[2]
Divine Intervention The Need Of The Hour

What a moss fallen man makes of the situation. Anything he puts his hand to is instantaneously spoiled and marred.

The situation in Ulster has escalated into the verge of outright civil conflict. The failure of the Government to deal with the Roman Catholic I.R.A. and their use of the Police to bludgeon Protestants into accepting their acts of treachery is deplorable.

Protestant liberties, hard won over the years since the Protestant Reformation, are sacrificed on the altar of political expediency to placate a bigoted Roman Church, the head of which Cardinal T. O'Fee tells the world that 90% of the bigotry in Ulster originates from the Protestants. His flock has murdered many hundreds of Protestants, maimed for life many hundreds more and done millions of pounds worth of damage to Protestant properties and yet this Sinn Fein Cardinal has the brazen effrontery to tell the world that the Protestants whom his flock is slaughtering are the bigots. By this he justifies in the minds of the murderers their bloodthirsty and devilish deeds.

Only Divine intervention can save the situation. The landslide towards anarchy is so horrific that no human power can possibly retrieve the field.

Also in the farming world the appalling weather has almost destroyed the total harvest. How we need God Almighty's help in this day of trouble.

The promise of Divine help and intervention is sure.

"For the Lord will not cast off His People neither will He forsake His Inheritance. But judgment shall return unto righteousness and all the upright in heart shall follow it" (Ps. 94, verses 14 and 15)

We must earnestly seek God's face so that His anger be turned away and His blessing come again as in former days. Remember He is the God of the later rain. [3]

DANIEL ROWLAND - The Great Welsh Revival Preacher

One of the greatest of the Welsh preachers of the great revival of the 18th century was Daniel Rowland, of Llangeitho. People assembled in thousands from all parts of Wales to hear him preach at the monthly communions held in his parish, so that Llangeitho became a shrine. About 100 ministers of the gospel, Charles of Bala among the number, recognised him as their spiritual father; and once in the year during the 50 years of his ministry he made a tour through the Principality, and by his preaching stirred and maintained the spiritual fire that had been set burning amongst the churches.

Rowland was born in 1713, his father being the parson of Llangeitho. Educated for the Church of England pulpit, he was ordained in 1733, and became curate to his brother John, who had succeeded the father in the living. He was at that time a stranger to the love of Christ, but a great change was in store for him. The year 1735 was the turning-point in his career. That year is memorable as the year in which the revival of religion broke out simultaneously in England, Wales, Scotland and America. It was the year of the conversion of Howel Harris and Daniel Rowland in Wales. In that year, in England, Whitefield joined the Oxford Society of Methodists, which was destined to kindle the flame of spiritual fervour in the dead and frozen churches of this country. In America the revival broke out the same year under Jonathan Edwards, preaching at Northampton, New England; and in Scotland the glow of the same holy fire was felt soon afterwards at Cambuslang and Kilsyth.

Nowhere was this blessed kindling of spiritual life more needed than in Wales. The country was terribly deficient of religious teaching. The Act of Uniformity in 1662, by causing the expulsion of one hundred and six conscientious clergymen from their livings in Wales, had drained the church of its best blood; and the clergy were now, with few exceptions, corrupt and immoral. Instead of preaching repentance and justification by faith in the blood of Christ, they preached regeneration by baptism, penance, and salvation by works. The Sundays were spent in sports, the clergyman leaving the church after service, as Rowland himself did in his first two [4] years, to join the games of his parishioners in the churchyard. Fights, carried on with clubs and cudgels, were waged between the people of different parishes, and it was not uncommon to see a band of ruffians rush into church, and drag their comrades out to fight. Ignorance and ungodliness cast a deep moral gloom over the land.

Rowland's Conversion

It was in 1735, two years after his ordination, that Rowland was quickened to spiritual life. He went to hear a famous preacher, Griffith Jones, of Llanddowror, who had come to preach in the neighbourhood. In the course of his sermon Jones noticed the defiant mien of the young clergyman, and stopped and prayed for him, "that God would bless the proud and haughty young man who was in the church, and use him for the conversion of many souls." Rowland returned home under deep conviction. Sin, law, justice, and the judgment to come became stern realities to his mind, and for many days he felt the pangs of guilt, and shed the tears of repentance. True to his feelings he began to preach upon the justice of God and the terrors of the future world, until his hearers trembled with him. His pulpit became like Sinai, with blackness and tempest around it. He himself felt the frowns of God and the burden of guilt, of which he spoke, and his spirit was greatly subdued. His tears fell profusely, and his clear voice was mellowed with the deepest pathos.

Report soon spread that a change had come over Rowland, and great crowds gathered to hear him. "Alas", he would cry, "if you are on Satan's side, sure damnation awaits you. The curse of God rests upon him and all who follow him. Men! the cannons of God are levelled at you; fight, and your portion will be eternal death; and what then of the wedge of gold and the goodly Babylonish garment? I would not for the world leave you where sweep the bullets of God. Flee! Flee from the wrath to come!"

His Preaching

Marvellous effects followed his preaching. People fell down stricken in the churches and in the churchyards, till Philip Pugh, a good old Independent minister, said to him; "Preach the gospel to the people, and apply the balm to their wounds; and show unto them the necessity of faith in a crucified Saviour". "I am afraid," Rowland replied, "that I myself have not found that faith in all its fulness". "Preach it, then, until you find it", was the reply, "for if you go on in this way preaching the law, you will soon destroy half the people of the land." [5]

As he grew in the knowledge of the grace of God, and passed from Sinai to Calvary, the tone of his preaching changed. The blackness, darkness, and tempest gave place to the sun in the blue heavens. He proclaimed the boundless mercy of God and the dying love of Christ, and these melting truths thrilled his own heart as he uttered them. Very mighty were the emotions that swayed him as he upheld before the people the cross of Christ. On one occasion, reading the Litany in the church, he so read the words, "By thine agony and bloody sweat, by thy cross and passion, by thy precious death and burial," that many of the people fell down on the floor overcome with intensity of feeling; and on another occasion, he himself, dwelling in his prayer on the sufferings of Christ, exclaimed, "O emptied veins! O pallid countenance!" and, overwhelmed with his emotion, swooned away.

His Prayers


He did not reach this high fervour without much communion with the Saviour. Prayerfulness was one of his most prominent characteristics. He would often spend the whole of Saturday night in his study, where he was to be heard sobbing and sighing till the morning. One Sunday a very large congregation had come together, and the time for service to commence was up, but Rowland was not forthcoming. Two men were sent to fetch him. They asked the reason for his delay, and the answer was that he felt himself unworthy to appear before such a congregation. After some persuasion he came with them, but he fell on his knees on the way at the side of a brook to ask God to forgive him for his unwillingness to preach. He preached that morning with extraordinary power. The service continued until four in the afternoon, and eight hundred became members of the church after that sermon.

Such a man as this, vividly realising the truths he proclaimed, with a deep knowledge of the guilt of sin, a dread sense of the wrath to come, a rapturous experience of redeeming love, a powerful imagination, tremendous force of passion and emotion, and with his whole nature bathed in an all-subduing spirit of prayer, such a man as this could not live and labour in Wales without great results, even had he confined his preaching to his own parish; but he was led to go far and wide with his message, and, as we have already said, he made a preaching tour of the country every year for half a century.

Opposition

It is not to be supposed that, in such a time of hostility to religious earnestness, these evangelistic labours would be carried on without opposition; and [6] Rowland incurred much opprobrium, and often suffered personal injury. At one time, two parsons entered the church and interrupted him, causing an uproar, which brought the service to an abrupt close; at another, the church choir continued singing the 119th Psalm for hours, Rowland rising again and again to begin his sermon, until at last he had to give it up; frequently he was refused permission to preach in the churches. In the open-air a drum was beaten while he was preaching, till an enthusiast, hoping still more effectually to drown his voice, applied the stick so furiously that the drum was broken. Repeatedly he was stoned, and had to make his escape with a bleeding face; and sometimes he was obliged to hastily mount his horse and flee for his life from an enraged mob, the congregation following, till, minister and people having reached a secluded spot, he would finish his sermon.

Holy Fire

But it was not always like this. Churches and churchyards were thronged by those anxious to hear him, and the energy and spiritual power of his preaching proved resistless to multitudes. "I came accidentally," says one, "to a place where Rowland was preaching to an immense congregation in the open-air. Indeed, I never witnessed such a scene before. Oh! the striking appearance of the preacher; his zeal, animation, and fervour were beyond description, and such effects descended on the congregation under him as never came within the sphere of my observation before."

Rowland had now been preaching with immense influence in Wales for over twenty-five years, and had fearlessly trampled under foot the trivial rules against preaching out of his parish, and in unconsecrated places, notwithstanding warnings and threatenings from the bishop. At length, in 1763, the Church of England committed the blunder of expelling from its pale this noble clergyman. The expulsion took place in the church of Llandewi-brefi. Two clergymen entered the church, and handed Rowland a letter just as he was entering the pulpit. Rowland quietly read the letter, intimated its contents to the congregation, and walked out of the church. Nearly all the people followed him weeping. That church continued empty for years. At that time Rowland was curate to his own son. Up to 1760 he had served under his brother, who had been called the "wild parson"; and on the brother's death, the church authorities passed over the great preacher, and conferred the living upon his son. His salary all these years had been the magnificent sum of 10 a year! He had two small farms, or he could not have maintained his wife and family.

 

Helpers

For some years before his expulsion, Rowland had found himself forced, by [7] the number of people in the country that felt concern for their souls, to send them preachers and exhorters; and as the clergy could not be had for this work, there was nothing for it but to encourage such converted laymen as were willing to do their best. These intelligent exhorters, who felt the fire of the Word of God burning within them, assembled for mutual edification and prayer in his barn; and this was the beginning of Calvinistic Methodism at Llangeitho. After his expulsion, they built him a plain little chapel, fifteen yards square, which became the centre of his labours for twenty-seven more years. Every Sunday the people came to Llangeitho from ten or fifteen miles round; and once a month, on Communion Sunday, the congregation numbered about five thousand persons, about fifteen hundred being communicants. These had come from all parts of Wales, and it was a common sight to see their horses in rows of hundreds tied to the hedges.

Rowland was accustomed to preach a preparatory sermon at eleven o'clock on the Saturday, and one of the other ministers present would preach at three in the afternoon. An old preacher, John Williams, of Dolyddelen, tells how he walked all the way from Dolyddelen to Llangeitho, and was so tired that he was more fit for bed than chapel. He went, however, to hear Rowland. His text was lsa. zzv. 6: "And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined." "You never heard such a thing in your life," said the old preacher, "He began to tap the barrels of the covenant of grace, and to let out the wine well refined, and to give to the people to drink. It flowed all over the chapel. I also drank, and became, as I may say, quite drunk. And there I was, and scores of others, in an ecstasy of delight praising God, having forgotten all fatigue and bodily wants."


His Death

Rowland died in 1790. His health continued good to the end, and he preached on the last Sunday of his life. On that Sunday evening he said to his family, "I have nothing to say about my acceptance with God but what I have said at all times - I die as a poor sinner, resting solely and altogether upon the merits of a crucified Saviour." On Friday he became seriously ill; he was to preach on the morrow; but on that Saturday, October 16, 1790, he died. A large number of people gathered, as usual, to prepare for Communion Sunday; they were in the chapel, service had commenced, when word came to them that Rowland was dead. The service broke up, and the people scattered weeping to their homes. Thus passed away one of the greatest preachers of Wales, and the herald of a noble succession of gospel ministers such as Christmas Evans, John Elias, Williams of Wern, and others, whose work has left an indelible impress upon the Principality.

[8]
"The Man Who Prayed to Die and Didn't Die But Went to Heaven a New Way"
 A Sermon preached by Dr. Paisley on his 39th Anniversary as Minister of the Martyrs Memorial Congregation
(Electronically recorded) Lord's Day 4th August 1985

I want to speak to you this morning upon the subject, "The man who prayed to die but didn't die but rather went to Heaven a new way".

Two texts of Scripture, the first in the nineteenth chapter of the first Book of Kings, "And he requested for himself that he might die, and said, It is enough, now, O Lord, take away my life". Then turning to the second Book of Kings, chapter 2, verse 11, "And it came to pass, as they still went on and talked, that behold there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder, and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven". 'The Man who prayed to die and didn't die, but went to Heaven a new way'.

Vain is the Help of Man

Perfection in man is only found in Heaven, and nowhere has it ever been found on earth except in the Perfect Man - the Lord from Heaven. Herein we see the truthfulness and faithfulness of the Bible. There is no attempt in Holy Scripture to condone any man or to condone any man's sin. The saints are painted, warts and all, by the unerring brush of Eternal Truth and Frankness.

Noah's drunkenness; Abraham's lying; Lot's hypocrisy; Jacob's cheating; Moses' anger; Aaron's idolatry; David's adultery and murder, and Peter's denial of his Lord with oaths and curses are all recorded in plain, stark reality. They were all men subject to like passions as we are.

Notice that in the very place where you would have expected these men to triumph, in that very place they fell into the most grievous of sinning. We learn the truth that without God's help we can do nothing, and vain is the help of man.

You would have expected that Abraham, the father of the faithful, would [10] have been strong in faith, knowing that through his wife Sarai God would give the promised seed. But instead of being strong in faith he lied and prevaricated about Sarai.

When he went down into Egypt, he denied that she was his wife and said rather, "She is my sister".

You would have expected that Noah, the man that walked with God, when the whole world was out of step with God, who practised holiness when men practised wickedness, would have been able to have withstood the temptation of drunkenness. Yet, we behold him drunk and lying naked in his tent.

You would have expected Moses, of whom it- s recorded by the unerring Spirit that he was the meekest man in all the earth to be able to control his temper. But at the rock in sinful disobedience he was angry without a cause, and smote that rock and so sinned against God that he was forbidden to enter the promised land.

You would have expected Aaron, the first appointed high priest of Israel, would never have gone into idolatry. Behold, he becomes the engraver and maker of a golden calf, and offers idolatrous sacrifices to it.

You would never have expected that David, the man after God's own heart, would have fallen into the sinful abyss of adultery, and that having failed to cover his sin, added to adultery the evil deed of murder.

You would never have expected that the bold and courageous Peter would have denied with oaths and cursing that he ever knew and met with the Christ of God.

As we view these men this morning, I had better say and you had better say, "There go I but for the grace of God". In similar circumstances you would have lied and so would I; you would have committed adultery and murder and so would I; you would have got drunk and so would I; you would have lost your temper and so would I; you would have become an idolater and so would I and you would have denied your Saviour with oaths and cursings and so would I.

Elijah, A Man Subject to Like Passions As We Are

Turning to Elijah, if ever we would have expected a demonstration of strength we would have expected it in this lone and courageous warrior of God. And yet what do we find? That he who had so triumphed on the top of Carmel's mountain now runs from Jezebel. You would have expected that he would have cast her challenge back in her teeth, and would have said, "Do your worst, Jezebel, I will never surrender the truth to you or to any of your ilk". But instead he flees for his life.

Notice the utter inconsistency in his attitude. Jezebel says that "by the gods she will kill him". What does Elijah think of Jezebel's gods? Nothing! [11] Did he not challenge those gods on Carmel's Hill, and shew their total impotency? Now he fears the gods of Jezebel. Jezebel says, "I will kill you. Why did he not hang around and be killed if he wanted to die? He runs away and lies down and says, "Let me die". Jezebel would have obliged him if he had stayed a little longer at the entrance into Jezreel.

Poor Elijah, he is learning a truth that we all must learn, the inherent weakness of the flesh; that without God we are ruined, no matter what triumphs we have had in the past, no matter what experiences we have had in the past. No matter what mountain top excitements we have had in the past, if God withdraws His hand, if God withdraws His face, then into the abyss of sin and darkness and utter ruin we all will fall. Whence came this weakness to Elijah?

Do you remember the first time that David fought with the giant? He was filled with strength and power, but the last time David fought with a giant he was overcome with weakness. "He waxed faint."

Every one of us at times will wax faint. Take the great and mighty Martin Luther, the monk that shook the world, and sent the light of that message, 'Justification by faith alone', into the heart of the darkness of Romanism. In the day of his death he sobbed himself into Eternity like a great wearied child. Let us learn some lessons from this experience of Elijah.


Lesson One: Elijah Was Only A Man

This is the common lot of us, and how common to those of us who are the commonest of all!

Even in the economy of grace, brethren and sisters in Christ, human weaknesses will surface. Has not the Spirit of God been sent to help our infirmities. "This glory we have in earthen vessels" - vessels that are easily chipped, vessels that are easily scarred, vessels that are easily marred, and vessels that are easily debased and broken.

How frail is the human vessel! Hence our tears, our perplexities, our castings down. Let us learn it. Elijah was only a man, and we too are only frail, helpless, hopeless men and women.

Second Lesson: Elijah's Body Was Closely Related to Elijah's Spirit

The body is only flesh and blood, but it has an influence upon the soul and the spirit. There are no iron men and iron women even though there are those that claim that they are so. [12]

Elijah was taxed in his bodily strength. He had made that long journey from Zarephath in the north down to Mount Carmel. He had defied Baal's prophets in that great confrontation. After the fire of God fell he had prayed the prayer that brought back the rain upon the kingdom that was in dearth and a veritable wilderness. Then he had ran for ten miles with such speed that he outrun the chariot of Ahab to the entering in of Jezreel. There was bound to be a bodily reaction. And the body reacts not only on its members, but upon the mind and upon the soul and upon the spirit. That is why we need to look after our bodies, for are they not temples of the Holy Spirit?


Third Lesson: Spiritual Work Inevitably Lays Us Open to Depression

You carry in your heart a burden like Elijah carried - a burden for the nation. A burden because men have cast down God's altars, killed God's servants, rejected God's Christ - a burden for the souls of men, a passion for the lost, a desire to reach out for the erring ones, to lift up the fallen and tell them of Jesus the Mighty to save. He who carries such a burden inevitably will leave himself open to depression.

We are not called to be fine examples of bodies carefully preserved. We are called upon to be fine examples of a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service. We would say with Paul, "Who is sufficient for these things?"

Fourth Lesson: Loneliness and a Desire to be Alone Contributed to Elijah's State

He was a loner by circumstances, but he was also a loner by choice. Look at verse 3, "He left his servant at Beersheba". When he needed company he refused company. When he needed someone to talk to he refused the company of that person, and what happened? That loneliness became a field for self-pity, and over and over again upon his lips are these words, "I only am left". It became an obsession in Elijah's heart, in Elijah's soul, "I only, I, am left".

Many a great man of God finding himself in the loneliness of the ministry and in the loneliness of Christian service, comes to a place of self-pity when he thinks that he alone lifts up the standard, that he alone contends for the faith, that he alone stands true and that he alone fights the way God would have him fight.

Brethren, we need to be reminded today that God has left seven thousand in Israel that haven't bowed the knee to Baal or kissed the lips of that [13] false god.

That loneliness got into Elijah's inmost heart.

Lesson Five: After His Finest Hour, Depression Came

See him there on the Mount Carmel, alone defying the prophets of Jezebel, the false priests of Baal; alone mocking them in their idolatrous prayers, and in their acts and ceremony of infidelity; alone, calling the fire from heaven; alone, putting his head between his knees and turning a dearth of three and a half years into the greatest outpouring of rain that Israel had even known.

That was his finest hour!

Let me tell you, God never allows His saints to celebrate those victories that are alone given by Him. The cup of exaltation is always dashed from the lips of the man who is the instrument of bringing those divine victories about.

Spurgeon said, "Whirled off our feet by a revival, carried aloft by popularity, exalted by its success in soul-winning, we would be as the chaff which the wind driveth away, were it not that the gracious discipline of mercy breaks up our ships of vain glory with a strong east wind, and casts us shipwrecked, naked and forlorn upon the Rock of Ages".

How true that is!

When Elijah should have been having a victory parade, he is seen in ignominious flight from Jezebel who had sworn to kill him.

Jacob was a prince in the night, but he was a limper in the morning.

Learn the lesson and learn it well, my brethren and sisters, that after our finest hour depression will surely come.

Lesson Six: Before Our Greatest Achievements Depression Comes

Elijah, poor Elijah, God is not finished with you. You are praying to die, but don't you know, Elijah, you will never die? You are asking for a coffin. God is going to give you a chariot. You are asking for a burial. God is going to give you a whirlwind. You are asking for a funeral. God is going to give you fire. Elijah, your best days are ahead for you.

Poor Elijah had depression before another great victory was to come.

Depression, brethren, can be a John the Baptist, a messenger in a rough garment who reveals to us that the Saviour is on the way. "Weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning." [14]

Lesson Seven: That a Long Stretch of Unbroken Labour Can Lead to Depression of Spirit

When I was a boy my father taught me how to use a scythe. Not many scythes are used today in this day of modernisation of farm machinery. My Dad taught me that to use a scythe effectively was to see that its blade was always sharp. He said, "Never think you're wasting time, my son, when you stop your mowing and you take the stone and you sharpen the blade. For the man with the sharp scythe is the man that will accomplish most at the end of the day".

You will not cut trees with a handle, you need an axe head.

Brethren and sisters in Christ, God has to stop us at times so that we can renew our vows; we can look into our hearts; we can confess our sins and we can renew our strength.

The fisherman must mend and wash his nets. The beast of burden must at times be put out to grass. The earth keeps its Sabbath of rest in the winter time, and the Saviour says to His disciples, "Come ye apart, and rest awhile".

This man who had not learned those lessons, cries out for death, "Let me die, I am no better than my fathers". "But Elijah, you are, I have got a special place for you", said God, "You are going to go to Heaven a new way that no one else ever went to Heaven by, and you are going to be a type of all God's people in the day of resurrection, at the Second Coming of my Son". Then we will all go to Heaven by the whirlwind of God.

1. Divine Encouragement

Notice, God came in and gave Divine encouragement. He said, "The journey is too great for thee". Divine encouragement! The Lord would come to our hearts today, and amidst our depressions and oppressions He would say to us, "The journey is too great for thee, but it is not too great for me". There is a Divine encouragement for every child of God.

II. Divine Entertainment

Secondly, the Lord came with Divine entertainment.

Have you ever noticed the three miraculous ways that Elijah was fed? He was fed by the ravens, they brought him bread and flesh in the morning, [15] and bread and flesh in the evening.

He was fed by a widow and the barrel of meal did not waste, nor did the cruise of oil fail.

Don't you see the preparation was getting better? I would rather be entertained by the widow who made the food than take it out of the raven's beak.

But the last entertainment of Elijah was the best. Cakes made by angelic hands. Water in the cruise from the water of life. A table spread by God Himself. Divine entertainment!

Bless God there is Divine encouragement for the child of God today. There is also Divine entertainment. "Come and dine", that is what Jesus said in John chapter 21 to those disciples that toiled all night and caught nothing, but their breakfast was prepared for them by the Saviour on the shore.

III. Divine Enablement

Then there was Divine enablement. Do you notice that word, "The angel of the Lord". That is a title of Christ in the Old Testament. This was a Christophony - a pre-Incarnate manifestation - an appearance of the Saviour, "and the anger of the Lord touched him".

Oh, He touched me! That is what you need. That is what I need, a touch of the nail-pierced hand of God.

"You are not alone, Elijah, I'm with you. Feel my touch, be encouraged by my presence".


IV. Divine Engagement

Then as we go on, there was the Divine engagement.

The Lord was not in the wind or in the thunder or in the fire, but the Lord was in the still small voice. And God said, "Elijah, you are not finished, you are going to anoint kings. Get away to Syria, get the hold of Hazael, anoint him king. Go and find Jehu, the son of Numshi, anoint him king. Yes, and I have a great man to fill your shoes - a man who will do twice the miracles that you ever did, Elijah. Go and anoint him, he is Elisha the son of Shaphat".

God engaged him to continue in his work.

There is no retirement with God. There are no redundancies in His service to the child of God who wants to do His will. No matter what the past may be there is always a special blessing, a newed blessing, a richer experience.

Elijah never knew before what it was to talk face to face with his God as he did on the Mount Horeb that day. [16]

V. Divine Enthronement

Last of all there was Divine enthronement.

"Elijah, you are going away but you are not going to die." I wonder did Elijah as he walked with Elisha think of the juniper tree? I wonder did he think of the day when he said ' "Let me die". But he is now walking to Glory. "I'm going to leave you, Elisha, I'm going higher today. The sons of the prophets are right, your head is going to be taken away from you today".

Then suddenly there appeared a chariot of fire and horsemen thereof.

He did not go to Heaven in the chariot of fire and the horsemen thereof, because those are a type of God's presence, and God's presence stays ever with His people. You will find that chariot of fire again at the death of Elisha. They are still there. The Lord took him to Heaven in a whirlwind. And as he saw him go up, his mantel fell, and a double portion of the Spirit of God came upon Elisha. The Divine enthronement of Elijah!

Brethren and sisters in Christ, let us all today learn these lessons from this great man of God. Don't allow the Devil to paint a gloomy picture of your future my brother and sister. Don't allow the Devil to tell you that the future for you is one of gloom, defeat and ruin. God has a blessed purpose for His people; a blessed future for His church; a blessed reviving for the people of God.

May we enter into these great truths and have our own souls purified in the faith, and filled with the Spirit of God. And may we go forward knowing that the best has yet to be and the end is not yet, Praise the Lord!

If there be a man or woman in this house today a stranger to Divine grace.

If there be in this house today one who knows not Christ, has never felt His touch, the cleansing of His rich, purifying, redeeming Blood or the power of His salvation.

Let me tell you, friend, there is room at the Cross for you.

Come, as you are. Try not to make yourself better. Put no faith or hope in Church or Creed, profession or possession, but put your trust and hope in Jesus Christ alone. Say from your heart, like the publican, "God, be merciful to me the sinner", and then you shall go down this day to your house justified. Just as if you had never sinned!

Because One died for you and bore your wrath and your judgment upon that cruel tree of Calvary:

"Why was He there as the Bearer of sin
If on Jesus my guilt was not laid?
Oh, why from His side flowed the sin-cleansing Blood
If by dying my debt was not paid?

Look and live! There is life for a look at the Crucified One. There is life at this moment for thee! Look and live and live for evermore!

May it be so, for Jesus Sake!

AMEN AND AMEN!

[17-22 MEDITATIONS FOR THE MONTH]

[23]
The Sunday School Teacher's Teacher

Subject: The Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Lesson XXVII - The Leper

Lord's Day 1st September 'Sometime far off - made nigh.'

Read
- Matt. viii. 1-4; (Comp. Mark i. 40-45; Luke v. 12-14); Leam - Luke xviii, 27; Eph. ii. 12, 13

SKETCH OF LESSON

A long sickness - how painful! (illustrate by any known case among the scholars.) Yet might be worse - suppose born with it, and had it all these years. Or worse still suppose never can be cured. Or worse still - suppose not keep as now, not get a little better, but worse all through life. Or worse still - if sick one's children sure to have it too, and their children, and so on. Or much worse than all this - sick people often treated so tenderly, best room, best food, kind friends, etc.; but suppose not allowed to live with family, compelled to live only among people with same disease, must not let any one else come near - how dreadful!

There is a disease like this - Leprosy ' Read today of a leper. A bad case - 'full of leprosy' (Luke v. 12).

I. THE LEPER'S DISEASE

(1) Its character. Not the poor man's limbs only, or skin, or blood, diseased; his whole body. Perhaps he was born with it; if so, was never a bright healthy baby; but pale, ghastly, corpse-like (Numb. xii. 10; 2 Kings v. 27). Or it began with a little white spot - how terrible to see it! - no stopping it - slowly and secretly it poisoned all the body - just as 'a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump'. Can he hope to be cured! Even a bad king of Israel knew only God could cure a leper (2 Kings v. 7). Will get worse and worse - lose hair, feet, hands - die miserably. But something sadder than all this -

(2) Its Curse. All the time this poor man had been a leper, had been obliged to live only with lepers like himself - forbidden to be with others; if some one came near, must utter a dreadful cry (Lev. xiii. 45) to warn him off; counted as one dead; must have head bald, face half-covered, clothes torn, like mourners (Lev. xiii. 45; comp. Numb. vi. 9; Ezek. xxiv. 17); shunned and shuddered at by everybody; never could go to Passover, etc., at Jerusalem, or to Temple, because 'unclean'; (Lev. xiii. 46; Numb. v. 1-3). The law very strict, too; even a prophetess and a king had to submit, Numb. xii. 14; 2 Chron. xxvi. 19-21.

II. THE LEPER'S CURE (Read passage)

Even to the haunts of the lepers comes the report of the wonderful things Jesus has done: cripples, blind, fever-stricken healed - even demoniacs - 'might He not cure us?' Perhaps some sadly shake their heads; but one will try - he follows Jesus at a distance - perhaps, standing behind, hears Sermon on Mount - hears blessed words, 'Ask, and it shall be given you' - feels that He not like scribes, speaks 'with authority' - believes He can heal - but will He? will He not turn from the poor outcast?

At last, courage to try. See the crowd starting aside in horror as he presses through, for every one that touches him will be reckoned 'unclean'. What will Jesus do? will He risk being made 'unclean'? See, He steps forward - touches the prostrate [24] leper! The pure and the foul touching - the pure not defiled by the foul, but the foul cleansed by the pure! The leper feels the touch - hears his own words ('will,' 'clean') echoed back, and in a moment, the glow of perfect health rushes through him his leprosy gone!

But see Christ's command, ver. 4 - why 'tell no man'? (a) Crowds already great - if more come, too much excitement, rulers may interfere. (b) The leper not restored yet - not till examined and pronounced clean by priest (Lev. xiv.) - the curse upon him still; if priests hear how he was cured, perhaps refuse to give him release. But why go to priest at all? cannot all see he is well? (a) If they give him release, and then the miracle known, what a testimony to Jesus's power! - a testimony against !he unbelieving priests themselves. (b) The law to be obeyed - did Jesus come to put it aside? Matt. v. 17. 

III. THE SINNER'S DISEASE

Why had God excluded lepers from His sanctuary, etc.? why reckoned unclean, dead? why kept apart? To teach men about sin. In leprosy see the disease of sin - its character - its curse.

(1) Its character. (a) Hereditary, Rom. v. 12. See it in children almost as soon as leprosy. Why infants disobedient, deceitful (Ps. lviii. 3), passionate? - it is the disease of sin beginning to appear. (b) Secret, subtle, pervading - spoils the whole soul (Isa. i. 6) 'no health in us'. (c) It grows worse - does not one lie lead to another (as with Jacob), the vain and wilful boy become the ungovernable man (as Absalom)? And how a bad habit spreads in a school! Beware - 'touch not the unclean thing' (2 Cor. vi. 17). (d) Incurable by man. See St. Paul's experience, Rom. vii. 14-24; comp. Jer. xiii. 23. People try to be outwardly good, but this as if the leper had painted himself and dressed finely (see Matt. xxiii. 27) - it is the heart that is wrong (Jer. xvii. 9; Mark vii. 21).

(2) Its curse. The first thing sin did was to exclude Adam and Eve from God's favour and presence; and so always, Isa. lix. 2; Ps. lxvi. 18. This what David so feared, Ps. ii. 11. What does Isaiah say we all are? lxiv. 6 - and St. Paul, that we are reckoned? Eph. ii. 1. And so at the last, Rev. xxi. 27.

IV. THE SINNER'S CURE

Like the leper, he must come to Christ. But is He able to cure sin as He did leprosy? (Heb. vii. 25, and 1st text for rep.). And willing? does He not invite (Matt. xi. 28) and promise to receive (John vi. 37)? But how can He do it? (a) He has touched our nature, taken hold of it, taken it on Himself, Heb. ii. 14. (b) He has borne the curse, Gal. iii. 13. (c) He gives the Spirit, who can purify and make strong and well, Rom. viii. 3-9.

Then what result? Curse removed directly - can come to God now - those 'far off' made 'nigh' (2nd text for rep.). But recovery from disease itself slow and gradual - not complete till where 'no more sin'.

But suppose the leper had not known he was leprous; or, knowing it, cared not, felt not how different he was from others? Would he then have come to Christ? This just why men not cleansed, see Rev. iii. 17. Is it so with us?

Lesson XXVIII - The Roman Officer and his Servant
Lord's Day 8th September 'I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel'

Read
- Luke vii. 1-10; (comp. Matt. viii. 5-13); Learn - Matt. viii. 8-10; Rom. iii. 29, 30

SKETCH OF LESSON

What kind of people are the most easily surprised? Is it not ignorant people? (illust. - little child astonished at new toy - not so those older: chemical experiments astonish audience - not lecturer, etc. etc.). The more we know, the fewer new things to be surprised at. What wonderful things those that could make Christ 'marvel'! Twice we read of His 'marvelling' - what could it be at? Once at unbelief (Mark vi. 6); once at faith (read of today). Were these such strange things! Unbelief strange, when He saw so much of it? Faith strange, when the wonder rather why so few believed? [25]

How great the unbelief, how great the faith, that could surprise Jesus!

(Read the passage.) 'Great faith' - so He called it. Now see three things about it.

I. WHERE THE 'GREAT FAITH' WAS FOUND

In a learned Rabbi, knowing prophecies, so recognising Jesus as the Messiah? In a strict Pharisee, with his regular prayers, alms, fastings? Would not be such 'great faith' in these - ought to have know? yet did not. Not in a Jew at all - in a Gentile - and he one of the hated Roman conquerors.

Three uncommon things about him: -

(a) His slave was 'dear unto him'. Roman masters often very cruel to slaves - had bought them with money, or taken them in war - their own property - could do as they liked with them - never thought of loving them. So this centurion good and kind like few others.

(b) He loved the Jews. Romans despised Jews - disliked them because so troublesome, would not submit quietly like other conquered nations of empire ( see Acts v. 36, 37, xvi. 20, xviii. 14-16). What could have made this centurion different? - must have come to feel that Jews knew true God - perhaps like the other centurion, Cornelius (Acts x. 2), was 'devout', 'feared God', 'prayed to God Alway'. What had he done for Capernaum? ver. 5 - that synagogue where Jesus so often taught, his gift.

(c) The Jews loved Him - loved commander of troops stationed there to keep them in subjection! - what were their chief men ready to do for him? - and that even when the sick one only his slave.

But a more uncommon thing about him yet - the 'great faith' Jesus marvelled at. 

II. HOW THE 'GREAT FAITH' WAS SHEWN

(1) Here is the greatest man in Capernaum seeking help of a humble carpenter - a prophet, certainly, but not acknowledged even by his own nation. Is it just because he is so great - thinks Jesus sure to do His best for him? Compare the Nobleman (see Lesson XXI). No, the very reverse. Does not think himself great - 'not worthy' to receive Jesus at his house (ver. 6) not even worthy to go to Him (ver. 7) getsJewish elders to go instead. Why this? Very likely had heard scribes teach in that synagogue - knew they expected great King from heaven - but He to be king of the Jews - should drive away Romans no blessings for them (unless they became Jews). Might well feel he was outside the 'kingdom' - no use his asking for miracle. And yet he did.

(2) What did the elders ask Jesus to do? ver. 3 ('to come and heal'). So the Nobleman we read of before (John iv. 49). But look at the centurion's message when he heard Jesus was coming, ver. 6-8. What meant? He thinks, 'Why should He come? Is not His word enough wherever He is? I give orders myself - get immediate obedience - my soldiers and my slave go here and there as I tell them - I, too, obey my superior officer ('under authority'); and He is captain of a greater army - not a hundred men, but ten thousand angels - all things in heaven and earth - surely diseases under His control - can He not speak the word only, at any distance, and command the disease to leave my poor slave?' (comp. Ps. cvii. 20 - 'He sent His word, and healed them').

What he thought of Jesus we know not, but we see he believed with all his heart (1) in His all-embracing love, reaching even to a Gentile soldier's slave - (2) in His supreme authority, governing all things. Which of the Jews, of the disciples, even, had 'great faith' like that? - 'no, not in Israel'. No wonder Jesus marvelled.

III. HOW THE 'GREAT FAITH' SHOULD BE REWARDED

By the request being granted? Yes; but more than that - see how.

The elders, perhaps, thought, if Jesus healed the slave, it would be because they asked (just as, if they wanted something of Roman Emperor, would try and get some one at court to ask for them). Jesus had been going about proclaiming 'the kingdom at hand' - well, true or not, this (they thought) certain: - When that 'kingdom' did come, it should be for Abraham and his children, for their nation - they should be like guests at a feast (Isa. xxv. 6), in light and gladness - and others, the Gentile 'dogs', in the darkness outside; they the favoured ones at court, though the King might, perhaps, if they asked Him, grant a few crumbs to any poor outcast they cared for.

Now what does Jesus say? (Read Matt. viii. 11, 12.)

(a) Yes, the kingdom shall be like a feast - rest, enjoyment, provision for all want. Yes, Abraham shall be there - plenty of guests, too - but who? where from? - [26] from whence Israel's enemies came, Babylonians from East, Romans from West. When brought in? who preached over Roman empire? we, too, in the West America, etc. And East - some had come then (Magi) - even now, Hindoos, Chinese, etc. But outside? Yes, there is ,outer darkness' - who there? Some of those very children of Abraham to whom God first gave the kingdom - who would not now eat with Gentiles - should not then - think of their bitter despair - 'gnashing of teeth'!

(b) But should all the Gentiles be in - all the Jews out? Where the real difference? what would give right of entry? What the centurion had so much of - FAITH. But what faith? The same as the centurion's faith in Jesus Himself - in the despised Nazarene - in His all-embracing love - in His supreme authority - that would admit any one, Jew or Gentile, to God's banquet - nothing else would admit either. (See 2nd text for rep.)

Can we not see the faces of the elders as they heard that?

Outside or inside - which shall we be? Do you say, 'I go to church, etc. - pretty good boy at home and school - God very kind - it will be all right'? That will not do. Sin - any sin - shuts out; but Christ died to take sin away, and the question is, Have we come to Him, taken Him as our Saviour, Friend, King? do we love Him? trust in Him? have we faith? (John iii. 16, 36). Many boys and girls who thought well of themselves will see some they have despised (poorer than themselves - or foreigners, negroes, etc.) at the feast with Abraham, with the King Himself - and themselves shut out!

Lesson XXIX - The Widow's Son of Nain
Lord's Day 15th September 'The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God'

Read
- Luke vii. 11 - 16; Learn - Isa. xxv. 8; John v. 21, 25

SKETCH OF LESSON


You have all seen funerals often - know they are sad things; but have you ever felt the sadness - ever had funeral at home? recollect the distress when doctor said no hope - the watching by the sick bed, etc. then the word passed round, 'gone, silence - weeping - last look - then the burial - the grave - 'never see him (or her) in old place' - (the teacher will modify these recollections according to local and special circumstances).

Sad enough when one of a large family taken - how much more when one of two. Such a case see today.

1. The Widow and Her Son Separated.

A widow - then had had a sad funeral before this one: perhaps only lately - and had been glad that, though husband gone, her son grown up, and could support her; perhaps years ago - left with little baby - had brought him up - all her 'treasure' in him - (how wisely Jesus said, 'Lay not up treasures on earth,' etc.!). Was he a good son? We know not - but if so what a loss to her! Any of you 'only son of mother, and she a widow'? - how tender should be to her!

She is alone in the world now - perhaps poor - knows not what will do - dark future. Yet many kind friends - she and her son loved in the town - see how many following the bier. Through streets - out of gate (Jews buried outside cities) - moves the mournful procession - not silent as with us - loud wailings and cries (Jer. ix. 17, 18; Amos. v. 16; Matt. ix. 23) - one weeping bitterly (comp. Jer. vi. 26; Amos viii. 10; Zech. xii. 10).

2. The Widow and Her Son Re-united.

As procession moves out of gate, another company coming up hill towards city. They have come a long way, 25 miles, over mountains, since the morning - we should think very weary - would scarcely notice a passing funeral. But One does - He knows it all - sees into the widow's desolate heart. Hear His gentle voice as He speaks to her.

'Weep not!' - not weep? - is there not a cause? but see - startled bearers stopping at Jesus' touch - crowd silent in wonder Jesus speaking to a corpse that cannot hear [27] (comp. Rom. iv. 17). But it does hear - the soul that had flown far away hears and comes back - the heart is beating again the blood flowing through the veins again the lungs breathing again - there is a living man on the bier - sitting up. Can the gazers be in a dream? No, for he speaks - and it is the voice of the widow's son' We have seen happy meetings, read of them (eg. Jacob and Joseph) - but what must this have been?

Now look at the people - they of Nain probably never saw Jesus before - what think? Ver. 16 - 'a great prophet' they remember what Elijah and Elisha did but was Jesus like them? - they raised dead with much prayer and effort (1 Kings xvii. 19-22; 2 Kings iv. 32-35) - how did He do it? Truly God had 'visited His people' in a sense they never thought of - not sending a prophet, but coming Himself.

But those who had come with Jesus people of Capernaum - the disciples - they had seen other miracles - why they surprised? It taught them more about two things: -

I. THE COMPASSION OF JESUS

Had he not been kind before to the sick of their town one Sabbath evening (Lesson XXIV) - to the leper - to the centurion? Ah, but then He was asked. Now they see He loves those who know Him not - longs to bless those who never think of asking - feels for all suffering; His 'compassion' spontaneous (i.e., moves of itself).

So it is still. Have you had sorrow, trouble, disappointment, pain? Jesus saw it all pitied you though you never went to Him. Did it go away after a time? He had interfered, though you know it not. Might He not well stop thinking of you? But 'His compassions fail not' - He is 'the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy'. Think of the kindest person you know - he not so tender-hearted as Christ. Does His love seem so natural - not much in it to marvel at? But think - who suffers most at seeing misery? - hard man or tender man? Then how must He have suffered at all He saw? (Heb. iv. 15; Isa. liii. 3, 4, lxiii. 9.)

II. THE POWER OF JESUS

This, too, they had seen before - over fish in Lake, devils, fevers, leprosy, etc. - power even to heal at a distance (centurion's servant); but power over the dead - over the lifeless body - over the spirit that has 'returned to God who gave it'! - this a new thing indeed.

So, again, His power the same now. But does He raise the dead now? He will, John v. 28, 29. Death shall not keep our bodies; if we trust in Him and love Him, death cannot hurt our souls. See why, Heb. ii. 14, 15, Rev. i. 18.

And the day is coming, when no more tears, and no more death (Rev. xxi. 4).

Is this great power - great compassion?

There is greater yet.

See whom God calls 'dead', Eph. ii. 1; 1 Tim. v. 6. Why called so? Can a dead body see, hear, feel, speak, act? And a dead soul sees not its own state, hears not God's voice, feels not God's love, speaks not in true prayer and praise, does not God's will. Which of us is like that?

Upon dead souls Jesus had compassion. Looked down and saw us dead, so dead that we knew it not. Who asked Him to have pity, to come down? He came unasked - lived Himself among dead souls - let them kill Him - that He might purchase life for them.

Upon dead souls Jesus has power. These also hear His voice, as He calls, 'I say unto thee, Arise'. He sends the 'Giver of Life' (Nic. Creed), the Holy Ghost, to 'breathe into them the breath of life'.

But the soul must be alive before the body dies - or else eternal death. When will your bodies die? - not till you are old? are you sure? - (illus. - A boy being told he might die young, went to the cemetery and measured the graves. He found some shorter than himself.)

Then, hear Christ's voice now, and say, 'I will arise'.

Lesson XXX - The Paralytic
Lord's Day 22nd September 'Who is this that forgiveth sins also?'

Read - Mark 11. I - 12; (comp. Matt. ix. 2-8; Luke v. 17-26); Learn - Ps. ciii. 2, 3; Acts v. 31

SKETCH OF LESSON

Do not boys and girls, when told that God answers prayer, sometimes think this in their hearts? - 'Yes, perhaps, if pray for grace, etc., - but if pray for everyday things we [28] really wish for, not get them'. But God will give all that is good - would you give baby the poisonous berry it cries for? Only boys and girls don't care for best things (spiritual blessings) - why? - don't feel their value (as baby will prefer plaything to bank-note). Today read how Jesus gave His best gift first, and then the lesser one too.

I.

'Jesus at home again!' - this the cry from mouth to mouth in Capernaum. See the concourse gathering, pouring into the house - doorway now filled up - crowd even in street - can't get in.

Here come four men - what carrying? 'Oh, pray let us pass in!' - impossible what to be done? Cannot they wait till tomorrow, or till Jesus comes out? But the poor man not only helpless in body because of palsied limbs - miserable in mind too feels his sinfulness - knows that is why he is afflicted - has heard of Jesus being 'sent to heal the broken-hearted' (Luke iv. 18) Perhaps He will say something comforting, even if He will not cure one so sinful cannot wait for this - must get to Him at once. Here is a man sadly needing a temporal blessing - yet which does he think most of? - this or the spiritual?

But how to get at Jesus? Suddenly his good friends who are carrying him think of a plan - beg admission next door - up on to flat roof there - then step over on to roof of the house - look down into courtyard - see it filled with people - Jesus sitting under verandah teaching. Quickly they take up tiles of verandah just over His head - then what?

Now come inside. See the throng, filling up every corner - all silent - as the mat and its burden are gently let down to Jesus' feet. They know His kindness - but will not this make Him angry? interrupted in the middle of His teaching - intruded on so strangely? Yet no anger in His face - only pity - then He will heal - no - why, what is He saying? 'sins forgiven!'

What do they think? ver. 7 'blasphemies' (comp. Matt. xxvi. 65; John x. 33).

Were they right? Yes, so far as they knew. Who can forgive sins? - why only God? (illus. - If John injures Henry, of whom must he ask pardon? of William?) Every sin an offence against God (1 John iii. 4; see Gen. xxxix. 9; Ps. II. 4) - so God only can forgive. (William might say to John, 'I know Henry will forgive you if you ask him - he told me so'). Did Jesus simply say, 'God will forgive you if you ask Him'? No, but 'Thy sins are forgiven' - how could He say that? Because He was God; and, just as God in heaven could forgive sin, so when He came down and became 'the Son of Man', the Son of Man could forgive sin on earth (ver. 10). Thus we see,

(1) CHRIST FORGIVING SIN

II.

(a) But why did Jesus forgive this man? When does God forgive any one? - 'He pardoneth and absolveth' - whom? How know if 'truly repent'? God knows the heart (I Chron. xxviii. 9; 2 Chron. vi. 30; Jer. xvii. 10). What must Jesus have known? see His first words, 'Be of good cheer' (Matt.) why this? - He saw the man's heart - his misery of soul - his humble penitent state saw that he cared most for spiritual blessing.

(b) What else are we told Jesus knew? - 'seeing their faith' - would the poor man's friends have taken all that trouble if had not trusted His power and love? Do we also try, in faith, to bring any one to Christ? Be sure He sees, and will not disappoint.

(c) One thing more Jesus knew, ver. 8. The Pharisees had not spoken out - we are not told they even whispered to each other yet He read their thoughts (comp. Matt. xii. 25; Luke vi. 8, vii. 39, 40; John ii. 24, vi. 61, 64, xxi. 17; Rev. ii. 23).

Jesus had claimed to do what God only could do. Has He not proved His right by showing He knows what God only can know? Penitence, faith, murmurs - He knows all. Thus we see,

(2) CHRIST SEARCHING THE HEART

III.

But perhaps they might think, 'After all, it's easy to say, Thy sins are forgiven - but how know if they really are?' Jesus will show them that His Divine authority is not only a thing that He professes to have, but a thing they can all put to the proof. Already He has done this by reading their thoughts; now will give a yet clearer proof. What sort? Just as you, if saw a prayer for temporal blessing answered, more struck than if it were spiritual, so they would think more of a miracle on the body than of one on the soul - though which greatest? He is speaking to the scribes 'But that ye may know'., etc. - then He stops short - turns to the helpless cripple at His feet - 'Arise!'

How can a man with paralysed limbs stand up? Yet he does, instantly. See the crowd, [29] which could not make way for him to get in, now making way for him to pass out. Are they in a dream? - they look and feel like it; wonders they have seen before, but this quite a new thing (Luke).

Follow the man, forgiven and healed, blessed both in body and soul - carrying the mat that had so long carried him - fancy his arrival at home! Thus we see,


(3) CHRIST HEALING THE BODY

Authority to forgive - knowledge of all hearts - power to give bodily health and every good thing - all in Jesus. Why in Him? Because though really a man, not only a man -'GOD WITH US' (Matt. i. 23; John i. 1, 14; 1 Tim. iii. 16; Heb. i. 8).

He knows our hearts, reads our thoughts now. Which does He see we care most for His spiritual or His temporal mercies? If (as in the story-books) a fairy promised us whatever we liked best, what would it be?

Do we care little for pardon and grace, but much for money, pleasure, getting on in life, having everything comfortable and prosperous? Is that loving the Saviour who died for us? Can we expect Him to give us what we want?

But do we wish for pardon and grace above ail? Are our sins a burden which we long to have removed? And do we long for grace to 'sin no more'? Then be sure that Christ will give us our wish (1 John i. 7- 10). And will He then leave us to shift for ourselves? - no, will give every good thing too (Rom. viii. 32; Matt. vi. 33). We shall be able to take up David's joyful song.

You would like to care most for soul-blessings - but somehow you don't. Then ask for another of Christ's gifts, 'repentance'.

Lesson XXXI - The Call of the Publican
Lord's Day 29th September 'A friend of publicans and sinners.'

Read - Matt. ix. 9-17 (comp. Mark ii. 14-22; Luke v. 27-39); Learn - Mark ii. 16,17


SKETCH OF LESSON

The tax-collector - not usually glad to see him, because often inconvenient to pay but does any one hate the man? Only collects what quite necessary - no making us pay more than we ought - no cheating - pays it all to the authorities - and they spend it for ships, soldiers, police, schools, etc. But suppose England conquered by foreigners taxes raised to pay for their soldiers, etc., instead of ours - how hateful, having to pay! And suppose the collector might get all he could out of us, and then pay them only a fixed sum, keeping the rest for himself who would like him or trust him? And suppose he were an Englishman, willing to serve the enemy to make gain for himself should we not all dislike and shun him?

This exactly how it was among the Jews, when Christ on earth. The 'publicans' (a) collected taxes for Roman conquerors; (b) were often Jews, so the more hated; (c) oppressed and cheated the people, to get rich themselves. At the first collection (when Jesus ten years old) people in Galilee refused and rebelled (Acts v. 37); but afterwards forced to submit. A publican shunned and despised by all good and respectable Jews (Luke xix. 7) - especially by the Pharisees (xviii. 11); so could only have bad and low people for friends.

At Capernaum one named Matthew - a busy place, with many to collect from, so would make money fast. No doubt he often saw and heard Jesus; but: -

(a) Would he care about Him? What sort of people had Jesus spoken well of? (Matt. v. 3) - was Matthew 'poor in spirit'? was he not selfish and covetous? what was he 'laying up for himself'? would he like the Prophet who said 'Lay not up' (Matt. vi. 19)? And even if he were willing to listen to and obey Jesus.

(b) Would Jesus receive him? did not He want those who were more righteous than the Pharisees (Matt. v. 20) - those who were unselfish and did good to others (v. 44, 46, 47)? how could He have anything to do with a grasping irreligious publican?

Yet see two strange things, ver. 9. (a) Jesus choosing the publican - the publican 'leaving all' (Luke) to follow Jesus! (b) A 'great feast' given by Matthew (Luke) - his fellow-publicans and other friends, bad and disreputable people, invited - and who else there? [30]

No wonder a commotion in Capernaum. Two complaints made: (a) As to those Jesus was allowing to be His friends and followers; (b) As to what He was allowing them to do. In answering these, what two things does He claim to be like? (Read ver. 10- 17)

I. CHRIST THE PHYSICIAN

Think of the feast - great company Jesus in place of honour next Matthew disciples and publicans all sitting together. An interruption - others at the door - who? See their proud looks - the broad fringes (Matt. xxiii. 5) to their robes as a sign of sanctity. How can they come into a publican's house? - would not as guests but will to accuse Jesus. To whom do they speak? ver. 11 - why? Perhaps to set Peter, John, etc., against their Master. What said? - 'We thought this Jesus was well-conducted and respectable, at all events but how is this? what is He doing in such a place? how can He make such people His friends - how come to one of their feasts?' (see Matt. xi. 19; Luke xv. 2).

Does Peter answer? Perhaps knows not what to say. But Jesus hears - see His reply: 'Are you so good, and these men so bad? To which, then, should I go? Who need the physician - the healthy or the sick?' Then He reminds them what God had said of old (Hos. vi. 6) - a loving heart more pleasing to Him than much outward service (comp. Prov. xxi. 3; Mic. vi. 8) - if they so good, why not try and do the publicans good, instead of proudly standing aloof?

Christ the Physician - this the reason:

(a) Why Jesus went among the publicans - not to be like them, but to make them like Him. Why does doctor go to sick man? - to catch his disease, or to cure him? Jesus treats them as -? and calls them to -? (ver. 13).

(b) Why the publicans followed Jesus. His words had made them feel their wickedness, and they wanted a friend - not a companion to join them in sin, but a Saviour to deliver them from sin. What does a man feel and know when he sends for a doctor?

II. CHRIST THE BRIDEGROOM

Now look at the second complaint. Other men have also come in, not proud and angry like the Pharisees, but perplexed - who? ver. 14. They do not mind Jesus receiving publicans; did not their own master do so (Luke iii. 12; vii. 29) before Herod put him in prison? But then how would he deal with such sinners? would he not appoint them long and strict fasts? were not even they, his faithful followers, at this very time fasting as he had directed? But Jesus is letting these publicans feast, and joining them at table!

How does Jesus answer this?

(1) Does He say fasting is wrong? - no, His disciples to fast one day - but then it should be, not just because right thing to do, but because a reason for it, not able to help it for sorrow. Fasting no use as a mere thing to be done, nor prayer either - must come from heart. (So, church-going, prayer-saying, etc., only pleasing to God if really meant.)

(2) But why not the right time to fast then? Because He with them. Could a bridegroom's friends be mournful at wedding-time?

Christ the Bridegroom - the very name the Baptist had given Him, and did not he rejoice to see the long looked-for Bridegroom come at last? (John iii. 29). Who could help being glad? - what had He come among men at all for? Not to punish - not to set hard tasks by which men might get to heaven - but to invite them freely to be happy, as people are happy at a wedding. Could this new devotion to Him be cramped by the old regular forms? - their joy be kept in by the old strict rules about fastings and prayers? That would be like mending a worn-out coat with an unshrunk piece out of a new one like putting fresh wine, while yet fermenting, into old skins. To do so would be to spoil everything.

CHRIST IS STILL CALLING -

Calling, as of old, sinners to repentance. Any of you not think. yourselves sinners? then nothing to do with Him. Any feel sin want to get rid of it? - Come to the Physician.

Calling us, as of old, not to hard rules and a gloomy life, but to be happy. If a Jew in those days loved God, would show it by his many washings, fastings, formal prayers, etc., because taught so - and yet never quite happy, ever fearing he had not done enough to satisfy God. We know better. If we love God, can try and do everything to please Him - pray, work, deny ourselves but why? Not to get accepted, but because accepted in the Beloved' (Eph. i. 6). Our love to show itself in being happy and making others happy.

'We cannot, like Matthew, invite Jesus to a feast, but He invites us, Isa. lv. 1.

'All things are ready, come!
The door is open wide;
Oh, feast upon the love of God,
For Christ His Son has died.' [31]

INSIDE INSIGHT: a page of inspirational poetry presented each month by Rhonda Paisley

I thirst but not as once I did
The vain delights of Earth to shake
Thy Wounds, Immanuel, all forbid
That I should find my pleasure there.

It was the sight of Thy dear Cross
First weaned my soul from earthly things
And taught me to despise as dross,
The mirth of fools, the pomp of kings.

Cowper

"What think ye of Christ?" is the test
To try both your state and your scheme.
You cannot be right in the rest
Unless you think rightly of Him.
As Jesus appears in your view,
As He is beloved or not,
So God is disposed to you,
And mercy or wrath is your lot.

Some take him a creature to be,
A Man or an Angel at most;
Sure these have not feelings like me,
Nor know themselves wretched and lost.
So guilty, so helpless am I,
I dare not confide in His Blood,
Nor on His protection rely,
Unless I were sure He is God.

If asked what of Jesus I think
(Though still my best thoughts are but poor),
I say, He's my meat and my drink,
My life, and my strength, and my store;
My shepherd, my husband, my friend,
My Saviour from sin and from thrall,
My hope from beginning to end,
My portion, my Lord and my all.

John Newton [32]


ALDERMAN DUFF MEMORIAL FREE PRESBYTERIAN HALL

On Tuesday, 9th July, there was an explosion at a public bar just opposite our church hall in Schomberg Park, Sandy Row. It was supposedly caused by a gas leakage. Damage to the bar and the adjoining Reid's Shoe Shop was extensive and both have now been demolished. Much of the debris from the bar ended up in the church car park and the heavy railings surrounding the grounds were almost totally destroyed. There was also some structural damage to the building itself, and three windows were broken. A portrait of Dr. Paisley which hung in the entrance hall was also badly damaged.

However, despite all this we have cause to praise the Lord, because the damage could have been much worse and we have been able to carry on all our Services without interruption. Please continue to pray for God's blessing upon the work there, remembering especially the special month of Services in October.