son of David.' Blind as they are, they see
more than do the seeing. Thrown in upon themselves, they may have
been led to ponder the old words, and by their affliction been made
more ready to welcome One who, if He were Messiah, was coming with a
special blessing for them--'to open the blind eyes.' Men who deeply
desire a good are quick to listen to the promise of its accomplishment.
So these two followed Him along the road, loudly and perseveringly
calling out their profession of faith, and their entreaty for sight.

The next point is our Lord's treatment. He let them cry on, apparently
unheeding. Had, then, the two miracles just done exhausted His stock
of power or of pity? Certainly His reason was, as it always was, their
good. We do not know why it was better for them to have to wait, and
continue their entreaty; but we may be quite sure that the reason for
all His delays is the same,--the larger blessing which comes with the
answer when it comes, and the large blessings which may be gathered
while we wait its coming. Christ's question to them, when at last
they have found their way even indoors, holds out more hope than they
had yet received. By it, Christ established a close relation with them,
and implied to them that He was willing to answer their cry. One can
fancy how the poor blind faces would light up with a flush of eager
expectation, and how swift would be the answer. The question is not
cold or inquisitorial. It is more than half a promise, and a powerful
aid to the faith which it requires.

There is something very beautiful and pathetic in the simple brevity
of the unhesitating answer, 'Yea, Lord.' Sincerity needs few words.
Faith can put an infinite deal of meaning into a monosyllable. Their
eagerness to reach the goal made their answer brief. But it was
enough. Again the hand which had clasped the maiden's palm is put
out and laid gently on the useless eyes, and the great word spoken,
'According to your faith be it unto you.' Their blindness made the
touch peculiarly fitting in their case, as bringing evidence of
sense to those who could not see the gracious pity of His looks. The
word spoken was, like that to the centurion, a declaration of the
power of faith, which determines the measure, and often the manner,
of His gifts to us. The containing vessel not only settles the
quantity of, but the shape assumed by, the water which is taken up
in it from the sea. Faith, which keeps inside of Christ's promises
(and what goes outside of them is not faith), decides how much of
Christ we shall have for our very own. He condescends to run the
molten gold of His mercies into the moulds which our faith prepares.

These two men, who had used their tongues so well in their persistent
cry for healing, went away to make a worse use of them in telling
everywhere of their cure. Jesus desired silence. Possibly He did
not wish His reputation as a mere worker of miracles to be spread
abroad. In all His earlier ministry He avoided publicity, singularly
contrasting therein with the evident desire to make Himself the
centre of observation which marks its close. He dreaded the smoky
flame of popular excitement. His message was to individuals, not to
crowds. It was a natural impulse to tell the benefits these two had
received; but truer gratitude and deeper faith would have made them
obey His lightest word, and have shut their mouths. We honour Christ
most, not by taking our way of honouring Him, but by absolute obedience.

The final miracle of the nine (or ten) marshalled in long procession
in chapters viii. and ix. is told with singular brevity. There is
nothing individual in our Lord's treatment of the sufferer, as there
was in the previous healing of the two blind men, and no details are
given of either the appeal to His pity or the method of His cure.
The dumb demoniac could lift no cry, nor exercise any faith, and all
the petitions and hopes of his bearers were expressed in the act of
bringing the sufferer thither, and silently setting him there before
these eyes of universal pity. It was enough. With Jesus, to see was
to compassionate, and to compassionate was to help. In the other
instances of casting out demons, the method is an authoritative
command, addressed not to the possessed, but to the alien personality
that has seized on him, and we conclude that such was the method
here. Jesus undoubtedly believed in demoniacal possession, if we can
at all rely on the Gospel narratives; and it may be humbly suggested
that there are dark depths in humanity, which had need to be fathomed
more completely, before any one is warranted in dogmatically
pronouncing that He was wrong in His diagnosis. There are ugly facts
which should give pause to those who are inclined to say--'There are
no demons, and if there were, they could not dominate a human

But the effects of the miracle are emphasised more than itself. They
are two, neither of them what might or should have been. The dumb
man is not said to have used his recovered speech to thank his
deliverer, nor is there any sign that he clung to Him, either for
fear of being captured again or in passionate gratitude. It looks as
if he selfishly bore away his blessing and cared nothing for its
giver. That is very human, and we all are too often guilty of the
same sin. Nor was the effect on the multitudes much better, for they
were only struck with vulgar wonder, which had no moral quality in
it and led to nothing. They saw 'the miracle,' that is, the
wonderfulness of the act made some dint even on their minds, but
these were either too fluid to retain the impression, or too hard to
let it be deep, and so it soon filled up again. We have to think of
Christ's deeds as 'signs,' not only as 'wonders,' or they will do
little to draw us to Him. Wonder is a necessarily evanescent
emotion, which may indeed set something better stirring in us, but
is quite as likely to die barren.

The Pharisees did not wonder, and did look into the phenomenon with
sharp eyes; and in so far, they were in advance of the gaping
multitudes. They were much too superior persons to be astonished at
anything, and they had already settled on a formula which was
delightfully easy of application, and had the further advantage of
turning the miracles into evidences that the doer of them was a
child of the Devil. It appears to have been a well-worked formula
too, for it is found again in chap. xii. 24, and in Luke xi. 15, in
the account of another cure of a dumb demoniac. It is possible that
the incident now before us may be the same as this, but there is
nothing improbable in the occurrence of such a case twice, nor in
the repetition of what had become the commonplace of the Pharisaic
polemic. But what a piercing example that explanation is of the
blinding power of prejudice, determined to hold on to a foregone
conclusion, and not to see the sun at noon! Jesus in league with
'the prince of the devils'! And that was gravely said by religious
authorities! They saw the loveliness of His perfect life, His gentle
goodness, His self-forgetting love, His swift-springing pity, and
they set it all down to His commerce with the Evil One. He was so
good that He must be more than humanly bad.


'But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with
compassion on them, because they fainted, and were
scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.'
--MATT. ix. 36.

In the course of our Lord's wandering life of teaching and healing,
there had naturally gathered around Him a large number of persons who
followed Him from place to place, and we have here cast into a symbol
the impression produced upon Him by their outward condition. That is
to say, He sees them lying there weary, and footsore, and travel-stained.
They have flung themselves down by the wayside. There is no leader or
guide, no Joshua or director to order their march; they are a worn-out,
tired, unregulated mob, and the sight smites upon His eye, and it
smites upon His heart. He says to Himself, if I may venture to put
words into His lips, 'There are a worse weariness, and a worse wandering,
and a worse anarchy, and a worse disorder afflicting men than that poor
mob of tired pedestrians shows.' Matthew, who was always fond of showing
the links and connections between the Old Testament and the New, casts
our Lord's impression of what He then saw into language borrowed from
the prophecy of Ezekiel (ch. xxxiv.), which tells of a flock that is
scattered in a dark and cloudy day, that is broken, and torn, and
driven away. I venture to see in the text three points: (1) Christ
teaching us how to look at men; (2) Christ teaching us how to feel at
such a sight; and (3) Christ teaching us what to do with the feeling.
'When He saw the multitude, He was moved with compassion, because they
fainted and were scattered abroad.' 'Then He said unto His disciples,
the harvest is plenteous, the labourers are few, pray ye the Lord of
the harvest to send forth labourers unto the harvest.' And then there
follows, 'And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave
them power against unclean spirits to cast them out.' There are, then,
these three points;--just a word or two about each of them.

I. Here we have our Lord teaching us how to look at men.

The picture of my text is, of course, in its broad outlines, very
clear and intelligible, but there may be a little difficulty as to
the precise force of the language. The obscurity of it is in some
degree reflected in the margin of our Bibles; so, perhaps, you will
permit one word of an expository nature. The description of the
flock, 'Because they fainted and were scattered abroad,' is couched
in the original in a couple of words, one of which means properly
'torn' or 'fainting,' according as one or other of two readings of
the text is adopted, and the other means 'lying down.' Now, the
former of these gives a very pathetic picture if we apply it to the
individuals that made up the flock. We have then the image of the
poor sheep that has lost its way, struggling through briars and
thorns, getting out of them with its fleece all torn and hanging in
strips dangling at its heels, or of it as lacerated by the beasts of
the field to whom it is a prey. If we take the metaphor, as seems
more probably to be intended, as applying not so much to the
individuals as to the flock, then it comes to mean 'torn asunder,'
'thrown apart,' and gives us the notion of anarchic confusion into
which the flock comes if there be no shepherd to lead it. Then the
other word, which our Bible translates 'were scattered abroad,'
seems to mean more properly 'lying down,' and it gives the idea of
the poor, wearied creature, after all its struggles and wanderings,
utterly beaten and dejected, having lost its way, at its wits' end
and resourceless, flinging itself down there in despair, and panting
its timid life out anywhere where it finds itself. So it comes to be
a picture of the utter weariness and hopelessness of all men's
efforts apart from that Guide and Shepherd, who alone can lead them
in the way. And then both of these miserable states, the laceration
if you take the one explanation, the disintegration and casting
apart if you take the other, the weariness and exhaustion, are
traced to their source, they are 'as sheep having no shepherd.' He
has gone, and so all this comes. With this explanation we may take
the points of view that are thus suggested simply as they lie before

First of all, notice how here, as always to Jesus Christ, the
outward was nothing, except as a symbol and manifestation of the
inward; how the thing that He saw in a man was not the external
accidents of circumstance or position, for His true, clear gaze and
His loving, wise heart went straight to the essence of the matter,
and dealt with the man not according to what he might happen to be
in the categories of earth, but to what he was in the categories of
heaven. All the same to Him whether it was some poor harlot, or a
rabbi; all the same to Him whether it was Pilate on the judgment-seat,
or the penitent thief hanging at His side. These gauds and shows were
nothing; sheer away He cut them all, and went down to the hidden heart
of the man, and He allocated and ranged them according to that.
Christian men and women, do you try to do the same thing, and to get
rid of all these superficial veils and curtains with which we drape
ourselves and attitudinise in the world, and to see men as Christ saw
them, both in regard to your judgment of them, and in regard to your
judgment of yourselves? 'I am a scholar and a wise man; a great thinker;
a rich merchant; a man of rising importance and influence.' Very well;
what does that matter? 'I am ignorant or a pauper'; be it so. Let us
get below all that. The one question worth asking and worth answering
is, 'How am I affected towards Him?' There are many temporary and
local principles of arrangement and order among men; but they will
all vanish some day, and there will be one regulating and arranging
principle, and it is this: 'Do I love God in Jesus Christ, or do I
not?' Oh! for myself, for yourself, and for all our outlook towards
others, let us not forget that the inmost, deepest, hidden man of the
heart is the man, and that all else is naught, and that its whole
character is absolutely determined by its relation to Jesus Christ.

But this is somewhat aside from my main purpose, which is rather
briefly to expand the various phases which, as I have already
suggested, are included in such an emblem. The first of them is
this: Try to think for yourselves of the condition of humanity as
apart from Christ--shepherdless. That old metaphor of a shepherd
which comes out of the Old Testament is there sometimes used to
indicate a prophet, and sometimes to indicate a king. I suppose we
may put both of these uses together, as far as our present purposes
are concerned; and this is what I want to insist upon. I dare say
some people here will think it is very old-fashioned, very narrow in
these broad and liberal days; but what I would say is this, that
unless Jesus Christ is both Guide and Teacher, we have neither guide
nor teacher but are shepherdless without Him. There are plenty of
rulers. There was no lack of other authority in the days of His
flesh. There were crowds of rabbis, guides, and directors. The life
of the nation was throttled by the authorities that had planted
themselves upon its back, and yet Christ saw that there were none of
those who were fit for the work, or afforded the adequate guidance.
And so it is, now and always. There have been hosts of men who have
sought to impose their authority upon an era. Where is there one
that has swayed passion, that has ruled hearts, that has impressed
his own image on the will, that has made obedience an honour, and
absolute, abject devotion to his command a very patent of nobility?
Here, and nowhere beside. Besides that Christ there is no ruler
amongst men who can come to them and say to his servant, 'Go,' and
he goeth, and to this man, 'Do this,' and he doeth it. Obedience to
any besides is treason against the dignity of our own nature;
disobedience to Him is both treason against our nature and blasphemy
against God. 'Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ, Thou art the
everlasting Son of the Father.' _There_ is the deepest reason
for His rule.

And as for 'teacher,' whom are we to put up beside Him? Is it to be
these dim figures of religious reformers that are gliding,
ghostlike, to their doom, being wrapped round and round about by
ever thicker and thicker folds of the inevitable oblivion that
swallows all that is human? Brethren, by common consent it is Christ
or nobody. Aaron dies upon Hor; Moses dies upon Pisgah; the
teachers, the leaders, the guides, the under-shepherds, pass away
one by one; and if this Christ be but a Man and a Teacher, He too
will pass away. Shall I be thought very blind to the signs of the
times if I say that I see no sign of His dominion being exhausted,
of His influence being diminished, of His guidance being capable of
being dispensed with? You may say, 'Oh, we do not want any teacher
or guide; we do not want a shepherd.' I am not going to enter upon
that question now at all, except just to say this, that the instincts
of humanity rise up in contradiction, as it seems to me, of that cold
and cheerless creed, and that we have this fact staring us in the
face, that men are made capable of a devotion and submission the
most passionate, the most absolute, the most mighty force in their
lives, to human guides and ensamples, and that it is all wasted unless
there be somewhere a Man, our Brother, who shall come to us and say,
'All that ever went before Me are thieves and robbers; I am the Good
Shepherd; follow Me, and ye shall not walk in darkness,' 'He saw the
multitudes as sheep having no shepherd.'

Still further, take that other phase of the metaphor which, as I
suggested, the text includes, namely, the idea of disintegration,
the rending apart of social ties and union, unless there be the
centre of unity in the shepherd of the flock. 'I will smite the
shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered,' says the old prophecy.
Of course, for what is there to hold them together unless it be
their guide and their director? So we are brought face to face with
this plain prosaic rendering of the metaphor--that but for the centre
of unity provided for mankind in the person and work of Jesus Christ,
there is no satisfaction of the deep hunger for unity and society
with which in that case God would have cursed mankind. For whilst
there are many other bonds most true, most blessed, God-given, and
mighty, such as that of the sacred unity of the family, and that of
the nation and many others of which we need not speak, yet all these
are constantly being disintegrated by the unresting waves of that
gnawing sea of selfishness, if I may so say, which, like the waters
upon our eastern coasts, eats and eats for ever at the base of the
cliffs, so that society in all its forms, whether it be built upon
identity of opinion, which is perhaps the shabbiest bond of all, or
whether it be built upon purposes of mutual action, which is a great
deal better, or whether it be built upon hatred of other people,
which is the modern form of patriotism, or whether it be built upon
the domestic affections, which are the purest and highest of all--all
the other bonds of society, such as creeds, schools, nations,
associations, leagues, families, denominations, all go sooner or
later. The base is eaten out of them, because every man that belongs
to them has in him that tyrannous, dominant self, which is ever
seeking to assert its own supremacy. Here is Babel, with its
half-finished tower, built on slime; and there is Pentecost, with
its great Spirit; here is the confusion, there is the unifying; here
the disintegration, there the power that draws them all together.
'They were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd,' and one
looks out over the world and sees great tracts of country and long
dismal generations of time, in which the very thought of unity and
charity and human bonds knitting men together has faded from the
consciousness of the race, and then one turns to blessed, sweet,
simple words that say, 'there shall be one flock and one shepherd,'
and 'I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.'
Drawing thus, He will draw them into the eternal, mighty bond of
union that shall never be broken, and is all the more precious and
all the more true because it is not a unity like the vulgar unities
that express themselves in external associations. You know, of
course or if you do not know it will be a good thing that you should
know, that that verse in John's Gospel which I have quoted has been
terribly mangled by a little slip of our translators. Christ said,
'Other sheep I must bring which are not of this fold,' the fold
being the external unity of the Jewish church--an enclosure made of
hurdles that you can stick in the ground. 'I shall bring them,' says
He, 'and there shall be one'--(not, as our Bible says, 'fold,'--but
something far better)--'there shall be one flock'; which becomes a
unity not by wattling round about it on the outside, but by a
shepherd standing in the middle. 'There shall be one flock and one
shepherd'--a unity which is neither the destruction of the variety of
the churches, nor the crushing of men, nationalities, and types of
character all down into one dead level beneath the heel of a conqueror,
but the unity which subsists in the many operations of the one Spirit,
and is expressed by all the forms of the one inspired grace.

Then passing by altogether the other idea which I said was only
doubtfully suggested by the words--namely, that of laceration and
wounding--let me say a word about the last of the aspects of
humanity when Christless, which is set forth in this text, and that
is, the dejected weariness arising from the fruitless wanderings
wherewith men are cursed. As a verse in the Book of Proverbs puts
it, 'The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because
they know not how to go to the city.' Putting aside the metaphor,
the plain truth which it embodies is just this, that there is in all
men's souls a deep longing after peace and rest, after goodness and
beauty and truth, and that all the strenuous efforts to satisfy
these longings, either by social reforms or by individual culture
and discipline, are pathetically vain and profitless, because there
is none to guide them. The sheep go wandering in any direction, and
with no goal; and wherever one has jumped, a dozen others will go
after him, and so they are wearied out long before the day's journey
is ended, and they never reach the goal. Put that into less vivid,
and, therefore, as people generally suppose, more accurate,
language, and it is a statement of the universal law of human
history that, after any epoch of great aspirations and strong
excitement of the noblest parts of human nature, there has always
come a reaction of corruption and a collapse from weariness. What
did 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity' end in? A guillotine. What do
all similar epochs end in, when they do not take the Christ to march
ahead of them? An utter disgust and disillusion, and a despair of
all progress. That is why wild revolutionists in their youth are
always obstinate Conservatives in their old age. The wandering sheep
are footsore, and they fling themselves down by the wayside. That is
why heathenism presents to us the aspect that it does. There is
nothing about it that seems to me more tragical than the weary
languor that besets it. Do you ever think of the depth of pathetic,
tragic meaning that there is in that verse in one of the Psalms,
'Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death'? There they
sit, because there is no hope in rising and moving. They would have
to grope if they arose, and so with folded hands they sit like the
Buddha, which one great section of heathenism has taken as being the
true emblem and ideal of the noblest life. Absolute passivity lays
hold upon them all--torpor, stagnation, no dream of advance or
progress. The sheep are dejected, despairing, anarchic, disintegrated,
lacerated, guideless, and shepherdless--away from Christ. So He
thought them. God give you and me grace, dear brethren, to see, as
Christ saw, the condition of humanity and our own apart from Him.

II. And now let me say a word in the next place as to the second
movement of His mind and heart here. He teaches us not only how to
think of men, but how that sight should touch us.

'He was moved with compassion on them when He saw the multitude'--with
the eye of a god, I was going to say, and the heart of a man. Pity
belongs to the idea of divinity; compassion belongs to the idea of
divinity incarnate; and the motion that passed across His heart is the
motion that I would seek may pass, with its sweet and healing breath,
across yours and mine. The right emotion for a Christian looking on
the Christless crowds is pity, not aversion; pity, not anger; pity, not
curiosity; pity, not indifference. How many of us walk the streets of
the towns in which our lot is cast, and never know one touch of that
emotion, when we look at these people here in England torn, and anarchic,
and wearied, and shepherdless, within sound of our psalm-singing in
our chapels? Why, on any Sunday there are thousands of men and women
standing about the streets who, we may be sure, have not seen the
inside of a church or a chapel since they were married, and that not
one in five hundred of all the good people that are going with their
prayer-books and hymn-books to church and chapel ever think anything
about them as they pass them by; and some of them, perhaps, if they
come to any especially disreputable one, will gather up their skirts
and keep on the safe side of the pavement, and there an end of it. But
Jesus Christ had no aversions. His white purity was a great deal nearer
to the blackness of the woman that was a sinner, than was the leprous
whiteness of the whited sepulchre of the self-righteous Pharisee. He
had neither aversion, nor anger, nor indifference.

And, if I might venture to touch upon another matter, compassion and
not curiosity is an especial lesson for the day to the more thoughtful
and cultivated amongst our congregations. I have just said that the
appropriate Christian feeling in contemplating the state of the sheep
without the Shepherd is compassion, not curiosity. That reminder is
particularly needful in view of the prominence to-day of investigations
into the new science of Comparative Religion. I speak with most
unfeigned respect of it and of its teachers, and gratefully hail the
wonderful light that it is casting upon ideas underlying the strange
and often savage and obscene rites of heathenism; but it has a side of
danger in it against which I would warn you all, especially young,
reading men and women. The time has not yet come when we can afford to
let such investigations be our principal occupation in the face of
heathenism. If idolatry was dead we could afford to do that, but it
is alive--the more's the pity; and it is not only a curious instance
of the workings of man's intelligence, and a great apocalypse of
earlier stages of society, but, besides that, it is a lie that is
deceiving and damning our brethren, and we have got to kill it first
and dissect it afterwards. So I say, do not only think of heathenism
in its various forms as a subject for speculation and analysis; as
much as you like of that, only do not let it drive out the other
thing, and after you have tried to understand it, then come back to
my text, 'He was moved with compassion.' And so pity, and neither
anger, nor aversion, nor curiosity, nor indifference is what I urge
as the Christian emotion.

III. Let us take this text as teaching us how Christ would have us
act, after such emotion built and based upon such a look.

It is perfectly legitimate, although it is by no means the highest
motive, to appeal to feeling as a stimulus to action. We have a
right to base our urging of Christian men and women to missionary
work either at home or abroad, upon the ground of the condition of
the men to whom the Gospel has to be carried. I know that if taken
alone it is a very inadequate motive. I believe that any failure
that may be manifest in the interest of Christian people in
missionary work is largely traceable to the blunder we have made in
dwelling on superficial motives more than we ought to have done, in
proportion to the degree in which we have dwelt on the deepest. We
have been gathering the surface-water instead of going right down to
the green sand, to which the artesian well must be sunk if the
stream is to come up without pumping or wasting. So I say that a
deeper reason than the sorrow and darkness of the heathen is--'the
love of Christ constraineth me'; but yet the first is a legitimate
one. Only remember this, that Bishop Butler taught us long ago, that
if you excite emotions which are intended to lead to action, and the
action does not follow, the excitation of the emotion without its
appropriate action makes the heart a great deal harder than it was
before. That is why it is playing with edged tools to speak so much
to our Christian audiences, as we sometimes hear done, about the
condition of the heathen as a stimulus to missionary work. If a man
does not respond and do something, some crust of callousness and
coldness comes over his own heart. You cannot indulge in the luxury
of emotion which you do not use to drive your spindles, without
doing yourselves harm. It is never intended to be blown off as waste
steam and allowed to vanish into the air. It is meant to be conserved
and guided, and to have something done with it. Therefore beware of
sentimental contemplation of the sad condition of the shepherdless
sheep which does not move you to do anything to help them.

One word more. Take my text as a guide to the form of action into
which we are to cast the emotions that should spring from this gaze
upon the world. I will only name three points. Christ opened His
mouth and spake to them, and taught them many things; Christ said to
His disciples, 'Pray ye the Lord of the harvest'; and Christ sent
out His apostles to preach the Kingdom. These three things in their
bearing upon us are--personal work, prayer, help to send forth
Christ's messengers. There is nothing like personal work for making
a man understand and feel the miseries of his fellows. Christian men
and women, it is your first business everywhere to proclaim the name
of Jesus Christ, and no prayers and no subscriptions absolve you
from that. In this army a man cannot buy himself off and send in a
substitute at the cost of an annual guinea. If Christ sent the
apostles, do you hold up the hands of the apostles' successors, and
so by God's grace you and I may help on the coming of that blessed
day when there shall be one flock and one Shepherd, and when 'the
Lamb that is in the midst of the throne'--for the Shepherd is
Himself a lamb--'shall feed them and lead them, and God shall wipe
away all tears from their eyes.'


'These twelve Jesus sent forth.'--MATT. x. 5.

And half of 'these twelve' are never heard of as doing any work for
Christ. Peter and James and John we know; the other James and Judas
have possibly left us short letters; Matthew gives us a Gospel; and
of all the rest no trace is left. Some of them are never so much as
named again, except in the list at the beginning of the Acts of the
Apostles; and none of them except the three who 'seemed to be pillars'
appear to have been of much importance in the early diffusion of the

There are many instructive and interesting points in reference to
the Apostolate. The number of twelve, in obvious allusion to the
tribes of Israel, proclaims the eternal certainty of the divine
promises to His people, and the dignity of the New Testament Church
as their true heir. The ties of relationship which knit so many of
the apostles together, the order of the names varying, but within
certain limits, in the different catalogues, the uncultivated
provincial rudeness of most of them, would all afford material for
important reflections. But, perhaps, not the least important fact
about the Apostolate is that one to which we have referred, which
like the names of countries on the map, escapes notice because it is
'writ' so 'large'--namely, the small place which the apostles as a
body fill in the subsequent narrative, and the entire oblivion into
which so many of them pass from the moment of their appointment.

It is to that fact that we wish to turn attention now. It may
suggest some considerations worth pondering, and among other things,
may help to show the exaggeration of the functions of the office by
the opposite extremes of priests and rationalists. The one school
makes it the depository of exclusive supernatural powers; the other
regards it as a master-stroke of organisation, to which the early
rapid growth of Christianity was largely due. The facts seem to show
that it was neither.

I. The first thought which this peculiar and unexpected silence
suggests is of the True Worker in the Church's progress.

The way in which the New Testament drops these apostles is of a piece
with the whole tone of the Bible. Throughout, men are introduced into
its narratives and allowed to slip out with well-marked indifference.
Nowhere do we get more vivid, penetrating portraiture, but nowhere do
we see such carelessness about following the fortunes or completing the
biographies even of those who have filled the largest space in its pages.

Recall, for example, the way in which the New Testament deals with
'the very chiefest' apostles, the illustrious triad of Peter, James,
and John. The first escapes from prison; we see him hammering at
Mary's door in the grey of the morning, and after brief, eager talk
with his friends he vanishes to hide in 'another place,' and is no
more heard of, except for a moment in the great council, held in
Jerusalem, about the admission of Gentiles to the Church. The second
of the three is killed off in a parenthesis. The third is only seen
twice in the Book of the Acts, as a silent companion of Peter at a
miracle and before the Sanhedrim. Remember how Paul is left in his
own hired house, within sight of trial and sentence, and neither the
original writer of the book nor any later hand thought it worth
while to add three lines to tell the world what became of him. A
strange way to write history, and a most imperfect narrative, surely!
Yes, unless there be some peculiarity in the purpose of the book,
which explains this cold-blooded, inartistic, and tantalising habit
of letting men leap upon the stage as if they had dropped from the
clouds, and vanish from it as abruptly as if they had fallen through
a trap-door.

Such a peculiarity there is. One of the three to whom we have
referred has explained it in the words with which he closes his
gospel, words which might stand for the motto of the whole book,
'These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Son of
God.' The true purpose is not to speak of men except in so far as
they 'bore witness to that light' and were illuminated for a moment
by contact with Him. From the beginning the true 'Hero' of the Bible
is God; its theme is His self-revelation culminating for evermore in
the Man Jesus. All other men interest the writers only as they are
subsidiary or antagonistic to that revelation. As long as that
breath blows through them they are music; else they are but common
reeds. Men are nothing except as instruments and organs of God. He
is all, and His whole fulness is in Jesus Christ. Christ is the sole
worker in the progress of His Church. That is the teaching of all
the New Testament. The thought is expressed in the deepest, simplest
form in His own unapproachable words, unfathomable as they are in
their depth of meaning, and inexhaustible in their power to
strengthen and to cheer: 'I am the vine, ye are the branches,
without Me ye can do nothing.' It shapes the whole treatment of the
history of the so-called 'Acts of the Apostles,' which by its very
first sentence proclaims itself to be the Acts of the ascended
Jesus, 'the former treatise' being declared to have had for its
subject 'all that Jesus _began_ to do and teach while on earth,
and this treatise being manifestly the continuance of the same
theme, and the record of the heavenly activity of the Lord. So the
thought runs through all the book: 'The help that is done on earth,
He does it all Himself.'

_So_ let us think of Him and of His relation to us as well as
to that early Church. His continuous energy is pouring down on us if
we will accept it. _In_ us, _for_ us, _by_ us He works. 'My Father worketh
hitherto, said He when here, 'and I work'; and now, exalted on high,
He has passed into that divine repose, which is at the same time the
most energetic divine activity. He is all in all to His people. He is
all their strength, wisdom, and righteousness. They are but the clouds
irradiated by the sun and bathed in its brightness; He is the light
which flames in their grey mist and turns it to a glory. They are but
the belts and cranks and wheels; He is the power. They are but the
channel, muddy and dry; He is the flashing life that fills it and makes
it a joy. They are the body; He is the soul dwelling in every part to
save it from corruption and give movement and warmth.

'Thou art the organ, whose full breath is thunder;
I am the keys, beneath thy fingers pressed.'

If this be true, how it should deliver us from all overestimate of
men, to which our human affections and our feeble faith tempt us so
sorely! There _is_ One man, and One man only, whose biography
is a 'Gospel, who owes nothing to circumstances, and who originates
the power which He wields; One who is a new beginning, and has
changed the whole current of human history, One to whom we are right
to bring offerings of the gold, and incense, and myrrh of our
hearts, and wills, and minds, which it is blasphemy and degradation
to lay at the feet of any others. We may utterly love, trust, and
obey Jesus Christ. We dare not do so to any other. The inscription
written over the whole book, that it may be transcribed on our whole
nature, is, 'No man any more save Jesus only.'

If this thought be true, what confidence it ought to give us as we
think of the tasks and fortunes of the Church! If we think only of the
difficulties and of the enormous work before us, so disproportioned
to our weak powers, we shall be disposed to agree with our enemies,
who talk as if Christianity was on the point of perishing, as they
have been doing ever since it began. But the outlook is wonderfully
different when we take Christ into the account. We are very apt to
leave Him out of the reckoning. But one man with Christ to back him is
always in the majority. He flings his sword clashing into one scale,
and it weighs down all that is in the other. The walls are very lofty
and strong, and the besiegers few and weak, badly armed, and quite
unfit for the assault; but if we lift our eyes high enough, we, too,
shall see a man with a drawn sword over against us, and our hearts
may leap up in assured confidence of victory as we recognise in Him
the Captain of the Lord's Host, who has already overcome, and will
make us valiant in fight and more than conquerors.

When conscious of our own weakness, and tempted to think of our task
as heavy, or when complacent in our own power, and tempted to regard
our task as easy, let us think of His ever-present work in and for His
people, till it braces us for all duty, and rebukes our easy-going
idleness. Surely from that thought of the active, ascended Christ may
come to many of His slothful followers the pleading question, as from
His own lips, 'Dost thou not care that thou hast left me to serve
alone?' Surely to us all it should bring inspiration and strength,
courage and confidence, deliverance from man, and elevation above the
reverence of blind impersonal forces. Surely we may all lay to heart
the grand lesson that union with Him is our only strength, and oblivion
of ourselves our highest wisdom. Surely he has best learned his true
place and the worth of Jesus Christ, who abides with unmoved humility
at His feet, and, like the lonely, lowly forerunner, puts away all
temptations to self-assertion while joyfully accepting it as the law
of his life to

'Fade in the light of the planet he loves,
To fade in his light and to die.'

Blessed is he who is glad to say,' He must increase, I must

II. This same silence of Scripture as to so many of the apostles may
be taken as suggesting what the real work of these delegated workers

It certainly seems very strange that, if they were the possessors of
such extraordinary powers as the theory of Apostolic Succession
implies, we should hear so little of these in the narratives. The
silence of Scripture about them goes a long way to discredit such
ideas, while it is entirely accordant with a more modest view of the
apostolic office.

What was an apostle's function during the life of Christ? One of the
evangelists divides it into three portions: to be with Jesus; to
preach the kingdom; to cast out devils and to heal. There is nothing
in these offices peculiar to them. The seventy had miraculous powers
too, and some at least were our Lord's companions and preachers of
His kingdom who were simple disciples. What was an apostle's
function after the resurrection? Peter's words, on proposing the
election of a new apostle, lay down the duty as simply 'to bear
witness' of that resurrection. They were not supernatural channels
of mysterious grace, not lords over God's heritage, not even leaders
of the Church, but bearers of a testimony to the great historical
fact, on the acceptance of which all belief in an historical Christ
depended then and depends now. Each of the greater of the apostles
is penetrated with the same thought. Paul disclaims anything beside
in his 'Not I, but the grace of God in me.' Peter thrusts the
question at the staring crowd, 'Why look ye on us as though by
_our_ power or holiness _we_ had made this man to walk?' John, in his
calm way, tells his children at Ephesus, 'Ye need not that any man
teach you.'

Such an idea of the apostolic office is far more reasonable and
accordant with Scripture than a figment about unexampled powers and
authority in the Church. It accounts for the qualifications as
stated in the same address of Peter's, which merely secure the
validity of their testimony. The one thing that _must_ be found
in an apostle was that he should have been in familiar intercourse
with Christ during his earthly life, both before and after His
resurrection, in order that he might be able to say, 'I knew Him
well; I know that He died; I know that He rose again; I saw Him go
up to heaven.' For such a work there was no need for men of
commanding power. Plain, simple, honest men who had the requisite
eye-witness were sufficient. The guidance and the missionary work of
the Church need not necessarily be in their hands, and, in fact,
does not seem to have been. In harmony with this view of the office
and its requisites, we find that Paul rests the validity of his
apostolate on the fact that 'He was seen of me also,' and regards
that vision as his true appointment which left him not 'one whit
behind the very chiefest apostles.' Miraculous gifts indeed they
had, and miraculous gifts they imparted; but in both instances
others shared these powers with them. It was no apostle who laid his
hands on the blinded Saul in that house in Damascus and said,
'Receive the Holy Ghost.' An apostle stood by passive and wondering
when the Holy Ghost fell on Cornelius and his comrades. In reality
apostolic succession is absurd, because there is nothing to succeed
to, except what cannot be transmitted, personal knowledge of the
reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. To establish that fact
as indubitable history is to lay the foundation of the Christian
Church, and the eleven plain men, who did that, need no
superstitious mist around them to magnify their greatness.

In so far as any succession to them or any devolution of their office
is possible, all Christian men inherit it, for to bear witness of the
living power of the risen Lord is still the office and honour of
every believing soul. It is still true that the sharpest weapon which
any man can wield for Christ is the simple adducing of his own personal
experience. 'That which we have seen and handled we declare' is still
the best form into which our preaching can be cast. And such a voice
every man and woman who has found the sweetness and the power of Christ
filling their own souls, is bound--rather let us say, is privileged--to
lift up. 'This honour have all the saints.' Christ is the true worker,
and all our work is but to proclaim Him, and what He has done and is
doing for ourselves and for all men.

III. We may gather, too, the lesson of how often faithful work is
unrecorded and forgotten.

No doubt those apostles who have no place in the history toiled
honestly and did their Lord's commands, and oblivion has swallowed
it all. Bartholomew and 'Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus,' and
the rest of them, have no place in the record, and their obscure
work is faded, faithful and good as certainly it was.

So it will be sooner or later with us all. For most of us, our
service has to be unnoticed and unknown, and the memory of our poor
work will live perhaps for a year or two in the hearts of some few
who loved us, but will fade wholly when they follow us into the
silent land. Well, be it so; we shall sleep none the less sweetly,
though none be talking about us over our heads. The world has a
short memory, and, as the years go on, the list that it has to
remember grows so crowded that it is harder and harder to find room
to write a new name on it, or to read the old. The letters on the
tombstones are soon erased by the feet that tramp across the
churchyard. All that matters very little. The notoriety of our work
is of no consequence. The earnestness and accuracy with which we
strike our blow is all-important; but it matters nothing how far it
echoes. It is not the heaven of heavens to be talked about, nor does
a man's life consist in the abundance of newspaper or other
paragraphs about him. 'The love of fame' is, no doubt, sometimes
found in 'minds' otherwise 'noble,' but in itself is very much the
reverse of noble. We shall do our work best, and be saved from much
festering anxiety which corrupts our purest service and fevers our
serenest thoughts, if we once fairly make up our minds to working
unnoticed and unknown, and determine that, whether our post be a
conspicuous or an obscure one, we shall fill it to the utmost of our
power--careless of praise or censure, because our judgment is with
our God; careless whether we are unknown or well known, because we
are known altogether to Him.

The magnitude of our work in men's eyes is as little important as
the noise of it. Christ gave all the apostles their tasks--to some
of them to found the Gentile churches, to some of them to leave to
all generations precious teaching, to some of them none of these
things. What then? Were the Peters and the Johns more highly
favoured than the others? Was their work greater in His sight? Not
so. To Him all service done from the same motive is the same, and

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