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1 And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him,
2 And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,
3 And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.
These manifestations [of providence] are human in their form but divine in their origination, though not obviously so. Yet the persons made use of do not act mechanically. They do the work of God: at the same time, their work will be rewarded as, in a proximate sense their own work, as it is written:
"God is not unrighteous to forget your work of faith and labour of love which ye have shown towards His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister; and we desire that everyone of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end" (Hebrews 6: 10).
Ways of Providence Ch 23
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it.
Thorns and weeds of all kinds will thrive in good soil, of course. If they are allowed to do so, the plant shot up by the good seed will have little chance of "bringing forth fruit to perfection'.
8 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
But the extent of the result depends upon the state of the soil and the nature of the husbandry. The good seed falling into unfit minds will prove abortive, notwithstanding its goodness, because the soil is bad: so Christ teaches, and so experience shows. The good seed falling into good soil will bring forth good fruit if the soil is not pre-occupied with other growths which absorb the power of the soil. "
11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
The weeds require keeping down. What they are, Jesus tells. "The care of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things." These, he says, "choke the word, and he (the man) becometh unfruitful" It is not enough, therefore, to have good soil, or a mind capable of understanding and appreciating the truth revealed in the gospel.
There must be a care to protect the mind from those influences that are calculated to undermine the power of the gospel. There are many things competing for human affection; and for most of them, the mind possesses a natural affinity. The danger therefore is great: the need for wise and energetic horticulture very pressing. Happy are they who practically recognise this and act accordingly.
15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
Those who are accustomed to the indiscriminating gush of "Evangelical" Christianity may revolt at this view. They may feel it to be a harsh and repulsive doctrine which teaches that men can only be influenced by the gospel to the extent of their capacity to receive it. But it is a true doctrine, even if it is "harsh," as many true things in the universe are.
It is impossible for intelligence to ignore the fact that it is the doctrine of Christ and the lesson of painful experience. It is not alone this parable. The whole of Christ's practical teaching is tinged with it, as when he says: "To him that hath shall be given" (Luke xix, 26), "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it" (Matt. xix, 12), "Ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep" (John x. 26), "No man can come unto me except the Father who hath sent me draw him" (John vi. 44). And every man who has any extensive contact with his kind in this present evil world, is bound to learn that the men are more rare than precious stones who have capacity to discern or taste to relish the good things of the Spirit of God.
The patches of good soil are few and far between: and more often than not, they are too covered over with vigorous thistle growth of all kinds to make it possible for the good seed to have an opportunity. As to why the matter should be so, that is another and not a very practical question. God is the worker out of his own plans. There are no other plans with stability in them. The revolutions of time kill them all off the surface of the earth. God having his plans, and having adopted his own means of working them out, it is ours simply to learn what they are, and what demands of conformity they may have for us which it may be in our power to render.
46 And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
A crowd is ever about the Master, but we must break through it if we are to touch him. The greater part of the crowd is too busy money-making and pleasure-seeking to devote any time to an endeavour to touch him. They are busy circulating the Bible (together with whisky and tobacco), and denying its authority, in his name; busy proclaiming his peace with shells and bombs, and excusing war and bloodshed, in his name; worshipping him with shouts of strife, and discord, and contention; all busy about Christ, all part of the crowd, all calling themselves by his name, but not touching him.
Another part of the crowd is busy discussing his meaning, explaining away his teaching, and his commandments; are they touching him? How clearly we can see all this. But how does it affect us? We are not of the world; neither have we "reservations" on Christ's teaching; nor do we tolerate false teachers; we have obeyed the call to "come out" and "turn aside" from such. Surely none of these things apply to us-surely we are touching Christ? Well, let us remember this, it is not simply membership of an ecclesia and attendance at the meetings, but the personal individual effort, which enables us to touch Christ.
One by one (not as a body), his brethren and sisters, by continual and strenuous endeavour in faith and obedience, are pressing through the crowd and touching Christ. Are we among the number? You, brother, and you, sister, who read these words, and I who write to you, are we touching Christ?
If so we must know it; yes, and it will be known and seen by those around us; for, we cannot touch him without receiving and partaking of his virtue, his humility, and meekness. We are constantly exhorted to examine ourselves, to see that we are in the faith: what is the result of our self examination?
Probably we have assured ourselves that we are in the faith, having obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered to us. But, let us go a step further in our self-examination? Are we touching Christ, daily, hourly, constantly?
We have accepted the Truth; we have been baptised; we attend the weekly breaking of bread, the lectures, and the various meetings of the brethren; but it is possible to do all these things and still fail to touch Christ.
In his epistle to the Romans the apostle Paul speaks of those who "hold the Truth in unrighteousness," and declares that the wrath of God shall be upon all such. That is a solemn warning to us brethren and sisters, for it is addressed, not to the outside world of unbelievers but to Christadelphians who hold the Truth.
Let no one rest satisfied with the external forms of their connection with the Truth, lest, at the last, they are declared to have held the Truth in unrighteousness. Let us press through the crowds which throng around the Lord Jesus, but are not touching him; who call themselves by his name, but do not the things which he commands. The woman of whom we read touched Christ secretly; no one knew it but Jesus and herself, but immediately virtue or strength went forth from him and was manifested in her.
So it will be with us if we are not satisfied to remain one of the crowd, mere onlookers, but press through it in an effort to reach him. We also shall succeed and receive virtue and strength, and, though the effort is made in secret, the result will be evident to those with whom we come in contact.
We shall manifest a Christ-like disposition-gentleness, readiness to forgive and overlook offences and injuries, and a meek and quiet spirit, which is, in the sight of God, of great price-1 Peter 3: 4.
If any doubts or questions arise in our minds as to our course of action in any matter (and such must constantly arise in these pleasure-seeking times of trouble and unrest), let us be guided by this question; "Will it help me to keep in touch with Christ?" Only if that question is faithfully answered, and acted upon, will the words of Jesus to the woman who touched him be said to us in the day of judgment,
"Be of good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole." -C.F. FORD.
The Berean Christadelphian, Aug 1924