THE LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE YOUNG
THE REV. RICHARD NEWTON, D.D.
ROYAL SCOTTISH ACADEMY
THE GALLERY OF THE LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST
I THE APOSTLES CHOSEN
II THE GREAT TEACHER
III CHRIST TEACHING BY PARABLES
IV CHRIST TEACHING BY MIRACLES
V CHRIST TEACHING LIBERALITY
VI CHRIST TEACHING HUMILITY
VII CHRIST AND THE LITTLE CHILDREN
VIII THE TRANSFIGURATION
IX THE LESSONS FROM OLIVET
X THE LORD'S SUPPER
MAP OF PALESTINE, IN COLORS
41. THE WOMAN OF CANAAN
42. SIMON PETER'S FAITH IN CHRIST
43. THE TRANSFIGURATION OF CHRIST
44. JESUS HEALETH A LUNATIC
45. LET HE WHO IS WITHOUT SIN AMONG YOU
46. ONE OF TEN LEPERS CURED IS GRATEFUL
47. JESUS, MARTHA, MARY, AND LAZARUS
48. JESUS BLESSETH LITTLE CHILDREN
49. THE RESURRECTION OF LAZARUS, FOUR DAYS DEAD
50. CONVERSION OF ZACCHAEUS, A PUBLICAN
51. JESUS RESTORETH SIGHT TO BARTIMAEUS
52. CHRIST'S TRIUMPHAL ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM
53. CHRIST AVOUCHETH HIS AUTHORITY
54. AT NIGHT, JESUS ABODE ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES
55. JESUS WASHETH HIS DISCIPLES' FEET
56. THE BETRAYAL FORETOLD AT THE SUPPER
57. IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE
58. THE ARREST OF JESUS
59. JESUS EXAMINED BY CAIAPHAS
60. JESUS IS THRICE DENIED BY PETER
THE APOSTLES CHOSEN
As soon as he returned victorious from the temptation in the wilderness, Jesus entered on the work of his public ministry. We find him, at once, preaching to the people, healing the sick, and doing many wonderful works. The commencement of his ministry is thus described by St. Matt. iv: 23-25. "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan." What a blessed beginning of the most blessed of all ministries this was! He came to bless our world. He did bless it, as no one else could have done. And here, we see, how he entered on his work.
And one of the first things he did, after thus beginning his ministry, was to gather his disciples round him. The first two that we find named among his disciples are John and Andrew. They had been disciples of John the Baptist. Their master pointed them to Jesus, and said—"Behold the Lamb of God." When they heard this they followed Jesus, and became his disciples. When Andrew met with his brother Simon Peter, he said to him "we have found the Messias—the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus." After this we are told that "Jesus findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me." He was an acquaintance of Andrew and Peter, and lived in the same town with them. He obeyed the call at once and became one of the disciples of Jesus.
Philip had a friend named Nathanael. The next time he met him, he said, "we have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." But Nazareth was a despised place, and had a bad reputation. Nathanael had a very poor opinion of the place, and he asked—"Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip saith unto him—"Come and see."
And this is what we should say to persons when we wish them to become Christians. There is so much that is lovely and excellent in Jesus that if people will only "come and see," if they will only prove for themselves what a glorious Saviour he is, they will find it impossible to help loving and serving him. Nathanael came to Jesus. And when he heard the wonderful words that Jesus spoke to him he was converted at once, and expressed his wonder by saying—"Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel." We can read all about this in John i: 43-51. Nathanael became a disciple of Jesus, and one of the twelve apostles, and is supposed to be the same one who bears the name of Bartholomew in the different lists of the apostles.
After this we read of Jesus calling Matthew the publican, who was a tax-gatherer. This is what is meant by his "sitting at the receipt of custom." "Follow me," were the words spoken to him. He obeyed at once; left all and followed Jesus. St. Luke and St. Mark mention this same call, but they give the name of Levi to the person thus called. This is not strange, for it was common among the Jews for persons to have two names. Sometimes they were called by one of these names and sometimes by the other.
Here we have the account of six persons, who became disciples of Jesus; and of the different ways in which they were led to follow him. No doubt many others were led to become his disciples from simply hearing him preach; and from listening to the gracious words that he spoke.
And very soon after he had gathered together a large company of disciples, he made choice of twelve, out of this number, who were to be his apostles. He wished these men to be with him all the time. They were to hear his teaching, and see his miracles, and so be prepared to take his place, and carry on his work when he should return to heaven.
It was necessary for these men to be chosen. When Washington was appointed to conduct our armies during the Revolution, he chose a number of generals to help him. And it is natural for us to think of Washington and his generals. But just as natural it is to think of—Jesus and his apostles.
And this is the subject we have now to consider—The Apostles Chosen.
And in considering this subject there are four things of which to speak.
_The first, is the condition and character of the men whom Jesus chose as his apostles.
The second, is the work these men were called to do.
The third, is the help that was given them in doing this work; and
The fourth, is the lesson taught us by this subject._ Or, to make the points of the subject as short as possible, we may state them thus:
_The men. The work. The help. The lesson.
We begin then with speaking of_—THE MEN—_or the condition and character of those whom Jesus chose to be his apostles or helpers_.
Now we might have thought that Jesus would have chosen his apostles, or helpers, from among the angels of heaven. They are so wise, and good, and strong, that we wonder why he did not choose them. But he did not. He chose men to be his apostles. And what kind of men did he choose? If we had been asked this question beforehand, we should have supposed that he would certainly have chosen the wisest and the most learned men, the richest and greatest men that could be found in the world. But it was not so. Instead of this he chose poor men, unlearned men, men that were not famous at all; and who had not been heard of before. Fishermen, and tax-gatherers, and men occupying very humble positions in life, were those whom Jesus chose to be his apostles.
And one reason, no doubt, why Jesus made choice of men of this character to be his apostles was that when their work was done, no one should be able to say that it was the learning, or wisdom, or riches, or power of men by whom that work was accomplished. The apostle Paul teaches us that this is the way in which God generally acts; and that he does it for the very reason just spoken of. He says, "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought the things that are; that no flesh should glory in his presence." I. Cor. i: 27-29. The meaning of this passage is that God loves to work by little things. This was the reason why Jesus chose poor, unlearned fishermen to be his apostles. And we see God working in the same way continually.
Look at yonder sun. God made it, and hung it up there in the sky that it might give light to our world. But the light which this sun gives comes to us in tiny little bits, smaller than the point of the finest needle that ever was made. They are so small that hundreds of them can rush right into our eyes, as they are doing all the time, and not hurt them the least. Here we see how God makes use of little things, and does a great work with them.
And then look at yonder ocean. The waves of that ocean are so powerful that they can break in pieces the strongest ships that men have ever built. And yet, when God wishes to keep that mighty ocean in its place, he makes use of little grains of sand for this purpose. Here again we see how God employs little things, and does a great work with them. And we find God working in this way continually. Let us look at one or two illustrations.
"What a Plant Did." A little plant was given to a sick girl. In trying to take care of it, the family made changes in their way of living, which added greatly to their comfort and happiness. First, they cleaned the window, that more light might come in to the leaves of the plant. Then, when not too cold, they opened the window, that fresh air might help the plant to grow; and this did the family good, as well as the plant. Next the clean window made the rest of the room look so untidy that they washed the floor, and cleaned the walls, and arranged the furniture more neatly. This led the father of the family to mend a broken chair or two, which kept him at home several evenings. After this, he took to staying at home with his family in the evenings, instead of spending his time at the tavern; and the money thus saved went to buy comforts for them all. And then, as their home grew more pleasant, the whole family loved it better than ever before, and they grew healthier and happier with their flowers. What a little thing that plant was, and yet it was God's apostle to that family! It did a great work for them in blessing them and making them happy. And that was work that an angel would have been glad to do.
"Brought In by a Smile." A London minister said to a friend one day; "Seven persons were received into my church last Sunday, and they were all brought in by a smile."
"Brought in by a smile! Pray what do you mean?"
"Let me explain. Several months ago, as I passed a certain house on my way to church, I saw, held in the arms of its nurse, a beautiful infant; and as it fixed its bright black eyes on me, I smiled, and the dear child returned the smile. The next Sabbath the babe was again before the window. Again I smiled, and the smile was returned, as before. The third Sabbath, as I passed by the window, I threw the little one a kiss. Instantly its hand was extended and a kiss thrown back to me. And so it came to pass that I learned to watch for the baby on my way to church; and as the weeks went by, I noticed that the nurse and the baby were not alone. Other members of the family pressed to the window to see the gentleman who always had a smile for the dear baby—the household pet.
"One Sunday morning, as I passed, two children, a boy and a girl, stood at the window beside the baby. That morning the father and mother had said to those children: 'Get ready for church, for we think that the gentleman who always smiles to the baby is a minister. When he passes you may follow him, and see where he preaches.'
"The children were quite willing to follow the suggestion of their parents, and after I had passed, the door opened, and the children stepped upon the pavement, and kept near me, till I entered my church, when they followed me, and seats were given them.
"When they returned home, they sought their parents and eagerly exclaimed: 'He is a minister, and we have found his church, and he preached a beautiful sermon this morning. You must go and hear him next Sunday.'
"It was not difficult to persuade the parents to go, and guided by their children they found their way to the church. They, too, were pleased, and other members of the family were induced to come to the house of God. God blessed what they heard to the good of their souls, and seven members of this family have been led to become Christians, and join the church, and, I repeat what I said before: 'they were all brought in by a smile.'"
What a little thing a smile is! And yet, here we see how God made use of so small a thing as this, to make seven persons Christians, and to save their souls forever! Of the God who can work in this way, it may well be said that he loves to work by little things. It is the way in which he is working continually.
How eagerly, then, we may try to learn and to practise what has been very sweetly expressed in
THE MITE SONG.
"Only a drop in the bucket, But every drop will tell, The bucket would soon be empty, Without the drops in the well.
"Only a poor little penny, It was all I had to give; But as pennies make the dollars, It may help some cause to live.
"A few little bits of ribbon, And some toys—they were not new, But they made the sick child happy, And that made me happy, too.
"Only some out-grown garments; They were all I had to spare; But they'll help to clothe the needy, And the poor are everywhere.
"A word now and then of comfort, That cost me nothing to say; But the poor old man died happy, And it helped him on the way.
"God loveth the cheerful giver, Though the gifts be poor and small; But what must he think of his children Who never give at all?"
God loves to work by little means. We see this when we think of the men whom Jesus chose to be his apostles. The first thing about this subject is—the men.
The second thing to speak of, in connection with this subject, is—THE WORK—they had to do.
What this work was we find fully stated in the fourteenth chapter of St. Matthew. In this chapter Jesus told the apostles all about the work they were to do for him, and how they were to do it. In the seventh and eighth verses of this chapter we have distinctly stated just what they were to do. "As ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand; Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils."
On this occasion Jesus sent his apostles to do the work committed to them, not among the Gentiles, but only among the Jews; or as he calls them—"the lost sheep of the house of Israel," v. 5,6. But, after his resurrection, and just before he went up to heaven, he enlarged their commission. His parting command to them then was—"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." St. Mark xvi: 15.
When Jesus, their Master, went to heaven they were to take up and carry on the great work that he had begun. Those twelve men were to begin the work of changing the religion of the world. They were to overturn the idols that had been worshiped for ages. They were to shut up the temples in which those idols had been worshiped. They were to "turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." Acts xxvi: 18. They were to go up and down the world, everywhere, telling the wondrous story of Jesus and his love. And in doing this work they were to be the means of saving the souls of all who believed their message, and in the end of winning the world back to Jesus, till, according to God's promise, he has "the heathen for his inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for his possession." Ps. ii: 8.
This was the grandest and most important work that men were ever called upon to do. The apostles spent their lives in doing this work; and then they left it for others to carry on. The work is not finished yet. And, if we learn to love and serve Jesus, we may help to carry it on. We may be apostles, too, though in a lower sense than that in which the first twelve were apostles. An apostle means—one sent. But Jesus sends into the vineyard to work for him all who become his loving children. And, in this sense it is true that all who love and serve Jesus are his apostles. He says to each of us—"Go, work to-day, in my vineyard." St. Matt, xxi: 28. And in another place he says—"Let him that heareth, say, Come." Rev. xxii: 17.
And when we are trying to tell people of Jesus and his love, and to bring them to him, then we are helping to carry on the same great work that Jesus gave his apostles to do. Let us look at some examples of persons who have been apostles for God and helped to do the work of apostles.
"Aunt Lucy." I heard the other day of a good old woman in the State of Michigan, known as Aunt Lucy. She is eighty-four years old, and lives all alone, supporting herself principally by carpet-weaving. All that she can save from her earnings, after paying for her necessary expenses, she spends in buying Bibles, which she distributes among the children and the poor of the neighborhood. Thirteen large family Bibles, and fifty small ones, have thus been given away—good, well-bound Bibles.
A neighbor, who has watched this good work very closely, says that two-thirds of the persons to whom Aunt Lucy has given Bibles have afterwards become Christians. In doing this work Aunt Lucy was an apostle.
"The Charcoal Carrier." One Sunday afternoon, in summer, a little girl named Mary, going home from a Sunday-school in the country, sat down to rest under the shade of a tree by the roadside. While sitting there she opened her Bible to read. As she sat reading, a man, well known in that neighborhood as Jacob, the charcoal carrier, came by with his donkey. Jacob used to work in the woods, making charcoal, which he carried away in sacks on his donkey's back, and sold. He was not a Christian man, and was accustomed to work with his donkey as hard on Sunday as on week-days.
When he came by where Mary was sitting, he stopped a moment, and said, in a good-natured way:
"What book is that you are reading, my little maid?"
"It is God's book—the Bible," said Mary.
"Let me hear you read a little in it, if you please," said he, stopping his donkey.
Mary began at the place where the book was open, and read:—"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work."
"There, that's enough," said Jacob, "and now tell me what it means."
"It means," said Mary, "that you mustn't carry charcoal, on Sunday, nor let your donkey carry it."
"Does it?" said Jacob, musing a little. "I tell you what then, I must think over what you have said."
And he did think over it. And the result of his thinking was, that instead of going with his donkey to the woods on the next Sunday, he went with his two little girls to the Sunday-school. And the end of it all was that Jacob, the charcoal carrier, became a Christian, and God's blessing rested on him and his family.
Little Mary was doing an apostle's work when she read and explained the Bible to Jacob and was the means of bringing him to Jesus.
"The Use of Fragments." In the Cathedral at Lincoln, England, there is a window of stained glass which was made by an apprentice out of little pieces of glass that had been thrown aside by his master as useless. It is said to be the most beautiful window in the Cathedral. And if, like this apprentice, we carefully gather up, and improve the little bits of time, of knowledge, and of opportunities that we have, we may do work for God more beautiful than that Cathedral window. We may do work like that which the apostles were sent to do. Here are some sweet lines, written by I know not whom, about that beautiful window, made out of the little pieces of glass:
"Great things are made of fragments small, Small things are germs of great; And, of earth's stately temples, all To fragments owe their weight.
"This window, peer of all the rest, Of fragments small is wrought; Of fragments that the artist deemed Unworthy of his thought.
"And thus may we, of little things, Kind words and gentle deeds, Add wealth or beauty to our lives, Which greater acts exceeds.
"Each victory o'er a sinful thought, Each action, true and pure, Is, 'mid our life's engraving, wrought In tints that shall endure."
The second thing about the apostles is, the work—they did.
The third thing, for us to notice about the apostles, is—THE HELP—they received.
In one place, we are told that Jesus "gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease." St. Matt. x: 1. In another place we are told, that for their comfort and encouragement in the great work they had to do, Jesus said to them, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." St. Matt. xxviii: 20. And if they only had Jesus with them, no matter what the work was they had to do, they would be sure of having all the help they might need. The apostle Paul understood this very well, for he said, "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." Phil. iv: 13.
And then, as if his own presence with them were not enough, Jesus promised that his apostles should have the help of the Holy Spirit in carrying on their work. Just before leaving them to go to heaven, he said to the disciples—"Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you." Acts i: 8. And what this power was we see in the case of the apostle Peter; for the first sermon he preached after the Holy Ghost came upon him, on the day of Pentecost, was the means of converting three thousand souls. Acts ii: 41.
And the same God who gave the apostles all the help they needed, has promised to do the same for you, and me, and for all who try to work for him. There are many promises of this kind in the Bible to which I might refer. But I will only mention one. This is so sweet and precious that it deserves to be written in letters of gold. There is no passage in the Bible that has given me so much comfort and encouragement in trying to work for God as this I refer here to Is. xli: 10. "Fear thou not; for I am with thee; be not dismayed; for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea—I WILL HELP THEE." This promise was not given for prophets and apostles only, but for all God's people to the end of time. You and I, if we are trying to serve God, may take it as ours. God meant it for us. And when we get this promised help from God, we can do any work he has for us to do, and be happy in doing it.
"For Thine is the Power." "I can't do it—it's quite impossible. I've tried five times, and can't get it right"—and Ben Hartley pushed his book and slate away in despair. Ben was a good scholar. He was at the head of his class, and was very anxious to stay there. But the sums he had now to do were very hard. He could not do them, and was afraid of losing his place in the class. Most of the boys had some one at home to help them; but Ben had no one. His father was dead, and his mother, though a good Christian woman, had not been to school much when a girl, and she could not help Ben.
Mrs. Hartley felt sorry for her son's perplexity, and quietly said, "Then, Ben, you don't believe in the Lord's prayer?"
"The Lord's prayer, mother! Why, there's nothing there to help a fellow do his sums."
"O, yes; there is. There is help for every trouble in life in the Lord's prayer, if we only know how to use it. I was trying a long time before I found out what the last part of this prayer really means. I'm no minister, or scholar, Ben, but I'll try and show you. You know that in this prayer we ask God for our daily bread; we ask him to keep us from evil; and to forgive us our sins; and then we say: 'for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.' It's God's power that we rely on—not our own; and it often helps me, Ben, when I have something hard to do. I say, 'For thine is the power—this is my duty, heavenly Father; but I can't do it myself; give me thy power to help me,' and he does it, Ben, he does it."
Ben sat silent. It seemed almost too familiar a prayer. And yet he remembered when he had to stay home from school because he had no clothes fit to go in, how he prayed to God about it, and the minister's wife brought him a suit the very next day. "But a boy's sums, mother! it seems like such a little thing to ask God about."
"Those sums are not a little thing to you, Ben. Your success at school depends on your knowing how to do them. That, is as much to you, as many a greater thing to some one else. Now I care a great deal about that, because I love you. And I know your Father in heaven loves you more than I do. I would gladly help you, if I could; but he can help you. His 'is the power;' ask him to help you."
After doing an errand for his mother, Ben picked up his book and slate and went up to his little room. Kneeling down by the bed he repeated the Lord's prayer. When he came to—"thine is the kingdom," he stopped a moment, and then said, with all his heart—"'And thine is the power,' heavenly Father. I want power to know how to do these sums. There's no one else to help me. Lord, please give me power, for Jesus' sake, Amen."
Ben waited a moment, and then, still on his knees, he took his slate and tried again. Do you ask me if he succeeded? Remember what Saint James says, "If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not: and it shall be given him." Jas. i: 5. That is God's promise, and heaven and earth must pass away before one of his promises shall fail. Ben had prayed to God to help him, and God answered his prayer. He tried once more to work out those sums. After thinking over them a little while, he saw the mistake he had made in neglecting one of the rules for working the sums. He corrected this mistake, and then he found they all worked out beautifully. The next day he was head of the class; for he was the only boy who could say that he had done the sum himself, without getting any one at home to help him.
"And yet I was helped, mother," said Ben, "for I am sure my Father in heaven helped me." But that was not what the teacher meant. After this, Ben never forgot the last part of the Lord's prayer. When he needed help he knew where the power was that could help him.
Here was where the apostles got the help they needed in doing the hard work they had to do. And how much help we might get in doing our work if we only make a right use of this "power which belongeth unto God;" and which he is always ready to use in helping us.
The help they received, is the third thing to remember when we think about the apostles and their work.
The last thing to bear in mind when we think of Jesus choosing his twelve apostles, is—THE LESSON—it teaches us.
There are many lessons we might learn from this subject; but there is one so much more important than all the rest that we may very well let them go, and think only of this one. When St. Luke tells us about Jesus choosing the twelve apostles, he mentions one very important thing, of which St. Matthew, in his account of it says nothing at all. And it is this thing from which we draw our lesson. In the twelfth verse of the sixth chapter of his gospel, St. Luke says—"And it came to pass in those days, that he (Jesus) went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God." And after this, the first thing he did, in the morning, was to call his disciples to him, and out of them to choose the twelve, who were to be his apostles. And the lesson we learn from this part of the subject is:
"The Lesson of Prayer." Jesus spent the whole night in prayer to God, before he chose his apostles. How strange this seems to us! And yet it is easy enough to see at least two reasons why he did this. One was because he loved to pray. We know how pleasant it is for us to meet, and talk with a person whom we love very much. But prayer is—talking with God—telling him what we want, and asking his help. But Jesus loved his Father in heaven, with a love deeper and stronger than we can understand. This must have made it the most delightful of all things for him to be engaged in prayer, or in talking with his Father in heaven. And, if we really love Jesus, prayer will not be a hard duty to us, but a sweet privilege. We shall love to pray, because, in prayer we are talking to that blessed Saviour, "whom, not having seen, we love." And this was one reason why Jesus spent the whole night in prayer, before choosing his twelve apostles.
But there was another reason why Jesus spent so much time in prayer before performing this important work, and that was to set us an example. It was to teach us the very lesson of which we are now speaking—the lesson of prayer. Remember how much power and wisdom Jesus had in himself; and what mighty things he was able to do. And yet, if He felt that it was right to pray before engaging in any important work, how much more necessary it is for us to do so!
Let us learn this lesson well. Let it be the rule and habit of our lives to connect prayer with everything we do. This will make us happy in our own souls, and useful to those about us.
How full the Bible is of the wonders that have been wrought by prayer! Just think for a moment of some of them.
Abraham prays, and Lot is delivered from the fiery flood that overwhelmed Sodom and Gomorrah. Gen. xix: 29. Jacob prays, and he wrestles with the angel, and obtains the blessing; his brother Esau's mind is wonderfully turned away from the wrath he had cherished for twenty years. Moses prays and Amalek is discomfited. Joshua prays and Achan is discovered. Hannah prays and Samuel is born. David prays and Ahithophel hangs himself. Elijah prays and a famine of three years comes upon Israel. He prays again, and the rain descends, and the famine ends. Elisha prays, and Jordan is divided. He prays again, and the dead child's soul is brought back from the invisible world. Isaiah and Hezekiah pray, and a hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrian soldiers are slain in one night by the unseen sword of the angel. These are Bible illustrations of the help God gives to his people in answer to prayer. And the Bible rule for prayer, as given by our Saviour, is, "that men ought always to pray," Luke xviii: 1. St. Paul's way of stating it is—"Praying always, with all prayer," Ephes. vi: 18. In another place he says—"Pray without ceasing," I. Thess. v: 17. And even the heathen teach the same rule about prayer. Among the rules of Nineveh, an inscription on a tablet has been found, which, on being translated, proved to contain directions about prayer. It may be entitled:
"An Assyrian Call to Prayer." These are the words of the call:
"Pray thou! pray thou! Before the couch, pray! Before the throne, pray! Before the canopy, pray! Before the building of the lofty head, pray! Before the rising of the dawn, pray! Before the fire, pray! By the tablets and papyri, pray! By the side of the river, pray! By the side of a ship, or riding in a ship, or leaving the ship, pray! At the rising of the sun, or the setting of the sun, pray! On coming out of the city, on entering the city, pray! On coming out of the great gate, on entering the great gate, pray! On coming out of the house, pray! on entering the house, pray! In the place of judgment, pray! In the temple, pray!"
This is like the Bible rule of—"praying always."
"Praying for a Dinner." "Grandma, aren't we going to church this morning?" asked a little girl.
"My child, we have had no breakfast, and have no dinner to eat when we come back," said her grandma.
"But the Lord Jesus can give it to us if we ask him," said the little girl. "Let's ask him." So they kneeled down, and asked that God, "who feedeth the young ravens when they cry," to remember them, and help them.
Then they went to church. They found it very much crowded. An old gentleman took the little girl upon his knee. He was pleased with her quiet behaviour. On parting with her at the close of the service, he slipped a half crown into her hand. "See, Grandma," she said, as soon as they were out of church, "Jesus has sent us our dinner."
But when we ask God to help us, we must always try to help ourselves.
"Working as well as Praying." Two little girls went to the same school; one of them, named Mary, always said her lessons well, the other, named Jane, always failed. One day Jane said, "Mary, how does it happen that you always say your lessons so well?" Mary said she prayed over her lessons, and that was the secret of her success.
Jane concluded to try praying. But the next day she failed worse than ever. In tears, she reproached Mary for deceiving her. "But, did you study hard, as well as pray over your lesson?" asked Mary.
"No; I thought if I only prayed, that was all I had to do," replied Jane. "Not at all. God only helps those who try to help themselves. You must study hard as well as pray, if you wish to get your lessons well," was Mary's wise answer. The next day Jane studied, as well as prayed, and she had her lesson perfectly.
The greatest work we can ever do, is to bring a soul to Jesus, or to convert a sinner from the error of his way. Here is an illustration of the way in which this may be done by prayer and effort combined:
"The Coachman and His Prayer." "I was riding once, on the top of a stage-coach," said a Christian gentleman, "when the driver by my side began to swear in a dreadful manner. I lifted up my heart for God's blessing on what I said; and presently, in a quiet way, I asked him this question: 'Driver, do you ever pray?' He seemed displeased at first; but after awhile he replied, 'I sometimes go to church on Sunday; and then I suppose I pray, don't I?' 'I am afraid you never pray at all; for no man can swear as you do, and yet be in the habit of praying to God.'
"As we rode along he seemed thoughtful. 'Coachman, I wish you would pray now,' I said. '"Why, what a time to pray, Sir, when a man is driving a coach!"' 'Yet, my friend, God will hear you,' '"What shall I pray?"' he asked, in a low voice. 'Pray these words: '"O Lord, grant me thy Holy Spirit, for Christ's sake. Amen."' He hesitated, but in a moment he repeated them; and then, at my request, he said them over a second, and a third time. The end of the journey was reached, and I left him.
"Some months passed away, and we met once more. 'Ah, Sir,' said he, with a smile, 'the prayer you taught me on that coach-box was answered. I saw myself a lost, and ruined sinner; but now, I humbly hope, that through the blood which cleanseth from all sin, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I am a converted man.'"
And so, when we think of the twelve apostles, appointed by Jesus to preach his gospel, these are the four things for us to remember in connection with them, viz.:—the men whom he chose; the work they had to do; the help given them in doing that work; and the lesson we are taught by this subject—the lesson of prayer.
Whatever we have to do, let us do it with all our hearts, and do it as for God, and then we shall be his apostles—his sent ones. Let me put the application of this subject in the form of some earnest, practical lines that I lately met with. The lines only speak of boys, but they apply just as well to girls. They are headed:
DRIVE THE NAIL.
"Drive the nail aright, boys, Hit it on the head, Strike with all your might, boys, While the iron's red.
"Lessons you've to learn, boys, Study with a will; They who reach the top, boys, First must climb the hill.
"Standing at the foot, boys, Gazing at the sky, How can you get up, boys, If you never try?
"Though you stumble oft, boys, Never be downcast; Try and try again, boys, You'll succeed at last.
"Ever persevere, boys, Tho' your task be hard; Toil and happy cheer, boys, Bring their own reward.
"Never give it up, boys, Always say you'll try; Joy will fill your cup, boys, Flowing by and by."
THE GREAT TEACHER
Teaching was the great business of the life of Christ during the days of his public ministry. He was sent to teach and to preach. The speaker in the book of Job was thinking of this Great Teacher when he asked—"Who teacheth like him?" Job xxxvi: 22. And it was he who was in the Psalmist's mind when he spoke of the "good, and upright Lord" who would teach sinners, if they were meek, how to walk in his ways. Ps. xxv: 8-9. And he is the Redeemer, of whom the prophet Isaiah was telling when he said—He would "teach us to profit, and would lead us by the way that we should go." And thus we know how true was what Nicodemus said of him, that "he was a teacher sent from God." John iii: 2. Thus what was said of Jesus, before he came into our world, would naturally lead us to expect to find him occupied in teaching. And so he was occupied, all through the days of his public ministry. St. Matthew tells us that—"Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues." Ch. iv: 23. Further on in his gospel he tells us again that "Jesus went about all the cities, and villages, teaching in their synagogues." Ch. ix: 35. When on his trial before Pilate, his enemies brought it as a charge against him that he had been—"teaching throughout all Jewry." Luke xxiii: 5. We read in one place that—"the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching." Matt. xxi: 23. Jesus himself gave this account of his life work to his enemies—"I sat daily with you teaching in the temple." Matt. xxvi: 55. And so we come now to look at the life of Christ from this point of view—as a Teacher. There never was such a Teacher. We do not wonder at the effect of his teaching of which we read in St. John vii: 46, when the chief priests sent some of their officers to take him prisoner, and bring him unto them; the officers went, and joined the crowd that was listening to his preaching. His words had such a strange effect on them that they could not think of touching him. So they went back to their masters without doing what they had been sent to do. "And when the chief priests and Pharisees said unto them—Why have ye not brought him? The officers answered, Never man spake like this man." Jesus was indeed—The Great Teacher. In this light we are now to look at him. And as we do this we shall find that there were five great things about his teaching which made him different from any other teacher the world has ever known.
In the first place Jesus may well be called the Great Teacher, because of the—GREAT BLESSINGS—of which he came to tell.
We find some of these spoken of at the opening of his first great sermon to his disciples, called "The Sermon on the Mount." This is the most wonderful sermon that ever was preached. Jesus began it by telling about some of the great blessings he had brought down from heaven for poor sinful creatures such as we are. The sermon begins in the fifth chapter of St. Matthew, and the first twelve verses of the chapter are occupied in speaking of these blessings. As soon as he opened his mouth and began to speak a stream of blessings flowed out.
It was a beautiful thought, on this subject, which a boy in Sunday-school once had. The teacher had been talking to his class about the beginning of this sermon on the mount. He had spoken of the sweetness of the words of Jesus, when "He opened his mouth and taught" his disciples. "How pleasant it must have been, my dear boys," said he, "to have seen the blessed Saviour, and to have heard him speak!"
A serious-minded little fellow in the class said, "Teacher, don't you think that when Jesus opened his mouth, and began to speak to his disciples, it must have been like taking the stopper out of a scent bottle?" I cannot tell whether this boy had ever read the words of Solomon or not; but he had just the same idea that was in his mind when he said of this "Great Teacher," "thy name is as ointment poured forth." Cant, i: 3. We perceive the fragrance of this ointment as soon as Jesus opens his mouth and begins to speak. If we had been listening to Jesus when he began this sermon, saying:—" Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are the meek; blessed are the pure in heart; blessed are the peace-makers"—and so on till he had spoken of nine different kinds of blessing, we might have thought that he had nothing but blessings of which to tell. It would have seemed as if his mind, and heart, and lips, and hands were all so filled with blessings that he could do nothing else till he had told about these. And the blessings spoken of here are not all the blessings that Jesus brought. They are only specimens of them. The blessings he has obtained for us are innumerable. David says of them, "If I would declare and speak of them they are more than can be numbered." Ps. xl: 5. And these blessings are not only very numerous, but very great. Look at one or two of these blessings that Jesus, the Great Teacher, brings to us. He says, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." Jesus came to bring comfort to the mourners. Hundreds of years before Christ came the prophet Isaiah had said of him that he would come to "comfort all that mourn." Is. lxi: 2. And to show how complete this blessing would be which he was to bring, Jesus said himself—"As one whom his mother comforteth —so will I comfort you." Is. lxvi: 13. A young girl was dying. A friend who came in to see her said:
"I trust you have a good hope."
"No," she answered, distinctly; "I am not hoping—I am certain. My salvation was finished on the cross. My soul is saved. Heaven is mine. I am going to Jesus."
What a great blessing it is to have comfort like that!
When Jesus was speaking to the woman of Samaria, as he sat by Jacob's well, he compared the blessing of his grace to the water of that well. Pointing to the well at his side, he said: "Whosoever drinketh of this water will thirst again. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him, a well of water, springing up unto everlasting life." John iv: 13, 14. This is one of the most beautiful illustrations of the blessing Jesus gives that ever was used. It is a great blessing to have a well of clear, cold water in our garden, or near our door. But, only think of having a well of water in our hearts. Then, wherever we go, we carry that well with us. We never have to go away from it. No one can separate between us and the water of this well. Other wells dry up and fail. But this is a well that never dries up, and never fails. This well is deep, and its water is all the time "springing up unto everlasting life." How happy they are in whose breasts Jesus opens this well of water!
Coleridge, the English poet, in writing to a young friend, just before his death, said:
"Health is a great blessing; wealth, gained by honest industry, is a great blessing; it is a great blessing to have kind, faithful, loving friends and relatives, but, the greatest, and best of all blessings is to be a Christian."
One of the most able and learned lawyers that England ever had was John Selden. He was so famous for his learning and knowledge that he is always spoken of as "the learned Selden." On his deathbed he said—"I have taken much pains to know everything that was worth knowing among men; but with all my reading and all my knowledge, nothing now remains with me to comfort me at the close of life but these precious words of St. Paul: 'This a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners;' to this I cling. In this I rest. This gives me peace, and comfort, and enables me to die happy."
William Wilberforce was another of the great and good men who have been a blessing and an honor to England. When he was on his deathbed, he said to a dear friend:
"Come, let us talk of heaven. Do not weep for me. I am very happy. But I never knew what happiness was till I found Christ as my Saviour. Read the Bible. Let no other book take its place. Through all my trials and perplexities, it has been my comfort. And now it comforts me, and makes me happy."
Here we see "this well of water springing up unto everlasting life." And Jesus, who came to tell us of this water, and to open up this well in our breasts, may well be called, "the Great Teacher," because of the great blessings—of which he tells.
In the second place Jesus may be called "the Great Teacher" because of the—GREAT SIMPLICITY—of his teachings.
I do not mean to say that we can understand every thing that Jesus taught. This is not so. He had some things to speak about that are not simple. He said to his disciples, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." John xvi: 12. This means that there are some things about God, and heaven, of which he wished to tell them, but they were too hard for them to understand, although they were full-grown men. And so he did not tell them of these things. But even among the things that Jesus did tell about, there are some which the wisest and most learned men in the world have never been able to understand or explain. Some one has compared the Bible to a river, in which there are some places deep enough for an elephant or a giant to swim in; and other places where the water is shallow enough for a child to wade in. And it is just so with the teachings of Jesus. Some of the most important lessons he taught are so plain and simple that very young people can understand them.
We have a good illustration of this in that sweet invitation which Jesus gave when he said,—"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matt. xi: 28. Very young people know what it is to feel tired and weary from walking, or working too much, or from carrying a heavy burden. And, when they are too tired to do anything else, they know what it is to go to their dear mother and throw themselves into her arms, and find rest there. And, in just the same way, Jesus invites us to come to him when we are tired, or troubled, that our souls may find rest in him. We come to Jesus, when we pray to him; when we tell him all about our troubles; when we ask him to help us; and when we trust in his promises.
"Was there ever gentlest shepherd Half so gentle, half so sweet, As the Saviour, who would have us Come and gather round his feet?
"There's a wideness in God's mercy, Like the wideness of the sea; There's a kindness in his justice Which is more than liberty.
"There is no place where earth's sorrows Are more felt than up in heaven; There is no place where earth's failings Have such kindly judgments given.
"There is plentiful redemption In the blood that has been shed; There is joy for all the members In the sorrows of the head.
"If our love were but more simple, We should take him at his word; And our lives would all be sunshine, In the sweetness of our Lord."
The prophet Isaiah foretold that when Jesus came, he would teach his doctrines to children just weaned. Chap. xxviii: 9. This shows us that his teaching was to be marked by great plainness and simplicity. And this was just the way in which he did teach when he uttered those loving words:—"Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God." Mark x: 14. None of the other famous teachers known to the world ever took such interest in children as Jesus did. And none of them ever taught with such great simplicity. What multitudes of young people have been led to love and serve Jesus by thinking of the sweet words he spoke about children!
"The Child's Gospel." A little girl sat still in church listening to the minister. She could not understand what he was saying till he quoted these words of Jesus about the children. But she understood them. She felt that they were words spoken for her. They made her feel very happy. And when she went home she threw her arms around her mother's neck, who had been kept at home by sickness, and said, "O, mother, I have heard the child's gospel to-day."
"It's For Me." Little Carrie was a heathen child, about ten years old. After she had been going to the Mission School for some time, her teacher noticed, one day, that she looked sad.
"Carrie, my dear," she said, "why do you look so sad to-day?"
"Because I am thinking."
"And what are you thinking about?"
"O, teacher, I don't know whether Jesus loves me, or not."
"Carrie, what did Jesus say about little children coming to him when he was on earth?"
In a moment the sweet words she had learned in the school were on her lips—"Suffer the little children to come unto me, &c."
"Well, Carrie, for whom did Jesus speak these words?" At once she clapped her hands and exclaimed: "It's not for you, teacher, is it? for you are not a child. No: it's for me! it's for me!"
And so this dear child was drawn to Jesus by the power of his love. And thus, through all the hundreds of years that have passed away since "Jesus was here among men," these same simple words have been drawing the little ones to him.
And so, because of the great simplicity which marked his teaching, Jesus must truly be called—the Great Teacher.
But in the third place there was—GREAT TENDERNESS—in Jesus, and this was another thing that helped to make him the Great Teacher.
It was this great tenderness that led him, when he came to be our Teacher and Saviour to take our nature upon him and so become like us. He might have come into our world in the form of a mighty angel, with his face shining like the sun, as he appeared when the disciples saw him on the Mount of Transfiguration. But then we should have been afraid of him. He would not have known how we feel, and could not have felt for us. But instead of this, his tenderness led him to take our nature upon him, that he might be able to put himself in our place, and so to understand just how we feel, and what we need to help and comfort us. This is what the apostle means in Heb. ii: 14, when he says—"Forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same." He did this on purpose that he might know, by his own experience, how we are tried and tempted; and so be able to sympathize with us and help us in all our trials.
Here is a little story, very simple, and homely; but yet, one that illustrates very well the point of which we are speaking. It is a story about:
"A Lost Horse Found." A valuable horse was lost, belonging to a farmer in New England. A number of his neighbors turned out to try and find the horse. They searched all through the woods and fields of the surrounding country, but in vain. None of them could find the horse. At last a poor, weak-minded fellow, who was known in that neighborhood as "simple Sam," started to hunt the horse. After awhile he came back, bringing the stray horse with him. The owner of the horse was delighted to see him. He stroked and patted him, and then, turning to the simple-minded man who had found him, he said:
"Well, Sam, how came you to find the horse, when no one else could do it?"
"Wal, you see," said Sam, "I just 'quired whar the horse was seen last; and then I went thar, and sat on a rock; and just axed mysel', if I was a horse, whar would I go, and what would I do? And then I went, and found him." Now, when Sam, in the simplicity of his feeble mind, tried to put himself, as far as he could, in the horse's place, this helped him to find the lost horse, and bring him back to his owner again. And so, to pass from a very little thing to a very great one, when Jesus came down from heaven to seek and to save sinners that were lost, this is just the way in which he acted. He put himself in our place as sinners. As the apostle Paul says: "he who knew no sin, was made sin for us," that he might save us from the dreadful consequences of our sins.
And we see the tenderness of Jesus, not only in taking our nature upon him and becoming man, but in what he did when he lived in this world as a man. "He went about doing good." It was his great tenderness that led him to do this. Suppose that you and I could have walked about with Jesus when he was on earth as the apostles did. Just think for a moment what we should have seen. We should have seen him meeting with blind men and opening their eyes that they might see. We should have seen him meeting with deaf men, and unstopping their ears that they might hear. We should have seen him meeting sick people who were taken with divers diseases and torments and healing them. We should have seen him raising the dead; and casting out devils; and speaking words of comfort and encouragement to those who were sad and sorrowful. If we could have looked into his blessed face, we should have seen tenderness there, beaming from his eyes and speaking from every line of his countenance. If we could have listened to his teaching we should have found tenderness running through all that he said. Just take one of his many parables as a sample of his way of teaching—the parable of the lost sheep—and see how full of tenderness it is. The sweet lines of the hymn, about the shepherd seeking his lost sheep, that most of us love to sing, bring out the tenderness of Jesus here very touchingly.
"There were ninety and nine that safely lay In the shelter of the fold, But one was out on the hills away, Far off from the gates of gold— Away on the mountains, wild and bare, Away from the tender shepherd's care.
"'Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine; Are they not enough for Thee?' But the Shepherd made answer: 'One of mine Has wandered away from me; And, although the road be rough and steep, I go to the desert to find my sheep.'
"But none of the ransomed ever knew How deep were the waters crossed; Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through, Ere he found his sheep that was lost. Out in the desert he heard its cry— Sick and helpless, and ready to die.
"'Lord, whence are those blood-drops all the way That mark out the mountain's track?' They were shed for one who had gone astray, Ere the shepherd could bring him back. 'Lord, why are Thy hands so rent and torn?' They are pierced, to-night, by many a thorn.
"But all through the mountains, thunder-riven, And up from the rocky steep, There rose a cry to the gates of heaven, 'Rejoice! I have found my sheep!' And the angels echoed around the throne, 'Rejoice, for the Lord brings back his own.'"
And all that we know of Jesus as "the good Shepherd," demonstrates his great tenderness for his sheep.
But perhaps there was no act in all the life of our blessed Redeemer that showed his tenderness more than taking the little children in his arms, and putting his hands upon them, and blessing them.
To think of the Son of God, who made this world, and all worlds, and whom all the angels of heaven worship, showing so much interest in the little ones; this proves how full of tenderness his heart was.
"I Like Your Jesus." An English lady who had spent six months in Syria, writes: "Going through the places where the Mohammedans live, you continually hear the girls singing our beautiful hymns in Arabic. The attractive power of Christ's love is felt even by the little ones, as we learned from a dear Moslem child, who, when she repeated the text, 'Suffer the little children,' said, 'I like your Jesus, because he loved little children. Our Mohammed did not love little children.'"
And if we all try to imitate the tenderness of Jesus, then, though we may have no money to give, and no great thing to do, yet by being tender, and gentle, and loving, as Jesus was, we shall be able to do good wherever we are.
"Doing Good by Sympathy." A Christian mother used to ask her children every night if they had done any good during the day. One night in answer to this question, her little daughter said: "At school this morning I found little Annie G——, who had been absent for some time, crying very hard. I asked her what was the matter? Then she cried more, so that I could not help putting my head on her neck, and crying with her. Her sobs grew less, and presently she told of her little baby brother, whom she loved so much; how sick he had been; and how much pain he had suffered, till he died and was buried. Then she hid her face in her book, and cried, as if her heart would break. I could not help putting my face on the other page of the book, and crying, too, as hard as she did. After awhile she kissed me, and told me I had done her good. But, mother, I don't know how I did her good; for I only cried with her!"
Now this little girl was showing the tenderness of Jesus, the Great Teacher. Nothing in the world could have done that poor sorrowing child so much good as to have some one cry with her. Sometimes tears of tenderness are worth more than diamonds. And this is why the Bible tells us to "weep with them that weep." Rom. xii: 15. Jesus did this in the tenderness of his loving heart. And this was one of the things that made him the Great Teacher.
But then there was—GREAT KNOWLEDGE—in Jesus; and this was another thing that made him great as a teacher.
If we wish to be good teachers, we must study, and try to understand the things we expect to teach. If a young man wishes to be a minister, he must go through college; and then spend three years in the Divinity School, so that he may understand the great truths of the Bible, which he is to teach the people who hear him. But Jesus never went to college, or to a divinity school. And yet he had greater knowledge about all the things of which he spoke than any other teacher ever had. We are told in the book of Job that "He is perfect in knowledge." Job xxxvi: 5. And the apostle Paul tells us that "in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Col. ii: 3. This is more than can be said of any man, or any angel. If we could take all the knowledge of all the best teachers who ever lived, and give it to one person, it would be as nothing compared to the knowledge which Jesus, "the Great Teacher" had. He knew all about heaven; for that had always been his home before he came into our world. He knew all about God; for, he was "in the bosom of the Father," John i: 18; and, as he tells us himself, had shared his glory with him, "before the world was." John xvii: 5. He knew all about the world we live in, for he made it. John i: 10. He knew all about all other worlds, for he made them, too. John i: 3; Heb. i: 2. He knew all about his disciples and every body else in the world, for he made them all. He saw all they did; he heard all they said; he knew all they thought, or felt. Wise and learned men have been studying, and finding out things for hundreds of years, about geography and natural history—and astronomy;—about light, and heat, and electricity—and steam—and the telegraph, and many other things. Jesus knew all about these things when he was on earth. He could have told about them, if he had seen fit to do so. But he only told us what it is best for us to know, in order that we might be saved; and kept back all the rest. The things that Jesus did teach us when he was here on earth were wonderful; but it is hardly less wonderful to think of the things that he might have taught us, and yet did not. When we think of the great knowledge of Jesus, as a Teacher, we are not surprised that some of those who heard him "wondered at the gracious words" he spake; or that others asked the question: "Whence hath this man this knowledge, having never learned?"
Some one has written these sweet lines about Christ as—The Great Teacher:
"From everything our Saviour saw, Lessons of wisdom he could draw; The clouds, the colors in the sky; The gentle breeze that whispers by; The fields all white with waving corn; The lilies that the vale adorn; The reed that trembles in the wind; The tree, where none its fruit could find; The sliding sand, the flinty rock, That bears unmoved the tempest's shock; The thorns that on the earth abound; The tender grass that clothes the ground; The little birds that fly in air; The sheep that need the shepherd's care; The pearls that deep in ocean lie; The gold that charms the miser's eye; The fruitful and the thorny ground; The piece of silver lost and found; The reaper, with his sheaves returning; The gathered tares prepared for burning; The wandering sheep brought back with joy; The father's welcome for his boy; The wedding-feast, prepared in state; The foolish virgins' cry, 'too late!'— All from his lips some truth proclaim, Or learn to tell their Maker's name."
But the difference between Jesus, the Great Teacher, and all other teachers is seen, not only in the greater knowledge he has of the things that he teaches, but in this also, that he knows how to make us understand the lessons he teaches. Here is an incident that illustrates how well Jesus can do this. We may call it:
"The Well Instructed Boy." A minister of the gospel was travelling through the wildest part of Ireland. There he met a shepherd's boy, not more than ten or twelve years old. He was poorly clad, with no covering on his head, and no shoes or stockings on his feet; but he looked bright and happy. He had a New Testament in his hand. "Can you read, my boy?" asked the minister.
"To be sure I can."
"And do you understand what you read?"
"Please turn to the third chapter of St. John, and read us a little," said the minister. The boy found the place directly, and in a clear distinct voice, began:
"There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi."
"What does Rabbi mean?"
"It means a master."
"Right; go on."
"We know thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him."
"What is a miracle?"
"It is a great wonder. 'Jesus answered and said unto him, verily, verily, I say unto thee.'"
"What does verily mean?"
"It means 'indeed.' 'Except a man be born again.'"
"What does that mean?"
"It means a great change, a change of heart."
"Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
"And what is that kingdom?"
He paused a moment, and with a very serious, thoughtful look, placing his hand on his bosom, he said, "It is something here;" and then, raising his eyes to heaven, added, "and something up yonder." This poor boy had been taking lessons from "the Great Teacher," and he had taught him some of the most important things that we can ever learn. Jesus may well be called "the Great Teacher," because of his great knowledge.
But there is one other thing that Jesus has, which helps to make him "the Great Teacher," and that is—GREAT POWER.
Other teachers can tell us what we ought to learn, and to do, yet they have no power to help us learn, or do what they teach. But Jesus has this power. Let us take a single illustration from many of the same kind that occurred while he was on earth. One day he was going about teaching in the streets of Jerusalem. As he went on, he passed by the office of a man who was gathering taxes for the Roman government. The persons who did this were called publicans. This man, sitting in his office, was named Matthew. He was busily engaged in receiving the taxes of the people. It was a very profitable business. The men engaged in it generally made a great deal of money. Jesus stopped before the window or door of this office. He beckoned to Matthew, and simply spoke these two words:—"Follow me."
Now, if any other teacher had spoken these words to Matthew, and had tried to make him quit his business and engage in something else, he would have said: "No; I can't leave my office. This is all the means I have of getting a living. The business pays well, and I am not willing to give it up." But when Jesus spoke to him, he did, at once, what he was told to do. We read that "He left all, rose up, and followed him." Matt. ix: 9; Luke v: 28. He became one of the twelve apostles and wrote the gospel which bears his name. But it was the great power which Jesus has over the hearts of men that made Matthew willing to do, at once, what he was told to do.
And the power which Jesus exercised over Matthew, in this case, he still has, and still uses. And when he is pleased to use this power the very worst people feel it, and are made good by it. And Jesus, "the Great Teacher," uses this power sometimes in connection with very simple things. Here is an illustration. We may call it:
"Saved by a Rose." Some time ago, a Christian gentleman was in the habit of visiting one of our prisons. It occurred to him, one day, that it would be a good thing to have a flowering plant in the little yard connected with each cell. He got permission from the officers of the prison to do so. He had a bracket fastened to the wall, in each yard, and a flower pot, with a plant in it, placed on each bracket. One of these prisoners was worse than all the rest. He was the most hardened man that had ever been in that prison. His temper was so violent and obstinate that no one could manage him. The keeper of the prison was afraid of him, and never liked to go near him. He was such a disagreeable-looking man that the name given to him in the prison was "Ugly Greg." A little rose bush was put on the bracket in Ugly Greg's yard, and the effect produced by it is told in these simple lines, which some one has written about it:
"Ugly Greg was the prisoner's name, Ugly in face, and in nature the same; Stubborn, sullen, and beetle-browed, The hardest case in a hardened crowd. The sin-set lines in his face were bent Neither by kindness nor punishment; He hadn't a friend in the prison there, And he grew more ugly and didn't care.
"But some one—blessings on his name! Had caused to be placed in that house of shame, To relieve the blank of the white-washed wall, Flower-pot brackets, with plants on them all. Though it seemed but a useless thing to do, Ugly Greg's cell had a flower-pot, too, And as he came back at the work-day's close, He paused, astonished, before a rose.
"'He will smash it in pieces,' the keeper said, But the lines on his face grew soft instead. Next morning he watered his plant with care, And went to his work with a cheerful air; And, day by day, as the rose-bush grew, Ugly Greg began changing, too.
"The soft, green leaves unfolded their tips, And the foul word died on the prisoner's lips; He talked to the plant, when all alone, As he would to a friend, in a gentle tone; And, day by day, and week by week, As the rose grew taller, so Greg grew meek.
"But, at last they took him away to lie On a hospital bed, for they knew he must die, They placed the rose in the sunny light, Where Greg might watch it, from morn till night, And the green buds grew, from day to day, As the sick man faded fast away.
"The lines which sin and pain had traced, Seemed by the shadowing plant effaced, Till, came at last, the joyful hour, When they knew that the bud must burst its flower. Greg slept, but still one hand caressed The plant; the other his pale cheek pressed. The perfumed crimson shed a glow On the old man's hair, as white as snow; The nurse came softly—'Look, Greg!' she said, Ay, the rose had bloomed, but the man was dead."
And the meaning of all this is, not that the rose itself saved this hardened sinner. No; but it led him to think of the lessons of his childhood, when he had been taught about Jesus, "the Rose of Sharon". It led him to think about his sins. It led him to repent of them; to pray to Jesus; to exercise faith in him; and in this way he became a changed man, and was saved. And so, though we speak of him as—"a man saved by a rose;" yet it was the power of Jesus, "the Great Teacher," exercised through that rose, which led to this blessed change and saved Greg's soul from death.
And thus we have spoken of five things which help to make up the greatness of Jesus as a Teacher. These are—The Great Blessings—The Great Simplicity—The Great Tenderness—The Great Knowledge—and the Great Power connected with his teachings. Let us seek the grace that will enable us to learn of him, and then we shall find rest for our souls!
CHRIST TEACHING BY PARABLES
We have spoken of our Saviour as "The Great Teacher," and tried to point out some of the things in his teaching which helped to make him great. And now, it may be well to speak a little of the illustrations which he made use of as a Teacher. These are called—parables. Our Saviour's parables were illustrations. This is what is meant by the Greek word from which we get the word parable. It means something set down by the side of another. When we teach a lesson we are setting something before the minds of our scholars. But suppose it is a hard lesson and they do not understand it. Then we use an illustration. This is something set down beside the lesson to make it plain. Then this, whatever it be, is a parable.
At the beginning of his ministry, our Saviour did not make much use of parables. But, after he had been preaching for some time, he made a change in his way of teaching, in this respect. He began to use parables very freely. His disciples were surprised at this. On one occasion, after he had used the parable of the Sower, they came to their Master and asked him why he always spake to the people now in parables? We have our Saviour's answer to this question in St. Matt, xiii: 11-18. And it is a remarkable answer. The meaning of it is that he used parables for two reasons: one was to help those who really wished to learn from him to understand what he was teaching. The other was that those who were not willing to be taught might listen to him without understanding what he was saying. These people had heard him when he was teaching without parables. But, instead of thanking him for coming to teach them, and of being willing to do what he wanted them to do, they found fault with his teaching, and would not mind what he said.
Now, there is a great difference between the way in which we are to learn what the Bible teaches us about God and heaven; and the way in which we learn other things. If we want to learn what the Bible teaches us we must be careful that we are having right feelings in our hearts; but if we want to learn other things it does not matter so much what our feelings are. For instance, suppose you have a lesson to learn in geography; no matter how you are feeling, whether you are proud, or humble; whether you are cross, or gentle; yet if you only study hard enough, and long enough, you can learn that lesson. But, if you want to learn one of the lessons that Jesus teaches, no matter how hard, or how long you study it, yet while you are giving way to proud, or angry feelings in your heart, you can never learn that lesson. And the reason is that we cannot learn these lessons unless we have the special help of Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. But this help can never be had while we give way to wrong feelings in our hearts. In learning geography, and other such lessons, we do not need the special help of God. We can learn them ourselves, if we only try. But we cannot learn the lessons that Jesus teaches in this way. This is what the Psalmist means when he says:—"The meek will he teach his way." Ps. xxv: 9. And this was what our Saviour meant when he said: "If any man will do his will, he shall know." St. John vii: 17. We must be willing to be taught;—and willing to obey; if we wish to understand what Jesus, "The Great Teacher," has to tell us.
Some one has well said that truth, taught by a parable, is like the kernel hid away in a nut. The parable, like the shell of the nut, covers up the kernel. Those who really want the kernel will crack the shell, and get it: but those who are not willing to crack the shell will never get the kernel. The shell of the nut keeps the kernel safe for one of these persons, and safe from the others.
But, after the time of which we have spoken, Jesus used parables freely. We are told that—"without a parable spake he not unto the people." St. Mark xiii: 34. He used parables among his disciples for two reasons: these were to help them to understand, and to remember what he taught them.
We have a great many of the parables of Jesus in the gospels. A full list of them will contain not less than fifty. It would be easy enough to make a sermon on each of these parables. But that would make a larger work than this whole LIFE OF CHRIST, on which we are now engaged. It is impossible therefore to speak of all the parables. We can only make selections, or take some specimens of them. We may speak of five different lessons as illustrated by some of the parables of Christ. These are—The value of religion: Christ's love of sinners: The duty of forgiveness: The duty of kindness: and the effect of good example.
Well then, we may begin by considering what Jesus taught us of—THE VALUE OF RELIGION—in his parables.
The parable of The Treasure Hid in the Field teaches us this truth. We find this parable in St. Matt. xiii: 44. Here Jesus says, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field." The words "kingdom of heaven" are used by our Saviour in different senses. Sometimes, as here, they mean the grace of God, or true religion. And what Jesus teaches us by this parable is that true religion is more valuable than anything else in the world.
The next parable, in the forty-fifth and forty-sixth verses of the same chapter, is about The Pearl of Great Price. This teaches the same lesson. It reads thus:—"The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it." By this "pearl of great price" Jesus meant true religion, as he did by the treasure hid in the field in the former parable. And the truth he teaches in both these parables is that religion is more important to us than anything else in the world. Let us look at some incidents that may help to illustrate for us the value of religion.
"Jesus Makes Everything Right." A poor lame boy became a Christian, and in telling what effect this change had upon him, these are the words he used to a person who was visiting him: "Once every thing went wrong at our house; father was wrong, mother was wrong, sister was wrong, and I was wrong; but now, since I have learned to know and love Jesus it is all right. I know why everything went wrong before:—it was because I was wrong myself." And this is true. The first thing that religion does for us is to make us be right ourselves, and then to do right to others.
"Be." A young lady had been trying to do something very good, but had not succeeded. Her mother said, "Marian, my child, God gives us many things to do, but we must not forget that he gives us some things to be; and we must learn to be what God would have us be, before we can do what God would have us do."
"O dear mother, please tell me about being, and then I shall know better about doing."
"Well, listen my child, while I remind you of some of the Bible be's: God says:
"Be—ye kindly affectioned one to another."
"Be—ye also patient."
"Be—ye children in malice."
"Be—ye therefore perfect."
"Be—not wise in your own conceits."
"Be—not overcome of evil."
"Thank you, dear mother," said Marian. "I hope I shall have a better day to-morrow; for I see now that doing grows out of being."
This is a point worth dwelling on, and so I will introduce to your notice here:
A SWARM OF BEES WORTH HIVING.
"Be patient, Be prayerful, Be humble, Be mild, Be wise as a Solon, Be meek as a child.
"Be studious, Be thoughtful, Be loving, Be kind, Be sure you make matter subservient to mind.
"Be cautious, Be prudent, Be trustful, Be true, Be courteous to all men, Be friendly with few.
"Be temperate in argument, pleasure and wine, Be careful of conduct, of money, of time.
"Be cheerful, Be grateful, Be hopeful, Be firm, Be peaceful, benevolent, willing to learn;
"Be courageous, Be gentle Be liberal, Be just, Be aspiring, Be humble, because you are dust.
"Be penitent, circumspect, sound in the faith, Be active, devoted; Be faithful to death.
"Be honest, Be holy, transparent and pure; Be dependent, Be Christ-like and you'll be secure."
Here is a swarm of between forty and fifty bees. The religion of Jesus will help us to make these all our own. How great then must the value of religion be! Surely it is worth while for each of us to try and secure it!
I think I never saw a better view of the value of religion than is seen in the following statement of what it does for us. I know not by whom it was written, but it is put in the form of that sacred sign to which we owe all the blessings of salvation—the sign of
"Blest they who seek While in their youth, With spirit meek, The way of truth. To them the sacred scriptures now display Christ as the only true and living way; His precious blood on Calvary was given To make them heirs of endless bliss in Heaven. And e'en on earth the child of God can trace The glorious blessings of the Saviour's grace. For them He bore His Father's frown; For them He wore The thorny Crown; Nailed to the Cross, Endured its pain, That his life's loss Might be their gain. Then haste to choose That better part, Nor dare refuse The Lord thy heart, Lest he declare,— 'I know you not,' And deep despair Should be your lot. Now look to Jesus, who on Calvary died, And trust on him who there was crucified."
"Leaving it All with Jesus." Annie W ... was a young Christian. In her fourteenth year she was taken with a severe illness, from which the doctor said she could not recover. When she became too weak to leave the sofa, she would send for one and another of the neighbors to come in to see her, and then she would speak to them of Jesus and his great salvation. One day a poor old woman who was not a Christian, came in to see her.
"You are very ill, my dear," she said to Annie.
"Yes," she replied, "but I shall soon be well."
The poor woman shook her head as she looked at Annie's mother, saying, "Poor dear creature; she cannot possibly get well. No: she will never get over it." Then turning to Annie, she said:
"Don't you know, my dear, that you are going to die?"
"I know I am going to live," she said with a sweet smile. "I shall soon be with Jesus in heaven, and live forever with him."
"Oh, how can you know that, my dear? We must not be too sure you know," said the poor woman.
"Oh," said Annie, pointing to a card hanging on the wall, near her bed, on which was printed in large letters the hymn headed—"I leave it all with Jesus." "That's what I do! That's what I do." These are the words of the hymn which gave that dear child so much comfort on her dying bed:
"I leave it all with Jesus, Then wherefore should I fear? I leave it all with Jesus, And he is ever near.
"I leave it all with Jesus, Trust him for what must be; I leave it all with Jesus, Who ever thinks of me.
"I bring it all to Jesus, In calm, believing prayer; I bring it all to Jesus, And I love to LEAVE it there!
"Each tear, each sigh, each trouble, Each disappointment,—all I love to GIVE to Jesus, Who loves to TAKE them all."
And here we have a beautiful illustration of one of the things which Jesus taught us in his parables, namely—the value of religion.
Another thing we are taught in these parables is—CHRIST'S LOVE FOR SINNERS.
The parable of the lost sheep teaches us this truth: but as we had occasion to speak of this in our last chapter, when illustrating the tenderness of Christ, as the Great Teacher, we may let that pass now. But the parable of the lost piece of money teaches the same lesson. We have this parable in St. Luke xv: 8th and 9th verses. Here we are told of a woman who had ten pieces of silver, and lost one of them. Then she laid the others aside, and searched diligently for the lost piece till she found it. This woman represents Jesus. The lost piece of money represents our souls lost by sin. The efforts of the woman to find the lost piece represent what Jesus did, when he left heaven, and took our nature upon him, and came as "the Son of man to seek and to save that which was lost." And it was the love of Jesus for poor sinners which led him to do all this for us. And everything connected with the history of Jesus when he was on earth shows the greatness of his love. Think of Bethlehem and its manger; there we see the love of Jesus. Think of Gethsemane with its bloody sweat; there we see the love of Jesus. Think of Calvary with its cross of shame and agony; for there we see the love of Jesus.
And the parable of the prodigal son teaches us the same lesson. We read of this in the same chapter, St. Luke xv: 11-32. This son had been disobedient and ungrateful. He had taken the money his father gave him and had gone away and spent it in living very wickedly. And when the money was all spent and he was likely to starve, he went back to his father, hungry and ragged, and asked to be taken in. And instead of scolding and punishing him as he deserved, as soon as his father saw him, he ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him; and took off his rags, and dressed him in good clothes, and made a great feast for him. How beautifully this parable illustrates the love of Christ for sinners!
And when we learn to know and feel the love of Christ for us, it does two blessed things for us.
One is, it makes us good. We hear a great deal about conversion. This word conversion simply means—turning. When a person has been living without trying to serve or please God, and is led to see how wrong it is to live in that way, and then feels an earnest desire to turn around, and live differently, and really does so:—that is conversion. The teaching or preaching of the gospel is the chief means that God employs to convert men. And the thing about the gospel in which this converting power lies is—the love of Christ. Here is an illustration of what this means.
"He Loved Me." An English minister of the gospel was traveling in Switzerland one summer. As he passed from place to place, he preached by means of an interpreter in various churches. One Sunday night he preached from the words, "He loved me, and gave himself for me." Gal. ii: 20. Then he went on his way without knowing what effect had followed from his preaching.
One Saturday evening, several weeks after, the minister of this church was sitting in his study. There came a faint knock at his door. He opened it, when, to his great surprise he saw there a young man, who was known as the wickedest young man in that neighborhood, and the leader of others in all sorts of wickedness. He invited him in, gave him a seat, and asked him what he wished. Judge of his surprise when the young man said he wished to inquire if he might come to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, which was to be celebrated in his church the next day!
"But are you not aware, my young friend," said the minister, "that only those who love Christ, and are trying to serve him, have any right to come to that holy ordinance?"
"I know it, sir," said the young man, "and I am thankful to feel that I am among that number."
"But," asked the astonished pastor, "are you not known in this village as the ringleader in all evil doings?"
"Alas! it is too true that it has been so," he replied, "but thank God all is changed now."
"I am happy indeed to hear it; but pray tell me what led to this great change."
"I was in your church, sir," said he, "some weeks ago, when that English minister preached from the words, 'Who loved me and gave himself for me,' That was the first time I ever understood about the love of Christ. It led to my repentance and conversion; and now I wish to show my love to Jesus by trying to serve and please him."
Here we see how the love of Christ makes us good.
But it makes us happy, as well as good. Here is a little story that illustrates this point very well. We may call it:
"Maggie's Secret." "Maggie Blake, how can you study so hard, and be so provokingly good?" This question was asked by Jennie Lee, who was one of the largest and wildest girls in the school. Maggie hesitated a moment, whether to tell her secret or not. But, presently she lifted up her eyes, looked her companion bravely in the face, and said—"It's for Jesus' sake, Jennie."
"But do you think he cares?" asked Jennie in a soft, subdued voice,—"do you think he cares how we act?"
"I know he does," said Maggie. "And it makes it so pleasant you see, even to study and get hard lessons, when I know he is looking at me, and is pleased to have me working my best for him. He always helps me to get my lessons; and then helps me to say them right. You know I used to be so frightened I could not say them, even when I had learned them well."
"Yes," said Jennie, remembering very well how Maggie had changed in that respect.
"That was before I thought of learning them for Jesus. After that he helped me all along. It makes me like school; and even disagreeable things are pleasant when I think of doing them for him."
Jennie had often watched Maggie, and wondered what made her have such a bright, cheerful, happy look. Now she knew the secret of it. It was doing everything "for Jesus' sake."
She felt she would gladly give everything she had to be as happy as Maggie. She asked Maggie to pray for her, and she began to pray for herself. Then Jesus helped her, and she soon had Maggie's secret for her own. The girls in school wondered at the change which had come over Jennie. But when they heard that she had been confirmed, and had joined the church, they understood it all. They knew she "had been with Jesus;" and that it was learning to know and feel his wonderful love which had made Jennie so good, and so happy.
And so, we see that Jesus was doing a blessed thing for us when he taught the parables which show his love for sinners.
A third thing taught us by some of the parables of Jesus is—THE DUTY OF KINDNESS.
One day, while Jesus was on earth, a young man came to him with the great question, what he should do to obtain eternal life. Jesus referred him to the Ten Commandments; and reducing them to two, he told the young man that these commandments required him to love God with all his heart, and his neighbor as himself; and then said if he would do this he would be saved.
This is perfectly true. Any one would be saved who would do this. But no one ever has done this except our blessed Lord Himself. He "magnified the law and made it honorable" by keeping it perfectly. I suppose that Jesus intended to give this young man some lessons about the commandments of God which would lead him to see that he never could keep them himself; and that he would need some one to keep them for him, and that this was the only way in which he, or any one else could be saved. It may have been that the young man did not want to hear any thing more on that subject, and so he gave the conversation a different turn by asking—"who is my neighbor?" when Jesus said he must love his neighbor as himself. And then, in answer to this question Jesus told the parable of the "Good Samaritan." We have this parable in St. Luke x: 30-37.
Here we are told of a certain man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves. They robbed him; and wounded him; and left him half dead. While he was lying there helpless and suffering, a priest and a Levite came, and looked on him, and passed by on the other side, without giving him any help. Then we are told that a certain Samaritan came by, and when he saw the poor wounded man lying there, although he was a Jew, and the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other very much, yet he pitied him, and went up to him, and bound up his wounds, and set him on his own beast, and carried him to an inn, and told them to take care of him, and said that he would pay all his expenses. Then Jesus asked the question, "Which now, of these three thinkest thou was neighbor to him that fell among thieves? And he said, he that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise."
Thus Jesus taught the duty of kindness. This kindness we must show, not to our friends only, but to our enemies. Kindness to all is the duty that Jesus teaches.
Let us look at one or two illustrations of the way in which we should do this.
"The Honey Shield." It is said that wasps and bees will not sting a person whose skin is covered with honey. And so those who are exposed to the sting of these venomous little creatures smear their hands and faces over with honey, and this, we are told, proves the best shield they can have to keep them from getting stung. And the honey here very well represents the kindness which Jesus teaches us to practise. If kindness, gentleness, and forbearance are found running through all our words and actions, we shall have the best shield to protect us from the spiteful stings of wicked people.
"Androcles and the Lion." Most of those who read these pages may have heard this story, but it illustrates the point before us so well that I do not hesitate to use it here.
Androcles was a Roman slave. To escape the cruel treatment of his master he ran away. A lonely cave in the midst of the forest was his home for a while. Returning to his cave one day he met a lion near the mouth of the cave. He was bellowing as if in pain; and on getting nearer to him, he found that he was suffering from a thorn which had run into one of his paws. It was greatly swollen and inflamed, and was causing him much pain. Androcles went up to the suffering beast. He drew out the rankling thorn and thus relieved him of his pain. His nature, savage as it was, felt the power of the kindness thus shown to him. He became attached to the lonely slave, and shared his prey with him while they remained together.
But, after a while the retreat of Androcles was discovered. He was taken and carried back to his master. The lion also was made a prisoner soon after. Androcles was kept in prison for some time; and finally, according to the custom of the Romans, he was condemned to be devoured by wild beasts. The lion to be let loose on Androcles had been kept a long time without food and was very hungry. When the door of his den was opened he rushed out with a tremendous roar. The Colosseum was crowded with spectators. They expected to see the poor slave torn to pieces in a moment. But, to the surprise of everyone, the great monster, hungry as he was, instead of devouring the condemed man, crouched at his feet, and began to fondle him, as a pet dog would do. He recognized in the poor prisoner his friend of the forest and showed that he had not forgotten his kindness. The kindness of Androcles had been like the honey shield to him. It saved his life, first from the savage beast in the forest; and then from the savage men in the city. Let us all put on this shield, and wear it wherever we go. The lesson of kindness which Jesus teaches in this parable, has been very well put by some one in these sweet lines:
THE LESSON OF KINDNESS.
"Think kindly of the erring! Thou knowest not the power With which the dark temptation came In some unguarded hour; Thou knowest not how earnestly They struggled, or how well, Until the hour of weakness came, And sadly then they fell.
"Speak kindly to the erring! Thou yet may'st lead him back With holy words, and tones of love, From misery's thorny track: Forget not thou hast often sinned And sinful yet must be:— Deal kindly with the erring one As God hath dealt with thee!"
The duty of kindness was the third lesson Jesus taught in the parables.
A fourth lesson taught us in some of the parables of Jesus is—— THE DUTY OF FORGIVENESS.
The apostle Peter came to Jesus one day, and asked him how often he ought to forgive a brother that offended him; and whether it would be enough to forgive him seven times. The answer of Jesus was, "I say not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven."
St. Matt. 18: 22. Then Jesus spoke the parable of the two debtors. St. Matt. 18: 23-35. One of these owed his master ten thousand talents. If these were talents of silver they would amount to more than fifteen millions of dollars. If they were talents of gold, they would amount to three hundred millions. This would show that his debt was so great that he never could pay it. Then his master freely forgave him. But not long after, he found one of his fellow-servants, who owed him a hundred pence, or about fifteen dollars of our money. The man asked him to forgive him the debt. He would not do it; but put him in prison. When his master heard this he was very angry, and put him in prison, where he should be punished until he had paid all his great debt. And Jesus finished the parable by saying—"so likewise, shall my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye, from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." And here we are taught the great duty of forgiveness. And this same duty is taught us in the Lord's Prayer, where he says—"Forgive us our trespasses, as we also forgive those who trespass against us." If we use this prayer without forgiving those who injure us, then, in so using it, we are really asking God not to forgive us. And Jesus practised what he preached. As he hung bleeding and agonizing on the cross, while his enemies were cruelly mocking his misery, he looked up to heaven, and uttered that wonderful prayer—"Father forgive them; for they know not what they do." Here we have the best illustration of forgiveness that the world has ever seen.
"Example of Forgiveness." In a school in Ireland, one boy struck another. The offending boy was brought up to be punished, when the injured boy begged for his pardon. The teacher asked—"Why do you wish to keep him from being flogged?" The ready reply was—"Because I have read in the New Testament that our Lord Jesus Christ said that we must forgive our enemies; and therefore I forgive him, and beg that he may not be punished for my sake."
"Good for Evil." At the foot of a street in New York, stood an Italian organ grinder, with his organ. A number of boys had gathered round him, but they were more anxious to have some fun than to hear music. One of them said to his companions:
"See! I'll hit his hat!"
And sure enough he did. Making up a snow ball, he threw it with so much force that the poor man's hat was knocked into the gutter. A gentleman standing by expected to see him get very angry, and swear at the boy. But, very different from this was the result that followed. The musician stopped; stepped forward and picked up his hat. Then he turned to the rude boy, and gracefully bowing, said:
"And now, I'll play you a tune to make you merry!" There was real Christian forgiveness.
"The Power of the Gospel." Years ago some carpenters moved to the Island of New Zealand, and set up a shop for carrying on their business. They were engaged to build a chapel at one of the Mission Stations. One of these carpenters, a pleasant, kind-hearted man, engaged a native Christian to dig his garden for him. When the work was done the man went to the shop for his pay. Another of the carpenters there, who was a very ill-tempered man, told the native to get out of the shop. "Don't be angry," was the gentle reply; "I have only come to have a little talk with your partner, and to get my wages from him." "But I am angry." And then taking hold of the New Zealander by the shoulder, he abused and kicked him in the most cruel manner.
The native made no resistance till the carpenter ceased. Then he jumped up, seized him by the throat, and snatching a small axe from the bench, flourished it threateningly over his head. "Now, you see," said he, "your life is in my hand. You see my arm is strong enough to kill you; and my arm is quite willing, but my heart is not. I have heard the missionaries preach the gospel of forgiveness. You owe your life to the preaching of the gospel. If my heart was as dark now as it was before the gospel was preached here, I should strike off your head in an instant!"
Then he released the carpenter without injuring him and accepted from him a blanket as an apology for the insult. How faithfully this man was practising the duty of forgiveness which Jesus taught!
The only other thing of which we shall now speak, as taught by our Saviour in the parables, is—THE INFLUENCE OF GOOD EXAMPLE.
The parable which teaches this lesson is that of the lighted candle. It is one of the shortest of our Lord's parables, and yet the truth it teaches is very important. We first find this parable in the sermon on the mount. These are the words in which it is given: "Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matt, v: 15. This parable is so important that we find it repeated in three other places. Mark iv: 21, Luke viii: 16, and xi: 33.
We find the same idea taught by one of England's greatest writers. Looking at a candle shining through a window, he says:
"How far yon little candle throws its beam! So shines a good deed in a naughty world."
And the lesson we are here taught is that we should always set a good example by doing what we know to be right, and then, like a candle shining in a dark place, we shall be useful wherever we go. Let us look at one or two incidents that illustrate this.