Part 2 out of 4
The apostle Peter came to Jesus one day, and asked him how often he
ought to forgive a brother that offended him; and whether it would be
enough to forgive him _seven_ times. The answer of Jesus was, "I say
not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven."
St. Matt. 18: 22. Then Jesus spoke the parable of the two debtors.
St. Matt. 18: 23-35. One of these owed his master ten thousand
talents. If these were talents of silver they would amount to more
than fifteen millions of dollars. If they were talents of gold, they
would amount to three hundred millions. This would show that his debt
was so great that he never could pay it. Then his master freely
forgave him. But not long after, he found one of his fellow-servants,
who owed him a hundred pence, or about fifteen dollars of our money.
The man asked him to forgive him the debt. He would not do it; but
put him in prison. When his master heard this he was very angry, and
put him in prison, where he should be punished until he had paid all
his great debt. And Jesus finished the parable by saying--"_so
likewise, shall my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye, from your
hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses_." And here
we are taught the great duty of forgiveness. And this same duty is
taught us in the Lord's Prayer, where he says--"Forgive us our
trespasses, as we also forgive those who trespass against us." If we
use this prayer without forgiving those who injure us, then, in so
using it, we are really asking God _not_ to forgive us. And Jesus
_practised_ what he _preached_. As he hung bleeding and agonizing on
the cross, while his enemies were cruelly mocking his misery, he
looked up to heaven, and uttered that wonderful prayer--"_Father
forgive them; for they know not what they do_." Here we have the best
illustration of forgiveness that the world has ever seen.
"Example of Forgiveness." In a school in Ireland, one boy struck
another. The offending boy was brought up to be punished, when the
injured boy begged for his pardon. The teacher asked--"Why do you
wish to keep him from being flogged?" The ready reply was--"Because I
have read in the New Testament that our Lord Jesus Christ said that
we must forgive our enemies; and therefore I forgive him, and beg
that he may not be punished for my sake."
"Good for Evil." At the foot of a street in New York, stood an
Italian organ grinder, with his organ. A number of boys had gathered
round him, but they were more anxious to have some fun than to hear
music. One of them said to his companions:
"See! I'll hit his hat!"
And sure enough he did. Making up a snow ball, he threw it with so
much force that the poor man's hat was knocked into the gutter. A
gentleman standing by expected to see him get very angry, and swear
at the boy. But, very different from this was the result that
followed. The musician stopped; stepped forward and picked up his
hat. Then he turned to the rude boy, and gracefully bowing, said:
"And now, I'll play you a tune to make you merry!" There was real
"The Power of the Gospel." Years ago some carpenters moved to the
Island of New Zealand, and set up a shop for carrying on their
business. They were engaged to build a chapel at one of the Mission
Stations. One of these carpenters, a pleasant, kind-hearted man,
engaged a native Christian to dig his garden for him. When the work
was done the man went to the shop for his pay. Another of the
carpenters there, who was a very ill-tempered man, told the native to
get out of the shop. "Don't be angry," was the gentle reply; "I have
only come to have a little talk with your partner, and to get my
wages from him." "But I _am_ angry." And then taking hold of the New
Zealander by the shoulder, he abused and kicked him in the most cruel
The native made no resistance till the carpenter ceased. Then he
jumped up, seized him by the throat, and snatching a small axe from
the bench, flourished it threateningly over his head. "Now, you see,"
said he, "your life is in my hand. You see my arm is strong enough to
kill you; and my arm is quite willing, but my heart is not. I have
heard the missionaries preach the gospel of forgiveness. You owe your
life to the preaching of the gospel. If my heart was as dark now as
it was before the gospel was preached here, I should strike off your
head in an instant!"
Then he released the carpenter without injuring him and accepted from
him a blanket as an apology for the insult. How faithfully this man
was practising the duty of forgiveness which Jesus taught!
_The only other thing of which we shall now speak, as taught by our
Saviour in the parables, is_--THE INFLUENCE OF GOOD EXAMPLE.
The parable which teaches this lesson is that of the lighted candle.
It is one of the shortest of our Lord's parables, and yet the truth
it teaches is very important. We first find this parable in the
sermon on the mount. These are the words in which it is given:
"Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a
candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let
your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matt, v: 15. This
parable is so important that we find it repeated in three other
places. Mark iv: 21, Luke viii: 16, and xi: 33.
We find the same idea taught by one of England's greatest writers.
Looking at a candle shining through a window, he says:
"How far yon little candle throws its beam!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world."
And the lesson we are here taught is that we should always set a good
example by doing what we know to be right, and then, like a candle
shining in a dark place, we shall be useful wherever we go. Let us
look at one or two incidents that illustrate this.
"A Boy's Influence." Two families lived in one house. In each of
these families there was a little boy about the same age. These boys
slept together. One of them had a good pious mother. She had trained
him to kneel down every night, before getting into bed, and say his
prayer in an audible voice, and to repeat a text of scripture which
she had taught him. Now the first time he slept with the other little
boy, who never said any prayers, he was tempted to jump into bed, as
his companion did, without kneeling down to pray. But he was a brave
and noble boy. He said to himself--"I am not afraid to do what my
mother taught me. I am not ashamed for anybody to know that I pray to
God. I'll do as I have been taught to do." He did so. He let his
light shine. And see what followed from its shining!
The little boy who had never been taught to pray learned his
companion's prayer, and the verse he repeated, by hearing them, and
he never forgot them. He grew up to be an earnest Christian man. When
he lay on his deathbed, quite an aged man, he sent for the friend,
whose prayer he had learned, to come and see him, and told him that
it was his little prayer, so faithfully said every night when they
were boys, which led him to become a Christian. He repeated the
prayer and the verse, word for word, and with his dying lips thanked
his friend for letting his light shine as he did, for _that_ had
saved his soul.
Here is another illustration of a Christian letting his light shine
and the good that was done by it. We may call it:
"The Shilling Bible, and what Came of It." Some years ago a
Christian gentleman went on a visit for three days to the house of a
rich lady who lived at the west end of London. After tea, on the
first evening of his arrival, he called one of the servants, and
telling her that in the hurry of leaving home he had forgotten to
bring a Bible with him, he requested her to ask the lady of the house
to be kind enough to lend him one.
Now that house was beautifully furnished. There were splendid
pictures on the walls, and elegantly bound volumes in the library and
on the tables in the parlor; but there was not a Bible in the house.
The lady felt ashamed to own that she had no Bible. So she gave the
servant a shilling and told her to go to the book store round the
corner and buy a Bible. The Bible was bought and given to the
gentleman. He used it during his visit, and then went home, little
knowing how much good that shilling Bible was to do.
When he was gone the lady at whose house he had been staying said to
"How strange it is that an intelligent gentleman like my friend could
not bear to go for three days without reading the Bible, while I
never read it at all, and don't know what it teaches. I am curious
to know what there is in this book to make it so attractive. I mean
to begin and read it through." She began to read it at first out of
simple curiosity. But, as she went on reading she became deeply
interested in it. It showed her what a sinner she was in living
without God in the world. It led her to pray earnestly for the pardon
of her sins; and the end of it was that she became a Christian. Then
she desired that her children should know and love the Saviour too.
She prayed for them. She talked with them, and taught them the
precious truths contained in that blessed book. And the result was
that, one by one, they were all led to Jesus and became Christians.
And so _that whole family were saved by means of that shilling
When that gentleman asked for the use of a Bible in the house where
he was visiting, he was setting a good example. He was putting his
candle on a candlestick and letting it shine. And the result that
followed gives us a good illustration of the meaning of our Saviour's
words when he said:--"Let your light so shine before men, that they
may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
And so, when we remember the parables that Jesus taught, among other
things illustrated by them, we can think of these,--_the value of
religion;--Christ's love for sinners;--the duty of kindness;--the
duty of forgiveness;--the influence of a good example_.
I know not how to finish this subject better than in the words of the
"Father of mercies! in thy word,
What endless glory shines!
Forever be thy name adored
For these celestial lines.
O, may these heavenly pages be
My ever dear delight;
And still new beauties may I see,
And still increasing light."
CHRIST TEACHING BY MIRACLES
We have seen how many valuable lessons our Saviour taught while on
earth by the parables which he used. But we teach by our lives, as
well as by our lips. It has passed into a proverb, and we all admit
the truth of it, that "Actions speak louder than words." If our words
and our actions contradict each other, people will believe our
actions sooner than our words. But when both agree together, then the
effect is very great. This was true with our blessed Lord. There was
an entire agreement between what he said, and what he did. His words
and his actions, the teaching of his lips, and the teaching of his
life--were in perfect harmony. He practised what he preached.
But then, in addition to the every day common actions of the life of
Christ, there were actions in it that were very uncommon. He was
daily performing miracles, and doing many mighty and wonderful
works. And the prophets before him, and apostles after him, performed
miracles too; yet there were two things in which the miracles of
Christ differed from those performed by others. One was as to the
_number_ of them. He did a greater number of wonderful things than
anyone else ever did. Indeed if we take the miracles that were done
by Moses, by Elijah and Elisha, in the Old Testament, and those that
were done by the apostles in the New Testament and put them all
together we shall find that they would not equal, in number, the
miracles of Christ. There are between thirty and forty of the mighty
works wrought by our Saviour mentioned in the gospels. And these, as
St. John says, are only a small portion of them. Ch. xxi: 25.
The other thing in which the miracles of Christ are different from
those performed by other persons, is _the way in which they were
done_. The prophets and apostles did their mighty works in the name
of God, or of Christ. Thus when Peter and John healed the lame man at
the gate of the temple they said:--"_In the name of Jesus Christ of
Nazareth_, rise up and walk." Acts iii: 6. But Jesus had all the
power in himself by which those wonderful things were done. He could
say to the leper,--"_I will_; be thou clean." He could say to the
sick man:--"Take up thy bed and walk." When speaking of his death and
resurrection, he could very well say that it was his own power which
would control it all. His life was in his own hands. It was true, as
he said, "No man taketh it from me; but I lay it down of myself. I
have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again." John x:
18. And it was the same with all his other mighty works. He had all
the power in himself that was needed to do them.
And these miracles of Christ were the proofs that he was the Messiah,
the great Saviour, of whom the prophets had spoken. This was what
Nicodemus meant when he said to Jesus:--"We know that thou art a
teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou
doest, except God be with him." John iii: 2. And Jesus himself
referred to his miracles as the proof that God had sent him. John v:
36; x: 25.
And this was what he meant by the message which he sent to John the
Baptist, when his disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Are thou he that
should come, or look we for another?" Jesus answered and said unto
them, "Go, and show John again those things which ye do hear and see;
the blind receive their sight; and the lame walk; the lepers are
cleansed; and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up; and the poor
have the gospel preached unto them." Matt, xi: 2-6. These were the
very things which the prophets had foretold that Christ would do when
he came. Is. xxix: 18. xxxv: 4-6. xlii: 7.
It is clear from these passages that all the miracles performed by
our Lord were intended to teach this lesson, that he was the great
Saviour of whom the prophets had spoken. But then, in addition to
this, these wonderful works of Jesus were made use of by him to show
that he has power to do everything for his people that they may need
to have him do.
It is impossible for us to speak of all the miracles of Christ. We
can only make selections from them, as we did with the parables in
the last chapter. In looking at these we may see Jesus teaching us
that he has power to do _four_ things for his people.
_In the first place some of the miracles of Christ teach us that he
has great power to_--HELP.
We see this in the account given us of the miraculous draught of
fishes. Luke v: 1-11.
Peter was a fisherman before he became a disciple of Jesus. And James
and John, the sons of Zebedee, were partners with him in the same
business. On one occasion they had been busy all night throwing out
and hauling in their nets, but without catching a single fish. Early
the next morning, Jesus was walking along the shore of the lake, near
where their boats were. He knew how tired and discouraged they were,
and how much they needed help; and he wished to show them what
wonderful power he had to help in time of need. So he told them to
cast their net on the other side of the ship. They did so; and
immediately their nets were full; and they had more fish than they
could well manage. Here we are taught that even in the depths of the
sea nothing can be hid from the all-seeing eye of our divine Saviour.
He knows where everything is that his people can need; and he has the
power to bring it to them.
And then, by his miracle of walking on the sea Jesus taught the same
lesson. We have an account of this miracle in three places. Matt,
xix: 22-33. Mark vi: 45-52. John vi: 14-21.
At the close of a busy day, in which he had been teaching the people
and feeding them by miracle, Jesus told his disciples to go on board
a vessel and cross over to the other side of the lake. Then he sent
the multitude away, and went up into the mountain to pray to his
Father in heaven whom he loved so much. It proved to be a stormy
night. The wind was dead ahead; and the sea was very rough. The
disciples were having a hard time of it. Tired of rowing, and making
little progress, there was no prospect of their getting to land
before morning. But, dark as the night was, Jesus saw them. It is
true as David says, that--"_The darkness and the light are both alike
to thee._" Ps. cxxxix: 12. He saw they needed help and he resolved to
give it to them. But there was no boat at hand for him to go in.
True: but he needed none. He could walk on the water as well as on
the land. He steps from the sandy shore to the surface of the
storm-tossed sea. He walks safely over its troubled waters. The
disciples see him. Supposing it to be a spirit, they are alarmed, and
cry out in their fear. But presently the cheering voice of their
Master comes to them, saying: "_It is I. Be not afraid_." He steps on
board. The wind ceases, and immediately, without another stroke of
the oars, the mighty power of Jesus brings them "in safety to the
haven where they would be." Other miracles might be referred to as
teaching the same lesson. But these are sufficient. And Jesus has the
same power to help now that he had then.
Here are some illustrations of the strange way in which he sometimes
helps his people in their times of need.
"The Dead Raven." A poor weaver in Edinburgh lost his situation one
winter, on account of business being so dull. He begged earnestly of
his employer to let him have work; but he said it was impossible.
Well said he, "I'm sure the Lord will help." When he came home and
told his wife the sad news she was greatly distressed. He tried to
comfort her with the assurance--"The Lord will help." But as he could
get no work, their money was soon gone; and the day came at last,
when there was neither food nor fuel left in the house. The last
morsel of bread was eaten one morning at breakfast. "What shall we do
for dinner?" asked his wife.
"The Lord will help"--was still his reply. And see how the help came.
Soon after breakfast, his wife opened the front window, to dust off
the sill. Just then a rude boy, who was passing, threw a dead raven
in through the window. It fell at the feet of the pious weaver. As
he threw the bird in, the boy cried out in mockery, "There, old
saint, is something for you to eat." The weaver took up the dead
raven, saying as he did so:--"Poor creature! you must have died of
But when he felt its crop to see whether it was empty, he noticed
something hard in it. And wishing to know what had caused its death,
he took a knife and cut open its throat. How great was his
astonishment on doing this, to find a small diamond bracelet fall
into his hand! His wife gazed at it in amazement. "Didn't I tell
you," he asked, in grateful gladness, "that the Lord will help?"
He went to the nearest jeweler's, and telling how he had found the
precious jewels, borrowed some money on them. On making inquiry about
it, it turned out that the bracelet belonged to the wife of the good
weaver's late employer. It had suddenly disappeared from her chamber.
One of the servants had been charged with stealing it, and had been
dismissed. On hearing how the bracelet had disappeared, and how
strangely it had fallen into the hands of his late worthy workman,
the gentleman was very much touched; and not only rewarded him
liberally for returning it--but took him back into his employ, and
said he should never want work again so long as he had any to give.
How willing, and how able our glorious Saviour is to help those who
trust in him!
"The Sailor Boy's Belief." One night there was a terrible storm at
sea. All at once a ship, which was tossing on the waves, keeled over
on her beam ends. "She'll never right again!" exclaimed the captain.
"We shall all be lost!"
"Not at all, sir!" cried a pious sailor boy who was near the captain.
"What's to hinder it?" asked the captain. "Why you see, sir," said
the boy, "they are praying at this very moment in the Bethel ship at
Glasgow for all sailors in danger: and I feel sure that God will hear
their prayers: Now see, sir, if he don't!"
These words were hardly out of the boy's mouth, before a great wave
struck the ship, and set her right up again. And then a shout of
praise, louder than the howling of the storm, went up to God from the
deck of that saved ship.
And so, in the miracles that he performed, one thing that Jesus
taught was his power to help.
_In the next place, among the miracles of Christ, we find some that
were performed in order to teach us his power to_--COMFORT.
One day, a great multitude of people waited on Jesus from morning
till evening, to listen to his preaching. They were so anxious to
hear that even when hungry they would not go away to get food. As the
evening came on, the disciples asked their master to send the people
away to get something to eat. But Jesus told them to give the people
food. They said they had only five loaves and two fishes. Jesus told
them to make the people sit down on the grass. And when they were
seated he took the loaves and blessed, and brake them, and gave them
to the disciples, and they gave them to the people. And great as that
multitude was the supply did not fail. This was wonderful! Those
loaves were very small. They were not bigger than a good-sized roll.
The whole of the five loaves and two fishes would not have been
enough to make a meal for a dozen men. And yet they were made
sufficient to feed more than five thousand hungry people. How strange
this was! The mighty power of Jesus did it. We are not told just
_where_, in the interesting scene, this wonder-working power was put
forth. It may have been that as Jesus brake the loaves and gave the
pieces to the disciples, the part left in his hands grew out at once,
to the same size that it was before. Or the broken pieces may have
increased and multiplied while the disciples were engaged in
distributing them. It is most likely that the miracle took place in
immediate connection with Jesus himself. The power that did it was
his: and in his hands, we may suppose that the wonderful work was
done. As fast as he broke the loaves they increased, till all the
people were fed. This was indeed not _one_ miracle, but a multitude
of miracles, all performed at once. The hungry multitude ate till all
were satisfied: and yet the fragments left filled twelve baskets.
Five thousand men were fed, and then there was twelve times as much
food left as there was before they began to eat. All this was done to
satisfy that hungry crowd, and to teach them, and us, what power this
glorious Saviour has to comfort those who are in need or trouble.
And when he healed the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman, as we
read in St. Matt, xii: 21-28; when he healed the lunatic child, as we
read in St. Matt, xvii: 14-21; and when he raised Lazarus from the
dead, after he had lain four days in the grave, as we read in St.
John xi: 1-54, he was working miracles to show his power to comfort
those in trouble.
And we see him using his power still to comfort persons who are in
distress. Here are some illustrations of the way in which he does
"Shining in Every Window." A Christian lady, who spent much time in
visiting among the poor, went one day to see a poor young girl, who
was kept at home by a broken limb. Her room was on the north side of
the house. It did not look pleasant without or cheerful within. "Poor
girl!" she said to herself, "what a dreary time she must have!" On
entering her room she said:
"I am sorry, my friend, that your room is not on the other side of
the house, where the sun could shine upon you. You never can have any
"Oh, you are mistaken," she said: "the sunshine pours in at every
window, and through every crack."
The lady looked surprised.
"I mean Jesus, 'the Sun of righteousness,' shines in here, and makes
everything bright to me."
Here we see Jesus showing his power to comfort.
"Ice in Summer." Some years ago a Christian merchant, in one of our
eastern cities, failed in business, and lost everything he had. After
talking over their affairs with his wife, who was a good Christian
woman, they concluded to move out to the west and begin life again
there. He bought some land on the wide rolling prairie, built a log
cabin, and began to cultivate his farm. In the midst of the second
summer, hard work and exposure to the sun brought on an attack of
sickness, and a raging fever set in. They were twelve miles away from
the nearest town. One of the neighbors went there and came back with
a doctor. He examined the case very carefully, and left some medicine
with them, and told them what to do. He said it was a very dangerous
attack. If they could only get some ice to apply to the burning brow
of the sick man, he thought he might get over it; but, without that,
there was very little prospect of his recovery.
As soon as the doctor was gone, the sorrowful wife gathered her
family and friends round the bedside of her sick husband, and kneeled
down with them in prayer. She told God what the doctor had said, and
prayed very earnestly that he who has the power to do everything,
would send them some ice.
When the prayer was over, some of the neighbors whispered to each
other that the poor distressed woman must be losing her mind. "The
idea of getting ice here," they said, "when everybody knows there
isn't a bit of ice in all the country! It would be contrary to all
the laws of nature to have ice in summer."
The wife of the sick man heard their remarks, but they did not shake
her faith in God, and in the power of prayer. Silently, but
earnestly, her heart breathed forth the cry for ice.
As the day wore on, heavy clouds began to gather in the western sky.
They rolled in darkness over the heavens. The distant thunder was
heard to mutter. Nearer and louder it was heard. The lightning began
to flash. Presently the storm burst in its fury. It came first in
rain, and then in hail. The hail-stones came in lumps of ice as big
as eggs. They lay thick in the furrows of the field. The thankful
wife went out, and soon came in rejoicing with a bucket full of ice.
It was applied in bags to her husband's head. The fever broke, and he
was restored to life and health.
This grateful woman never troubled herself with any questions about
whether it was a miracle or not. She only knew that she had prayed
for ice in summer, and that the ice had come. And her faith was
stronger than ever that the gracious Saviour, who did so many
miracles when he was on earth, has just the same power now to comfort
his people when they are in trouble.
_In the third place, we see Jesus performing miracles to teach us
what power he has to_--ENCOURAGE--_his people_.
We have an account in St. Luke xiii: 10-17, of the miracle he
performed on the woman who had "a spirit of infirmity." This means
that she was a cripple. Her body was bound down, so that she had no
power to straighten herself or to stand upright. She had been in this
condition we are told for _eighteen_ years. How hard to bear--and how
discouraging this trial must have been to her! No doctor could give
her any relief, and she had made up her mind, no doubt, that there
was no relief for her till death came. But when Jesus saw her, he
pitied her. A miracle of healing was performed upon her. He laid his
loving hand upon her bent and crippled body, and in a moment her
disease was removed. She stood straight up, and glorified God. What
encouragement that must have given to her!
One day, when Jesus was at Capernaum, the tax-gatherers came to Peter
to get the tribute, or tax-money, that was due to the Roman
government, for himself and his master. But, it happened so that
neither of them had money enough with which to pay that tax. Peter
went into the presence of Jesus to speak to him about this matter.
But Jesus knowing what was in his mind, before Peter had time to say
anything on the subject, told him what to do. He directed him to take
his fishing-line and go to the lake, and cast in his line, and catch
the first fish that should bite; and said that in its mouth he would
find a piece of money with which he might pay the tribute that was
due for them both.
Peter went. He threw in his line. He soon caught a fish. He looked
into the fish's mouth and lo! there was a piece of money called a
stater. It was worth about sixty cents of our money, and was just
enough to pay the tribute for two persons. How wonderful this was! If
Jesus made this piece of money in the mouth of the fish, at the time
when Peter caught it, how wonderful his _power_ must be! And if,
without making it then, he knew that _that_ one fish, the only one in
the sea, probably, that had such a piece of money in its mouth, would
be the first to bite at Peter's line, then how wonderful his
_knowledge_ must be!
Peter would not be likely to forget that day's fishing as long as he
lived. And when he thought of the illustration it afforded of the
wonderful power and the wonderful knowledge of the master whom he was
serving, what encouragement that would give him in his work!
And Jesus is constantly doing things to encourage those who are
trying to serve him.
Let us look at some of the ways in which this is done. Our first
illustration is from the life of Washington Allston, the great
American painter. We may call it:
"Praying for Bread." Many years ago Mr. Allston was considered one of
the greatest artists in this country. At the time to which our story
refers, he was living in London. Then he was so poor that he and his
wife had not a morsel of bread to eat; nor a penny left with which to
buy any. In great discouragement he went into his studio, locked the
door, and throwing himself on his knees, he told the Lord his
trouble, and prayed earnestly for relief.
While he was still upon his knees, a knock was heard at the door. He
arose and opened the door. A stranger stood there.
"I wish to see Mr. Allston," said he.
"I am Mr. Allston," replied Mr. A.
"Pray tell me, sir, who has purchased your fine painting of the
'Angel Uriel,' which won the prize at the exhibition of the Royal
"That painting has not been sold," said Mr. A.
"Where is it to be found?"
"In this very room," said the artist, bringing a painting from the
corner, and wiping off the dust.
"What is the price of it?" asked the gentleman.
"I have done fixing a price on it," said Mr. A., "for I have always
asked more than people were willing to give."
"Will four hundred pounds be enough for it?" was the next question.
"That is more than I ever asked."
"Then the painting is mine," said the stranger, who introduced
himself as the Marquis of Stafford; and from that day he became one
of Mr. Allston's warmest friends.
What a lesson of encouragement the great painter learned that day,
when he asked for bread, and while he was asking, received help that
followed him all his days!
"The Hushed Tempest." A minister of the gospel in Canada gives this
account of a lesson of encouragement to trust God in trouble, which
he once received.
"It was in the year 1853, about the middle of the winter that we had
a succession of snowstorms, followed by high winds, and severe cold.
I was getting ready to haul my supply of wood for the rest of the
winter. I had engaged a man to go out the day before and cut the wood
and have it ready to haul. I borrowed a sled and two horses from a
neighbor and started early in the morning to haul the wood. Just as I
reached the place, it began to snow hard. The wind blew such a gale
that it was impossible to go on with the work. What was I to do? If
it kept on snowing, I knew the roads would be impassable by the next
day. Besides, that was the only day on which I could get the help of
the man or the team. Unless I secured the wood that day it would not
be in my power to get the fuel we needed for the rest of the winter.
I thought of that sweet promise, 'Call on me, in the day of trouble,
and I will deliver thee,' Ps. i: 15.
"I kneeled down amid the drifting snow, and said, 'O, my God, this is
a day of trouble to me. Lord help me. The elements are subject to thy
will: Thou holdest the winds in thy hands. If thou wilt speak the
word, there will be a great calm. O Lord, for the sake of my helpless
little ones, let this snow lie still, and give me the opportunity of
doing what I came to do, and what it is so necessary to do to-day,
for Jesus' sake. Amen!'
"I do not think it was more than fifteen minutes from the time I
began to pray, before there was a visible change. The wind became
more moderate; the sky was calm; in less than half an hour all was
still; and a more pleasant time for wood-hauling than we had that day
I never saw, nor desire to see. While I live, I never shall forget
the lesson of encouragement to trust in God that was taught me on
that day." And this was one of the lessons Jesus taught us by his
_In the fourth place, among the miracles of Jesus we see some that
were intended to teach us his power to_--PROTECT--_his people_.
And there is no lesson that we more need to be taught than this;
because we are exposed to many dangers, from which we are too weak
to protect ourselves.
One day, Jesus went into the house of the apostle Peter, and found
the family in great distress, because the mother of Peter's wife was
very ill and in danger of dying. We judge from the history that she
was the head of the family. Her death would have been a great loss to
them all, and yet it seemed as if no human power could protect them
from that loss. But Jesus performed a miracle to save them from this
threatened danger. He went into the room where she lay. He put his
healing hands upon her, and at once she was well. Immediately she
rose up from that sick bed, and took her place in the family and
waited on Jesus.
On another occasion he was crossing the sea of Galilee with his
disciples. Weary with the work of love in which he had been engaged,
he laid down in the hinder part of the ship and fell asleep. While he
was lying there a sudden storm burst upon the sea. The wind howled in
its fury. The angry waves rose in their might and dashed against the
vessel in hissing foam. The ship was full of water, and in danger of
sinking. The terrified disciples came to their sleeping Master with
the earnest cry:--"Lord save us: we perish." He heard their cry. He
rose at once. Quietly he took his stand by the side of the
storm-tossed vessel. He rebuked the winds, and said unto the sea:--"
Peace: be still." They recognized their Master's voice and obeyed.
"The wind ceased, and immediately there was a great calm."
As long as those disciples lived they never would forget the lesson
he taught them by that miracle of his power to protect in danger.
And then many of the miracles of our Saviour were performed for the
purpose of showing what power he had to protect his people from
Satan, and the evil spirits that serve him. It pleased God to allow
these evil spirits to have more power over men during the time when
Jesus was on earth than they had before, or than they have now. We
often read in the gospels of men who were "possessed of devils." This
means that the evil spirits entered into the bodies of these men, and
used them as their own; just as you, or I, might go into an empty
house, and use it as if it belonged to us. But Jesus performed a
number of miracles to show that he was able to control those spirits;
to cast them out of the bodies of men and to protect his people from
their power. We have an account of one of these miracles in St. Matt,
viii: 28, 34; of another in St. Mark v: 1-20; and of another in St.
Luke viii: 26-39.
The Bible speaks of Satan "going about, like a roaring lion, seeking
whom he may devour." I. Peter v: 8. But he is a chained lion: and
Jesus holds the chain. If we are trying to love and serve Jesus, we
need not be afraid of this roaring lion. He cannot touch us till our
Saviour gives him permission; and he will not let him hurt us. We see
this illustrated in Job's case. Satan wanted very much to injure Job
in some way. But he could not do it. And the reason of it was, as he
said himself, that God had "put an hedge about him, and about his
house, and about all that he had on every side." Job i: 10. This
hedge, or fence, means the power which Jesus exercises to protect his
people from the harm that Satan desires to do to them. In this way he
protected Job. And in this way he protects all who love and serve
Let us take an illustration or two to show how he is doing this
"Providential Deliverance." One of the best men, and one of the most
useful ministers in London, during the last century, was the Rev.
John Newton. Before entering the ministry he held an office under
the government. One of the duties of this office was for him to visit
and inspect the vessels of the navy as they lay at anchor in the
river Thames. One day he was going out to visit a man-of-war that lay
there. He was a very punctual man. When he had an engagement he was
always ready at the very moment. But when he reached the dock on this
occasion the boat which was to take him off to the man-of-war was not
there. He was obliged to wait five, ten, fifteen minutes before the
boat came. This displeased him very much. But the hand of God was in
this delay. For, just as the boat was leaving the dock, a spark fell
into the powder magazine on board the man-of-war. An explosion took
place. The huge vessel was blown to pieces, and all the men on board
of her were killed. That delay of a quarter of an hour saved Mr.
Newton's life. In this way that gracious Saviour whom he served
protected him from the danger to which he was exposed.
"Willie's Heroism." One summer afternoon a teacher told her geography
class that they might close their books and rest a little, while she
told them a story. The story was about William Tell, the famous hero
of Switzerland. She told the scholars how a wicked governor placed an
apple on the head of Tell's little boy and then compelled the father
to take his bow and arrow and shoot the apple from the head of his
son. He was very unwilling to do it, for he was afraid the arrow
might miss and kill his child. But the brave boy stood firm, and
cried out--"Shoot, father! I am not afraid." He took a steady aim;
fired, and knocked the apple off without hurting his son.
Just as the teacher was telling this story a sudden storm burst from
the sky. There was a flash of lightning, and a loud crash of thunder.
Some of the children screamed, and began to cry and ran to the
teacher for protection. But a little boy named Willie Hawthorne, kept
his seat and went on quietly studying his lesson.
When the storm was over the teacher said:
"Willie why were you not afraid like the other children?"
"Because," said he, "I knew the lightning was only an arrow in my
Heavenly Father's hand, and why should I be afraid?"
How well Willie had learned the lesson which Jesus taught his
disciples when he performed so many miracles to show what power he
has to protect his people from danger!
Here is just one other story to illustrate this truth. We may call
"The Widow's Tree," Some years ago a violent storm, with wind and
thunder, swept through the valley of Yellow Creek, in Indiana County,
Georgia. For more than a mile in width trees were uprooted, houses,
barns, and fences were thrown down, and ruin and desolation was
spread all over the land.
In the centre of the region over which this hurricane swept stood a
small cabin. It was occupied by an aged Christian widow, with her
only son. The terrible wind struck a large tree in front of her
humble dwelling, twisting and dashing it about. If the tree should
fall it would crush her home, and probably kill herself and son. The
storm howled and raged, and the big trees were falling on every hand.
In the midst of all the danger the widow knelt in prayer, and asked
God to spare that tree, and protect her home, and save her own life,
and that of her son. Her prayer was heard. And when the storm was
over, the widow's tree was spared, and strange as it may seem, was
the only one left amidst that scene of desolation. There it stood,
as if on purpose to show what power our loving Saviour has to protect
from danger those who trust in him!
_But, in the last place, we see that Jesus performed some of his
miracles for the purpose of teaching us that he has power
A man was brought him, one day, who was sick of the palsy. His limbs
were helpless. He was not able to come to Jesus himself, so his
friends carried him on a bed. At this time Jesus was preaching in the
yard, or court, connected with some rich man's house. In those
eastern countries the houses were not built as ours are, with a yard
back of them. There is a square yard in the centre, and the house is
built round the four sides of this square. This open space is
generally used as a garden. It has a fountain playing in it, and a
covering of cloth or mats spread over it to keep off the sun. It was
in one of these open courts that Jesus was preaching on this
occasion. A great crowd had gathered round him, so that the friends
of the palsied man could not get near him with the bed on which the
sufferer lay. Then they concluded to carry him up to the top of the
house, and lower him down inside. This would not be easy to do with
us. But the eastern houses are not so high as ours. And then they
have flat roofs, and a flight of steps leading from the ground, on
the outside, to the top of the house. This made it very easy to get
up. When they were on the roof they removed the covering from the
inner court, and let down the bed, with the sick man on it, directly
in front of our Saviour. When he saw him he pitied him, and said,
"Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee." The people were
surprised at this. The Pharisees said among themselves "This man
blasphemeth." Jesus knew their thoughts and told them it was as easy
for him to heal the souls of men, as it was to heal their bodies. And
then, to show them that he had power on earth to forgive sins, he
said to the sick man--"Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine
house. And he arose, and went to his house," Matt, ix: 1-8. Certainly
the object Jesus had in view, in performing this miracle, was to
prove that he had power to forgive sins; or to pardon.
And when he healed the leper it was to teach us the same great truth.
This disease was not only like all other diseases, the result of sin;
but, unlike most other diseases, it was a type, or figure of sin. It
affected the body as sin affects the soul. And then, leprosy was a
disease which none but God could cure; just as sin is an offence
which none but God our Saviour can pardon. And so Jesus performed the
miracle of healing the palsied man and the lepers in order to teach
his disciples the great lesson that he "had power on earth to forgive
And he has the same power still. Here are some illustrations of the
way in which he exercises this power now.
"No Pardon but From Jesus," There was a heathen man in India once,
who felt that he was a sinner, and longed to obtain pardon. The
priests had sent him to their most famous temples, all over the
country, but he could get no pardon, and find no peace. He had fasted
till he was about worn to a skeleton, and had done many painful
things--but pardon and peace he could not find. At last he was told
to put pebbles in his shoes and travel to a distant temple, and make
an offering there; and he would find peace. He went. He made the
offering; but still he found no relief from the burden of his sins.
Sad, and sorrowful, he was returning home with the pebbles still in
his shoes. Wearied with his journey, he halted one day in the shade
of a grove, by the wayside, where a company of people was gathered
round a stranger who was addressing them. It was a Christian
missionary preaching the gospel. The heathen listened with great
interest. The missionary was preaching from the words:--"The blood of
Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin." He showed what power Jesus had
to forgive sins and how able and willing he is to save all who come
unto him. The heart of the poor heathen was drawn to this loving and
glorious Saviour. He took off his shoes and threw away the pebbles,
saying "This is the Saviour I have long sought in vain. Thank God! I
have found salvation!"
Here is one more illustration of the way in which Jesus pardons our
sins, and of the effect which that pardon has on those who receive
it. We may call it:
"Pardon and Peace." An officer who held a high position under the
government of his country, and was a favorite with the king, was once
brought before the judge and charged with a great crime. He took his
place at the bar with the greatest coolness, and looked at the judge
and jury and the great crowd of spectators as calmly as if he were
at home, surrounded by his own family.
The trial began. The witnesses were called up, and gave clear
evidence that he was guilty. Still he remained as calm and unmoved as
ever. There was not the least sign of fear visible on his
countenance; on the contrary, his face wore a pleasant smile.
At last the jury came in, and while the crowd in the court-room held
their breath, declared that the prisoner was guilty. In an instant
every eye was turned upon the prisoner to see what effect this
sentence would have upon him. But just then, he put his hand in his
bosom, drew out a paper, and laid it on the table. It was a pardon, a
full, free pardon of all his offences, given him by the king, and
sealed with the royal signet. This was the secret of his peace. This
was what gave him such calmness and confidence in his dreadful
position as a condemned prisoner.
And so Jesus gives his people pardon in such promises as these:
"Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow: though
they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool," Is. i: 16. "Let
them return unto the Lord, for he will _abundantly pardon_." Is. lv:
7. "All that believe are justified from _all_ things." Acts xiii:
39. These promises are like the king's pardon which the officer had
received. Faith in these promises brings pardon, and the pardon
brings peace. And so, by what he is doing now, as well as by the
miracles he performed when on earth, we are taught the precious
truth, that--"The Son of man hath power to forgive sins."
Then when we think of the wonderful miracles that Jesus did, let us
always remember the illustrations they afford of the power he had to
_help_--_to comfort_--_to encourage_--_to protect_--_and to pardon_.
Let us seek to secure all these blessings to ourselves, and then we
shall find that what Jesus taught by his miracles will be very
profitable teaching to us!
CHRIST TEACHING LIBERALITY
If we should attempt to mention all the parables which Jesus spoke,
and the miracles which he performed, and the many other lessons which
he taught, it would make a long list. As we have done before we can
only take one or two specimens of these general lessons which Jesus
We have one of these in the title to our present chapter, which
is--_Christ Teaching Liberality_. This was a very important lesson
for Jesus to teach. One of the sad effects of sin upon our nature is
to make it selfish, and covetous. We are tempted to love money more
than we ought to do. We are not so willing to part with it as we
should be. And we never can be good and true Christians unless we
overcome the selfishness of our sinful hearts, and not only learn to
give, but to give liberally. The Bible teaches us that God not only
expects his people to give, but, as St. Paul says, in one place, to
give "_cheerfully_." II. Cor. ix: 7.
And this is the lesson Jesus taught when he said to his
disciples,--"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure,
pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give
into your bosoms." St. Luke vi: 38.
And when we come to consider these words of Jesus, there are three
things to engage our attention. _The first of these is the_--LESSON
OF LIBERALITY--_here set before us_.
_The second is_--THE PROOF--_that this lesson is taught all through
_And the third is_--THE ILLUSTRATIONS--_of this lesson_.
And then, when put into its shortest form, our present subject may be
thus expressed--_the lesson of liberality; its proofs; and its
And the lesson which Jesus here taught is all wrapped up in this
little word--"_Give_." Here we learn what the will of Jesus is on
this subject. This is not simply the expression of his opinion. It is
not merely his advice; no, but it is his _command_. He is speaking
here as our Master--our King--our God. He _commands_ us to--give.
And when we remember how he said to his disciples, "If ye love me,
_keep my commandments_," we see plainly, that we have no right to
consider ourselves as his disciples if we are neglecting this or any
other of his plain commands.
And this command about giving is not intended for any _one_ class of
persons among the followers of Christ, but for _all_ of them. It is
not a command designed for kings, or princes, or rich men only, but
for the poor as well. It is not a command for grown persons alone,
but for children also. As soon as we begin to _get_, God expects us
to begin to _give_.
Jesus says nothing here about _how much_ he expects us to give. But,
from other places in the Bible, we learn that he expects us to give
_at least one-tenth_ of all that we have. If we have a thousand
dollars he expects us to give one hundred out of the thousand. If we
have a hundred he expects us to give ten. If we have ten dollars we
must give one of them to God. If we have only one dollar we must give
ten cents of it to Him. If we have but ten cents we must give one of
them. If we have no money to give, God expects us to give kind words,
and kind actions, our sympathy and love.
Jesus does not tell us here _how often_ we are to give, but
simply--give. This means that we are to learn the lesson and form the
habit of giving. His command is--give. And in giving us this command
he is only asking us to imitate his own example. _He is giving all
the time_. The apostle Paul tells us that Jesus is "exalted to the
right hand of the Father to--give." He never tires of giving. "He
giveth to all life, breath, and all things." And if we have not the
Spirit of Christ in this respect, "we are none of his."
This, then, is the lesson of liberality that Jesus taught when he
said--"give." And that _giving is God's rule for getting_ is what we
are taught by our Saviour, when he said--"_Give, and it shall be
given unto you_."
And now, having seen what this lesson of liberality is, which Jesus
taught, _let us look at some of the Scripture proofs of it_. The same
lesson is taught in other places in the Bible. Let us see what is
said about it in some of these places.
In Ps. xli: 1 David says--"Blessed is he that considereth the poor:
the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble." Considering the poor
here, means being kind to them, and giving them such things as they
need. And the blessing promised to those who do this means that God
will reward them by giving to them good things in great abundance.
And, if this is so, then we have proof here that "giving is God's
rule for getting."
We have another proof that "giving is God's rule for getting," in
Prov. iii: 9, 10. Here Solomon says--"Honor the Lord with thy
substance, and with the first-fruits of all thine increase: So shall
thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with
When the Jewish farmers gathered in their harvests they were required
to make an offering to God, of what had been gathered, before they
used any part of it for themselves; and the offerings thus made were
called "the first-fruits." God considered himself honored by his
people when they did this, because they were keeping his commandments
and doing what he wished them to do. And the meaning of this command,
when we apply it to ourselves, is that we should give something to
the cause of God from all the money, or property we have, and from
all the gain, or increase that we make to the same. This is the Bible
rule--the will or command of God for all his people. And then, in
the other part of this passage we have the promise of God to all who
do this. "So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses
shall burst out with new wine."
This means that they shall be rich and prosperous. And so we see that
this passage from the book of Proverbs, teaches the same lesson of
liberality that our Saviour taught when he said--"_Give and it shall
be given unto you_." It proves that "giving is God's rule for
And Solomon teaches the same, again, when he says, "The liberal soul
shall be made fat; and he that watereth shall be watered also
himself." Prov. xi: 25.
A "liberal soul" means a person who is in the habit of giving; and to
be "made fat" means to be prospered and happy. If you undertake to
water a garden, you are _giving_ to the thirsty plants that which
they need to make them grow and thrive; and when it is promised that
the person who does this shall "be watered also himself," the meaning
is that he shall have given to him all that is most important to
supply his wants, and make him happy. And this, we see, is only
teaching what our Saviour taught when he said, "Give, and it shall be
given unto you." It furnishes us with another proof that "giving is
God's rule for getting."
In the nineteenth chapter of Proverbs and seventeenth verse we have a
very clear proof of the lesson we are now considering. Here we find
it said: "_He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord;
and that which he hath given will he pay him again_." Having pity on
the poor, as here spoken of, means giving them such things as they
need. Whatever we use in this way God looks upon as so much money
lent unto him; and we have his solemn promise that when we lend
anything to him, in this way, "He will pay us again." And when he
pays again what has been lent to him, it is always with interest. He
pays back four, or five, or ten times as much as was lent: to him.
This proves that "giving is God's rule for getting."
One other passage is all that need be referred to in order to prove
that the lesson of liberality which our Saviour taught is the same
lesson which the Bible teaches everywhere. In Eccles. xi: 1, God
says, "_Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after
If we should see a man standing on the end of a wharf and throwing
bread upon the waters, we should think that he was a foolish man,
who was wasting his bread, or only feeding the fishes with it. But
suppose that you and I were travelling through Egypt--the land of the
celebrated pyramids and other great wonders. The famous river Nile is
there. During our visit the inundation of that river takes place. It
overflows its banks, and spreads its water over all the level plains
that border on the river. This takes place every year. And when the
fields are all overflowed with water, the farmers go out in boats,
and scatter their grain over the surface of the water. The grain
sinks to the bottom. The sediment in the water settles down on the
grain, and covers it with mud. By and by the waters flow back into
the river. The fields become dry. The grain springs up and grows. The
mud that covered it is like rich manure, and makes it grow very
plentifully, and yield a rich harvest. And here we see the meaning of
this passage. God makes use of this Egyptian custom to teach us the
lesson of liberality that we are now considering. He tells us that
the money which we give to the poor, or use to do good with, is like
the grain which the Egyptian farmer casts upon the water, and which
will surely yield a rich harvest by and by.
This teaches us the lesson of liberality. And when we think of all
these passages, we see very clearly that the Bible teaches the same
lesson which Jesus taught when he said to his disciples, "Give, and
it shall be given unto you." And what we learn, both from the
teaching of Christ, and from the different passages referred to,
is--that "giving is God's rule for getting."
And now, having seen some of the Bible, proofs for this lesson of
liberality, or for this rule about giving and getting, _let us go on
to speak of some of the illustrations of this rule_. These are very
And we may draw our illustrations from three sources, viz.:--_from
the Bible; from nature; and from everyday life_.
There are two illustrations of which we may speak from the Bible. We
find one of these in the history of the prophet Elijah. You remember
that there was a great famine in the land of Israel during the
lifetime of this prophet. For more than three years there was not a
drop of rain all through the land. The fields, the vineyards, and
gardens dried up, and withered, and yielded no fruit. During the
first part of the time when this famine was prevailing, God sent
Elijah to "the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan," I. Kings xvii:
7-17. There the ravens brought him food, and he drank of the water of
But after awhile the brook dried up. Then God told him to go to the
city of Zarephath, or Sarepta, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea,
and that he had commanded a widow woman there to sustain him. He did
not tell him the name of the woman; nor the street she lived in; nor
the number of her house. Elijah went. When he came near the place he
met a woman, picking up some sticks of wood. I suppose God told him
that this was the woman he was to stay with. Elijah spoke to her, and
asked her if she would please give him a drink of water. When she was
going to get it, he called to her again, and said he was hungry, and
asked her to bring him a piece of bread. Then she told him that there
was not a morsel of bread in her house. All she had in the world was
a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse, and that
she was gathering a few sticks, that she might go and bake the last
cake for herself and her son, that they might eat it and die. And
Elijah said, "Fear not; go, and do as thou hast said; but make me
thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make
for thee, and for thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel,
The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil
fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth."
This was a hard thing to ask a mother to do. It was asking her to
take the last morsel of bread she had, and that she needed for
herself and for her hungry boy, and give it to a stranger. Yet she
did it; because she believed God. I seem to see her turning the meal
barrel up, to get the meal all out. Then she pours out the oil from
the cruse, and drains out the last drop. She mixes the meal and the
olive oil together, as is the custom in that country still, and makes
a cake which can soon be baked. She takes it to the man of God, who
eats it thankfully, and is refreshed. Then she returns to the empty
barrel and cruse, and finds as much in them as she had lately taken
out. She prepares some bread for herself and her son, and they eat it
thankfully as bread sent from heaven. The next day it is the same,
and the day after, and so on through all the days of the famine. We
are not told how long it was after Elijah went to the widow's house
before the days of the famine were over. But suppose we make a
calculation about it. The famine lasted for three years. Now let us
suppose, that the first half of this time was spent by the prophet at
the brook Cherith. Then his stay at the widow's house must have been
at least eighteen months. And, if this miracle of increasing the meal
and the oil was repeated only once a day, there would be for the
first twelve months, or for the year, three hundred and sixty-five
miracles; and for the six months, or the half year, one hundred and
eighty-two more; and adding these together we have the surprising
number of _five hundred and forty-seven_ miracles, that were
performed to reward this good widow for the kindness she showed to
the prophet Elijah, when she gave him a piece of bread, and a drink
of water! What an illustration we have here of the truth we are
considering, that _giving is God's rule for getting_.
But the best illustration of this subject to be found in the Bible is
given in our Saviour's own experience. He not only _preached_ the
lesson of liberality, but _practised_ it. He is himself the greatest
giver ever heard of. In becoming our Redeemer he showed himself the
Prince of givers. He gave--not silver and gold; not all the wealth of
the world, or of ten thousand worlds like ours; but "He gave
_Himself_ for us." He can say indeed, to each of us, in the language
of the hymn:
"I gave my life for thee,
My precious blood I shed,
That thou might'st ransomed be,
And quickened from the dead."
And what is the result of this glorious giving to Jesus himself? St.
Paul answers this question when he says, "Wherefore God also hath
highly exalted him; and given him a name which is above every name;
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven,
and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every
tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God
the Father," Phil, ii: 9-11. Because of what he gave "for us men, and
for our salvation," he will be loved and praised and honored in
heaven, on the earth, and through all the universe, above all other
beings, for ever and ever. What a glorious illustration we have here
of the truth of this statement, that "giving is God's rule for
getting." These are some of the illustrations of this lesson of
liberality that we find in the Bible.
_And now, let us look at some illustrations of this subject, that we
have in nature_.
Solomon suggests one of these when he says, "_There is that
scattereth, and yet increaseth_." Prov. xi: 26. He is evidently
speaking here of a farmer sowing his fields with grain.
Now suppose that we had never seen a man sowing; and that we knew
nothing at all about the growth of grain, or how wonderfully the seed
sown in the spring is increased and multiplied when the harvest is
reaped. Then, the first time we saw a farmer sowing his fields, we
should have been ready to say, "What a foolish man that is! He is
taking that precious grain by the handful, and deliberately throwing
Of course, we should have expected that the grain thus thrown away,
or scattered over the ground, would all be lost. But, if we could
have come back to visit that farmer when he was gathering in his
harvest, how surprised we should have been! Then we should have
learned that for every handful of grain that the farmer had
scattered, or, as we thought, thrown away, in the spring, when he was
sowing, he had gained forty or fifty handfuls when he reaped in his
harvest. Then we should have understood what Solomon meant when he
said, "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth." And we should
have here a good illustration of our Saviour's lesson of liberality,
when he said, "Give, and it shall be given unto you;" and of the
Bible truth we are now studying, that "giving is God's rule for
Yonder is the great ocean; it is one of the grandest of nature's
works. And the ocean gives us a good illustration of the lesson of
liberality which our Saviour taught. The waters of the ocean are
spread out for thousands of miles. As the sun shines on the surface
of the ocean, it makes the water warm, and turns it into vapor, like
the steam that comes from the boiling kettle. This vapor rises into
the air, and helps to form the clouds that are floating there. These
clouds sail over the land, and pour out the water that is in them, in
refreshing and fertilizing showers of rain. This rain makes the rills
start from the sides of the mountains. The rills run down into the
rivers, and the rivers flow back into the sea again. In this way the
ocean is a great giver. It has been giving away its water for
hundreds and thousands of years, ever since the day when God made it.
Now, let us suppose that the ocean could think, or speak; and that it
had power to control its own motions. And suppose that the ocean
should say:--"Well, I think I have been giving away water long
enough. I am going to turn over a new leaf. The sun may shine as much
as it pleases. I won't let another drop of water go out from my
surface. I am tired of giving, and I mean to stop doing it, any
longer." Let us pause for a moment here, and see what the effect of
this would be upon the ocean itself.
We know that all the water in the ocean is salt water. But when the
sun takes water from the ocean, in the form of vapor, it is always
taken out as fresh water. It leaves the salt behind it. Then the
water on the surface of the ocean, from which this vapor has been
taken, has more salt in it than the water underneath it. This makes
it heavier than the other water. The consequence of this, is that
this heavier water, on the top of the ocean, sinks to the bottom; and
at the same time the lighter water at the bottom rises to the top.
And so a constant change is taking place all over the ocean. The
water from the top is sinking to the bottom, and the water from the
bottom is rising to the top. And this is one of the means which God
employs to keep the waters of the ocean always pure and wholesome.
But if the ocean should stop giving away its water, as it has always
been doing, then this constant change of its waters would cease. The
ocean would be left still and stagnant. It would become a great mass
of corruption; and the breezes from the ocean, that now carry health
and life to those who breathe them, would carry only disease and
death. And the thousands of people who now love the ocean and seek
its shores every summer, to get strong and well by breathing the air
that sweeps over its surface, and by bathing in its foaming surf,
would all be afraid of the ocean; and would keep as far away from its
shores as they could. And so we see how the ocean stands before us as
a grand illustration of the lesson of liberality which our Saviour
taught when he said, "Give, and it shall be given unto you." The
ocean gives away its water continually, and, in return for this, God
gives it freshness and purity, and makes it a blessing to the world.
And so the ocean illustrates the truth of the lesson we are now
studying, that "giving is God's rule for getting."
And yonder is the great sun, shining up in the sky. We do not know as
much about the sun as we do about the ocean, because it is so far
away from us. The ocean is very near us. We can walk along its
shores, and plunge into its waters, and sail over its surface. We
can study out all about the laws that govern it, and what the effect
of those laws is upon it. But it is very different with the sun. It
is about ninety millions of miles away from us. This is too far off
for us to know much about it. And yet, we know enough about the sun
to get from it a good illustration of God's rule about giving and
getting. The sun, like the ocean, is a great giver. It is giving away
light all the time. It was made for this purpose; and for this
purpose it is preserved. If the sun should stop giving, and should
try to keep all its light and heat for itself, the effect would be
its ruin. By ceasing to give it would be burnt up and destroyed. And
so, when we see the sower sowing his seed, or the reaper gathering in
his harvest; when we look upon the ocean, and see the clouds formed
from its waters, as they go sailing through the sky; or when we see
the sun rising in the morning, going forth again to his appointed
work of giving light to a dark world; let us remember that these are
nature's illustrations of the lesson of liberality which Jesus taught
when he said, "Give, and it shall be given unto you." They all help
to show how true it is, that "giving is God's rule of getting."
_And now we may go on to look for our illustrations of this subject
from everyday life_.
If we are only watchful we shall meet with illustrations of this kind
continually. It would not be difficult to fill a volume with them.
Here are a few out of many that might be given.
"The Travellers in the Snow." Two travellers were on a journey in a
sleigh during a very severe winter. It was snowing fast as they drove
along. One of the travellers was a liberal, generous-hearted man, who
believed in giving; and was always ready to share whatever he had
with others. His companion was a selfish ungenerous man. He did _not_
believe in giving; and liked to keep whatever he had for himself. As
they drove along, they saw something covered up in the snow that
looked like the figure of a man. "Look there," said the generous man
to his friend, "that must be some poor fellow overcome by the cold.
Let's stop and see what we can do for him."
"You can get out, if you like," was his reply, "but it's too cold for
me. I intend to stay where I am;" and he wrapped his furs closely
The other traveller threw aside his furs and jumped out of the
sleigh. He found it was a poor man, who had sunk down in the snow a
short time before, overcome by the cold. He shook the snow from him,
and began to rub his hands and face and feet. He kept on rubbing for
a good while. At last the man began to get warm again and was saved
from death. Then the generous-hearted traveller helped him into the
sleigh, and shared his wrappings with him. The exertion he had made
in doing this kind act put him all in a glow of warmth. He made the
rest of the journey in comfort. But when they stopped at the end of
their journey, the selfish man, who was not willing to do anything
for the help of another, had his fingers, and toes, and nose, and
ears frozen. This illustrates the lesson of liberality; and shows
that "giving is God's rule for getting."
Here we see the truth of the lines which someone has written:
"Numb and weary on the mountain
Wouldst thou sleep amidst the snow?
Chafe the frozen form beside thee,
And together both shall glow.
Art thou stricken in life's battle?
Many wounded round thee moan;
Lavish on their wounds thy balsams,
And that balm shall heal thine own."
"The Officer and the Soldier." In one of the terrible battles in
Virginia, during the late war, a Union officer fell wounded in front
of the Confederate breastwork, which had been attacked. His wounds
brought on a raging fever, and he lay on the ground crying piteously
for water. A kind-hearted Confederate soldier heard the touching cry,
and leaping over the fortifications, with his canteen in his hand, he
crawled up to the poor fellow and gave him a drink of water. O, what
a comfort this was to the wounded man! His heart was filled with
gratitude towards this generous and noble soldier. He pulled out his
gold watch from his pocket, and cheerfully offered it to his
benefactor; but he refused to take it. Then he asked the soldier's
name and residence. He said his name was James Moore, and that he
lived in Burke County, North Carolina. Then they parted. This noble
soldier afterwards lost a limb in one of the Virginia battles, and
returned to his home as a cripple.
The officer recovered from his wounds; but he never forgot the
kindness of that Confederate soldier. And when the war was over, and
he was engaged in his business again, he wrote to James Moore,
telling him that he intended to send him the sum of ten thousand
dollars in four quarterly installments of twenty-five hundred
dollars each; and that he wished him to receive the same in token of
the heartfelt gratitude with which his generous kindness on the
battle-field was remembered. Certainly these were two noble men. It
is hard to tell which was the more noble of the two. But when the
crippled soldier thought of the drink of water which he gave to the
wounded officer, and of the ten thousand dollars which he received
for the same, he must have felt how true our Saviour's words were,
when he said: "Give, and it shall be given unto you." And he must
have felt sure of the lesson we are now considering, that "Giving is
God's rule for getting."
"The Secret of Success." Some time ago a Christian gentleman was
visiting a large paper mill that belonged to a friend of his, who was
a very rich man. The owner of the mill took him all through it, and
showed him the machinery, and told him how the paper was made. When
they were through the visitor said to his friend, "I have one
question to ask you; and if you will answer it, I shall feel very
much obliged to you. I am told that you started in life very poor,
and now you are one of the richest men in this part of the country.
My question is _this_: will you please tell me the _secret_ of your
success in business?"
"I don't know that there is any great secret about it," said his
friend, "but I will tell you all I know. I got a situation, and began
to work for my own living when I was only sixteen years old. My
wages, at first, were to be forty dollars a year, with my board and
lodging. My clothing and all my other expenses were to come out of
the forty dollars. I then made a solemn promise to the Lord that
_one-tenth_ of my wages, or four dollars out of the forty, should be
faithfully laid aside to be given to the poor, or to some religious
work. This promise I kept religiously, and after laying aside
one-tenth to give away, at the end of the year, besides meeting my
expenses, I had more than a tenth left for myself. I then made a vow
that whatever it might please God to give me, I would never give
_less_ than one-tenth of my income to him. This vow I have faithfully
kept from that day to this. If there be any secret to my
success--_this is it_. Whatever I receive during the year, I feel
sure that I am richer on nine-tenths of it, with God's blessing, than
I should be on the whole of it, without that blessing. I believe that
God has blessed me, and made my business prosper. And I am sure that
anyone who will make the trial of this secret of success, will find
it work as it has done in my case."
This man was certainly proving the truth of our Saviour's words, when
he said--"Give, and it shall be given unto you." And his experience
shows most satisfactorily that "giving is God's rule for getting."
"The Steamboat Captain and the Soldier." During the late war there
was a steamboat, one day, in front of a flourishing town on the Ohio
River. The captain, who had charge of her was the owner of the boat.
The steam was up; and the captain was about to start on a trip some
miles down the river with an excursion party, who had chartered the
boat for the occasion. While waiting for the party to come on board,
a poor wounded soldier came up to the captain. He said he was
suffering from severe sickness, as well as from his wounds. He had
been in the hospital. The doctor had told him he could not live long;
and he was very anxious to get home, and see his mother again, before
he died; and he wished to know if the captain would give him a
passage down the river on his boat. On hearing where his home was,
the captain said that the party who had chartered his boat were
going near that place; and he told the poor soldier that he would
gladly take him to his home.
But, when the excursion party came on board, and saw the soldier,
with his soiled and worn clothes, and his ugly-looking wounds, they
were not willing to let him go; and asked the captain to put him
ashore. The captain told the soldier's sad story, and pleaded his
cause very earnestly. He said he would place him on the lower deck
and put a screen round his bed, so that they could not see him. But
the young people refused. They said as they had hired the boat, it
belonged to them for the day, and they were not willing to have such
a miserable-looking object on board their boat; and that if the
captain did not put him off, they would hire another boat, and he
would lose the twenty dollars they had agreed to give him for the
The good captain made one more appeal to them. He asked them to put
themselves in the poor soldier's place, and then to think how they
would like to be treated. But still they refused to let the soldier
go. Then the noble-hearted captain said: "Well, ladies and gentlemen,
whether you hire my boat or not, I intend to take this soldier home
The party did hire another boat. The captain lost his twenty
dollars. But, when he returned the poor dying soldier to the arms of
his loving mother, he felt that the tears of gratitude with which she
thanked him were worth more than the money he had lost. The gentle
mother dressed the wounds of her poor suffering boy; and nursed and
cared for him, as none but a mother knows how to do. But she could
not save his life. He died after a few days; and the last words he
spoke, as his loving parents stood weeping at his bedside
were--"Don't forget the good captain." And he was not forgotten. For
after the soldier's funeral was over, his father went up the river to
the town where the captain lived. He found him out. He thanked him
again for his kindness in bringing home his dying boy; and made him a
present that was worth four or five times the twenty dollars he had
lost for the hire of his boat.
But this was not the end of it. For not long after this, the captain
and his wife were taken suddenly ill with a fatal disease that was
prevailing in that region of the country. They both died; leaving two
little orphan children, with no one to take care of them. The
soldier's father heard of it; and he went at once and asked that he
might be permitted to take the two helpless little ones and adopt
them as his own children. He took them home; and was a father and a
friend to them as long as he lived.
How beautifully our Saviour's words--"Give, and it shall be given
unto you," are illustrated in this story! How clearly we see here,
that "Giving is God's rule for getting!"
I have just one other illustration before closing this subject. We
may call it:
"The Miser and the Hungry Children." In a village in England were two
little motherless girls who lived in a small cottage. Sally, the
elder, was about eight years old and her sister Mary was six. They
were very poor. Their father was a laboring man, and he found great
difficulty in supporting himself and his children.
Once, in the midst of winter, these two little girls were left alone
all day, as their father had gone out to work. They had their
breakfast in the morning with their father, before he left. But they
had no dinner, nor anything to eat during the rest of the day. About
the middle of the afternoon, Mary said to her sister: "Sally, I'm
very hungry. Is there anything in the closet that we can get to eat?"
"No," said Sally; "I've looked all through the closet; but there
isn't a crust of bread, or a cold potato; nor anything to eat. I wish
there was something; for I'm hungry too."
"O, dear! what shall we do?" cried Mary; "I'm too hungry to wait till
father comes home!"
"Mary," said her sister, "suppose we ask our Father in heaven to give
us something to eat? Let us kneel down, and say the Lord's Prayer.
When we come to that part about 'daily bread' we'll say it over three
times, and then wait, and see if God will send us some."
Mary agreed to this. They both kneeled down, and Sally began: "Our
Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come;
thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven: give us this day our
daily bread; give us this day our daily bread; give us this day our
daily bread." Then they waited quietly, to see if anything would
And now, while this was going on inside of that little cottage, let
me tell you what was taking place outside.
Not far from this cottage lived an old man who was a miser. He had a
good deal of money, but he never gave any of it to others; and never
would spend a penny for himself, if he could possibly help it. But,
on that afternoon, he had left home to go to the baker's and buy a
loaf of bread. He got the loaf, and, as it was a stormy afternoon, he
put it under his coat before starting to walk home. Now, it happened,
that just as he was passing the cottage in which the little girls
were, a strong blast of wind blew the rain in his face, and he
stepped into the porch of the cottage and crouched down in the
corner, to shelter himself from the wind and rain. In this position
his ear was brought quite close to the keyhole of the door. He heard
what the little girls had said about being hungry. He heard their
proposal to pray to the Father in heaven to give them bread. He heard
the thrice repeated prayer--"give us this day our daily bread." And
then came the silence, when the little ones waited, and watched for
the bread. This had a strange effect on the miser. His hard, selfish
heart, which had never felt a generous feeling for anyone, warmed up,
and grew suddenly soft in tenderness towards these helpless, hungry
little ones. Tears moistened his eyes. He put his thumb on the latch
of the door. The latch was gently lifted and the door opened. He took
the loaf from under his coat and threw it into the room. The little
girls, still waiting and watching on their knees, saw the loaf go
bouncing over the floor. They jumped up on their feet, and clapped
their hands for joy.
"O, Sally," said little Mary, "how good God is to answer our prayer
so soon! Did He send an angel from heaven to bring us this bread?"
"I don't know who brought it," answered Sally, "but I am sure that
God sent it."
And how about the miser? For the first time in his life he had given
to the poor. Did the promise fail which says, "Give, and it shall be
given unto you?" No; God's promises _never_ fail. He went to the
bakery and bought another loaf for himself, and then he went home
with different feelings from what he had ever had before. The warm,
soft feeling that came into his hard heart when he gave the loaf to
those children did not pass away. It grew upon him. He had found so
much pleasure in doing that one kind act that he went on and did
more. And God blessed him in doing it. He began to pray to that God
who had answered the prayer of those little girls for bread in such a
strange way. He read the Bible. He went to church. He became a
Christian; and some time after, he died a happy Christian death. But
before he died, as he was the owner of the cottage in which the
little girls lived, he gave it to their father. What a beautiful
illustration we have here of our Saviour's words--"Give, and it shall
be given unto you!" This miser gave _a loaf of bread_ to these hungry
children and God gave him _the grace that made him a Christian_! And
as we think of this we may well say that "giving _is_ God's rule for
And thus we have considered the lesson of liberality which our
Saviour taught; the proofs of that lesson found in the Bible; and the
illustrations of it from the Bible, from nature, and from everyday
life. The three things to be remembered from this subject are _the
lesson_--_the proofs_--_the illustrations_.
I will quote here, in finishing, three verses which teach the same
lesson that our Saviour taught when he spoke the words from which I
have tried to draw the lesson of liberality. The title at the head of
them is taken from Solomon's words in one of the passages from the
book of Proverbs, which we have already used.
"THERE IS THAT SCATTERETH AND YET INCREASETH."
"Is thy cruse of comfort wasting?
Rise, and share it with another;
And through all the years of famine,
It shall serve thee and thy brother.
God himself will fill thy storehouse,
Or thy handful still renew:
Scanty fare for _one_ will often
Make a royal feast for _two_.
"For the heart grows rich in giving;
All its wealth is living grain:
Seeds which mildew in the garner,
Scattered, fill with gold the plain.
Is thy burden hard and heavy?
Do thy steps drag wearily?
Help to bear thy brother's burden,--
God will bear both it and thee.
"Is thy heart a well left empty?
None but God its void can fill;
Nothing but a ceaseless fountain
Can this ceaseless longing still.
Is the heart a living power?
Self-entwined its strength sinks low;
It can only live in loving,
And by serving love will grow."
CHRIST TEACHING HUMILITY
During the earthly life of our blessed Saviour, we see how
everything connected with it teaches the lesson of humility. This is
pointed out in the beautiful collect in The Book of Common Prayer for
the first Sunday in Advent. Here we are taught to say:--"Almighty
God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put upon
us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which
thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in--great _humility_."
If Jesus had come into our world as an angel, it would have been an
act of humility. If he had come as a great and mighty king, it would
have been an act of humility. But when he was born in a stable, and
cradled in a manger; when he could say of himself, "the foxes have
holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath
not where to lay his head;" when there never was an acre, or a foot
of ground that he called his own, although he made the world and all
things in it; when he sailed in a borrowed boat, and was buried in a
borrowed tomb; how well it might be said that he was teaching
humility all the days of his life on earth! Yet he did not think that
_this_ was enough. And so he gave his disciples a special lesson on
We have an account of this lesson in St. John xiii: 4-15. It is
taught us in these words:--"He riseth from supper, and laid aside his
garments; and took a towel and girdled himself. After that he poureth
water into a bason, and began to wash his disciples' feet, and to
wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded." Then occurs the
incident about the objection which Peter made to letting Jesus wash
his feet, and the way in which that objection was overcome. And then
the story goes on thus:--"So after he had washed their feet, and had
taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, 'Know
ye what I have done unto you? Ye call me Master, and Lord; and ye say
well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your
feet; ye ought also to wash one another's feet. For I have given you
an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.'"
This was a very surprising scene. How astonished the angels must have
been when they looked upon it! They had known Jesus in heaven, before
he took upon him our nature, and came into this fallen world. They
had seen him in "the glory which he had with the Father, before the
world was." They had worshipped him in the midst of all that glory.
And then, when they saw him, girded with a towel and washing the feet
of poor sinful men whom he came from heaven to save, how surprising
it must have seemed to them! And when Jesus told his disciples that
his object in doing this was to set them an example, that they should
do as he had done to them, he did not mean that they should literally
make a practice of washing each other's feet; but that they should
show the same humility to others that he had shown to them, by being
willing to do anything, however humble it might be, in order to
promote their comfort and happiness. It is not the act itself, here
spoken of, that Jesus teaches us to do; but the spirit of humility in
which the act was performed that he teaches us to cultivate. We might
go through the form of washing the feet of other persons, and yet
feel proud and haughty all the time we were doing it. Then we should
not be following the example of Jesus at all. When Jesus washed his
disciples' feet, what he wished to teach them, and us, and all his
people, is how earnestly he desires us to learn this lesson of
humility. And when we think of the wondrous scene which took place on
that occasion, the one thought it should impress on our minds, above
all others is--_the importance of humility_.
And if any one asks what is meant by humility? No better answer can
be given to this question than we find in Romans xii: 3, where St.
Paul tells us "not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to
think, but to think soberly." Pride is "thinking of ourselves more
highly than we ought to think." Humility is--_not_ "thinking of
ourselves more highly than we ought to think." And humility is the
lesson we are now to study. This is the lesson that Jesus wishes all
who love him to learn. It is easy to speak of _five_ reasons why we
should learn this lesson.
_And the first reason for learning it is--the_ COMMAND--_of Jesus_.
When he had finished washing his disciples' feet, he told them that
"they should do as he had done to them." This was his command to his
disciples, and to us, to learn the lesson of humility. And this is
not the only place in which Jesus taught this lesson. He gave some of
his beautiful parables to teach humility. We find one of these in St.
Luke xiv: 7-12.
On one occasion when he saw the people all pressing forward to get
the best seats for themselves at a feast, he took the opportunity of
giving his disciples a lesson about humility. He told them, when they
were bidden to a wedding feast, not to take the highest seats;
because some more honorable person might be bidden, and when the
master of the feast came in he might say to them 'let this man have
that seat, and you go and take a lower seat'; then they would feel
mortified, and ashamed. And then he gave his disciples this command:
"When thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room," or seat;
"that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go
up higher: then shalt thou have worship"--or honor--"in the presence
of them that sit at meat with thee." Here we have Jesus repeating
his command to all his people to learn and practise the lesson of
And then we have another of our Saviour's parables in which he taught
this same lesson of humility, and that is the parable of the Pharisee
and the Publican. We find it in St. Luke xviii: 10-15. The parable
reads thus: "Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a
Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed
thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men
are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I
fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.'" Here
we have a picture of a proud man. He pretended to pray, but asked for
nothing, because he did not feel his need of anything. And so his
pretended prayer brought him no blessing.
And then in the rest of the parable we have our Saviour's description
of a man who was learning the lesson of humility, and of the blessing
which it brought to him.
Here is a story told by one of our missionaries of the way in which
this parable brought a heathen man to Christ.
"That's Me." A poor Hottentot in Southern Africa lived with a Dutch
farmer, who was a good Christian man, and kept up family prayer in
his home. One day, at their family worship he read this parable. He
began, "Two men went up into the temple to pray." The poor savage,
who had been led to feel himself a sinner, and was anxious for the
salvation of his soul, looked earnestly at the reader, and whispered
to himself, "Now I'll learn how to pray." The farmer read on, "God, I
thank Thee that I am not as other men are." "No, I am not," whispered
the Hottentot, "but I'm worse." Again the farmer read, "I fast twice
in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess." "I don't do that.
I don't pray in that way. What shall I do?" said the distressed
The good man read on till he came to the publican, "standing afar
off." "That's where I am," said the Hottentot. "Would not lift up so
much as his eyes unto heaven," read the farmer. "That's me," cried
his hearer. "But smote upon his breast saying, God be merciful to me
a sinner." "That's me; that's my prayer," cried the poor creature,
and smiting on his dark breast, he prayed for himself in the words of
the parable,--"God be merciful to me a sinner!" And he went on
offering this prayer till the loving Saviour heard and answered him,
and he went down to his house a saved and happy man.
Thus we see how this poor man learned the lesson of humility which
Jesus taught, and how much good it did to him.
And it is Jesus who is speaking to us and commanding us to learn this
lesson of humility, when we read, in other passages of Scripture,
such words as these:--"Put on therefore--humbleness of mind,
meekness, long-suffering." Col. iii: 12. "Humble yourself therefore
in the sight of God." James iv: 10. "Be clothed with humility." I.
Pet. v: 5. In all these places we have Jesus repeating his command to
us to learn the lesson of humility. And this command is urged thus
earnestly upon us because it is so important.
When St. Augustine, one of the celebrated fathers of the early
Church, was asked--What is the first important thing in the Christian
religion? his reply was--"Humility." "What is the second?"
"Humility." "And what is the third?"--the reply still was--"Humility."
And if this be true, we need not wonder that Jesus should have been
so earnest in teaching this lesson; or that he should have urged so
strongly on his disciples to learn it.
The _command_ of Christ is the first reason why we should learn the
lesson of humility.
_But the second reason why we should learn this lesson is, because of
There are many persons "who say and do not." There are some ministers
who preach very well, but they do not _practise_ what they preach.
Such persons may well be compared to finger-boards. They point out
the way to others, but they do not walk in it themselves. But this
was not the case with our blessed Saviour. He practised everything
that he preached. And when he gave us his command to learn this
lesson of humility, he gave us, at the same time, his example to show
us _how_ to do it.
He was illustrating this command by his example when he washed his
disciples' feet. And this was only one out of many things in which he
set us this example. When he chose to be born of poor parents, he was
giving an example of humility. When he lived at Nazareth till he was
thirty years of age, working with his reputed father as a carpenter,
and during the latter part of the time, as is supposed, laboring for
the support of his mother, he was giving an example of humility. When
he said, "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to
minister," Matt. xx: 28; and again--"I am among you as he that
serveth," Luke xxii: 27, he was giving an example of humility. When
he borrowed an ass to make his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem;
though he could say in truth, "every beast of the forest is mine, and
the cattle upon a thousand hills;"--(Ps. 1: 10), he was setting an
example of humility. When he hid himself away from the people because
he saw that they wanted to take him by force and make him king, he
was giving a lesson of humility. When he allowed himself to be taken
prisoner, though he knew that if he had asked his Father in heaven,
he would, at once, have sent "more than twelve legions of angels" to
deliver him, he was giving an example of humility. When he kept
silence, at the bar of the high-priest, of Herod, of Pontius Pilate,
like "a lamb dumb before her shearers," while his enemies were
charging him falsely with all kinds of wickedness; when he allowed
the Roman soldiers to scourge him with rods, till his back was all
bleeding; to put a crown of thorns upon his head; to array him in a
purple robe in mockery of his being a king; to smite him with the
palms of their hands, and spit upon him; and then to nail him to the
cross, and put him to the most shameful of all deaths--as if he were
a wicked man, who did not deserve to live--he was giving the most
wonderful example of humility that ever was heard of. Jesus, the Lord
of glory hanging on the shameful cross!--O, this was an example of
humility that must have filled the angels of heaven with surprise,
And when we think of all that Jesus did and suffered, to set us an
example of humility, it should make us ashamed of being proud; and
anxious, above all things, to learn this lesson which he did so much
to teach us.
"Imitating Christ's Humility." I think I never heard of a more
beautiful instance of persons learning to imitate the humility of
Christ, than is told of some Moravian Missionaries. These good men
had heard the story of the unhappy slaves in the West Indies. Those
poor creatures were wearing out their lives in hard bondage. They had
very little comfort in this life, and no knowledge of that gracious
Saviour who alone can secure, for sinful creatures, such as we are, a
better portion in the life to come. These missionaries offered to go
out to the West Indies, and teach those slaves about Jesus, and the
great salvation that is to be found in him. But they were told that
the owners of the slaves would not let them go to school or to
church. They would not allow them to take time enough from their work
to learn anything about the salvation of their souls. There was only
one way in which those poor slaves could be taught anything about
Jesus and his love, and that was, for those who wished to teach them,
to go and be slaves on the plantations, to work, and toil, if need
be, under the lash, so that they could get right beside them and then
tell them about the way of salvation that is in Christ Jesus. This
was a hard thing to undertake. But those good missionaries said they
were willing to do it. And they not only _said_ it, but _did_ it.
They left their homes, and went to the West Indies. They worked on
the plantations as slaves. And working thus, by the side of the
slaves, they got close to their hearts. The slaves heard them. Their
hearts were touched because these teachers of the gospel had humbled
themselves to their condition. While they were teaching the commands
of Christ, they were illustrating and following his example. How
beautiful this was! How grand! How glorious!
And yet Christ's own example was still more glorious. He laid aside
the glory of his Godhead, and came down from heaven to earth, that he
might get by our side. He laid himself beside us that we might feel
the throbbings of his bosom and the embrace of his loving arms; and
he draws us close to himself, while he whispers in our ears the sweet
words, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have
And so, when we think of the example of Christ, we should strive to
learn the lesson of humility which he taught.
_A third reason why we should learn this lesson of humility is
because of the_--COMFORT--_that is found in it_.
Just think for a moment what God says on this subject, in Is. lvii:
15. These are his words:--"Thus saith the high and mighty One that
inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy
place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to
revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the
contrite ones." Here, the same loving Saviour who gave us the command
to learn the lesson of humility promises to give comfort to all who
learn this lesson. And the way in which he secures this comfort to
them is by coming and dwelling in their hearts. And who can tell
what a comfort it is for a poor pardoned sinner to have Jesus--the
Lord of heaven and earth--dwelling in his heart? It is his presence
in heaven which makes those who dwell there feel so happy. This is
what David taught, when he looked up to him, and said--"In thy
presence is fulness of joy." Ps. 16: 11. And when that presence is
felt, here on earth, it gives comfort and joy, as certainly as it
does in heaven. It was the presence of Jesus which enabled Paul and
Silas to sing at midnight, for very joyfulness, in the prison at
Philippi, though their feet were fastened in the stocks, and their
backs were torn and bleeding from the cruel scourging which they had
suffered. And it was this presence of Christ in the hearts of his
people that good John Newton was speaking of, in one of his sweet
hymns, when he said:
"While blest with a sense of his love
A palace a toy would appear;
And prisons would palaces prove,
If Jesus would dwell with me there."
But it is only those who learn the lesson of humility that Jesus will
dwell with. He says himself, "If any man love me, he will keep my
words; and My Father will love him; and we will come unto him, and
make our abode with him." St. John xiv: 23. And among the words of
Christ which we must keep, if we wish him to dwell in our hearts, are
those in which he commands the lesson of humility. It is only the
humble with whom he will dwell. For "every one that is proud in heart
is an abomination unto the Lord." Prov. xvi: 5.
The reason why so many people are unhappy in this world is that they
do not learn the lesson of humility.
"Learn to Stoop." The story is told of some celebrated man--I think
it was Dr. Franklin--who had a friend visiting him on one occasion.
When the gentleman was about to leave, the doctor accompanied him to
the front door. In going through the entry there was a low beam
across it, which made it necessary to stoop, in order to avoid being
struck by it. As they approached it the doctor stooped himself, and
called out to his friend to do the same. He did not heed the caution,
and received a severe thump on his head as the result of his neglect.
In bidding him good-bye, the doctor said--"Learn to stoop, my friend;
and it will save you from many a hard knock, as you go on through
life." This illustrates the comfort which comes from learning the
lesson of humility. It is those who are unwilling to stoop; or to be
anything, or nothing, as God wants them to be, who have no comfort.
"The Fable of the Oak and the Violet." In a large garden there grew a
fine oak tree, with its wide-spreading branches, and at its foot
there grew a sweet and modest violet. The oak one day looked down in
scorn upon the violet, and said: "You, poor little thing, will soon
be dead and withered; for you have no strength, no size, and are of
no good to anyone. But I am large and strong; I shall still live for
ages, and then I shall be made into a large ship to sail on the
ocean, or into coffins to hold the dust of princes."
"Yes," answered the violet, in its humility, "God has given _you_
strength, and _me_ sweetness. I offer him back my fragrance, and am
thankful. I hope to die fragrantly, as I have lived fragrantly, but
we are both only what God made us, and both where God placed us."
Not long after the oak was struck by lightning and shivered to
splinters. Its end was to be burned. But the violet was gently
gathered by the hand of a Christian lady, who carefully pressed it,
and kept it for years, in the leaves of her Bible to refresh herself
with its fragrance. Here we see illustrated the difference between
pride and humility.
"The Secret of Comfort." Some years ago there was a boy who had been
lame from his birth. He was a bright intelligent boy, but he was not
a Christian. As he grew up, with no other prospect before him but
that of being a cripple all his days, he was very unhappy. As he sat
by his window, propped up in his chair, and saw the boys playing in
the street, he would say to himself: "Why has God made me thus? Why
have I not limbs to run and jump with like other boys?"
These thoughts filled him with distress, and caused him to shed many
One day a Christian friend, who was visiting him, gave him a book and
requested him to read it. He did so; and it led to his becoming a
Christian. His heart was renewed; the burden of his sin was removed;
and the love of God was shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost.
He learned the lesson of humble submission to the will of God. After
this, as he looked out, and saw the young people happy at their
sports; or, as he gazed on the green earth and the beautiful sky, and
knew that he must remain a helpless cripple as long as he lived, he
yet could say, with the utmost cheerfulness:--"It's all right. My
Father in heaven has done it. I love him. He loves me. I know he is
making all things work together for my good." He had learned the
lesson we are now considering, and we see what comfort it gave him.
And the thought of the comfort which this lesson gives, should be a
good reason with us all for learning it.
_A fourth reason why we should learn the lesson of humility is
because of the_--USEFULNESS--_connected with it_.
Jesus tells us, by his apostle, that "God resisteth the proud, but
giveth grace to the humble." St. James iv: 6. If we have the grace of
God we can be useful in many ways, but, without that grace we cannot
be useful at all. And this is what our Saviour taught his disciples,
when he said to them--"without me ye can do nothing." St. John xv: 5.
By the words "without _me_" he meant without my help, or without my
grace; or without the help of my grace. And it was of this grace that
St. Paul was speaking when he said--"I can do all things through
Christ who strengtheneth me." Phil, iv: 13.
And we could not possibly have a stronger reason for trying to learn
the lesson of humility than this, that our receiving the grace of
God, and consequently our usefulness, depends upon it. God will not
give us his grace to enable us to be truly good and to make ourselves
useful, unless we learn this lesson. And unless we have the grace of
God, we cannot be useful. Like barren fig-trees we shall be useless
cumberers of the ground.
Now let us look at one or two illustrations which show us how pride
hinders the usefulness of men, while humility helps it.
"The Fisherman's Mistake." An English gentleman was spending his
summer holidays in Scotland. He concluded to try his hand at fishing
for trout in one of the neighboring streams. He bought one of the
handsomest fishing rods he could find, with line and reel, and
artificial flies, and everything necessary to make a perfect outfit
for a fisherman. He went to the trout stream, and toiled all day, but
never caught a single fish.
Towards the close of the day he saw a ragged little farmer boy, with
a bean pole for a rod, and the simplest possible sort of a line, who
was nipping the fish out of the water about as fast as he could throw
his line in. He watched the boy in amazement for awhile, and then
asked him how it was that one, with so fine a rod and line, could
catch no fish, while he with his poor outfit was catching so many.
The boy's prompt reply was:--"Ye'll no catch ony fish Sir, as lang as
ye dinna keep yersel' oot o' sicht."
The gentleman was proud of his handsome rod and line, and was showing
it off all the time. His pride hindered his usefulness as a
fisherman. The farmer's boy had nothing to show off; so he kept
himself out of sight, and thus his humility helped his usefulness in
"The Thames' Tunnel Teaching Humility." Most strangers who visit the
great city of London go to see the famous tunnel under the river
Thames. This is a large, substantial road that has been built, in the
form of an arch, directly under the bed of the river. It is one of
the most wonderful works that human skill ever succeeded in making.
The man who planned and built it was made one of the nobility of
England. His name was Sir Isambard Brunel. He was so humble that he
was willing to learn a lesson from a tiny little ship worm. These