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Free Books » Meyer, Frederick Brotherton » The Gospel of the King

Chapter 4 - The Steps of His Most Blessed Life The Gospel of the King by Meyer, Frederick Brotherton




"Our pains are portioned to our powers-His Wand may hurt, but cannot harm:

But if the Cross be on us laid, and our sours Crown of Thorns be made,

Then, sure, 'twere best to bear the Cross, nor lightly fling the thorns behind,

Lest we grow happy,-by the loss of what was noblest in the mind!

Here-in the ruins of my years-Master, I thank Thee through my tears-

Thou suffer'st here, and didst not fail-Thy bleeding feet these paths have trod-

But Thou wert strong, and I am frail; and I am man, and Thou art God!

How I have striven, Thou know'st! Forgive how I have failed, who saw'st me strive!"





(LUKE ii. 52.)

BETWEEN our Lord's birth and His baptism we have but scanty records of that wonderful biography-one priceless anecdote and two priceless texts, the one spanning from His birth to that incident, and the other spanning from that incident to His baptism. The first of them is the fortieth verse: "The Child grew and waxed strong, filled with wisdom." And the second is the fifty-second verse: "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man."

Too often we unconsciously sever the life of Christ before His baptism from His life after, as if in some way the two were utterly different. But surely the life of Jesus after His baptism grew naturally out of His life before; and we may imagine something of what passed in His soul during the thirty years of preparation, by what we know passed from it during the three years of His ministry. If we desire to know how the Lord spent those thirty years, we must study how He spent the three.

Sometimes, when travelling in Switzerland, in the early morning, as we have gone forth upon the terrace of the hotel, we have seen what appeared to be a phantom world-­the peaks of snow-clad summits, hanging, as it were, in mid­air, because the bank of fog had cut off from our vision the lower slopes. Ah! what exquisite beauty mantles those Alpine summits in the dawn, whilst the roots of their strength are veiled! So the baptism of Christ seemed to be the foundation out of which His ministry sprang: but, in point of fact, His ministry depended upon earlier foun­dations, which were hidden by the veil which conceals from us the incidents of His life at home.

We cannot for one moment think our Lord drifted into His perfected manhood. For long years He was girding Himself for His life-work. It was because He spared not Himself in the human aspects of His time of preparation that He passed forward so gloriously to the great crisis.

Shall it be that these words shall meet the eye of some who are frittering away the precious years of their early life, frittering them away in spendthrift amusement, in light and frivolous literature, with a sneer or a joke perpetually on their cynical lips? Do you wonder that a youth like that is unprepared for the claims and duties of manhood, and for meeting those crises that come to us with increasing frequency when we leave the twenties behind and enter upon our thirties and forties?

You have a mind, which is the library of your soul. Do not store it with jest-books, but fill it with wholesome and instructive literature. You have the faculty of judgment, which is the weighing-room of the mint of your life. See that the balances of your judgment are set free from the grit that would impede their action, that they may decide accurately and truly the great moral questions which await each of us. You have a heart, which is the temple of your life. See to it that only vestal virgins, white-robed thoughts, pure and stainless affections, go to and fro within that sacred shrine. You have an imagination, which is the artist of your soul. See that she is instructed to enrich the frescoes in the corridors of your heart, with bright, holy, noble, and beautiful images and pictures. You have a will, which is the vicegerent of your nature. See that it is exercised to rule in the power of God and His Spirit. Oh! do not rush into life as raw recruits rush into battle-undisciplined, untrained, unarmed, to be the ready food of the cold steel. We are told that our Lord has left us an example that we should follow His steps: let us study His Steps in Nazareth, and ask for grace to follow.

I. He wrought with His hands.

"Is not this the Carpenter?" The hands that made the heavens made ploughs and household furniture. The hands that were nailed to the cross themselves wrought in wood. The hands that hold the sceptre of universal power plied the implements of the carpenter's trade. He worked. If you had taken Christ's hand in yours you would have found it rough with labour, and He has been depicted as a young, stalwart carpenter, raising Himself for a moment from His exhausting toil at the bench; and while His feet stand deep in shavings, His figure casts behind Him the shadow of a cross.

The first Adam worked upon the hard soil to till it; the second Adam laboured to keep His mother when the good Joseph died. Every morning awoke Him to toil.

There is no discipline that ennobles a man so much as honest work. You tell me that you make things, but in making them you make yourselves. You talk about our manufactures, but there is not a manufactory in the country that is not turning out men, better or worse. The way you do your daily toil reacts upon your character and either makes you noble, or leaves you dumb, driven cattle.

God cursed the ground for man's sake. What is it that makes us different from the children of the islands of the Southern Seas? They have no need for work. They can gather their meals from the trees, and therefore are back-boneless, muscleless, and inert. It is work that makes men. Work is the condition of good health; the safeguard of virtue; the girdle of manhood; the law of progress. Do not shirk work. Do not perform work merely for pay. Nothing is so ignoble-nothing so despicable, nothing so unworthy, as to serve only for money. Do you expect your minister to preach for pay? Would you not despise his ministrations if you thought that he was actuated by motives so mean? No, he must be animated by a passion for the souls of men! But why do you expect him to perform his life-work on another principle than you yours? Did God call only him to be a minister? Did He not equally you call to be a carpenter, or a bricklayer, or a lawyer's clerk? Do your work for God; for the sake of men; to adorn the gospel; for remember that if you do even good things from an ignoble motive you deteriorate your soul. No other process can so soon make you contemptible. Therefore day by day go to your toil as the preacher goes to his Sunday's work. Gird at it, and say: "My God, it is for Thee, it is for Thy glory."

II. Our Lord was a student.

From three books He must have studied. First, the Bible. His mother loved it, Mary and He read it together; and as her song is made up of Bible quotations, so the talk of Jesus in after years was built upon the Bible; only He read into it meanings that the scribes had never seen. That was His first Book.

His second was Nature. The habit of mountain-climbing, which He manifested so often in after-life, was perhaps acquired by climbing a neighbouring hill, six hundred feet above the level of the sea, which overlooks Nazareth. One of the finest views in all the world is got from that hill. Mount Hermon to the north, Tabor on the east, and the gleaming waters of the Mediterranean on the west. Men say that solitude is God's audience-chamber; and often He met God there, and read from the outspread book of Nature those lessons which afterwards blossomed in the parables. That was His second book.

His third book was man. He read man. Nazareth lay on the caravan road between the regions of Tyre and Sidon, Acre, and Jerusalem. Men of all nationalities passed through it, and He read them.

Let us, too, read these three hooks. It is not so necessary to know the literature of your time as to be acquainted with them. Our motto should be, "Not many things, but much." Let us read our Bibles more. There is abundant evidence from their frequent quotations of Scripture that Shakespeare and Tennyson, to say nothing of Milton and Carlyle, were close students of the Word of God. In the case of our Lord, it is probable that He never owned a Bible for Himself. Scrolls were probably too expensive for Him to purchase. His knowledge, so far as He was personally concerned, was obtained from the copy of the Scriptures which was in the possession of the local synagogue. How greatly we are rebuked, who have such abundant opportuni­ties of purchasing beautiful copies of the Bible and read­ing them in our hours of leisure!

Let us love Nature also, walking alone in her natural temples, where meeting boughs form the Gothic arch over­head, where the lakes are lavers, the mountains altars, and the murmur of the ocean the orchestral accompaniment to the song of the devout soul.

III. Our Lord learned the secret of being a servant.

"He was subject." The devil came to Him after His baptism, but you may rely upon it he came before. Often the devil must have come to Jesus, seeking to turn Him aside. Looking at the matter from the human aspect, did not our Lord find it difficult to wait? Did not His eager spirit spring up within Him and long to make this world better? Did He not long to break from Nazareth and from His home, from the narrow round of obedience to His father and mother, and from the obscurity and monotony of the carpenter's bench, so as to hasten to help the world? We all know what that feeling is. We are all conscious of the arising within us of purposes, longings, and ambitions that ill suit the narrow round of toil where we spend our lives. The eager youth desires to be a missionary, a minister, a leader and energiser of men. "Why cannot I leap into the pulpit, or flame through the country? Why am I always to be cramped and confined in these narrow spaces? I am too big for my cell." But Christ waited-for thirty years He waited. The world needed Him, but He waited until the Father's voice called Him to the Jordan. You may shrink from the daily routine of work. But it is precisely there that you may acquire in darkness and obscurity experiences which will moor you when the tempest comes-which will anchor you when the waves roll up, and by which you will assimilate the forces which in after life will break into blossom and fruit. Many young hearts are impatient and restive, they will not brook authority. They have not yet learned to master themselves-how can they master devils? They have not learned to serve-how can they be promoted to rule? They have not learned to walk-how can they run? When we are willing to do our duty faithfully and in obscurity, we fit ourselves for the far greater opportunity when it comes. There is nothing grander than for a man, year in and year out, to build himself up in noble deeds; to do common things heroically; to bear himself as a hero amid the scorn and jeers of his companions; to go on living so, with no word of praise, and only God to appreciate and smile; and then all suddenly, when some great crisis comes and everybody is crying for the man to meet it, he steps calmly forward to take the lead. Joseph comes out of the grim dungeon. He has been long in chains; but he knows how to rule because he has learned to serve. When, presently, he emerges from his prison, he steps up to stand second only to the king.

IV. Our Lord had a purpose.

To do His Father's business. Is God your Father? Away from home and friends, is God your father? Will you own Him? Will you greet Him with the words: "My Father, what art Thou doing in the world, and may I help Thee do it?" Will you set yourself to do His business? "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?"

What is the Father's business? First, to be His child, worthy of Him; and then to love- to redeem men, though it cost a cross.

Life is daily bringing such opportunities to us all, to test our quality, and on our use of them our future destiny largely depends.

"The hyprocritic days

Bring diadems or faggots in their hands.

To each they offer gifts after his will;

Bright kingdoms, stars, the heaven that holds them all,

I, in my peached garden, watched their pomp,

Forgot my morning wishes;

The Day turned and departed silently;

I, too late, under her solemn fillet

Saw her scorn."

To every man in his life comes one day of glorious opportunity, offering him royalties, stars, heaven, or the choice of amusement, frivolity, fashion, money, the praise of men, and what they term success.

Too many take the lesser, and are content-content to be City magnates; content to promote bubble companies, and draw out of them with handsome profits, leaving the loss to others; content to have a big balance at the bank, selling their souls for it. But when that Day sees such a choice she turns away with scorn and pity upon her countenance. Alas! that a human spirit, face to face with such immense opportunities, should show itself unworthy of its high destiny! On the other hand, that Day brings the chance of purity, truth, honour, integrity, prayer, thought, discipline, self-mastery, faithfulness in a very little, ceaseless helpfulness for men, and presently the Cross. The verdict of men on such a life may be summed up in the one word "Failure." "Poor man," they say in scorn, "his life failed to achieve any conspicuous success." But as he passes up from the Cross, with a group of saved malefactors beside him, Heaven says: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant enter . . . thou into the joy of thy Lord."

But if we would follow the steps of the Son of Man, in these early years, let us never forget how incessantly He sought fellowship with His Father. The green sward that led to His favourite oratory was trodden bare by His steps. The rocks that screened His figure from view and made His prayer-closet, became saturated with His breath. In the cool of the day He would hear the Father's summons to His evening prayer, and often a great while before day He was away from the stirring life of His village, that the dew might not leave the grass until His own Spirit was bedewed from Heaven.

This must be our pattern. Only in fellowship with God can we grow in Holy wisdom and spiritual stature, and in favour with God and man; only so can we do our Father's business; only so can we become equipped for the great demands of the coming years.

"Let this be thy whole endeavour, this thy prayer, this thy desire,-that thou mayest be stripped of all selfishness, and with entire simplicity follow Jesus only; mayest die to thyself, and live eternally to Him."