Page images
PDF
EPUB

Herod had little peace after he had perpetrated the deed which the wicked Herodias and Salome required. Every rumour respecting John, which reached him, increased his uneasiness. His conscience was burdened. People were talking of Jesus, and of what Jesus did. The image of John immediately presented itself to Herod.

For what could John's spirit have come back, if not to take vengeance? Herod's crime started up to his affrighted imagination. His court probably partook of his alarm.

John had resigned himself to the sword of the executioner without dismay or murmuring. His murderer was torn with anguish. John's afflicted disciples went to Jesus with their grief for consolation, Matt. xiv. 12. Herod had no one to whom he could tell the anguish he felt with any hope of comfort, Psa. xiv. 5; Prov. xxviii. 1.

Notice here-The power of a guilty conscience. In the trouble which guilt brings, we should seek consolation from the Saviour.

JULY 26TH.-A SUPPER IN THE FIELDS WITH JESUS.

For Repetition.-Mark vi. 41-44. Reading Lesson.-Mark vi. 30-44, Notes of an Elementary Class Lesson.

INTRODUCTION.-When I was a little boy I had a very kind schoolmistress, and in the summer-time she used to give us what we thought grand treats. She would take us out into the country round about our school, and give us all tea in the woods. The servants used to carry a great kettle of water, cups and saucers, milk, and plenty of bread and butter. Ah! those were happy afterI can tell you. There was plenty of tea and bread and butter, I say; for if there had not been enough for us hungry boys, it would have sadly spoiled our enjoyment; for there were no shops near where we could have bought anything.

noons,

Now, we are going to read this afternoon about a great feast out in the fields, in which everybody had enough to eat, and yet none of the party had brought sufficient food with them!

Yes, it was a supper out in the fields, and a long way from any place where bread could be bought; and yet no one had to go away, saying, "I am so hungry," or, "I did not have as much as I wanted." Was not that strange?

You know dear children, how the crowds of people used to run. after the Lord Jesus when he was on earth. Through the fields, and along the roads, and over the hills, they used to follow him,

listening to his wise and beautiful words, and eager to see his wonderful works. Do you remember any time when great crowds of people are said to have gone after Jesus? (When Zacchaus got up the tree; when Jesus went into the boat to teach.) Yes; and have you not sometimes thought how very, very tired and weary Jesus must have been? How he must have wished the people would go away for a little while, and leave him to rest and to be quiet? And yet he never spoke roughly to them-never said, "Go away, you tiresome people! Do you not see that I am very tired, and want to be by myself?" Jesus never spoke in that way to them. But you shall hear how he spoke, and what he did one day, when the people had been following him so closely, that the Bible says Jesus and the men who were always with him-his disciples-had not time even to eat.

EXPOSITION.-Picture out the scene. Sun setting in the distant sky-night coming on-Jesus, the disciples, crowds of men and women, and boys and girls, too. Jesus, tired with preaching so long and so many times that day-disciples wishing the people would go home-people all very tired with walking so many miles -many lying about on the grass-but still eager to be taught more from those kind lips. The first verse (ver. 34) tells us how Jesus felt for these poor people.

(ver. 34 read. Explain " moved with compassion,"—" as sheep not having a shepherd.")

Now let us look again. The disciples go up to Jesus, and begin to talk to him. Then they speak to one another, shake their heads, look perplexed, and come to Jesus again. What can they be talking about? Let us read on and see.

ver. 35, 36. What did the disciples ask Jesus to do? Why should the people do that? How was it that all these people and their children were out then so late with nothing to eat? What! did they think more of hearing Jesus than of having their meals? I wonder whether we should have done the same? I have known some little children who would rather go without their breakfasts or dinners than be late at their Sunday school; and I have known them cry bitterly if they were obliged to stay at home instead of hearing their kind teachers. Are there any such boys and girls here in this class?

Does Jesus ever teach now? How can we hear him now? What ought we to do when Jesus teaches us? Are you-JohnFrederick-Thomas-doing what Jesus says?

ver. 37. What did Jesus tell the disciples to do to the people? What did they answer? Six sovereigns is a good deal of money

for a little boy or girl to have, but it would not buy enough bread for so many thousand people.

ver. 38. What had the disciples already got to eat? Why, that was worse still! Five barley loaves and two small fishes, for fifty

hundred hungry men, "beside women and children "!

But let us look again. Jesus speaks, and the disciples go among the people, and make them all sit down in rows upon the grass. (Picture out the performance of the miracle.)

Now I have told you all this in my own words. Let us read the Bible words.

(Read verses 39-44, and examine upon them, drawing from the scholars an account of the miracle, in their own language. Do not fail to elicit the lesson taught by ver. 43.)

APPLICATION. When these people found that Jesus was so ready to teach them over and over again, and all that long day, what would they think of him? And when they found that he could make these five loaves and two little fishes enough to feed them all, so that every man and woman, and boy and girl, could say, I have had enough—what would they think of a person who was able to do that? Yes; and because they saw he was so kind and so greatable to do such wonderful things, such as only God could do-they made up their minds that Jesus should be their king. They wanted to make him wear a crown, and help them to conquer all their enemies, just as king David had done, and they would be a great and mighty people again.

Were the people right in wishing to have Jesus for their king? Was he willing to be their king? Were they right in thinking that he would wear a crown and fine clothes, and be a great soldier-king, like David? Surely not; but Jesus was willing to be their King for all that. Can you tell me in what way? (If the scholars hesitate, elicit the ideas of love and obedience as the duty of subjects towards a king.)

Is Jesus willing to be loved and obeyed now? By whom? If you love and obey Jesus, he will be your-(King). Think what a happy thing that will be! He is just the same Jesus now,-just as mighty as when he fed thousands with five loaves and two fishes; just as kind as when he had compassion on the poor people so ready to learn, but having no one to teach them. Oh! go and ask him to be your King-to help you to love and obey him. Go to-day, and pray, "Lord Jesus, be my King"!

JOSEPH

IN

EGYPT.

From "Stanley's Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church.”

THE appearance of Joseph in Egypt is the first distinct point of contact between sacred and secular history, and it is, accordingly, not surprising that in later times this part of his story should have become the basis of innumerable fancies and traditions outside the limits of the Biblical narrative. His arrival in Egypt, his acquisition of magical art, his beauty, his interpretation of dreams, his prediction of the famine, his favour with the king, are told briefly but accurately in the compilation of the historian Justin. The feud of the modern Samaritans and Jews is carried up by them to the feud between Joseph and his brethren. The history of Joseph and Asenath is to this day one of the canonical books of the Church of Armenia. To the description of the loves of Joseph and Zuleika in the Koran, Mahomet appealed as one of the chief proofs of his inspiration. Christian pilgrims of the middle ages took for granted that the three or the seven pyramids which they saw from the Nile could be nothing else than Joseph's barns. The well of Joseph and the canal of Joseph are still shown to unsuspecting travellers by unsuspecting guides, from a wild but not unnatural confusion of his career with that of his great Mussulman namesake, the Sultan Yussuf, or Joseph, Saladin I. But the most solid links of connexion between the story of Joseph and the state of the ancient world, are those which are supplied by the simple story itself on the one hand, and our constantly increasing knowledge of the Egyptian monuments on the other hand.

It has been said that Egypt must have presented to the nomadic tribes of Asia the same contrast and the same attractions that Italy and the southern provinces of the Roman Empire presented to the Gothic and Celtic tribes who descended upon them from beyond the Alps. Such is, in fact, the impression left upon our minds when we are first introduced into the full view of Egypt, as we follow in the track of the caravan of Arabian merchants who carried off Joseph from the wells of Dothan. We need only touch on the main incidents in the story to see that it is the chief seat of power and civilisation then known in the world, and that it is the same as that of which the memorials have been so wonderfully preserved to our own time. What I have said of the retention of the outward appearance of the Patriarchs in the unchangeable customs of the Arabian tribes, is true, in another sense, of the retention of the outward appearance of the Pharaohs in the unchangeable monu

ments of Egypt. The extraordinary clearness and dryness of the climate, the singular vicinity of the desert sands which have preserved what they have overwhelmed, the passionate desire of the old Egyptians to perpetuate every familiar and loved object as long as human power and skill could reach, have all contributed to this result. The wars, the amusements, the meals, the employments, the portraits, nay even the very bodies, of those ancient fathers of the civilised world are still amongst us. We can form a clearer image of the court of the Pharaohs, in all external matters, than we can of the court of Augustus. And, therefore, at each successive disclosure of the state of Egypt in the Sacred narrative, we find ourselves amongst old friends and familiar faces. We know not whether we may not have touched a human hand that was pressed by the hand of Jacob or Joseph. We are sure, as we gaze on the contemporary pictures of regal or social life, that we are seeing the very same customs and employments in which they partook.

We see Pharaoh surrounded by the great officers of his court, each at the head of his department, responsible, as at the present day, for the conduct of every one beneath him; the prison, the bakery, the vintage, the wise men, the stewards, the priests, the high priest. The Nile presents itself to us for the first time under its peculiar Hebrew name, which indicates its strange and unique significance amongst the rivers of the earth. The papyrus, which then grew in its stream, is now extinct; but the green slip of land, achu,"meadow," as it is translated,-runs along its banks now, as then. Out of its waters, swimming across its stream, come up the buffaloes or the sacred kine, as in Pharaoh's dream, the fit symbols of the leanness or the fertility of the future years. The drought which withers up the herbage of the surrounding countries, brings famine on Egypt also. The Nile (so we must of necessity interpret the vision of Pharaoh and its fulfilment), from the failure of the Abyssinian rains, fell short of its due level. Twice only, in the eleventh and in the twelfth centuries of the Christian era, such a catastrophe is described by Arabian historians in terms which give us a full conception of the calamity from which Joseph delivered the country. The first lasted, like that of Joseph, for seven years: of the other, the most fearful details are given by an eyewitness. "Then the year presented itself as a monster whose wrath must annihilate all the resources of life and all the means of subsistence. The famine began... large numbers emigrated. ... The poor ate carrion, corpses, and dogs. . . . They went further, devouring even little children. The eating of human flesh became so common as to excite no surprise. . The people spoke and

« PreviousContinue »