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The Words of Christ.

The Words of Christ.

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY A. P. STANLEY

Heaven and earth shall pass a way, but My words shall not pass away,
S. Luke xxi. 33.
BY A. P. STANLEY

Heaven and earth shall pass a way, but My words shall not pass away,
S. Luke xxi. 33.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jul 28, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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The Words of Christ. BY A. P. STALEYHeaven and earth shall pass a way, but My words shall not pass away, S. Luke xxi. 33. I a few words is here given a description of one main characteristic of our Lord's teaching, — its universal and eternal endurance. Let us endeavour to trace what is involved in this description. It might have been so ordered that Christ's words should have lasted for ever, and yet that the causes of their continuance should not have been known to us. But neither here nor elsewhere is this the law of God's Providence. He not only grants His gifts to mankind, but He graciously permits us to see and to profit by their adaptation to the end for which they were designed. In thus considering the words of Christ, we shall learn several important truths. I. Whatever explains this peculiarity of His teaching will in some degree apply to the teaching of the Scriptures generally. They too are the Word of God, though not in the same absolute and divine sense as that in which He was the Word of God. They are inspired throughout by the Spirit of God, although not in the same entire and boundless sense as He was, to whom ' the Spirit was given without measure.' ^ Other books, almost of necessity, pass away with their own generation, — works of amusement, works of edification, how few there are which live from one age to another ! II. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but Christ's words have not passed away, and shall not pass away. They are still read ; they are still revered ; they will be read and revered hundreds of years hence, as they are now ; — let us trust, more than they are now, more than they ever have been. What are the causes of this undoubted fact ? — what are the causes of this hope that is in us ? (1) Suffer me to begin with the most simple, homely peculiarity of our Saviour's teaching, — true of the Scriptures generally, but especially true of His words, — namely, their brevity. Perhaps we 1 S. John iii. 34.
 
118 OUTLIES O THE GOSPEL hardly enough consider either the fact or its great importance. Remember how small a book even the whole Bible is, and remember, further, how small a part of that book is occupied by His words. Compare them with the teaching of other celebrated teachers in our own or former times. One collection alone of the sayings of the Arabian prophet Mahomet fills no less than thirteen hundred folio pages. All the sayings of Christ are contained in the short compass of the four Gospels ; the few that are not there do not occupy two pages at most : the whole Sermon on the Mount — the greatest dis- course ever preached, the whole code of Christian morality, the whole sum of saving doctrine — would not, if read aloud, take more than a quarter of an hour. Consider how greatly this has assisted the preservation, the remembrance, the force of Christ's words. We have not to go far and wide to seek them ; they are within our grasp, within our compass, within our sight ; — very nigh to us, in our heart, and in our mouth, — easy to read, easy to recol- lect, easy to repeat. The waters of life are not lost in endless rivers and lakes. They are confined within the definite circle of one small living well, of which all can ' come and drink freely, without money and without price.' (2) But 'the weir is not only easy to find, but it 'is deep,' and its ' waters spring up into everlasting life.' You never get to the end of Christ's words. There is something in them always behind. They pass into proverbs — they pass into laws — they pass into doctrines — they pass into consolations ; but they never pass away, and, after all the use that is made of them, they are still not exhausted. One reason of this is to be found in their freedom from local, temporary allusions. Even in the short compass of the Gospels, every chord of the heart is struck, every infirmity of the conscience and mind is roused and soothed. Heaven and earth may pass away, but as long as a single human soul survives in the depth of eternity, in that human soul Christ's words will live, will find a hearing, will awaken a
 
response. (3) Consider, again, how the words, as it were, force us away from the mere letter that kills, to the spirit that gives life and lives for ever. Some of you may have heard Luther's celebrated descrip- tion of S. Paul's language : ' The words of S. Paul are not dead words; they are living creatures, and have hands and feet.' He meant thereby to describe, and did faithfully describe, the extra- ordinary force and completeness of the words of that great Apostle, each of which seems to have a distinctness and substance of its own. But there is something in our Lord's words higher still : we almost forget that they are words ; they seem but as a transparent light in which the truth is contained. o sect has turned them into watch- 119 SECOD SUDAY I ADVET words ; they are almost like a soul without a body ; to use His own description, The words that He speaks to us 'are spirit and are (4) There is yet another feature of Christ's words, more impor- tant than any that I have named, namely, that they are not merely abstract words, but they directly flow from His acts, His character, Himself. Above all qualities needed to give force to a teacher'^s words, is this correspondence between himself and them. 'He only' (says the old proverb) ' whose life is lightning can make his words tliunder."' Most remarkably is this the case with the teaching of our Lord. ot only do His discourses and parables bring before us His mind, His mission, one might almost say His very look and counten- ance, but nearly every one of them grows out of some special occasion, and is intertwined with the memory of some gracious action. In each turn of expression, not He only, but the whole scene, the whole atmosphere, the whole spirit of the Gospel narrative, seems as it were to live over again. His words live because He lives ; they continue the same, because He was and is the same ; His immortality, His eternity, is reflected in them ; they are the words of God, because He is ' tlie Word ' of God.

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