“But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, are able.”
THIS the cry of youth—ardent, impulsive, self-confident. It does not wait to calculate the ridges and hummocks that lie between it and its goal, but supposes that it will be able to skate the entire distance over the glistening azure blue ice. Without hesitation it counts on being able to brave all difficulty, surmount all hardship, drink the cup, and be baptized with the baptism.
But these men slept in Gethsemane, forsook the Master when He was arrested, and one of them at least failed Him at the cross.
Creature-might cannot carry us in the hour of our greatest peril. We can vaunt ourselves as we may; but we have to learn that we can only follow Christ in His cup and baptism, after we have been endued with the Spirit of Pentecost. I once knew two who said these words to God, when He presented them with the cup of suffering and death. They did not know all it involved; and they confessed afterward that they could never have stood to their choice, had they not been graciously and repeatedly enabled. But at the end they could not wish it to have been otherwise.
How different were the experiences of these two men! To one the cup and baptism came swiftly, when he fell beneath the beheading axe of Herod (Acts 12:2); to the other they came in long, long years of sharing in the patience of Jesus Christ. These are different aspects of the same fellowship of suffering—swift death, or long waiting; but in both nearness to Jesus. We have no right to cherish the assurance of sitting right and left of the throne, if that only means our own power, authority, glory. But if it means nearness to Jesus, we may count on it with the utmost assurance.
“And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”
THIS was a very remarkable answer; showing that the Lord, in His human life, was the Author and Finisher of the life of faith. He did not quote His Divine power and Godhead as the cause of the withering of the fig-tree; but proceeded to give a lesson on faith, as much as to say that He had wrought the miracle by faith in His Father, and that they could do as He had done, if only they had a similar faith.
Where we get wrong in prayer is that we are so self-willed. We set ourselves to pray for things; we vow to sit up all night to bring God round to our way of thinking; we use strong cryings, tears and protestations; we endeavour to work ourselves into a frame of faith; we think we believe; we shut the doors of our heart against the tiniest suggestion or suspicion that we do not believe. And then we are surprised if the fig-tree does not wither, or the mountain remove.
Where are we wrong? It is not hard to see. There is too much of self and the energy of the flesh in all this. We can only believe for a thing when we are in such union with God that His thought and purpose can freely flow into us, suggesting what we should pray for, and leading us to that point in which there is a perfect sympathy and understanding between us and the Divine mind.
Faith is always the product of such a frame as this. Be sure that you are in alignment with God’s purpose. Wait for Him till the impulses of nature have subsided, and the soul is hushed and still. Then the Spirit will lead you to ask what is in the will of God to give, and you will know instantly that the Spirit intercedes within you according to the will of God.
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”
THIS was Adam’s blessed privilege in Eden; but he missed it.
The love of self took the place of the love of God. It is the aim of our blessed Lord to bring us back to that position. Perfect love is the sunlit peak to which His whole redemption tends. And perfect love would be perfect holiness. If a man were to love God and his neighbour as his first and chief and all-absorbing passion, there would be no room for sin to establish itself in his heart.
But does not this command seem altogether impracticable? It does; and it is impracticable to our mortal flesh. It is high; we cannot attain to it. Yet the very sublimity of the demand is intended to drive us to the Holy Ghost. He sheds abroad the love of God in hearts which are fully yielded to Him. If you desire that this love should be your privilege, lie down low before the flow of the River of Life, and it will fill every gully and inlet of your nature.
But, perhaps you are not of an emotional nature; you cannot gleam and flash, and shed tears, and light up with smiles. You cannot love God with your heart. Then see, the Lord says that you can love Him with your mind, i.e., with your intellect, your choice, your will. Probably this is where you have to begin. Give your mind, your will, your power of choice to God. Make Him first. Ask Him to take the helm of your life, and to control, inspire, and direct its every movement. Crown Him King. And when the will, which is the high priest of your nature, has put its crown of life on the head of Christ, who is God Incarnate, all the emotions and affections and faculties of heart and life will come in to swell the court with their homage and acclaim.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”
ONLY the greatest artists can make immortal pictures from simple domestic scenes. To detect the imperishable and the infinite in the common and ordinary, and to preserve it in such a form as to arrest the ages, this is the mark of consummate power.
But how characteristic of Jesus—a broken bottle skin, a patched garment, a handful of girls shut out of a village feast—these are the subjects which He painted into never-to-be-forgotten pictures.
Lord, give us childlike hearts that we may see the secrets that are hidden in common things!
But how this image arrests us! Who has not heard the cluck of the hen when danger was threatening her brood? She is quicker to detect its proximity than her callow young; and she must needs insert herself between it and them. Ah, how often does the rush of life drown the call of Jesus to come under His wing for rest and safety!
Bunyan says that the hen has a variety of calls, some six or eight. Jesus also calls us for different purposes—sometimes to nestle near His heart for fellowship; sometimes for rest. Sometimes He calls us to feast on some rich dainty, to which He has directed us in the Word; and sometimes to hide in the shadow of His wings till dreaded evils pass us by.
Oh that we more often heard and obeyed that warning note!
Probably there is never a temptation nor trial which is not thus anticipated and preceded. When passion overcomes you by a sudden rush, you must not impute your failure to any lapse in your Saviour’s care. He called you, but you could not hear. “How often!” Who can enumerate the many, many times when we have been summoned by Jesus nearer to Himself, but would not?
“Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:”
YOU say that it is rather overdue. The nipping winds and morning frosts have held back vegetation so long that it has seemed as if summer would never visit us, spreading her carpet on the earth, and giving her intense hues to stream and lake and sky.
But summer is nigh in spite of all prognostications to the contrary, because He is nigh, who is the King of summer, whose presence makes summer. Be sure that He, and therefore it, is nigh, even at the doors.
He is always nigh, and those that love Him realize the perpetual summer of His presence; but His appearing, the parousia, (Second Coming) is nigh. Presently the swing doors will be flung wide, and His triumphal procession will sweep into our view. Then the millennial summer of the world will break, and her long winter will be gone forever. Then the bride will hear Him say: “The winter is over and gone; the time of the singing of birds is come: arise, my fair one, and come.”
The rumours of war that frighten the nations; the slackening faith and waning love; the dissemination of the Gospel to all lands; the great movement now in progress in the midst of the ancient people of God; the decrease of conversion work in favor of the preparation of the Bride for the Bridegroom—all these are like the tender shoots of the fig-tree which show that the Lord is at hand.
Oh, lonely and sequestered ones, by His appearing, and by our gathering together unto Him, be of good courage, and do the King’s work.
Do you want perpetual summer in your soul? There is only one condition which needs to be fulfilled. You must leave the northern climes to dwell between the Tropics, where the sun is always on the throne of the sky. Thy sun shall no more go down.
“Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:”
IT is remarkable that the man who had one talent should hide it. If we had been told that he who had five had hidden one we should not have been surprised; but for the man who had only one to hide it—this is startling; but it is true to life.
The people whose talents and opportunities are very slight and slender are they who are tempted to do nothing at all. “I can do so very little; it will not make much difference if I do nothing: I shall not be missed; my tiny push is not needed to turn the scale.” That is the way they talk. They forget that an ounce-weight may turn the scales where hundred-weights are balanced. They do not realize that the last flake of white snow just oversets the gathering avalanche, and sends it into the vales beneath.
Are you one of these slenderly-endowed ones? And are you doing all you can? Are you doing anything? Even though you cannot do much in your isolation, you might join with others and do much. You might invest your little all in the bank of the Church, and trade as part of that heavenly corporation. Oh, disinter your one talent! Be sure you have one; ask the Master where and what it is; place yourself at His disposal. If it is only to carry refreshment to the harvesters—do that. Be thou faithful in thy very little.
We need not wait for the great future, to obtain this multiplication or withdrawal of our talents. They are already waxing or waning in our hands. There are many among us who, as life has progressed, have come into the use of powers of which at first they were perfectly ignorant; whilst others are losing, through misuse, the little they had.
“For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
THE first covenant was not ratified without blood. For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses, he took the blood of the calves and goats, sprinkled the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant” (Hebrews 9:19-20). So the second covenant must be ratified by blood; not by that of calves and goats, but by the precious blood of Jesus Himself. He who made the covenant sealed it with His blood, that we might have strong assurance.
But Christ has put the cup which holds the emblem of His blood into our hands, and bids us drink it. What, then, do we mean when at the Supper we lift that sacred cup to our lips? Are we not saying by that significant act, Remember thy covenant? Are we not reminding Jesus that we are relying upon Him to do His part? Are we not pledging ourselves to Him as His own, bound to Him by indissoluble ties, and satisfied with His most blessed service?
Among the most precious promises of the new covenant is that in which God promises to remember our sins no more. Here is the ground which enables God to forgive so freely. The blood has been shed for many unto the remission of sins; the claims of infinite justice have been met; the righteous demands of a broken law satisfied; the barriers have been removed that might have restrained the manifestation of Divine love, though they could not obstruct the love. And now we may sit with Christ at His table in His kingdom, not rebels, but welcome guests.
Also among the promises of the new covenant is that in which God promises that we shall be His people, and He our God. This item also is presented by us in humble expectancy, whilst, in expectant faith, we say, “Do as Thou hast said.”