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« Reply #315 on: September 21, 2007, 11:46:34 AM »

July 12

Luke 14:1-11. Jesus Christ reproves the ambitious guests.

The account of the healing of the man with the dropsy reminds us of the healing of the man with the withered hand. It was on the Sabbath-day that Jesus performed both these miracles—but the places in which He wrought them were not the same. The withered hand was healed in a synagogue; the dropsy was cured in a Pharisee's house. On both occasions many of the Lord's bitter enemies were present. But no circumstances could restrain the compassionate Savior from showing mercy to his suffering creatures. Neither did the displeasure He excited by healing the man with the dropsy prevent Him from reproving the proud behavior of the company.

In the East, it is still the custom for guests to occupy seats that mark their degree of rank. Each person, as he enters, seats himself in the place that he thinks he is entitled to fill, and often he takes a higher place than the company consider to be his due. But the master of the feast has the power to desire him to move either to a higher or lower place. The Pharisees showed a great anxiety to occupy the most honorable seats. Our Lord openly censured their conduct, and alluded to one of Solomon's proverbs, (25:6,) an authority that they professed to revere. There it is written, "Put not forth yourself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men; for better is it that it should be said unto you, Come up here, than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince whom your eyes have seen."

Jesus exposed the folly of the Pharisees' conduct. It is foolish, as well as sinful to exalt ourselves. Some worldly people put on the appearance of humility, in order to attract notice and admiration. But the true Christian desires not only to appear, but to be humble. After having lain low at the foot of the cross, can he go forth desiring to be admired in society?

What are our feelings in company? Are we highly elated when noticed, and deeply mortified when overlooked? Do we love to be first? Do we envy those who are more regarded than ourselves? This was the spirit of the Pharisees. It is not the spirit of Christ. There are many people who do not openly contend for places of honor, who are secretly thirsting for admiration. The children of God do not indulge this feeling, but strive and pray against it. The rule of their conduct is, "Be kindly affectioned one to another, with brotherly love, in honor preferring one another." (Rom. 12:10.)

 
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« Reply #316 on: September 21, 2007, 11:47:57 AM »



July 13

Luke 14:12-14. Christ advises his host to invite the poor.

With what faithfulness the Lord acted towards the Pharisee who had invited him to his house! It appears that the entertainment was splendid, and the guests rich and honorable. But it was not such a feast as the Lord approved. He knew the motives which led the rich Pharisees to invite their neighbors—it was the hope that they should be invited again. This was a selfish and sordid motive. In the East, when an animal was killed, it was necessary to eat it immediately. The covetous invited none to partake of their dinner who would not be able to return the favor; but the charitable often called in the poor and afflicted, or sent portions to their dwellings. Job appealed to God, saying, "If I have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless has not eaten thereof." And Nehemiah on a day of rejoicing said to the people of Israel, "Go your way, eat the fat and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared." In this country, many benevolent people, instead of giving feasts to the poor, contrive other means of giving them relief and pleasure. It is the spirit and not the very letter of the counsel that ought to be followed.

But some may inquire, Is it wrong to invite our friends and kindred o a feast? We know that in every part of Scripture the joyful meetings of brethren and neighbors are spoken of without censure.

But no feasts impart so much happiness as those given to the poor. Rich guests often come with reluctance, and depart without thankfulness. But the poor assemble with delight around the well-spread board, and go away blessing the bountiful hand that spread it. They enjoy but few pleasures, and they meet with but little kindness. It is in the power of the rich to cast a beam of light across their dark path, and to make them for a short season to forget their sorrows. To invite the poor is pleasing to the Lord. Among those gathered from streets, and lanes, and highways, and hedges, there may be a Lazarus whom we shall meet again at the heavenly banquet. It will be pleasant when we meet to feel that we honored him upon earth as the saint of the Lord. There are no doubt wicked people to be found among the poor—but the kindness of the rich often opens their hearts to receive instruction. There are pious rich people who devise means to render the feasts they give profitable to the souls of their poor guests, as well as refreshing to their bodies. That venerable reformer and martyr, Hooper, while he was bishop of Gloucester, entertained a certain number of the poor every day with a dinner of whole and wholesome meats in his great hall; but first he examined them in the creed, the Lord's prayer, and the ten commandments; nor would he himself sit down to table until his poor guests had been served.

How rejoiced we ought to be at every discovery of the will of God! If the world in general valued his approbation, there would not be so many entertainments as there now are given to the rich, and there would be many more given to the poor. Those words, "You shall be blessed," sound very sweetly in the ear of a true disciple of Christ. This is what he desires—"to be blessed." Because the poor cannot recompense him for the kindness he shows them, the Lord will remember it—even as a father takes upon himself to reward every service rendered to his infant children.

Let us beware of thinking that anything we can do deserves a reward. No, that is impossible. When we have done all, we have done only what it was our duty to do. The excellent bishop, of whom we have just spoken, though he had given his goods to feed the poor, and though at length he gave his body to be burned, was so far from trusting in his good deeds for salvation, that, when brought to the stake, he was heard to pray thus—"Lord, I am hell, but you are heaven; I am a sink of sin, but you are a gracious God, and a merciful Redeemer."

It will be easy for God to recompense his children for all they have done for him upon earth. One glimpse of his countenance will more than compensate for the martyr's acutest pangs. But how shall his saints recompense Him for what He has done for them? He found them poor, and blind, and miserable, and fed them with heavenly bread, even with that living bread which came down from heaven. It is this thought that makes them so anxious to please Him.

 


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« Reply #317 on: September 21, 2007, 11:50:29 AM »

July 14

Luke 14:15-24. The parable of the great supper.

Our Lord concluded his conversation at the Pharisee's house by a parable. He had said that those who invited the poor to their houses should be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. This declaration induced one of the guests to exclaim, "Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God." Then Jesus related a parable to show how unwilling the rich men were to come to the heavenly feast. This parable was exactly suited to the company present, and was intended as a warning to the Pharisees, and to all worldly-minded people, whether rich or poor.

The man in the parable invited his rich neighbors to a feast. It is the custom in the East to send an invitation some weeks before the time appointed, and when the day arrives, to desire the servants to remind the guests of their engagement. Nothing can be more insulting than to refuse to come after the feast has been prepared, excepting there be some real hindrance. The excuses made by these rich men were of a frivolous nature. Neither sickness nor the death of friends detained them at home. They could not have foreseen those events; but it showed great contempt to purchase land or oxen, or to contract a marriage at the time they had agreed to come to the feast. It would have been far better to have refused at first, than to accept the invitation, and then to make excuses, when the feast was prepared and the master was waiting.

Like the rich men in the parable, the Pharisees professed to be willing to come to God; but when the blessings of the Gospel were offered to their acceptance, they began to make excuses. They were hypocrites, because they pretended to be religious, while their hearts were set upon this world. Would the insulted master of the feast permit his plenteous provisions to be wasted, or his table to remain unoccupied? By no means. He sent his servants into the streets and lanes of the city, and directed them to summon the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. Thus, when the self-righteous Pharisees refused to listen to the Gospel, the Lord encouraged publicans to accept its blessings.

Afterwards the master of the feast sent his servants into the highways and hedges, to gather more guests for the feast. Who are the wanderers in the streets and lanes of the city, and who are those in the highways and hedges? Do not the former represent the Jews, and the latter the Gentiles? For the Gospel was first preached at Jerusalem, but afterwards among the Gentile nations, even among us who live in these northern isles. What were our forefathers doing when Jesus uttered his parable? They were worshiping frightful idols among their forests of oak. But even then the Lord had purposes of mercy towards those poor savages.

But why did the master declare that none of those men who first were bidden should taste of his supper? Had they not refused to come? What need was there to affirm that they should not come? Do not the words seem to indicate, that a time would arrive when those who had made excuses would repent of their folly, and seek to be admitted to the feast? When they saw the poor wanderers from the city and the country, clothed in white robes, surrounding a sumptuous table—when they descried the splendid lights, and heard the joyful sound of music and singing, they would change their minds, and desire to join the glorious company. But they would find the door shut against them. When they knocked, they would hear a voice within, saying, "I know you not." They would not be permitted even to taste the supper, of which they had once been invited to partake.

And is there any despiser of Christ and his Gospel who will not change his mind when he beholds, afar off, the glories of the blessed, in the kingdom of God? Yes, when all his earthly delights are perished, he will wish for a place at the heavenly banquet. But he will find that no place is reserved for him among the happy guests. O what will then be the bitterness of his disappointment, and the agony of his regrets! Let us now obey the Savior's gracious call, "Come, eat of my bread and drink of my wine, which I have mingled. Forsake the foolish, and live, and go in the way of understanding."



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« Reply #318 on: September 21, 2007, 11:52:14 AM »

July 15

Luke 14:25 to end. Christ declares to the multitude that his disciples must encounter great difficulties.

As the Lord Jesus knew all hearts, he could perfectly adapt his discourse to the state of mind of his hearers. We have lately listened to his conversation at a Pharisee's table, and heard his alarming warnings to those who despised his Gospel. Now we behold him surrounded by a different class of hearers.

The multitudes did not openly despise the Savior, they admired him, and many of them wished to become his disciples; but they were not prepared to encounter difficulties, or to make sacrifices for his sake. Therefore the Savior, turning towards them, set before their eyes the great trials which his disciples must expect to suffer. Parents and kindred would persecute them, and rulers would condemn them to death. How ought they to act when placed in these distressing circumstances? None can suppose that Jesus disapproves of natural affection; the meaning of his declaration is, "Those who would follow me must not yield to the persuasions of their dearest friends, or to the threatenings of the most cruel tyrants, but must be ready to forsake all, and to cleave to me alone." In our days, converted Jews and converted Brahmins have resisted the tenderest entreaties of affectionate mothers and devoted wives, who would have turned them from the faith. And even in our Christian land, there are many instances of children who have endured much unkindness from their own parents, rather than comply with the vain customs of the world.

The Lord Jesus related two short parables to show the folly of setting out in the Christian course, without being prepared to surmount difficulties.

If a man would build a tower, he must first consider whether he has money sufficient to complete the building; and if a captain would meet an enemy, he must first consider whether he has soldiers enough to resist him. It would be better not to begin the tower, than to leave it unfinished—and not to undertake the war, than to suffer a defeat.

It would also be better not to profess to follow Christ, than to turn back after having set out. It would be better—if we can talk of better in such a case. For he who does not set out at SOME TIME OR OTHER in the Christian course, must endure EVERLASTING misery. It will be a poor consolation for him to think that his case would have been still worse, had he turned back after having known the way of righteousness.

Christ never discouraged a sincere soul from following him. But he has given a true description of the nature of his service, so that none can say in the end, "My Lord deceived me, and represented his service to be easier than I have found it." A poor Madagascar woman, who had undergone great persecutions, was once asked whether she was surprised when afflictions overtook her. She replied, "No; from the first we knew it was written, that through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom of God; and when our troubles came, we said, 'This is what we expected.'" This poor woman was once shut up, for five months, in an iron case that prevented her moving a single limb; yet, having counted the cost, she proved "more than conqueror through Him who loved her." * See "Madagascar and its Martyrs," a book for the young.



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« Reply #319 on: September 24, 2007, 09:11:56 AM »

July 16

Luke 15:1-10. Parables of the lost sheep, and of the lost piece of silver.

There is a tenderness in these parables which is not to be found in the discourses we have lately read. When the Savior was at the Pharisee's house, he faithfully reproved both the guests and the host; when he was surrounded by the multitude, he solemnly warned them; but when he sat in the midst of publicans and sinners, he uttered the most touching and encouraging words. The Pharisees showed the pride of their hearts, by murmuring because Jesus received sinners into his intimate society. The Lord answered their murmurings by relating several parables. He knew their covetous disposition, and that they would understand the joy of finding a lost sheep, or a lost piece of money, though their hearts were too hard to enable them to understand the joy felt by angels at the salvation of a sinner.

Even penitent sinners themselves can hardly believe that angels should care for them. How many penitents have read with astonishment that there is joy among the angels of God over one sinner that repents! Could we have conceived that the recovery of one of our fallen race should interest those glorious beings? Why do they care so much for us? The Son of God, whom they adore, loved us and died for us. They know that He cares for each wanderer, and that He rejoices over each soul that he brings back to his fold. The angels share in the joy of their beloved Lord. They felt with him in his sorrows, and one of them strengthened him in the garden of Gethsemane. They partake also in his joys; they delight to see the fruit of the travail of his soul. But their joy cannot be compared with His. He is an infinite being, therefore his love and joy are infinite.

And if the repentance of one sinner causes so much joy, what will be felt on account of the salvation of all the Church of God! The mind is overwhelmed at the thought of the boundless raptures of that day. Many joyful emotions have been felt since first the foundation of the earth was laid; the birds have rejoiced at every return of spring; children have smiled each opening morn; the saints have tasted higher delights in their sacred assemblies; and angels have made the heavens ring with their rapturous songs; but all these joys are as a drop compared to the ocean of delight that the glorious company of heaven shall feel, when all the redeemed are gathered together into the celestial city.

Are we prepared to taste these joys? Do we now feel any satisfaction when we hear that a sinner has repented? We might discover our own state in the sight of God by this token—what are the events that occasion us most joy? If we are saved hereafter, we shall be the companions of angels. But if our hearts are not interested in the salvation of sinners, shall we be fit company for them? What a contrast there is between a selfish human creature and a benevolent angel!

How delightful it will be, in ages to come, if we are numbered among the saints, to see the angels who rejoiced over our  conversion! They will not forget the happiness they experienced on such occasions, and they will feel their joy complete when they see the pardoned sinner, saved from all his enemies, comforted after all his sorrows, and enclosed in the everlasting arms of his Almighty Savior.



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« Reply #320 on: September 24, 2007, 09:13:47 AM »

July 17

Luke 15:11-16. The departure of the prodigal son.

Though the Pharisees were hard-hearted men, yet they possessed the feelings of parents. The parable of the prodigal son was suited to touch every father's heart. But even if the proud Pharisees listened unmoved to the Savior's representation of the father's generous compassion, the poor publicans must have heard the wonderful history with grateful astonishment. When the Lord described the conduct of the younger son, they were reminded of their own base departure from God. The Pharisees also had wandered far from their Father's house; but they knew it not. They imagined that, like the elder son in the parable, they had always been faithful and obedient. Many people entertain the same false notion of their own goodness, and forget that it is written, "All we like sheep have gone astray."

Every penitent sinner sees his own likeness in the prodigal son. The most striking feature in his character is his ingratitude. Instead of being thankful for his daily bread, and his shelter beneath his father's roof, and for all the comforts and privileges he enjoyed, he claims fortune as his right, saying, "Give me the portion of goods that falls to me." This is our spirit by nature. Instead of being overwhelmed with a sense of God's wonderful goodness, we conceive ourselves entitled to further gifts.

When the prodigal had obtained his desire, he showed his ingratitude by going into a country a great way off, and there wasting his father's gifts in riotous living. And have we not acted like this prodigal? We need not move from the spot where we were born in order to do this—it is sufficient that shutting up our hearts from God, and banishing him from our thoughts, we seek our gratification in earthly things.

But behold the consequence of this conduct; the prodigal comes to poverty. He has at last spent all. It is well when we discover before death that we have spent all—that we have wasted our hopes and affections upon the world, and have obtained no lasting satisfaction in return. But what will be the despair of those who never discover their poverty, until they are removed to the place where the uttermost farthing is required, but not even a drop of water granted!

Perhaps the prodigal in his days of revelry may have looked forward to the time when he should have spent all, and he may have intended then to enter some service that would preserve him from want. But God defeated his design, and caused a mighty famine to arise at the very moment when he was destitute. Now there were few masters who could afford to hire, and many servants to be hired, so that the prodigal was forced to engage in the lowest service at the lowest wages; he became a swineherd for a less reward than would provide him with a meal of husks, such as the pigs fed upon.

How easily God can disappoint the sinner, and blast all his devices! Many think, "When this enjoyment is passed, I will betake myself to another," forgetting how God can in a moment take away every idol, shut up every way of escape, and dry up every stream of happiness.

The thoughtless companions of his mirth remembered not the prodigal in his distress. "No one gave unto him." Those who had gladly partaken of his riotous feasts, forsook him in his poverty and hunger. Accomplices in guilt are not comforters in sorrow. For what unfeeling creatures the prodigal had forsaken his loving father, and his happy home! O the folly and the madness that sinners show in preferring the society of the wicked to the favor of the ever-blessed God! Can the world console them in sickness? Will the world be faithful to them in old age? Can the world receive them into glory after death? Happy are they who have made this blessed choice, "I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness."


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« Reply #321 on: September 24, 2007, 09:15:27 AM »

July 18

Luke 15:17-19. The repentance of the prodigal.

God greatly blessed the prodigal's afflictions to his soul. While he was employed as a swineherd a great change took place in his mind—"He came to himself." This expression implies, that before he was not himself. A state of sin is a state of madness. When a person is converted he is in his right mind. How could any one indulge in sin, if he reflected on its dreadful consequences! "for the wages of sin is death!" But sinners are like the brutes that perish, and do not consider their latter end.

It is very interesting to hear the reflections of the prodigal when he was come to himself. He saw everything now in a new light. He understood the happiness of his father's house. Once he had abhorred its restraints and longed for liberty, but now he esteemed each servant happy who dwelt beneath that peaceful roof. Unconverted people think religion gloomy, and endeavor to escape from its influence; but when the Holy Spirit visits their hearts, they account the servants of God blessed, and long to be numbered among the saints.

The prodigal now felt convinced of his guilt. He not only lamented his miserable condition, but he traced it to his own sin; he blamed no one but himself. Thus the Spirit convinces of sin, and makes us feel that we have sinned against God, more than against any other being, because He is the greatest and best of beings, and our chief benefactor.

The prodigal felt confidence in his father's mercy. Though he felt unworthy to be called a son, yet he resolved to say "Father." Had he not felt this confidence, he might have been devoured by remorse, and have deemed it useless to return. Doubtless his memory furnished him with numerous instances of his father's love, of his readiness to forgive his early waywardness, and of his patient endurance of the provocations of his youth. He had enjoyed opportunities of knowing his father's character, and it now appeared to him in all its loveliness. Happy is it when the convinced sinner can hope in God's mercy. No child ever had such reason to believe that his father would receive him, as the chief of sinners has that God will in nowise cast him out; for God has so loved us, as to give his only Son a sacrifice for us; and He who spared not his own Son, will he not with him also freely give us all things?

The prodigal made a resolution to return, and openly to confess his sins, to entreat forgiveness, and to implore permission to become a servant, though not a son, in his father's house.

Have we ever made the resolution to return to God? Can we recall the time when we felt we had wandered from the best of fathers, and that we deserved to be rejected? Every true believer has repented of his sins, and has sought forgiveness with weeping and supplications. Nor does he ever cease to seek it while he lives upon earth. The sense of his own sinfulness increases, as he experiences more of his Father's goodness. Daily he says, "Forgive me my trespasses,"' and daily he feels that he is not worthy to be called a son.

 

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« Reply #322 on: September 24, 2007, 09:17:45 AM »

July 19

Luke 15:20-24. The reception of the prodigal son.

The prodigal had conceived a high idea of his father's compassion before he set out to return home; but his thoughts had not reached the heights of his father's mercy. He could not have anticipated such a reception, at once so affectionate and so honorable. Had he returned as the deliverer of his country from some powerful foe, he could not have been welcomed with more honor. Had he left his home to plead for his father's life, he could not, when he was come back, have been received with more tenderness.

What is the reason that the sinner is treated with so much honor and so much love, when he falls at the footstool of divine mercy? Is he not received in his Savior's name, with all the honor that Savior won by trampling upon Satan, and with all the love that Savior deserved for dying upon the cross?

Great must have been the humiliation of the prodigal, as he approached the parental roof. How it must have wounded the natural pride of his heart to return in tatters, with an emaciated countenance and a haggard eye! But when true penitence is felt, natural pride is in great measure subdued. Those who only feel a slight regret for past transgressions, are often prevented by pride from asking forgiveness. No doubt the prodigal had wished to return as soon as he became a swineherd; but it was not until "he came to himself," that his penitence was deep enough to enable him to face all the humiliation connected with the step. Then he felt he could bear the taunts of unfeeling spectators better than the reproaches of his own conscience; better than the remembrance of his despised home, and of his injured father. But he was spared the most painful part of the expected trial by the tender affection of that father, who "saw him when he was a great way off, and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck, and kissed him." Did the prodigal repress his humble confession because he saw he was already forgiven? No, he said all that he had purposed to say, excepting, "Make me as one of your hired servants." When he saw that he was received as a son, he could not ask to become a servant. The best robe was then put on him, a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; a feast was made, and rejoicing was heard on every side.

Could the prodigal doubt his father's full and free forgiveness? All his past transgressions seemed to be forgotten; his father's love was not abated in the least degree; a prospect of happiness was opened to his view beyond his highest expectations.

This is the way in which the Lord deals with the returning sinner. He clothes his guilty soul in the spotless robe of his Redeemer's righteousness, and satisfies his hungry soul with the heavenly food of his gracious promises. Why then do sinners refuse to return to God? They do not believe that he will receive them so affectionately, and render them so happy. The father of the prodigal is our God and our Savior. Those who have sought his mercy can witness how He received them, and how happy He has made them.

It is sad to think that any should remain miserable, because they will not arise and return to Him, who offers them full and free forgiveness. The way may appear long; but it would be shortened, for their Father would meet them while they were yet a "great way off," and conduct them himself to his own glorious abode.

 
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« Reply #323 on: September 24, 2007, 09:45:06 AM »

July 20

Luke 15:25 to end. The envy of the prodigal's brother.


Amid the burst of joy at the prodigal's return one complaining voice was heard; among the glad countenances one lowering brow was seen; and that voice and that brow were a brother's. But the father showed as much forbearance towards his envious eldest son, as he had manifested compassion towards his prodigal younger son. He went out, and entreated this unfeeling brother to unite in the festal scene. These entreaties drew forth the pride that reigned in his son's heart. Pride is the root of a whole host of sins, especially of envy, anger, and discontent—all these evil passions gave their coloring to the answers of the eldest son. What a description he gives of his blameless conduct! He reproaches his father with his services, as if he had laid his own parent under obligations—"Lo, these many years have I served you!" He declares those services were perfect, as well as persevering. "Neither transgressed I at any time your commandment."

While he thus boasts of his own goodness, he places his brother's conduct in the worst point of view. The father might have turned away in wrath from his ungenerous son, but he condescended to argue with the proud objector. In a few words he describes the rich privileges of his first-born. "Son, you are ever with me." Surely the continual presence of such a father was happiness in itself. But, knowing the covetous heart of his son, the father added, "All that I have is yours." There was no argument required to prove that a lost son should be received with joy. The father thought it sufficient to say, "It was meet that we should make merry and be glad."

Could the Pharisees avoid perceiving in the envious brother their own likeness? Now that the Savior was receiving penitent publicans, and that angels were rejoicing over them in heaven, the Pharisees were boasting of their own goodness, and reproaching the Lord with partiality. They imagined that they had served God all their lives, and had never transgressed his commandment. The Lord did not show them (as He might have done) how false was this notion—but He proved, that even if they were as good as they supposed, the spirit they evinced towards penitent sinners was ungrateful and ungenerous. Had the Pharisees really been holy men, they would have rejoiced with angels over pardoned penitents. True believers remember the season when they were received into their father's favor, and they rejoice with each wanderer who returns as they did. There is not a son in the house of our heavenly Father who has not had his festival; except the angels who have been ever with Him, and have never transgressed his commandments. Yet there are some of the children of God, who were sanctified at so early a period, that they cannot remember the first feelings of penitence; they have not experienced the bitterness of an unconverted state, and cannot tell by contrast how great is their present happiness. These have enjoyed the best portion, in having been ever with their Father. How many days of childhood have been gilded with more than childish joy through the early knowledge of their Father in heaven! How sweet the remembrance of a youth spent in his service, unpolluted by worldly vanities! Yet even they—even those sanctified in infancy and devoted to God unto old age, have wandered into some forbidden paths, and have committed innumerable transgressions. They have experienced the forgiving love of God, when returning from their backslidings. They can say with David, "He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake."



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« Reply #324 on: September 24, 2007, 10:25:09 AM »

July 21

Luke 16:1-8. The parable of the unjust steward.

This parable has perplexed many people. They have said, "What a dishonest man this steward was! Did his lord commend him for his wickedness?" No, not for his wickedness, but for his wisdom—for his worldly wisdom. His plan to secure himself from want was very cunning and ingenious. It is supposed that the oil and the wheat that the creditors owed were their rent. It was the office of the steward to make agreements with the tenants concerning the amount of produce that ought to be paid to their lord. This steward, before he was dismissed from his post, made new agreements with the tenants, and ingratiated himself by lowering the rents. When he was gone, the lord became acquainted with these proceedings, and expressed his wonder at the wicked policy of his unfaithful steward.

But some may still inquire, "Why did our Lord select a dishonest action as an instance of worldly wisdom? Does not the selection seem to countenance dishonesty?" But, if we consider, we shall perceive that the badness of the action renders it a suitable instance of the wisdom displayed by bad men. This was the point that the Lord wished to prove—bad men take more pains to accomplish their bad ends, than good men to accomplish their good ends.

Perhaps a blush arose in the face of many a Pharisee, as this instance of knavery was related. That very steward may have been present. Many of the hypocritical Pharisees had committed actions equally dishonest. Their own consciences must have convicted them. But it was chiefly for the instruction of the disciples that the parable was related. It was addressed to them, and this was the lesson taught—"The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light." By this sentence the Lord turns into a volume of rich instruction the actions of this wicked world among whom we live.

Wicked men are intent on accomplishing different wicked ends. One is bent upon accumulating immense riches. How does he set about his design? With the lukewarmness that Christians so often betray in pursuing their designs? Does he not rise early, and sit up late? Are not his thoughts always intent upon devising new schemes for amassing wealth? Is not the crowded city the place where he delights to be, whatever pleasures may allure, or weariness oppress? Were Christians to be as diligent in prayer, as this man in counting his gains, how rich would they grow in faith, and love, and every grace!

Another is bent upon destroying the reputation of his neighbors, in order that he alone may be praised and admired! How dexterously he performs his work! How cleverly he insinuates that some evil is practiced by his companion! Perhaps he says nothing directly against him, (as this might awaken suspicion,) but he contrives to place him in a disagreeable light. Do we thus watch opportunities to say a word in behalf of our Lord and Master, insinuating something in his praise, when we cannot speak more openly? When we reflect on the greatness of the end that Christians have in view, we feel that they ought to be most earnestly intent on gaining it. Could heaven be purchased, the world would be a bauble to offer for it—it has been bought with more precious blood. Shall we grieve our dying Lord by our indifference to a gift so dearly bought, and so infinitely glorious?


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« Reply #325 on: September 24, 2007, 10:40:38 AM »

July 22

Luke 16:9-13. Christ exhorts his disciples to be faithful in the use of riches.

The Lord Jesus had shown, by the history of the unjust steward, that the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. He next explained in what particular point they are wiser—in the use they make of riches. The steward made use of the property consigned to his care in gaining friends, who would receive him into their habitations when he lost his stewardship. Therefore Jesus said to his disciples, "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when you fail they may receive you into everlasting habitations." The name given to riches is very remarkable—"the mammon of unrighteousness." Money is often made an occasion of sin, and the love of money is the root of all evil. Yet even of this unrighteous mammon, a righteous use may be made. Our Lord's precept would be more clear, if rendered thus—"Make to yourselves friends WITH the mammon of unrighteousness." How can friends be made with this mammon? By spending it in the relief of the saints and in the service of God. The widows whom Dorcas clothed, the prophets whom Obadiah fed, the apostle whom Onesiphorus visited, and Phebe succored, with all those brethren and strangers whom Gaius brought forward on their missionary journeys, will be witnesses of their charity and piety before the great white throne.

It is true the disciples were poor; but the poor, by the gift of two mites, show more love to God than the rich by large contributions out of their abundance. The Lord knows that he who is faithful in the least would be faithful in much. That poor widow who cast her mites into the treasury will be intrusted with true riches in the world to come.

Riches are only lent to the possessor, not given. This is the meaning of the verse—"If you have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?" Every possession is now, as if it were another man's—it is only lent. Hereafter a possession will be bestowed upon the righteous, even an inheritance that fades not away. As riches are only lent, an account of the use to which they have been applied will be required. What account will those render who willfully devote any part of their property to the service of Mammon, the god of this world? Whatever is spent in the encouragement of sin is spent in the service of Mammon. There are some people who employ part of their money in doing good and part in promoting evil. They attempt to serve God and Mammon. They support Sunday-schools and Bible societies with part of their property, and with another part they encourage those worldly amusements, and that proud display, which are condemned in the word of God. But those who really love their crucified Savior cannot act thus. The apostle Paul declares, "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world."

 

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« Reply #326 on: September 28, 2007, 11:31:52 AM »

July 23

Luke 16:14-18. Christ rebukes the Pharisees who derided him.

The Pharisees hated reproof. When they found the Lord's discourses applied to their own case they were angry. Conscious that they were covetous, they could not bear to hear covetousness spoken against. It is natural to the human heart to shrink from the touch of truth. How often ministers find that their hearers have been offended by the most searching parts of their sermons! Let us inquire whether we hate to hear our faults reproved. No doubt it is painful to be told of our sins. But is it not better to be made acquainted with them now, than to wait until we stand before the face of God? The kindest friends we have are those who take us apart to say, "Are you acting right in this point, or in that particular?" The most faithful ministers are those who will not let sinners slumber on in their sins, until the fire of eternal wrath devour them.

But none are so angry at reproof as those who make a false profession of religion. The Pharisees were only anxious that men should think highly of their characters. As they knew that men could not see into their hearts, they did not care in what state they remained. If a monarch were going to pass through a town, the inhabitants would probably cleanse and adorn the outside of their houses—but as they would know he could not see through the walls, they would not think it necessary to make the inside beautiful. But if the monarch were to announce that he should enter the house of one of the citizens, then what care would be used to render it fit for his reception! The King of kings searches every heart. A fair outside is not sufficient—God knows our hearts. A heart, unwashed in the blood of Christ, and unrenewed by his Holy Spirit, is an abomination in his sight. It may be highly esteemed by men, and called a tender heart, a kind, warm, and good heart—but it is pronounced by God to be a deceitful and desperately wicked heart. With such a heart none can enter his kingdom. The Pharisees had unconverted hearts. They professed to love God—but in reality they hated Him. How did they show they hated Him? By hating his law. They did not keep his holy commandments. Christ reminded them of one great sin, which they frequently committed. They broke the seventh commandment by putting away their wives in order to marry others. This sin had been rebuked by the prophet Malachi four hundred years before. He had said, "The Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously; and yet she is your companion and the wife of your covenant." Yet these Jews in Malachi's time had made a great profession of religion. At the very time they were treating their wives with cruelty, they were offering sacrifices to God at his altar. But did he accept these sacrifices? No, he abhorred them. The injured wives had poured out their tears before the altar, where their treacherous husbands presented their offerings—God saw those tears with compassion, and rejected those offerings with indignation. Let us never imagine that God will accept any of our services, while we are ill-treating any of his creatures. If, when we go and kneel before God to say our prayers, any person is pouring out tears before his footstool on account of our ill-treatment, can we expect our prayers to be heard? God has declared in his word that He will hear the cry of the oppressed, and that He will punish the oppressors—"You shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry—and my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless."


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« Reply #327 on: September 28, 2007, 11:33:29 AM »

July 24

Mark 10:13-16. Christ blesses little children.

How many young and tender hearts have been encouraged to come to their Savior by the sweet declaration, "Let the little children to come unto me!" How many dying children have lisped these words in their last moments! When Jesus uttered them, he knew what comfort they would afford to the lambs of his flock for many ages to come.

It was, however, in displeasure that he gave the command, "Let the little children come unto me." It was not with the children that he was displeased, nor with their mothers, but with his own disciples. He was not often much displeased with them. There must have been some great offence to excite this great displeasure. It was a great offence to attempt to drive away these children from their Savior! How could the disciples take so much upon them, as to forbid the mothers to bring their babes! Pride lurked in their hearts, and suggested many harsh and ungracious measures. Before Jesus left this world he charged Peter to feed his lambs—those lambs whom He carries in his own bosom. Faithful ministers love little children, and are ready to instruct them.

The babes brought to Jesus were too young to receive instruction; therefore the Lord only took them in his arms and blessed them. He knew even then what should befall each—he knew which fair blossom would be nipped in the bud, and which would bloom in the church on earth. He knew which smiling infant would become a minister, and which would prove a martyr. May we not hope that none of the infants that Jesus blessed were lost forever? Was not His blessing the pledge of their salvation?

The parents did well in bringing them to Christ. Many parents had brought sick children to him to be healed—but these parents sought no temporal benefits—they desired that the Savior should put his hands upon their little ones, and pray. Surely Jesus must have been as much pleased with these parents, as he was displeased with his disciples. He still is pleased when mothers care more for the immortal souls of their children than for their perishing bodies. How grateful these little children ought to have been to their kind parents, when they were old enough to know what those parents had done for them in their infancy! Many are indebted to the secret prayers of a mother to her Savior for the richest blessings they enjoy! We never can repay our parents for the prayers they have offered up on our behalf. The kindest parents often make mistakes in their manner of bringing up their children—but no mistakes will prove fatal, if they are fervent in their prayers for them, and consistent in their example.

What reason did Jesus give for receiving these little ones so kindly? He did not say it was because he loved their parents, or because he knew the children would be holy when they grew up; but he said, "For of such is the kingdom of heaven." The disciples had only to observe the ways of the little creatures, then folded in their mothers' arms, in order to know what they themselves ought to be. Those babes cared not for strangers, but only for the hand that fed them, for the arm that upheld them, for the face that smiled on them. Such ought to be the devoted affection of all believers for their everlasting Friend. How interesting it is to observe a little child, while we think of the words, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven!" Does not this sentence give us ground to believe that there are many little children now in glory?

Why do babes ever taste death? This epitaph was once written upon an infant's tomb—"It died, for Adam sinned.
It lives, for Jesus died."

Every action of our Savior silently assures us that he loves children. He listens to their songs in the temple—he rebukes their enemies—he folds them in his arms—he lays his hands upon them and blesses them. Will he shut those out from his presence in glory whom he would not allow to be sent from his presence upon earth? If he prayed for them when he lived here below, does he refuse to intercede for them now he reigns on yonder throne above? Surely he would be much displeased with us, if we were to harbor any doubts of his tender love for the little creatures that his hands first formed, and that he has never ceased to defend and bless.

 

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« Reply #328 on: September 28, 2007, 11:56:06 AM »

July 25

Luke 16:19-24. The rich man's petition for his own relief.

In this parable, the curtain that conceals the eternal world is lifted up—and by whom? By Him who every moment beholds the sons of men sinking into hell, or soaring up to heaven. He described these solemn scenes that we might be filled with holy awe. They were ever before his eyes, and he wondered at the indifference of sinners to their approaching doom.

No doubt this rich man and this beggar were real people. He had no need to employ fiction, who knew all facts.

It may appear strange to short-sighted mortals that God should permit one of his own beloved to languish, covered with sores, before a lordly gate. But the eye of faith beholds the happy spirit of the beggar, conveyed by glorious angels along the path of life into the presence of God. Then the mystery is explained. The Holy Spirit had sanctified the sorrowful heart of Lazarus, and Jesus had pardoned all his sins. When we see a poor diseased object, let us remember Lazarus, and say, "This may be one of God's elect." But we know that there are many who suffer afflictions in vain; many who are not softened by poverty or sickness; many who curse God and die.

The rich man does not appear to have committed any flagrant crime; he seems to have been a respectable worldly man. His body was buried with pomp, but his soul was not conducted with honor through the regions of the air to eternal glory. "In hell he lifts up his eyes, being in torment!" What a change was this! instead of a bed of down—burning coals; instead of purple clothing—a flaming robe; instead of sumptuous food—the lack of all things, even of a drop of water. But what a glorious sight he beheld! heaven with its inhabitants. Do we envy him this privilege? How the sight must have added to his misery! We would like to behold the saints' abode, for we hope to reach it—but in hell, "Hope that comes to all, comes never." The flame must have seemed to burn with redoubled fury, when the lost spirit saw the stream which makes glad the city of our God. Among the guests at the supper of the Lamb, he saw Abraham and Lazarus. He had been brought up to revere Abraham as his great ancestor, and as the father of the faithful. Though he had never seen him before, yet he knew him. It is probable he had been accustomed to despise Lazarus as a loathsome object; now he saw this despised beggar seated next to the honorable patriarch. God had exalted Abraham when upon earth, and had abased Lazarus, but he had bestowed like precious faith upon them both. When we behold the company of the redeemed, we may expect to know them again, whether we were before acquainted with their persons, or only with their names. God grant that we may not behold them afar off, as the rich man did, but that we may be mingled in their society. We may expect to see among the eminent servants of God, among ministers, missionaries, and reformers, among prophets, apostles, and martyrs, others who have lived and died in lowliness and obscurity—blind beggars, hospital patients, and workhouse inhabitants. Some of these will doubtless occupy places next to such revered men as Luther or as Latimer—as Daniel, Job, or Noah.

The rich man must have been surprised to see the beggar in so honorable a place. Did he recognize none of his kindred, nor friends, nor servants, that he fixed all his hopes of receiving relief upon Lazarus? Where were his father and mother? Where were his friends and neighbors? Had none of them reached the place of rest? It is to be feared that there are ungodly families whose names are unknown among the blessed. They have encouraged each other in forgetfulness of God, and have sunk down together into the pit. Why did the rich man think that Lazarus would be ready to come to his aid? No doubt the crumbs from his table had often been given to the beggar who lay at his gate, and therefore he may have thought he had some claim upon his services now. But surely if this rich man had loved God, he would have bestowed more than crumbs upon the poor sufferer dying before his eyes. Now his condition was far worse than that of Lazarus had ever been. The least moisture upon his tongue was the only favor he asked, and it was denied him. The misery of hell is COMPLETE. Here in our present world, in our deepest sorrows there is some alleviation, some comforting circumstance, some ray of hope; but in hell there is none; all is darkness, desolation, destitution, and despair.

 

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« Reply #329 on: September 28, 2007, 12:28:03 PM »

July 26

Luke 16:25-28. The rich man's petition for his brethren.

If prayers were heard in hell, how many would be offered up! But the abode of despair is not the place for prayer. All the rich man's requests were refused. The first was a very small petition. It was not a petition for release. Lost spirits know that release is impossible. The gates have closed upon them forever. The Redeemer's blood cannot be sprinkled upon their conscience, the Holy Spirit cannot be shed abroad in their hearts; therefore salvation cannot be obtained.

But the rich man hoped that the slightest possible relief might be granted. He did not ask that Lazarus might bring him a large glass, nor even a drop of water—he did not ask that he might dip his hand or his finger in water—but he asked that he might dip the tip of his finger in water, and apply it to his burning tongue. Yet the request was refused.

Abraham reminded the tormented spirit that on earth he had received good things, and Lazarus evil things. By the manner in which Abraham reasoned, it is evident that the rich man had desired, when on earth, no better portion than he now received—and that Lazarus had been content with the bitter portion allotted to him. It was, therefore, just that each should now abide by his own choice. Lazarus must not feel even for a moment the scorching flames of hell, nor must the rich man taste one drop of the cooling streams of heaven.

God now gives us our choice. Do we prefer heaven, with any amount of grievous sufferings, to earth, with any amount of passing delights? Which would we rather encounter—the trials of the saints, or the temptations of the world?

We perceive that if there had been no impassable gulf between heaven and hell, yet that Lazarus would not have been permitted to soothe the sufferings of the lost. But there is such a gulf. It fills heaven with delight, and hell with despair. The inhabitants of each world know that there can be no change of state. Hell knows that no celestial comforter will ever enter her gates, and Heaven that no malicious enemy will ever break through hers.

But though the rich man found there was no path from heaven to hell, he knew there was a path from heaven to earth. He requested that Lazarus might be sent to warn his five brethren of the danger of their condition. It seems that he had left no children upon earth. Perhaps he had died in his youth. We cannot tell what his motives were for desiring that his brethren should not partake his misery. Can natural affection exist in hell? or was the rich man afraid lest the reproaches of brothers, whom he had corrupted by his example, should add to his own torment? Let us be reminded by his prayer of the privileges we now enjoy. Have we any unconverted relatives? We may pray for them, not to Abraham, but—to God. We will not pray that a departed spirit may be sent to warn them, but we will entreat that God's Holy Spirit may convince and convert them.

The saints can witness that God does hear their prayers, and has mercy on others for their sake. It makes a Christian's heart sad to think of those who have shared with him a mother's care, not sharing with him a Savior's glory. It would add to the joy of a believer, even in heaven, to see every one of his kindred sitting around their heavenly Father's table.

If pious brothers feel solicitude for their brothers' salvation, what must parents feel for the souls of their beloved children? They bear them incessantly on their hearts before God, and with tears implore the Lord to preserve them from sinking into the place of torment. They can hardly imagine that it would be possible that they themselves should be happy in heaven, if any one of their dear children were missing. Yet some who have brought down their parents' gray hairs with sorrow to the grave, have repented afterwards. Then they have lamented (O how bitterly!) that they did not gladden their parents while they were yet alive. It is their comfort to think that their parents will see them enter into glory. One of these penitents was heard to say, "How much surprised my father will be to see me enter heaven!"

 

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