« PreviousContinue »
ceitful inclinations, or that we have no other rule to direct us with regard to it, than bare considerations of fitness or unfitness, reasonableness or unreasonableness. Let us hear how the Scriptures describe the business and condition of Christians. Our profession is represented to us by them as a labour; but we are directed to have no final resting place in Christian acquirement in this life. It is compared to a race, but there is no goal pointed out to us on this side of the grave. It is proposed to us as a warfare, but we are not taught to expect ultimate and complete victory as long as we are subject to the assaults of principalities and powers, and the rulers of darkness in this world—as long as remaining in the flesh we are constantly liable to be brought into captivity by the law of sin warring in our members against the law of the mind. All these similitudes strongly intimate to us the necessity of striving to make continual advances in the Christian life. The labourer is to continue to dress the vineyard until his master shall assign him his hire when the evening is come. The candidate for the prize in the race must run on till his course shall be finished, if he would obtain the crown of glory laid up for him by his judge. The soldier must continue to fight the good fight, till his Captain shall declare the warfare accomplished; and small, indeed, will be the honor or the recompense which he can hope to obtain, small even his chance of security from defeat, if he be content to remain stationary and win no ground from the enemy. The Christian here must always be directing his efforts towards new conquests—he must be animated with a spirit like that of the renowned pagan warrior, whose maxim it was to think nothing done as long as any thing remained to be done.
But it is not only from general de
scription that our duty in this respect is to be collected, numerous and express are the particular lessons of revelation as to the point in question. The entreaty and exhortation of St. Paul to the Thessalonians in my text are free from ambiguity or doubt. In another part of the epistle he prays thus on their behalf, "The Lord make you to increase and abound one towards another, and towards all men, even as we do towards you." Herein, you will observe, he points out the necessity of God doing this for them. In the text he beseeches and exhorts them to do it for themselves: a plain evidence that both God and man have their parts in the work of salvation. In the opening of the Apostle's second epistle to these same Thessalonians we find a remarkable parallel to both these passages, remarkable both as a confirmation of his former teaching and as evidence that neither his addresses to them nor his supplications to God in their behalf had been poured forth in vain. "We are bound," says he, " to thank God always for your brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and that the charity of every one of you all towards eachotheraboundeth." Again, he prays that the love of the Thessalonians may abound more and more, and that the love of the Phillipians may abound more and more, and yet the Phillipians are the disciples to whom above all others he writes in terms of approbation and satisfaction. He exhorts the Corinthians to " perfect holiness in the fear of God." To the same purpose are those charges of St. Peter to his fellow-believers, "That they should grow in grace, and in the knowledge of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ •" and that, "Giving all diligence they should add to their faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you," says he, "and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." But that memorable declaration which the Apostle of the Gentiles makes of his own personal feelings and conduct, with relation to the subject before us, may well stand in the place of a thousand precepts and requests of others. "Brethren I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore," he immediately applies his own example to his brethren, "let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded." And with what force is the application made, what a lesson of humility and at the same time what a sphere of exertion is here, if he, this high and gifted one, he who was not a whit behind the very chief of the Apostles, he who had laboured more abundantly than they all, yet found further advancement continually necessary, what must we the best, the holiest, the most active amongst us think of our spiritual attainments?
Briefly then, my brethren, let us bring home the foregoing considerations to ourselves. Have we now a lively and vigourous faith in our hearts, a faith which is the root of all good works ?—let us by reading, by imitation, by prayer, in a word, by all the means which God has put in our power, labour to increase and strengthen this faith more and more. Have we imbibed much of the spirit of the Gospel ?—let it be our daily endeavour to
incorporate a still larger portion of it with our dispositions and affections. Have we been earnest and diligent in doing the duties of our several callings on Christian principles ?—let our zeal and industry in the discharge of them shine with a still brighter light before men, "that they may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven." Have we by God's blessing and by our own care and watchfulness brought one evil passion under control ?—let us proceed without delay to the subjection of another and another. And when can we set about these things with more effect than the present season, set apart, as it is, for a careful review of our spiritual estate?
On the internal satisfaction resulting from such advances in the Christian life I will not now enlarge; a satisfaction, my brethren, far surpassing any mere sensual or worldly gratification. By those alone who have tasted it can it be rightly understood or duly estimated.* Of one thing, however, by way of conclusion, I will remind you, namely, that this recompense, rich though it be, is only the earnest of something incomparably better. It is certain from God's word, that there are different degrees of happiness reserved for the faithful hereafter, according to the different measures of their improvement of faith and holiness here. He who has gained ten talents shall be made ruler over ten cities, and he who has gained five talents shall be made ruler over five cities. While, therefore, we are going on from strength to strength with reference to this our earthly state of probation, we are at the same time going on from glory to glory with reference to our appearance before God in the heavenly Zion.
DELIVERED BY THE REV. T. MORTIMER,
ON SUNDAY EVENING, AT ST. MARK'S CHURCH, CI.F.HKENWELL, FEB. 27, 1831.
Matthew, xv. 21. 28.—" Then Jesus vent thence, and departed into the coatts of Tyre and Sidon. And behold a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Hare mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David: my daughter is grievously rexed u-ith a devil. But he answered her not a word, aud his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away ; for she crieth tifter us. But he answered and said, I am not tent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to tahe the children's bread and cast it to the doge. And she said, Truth, Lord; yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt, and her daughter was made whole front that very hour."
You have all heard these words or most of you have heard those words read as part of the service of the church for the day. It is a remarkable fact, but I know of no exactly similar account of our blessed Master, I know of no other instance in which he followed precisely the same course; and yet he did all things well. There was a reason, there was a moral, there was a design in all this. Be it our endeavour to catch the design, to improve the moral, and to learn by the grace of God from this history something for our own instruction, and something for our own encouragement whenever the world seems to go against us, whenever we seem to be bearing up against the wind and tide, whenever the world seems to care nothing for us, then let us go with all the importunity of prayer to besiege the throne of grace, lying prostrate at the feet of Christ, and pleading our own unworthiness, and turning every discouraging word into a reason why we should wait there still, till the Lord our God have mercy upon us.
We will consider the incident in three different points of view. We will First regard this poor woman, the applicant for mercy. We will then
look at the conduct of our Saviour. And then we shall endeavour to ascertain what the history suggests to ourselves. The poor Canaanitish woman— the Saviour of the world—and ourselves; to these three points let us attend, and may the God of heaven be with us.
Notice then, First, Who This Woman Was. She was not an Israelite. No, no. She was not one of that favoured, that peculiar, that holy people the Jews. She knew she was not, she was aware of it. O, my brethren, there is not one man in fifty among us that honours the Jews as he ought to do. One in fifty! not one in five thousand in this great city honours the Jews as the Jews ought to be honoured. It was a great favour, a great honour, a great privilege to belong to that people. This woman felt that she did not possess this privilege. Our Lord came into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, this poor woman had heard of it, the name by which he went was the Son of David; she was not interested in the promise specially made to Israel, but she had heard of the wonderful works that he did, and she applied to him. Mark who she was. She was not a Jewess,
but a Gentile, a Cyro-Phoenccian woman.
Mark another thing, the cause of her trouble. It was not her own sickness, it was the sickness of her daughter- Let children know it, they twine about the hearts of their parents. The sorrows of the child almost broke the heart of the mother. Her daughter was grievously vexed with a devil. The Bible says it, and upon that testimony I believe it. Away with that false system which would explain away every statement of the Bible, and attribute every thing mentioned in Scripture to natural causes—away with such damnable heresy from the earth. The church of God in these days cannot watch too narrowly, too closely, against all such attempts to explain away the plain and simple meaning of God's word. At the time our Lord made his appearance it pleased God to permit Satan to have a very singular power over the body. It was all wisely ordered on purpose, that a stronger than the strong man might bind the strong man, and take from him the armour wherein he trusted, in order that the power and grace of Christ might be magnified. What a picture—I stop not to dwell upon it, I merely throw out the thought and leave it with you—what a picture of the mind of the Devil have we here, that he could take delight in tormenting a little child. And is this Lucifer, son of the morning? Is this he who once soared high in glory and worshipped before the throne of God, and led the choirs of angels, and to whom subordinate angels looked up with wonder and amazement at his vast powers, and the strength of his devotion? O, what an accursed thing is sin! What can sin do? Nay, I should rather ask, what can it not do? How dreadful, how painful, how distressing it is to think that sin could make a pure and a benevolent mind to
become a devil, and to delight in the torture and misery of a child I
Mark this poor Canaanitish woman —mark her prayer. The Evangelist tells us, "That she fell down and worshipped him. saying, O Lord, thou Son of David, have mercy upon me, for my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil." Here was a very little prayer, very short; but it told a great deal, it said that she wanted much. The trouble of her daughter was hers. Satan had been allowed to afflict her poor little daughter. She did not know where to go, where to look for help— she was a poor Gentile woman, and had no right to any of the promises made to the Israelites; yet she had heard of the mercy of the Son of David, and to the Son of David she came. There was more faith in this application to Christ, than probably any of you ever showed in your lives—a greater degree of faith than perhaps (except in the instance of the Centurion) was ever known in this lower world. This was the principle on which she acted; you will see what a mighty principle it is as we go on with the history. Well has it been said by one of our British poets—
"Faith, mighty faith, the promise sees,
And looks to that alone,
It shall be done."
Mark now, there was no promise to the poor woman—depend upon it, there was no promise made to the poor outcast Gentile. No; RDd therefore it argued an immense measure of faith that she should thus go and apply to the Son of David.
Mark her first application—how is it met? No notice is taken of it. "He answered her not a word." This was not his usual manner. He generally showed his love, his tenderness, his pity; but he here appears to have a very hard heart. A subsequent part
of the history will tell you it was only apparently so.
"Behind the cloud he hides a smile."
I dwell not on his conduct further. After such a rebuff, what does she do i She seems, then, to have applied to the disciples, to use their efforts with their Master. How did they receive her application? They entreated our Lord to send her away. I never see the disciples and their Master put together, but what I see in the end how poor and little the disciples look, and how great the Master appears. Send her away! he did not intend to send her away till he had granted her request. My brethren, your ministers do not feel what they seem to feel for you in your troubles and in your sorrows; but your great Master always feels for you. Learn the great superiority of the Master over all his disciples. "Send her away ! she crieth after us." What could the poor broken-hearted woman do—and yet are these the disciples? O, my brethren, learn that there may be grace and real grace, where grace has much to do even yet, in order to bring the mind into a right state. It would not appear that these disciples, excellent men as they were, had not, as they ought to have had, a heart to pity for this poor suffering woman.
But this only makes way for another rebuff. What does our Lord say to the request of his disciples ?" He answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel." He was now like Joseph, he was concealing his real feelings. He was speaking in order to probe and try the faith, and at length to remove the fear of the party. But how does she meet this second rebuff? She says very little—one of the shortest prayers in the Bible—three little monosyllables. "She came and worshipped him, and said, Lord help me." As much as if she had said, I have gone
to thy disciples, I thought they would
There is still something far more discouraging. She goes and cries for help. "Lord, help me"—and what is the strange and singular answer, "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and cast it to the dogs." There are the Jews again—they are the children, and the Gentiles are the dogs. I have often wondered at our Lord using such an expression, and if I had net found in the Bible that he did use it, I never would have believed that he did. But I find it here; and I know that he doth all things well; and I know that he hath a perfect right to do and to say what he pleaseth. It seems one of the most cruel and cutting things that was ever said to a human being in this world; and yet it was