« PreviousContinue »
when she poured the precious ointment over their Master's feet, and had sympathized in the short-sighted pretence, "This ointment might have been sold for three hundred pence and given to the poors.” Nay, on the very evening on which He had spoken so solemnly of His sufferings then close at hand, they had had a "strife among themselves which should be accounted greatest." All this our LORD knew, and only the rather shaped His Lessons to assist them under their weakness : leading them on by degrees, and giving them such instruction, as, though at first beyond them, should afterwards recur to their thoughts and give them a right judgment. HE, in a manner, stored up lessons for them, which, though at present dark and seemingly vague, would explain themselves more and more as they were brought into use. Their backwardness and misapprehensions did not check the flow of Divine goodness towards them. He called them by the name of " friends ;" He gave them great and exceeding precious promises for their support and encouragement, and imparted to them all their portion of that farewell feast, which He said He had “desired with desire to eat with them before He suffered.” Their love and good intentions were accepted according to what they “ had, and not according to what they had not?.” For this saying of the Apostle may be taken as of general application in respect of all our offerings and performances. God is graciously pleased to regard us and them, not by the value of what is done, but by what our ability is, and by the inward purpose of our hearts.
And as the sufferings of Christ were a sore trial to His disciples, whether they would recognize God's hand and purpose in them, and hold fast to the belief, that even when so wholly given over to the power of His enemies, their Master was He, Whom they had trusted Him to be : in like manner are not the sufferings and trials of Christians, who are Christ's members in particular,—"members of His Body, of His Flesh, and of His Bones 8,”—a subject of perplexity and anxious wonderment? Is not “that be far from THEE," the sort of impatient, restless thought of such as wonder at the sufferings and privations, the utter destitution, temporal and spiritual, to be seen among many of those upon whom is called the Name of God's children? They are perplexed, and, in
5 Matt. xxvi. 9; John xii. 5. 7 2 Cor. viii. 12.
6 Luke xxii. 24. 8 Eph. v. 30.
a manner, offended. The Gospel kingdom, as they see it on earth, seems to them so unlike their impressions of it as they read of it in the pages of the Gospel; somewhat in the same way as the Apostles were staggered, having misunderstood, and framed to themselves notions of their own respecting the kingdom of the Messiah, and what should befal Him. Because of what they see around and feel in themselves, they almost doubt whether the Gospel can really make good its professions in the way of peace and blessing on earth. They have made an interpretation of their own of “ the promise of the life that now is°,” and their faith is shaken when things are accomplishing in a direction they looked not for. These afflictions in Christ's members become, in two ways, a sore trial to faith and cohstancy. They are a trial to those under them, as to bearing them rightly. They are a trial to such as have the means of alleviating them, whether they will realize to themselves, that, in ministering to such cases for Christ's sake, they are waiting upon their Lord and Saviour in His temptations and afflictions.
And as our LORD was very gentle and forbearing towards His disciples, still repeating the same lessons, though often forgotten or misapplied, so, wherever we have better and clearer knowledge than any of our brethren, we ought to be very patient and persevering in our endeavours to engraft it into their hearts. Where the present use of such lessons seems utterly without purpose, we should nevertheless impart them, still hoping the time may come when they may remember that these things were told them: when things unobserved and not understood may rise up before them and declare their own meaning, and at last do their work and produce their effect.
They who are in any way set in charge over others, may take to themselves some very wholesome instruction, from observing the manner of our Lord's dealing with His disciples—I mean in. respect to His patient forbearance, teaching and continuing to teach doctrines, which, as yet, they did not enter into,-not pressing them beyond what they could bear, yet so as that by and by they might remember that He had told them. Parents, teachers, and ministers are not unlikely to fail of the good they might do through impatience or despondency. They are much tempted to imagine their endeavours of no use, because misunderstood, or
91 Tim. iv. 8.
not appreciated by those in whose behalf they are made. Parents and teachers have to go on with instructions, “line upon line, line upon line, precept upon precept, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.” It may be, very little result is seen. It is often a very trying and a very thankless task. It seems to breed more discomfort and trouble than if things were left more to take their own course. It seems as if they could not raise the minds of the young to higher views. And at times they will be out of heart, and think it useless to endeavour further : for that they have told them the truth, and they will not understand or receive it. But though this may be so at present, yet early lessons may spring up and have their fruit, by God's grace, long after the seed has been first sown. The grown man will recall and gather fruit from the instructions of his childhood. So too may the counsel of God's minister seem thrown away, and yet thereby, in time to come, the heart may be opened to truth.
In like manner, as to persons entering into the full meaning of what they are taught: it may be it is better for them for a while that they should not. Our LORD could, if He had pleased, have made His disciples fully aware of the meaning of the things HE spake concerning HIMSELF. But He suffered them to remain in their misunderstanding. The whole truth might have been more than they could have borne. But He so shaped their instructions, that afterwards the true sense of His words should rise before them, and produce their right effect.
How often too is a sinner led gradually to repentance, not at all suspecting at first what he will have to go through! For surely had he perceived this, when his heart was at first but faintly stirred towards sorrow and penitence, pride, and hardness, and shame, and impatience would have broken off the good purpose, and hurried him back into sin. We must deal with persons according as they can bear; not indeed altering the truth, but not putting forward its full brightness to eyes too weak to bear it. We must deal discreetly and patiently, and be content to wait. Even truth may harm sometimes by affrighting persons from it. And there is in our day an offence of the Cross. “Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil ?.”
1 Heb. v. 14.
OUR LORD'S FORBEARANCE AND CONSIDERATENESS
TOWARDS ST. PETER.
PREACHED ON TUESDAY IN PASSION WEEK.
John xiii. 1.
“Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was
come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end."
As we pause upon different instances of our LORD's merciful considerateness towards all around even during these last days of His unspeakable anguish, mental and bodily, two of the company of His Apostles stand out apart from the rest. Circumstances in their own conduct separated them off from the rest, and made their cases and their trials peculiar. Both cases stand out before us in the way of warning: in both there was a grievous fall; in both the sin was against knowledge, not in ignorance; in both the sin was finished the same night; in both the sin was against their Most Gracious MASTER's Person. The one was the dreadful fall of Judas, who was utterly and irrecoverably lost; the other of Peter, who was restored.
The subject we are to consider, is the wonderful gentleness and consideration with which our Blessed LORD cared for them; and first, to-day, of the history of St. Peter, which, though sad and alarming, has yet comfort and hopefulness for all true penitents.
St. Peter's fall and sin was, as you know, a deliberate, solemn denial of His MASTER, even to declaring that he never knew Him: and this not once, but reiterated three several times, and at last with vehement swearing and oaths.
Now observe the ways in which our Lord first put him on his guard, that he might be prepared, and then further watched over him for his recovery, after he had, in His very Presence and hearing, so grievously fallen.
The very evening in the night of which this took place, our LORD three times solemnly warned him that it would be so. We read in St. John xiii., that after Jesus had washed His disciples' feet, and taken His garments, and was set down again, and after Judas had gone out, He began to speak to them of His departure: and
upon His having used the words “Whither I go, ye cannot come,” St. Peter had inquired, "LORD, whither goest Thou?" Jesus answered him, “Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow Me afterwards.” Peter said unto
Lord, why cannot I follow Taxe now? I will lay down my life for Thy sake.” Jesus answered him, “Wilt thou lay down thy life for My sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow till thou hast denied ME thrice." This was the first warning. And I suppose we should be wrong in blaming St. Peter for this profession of readiness to hazard his life in his Lord's service, as betokening great pride and self-confidence. Rather it was the affectionate warmth and loyalty of his affection, which prompted the words, perhaps almost spontaneously, scarce weighing the amount of what he proffered. It was but just before, perhaps scarce half an hour, that when our Lord had said one should betray Him, Peter, though his conscience did not accuse him of having harboured such a thought, yet asked with alarm, “ Is it I?” And having received intimation, through the sign which passed between him and St. John, that the Master alluded not to him, he perhaps felt the bolder to speak out the feelings of his heart, kindled at the words of tender affection, which the LORD was addressing to them.
But again, after a little further space of time had passed, our LORD turned the discourse to St. Peter. This is related by St. Luke. " And the LORD said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” And he said unto him, “LORD, I am ready to go with THEE, both into prison and to death." And He said, “I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this