From Dr. Joseph Parker’s message on Matthew 4:12-17.
“Almighty God, if we are remembered by thee, it matters not by whom we are forgotten; thou dost engrave our names on the palms of thine hands, the walls of Zion are continually before thee, and sooner shall our eyes behold the falling of all that is in thy heavens than we shall see that thou hast forgotten them that trust thee. Whilst thou art mindful of thy children, may thy children be mindful of their Lord. May our right hand forget its cunning, and our tongue cleave to the roof of our mouth if we forget Jerusalem, and prefer it not before our chief joy. May we be enabled to utter these things by the intelligence and the ardour of our love. Truly thou hast remembered us in our low estate, thou wert mindful of us before we had returned, and whilst yet we were in the far-off wilderness, even then thine eye pitied and thine arm was outstretched in salvation. And now that we have returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, and are enfolded with those that love and follow thee, surely thy remembrance of us will be quicker than ever, and thy tenderness will flow towards us in perpetual fulness.
We have to bless thee for thy gentle care, thy long-suffering, thy great patience. We have outworn our friends, we have tried and vexed with sore distress those who bare us, and behold thy love is greater than our mother’s, and thy patience has been without limit. We live in thy long suffering: if thou wert strict to mark iniquities, we could not stand before thee in judgment. Thou dost look upon us in thy Son Jesus Christ, our one priest and our only Saviour, and see in him and through Ms work; behold thou dost count us of great value; yea, thou dost set store by us, as if we were needful to the completion of thy happiness.
The very hairs of our head are all numbered; thou dost count our steps one by one, our downsitting and our uprising are not too mean to be noticed in Heaven; thou dost beset us behind and before, and lay thine hand upon us; thou dost send thine angels to watch our life and to bless us with many benedictions. Thou hast filled our cup, thou hast made our bed, thou hast kept our dwelling-place, thou hast been round about us as a defence of fire. What shall we render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards us? We are here this day to bow down our heads and to say that we are unprofitable because unclean; we have come that we might make common confession of sin, and unanimously implore the exercise of thy forgiveness, through Jesus Christ our blessed and infinite Redeemer. Wherein our conscience is oppressed as with a great weight, wherein our life is made gloomy by the infinite darkness of aggravated sin, let the Lord manifest himself towards us in peculiar concern and sympathy, and look upon us through all the work accomplished for us by his Son Christ Jesus. Wherein we have spoiled the week thou didst give us to work in, let thy pardon come to us. Wherein the days have been blotted by our unskilful hands, wherein we have returned thy gifts perverted and dishonoured, let the Lord be merciful unto us, remembering that we came of the dust, and that we are in ourselves but as a wind that cometh for a little time and then passeth away. The Lord’s love be greater than his judgment, and the mercy of the Lord shall be more than all our sin.
We bless thee that our desire is still towards the light; once we loved darkness, now we pray for the broadening light of the day, that it may be spread over us until the whole sky be filled with its brightness and there be no shadow left, but we stand in the infinite fulness of such glory as our souls can now receive. We bless thee, too, that we care for thy truth, that we look into thy book with wistful eyes and eager heart, desiring to see and to hear what God the Lord will say. Enable us to see the beauty of thy word, to feel the nearness of the sympathy of thy spirit, and may thy revelation destroy all earthly delusions, all foolish prejudices, all narrow conceptions of our own imagining, and may we stand not in our own thinking, but in the breadth and glory of the divine revelation.
We commend one another to thy tender care. Help us to pray for one another, with a full and anxious heart. Thou knowest what we need— we are always needing, our want is daily, our life is a long cry of necessity, and a long moan of pain. So would we always have the Lord’s fulness near and the Lord’s blessing at hand; we would not be for one moment without thee, for in that moment would our ruin be wrought. Where there is desire to know thee better, let the light increase in lustre and in breadth; where there is bitterness of soul on account of sin, let the infinite sweetness of thy forgiving grace be tasted; where there is a vow to live a nobler life, enable him who took the oath to fulfil it to its letter; where there is a heart struggling against difficulty, temptation, distress of mind, body, or estate, let the angel of the Lord help the straggler, and bring him into more than victory. Where there is self-conceit, self-trust, consciousness that all that is needed lies within human power, the Lord consume the delusion as with fire from Heaven, and work in every self-righteous heart the spirit of child like humility, of Christian modesty.
The Lord help us when we need help most. The angel of the Lord be near us when the enemy would come in as a flood, and may the delivering spirit redeem us from despair and set our tried souls again high on the everlasting hills where they will catch all the brightness of the hope that is in God. Pity us when we are proud of ourselves, fight not against us when we give way before thee and fall down in penitence and expectation, and let the light of thy countenance fall upon us— it will never be a burden, it will be a deliverance and a hope. If any man have a quarrel against any, let the quarrel now” cease, let the spirit of reconciliation seize the heart from which it has gone in exile. If any man cry unto thee because of a peculiar trial which he cannot put into words, the Lord read his heart and secretly answer his prayer.
Remember the stranger within our gates, the traveller, the man, the woman, far from home, great seas rolling between them and the place they love, the Lord be with such and give to them to feel that this is their Father’s house, and by the elevation of Christian fellowship, by the flooding of the soul with all that is Christian and divine, may there be an uplifting above all temporary separation and distress.
The Lord’s blessing go beyond us— to the sick chamber, where there is danger, where there is pain, where death has almost taken possession; to the prison where the prisoner languishes and is being taught the value of moral reflection by his isolation and punishment, to the sea where men are in trouble and in great fear, to the field of battle where the soldier’s life is one keen anxiety; yea, let thy blessing go the whole earth round, omitting none from its baptism of light, and let the earth feel that it is still in God’s hand, yea, in God’s heart, the earth that has borne the cross, and shall one day see the throne of the Saviour’s glory. Amen.”
- Parker, Joseph (2015-09-03). Matthew: The Inner Life of Christ (The People’s Bible Book 21) (Kindle Locations 2653-2657). Chariot Ebooks. Kindle Edition.