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Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 23

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Verses 1-39

Matthew 23:5

Old Samuel Johnson, the greatest soul in England in his day, was not ambitious. 'Corsica Boswell' flaunted at public shows with printed ribbons round his hat: but the great old Samuel stayed at home. The world-wide soul wrapt up in its thoughts, in its sorrows what could paradings, and ribbons in the hat, do for it?


Reference. XXIII. 5. C. Jerdan, Pastures of Tender Grass, p. 291.

Matthew 23:8

The passage before us presents us with the true foundation on which all Christian teaching in God's Church rests, and with the consequent guard against the most dangerous of the perversions to which it may be exposed.

I. Christ the Sole Teacher in His Church. They shall all be taught of God, was the Old Testament promise which described in the highest way the glory of the New Testament times. The universal prerogative of all Christian men is the possession of direct teaching from Christ Himself.

Then we have to consider the characteristics of this teaching of Christ's, and we shall best do so by keeping in view the tacit contrast between the limitations of ours, and the perfections of His.

II. Christ's Teaching is Inward. We can only appeal to men by words which may move their hearts or clear their understandings. We can only present motives which may have power or not. Conviction by the force of truth, persuasion by the weight of motives that is all we can do at the best for one another. We stand outside. But Christ can put His Hand into the secrets of the heart and touch the will. He uses His instruments, He blesses the word, He uses the discipline of life; but over and above all these, there is a teaching deeper than them all, when the soul in direct communication with Christ learns of Him.

III. Christ's Teaching is Original. It is the impartation of Himself, and He is the Truth.

A. Maclaren.

References. XXIII. 8. D. M. Ross, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. 1893, p. 364. A. H. Bradford, ibid. vol. xliv. 1893, p. 193. Lyman Abbott, ibid. vol. xlix. 1896, p. 264. H. Hensley Henson, ibid. vol. lxvi. 1904, p. 58. G. Philip, Home in the World, Beyond, p. 114. J. J. Tayler, Christian Aspects of Faith and Duty, p. 150.

Christ Our Master

Matthew 23:8-10

I. Christ claims to be the supreme, and ultimately the sole, Teacher and Master of all Christian men. His first work was teaching: His followers were His disciples or scholars.

This is an aspect of Christ's work which is apt to be obscured. We think of Christ more in relation to faith than in relation to conduct; as the Redeemer of men rather than as their Teacher. And even when we do think of Him in relation to conduct, it is perhaps His example rather than His words that we think of. But Christ claims to be a teacher, with a definite body of teaching as to what we should believe and what we should do.

II. Christ claims to be our only Master and Teacher. What are the forces that prompt and guide and limit our activity? In many cases we shall confess the influence of maxims gathered from our own experience, or learned from the masters of worldly policy. How much, when we look into it, comes from other sources than Christ?

III. Let us begin to seek out and to apply His precepts to our whole life; to test by them all influences that govern us.

1. We shall find much that conforms to Christ's law, in so far as our civilization is Christian. Let us verify all this as from Christ, and follow it now as part of our obedience to Him.

2. We shall find precepts in Christ's teaching which, in what at least seems to be their plain meaning, we have not acted on. Such cases, where we seem to disregard, or diverge from, the precepts of the Master, call for careful examination. No doubt wisdom is needed for their interpretation.

3. We shall find in our application of Christ's precepts that there are still with us actions and feelings at variance with our Master's teaching.

4. We may find that our whole scale of moral values differs from Christ's: the scale of honour in which we range the virtues, the order of detestation in which we place the vices.

IV. Let it be said, too, that the disciple must carry his Master's teaching into all spheres, not only into his private life, but also into his business and his politics. It is in our own lives that we have the nearest and freest field for acting as disciples of Christ. Those only rightly obey Christ who believe on Him, who acknowledge Him as Master because they trust Him as Saviour.

P. J. MacLagan, The Gospel View of Things, p. 40.

Matthew 23:8-10

To be throned apart, like a Divine being surrounded by the bought homage of one's fellows, and possessed of more power than a man can decently use, was a condition which excited in Delafield the same kind of contemptuous revolt that it would have excited in St. Francis. 'Be ye not called master;' a Christian even of his transcendental and heterodox sort, if he were a Christian, must surely hold these words in awe at least so far as concerned any mastery of the external or secular kind. To masteries of another order, the saint has never been disinclined.

Mrs. Humphey Ward in Lady Rose's Daughter chap. XXIII.

References. XXIII. 8-10. T. G. Selby, The Strenuous Gospel, p. 314. J. Clifford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. 1893, p. 280; see also vol. xlvi. 1894, p. 216. G. Campbell Morgan, ibid. vol. lxxi. 1907, p. 99. XXIII. 13-15. T. G. Selby, The Lesson of a Dilemma, p. 319. XXIII. 15. H. Hensley Henson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lx. 1901, p. 337.

Matthew 23:15

The proselytizing agency of the Roman Church in this country I take to be one of the worst of the religious influences of the age. I do not mean as to its motives, for these I do not presume to touch, nor feel in any way called upon to question. But I speak of its effects, and they are most deplorable.... With this pernicious agency I for my own part wish to have nothing whatever to do; although I am one who thinks lightly, in comparison with most men, of the absolute differences in our belief from the formal documents of Rome.

Gladstone in 1863.

More than thirty years later, in the Nineteenth Century, Mr. Gladstone remarked that he 'would define the spirit of proselytism as a morbid appetite for effecting conversions, founded too often upon an overweening self-confidence and self-love'.

The Visible Temple

Matthew 23:17

A Temple there has been upon earth, a spiritual Temple, made up of living stones, a Temple, as I may say, composed of souls; a Temple with God for its Light, and Christ for the High Priest, with wings of angels for its arches, with saints and teachers for its pillars, and with worshippers for its pavement; such a Temple has been on earth ever since the Gospel was first preached. This unseen, secret, mysterious, spiritual Temple exists everywhere, throughout the kingdom of Christ, in all places, as perfect in one place as if it were not in another. Wherever there is faith and love, this Temple is; faith and love, with the name of Christ, are as heavenly charms and spells, to make present to us this Divine Temple, in every part of Christ's kingdom. This Temple is invisible, but it is perfect and real because it is invisible, and gains nothing in perfection by possessing visible tokens. There needs no outward building to meet the eye in order to make it more of a Temple than it already is in itself. God, and Christ, and angels, and souls, are not these a heavenly court, all perfect, to which this world can add nothing? Though faithful Christians worship without splendour, without show, in a homely and rude way, still their worship is as acceptable to God, as excellent, as holy, as though they worshipped in the public view of men, and with all the glory and riches of the world.... King's palaces are poor, whether in architecture or in decoration, compared with the shrines which have been reared to Him. The invisible Temple has become visible. As on a misty day the gloom gradually melts, and the sun brightens, so have the glories of the spiritual world lit up this world below. The dull and cold earth is penetrated by the rays. All around we see glimpses or reflections of those heavenly things which the elect of God shall one day see face to face. The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ; 'the Temple has sanctified the gold,' and the prophecies made to the Church have been fulfilled to the letter.

J. H. Newman.

Reference. XXIII. 19. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv. No. 831.

The Details of Life

Matthew 23:23

I. The efficiency of some great men has been seriously impaired by their neglect of the uninteresting parts of life and duty. Disraeli confessed of himself, 'I want energy in those little affairs of which life greatly consists'. This hatred of the trivial, even in cases where detail was of the essence of statesmanship, was acknowledged by his friends to be a cause of his weakness as a minister. On the other side, the greatest men who brought their work to splendid perfection, and whose lives were veritable triumphs, considered no detail of their task too trivial, no uninteresting portions of it too insipid, the truth being, the modest and monotonous details were so scrupulously wrought out that glorious success seemed to flower magically.

II. Life cannot be all interesting; much that it involves is necessarily stale and flat. In this contempt of triviality we suffer loss. We miss the essential discipline of the trivial, and missing that are not prepared for the greater situations and seasons; ignoring the grandeur of the minute, we defraud ourselves of one of the chief delights of existence; and having neglected insignificant particulars, we have certainly more or less marred the whole result in character and destiny, which is made up of insignificant particulars.

III. Detail is of the essence of life, and he is great and shall be great who knows it. There is teaching, discipline, and blessing of the highest order in faithfulness in monotonous days and things. 'And the hand of the Lord was there upon me; and He said unto me, Arise, go forth into the plain, and I will there talk with thee. Then I arose, and went forth into the plain: and, behold, the glory of the Lord stood there' (Ezekiel 3:22-23 ). On the flat, dull, monotonous stretches of life does God speak with men and show them His glory.

W. L. Watkinson, Themes for Hours of Meditation, p. 185.

The Doctrine of Proportion

Matthew 23:23

This is the doctrine of proportion, perspective, relativity, in things spiritual, religious, pious, and practically good. One matter is of so much consequence, and the other matter is of so much less consequence; they are both important, but one is lighter than the other and ye have omitted the weightier matters.

I. Here are men who are deeply concerned about a creed. Are they concerned about the right thing? Only a man of superficial mind would speak disrespectfully of forms of faith. They are useful, helpful, sometimes they approach the very point of essential necessity. What is greater than creed? Faith, faith is larger in all its inclusiveness and suggestiveness than any creed can ever be. Many men cannot put faith within the limits of credal form. Are we then to make infidels of them? Shall we not recognize that they are attending to the weightier matters of the law, and approach them, and recognize what measure of sincerity and earnestness may be obvious in all their spirit and action.

II. This line of reasoning might be fitly applied to the Bible itself. No man is going to be so fatuous and impious as to deny the great importance of many aspects of the controversy raging around the Bible; let us, however, be careful that we do not diminish the authority of the Bible by misunderstanding the purpose of the Bible itself. How did Jesus Christ Himself use the Bible? By the Bible, of course, I mean the Old Testament. His will be the right way. What did He go to the Old Testament for? For Himself, this is the whole necessity: to find the Son of God should be the object of every Biblical student and reader.

III. Apply the matter to the question of the Sabbath. Here are men who believe that the Sabbath begins at twilight of one day and goes on to evening twilight of another day. They keep Sabbath by the clock: up to five minutes within the time they can be buying and selling and getting gain, but now it is Sabbath Day, because a bell has been struck. Another man says, 'I go the length of admitting that one in seven should be a day of rest'. That is the weightier matter; he is a Sabbatarian, in the truest, widest, noblest sense of the term.

IV. Apply this also to service. Some men can render one kind of service and some another; let every man be distinctive in his mission, and be most himself because he attends to the weightier matters which he is peculiarly constituted to carry out to completeness of fruition.

Joseph Parker, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 28.

Illustration. I go to the Great Northern Railway to go to Scotland. The man who is in charge of the place insists on being fundamental; he is a man of culture. When I approach him, he says, 'Let us begin at the beginning,' my reply is, 'I want to go to Edinburgh'. 'By no means begin at that end of the business,' he will reply; 'let us be at once elementary, fundamental, and complete.' I look at the man with a feeling of vacuity, for either he is out of his head or I am. He says, 'This is the Great Northern Railway'. I reply, 'I never doubted that'. 'But do you understand it?' 'I think so.' 'Let me explain it to you,' he continues. 'Consider' the importance of the word "the," a little word, an article, and a definite one; in all languages the article plays a most important part. "Great," a word you might apply to kings, to empires, to the heavens themselves. "Northern," not North-Eastem mark that; and not North-Western, be on your guard; this is an age of sophistry; not the North-Western. Not the Southern, but the Northern. Stand in front of a map, where is the North? At the top mark that.' I thank him for his lecture, and feel that it must have cost him a great many hours of anxiety to prepare it, and I say now to a porter, 'Where is the train to Edinburgh'? He says, 'It is gone, sir!' Gone! Will this man who has been lecturing to me on the Great Northern bring it back? Never; he has befooled mo. So it will be with many at the last. Whilst you have been talking about matters of absolutely insignificant importance, or of merely relative importance, the train will have gone.

Joseph Parker, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 41.

Matthew 23:23

Writing in 1826 upon the prospects of reform within the Church of England, Dr. Arnold, of Rugby, observes: 'The difficulty will always be practically, who is to reform it? For the clergy have a horror of the House of Commons, and Parliament and the country will never trust the matter to the clergy. If we had our general assembly, there might be some chance; but, as it is, I know no more hopeless prospect, and every year I live, this is to me more painful. If half the energy and resources which have been turned to Bible societies and missions, had steadily been applied to the reform of our own institutions, and the enforcing the principles of the Gospel among ourselves, I cannot think but that we should have been fulfilling a higher duty, and with the blessing of God might have produced more satisfactory fruit. 'These things ye ought to have done, and not to have left the other undone.'

References. XXIII. 23. W. J. Butler, What is Our Present Danger, Sermons, 1870-93. J. Parker, The Gospel of Jems Christ, p. 32. F. B. Cowl, Straight Tracks, p. 13. XXIII. 23, 24. H. Hensley Henson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lx. 1901, p. 360. D. Eraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 181.

Mistaken Magnitudes

Matthew 23:24

It was one great complaint of our Lord against the Pharisees, that they had lost the relative magnitude of things.

I. One of the great arts of worthy living is to see things in their relative importance. It is a great thing to know a trifle when you meet it. It is equally great, when the decisive moment comes, to seize it and use it with every power of manhood. It is such swift distinguishing between the great and little, such vision of the relative magnitude of things, that is one secret of a quiet and conquering life.

1. The failure to see things in their true proportions is often seen in relation to our grievances. When a man has a grievance he is almost certain to have distorted vision. You can block out the sun by the smallest coin if you hold the coin near enough to the eye. And we have a way of dwelling on our grievances, till we lose sight of the blue heaven above us.

2. Of course, I am aware that the failure to see things in their true proportions has sometimes got physical and not moral roots. We are so apt to be jaundiced and think bitter things, when all that we want is a little rest and sunshine.

Of all the secondary ministries of God for helping us to see things as they are, there is none quite so wonderful as sleep. We go to rest troubled, perplexed, despondent. We cannot see how we shall get through at all. But when we waken, how different things are! Jesus loved to speak of death as sleep. Our 'death,' for Christ, was sleep, and sleep is the passage to a glad awaking. There will be no mistaken magnitudes in heaven. There will be no errors in proportion there. We shall no longer be blind to the relative importance of things that confused us when we fell asleep.

II. What are the Gospel powers that help a man to see things as they are?

1. Remember that the Gospel which we preach puts love at the very centre of our life. When anything else than love is at the centre, the gnats and camels are certain to get mixed. For love alone sees purely, clearly, deeply. Take away God, and things are chaos to me. And without love, I never can know God. You understand, then, the wisdom of Jesus Christ in putting love at the centre of our life It focuses everything. It links the little and the great with the Creator, and brings things to their relative importance.

2. And then the Gospel takes our threescore years and ten and lays them against the background of eternity. It is because Christ has brought immortality to light that the Christian sees things in their true proportions. The efforts and strivings of our threescore years are not adjusted to the scale of seventy, they are adjusted to the scale of immortality.

3. And then the Gospel brings us into fellowship with Christ, and that is our last great lesson in proportion. The heart that takes its measurements from Jesus is likely to be pretty near the truth.

G. H. Morrison, Sun-Rise, p. 32.

Illustration. Mr. Froude, in his Spanish Story of the Armada, makes a significant remark about the Spanish king. He is showing the incompetence of Philip II, and he says: 'The smallest thing and the largest seemed to occupy him equally'. That was one mark of Philip the Second's incompetence. That gave the worst of all possible starts to the Armada. And for the equipping of nobler vessels than these galleons, and the fighting of sterner battles than they fought, that spirit spells incompetency still.

G. H. Morrison, Sun-Rise, p. 33.


Matthew 23:25

I. What is the explanation of this unwonted severity of our Blessed Lord? Why was the whole tone of His ordinary addresses so entirely altered? The answer is given in the words of the text In that solemn sentence the verdict of God Almighty is recorded upon the whole race of Pharisees, 'Ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter'. The heart of these professors was not right with God. They responded to the calls of public charity, but no true love for God and man reigned in their souls.

From this hypocrisy our Lord revolted with the united strength of His human and Divine nature. He made one last effort to save them from themselves, to reveal the truth to their blinded hearts, to snatch them back from the abyss which was already opening to receive them.

II. How was it that these Pharisees could descend to such depths of iniquity?

There was, no doubt, a time in the lives of these Pharisees when they were conscious of heavenly aspirations a blessed spring-tide of the soul when refreshing showers descended from on high to quicken the good seed which had been sown in their hearts. They shrank, however, from the sacrifices by which real holiness could be attained. They held back from the free surrender of their heart to God. They were afraid of the answer which might be returned if they inquired of their Father in heaven, 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' So Satan took advantage of their indecision, and suggested an easier method by which the favour of heaven could be attained. Under the guidance of this master-teacher of deceit they renounced the rugged pathway of inward self-denial, and turned into the smoother road of external obedience.

III. The temptation of compounding for inward sin by correctness of outward conduct will press most heavily upon those who, without any real change of heart, have come to be considered religious. They have great doubts whether they are really religious, whether they are ready to die and appear before the judgment seat of Christ Yet they shrink from so humbling themselves as to acknowledge the false foundation on which their spiritual fabric has been raised. Their character for godliness is too precious a possession to be lightly abandoned. So, instead of falling down on their knees and praying God Almighty to create in them a clean heart and renew a right spirit within them, they direct all their efforts to preserving the appearance of goodness, are mere miserable counterfeits, so the process goes on very easily and very surely under the crafty guidance of the master-spirit of deceit Conscience is soothed, the still small voice is silenced, and unless the Spirit of God arrest their downward course they become at last like whited sepulchres all is well on the outside; they are fair and spotless in the eye of man. But within there is no love for God, no warmth of self-sacrifice, no sorrow for sin, no enthusiasm for their Lord, no growing religious life only the cold chill of death, the second death the death of the soul!

Bishop G. H. Wilkinson, The Invisible Glory, p. 62.

Illustration. Just as in some foreign capital the crown and the sword of a giant king are preserved, though for centuries no head has been found large enough to wear the crown, no hand of strength sufficient to wield the sword, so was it with those poor Pharisees. In the thronged street, the crown of righteousness was borne before them, and men cried 'Rabbi, Rabbi' but theirs were not the heads on which its jewels were first intended to sparkle, they were not the Godlike heroes for whom its massive robes had been moulded.

On their foreheads and on the folds of each gorgeous robe might be observed the texts of Scripture ostentatiously displayed, but their puny hands were powerless to wield that sword of the spirit, their feeble wills were impotent to wage a Godlike warfare against man's triple foe the world, the flesh, the devil. In this alone had they succeeded that they had made clean the outside of the cup and of the platter.

Bishop G. H. Wilkinson, The Invisible Glory, p. 66.

Matthew 23:26

'This,' says Matthew Arnold, 'was the very ground-principle in Jesus Christ's teaching. Instead of attending so much to your outward acts, attend, He said, first of all to your inward thoughts, to the state of your heart and feelings. This doctrine has perhaps been overstrained and misapplied by certain people since; but it was the lesson which at that time was above all needed. It is a great progress beyond even that advanced maxim of pious Jews: "To do justice and judgment is more acceptable than sacrifice". For to do justice and judgment is still, as we have remarked, something external, and may leave the feelings untouched, uncleared, dead. What was wanted was to plough up, clear, and quicken the feelings themselves. And this is what Jesus did.'

Respectable Sin

Matthew 23:27

The imagery of this denunciation would appeal powerfully to a Jewish audience. These whited sepulchres, gleaming in the sun, were a familiar feature in the landscape. You are not to think of them as separate buildings, like the mausoleums of the Romans. They were just caverns cut in the limestone rock, with a great stone set up to close the opening. And once a year these stones were whitewashed, not for the purpose of making them look beautiful, but to warn people that a grave was there, lest they should touch it, and touching, be defiled. Many a time our Lord had wondered at them, when He rambled among the hills at Nazareth. You know how the darkness and the dead men's bones would stir the imagination of a boy. And now in the glow of His anger at the Pharisees, He sees again that haunting of His youth, 'Ye are like unto these whited sepulchres, beautiful outwardly, but full of all uncleanness'.

Now we cannot have a moment's doubt as to the spiritual meaning of that figure. That figure is enshrined in common speech as perfectly expressive of the hypocrite. The man who is one thing inwardly, another outwardly who is not really what he seems to be of such hypocrisy in its most general aspect, I might textually speak tonight. But I want to get nearer to the text even than that; to seize upon its characteristic feature; to show how it stands apart amid the many figures of the hypocrite. Now this, I think, is the emphatic thing here that the Pharisee never shocked nor startled people. He never outraged the feelings of society; never broke through its unwritten laws. Whatever he might be in the sight of God, in the sight of men there was no fault to find. The Pharisee was eminently guilty: he was also respectable. I want then to speak upon the subject of respectable sin.

I. Respectable sin is not just secret sin. I do not mean by respectable sin that sin of which others have got no suspicion. It is true that so long as a man's sin is secret, he may still keep the respect of the community. If he is cunning enough to hide his shame, he may still pass as a reputable citizen. But the point to note is that that respectability depends upon the keeping of the secret. The moment the sin is trumpeted abroad, the man becomes an alien and an outcast. It is not such sin that is respectable. It is sin that, when known, carries no social stigma. It is sin that a man may openly commit, and yet not forfeit his place in the community. It is sin that is tolerated in general opinion; that is not visited with social ostracism; that does not shut the door in a man's face of the society in which he loves to move.

II. Now when we study the earthly life of Jesus, there is one thing that we soon come to see. It is with what terrible and dread severity He judged those sins we call respectable. There is often an element of unexpectedness in the moral judgments of our Saviour. He is sometimes severe where we should have been lenient; He is often lenient where we should be severe. And nowhere is this more remarkable than in His attitude towards actual sins, as He saw them in the streets of Galilee, and in the homes and in the market-place. All sin was hateful to Jesus Christ, because all sin was rebellion against God. He never condoned sin in any form; never thought of it as the other side of goodness. And yet undoubtedly the sins that stirred Him most were not the sins of passion or of weakness. They were the cold and calculating sins which masqueraded as respectable. Think for example of the Temple traders. Did anyone think the less of them for trading so? Was not that traffic a general convenience, acquiesced in by society without protest? Yet never in all his life was Christ so angry so filled with a passion of tumultuous scorn as when He knit His scourge, and drove them forth, and hurled the charge of robber in their teeth. It was not in that way that He spoke to Peter. It was not thus that He had addressed the Magdalene. Towards them, in the whole conduct of the Saviour, there is the throb of unutterable tenderness. But towards the Pharisees and towards the traders I look for any such tenderness in vain. Christ hurled His bitterest and sternest judgments upon the sins of respectability.

III. Sin that is respectable has an unequalled power of deadening the conscience. In the mirror of the society he moves in, a man sees nothing to alarm or terrify.

Is this not true of respectable sin, that of all sin it is most pernicious in its influence? I think that Jesus Christ condemned it so, because He was the lover of mankind. He saw its untold power to allure. He saw how mightily it would appeal to natures that would turn in loathing from coarse vice. And therefore did He terribly denounce it, out of His great love for foolish men, who are so ready to think that anything is right when they can do it without social censure.

G. H. Morrison, The Return of the Angels, p. 77.

Matthew 23:27

Compare the sentences inserted by Charlotte Brontë in her preface to the second edition of Jane Eyre: 'Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the second. To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns.... The world may not like to see these ideas dissevered, for it has been accustomed to blend them; finding it convenient to make external show pass for sterling worth to let whitewashed walls vouch for clean shrines. It may hate him who dares to scrutinize and expose to rase the gilding and show base metal underneath it, to penetrate the sepulchre and reveal charnel relics; but hate as it will, it is indebted to him.'

How much among us might be likened to a whited sepulchre; outwardly, all pomp and strength; but inwardly full of horror and despair and dead men's bones 1 Iron highways, with their wains fire-winged, are uniting all ends of the firm Land; quays and moles, with their innumerable stately fleets, tame the ocean into our pliant bearer of burdens; Labour's thousand arms, of sinew and of metal, all-conquering everywhere, from the tops of the mountain down to the depths of the mine and the caverns of the sea, ply unweariedly for the service of man: yet man remains unserved.... Countries are rich, prosperous, in all manner of increase, beyond example; but the Men of those countries are poor, needier than ever of all sustenance outward and inward; of Belief, of Knowledge, of Money, of Food.


References. XXIII. 27, 28. D. Fraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 191. XXIII. 27-39. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew XVIII.-XXVIII. p. 139.

Matthew 23:29-30

I saw the state of those, both priests and people, who, in reading the Scriptures, cry out much against Cain, Esau, and Judas, and other wicked men of former times, mentioned in the Holy Scriptures; but do not see the nature of Cain, of Esau, of Judas, and those others in themselves. These said, it was they, they, they, they, that were the bad people; putting it all from themselves; but when some of them came, with the light and spirit of truth, to see into themselves, then they came to say I, I, I, it is I myself, that have been the Ishmael, and the Esau, etc. George Fox.

'It is trite,' says Professor Seeley, 'that an original man is persecuted in his lifetime and idolized after his death, but it is a less familiar truth that the posthumous idolaters are the legitimate successors and representatives of the contemporary persecutors.... The second half of the original man's destiny is really worse than the first, and his failure is written more legibly in the blind veneration of succeeding ages than in the blind hostility of his own. He broke the chains by which men were bound; he threw open to them the doors leading into the boundless freedom of nature and truth. But in the next generation he is idolized, and nature and truth are as much forgotten as ever; if he could return to earth, he would find that the crowbars and files with which he made his way out of the prison-house have been forged into the bolts and chains of a new prison called by his own name. And who are those who idolize his memory? Who are found building his sepulchre? Precisely the same party which resisted his reform; those who are born for routine and can accommodate themselves to everything but freedom; those who in clinging to the wisdom of the past suppose they love wisdom, but in fact love only the past, and love the past only because they hate the living present.'

Speaking of adherents of theological creeds, the late Mr. R. H. Hutton once observed that 'the greater the glow of trust with which they formerly held possession of their past, the more sullenly do they fortify the empty sepulchres.... It was a saying of Luther's that the very people who, in his lifetime, would not touch the kernel of his teaching, would be greedy after the husks of it when he was once dead.'

The only valuable criticism is that which turns what is latent in the thought of a great writer against what is explicit, and thereby makes his works a stepping-stone to results which he did not himself attain. It was those who stoned the Prophets that built their sepulchres. Those who really reverenced them, showed it by following the spirit derived from them to new issues.

E. Caird, preface to Philosophy of Kant.

And, while we fools

Are making courtesies and brave compliments

To our rare century, and courtierly

Swaddling our strength in trammels of soft silk,

The rotten depths grow rottener.

Augusta Webster.

References. XXIII. 29-32. A. Orrock Johnston, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xl. 1891, p. 420. XXIII. 29-39. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xl. No. 2381. XXIII. 33. J. Baldwin Brown, The Divine Treatment of Sin, p. 155.

Matthew 23:34

Generation after generation of insurgent Poles, or Italians, or whatnot, may bleed and die, and seem to leave nothing to show for it all. But who are we that we should presume to judge how much expenditure of blood the keeping alive of an idea is worth?

Memoirs of Henry Holbeach.

References. XXIII. 34 H. C. G. Moule, Christ's Witness to the Life to Come, p. 120. XXIII. 34, 35. R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, vol. ii. p. 329. XXIII. 37. A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, part iv. p. 203. 'Plain Sermons' by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. viii. p. 151. John Watson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlviii. 1895, p. 56. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. ii. p. 243. C. Stamford, Symbols of Christ, p. 263. D. Fraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 209. C. Jerdan, Pastures of Tender Grass, p. 360. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xl. No. 2381; vol. xlv. No. 2630. XXIII. 37, 38. E. E. Smith, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lix. 1901, p. 228. XXIII. 38. C. Jerdan, Pastures of Tender Grass, p. 110. XXIII. 41. H. P. Liddon, Some Elements of Religion, p. 201. XXIV. 1-21. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlix. No. 2381. XXIV. 1-35. R. W. Dale, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlviii. 1895, pp. 60, 104. XXIV. 3. D. Heagle, That Blessed Hope, p. 62. S. H. Kellogg, The Past a Prophecy of the Future, pp. 321, 339. XXIV. 6. J. Addison Alexander, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 275. XXIV. 6, 14. H. Scott Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lx. 1901, p. 216. XXIV. 7. F. E. Paget, The Redemption of War, p. 1. J. B. Mozley, Sermons Preached Before the University of Oxford, p. 97. H. J. Coleridge, The Return of the King, p. 116. XXIV. 11. G. St. Clair, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xl. 1891, p. 339.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 23". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/matthew-23.html. 1910.
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