“And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work on me.”
THE lovers of Jesus are often misunderstood. Those who judge only by a utilitarian standard refuse to acknowledge the worth of their deeds. You might as well despise the electric light because it makes no register on a gas-meter. But when the voices of criticism and jealousy are highest, Jesus steps in and casts the shield of His love around the trembling, disconcerted soul, saying, Let him alone. So He speaks still:
To Satan: The adversary stands near to resist and tempt. As Judas criticised Mary, so the Evil One seems at times to pour a perpetual stream of chilling criticism on all we say and do, or he meets us at every turn with some evil suggestion. But Jesus is on the watch, and He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear; but when heart and flesh fail, He will step in and say, Let him (or her) alone.
To sorrow: We must pass through the fire, and be subjected to the lapidary’s wheel; we must drink of His cup, and be baptized with His baptism; we must bear our cross after Him. But He is always on the alert. And whenever the feeble flesh is at an end of its power of endurance, He will step in and say, Let be—it is enough.
To human unkindness: Some of us are called to suffer most from our fellows; our foes belong to our own household; our brother Cain hates us. It is hard to bear. To have one’s motives misunderstood and maligned; to lose one’s good name; to be an outcast—all this is hard. But God has planted a hedge about us, and none may pass through it, except He permit. Even Satan recognizes this, as we learn from the Book of Job.
“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
THIS was the darkest hour of the Saviour’s human life. Lover and friend stood away from Him, and those for whom His blood was being shed covered Him with contumely and abuse. Let us consider:
His quotation of Scripture: He is quoting the first verse of Psalm 22, which is truly known as the Psalm of the Cross. It may be that He recited to Himself that wonderful elegy, in which David was to anticipate so minutely the sufferings of his Lord. What meaning there was for those dying lips in Psalm 22:7 : “All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn”; in verse 13 : “They gape upon Me”; in verse 14 : “All My bones are out of joint”; in verse 17 : “I may tell all My bones”; or in verse 18 : “They part My garments and cast lots.”
What sacred feet trod those well-worn steps!
His vicarious sufferings: There is no possible way of understanding, or interpreting, these words, except by believing that He was suffering for sins not His own; that He was being made sin for us; that He was bearing away the sin of the world. It is not for a moment conceivable that the Father could have ever seemed to forsake His well-beloved Son, unless He had stood as the Representative of a guilty race, and during those hours of midday, had become the propitiation for the sins of the world.
His perfect example of the way of Faith: In doing the Father’s will, He yielded up His life even to the death of the cross. But amid it all He said, “My God, My God.” He still held to the Father with His two hands. And His faith conquered. The clouds broke; the clear heaven appeared; He died with a serene faith. “My God” was exchanged for “Father, into Thy hands.”
“And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.”
THIS was the secret of the successes of the early Church. Theirs was the simple commission to preach; but wherever they did so, the Lord confirmed their word with signs following. In Jerusalem, Samaria, Antioch, Rome and to the uttermost end of the world, wherever these simple men stood up and made their proclamation, their invisible Lord was present, and His Spirit bore witness.
Nothing less than this will account for the marvellous successes of those early preachers. He who sat at the right hand of God in the attitude of majestic rest was always beside them in the intensity of the most untiring work. What was done by them on earth was wrought by Himself. His right hand and His holy arm got Him the victory.
This blessed partnership has never been repealed. Jesus has never withdrawn from the compact; and if we could only dare to count and reckon on Him, we would find that He was cooperating in church, and Sunday-school, and mission-station. There are a few rules to be observed, however, before we can count upon Him thus:
(1) We must be clean in heart and life. He cannot identify Himself with those who are consciously delinquent.
(2) We must not seek our own glory, but God’s, and the pure blessing of men.
(3) We must use the Word of God as our sword, our lever, our balm, our cordial, our charm.
(4) We must be in loving harmony with those who name His name, as He cannot countenance seclusion or uncharitable feeling.
(5) We must by faith claim and reckon upon Him—speaking to Him as to the message before it is delivered, relying on Him during its delivery, and conferring with Him about its effect. Not anxious or elated, but at rest.
“And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.”
THE angel’s message meant, for this young, pure-hearted girl, a great deal of misunderstanding and reproach. It was inevitable that clouds would gather around her character, which would sorely perplex the good man to whom she was betrothed. But as soon as she realized that this lot was ordained for her by God she humbly acquiesced, with these model words of patient faith. Let us often say them:
Firstly: To His commands. God’s voice often speaks within our hearts, and no word of His is devoid of power. We must test what seems to be His voice by these three corroborations: First, His Word; second, by the trend of outward circumstances; third, by the advice of Christian people not immediately interested. When these concur, we may take it that God has spoken to us, and whatever the burden of His words we must respond—Be it unto me according to Thy word.
Secondly: To the responsibilities thrust on us. It may be a trusteeship for some dying friend; a charge of orphan children; a babe cast on our parentage; an invalid; a difficult and trying piece of Christian enterprise. But whenever it comes on us, imposed by the evident appointment of our Father, notwithstanding the shrinking of our flesh and the fearfulness of our soul, we must say: Be it unto me according to Thy word.
Thirdly: To any burden of pain and suffering. Are you one whom God has set apart to manifest the power of His grace in suffering and pain? Are you sleepless by night, and helpless by day? Are you likely to spend years in one position, as paralyzed or rheumatic?
Well, still dare to look up and say: Be it unto me according to Thy word.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
THESE twain are joined together, and none can sunder them. Do you want peace? Your highest aim must be the glory of God.
Do you seek God’s glory as your highest aim? Then, the inevitable result will be the peace that passeth understanding.
Glory to God in the highest: It was said of the soldiers of the first Napoleon that they were content to die in the ditch if only he rode over them to victory. With their last breath they cried, “Long live the Emperor!” It seemed as though they had lost all thought and care of their own interests so long as glory accrued to his name. So should it be of us. Higher than our own comfort, or success, or popularity, should be the one thought of the glory of our God. Let Christ be honored, loved, exalted, at whatever cost to us.
On earth, peace: It will come, because when the heart has only one aim to follow, it is delivered from dividing and distracting cares. It will come, because the glory of God is so lofty an aim that it lifts the soul into the atmosphere of the heavenly and eternal world, where peace reigns unbroken. It will come, because we are not greatly troubled by the reverses and alternations of fortune that are incident to all work in this world, since the main object is always secure and beyond fear of failure. What though there be the ebb and flow of the wave, yet the tide is certainly coming up the shore, and will presently stand at high-water mark.
“John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:”
THEY had received the negative, water; they were to receive the positive, fire. Water is not sufficient for natures such as ours.
The Baptist pointed to a greater Baptist than himself. Jesus plunges the soul into a baptism of fire.
Fire cleanses: Ore may be mingled with earthly ingredients from which it is imperative to free it. A chisel or pickaxe could not extricate it. But when it is plunged into the furnace, the metal runs out in a molten stream. So our characters are full of impurities and earthly ingredients; but as they are brought into contact with the power of the Holy Spirit, these are eliminated and dropped away, and we attain degrees of purity and love which otherwise had made us unserviceable to our dear Lord. Do not seek to rid yourself of these things as a condition of His gracious cleansing, but seek the baptism of the Spirit, and He will free thee; for He is like a consuming fire.
Fire illuminates: As the express-train hurries the traveller by night through a district where the smelting furnaces are in full blast, his eyes are arrested by their glow, and the very heavens are lurid with the light, reflected for miles. So when the Spirit comes in power to the soul, He teaches us to know God, and truth, and things hidden from the wise and prudent. The fires that sanctify, illuminate us.
Fire kindles: It is contagious. It will spread over an immense area, where inflammable material attracts it. A match may light up a bonfire that will burn for hours. So when the Spirit of God touches a soul, like an unlit candle, it begins to glow; and from it the blessed spark may pass from heart to heart, and church to church, till an entire continent may blaze with heavenly fire.