Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it unto me according to thy Word - Luke 1:38
The angel's message meant, for this young, pure-hearted girl, a great deal of misunderstanding and reproach. It was inevitable that clouds would gather around her character, which would sorely perplex the good man to whom she was betrothed. But as soon as she realized that this lot was ordained for her by God she humbly acquiesced, with these model words of patient faith. Let us often say them:
First: To His commands. - God's voice often speaks within our hearts, and no word of His is devoid of power. We must test what seems to be His voice by these three corroborations: First, His Word; second, by the trend of outward circumstances; third, by the advice of Christian people not immediately interested. When these concur, we may take it that God has spoken to us, and whatever the burden of His words we must respond - Be it unto me according to Thy word.
Secondly: To the responsibilities thrust on us. - It may be a trusteeship for some dying friend; a charge of orphan children; a babe cast on our parentage; an invalid; a difficult and trying piece of Christian enterprise. But whenever it comes on us, imposed by the evident appointment of our Father, notwithstanding the shrinking of our flesh and the fearfulness of our soul, we must say: Be it unto me according to Thy word.
Thirdly: To any burden of pain and suffering. - Are you one whom God has set apart to manifest the power of His grace in suffering and pain? Are you sleepless by night, and helpless by day? Are you likely to spend years in one position, as paralyzed or rheumatic? Well, still dare to look up and say: Be it unto me according to Thy word.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace - Luke 2:14
These twain are joined together, and none can sunder them. Do you want peace? Your highest aim must be the glory of God. Do you seek God's glory as your highest aim? then, the inevitable result will be the peace that passeth understanding.
Glory to God in the highest. - It was said of the soldiers of the first Napoleon that they were content to die in the ditch if only he rode over them to victory. With their last breath they cried, "Long live the Emperor!" It seemed as though they had lost all thought and care of their own interests so long as glory accrued to his name. So should it be of us. Higher than our own comfort, or success, or popularity, should be the one thought of the glory of our God. Let Christ be honored, loved, exalted, at whatever cost to us.
On earth, peace. - It will come, because when the heart has only one aim to follow, it is delivered from dividing and distracting cares. It will come, because the glory of God is so lofty an aim that it lifts the soul into the atmosphere of the heavenly and eternal world, where peace reigns unbroken. It will come, because we are not greatly troubled by the reverses and alternations of fortune that are incident to all work in this world, since the main object is always secure and beyond fear of failure. What though there be the ebb and flow of the wave, yet the tide is certainly coming up the shore, and will presently stand at high-water mark.
This peace is said in the R. V. to come only to men in whom God is well pleased. Live to please God, and He will breathe on thee His peace. Seek His glory, and He will make thy heart His home. Do His will, and thereby good shall come to thee.
He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire - Luke 3:16
They had received the negative, water; they were to receive the positive, fire. Water is not sufficient for natures such as ours. The Baptist pointed to a greater Baptist than himself. Jesus plunges the soul into a baptism of fire.
Fire cleanses. - Ore may be mingled with earthly ingredients from which it is imperative to free it. A chisel or pickaxe could not extricate it. But when it is plunged into the furnace, the metal runs out in a molten stream. So our characters are full of impurities and earthly ingredients; but as they are brought into contact with the power of the Holy Spirit, these are eliminated and drop away, and we attain degrees of purity and love which otherwise had made us unserviceable to our dear Lord. Do not seek to rid yourself of these things as a condition of His gracious cleansing, but seek the baptism of the Spirit, and He will free thee; for He is like a consuming fire.
Fire illuminates. - As the express-train hurries the traveller by night through a district where the smelting furnaces are in full blast, his eyes are arrested by their glow, and the very heavens are lurid with the light, reflected for miles. So when the Spirit comes in power to the soul, He teaches us to know God, and truth, and things hidden from the wise and prudent. The fires that sanctify, illuminate us.
Fire enkindles. - It is contagious. It will spread over an immense area, where inflammable material attracts it. A match may light up a bonfire that will burn for hours. So when the Spirit of God touches a soul, like an unlit candle, it begins to glow; and from it the blessed spark may pass from heart to heart, and church to church, till an entire continent may blaze with heavenly fire.
The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me - Luke 4:18
As the Lord emerged from the waters of baptism, the heavens were opened, and the Spirit in a bodily shape descended upon Him and abode. Then His mouth was opened, and His public ministry commenced. Now He stepped forth into the world, saying:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor:
He hath sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovering of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty them that are bruised,
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."
The Spirit was given Him without measure, as the power in which He was to cast out devils, preach the Gospel, and glorify His Father by His human life and ministry.
What that scene was in the life of the Lord, Pentecost was for the Church. Then she was anointed for her Divine mission among men; the unction of the Holy One rested upon her, to be continued and renewed as the centuries slowly passed. What happened for the Church should take place in the history of each member of it. This anointing is for all, is to be received by faith, and is especially intended to equip us for work. Hast thou had thy share? If not, art thou not making a mistake in attempting God's work without it? If Jesus did not put His hand to this work till He was conscious of His anointing, though He was one with the Holy Spirit in an especial sense, how much less should we! Hast thou known it? Seek it on the threshold of each new enterprise. Be satisfied with nothing less than to be anointed with fresh oil.
He stretched forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean - Luke 5:13
This leper, as the physician-evangelist remarks, was full of leprosy. It was a very aggravated case. He lay in the dust before Jesus. What a contrast! Loathsomeness and Divine beauty; disease and health; humanity at its worst and best; sinner and Saviour; one of Satan's most miserable victims, and the Almighty Deliverer. So, my reader, if thou art conscious of a heart and life which are full of sin, I would have thee meet thy Saviour now. There is no if about His power - even the leper recognized that. The only doubt was about the Saviour's will: there is, however, no doubt on this score now, since He has healed myriads, and promises healing to all who come. Throw thyself, then, at His feet, and ask for cleansing.
"He stretched forth His hand, and touched him." No one else would have dared to do as much. To touch that flesh, according to the Levitical code, would induce uncleanness. But Jesus shrank not. On the one hand, He knew that the ceremonial restrictions were abolished in Himself: on the other, He desired to teach that sin cannot defile the Divine holiness of the Saviour. Whatever be the stories of sin that are breathed into His ear; whatever the open bruises and putrefying sores which are opened to His touch; whatever the sights and scenes with which He has to cope - none of these can leave a taint of evil in His sinless heart. It would be as impossible for sin to soil Christ as for a plague to contaminate flame. And He will heal thee. Dare to claim it.
"Break up the heavens, O Lord, and. far
Through all yon starlight keen
Draw me, thy bride - a glittering star,
In raiment white and clean."
Every one that is perfect shall be as his master - Luke 6:40
We are not perfected yet. - There is a great chasm between our highest and our Master's lowest; between where we stop and He begins: between our light, which is twilight at best, and His meridian glory. When we compare ourselves with ourselves, or with our neighbors, our standard is altogether too low; we should compare ourselves with Him, the beloved Master. Job, who was reputed perfect, abhorred himself, and repented in dust and ashes when he had seen God, of whom he had formerly only heard.
But we shall be perfected one day. - That when has a hopeful ring. But to what period does the Master point? Not till sorrow, sanctified by God's grace, has done its work; not till the snow and frost, the light shower and the bitter wind, the earth and sun, have contributed their shares to the desired quota. Not till the perfect image of Jesus has emerged from the sculptured stone; not till the molten metal reflects each lineament of the glorified Lord.
When we are perfected we shall be as our Master. - "We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." It seems altogether too much to expect! To think that we shall be changed into His image; that we shall bear His impress; that we shall be as like Him as Gideon's brethren to Gideon, of whom the princes of Midian testified that they were like the children of a king. Yet it shall be so. The Lord Jesus became like unto us in our low estate, that we should become like Him in His glory. There must ever be the limitation of the creature as compared with Him by whom all things were made. But in our measure there shall be the same perfect beauty - His beauty upon us - for a mountain lake may as perfectly reflect the wide blue heaven as an ocean.
When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said unto her, weep not - Luke 7:13
No widow stands by the bier of her only son, no mother by the empty cot of her babe, no lover beside the fading beauty of his beloved - but the Son of Man, unseen but glorious, is at hand, seeing, understanding, touched with compassion, and saying, in His tenderest tones, Weep not!
Weep not: Love is eternal. - Hast thou forgotten that there are three things which abide forevermore, the greatest of which is love? Is it likely that those blessed ties which have woven us to others can be snapped by death, which can only touch the body, but is not able to reach the soul? Is not love of God - and can God's love change, and pass away? No; though severed from your sight, the dear ones that are gone are thine to-day, and have not forgotten, but love thee still. Without us they cannot be made perfect.
Weep not: recognition of the beloved dead is certain. - Did not Mary and the women, Peter and five hundred more, recognize Jesus after His resurrection? Is He not the same Man? Are we not to be like Him? Recognition went so far, in His case, that the Magdalene recognized the very tones of His voice, when He said Mary, and she answered Rabboni. Yes, though refined and purified, the face thou hast loved shall smile, and the tones that have made thy heart-music shall speak again. Weep not!
Weep not: they shall rise again, nevermore to be separated. - The Lord raised this youth to life; but there had to be another parting, when his mother or he died. But when thy dear ones are reunited to thee, there will be no more partings. There shall be no more sea. Thy heart shall find its mate. Thou and he shall go no more out.
Somebody hath touched me - Luke 8:46
Amid the pressure of the crowd that crushed on Him from all sides, Jesus detected the light touch of one thin hand, which drew from Him healing virtue. We may be very near Christ, and throng Him, without touching; but no one can touch Him, however lightly, without deriving the very grace needed.
We think of Jesus to-day amid the thronging crowds of angels and spirits of the just made perfect. Amid their voices will ours be heard? Amid the pressure of their attendance on His sacred person will He stay to recognize our poor trembling touch? Amid the vast interests that depend on Him, the government of the universe, the holding together and consistence of all things, is there any likelihood of our need asserting itself successfully? See, He is hastening on to raise the dead; there is the daughter of many a Jairus waiting for His summons, in the cemeteries and sleeping places of the dead. Will He stay for me? Yes, always.
There is the touch of prayer and faith. Thou canst never exercise it, however simply, without eliciting an immediate response. The conductor can detect the tiny note of a piccolo in an orchestra; and Christ is moved by a whisper, a sigh, a tear, a touch. There may be a good deal of mistake and superstition, as there was in this woman, who seemed to have thought that virtue clung to His robes; but He will distinguish the soul of holy trust amid many false ingredients. There is also the touch of affection. He knew when the woman crept to kiss His feet. He did not instantly speak of it, but said afterward, "From the time I came in she hath not ceased to kiss My feet." Not one loving expression from thy heart to His is lost on Him!
Behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elijah - Luke 9:30
What a spectacle was this, on the slopes of Lebanon, with light transcending that of the moonlight shining in the upper heights! And what converse! Possibly that transfiguration was an example of the way in which Adam and all his race might have passed into heaven, had not death come on us all through sin; and therefore it was the greater proof of the love of our dear Lord, when He deliberately turned from all the radiant light and took the way of the cross. His death is here called an exodus: such is the Greek word rendered decease. How much these two great souls, Moses and Elijah, had to say about it: the one representing the law; the other the prophets.
Moses would remind Him of the lamb that would be slain before the children of Israel could escape from Egypt; of the rock that must be smitten, before the water could flow forth for the thirsty crowds; of the serpent that must be fixed on the pole, before the dying Israelites could look and live.
Elijah would remind the Lord of Psalm 22., beginning with a wail and ending with praise; of Isa 53:1-12., finishing with a burst of triumph; and many another sacred and familiar passage.
And after all it was only an exodus, the going forth of His spirit from the Time-sphere to the Eternal; from contact with a very weary world to victory and joy-mending. Lighted by the Shechinah glory; following through the Red Sea of Blood; hastening to the morning, with its vision of enemies strewn dead on the seashore. The memory of this talk so far robbed death of its terror, in the heart of one of the disciples at least, that afterward he described his own death as an exodus (2Pe 1:15).
I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven - Luke 10:18
This was Christ's vision of the effect of His work in man's nature, and on man's behalf. For ages Satan had vaunted his power over man; but now and henceforward the demon-nature was to be vanquished by the name and nature of Jesus Christ. "The demons are subject to us in Thy name." Whenever you are tempted by the demon of alcohol, of passion, of jealousy, or any other, claim instantly the protection of the Name which is above every name: make the Name and Nature of Jesus your strong tower into which you shall run and be safe: realize all that He stands for: and you will find that the demons will be subject to you. In your life also, Satan will fall from heaven, and be trodden under your feet.
And what is true in your own life is true also of your influence over others. If you dare to live in the risen Christ, you share His empire and all the fruits of His victory over Satan. He gives you authority over serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. The Christ nature within you becomes the dominant, triumphant power to which all power must ultimately yield. Dare to use it. In conflict with the demon spirits that haunt so many lives; in antagonizing the giant forces that are so strongly entrenched in our natural life, the ravages of vice-be sure to rely, not on numbers or organization, but on the name of Jesus, used not as a charm, but as representing His living and ascended might.
And let it be carefully noted that as the success of these disciples over a few demons in the villages and towns of Israel reacted on the balance of power in the heavenlies, so there is no victory won anywhere by any lonely disciple, or handful of disciples, that does not react on the entire battlefield.
Lord, teach us to pray - Luke 11:1
It was a wise and good request, prompted by the Saviour's own practice. He did not, in the first instance, command His disciples to pray; but He gave Himself to the blessed practice of prayer, and this made them eager to learn and practice the holy art. This is the best way of inculcating new and holy habits on those who surround us. Do not begin by exhorting them; but by living before them a life so holy, so unselfish, so consecrated and devout, that they shall spontaneously approach you, saying, "Give us your secret; tell us how we may do and become as you." It is a holy life which constitutes our best pulpit.
We should daily ask the Master to teach us to pray. Each time we kneel in prayer we may well preface our petitions with the sentence: "We know not what we should pray for as we ought; but by Thy Holy Spirit, Lord, teach us to pray." And probably the Lord's answer will fall into suggestions, borrowed from the form and model of prayer which He gave His disciples. It has been called the Lord's Prayer; it should be called the Disciples'.
Address prayer to the Father, through the Son. Do not be selfish in prayer; but look out on the needs of others, incorporating them in every petition-us, we, our. Remember, you are speaking to your Father, and that His honor and glory should have a paramount and foremost place. If you desire first the hallowing of His name, and the coming of His kingdom, all your personal needs and desires will fall easily and naturally into their place, which will be a comparatively subordinate one. You will need forgiveness as often and as regularly as your daily bread. Be also, direct and definite in prayer.
Be not anxious - Luke 12:11
So often through this discourse the Lord refers to anxiety. "Be not anxious how or what ye shall answer" (Luke 12:2). "Which of you by being anxious can add?" (Luke 12:25). "Why are ye anxious?" (Luke 12:26). There must have been a great strain on the crowds who listened to Him; and there was every likelihood of the strain becoming even greater for His disciples as the years passed on. So, also, the characteristic of our age is anxious strain.
But the heart of Jesus was always at peace. His life was calm amid the storms of life; as the coral-island, with its fronded palms and lagoons of still water, is peaceful amid the storm-tossed ocean, because of the protection of its reef. The surf breaks there, but does not intrude further. The secrets of Jesus were the perpetual presence of God in His soul, and His never-faltering faith in the loving, careful providence of God in all the experiences of His checkered life.
Can we not have this? We may if we are willing to pay the price. If we will resign or surrender our will utterly to Him; if we will tear down every vail that might hide His face, and throw open our whole being to His indwelling and use; if we will cease scheming, planning, devising, and fall back on the absolute care and arrangements of God; if we will learn to reckon on God as absolutely as on any resourceful human friend; if we will dare to believe that God holds Himself responsible for the sustenance and equipment for duty of all who absolutely seek His glory - then.
"Our lives shall be full of sunshine,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold up their tents like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away."
Strive to enter in at the strait gate - Luke 13:24
The question which the disciples asked was for their gratification and curiosity. Men have always been curious to know what will be the numerical result of the Redeemer's work. But to such questions the Lord had no reply. He was only eager that none of those whom He loved should miss the full measure of blessedness that was within His reach; therefore He bade each be sure of entering the narrow door, so narrow that there is no room to carry through it the love of self, the greed of gain, the thirst for the applause and rewards of the world.
We may be saved from the penalty of sin by one single glance at the Saviour, who lived, and died, and lives forevermore; but we cannot be saved in the deepest meaning of the word, in the sense of being delivered from the love and power of sin, unless we are willing to enter through a door, so constructed and straight, that it seems impossible to effect an entrance. Art thou willing for this, willing to leave behind thy amassed and hardly-gained treasures, thy luggage and impedimenta, thy jewels and gew-gaws, thy certificate of merit and credentials, thy notions of self-importance, the weights which thou hast carried so long, the pillows with which thou art always sparing thyself from the stern realities and efforts of a noble life? If thou art willing for this, and prepared to strive, even to the rending of thyself asunder, then thou shalt be saved from the love and tyranny of that wild, dark power, which, hitherto, has always dragged thee downward.
It is not enough to eat and drink of the blessed memorial supper, nor to listen to the voice of Jesus teaching in His Church. Many may do all this, and yet never be included in the Kingdom of Heaven.
He cannot be my disciple - Luke 14:26,27,33
Three times Christ repeats these solemn words; and it may be that earnest men have done injury to His cause, which they desired to serve, by omitting these stringent conditions in their Gospel invitations. It is quite true that whosoever will may come and take; that whosoever believeth in Him shall never perish; that the door of mercy stands open wide. But it is equally true that the faith that saves must pass such tests as these; and if it does not, it is not of the quality which can bear the soul through the swelling billows of the river of death. These three tests may be classified thus:
Separation. - It sometimes happens in the disciple's life that Christ's work lies in one direction, whilst the blessed ties of home lie in another. Tender voices call; loving hands reach out to hold him. Here the plough is waiting in its furrow; there the hearth with its tender memory and association. At such times, for the true man, there can be but one choice.
Crucifixion. - Every one has his own cross-some one thing in which the will of God crosses his will. Jesus made that cross, and bids us take it up and bear it after Himself. Yet how many evade it, flee from it, postpone it. They think they can follow Him apart from it; but it is impossible. We can only follow the Crucified when we bear each his own cross. And to shrink from it shows that we are not disciples.
Renunciation. - All we have must be gladly yielded when Christ asks for it. If the accumulation of a life be on one scale and Christ in the other, we must choose Christ, come what may to the rest, or we must abandon our title to discipleship.
He would not go in - Luke 15:28
The elder brother is the dark contrast which heightens the glowing picture of the repentant prodigal; as the gargoyle does the beauty of the angel faces on the cathedral font.
When we look at sin, not in its theological aspects, but in its everyday clothes, we find that it divides itself into two kinds. We find that there are sins of the body and sins of the disposition; or, more narrowly, sins of the passions, including all forms of lust and selfishness, and sins of the temper. The prodigal is the instance in the New Testament of sins of passion - the elder brother of sins of temper. Now we might be disposed to think that the prodigal is the worse sinner of these two; but it is at least worthy of remark that as the story ends, we see him found, forgiven, restored; whilst the elder brother is still outside the house, and an absentee from the feast. Does Christ mean that the ill-tempered murmuring of the Pharisee is more hopeless than the passion of the publican and sinner? We must not press the thought too far; but we may at least ask whether we are harboring, beneath a very respectable, moral exterior, the spirit of the elder brother, who plods daily to work, and is accounted a paragon of filial dutifulness, but is left without the door.
One has made a careful analysis of the ingredients that went to make up that one spiteful speech; they come out thus: jealousy, anger, pride, uncharity, cruelty, self-righteousness, sulkiness, touchiness, doggedness. "His speech, like the bubble escaping to the surface of the pool, betrays the rottenness beneath." Let us carefully read our hearts, lest there be any trace of this spirit in ourselves, when others are pressing into the kingdom with joy.
That which is another's - Luke 16:12
Our Lord is speaking of money and its use. 1. He describes money. - It is so associated with unrighteousness that He speaks of it as the unrighteous mammon. It was as though the inveterate money-maker, who will get money at all costs, was an idolater, prostrating himself daily in the temple of the heathen deity who bore that name. In His judgment, also, it is a very little thing (Luke 16:10). We only know how little when we compare it with the immortal qualities of a lowly character. At least, it is not the true riches (Luke 16:11). Moreover, it is not our own-it is dearly another's - God's (Luke 16:12). We have nothing that we have not received.
2. He indicates the main use of money. - It is God's; but He puts it into our hands to watch the use we will make of it, before He entrusts to us the true riches of eternity - just as you will test a child with a toy watch before you dare place in his hands a real one. If he is destructive of the one, you hesitate to hand him the other; whilst if he is careful, you feel able to consign to his care some family heirloom. So God is testing men by giving them money that He may know how far to trust them in the mart of the New Jerusalem.
3. He arouses us to fidelity - Care for God's interests as much as the wasteful and unfaithful steward cared for his own. He used his master's money to secure a welcome to the debtor's houses when he lost his situation. But God has so arranged it, that if you use His money aright, you shall not only win His approbation, but His interests will be so coincident with yours, that when the world fades from view, those whom you have helped for God's sake shall welcome you to heaven.
The kingdom of God cometh not with observation - Luke 17:20
The Kingdom is ""in mystery" just now. It is hidden from mortal eye, because the King Himself is withdrawn from the visible sphere. The creation groans and travails for its manifestation. He must be manifested before we can be manifested with Him in glory. In the meanwhile, it is not without, but within; not compelling human attention, but pervading human hearts. Let us remember this when we are lamenting the slow progress of Christianity in the world. It appears to recede almost as quickly as it advances; what it gains in one place it loses in another. If heathen lands are receiving Christ, are not the populations of Christian lands departing from Him? Stay; you cannot tell! It is useless to argue! There may be much more good working than you know. For every bold confessor there are probably seven thousand who have not bowed to Baal.
When we are tempted to estimate our success by numerical results. - When our church is crowded; our roll of communicants constantly augmented; and the money revenue large - we are disposed to think that the cause of Christ is really advancing in our midst. It may be so. But sometimes, where numbers are scant and difficulties many, a yet deeper and more lasting result is being achieved.
When we are lamenting the apparent slowness of our growth in grace. - You do not feel as you would; nay, to judge by your emotional life you fear lest you are positively receding in the divine life; you think that the quality and quantity of your fruit unto God is decreasing. Stay; the deepest work is not always the most obvious. Before the mole appears above the wave, years of work have been expended where no eye can see; but every stone tells in the result.
Hear what the unjust judge saith - Luke 18:6
The force of this parable lies in its succession of vivid contrasts, which rise to an irresistible climax. The judge is unjust. - He neither fears God nor regards man. His one idea is to extort as much money as he can from the prisoners who desire to get out of jail, and from those that want to keep them in, or put others to share their fate. But God is our Father, unimpeachable in His integrity, and only eager to promote our welfare.
The judge had no personal interest in the claimant. - She had no personal attraction for him. Had she been possessed of property, he might have cared more. But now he looked on her as a pest that plagued and worried him. But we are God's elect, over whom His tender heart yearns. Did He not choose us before all the worlds unto His glory?
The judge answered the widow's cry just to save himself trouble. - Whenever he went to his seat, there she was. Though he had refused to hear her a score of times, there was her voice again, as clear and penetrating as ever. She had been forcibly hurried from his presence by his officials, and she had been borne screaming and remonstrating into the rear; but she never knew herself defeated. At last he could bear it no longer, and gave orders that her patrimony should be restored.
And will not God do as much, as, generation after generation, He sees His Church, like a widowed soul, oppressed by the great enemy and avenger? As He hears the cries of martyrs and saints; the perpetual prayer, Come, Lord Jesus; the insolent boast of the foe - will He not arise and avenge? Yes, verily, speedily! But it may seem long to us, because one thousand years with Him are as one day.
They said, the Lord hath need of him - Luke 19:34
Oh, could I hear Thee say as much of me, my blessed Lord! Here, where two ways meet, I have been standing long, waiting for a purpose worthy to fill my soul, and task the powers that are, as yet, only in the first burst of young life.
Thou needest much and many in Thy great redemptive work. The boat to cross the lake; the line to catch the fish; the bread and fish to feed the crowds; the baskets to gather up the fragments; the chalice to hold the wine; the dish to hold the sop; the little child to be the text for Thy sermon; the clay for the blind man's eyes; the tender women to minister of their substance; the apostles to preach Thy Gospel. Canst Thou not find a nitch for me also?
Thou requirest undivided loyalty. - Born of the Virgin's womb, laid in death where man's dust had never come, Thou must have a colt on which none had ever sat. I cannot give Thee a heart which has never known another; but I profess to Thee that there is no rival now. Thou mayest have all. Thine is the Kingdom.
Thou requirest patience and humility. - But these, also, Thou hast taught. I have waited patiently till this glad hour, and am quieted and humbled like a weaned child. No longer do I seek great things for myself. It is enough for me to be and do anything, if only Thou shalt be glorified.
Thou requirest, perhaps, but one brief service. - To serve Thee always with increasing fervor would be my choice; but if Thou needest only one brief, glad hour of ministry, like that the good Ananias did to Thy Church when he ministered to Saul, then be it so. To prepare for it, and revert to it, would be my satisfaction in having lived.
Whose image and superscription hath it? - Luke 20:24
Our Lord more than once compared men to coins. He spoke of the woman who lost one piece of silver, and searched till she had found it. The analogy might be carried out in many particulars; for as the ore passes through the crucible, and many another process, before it is stamped with the image of the sovereign, so do souls experience many fiery trials ere they can receive and keep the impression of heaven's mint, which is the face of Jesus.
Whose image dost thou bear? - Is there a clear-cut outline of the features of Christ, so manifest that those who touch and handle you are irresistibly reminded of Him; or have the features of your King, which were once clear-cut, become effaced?
Whose is thy superscription? Is A. D. there? - the year in which you were born into the kingdom of God, the year of our Lord, the year of your eternal life? Is "Dei gratia" there? (By the grace of God). So that all the while those who know you magnify the exceeding riches of His love as manifested in you. Is "Christus Rex" there? (Christ the King). Are you absolutely Christ's - to serve and to obey? Is "Fid. Def." there? (Defender of the Faith). Do you keep the deposit of Christ's holy Gospel, as you look to Him to keep the deposit which you have committed to Him? Is the lion on the quarterings? - speaking of the strength of the Lion of Judah imparted to your soul. Is the harp amongst them? - indicating the subjection of every string of your life to His finger. Is the crown there? - indicating how absolutely you have placed the empire of your nature upon the brow of your Lord. Then weave together the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley as the symbol of His reign.
Watch ye therefore, and pray always - Luke 21:36
Let us never release the girdle from around our loins, nor throw ourselves listlessly upon the bank to drink, whilst the enemy may be stealing up against the wind. It is the art of our great enemy to fill the air with the heavy breath of the poppy; that, like the lotus-eaters of the old legend, we may be indisposed for the perils and toils of our onward journey.
Watch ye in the season of festivity. - When merry voices fill the chamber with mirth, and jokes pass; old stories are retold; quaint anecdotes circulated - remember to look frequently up into the Master's face, to discover if aught has covered it with shame, or filled it with regret. Let not your heart be overcharged with surfeiting drunkenness.
Watch ye in hours of stress and anxiety. These will come between the soul and Christ, oppressing us with anxious care, leading us to think too much of the things which are seen and transient, and filling our hearts with dismay, as though the future would find us orphans and homeless, because the storm had swept away some few gatherings of the earth's perishable stores. When stocks are falling, business declining, competition increasing-Watch! Make supplication! Stand before the Son of Man as those whom He cannot forget or forsake.
Watch ye in seasons of tender lave. - We wear armor abroad, but when we come within the closed door of the home, and our hearts expand beneath the genial warmth of kindred natures, how apt we are to cry, Now, surely, we may unbend, ungird, and let nature have free course. But the Master says, Watch ye at every season; and He reminds us that we never cease to stand before the Son of Man.
Simon, Simon, behold Satan asked to have you that he might sift you as wheat - Luke 22:31
The Master apparently did not pray that temptation should be withheld. The quick eye of His affection had discerned the tempter's approach. His quick ear had detected Satan's request of the Father; as though he said, "Let me have the chance for one brief hour, and I will show that these men, so far from being gold, silver, and precious stones, are only wood, hay, and stubble." But though He knew all this, the Master did not request that the winnowing wind should be withheld. Why? Because temptation is part of the present order of the world. Why it is so we cannot tell; that it is so we know assuredly. Why the Almighty permitted the evil one to intrude into paradise, and to assail every single soul of woman born, that has passed to years of consciousness, we shall probably never understand until mystery drops from our eyes in the meridian light of heaven. We only are sure that the permission of temptation is not inconsistent with His almightiness or beneficence.
Because temptation tests character and reveals us to ourselves and to one another. - Was it not well that Peter should know how weak he was; that he might become truly penitent and converted? Was it not befitting that Judas should be exposed before the day of Pentecost? Was it not best that the foundation stones of the Church should be well tested? It is better to learn our weakness now and here than at the Judgment seat.
But if Satan tempts, our Advocate pleads. He anticipates the advent of temptation by storing up His prayers. He warns the soul when the hawk begins to hover. If He may not arrest temptation, He will at least ask that our faith may not fail; and will seek us out as He did Peter.
Verily, I say unto thee, today shall thou be with me in paradise - Luke 23:43
Today! - Dost thou ask Me to remember thee at some distant moment, when the kingdom of which I am now laying the foundations shall have become the all-conquering kingdom of the world? Thou needest not wait so long. I say unto thee that this very day, when yonder sun now scorching above our heads is sinking in the west, and the shadows lie long from our crosses, and the people have gone to their homes, thou shalt be with Me, where the sun shall no more be thy light by day, nor the moon by night, but the Lord shall be thy everlasting light.
Thou shalt be with Me. - Dost thou ask only to be remembered; that I should give thee the glance of a thought; that I shall recall thy voice and face for a brief moment? Thou shalt be with Me, for I will await thee on the confines of My home. The throngs which escort Me shall behold thee by My side, and when I sit upon My sapphire throne I will give thee to sit beside Me, the one who, in My mortal anguish, trod the vale of the shadow, and who, with Me, shall tread the paths of light and glory.
In Paradise. - I am here regaining Paradise. All that was lost is being recovered. Within a few hours it will be Mine to give; within a few hours its key will be in My hand; within a few hours thou shalt walk with Me there in the cool of the day, and the angel that drove out Adam shall keep watch lest the Serpent enter to molest.
Verily, I say unto thee. - All this is fixed and certain. I say "verily" to thee because the Father hath said "verily" to Me. Oh, trembling soul, who hast fled for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before thee, thou mayest have strong encouragement from My Word and death.
Crucified, and the third day rise again - Luke 24:7
These are the two poles of Christian life-Death and Resurrection. That which was true in the history of our Lord must have its counterpart in our own experiences. That Jesus died and rose again is not only the dual basis of justification, but it is the dual basis of sanctification. Did He die? Then we must arm ourselves with the same mind. The crucifixion was not finished on Calvary; it has continued through all ages, and will continue unto the end; not in its mediatorial and atoning aspect, but with the view of each man denying himself and taking up his cross to follow daily. So also we are perpetually leaving the things of time and sense where Christ left His grave-clothes, and are pressing up and on in the wake of His resurrection and ascension.
It is a solemn question, how far we are participating in this daily dying and daily rising. "Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed. Mortify your members which are upon the earth; seek those things which are above. If one died for all, then all died; that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them and rose again."
It is not that the old nature dies, but that we die to it. As a matter of experience and walk, the results will be very similar from either of these ways of stating the fact. But it is true to Scripture and experience also to speak of reckoning ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin - that is, the root-principle which so often fruits in sins. Reckon that the grave of Christ lies between thee and the solicitations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Deem thyself dead to thyself. All this, however, is only possible through the Holy Spirit.
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