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TO do good to souls in this world is very hard. All who try it find out this by experience. It needs a large stock of courage, faith, patience, and perseverance. Satan will fight vigorously to maintain his kingdom. Human nature is desperately wicked. To do harm is easy. To do good is hard.
The Lord Jesus knew this well, when He sent forth His disciples to preach the Gospel for the first time. He knew what was before them, if they did not. He took care to supply them with a list of encouragements, in order to cheer them when they felt cast down. Weary missionaries abroad, or fainting ministers at home,—disheartened teachers of schools, and desponding visitors of districts, would do well to study often the nine verses we have just read. Let us mark what they contain.
Those who try to do good to souls must not expect to fare better than their great Master. "The disciple is not above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord." The Lord Jesus was slandered and rejected by those whom he came to benefit. There was no error in His teaching. There was no defect in His method of imparting instruction. Yet many hated Him, and "called Him Beelzebub." Few believed Him, and cared for what He said. Surely we have no right to be surprised if we, whose best efforts are mingled with much imperfection, are treated in the same way as Christ. If we let the world alone, it will probably let us alone. But if we try to do it spiritual good, it will hate us as it did our Master.
Those who try to do good must look forward with patience to the day of judgment. "There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, and hid that shall not be known." They must be content in this present world to be misunderstood, misrepresented, vilified, slandered, and abused. They must not cease to work because their motives are mistaken, and their characters fiercely assailed. They must remember continually that all will be set right at the last day. The secrets of all hearts shall then be revealed. "He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday." (Psalms 37:6.) The purity of their intentions, the wisdom of their labors, and the rightfulness of their cause, shall at length be made manifest to all the world. Let us work on steadily and quietly. Men may not understand us, and may vehemently oppose us. But the day of judgment draws nigh. We shall be righted at last. The Lord, when He comes again, "will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise of God." (1 Corinthians 4:5.)
Those who try to do good must fear God more than man. Man can hurt the body, but there his enmity must stop. He can go no further. God "is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." We may be threatened with the loss of character, property, and all that makes life enjoyable, if we go on in the path of religious duty. We must not heed such threats, when our course is plain. Like Daniel and the three children, we must submit to anything rather than displease God, and wound our consciences. The anger of man may be hard to bear, but the anger of God is much harder. The fear of man does indeed bring a snare, but we must make it give way to the expulsive power of a stronger principle, even the fear of God. It was a fine saying of good Colonel Gardiner’s, "I fear God, and therefore there is none else that I need fear."
Those who try to do good must keep before their minds the providential care of God over them. Nothing can happen in this world without His permission. There is no such thing in reality as chance, accident, or luck. "The very hairs of their heads are all numbered." The path of duty may sometimes lead them into great danger. Health and life may seem to be periled, if they go forward. Let them take comfort in the thought that all around them is in God’s hand. Their bodies, their souls, their characters are all in His safe keeping. No disease can seize them,—no hand can hurt them, unless He allows. They may say boldly to every fearful thing they meet with, "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above."
In the last place, those who try to do good should continually remember the day when they will meet their Lord to receive their final portion. If they would have Him own them, and confess them before His Father’s throne, they must not be ashamed to own and "confess Him" before the men of this world. To do it may cost us much. It may bring on us laughter, mockery, persecution, and scorn. But let us not be laughed out of heaven. Let us recollect the great and dreadful day of account, and not be afraid to show men that we love Christ, and want them to know and love Him also.
Let these encouragements be treasured up in the hearts of all who labor in Christ’s cause, whatever their position may be. The Lord knows their trials, and has spoken these things for their comfort. He cares for all His believing people, but for none so much as those who work for His cause, and try to do good. May we seek to be of that number. Every believer may do something if he tries. There is always something for every one to do. May we each have an eye to see it, and a will to do it.
IN these verses the great Head of the Church winds up His first charge to those whom He sends forth to make known His Gospel. He declares three great truths, which form a fitting conclusion to the whole discourse.
In the first place, He bids us remember that His Gospel will not cause peace and agreement wherever it comes. "I came not to send peace, but a sword." The object of His first coming on earth was not to set up a millennial kingdom in which all would be of one mind, but to bring in the Gospel, which would lead to strifes and divisions. We have no right to be surprised, if we see this continually fulfilled. We are not to think it strange, if the Gospel rends asunder families, and causes estrangement between the nearest relations. It is sure to do so in many cases, because of the deep corruption of man’s heart. So long as one man believes, and another remains unbelieving,—so long as one is resolved to keep his sins, and another desirous to give them up, the result of the preaching of the Gospel must needs be division. For this the Gospel is not to blame, but the heart of man.
There is deep truth in all this, which is constantly forgotten and overlooked. Many talk vaguely about unity, and harmony, and peace in the Church of Christ, as if they were things that we ought always to expect, and for the sake of which everything ought to be sacrificed. Such persons would do well to remember the words of our Lord. No doubt unity and peace are mighty blessings. We ought to seek them, pray for them, and give up everything in order to obtain them, excepting truth and a good conscience. But it is an idle dream to suppose that the churches of Christ will enjoy much of unity and peace before the millennium comes.
In the second place, our Lord tells us that true Christians must make up their minds to trouble in this world. Whether we are ministers or hearers, whether we teach or are taught, it makes little difference. We must carry "a cross." We must be content to lose even life itself for Christ’s sake. We must submit to the loss of man’s favor, we must endure hardships, we must deny ourselves in many things, or we shall never reach heaven at last. So long as the world, the devil, and our own hearts, are what they are, these things must be so.
We shall find it most useful to remember this lesson ourselves, and to impress it upon others. Few things do so much harm in religion as exaggerated expectations. People look for a degree of worldly comfort in Christ’s service, which they have no right to expect, and not finding what they look for, are tempted to give up religion in disgust. Happy is he who thoroughly understands, that though Christianity holds out a crown in the end, it brings also a cross in the way.
In the last place, our Lord cheers us by saying that the least service done to those who work in His cause is observed and rewarded of God. He that gives a believer so little as "a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple shall in no wise lose his reward."
There is something very beautiful in this promise. It teaches us that the eyes of the great Master are ever upon those who labor for him, and try to do good. They seem perhaps to work on unnoticed and unregarded. The proceedings of preachers, and missionaries, and teachers, and visitors of the poor, may appear very trifling and insignificant, compared to the movements of kings and parliaments, of armies and of statesmen. But they are not insignificant in the eyes of God. He takes notice who opposes His servants, and who helps them. He observes who is kind to them, as Lydia was to Paul,—and who throws difficulties in their way, as Diotrephes did to John. All their daily experience is recorded, as they labor on in His harvest. All is written down in the great book of His remembrance, and will be brought to light at the last day. The chief butler forgat Joseph, when he was restored to his place. But the Lord Jesus never forgets any of His people. He will say to many who little expect it, in the resurrection morning, "I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink." (Matthew 25:35.)
Let us ask ourselves, as we close the chapter, in what light we regard Christ’s work and Christ’s cause in the world? Are we helpers of it, or hinderers? Do we in any wise aid the Lord’s "prophets," and "righteous men"? Do we assist His "little ones"? Do we impede His laborers, or do we cheer them on?—These are serious questions. They do well and wisely who give the "cup of cold water," whenever they have opportunity. They do better still who work actively in the Lord’s vineyard. May we all strive to leave the world a better world than it was when we were born! This is to have the mind of Christ. This is to find out the value of the lessons this wonderful chapter contains.
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Ryle, J. C. "Commentary on Matthew 10". "Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospels". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany