This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
" And He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief." ST. MATTHEW xiii. 58.
WHAT a strange and sad state of things does this verse bring up into our thoughts ! Just think ol what is meant by it. There was, on the one hand, the mercy and power of God present to help, present to bless ; and there were, on the other hand, crowds of men needing in all kinds of ways the help of that mercy and power. There was the Redeemer, come from heaven, to tell the glad tidings which all the world had been longing for, come from heaven, to bring the long-promised deliverance which generation after generation had hoped and waited for ; and there were the men who were eagerly hoping for that deliverance, whose one great thought was that of a Saviour who was sure to come ; whose whole life in the world, whose doings, public and private, whose views of duty, whose schemes and prospects and ventures were all shaped and governed by this wonderful hope ; who at this very moment were on tiptoe expectation, full of restlessness and agitation, because they thought that the time was come at
last. There, on the one hand, was He in whom
God s promise was fulfilled, Jesus Christ, with His hands full of gifts and His lips full of comfort and wisdom. There, on the other hand, were the chil dren and heirs of the promise, thirsting, groping, fainting, after its accomplishment; sick men wanting to be healed, hungry men wanting to be fed, men vexed and troubled with unclean spirits wanting to be restored to liberty, sinful men wanting to be cleansed, eager and anxious and perplexed spirits wanting to be taught and enlightened and consoled.
That was just what He had come for; " The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor ; He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised." That day was " the Scripture fulfilled " in their ears. There were the " poor," the " broken-hearted," the " cap tives," the " blind," the " bruised " ; and there, before them, was the Healer, the Consoler, full of desire for His work. There was God s grace, ready to flow over, seeking, striving to find those for whom to do its mighty works ; and there were those whose days were spent in looking out for its coming, and for whose necessities and sufferings, in body and soul, it was the only hope. There they were both to gether, the power and goodness of Christ, and they who so deeply needed them. But the two could not meet. It was as if there were an in vincible barrier between them. Christ was with His lost sheep, and we know what He could and would have done for them ; but something kept Him from them, and them from Him.
xix THE CONSEQUENCES OF UNBELIEF 187
" He did not many mighty works there," says St. Matthew, " because of their unbelief." St. Mark is bolder still. " He could there do no mighty work, save that He laid His hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And He marvelled because of their unbelief."
The hindrance of their unbelief was the one limit to the Lord s power. He could heal the sick and cleanse the lepers and raise the dead. In the soul which was willing, which stirred itself up to attend to His word and look to His goodness, He could work wonders ; He could take away sin, He could give light, He could give holiness and strength, which were new in the world. But the soul of man is free. And when men use their freedom in re fusing to bend to His grace and His power to heal them, even His grace and His power meet a barrier and check at which they must stop. Against the evil heart of unbelief God has many influences, many gracious persuasions, infinite ways of visiting and moving it ; but after all, and at the last, there is one awful liberty reserved for it which belongs to it alone, and which God does not touch, the liberty of choosing finally for itself whether it will yield to
God or resist Him ; whether it will sec or whether it will be blind. With these Jews, there was Jesus Christ ready to heal, to save, to comfort them ; but at the last it must depend on themselves whether they would let Him help them. They would not, therefore He could not.
I suppose that it is true still that Christ docs not do, cannot do, His mighty works, the works which He came from heaven to do for men, because of men s unbelief.
1 88 VILLAGE SERMONS xix
Christ came, indeed, to do yet greater works among men than even those which He was willing to do among the Jews. He came to work a work on earth greater even than healing the sick and cleansing the lepers and giving comfort to a few sufferers or a few mourners. He came to do a work in the souls of men, not in Judaea only, but through out the world, not in those few years of His pre sence here on earth, but throughout all generations of mankind to come, compared with which the
wonderful things done to men s bodies by His hands and by His word were little. He came to change, to fashion anew, the race of mankind. It had gone astray from God and His goodness, and He came to lead it back. It had fallen into miser able ruin and sin, and He came to restore it It had taken an evil turn, which seemed past remedy, it seemed to be sinking more and more hopelessly and widely into depths of sin, struggling hard, but struggling in vain, to lift itself out of its corruption, and to escape from the snare ; and He came to show it the way back to peace, to take away its sins, to help it against its sinfulness, to bring men the grace and power by which they might in very deed correct and amend themselves, and rise up to the truth of a pure and holy life. He came to die for our sins, and to rise again, that men, who had fallen away so far from God, and had fallen so low, might die to sin, and rise again unto righteousness. He came, that is, to change our whole life ; to change the world ; to create anew the very nature of man, which sin and evil had spoiled so fearfully. He came to make men know and love the Father they
xix THE CONSEQUENCES OF UNBELIEF 189
had forgotten. He came to make them give up their sins, and recover once more the goodness which they had lost. He came to give us thoughts about ourselves, and about God s dealings with us, which it could never have entered into the mind of man to imagine. The shadow of death, of a death without hope and with many fears, rested upon our life ; He came that we might henceforth live our life here in the light of the life everlasting.
These were the mighty works which He came to do in the world ; and, as we know, He did them. His coming did change the world. His coming has made all the difference between what men have known and thought, and hoped for and tried after, and become, since He was with us, and what they were before He came. And that difference is indeed a great one. We may be disappointed that it is not greater; that His grace, which has wrought such wonderful changes among men, has seemed to leave its work faulty and half done ; that the fruits of the Gospel have not been more perfect ; that the spread of His Church, and the conversion of nations to His faith, so astonishing, so deep and lasting in its
effects, have been checked before the whole world was won, and have been troubled by so many scandals.
But if He has not done all that we might have expected, what He has done is clear and plain. He has spread new knowledge and goodness and hope in the world. lie has brought a new law of holi ness into the hearts of men. He has taught them heavenly lessons of love and truth and purity, and given them besides grace to learn them. lie has
190 VILLAGE SERMONS xix
given success to repentance, and made it bear fruit in deep and increasing improvement. He has chastened and purified the inward thoughts and wills of sinful men. He has put it into their hearts to love and serve God in truth and sincerity. He has strengthened the hands and enlightened the eyes of those who were trying hard to become better. He has made men glad to deny them selves, and to offer themselves a living sacrifice to do His good work and follow His steps. He has
leavened the world, even the unbelieving, the in different, the disobedient part of it, with His Spirit, and His higher thoughts of what is right and just and good. Age after age He has kept up and pre served, amidst chastisements and deliverances, the Church universal, which He founded to minister grace and truth to men, and the visible lessons of holy living, and a heavenly hope. Age after age men like ourselves have been transformed by His grace into very copies of His example, and faith and good courage have been kept alive by the pre sence of His saints. These are the mighty works which He really came to do, and which He has done among men.
What He has "come to do for men He has come to do for each one of them to whom the knowledge of His Gospel is brought. So He has come to do all these mighty works among us. He means that we, in our distant corners of the earth, should be witnesses and partakers of that grace which has won back mankind from evil to God ; which has given new goodness, new hopes, new peace, new strength, to men ; which has made them servants
xix THE CONSEQUENCES OF UNBELIEF 191
and children of the Father, and led them through the darkness of this world and death to the ever lasting light beyond. Here, as elsewhere, He is spoken of and known ; He comes, He is ready, He is able to do for us what He has done so often for others ; to open the eyes, blinded by the glitter of present things ; to heal the sick long sick with sins which have taken fast hold ; to cleanse the heart, which feels itself almost too deeply polluted even to attempt to repent and draw nigh to God ; to give strength and life to the feeble spirit, which knows that it is going on wrong, and is too dull, too hopeless, too entangled, to break through the snares which keep it from the good it would do. He comes to break the yoke of worldly custom and fear, which we feel with shame upon our necks ; to unloose the bonds which bind us captive to our bad ways ; to help us when we fall, and raise us up again, and .keep us from falling; to give us the good thoughts which we wish for, even when we have them not. He comes to raise up our dead souls from the carelessness which we have let them sink into ; to give us an interest in those great
hopes which we hear so much about, but which so often we bitterly feel are nothing to us. These are the mighty works of Christ among men. These is He ready to do for us. Does He really do Ihem among us? If not, why docs He not do them ?
Blessed be His Name for whatever good is among us ; but when we think of what He came to do, and what He has shown Himself able to do, no one, I think, would like to deceive himself by saying that he was satisfied and struck by what he sees
192 VILLAGE SERMONS xix
around him of the mighty works of Christ, in making new and purifying the souls of men, in raising them above themselves, and above what is merely of this world, to a better and holier way of living. Christ is ready to save and bless us. And we, with all our carelessness, with all our sins, feel in our hearts how much we want, how greatly we come short of what our conscience shows us ; what troubles and anxieties there are for which we have no remedy ; how painful and how comfortless is our
want of settled peace, and our unfaithfulness to duty, and the dimness and uncertainty of our hope. The Redeemer, the Deliverer, is there ; and we want help and grace and the Deliverer s power. And yet we cannot come together.
For between Him and us there stands in the way our unbelief. Not the unbelief which denies or doubts ; for we receive His word, and would not, I hope, speak against it. Not the unbelief, like that of so many among the Jews, which could not get over the prejudices of a mistaken faith and the offence of a Redeemer on the cross instead of on a throne ; for we are accustomed to glory in those things which to the Jews were shame. It is no matter of wanting signs and wonders from heaven, of disappointed expectation, or of reasons not strong enough to convince us. The unbelief which is between us and Christ is of another sort. It is that state of heart and feeling which dislikes the strain and trouble of thinking of things out of this present world ; which looks away from what is out of sight and to come, and is moved and impressed only by what is just before it immediate interests, immc-
xix THE CONSEQUENCES OF UNBELIEF 193
diate pleasures, common customs. It is the unbelief of carelessness, deadness of soul, lazy, selfish indiffer ence ; which cannot understand how any one can be in earnest, so as to take pains and suffer trouble for the sake of things unseen ; which cannot bring itself to think that God is in earnest, and the work of serving and pleasing Him a real thing. It is the unbelief which comes of wishing to save ourselves trouble, of not thinking it worth while to force ourselves to attend, to think, to remember, to lay to heart.
This is the unbelief which comes between us and the power of Christ to improve us, to strengthen us, to comfort us. What we will not have done for us that He cannot do. His Coming, His Passion, His Rising again, His Power, His Spirit, those awful mysteries which have made all things new to man, alas ! even they fail and lose their force to change and heal before the empty, thoughtless, frivolous soul, which will not rise up to think what they must mean. We are not what Christians were meant to be ; we have only to read the New Testament to
see that. The great things which Christ said of His disciples are not fulfilled in us. Nor need we be surprised. We do not disbelieve them, we do not doubt them. We only do not think them so serious and so real as to be worth going out of ourselves, going out of our old ways and fashions, to meet them, as to be worth caring about and taking pains for in good earnest.
Do not let us waste our time in vain regrets, vain wishes, vain confessions of our weakness and folly. We need healing, and the power of Christ is ready C. O
194 VILLAGE SERMONS xix
to heal us. We need to be better men, and He is able to change and mend and strengthen us. We need comfort, at least, we shall one day or other sorely need it, and He is ever calling, " Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." He is able to do all this for us ; He is ever making it all known to us. Let not that one barrier of our own unwillingness keep us from shar
ing, each in our own place and measure, in that light and goodness and comfort which have gladdened and transformed this world, and made it a new place for men to live in, to work and to die in. Let it not be that, simply from our slavery to custom and to things before us, from our idle trifling with the truth which we confess, from our blindness to the greatness of what has been done for us, from our dull shrinking from the real meaning of our own words and the convictions of our consciences, we are none the better for our Lord having come ; none the better as men ; none the better in our hope of what is to come.
Let us pray, and not only pray, but do our best, that it may not be said, in the long run, of our religious history, that Christ " did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief."
1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books
2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.