“Abide in Me” (John xv. 4).

Christianity may mean nothing more than a religious system. Christian life may mean nothing more than an earnest and honest attempt to follow and imitate Christ.

Christ life is more than these, and expresses our actual union with the Lord Jesus Christ, and He is undoubtedly in us as the life and source of all our experience and work.

This conception of the highest Christian life is at once simpler and sublimer than any other. We do not teach in these pages, that the purpose of Christ’s redemption is to restore us to Adamic perfection, for if we had it we should lose it to-morrow; but rather to unite us with the Second Adam, and lift us up to a higher plane than our first parents ever knew.

This is the only thing that can reconcile the warring elements of diverse schools of teaching with respect to Christian life.

The Spirit of God will lead us to have no controversy respecting mere theories, but simply hold to the person and life of Jesus Christ Himself, and the privilege of being united to Him, and living in constant dependence upon His keeping power and grace.


Personality and Property

And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay–Mar 2:4

Christ’s Presence Brought Disturbance into the House

I propose today to cast some sidelights on this delightful and arresting miracle, and one is that when Christ is in the house we must be prepared for certain disarrangement’s. If this cottage, as seems probable, was Peter’s, I wonder what Peter’s wife would think of things. The crowd, too, would be not a little irritated by the clouds of dust and by the falling debris. Yet all this happened in Capernaum just because the Lord was in the house, and not infrequently it happens still. I have seen houses sadly disarranged when a son or a daughter was converted to Christ. It was highly irritating, this intrusion into the ordered circumstance of worldly life. And it is very characteristic of our Lord that He foresaw this with such perfect clearness, and said “a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” That happened constantly in early days; I have reason to know that it is happening yet. The coming of Christ into a house may mean disturbance. Let all those who have to suffer so, and who are vexed about it, as Peter’s wife would be, recall that blessed morning in Capernaum.

Help Received by Others Not Mentioned

One notes again how others have been helping before these comrades brought their friend to Jesus, for before then, and in this very neighborhood, the Lord had proved Himself a universal healer (Mat 4:24). Among those healed would be this patient’s friends. He saw the change the Lord had wrought on them. Some had been mad, and they were sane again; some had been palsied, and now they were restored. And who can doubt, though it is never mentioned, that the wonderful things his eyes had seen made him eager to be brought to Jesus? We must not give all the credit to these comrades. There were unrecorded helpers besides them. There were men and women, whose names we never hear, who had encouraged him to make the venture. And I take it that could we read the story of those who have been brought to Christ we should discover that it was always so. The evangelist may do the actual bringing, but it is others who make the bringing possible–a loving mother, or a believing friend, or a diligent and faithful pastor. Nor is their part less beautiful because we never hear of them in the hour when the great transaction is completed.

The Four Demonstrated a Lofty Sense of Values

Again it strikes one how these four helping comrades were men with a very lofty sense of values. There is no hint that they ever asked permission before they began digging through that roof. There are people who would not smash a roof, though by doing it they might save a thousand souls. To them property is sacred. But to these comrades the sacred thing was life, and they were willing to destroy a hundred roofs if so doing they could save a brother. That is the spirit we want within the Church, the spirit that sees the worth of personality; the spirit ready, for the Master’s sake, to break through everything that keeps us snug and comfortable. After all, it is only a matter of values, and whenever we see the value of one soul, then many an old roof will have to go, no matter what Peter’s wife may think about it.

The Unconventional Way in Which the Paralytic Was Brought to Christ

One thinks, too, how this man was brought to Christ in a unique and unexampled fashion. Never before and never afterwards was anyone brought to Jesus through a roof. The common way is through a door; sometimes it is through a window. I have seen the heathen clustering round the windows when I have been preaching Christ in Africa. But who ever heard, in any truthful chronicle, of a sinner reaching Jesus through a roof, and yet that is what happened at Capernaum. I am pleading against convention in the Church. I am pleading against insistence on the stereotyped. When every gate is blocked a man can still reach Jesus through the roof. And all this is entirely Scriptural; if it were not I never should enforce it. For does not the prophet say in a great passage, “A highway shall be there, and a way”?–a highway, broad and strong, for the marching army of the living God, and a peculiar and single way for you.

The Perfect Confidence of Jesus

I should like lastly to insist here on the perfect confidence of Jesus. I want you to think what would have happened if this miracle had proved a failure. Every eye was watching Him. Could He heal that man or could He not? If He failed in the presence of the crowd His claims were shattered and His name dishonored. And then, in a superb and perfect confidence, He said, “Arise, take up thy bed and walk,” and the man did it. My dear reader, with such a Lord as that do not tremble for the ark of God. The only man in Scripture who so trembled was the worldly and unworthy Eli. Rise to the perfect confidence of Jesus, which never failed Him in the darkest hour.

“Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Doth his successive journeys run.”


When God Says No

“There hath not failed one word of all his good promise” (1 Kings 8:56).

Some day we shall understand that God has a reason in every NO which He speaks through the slow movement of life. “Somehow God makes up to us.” How often, when His people are worrying and perplexing themselves about their prayers not being answered, is God answering them in a far richer way! Glimpses of this we see occasionally, but the full revelation of it remains for the future.

“If God says ‘Yes’ to our prayer, dear heart,
And the sunlight is golden, the sky is blue,
While the smooth road beckons to me and you,
And the song-birds warble as on we go,
Pausing to gather the buds at our feet,
Stopping to drink of the streamlets we meet,
Happy, more happy, our journey will grow,
If God says ‘Yes’ to our prayer, dear heart.

“If God says ‘No’ to our prayer, dear heart,
And the clouds hang heavy and dull and gray;
If the rough rocks hinder and block the way,
While the sharp winds pierce us and sting with cold;
Ah, dear, there is home at the journey’s end,
And these are the trials the Father doth send
To draw us as sheep to His Heavenly fold,
If God says ‘No’ to our prayer, dear heart.”

Oh for the faith that does not make haste, but waits patiently for the Lord, waits for the explanation that shall come in the end, at the revelation of Jesus Christ! When did God take anything from a man, without giving him manifold more in return? Suppose that the return had not been made immediately manifest, what then? Is today the limit of God’s working time? Has He no provinces beyond this little world? Does the door of the grave open upon nothing but infinite darkness and eternal silence ?

Yet, even confining the judgment within the hour of this life, it is true that God never touches the heart with a trial without intending to bring upon it some grander gift, some tenderer benediction. He has attained to an eminent degree of Christian grace who knows how to wait. –Selected

When the frosts are in the valley,
And the mountain tops are grey,
And the choicest buds are blighted,
And the blossoms die away,
A loving Father whispers,
“This cometh from my hand”;
Blessed are ye if ye trust
Where ye cannot understand.

If, after years of toiling,
Your wealth should fly away
And leave your hands all empty,
And your locks are turning grey,
Remember then your Father
Owns all the sea and land;
Blessed are ye if ye trust
Where ye cannot understand.


Before the Lord continually. Lev 24:4-8

The light of the candlestick and the twelve cakes of fine flour were to be before the Lord continually, as symbols of the twofold office His people were to sustain, on the one hand to the world’s darkness, on the other to God Himself.

We must shine as lights in the world. – As a candle in the hand of the housewife, who sweeps her house diligently; as a lamp in the hand of the virgin expecting the bridegroom; or as the lighthouse on a rocky coast. We must dispel the darkness, and guide wanderers through the murky night. Light is soft and still, and is thus a fitting emblem of the influence of a holy life, which burns steadily on before the Lord continually, and is unaffected by the heed or comment of man. If no one seems the better for our consistent testimony, aim to satisfy the Lord. The lamps of the pure candlestick of a holy life are not for man only, but for Him. But they can only be maintained through the constant supply of the pure oil of the Holy Ghost, ministered by Him who walks amid the seven golden candlesticks. “Ye are the light of the world.”

We must be as bread to God. – In a blessed sense we feed on God, but God also feeds on us. He finds satisfaction in beholding His people’s unity and love, in receiving their sacrifices of praise, and in watching their growing conformity to His will. The two rows of six cakes foreshadow the unity and order of the Church; the fine flour, its holy, equable character; the pure frankincense, the fragrance of Christian love. There is a testimony in all these to the world; but we do not always realize the satisfaction afforded to the great God, who has made such costly sacrifices on behalf of His Church.


“Christ is the head” (Eph. v. 23).

Often we want people to pray for us and help us, but always defeat our object when we look too much to them and lean upon them. The true secret of union is for both to look upon God, and in the act of looking past themselves to Him they are unconsciously united. The sailor was right when he saw the little boy fall overboard and waited a minute before he plunged to his rescue. When the distracted mother asked him in agony why he had waited so long, he sensibly replied: “I knew that if I went in before he would clutch and drag me down. I waited until his struggles were over, and then I was able to help him when he did not grasp me too strongly.”

When people grasp us too strongly, either with their love or with their dependence, we are intuitively conscious that they are not looking to God, and we become paralyzed in our efforts to help them. United prayer, therefore, requires that the one for whom we pray be looking away from us to the Lord Jesus Christ, and we together look to Him alone.


“And so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16

When we are in darkness, under distress of conscience, or when guilt lies hard and heavy upon the soul, these things do, and must until removed, keep us back from the Lord. But are we ever to give heed to these enemies of our soul’s peace? Are we never to press through the crowd? How was it with the man who was paralyzed for so many years? He might for ever have lain helpless upon his bed, had he not been brought into the presence of Jesus. How with the woman with the issue of blood? She might for ever have tarried on the skirts of the crowd, a poor, polluted, self-condemned wretch. But she pressed through the crowd, and got to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. So with us. Shall we ever dwell in the outskirts–in the outer court of the temple? Shall we merely walk round Zion’s bulwarks and tarry at her doors, or shall we venture into the holiest itself? Shall we, driven out by fear, act like Cain, and go out from the presence of the Lord? Or shall we, with all our sins and discouragements, still draw near? The Apostle encourages us to come with holy boldness to the throne of grace, and to venture into the presence of the King of kings. Esther would have ruined herself and all her nation had she given way to the weakness of the flesh; but she said, “I will go in unto the king; and if I perish, I perish.” She went in with that resolution.

The king held forth the sceptre; Esther touched it, and she and the people were saved. So in grace. Shall we ever keep away through guilt, and sin, and shame? Now the Holy Ghost not only in the word of truth, encourages, but he himself from time to time enables us to draw near. And when we draw near under his divine operations, we feel the blessedness of so doing. Liberty is given, access, holy freedom, a spirit of prayer, power to take hold of God, to wrestle for the blessing, and sometimes to agonize with earnest sighs and groans and the energy of one of old: “I will not let thee go except thou bless me.”


Respectable Sin

Ye are like unto whited sepulchres–Mat 23:27

The Jewish Background

The imagery of this denunciation would appeal powerfully to a Jewish audience. These whited sepulchres, gleaming in the sun, were a familiar feature in the landscape. You are not to think of them as separate buildings, like the mausoleums of the Romans. They were just caverns cut in the limestone rock, with a great stone set up to close the opening. And once a year these stones were whitewashed, not for the purpose of making them look beautiful, but to warn people that a grave was there, lest they should touch it, and touching, be defiled. Many a time our Lord had wondered at them, when He rambled among the hills at Nazareth. You know how the darkness and the dead men’s bones would stir the imagination of a boy. And now in the glow of His anger at the Pharisees, He sees again those haunting scenes of His youth–“ye are like unto these whited sepulchres, beautiful outwardly, but full of all uncleanness.”

A Figure of the Hypocrite

Now we cannot have a moment’s doubt as to the spiritual meaning of that figure. That figure is enshrined in common speech as perfectly expressive of the hypocrite. The man who is one thing inwardly, another outwardly–who is not really what he seems to be–of such hypocrisy in its most general aspect, I might textually speak here. But I want to get nearer to the text even than that; to seize upon its characteristic feature; to show you how it stands apart amid the many figures of the hypocrite. Now this, I think, is the emphatic thing here–that the Pharisee never shocked nor startled people. He never outraged the feelings of society; never broke through its unwritten laws. Whatever he might be in the sight of God, in the sight of men there was no fault to find. The Pharisee was eminently guilty; he was also eminently respectable. I want then to speak to you upon the subject of respectable sin. I shall do so plainly, and yet I trust in love, as a matter of paramount importance. And I pray God that the result may be that some of us may be led to higher standards, and to set our lives under a wiser scrutiny than that of the society we move in.

Respectable Sins Are Not Secret but Socially Acceptable

Now the first thing I want to say is this, that respectable sin is not just secret sin. I do not mean by respectable sin that sin of which others have got no suspicion. It is true that so long as a man’s sin is secret, he may still keep the respect of the community. If he is cunning enough to hide his shame, he may still pass as a reputable citizen. But the point to note is that that respectability depends upon the keeping of the secret. The moment the sin is trumpeted abroad, the man becomes an alien and an outcast. It is not such sin that is respectable. It is sin that, when known, carries no social stigma. It is sin that a man may openly commit, and yet not forfeit his place in the community. It is sin that is tolerated in general opinion; that is not visited with social ostracism; that does not shut the door in a man’s face of the society in which he loves to move. There are some sins that are socially fatal. If a man commits them he becomes a leper. You never meet him again at honoured tables. His name is struck from honourable clubs. But there are other sins, and in the sight of God these other sins may be every whit as guilty, and yet the men and women who commit them may move in society uncondemned.

Christ Rebukes Respectable Sinners

We may illustrate this distinction between sins by one of the most remarkable moments in the life of Christ. I refer to the incident of that poor woman of whose shame and misery we read in Joh 8:1-11. They dragged her before Jesus when He was standing in the Temple court. He said never a word, but stooped down, and wrote upon the ground. And then He rose, and spoke a single sentence, and they all went out. They had come there to be the woman’s accusers, and everyone of them went home condemned. They were not sinners as the woman was, for she had broken the barriers of womanhood. They were respectable, and went to synagogue, and violated no rule of society. Yet to Christ, who saw into the heart with eyes that pierced like a flame of fire, these men were further from the kingdom than the woman who lay dishevelled at His feet. “Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more.” He knew her story and knew how she had been tempted. He was filled with a great pity for the woman–a pity that was mighty to redeem. But for the men who charged her, Christ revealed no pity–they were so cold, so bitter, and so loveless. Hers was the deadly sin of wild passion. Theirs the deadlier sin that was respectable.

The Middle Class Prone to Respectable Sins

I should like also to say this in passing, that this is peculiarly the temptation of the middle classes. No class is so prone to respectable sins as the class to which you and I belong. There are two sections of society which are notorious for their defiant sin. The one is the smart set of fashion; the other the sunken and degraded poor. We have a proverb which says that extremes meet, and certainly in this matter it is so, for it is in our highest and our lowest classes that sin is most reckless and defiant. Have you ever thought why that is so? Well, I shall tell you what is the reason for it. It is not merely that these are the idle classes, ensnared by the perils of the idle. The reason is that in the heights and depths public opinion is almost non-existent; there is no general judgment to be feared: no common sentiment to be considered. No one in the smart set cares a straw about the reputation of its women. No one who is detected thieving is banished from the society of criminals. And it is this absence of a social standard, this lack of a public and controlling judgment, that in the heights and depths of our society makes sin so flaunting and so unashamed. But in the middle classes it is different. There is a certain moral standard there. If a man flout it, he has to suffer for it–to suffer in his business and his family. Hence men who are prudent shrink from open vices, and from things that their class reckons as disgraceful; and the whole power of the devil is employed to tempt them to sins that are respectable.

Christ’s Judgment of the Respectable Sins

Now when we study the earthly life of Jesus, there is one thing that we soon come to see. It is with what terrible and dread severity He judged those sins we call respectable. There is often an element of unexpectedness in the moral judgments of our Saviour. He is sometimes severe where we should have been lenient; He is often lenient where we should be severe. And nowhere is this more remarkable than in His attitude towards actual sins, as He saw them in the streets of Galilee, and in the homes and in the marketplace. All sin was hateful to Jesus Christ, because all sin was rebellion against God. He never condoned sin in any form; never thought of it as the other side of goodness. And yet undoubtedly the sins that stirred Him most were not the sins of passion or of weakness. They were the cold and calculating sins which masqueraded as respectable. Think for example of the Temple traders. Did anyone think the less of them for trading so? Was not that traffic a general convenience, allowed by society without protest? Yet never in all His life was Christ so angry–so filled with a passion of tumultuous scorn–as when He knit His scourge, and drove them forth, and hurled the charge of robber in their teeth. It was not in that way that He spoke to Peter. It was not thus that He had addressed the Magdalene. Toward them, in the whole conduct of the Saviour, there is the throb of unutterable tenderness. But towards the Pharisees and towards the traders I look for any such tenderness in vain. Christ hurled His bitterest and sternest judgments upon the sins of respectability. If that be so there must be reasons for it, for the judgments of Jesus Christ were never arbitrary. I shall therefore, in closing, try to make plain to you why Christ was so severe on respectable sin.

Respectable Sins Can Deaden the Conscience

In the first place, sin that is respectable has an unequalled power of deadening the conscience. In the mirror of the society he moves in, a man sees nothing to alarm or terrify. When you glance at the mirror in the morning, and see the usual signs of health upon your face, you take it for granted, in a general way, that you are in your customary well-being. And so when in the mirror of society a man detects no sign of disapproval, he too is apt to think that all is well. No one around suggests that there is danger; and so the feeling of danger disappears. Others are not shocked by what we do, and so we come not to be shocked ourselves. So is born that deadliest of states, in which we are complacent and self-satisfied; no longer ill at ease with our own selves, because others are not ill at ease with us. Think of the Pharisee and publican in our Lord’s parable. The publican could never forget he was despised. He saw it in the face of every child, in the contemptuous looks of every woman. Wherever he went his sin was mirrored to him in the attitude of every honourable Jew. He tried to disguise what he was from his own heart, but his society stripped his disguise away. His was a disreputable sin, but it was not the most dangerous of sins. There was a warning in every man he met, in every child who drew away from him. Until at last, utterly sick at heart, and with a conscience stabbed into activity, he flung himself upon the Temple floor, crying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Now compare with that, the Pharisee. He had no mirror to show him to himself. There was nothing in the society he moved in to warn him of what he was in God’s sight. He read himself in the respect of others; came quietly to accept the general estimate, until his heart was hard, his conscience deadened, and himself on the verge of being damned. Had his sin cast him out of human fellowship, he never would have been tempted so. Had honourable doors been barred on him he would have soon lost his self-complacency. And so you see his peril lay in this–not in the bare fact that he was sinful; but in the deadening of conscience that had come, because his sin was perfectly respectable.

Respectable Sins Are Pernicious in Their Influence

Then lastly, is this not true of respectable sin, that of all sin it is most pernicious in its influence? I think that Jesus Christ condemned it so, because He was the lover of mankind. There is nothing in the forger to attract us. There is nothing in the drunkard to allure us. When we see vice in all its shame and misery, there is that in it which disgusts us and appalls us. Every profligate with his diseased body, every embezzler with his ruined home, is waving a red danger-flag, and telling us audibly that death is there. But with respectable sin it is quite different. In it there is nothing shocking or disgusting. It has not the look of death upon its face; it has the look of health and prosperity. And what I say is that just on that account it is a thousand times more tempting and alluring than such a sin as drunkenness that reels to a degraded home, or rots upon the pallet of the hospital. That is why Jesus was so hard on it. He saw its untold power to allure. He saw how mightily it would appeal to natures that would turn in loathing from coarse vice. And therefore did He terribly denounce it, out of His great love for foolish men, who are so ready to think that anything is right when they can do it without social censure.