Second Sunday in Lent. Farewell Sermon to the Congregation of Karesuando, 1849.
And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. The Acts of the Apostles 20: 25-27.
When Saint Paul was about to depart for Jerusalem where he knew much suffering and controversy was awaiting him, he preached a farewell sermon to the chief men of the congregation of the Ephesians, and from this farewell sermon I have quoted a few words which are fitting material for a farewell sermon to all teachers if they have worked as faithfully in the church of God as Paul had. I cannot claim all these words of Paul for I feel that I have been an unworthy servant because of the great weakness and poverty which is in me. I have not been able to upbuild the congregation of God as I should have done. If God has effected some good through me for the edification of His church, by which means a few souls have been led onto that road they formerly did not know, it has been brought about by His own supreme power.
A few words of Paul's farewell sermon may apply to the present time. After he had said to the elect of the congregation that they should see his face no more in this world, he commenced to exhort them to take care of themselves. And finally he said, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock." These words of Paul may later become verified here, for if there formerly have been grievous wolves which have not spared the flock, then likewise after my departure even fiercer wolves may arise that will, indeed, not spare the flock. These vicious wolves will rend and devour the flock wherever they have the opportunity. A wolf will by no means spare the flock, in what ever shape it rovers, may it be in the shape of a man, a bear, a fox, or as a serpent. A wolf is most dangerous when he comes in the shape of an angel. People usually think that the wolf is dangerous when he comes in his own shape or as a serpent, but he is more dangerous when he comes in the shape of man, and most dangerous when he comes in the shape of an angel. Sheep can always protect themselves against those who are apparent enemies of the truth, but when Satan transforms himself into an angel of light, then it is not easy to avoid him.
We shall borrow a few words from Paul's sermon which can apply to us. He namely says to his congregation, "Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." I also fear that of yourselves shall men arise, speaking perverse things and thereby draw the simple ones after them. All these words will be found written in the twentieth Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.
Now I say as Paul did to his congregation when he preached his farewell sermon, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock." These grievous wolves have already before rent and devoured the congregation of God and now they are only waiting until the shepherd goes away so they can again rend the weak sheep who are not able to stand against the fiery darts of the wicked one themselves nor to flee for their lives, because they have no one on earth to whom they might go for refuge when a wolf begins to pursue them.
Not only the vicious wolves whose bloody throats are already open and with the eyes of a cat or an owl are watching whence they might find some fickle-minded person or some soul with weak faith whom they could swallow; but also of yourselves, Paul warns, men shall arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them. Because of this, many of weak faith are thinking how the orphan children shall get along when they are left as sheep without a shepherd. Who will feed them when they weep and bewail in hunger because of poverty? Where shall the poor miserable sheep flee when the vicious wolves open their throats desiring to devour them? Where shall the chickadees and young swallows fly when the hawk hovers over them? Who is to preserve them from spiritual death when they cry in the claws of the hawk? To whom shall the penitent, the poor and the oppressed soul flee when a spiritual wolf commences to rend and tear the conscience with doubts, when the burden of sin presses the sorrowing soul into hell, when there remains not one counselor who could advise and comfort with good words or speak the words of grace? Who will pour a few drops of grace into their mouths, pour oil into the wounds of the heart, bind up the wounds of the conscience and stop the hemorrhage from the heart of that miserable and trembling sheep which the wolf has rent and torn?
These poor, miserable, naked and down-pressed orphan children who are crying upon the cold floor because of cold and hunger have no other refuge than to lift up their trembling hands toward heaven and cry with such a loud voice that it will sound into heaven. Then will the merciful Lord Jesus who is the true Father of all poor orphan children lift up these helpless naked wretches from the cold floor of the world; He will wash them clean with the water of life; He will take them into His lap and teach them to suckle at His breasts of flowing grace, yet not so fast that the milk of grace should cause them to choke, but only as fast as the wretched ones are able to swallow.
O beloved Parent! How much blood has been shed from Thy heart when, while giving birth to these naked wretches, Thou didst bend Thy knees, and while bowing Thy face toward the earth, sighed so heavily that the heart did break because of agony! The greater the agony of the Parent, the greater the love toward the newly-born; the more blood that is shed from the Parent's heart, the more burning will be His love toward the naked ones who wail upon the cold floor of this world.
Into the care of that great Creator I this day commit all these poor, miserable, naked and downcast souls who have awakened through my crying, or by my rebuking they have been able to see that their former life has not been the right kind of life, and those who perchance because of my barking have returned to that great Shepherd. I also leave those to God's care who, because of this barking, have become offended with me, and I say unto them as Paul said in the previously mentioned farewell sermon, "I am pure from the blood of all men." Not one of those who hate me because of my barking can accuse me on Judgment Day that I have not rebuked them nor told them in what deplorable condition their souls are if they do not repent.
We shall now commence to cry as did the woman of Canaan who was a young puppy dog of grace, if, like her, we are content with the crumbs of grace that fall from the Lord's table. Do not whine too much, you puppy dogs of grace, but sit, wait, watch and smell for some fragment to fall from the rich man's table, and content yourselves with that, though it may be only a small fragment. Grant therefore, O merciful Lord, that some fragment fall from Thy table so that these poor, hungry puppy dogs would cease their whining. Amen. Our Father, and so forth.
The Gospel: Matthew 15: 21-23.
By the guidance of our Holy Gospel, we shall at this hour behold how the puppy dogs eat fragments: First: How the puppy dogs sit under the table and watch for fragments. Second: How the puppy dogs whine when they do not get the fragments as quickly as they wish. Third: How the puppy dogs fight over a fragment. Fourth: How the puppy dogs long after him who has fed them when he goes away.
May the merciful Lord Jesus give us His grace so that all puppy dogs of grace might be satisfied with the crumbs that fall from His table, and that they would not fight amongst themselves.
First: How the puppy dogs sit under the table and watch for fragments. Disgraceful dogs, especially the large hounds of Jiehtanas (namely the big dogs of the evil spirit) that are accustomed to stealing and to licking human blood, do not wait until fragments fall from the table. They leap upon the table and grab the lump of butter and swallow it as if it were nothing. You cannot take it out of the dog's stomach if he has already swallowed it. Such large hounds of Jiehtanas which have lapped broth out of the kettle wherein the devil has boiled human flesh, as well as the stray dogs which eat mice and drink flowing devils’s dung, do not wait for fragments but steal the food out of the hands of people, and if the parent is not with his children, these disgraceful dogs snatch the food away from the children's hands. Therefore, the Savior has said to the woman of Canaan: "It is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it unto the dogs."
Children's bread is the grace which God has promised unto the repentant children of Israel and the spiritual seed of Abraham, but some lords of this world who esteem their dogs more highly than their own children give the dogs bread and butter and allow their children to go hungry. Orphan children are in a pitiable condition for they have no one to feed them when they cry in hunger. However, the children who have such a cruel foster parent that he loves dogs more than his children are to be indeed pitied, for he has such a hard heart that he gives the dogs bread and butter and to his children only fish bones. Woe! Woe! Unto you poor miserable orphan children, if you should have such a cruel foster parent that he will waste your substance, give the dogs bread and butter, sugar and syrup, and to you only fish bones.
Let us behold further how the puppy dogs sit under the table watching for crumbs. Although the Savior said to the woman of Canaan: "It is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs," this heathen woman had, in any event, enough understanding to realize this was a hard saying for her, and if her faith had been weaker she surely would have ceased asking when she was compared to a dog. But her faith was so strong that she did not cease pleading, even though the Savior called her a dog. She admitted she was a whelp and felt in her heart that she was no better than a dog in comparison to one who had inherited the child-right. When a penitent soul has great humility and such great feeling of unworthiness, that in comparison to God's children he considers himself no better than a dog, then he has become a young dog of grace which sits under the table, watches and waits if some fragment of grace might fall from the table. Even though it be a small piece, the dog will cherish it. A hungry puppy dog is not so particular as the large fat whelps which snatch a lump of butter off the table and swallow grace like wolves though they are not hungry.
Secondly: We shall now consider how the puppy dogs of grace whine when they are very hungry and scent the sweet food upon the Lord's table; also how the puppy dogs of grace become impatient and commence to whine. This whining of puppy dogs signifies that they are very hungry and have great desire for food. At first they behave and are silent under the table, but finally impatience comes and they begin to whine because of great hunger. When the puppy dogs of grace begin to whine, the Lord says first, "Be silent and wait until the children have eaten; it is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs." But the puppy dogs of grace still whine and beg and after licking the hand of the Lord, they lay their heads upon his knees. If they could speak, they would surely say that the puppy dogs will eat the fragments that fall from the Lord's table.
The reason why the Lord does not give the puppy dogs of grace much food is that dogs which have too much to eat become lazy in barking and are therefore unfit for shepherd dogs. The puppy dogs of grace would surely eat as much as their stomachs would hold if they could, but experience has taught that dogs who live in plenty and are too well fed are not so ready to bark as are those fed more sparingly. Such dogs that live on stolen grace bark at no one, nor do they follow the shepherd into the woods, but only watch where they might be able to steal. Thieving dogs eat the carcasses killed by wolves; moreover, they bite the lambs which linger in the woods behind the flock, either sunken in a slough or otherwise helpless. The puppy dogs of grace shall assuredly receive fragments that fall from the Lord's table, if only they are patient and wait until the children have received their portion. The Savior has said: "It is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs."
All those Gentiles who have not as yet received the child-right of God are the puppy dogs and unto them fragments shall be given if they but feel themselves to be such. But some are disgraceful dogs that are not satisfied with fragments; instead they leap upon the table and want to eat the children's food themselves. Unto such shameless dogs the Master says, "Behave and wait until it is given, for it is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs." In this passage it is understood that the bread is the grace which God has promised unto penitent and believing souls who are children of Abraham and Israel, according to promise, and the puppy dogs are the Gentiles who have not much knowledge of Christianity. Nevertheless, they have a great feeling of unworthiness like the woman of Canaan and they continue to cry unto the Savior, for they have firm faith, confidence and assurance that the Savior shall help them when they are in distress although they were born of poor and heathenish people and feel themselves so unworthy compared to the children of Israel that they are no better than dogs. This heathen woman had commenced to believe on the Savior only by hearing of Him, for she had not the slightest knowledge of the Bible except what she had learned from her neighbors, the children of Israel. Therefore, she is an example to us that the heathen often have stronger faith than the scribes who rely on their intellect, although their heart is unchanged and unmoved.
Thirdly: We shall now consider how the puppy dogs of grace fight over fragments. It is deplorable, although it happens often, that puppy dogs begin to fight over the few crumbs which the Master of the house casts out to them. This fighting is not to their advantage, for the puppy dogs which are stubborn fighters, often lose the fragment over which they commenced to fight. Not only do they cause damage to themselves so that the Master of the house is obliged to discipline them with a switch, but when they fight amongst themselves they tread upon the children, upsetting the food vessels, and meanwhile, the large hounds of Jiehtanas are able to rob and steal from them the fragment which the Master had given them. If the puppy dogs of grace had not pride and envy, they would each be content with the fragment given him by the Master. But envy brings about so much that the puppy dogs of grace begin to fight and the large hounds of Jiehtanas become the victors. Then the large hounds of Jiehtanas say, "We are beaten with a staff for fighting, but these puppy dogs of grace also fight amongst themselves although they are so small." Woe unto you, you puppy dogs of grace, if you cannot refrain from quarreling and fighting because you have no one to discipline you, and so the hounds of Jiehtanas shall come upon you and tear you to pieces and seize the fragment you had received from the Lord's table. Surely you have seen how a puppy dog pleads for mercy when some large brute rushes upon him, but if all the puppy dogs would unitedly attack the great brute, they might save their lives. However, if they commence fighting among themselves, the large dogs of Jiehtanas will enter the pack and then, as is the habit amongst dogs, all will attack the one that is left under, whether he is innocent or guilty. They will bite, rend and tear the wretch, one from the head and another from the tail. Therefore, I warn you beforehand, you puppy dogs of grace, that if you do not remain in harmony, the large dogs of Jiehtanas shall come and finish you. Always keep in mind that which the Savior said to His disciples before He left them: "A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another."
Fourthly: We should finally consider how the puppy dogs long after him who had fed them. This is a delicate subject to mention. It can be seen that the puppy dogs long for him who has fed them, because they sit upon a knoll, waiting and watching in the direction where their feeder has gone, longing for him and whining with a pitiable voice. Undoubtedly the heavenly Father hears their voices and feeds their souls when they are hungry. Who else but the heavenly Lord Jesus, who hears the sighs of all the poor, wretched and downcast ones has even until this day fed and taken care of their souls? Where else have the orphan children refuge except near the heavenly Father, who is Father over all those called by His name, both on earth and in heaven ? Surely it is not I who has fed and taken care of them, but He who feeds and protects the young ravens and provides for the swallows and the chickadees. At first the puppy dogs of grace whine when they long for him who has fed them, but finally they go into a corner, rest their heads upon each other and whine there. I hope that not only will the heavenly Benefactor who gave a few fragments of grace to the woman of Canaan have compassion on these dogs of grace and give them some pieces, but also that their severe hunger might teach them to seek some food for themselves.
Now, since the time is fast approaching for me to depart and go where the Master orders, namely, to bark at other thieves, I must leave these puppy dogs of grace in the keeping of the Master with the reliance that He will not allow them to die of hunger. Since He feeds the young ravens when they cry unto Him, He will assuredly feed the chickadee, the young swallows and the puppy dogs of grace when they whine because of hunger. Farewell now into the care of the Master, all puppy dogs of grace! Farewell, all small chickadees and young swallows! May the gracious Lord Jesus protect you from the claws of the hawk and feed you on insects. Farewell, all lambs of Jesus whom the Chief Shepherd has snatched out of the teeth of the ravenous wolf. May the Lord Jesus lead you into the best pastures and feed you on the best meadow grasses when winter comes! Farewell, all you small unripe grain that are yet growing in the Lord's field! May the Lord of the seed give you fair and seasonable weather so that the grains of wheat will fill with substance before frost comes and you may be those beautiful grains of wheat that the harvesters gather into the garner. May the Lord of the seed protect this little field from hail, storms and blizzards so that the frost will not spoil those unripe and weak grain before the harvest time arrives. Farewell, you newly-born children whom the heavenly Parent begot through great travail and shedding of blood! Farewell, you newly-born children who lie bewailing on the cold floor of this world! May the Parent lift you from that cold floor, wash you clean with the water of life, wrap you in clean linen, press you to His bosom and place His breast in the mouth of the crying children, so that they will cease from crying and with joy behold their Creator. Farewell, you winter sparrows and summer swallows! May the heavenly Parent who gives food to the young ravens in due season when they cry unto Him give you milk, butter and honey when you are hungry. May He protect and guard all the young swallows from the talons of the hawk. Farewell, you snowbirds and nightingales who have sung and chirped from that precious tree to the solitary traveler! May God, in His grace, grant that I may hear the snowbirds and nightingales chirping before God and the Lamb in the Kingdom of Heaven and singing the new hymn on the tree of life. Pray also for me, who am as a solitary bird perched upon a limb, so the gracious Lord Jesus would give me power and courage to cry to all straying travelers that they would return to the road of life;and to all the sorrowing and downcast so they would arise from the sleep of sin and cry: "Lord Jesus, be gracious unto us!" Amen.
The Corrector’s Note: The word Jiehtanas above is Lappish and means a gigantic beast. In the Finnish text Jiehtanas is called Jatuni.