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AGAINST RASH JUDGMENT
‘Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.’
Here we see the rule of God’s judgment in matters between man and man—‘With what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again.’ Thus, we see that, for the present, God is to us all, even to the unthankful and evil, what He would have us also to be. But between this life and that other comes the Day of Judgment, when we must give an account of the things done in the body, and of this Judgment this is one of the great rules: with what measure men have measured to others, it shall be measured to them again. Thus, we are now choosing the rule by which we shall be dealt with by-and-by.
I. God’s rule in judgment.—‘With what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again.’ Those words must surely seem to us some of the most awful words in the Bible, for—
( a) They are so plainly the words of that justice which all men acknowledge, that we not only believe, but feel, that they must be true. If we believe in a Judgment at all, then we must look to be dealt with in the same spirit, by the same measures, according to the truth and generosity which we have shown, when it was our turn to show mercy, to pass opinion, to help and share and give. Can any imagine that they may deal with men harshly, but that God ought to deal with themselves tenderly? This then is one thing that makes these words so awful, that we see for ourselves that it must be as they say.
( b) The other is that, while we feel the certainty of the law, we cannot see how it will be carried out. It lies in the awful darkness of the time to come. All we know is that, some time or other, a man’s deeds will be returned upon him, and he will find out what God his Maker and Judge thought of his dealings with his brethren by what happens to himself. And the fearful thing to think of is that, for the most part, this is to be in another world—where all things will be different—so much greater—for blessedness and for anguish—where what is to be is to be for good, and for ever. It is there, for the most part, that this law will have its fulfilment, and the measure be measured back to men.
II. Man’s unreasonable judgment.—We must all judge often, and sometimes condemn. The sin is not in judging and condemning, but in doing so without reason—carelessly, unjustly—for the sake of condemning, condemning without mercy and without fear. In this case the same harsh and unsparing judgment awaits ourselves. Dare any one look back into his past and venture to say that he could endure the judgment, if, in God’s justice, what he measured to others was to be exactly measured to him again? Yet that is God’s rule. Can we hear of it and not tremble? God repays to men what they do. He measures back, and judges them by the standard they apply to their brethren.
Let us beseech Him not to enter into judgment with us who never can be justified in His sight. There is mercy with Him, but it is only for those who now, in the hope of God’s forgiveness, are ready with all their hearts to forgive their brother.
‘There are different measures in which men give themselves to Christ, and Christ despises none of them, but in different measures He again is compelled to give Himself back to them. With what measure each gives himself to the Saviour, the Saviour gives Himself in His salvation back to each. As when in some foreign land, in some strange shrine of Romish or pagan worship, all glorious with art, all blazing with the light of precious stones, there bend around the altar the true devotees who believe with all their souls; while at the door, with heads uncovered and with faces solemnised by the presence of a ceremony in which they do not believe and in which they take no part, lingers a group of travellers full of joy at the wondrous beauty of the place; and as when the music ceases and the lights go out they go away, each carrying what it was in him to receive—the devotee his spiritual peace, the artistic tourist his spiritual joy; so men bestow themselves on Christ, and by the selves that they bestow on Him the giving of Himself to them must of necessity be measured.’
THAT WHICH IS HOLY
‘Give not that which is holy unto the dogs.’
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs—that is to say, never surrender the higher to the lower, never sink the celestial to the terrestrial; never desecrate that which has been consecrated. That was the sound piece of advice that our Lord gave to men and women who were trying to aim at a higher life while they were living in and mixing with the world. As they needed the lesson then, we want it now, when hardly anything is regarded as holy. What shall we say then that we specially need to remember is in danger of losing its sacred character?
I. The holiness of manhood.—Manhood is holy, and yet men desecrate their manhood. I take up some novel, some book, and I read there a character so true to life, a man who carries an atmosphere of unholiness wherever he goes, a man whose character men shudder at when he goes into their clubs, a man whose presence women fear when he goes into their drawing-rooms. It is hard to keep our manhood holy in these days, and as we face the real true facts of life we think perhaps of some one man from that great mass of middle-class men who are the real strength of England, and we think what his manhood is exposed to. He is living, perhaps, in lodgings, he gets home from his work tired and weary, he has his meal alone, and then he goes out through the open door into the streets, and then, to use Bible language, sin lieth at the door. There it is curled up like a dog on the doorstep all ready to meet him. There is the test to his manhood.
II. The holiness of womanhood.—And the same is true of womanhood. We know there are women who in one mad moment have thrown their holiest and their best to the dogs. We know their temptations, we know what it means to them. They have lowered the level of womanhood. They have desecrated the consecrated. They have made themselves a sort of right of way for the public to walk over. To them the Master says, as to the men, ‘Give not that which is holy to the dogs.’
III. The holiness of childhood.—The children are holy; if ever there is a time in life when men and women have been holy it is when they were children. And yet look how children are by their parents literally thrown to the dogs, sent out into life unwarned of everything. What wonder that they go when they are sent to the dogs!
IV. The holiness of health.—Health is holy. Don’t fling away health as men and women do so wildly, so recklessly. Take care of the drugs, take care of the stimulants that are so easily to be had. Take care of the way you spend your recreation hours. Life is in that sense holy, and it is to be treated as you would treat a church or churchyard. Fence it in from the dogs, fence it in from all that desecrates it. All life really is sacred and holy. Your interest, your work in life is holy.
(1) ‘The picture is of a glorious and a great temple, the priests sacrificing some spotless lamb, and as they stand at the altar the picture is that of an Eastern dog—a coarse, cruel scavenger—creeping up the distance of the temple, and then the priest taking a piece of this pure spotless lamb and throwing it to the dog. Every Jew would regard it as a scandal, every one to whom our Lord was speaking would know to what He referred.’
(2) ‘I have read the story of a child whose after life was the life of many a man. He was a judge’s son, and he stood at last in a felon’s dock, and the judge who was trying the case knew, and knew well, the man’s father. And he said to the prisoner at the dock: “Don’t you remember your father as you stand in that dock?” “Yes,” was the reply, “I do remember my father, and the greatest remembrance that I have of him is that whenever I wanted a word of advice, whenever I wanted him to enter into my boy life, he replied, ‘Go away, and don’t worry or bother.’ ” And the result was that an English judge was enabled to complete a great work that he was writing upon the law of trusts, when there in the dock was his own son, an example of the way in which he had failed to keep that most sacred trust of all—the trust of bringing up a child that he had brought into the world.’
SEEKING AND FINDING
‘Seek, and ye shall find.’
Those who, in this world, seek for glory and honour and prosperity and a great name, are doomed to failure and disappointment; they seek, but they do not find. They who hunt after happiness, whether they hunt for it in pleasure, or in business, in gaiety or in retirement, in study or in dissipation, seek, but do not find. But Christ tells us a different tale—that there is something which we shall find, if we seek after it. What is it?
I. The promise applied.—We might apply the promise to a great number of things—comfort under sorrow, cheerfulness and contentment under disappointment, light and guidance in the dark days of doubt and despair, hope and trust and confidence in God when all earthly things begin to fail, peace to the troubled conscience, pardon to the sin-stricken soul, hope in an after life. In all these ways, and in numbers of others, we shall experience the truth of our Saviour’s promise, ‘Seek, and ye shall find.’
II. New Testament examples.—We might interpret these words of Christ to mean something more. We might interpret them by numberless passages which we find scattered over the Bible, where ‘seeking God’ and ‘seeking after God’ occur again and again. If we interpret seeking God and seeking Christ as bearing the same meaning, we shall find, from examples in the New Testament, that our Saviour’s assertion is absolutely true, and that at least whilst He was living upon earth none ever sought Him and found Him not. (Note the cases of the shepherds, Simeon, the Wise Men, the Magdalene, etc.)
III. Saints and martyrs who have found Him.—But not to these alone, but to an unaccountable number of saints and martyrs, and prophets and priests, and kings and wise men—nay more, to an unaccountable number of humble and holy men and women before and since, to children of every age and degree, to the needy and poverty-stricken, to the unfortunate and the miserable, to the sorrowful and to the unhappy, have the words of our Saviour been fulfilled—‘Seek, and ye shall find’—seek Me in all times of joy and of sorrow, in all times of pleasure and of disappointment—seek Me in times of prosperity and of poverty; seek Me in the house of mourning and in the house of feasting, and ye shall find Me—ye shall find Me whom your soul loveth.
IV. Your personal experience.—You have followed Him first of all at a distance, but gradually and gradually you have drawn nearer; you have pressed closer and closer; and when, unperceived by any, you have ventured to touch the hem of your Saviour’s garment, His words to you have cheered you and comforted you—‘Go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.’ And they have been echoed and re-echoed within you till they have been the only words that you have heard, and you have at last received Him into your soul; you have found Him to be your Saviour and your God!
‘Success in life, as men call success, is, beyond question, the lot of very few among us. Where one succeeds a thousand do not! A thousand will start in life with the same aims and objects, with the same chances and opportunities—and where one succeeds the 999 will fail. As in the old Corinthian games all competitors would run, or wrestle, or fight, but one only would gain and receive the prize. And this not at all because the 999 are wanting in steadiness or industry, or boldness, or judgment, but simply because it is the natural order of things—many run the race, but one obtaineth the prize. And disappointment comes even to those few who do succeed, and therefore success does not bring with it the happiness which I suppose we all look for. Some of you may have read an old novel, in which the author very skilfully portrays not only the disappointment, but the utter failure and unhappiness of the man whom he had made the discoverer of the “ Philosopher’s Stone” and the “ Elixir vitæ.” ’
THE GOLDEN RULE
‘All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.’
In this part of the Sermon on the Mount our Lord begins to draw His discourse to a conclusion. The lessons He here enforces on our notice are broad, general, and full of the deepest wisdom. Let us mark them in succession.
I. A general principle.—He lays down a general principle for our guidance in all doubtful questions between man and man. We are ‘to do to others as we would have others do to us.’ We are not to deal with others as others deal with us: this is mere selfishness and heathenism. We are to deal with others as we would like others to deal with us: this is real Christianity. This is a golden rule indeed!
II. Settling debateable points.—It does not merely forbid all petty malice and revenge, all cheating and overreaching: it does much more. It settles a hundred difficult points, which in a world like this are continually arising between man and man; it prevents the necessity of laying down endless little rules for our conduct in specific cases; it sweeps the whole debateable ground with one mighty principle; it shows us a balance and measure, by which every one may see at once what is his duty.—Is there a thing we would not like our neighbour to do to us? Then let us always remember that this is the thing we ought not to do to him. Is there a thing we would like him to do to us! Then this is the very thing we ought to do to him.—How many intricate questions would be decided at once if this rule were honestly used!
III. Its general excellence.—Consider the excellence of this rule, and the grounds on which it claims the respect and homage of mankind. These are—
( a) Its reasonableness, as founded on the original equality of all men one with another.
( b) Its capability of easy and immediate application.
( c) Its kindness and beneficence in relation to ourselves.
Prebendary Daniel Moore.
‘A judge, administering’ the laws of his country, knows very well that if he were in the situation of the prisoner there is nothing which he would, desire so much as an acquittal. Must he, therefore, pronounce nothing but pardons? A bold beggar comes to a rich man for alms. Imagine a reversal of their positions, and the rule of doing as you would be done by would require that the rich man should give up the half of his property. These and similar cases, arising out of the necessary dependences and relationships of social life, sufficiently evidence that the rule of our text is to be received with a certain understood limitation, and imply that it is not what we do, or might wish others to do to us, that is to be the gauge of our conduct to them, but only what, according to the principles of equity and fairness and right, we ought to wish.’
AVOIDING THE WAY OF THE MANY
‘Enter ye in at the strait gate,’ etc.
Our Lord here gives us a general caution against the way of the many in religion. It is not enough to think as others think, and do as others do. It must not satisfy us to follow the fashion, and swim with the stream of those among whom we live.
I. The two ways.—He tells us that the way that leads to everlasting life is ‘narrow,’ that ‘few’ travel in it; He tells us that the way that leads to everlasting destruction is ‘broad,’ and full of travellers: ‘Many there be that go in thereat.’ These are fearful truths! They ought to raise great searchings of heart in the minds of all who hear them.—‘Which way am I going? By what road am I travelling?’ In one or other of the two ways here described, every one of us may be found. May God give us an honest, self-inquiring spirit, and show us what we are!
II. The religion of the multitude.—We may well tremble and be afraid if our religion is that of the multitude. If we can say no more than this, that ‘we go where others go, and worship where others worship, and hope we shall do as well as others at last,’ we are literally pronouncing our own condemnation. What is this but being in the ‘broad way’? What is this but being in the road whose end is ‘destruction’? Our religion at present is not saving religion.
III. The little flock.—We have no reason to be discouraged and cast down if the religion we profess is not popular and few agree with us. We must remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in this passage: ‘The gate is strait.’ Repentance, and faith in Christ, and holiness of life, have never been fashionable. The true flock of Christ has always been little. It must not move us to find that we are reckoned singular, and peculiar, and bigotted, and narrow-minded. This is ‘the narrow way.’ Surely it is better to enter into life eternal with a few, than to go to ‘destruction’ with a great company.
—Bishop J. C. Ryle.
‘Not very long ago I was in the Lake District, and made the ascent of Helvellyn. As I went up Striding Edge I could not help thinking that it was a terrible journey to make. Striding Edge is a long ridge of rock by which you approach the summit of the mountain. The pathway is so narrow that you would suppose it almost impossible to step along it and keep your footing, and when you come to the point along Striding Edge where a stone is placed to commemorate the death of one who lost his life through slipping over the ridge, you suppose that this is indeed a way of peril. But here is the fact, that the difficulty of Striding Edge is of such a kind that, if you keep your head and go quietly to work, there is not a single point where there is any difficulty at all. You go from point to point with one rare view after another, and all the forces of the mountain and of nature seem to be encouraging you along your narrow and apparently perilous way. And when you have once made the ascent, you prefer that way to any other way of approach to the great mountain. It is a narrow rather than a difficult way. It is clearly marked out, but it is not at all hard to follow if you go where the marks of the feet are, and along the path which has been trodden by generation after generation.’
‘Beware of false prophets.… Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.’
The Sermon on the Mount ends with four remarkable warnings. Only the last three are included in the passage read. To grasp the full meaning of these, however, we must take notice of the first of the four, which is the key to the whole passage.
I. Beware of the crowd.—‘Enter ye in by the narrow gate.’ This warning is against the danger of supposing that what ‘everybody does’ and what ‘everybody thinks’ cannot be far wrong, and that therefore one may adjust one’s standards, one’s ideals of what God expects of us, by the standard which prevails amongst the multitude of mankind around us. The principles laid down by Christ Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount are not those put into practice by the Christian Church as a whole; they do not govern the lives of the great mass of people who call themselves ‘Christians,’ and who claim their religious privileges as followers of Christ. What is it then that has brought us into the position in which we find ourselves to-day, when the great mass of working-men turn their backs entirely upon the Church of God?
II. Beware of false prophets.—It is because of false preaching. It is because of the preaching of a shallow Christianity, which has left the hearts and lives of men unchanged, untouched, and simply covered up things with a promise of forgiveness of sins. It is because the way of salvation has been made easy and broad, instead of narrow and deep. Now see what the Master says about this popular Christianity. ‘By their fruits ye shall know them.’ That settles the point. You see what it means. You and I have got to accept such principles, and live such lives in consequence, that if others did the same, earth would become a paradise. That is the only fruit that will bear witness to the tree of true principle, viz. its regenerating effect on society. We are always thinking that Christianity ends with simply turning to, or looking to, Jesus, or with calling upon Him. It does nothing of the sort. It only begins there, and if it stops there, there is something wrong with it. ‘… He that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.’
III. Beware of workers of iniquity.—There must be the changed character and the changed life, as an outcome and a proof and a manifestation of Jesus Christ having been received into the soul. Nothing else but this will do, or bear the test of the judgment day. No eloquence, no preaching power (even if it can sway thousands), no reform of public morals, no success in social, religious, or philanthropic work, will take the place of, or be a substitute for, the embodying of the character of Jesus Christ in the life of the Christian. So our Lord proceeds, ‘Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord … depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.’ What an awfully solemn warning this is, is it not?
IV. Christ our example.—Do you see how our Lord is narrowing down the sphere of guidance to which we are to look, until at last He fixes our gaze simply and solely on Himself? Whence are we to take our ideals? Simply from Christ, and even then we are to beware lest the teaching of Christ float about in our mind as ‘ideal,’ instead of being accepted as the practical working principles and foundations of the character, on which the life itself with all its activities shall be reared.
—Canon T. Brocas Waters.
THE TREE AND ITS FRUIT
‘A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.’
A man’s actions show what he is. If we judge of others at all, we can follow no other rule than this.
I. Judging others.—But it is a general rule that we are not to judge others more than is absolutely necessary. ‘Judge not,’ says our Lord, ‘that ye be not judged.’ We should never be rash, or hasty, or fond of judging others, but the contrary; and when we are obliged to do so, we must take the plainest marks we can get, and judge by them; if we go beyond this, we are in danger of un-charitableness, and so of losing the mark which shows us to be Christ’s disciples. It is our own fault if we are led away by false teachers, or if we judge of them harshly, for in our case such a sign is given us; it is the sign of lawful authority; this is our appointed guide.
II. Judging ourselves.—But in our own case it is plain we must go much deeper than this. We must take to ourselves the whole force of our Lord’s words, and consider that as our hearts are, so our actions will be. God will judge us by our actions. This, therefore, is the rule by which our own characters must be determined. The heart is deceitful above all things; but the actions which come from it cast back a light upon it, and by their light we see what its state really is.
III. Lack of honesty.—Many perish from lack of knowledge; but many more perish from the want of honesty; they know God’s will; they know the conditions of their salvation. But, because the way of obedience is hard, they will not walk in it; and then, in order to quiet their consciences, it becomes necessary to deceive themselves; and so they say that it is not their actions but the heart to which we must look, i.e., they set aside the plain rule our Lord has given us, and say, in direct contradiction to His words, that the tree may be good, though the fruit is evil. If truth and honesty are wanting in our dealings with ourselves in God’s sight all is wanting to us, and there is no hope for us.
The Rev. J. Currie.
‘Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.’
These words are familiar to us from their place among the offertory sentences in the Communion Service. Experience points to a broad correspondence between what men do and what they are; and, therefore, action is the true test of character upon the whole. It is very tolerable to most of us, to hear classes of people condemned for sins or inconsistencies which we have no chance of committing. Our Lord knew human nature too thoroughly to flatter one of the least amiable of its weaknesses, and He proceeds to show that His disciples might be men of profession without being strictly men of action.
I. The kingdom.—What is here meant by the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’? Our Lord means, in the first instance, the new spiritual society of men which He was establishing under that name on the earth. But mere profession of adherence to Him, however reiterated, however enthusiastic, is to be no passport of entrance into the kingdom. And so, when the multitudes around Him, entranced by the power of His teaching, were visibly willing to make protestations of attachment and of service, He observed solemnly, ‘Not every one … but he that doeth.’
II. The persons referred to.—To what persons or what classes of persons does our Lord refer? We can scarcely doubt that He does refer to some bona fide hypocrites, who professed what they did not mean or feel; but our Lord speaks with a prophetical foresight to all the ages of His Church. There is much less temptation now to hypocrisy, in these days. A young man of education and ability knows perfectly well, if his highest object in life be money or distinction, there are better things to do with himself than to take Holy Orders; and in general society a man does not now lose caste, as he did twenty years ago, by avowing even his disbelief in Christianity. But our Lord includes another form of hypocrisy—being carried away by a torrent of enthusiasm into words and actions which, left to ourselves, we should not mean. A day must come when every soul must stand alone. Nothing will help us then which has not been made by God’s grace genuinely our own—our own in this sense, that we mean it, with all the purpose and intensity of the soul, whether others mean it or not.
III. The voice of feeling.—‘Lord, Lord,’ is sometimes the voice of feeling as distinct from conviction. Feeling has its due sphere in the religious life of the soul, but feeling must follow conviction. If it precedes conviction it will soon get us into trouble. Our Lord would seem to be contrasting genuine religion with mere devoutness such as we see sometimes divorced from a religious sense of duty. There are lives in which passionate bursts of feeling, strong and tender, towards our Saviour alternate with disobedience, deliberate, repeated, to the known will of God—to the simplest duties. ‘Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?’ Our business here is not to give up devotion—God forbid—but to be, by His grace, sincere about it.
BUILDING UPON THE ROCK
‘Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and It fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.’
Christ is ‘the Rock,’ and a man’s religion is compared to ‘the house’ which is ‘built’ upon it. And the similitude, winding up as it does, and clenching the whole of ‘the Sermon on the Mount,’ assumes an unparalleled weight and importance. There are a few persons who are too fond of looking at foundations; they are always tormenting their minds, and distrusting and disparaging the love of Almighty God. But many more commit the far more dangerous and vital mistake of not searching into them enough.
I. Untrustworthy foundations.—Most persons who think at all have certain floating, unfixed thoughts and ideas, on which they try to erect a certain kind of faith and practice.
( a) Natural religion. Of this character is the notion a great many men have about the general goodness of God—‘He is a kind God—too good to punish.’ And then comes all the poetry and all the sentiment of natural religion.
( b) Good works. Presently, taken off this, and seeing something of its unworthiness, these men go a little more down into the reality of things—they rest much upon duties—they lay out a breadth of religious observances—they try to form many good habits—they endeavour to do some good works—they discipline themselves very strictly, but find it of no avail.
( c) Feelings. Then, a little beneath this, comes the trust of the man who, seeing the untenableness of a good life as a ground of hope before God, leans rather on what he feels in his own mind.
II. ‘The Rock’ at last.—But again it fails him, and again he has to go deeper still, till gradually that man is led to see that a sinner’s ultimate resting-place must be something outside himself, something apart from himself. So he begins to see the necessity of a Saviour. Now that man is beginning to touch a ‘Rock.’ He is beginning to feel something that will bear. At last, the Spirit of God shows that man ‘the Rock’ in all its strength—and there now it is, beneath that man’s feet, like adamant.
The Rev. James Vaughan.
‘In all matters relating to his home and land the peasant of Palestine is very shrewd. The position of a village will show that the inhabitants are well versed in the knowledge that points to the best site for their dwellings. They are built on the top or side of a hill, and seem at the first glance in the sunlight of a bright summer day to be a part of its rocky side. When the rain has washed the white dust from their walls they are much more distinct, or when surrounded by trees and gardens. Security from the attack of foes and the storms of winter seem to have prompted their choice of a site for the village. The position on or near the summit of a hill commands a view of the surrounding country and renders it in ordinary warfare wellnigh impregnable. To add to this desirable situation the houses are built like little forts and close together. When storm clouds burst and the rain rushes in torrents over the rocks on the hillsides, and innumerable little streams tumble precipitately down the mountains, the village homes are free from damp walls or standing pools, as the water seeks the lower land. To prevent the house from following the course of the rain it is firmly built on the rock with strong, thick walls—the precaution of a wise man (St. Matthew 7:24). In the plain below the hills where there is no stone the houses are often made of clay and mud, and raised on the sand. If they do not disappear altogether before the rainy season is over, they become so saturated with the wet that when the sun comes out the roof will dry and crack.’
THE PEOPLE ASTONISHED
‘It came to pass when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at His doctrine.’
The doctrine of Jesus Christ is the most astonishing which the world has ever heard.
I. It is astonishing in its simplicity.—There are portions of Christ’s teaching which the wisest philosopher might find a difficulty in understanding, and which a little child can realise and love. We may read the mystery of God’s Word becoming Flesh, or the wondrous vision of St. John in Patmos, and we may ask, ‘How can these things be?’ whilst our little ones will read, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto Me,’ and there will be no difficulty to them. The doctrine of Jesus deals with the deepest mysteries—Heaven, Hell, the Resurrection, Salvation, the Life Everlasting. Yet it is simple enough to come home to the heart of the ragged outcast in the street and the pauper in the workhouse ward.
II. It is astonishing in its universal application.—It is a doctrine for every one. It could comfort Lazarus the beggar, and make Felix the governor tremble. It has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the careless empty and sorrowful away. It has added brightness to a palace, and has lighted up a garret. It has brought a hardened unbeliever to his knees, and carried a martyr through the fires of persecution. It is not a doctrine only for the learned, or for the wise, or old, or wealthy. The philosopher can learn more wisdom from that doctrine than he ever knew before; the wise man can there acquire the best of all knowledge, the knowledge of his ignorance.
III. It is astonishing from its authority.—Other teachers and moralists speak doubtfully, and offer certain theories as being possibly true. They suggest solutions of difficulties as probable. The universe may have come together, they say, in the form of atoms, and have become what it is; man may have developed from some lower type of organisation; our souls may be absorbed into the atmosphere at our death, or the souls of the wicked may be utterly annihilated. Now Jesus Christ does not speak in this way, but with absolute authority. He does not say that a thing may be, but that it is. He says in His doctrine that ‘all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.’
‘The doctrine of Jesus Christ is very astonishing to many people at this very day, not only to the scoffer and unbeliever, but to those who are named by His name, and who profess and call themselves Christians. Too many among us put a thin varnish of Christianity over a life which is modelled on anything but the lines of the Gospel. Let us be honest with ourselves about this matter; let us look into our heart of hearts, that secret place of which no one but God and ourselves has the key. Would it not astonish some of us to learn that if our life is that of a Christian it must be formed after the pattern given on the Mount? For whom were that sermon and the whole teaching of the Gospel intended? For a particular class, for a select band of saints? Surely not; they were intended for all, as the guide which alone can point us along the narrow way and through the strait gate which lead to life eternal.’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Matthew 7". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20