The argument presented in my lecture on the Bible, in which I defend the inspiration of the Book of Books, was the outgrowth of a chance rereading of Elijah’s prayer test. I was preparing an address for the celebration of the Tercentenary of the King James’ Translation when, on the train, I turned by chance to Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of Baal. It suggested to me what I regard as an unanswerable argument, namely, a challenge to those who reject the Bible to put their theory to the test and produce a book, the equal of the Bible, or admit one of two alternatives, either that the Bible comes from a source higher than man or that man has so degenerated that less can be expected of him now than nineteen hundred years ago.
In preparing a Sunday-school lesson on Abraham’s faith I was so impressed with the influence of faith on the life of the patriarch and, through him, on the world, that I prepared a college address on “Faith,” a part of which I have reproduced in my lecture on “The Spoken Word.”
It was a chance rereading of an extract from the account of the Ten Lepers which led me to prepare the lecture reproduced in this chapter. The subject to which I invite your attention is as important to-day as it was when the Master laid emphasis upon it. As He approached a certain village ten lepers met Him; they recognized Him and cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy upon us.” He healed them; when they found that they had been made whole, one of them turned back and, falling on his face at Jesus’ feet, poured forth his heart in grateful thanks. Christ, noticing the absence of the others, inquired, “Were there not ten cleansed, but where are the nine?” This simple question has come echoing down through nineteen centuries, the most stinging rebuke ever uttered against the sin of ingratitude. If the lepers had been afflicted with a disease easily cured, they might have said, “Any one could have healed us,” but only Christ could restore them to health, and yet, when they had received of His cleansing power, they apparently felt no sense of obligation; at least, they expressed no gratitude.
Some one has described ingratitude as a meaner sin than revenge—the explanation being that revenge is repayment of evil with evil, while ingratitude is repayment of good with evil. If you visit revenge upon one, it is because he has injured you first and the law takes notice of provocation. Ingratitude is lack of appreciation of a favour shown; it is indifference to a kindness done.
Ingratitude is so common a sin that few have occupied the pulpit for a year without using the story of the Ten Lepers as the basis of a sermon; and one could speak upon this theme every Sunday in the year without being compelled to repeat himself, so infinite in number are the illustrations. Those who speak of ingratitude usually begin with the child. A child is born into the world the most helpless of all creatures; for years it could not live but for the affectionate and devoted care of parents, or of those who stand in the place of parents. If, when it grows up, it becomes indifferent; if its heart grows cold, and it becomes ungrateful, it arouses universal indignation. Poets and writers of prose have exhausted all the epithets in their effort to describe an ungrateful child. Shakespeare’s words are probably those most quoted: