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Expositions of Holy Scripture by Alexander Maclaren

Part 2 out of 12

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His measure of excellence is the quantity of love and spiritual
force in our deeds, not the width of the area over which they
spread. An estuary that goes wandering over miles of shallows may
have less water in it, and may creep more languidly, than the
torrent that thunders through some narrow gorge. The deeds that
stand highest on the records in heaven are not those which we
vulgarly call great. Many 'a cup of cold water only' will be found
to have been rated higher there than jewelled golden chalices
brimming with rare wines. God's treasures, where He keeps His
children's gifts, will be like many a mother's secret store of
relics of her children, full of things of no value, what the world
calls 'trash,' but precious in His eyes for the love's sake that was
in them.

All service which is done from the same motive and with the same
spirit is of the same worth in His eyes. It does not matter whether
you have the gospel in a penny Testament printed on thin paper with
black ink and done up in cloth, or in an illuminated missal glowing
in gold and colour, painted with loving care on fair parchment, and
bound in jewelled ivory. And so it matters little about the material
or the scale on which we express our devotion and our aspirations;
all depends on what we copy, not on the size of the canvas on which,
or on the material in which, we copy it. 'Small service is true
service while it lasts,' and the unnoticed insignificant servants
may do work every whit as good and noble as the most widely known,
to whom have been intrusted by Christ tasks that mould the ages.

IV. Finally, we may add that forgotten work is remembered, and
unrecorded names are recorded above.

The names of these almost anonymous apostles have no place in the
records of the advancement of the Church or of the development of
Christian doctrine. They drop out of the narrative after the list in
the first chapter of the Acts. But we do hear of them once more. In
that last vision of the great city which the seer beheld descending
from God, we read that in its 'foundations were the names of the
twelve apostles of the Lamb.' All were graven there--the inconspicuous
names carved on no record of earth, as well as the familiar ones cut
deep in the rock to be seen of all men for ever. At the least that
grand image may tell us that when the perfect state of the Church is
realised, the work which these men did when their testimony laid its
foundation, will be for ever associated with their names. Unrecorded
on earth, they are written in heaven.

The forgotten work and its workers are remembered by Christ. His
faithful heart and all-seeing eye keep them ever in view. The world,
and the Church whom these humble men helped, may forget, yet He will
not forget. From whatever muster-roll of benefactors and helpers
their names may be absent, they will be in His list. The Apostle
Paul, in his Epistle to the Philippians, has a saying in which his
delicate courtesy is beautifully conspicuous, where he half apologises
for not sending his greetings 'to others my fellow-workers' by name,
and reminds them that, however their names may be unwritten in his
letter, they have been inscribed by a mightier hand on a better page,
and 'are in the Lamb's book of life.' It matters very little from what
record ours may be absent so long as they are found there. Let us
rejoice that, though we may live obscure and die forgotten, we may
have our names written on the breastplate of our High Priest as He
stands in the Holy Place, the breastplate which lies close to His
heart of love, and is girded to His arm of power.

The forgotten and unrecorded work lives, too, in the great whole. The
fruit of our labour may perhaps not be separable from that of others,
any more than the sowers can go into the reaped harvest-field and
identify the gathered ears which have sprung from the seed that they
sowed, but it is there all the same; and whosoever may be unable to
pick out each man's share in the blessed total outcome, the Lord of
the harvest knows, and His accurate proportionment of individual
reward to individual service will not mar the companionship in the
general gladness, when 'he that soweth and he that reapeth shall
rejoice together.'

The forgotten work will live, too, in blessed results to the doers.
Whatever of recognition and honour we may miss here, we cannot be
robbed of the blessing to ourselves, in the perpetual influence on
our own character, of every piece of faithful even if imperfect
service. Habits are formed, emotions deepened, principles confirmed,
capacities enlarged by every deed done for Christ, and these make an
over-measure of reward here, and in their perfect form hereafter are
heaven. Nothing done for Him is ever wasted. 'Thou shalt find it
after many days.' We are all writing our lives' histories here, as
if with one of these 'manifold writers'--a black blank page beneath
the flimsy sheet on which we write, but presently the black page
will be taken away, and the writing will stand out plain on the page
behind that we did not see. Life is the filmy, unsubstantial page on
which our pen rests; the black page is death; and the page beneath
is that indelible transcript of our earthly actions, which we shall
find waiting for us to read, with shame and confusion of face, or
with humble joy, in another world.

Then let us do our work for Christ, not much careful whether it be
greater or smaller, obscure or conspicuous; assured that whoever
forgets us and it, He will remember, and however our names may be
unrecorded on earth, they will be written in heaven, and confessed
by Him before His Father and the holy angels.


'These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them,
saying, do not into the way of the Gentiles, and into
any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6. But go
rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7. And
as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at
hand. 8. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the
dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely
give. 9. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in
your purses, 10. Nor scrip for your journey, neither
two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the
workman is worthy of his meat. 11. And into whatsoever
city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is
worthy: and there abide till ye go thence. 12. And when
ye come into an house, salute it. 13. And if the house
be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be
not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14. And
whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words,
when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the
dust of your feet. 15. Verily I say unto you, It shall
be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in
the day of judgment, than for that city. 16. Behold, I
send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye
therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.'
--Matt. x. 5-16.

The letter of these instructions to the apostles has been abrogated
by Christ, both in reference to the scope of, and the equipment for,
their mission (Matt. xxviii. 19; Luke xxii. 36). The spirit of them
remains as the perpetual obligation of all Christian workers, and
every Christian should belong to that class. Some direct
evangelistic work ought to be done by every believer, and in doing
it he will find no better directory than this charge to the

I. We have, first, the apostles' mission in its sphere and manner
(vs. 5-8). They are told where to go and what to do there. Mark that
the negative prohibition precedes the positive injunction, as if the
apostles were already so imbued with the spirit of universalism that
they would probably have overpassed the bounds which for the present
were needful. The restriction was transient. It continued in the
line of divine limitation of the sphere of Revelation which confined
itself to the Jew, in order that through him it might reach the
world. That method could not be abandoned till the Jew himself had
destroyed it by rejecting Christ. Jesus still clung to it. Even when
the commission was widened to 'all the world,' Paul went 'to the Jew
first,' till he too was taught by uniform failure that Israel was
fixed in unbelief.

How tenderly our Lord designates the nation as 'the lost sheep of
the house of Israel'! He is still influenced by that compassion
which the sight of the multitudes had moved in Him (chap. ix. 36).
Lost indeed, wandering with torn fleece, and lying panting, in
ignorance of their pasture and their Shepherd, they are yet 'sheep,'
and they belong to that chosen seed, sprung from so venerable
ancestors, and heirs of so glorious promises. Clear sight of, and
infinite pity for, men's miseries, must underlie all apostolic

The work to be done is twofold--a glad truth is to be proclaimed,
gracious deeds of power are to be done. How blessed must be the kingdom,
the forerunners of which are miracles of healing and life-giving! If
the heralds can do these, what will not the King be able to do? If such
hues attend the dawn, how radiant will be the noontide! Note 'as ye
go,' indicating that they were travelling evangelists, and were to
speak as they went, and go when they had spoken. The road was to be
their pulpit, and each man they met their audience. What a different
world it would be if Christians carried their message with them _so_!

'Freely ye have received'; namely, in the first application of the
words, the message of the coming kingdom and the power to work
miracles. But the force of the injunction, as applied to us, is even
more soul-subduing, as our gift is greater, and the freedom of its
bestowal should evoke deeper gratitude. The deepest springs of the
heart's love are set flowing by the undeserved, unpurchased gift of
God, which contains in itself both the most tender and mighty motive
for self-forgetting labour, and the pattern for Christian service.
How can one who has received that gift keep it to himself? How can
he sell what he got for nothing? 'Freely give'--the precept forbids
the seeking of personal profit or advantage from preaching the
gospel, and so makes a sharp test of our motives; and it also
forbids clogging the gift with non-essential conditions, and so
makes a sharp test of our methods.

II. The prohibition to make gain out of the message, serves as a
transition to the directions as to equipment. The apostles were to
go as they stood; for the command is, '_Get_ you no gold,' etc.
It has been already noted that these prohibitions were abrogated by
Jesus in view of His departure, and the world-wide mission of the
Church. But the spirit of them is not abrogated. Note that the
descending value of the metals named makes an ascending stringency
in the prohibition. Not even copper money is to be taken. The
'wallet' was a leather satchel or bag, used by shepherds and others
to carry a little food; sustenance, then, was also to be left
uncared for. Dress, too, was to be limited to that in wear; no
change of inner robe nor a spare pair of shoes was to encumber them,
nor even a spare staff. If any of them had one in his hand, he was
to take it (Mark vi. 8). The command was meant to lift the apostles
above suspicion, to make them manifestly disinterested, to free them
from anxiety about earthly things, that their message might absorb
their thoughts and efforts, and to give room for the display of
Christ's power to provide. It had a promise wrapped in it. He who
forbade them to provide for themselves thereby pledged Himself to
take care of them. 'The labourer is worthy of his food.' They may be
sure of subsistence, and are not to wish for more.

All this has a distinct bearing on modern church arrangements. On
the one hand, it vindicates the right of those who preach the gospel
to live of the gospel, and sets any payments to them on the right
footing, as not being charity or generosity, but the discharge of a
debt. On the other hand, it enjoins on preachers and others who are
paid for service not to serve for pay, not to be covetous of large
remuneration, and to take care that no taint of greed for money
shall mar their work, but that their conduct may confirm their words
when they say with Paul, 'We seek not yours, but you.'

III. The conduct required from, and the reception met with by, the
messengers come next. Christ first enjoins discretion and
discrimination of character, so far as possible. The messenger of
the kingdom is not to be mixed up with disreputable people, lest the
message should suffer. The principle of his choice of a home is to
be, not position, comfort, or the like, but 'worthiness'; that is,
predisposition to receive the message. However poor the chamber in
the house of such, there is the apostle to settle himself. 'If ye
have judged me to be faithful, come into my house,' said Lydia. The
less Christ's messengers are at home with Christ's neglecters, the
calmer their own hearts, and the more potent their message. They
give the lie to it, if they voluntarily choose as their associates
those to whom their dearest convictions are idle. Christian charity
does not blind to distinctions of character. A little common sense
in reading these will save many a scandal, and much weakening of

Christian earnestness does not abolish courtesy. The message is not
to be blurted out in defiance of even conventional forms. Zeal for
the Lord is no excuse for rude abruptness. But the salutation of the
true apostle will deepen the meaning of such forms, and make the
conventional the real expression of real goodwill. No man should say
'Peace be unto you' so heartily as Christ's servant. The servant's
benediction will bring the Master's ratification; for Jesus says,
'_Let_ your peace come upon it,' as if commanding the good
which we can only wish. That will be so, if the requisite condition
is fulfilled. There must be soil for the seed to root in.

But no true wish for others' good--still more, no effort for it--is
ever void of blessed issue. If the peace does not rest on a house
into which jarring and sin forbid its entrance, it will not be
homeless, but come back, like the dove to the ark, and fold its
wings in the heart of the sender. The reflex influence of Christian
effort is precious, whatever its direct results are. How the Church
has been benefited by its missionary enterprises!

Jesus encouraged no illusions in His servants as to their success.
From the beginning they were led to expect that some would receive
and some would reject their words. In this rapid preparatory
mission, there was no time for long delay anywhere; but for us, it
is not wise to conclude that patient effort will fail because first
appeals have not succeeded. Much close communion with Jesus, not a
little self-suppression, and abundant practical wisdom, are needed
to determine the point at which further efforts are vain. No doubt,
there is often great waste of strength in trying to impress
unimpressible people, or to revive some moribund enterprise; but it
is a pardonable weakness to be reluctant to abandon a field. Still
it _is_ a weakness, and there come times when the only right
thing to do is to 'shake off the dust' of the messenger's feet in
token that all connection is ended, and that he is clear from the
blood of the rejecters. The awful doom of such is solemnly
introduced by 'Verily, I say unto you.' It rests on the plain
principle that the measure of light is the measure of criminality,
and hence the measure of punishment. The rejecters of Christ among
us are as much more guilty than 'that city' as its inhabitants were
than the men of Sodom.

The first section of this charge properly ends with verse 15, the
following verse being a transition to the second part. The Greek
puts strong emphasis on 'I.' It is He who sends among wolves,
therefore He will protect. A strange thing for a shepherd to do! A
strange encouragement for the apostles on the threshold of their
work! But the words would often come back to them when beset by the
pack with their white teeth gleaming, and their howls filling the
night. They are not promised that they will not be torn, but they
are assured that, even if they are, the Shepherd wills it, and will
not lose one of His flock.

What is the Christian defence? Prudence like the serpent's, but not
the serpent's craft or malice; harmlessness like the dove's, but not
without the other safeguard of 'wisdom.' The combination is a rare
one, and the surest way to possess it is to live so close to Jesus
that we shall be progressively changed into His likeness. Then our
prudence will never degenerate into cunning, nor our simplicity
become blindness to dangers. The Christian armour and arms are meek,
unconquerable patience, and Christ-likeness, To resist is to be
beaten; to endure unretaliating is to be victorious. 'Be not
overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.'


'Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of
wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless
as doves. 17. But beware of men: for they will deliver
you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in
their synagogues; 18. And ye shall be brought before
governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony
against them and the Gentiles. 19. But when they
deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall
speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what
ye shall speak. 20. For it is not ye that speak, but
the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
21. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to
death, and the father the child: and the children shall
rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put
to death. 22. And ye shall be hated of all men for My
name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be
saved. 23. But when they persecute you in this city,
flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye
shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the
Son of Man be come. 24. The disciple is not above his
master, nor the servant above his lord. 25. It is
enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and
the servant as his lord. If they have called the master
of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call
them of his household? 26. Fear them not therefore: for
there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed;
and hid, that shall not be known. 27. What I tell you
in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear
in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. 28. And
fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to
kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to
destroy both soul and body in hell. 29. Are not two
sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not
fall on the ground without your Father. 30. But the
very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31. Fear ye
not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.'
--MATT. x. 16-31.

We have already had two instances of Matthew's way of bringing
together sayings and incidents of a like kind without regard to
their original connection. The Sermon on the Mount and the series of
miracles in chapters viii. and ix. are groups, the elements of which
are for the most part found disconnected in Mark and Luke. This
charge to the twelve in chapter x. seems to present a third
instance, and to pass over in verse 16 to a wider mission than that
of the twelve during our Lord's lifetime, for it forebodes
persecution, whereas the preceding verses opened no darker prospect
than that of indifference or non-reception. The 'city' which, in
that stage of the gospel message, simply would 'not receive you nor
hear your words,' in this stage has worsened into one where 'they
persecute you,' and the persecutors are now 'kings' and 'Gentiles,'
as well as Jewish councils and synagogue-frequenters. The period
covered in these verses, too, reaches to the 'end,' the final
revelation of all hidden things.

Obviously, then, our Lord is looking down a far future, and giving a
charge to the dim crowd of His later disciples, whom His prescient
eye saw pressing behind the twelve in days to come. He had no dreams
of swift success, but realised the long, hard fight to which He was
summoning His disciples. And His frankness in telling them the worst
that they had to expect was as suggestive as was His freedom from
the rosy, groundless visions of at once capturing a world which
enthusiasts are apt to cherish, till hard experience shatters the
illusions. He knew the future in store for Himself, for His Gospel,
for His disciples. And He knew that dangers and death itself will
not appal a soul that is touched into heroic self-forgetfulness by
His love. 'Set down my name,' says the man in _Pilgrim's Progress_,
though he knew--may we not say, because he knew?--that the enemies
were outside waiting to fall on him.

A further difference between this and the preceding section is, that
there the stress was laid on the contents of the disciples' message,
but that here it is laid on their sufferings. Not so much by what
they say, as by how they endure, are they to testify. 'The noble
army of martyrs praise Thee,' and the primitive Church preached
Jesus most effectually by dying for Him.

The keynote is struck in verse 16, in which are to be noted the
'Behold,' which introduces something important and strange, and
calls for close attention; the majestic '_I_ send you,' which
moves to obedience whatever the issues, and pledges Him to defend
the poor men who are going on His errands and the pathetic picture
of the little flock huddled together, while the gleaming teeth of
the wolves gnash all round them. A strange theme to drape in a
metaphor! but does not the very metaphor help to lighten the
darkness of the picture, as well as speak of His calmness, while He
contemplates it? If the Shepherd sends His sheep into the midst of
wolves, surely He will come to their help, and surely any peril is
more courageously faced when they can say to themselves, 'He put us
here.' The sheep has no claws to wound with nor teeth to tear with,
but the defenceless Christian has a defence, and in his very
weaponlessness wields the sharpest two-edged sword. 'Force from
force must ever flow.' Resistance is a mistake. The victorious
antagonist of savage enmity is patient meekness. 'Sufferance is the
badge of all' true servants of Jesus. Wherever they have been
misguided enough to depart from Christ's law of endurance and to
give blow for blow, they have lost their cause in the long run, and
have hurt their own Christian life more than their enemies' bodies.
Guilelessness and harmlessness are their weapons. But 'be ye wise as
serpents' is equally imperative with 'guileless as doves.' Mark the
fine sanity of that injunction, which not only permits but enjoins
prudent self-preservation, so long as it does not stoop to crooked
policy, and is saved from that by dove-like guilelessness. A
difficult combination, but a possible one, and when realised, a
beautiful one!

The following verses (17-22) expand the preceding, and mingle in a
very remarkable way plain predictions of persecution to the death
and encouragements to front the worst. Jewish councils and
synagogues, Gentile governors and kings, will unite for once in
common hatred, than which there is no stronger bond. That is a grim
prospect to set before a handful of Galilean peasants, but two
little words turn its terror into joy; it is 'for My sake,' and that
is enough. Jesus trusted His humble friends, as He trusts all such
always, and believed that 'for My sake' was a talisman which would
sweeten the bitterest cup and would make cowards into heroes, and
send men and women to their deaths triumphant. And history has
proved that He did not trust them too much. 'For His sake'--is that
a charm for _us_, which makes the crooked straight and the
rough places plain, which nerves for suffering and impels to noble
acts, which moulds life and takes the sting and the terror out of
death? Nor is that the only encouragement given to the twelve, who
might well be appalled at the prospect of standing before Gentile
kings. Jesus seems to discern how they shrank as they listened, at
the thought of having to bear 'testimony' before exalted personages,
and, with beautiful adaptation to their weakness, He interjects a
great promise, which, for the first time, presents the divine Spirit
as dwelling in the disciples' spirits. The occasion of the dawning
of that great Christian thought is very noteworthy, and not less so
is the designation of the Spirit as 'of your Father,' with all the
implications of paternal care and love which that name carries.
Special crises bring special helps, and the martyrologies of all
ages and lands, from Stephen outside the city wall to the last
Chinese woman, have attested the faithfulness of the Promiser. How
often have some calm, simple words from some slave girl in Roman
cities, or some ignorant confessor before Inquisitors, been
manifestly touched with heavenly light and power, and silenced
sophistries and threats!

The solemn foretelling of persecution, broken for a moment, goes on
and becomes even more foreboding, for it speaks of dearest ones
turned to foes, and the sweet sanctities of family ties dissolved by
the solvent of the new Faith. There is no enemy like a brother
estranged, and it is tragically significant that it is in connection
with the rupture of family bonds that death is first mentioned as
the price that Christ's messengers would have to pay for
faithfulness to their message. But the prediction springs at a
bound, as it were, from the narrow circle of home to the widest
range, and does not fear to spread before the eyes of the twelve
that they will become the objects of hatred to the whole human race
if they are true to Christ's charge. The picture is dark enough, and
it has turned out to be a true forecast of facts. It suggests two
questions. What right had Jesus to send men out on such an errand,
and to bid them gladly die for Him? And what made these men gladly
take up the burden which He laid on them? He has the right to
dispose of us, because He is the Son of God who has died for us.
Otherwise He is not entitled to say to us, Do my bidding, even if it
leads you to death. His servants find their inspiration to absolute,
unconditional self-surrender in the Love that has died for them.
That which gives Him His right to dispose of us in life and death
gives us the disposition to yield ourselves wholly to Him, to be His
apostles according to our opportunities, and to say, 'Whether I live
or die, I am the Lord's.'

That thought of world-wide hatred is soothed by the recurrence of
the talisman, 'For My name's sake,' and by a moment's showing of a
fair prospect behind the gloom streaked with lightning in the
foreground. 'He that endureth to the end shall be saved.' The same
saying occurs in chapter xxiv. 13, in connection with the prediction
of the fall of Jerusalem, and in the same connection in Mark xiii.
13, in both of which places several other sayings which appear in
this charge to the apostles are found. It is impossible to settle
which is the original place for these, or whether they were twice
spoken. The latter supposition is very unfashionable at present, but
has perhaps more to say for itself than modern critics are willing
to allow. But Luke (xxi. 19) has a remarkable variation of the
saying, for his version of it is, 'In your patience, ye shall win
your souls.' His word 'patience' is a noun cognate with the verb
rendered in Matthew and Mark 'endureth,' and to 'win one's soul' is
obviously synonymous with being 'saved.' The saying cannot be
limited, in any of its forms, to a mere securing of earthly life,
for in this context it plainly includes those who have been
delivered to death by parents and brethren, but who by death have
won their lives, and have been, as Paul expected to be, thereby
'saved into His heavenly kingdom.' To the Christian, death is the
usher who introduces him into the presence-chamber of the King, and
he that loseth his life 'for My name's sake,' finds it glorified in,
and into, life eternal.

But willingness to endure the utmost is to be accompanied with
willingness to take all worthy means to escape it. There has been a
certain unwholesome craving for martyrdom generated in times of
persecution, which may appear noble but is very wasteful. The worst
use that you can put a man to is to burn him, and a living witness
may do more for Christ than a dead martyr. Christian heroism may be
shown in not being afraid to flee quite as much as in courting, or
passively awaiting, danger. And Christ's Name will be spread when
His lovers are hounded from one city to another, just as it was when
'they that were scattered abroad, went everywhere, preaching the
word.' When the brands are kicked apart by the heel of violence,
they kindle flames where they fall.

But the reason for this command to flee is perplexing. 'Ye shall not
have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come.' Is
Jesus here reverting to the narrower immediate mission of the
apostles? What 'coming' is referred to? We have seen that the first
mission of the twelve was the theme of verses 5-15, and was there
pursued to its ultimate consequences of final judgment on rejecters,
whilst the wider horizon of a future mission opens out from verse 16
onwards. A renewed contraction of the horizon is extremely unlikely.
It would be as if 'a flower should shut and be a bud again.' The
recurrence in verse 23 of 'Verily I say unto you,' which has already
occurred in verse 15, closing the first section of the charge, makes
it probable that here too a section is completed, and that
probability is strengthened if it is observed that the same phrase
occurs, for a third time, in the last verse of the chapter, where
again the discourse soars to the height of contemplating the final
reward. The fact that the apostles met with no persecution on their
first mission, puts out of court the explanation of the words that
refers them to that mission, and takes the 'coming' to be Jesus' own
appearances in the places they had preceded Him as His heralds. The
difficult question as to what is the _terminus ad quem_ pointed
to here seems best solved by taking the 'coming of the Son of Man'
to be His judicial manifestation in the destruction of Jerusalem and
the consequent desolation of many of 'the cities of Israel,' whilst
at the same time, the nearer and smaller catastrophe is a prophecy
and symbol of the remoter and greater 'day of the Son of Man' at the
end of the days. The recognition of that aspect of the fall of
Jerusalem is forced on us by the eschatological parts of the
Gospels, which are a bewildering whirl without it. Here, however, it
is the crash of the fall itself which is in view, and the thought
conveyed is that there would be cities enough to serve for refuges,
and scope enough for evangelistic work, till the end of the Jewish
possession of the land.

In verses 26-31, 'fear not' is thrice spoken, and at each occurrence
is enforced by a reason. The first of these encouragements is the
assurance of the certain ultimate world-wide manifestation of hidden
things. That same dictum occurs in other connections, and with other
applications, but in the present context can only be taken as an
assurance that the Gospel message, little known as it thus far was,
was destined to fill all ears. Therefore the disciples were to be
fearless in doing their part in making it known, and so working in
alliance with the divine purpose. It is the same thing that is meant
by the 'covered' that 'shall be revealed,' the 'hidden' that 'shall
be known,' 'that which is spoken in darkness,' and 'that which is
whispered in the ear'; and all four designations refer to the word
which every Christian has it in charge to sound out. We note that
Jesus foresees a far wider range of publicity for His servants'
ministry than for His own, just as He afterwards declared that they
would do 'greater works' than His. He spoke to a handful of men in
an obscure corner of the world. His teaching was necessarily largely
confidential communication to the fit few. But the spark is going to
be a blaze, and the whisper to become a shout that fills the world.
Surely, then, we who are working in the line of direction of God's
working should let no fear make us dumb, but should ever hear and
obey the command: 'Lift up thy voice with strength, lift it up, be
not afraid.'

A second reason for fearlessness is the limitation of the enemy's
power to hurt, reinforced by the thought that, while the penalties
that man can inflict for faithfulness are only corporeal,
transitory, and incapable of harming the true self, the consequences
of unfaithfulness fling the whole man, body and soul, down to utter
ruin. There is a fear that makes cowards and apostates; there is a
fear which makes heroes and apostles. He who fears God, with the awe
that has no torment and is own sister to love, is afraid of nothing
and of no man. That holy and blessed fear drives out all other, as
fire draws the heat out of a burn. He that serves Christ is lord of
the world; he that fears God fronts the world, and is not afraid.

The last reason for fearlessness touches a tender chord, and
discloses a gracious thought of God as Father, which softens the
tremendous preceding word: 'Who is able to destroy both soul and
body in hell.' Take both designations together, and let them work
together in producing the awe which makes us brave, and the filial
trust which makes us braver. A bird does not 'fall to the ground'
unless wounded, and if it falls it dies. Jesus had looked pityingly
on the great mystery, the woes of the creatures, and had stayed
Himself on the thought of the all-embracing working of God. The very
dying sparrow, with broken wing, had its place in that universal
care. God is 'immanent' in nature. The antithesis often drawn
between His universal care and His 'special providence' is
misleading. Providence is special because it is universal. That
which embraces everything must embrace each thing. But the immanent
God is 'your Father,' and because of that sonship, 'ye are of more
value than many sparrows.' There is an ascending order, and an
increasing closeness and tenderness of relation. 'A man is better
than a sheep,' and Christians, being God's children, may count on
getting closer into the Father's heart than the poor crippled bird
can, or than the godless man can. 'Your Father,' on the one hand,
can destroy soul and body, therefore fear Him; but, on the other, He
determines whether you shall 'fall to the ground' or soar above
dangers, therefore fear none but Him.


'The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant
above his lord. 26. It is enough for the disciple that
he be as his master, and the servant as his lord.'
--MATT. x. 24, 25.

These words were often on Christ's lips. Like other teachers, He too
had His favourite sayings, the light of which He was wont to flash
into many dark places. Such a saying, for instance, was, 'To him
that hath shall be given.' Such a saying is this of my text; and
probably several other of our Lord's utterances, which are repeated
more than once in different Gospels, and have too hastily been
sometimes assumed to have been introduced erroneously by the
evangelists, in varying connections.

This half-proverb occurs four times in the Gospels, and in three
very different connections, pointing to three different subjects.
Here, and once in John's Gospel, in the fifteenth chapter, it is
employed to enforce the lesson of the oneness of Christ and His
disciples in their relation to the world; and that His servants
cannot expect to be better off than the Master was. 'If they have
called Me Beelzebub they will not call you anything else.'

Then in Luke's Gospel (vi. 40) it is employed to illustrate the
principle that the scholar cannot expect to be wiser than his
master; that a blind teacher will have blind pupils, and that they
will both fall into the ditch. Of course, the scholar may get beyond
his master, but then he will get up and go away from the school, and
will not be his scholar any longer. As long as he is a scholar, the
best that can happen to him, and that will not often happen, is to
be on the level of his teacher.

Then in another place in John's Gospel (xiii. 16) the saying is
employed in reference to a different subject, viz. to teach the
meaning of the pathetic, symbolical foot-washing, and to enforce the
exhortation to imitate Jesus Christ, as generally in conduct, so
specially in His wondrous humility. 'The servant is not greater than
his lord.' 'I have left you an example that ye should do as I have
done to you.'

So if we put these three instances together we get a threefold
illustration of the relation between the disciple and the teacher,
in respect to wisdom, conduct, and reception by the world. And these
three, with their bearing on the relation between Christians and
Jesus Christ, open out large fields of duty and of privilege. The
very centre of Christianity is discipleship, and the very highest
hope, as well as the most imperative command which the Gospel brings
to men is, 'Be like Him whom you profess to have taken as your
Master. Be like Him here, and you shall be like Him hereafter.'

I. Likeness to the teacher in wisdom is the disciple's perfection.

'If the blind lead the blind both shall fall into the ditch.' 'The
disciple is not greater than his master.' 'It is enough for the
disciple that he be as his master.' If that be a true principle,
that the best that can happen to the scholar is to tread in his
teacher's footsteps, to see with his eyes, to absorb his wisdom, to
learn his truth, we may apply it in two opposite directions. First,
it teaches us the limitations, and the misery, and the folly of
taking men for our masters; and then, on the other hand, it teaches
us the large hope, the blessing, freedom, and joy of having Christ
for our Master.

Now, first, look at the principle as bearing upon the relation of
disciple and human teacher. All such teachers have their
limitations. Each man has his little circle of favourite ideas that
he is perpetually reiterating. In fact, it seems as if one truth was
about as much as one teacher could manage, and as if, whensoever God
had any great truth to give to the world, He had to take one man and
make him its sole apostle. So that teachers become mere fragments,
and to listen to them is to dwarf and narrow oneself.

The chances are that no scholar shall be on his master's level. The
eyes that see truth directly and for themselves in this world are
very few. Most men have to take truth at second-hand, and few indeed
are they who, like a perfect medium, receive even the fragmentary
truth that human lips can impart to them, and transmit it as pure as
they receive it. Disciples present exaggerations, caricatures,
misconceptions, the limitations of the master becoming even more
rigid in the pupil. Schools spring up which push the founder's
teaching to extremes, and draw conclusions from it which he never
dreamed of. Instead of a fresh voice, we have echoes, which, like
all echoes, give only a syllable or two out of a sentence. Teachers
can tell what they see, but they cannot give their followers eyes,
and so the followers can do little more than repeat what their
leader said he saw. They are like the little suckers that spring up
from the 'stool' of a cut-down tree, or like the kinglets among
whose feebler hands the great empire of an Alexander was divided at
his death.

It is a dwarfing thing to call any man master upon earth. And yet
men will give to a man the credence which they refuse to Christ. The
followers of some of the fashionable teachers of to-day--Comte,
Spencer, or others--protest, in the name of mental independence,
against accepting Christ as the absolute teacher of morals and
religion, and then go away and put a man in the very place which
they have denied to Him, and swallow down his _dicta_ whole.

Such facts show how heart and mind crave a teacher; how discipleship
is ingrained in our nature; how we all long for some one who shall
come to us authoritatively and say, 'Here is truth--believe it and
live on it.' And yet it is fatal to pin one's faith on any, and it
is miserable to have to change guides perpetually and to feel that
we have outgrown those whom we reverence, and that we can look down
on the height which once seemed to touch the stars--and, if we cut
ourselves loose from all men's teaching, the isolation is dreary,
and few of us are strong enough of arm, or clear enough of eye, to
force or find the path through the tangled jungles of error.

So take this thought, that the highest hope of a disciple is to be
like the master in wisdom, in its bearing on the relation between us
and Christ, and look how it then flashes up into blessedness and

Such a teacher as we have in Him has no limitations, and it is safe
to follow Him absolutely and Him alone. All others have plainly
borne the impress of their age, or their nation, or their
idiosyncrasy, in some way or another; Christ Jesus is the only
teacher that the world has ever heard of, in whose teaching there is
no mark of the age or generation or set of circumstances in which it
originated. This water does not taste of any soil through which it
has passed, it has come straight down from Heaven, and is pure and
uncontaminated as the Heaven from which it has come. This teacher is
safe to listen to absolutely: there are no limitations there; you
never hear Him arguing; there is no sign about His words as if He
had ever dug out for Himself the wisdom that He is proclaiming, or
had ever seen it less distinctly than He sees it at the moment. The
great peculiarity of His teaching is that He does not reason, but
declares that His 'Verily! Verily!' is the confirmation of all His
message. His teaching is Himself; other men bring lessons about truth;
He says, 'I am the Truth.' Other teachers keep their personality in
the background; He clashes His down in the foreground. Other men say,
'Listen to what I tell you, never mind about me.' He says, 'This is
life eternal, that ye should believe on Me.' This Teacher has His
message level to all minds, high and low, wise and foolish, cultivated
and rude. This Teacher does not only impart wisdom by words as from
without, though He does that too, but He comes into men's spirits, and
communicates Himself, and so makes them wise. Other teachers fumble at
the outside, but 'in the hidden parts He makes me to know wisdom.' So
it is safe to take this Teacher absolutely, and to say, 'Thou art my
Master, Thy word is truth, and the opening of Thy lips to me is wisdom.'

In following Christ as our absolute Teacher, there is no sacrifice
of independence or freedom of mind, but listening to Him is the way
to secure these in their highest degree. We are set free from men,
we are growingly delivered from errors and misconceptions, in the
measure in which we keep close to Christ as our Master. The Lord is
that Teacher, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there, and there
only, is liberty; freedom from self, from the dominion of popular
opinion, from the coterie-speech of schools, from the imposing
authority of individuals, and from all that makes cowardly men say
as other people say, and fall in with the majority; and freedom from
our own prejudices and our own errors, which are cleared away when
we take Christ for our Master and cleave to Him.

His teaching can never cease until it has accomplished its purpose,
and not until we have gathered into our consciousness all the truth
that He has to give, and have received all the wisdom that He can
impart unto us as to God and Himself, does His teaching cease. Here
we may grow indefinitely in the knowledge of Christ, and in the
future we shall know even as we are known. His merciful teaching
will not come to a close till we have drunk in all His wisdom, and
till He has declared to us all which He has heard of the Father. He
will pass us from one form to another of His school, but in Heaven
we shall still be His scholars; 'Every one shall sit at Thy feet,
every one shall receive of Thy words.'

So, then, let us turn away from men, from rabbis and Sanhedrins,
from authorities and schools, from doctors and churches. Why resort
to cisterns when we may draw from the spring? Why listen to men when
we may hear Christ? He is, as Dante called the great Greek thinker,
'the Master of those who know.' Why should we look to the planets
when we can see the sun? 'Call no man master upon earth, for One is
your Master, and all ye are brethren.' And His merciful teaching
will never cease until 'everyone that is perfected shall be as his

II. Now, turn to the second application of this principle. Likeness
to the Master in life is the law of a disciple's conduct.

That pathetic and wonderful story about the foot-washing in John's
Gospel is meant for a symbol. It is the presenting, in a picturesque
form, of the very heart and essence of Christ's Incarnation in its
motive and purpose. The solemn prelude with which the evangelist
introduces it lays bare our Lord's heart and His reason for His
action. 'Having loved His own, which were in the world, He loved
them to the end.' His motive, then, was love. Again, the exalted
consciousness which accompanied His self-abasement is made prominent
in the words, 'Knowing that the Father had given all things into His
hand, and that He was come from God and went to God.' And the
majestic deliberation and patient continuance in resolved humility
with which He goes down the successive steps of the descent, are
wonderfully given in the evangelist's record of how He 'riseth from
supper, and laid aside His garments and girded Himself, and poured
water into the basin.' It is a parable. Thus, in the consciousness
of His divine authority and dignity, and moved by His love to the
whole world, He laid aside the garments of His glory, and vested
Himself with the towel of His humanity, the servant's garb, and took
the water of His cleansing power, and came to wash the feet of all
who will let Him cleanse them from their soil. And then, having
reassumed His garments, He speaks from His throne to those who have
been cleansed by His humiliation and His sacrifice, 'Know ye what I
have done to you? The servant is not greater than his lord.'

That is to say, dear brethren, in this one incident, which is the
condensation, so to speak, of the whole spirit of His life, is the
law for our lives as well. We, too, are bound to that same love as
the main motive of all our actions; we, too, are bound to that same
stripping off of dignity and lowly equalising of ourselves with
those below us whom we would help, and we, too, are bound to make it
our main object, in our intercourse with men, not merely that we
should please nor enlighten them, nor succour their lower temporal
needs, but that we should cleanse them and make them pure with the
purity that Christ gives.

A Christian life all moved and animated by self-denuding love, and
which came amongst men to make them better and purer, and all the
influence of which tended in the direction of helping poor foul
hearts to get rid of their filth, how different it would be from our
lives! What a grim contrast much of our lives is to the Master's
example and command! Did you ever strip yourself of anything, my
brother, in order to make some poor, wretched creature a little
purer and liker the Saviour? Did you ever drop your dignity and go
down to the low levels in order to lift up the people that were
there? Do men see anything of that example, as reproduced in your
lives, of the Master that lays aside the garments of Heaven for the
vesture of earth, and dies upon the Cross in order that He might
make our poor hearts purer and liker His own?

But, hard as such imitation is, it is only one case of a general
principle. Discipleship is likeness to Jesus Christ in conduct.
There is no discipleship worth naming which does not, at least,
attempt that likeness. What is the use of a man saying that he is
the disciple of Incarnate Love if his whole life is incarnate
selfishness? What is the use of your calling yourselves Christians,
and saying that you are followers of Jesus Christ, when He came to
do God's will and delighted in it, and you come to do your own, and
never do God's will at all, or scarcely at all, and then reluctantly
and with many a murmur? What kind of a disciple is he, the habitual
tenor of whose life contradicts the life of his Master and disobeys
His commandments? And I am bound to say that that is the life of an
enormously large proportion of the professing disciples in this age
of conventional Christianity.

'The disciple shall be as his master.' Do you make it your effort to
be like Him? If so, then the saying is not only a law, but a
promise, for it assures us that our effort shall not fail but
progressively succeed, and lead on at last to our becoming what we
behold, and being conformed to Him whom we love, and like the Master
to whose wisdom we profess to listen. They whose earthly life is a
following of Christ, with faltering steps and afar off, shall have
for their heavenly blessedness, that they shall 'follow the Lamb
whithersoever He goeth.'

III. And now, lastly, likeness to the Master in relation to the
world is the fate that the disciple must put up with.

'If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much
more shall they call them of his household?' 'The disciple is not
above his master, nor the servant above his lord.' Our Lord
reiterated the statement in another place in John's Gospel,
reminding them that He had said it before.

If we are like Jesus Christ in conduct, and if we have received His
Word as the truth upon which we repose, depend upon it, in our
measure and in varying fashions, we shall have to bear the same kind
of treatment that He received from the world. The days of so-called
persecution are over in so-called Christian countries, but if you
are a disciple in the sense of believing all that Jesus Christ says,
and taking Him for your Teacher, the public opinion of this day will
have a great many things to say about you that will not be very
pleasant. You will be considered to be 'old-fashioned,' 'narrow,'
'behind the times,' etc. etc. etc. Look at the bitter spirit of
antagonism to an earnest and simple Christianity and adoption of
Christ as our authoritative Teacher which goes through much of our
high-class literature to-day. It is a very small matter as measured
with what Christian men used to have to bear; but it indicates the
set of things. We may make up our minds that if we are not contented
with the pared-down Christianity which the world allows to pass at
present, but insist upon coming to the New Testament for our beliefs
and practices, and avow--'I believe all that Jesus Christ says, and
I believe it because He says it, and I take Him as my model'; we
shall find out that the disciple has to be 'as his Master,' and that
the Pharisees and the Scribes of to-day stand in the same relation
to the followers as their predecessors did to the Leader. If you are
like your Master in conduct, you will be no more popular with the
world than He was. As long as Christianity will be quiet, and let
the world go its own gait, the world is very well contented to let
it alone, or even to say polite things to it. Why should the world
take the trouble of persecuting the kind of Christianity that so
many of us display? What is the difference between our Christianity
and their worldliness? The world is quite willing to come to church
on Sundays, and to call itself a Christian world, if only it may
live as it likes. And many professing Christians have precisely the
same idea. They attend to the externals of Christianity, and call
themselves Christians, but they bargain for its having very little
power over their lives. Why, then, should two sets of people who
have the same ideas and practices dislike each other? No reason at
all! But let Christian men live up to their profession, and above
all let them become aggressive, and try to attack the world's evil,
as they are bound to do; let them fight drunkenness, let them go
against the lust of great cities, let them preach peace in the face
of a nation howling for war, let them apply the golden rules of
Christianity to commerce and social relationships and the like, and
you will very soon hear a pretty shout that will tell you that the
disciple who is a disciple has to share the fate of the Master,
notwithstanding nineteen centuries of Christian teaching.

If you do not know what it is to find yourselves out of harmony with
the world, I am afraid it is because you have less of the Master's
spirit than you have of the world's. The world loves its own. If you
are not 'of the world, the world will hate you.' If it does not, it
must be because, in spite of your name, you belong to it.

But if we are like Him in our relation to the world, because we are
like Him in character, our very share in 'His reproach,' and our
sense of being 'aliens' here, bear the promise that we shall be like
Him in all worlds. His fortune is ours. 'The disciple shall be as
his master.' If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him. No
cross, no crown;--if cross, then crown! The end of discipleship is
not reached until the Master's image and the Master's lot are
repeated in the scholar.

Take Christ for your sacrifice, trust to His blood, listen to His
teaching, walk in His footsteps, and you shall share His sovereignty
and sit on His throne. 'It is enough,'--ay! more than enough, and
nothing less than that is enough,--'for the disciple that he be
_as_'--and _with_--'his master.' 'I shall be satisfied when I awake in
Thy likeness.'


'Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him
will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven.
33. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I
also deny before My Father which is in heaven. 34. Think
not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to
send peace, but a sword. 35. For I am come to set a man
at variance against his father, and the daughter against
her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother
in law. 36. And man's foes shall be they of his own
household. 37. He that loveth father or mother more than
Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or
daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38. And he
that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is
not worthy of Me. 39. He that findeth his life shall
lose it: and he that loseth his life for My sake shall
find it 40. He that receiveth you receiveth Me, and he
that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me. 41. He
that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall
receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a
righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall
receive a righteous man's reward. 42. And whosoever
shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup
of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I
say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.'
--MATT. x. 32-42.

The first mission of the apostles, important as it was, was but a
short flight to try the young birds' wings. The larger portion of
this charge to them passes far beyond the immediate occasion, and
deals with the permanent relations of Christ's servants to the world
in which they live, for the purpose of bringing it into subjection
to its true King. These solemn closing words, which make our present
subject, contain the duty and blessedness of confessing Him, the vision
of the antagonisms which He excites, His demand for all-surrendering
following, and the rewards of those who receive Christ's messengers,
and therein receive Himself and His Father.

I. The duty and blessedness of confessing Him (vs. 32, 33). The
'therefore' is significant. It attaches the promise which follows to
the immediately preceding thoughts of a watchful, fatherly care,
extending like a great invisible hand over the true disciple.
Because each is thus guarded, each shall be preserved to receive the
honour of being confessed by Christ. No matter what may befall His
witnesses, the extremest disaster shall not rob them of their reward.
They may be flung down from the house-tops where they lift up their
bold voices, but He who does not let a sparrow fall to the ground
uncared for, will give His angels charge concerning them who are so
much more precious, and they shall be borne up on outstretched wings,
lest they be dashed on the pavement below. Thus preserved, they shall
all attain at last to their guerdon. Nothing can come between Christ's
servant and his crown. The tender providence of the Father, whose
mercy is over all His works, makes sure of that. The river of the
confessor's life may plunge underground, and be lost amid persecutions,
but it will emerge again into the brighter sunshine on the other side
of the mountains.

The confession which is to be thus rewarded, like the denial opposed
to it, is, of course, not merely a single utterance of the lip. So
far Judas Iscariot confessed Christ, and Peter denied Him. But it is
the habitual acknowledgment by lip and life, unwithdrawn to the end.
The context implies that the confession is maintained in the face of
opposition, and that the denial is a cowardly attempt to save one's
skin at the cost of treason to Jesus. The temptation does not come
in that sharpest form to us. Perhaps some cowards would be made
brave if it did. It is perhaps easier to face the gibbet and the
fire, and screw oneself up for once to a brief endurance, than to
resist the more specious blandishments of the world, especially when
it has been christened, and calls itself religious. The light laugh
of scorn, the silent pressure of the low average of Christian
character, the close associations in trade, literature, public and
domestic life which Christians have with non-Christians, make many a
man's tongue lie silent, to the sore detriment of his own religious
life. 'Ye have not yet resisted unto blood,' and find it hard to
fulfil the easier conflict to which you are called. The sun has more
power than the tempest to make the pilgrim drop his garment. But the
duty remains the same for all ages. Every man is bound to make the
deepest springs of his life visible, and to stand to his
convictions, whatever they be. If he do not, his convictions will
disappear like a piece of ice hid in a hot hand, which will melt and
trickle away. This obligation lies with infinitely increased weight
on Christ's servants; and the consequences of failing to discharge
it are more tragic in their cases, in the exact proportion of the
greater preciousness of their faith. Corn hoarded is sure to be
spoiled by weevils and rust. The bread of life hidden in our sacks
will certainly go mouldy.

The reward and punishment of confession and denial come to them not
as separate acts, but as each being the revelation of the spiritual
condition of the doers. Christ implies that a true disciple cannot
but be a confessor, and that therefore the denier must certainly be
one whom He has never known. Because, therefore, each act is
symptomatic of the doer, each receives the congruous and
correspondent reward. The confessor is confessed; the denier is
denied. What calm and assured consciousness of His place as Judge
underlies these words! His recognition is God's acceptance; His
denial is darkness and misery. The correspondence between the work
and the reward is beautifully brought out by the use of the same
word to express each. And yet what a difference between our
confession of Him and His of us! And what a hope is here for all who
have tremblingly, and in the consciousness of much unworthiness,
ventured to say that they were Christ's subjects, and He their King,
brother, and all! Their poor, feeble confession will be endorsed by
His. He will say, 'Yes, this man is mine, and I am his.' That will
be glory, honour, blessedness, life, heaven.

II. The vision of the discord which follows the coming of the King
of peace. It is not enough to interpret these words as meaning that
our Lord's purpose indeed was to bring peace, but that the result of
His coming was strife. The ultimate purpose is peace; but an
immediate purpose is conflict, as the only road to the peace. He is
first King of righteousness, and after that also King of peace. But,
if His kingdom be righteousness, purity, love, then unrighteousness,
filthiness, and selfishness will fight against it for their lives.
The ultimate purpose of Christ's coming is to transform the world
into the likeness of heaven; and all in the world which hates such
likeness is embattled against Him. He saw realities, and knew men's
hearts, and was under no illusion, such as many an ardent reformer
has cherished, that the fair form of truth need only be shown to
men, and they will take her to their hearts. Incessant struggle is
the law for the individual and for society till Christ's purpose for
both is realised.

That conflict ranges the dearest in opposite ranks. The gospel is
the great solvent. As when a substance is brought into contact with
some chemical compound, which has greater affinity for one of its
elements than the other element has, the old combination is
dissolved, and a new and more stable one is formed, so Christianity
analyses and destroys in order to synthesis and construction. In
verse 21 our Lord had foretold that brother should deliver up
brother to death. Here the severance is considered from the opposite
side. The persons who are 'set at variance' with their kindred are
here Christians. Perhaps it is fanciful to observe that they are all
junior members of families, as if the young would be more likely to
flock to the new light. But however that may be, the separation is
mutual, but the hate is all on one side. The 'man's foes' are of his
own household; but he is not their foe, though he be parted from

III. Earthly love may be a worse foe to a true Christian than even
the enmity of the dearest; and that enmity may often be excited by
the Christian subordination of earthly to heavenly love. So our Lord
passes from the warnings of discord and hate to the danger of the
opposite--undue love.

He claims absolute supremacy in our hearts. He goes still farther,
and claims the surrender, not only of affections, but of self and
life to Him. What a strange claim this is! A Jewish peasant, dead
nineteen hundred years since, fronts the whole race of man, and
asserts His right to their love, which is strange, and to their
supreme love, which is stranger still. Why should we love Him at
all, if He were only a man, however pure and benevolent? We may
admire, as we do many another fair nature in the past; but is there
any possibility of evoking anything as warm as love to an unseen
person, who can have had no knowledge of or love to us? And why
should we love Him more than our dearest, from whom we have drawn,
or to whom we have given, life? What explanation or justification
does He give of this unexampled demand? Absolutely none. He seems to
think that its reasonableness needs no elucidation. Surely never did
teacher professing wisdom, modesty, and, still more, religion, put
forward such a claim of right; and surely never besides did any
succeed in persuading generations unborn to yield His demand, when
they heard it. The strangest thing in the world's history is that
to-day there are millions who do love Jesus Christ more than all
besides, and whose chief self-accusation is that they do not love
Him more. The strange, audacious claim is most reasonable, if we
believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who died for each of us, and
that each man and woman to the last of the generations had a
separate place in His divine human love when He died. It is meet to
love Him, if that be true; it is not, unless it be. The requirement
is as stringent as strange. If the two ever seem to conflict, the
earthly must give way. If the earthly be withdrawn, there must be
found sufficiency for comfort and peace in the heavenly. The lower
must not be permitted to hinder the flight of the heavenly to its
home. 'More than Me' is a rebuke to most of us. What a contrast
between the warmth of our earthly and the tepidity or coldness of
our heavenly love! How spontaneously our thoughts, when left free,
turn to the one; how hard we find it to keep them fixed on the
other! How sweet service is to the dear ones here; how reluctantly
it is given to Christ! How we long, when parted, to rejoin them; how
little we are drawn to the place where He is! We have all to confess
that we are 'not worthy of' Him; that we requite His love with
inadequate returns, and live lives which tax His love for its
highest exercise, the free forgiveness of sins against itself.
Compliance with that stringent law, and subordinating all earthly
love to His, is the true elevating and ennobling of the earthly. It
is promoted, not degraded, when it is made second, and is infinitely
sweeter and deeper then than when it was set in the place of
supremacy, where it had no right to be.

But Christ's demand is not only for the surrender of the heart, but
for the giving up of self, and, in a very profound sense, for the
surrender of life. How enigmatical that saying about taking up the
cross must have sounded to the disciples! They knew little about the
cross, as a punishment; they had not yet associated it in any way
with their Lord. This seems to have been the first occasion of His
mentioning it, and the allusion is so veiled as to be but partially
intelligible. But what was intelligible was bewildering. A strange
royal procession that, of the King with a cross on His shoulder, and
all His subjects behind Him with similar burdens! Through the ages
that procession has marched, and it marches still. Self-denial for
Christ's sake is 'the badge of all our tribe.' Observe that word
'take.' The cross must be willingly and by ourselves assumed. No
other can lay it on our shoulders. Observe that other word 'his.'
Each man has his own special form in which self-denial is needful
for him. We require pure eyes, and hearts kept in very close
communion with Jesus, to ascertain what our particular cross is. He
has them of many patterns, shapes, sizes, and materials. We can
always make sure of strength to carry the one which He means us to
carry, but not of strength to bear what is not ours.

IV. We have the rewards of those who receive Christ's messengers,
and therein receive Him and His Father. Our Lord first identifies
these twelve with Himself in a manner which must have sounded
strange to them then, but have heartened them for their work by the
consciousness of His mysterious oneness with them. The whole
doctrine of Christ's unity with His people lay in germ in these
words, though much more was needed, both of teaching and of
experience, before their depth of blessing and strengthening could
be apprehended. _We_ know that He dwells in His true subjects
by His Spirit, and that a most real union subsists between the head
and the members, of which the closest unions of earth are but faint
shadows, so as that not only those who receive His followers receive
Him, but, more wonderful still, His followers are received at the
last by God Himself as joined to Him, and portions of His very self,
and therefore 'accepted in the Beloved.' Our Lord adds to these
words the thought that, in like manner, to receive Him is to receive
the Father, and so implies that our relation to Him is in certain
real respects parallel with His relation to the Father. We too are
sent. He who sends abides with us, as the Son ever abode in God, and
God in Him. We are sent to be the brightness of Christ's glory, and
to manifest Him to men, as He was sent to reveal the Father.

[Footnote: Preached after the funeral of Mr. F. W. Crossley.]

'He that loseth his life for My sake shall find it.'
--MATT. x. 39.

My heart impels me to break this morning my usual rule of avoiding
personal references in the pulpit. Death has been busy in our own
congregation this last week, and yesterday we laid in the grave all
that was mortal of a man to whom Manchester owes more than it knows.
Mr. Crossley has been for thirty years my close and dear friend. He
was long a member of this church and congregation. I need not speak
of his utter unselfishness, of his lifelong consecration, of his
lavish generosity, of his unstinted work for God and man; but
thinking of him and of it, I have felt as if the words of my text
were the secret of his life, and as if he now understood the fulness
of the promise they contain: 'He that loseth his life for My sake
shall find it.' Now, looking at these words in the light of the
example so tenderly beloved by some of us, so sharply criticised by
many, but now so fully recognised as saintly by all, I ask you to

I. The stringent requirement for the Christian life that is here

Now we shall very much impoverish the meaning and narrow the sweep
of these great and penetrating words, if we understand by 'losing
one's life' only the actual surrender of physical existence. It is
not only the martyr on whose bleeding brows the crown of life is
gently placed; it is not only the temples that have been torn by the
crown of thorns, that are soothed by that unfading wreath; but there
is a daily dying, which is continually required from all Christian
people, and is, perhaps, as hard as, or harder than, the brief and
bloody passage of martyrdom by which some enter into rest. For the
true losing of life is the slaying of self, and that has to be done
day by day, and not once for all, in some supreme act of surrender
at the end, or in some initial act of submission and yielding at the
beginning, of the Christian life. We ourselves have to take the
knife into our own hands and strike, and that not once, but ever,
right on through our whole career. For, by natural disposition, we
are all inclined to make our own selves to be our own centres, our
own aims, the objects of our trust, our own law; and if we do so, we
are dead whilst we live, and the death that brings life is when, day
by day, we 'crucify the old man with his affections and lusts.'
Crucifixion was no sudden death; it was an exquisitely painful one,
which made every nerve quiver and the whole frame thrill with
anguish; and that slow agony, in all its terribleness and
protractedness, is the image that is set before us as the true ideal
of every life that would not be a living death. The world is to be
crucified to me, and I to the world.

We have our centre in ourselves, and we need the centre to be
shifted, or we live in sin. If I might venture upon so violent an
image, the comets that career about the heavens need to be caught
and tamed, and bound to peaceful revolution round some central sun,
or else they are 'wandering stars to whom is reserved the blackness
of darkness for ever.' So, brethren, the slaying of self by a
painful, protracted process, is the requirement of Christ.

But do not let us confine ourselves to generalities. What is meant?
This is meant--the absolute submission of the will to commandments
and providences, the making of that obstinate part of our nature
meek and obedient and plastic as the clay in the potter's hands. The
tanner takes a stiff hide, and soaks it in bitter waters, and
dresses it with sharp tools, and lubricates it with unguents, and
his work is not done till all the stiffness is out of it and it is
flexible. And we do not lose our lives in the lofty, noble sense,
until we can say--and verify the speech by our actions--'Not my will
but Thine be done.' They who thus submit, they who thus welcome into
their hearts, and enthrone upon the sovereign seat in their wills,
Christ and His will--these are they who have lost their lives. When
we can say, 'I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,' then, and
only then, have we in the deepest sense of the words 'lost our

The phrase means the suppression, and sometimes the excision, of
appetites, passions, desires, inclinations. It means the hallowing
of all aims; it means the devotion and the consecration of all
activities. It means the surrender and the stewardship of all
possessions. And only then, when we have done these things, shall we
have come to practical obedience to the initial requirement that
Christ makes from us all--to lose our lives for His sake.

I need not diverge here to point to that life from which my thoughts
have taken their start in this sermon. Surely if there was any one
characteristic in it more distinct and lovely than another, it was
that self was dead and that Christ lived. There may be sometimes a
call for the actual--which is the lesser--surrender of the bodily
life, in obedience to the call of duty. There have been Christian
men who have wrought themselves to death in the Master's service.
Perhaps he of whom I have been speaking was one of these. It may be
that, if he had done like so many of our wealthy men--had flung
himself into business and then collapsed into repose--he would have
been here to-day. Perhaps it would have been better if there had
been a less entire throwing of himself into arduous and clamant
duties. I am not going to enter on the ethics of that question. I do
not think there are many of this generation of Christians who are
likely to work themselves to death in Christ's cause; and perhaps,
after all, the old saying is a true one, 'Better to wear out than to
rust out.' But only this I will say: we honour the martyrs of
Science, of Commerce, of Empire, why should not we honour the
martyrs of Faith? And why should they be branded as imprudent
enthusiasts, if they make the same sacrifice which, when an explorer
or a soldier makes, his memory is honoured as heroic, and his cold
brows are crowned with laurels? Surely it is as wise to die for
Christ as for England. But be that as it may; the requirement, the
stringent requirement, of my text is not addressed to any spiritual
aristocracy, but is laid upon the consciences of all professing

II. Observe the grounds of this requirement.

Did you ever think--or has the fact become so familiar to you that
it ceases to attract notice?--did you ever think what an
extraordinary position it is for the son of a carpenter in Nazareth
to plant Himself before the human race and say, 'You will be wise if
you die for My sake, and you will be doing nothing more than your
plain duty'? What business has He to assume such a position as that?
What warrants that autocratic and all-demanding tone from His lips?
'Who art Thou'--we may fancy people saying--'that Thou shouldst put
out a masterful hand and claim to take as Thine the life of my
heart?' Ah! brethren, there is but one answer: 'Who loved me, and
gave Himself for me.' The foolish, loving, impulsive apostle that
blurted out, before his time had come, 'I will lay down my life for
Thy sake,' was only premature; he was not mistaken. There needed
that His Lord should lay down His life for Peter's sake; and then He
had a right to turn to the apostle and say, 'Thou shalt follow Me
afterwards,' and 'lay down thy life for My sake.' The ground of
Christ's unique claim is Christ's solitary sacrifice. He who has
died for men, and He only, has the right to require the unconditional,
the absolute surrender of themselves, not only in the sacrifice of a
life that is submitted, but, if circumstances demand, in the sacrifice
of a death. The ground of the requirement is laid, first in the fact
of our Lord's divine nature, and second, in the fact that He who asks
my life has first of all given His.

But that same phrase, 'for My sake,' suggests--

III. The all-sufficient motive which makes such a loss of life

I suppose that there is nothing else that will wholly dethrone self
but the enthroning of Jesus Christ. That dominion is too deeply
rooted to be abolished by any enthusiasms, however noble they may
be, except the one that kindles its undying torch at the flame of
Christ's own love. God forbid that I should deny that wonderful and
lovely instances of self-oblivion may be found in hearts untouched
by the supreme love of Christ! But whilst I recognise all the beauty
of such, I, for my part, humbly venture to believe and assert that,
for the entire deliverance of a man from self-regard, the one
sufficient motive power is the reception into his opening heart of
the love of Jesus Christ.

Ah! brethren, you and I know how hard it is to escape from the
tyrannous dominion of self, and how the evil spirits that have taken
possession of us mock at all lesser charms than the name which
'devils fear and fly'; 'the Name that is above every name.' We have
tried other motives. We have sought to reprove our selfishness by
other considerations. Human love--which itself is sometimes only
the love of self, seeking satisfaction from another--human love does
conquer it, but yet conquers it partially. The demons turn round
upon all other would-be exorcists, and say, 'Jesus we know ... but
who are ye?' It is only when the Ark is carried into the Temple that
Dagon falls prone before it. If you would drive self out of your
hearts--and if you do not it will slay you--if you would drive self
out, let Christ's love and sacrifice come in. And then, what no
brooms and brushes, no spades nor wheelbarrows, will ever do--namely,
cleanse out the filth that lodges there--the turning of the river in
will do, and float it all away. The one possibility for complete,
conclusive deliverance from the dominion and tyranny of Self is to
be found in the words 'For My sake.' Ah! brethren, I suppose there
are none of us so poor in earthly love, possessed or remembered, but
that we know the omnipotence of these words when whispered by beloved
lips, 'For My sake'; and Jesus Christ is saying them to us all.

IV. Lastly, notice the recompense of the stringent requirement.

'Shall find it,' and that finding, like the losing, has a twofold
reference and accomplishment: here and now, yonder and then.

Here and now, no man possesses himself till he has given himself to
Jesus Christ. Only then, when we put the reins into His hands, can we
coerce and guide the fiery steeds of passion and of impulse, And so
Scripture, in more than one place, uses a remarkable expression, when
it speaks of those that believe to the 'acquiring of their souls.'
You are not your own masters until you are Christ's servants; and
when you fancy yourselves to be most entirely your own masters, you
have promised yourselves liberty and have become the slave of
corruption. So if you would own yourselves, give yourselves away. And
such an one 'shall find' his life, here and now, in that all earthly
things will be sweeter and better. The altar sanctifies the gift.
When some pebble is plunged into a sunlit stream, the water brings
out the veined colourings of the stone that looked all dull and dim
when it was lying upon the bank. Fling your whole being, your wealth,
your activities, and everything, into that stream, and they will
flash in splendour else unknown. Did not my friend, of whom I have
been speaking, enjoy his wealth far more, when he poured it out like
water upon good causes, than if he had spent it in luxury and
self-indulgence? And shall we not find that everything is sweeter,
nobler, better, fuller of capacity to delight, if we give it all to
our Master? The stringent requirement of Christ is the perfection of
prudence. 'Who pleasure follows pleasure slays,' and who slays
pleasure finds a deeper and a holier delight. The keenest
epicureanism could devise no better means for sucking the last drop
of sweetness out of the clustering grapes of the gladnesses of
earth than to obey this stringent requirement, and so realise the
blessed promise, 'Whoso loseth his life for My sake shall find it.'
The selfish man is a roundabout fool. The self-devoted man, the
Christ-enthroning man, is the wise man.

And there will be the further finding hereafter, about which we
cannot speak. Only remember, how in a passage parallel with this of
my text, spoken when almost within sight of Calvary, our Lord laid
down not only the principle of His own life but the principle for
all His servants, when He said, 'Except a corn of wheat fall into
the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth
forth much fruit.' The solitary grain dropped into the furrow brings
forth a waving harvest. We may not, we need not, particularise, but
the life that is found at last is as the fruit an hundredfold of the
life that men called 'lost' and God called 'sown.'

'Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord; they rest from their
labours, and their works do follow them.'


'He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet
shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth
a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall
receive a righteous man's reward. 42. And whosoever
shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup
of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I
say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.'
--MATT. x. 41, 42.

There is nothing in these words to show whether they refer to the
present or to the future. We shall probably not go wrong if we
regard them as having reference to both. For all godliness has
'promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to
come,' and '_in_ keeping God's commandments,' as well as _for_
keeping them, 'there is great reward,' a reward realised in the
present, even although Death holds the keys of the treasure-house
in which the richest rewards are stored. No act of holy obedience
is here left without foretastes of joy, which, though they be but
'brooks by the way,' contain the same water of life which hereafter
swells to an ocean.

Some people tell us that it is defective morality in Christianity to
bribe men to be good by promising them Heaven, and that he who is
actuated by such a motive is selfish. Now that fantastic and
overstrained objection may be very simply answered by two
considerations: self-regard is not selfishness, and Christianity
does not propose the future reward as the motive for goodness. The
motive for goodness is love to Jesus Christ; and if ever there was a
man who did acts of Christian goodness only for the sake of what he
would get by them, the acts were not Christian goodness, because the
motive was wrong. But it is a piece of fastidiousness to forbid us
to reinforce the great Christian motive, which is love to Jesus
Christ, by the thought of the recompense of reward. It is a stimulus
and an encouragement of, not the motive for, goodness. This text
shows us that it is a subordinate motive, for it says that the
reception of a prophet, or of a righteous man, or of 'one of these
little ones,' which is rewardable, is the reception 'in the name of'
a prophet, a disciple, and so on, or, in other words, is the
recognising of the prophet, or the righteous man, or the disciple
for what he is, and because he is that, and not because of the
reward, receiving him with sympathy and solace and help.

So, with that explanation, let us look at these very remarkable
words of our text.

I. The first thing which I wish to observe in them is the three
classes of character which are dealt with--'prophet,' 'righteous
man,' 'these little ones.'

Now the question that I would suggest is this: Is there any meaning
in the order in which these are arranged? If so, what is it? Do we
begin at the bottom, or at the top? Have we to do with an ascending
or with a descending scale? Is the prophet thought to be greater
than the righteous man, or less? Is the righteous man thought to be
higher than the little one, or to be lower? The question is an
important one, and worth considering.

Now, at first sight, it certainly does look as if we had here to do
with a descending scale, as if we began at the top and went
downwards. A prophet, a man honoured with a distinct commission from
God to declare His will, is, in certain very obvious respects,
loftier than a man who is not so honoured, however pure and
righteous he may be. The dim and venerable figures, for instance, of
Isaiah and Jeremiah, tower high above all their contemporaries; and
godly men who hung upon their lips, like Baruch on Jeremiah's, felt
themselves to be, and were, inferior to them. And, in like manner,
the little child who believes in Christ may seem to be insignificant
in comparison with the prophet with his God-touched lips, or the
righteous man of the old dispensation with his austere purity; as a
humble violet may seem by the side of a rose with its heart of fire,
or a white lily regal and tall. But one remembers that Jesus Christ
Himself declared that 'the least of the little ones' was greater
than the greatest who had gone before; and it is not at all likely
that He who has just been saying that whosoever received His
followers received Himself, should classify these followers beneath
the righteous men of old. The Christian type of character is
distinctly higher than the Old Testament type; and the humblest
believer is blessed above prophets and righteous men because his
eyes behold and his heart welcomes the Christ.

Therefore I am inclined to believe that we have here an ascending
series--that we begin at the bottom and not at the top; that the
prophet is less than the righteous man, and the righteous man less
than the little one who believes in Christ. For, suppose there were
a prophet who was not righteous, and a righteous man who was not a
prophet. Suppose the separation between the two characters were
complete, which of them would be the greater? Balaam was a prophet;
Balaam was not a righteous man; Balaam was immeasurably inferior to
the righteous whose lives he did not emulate, though he could not
but envy their deaths. In like manner the humblest believer in Jesus
Christ has something that a prophet, if he is not a disciple, does
not possess; and that which he has, and the prophet has not, is
higher than the endowment that is peculiar to the prophet alone.

May we say the same thing about the difference between the righteous
man and the disciple? Can there be a righteous man that is not a
disciple? Can there be a disciple that is not a righteous man? Can
the separation between these two classes be perfect and complete?
No! in the profoundest sense, certainly not. But then at the time
when Christ spoke there were some men standing round Him, who, 'as
touching the righteousness which is of the law,' were 'blameless.'
And there are many men to-day, with much that is noble and admirable
in their characters, who stand apart from the faith that is in Jesus
Christ; and if the separation be so complete as that, then it is to
be emphatically and decisively pronounced that, if we have regard to
all that a man ought to be, and if we estimate men in the measure in
which they approximate to that ideal in their lives and conduct,
'the Christian is the highest style of man.' The disciple is above
the righteous men adorned with many graces of character, who, if
they are not Christians, have a worm at the root of all their
goodness, because it lacks the supreme refinement and consecration
of faith; and above the fiery-tongued prophet, if he is not a

Now, brethren, this thought is full of very important practical
inferences. Faith is better than genius. Faith is better than
brilliant gifts. Faith is better than large acquirements. The poet's
imagination, the philosopher's calm reasoning, the orator's tongue
of fire, even the inspiration of men that may have their lips
touched to proclaim God to their brethren, are all less than the
bond of living trust that knits a soul to Jesus Christ, and makes it
thereby partaker of that indwelling Saviour. And, in like manner, if
there be men, as there are, and no doubt some of them among my
hearers, adorned with virtues and graces of character, but who have
not rested their souls on Jesus Christ, then high above these, too,
stands the lowliest person who has set his faith and love on that
Saviour. Neither intellectual endowments nor moral character are the
highest, but faith in Jesus Christ. A man may be endowed with all
brilliancy of intellect and fair with many beauties of character,
and he may be lost; and on the other hand simple faith, rudimentary
and germlike as it often is, carries in itself the prophecy of all
goodness, and knits a man to the source of all blessedness. 'Whether
there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it
shall vanish away. Now abideth these three, faith, hope, charity.'
'Rejoice not that the spirits are subject unto you, but rather
rejoice because your names are written in Heaven.'

Ah! brethren, if we believed in Christ's classification of men, and
in the order of importance and dignity in which He arranges them, it
would make a wonderful practical difference to the lives, to the
desires, and to the efforts of a great many of us. Some of you
students, young men and women that are working at college or your
classes, if you believed that it was better to trust in Jesus Christ
than to be wise, and gave one-tenth, ay! one-hundredth part of the
attention and the effort to secure the one which you do to secure
the other, would be different people. 'Not many wise men after the
flesh,' but humble trusters in Jesus Christ, are the victors in the
world. Believe you that, and order your lives accordingly.

Oh! what a reversal of this world's estimates is coming one day,
when the names that stand high in the roll of fame shall pale, like
photographs that have been shut up in a portfolio, and when you take
them out have faded off the paper. 'The world knows nothing of its
greatest men,' but there is a time coming when the spurious mushroom
aristocracy that the world has worshipped will be forgotten, like
the nobility of some conquered land, who are brushed aside and
relegated to private life by the new nobility of the conquerors, and
when the true nobles, God's aristocrats, the righteous, who are
righteous because they have trusted in Christ, shall shine forth
like the sun 'in the Kingdom of My Father.'

Here is the climax: gifts and endowments at the bottom, character
and morality in the middle, and at the top faith in Jesus Christ.

II. Now notice briefly in the second place the variety of the reward
according to the character.

The prophet has his, the righteous man has his, the little one has
his. That is to say, each level of spiritual or moral stature
receives its own prize. There is no difficulty in seeing that this
is so in regard to the rewards of this life. Every faithful message
delivered by a prophet increases that prophet's own blessedness, and
has joys in the receiving of it from God, in the speaking of it to
men, in the marking of its effects as it spreads through the world,
which belong to him alone. In all these, and in many other ways, the
'prophet' has rewards that no stranger can intermeddle with. All
courses of obedient conduct have their own appropriate consequences
and satisfaction. Every character is adapted to receive, and does
receive, in the measure of its goodness, certain blessings and joys,
here and now. 'Surely the righteous shall be recompensed in the

And the same principle, of course, applies if we think of the reward
as altogether future. It must be remembered, however, that
Christianity does not teach, as I believe, that if there be a
prophet or a righteous man who is not a disciple, that prophet or
righteous man will get rewards in the future life. It must be
remembered, too, that every disciple is righteous in the measure of
his faith. Discipleship being presupposed, then the disciple who is
a prophet will have one reward, and the disciple who is a righteous
man shall have another; and where all three characteristics
coincide, there shall be a triple crown of glory upon his head.

That is all plain and obvious enough, if only we get rid of the
prejudice that the rewards of a future life are merely bestowed upon
men by God's arbitrary good pleasure. What is the reward of Heaven?
'Eternal life,' people say. Yes! 'Blessedness.' Yes! But where does
the life come from, and where does the blessedness come from? They
are both derived, they come from God in Christ; and in the deepest
sense, and in the only true sense, God is Heaven, and God is the
reward of Heaven. 'I am thy shield,' so long as dangers need to be
guarded against, and then, thereafter, 'I am thine exceeding great
Reward.' It is the possession of God that makes all the Heaven of
Heaven, the immortal life which His children receive, and the
blessedness with which they are enraptured. We are heirs of
immortality, we are heirs of life, we are heirs of blessedness,
because, and in the measure in which, we become heirs of God.

And if that be so, then there is no difficulty in seeing that in
Heaven, as on earth, men will get just as much of God as they can
hold; and that in Heaven, as on earth, capacity for receiving God is
determined by character. The gift is one, the reward is one, and yet
the reward is infinitely various. It is the same light which glows
in all the stars, but 'star differeth from star in glory.' It is the
same wine, the new wine of the Kingdom, that is poured into all the
vessels, but the vessels are of divers magnitudes, though each be
full to the brim.

And so in those two sister parables of our Master's, which are so
remarkably discriminated and so remarkably alike, we have both these
aspects of the Heavenly reward set forth--both that which declares
its identity in all cases, and the other which declares its variety
according to the recipient's character. All the servants receive the
same welcome, the same prize, the same entrance into the same joy;
although one of them had ten talents, and another five, and another
two. But the servants who were each sent out to trade with one poor
pound in their hands, and by their varying diligence reaped varying
profits, were rewarded according to the returns that they had
brought; and one received ten, and the other five, and the other
two, cities over which to have authority and rule. So the reward is
one, and yet infinitely diverse. It is not the same thing whether a
man or a woman, being a Christian, is an earnest, and devoted, and
growing Christian here on earth, or a selfish, and an idle, and a
stagnant one. It is not the same thing whether you content
yourselves with simply laying hold on Christ, and keeping a
tremulous and feeble hold of Him for the rest of your lives, or
whether you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour.
There is such a fate as being saved, yet so as by fire, and going
into the brightness with the smell of the fire on your garments.
There is such a fate as having just, as it were, squeezed into
Heaven, and got there by the skin of your teeth. And there is such a
thing as having an abundant entrance ministered, when its portals
are thrown wide open. Some imperfect Christians die with but little
capacity for possessing God, and therefore their heaven will not be
as bright, nor studded with as majestic constellations, as that of
others. The starry vault that bends above us so far away, is the
same in the number of its stars when gazed on by the savage with his
unaided eye, and by the astronomer with the strongest telescope; and
the Infinite God, who arches above us, but comes near to us,
discloses galaxies of beauty and oceans of abysmal light in Himself,
according to the strength and clearness of the eye that looks upon
Him. So, brethren, remember that the one glory has infinite degrees;
and faith, and conduct, and character here determine the capacity
for God which we shall have when we go to receive our reward.

III. The last point that is here is the substantial identity of the
reward to all that stand on the same level, however different may be
the form of their lives.

'He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive
a prophet's reward.' And so in the case of the others. The active
prophet, righteous man, or disciple, and the passive recogniser of
each in that character, who receives each as a prophet, or righteous
man, or disciple, stand practically and substantially on the same
level, though the one of them may have his lips glowing with the
divine inspiration and the other may never have opened his mouth for

That is beautiful and deep. The power of sympathising with any
character is the partial possession of that character for ourselves.
A man who is capable of having his soul bowed by the stormy thunder
of Beethoven, or lifted to Heaven by the ethereal melody of
Mendelssohn, is a musician, though he never composed a bar. The man
who recognises and feels the grandeur of the organ music of
'Paradise Lost' has some fibre of a poet in him, though he be but 'a
mute, inglorious Milton.'

All sympathy and recognition of character involve some likeness to
that character. The poor woman who brought the sticks and prepared
food for the prophet entered into the prophet's mission and shared
in the prophet's work and reward, though his task was to beard Ahab,
and hers was only to bake Elijah's bread. The old knight that
clapped Luther on the back when he went into the Diet of Worms, and
said to him, 'Well done, little monk!' shared in Luther's victory
and in Luther's crown. He that helps a prophet because he is a
prophet, has the making of a prophet in himself.

As all work done from the same motive is the same in God's eyes,
whatever be the outward shape of it, so the work that involves the
same type of spiritual character will involve the same reward. You
find the Egyptian medal on the breasts of the soldiers that kept the
base of communication as well as on the breasts of the men that
stormed the works at Tel-el-Kebir. It was a law in Israel, and it is
a law in Heaven: 'As his part is that goeth down into the battle, so
shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff, they shall part
alike.' 'I am going down into the pit, you hold the ropes,' said
Carey, the pioneer missionary. They that hold the ropes, and the
daring miner that swings away down in the blackness, are one in the
work, may be one in the motive, and, if they are, shall be one in
the reward. So, brethren, though no coal of fire may be laid upon
your lips, if you sympathise with the workers that are trying to
serve God, and do what you can to help them, and identify yourself
with them, and so hold the ropes, my text will be true about you.
'He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive
a prophet's reward.' They who by reason of circumstances, by
deficiency of power, or by the weight of other tasks and duties, can
only give silent sympathy, and prayer, and help, are one with the
men whom they help.

Dear brethren! remember that this awful, mystical life of ours is
full everywhere of consequences that cannot be escaped. What we sow
we reap, and we grind it, and we bake it, and we live upon it. We
have to drink as we have brewed; we have to lie on the beds that we
have made. 'Be not deceived: God is not mocked.' The doctrine of
reward has two sides to it. 'Nothing human ever dies.' All our deeds
drag after them inevitable consequences; but if you will put your
trust in Jesus Christ, He will not deal with you according to your
sins, nor reward you according to your iniquities; and the darkest
features of the recompense of your evil will all be taken away by
the forgiveness which we have in His blood. If you will trust
yourselves to Him you will have that eternal life, which is not
wages, but a gift; which is not reward, but a free bestowment of
God's love. And then, if we build upon that Foundation on which
alone men can build their hopes, their thoughts, their characters,
their lives, however feeble may be our efforts, however narrow may
be our sphere,--though we be neither prophets nor sons of prophets,
and though our righteousness may be all stained and imperfect, yet,
to our own amazement and to God's glory, we shall find, when the
fire is kindled which reveals and tests our works, that, by the
might of humble faith in Christ, we have built upon that Foundation,
gold and silver and precious stones; and shall receive the reward
given to every man whose work abides that trial by fire.


'Now when John had heard in the prison the works of
Christ, he sent two of his disciples, 3. And said unto
Him, Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for
another? 4. Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and
shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:
5. The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk,
the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead
are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached
to them. 6. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be
offended in Me. 7. And as they departed, Jesus began
to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went
ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with
the wind? 8. But what went ye out for to see? A man
clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft
clothing are in kings' houses. 9. But what went ye out
for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more
than a prophet. 10. For this is he, of whom it is
written. Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face,
which shall prepare Thy way before Thee. 11. Verily I
say unto you, Among them that are born of women there
hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist:
notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of
heaven is greater than he. 12. And from the days of
John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven
suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
13. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until
John--And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which
was for to come. 16. He that hath ears to hear, let
him hear.'--MATT. xi. 2-15.

This text falls into two parts: the first, from verses 2-6
inclusive, giving us the faltering faith of the great witness, and
Christ's gentle treatment of the waverer; the second, from verse 7
to the end, giving the witness of Christ to John, exuberant in
recognition, notwithstanding his momentary hesitation.

I. We do not believe that this message of John's was sent for the sake
of strengthening his disciples' faith in Jesus as Messiah, nor that it
was merely meant as a hint to Jesus to declare Himself. The question
is John's. The answer is sent to him: it is he who is to ponder the
things which the messengers saw, and to answer his own question
thereby. The note which the evangelist prefixes to his account
gives the key to the incident. John was 'in prison,' in that gloomy
fortress of Machaerus which Herod had rebuilt at once for 'a sinful
pleasure-house' and for an impregnable refuge, among the savage cliffs
of Moab. The halls of luxurious vice and the walls of defence are gone;
but the dungeons are there still, with the holes in the masonry into
which the bars were fixed to which the prisoners--John, perhaps, one of
them--were chained. No wonder that in the foul atmosphere of a dark
dungeon the spirit which had been so undaunted in the free air of the
desert began to flag; nor that even he who had seen the fluttering dove
descend on Christ's head, and had pointed to Him as the Lamb of God,
felt that 'all his mind was clouded with a doubt.' It would have been
wiser if commentators, instead of trying to save John's credit at the
cost of straining the narrative, had recognised the psychological truth
of the plain story of his wavering conviction and had learned its
lessons of self-distrust. There is only one Man with whom it was always
high-water; all others have ebbs and flows in their religious life, and
variations in their grasp of truth.

The narrative further gives the motive for John's embassy, in the
report which had reached him of 'the works of Christ.' We need only
recall John's earlier testimony to understand how these works would
not seem to him to fill up the role which he had anticipated for
Messiah. Where is the axe that was to be laid at the root of the
trees, or the fan that was to winnow out the chaff? Where is the
fiery spirit which he had foretold? This gentle Healer is not the
theocratic judge of his warning prophecies. He is tending and
nurturing, rather than felling, the barren trees. A nimbus of
merciful deeds, not of flashing 'wrath to come,' surrounds His head.
So John began to wonder if, after all, he had been premature in his
recognition. Perhaps this Jesus was but a precursor, as he himself
was, of the Messiah. Evidently he continues firm in the conviction
of Christ's being sent from God, and is ready to accept His answer
as conclusive; but, as evidently, he is puzzled by the contrariety
between Jesus' deeds and his own expectations. He asks, 'Art Thou
_He that cometh_'--a well-known name for Messiah--'or are we to
expect another?' where it should be noted that the word for
'another' means not merely a second, but a different kind of,
person, who should present the aspects of the Messiah as revealed in
prophecy, and as embodied in John's own preaching, which Jesus had
left unfulfilled.

We may well take to heart the lesson of the fluctuations possible to
the firmest faith, and pray to be enabled to hold fast that we have.
We may learn, too, the danger to right conceptions of Christ, of
separating the two elements of mercy and judgment in His character
and work. John was right in believing that the Christ must come to
judge. A Christ without the fan in His hand is a maimed Christ. John
was wrong in stumbling at the gentleness, just as many to-day, who
go to the opposite extreme, are wrong in stumbling at the judicial
side of His work. Both halves are needed to make the full-orbed
character. We have not to 'look for a different' Christ, but we have
to look for Him, coming the second time, the same Jesus, but now
with His axe in His pierced hands, to hew down trees which He has
patiently tended. Let John's profound sense of the need for a
judicial aspect in the Christ who is to meet the prophecies written
in men's hearts, as well as in Scripture, teach us how one-sided and
superficial are representations of His work which suppress or slur
over His future coming to judgment.

Our Lord does not answer 'Yes' or 'No.' To do so might have stilled,
but would not have removed, John's misconception. A more thorough
cure is needed. So Christ attacks it in its roots by referring him
back for answer to the very deeds which had excited his doubt. In
doing so, He points to, or indeed, we may say, quotes, two prophetic
passages (Isa. xxxv. 5, 6; lxi. 1) which give the prophetic 'notes' of
Messiah. It is as if He had said, 'Have you forgotten that the very
prophets whose words have fed your hopes, and now seem to minister to
your doubts, have said this and this about the Messiah?' Further,
there is deep wisdom in sending John back again to think over the very
deeds at which he was stumbling. It is not Christ's work which is
wanting in conformity to the divine idea; it is John's conceptions of
that idea that need enlarging. What he wants is not so much to be told
that Jesus is the Christ, as to grow up to a truer, because more
comprehensive, notion of what the Christ is to be. A wide principle is
taught us here. The very points in Christ's work which may occasion
difficulty, will, when we stand at the right point of view, become
evidences of His claims. What were stumbling-blocks become
stepping-stones. Arguments against become proofs of, the truth when we
look at them with clearer eyes, and from the proper angle. Further, we
are taught here, that what Christ does is the best answer to the
question as to who He is. Still He is doing these works among us.
Darkened eyes are flooded with light by His touch, and see a new
world, because they gaze with faith on Him. Lame limbs are endowed
with strength, and can run in the way of His commandments, and walk
with unfainting perseverance the thorniest paths of duty and
self-sacrifice. Lepers are cleansed from the rotting leprosy of sin,
and their flesh comes again, 'as the flesh of a little child.' Deaf
ears hear the voice of the Son of God, and the dead who hear live.
Good news is preached to all the poor in spirit, and whosoever knows
himself to be in need of all things may claim all things as his own in
Christ. He who through the ages has been working such works, and works
them still, 'needs not to speak anything' to confirm His claims,
'neither is there salvation in any other.' We look for no second
Christ; but we look for that same Jesus to come the second time to be
the Judge of the world of which He is the Saviour.

The benediction on him who finds none occasion of stumbling in
Christ, is at once a beatitude and a warning. It rebukes in the
gentlest fashion John's temper, which found difficulty in even the
perfect personality of Jesus, and made that which should have been
the 'sure foundation' of his spirit a stone of stumbling. Our Lord's
consciousness of absolute perfection of moral character, and of
absolute perfectness in His office and work, is distinct in the
words. He knows that 'there is none occasion of stumbling in Him,'
and that whoever finds any, brings it or makes it. He knows and
warns us that all blessedness lies for us in recognising Him for
what He is--God's sure foundation of our hopes, our peace, our
thoughts, our lives. He knows that all woe and loss are involved in
stumbling on this stone, against which whosoever falls is broken,
and by which, when it begins to move, and falls on a man, he is
ground to powder, like the dust of the threshing-floor. What
tremendous arrogance of assertion! Who is he who can venture on such
words without blasphemy against God, and universal ridicule from

II. The witness of Christ to John. Praise from Jesus is praise
indeed; and it is poured out here with no stinted hand on the
languishing prisoner whose doubts had just been brought to Him. Such
an eulogium at such a time is a wonderful instance of loving
forbearance with a true-hearted follower's weakness, and of a desire
which, in a man, we should call magnanimous, to shield John's
character from depreciation on account of his message. The world
praises a man to his face, and speaks of his faults behind his back.
Christ does the opposite. Not till the messengers were departing
does He begin to speak 'concerning John.' He lays bare the secret of
the Baptist's power, and allocates his place as greatest in one
epoch and as less than the least in another, with an authority more
than human, and on principles which set Himself high above all
comparison with men, whether the greatest or the least. The King
places His subjects, and Himself sits enthroned above them all.

First, Christ praises John's great personal character in the
dramatic and vivid questions which begin this section. He recalls
the scenes of popular enthusiasm when all Israel streamed out to the
desert preacher. A small man could not have made such an upheaval.
What drew the crowds? Just what will draw them; the qualities
without which, either possessed in reality or in popular estimation,
no man can be a power religiously. The first essential is heroic
firmness. It was not reeds swaying in the wind by Jordan's banks,
nor a poor feeble man like these, that the people flocked to listen
to. His emblem was not the reed, but 'an iron pillar.' His whole
career had been marked by decisiveness, constancy, courage. Nothing
can be done worth doing in the world without a wholesome obstinacy
and imperturbability, which keep a man true to his convictions and
his task, whatever winds blow in his teeth. The multitudes will not
flock to listen to a teacher who does not speak with the accent of
conviction, nor will truths feebly grasped touch the lips with fire.
The first requisite for a religious teacher is that he shall be sure
of his message and of himself. Athanasius has to 'stand against the
world' before the world accepts his teaching. 'Though there were as
many devils in Worms as there are tiles on the house-tops, go I
will,' said Luther. That is the temper for God's instruments.

The next requisite, which John also had, is manifest indifference to
material ease. Silken courtiers do not haunt the desert. Kings'
houses, and not either the wilderness or kings' dungeons, are the
sunny spots where they spread their plumage. If the gaunt ascetic,
with his girdle of camel's hair and his coarse fare, had been a
self-indulgent sybarite, his voice would never have shaken a nation.
The least breath of suspicion that a preacher is such a man ends his
power, and ought to end it; for self-indulgence and the love of
fleshly comforts eat the heart out of goodness, and make the eyes
too heavy to see visions. John was the same man then as they had
known him to be; therefore it was no impatience of the hardships of
his prison that had inspired his doubts.

Our Lord next speaks of John's great office. He was a prophet. The
dim recognition that God spoke in His fiery words had drawn the
crowds, weary of teachers in whose endless jangle and jargon of
casuistry was no inspiration. The voice of a man who gets his
message at first-hand from God has a ring in it which even dull ears
detect as something genuine. Alas for the bewildering babble of
echoes and the paucity of voices to-day!

So far Jesus had been appealing to His hearers' knowledge; He now
goes on to add higher truth concerning John. He declares that he is
more than a prophet, because he is His messenger before His face;
that is, immediately preceding Himself. We cannot stay to comment on
the remarkable variation between the original form of the quotation
from Malachi and Christ's version of it, which, in its substitution
of 'thee' for 'me,' bears so forcibly on the divinity of Christ; but
we may mark the principle on which John's superiority to the whole
prophetic order is based. It is that nearness to Jesus makes
greatness. The closer the relation to Him, the higher the honour. In
that long procession the King comes last; and of 'them that go
before, crying, Hosanna to Him that cometh,' the order of precedence
is that the first are last, and that the highest is he who walks in
front of the Sovereign.

Next, we have the limitations of the forerunner and his relative
inferiority to the least in the kingdom of heaven. Another standard
of greatness is here from that of the world, which smiles at the
contrast between the uncultured preacher of repentance and the
mighty thinkers, poets, legislators, kingdom-makers, whom it enrols
among the great. In Christ's eyes greatness is nearness to Him, and
understanding of Him and His work. Neither natural faculty nor worth
is in question, but simply relation to the Kingdom and the King. He
who had only to preach of Him who should come after him, and had but
a partial apprehension of Christ and His work, stood on a lower
level than the least who has to look to a Christ who has come, and
has opened the gates of the kingdom to the humblest believer. The
truths which were hid from ages, and were but visible as in morning
twilight to John, are sunlit to us. The scholars in our Sunday-schools
know familiarly more than prophets and kings ever knew. We 'hold the
grey barbarian lower than the Christian child'; and not merely he, but
the wisest of the prophets, and the forerunner himself. The history of
the world is parted into two by the coming of Jesus Christ, as every
dictionary of dates tells, and the least of the greater is greater than
the greatest of the less. What a place, then, does Christ claim! Our
relation to Him determines greatness. To recognise Him is to be in the
Kingdom of Heaven. Union to Him brings us to fulfil the ideal of human
nature; and this is life, to know and trust Him, the King.

Our Lord adds a brief characterisation of the effect of John's

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