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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Matthew 23

Verse 8

DISCOURSE: 1393
OUR RELATION TO CHRIST AND TO EACH OTHER

Matthew 23:8. One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.

THE mind of man naturally affects pre-eminence and power: and this was peculiarly the habit of the Scribes and Pharisees in our Lord’s day. The hatefulness of such a disposition he pointed out to them, and strongly guarded his disciples against it; shewing them, that the Messiah alone was to be regarded as the source and centre of all authority; and that they, of whatever rank they were, were to consider each other as brethren.
Now, in treating this admonition, I shall consider it,

I.

With an immediate reference to the subject in hand—

Two things our blessed Lord designed to teach his disciples;

1.

Not to affect pre-eminence for themselves—

[“Rabbi” was a title which conveyed the highest possible respect: and therefore it was so fondly delighted in by the Scribes and Pharisees. It, in fact, ascribed to the person so designated a very high degree of wisdom; such as justified him in dictating to others, and in having his sentiments propounded as a law. But our blessed Lord would have it known, that there is no wisdom which is not derived from him, nor any authority but what proceeds from him; and that therefore all must look to him, and him alone, as giving law to his people, and as regulating, in every respect, whatever relates either to their faith or practice — — —]

2.

Not to usurp authority over others—

[As “Christ is the one Master of all,” so is “Almighty God the Father of all:” all, therefore, are fellow-servants in the same household, and “brethren” in the same family. There are, indeed, different offices to be performed by servants; but no servant is at liberty to exercise an independent authority: and so also are there different ages amongst brethren; but in their feelings towards each other they are not any of them to forget for one moment the relation in which they stand. Instead of domineering over one another, those who stand the highest in authority should condescend to take the lowest place in the offices of love, even as our blessed Lord himself did, when he washed his disciples’ feet [Note: ver. 11. with John 13:13-15.] — — —]

But as this view of the words is rather for persons who take a lead in the Church, I shall proceed to notice them,

II.

In a more general and extended view—

“We have but one Master, even Christ”—
[O, brethren, think how “many lords have had dominion over you,” and how grievously you have neglected the work which Christ has given you to do! Remember, I pray you, that as, in our families, every servant has his proper work assigned him, and is expected to perform it from day to day; so have you your proper office to perform in the family of Christ: and you should be able, at the close of every day, to say as Christ himself did, “Father, I have glorified thee on earth; I have finished the work which thou hast given me to do” — — —]
As for all our fellow-Christians, they are our “brethren”—
[Our Lord did not intend to forbid titles of distinction. It is of necessity that some should be addressed by the name of “Father,” and others by the name of “Master.” That which is here forbidden, is the affecting of such titles, as marks of high distinction, and as means of great authority. Lowliness is that which our Lord approves, and which is the proper fruit of Christianity in the soul. In a family, all are studious to promote the welfare of each other, and ready to make sacrifices for each other’s good. This is the spirit which we should cultivate towards all the members of Christ’s mystical body, yea, and towards every individual of mankind — — —]

Learn here, my brethren,
1.

The sublime nature of Christianity, as forming the character of individuals—

[Christianity does not regulate the outward conduct only, but forms the habit of the mind to humility and love — — —]

2.

The blessed tendency of Christianity, as contributing to the welfare of the community—

[What a world would this be, if all were brought to this standard of morals, this exercise of mutual kindness! Look at the primitive Church, and there you see it realized [Note: Acts 2:44-47.]. O that it might be realized amongst us; and that every one of us in our respective spheres might thus shine as lights in the world! — — —]


Verse 37

DISCOURSE: 1394
CHRIST’S COMPASSION AND MAN’S OBSTINACY CONTRASTED

Matthew 23:37. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

THE enmity of the human heart against God, visible as it is in all our conduct, is discoverable in nothing more than in the treatment which has been shewn in all ages to his faithful servants. One might well expect, that persons commissioned by the Governor of the Universe to instruct and reform mankind, should be welcomed with every expression of love and gratitude. But historic fact precluded a possibility of reply to that pungent question of our Lord, “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?” Nevertheless, God in infinite mercy, after a host of messengers had in succession been cruelly put to death, vouchsafed to send his only dear Son, with credentials indisputable, with authority unparalleled, with compassion infinite. Yet was not even his ministry successful. The obduracy of man withstood all his kind solicitations; and constrained him, with his dying breath, to testify against his devoted country as self-ruined and self-condemned.
The words before us will naturally lead us to consider,

I.

The tender compassion of Christ—

The simile by which our Lord illustrates his own tenderness, is admirably calculated to impress and edify our minds. It is familiar to all, and therefore intelligible to the meanest capacity: at the same time it gives us as just an idea of parental anxiety as any image can convey. A hen, observing a bird of prey hovering over her young, instantly sounds an alarm, and calls them to her for protection. Thus our blessed Lord warned sinners in the days of his flesh: and thus he still warns them,

1.

By his providence—

[All the dispensations of Providence, whether relating to the world at large, or to ourselves in particular, have a voice which may be heard with ease, and interpreted with certainty. Whether they be of a more painful or pleasing nature, they may alike be regarded as calls to turn from sin, and to seek our happiness in God. And if we had been as attentive to the dictates of reason as the chickens are to the impulse of their natural instinct, we should long since have turned at God’s reproofs, “and been led by his goodness to repentance.”]

2.

By his word—

[What are all the warnings, the invitations, the promises of the Gospel but so many expressions of that tender regard which Christ bears to his people [Note: Proverbs 1:22-23.Isaiah 55:1-3; Isaiah 55:1-3. Joh 7:37-39.]? Surely, if we be not more deaf than the adder, we cannot but acknowledge, that in all these Christ is speaking to us, and entreating us to flee from the wrath to come. Moreover, whenever the ministers of the Gospel have spoken to us in the name of Christ, our adorable Saviour has addressed us by their mouth.]

3.

By his Spirit—

[There is no man so obdurate, but he has felt, and perhaps still occasionally feels, some convictions and remonstrances within his own bosom, some secret admonitions to repent and turn to God. We call these properly ‘the voice of conscience;’ but they are also the ‘voice of Christ,’ that “small still voice” whereby he invites us to seek his face. And in them, no less than in the written word, we have a demonstration of the concern which Christ has for the welfare of our souls, and of his solicitude to gather us under the shadow of his wings.]
But these efforts, instead of being requited as they ought, afford us only an occasion of contemplating,

II.

The unrelenting obstinacy of man—

In the midst of all these overtures of mercy, man continues insensible, and,

1.

Denies that any danger exists—

[The Saviour beholds the law denouncing its curse against us, and justice unsheathing its sword to enforce its awful sanctions, and hell opening to swallow us up quick, and the fallen angels, as ministers of God’s vengeance, ready to concur in executing upon us the punishment we deserve. Of these things he warns us: but we, like the inhabitants of Sodom, laugh at the impending judgments, and, because we do not see them with our eyes, deny their existence. How lamentable is it, that we should be more stupid and incredulous than the brute creation; and that our conduct, instead of being suited to the nobler faculties we enjoy, should be in perfect contrast with theirs!]

2.

Contents himself with false refuges—

[When we can no longer deny the existence of danger, we then look out for such refuges as will be most congenial with our natural feelings, and will leave us most at liberty to follow our own ways. Many speedily present themselves to our view. Some repentance, some reformation, some alms-deeds, some religious observances, afford, as we imagine, ample security for our souls, while yet they require no great exercise of self-denial in fleeing to them. But in choosing these refuges of lies, we renounce the Saviour: we turn from that adorable “Shiloh, to whom the gathering of the people must be;” and expose ourselves to inevitable, everlasting destruction.]

3.

Prefers temporal and carnal pleasures to those which are spiritual and eternal—

[When the necessity of fleeing to Christ for refuge is not acknowledged, the vanities of the world are suffered to stand in competition with our duty to him, and are preferred before the security which he offers. Thus the Saviour’s calls are disregarded. The chickens, however occupied in picking up their food, will not disregard their parent’s call: but sinful man is obstinately bent on the prosecution of some favourite pursuit; and the complaint in the text is fully verified, “How often would I, but ye would not!”]

Let us improve this subject in a way of,
1.

Inquiry—

[Have we ever felt our danger of perishing, and taken shelter under our Redeemer’s wings? We can be at no loss to answer this question, if only we will consult the records of our own conscience. The necessity of fleeing thus to Christ is plainly intimated in the image before us, and attested by innumerable other passages of Holy Writ. Know then, that if your own hearts condemn you, you have an evidence within yourselves that you are yet exposed to the wrath of God. O tremble at the thought, and flee without delay to the refuge set before you!]

2.

Admonition—

[It is to little purpose to deny our danger. If the helpless chickens should disregard their parent’s call, under the idea that the warning given them was the result of ungrounded fear, would their denial of the danger free them from it? Would not their presumption bring upon them the very destruction which they refused to shun? Thus it will be with those who despise the Saviour’s voice. Their security will be their ruin. Nor will they be at all more safe, if they content themselves with coming nearer to him in the ordinances, while they defer hiding themselves altogether under the shadow of his wings. It is there alone that they can find protection: and if they be not “found in him,” the “wrath of God will surely come upon them to the uttermost.” Be thankful then, that, after so many calls have been despised, the voice of mercy is yet sounding in your ears.]

3.

Encouragement—

[Whom is it that the Saviour calls? The innocent, the good, the virtuous? No; but those who had embrued their hands in the blood of all his martyred servants: and these he calls with tenderest compassion, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem:” to these he appeals, that he had renewed his invitations to them times without number, and that, if they perish, they will be the sole authors of their own destruction: “How often would I have gathered you, but ye would not!” Know then, beloved, that your former sins, however numerous or heinous, shall be no bar to your acceptance, if only you will flee to Christ. Over you he weeps, as he once did over the murderous Jerusalem; and he declares unto you, that “Whosoever cometh to him, he will in no wise cast out.” Remember that, if you perish, it will not be through any want of willingness in Christ to save you: and that that very consideration, which is now so encouraging, will one day fill you with inconceivable anguish; “Christ would, but I would not.” O let not that reflection be suffered to embitter your eternal state; but now let your reluctance be overcome; and obey the voice that warns you only for your good.]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Matthew 23". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/matthew-23.html. 1832.