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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Luke 21

 

 

Verses 17-19

DISCOURSE: 1571

ENCOURAGEMENT TO BEAR PERSECUTION

Luke 21:17-19. Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls.

IN applying to ourselves the addresses of our Lord to his Disciples, we are liable to err, if we do not distinguish between their situation and our own. As far as we are in their circumstances, the application will be just, but no further. They were taught to expect on trying occasions such aid from God, as would entirely supersede the necessity of study on their part [Note: ver. 14, 15.]: but if we should form such expectations, we should only tempt God, and expose his cause to the derision of his enemies. Nevertheless, inasmuch as we are subject to many of the same difficulties with them, we may reasonably hope for the same supports and consolations. Though therefore we willingly concede, that it would be enthusiastic and absurd in us to expect the miraculous influences which were vouchsafed to them, we may regard the words before us as addressed to ourselves. In them we have,

I. An alarming declaration—

[Piety has been an object of aversion to fallen man in all ages [Note: John 3:12. Galatians 4:29.] — — — Where it has appeared in its most perfect forms, it has been most reviled and persecuted [Note: Acts 7:52 and 1 Corinthians 4:9.] — — — It might have been hoped indeed that the glorious effects of Christianity would disarm its enemies: but the enmity of the human heart against God has never appeared so strong, as it has since the establishment of Christianity in the world — — — And to this hour does a conformity to its precepts call forth the same wrath and bitterness as it did in the Apostle’s days. The laws enacted for its support do indeed restrain men from executing all that is in their hearts: but the words of our Lord are still verified in every place; nor can any wisdom or prudence in the professors of religion exempt them from the reproach connected with it. Amongst other reasons for the aversion of men to Christianity in the first ages, a very prominent one was, that it was an unaccommodating religion, and claimed, not only a pre-eminence above every other, but an exclusive existence in the world. Had the followers of Jesus been content that his name should have been enrolled among the list of heathen deities, they would have been no more hated than the professors of any other religion: and if at this time the followers of Christ would connive at the existence of other tenets and other practices than those which Christianity enjoins, they would be admired, rather than hated, by an ungodly world. But their exclusive claims in its behalf subject them to the fiercest resentment of those who are hostile to its requisitions. Not content with serving the Lord Jesus Christ themselves, they call upon all others to serve him too, and that at the peril of their souls: hence all who are determined to follow their own ways must, in their own vindication as it were, condemn those who so greatly differ from them: and hence, as long as that difference exists in the world, the enmity excited by it will operate.]

To fortify us against these trials, our Lord graciously gives us,

II. A consoling promise—

[The expression used by our Lord was proverbial: it occurs in many other parts of Scripture; and signifies, that no real evil shall arise to the person of whom it is spoken. It cannot mean that he shall experience no trouble; for in the preceding context it is said, that “many shall be put to death:” but it is equivalent to that expression of St. Peter, “Who is he that shall harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good [Note: 1 Peter 3:13.]?” and it accords with that promise of God by the Prophet Jeremiah, “Turn ye every one from your evil ways, and I will do you no hurt [Note: Jeremiah 25:5-6.].” Two things are implied in it; namely, that no evil whatever shall accrue to the person but by the express permission of God; and that none shall be inflicted, which shall not be over-ruled for his eternal good.

Little do the world think how much their powers are limited by the special providence of God. They boast of their purposes; but find that “wherein they deal proudly, there is One that is above them,” “who disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that they cannot perform their enterprise [Note: Job 5:12.].” Laban and Esau menaced great things against the defenceless Jacob; but they could effect nothing: and every believer may address his enemies in the words of Christ to Pilate, “Ye can have no power at all against me, except it be given you from above.”

The Christian’s enemies do indeed often appear to triumph: but it is in appearance only, and not in reality; for they can do nothing which God will not “make to work together for good to them that love him.” If they injure his body, and benefit his soul, what harm do they inflict? If they deprive him of earthly comforts, but occasion him to receive a richer reward in heaven, what loss does he sustain? Verily the efforts of the most malignant amongst them shall only operate as a furnace to purge him from his dross, or as a cross-wind to fill all his sails, and waft him with more rapidity to his desired haven.]

But as flesh and blood must feel, and are too apt to faint, our Lord adds,

III. An encouraging direction—

[Self-possession is the privilege of all who trust in God; “They that believe shall not make haste.” The unreasonableness of wicked men is apt to discompose us; and their virulence, to grieve us: but by patience we are enabled to bear up against every species of oppression, and to retain the same tranquillity of mind as if we were in a state of perfect ease: “I will keep him in perfect peace,” saith God, “whose mind is stayed on me.” This then is the direction given us by our Lord, “In your patience possess ye your souls;” “let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing [Note: James 1:4.].”

Yield not to irritation. The instant that anger arises in your bosoms, you are “overcome of evil:” whereas your duty is, “not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good.”

Yield not to dejection. Your trials may he long and heavy, but they are all appointed in number, weight, and duration. See the experience of the Apostle Paul [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:8-10.]: that experience shall be yours; and “your strength shall be according to your day.”

Yield not to fear. “Who art thou that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, or of the son of man, that shall be as grass?” However formidable your enemies may appear, the advice of Peter to you is, “Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts [Note: 1 Peter 3:14-15.].” “Be careful for nothing;” but “cast all your care on him who careth for you.”]

For the conclusion of this subject, we shall,

1. Correct some mistakes in relation to it—

[Religious people are apt to imagine, that every cross which they are called to bear, is the cross of Christ; and that they should use no means to avoid it: but it is no uncommon thing for them to bring trials upon themselves by their own imprudence, or perhaps even by very reprehensible misconduct. Of such St. Peter speaks; contrasting their sufferings with those which are endured for the name of Christ; and affirming, that their troubles are a ground of shame rather than of glorying [Note: 1 Peter 4:14-16.]. It would be well if those who make religion a pretext for neglecting their relative duties, would consider this; for, whatever they may imagine, their cross is not the cross of Christ, but their own; nor will it ever bring either honour to God, or benefit to themselves. Moreover, if a cross be really coming upon us for the name of Christ, we may without any impropriety endeavour to avoid it. We must not indeed sacrifice a good conscience, even for the avoiding of death itself. Daniel would not so much as shut his window when he prayed, because it would have been a denial of his God [Note: Daniel 6:10.]: but our Lord told his Disciples, that “if men persecuted them in one city, they should flee to another:” and Paul on many occasions fled from his enemies, and made considerable sacrifices to abate their prejudice [Note: Acts 9:25; Acts 21:21-26; Acts 23:6.]. Thus also should we act: we should be careful never unnecessarily to bring a cross upon ourselves; we should even use any prudent means to avoid the cross of Christ: but when we have no alternative but to bear it, or to make shipwreck of a good conscience, then we must “take it up,” and “glory in it.”]

2. Suggest some considerations for a suitable improvement of it—

[First: If all men conspire to hate and persecute the Disciples of Christ, let the Disciples at least take care to love one another, and to strengthen each other s hands by a firm and indissoluble union amongst themselves. The ungodly will triumph not a little, if they can see Christians quarrelling among themselves, and hating and reviling each other — — —

Next; Let us duly reflect whose cross it is that we are called to bear. Did we but consider what the Lord Jesus Christ has done and suffered for us, we should account no cross heavy, nor any affliction long — — —

Lastly; Let us look forward to the eternal world: there, all our trials will be compensated; and “our light and momentary afflictions be recompensed with a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” — — —]


Verses 29-31

DISCOURSE: 1572

THE BUDDING FIG-TREE

Luke 21:29-31. And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig-tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.

IT was no small advantage to our Lord’s stated followers, that they could ask him more particularly respecting any thing which they did not perfectly understand. Of this privilege they often availed themselves, and obtained satisfactory information on many important points. Our Lord told them that the time was coming when that temple, which they so much admired, should be utterly destroyed. This was so contrary to their expectations, that they begged to know both the period to which he referred, and the particular signs whereby its approach might be ascertained. To this our Lord gave a very full reply; and illustrated his discourse by a parable taken from the season of the year, and, most probably, from the prospect then before their eyes. This parable, with the application of it, shews us,

I. That we ought to notice the signs which God has given us—

There is scarcely any thing needful for us to know, which is not discoverable by certain signs even before it actually exists, or is fully accomplished. We may notice this,

1. In the works of nature—

[Our Lord justly observes that the seasons which succeed each other do not come upon us unawares, but manifest their approach by certain signs. The prophet describes the very birds of the air as instinctively observing their appointed times [Note: Jeremiah 8:7.]—. And it is of the greatest importance to us in all our agricultural and commercial concerns to do the same. Indeed, if we should neglect such precautions, we should deprive ourselves in many instances of the comforts, if not the necessaries, of life.]

2. In the works of Providence—

[Those great dispensations referred to in the text were, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the consequent enlargement of the Redeemer’s kingdom. The time when they were to take place was to be known, by impostors arrogating to themselves the Messiah’s office; by bitter persecutions raised against the Church, and lamentable apostasies occasioned by them; by destructive wars on earth, and tremendous signs in heaven; and particularly by the Roman standard being planted upon holy ground, when their armies should enclose and besiege Jerusalem. It was of infinite moment to the Church to notice these signs; for, on their observation of them, under God, depended all their safety: and their attention to them enabled them to embrace the interval, when the siege was raised, to effect their escape; whereby they were preserved, while the whole nation besides were left to suffer the greatest extremities.

The signs of other times are not so clearly marked; and therefore cannot be so confidently interpreted: but it is wise to notice them with care; and our Lord warns us that our observations on the weather will turn to our condemnation, if we do not endeavour to improve with equal diligence our observations on the works of Providence [Note: Matthew 16:2-3.].]

3. In the works of grace—

[The conversion of the soul is preceded by many symptoms from which we may form a reasonable judgment. When we behold an humiliation for sin, a teachableness of mind, a love to ordinances, a diligence in duties, a renunciation of the world, and other similar marks, we may augur well respecting the event: and it is desirable to attend to these symptoms, because we may often derive from them a comfortable hope, when other circumstances might be ready to overwhelm us with despair. Our Lord himself formed his judgment upon these grounds; and we shall turn our observations to good account, if we follow his example [Note: Mark 12:34.].]

Though we are liable to mistake when we have not God for our guide, yet we are sure,

II. That whatever God has signified to us in his word shall in due time be accomplished—

The destruction of the unbelieving Jews, and the redemption of the Church from the midst of them, were emblematical of the judgments that would be executed, and the salvation that would be vouchsafed, in the last day. Indeed, the two periods are so interwoven in our Lord’s discourse, that it is not easy to separate them. We may well therefore fix our attention on those events wherein we are all concerned;

1. The final destruction of God’s enemies—

[This is foretold in unnumbered passages of Scripture; and the judgments, which are now executed in the world, are so many presages of a future retribution. Whatever people may imagine, this awful event shall come to pass. The Jews supposed that, because they professed the true religion, they should never experience the threatened calamities: but, when they had filled up the measure of their iniquities, “wrath came upon them to the uttermost.” Thus it shall be with all the ungodly. In vain are all their hopes founded on their external relation to Christ: the word of God will be fulfilled in its season; and sooner shall heaven and earth pass away, than one jot or tittle of it fail [Note: ver. 32, 33.].]

2. The eternal salvation of God’s elect—

[This is asserted with the same frequency and clearness as the opposite truth: and too often is it questioned by persons through the prevalence of unbelief. There may be indeed great, and, humanly speaking, insurmountable obstacles in the way. As the Christians were enclosed by the besieging army, yet escaped at last through the most unaccountable and impolitic conduct of the Roman general in intermitting the siege, so shall some way be found for the salvation of God’s people: they may be hemmed in on every side; yet shall not God’s purposes of love be defeated, or the “smallest grain of pure wheat ever fall to the ground [Note: Amos 9:9.].”]

This subject may be further improved,

1. In a way of conviction—

[It becomes us all to inquire what is to be expected from the signs that manifest themselves in us? Is the fig-tree budding, and are the trees putting forth their leaves? or, are they stripped of their foliage, and assuming daily a more dead and barren appearance? Are our graces, though small, growing in beauty and fruitfulness; or are we mere cumberers of the ground, that bring forth no fruit to God? From these things we may know the present, and augur the future, state of our souls. O let our minds be open to conviction; and let conscience do its office.]

2. In a way of consolation—

[We are “not to despise the day of small things.” Let us be thankful if there be “some good thing found in our hearts.” Summer comes not all at once; but, if the symptoms of it appear, we may wait with joyful expectation: and if the good work be begun in our hearts, we may be confident that God will carry it on, and perfect it to the day of Christ [Note: Philippians 1:6.].]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Luke 21:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/luke-21.html. 1832.

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