Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

LORD, BEHOLD HE WHOM THOU LOVEST IS SICK.”

HAVE spoken before of the Church-helper and the Office-bearer in the Church of God. I

desire now to speak of the private, the unofficial layman. I begin, then, by asking the question, Who was it whom Jesus loved ? One might say the description answers very well to St. John, he was "the disciple whom Jesus loved ; ” or, perhaps, it would describe St. Peter,

; of whom Jesus asked, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me," and received the answer, “Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee;" from which we might reasonably conjecture that the love was mutual, and that Jesus also loved him in return. These men, Peter and John, were both in high office in the Church of Christ-apostles, aye, the chiefest of the Apostles ; men who had worked and should work for Christ; men who should suffer and perhaps die for His sake. Well might the Head of the Church love such active, faithful, devoted officers of the Kingdom which he came to set up among men.

[ocr errors]

In reality, however, these words were spoken of one who was no apostle ; one who did not follow Jesus from place to place; one who lived in his own house in Bethany, quietly at home; a private man-Lazarus. Lazarus was

a private layman; not office in the Church of Christ; yet Jesus “loved him.”

It has been said to me more than once, “Why do not you church-folk put all your people into office? It will attach them to your church, giving them something to do, making them of some little consequence, flattering their love of notice, gratifying their love of power, satisfying their smaller ambitions.” So put, there is a smack of worldliness in the advice ; and, if any follow it in this spirit, in them also.

On its true basis, office is not an end in itself, but a means to an end; it does not exist for itself, but for its use towards the whole body. Even Christ, in His great mediatorial office, came not to be ministered unto, but to minister; and to give His life a ransom for many." Office does not exist for the aggrandisement of the official, be he priest or magistrate, but that it may be of service to all the members of the body, politic or ecclesiastical, as the case may be.

The private, unobserved man, however, is very difficult to find out in history. If he did nothing, no one puts him into their history; if he did something, he ceases to be the private, unobserved man.

One of our most popular modern histories professes to be "a history, not of English Kings or English Conquests, but of the English People ;” and in fulfilment of this design, those personages who have hitherto stood out as the conspicuous figures in English history, are to give place, to some extent in its pages, to incidents which illustrate the advance of the nation itself. It may be a question whether in that book one set of notabilities, diplomatists, and warriors, have not given up part of a page in history to another set of notabilities in literature, science, art, and manufacture; but that the heads and leaders among the people, perhaps in new departments, and yet not the people themselves, are, as before, the material out of which the history is made. Indeed, it is difficult to see how it should be otherwise.

And in sacred history, when one wants to find something about the private Christian, it is not easy to do so; for apostle, prophet, priest, patriarch, king, and soldier, the office-bearers in the Church of God, Jewish or Christian, fill the greatest space; and the private man cannot, from the nature of the case, have very much to chronicle about him.

Still the private Christian, the unofficial layman, who is not even a door-keeper in the house of his God, forms the staple of the church: and it is to the private layman I would devote the few minutes at our disposal to-day.

Lazarus is one of the few Christians, not bearing office, whose names have been handed on to us in the Gospels.

I. Notice first, that Jesus loved him. Jesus, then, may love you, though you bear no office in the Church of God. Joanna (the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward), Susanna, and other women, followed Jesus from Galilee and ministered to Him of their substance; Martha and Mary did not follow Him ; indeed, Mary did not even serve at the table which was being spread for His meal, but remained only a listener; yet we read, “ Jesus loved Martha

[ocr errors]

and her sister and Lazarus." Some were bidden to follow Jesus, like the Apostles, like the young man who had great possessions; others, like Lazarus, were not. Yet Jesus loved Lazarus, just as He loved His Apostles. Christ does not ask official service from all; the Holy Ghost does not give His call to every man to become apostle, prophet, teacher ; or give to all miracles, gifts of healing, government, or tongues. For all that, Jesus may love them as He did Lazarus. Perhaps Lazarus was not strong.

He is described in the text as being sick. We are not told that he was sick of a fever, or any specific disease. Perhaps he was of a weakly constitution, and this constitution was breaking down, and thus he was unable to follow Christ.”

But, probably, he was a typical instance inserted in Holy Scripture as the model private Christian. Christ, who foresaw that His Church, like the grain of mustard seed, would grow and over-shadow the whole earth, knew well that when all nations were gathered into it, men could not all occupy official posts within it; and the more the leaven of the Gospel spread, the less need would there be for office-bearers to teach every one his brother to know the Lord. He, therefore, over-ruled it that His evangelists should chronicle, not only the doings of Himself and His great officials, but also should pourtray here and there the humbler walk of some private citizen of the Kingdom, so that laymen out of office in the church from century to century might have their ideal, just as officials find theirs in Peter or Stephen; just as women find theirs in the Blessed Virgin Mary, or in the repentant Magdalene.

To serve God well in office, I suppose a man should be fairly healthy. Lazarus, probably, was not; and if so, a private station in the Church would suit him best. He could not “rough it" with the Apostles in their missionary work. And how many men are there who, like Lazarus, are not blessed with strong vitality, but must be content to look on at the great current of work for Christ which devoted men and women around them are doing, as it flows past them, conscious that, though God has denied them an active share in that work, yet “they also serve who only stand and wait.”

Lazarus, no doubt, is famous because, though he had lain in the grave four days, he was raised to life again. But, surely, his best title to fame in Christian mouths is this—that Jesus loved him. Had he not, by his quiet demeanour, by his attitude towards Christ and His Gospel, been so preparing himself that Christ might fitly raise him from the grave ? And if so, let the weakly among you who are unable, through, it may be, broken health, to become active church-workers, study so to frame and fashion your hearts and lives under the Holy Spirit's guidance, that when you fall sick, and your sickness is unto death, you may be found worthy to be raised by Christ at the resurrection of the just.

II. We may notice that Martha and Mary and Lazarus, though disciples of Christ, retained their house, and apparently followed their usual domestic occupations. This is a point which deserves some attention. When a man is converted to Christ, his first idea, may be, is to do something for Him. Well and good; it should be so. But, perhaps, he has not wisdom enough to see that the

« PoprzedniaDalej »