And saying, We have piped unto you,
and ye have not danced;
we have mourned unto you,
and ye have not lamented.
Our Lord must have watched the children at play in the market-place, and have been grieved when a discontented spirit had been manifested by some of them.
He had seen how no effort on the part of their companions could move these obstinate children from their sullen mood. And now he finds the behaviour of the children to be typical of that of their parents.
Elder people may learn from children.
The unconventional manners of children may reveal something of the character of the age, or something of human nature itself, that is too often hidden under the veneer of mere fashion.
It is impossible to satisfy the unsympathetic.
The disagreeable children can be enticed by no action of their companions.
They will not dance to the gay music nor join in the mock mourning.
A third method would be equally unsuccessful, because they are not to be pleased.
They are sitting; there is always something wrong with children when they sit down for long; the life has gone out of them.
Similarly there are people who are dissatisfied with all methods of religious work.
▪︎ Old staid methods are dull and gloomy to them;
▪︎ new and more lively methods are unseemly and irreverent.
From the sobriety of the Quakers’ meeting to the unrestrained fervour of a Salvation Army meeting they cannot discover any worship to suit them, and they find fault with all ways of conducting Church services.
If some one could invent a new style of worshipping God, this would be of no use for the discontented people. Their discontent lies deeper.
The children had no mind to play; these people have no mind to pray.
Therefore we shall not reach them by new methods. They are in a hopeless condition unless we can touch their hearts and lead them into a better state of mind.
It is useless to pander to their prejudices.
Perhaps at present all we can do is to pray for them.
Unsympathetic people mistake austerity for insanity.
In our Lord’s day these people could only explain John the Baptist by saying that he was possessed by the devil.
There are men and women to whom the very idea of self-denial is absurd.
They have always lived a self-indulgent life, and they cannot understand why anybody in his senses should do otherwise.
Such people have not the least conception of the high claims of duty.
Moreover, they do not understand the darker sides of life.
To them Gethsemane is a perfect enigma.
Unsympathetic people mistake sociability for self-Indulgence.
The very people who say that the austere prophet is mad, when they see Christ, who is not austere, accuse him of laxity of conduct.
This is enough to show that their opposition is insincere, or at least that it springs from their own state of mind, and not from any defect in those whom they presume to criticize.
It is much to learn that the highest religion is not ascetic, and yet that it is not self-indulgent.
The real reason why Jesus ate and drank with all sorts of people was not an indifference to moral distinctions, a hunger for popularity, or a love of ease – all vices utterly foreign to his character.
It was just his brotherly love seeking to help and bless everybody.
We cannot understand the story of Jesus till we catch His spirit.
Then we see that the safest protection against the evil of the world is not ascetic isolation, but a self-forgetting life spent for the good of our fellow-men.
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