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Expositions of Holy Scripture by Alexander Maclaren

Part 10 out of 12

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of the kind of service, and puts on the same level of recompense all
who, with however widely varying powers, were one in spirit, in
diligence, and devotion. The eulogium on the servants is not
'successful' or 'brilliant,' but 'faithful,' and both alike get it.

The words of the lord fall into three parts. First comes his
generous and hearty praise,--the brief and emphatic monosyllable
'Well,' and the characterisation of the servants as 'good and
faithful.' Praise from Christ's lips is praise indeed; and here He
pours it out in no grudging or scanty measure, but with warmth and
evident delight. His heart glows with pleasure, and His commendation
is musical with the utterance of His own joy in His servants. He
'rejoices over them with singing'; and more gladly than a fond
mother speaks honeyed words of approval to her darling, of whose
goodness she is proud, does He praise these two. When we are tempted
to disparage our slender powers as compared with those of His more
conspicuous servants, and to suppose that all which we do is nought,
let us think of this merciful and loving estimate of our poor
service. For such words from such lips, life itself were wisely
flung away; but such words from such lips will be spoken in
recognition of many a piece of service less high and heroic than a
martyr's. 'Good and faithful' refers not to the more general notion
of goodness, but to the special excellence of a servant, and the
latter word seems to define the former. Fidelity is the grace which
He praises,--manifested in the recognition that the capital was a
loan, given to be traded with for Him, and to be brought back
increased to Him. He is faithful who ever keeps in view, and acts
on, the conditions on which, and the purposes for which, he has
received his spiritual wealth; and 'he who is faithful in that which
is least, is faithful also in much.'

The second part of the lord's words is the appointment to higher
office, as the reward of faithfulness. Here on earth, the tools
come, in the long run, to the hands that can use them, and the best
reward of faithfulness in a narrower sphere is to be lifted to a
wider. Promotion means more to do; and if the world were rightly
organised, the road to advancement would be diligence; and the
higher a man climbed, the wider would be the horizon of his labour.
It is so in Christ's kingdom, and should be so in His visible
Church. It will be so in heaven. Clearly this saying implies the
active theory of the future life, and the continuance in some
ministry of love, unknown to us, of the energies which were trained
in the small transactions of earth. 'If five talents are "a few
things," how great the "many things" will be!' In the parable of the
pounds, the servant is made a ruler; here being 'set over' seems
rather still to point to the place of a steward or servant. The
sphere is enlarged, but the office is unaltered. The manager who
conducted a small trade rightly will be advanced to the
superintendence of a larger business.

'We doubt not that for one so true
There must be other, nobler work to do,'

and that in that work the same law will continue to operate, and
faithfulness be crowned with ever-growing capacities and tasks
through a dateless eternity.

The last words of the lord pass beyond our poor attempts at
commenting. No eye can look undazzled at the sun. When Christ was
near the Cross, He left His disciples a strange bequest at such a
moment,--His joy; and that is their brightest portion here, even
though it be shaded with many sorrows. The enthroned Christ welcomes
all who have known 'the fellowship of His sufferings' into the
fulness of His heavenly joy, unshaded, unbroken, unspeakable; and
they pass into it as into an encompassing atmosphere, or some broad
land of peace and abundance. Sympathy with His purposes leads to
such oneness with Him that His joy is ours, both in its occasions
and in its rapture. 'Thou makest them drink of the river of Thy
pleasures,' and the lord and the servant drink from the same cup.

III. The excuse and punishment of the indolent servant.

His excuse is his reason. He did think hardly of his lord, and, even
though he had His gift in his hand to confute him, he slandered Him
in his heart as harsh and exacting. To many men the requirements of
religion are more prominent than its gifts, and God is thought of as
demanding rather than as 'the giving God.' Such thoughts paralyse
action. Fear is barren, love is fruitful. Nothing grows on the
mountain of curses, which frowns black over against the sunny slopes
of the mountain of blessing with its blushing grapes. The indolence
was illogical, for, if the master was such as was thought, the more
reason for diligence; but fear is a bad reasoner, and the absurd gap
between the premises and the conclusion is matched by one of the
very same width in every life that thinks of God as rigidly
requiring obedience, which, therefore, it does _not_ give!
Still another error is in the indolent servant's words. He flings
down the hoarded talent with 'Lo, thou hast thine own.' He was
mistaken. Talents hid are not, when dug up, as heavy as they were
when buried. This gold does rust, and a life not devoted to God is
never carried back to Him unspoiled.

The lord's answer again falls into three parts, corresponding to
that to the faithful servants. First comes the stern characterisation
of the man. As with the others' goodness, his badness is defined
by the second epithet. It is slothfulness. Is that all? Yes; it does
not need active opposition to pull down destruction on one's head.
Simple indolence is enough, the negative sin of not doing or being
what we ought. Ungirt loins, unlit lamps, unused talents, sink a man
like lead. Doing nothing is enough for ruin.

The remarkable answer to the servant's charge seems to teach us that
timid souls, conscious of slender endowments, and pressed by the
heavy sense of responsibility, and shrinking from Christian
enterprises, for fear of incurring heavier condemnation, may yet
find means of using their little capital. The bankers, who invest
the collective contributions of small capitalists to advantage, may,
or may not, be intended to be translated into the Church; but, at
any rate, the principle of united service is here recommended to
those who feel too weak for independent action. Slim houses in a row
hold each other up; and, if we cannot strike out a path for
ourselves, let us seek strength and safety in numbers.

The fate of the indolent servant has a double horror. It is loss and
suffering. The talent is taken from the slack hands and coward heart
that would not use it, and given to the man who had shown he could
and would. Gifts unemployed for Christ are stripped off a soul
yonder. How much will go from many a richly endowed spirit, which
here flashed with unconsecrated genius and force! We do not need to
wait for eternity to see that true possession, which is use,
increases powers, and that disuse, which is equivalent to not
possessing, robs of them. The blacksmith's arm, the scout's eye, the
craftsman's delicate finger, the student's intellect, the
sensualist's passions, all illustrate the law on its one side; and
the dying out of faculties and tastes, and even of intuitions and
conscience, by reason of simple disuse, are melancholy instances of
it on the other. But the solemn words of this condemnation seem to
point to a far more awful energy in its working in the future, when
everything that has not been consecrated by employment for Jesus
shall be taken away, and the soul, stripped of its garb, shall 'be
found naked.' How far that process of divesting may affect
faculties, without touching the life, who can tell? Enough to see
with awe that a spirit may be cut, as it were, to the quick, and
still exist.

But loss is not all the indolent servant's doom. Once more, like the
slow toll of a funeral bell, we hear the dread sentence of ejection
to the 'mirk midnight' without, where are tears undried and passion
unavailing. There is something very awful in the monotonous
repetition of that sentence so often in these last discourses of
Christ's. The most loving lips that ever spoke, in love, shaped this
form of words, so heart-touching in its wailing, but decisive,
proclamation of blackness, homelessness, and sorrow, and cannot but
toll them over and over again into our ears, in sad knowledge of our
forgetfulness and unbelief,--if perchance we may listen and be
warned, and, having heard the sound thereof, may never know the
reality of that death in life which is the sure end of the indolent
who were blind to His gifts, and therefore would not listen to His


'Then he which had received the one talent came and
said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man,
reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where
thou hast not strawed: 25. And I was afraid, and went
and hid thy talent in the earth.'-MATT. xxv. 24, 25.

That was a strangely insolent excuse for indolence. To charge an
angry master to his face with grasping greed and injustice was
certainly not the way to conciliate him. Such language is quite
unnatural and incongruous until we remember the reality which the
parable was meant to shadow--viz., the answers for their deeds which
men will give at Christ's judgment bar. Then we can understand how,
by some irresistible necessity, this man was compelled, even at the
risk of increasing the indignation of the master, to turn himself
inside out, and to put into harsh, ugly words the half-conscious
thoughts which had guided his life and caused his unfaithfulness.
'Every one of us shall give account of himself to God.' The
unabashed impudence of such an excuse for idleness as this is but
putting into vivid and impressive form this truth, that then a man's
actions in their true character, and the ugly motives that underlie
them, and which he did not always honestly confess to himself, will
be clear before him. It will be as much of a surprise to the men
themselves, in many cases, as it could be to listeners. Thus it
becomes us to look well to the under side of our lives, the unspoken
convictions and the unformulated motives which work all the more
mightily upon us because, for the most part, they work in the dark.
This is Christ's explanation of one very operative and fruitful
cause of the refusal to serve Him.

I. I ask you, then, to consider, first, the slander here and the
truth that contradicts it.

'I knew thee that thou art an hard man,' says he, 'reaping where
them hast not sown' (and he was standing with the unused talent in
his hand all the while), 'and gathering where thou hast not
strawed.' That is to say, deep down in many a heart that has never
said as much to itself, there lies this black drop of gall--a
conception of the divine character rather as demanding than as
giving, a thought of Him as exacting. What He requires is more
considered than what He bestows. So religion is thought to be mainly
a matter of doing certain things and rendering up certain
sacrifices, instead of being regarded, as it really is, as mainly a
matter of receiving from God. Christ's authority makes me bold to
say that this error underlies the lives of an immense number of
nominal Christians, of people who think themselves very good and
religious, as well as the lives of thousands who stand apart from
religion altogether. And I want, not to drag down any curtain by my
own hand, but to ask you to lift away the veil which hides the ugly
thing in your hearts, and to put your own consciousness to the bar
of your own conscience, and say whether it is not true that the
uppermost thought about God, when you think about Him at all, is,
'Thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown.'

It is not difficult to understand why such a thought of God should
rise in a heart which has no delight in Him nor in His service.
There is a side of the truth as to God's relations to man which
gives a colour of plausibility to the slander. Grave and stringent
requirements are made by the divine law upon each of us; and our
consciences tell us that they have not been kept. Therefore we seek
to persuade ourselves that they are too severe. Then, further, we
are, by reason of our own selfishness, almost incapable of rising to
the conception of God's pure, perfect, disinterested love; and we
are far too blind to the benefits that He pours upon us all every
day of our lives. And so from all these reasons taken together, and
some more besides, it comes about that, for some of us, the blessed
sun in the heavens, the God of all mercy and love, has been darkened
into a lurid orb shorn of all its beneficent beams, and hangs
threatening there in our misty sky. 'I knew Thee that Thou art an
hard man.' Ah! I am sure that if we would go down into the deep
places of our own hearts, and ask ourselves what our real thought of
God is, many of us would acknowledge that it is something like that.

Now turn to the other side. What is the truth that smites this
slander to death? That God is perfect, pure, unmingled, infinite
love. And what is love? The infinite desire to impart itself. His
'nature and property' is to be merciful, and you can no more stop
God from giving than you can shut up the rays of the sun within
itself. To be and to bestow are for Him one and the same thing. His
love is an infinite longing to give, which passes over into
perpetual acts of beneficence. He never reaps where He has not sown.
Is there any place where He has not sown? Is there any heart on
which there have been no seeds of goodness scattered from His rich
hand? The calumniator in the text was speaking his slanders with
that in his hand which should have stopped his mouth. He who
complained that the hard master was asking for fruit of what He had
not given would have had nothing at all, if he had not obtained the
one talent from His hand. And there is no place in the whole wide
universe of God where His love has not scattered its beneficent
gifts. There are no fallow fields out of cultivation and unsown, in
His great farm. He never asks where He has not given.

He never asks until after He has given. He begins with bestowing,
and it is only after the vineyard has been planted on the very
fruitful hill, and the hedge built round about it, and the winepress
digged, and the tower erected, and miracles of long-suffering mercy
and skilful patience have been lavished upon it, that then He looks
that it should bring forth grapes. God's gifts precede His
requirements. He ever sows before He reaps. More than that, He gives
_what_ He asks, helping us to render to Him the hearts that He
desires. He, by His own merciful communications, makes it possible
that we should lay at His feet the tribute of loving thanks. Just as
a parent will give a child some money in order that the child may go
and buy the giver a birthday present, so God gives to us hearts, and
enriches them with many bestowments. He scatters round about us good
from His hand, like drops of a fragrant perfume from a blazing
torch, in order that we may catch them up and have some portion of
the joy which is especially His own--the joy of giving. It would be
a poor affair if our sole relation to God were that of receiving. It
would be a tyrannous affair if our sole relation to God were that of
rendering up. But both relations are united, and if it be 'more
blessed to give than to receive,' the Giver of all good does not
leave us without the opportunity of entering in even to that
superlative blessing. We have to come to Him and say, when we lay
the gifts, either of our faculties or of our trust, of our riches or
of our virtues, at His feet, 'All things come of Thee, and of Thine
own have we given Thee.'

He asks for our sakes, and not for His own. 'If I were hungry I
would not tell thee, for the cattle upon a thousand hills are Mine.
Offer unto God praise, and pay thy vows unto the Most High.' It is
blessed to us to render. He is none the richer for all our giving,
as He is none the poorer for all His. Yet His giving to us is real,
and our giving is real and a joy to Him. That is the truth lifted up
against the slander of the natural heart. God is love, pure giving,
unlimited and perpetual disposition to bestow. He gives all things
before He asks for anything, and when He asks for anything it is
that we may be blessed.

But you say, 'That is all very well--where do you learn all that about
God?' My answer is a very simple one. I learn it, and I believe there
is no other place to learn it, at the Cross of Jesus Christ. If that
be the very apex of the divine love and self-revelation; if, looking
upon it, we understand God better than by any other means, then there
can be no question but that instead of gathering where He has not
strawed, and reaping where He has not sown, God is only, and always,
and utterly, and to every man, infinite love that bestows itself. My
heart says to me many a time, 'God's laws are hard, God's judgment is
strict. God requires what you cannot give. Crouch before Him, and be
afraid.' And my faith says, 'Get thee behind me, Satan!' 'He that
spared not His own Son, ... how shall He not with Him also freely give
us all things?' The Cross of Christ is the answer to the slander, and
the revelation of the giving God.

II. Secondly, mark here the fear that dogs such a thought, and the
love that casts out the fear.

'I was afraid.' Yes, of course. If a man is not a fool, his emotions
follow his thoughts, and his thoughts ought to shape his emotions.
And wherever there is the twilight of uncertainty upon the great
lesson that the Cross of Jesus Christ has taught us, _there_
there will be, however masked and however modified by other
thoughts, deep in the human heart, a perhaps unspoken, but not
therefore ineffectual, dread of God. Just as the misconception of
the divine character does influence many a life in which it has
never been spoken articulately, and needs some steady observation of
ourselves to be detected, so is it with this dread of Him. Carry the
task of self-examination a little further, and ask yourselves
whether there does not lie coiled in many of your hearts this dread
of God, like a sleeping snake which only needs a little warmth to be
awakened to sting. There are all the signs of it. There are many of
you who have a distinct indisposition to be brought close up to the
thought of Him. There are many of you who have a distinct sense of
discomfort when you are pressed against the realities of the
Christian religion. There are many of you who, though you cover it
over with a shallow confidence, or endeavour to persuade yourselves
into speculative doubts about the divine nature, or hide it from
yourselves by indifference, yet know that all that is very thin ice,
and that there is a great black pool down below---a dread at the
heart, of a righteous Judge somewhere, with whom you have somewhat
to do, that you cannot shake off. I do not want to appeal to fear,
but it goes to one's heart to see the hundreds and thousands of
people round about us who, just because they are afraid of God, will
not think about Him, put away angrily and impatiently solemn words
like these that I am trying to speak, and seek to surround
themselves with some kind of a fool's paradise of indifference, and
to shut their eyes to facts and realities. You do not confess it to
yourselves. What kind of a thought must that be about your relation
to God which you are afraid to speak? Some of you remember the awful
words in one of Shakespeare's plays: 'Now I, to comfort him, bid him
he should not think of God. I hoped there was no need to trouble
himself with any such thoughts yet.' What does that teach us? 'I
knew Thee that Thou art an hard man; and I was afraid.'

Dear friend, there are two religions in this world: there is the
religion of fear, and there is the religion of love; and if you have
not the one, you must have the other, if you have any at all. The
only way to get perfect love that casts out fear is to be quite sure
of the Father-love in heaven that begets it. And the only way to be
sure of the infinite love in the heavens that kindles some little
spark of love in our hearts here, is to go to Christ and learn the
lesson that He reveals to us at His Cross. Love will annihilate the
fear; or rather, if I may take such a figure, will set a light to
the wreathing smoke that rises, and flash it all up into a ruddy
flame. For the perfect love that casts out fear sublimes it into
reverence and changes it into trust. Have you got that love, and did
you get it at Christ's Cross?

III. Lastly, mark the torpor of fear and the activity of love. 'I
was afraid, and I went and hid thy talent in the earth.'

Fear paralyses service, cuts the nerve of activity, makes a man
refuse obedience to God. It was a very illogical thing of that
indolent servant to say, 'I knew that you were so hard in exacting
what was due to you that therefore I determined _not_ to give
it to you.' Is it more illogical and more absurd than what hundreds
of men and women round about us do to-day, when they say, 'God's
requirements are so great that I do _not_ attempt to fulfil
them'? One would have thought that he would have reasoned the other
way, and said, 'Because I knew that Thy requirements were so great
and severe, therefore I put myself with all my powers to my work.'
Not so. Logical or illogical, the result remains, that that thought
of God, that black drop of gall, in many a heart, stops the action
of the hand. Fear is barren, or if it produces anything it is
nothing to the purpose, and it brings gifts that not even God's love
can accept, for there is no love in them. Fear is barren; Love is
fruitful--like the two mountains of Samaria, from one of which the
rolling burden of the curses of the Law was thundered, and from the
other of which the sweet words of promise and of blessing were
chanted in musical response. On the one side are black rocks,
without a blade of grass on them, the Mount of Cursing; on the other
side are blushing grapes and vineyards, the Mount of Blessing. Love
moves to action, fear paralyses into indolence. And the reason why
such hosts of you do nothing for God is because your hearts have
never been touched with the thorough conviction that He has done
everything for you, and asks you but to love Him back again, and
bring Him your hearts. These dark thoughts are like the frost which
binds the ground in iron fetters, making all the little flowers that
were beginning to push their heads into the light shrink back again.
And love, when it comes, will come like the west wind and the
sunshine of the Spring; and before its emancipating fingers the
earth's fetters will be cast aside, and the white snowdrops and the
yellow crocuses will show themselves above the ground. If you want
your hearts to bear any fruit of noble living, and holy
consecration, and pure deeds, then here is the process--Begin with
the knowledge and belief of 'the love which God hath to us'; learn
that at the Cross, and let it silence your doubts, and send them
back to their kennels, silenced. Then take the next step, and love
Him back again. 'We love Him because He first loved us.' That love
will be the productive principle of all glad obedience, and you will
keep His commandments, and here upon earth find, as the faithful
servant found, that talents used increase; and yonder will receive
the eulogium from His lips whom to please is blessedness, by whom to
be praised is heaven's glory, 'Well done! good and faithful


'When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all
the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the
throne of His glory: 32. And before Him shall be
gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one
from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the
goats: 33. And He shall set the sheep on His right
hand, but the goats on the left. 34. Then shall the
King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed
of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from
the foundation of the world: 35. For I was an hungred,
and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me
drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: 36. Naked,
and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was
in prison, and ye came unto Me. 37. Then shall the
righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an
hungred, and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink?
38. When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in! or
naked, and clothed Thee! 39. Or when saw we Thee sick,
or in prison, and came unto Thee? 10. And the King
shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you,
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of
these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me. 41. Then
shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart
from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for
the devil and his angels: 42. For I was an hungred, and
ye gave Me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no
drink: 43. I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in:
naked, and ye clothed Me not: sick, and in prison, and
ye visited Me not. 44. Then shall they also answer Him,
saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungred, or athirst,
or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did
not minister unto Thee? 45. Then shall He answer them,
saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it
not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me.
46. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment:
but the righteous into life eternal.'--MATT. xxv. 31-46.

The teachings of that wonderful last day of Christ's ministry, which
have occupied so many of our pages, are closed with this tremendous
picture of universal judgment. It is one to be gazed upon with
silent awe, rather than to be commented on. There is fear lest, in
occupying the mind in the study of the details, and trying to pierce
the mystery it partly unfolds, we should forget our own individual
share in it. Better to burn in on our hearts the thought, 'I shall
be there,' than to lose the solemn impression in efforts to unravel
the difficulties of the passage. Difficulties there are, as is to be
expected in even Christ's revelation of so unparalleled a scene.
Many questions are raised by it which will never be solved till we
stand there. Who can tell how much of the parabolic element enters
into the description? We, at all events, do not venture to say of
one part, 'This is merely drapery, the sensuous representation of
spiritual reality,' and of another, 'That is essential truth.' The
curtain is the picture, and before we can separate the elements of
it in that fashion, we must have lived through it. Let us try to
grasp the main lessons, and not lose the spirit in studying the

I. The first broad teaching is that Christ is the Judge of all the
earth. Sitting there, a wearied man on the Mount of Olives, with the
valley of Jehoshaphat at His feet, which the Jew regarded as the
scene of the final judgment, Jesus declared Himself to be the Judge
of the world, in language so unlimited in its claims that the
speaker must be either a madman or a god. Calvary was less than
three days off, when He spoke thus. The contrast between the vision
of the future and the reality of the present is overwhelming. The
Son of Man has come in weakness and shame; He will come in His
glory, that flashing light of the self-revealing God, of which the
symbol was the 'glory' which shone between the cherubim, and which
Jesus Christ here asserts to belong to Him as '_His_ glory.'
Then, heaven will be emptied of its angels, who shall gather round
the enthroned Judge as His handful of sorrowing followers were
clustered round Him as He spoke, or as the peasants had surrounded
the meek state of His entry yesterday. Then, He will take the place
of Judge, and 'sit,' in token of repose, supremacy, and judgment,
'on the throne of His glory,' as He now sat on the rocks of Olivet.
Then, mankind shall be massed at His feet, and His glance shall part
the infinite multitudes, and discern the character of each item in
the crowd as easily and swiftly as the shepherd's eye picks out the
black goats from among the white sheep. Observe the difference in
the representation from those in the previous parables. There, the
parting of kinds was either self-acting, as in the case of the
foolish maidens; or men gave account of _themselves_, as in the
case of the servants with the talents. Here, the separation is the
work of the Judge, and is completed before a word is spoken. All
these representations must be included in the complete truth as to
the final judgment. It is the effect of men's actions; it is the
result of their compelled disclosing of the deepest motives of their
lives; it is the act of the perfect discernment of the Judge. Their
deeds will judge them; they will judge themselves; Christ will

Singularly enough, every possible interpretation of the extent of
the expression 'all nations' has found advocates. It has been taken
in its widest and plainest meaning, as equivalent to the whole race;
it has been confined to mankind exclusive of Christians, and it has
been confined to Christians exclusive of heathens. There are
difficulties in all these explanations, but probably the least are
found in the first. It is most natural to suppose that 'all nations'
means all nations, unless that meaning be impossible. The absence of
the limitation to the 'kingdom of heaven,' which distinguishes this
section from the preceding ones having reference to judgment, and
the position of the present section as the solemn close of Christ's
teachings, which would naturally widen out into the declaration of
the universal judgment, which forms the only appropriate climax and
end to the foregoing teachings, seem to point to the widest meaning
of the phrase. His office of universal Judge is unmistakably taught
throughout the New Testament, and it seems in the highest degree
unnatural to suppose that He did not speak of it in these final
words of prophetic warning. We may therefore, with some confidence,
see in the magnificent and awful picture here drawn the vision of
universal judgment. Parabolic elements there no doubt are in the
picture; but we have no governing revelation, free from these, by
which we can check them, and be sure of how much is form and how
much substance. This is clear, 'that we must all appear before the
judgment-seat of Christ'; and this is clear, that Jesus Christ put
forth, when at the very lowest point of His earthly humiliation,
these tremendous claims, and asserted His authority as Judge over
every soul of man. We are apt to lose ourselves in the crowd. Let us
pause and think that 'all' includes 'me.'

II. Note the principles of Christ's universal judgment. It is
important to remember that this section closes a series of
descriptions of the judgment, and must not be taken as if, when
isolated, it set forth all the truth. It is often harped upon by
persons who are unfriendly to evangelical teaching, as if it were
Christ's only word about judgment, and interpreted as if it meant
that, no matter what else a man was, if only he is charitable and
benevolent, he will find mercy. But this is to forget all the rest
of our Lord's teaching in the context, and to fly in the face of the
whole tenor of New Testament doctrine. We have here to do with the
principles of judgment which apply equally to those who have, and to
those who have not, heard the gospel. The subjects of the kingdom
are shown the principles more immediately applicable to them, in the
previous parables, and here they are reminded that there is a
standard of judgment absolutely universal. All men, whether
Christians or not, are judged by 'the things done in the body,
whether they be good or bad.' So Christ teaches in His closing words
of the Sermon on the Mount, and in many another place. 'Every tree
that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the
fire.' The productive source of good works is not in question here;
stress is laid on the fruits, rather than on the root. The gospel is
as imperative in its requirements of righteousness as the law is,
and its conception of the righteousness which it requires is far
deeper and wider. The subjects of the kingdom ever need to be
reminded of the solemn truth that they have not only, like the wise
maidens, to have their lights burning and their oil vessels filled,
nor only, like the wise servants, to be using the gifts of the
kingdom for their lord, but, as members of the great family of man,
have to cultivate the common moralities which all men, heathen and
Christian, recognise as binding on all, without which no man shall
see the Lord. The special form of righteousness which is selected as
the test is charity. Obviously it is chosen as representative of all
the virtues of the second table of the law. Taken in its bare
literality, this would mean that men's relations to God had no
effect in the judgment, mid that no other virtues but this of
charity came into the account. Such a conclusion is so plainly
repugnant to all Christ's teaching, that we must suppose that love
to one's neighbour is here singled out, just as it is in His summary
of 'the law and the prophets,' as the crown and flower of all
relative duties, and as, in a very real sense, being 'the fulfilling
of the law.' The omission of any reference to the love of God
sufficiently shows that the view here is rigidly limited to acts,
and that all the grounds of judgment are not meant to be set forth.

But the benevolence here spoken of is not the mere natural
sentiment, which often exists in great energy in men whose moral
nature is, in other respects, so utterly un-Christlike that their
entrance into the kingdom prepared for the righteous is
inconceivable. Many a man has a hundred vices and yet a soft heart.
It is very much a matter of temperament. Does Christ so contradict
all the rest of His teaching as to say that such a man is of 'the
sheep,' and 'blessed of the Father'? Surely not. Is every piece of
kindliness to the distressed, from whatever motive, and by
whatsoever kind of person done, regarded by Him as done to Himself?
To say so, would be to confound moral distinctions, and to dissolve
all righteousness into a sentimental syrup. The deeds which He
regards as done to Himself, are done to His 'brethren.' That
expression carries us into the region of motive, and runs parallel
with His other words about 'receiving a prophet,' and 'giving a cup
of cold water to one of these little ones,' because they are His.
Seeing that all nations are at the bar, the expression, 'My
brethren,' cannot be confined to the disciples, for many of those
who are being judged have never come in contact with Christians, nor
can it be reasonably supposed to include all men, for, however true
it is that Christ is every man's brother, the recognition of kindred
here must surely be confined to those at the right hand. Whatever be
included under the 'righteous,' that is included under the
'brethren.' We seem, then, led to recognise in the expression a
reference to the motive of the beneficence, and to be brought to the
conclusion that what the Judge accepts as done to Himself is such
kindly help and sympathy as is extended to these His kindred, with
some recognition of their character, and desire after it. To
'receive a prophet' implies that there is some spiritual affinity
with him in the receiver. To give help to His brethren, because they
are so, implies some affinity with Him or feeling after likeness to
Him and them. Now, if we hold fast by the universality of the
judgment here depicted, we shall see that this recognition must
necessarily have different degrees in those who have heard of Christ
and in those who have not. In the former, it will be equivalent to
that faith which is the root of all goodness, and grasps the Christ
revealed in the gospel. In the latter, it can be no more than a
feeling after Him who is the 'light that lighteneth every man that
cometh into the world.' Surely there are souls amid the darkness of
heathenism yearning toward the light, like plants grown in the dark.
By ways of His own, Christ can reach such hearts, as the river of
the water of life may percolate through underground channels to many
a tree which grows far from its banks.

III. Note the surprises of the judgment. The astonishment of the
righteous is not modesty disclaiming praise, but real wonder at the
undreamed-of significance of their deeds. In the parable of the
talents, the servants unveiled their inmost hearts, and accurately
described their lives. Here, the other side of the truth is brought
into prominence, that, at that day, we shall be surprised when we
hear from His lips what we have really done. True Christian
beneficence has consciously for its motive the pleasing of Christ;
but still he who most earnestly strove, while here, to do all as
unto Jesus, will be full of thankful wonder at the grace which
accepts his poor service, and will learn, with fresh marvelling, how
closely He associates Himself with His humblest servant. There is an
element of mystery hidden from ourselves in all our deeds. Our love
to Christ's followers never goes out so plainly to Him that, while
here, we can venture to be sure that He takes it as done for Him. We
cannot here follow the flight of the arrow, nor know what meaning He
will attach to, or what large issues He will evolve from, our poor
doings. So heaven will be full of blessed surprises, as we reap the
fruit growing 'in power' of what we sowed 'in weakness,' and as
doleful will be the astonishment which will seize those who see, for
the first time, in the lurid light of that day, the true character
of their lives, as one long neglect of plain duties, which was all a
defrauding the Saviour of His due. Mere doing nothing is enough to
condemn, and its victims will be shudderingly amazed at the fatal
wound it has inflicted on them.

IV. The irrevocableness of the judgment. That is an awful contrast
between the 'Come! ye blessed,' and 'Depart! ye cursed.' That is a
more awful parallel between 'eternal punishment' and 'eternal life.'
It is futile to attempt to alleviate the awfulness by emptying the
word 'eternal' of reference to duration. It no doubt connotes
quality, but its first meaning is ever-during. There is nothing here
to suggest that the one condition is more terminable than the other.
Rather, the emphatic repetition of the word brings the unending
continuance of each into prominence, as the point in which these two
states, so wofully unlike, are the same. In whatever other passages
the doctrine of universal restoration may seem to find a foothold,
there is not an inch of standing-room for it here. Reverently
accepting Christ's words as those of perfect and infallible love,
the present writer feels so strongly the difficulty of bringing all
the New Testament declarations on this dread question into a
harmonious whole, that he abjures for himself dogmatic certainty,
and dreads lest, in the eagerness of discussing the duration (which
will never be beyond the reach of discussion), the solemn reality of
the fact of future retribution should be dimmed, and men should
argue about 'the terror of the Lord' till they cease to feel it.


'Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon
the leper, 7. There came unto him a woman having an
alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured
it on His head, as He sat at meat. 8. But when His
disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what
purpose is this waste? 9. For this ointment might have
been sold for much, and given to the poor. 10. When
Jesus understood it, He said unto them, Why trouble ye
the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon Me.
11. For ye have the poor always with you; but Me ye
have not always. 12. For in that she hath poured this
ointment on My body, she did it for My burial.
13. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel
shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also
this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial
of her. 14. Then one of the twelve, called Judas
Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, 15. And said
unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver Him
unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty
pieces of silver. 16. And from that time he sought
opportunity to betray Him.'--MATT. xxvi. 6-16.

John tells us that the 'woman' was Mary, and the objector Judas.
Both the deed and the cavil are better understood by knowing whence
they came. Lazarus was a guest, and as his sister saw him sitting
there by Jesus her heart overflowed, and she could not but catch up
her most precious possession, and lavish it on His head and feet.
Love's impulses appear absurd to selfishness. How could Judas
understand Mary? Detracting comments find ready ears. One sneer will
cool down to contempt and blame the feelings of a company. People
are always eager to pick holes in conduct which they uneasily feel
to be above their own reach. Poor Mary! she had but yielded to the
uncalculating impulse of her great love, and she finds herself
charged with imprudence, waste, and unfeeling neglect of the poor.
No wonder that her gentle heart was 'troubled.' But Jesus threw the
shield of His approval over her, and that was enough. Never mind how
Judas and better men than he may find fault, if Jesus smiles

His great words set forth, first, the vindication of the act,
because of its motive. Anything done with no regard to any end but
Himself is, in His eyes, 'good.' The perfection of conduct is that
it shall all be referred to Jesus. That 'altar' sanctifies gift and
giver. Conversely, whatever has no reference to Him lacks the
highest beauty of goodness. A pebble in the bed of a sunlit stream
has its veins of colour brought out; lift it out, and, as it dries,
it dulls. So our deeds plunged into that great river are heightened
in loveliness. Everything which has 'For Christ's sake' stamped on
it is thereby hallowed. That is the unfailing recipe for making a
life fair. Mary was thinking only of Jesus and of her love to Him,
therefore what she did was sweet to Him. The greater part of a deed
is its motive, and the perfect motive is love to Jesus.

But, further, Christ defends the side of Mary's deed which the
critics fastened on. They posed as being more practical and
benevolent than she was. They were utilitarians, she was wasteful.
Their objection sounds sensible, but it belongs to the low levels of
life. One flash of lofty love would have killed it. Christ's reply
to it draws a contrast between constant duties and special,
transient moments. It is coloured, too, by His consciousness of His
near end, and has an undertone of sadness in that 'Me ye have not
always.' There are high tides of Christian emotion, when the
question of what good this thing will do is submerged, and the only
question is, 'What best thing shall I render to the Lord?' The
critics were not more beneficent, but less inflamed with love to
Jesus, and the leader of them only wished that the proceeds of the
ointment had come into his hands, where some of it would have stuck.
We hear the same sort of taunt today,--What is the sense of all this
money being spent on missions and religious objects? How much more
useful it would be if expended on better dwellings for the poor or
hospitals or technical schools! But there is a place in Christ's
treasury for useless deeds, if they are the pure expression of love
to Him, and Mary's alabaster box, which did no good at all, lies
beside the cups that held cold water which slaked some thirsty lips.
Uncalculating impulse, which only knows that it would fain give all
to the Lover of souls, is not merely excused, but praised, by Jesus.
Lovers on earth do not concern themselves about the usefulness of
their gifts, and the divine Lover rejoices over what cold-blooded
spectators, who do not in the least understand the ways of loving
hearts, find useless 'waste.' The world would put all the emotions
of Christian hearts, and all the heroisms of Christian martyrs, and
all the sacrifices of Christian workers, into the same class. Jesus
accepts them all.

Again, He breathes a meaning into the gift beyond what the giver
meant. Mary did not regard her anointing as preparatory to His
burial, but He had His thoughts fixed on it, and He sought to
prepare the disciples for the coming storm. How far away from the
simple festivities in Simon's house were His thoughts! What a gulf
between the other guests and Him! But Jesus always puts significance
into the service which He accepts, and surprises the givers by the
far-reaching issues of their gifts. We know not what He may make our
poor deeds mean. Results are beyond our vision. Therefore let us
make sure of what is within our horizon--namely, motives. If we do
anything for His sake, He will take care of what it comes to. That
is true even on earth, and still more true in heaven. 'Lord, when
saw we Thee an hungred, and fed Thee?' What surprises will wait
Christ's humble servants in heaven, when they see what was the true
nature and the widespread consequences of their humble deeds! 'Thou
sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, ... but God
giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him.'

Again, Mark gives an additional clause in Christ's words, which
brings out the principle that the measure of acceptable service is
ability. 'She hath done what she could' is an apology, or rather a
vindication, for the shape of the gift. Mary was not practical, and
could not 'serve' like Martha; she probably had no other precious
thing that she could give, but she could love, and she could bestow
her best on Jesus. But the saying implies a stringent demand, as
well as a gracious defence. Nothing less than the full measure of
ability is the measure of Christian obligation. Power to its last
particle is duty. Jesus does not ask how much His servants do or
give, but He does ask that they should do and give all that they
can. He wishes us to be ourselves in serving Him, and to shape our
methods according to character and capabilities, but He also wishes
us to give Him our whole selves. If anything is kept back, all that
is given is marred.

Jesus' last word gives perpetuity to the service which He accepts.
Mary is promised immortality for her deed, and the promise has been
fulfilled, and here are we, all these centuries after, looking at
her as she breaks the box and pours it on His head. Jesus is not
unrighteous to forget any work of love done for Him. The fragrance
of the ointment soon passed away, and the shreds of the broken cruse
were swept into the dust-bin, with the other relics of the feast;
but all the world knows of that act of all-surrendering love, and it
smells sweet and blossoms for evermore.


'Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the
disciples came to Jesus, saying unto Him, Where wilt
Thou that we prepare for Thee to eat the passover?
18. And He said, Go into the city to such a man, and
say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I
will keep the passover at thy house with My disciples.
19. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them;
and they made ready the passover. 20. Now when the even
was come, He sat down with the twelve. 21. And as they
did eat, He said, Verily I say unto you, That one of
you shall betray Me. 22. And they were exceeding
sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto Him,
Lord, is it I? 23. And He answered and said, He that
dippeth his hand with Me in the dish, the same shall
betray Me. 21. The Son of Man goeth as it is written
of Him; but woe unto that man by whom the Son of Man is
betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not
been born. 25. Then Judas, which betrayed Him, answered
and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast
said 26. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and
blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples,
and said, Take, eat; this is My body. 27. And He took
the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying,
Drink ye all of it; 28. For this is My blood of the new
testament, which is shed for many for the remission
of sins. 29. But I say unto you, I will not drink
henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day
when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom.
30. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into
the Mount of Olives.'--MATT. xxvi. 17-30.

The Tuesday of Passion Week was occupied by the wonderful discourses
which have furnished so many of our meditations. At its close Jesus
sought retirement in Bethany, not only to soothe and prepare His
spirit but to 'hide Himself' from the Sanhedrin. There He spent the
Wednesday. Who can imagine His thoughts? While He was calmly
reposing in Mary's quiet home, the rulers determined on His arrest,
but were at a loss how to effect it without a riot. Judas comes to
them opportunely, and they leave it to him to give the signal.
Possibly we may account for the peculiar secrecy observed as to the
place for the last supper, by our Lord's knowledge that His steps
were watched, and by His earnest wish to eat the Passover with the
disciples before He suffered. The change between the courting of
publicity and almost inviting of arrest at the beginning of the
week, and the evident desire to postpone the crisis till the fitting
moment which marks the close of it, is remarkable, and most
naturally explained by the supposition that He wished the time of
His death to be that very hour when, according to law, the paschal
lamb was slain. On the Thursday, then, he sent Peter and John into
the city to prepare the Passover; the others being in ignorance of
the place till they were there, and Judas being thus prevented from
carrying out his purpose till after the celebration.

The precautions taken to ensure this have left their mark on
Matthew's narrative, in the peculiar designation of the host,--'Such
a man!' It is a kind of echo of the mystery which he so well
remembered as round the errand of the two. He does not seem to have
heard of the token by which they knew the house, viz., the man with
the pitcher whom they were to meet. But he does know that Peter and
John got secret instructions, and that he and the others wondered
where they were to go. Had there been a previous arrangement with
this unnamed 'such an one,' or were the token and the message alike
instances of Christ's supernatural knowledge and authority? It is
difficult to say. I incline to the former supposition, which would
be in accordance with the distinct effort after secrecy which marks
these days; but the narratives do not decide the question. At all
events, the host was a disciple, as appears from the authoritative
'the Master saith'; and, whether he had known beforehand that 'this
day' incarnate 'salvation would come to his house' or no, he eagerly
accepts the peril and the honour. His message is royal in its tone.
The Lord does not ask permission, but issues His commands. But He is
a pauper King, not having where to lay His head, and needing another
man's house in which to gather His own household together for the
family feast of the Passover. What profound truths are wrapped up in
that 'My time is come'! It speaks of the voluntariness of His
surrender, the consciousness that His Cross was the centre point of
His work, His superiority to all external influences as determining
the hour of His death, and His submission to the supreme appointment
of the Father. Obedience and freedom, choice and necessity, are
wonderfully blended in it.

So, late on that Thursday evening, the little band left Bethany for
the last time, in a fashion very unlike the joyous stir of the
triumphal entry. As the evening is falling, they thread their way
through the noisy streets, all astir with the festal crowds, and
reach the upper room, Judas vainly watching for an opportunity to
slip away on his black errand. The chamber, prepared by unknown
hands, has vanished, and the hands are dust; but both are immortal.
How many of the living acts of His servants in like manner seem to
perish, and the doers of them to be forgotten or unknown! But He
knows the name of 'such an one,' and does not forget that he opened
his door for Him to enter in and sup.

The fact that Jesus put aside the Passover and founded the Lord's
Supper in its place, tells much both about _His_ authority and
_its_ meaning. What must He have conceived of Himself, who bade
Jew and Gentile turn away from that God-appointed festival, and
think not of Moses, but of Him? What did He mean by setting the
Lord's Supper in the place of the Passover, if He did not mean that
He was the true Paschal Lamb, that His death was a true sacrifice,
that in His sprinkled blood was safety, that His death inaugurated
the better deliverance of the true Israel from a darker prison-house
and a sorer bondage, that His followers were a family, and that 'the
children's bread' was the sacrifice which He had made? There are
many reasons for the doubling of the commemorative emblem, but this
is obviously one of the chief--that, by the separation of the two in
the rite, we are carried back to the separation in fact; that is to
say, to the violent death of Christ. Not His flesh alone, in the
sense of Incarnation, but His body broken and His blood shed, are
what He wills should be for ever remembered. His own estimate of the
centre point of His work is unmistakably pronounced in His
institution of this rite.

But we may consider the force of each emblem separately. In many
important points they mean the same things, but they have each their
own significance as well. Matthew's condensed version of the words
of institution omits all reference to the breaking of the body and
to the memorial character of the observance, but both are implied.
He emphasises the reception, the participation, and the significance
of the bread. As to the latter, 'This is My body' is to be
understood in the same way as 'the field is the world,' and many
other sayings. To speak in the language of grammarians, the copula
is that of symbolic relationship, not that of existence; or, to
speak in the language of the street, 'is' here means, as it often
does, 'represents.' How could it mean anything else, when Christ sat
there in His body, and His blood was in His veins? What, then, is
the teaching of this symbol? It is not merely that He in His
humanity is the bread of life, but that He in His death is the
nourishment of our true life. In that great discourse in John's
Gospel, which embodies in words the lessons which the Lord's Supper
teaches by symbols, He advances from the general statement, 'I am
the Bread of Life,' to the yet more mysterious and profound teaching
that His flesh, which at some then future point He will 'give for
the life of the world,' is the bread; thus distinctly foreshadowing
His death, and asserting that by that death we live, and by
partaking of it are nourished. The participation in the benefits of
Christ's death, which is symbolised by 'Take, eat,' is effected by
living faith. We feed on Christ when our minds are occupied with His
truth, and our hearts nourished by His love, when it is the 'meat'
of our wills to do His will, and when our whole inward man fastens
on Him as its true object, and draws from Him its best being. But
the act of reception teaches the great lesson that Christ must be in
us, if He is to do us any good. He is not 'for us' in any real
sense, unless He be 'in us.' The word rendered in John's Gospel
'eateth' is that used for the ruminating of cattle, and wonderfully
indicates the calm, continual, patient meditation by which alone we
can receive Christ into our hearts, and nourish our lives on Him.
Bread eaten is assimilated to the body, but this bread eaten
assimilates the eater to itself, and he who feeds on Christ becomes
Christ-like, as the silk-worm takes the hue of the leaves on which
it browses. Bread eaten to-day will not nourish us to-morrow,
neither will past experiences of Christ's sweetness sustain the
soul. He must be 'our daily bread' if we are not to pine with

The wine carries its own special teaching, which clearly appears in
Matthew's version of the words of institution. It is 'My blood,' and
by its being presented in a form separate from the bread which is
His body suggests a violent death. It is 'covenant blood,' the seal
of that 'better covenant' than the old, which God makes now with all
mankind, wherein are given renewed hearts which carry the divine law
within themselves; the reciprocal and mutually blessed possession of
God by men and of men by God, the universally diffused knowledge of
God, which is more than head knowledge, being the consciousness of
possessing Him; and, finally, the oblivion of all sins. These
promises are fulfilled, and the covenant made sure, by the shed
blood of Christ. So, finally, it is 'shed for many, for the
remission of sins.' The end of Christ's death is pardon which can
only be extended on the ground of His death. We are told that Christ
did not teach the doctrine of atonement. Did He establish the Lord's
Supper? If He did (and nobody denies that), what did He mean by it,
if He did not mean the setting forth by symbol of the very same
truth which, stated in words, is the doctrine of His atoning death?
This rite does not, indeed, explain the _rationale_ of the
doctrine; but it is a piece of unmeaning mummery, unless it preaches
plainly the fact that Christ's death is the ground of our

Bread is the 'staff of life,' but blood is the life. So 'this cup'
teaches that 'the life' of Jesus Christ must pass into His people's
veins, and that the secret of the Christian life is 'I live; yet not
I, but Christ liveth in me.' Wine is joy, and the Christian life is
not only to be a feeding of the soul on Christ as its nourishment,
but a glad partaking, as at a feast, of His life and therein of His
joy. Gladness of heart is a Christian duty, 'the joy of the Lord is
your strength' and should be _our_ joy; and though here we eat
with loins girt, and go out, some of us to deny, some of us to flee,
all of us to toil and suffer, yet we may have His joy fulfilled in
ourselves, even whilst we sorrow.

The Lord's Supper is predominantly a memorial, but it is also a
prophecy, and is marked as such by the mysterious last words of
Jesus, about drinking the new wine in the Father's kingdom. They
point the thoughts of the saddened eleven, on whom the dark shadow
of parting lay heavily, to an eternal reunion, in a land where 'all
things are become new,' and where the festal cup shall be filled
with a draught that has power to gladden and to inspire beyond any
experience here. The joys of heaven will be so far analogous to the
Christian joys of earth that the same name may be applied to both;
but they will be so unlike that the old name will need a new
meaning, and communion with Christ at His table in His kingdom, and
our exuberance of joy in the full drinking in of His immortal life,
will transcend the selectest hours of communion here. Compared with
that fulness of joy they will be 'as water unto wine,'--the new wine
of the kingdom.

'IS IT I?'

'And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one
of them to say unto Him, Lord, is it I? 25. Then Judas,
which betrayed Him, answered and said, Master, is it I?
He said unto him, Thou hast said.'-MATT. xxvi. 22, 25.

'He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto Him, Lord,
who is it?'--JOHN xiii. 25.

The genius of many great painters has portrayed the Lord's Supper,
but the reality of it was very different from their imaginings. We
have to picture to ourselves some low table, probably a mere tray
spread upon the ground, round which our Lord and the twelve
reclined, in such a fashion as that the head of each guest came
against the bosom of him that reclined above him; the place of
honour being at the Lord's left hand, or higher up the table than
Himself, and the second place being at His right, or below Himself.

So there would be no eager gesticulations of disciples starting to
their feet when our Lord uttered the sad announcement, 'One of you
shall betray Me!' but only horror-struck amazement settled down upon
the group. These verses, which we have put together, show us three
stages in the conversation which followed the sad announcement. The
three evangelists give us two of these; John alone omits these two,
and only gives us the third.

First, we have their question, born of a glimpse into the
possibilities of evil in their hearts, 'Lord, is it I?'

The form of that question in the original suggests that they
expected a negative answer, and might be reproduced in English:
'Surely it is not I?' None of them could think that he was the
traitor, yet none of them could be sure that he was not. Their
Master knew better than they did; and so, from a humble knowledge of
what lay in them, coiled and slumbering, _but there_, they
would not meet His words with a contradiction, but with a question.
His answer spares the betrayer, and lets the dread work in their
consciences for a little longer, for their good. For many hands
dipped in the dish together, to moisten their morsels; and to say,
'He that dippeth with Me in the dish, the same shall betray Me,' was
to say nothing more than 'One of you at the table.'

Then comes the second stage. Judas, reassured that he has escaped
detection for the moment, and perhaps doubting whether the Master
had anything more than a vague suspicion of treachery, or knew who
was the traitor, shapes his lying lips with loathsome audacity into
the same question, but yet not quite the same, The others had said,
'Is it I, Lord?' he falters when he comes to that name, and dare not
say 'Lord!' That sticks in his throat. 'Rabbi!' is as far as he can
get. 'Is it I, Rabbi?' Christ's answer to him, 'Thou hast said,' is
another instance of patient longsuffering. It was evidently a
whisper that did not reach the ears of any of the others, for he
leaves the room without suspicion. Our Lord still tries to save him
from himself by showing Judas that his purpose is known, and by
still concealing his name.

Then comes the third stage, which we owe to John's Gospel. Here
again he is true to his task of supplementing the narrative of the
three synoptic Gospels. Remembering what I have said about the
attitude of the disciples at the table, we can understand that
Peter, if he occupied the principal place at the Lord's left, was
less favourably situated for speaking to Christ than John, who
reclined in the second seat at His right, and so he beckoned over
the Master's head to John. The Revised Version gives the force of
the original more vividly than the Authorised does: 'He, leaning
back, as he was, on Jesus' breast, saith unto Him, Lord! who is it?'
John, with a natural movement, bends back his head on his Master's
breast, so as to ask and be answered, in a whisper. His question is
_not_, 'Is it I?' He that leaned on Christ's bosom, and was
compassed about by Christ's love, did not need to ask that. The
question now is, 'Who is it?' Not a question of presumption, nor of
curiosity, but of affection; and therefore answered: 'He it is to
whom I shall give the sop, when I have dipped it.'

The morsel dipped in the dish and passed by the host's hand to a
guest, was a token of favour, of unity and confidence. It was one
more attempt to save Judas, one more token of all-forgiving
patience. No wonder that that last sign of friendship embittered his
hatred and sharpened his purpose to an unalterable decision, or, as
John says: 'After the sop, Satan entered into him.' For then, as
ever, the heart which is not melted by Christ's offered love is
hardened by it.

Now, if we take these three stages of this conversation we may learn
some valuable lessons from them. I take the first form of the
question as an example of that wholesome self-distrust which a
glimpse into the slumbering possibilities of evil in our hearts
ought to give us all. I take the second on the lips of Judas, as an
example of the very opposite of that self-distrust, the fixed
determination to do a wrong thing, however clearly we know it to be
wrong. And I take the last form of the question, as asked by John,
as an illustration of the peaceful confidence which comes from the
consciousness of Christ's love, and of communion with Him. Now a
word or two about each of these.

I. First, we have an example of that wholesome self-distrust, which
a glimpse into the possibilities of evil that lie slumbering in all
our hearts ought to teach every one of us.

Every man is a mystery to himself. In every soul there lie, coiled
and dormant, like hibernating snakes, evils that a very slight rise
in the temperature will wake up into poisonous activity. And let no
man say, in foolish self-confidence, that any form of sin which his
brother has ever committed is impossible for him. Temperament
shields us from much, no doubt. There are sins that 'we are inclined
to,' and there are sins that 'we have no mind to.' But the identity
of human nature is deeper than the diversity of temperament, and
there are two or three considerations that should abate a man's
confidence that _anything_ which one man has done it is impossible
that he should do. Let me enumerate them very briefly. Remember, to
begin with, that all sins are at bottom but varying forms of one root.
The essence of every evil is selfishness, and when you have that, it
is exactly as with cooks who have the 'stock' by the fireside. They
can make any kind of soup out of it, with the right flavouring. We
have got the mother tincture of all wickedness in each of our hearts;
and therefore do not let us be so sure that it cannot be manipulated
and flavoured into any form of sin. All sin is one at bottom, and this
is the definition of it--living to myself instead of living to God.
So it may easily pass from one form of evil into another, just as
light and heat, motion and electricity, are all--they tell us--various
forms and phases of one force. Just as doctors will tell you that
there are types of disease which slip from one form of sickness
into another, so if we have got the infection about us it is a matter
very much of accidental circumstances what shape it takes. And no
man with a human heart is safe in pointing to any sin, and saying,
'_That_ form of transgression I reckon alien to myself.'

And then let me remind you, too, that the same consideration is
reinforced by this other fact, that all sin is, if I may so say,
gregarious; is apt not only to slip from one form into another, but
that any evil is apt to draw another after it. The tangled mass of
sin is like one of those great fields of seaweed that you some times
come across upon the ocean, all hanging together by a thousand slimy
growths; which, if lifted from the wave at any point, drags up yards
of it inextricably grown together. No man commits only one kind of
transgression. All sins hunt in couples. According to the grim
picture of the Old Testament, about another matter, 'None of them
shall want his mate. The wild beasts of the desert shall meet with
the wild beasts of the islands.' One sin opens the door for another,
'and seven other spirits worse than himself' come and make holiday
in the man's heart.

Again, any evil is possible to us, seeing that all sin is but
yielding to tendencies common to us all. The greatest transgressions
have resulted from yielding to such tendencies. Cain killed his
brother from jealousy; David besmirched his name and his reign by
animal passion; Judas betrayed Christ because he was fond of money.
Many a man has murdered another one simply because he had a hot
temper. And you have got a temper, and you have got the love of
money, and you have got animal passions, and you have got that which
may stir you up into jealousy. Your neighbour's house has caught
fire and been blown up. Your house, too, is built of wood, and
thatched with straw, and you have as much dynamite in your cellars
as he had in his. Do not be too sure that you are safe from the
danger of explosion.

And, again, remember that this same wholesome self-distrust is
needful for us all, because all transgression is yielding to
temptations that assail all men. Here are one hundred men in a
plague-stricken city; they have all got to draw their water from the
same well. If five or six of them died of cholera it would be very
foolish of the other ninety-five to say, 'There is no chance of our
being touched.' We all live in the same atmosphere; and the
temptations that have overcome the men that have headed the count of
crimes appeal to you. So the lesson is, 'Be not high-minded, but

And remember, still further, that the same solemn consideration is
enforced upon us by the thought that men will gradually drop down to
the level which, before they began the descent, seemed to be
impossible to them. 'Is thy servant a dog that he should do this
thing?' said Hazael when the crime of murdering his master first
floated before him. Yes, but he did it. By degrees he came down to
the level to which he thought that he would never sink. First the
imagination is inflamed, then the wish begins to draw the soul to
the sin, then conscience pulls it back, then the fatal decision is
made, and the deed is done. Sometimes all the stages are hurried
quickly through, and a man spins downhill as cheerily and fast as a
diligence down the Alps. Sometimes, as the coast of a country may
sink an inch in a century until long miles of the flat seabeach are
under water, and towers and cities are buried beneath the barren
waves, so our lives may be gradually lowered, with a motion
imperceptible but most real, bringing us down within high-water
mark, and at last the tide may wash over what was solid land.

So, dear friends, there is nothing more foolish than for any man to
stand, self-confident that any form of evil that has conquered his
brother has no temptation for him. It may not have for you, under
present circumstances; it may not have for you to-day; but, oh!
we have all of us one human heart, and 'he that trusteth in his own
heart is a fool.' 'Blessed is the man that feareth always.' Humble
self-distrust, consciousness of sleeping sin in my heart that may very
quickly be stirred into stinging and striking; rigid self-control over
all these possibilities of evil, are duties dictated by the plainest

Do not say, 'I know when to stop.' Do not say, 'I can go so far; it
will not do me any harm.' Many a man has said that, and many a man
has been ruined by it. Do not say, 'It is natural to me to have
these inclinations and tastes, and there can be no harm in yielding
to them.' It is perfectly natural for a man to stoop down over the
edge of a precipice to gather the flowers that are growing in some
cranny in the cliff; and it is as natural for him to topple over,
and be smashed to a mummy at the bottom. God gave you your
dispositions and your whole nature 'under lock and key,'--keep them
so. And when you hear of, or see, great criminals and great crimes,
say to yourself, as the good old Puritan divine said, looking at a
man going to the scaffold, 'But for the grace of God there go I!'
And in the contemplation of sins and apostasies, let us each look
humbly at our own weakness, and pray Him to keep us from our
brother's evils which may easily become ours.

II. Secondly, we have here an example of precisely the opposite
sort, namely, of that fixed determination to do evil which is
unshaken by the clearest knowledge that it is evil.

Judas heard his crime described in its own ugly reality. He heard
his fate proclaimed by lips of absolute love and truth; and
notwithstanding both, he comes unmoved and unshaken with his
question. The dogged determination in his heart, that dares to see
his evil stripped naked and is 'not ashamed,' is even more dreadful
than the hypocrisy and sleek simulation of friendship in his face.

Now most men turn away with horror from even the sins that they are
willing to do, when they are put plainly and bluntly before them. As
an old mediaeval preacher once said, 'There is nothing that is
weaker than the devil stripped naked.' By which he meant exactly
this--that we have to dress wrong in some fantastic costume or
other, so as to hide its native ugliness, in order to tempt men to
do it. So we have two sets of names for wrong things, one of which
we apply to our brethren's sins, and the other to the same sins in
ourselves. What I do is 'prudence,' what you do of the same sort is
'covetousness'; what I do is 'sowing my wild oats,' what you do is
'immorality' and 'dissipation'; what I do is 'generous living,' what
you do is 'drunkenness' and 'gluttony'; what I do is 'righteous
indignation,' what you do is 'passionate anger.' And so you may go
the whole round of evil. Very bad are the men who can look at their
deed, described in Its own inherent deformity, and yet say, 'Yes;
that is it, and I am going to do it.' 'One of you shall betray Me.'
'Yes; I will betray you!' It must have taken something to look into
the Master's face, and keep the fixed purpose steady.

Now I ask you to think, dear friends, of this, that that obstinate
condition of dogged determination to do a wrong thing, knowing it to
be a wrong thing, is a condition to which all evil steadily tends.
We may not come to it in this world--I do not know that men ever do
so wholly; but we are all getting towards it in regard to the
special wrong deeds and desires which we cherish and commit. And
when a man has once reached the point of saying to evil, 'Be thou my
good,' then he is a 'devil' in the true meaning of the word; and
wherever he is, he is in hell! And the one unpardonable sin is the
sin of clear recognition that a given thing is contrary to God's
will, and unfaltering determination, notwithstanding, to do it. That
is the only sin that cannot be pardoned, 'either in this world or in
the world to come.'

And so, my brother, seeing that such a condition is possible, and
that all the paths of evil, however tentative and timorous they may
be at first, and however much the sin may be wrapped up with excuses
and forms and masks, tend to that condition, let us take that old
prayer upon our lips, which befits both those who distrust
themselves because of slumbering sins, and those who dread being
conquered by manifest iniquity:--'Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse Thou me from secret faults. Keep back Thy servant also from
presumptuous sins. Let them not have dominion over me.'

III. Now, lastly, we have in the last question an example of the
peaceful confidence that comes from communion with Jesus Christ.

John leaned on the Master's bosom. 'He was the disciple whom Jesus
loved.' And so compassed with that great love, and feeling absolute
security within the enclosure of that strong hand, his question is
not, 'Is it I?' but 'Who is it?' From which I think we may fairly
draw the conclusion that to feel that Christ loves me, and that I am
compassed about by Him, is the true security against my falling into
any sin.

It was not John's love to Christ, but Christ's to John that made his
safety. He did not say: 'I love Thee so much that I cannot betray
Thee.' For all our feelings and emotions are but variable, and to
build confidence upon them is to build a heavy building upon
quicksand; the very weight of it drives out the foundations. But he
thought to himself--or he felt rather than he thought--that all
about him lay the sweet, warm, rich atmosphere of his Master's love;
and to a man who was encompassed by that, treachery was impossible.

Sin has no temptation so long as we actually enjoy the greater
sweetness of Christ's felt love. Would thirty pieces of silver have
been a bribe to John? Would anything that could have terrified
others have frightened him from his Master's side whilst he felt His
love? Will a handful of imitation jewellery, made out of coloured
glass and paste, be any temptation to a man who bears a rich diamond
on his finger? And will any of earth's sweetness be a temptation to
a man who lives in the continual consciousness of the great rich
love of Christ wrapping him round about? Brethren, not ourselves,
not our faith, not our emotion, not our religious experience;
nothing that is in us, is any security that we may not be tempted,
and yield to the temptation, and deny or betray our Lord. There is
only one thing that is a security, and that is that we be folded to
the heart, and held by the hand, of that loving Lord. Then--then we
may be confident that we shall not fall; for 'the Lord is able to
make us stand.'

Such confidence is but the other side of our self-distrust; is the
constant accompaniment of it, must have that self-distrust for its
condition and prerequisite, and leads to a yet deeper and more
blessed form of that self-distrust. Faith in Him and 'no confidence
in the flesh' are but the two sides of the same coin, the obverse
and the reverse. The seed, planted in the ground, sends a little
rootlet down, and a little spikelet up, by the same vital act. And
so in our hearts, as it were, the downward rootlet is self-despair,
and the upward shoot is faith in Christ. The two emotions go
together--the more we distrust ourselves the more we shall rest upon
Him, and the more we rest upon Him, and feel that all our strength
comes, not from our foot, but from the Rock on which it stands, the
more we shall distrust our own ability and our own faithfulness.

Therefore, dear brethren, looking upon all the evil that is around
us, and conscious in some measure of the weakness of our own hearts,
let us do as a man would do who stands upon the narrow ledge of a
cliff, and look sheer down into the depth below, and feels his head
begin to reel and turn giddy; let us lay hold of the Guide's hand,
and if we cleave by Him, He will hold up our goings that our
footsteps slip not. Nothing else will. No length of obedient service
is any guarantee against treachery and rebellion. As John Bunyan
saw, there was a backdoor to hell from the gate of the Celestial
City. Men have lived for years consistent professing Christians, and
have fallen at last. Many a ship has come across half the world, and
gone to pieces on the harbour bar. Many an army, victorious in a
hundred fights, has been annihilated at last. No depths of religious
experience, no heights of religious blessedness, no attainments of
past virtue and self-sacrifice, are any guarantees for to-morrow.
Trust in nothing and in nobody, least of all in yourselves and your
own past. Trust only in Jesus Christ.

'Now unto Him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present
us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy; to
the only wise God our Saviour be glory and majesty, dominion and
power, both now and for ever.' Amen.


'And Jesus took the cup, and grave thanks, and gave it
to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28. For this is My
blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for
the remission of sins'--MATT. xxvi. 27, 28.

The comparative silence of our Lord as to the sacrificial character
of His death has very often been urged as a reason for doubting that
doctrine, and for regarding it as no part of the original Christian
teaching. That silence may be accounted for by sufficient reasons.
It has been very much exaggerated, and those who argue from it
against the doctrine of the Atonement have forgotten that Jesus
Christ founded the Lord's Supper.

That rite shows us what He thought, and what He would have us think,
of His death; and in the presence of its testimony it seems to me
impossible to deny that His conception of it was distinctly
sacrificial. By it He points out the moment of His whole career
which He desires that men should remember. Not His words of
tenderness and wisdom; not His miracles, amazing and gracious as
these were; not the flawless beauty of His character, though it
touches all hearts and wins the most rugged to love, and the most
degraded to hope; but the moment in which He gave His life is what
He would imprint for ever on the memory of the world.

And not only so, but in the rite he distinctly tells us in what
aspect He would have that death remembered. Not as the tragic end of
a noble career which might be hallowed by tears such as are shed
over a martyr's ashes; not as the crowning proof of love; not as the
supreme act of patient forgiveness; but as a death for us, in which,
as by the blood of the sacrifice, is secured the remission of sins.

And not only so, but the double symbol in the Lord's Supper--whilst
in some respects the bread and wine speak the same truths, and
certainly point to the same Cross--has in each of its parts special
lessons intrusted to it, and special truths to proclaim. The bread
and the wine both say:--'Remember Me and My death.' Taken in
conjunction they point to that death as violent; taken separately
they each suggest various aspects of it, and of the blessings that
will flow to us therefrom. And it is my present purpose to bring
out, as briefly and as clearly as I can, the special lessons which
our Lord would have us draw from that cup which is the emblem of His
shed blood.

I. First, then, observe that it speaks to us of a divine treaty or

Ancient Israel had lived for nearly 2000 years under the charter of
their national existence which, as we read in the Old Testament, was
given on Sinai amidst thunderings and lightnings--'Now, therefore,
if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall
be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people; for all the earth
is Mine, and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests and an holy

And that covenant, or agreement, or treaty, on the part of God, was
ratified by a solemn act, in which the blood of the sacrifice,
divided into two portions, was sprinkled, one half upon the altar,
and the other half, after their acceptance of the conditions and
obligations of the covenant, on the people, who had pledged
themselves to obedience.

And now, here is a Galilean peasant, in a borrowed upper room,
within four-and-twenty hours of His ignominious death which might
seem to blast all His work, who steps forward and says, 'I put away
that ancient covenant which knits this nation to God. It is
antiquated. I am the true offering and sacrifice, by the blood of
which, sprinkled on altar and on people, a new covenant, built upon
better promises, shall henceforth be.'

What a tremendous piece of audacity, except on the one hypothesis
that He that spake was indeed the Word of God; and that He was
making that which Himself had established of old, to give way to
that which He establishes now! The new covenant which Christ seals
in His blood, is the charter, the better charter, under the
conditions of which, not a nation but the world may find an external
salvation which dwarfs all the deliverances of the past. That idea
of a covenant confirmed by Christ's blood may sound to many hearers
dry and hard. But if you will try to think what great truths are
wrapped up in the theological phraseology, you will find them very
real and very strong. Is it not a grand thought that between us and
the infinite divine Nature there is established a firm and unmovable
agreement? Then He has revealed His purposes; we are not left to
grope in darkness, at the mercy of 'peradventures' and 'probablies';
nor reduced to consult the ambiguous oracles of nature or of
Providence, or the varying voices of our own hearts, or painfully
and dubiously to construct more or less strong bases for confidence
in a loving God out of such hints and fragments of revelation as
these supply. He has come out of His darkness, and spoken articulate
words, plain words, faithful words, which bind Him to a distinctly
defined course of action. Across the great ocean of possible modes
of action for a divine nature He has, if I may so say, buoyed out
for Himself a channel, so as that we know His path, which is in the
deep waters. He has limited Himself by the utterance of a faithful
word, and we can now come to Him with His own promise, and cast it
down before Him, and say: 'Thou hast spoken, and Thou art bound to
fulfil it.' We have a covenant wherein God has shown us His hand,
has told us what He is going to do and has thereby pledged Himself
to its performance.

And, still further, in order to get the full sweetness of this
thought, to break the husk and reach to the kernel, you must
remember what, according to the New Testament, are the conditions of
this covenant. The old agreement was, 'If ye will obey My voice and
do My commandments, then,'--so and so will happen. The old condition
was, 'Do and live; be righteous and blessed!' The new condition is:
'Take and have; believe and live!' The one was law, the other is
gift; the one was retribution, the other is forgiveness. One was
outward, hard, rigid law, fitly 'graven with a pen of iron on the
rocks for ever'; the other is impulse, love, a power bestowed that
will make us obedient; and the sole condition that we have to render
is the condition of humble and believing acceptance of the divine
gift. The new covenant, in the exuberant fulness of its mercy, and
in the tenderness of its gracious purposes, is at once the
completion and the antithesis of the ancient covenant with its
precepts and its retribution.

And, still further, this 'new covenant,' of which the essence is
God's bestowment of Himself on every heart that wills to possess
Him; this new covenant, according to the teaching of these words of
my text and of the symbol to which they refer, is ratified and
sealed by that great sacrifice. The blood was sprinkled on the
altar; the blood was sprinkled on the people, which being translated
into plain, unmetaphorical language is simply this, that Christ's
death remains for ever present to the divine mind as the great
reason and motive which modifies His government, and which ensures
that His love shall ever find its way to every seeking soul. His
death is the token; His death is the reason; His death is the pledge
of the unending and the inexhaustible mercy of God bestowed upon
each of us. 'He that spared not His own Son, shall He not with Him
also freely give us all things?' The outward rite with its symbol is
the exhibition in visible form of that truth, that the blood of
Jesus Christ seals to the world the infinite mercy of God.

And, on the other hand, that same blood of the covenant, sprinkled
upon the other parties to the treaty, even our poor sinful hearts,
binds them to the fulfilment of the condition which belongs to them.
That is to say, by the power of that sacrifice there are evoked in
our poor souls, faith, love, surrender. It, and it alone, knits us
to God; it, and it alone, binds us to the fulfilment of the
covenant. My brother, have you entered into that sweet, solemn,
sacred alliance and union with God? Have you accepted and fulfilled
the conditions? Is your heart 'sprinkled with the blood so freely
shed for you'; and have you thereby been brought into living
alliance with the God who has pledged His being and His name to be
the all-sufficient God to you?

II. Still further, this cup speaks to us of the forgiveness of sins.

One theory, and one theory only, as it seems to me, of the meaning
of Christ's death, is possible if these words of my text ever
dropped from Christ's lips, or if He ever instituted the rite to
which they refer; He must have believed that His death was a
sacrifice, without which the sins of the world were not forgiven;
and by which forgiveness came to us all.

And I do not think that we rightly conceive the relation between the
sacrifices of barbarous heathen tribes, or the sacrifices appointed
in Israel, and the great sacrifice on the Cross, if we say that our
Lord's death is only figuratively accommodated to these in order to
meet lower or grosser conceptions, but rather, I take it, that the
accommodation is the other way. In all nations beyond the limits of
Israel the sacrifices of living victims spoke not only of surrender
and dependence, but likewise of the consciousness of demerit and
evil on the part of the offerers, and were at once a confession of
sin, a prayer for pardon, and a propitiation of an offended God. And
I believe that the sacrifices in Israel were intended and adapted
not only to meet the deep-felt want of human nature, common to them
as to all other tribes, but also were intended and adapted to point
onwards to Him in whose death a real want of mankind was met, in
whose death a real sacrifice was offered, in whose death an angry
God was not indeed propitiated, but in whose death the loving Father
of our souls Himself provided the Lamb for the offering, without
which, for reasons deeper than we can wholly fathom, it was
impossible that sin should be remitted.

I insist upon no theory of an Atonement. I believe there is no
Gospel, worth calling so, worth the preaching, worth your believing,
or that will ever move the world or purify society, except the
Gospel which begins with the fact of an Atonement, and points to the
Cross as the altar on which the Sacrifice for the sins of the world,
without whose death pardon is impossible, has died for us all.

Oh! dear friends, do not let yourselves be confused by the
difficulties that beset all human and incomplete statements of the
philosophy of the death of Christ; but getting away from these,
cleave you to the fact that your sins were laid upon Christ, and
that He has died for us all; that His death is a sacrifice; His body
broken for us; and for the remission of our sins, His blood freely
shed. Thus, and only thus, will you come to the understanding either
of the sweetness of His love or of the power of His example; then,
and only then, shall we know why it was that He elected to be
remembered, out of all the moments of His life, by that one when He
hung in weakness upon the Cross, and out of the darkness came the
cry, 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?'

III. And now, again, let me remind you that this cup speaks likewise
of a life infused.

'The blood is the life,' says the physiology of the Hebrews. The
blood is the life, and when men drink of that cup they symbolise the
fact that Christ's own life and spirit are imparted to them that
love Him. 'Except ye eat the flesh, and drink the blood of the Son
of Man, ye have no life in you.' The very heart of Christ's gift to
us is the gift of His own very life to be the life of our lives. In
deep, mystical reality He Himself passes into our being, and the
'law of the spirit of life makes us free from the law of sin and
death,' so that we may say: 'He that is joined to the Lord is one
spirit,' and the humble believing soul may rejoice in this: 'I live,
yet not I, but Christ liveth in Me.' This is, in one aspect, the
very deepest meaning of this Communion rite. As physicians sometimes
tried to restore life to an almost dead man by the transfusion into
his shrunken veins of the fresh warm blood from a young and healthy
subject, so into our fevered life, into our corrupted blood, there
is poured the full tide of the pure and perfect life of Jesus Christ
Himself, and we live, not by our own power, nor for our own will,
nor in obedience to our own caprices, but by Him and in Him, and
with Him and for Him. This is the heart of Christianity, the
possession within us of the life, the immortal life of Him that died
for us.

My brother have you that great gift in your heart? Be sure of this,
that unless the life of Christ is in you by faith, ye are dead,
'dead in trespasses and in sins'; dead, and sure to rot away and
disintegrate into corruption. The cup of blessing which we drink
speaks to us of the transfusion into our spirits of the Spirit of
Jesus Christ.

IV. And lastly, it speaks of a festal gladness.

The bread says nothing to us of the remission of sins. The broken
bread proclaims, indeed, our nourishment from Jesus, but falls short
of the deep and solemn truth that it is the very life-blood of
Christ Himself which nourishes us and vitalises us. And the bread,
in like manner, proclaims indeed the fact that we are fed on Him,
but says nothing of the joy of that feeding. The wine is the symbol
of that, and it proclaims to us that the Christian life here on
earth, just because it is the feeding on and the drinking in of
Jesus Christ, ought ever to be a life of blessedness, of abounding
joy, by whatsoever darkness, burdens, cares, toils, sorrows, and
solitude it may be shaded and saddened. They who live on Christ,
they who drink in of His spirit, they should be glad in all
circumstances, they, and they alone. We sit at a table, though it be
in the wilderness, though it be in the presence of our enemies,
where there ought to be joy and the voice of rejoicing.

But beyond that, as our Master Himself taught these apostles in that
upper room, this cup points onwards to a future feast. At that
solemn hour Jesus stayed His own heart with the vision of the
perfected kingdom and the glad festival then. So this Communion has
a prophetic element in it, and links on with predictions and
parables which speak of the 'marriage supper' of the great King, and
of the time when we shall sit at His table in His kingdom.

For the past the Lord's Supper speaks of the one sufficient oblation
and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. For the present it
speaks of life produced and sustained by communion with Jesus
Christ. And for the future it speaks of the unending, joyful
satisfaction of all desires in the 'upper room' of the heavens.

How unlike, and yet how like to that scene in the upper room at
Jerusalem! From it the sad disciples went out, some of them to deny
their Master; all of them to struggle, to sin, to lose Him from
their sight, to toil, to sorrow, and at last to die. From that other
table we shall go no more out, but sit there with Him in full
fruition of unfailing blessedness and participation of His immortal
life for evermore.

Dear brethren, these are the lessons, these the hopes, which this
'blood of the new covenant' teaches and inspires. Have you entered
into that covenant with God? Have you made sure work of the
forgiveness of your sins through His blood? Have you received into
your spirits His immortal life? Then you may humbly be confident
that, after life's weariness and lonesomeness are past, you will be
welcomed to the banqueting hall by the Lord of the feast, and sit
with Him and His servants who loved Him at that table and be glad.


'I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine,
until that day when I drink it new with you in my
Father's kingdom.'--MATT. xxvi. 29.

This remarkable saying of our Lord's is recorded in all of the
accounts of the institution of the Lord's Supper. The thought
embodied in it ought to be present in the minds of all who partake
of that rite. It converts what is primarily a memorial into a
prophecy. It bids us hope as well as, and because we, remember. The
light behind us is cast forward on to the dimness before. So the
Apostle Paul, in his solitary reference to the Communion--which,
indeed, is an entirely incidental one, and evoked simply by the
corruptions in the Corinthian Church, emphasises this prophetic and
onward-looking aspect of the backward-looking rite when he says, 'Ye
do show the Lord's death _till He come_.'

Now, it seems to me that those of us who so strongly hold that the
Communion is primarily a simple memorial service, with no mysterious
or magical efficacy of any sort about it, do rather ignore in our
ordinary thoughts the other aspect which is brought out in my text;
and that comparative ignoring seems to me to be but a part of a very
lamentable and general tendency of this day, whereby the prospect of
a future life has become somewhat dimmed and does not fill the place
either in ordinary Christian thinking, or as a motive for Christian
service which the proportion of faith, and the relative importance
of the present and the future suggest that it ought to fill. The
Christianity of this day has so much to do with the present life,
and the thought of the Gospel as a power in the present has been so
emphasised, in legitimate reaction from the opposite exaggeration,
that there is great need, as I believe, to preach to Christian people
the wisdom of making more prominent in their faith their immortal
hope. I wish, then, to turn now to this aspect of the rite which we
regard as a memorial, and try to emphasise its forward-looking
attitude, and the large blessed truths that emerge if we consider that.

I. First, let me say just a word about the twin aspect of the
Communion as a memorial prophecy, or prophetic remembrance.

Now, I need not remind you, I suppose, that according to the view
which, as I believe, the New Testament takes, and which certainly we
Nonconformists take, of all the rites of external worship, every one
of them is a prophecy, because every act in which our sense is
brought in to reinforce the spirit--and by outward forms, be they
vocal, or be they manual, or be they of any other sort, we try to
express and to quicken spiritual emotions and intellectual
convictions--declares its own imperfection, digs its own grave, and
prophecies its own resurrection in a nobler and better fashion. Just
because these outward symbols of bread and wine do, through the
senses, quicken the faith and the love of the spirit, they declare
themselves to be transitory, and they point onwards to the time when
that which is perfect shall absorb, and so destroy, that which is in
part, and when sense shall be no longer necessary as the ally and
humble servant of spirit. 'I saw no temple therein.' Temples, and
rites, and services, and holy days, and all the external apparatus
of worship, are but scaffolding, and just as the scaffolding round a
building is a prophecy of its own being pulled down when the
building is reared and completed, so we cannot partake of these
external symbols rightly, unless we recognise their transiency, and
feel that they say to us, 'A mightier than I cometh after me, the
latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose.' The light that
shines in the dark heralds the day and its own extinction.

So, looking back we must look forward, and partaking of the symbol,
we must reach out to the time when the symbol shall be antiquated,
the reality having come. The Passover of Israel did not more truly
point onwards to the true Lamb of Sacrifice, and to the true
Passover that was slain for us, and to its own elevation into the
Lord's Supper of the Christian Church, than the Lord's Supper of the
Christian Church points onwards to the 'marriage supper of the
Lamb,' and its own cessation.

But then, again, let me remind you that this prophetic aspect is
inherent in the memorial aspect of the Communion, because what we
remember necessarily demands the coming of what we hope. That is to
say, if Jesus Christ be what the Lord's Supper says that He is, and
if He has done what that broken bread and poured out wine proclaim,
according to His own utterance, that He has done, then clearly that
death which was for the life of the world, that death which was the
seal of a covenant, that body broken for the remission of sins, that
wine partaken of as a reception into ourselves of the very life-blood
of Jesus Christ, do all demand something far nobler and more perfect
than the broken, incomplete obedience and loyalties and communions
which Christian men here exercise and possess.

If He died, as the rite says that He did, and if dying He left such
a commentary upon His act as that ordinance affords, then He cannot
have done with the world; then the powers that were set in motion by
His death cannot pause nor cease their action until they have
reached their appropriate culmination in effecting all that it was
in them to effect. If, leaving His people, He said to them, 'Never
forget My death for you, My broken body, and My shed blood,' He
therein said that the time will come, must come, when all the powers
of the Cross shall be incorporated in humanity, and when the parted
shall be reunited. The Communion would stand as the expression of
Christ's mistaken estimate of His own importance, if there were not
beyond the grave the perfecting of it, and the full appropriation
and joyful possession of all which the death that it signifies
brought to mankind.

Therefore, dear brethren, it seems to me that the best way by which
Christians can deepen their confidence and brighten their hope in
the perfect reunion and blessedness of the heavens, is to increase
the firmness of their faith in, and the depth of their apprehension
of, the sacrifice of the Cross. If the Cross demands the Crown, then
our surest way to realise as certain our own possession of that
Crown is to cling very close to that Cross. The more we look
backwards to it the more will it fling its light into all the dark
places that are in front of us, and flush the heavens up to the
seventh and beyond, with the glories that stream from it. Hold fast
by the Cross, and the more fully, believingly, joyously,
unfalteringly, we recognise in it the foundation of our salvation,
the more gladly, clearly, operatively, shall we cherish the hope
that 'the headstone shall be brought forth with shoutings,' and that
the imperfect symbolical communion of earth will grow and greaten
into complete and real union in eternal bliss.

Let me urge, then, this, that, as a matter of fact, a faith in
eternal glory goes with and fluctuates in the same degree and manner
as does the faith in the past sacrifice that Christ has made. He,
and He alone, as I believe, turns nebulae into solidity, and makes
of the more or less tremulous anticipation of a more or less dim and
distant future, a calm, still certainty. We know that He will come
because, and in proportion as, we believe that He has come. Keep
these two things, then, always together, the memory and the hope.
They stand like two great piers, one on either side of a narrow,
dark glen, and suspended from them is stretched the bridge, along
which the happy pilgrims may travel and enter into rest.

II. And now, let us turn for a moment to the lovely vision of that
future which is suggested by our text.

The truest way, I was going to say the only way, by which we can
have any conceptions of a condition of being of which we have no
experience, is to fall back upon the experiences which we have, and
use them as symbols and metaphors. The curtain is the picture. So
our Lord here, in accordance with the necessary limitations of our
human knowledge, contents Himself with using what lay at His hand,
and taking it as giving faint shadows and metaphorical suggestions
as to spiritual blessedness yonder.

There is one other way, as it seems to me, by which we can in any
measure body forth to ourselves that unknown condition of things,
and that is to fall back upon our present experiences in another
fashion, and negative all of them which involve pain and limitation
and incompleteness. There shall be no night--no sorrow--no tears--no
sighing, and the like. These negatives of the strong and stinging
griefs and limitations of the present are perhaps our second-best
way of coming to some prophetic vision of that great future.

Remembering, then, that we are dealing with pure metaphor, and that
the exact translation of the metaphor into reality is not yet
possible for us, let us take one or two very plain thoughts out of
this great saying--'Until I drink it new with you in My Father's

Then, we have to think of the completion of the Christian life
beyond, which is also the completion of the results of Christ's
death on the Cross, as being, according to the very frequent
metaphor both of the Old and the New Testament, a prolonged
festival. I do not need to speak of the details of the thoughts that
thence emerge. Let me sum them up as briefly as may be. They include
the satisfaction of every desire and the nourishment of all
strength, and food for every faculty. When we think of the hungry
hearts that all men carry, and how true it is that even the wisest
and the holiest of us are 'spending our money for that which is not
bread, and our labour for that which satisfieth not'; when we think
of how the choicest foods that life can provide, even for the
noblest hunger of noble hearts, are too often to us but as a feeding
on ashes that will leave grit between the teeth and a foul taste
upon the palate, surely it is blessed to think that we may, after
all life's disappointments, cherish the hope of a perfect fruition,
and that yonder, if not here, it will be fully true that 'God never
sends mouths but He sends meat to feed them.' That is not so in this
world, for we all carry hungers which impel us forward to nobler
living, and which it would not be good for us to have satisfied
here. But, unless the whole universe is a godless chaos, there must
be somewhere a state in which a man shall have all that he wants,
and shall want only what he ought.

The emblem of a feast suggests also society. The solitary travellers
who have been toiling and moiling through the desert all the day
long, snatching up a hasty mouthful as they march, and lonely many a
time, come together at last, and sit together there joyous and
united. Deep down in our hearts some of us have gashes that always
bleed. We know losses and loneliness, and we can feel, I hope, how
blessed is the thought that all the wanderers shall sit there
together, and rejoice in each other's communion, 'and so shall
_we_ ever be with the Lord.'

But besides satisfaction and society the figure suggests repose.
That rest is not indolence, for we have to carry other metaphors
with us in order to come to the full significance of this one, and
the festal imagery is not all that we have to take into account; for
we read, 'I grant unto you a kingdom, and ye shall sit on twelve
thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel,' as well as 'ye shall
eat and drink with Me at My table in My kingdom.' So repose, which
is consistent and coexistent with the intensest activity, is the
great hope that comes out of these metaphors. But for many of us--I
suppose for all of us elderly people--who are about weary of work
and worry, there is no deeper hope than the hope of rest. 'I have
had labour enough for one,' says one of our poets. And I think there
is something in most of our hearts that echoes that and rejoices to
hear that, after the long march, 'ye shall sit with Me at My table.'

But besides satisfaction, society, and rest, the figure suggests
gladness. Wine is the emblem of the joyous side of a feast, just as
bread is the emblem of the necessary nourishment. And it is
_new_ wine; joy raised to a higher power, transformed and
glorified; and yet the old emotion in a new form. As for that
gladness, 'eye hath not seen, neither hath it entered into the heart
of man to conceive, the things that God hath prepared for them that
love Him.' Only all we weary, heavy-laden, saddened, anxious,
disappointed, tormented people may hope for these festal joys, if we
are Christ's. The feast will last when all the troubles and the
cares which helped us to it are dead and buried and forgotten.

These four things, brethren--satisfaction, society, rest, new
gladness--are proclaimed and prophesied to each of us, if we will,
by this memorial rite.

Again, there comes from this aspect of the Communion the thought
that the blessed condition of the Christian soul hereafter is a
feast on a sacrifice. We must distinguish between the sense in which
our Lord drinks with us, and the sense in which we alone partake of
that feast of which He provides the viands. But just as in the
symbolic ordinance of the Communion the very essence of it is that
what was offered as sacrifice is now incorporated into the
participant's spiritual being, and becomes part of himself, and the
life of his life, so, in the future, all the blessedness of the
clustered and constellated joys of that life, which is one eternal
festival, shall arise from the reception into perfected spirits with
ever-growing greatness and blessedness of the Christ that died and
ever lives for them. That heavenly glory, to its highest pinnacle of
aspiration, to its most rapt completeness of gladness, is all the
consequence of Christ's death on the Cross. That death, which we
commemorate, is the procuring cause of man's entrance into bliss,
and that death is the subject of the continual, grateful remembrance
of the saints in the seventh heaven of their glory. Life yonder, as
all true life here, consists in taking into ourselves the life of
Jesus Christ, and the law for heaven is the same as the law for
earth, 'He that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.'

Lastly, the conception of the future for Christian souls arising
from this aspect of the Lord's Supper is that it is not only a
feast, and a feast on a sacrifice, but that it is a feast with the

'_With you_ I will drink it.' Brethren, we pass beyond metaphor when
we gather up and condense all the vague brightness and glories of that
perfect future into this one rapturous, overwhelming, all-embracing
thought: 'So shall we ever be with the Lord.' I could almost wish
that Christian people had no other thought of that future than this,
for surely in its grand simplicity, in its ineffable depth, there lie
the germs of every blessedness. How poor all the material emblems are
of which sensuous imaginations make so much, when compared with that
hope! As the good old hymn has it, which to me says more, in its bold
simplicity, than all the sentimental enlargements of Scriptural
metaphors which some people admire so much--

'It is enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with Him.'

Strange that He says, 'I will drink it _with you._' Does He
need sustenance? Does He need any external things in order to make
His feast? No! and Yes! 'I will sup with Him' as well as 'He with
me.' And, surely, His meat and drink are the love, the loyalty, the
obedience, the receptiveness, the society of His redeemed children.
'The joy of the Lord' comes from 'seeing of the travail of His
soul,' and His servants do enter into that joy in deep and wondrous
fashion. We not only shall live on Christ, but He Himself puts to
His own lips the chalice that He commends to ours, and in marvellous
condescension to, and identity with, our glorified humanity drinks
with us the 'new wine' in the Father's kingdom.


'Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called
Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here,
while I go and pray yonder. 37. And He took with Him
Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be
sorrowful and very heavy. 38. Then saith He unto them,
My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry
ye here, and watch with Me. 39. And He went a little
farther, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O My
Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me:
nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt. 40. And
He cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep,
and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with Me
one hour! 41. Watch and pray, that ye enter not into
temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh
is weak. 42. He went away again the second time, and
prayed, saying, O My Father, if this cup may not pass
away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.
43. And He came and found them asleep again: for their
eyes were heavy. 44. And He left them, and went away
again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
45. Then cometh He to His disciples, and saith unto
them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the
hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into
the hands of sinners. 46. Rise, let us be going: behold,
he is at hand that doth betray Me.'--MATT. xxvi. 36-46.

One shrinks from touching this incomparable picture of unexampled
sorrow, for fear lest one's finger-marks should stain it. There is
no place here for picturesque description, which tries to mend the
gospel stories by dressing them in to-day's fashions, nor for
theological systematisers and analysers of the sort that would
'botanise upon their mother's grave.' We must put off our shoes, and
feel that we stand on holy ground. Though loving eyes saw something
of Christ's agony, He did not let them come beside Him, but withdrew
into the shadow of the gnarled olives, as if even the moonbeams must
not look too closely on the mystery of such grief. We may go as near
as love was allowed to go, but stop where it was stayed, while we
reverently and adoringly listen to what the Evangelist tells us of
that unspeakable hour.

I. Mark the 'exceeding sorrow' of the Man of Sorrows. Somewhere on
the western foot of Olivet lay the garden, named from an oil-press
formerly or then in it, which was to be the scene of the holiest and
sorest sorrow on which the moon, that has seen so much misery, has
ever looked. Truly it was 'an oil-press,' in which 'the good olive'
was crushed by the grip of unparalleled agony, and yielded precious
oil, which has been poured into many a wound since then. Eight of
the eleven are left at or near the entrance, while He passes deeper
into the shadows with the three. They had been witnesses of His
prayers once before, on the slopes of Hermon, when He was
transfigured before them. They are now to see a no less wonderful
revelation of His glory in His filial submission. There is something
remarkable in Matthew's expression, 'He began to be sorrowful,'--as
if a sudden wave of emotion, breaking over His soul, had swept His
human sensibilities before it. The strange word translated by the
Revisers 'sore troubled' is of uncertain derivation, and may
possibly be simply intended to intensify the idea of sorrow; but
more probably it adds another element, which Bishop Lightfoot
describes as 'the confused, restless, half-distracted state which is
produced by physical derangement or mental distress.' A storm of
agitation and bewilderment broke His calm, and forced from His
patient lips, little wont to speak of His own emotions, or to seek
for sympathy, the unutterably pathetic cry, 'My soul is exceeding
sorrowful'--compassed about with sorrow, as the word means--'even
unto death.' No feeble explanation of these words does justice to
the abyss of woe into which they let us dimly look. They tell the
fact, that, a little more and the body would have sunk under the
burden. He knew the limits of human endurance, for 'all things were
made by Him,' and, knowing it, He saw that He had grazed the very
edge. Out of the darkness He reaches a hand to feel for the grasp of
a friend, and piteously asks these humble lovers to stay beside Him,
not that they could help Him to bear the weight, but that their
presence had some solace in it. His agony must be endured alone,
therefore He bade them tarry there; but He desired to have them at
hand, therefore He went but 'a little forward.' They could not bear
it with Him, but they could 'watch with' Him, and that poor comfort
is all He asks. No word came from them. They were, no doubt, awed
into silence, as the truest sympathy is used to be, in the presence
of a great grief. Is it permitted us to ask what were the fountains
of these bitter floods that swept over Christ's sinless soul? Was
the mere physical shrinking from death all? If so, we may reverently

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