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'Next week, it is still but the 10th of April, there comes a new nineteen' to the guillotine; 'Chaumette, Gobel, Hébert's widow, the widow of Camille: these also roll their fated journey; black Death devours them.... For Anaxagoras Chaumette, the sleek head now stripped of its bonnet rouge , what hope is there? Unless Death were "an eternal sleep"? Wretched Anaxagoras, God shall judge thee, not I.
Carlyle, French Revolution, Vol. III. book vi. chap. iii.
For myself, I no more call the Crusades folly than I call the eruption of a volcano folly, or the French Revolution folly, or any other bursting up of the lava which lies in nature or in the hearts of mankind. It is the way in which nature is pleased to shape the crust of the earth and to shape human society. Our business with these things is to understand them, not to sit in judgment on them.
I sometimes wonder whether people who talk so freely about extirpating the unfit even dispassionately consider their own history. Surely one must be very 'fit' indeed not to know of an occasion, or perhaps two, in one's life when it would have been only too easy to qualify for a place among the 'unfit'.
Frederick Denison Maurice to his mother: 'Of all spirits I believe the spirit of judging is the worst, and it has had the rule of me I cannot tell you how dreadfully and how long. Looking into other people for faults which I had a secret consciousness were in myself, and accusing them instead of looking for their faults in myself, where I should have been sure to find them all; this, I find, has more hindered my progress in love and gentleness and sympathy than all things else. I never knew what the words 'judge not, that ye be not judged' meant before; now they seem to me some of the most awful, necessary, and beautiful in the whole Word of God.
Have it a fixed principle that getting into any scornful way is fatal.
'The life of Harriet Martineau is strong upon me at present,' James Smetham writes in 1876. 'When the "orthodox" begin to frown and curse and maledict, and send everybody into blackness of darkness who does not hold their precise creed, that is more from beneath than above, and never over any good. And I must say that the lives of some "professors" are below the moral elevation of many who do not see the evangelic scheme at all.... God knows if H. M. was true to the core I don't. I can't unwind her seventy-four years of act and thought, and if I could, who made me a judge or a divider? Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? He grasps her now, and not an atom shall be wanting in the justice of Divine love.
How often we forget in judging others the influences under which they have grown up! How can one expect a child to be truthful when he sees how servants, yes, often parents, practise deceit? How many children hear from those to whom they look up, expressions, principles, and prudent rules of life, which consciously or unconsciously exercise an influence on the young life of the child! Yet with how little of loving introspection we pass our judgments?
'The world is habitually unjust in its judgments of such men as Burns,' Carlyle protests. 'Unjust on many grounds, of which this one may be stated as the substance: It decides like a court of law, by dead statutes; and not positively but negatively, less as what is done right than as what is or is not done wrong.... Here lies the root of many a blind, cruel condemnation of Burnses, Swifts, Rousseaus, which one never listens to with approval. Granted, the ship comes into harbour with shrouds and tackle damaged; the pilot is blameworthy; he has not been all-wise and all-powerful: but to know how blameworthy, tell us first whether his voyage has been round the globe or only to Ramsgate and the Isle of Dogs.'
No man can say in what degree any other person besides himself can be with strict justice called wicked. Let any of the strictest character for regularity of conduct among us, examine impartially how many vices he has never been guilty of, not from any care or vigilance, but for want of opportunity, or some accidental circumstance intervening; how many of the weaknesses of mankind he has escaped, because he was out of the line of such temptation; and, what often if not always weighs more than all the rest, how much indebted he is to the world's good opinion, because the world does not know all; I say, any man who can thus think, will scan the failings, nay the faults and crimes, of mankind around him, with a brother's eye.
It is curious to notice the kind of criticism indulged in by mechanics whom one meets at the exhibitions of modern pictures at Liverpool and elsewhere. There is no love in it. The men are for ever on the alert to find out something wrong, to detect faults, and no more.
Dr. Augustus Jessopp, Arcady, p. 70.
References. VII. C. Gore, Church Times, vol. xxxiii. 1895, p. 507. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2312, vol. xlviii. No. 2808. VII. 1. E. H. Eland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxi. 1902, p. 158. C. J. Vaughan, Characteristics of Christ's Teaching, p. 214. VII. 1-5. E. Lyttelton, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 305. VII. 1-6. J. Oswald Dykes, The Manifesto of the King, p. 529. VII. 1-12. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 324. VII. 1-14. W. Boyd Carpenter, The Great Charter of Christ, p. 257.
These words are usually interpreted in their application to the relationship which we sustain to others. But the words enshrine a principle to which our Lord gave other and varied applications:
I. 'Unto you that hear shall more be given.' The measure of your hearing shall be the measure of your listening. If you want to hear the voice of God, listen! The voice will grow clearer and clearer as your hearing becomes more earnest and intense. Listen to God's voice in conscience, and more and more pronounced and definite shall be its guidance. Do not listen much to conscience, and conscience will say less and less to you, until perhaps some day the hall where it ought to thunder shall be as silent as the tomb. This is a great law: 'Unto you that hear shall more be given,' and 'From him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he hath'.
II. A person can read the Bible, and not listen, and to him there comes no eternal speech. The revelation is not given to the reader, but to the listener. If we turn to the Word with the spirit awake and alert, we shall be led from revelation to revelation, and from glory to glory.
III. 'According to thy faith be it unto thee.' The measure of our faith is the measure of the power we receive from our Lord. What is faith? 'Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.' Faith acts on the assurance that the thing hoped for is. 'Believe that you have received them, and ye shall have them.' That is faith. Such faith is power; and the more our faith increases the greater will be our power to pursue a quiet, faithful, and confident life.
J. H. Jowett, Meditations for Quiet Moments, p. 72.
'In all my travels,' Cobden once wrote to Bright, 'three reflections constantly occur to me: how much unnecessary solicitude and alarm England devotes to the affairs of foreign countries; with how little knowledge we enter upon the task of regulating the concerns of other people; and how much better we might employ our energies in improving matters at home.'
Commenting, in his life of Milton, upon the poet's line, On evil days though fallen and evil tongues, Johnson protested that 'for Milton to complain of evil tongues required impudence at least equal to his other powers; Milton, whose warmest advocates must allow that he never spared any asperity of reproach or brutality of insolence.'
'Never yet,' says Dr. Augustus Jessopp, 'have I found an Arcadian who pleaded guilty to anything that was particularly owdacious , even though the recording angel had written it down in letters of flame for all the world to read; but never have I found the same Arcadian unable or unwilling to denounce somebody else!'
References. VII. 3-5. H. Hensley Henson, Christ and the Nation, p. 54. D. Fraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 38. R. W. Hiley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xli. 1892, p. 189. E. Lyttelton, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 311.
On Guarding Holy Things
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. That was what He put before them as something definite to aim at In mixing with men and women you will find much that is holy, much that is beautiful and pure and spiritual, and you will find much that is unholy, much that is coarse, and ugly, and animal. And when you find it, when you come across it and meet it face to face, then never surrender good to evil, never sink the higher to the lower.
There is the advice, and this is the picture. It is the picture 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, everyone to whom our Lord was speaking would know to what He referred.
I. The Holiness of Manhood. First, I think, human nature itself. You are holy, human nature is holy that which is unholy is inhuman. Human nature is holy because it is human. Man is holy, woman is holy, and am I not right in saying that there is a danger lest our manhood and our womanhood be flung to the dogs and treated recklessly as something unholy, as Satanic rather than as sacred? Manhood is holy, and yet men desecrate their 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. And may I say a word for the children? 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. I have read the story of a child whose afterlife 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 ".'
IV. The Holiness of Health. 'Give not that which is holy to the dogs.' What is it you are in danger of giving Today? Think it out and ask whether you are doing your best to keep it whole and intact and unimpaired. I will take but one more illustration of what I mean health. Health is holy. Don't fling away health as men and women do so wildly, so recklessly. In the prayer of all prayers, the Lord's Prayer, 'Give us this day our daily bread,' comes in before the plea for pardon. First the body, then the soul, because if the body is not kept right the soul is morbid and consequently is not at its best to resist what it has to meet in life. 'Give not that which is holy to the dogs.' 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 a 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; and our thought Today is the thought the Master gave to men and women who, as we have to do, lived in and mixed with the world. 'Give not that which is holy to the dogs.'
I was always pleased with the motto placed under the figure of the rosemary in old herbals: Sus apage, haud tibi spiro .
There is a Buddhistic parallel: 'Let not this doctrine, so full of truth, so excellent, fall into the hands of those unworthy of it, where it would be despised, shamefully treated, ridiculed, and censured'.
'Mr. Erskine [of Linlathen],' Miss Wedgwood writes in her journal for 13 September, 1865, 'spoke of the connexion between Matthew 7:1-5 , "Judge not," etc., and the verses which follow, "Give not that which is holy to the dogs," etc., and then of the transition which seems in the ordinary acceptation of these later words so abrupt and almost contradictory, but which, as he understands it, is a harmonious development of the same idea. The instrument of judgment is the conscience; we judge ourselves by the conscience, and other men also, and the conscience is "that which is holy" in us; when therefore we present this holy thing in us to the service of malice, or of conceit, we are giving that which is holy unto the dogs, we are turning the good in us to the service of the evil in us, we are giving our light for the use of our own evil passions. The conscience is cast then as pearls before swine, the upper is made to serve the lower, both being in ourselves.'
References. VII. 6. C. J. Vaughan, Characteristics of Christ's Teaching, p. 232. W. Boyd Carpenter, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. 1894, p. 88. E. Lyttelton, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 313. D. Fraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 50.
The Golden Key of Prayer
I. Why should we pray? I suppose that the first answer must be because of a deep inherited instinct which has been trained and fostered from our childhood by those we love. Whether a child would pray if it was never taught may fairly be questioned; but certainly there would always be in it that deep instinct for prayer. And, to reinforce the instinct of prayer, we have the voice of authority the voice of One who came from heaven, and, therefore, must know what opens heaven's gate. When we ask the question, 'Why should we pray?' the answer is, 'We know that our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ'.
II. How shall we pray? What are the laws of the effective action of prayer?
1. Faith. You cannot pray, or you cannot enjoy your prayer unless you believe that, when you pray, you are coming to a Being who is absolutely perfect, absolutely good, absolutely just, and absolutely loving. It is faith in such a God as that which is the first secret of effective prayer.
2. Unselfishness. What does the Lord's prayer begin with? 'Our Father,' not 'My Father'. Selfishness chokes prayer.
3. Loyalty. Why does Jesus Christ trust His name to us to pray with? Why are we allowed to say 'for Jesus Christ's sake'? I answer that question by another. Why does a husband give his wife his name to use? On one condition, and that condition is that his interests are her interests, that his honour is her honour, and that her life is identified with his.
4. Effective prayer must be persevering. Why are those stories told us of the unjust judge and the selfish friend? To show us that, if an unjust judge or a selfish friend hears at last, then the God of love is certain to hear, and that if we persevere how much more will our heavenly Father give the answer to those that ask Him.
III. What shall we pray for for? After the unselfish prayer which the Lord's Prayer teaches us to offer first, then we find that we are allowed to ask for the daily bread for body and soul, for the daily pardon, for the daily guardianship from the evil one for ourselves and for those we love.
And if people say, 'Why ask for these gifts of God? He will give them, surely, without asking,' our answer is, Does He do it in nature? The gold is the gift of God, but we dig for it, the coal is the gift of God, but we mine for it. The bread is the gift of God, but we sow for it and we reap for it. So with these other gifts of God power, wisdom, strength, love. They are the gifts of God, but we have to pray for them; and therefore prayer comes to be the most beautiful work in the world, the most glorious work to be done with a method, to be done with perseverance and at regular times, and yet to pervade the whole life, so that in a true sense we 'pray without ceasing'.
Bishop Winnington Ingram, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxviii. 1905, p. 136.
Illustration. I do not know that we can picture the authority on which we rest our prayers better than by recalling the touching scene in Sheffield when our late aged Queen in her last years had to open the gates of the Town Hall of Sheffield. It was thought well that she should not move from her carriage; so hidden electric wires were fastened to a golden key fitting into the lock which she could turn as she sat in her carnage. By an act of faith and it came to that by an act of faith she turned the golden key, and, as she turned the golden key, at some distance away, slowly, surely, the gates of the Town Hall opened. We cannot see the connecting wires which connect the golden key of prayer with heaven's gate, but a voice which we trust says to us, 'Turn the key; turn the golden key'. 'Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.'
Bishop Winnington Ingram, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxviii. p. 137.
References. VII. 7. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix. No. 1723. C. J. Vaughan, Characteristics of Christ's Teaching, p. 250. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 332. A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, part ii. p. 220. W. Howell Evans, Sermons for the Church's Year, p. 35. E. W. Attwood, Sermons for Clergy and Laity, p. 314 Frank Mudie, Bible Truths and Bible Characters, p. 15. John Harries, Does God Break His Pledges? p. 9. H. P. Liddon, Some Elements of Religion, p. 164. VII. 7, 8. J. B. Mozley, Sermons Preached Before the University of Oxford, p. 213. J. G. James, Problems of Prayer, p. 43. H. Scott Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. 1896, p. 216. S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Sermons, p. 109. VII. 7-12. H. H. Snell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xl. p. 88. E. Lyttelton, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 319. VII. 7-14. J. Oswald Dykes, The Manifesto of the King, p. 551. VII. 8. S. Cox, Expositions, p. 60. VII. 9. T. A. Sedgwick, Pœdagogus, p. 1. VII. 9-11. J. Burton, Christian Life and Truth, p. 121. VII. 10. C. J. Ridgeway, The King and His Kingdom, p. 1.
The Reasonableness of Prayer
Prayer with Jesus was straightforward and unhesitating petition, asking God to do something, and believing that He would do it. And when Jesus laid the duty of petition upon His disciples He went on to assert the reasonableness of a man asking and of God answering, by that argument from man to God which he loved to use and which is thoroughly scientific.
I. When we ask whether it is reasonable to pray, and not merely a fond superstition, it surely counts for something that prayer is an instinct. In the straits of life, however indifferent a man may have grown to prayer, or however keenly he may have argued against prayer, upon a petition he will fall back.
What does it mean that a bird has wings but that there is air in which to fly, or that men are moved to pray in an orderly universe, but that there is a God to answer them?
II. 1. Granted, then, that men should pray, and that God will answer. What is given? Well, the answer may come, not in granting anything nor in taking anything away, but in a new state of mind. It is right to ask for such things as we need, and that we be saved from the things which we fear; but the chief of all prayers, in which all other are included, is this 'Not my will, but Thine be done'.
2. Again definite things may be given which are not visible. St. Paul's thorn in the flesh was not removed; but he received grace to turn it to good purpose, and was able to glory in his affliction.
3. Have we, then, no ground to pray for tangible things? For the healing of the sick, for deliverance from danger, for the welfare of our friends, for our daily bread? Are we to be politely laughed out of faith by clever writers making game of the 'sturdy beggar' type of prayer? Certainly the history of devotion affords some remarkably sturdy beggars who were not ashamed to beat at the door of God's palace and who refused to leave till they got an answer.
III. When God helps us He does not reverse the laws of nature, nor does He act without agents. When people in danger of shipwreck cry to God, it is not likely that the sea will be reduced to a calm, but it is likely that succour will come through the capacity of the captain. If it be God's will to grant the recovery of a sick person, it will be accomplished through the skill of a physician. In what particular are the laws of nature violated in such beneficent operations? Is anything more in keeping with human consciousness than action upon the mind from an unseen source, and is not the material the servant of the spiritual?
J. Watson (Ian Maclaren), The Inspiration of Our Faith, p. 227.
Illustration. Müller of Bristol kept five large orphanages, besides circulating much religious literature, sending out several hundred missionaries, and teaching a hundred and twenty thousand children in his schools, at a total cost of £l,500,000, and he never had a subscription list or made an appeal for money. It is an absolute fact that he simply laid everything before God in prayer, and he never wanted for the support of his orphans. He is a witness to the success of prayer, acting in the physical sphere.
J. Watson (Ian Maclaren), The Inspiration of Our Faith, p. 236.
References. VII. 11. Andrew Murray, The Children for Christ, p. 210. VII. 12. J. J. Tayler, Christian Aspects of Faith and Duty, p. 218. E. A. Lawrence, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliv. 1893, p. 329. T. Sadler, Sermons for Children, p. 93. VII. 13. A. Jessopp, Norwich School Sermons, p. 1. Marcus Dods, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. 1898, p. 136.
'Now, Madam,' writes Samuel Rutherford to Lady Kenmure, 'I persuade you that the greatest part but play with Christianity; they put it by-hand easily. I thought it had been an easy thing to be a Christian, and that to seek God had been at the next door; but O the windings, the turnings, the ups and downs that He hath led me through, and I see yet much way to the ford.'
The straight and narrow way which Christ enjoined upon His followers indicates the moral path which each of us must observe in order to lead a blameless, consistent, and individual career. But the instant we try to survey the moral system of a whole people or race we are confronted, not by a single straight path, but by a vast plain, as it were, stretching from a dim light, far in the distance, with green, graceful hills skirting its base, to the wide plains dotted here with primeval forests, others with gardens of daintiest flowers, and cut up by manifold paths of various breadth running in seemingly contradictory directions. How one is bewildered by a sight like this!
Prof. Inazo Nitobe in Japan for the Japanese, p. 263.
I am suspicious of any religion that is a people's religion or an age's religion. 'Narrow is the way,' our Saviour says.
'The straight and narrow way' is an expression that gathers up the whole meaning of the life of this people. It is true even in a geographical sense, the rocky path which leads from Egypt to Assyria is the promised land of the chosen people.... Israel has been called to be the prophet among the nations, and life in the present, for the prophet, is necessarily hampered and compressed within tiny limits.
Miss Wedgwood, Message of Israel, p. 56.
References. VII. 13, 14. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 342. E. Lyttelton, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 323. D. Fraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 63. R. Winterbotham, Sermons Preached in Holy Trinity Church, Edinburgh, p. 320. D. M. Ross, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. 1893, p. 6. J. Stalker, ibid. vol. lvii. 1900, p. 113. C. Gore, ibid. vol. lix. 1901, p. 171. 'Plain Sermons' by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. ii. p. 233. J. R. West, Plain Preaching to Poor People (9th Series), p. 149. Eugene Bersier, Twelve Sermons, p. 19. C. J. Vaughan, Characteristics of Christ's Teaching, p. 272.
The Place for Christian Asceticism
I. Is, then, the religious life narrow? Our Lord does not say so; He says exactly the reverse that it is only the entrance into it that is narrow. I have seen a commodious vehicle with a very narrow door; when once you got in you could travel with comfort over vast ground, but the getting in was a little embarrassing. You must not imagine that the straitenedness of which our Lord speaks lies in the vehicle; it lies outside the vehicle in yourself.
II. His thought, as I take it, might be expressed thus: 'You are entering a chariot with boundless capacities for travel. The one obstacle is the getting in, and that obstacle lies in you. You have something in your hand which prevents you from finding the door wide enough; it is a mirror in which you see yourself reflected. You will never get through the aperture along with your mirror; it is too narrow for both of you together. Throw aside your self-reflector; break it; leave it in fragments on the causeway; and entering into the chariot free from encumbrances, you will journey over a limitless plain.' III. That is in spirit what I understand Christ to mean. His motive is not the restraint but the enlargement of the soul. He has provided for it a conveyance with immense travelling powers; its name is Love, and its synonym is not narrowness, but wideness. Unfortunately the soul has a mirror whose name is Selfishness; it dandles that mirror, it will not let it go. But if the soul would enter the chariot it must let the mirror go. The door is big enough for itself alone, but not big enough for the accompaniment of its looking-glass. If it would enjoy the chariot it must sacrifice the looking-glass. In the interest of wide locomotion, in the interest of extensive sight-seeing, in the interest of reaching a road from which all barrier will be removed, the mirror must be left behind. That must be crucified which narrows me; that must be sacrificed which impedes me; that must be amputated which prevents me from soaring on the wing.
G. Matheson, Messages of Hope, p. 42.
The Reasonableness of Christianity
The doctrine of the text is part and parcel of the spirit and substance of our common philosophy. There is reason under all Jesus says, and He calls upon us to testify that what He is requiring at our hands is only an extension of the principle which lies at the basis of our whole life.
I. 'Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life' of every kind. You mistake theology, you mistake religion, you mistake Jesus Christ if you think that there is not underneath the whole something that you yourselves are doing every day. Let us illustrate this, and then apply it.
1. Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth to all learning that is worth acquiring. It is said of one of the greatest speakers of the English language that he spent three days in teaching himself how most effectively to utter five words, but when he uttered them the assembly sprang to its feet; fire had touched them, a revelation in speech had been made to their minds.
2. The argument is a fortiori: If for a corruptible, then what for an incorruptible? Thus the great appeal is thundered from infinite altitude, not to discourage the children of men, but to encourage and cheer and welcome every patient toiler.
II. You thought that this arduousness applied only to the kingdom of God; but what kingdom is not God's? There is no kingdom of light, music, beneficence, purity, love that is not God's.
Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth to all excellence. Yet you stood out and said, Why hath God made this gate so strait into His kingdom? It is the law of necessity; it is the necessity of a profound, complete, and beneficent education. There will, of course, always be genius, but that is not to rule the average line of human education and progress. We are called upon to do ordinary work, common everyday work, useful, necessary work, full of enjoyment, and full of high utility; but strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto this.
III. Now will you come and accept the conditions? In striving after this entrance we shall show much weakness. If you are really striving to enter in, you are already in. You have heard what Jesus said to us: 'Ask, and it shall be given; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened,' almost breathlessly, as if the words were continuous, as if they were indeed one solid word. Ask thine; seek find; knock and the door flies back, and all heaven opens its treasures for your use. So the Lord judges us at the point of our growth. Some are young, some are strong, some are very weak; some cannot knock yet because they are groping for the door. When they get hold of the door then they will knock.
J. Parker, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 151.
References. VII. 14. C. E. Jefferson, The Character of Jesus, p. 107. A Scotch Preacher, The Strait Gate, p. 1. George Tyrrell, Oil and Wine, p. 278.
A Prophet is a man who speaks for God, how then can the word 'false' be put before 'Prophet'? What a sharp sword this is to the ministry! Is the slime of the serpent on the altar? Is the lie in the sanctuary? Eden was the sanctuary of God, the garden of the Most High, and the serpent entered there.
I. When you enter a Roman house at Pompeii, you see marked on the pavement, ' Cave Canem '. Here at the very threshold of the Christian Church you have a ' Cave,' for the Lord Himself has uttered it. He says, ' Beware of false prophets '. He belonged to the New Covenant which fulfilled the Old. He speaks here in the language of the Old Covenant. But His Apostle Paul, he carries on the same caution. How does he look at it in the New Covenant of Grace? He says, 'Beware of false Apostles'. In the very early history of the Church there is this caution, 'Beware of false Apostles'.
II. And if this seems very hard on the pulpit, we too in the pulpit have our caution. We are to beware of 'False brethren'. Surely the very term 'brother' proves that he should never be false to you. The one in whom you have fellowship, whose hands you shake, whose eyes you have looked into. He pretends to be what he is not, and he pretends not to be what he is, so that all is false on his side. And God who hates the false shekel, the false measure, hates the false prophet, the false apostle, the false brother.
III. Consider this in connexion with the Christian Church. The Christian Church is that society which is governed by the spirit of truth. If there were no spirit of truth, there would be no Church, and the spirit of truth is to lead the Church into all truth. Not for any expediency of position or popularity can the Church countenance a lie. A lie in the Church is an outrage on the Holy Ghost. The Church must be true, and speak in the truth.
IV. What is true of the Church of God must be true individually. God requireth 'truth in the inward parts'. You must not say you believe, because you take it for granted, or because you have been told you must believe. Be true men and true women. Do you really love the truth? If you love the truth, I will tell you what happens: As you seek it, it expands in front of you, enlarges, becomes an horizon of infinite capacity and joy. Beyond yonder hill there rises the horizon, and you say, 'If I get to that hill, I might be able to put my hand against the horizon'. But when you climb the hill, it is just as far. So, too, when you know one truth, you shall see another, and it ever expands and enlarges before you. Your reward is in your search, and in the joy of finding what is true.
A. H. Stanton, Unpublished Sermon.
The Voice of the Church
This is the solemn warning of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Our Lord had come to earth to win us grace and to open heaven, that we might reach the end to which God created us. He made Himself the Divine example of our life; and not only so, He came also to reveal to us the Truth. He gave us every proof of the truth of this great claim of His, and when He was about to leave this world, set up His Church and put into it the great instrument of teaching the world, Divine Truth. 'As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you,' and for that purpose our Lord poured out His Holy Spirit. Wonderful, glorious promise of God!
I. Hear the Church. It is said that it is so difficult for us to know what is true. Well; we must remember that it is not what this minister or that or the other may say; the question is, What does the Christian Church throughout all the world teach Today? What it teaches Today we know is true because Jesus left His Holy Spirit with the Church. That is the standard by which we are to judge. We have not ourselves the right to judge any man. You have not to judge whether your minister is a good or a bad man. However bad your minister may be, it does not affect your salvation, or the Divine Truth which he teaches, for it is not his but his Divine Master's. Thank God it is so. We have not to judge other people. We have only to beware that our ministers teach us the truth as it has always been taught from the time of the Apostles down to this very day. We judge by that.
II. The Church not Narrow. It has often been said how narrow and hard the Church is to these outside. Not at all! We do not judge others; we do not judge those who perhaps have never had the chance that we have had to learn. All we have to be careful about is that we are not outside the Christian Church. We do not judge; it is not for us to judge; it is for God. He teaches us the truth. We do know the one true Apostolic Church, and we can know by a certain method of those who teach if they teach what is true.
III. Beware of False Teachers. There never was a time when error was so subtle and the devil was so busy corrupting the faith of the children of the Church. We have to be on our guard against false teachers; against those who set up their own private opinions and their own judgments against the truth. They are, as our Lord says, 'wolves in sheep's clothing'. There is nothing so deadly as heresy; it is deadly for the spirit. The path that is open to us is that we should believe in the revelation of Jesus Christ.
References. VII. 15. W. Boyd Carpenter, The Great Charter of Christ, p. 279. VII. 15, 16. J. Hughes, The Saviour's Warning Against False Teachers, a Sermon. VII. 15-20. E. Lyttelton, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 333. D. Fraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 70. J. Oswald Dykes, The Manifesto of the King, p. 595. VII. 16. H. Montagu Butler, Harrow School Sermons, p. 97. H. Harris, Short Sermons, p. 179. VII. 16-20. J. G. Greenhough, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxv. 1904, p. 273.
'When a man,' said Bacon, 'has proposed to himself the highest exemplars of noble words and virtues, this done, he need not set himself, like a carver, to make an image, but let his better nature grow like a flower.'
References; VII. 17. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year (2nd Series), vol. ii. p. 66. VII. 18; XII. 33. R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, vol. ii. p. 47.
The tree is known by its fruits; most truly so but it depends for the maintenance of those fruits, yea, even for its own existence, upon its root in the soil beneath. The Christian life is judged of (and this with the strictest propriety) by that part of it which is seen, but it depends upon the part of it which is unseen for the hold it takes and keeps upon God.
The true evidences of Christianity are the public evidences, the effects upon history, and upon the; world, and upon the lives of men in our own time.... If, when religion grew, morality increased in an equal measure, and the most fervent Christians were also the most honest and upright in business, the most innocent, the most friendly, we should not need treatises on evidence, for the lives of Christian men would be their own self-evidencing light. 'By their fruits ye shall know them.' The great and real source; of doubt in which all lesser doubts seem to be swallowed up is the apathy and indifference of Christian men, saying one thing and doing another.
References. VII. 20. A. G. Mortimer, One Hundred Miniature Sermons, vol. ii. p. 61. J. T. Bramston, Sermons to Boys, p. 1. F. W. Farrar, Everyday Christian Life, p. 190. S. D. McConnell, A Year's Sermons, p. 99.
This text brings very clearly before us that it is quite possible to know the name and the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, and not to know His spirit. It is quite possible to be orthodox in expression, but not to be orthodox in life.
I. The expression 'Lord, Lord,' is a very proper expression of our faith. 'Ye call Me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am.'
The expression 'Lord, Lord,' is the right expression of our relationship to Him. There is only one Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ, and so we say with David,' Lord, I am Thy servant '; so with Paul,' The servant of the Lord Jesus Christ'; so with James, 'The servant of the Lord Jesus Christ;' so with John, 'The servant of the Lord Jesus Christ'.
II. Let us take care when we say 'Lord, Lord,' we really mean it. When we pray, 'Through Jesus Christ our Lord,' let us mention 'Lord' in a vital way to our souls.
III. Let us take very good care that we use not these sacred words, 'Lord, Lord,' for our own interest. What harm has been done to religion when men have taken sacred words and used them as, what shall I say, stock-in-trade. Fancy taking the name of the Lord, Who was born in a manger, and died upon the gallows, and was put in a charity grave, for the sake of making yourself rich! Let us take care, again, that we never make use of religion to put ourselves in a higher position in society. Rise in society if you wish, but do not borrow the lever from Calvary. We must mind that the motive that lies at the bottom of it all is true; that when we say, 'Lord, Lord,' we are true men, and trust Him, and worship Him.
IV. What was the cause of the failure? What did these men not do? They used the right expression, but they did not do the right thing. For the eloquence of life must be always greater than the eloquence of words. If we be orthodox in expression, let us be quite certain we are orthodox in life. If we believe in the Master, let us try and have the Master's spirit. Be sympathetic, kind, gentle, tender, forgiving, and live for others. Be Christlike. Ask Him to make you like Him, 'Lord and Saviour, make me like Thee'. For the sake of God, let us be manly, and for the sake of man, let us be godly.
A. H. Stanton, Unpublished Sermon.
'They call me a great man now,' said Carlyle in his old age, 'but no one believes what I have told them.' The censors of modern literature are continually crying aloud for a new message... Was ever age more rich in prophets and in great messages? But what have we done with them? Have we realized them in our lives, quite used up every available particle of their wisdom? And yet here are we hungry and clamouring again.
Richard le Gallienne.
References. VII. 21. C. J. Vaughan, Characteristics of Christ's Teaching, p. 288. R. W. Dale, The Evangelical Revival, p. 104. John Wills, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlii. 1892, p. 133. H. Hensley Henson, ibid. vol. lxv. 1904, p. 91. W. C. E. Newbolt, Counsels of Faith and Practice, p. 114. H. P. Liddon, Sermons on Some Words of Christ, p. 63. E. Lyttelton, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 341. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xx. No. 1158. M. G. Pearse, Thoughts on Holiness, p. 120. Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. iii. p. 97. Dykes, The Manifesto of the King, p. 615. Parker, The Inner Life of Christ, vol. i. p. 265. Parker, A Homiletic Analysis of the New Testament, vol. i. p. 82. M. Dods, Christian World Pulpit, 22 June, 1881.
Our Lord anticipates the time when active zeal for Himself will be no guarantee. And we may observe the difference between Christ and human founders. The latter are too glad of any zeal in their favour, to examine very strictly the tone and quality of it. They grasp at it at once; not so our Lord. He does not want it ever for Himself, unless it is pure in the individual.
References. VII. 22, 23. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 161. E. Lyttelton, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 349. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlviii. No. 2808. VII. 24. A. Baker, Addresses and Sermons, p. 34. W. H. Frere, Church Times, vol. xlii. p. 26, 1899. VII. 24, 25. A. Robertson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiv. 1903, p. 247. VII. 24-26. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 353. VII. 24-27. J. Oswald Dykes, The Manifesto of the King, p. 637. E. Lyttelton, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 358. A. Benvie, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxiii. 1903, p. 27. H. Scott Holland, ibid. vol. lxx. 1906, p. 245. D. Fraser, Metaphors in the Gospels, p. 87. Henry Varley, Spiritual Light and Life, p. 1. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi. No. 918. VII. 25. H. E. Ryle, On the Church of England, p. 58.
'I came away on Tuesday,' writes Cobden in 1857, 'after listening for two hours and a half to Disraeli. I wish there could be some Bessemer's power invented for shortening the time of speaking in the House. My belief, after a long experience, is that a man may say all he ought to utter at one "standing" in an hour, excepting a budget speech or a government explanation, when documents are read. The Sermon on the Mount may be read in twenty minutes; the Lord's Prayer takes one minute to repeat; Franklin and Washington never spoke more than ten minutes at a time.'
References. VII. 28. J. Barclay, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxvii. 1890, p. 154. S. O. Tattersall, ibid. vol. Ixxx. 1906, p. 52. C. F. Aked, Old Events and Modern Meanings, p. 235. C. S. Robinson, Sermons on Neglected Texts, p. 248. VII. 28, 29. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 363. F. E. Ramsdell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lx. 1901, p. 139.
One Having Authority
I. There is an infinite pathos in this simple contrast between the teaching of Jesus and that of the scribes. His words had the ring of authority, and the people instinctively felt that that was not how their scribes spoke. The professional teachers lacked that note of authority without which all teaching is a mockery, not to say a crime. For is it not a crime to attempt to command the heart and conscience of another by the presentation of a truth which does not command and inspire our own? With Jesus, teaching was a matter of life and death; with the scribes it was a matter of profession. They looked upon the surface of the Old Testament, Christ looked into its heart. And is it any wonder that the people were astonished? As some one has said, Jesus spoke with authority, they spoke by authority. They quoted their rabbis; Jesus quoted nobody, because the evidence of the truth was in His heart, and the zeal for it consumed Him.
The hungry souls know very well whether they are being fed or not. Their teachers may array themselves in professional robes, they may give themselves professional airs, they may learnedly discuss religious difficulties, and show themselves conversant with the history of opinion, but to the soul that is striving for a word from God these things are nothing but a cruel delusion. The real question is, Can the teacher speak with authority? Do his words pierce and burn? Do they find me?
II. The great teacher is always rare. When he comes, we recognize him, not only as one who speaks with authority, but as one who is not as the scribes; that is, not as those other teachers whose special training and manifold opportunities should have enabled them to edify and astonish the people more than he. Clearly, there is more than learning and professional training needed to make a man a great preacher or teacher. What, then, is the secret of authoritative speech?
The thing most needful, and almost the one thing needful, is that the speaker should believe what he is saying. This seems an elementary demand; in reality it is the greatest of all demands. There are a hundred men who can speak, for one who really believes, and the only speech which strikes home and leaves its mark upon another soul is the speech of profound and passionate conviction. Man is more than mind, and belief is more than a thing intellectual. The teacher who covets earnestly the power of speaking with authority must believe his truth, not only with the understanding, but with the heart. He utters it, not as a proposition he can prove, but as a truth that has set his heart on fire. The impression he makes lies deeper than his words; it is the magnetism of the man the inherent, transparent power of his message, and not the logic of his words that carries conviction. The truth glows in his face, shines from his eyes. It does not so much belong to him as ho belongs to it. It is not he that speaks, but a spirit that is speaking in him. He is not his own; he is urged on by an irresistible impulse to tell the thing he knows and lives by. He has mastered the truth, but the truth has also mastered him. He is the ambassador of the highest, and that is why he is lord, and why he can speak as one having authority.
III. And the truth which he believes and passionately utters must be truth by which a man can live, It is one thing to believe that two and two make four; it is another thing to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The latter belief will change my world for me, and the world of any other man whom I can persuade to accept it. But there is much so-called religious teaching that does not deal with the deepest things. It may tell us of the flowers and trees of Palestine, of the scenery upon which Christ daily looked from His Galilean home, of the manners and customs of those to whom He ministered, of the literary structure of the sacred books which He read. It is well to know these things; the more of them we know the better. But that is not religious teaching, and if the teacher does no more than that for us, he does nothing. It is not enough to tell us the pattern of the hem of Christ's garment. He must touch it, and he must speak to us with the glad enthusiasm of one who has been healed by the touch. He must wake in our hearts the dreams, the imaginations, the visions, the faiths, which throb and glow in the hearts of the men who wrote the Bible. Let him, by all means, do all he can to bring back that bygone world, and restore to us its ancient life; but let him not forget the most living thing of all the souls of the men whose words he studies, and the mighty messages that came to them from their God.
J. E. McFadyen, The City With Foundations, p. 97.
The Springs of Christ's Authority
We can all feel the note of authority in this sermon. Authority is stamped upon every sentence of it. As Dr. Parker says, 'the mountain was a veritable king's throne, and the sermon spoken on it was the royal proclamation'.
I. The Authority of Character. First of all, then, let me say, it was the authority of character as opposed to the authority of office. If it be office and official position that confer authority, then the scribe, and not Jesus, would have been the man to speak 'with authority'. For all the 'accidents' of authority, all the external badges and insignia of office belonged to the scribe.
In the long run there is nothing so commanding, nothing so regal, as a pure and holy manhood. 'As the man is so is his strength.' We are told that those who listened to Lord Chatham always felt that there was something finer in the man than in anything he said. Accounting for the enormous power a certain preacher, who was neither eloquent nor brilliant, wielded over his people, a member of his congregation said to me, 'There are twenty years of holy life behind every sermon'. Men covet power. But power comes from character, not from any titles and dignities conferred upon a man from without. That was Christ's power. He was in no succession; He belonged to no order; He held no office. But he was without spot and without blemish. Men felt that He came from God. And in virtue of that perfect goodness, in virtue of that regal purity, He exercised a supreme and irresistible authority over the hearts of men.
II. The Authority of Knowledge. Now pass on to a second element in the authority of Christ. It was not only the authority of character as against office; it was also the authority of knowledge as against the authority of tradition. 'Not as their scribes,' said the people. Now, as a matter of fact, in their own way the scribes were dogmatic and authoritative enough. But everything they said they said at secondhand! The scribes never delivered any authentic message of their own. They spent their lives in retailing what other people had said. But Christ was not as the scribes. For it was not secondhand truth He retailed, but a fresh and authentic message direct from God. Men recognized the note of reality, of conviction, of certitude in Christ's speech. They felt as they listened to Him that here was One who spoke what He knew, One who was at home amid the great realities of the unseen and eternal world.
III. The Authority of Love. There was yet another quality about Jesus that lent immense authority to His speech, and that was His Love. What a contrast to the scribes Christ was in this respect. 'Not as their scribes,' no, thank God! Not harsh, unforgiving, loveless; but overflowing in pity, tenderness, and love towards all. You cannot read this sermon without feeling that the Preacher loves men. It is bathed in love, steeped in love, saturated in love. We can feel the love Today, throbbing even through the cold, printed page! But how must they have felt it who listened to this sermon long ago, and heard the tones of the Preacher's voice, and saw the expression on the Preacher's face, and looked upon the light in the Preacher's eyes! They felt the Preacher loved them, and they yielded to love.
J. D. Jones, The Gospel of Grace, p. 56.
Christ's Supreme Sway
It is just this character of authority which lifts Jesus Christ high above the level of comparison, and reveals Him, as He is indeed, the Son of God.
I. And yet it is not difficult to discover what are the springs of that authority which gives to Christ the unquestioned obedience of the lives of His followers.
1. Chiefest of all is the convicting truth of His doctrine, which carries the conscience and forces acknowledgment, even from the most unwilling, that He is right in what He says.
2. It is not, however, mere wisdom which gives to Him His authority, but rather expressed knowledge substantiated by manifested character. The inherent quality of His life attested the truth of His doctrine. He not only taught the truth but was the Truth, and hence did not say to men in the formula of the scribes, 'This do and thou shalt live,' but rather, 'Follow thou Me,' and 'He that followeth Me shall have the light of life'.
3. His teaching is the conjunction of perfect ideal with adequate dynamic. He brings to men not merely light but life, so that the one who sets himself to obey the teaching becomes possessed of a power which makes the doing of His will possible. His word is not only enlightenment but enablement not only guidance, but grace.
4. Further, the strength of His authority is attested by the present power of His Word when brought to bear upon the lives of men Today.
II. But to draw closer to Him is to discover for ourselves and that by personal experience what is the compelling force of this His unique authority. All else is lost sight of and explained in the supreme fact of His love, for love is the greatest power and exercises the vastest authority in the universe. It is the man whose love is recognized whose rule will also be recognized. He who warms the heart with his own affection can always wield the sceptre as unquestioned sovereign. We cannot read the record of Christ's life without recognizing how true and sympathetic is the affection which animated Him, and we cannot stand at the foot of the Green Hill without realizing how deep is the love which took Him thither for men. Calvary's Cross has become love's throne from whence issues the pure stream of Christ's regal authority.
III. This recognition of His authority is not academic nor unpractical, but is the reservoir of all moral force, for love seeks to express itself 'not in word nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth'. The one who loves cannot but labour, and he to whom Christ is Lord will himself become a servant and saviour of men.
J. Stuart Holden, Redeeming Vision, p. 40.
Taught them with authority, that is to say, with the title to command, find with the force of command. If God has given us a revelation of His will, whether in the laws of our nature, or in a kingdom of grace, that revelation not only illuminates but binds.
W. E. Gladstone.
References. VII. 29. T. T. Lynch, Three Months' Ministry, p. 217. VIII. 1. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 221. VIII. 1, 2. C. A. Thomson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lv. 1899, p. 202. VIII. 1-3. M. Guy Pearse, Jesus Christ and the People, p. 121. VIII. 1-4. Archbishop Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord, p. 175. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Matthew I.-VIII. p. 373. W. C. Magee, Growth in Grace, p. 271. J. McNeill, Regent Square Pulpit, vol. iii. p. 313. VIII. 1-9. J. Laidlaw, Studies in the Parables, p. 49. VIII. 1-27. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xli. No. 2434; vol. 1. No. 2868. VIII. 2. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year (2nd Series), vol. i. p. 81. VIII. 2, 3. H. Scott Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. 1898, p. 42. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvi. No. 2162. VIII. 2-4. W. M. Taylor, The Miracles of Our Saviour, p. 110. John Laidlaw, The Miracles of Our Lord, p. 165.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 7". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20