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time when our Lord and his disciples were at Capernaum.* What occurred at that time? "The disciples came unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" What kingdom did they mean? The kingdom which they thought Christ was about to establish upon earth. How long was it before the apostles had just views of our Lord's kingdom? Not until the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them. What did they mean by inquiring, who should be "the greatest" in Christ's kingdom? Who should have the largest share of power and dignity in Christ's earthly kingdom. Upon whom did they suppose the election would fall? Upon one of their own number. What do you mean by one of their own number? One of the twelve. How do you know that the question, “Who is the greatest ?" refers to one of their own number? Because they had been disputing among themselves which of them should be greatest.† When had that dispute arisen? By the way, as they were going to CaperWhat was the source of this dispute?


Ambition. above others. to the heart?

What is ambition? A desire to rise

above others in greatness.

What kind of ambition is natural That which consists in a desire to rise Is that a right passion for the Christian to indulge? No; it should be reWhat sort of ambition may we lawfully indulge? That which consists in a desire to rise


See xvii. 24.

Luke ix. 46.

Mark ix. 33.


above others in goodness. What is that kind of ambition which aspires after greatness? Worldly ambition. What is the ambition which aspires after goodness? Holy ambition. When is our

ambition pure? When we love goodness for its own sake. What kind of ambition did the dis

ciples manifest on this occasion? Worldly ambition. How does that appear? By their asking which of them should be the greatest in earthly power and dignity.


2. Did our Lord gratify their curiosity by appointing one among them to be the greatest? No. he had intended to give Peter a higher place and more authority than the rest, was not this a fit opportunity to have said so? Yes. What conclusion may we draw from our Lord's conduct in not placing any one of his apostles above the rest? That he never designed to make Peter, or any other man, the head of his church. What did the Lord take this opportunity of teaching? A lesson of humility. How did he teach that lesson? By a sign. What was the sign? "Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them." Why did our Lord frequently teach by signs? It was a common mode of teaching in Eastern countries. Was it an instructive and impressive mode of teaching? Yes. Give two or three examples of our Lord's teaching by signs? 1st. He gave sight to the blind, as a sign that he was the light of the world.* 2dly. He washed his disciples' feet, as a

* John ix. 5, 6.

sign of humility.* 3dly. He brake bread at the supper, as a sign that his body was to be broken for sin.† 4thly. He breathed on the disciples, as a sign of the gift of the Holy Spirit.‡ sign used in the present instance? a child in the midst of them.

What was the

The setting of

Of what is a child

an emblem or sign? Of certain dispositions. What are those dispositions? Humility, teachableness, and indifference to the world.

3. When our Lord had set the little child before his disciples, what did he say to them? "Verily say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." What is the meaning of "Verily"? See v. 18. What is conversion? A turning from sin to holiness. When once the heart has been turned to God, does it ever wander from him? Yes; it is apt to turn aside like a deceitful bow.|| When the heart of the believer is turned aside, by the power of temptation, what is the language of divine mercy to the soul? Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord, and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you.§ Should we hasten to return unto God, from whom we have deeply revolted? Yes; let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.¶ Why should we be in such haste to turn again to the Lord? Because every step from God is a step towards ruin. But when we have forsaken the Lord, how can we return to him?

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By his convert

John xx. 22.
Lam. iii. 40.

ing grace. Is that the same grace by which sinners are converted to God at first? Yes. Explain by a simple image, the difference between the first conversion of the soul to God, and its after conversions? Our first conversion brings us into the fold of God; after-conversions restore us to it when we have wandered.* Is it not a great shame and disgrace to us, that we should ever wander from the fold of God? Yes; it insults our good Shepherd, grieves the Holy Spirit, and wounds our own souls. How may we know whether we are backsliding? By examining the state of our heart towards God. When we fall into a backsliding state, what is uppermost in our thoughts and affections? The gains or pleasures of this world. Were the gains and pleasures of the world uppermost in the minds of the disciples at this time? Yes. Was that the reason why our Lord told them that they needed to be converted? Yes. What did he further say they must become? "As little children." In what sense were they to become as little children? By acquiring the dispositions of little children. What are the distinguishing qualities of little children? See Are these dispositions essential to the Christian character? Yes; for our Lord has said, that without them we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. What is here meant by the kingdom

ver. 2.

of heaven? The kingdom of God in glory.

4. Though our Saviour would not name who should

* After-conversions are from particular errors or sins,

be greatest in his kingdom, did he not describe the character of his most favoured followers? Yes; "whosoever, therefore, shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Is not this a proof of what Solomon says, It is better to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud ?* Yes. Can you assign a reason why it is better to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the strong? Because the Lord hath respect unto the lowly.t How does a lowly spirit discover itself? 1st. In humble thoughts of ourselves. 2dly. In contentedness with our outward condition; and 3dly. In meekness towards those who injure us. 5. Did our Lord always show a particular regard to the humble-minded? Yes. How did he, on this occasion, express his tender concern for them? "Whoso shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me." What did our Lord mean

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by one such little child"? Any one of his followers who has such a child-like spirit. How does the Lord Jesus regard the kindness shown to his disciples? See x. 40.

6. And how does he regard any unkindness shown to a disciple? With peculiar displeasure. What language did our Lord use, to express the dangerous condition of those who ill-treat his disciples ? "Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a

*Prov. xvi. 19.

+ Ps. cxxxviii. 6.

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