Luk_19:40. I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
THE exercise of the affections is not only approved, but applauded, when earthly things are the objects of our pursuit: but, when the soul is attracted by heavenly objects, the livelier emotions of the mind are deemed enthusiasm; and even gratitude itself must restrain its voice, lest it incur the censure of the world. But, whatever construction may be put upon our conduct, or whatever difficulties we may be called to encounter in the discharge of our duty, we should study to approve ourselves to God, and to render unto him the honour due unto his name. At the time of our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem “the whole multitude of his Disciples began to rejoice, and to praise God for all the mighty works that they had seen [Note: ver. 37.].” But, acceptable as this tribute of praise was to God, it excited only envy and indignation in the breasts of the malignant Pharisees. They considered this display of their gratitude as a just ground for displeasure; and therefore desired our Lord to silence them; “Master,” said they, “rebuke thy Disciples.” Our blessed Lord, however, instead of rebuking, vindicated his Disciples; and declared, that if, from any motive whatever, they should be induced to withhold their grateful acknowledgments, they would do so to their eternal shame: “I tell you,” &c.
In discoursing on these words, we shall,
Shew what obligations we lie under, to magnify and adore the Lord—
The Disciples at that time had abundant reason to praise his name—
[They had seen the miracles he had wrought, and especially that of raising Lazarus from the grave after he had been dead four days [Note: Joh_12:17-18.]: perhaps many of them had themselves experienced his power to heal. From what they bad seen and heard, they were assured, that he was the Messiah so long promised to the world [Note: ver. 38.]: and they regarded his advent as the most wonderful expression of God’s favour toward their whole nation. Could they then keep silence? Were they to be blamed for testifying their love to this august Personage, now that they saw him in the very act of fulfilling one of the most remarkable of all the prophecies [Note: Compare Zec_9:9. with Joh_12:13-15.]? When they were thus highly privileged to witness, what “many prophets and kings had in vain wished to see and hear,” would they not have been guilty of the basest ingratitude, if they had held their peace? If Abraham leaped for joy at a distant prospect of that period, should not they much rather [Note: Joh_8:56.]?]
But our obligations to praise him are far greater than theirs—
[We have a far clearer knowledge of the dignity of his person. They viewed him indeed as “a great prophet;” and on some occasions they seemed to have thought him more than human: but on the whole, they considered him as a mere man, though indeed the greatest of men. But we know him to be “God manifest in the flesh,” even “God over all, blessed for ever [Note: 1Ti_3:16. Rom_9:5. Heb_1:3. Col_2:9.].” And shall we behold in him such adorable majesty and condescension, and yet withhold from him our tribute of praise?
We also are far better acquainted with the ends of his mission. The Disciples supposed that he was sent to instruct them more fully in the knowledge of God’s will, to deliver them from the Roman yoke, and to make them a prosperous and happy people. But we know that he came to deliver us from the yoke of sin and Satan, to reconcile us to God by the death of his cross, to teach us, not by his word only, but by his Spirit, and finally, to save us with an everlasting salvation. Are not we then bound to bless and adore his name?
Moreover, we have a far deeper insight into the extent of his benefits. If the Disciples had seen their nation raised to universal empire, and enjoying uninterrupted peace and prosperity, they would have been well satisfied, and would have looked for nothing beyond it, especially if they themselves were exalted to the highest offices of dignity and power. But we look for infinitely richer benefits at his hands. We expect the pardon of sin, and peace with God, and victory over our spiritual enemies, and “a kingdom that cannot be moved.” Shall we then refuse to praise him? “If we should hold our peace, will not the very stones cry out against us?”]
This being clear, we shall proceed to,
Enforce our duty from some additional considerations—
That we may be excited to rend the air with our acclamations and hosannas, let us consider,
How delightful a duty this is!
[It is justly observed by the Psalmist, that it is not only “a good,” but also “a pleasant thing to be thankful.” Who can doubt which were the happier, the disciples who shouted forth the praises of their Lord, or the Pharisees, who, with malignant jealousy, strove to silence them? Indeed, a devout and grateful spirit is a foretaste of heaven itself; and, as far as relates to the outward exercise of their affection, the Disciples on that occasion strongly resembled the heavenly hosts: they all were penetrated with fervent love to the same divine object, and exerted all their powers to magnify his name. Let us then, each in his place and station, be followers of them; and our happiness shall surely rise with our employment.]
How reasonable a duty it is!
[The Pharisees, if they had been asked the reason of their conduct, would doubtless have offered many specious arguments in vindication of themselves. They might have imputed the conduct of the Disciples to enthusiasm, ostentation, hypocrisy. They might have blamed Jesus for suffering them to raise such a tumult, and to endanger thereby the peace of the whole city. They might have ascribed his acquiescence to vain-glory, and a love of popularity, which did but ill accord with his pretensions to superior wisdom and humility. This would have appeared very satisfactory in their eyes; and they, like our modern Pharisees, would have arrogated to themselves the exclusive name of rational Christians. But we know on whose side reason was in the instance before us: and as long as infinite greatness, and unbounded goodness, deserve our admiration, so long will it be reasonable to bless and magnify our adorable Jesus with all our might.]
How necessary a duty it is!
[The Pharisees thought that, if Jesus merited any respect at all, his Disciples should have regarded him only with silent reverence, instead of attracting so much attention by their clamorous proceedings. But our Lord told them, that silent reverence, however great, was not sufficient; that they were bound to give a public testimony of their affection; and that, if they withheld it, they would be traitors to his cause. Though therefore we be not called to bear our testimony precisely in the same way, yet are we all bound to confess Christ before men [Note: Mat_10:32-33.], and to let it be seen, “Whose we are, and whom we serve.”
Shall it be said, That there is no such occasion now for our public acknowledgements as there was then; we answer, That the world needs as much as ever to have their attention drawn to the Lord Jesus, and to be stimulated to love and serve him. And, if this were not the case, still it would be our duty to confess him openly, since in heaven, where he is universally known, he is universally and incessantly adored.]
Address [Note: If this be the subject of a Commemoration Sermon, the particular blessings that are commemorated should be opened in this place, and the audience be exhorted, in their carnal feasting, not to be unmindful of that spiritual joy which the occasion demands. In this case, the following address might be omitted.]—
Those who, like the Pharisees, have no heart to adore the Lord—
[It is not difficult to determine who would have taken part with the Disciples, and who with the Pharisees. We need only ask, What is our conduct now? Are we frequently and fervently engaged in the secret exercises of the closet, and are we bold in confessing Christ before an ungodly world? Or are we formal in secret duties, and ready to blame the superior zeal of others? If we be of this latter class, we should surely have joined the Pharisees in their opposition to the Disciples. To such then we say, Deceive not yourselves with vain excuses: nor think to justify yourselves by condemning others. Suppose for a moment that the Disciples, in their zeal, had exceeded the strict bounds of prudence and propriety: was that any reason why the Pharisees should render him no praise at all? Was less due from them, because others paid too much? Yea rather, was not their pretended zeal for propriety, a mere cloak for their own envy or indifference? Away then with such base dispositions as they manifested; and, instead of blaming the zeal of others, endeavour to “glorify Christ with your body and your spirit which are his [Note: 1Co_6:20.].” Far be it from us to countenance excess: but in this lukewarm age, we are far more in danger of erring from defect. This, at least, is your danger, whilst, with all your jealousy about being “righteous over-much,” you have no fears lest you should not be found “righteous enough.” To you therefore, in the name, and by the command, of Christ himself, we say, “Be zealous and repent [Note: Rev_3:19.].”]
Those who, like the Disciples, feel their hearts warmed with love to Christ—
[You must expect to meet with opposition from the world, and especially from proud, envious, malignant Pharisees. But let not the fear of their censures deter you from the path of duty [Note: Heb_13:13.]. If Jesus have given up his life for you, it is a small matter for you to give up your names for him: and if you will not bear so light a cross as that of being called by some opprobrious name for him, you have little reason to number yourselves among his true disciples [Note: Mat_10:38.]. It will be proper indeed for you to consider times and places, and sometimes to lay a restraint on your feelings, Jest by an unseasonable disclosure of them, you “cast your pearls before swine, that will only turn and rend you [Note: Mat_7:6.].” But let not the fear of man be the restraining principle: rather, let the love of Christ be the one motive for moderating, as well as for exhibiting, the proofs of your love. Then shall you in due season have a public testimony of his approbation, when those who now condemn you shall be themselves condemned.]