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The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king which made a marriage for his son.
Making light of gospel invitations
I. When or how men slight the invitations of the gospel.
1. When they neglect the Word of God, which is full of them, and which authoritatively announces them to the world.
2. When they absent themselves from the sanctuary, when they are proclaimed by God’s own ambassadors.
3. When they fail to give heed to the Divine message, when it is personally and solemnly addressed to them.
4. When Sabbath after Sabbath they refuse to accept the invitation to come to the feast of love spread for them. No greater slight can be conceived when we consider-
(1) who gives the invitation;
(2) the character and condition of those to whom it is made;
(3) the honour and infinite good involved in the invitation.
II. The danger of slighting these invitations.
1. It cannot fail to provoke the anger of God. “The king was wrath.”
2. It inevitably forfeits all the blessings of Christ’s meditation and sacrifice.
3. It shuts the door of mercy against the sinner. (J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)
The marriage of the king’s son
I. A monarch’s celebration of an interesting event.
1. The king here referred to is evidently the Most High. The human kingship is really but a lower form of the heavenly.
2. The king had a son who had taken to himself a bride.
3. On the occasion of his marriage a splendid banquet was provided. Royal feasts are sumptuous and abundant.
II. The munificence despised by his ungrateful subjects.
1. The invitation he sent, and the way in which it was responded to.
2. The causes of their rejecting so kind an offer.
(1) Indisposition. “They would not come.”
(2) Love of the world. “One to his farm,” etc.
(3) Open malignity.
3. The consequences that ensued.
III. The royal bounty at length appreciated.
1. The messengers were entrusted with a fresh commission to a totally different class.
2. The response which their message received.
IV. The assembled company inspected, and the consequences that ensued.
1. The spectacle which was beheld: “He saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment.”
2. The question proposed.
3. The doom pronounced. (Expository Outlines.)
The royal marriage feast
Four different ways of treating God’s invitations in the gospel are here set before us.
1. We have it complacently ignored by those who went their ways to their farms and to their merchandise.
2. We have the gospel offer violently rejected. There is still a violent rejection of the gospel by open infidels.
3. The inconsistency and insolence of the man who professed to accept the invitation, and yet failed to comply with the conditions on which alone true acceptance of it was possible. He pushed into the festive hall without having on a wedding garment.
4. We have the gospel invitation sincerely and heartily accepted. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
The parable of the wedding feast
I. A magnificent banquet with A grand object in view. The person is Divine. The occasion a subject of delight to us personally; it is a marriage with our nature; not with angels. The royal descent of the Bridegroom. His character; His achievements.
II. Here is a gracious method of accomplishing the design.
1. A feast for joy;
2. A feast for fulness.
3. A feast for fellowship.
4. All the expense lies with Him.
5. How honourable is the gospel to those who receive it. A monarch’s entertainment.
III. The serious hindrance.
1. They were disloyal.
2. They slighted the king.
IV. The gracious rejoinder, (C. H. Spurgeon.)
As dangerous to slight the gospel as to reject it
If I were in a boat on the river in the rapids, it would not be necessary, to insure my destruction, that I should enter into violent controversy with those who would urge me from the shore, to take heed and come to land: all I should have to do would be to shut my ears to their entreaty, and leave myself alone; the current would do the rest. Neglect of the gospel is thus just as perilous as the open rejection of it. Indeed, half the evils of our daily life in temporal things are caused by neglect; and countless are the souls who are lost for this same cause. Leave your farm for a little, then; let your merchandise alone for a season; settle first, and before all things else, what you will do with this invitation which God has given you to the gospel banquet: then, that accepted, your farm will become to you a section of God’s vineyard, and your business will be a means of glorifying Him. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
The wedding of the prince
I. The false hope indulged. The man without the wedding garment represents the person who believes that he is reconciled to God, who has not God’s righteousness. This hope may be designated
1. A self-righteous hope.
2. An impenitent hope.
II. The soul stripped of its hope and its pretensions.
1. Here is the dumbness of true conviction. No excuse.
2. The speechlessness of amazement. Amazed that all his efforts are of no avail.
3. The dumbness of awe and terror. He has met his Maker.
4. The speechlessness expresses despair.
1. The first duty of every one is to determine what is a suitable preparation for heaven.
2. Sincere ignorance will save no man.
3. Now is the time for self-scrutiny. (E. N. Kirk, D. D.)
The king punishing his barbarous subjects
1. From the whole of our Saviour’s parables and predictions relative to the Jews, we may infer both His prophetic wisdom and singular humanity.
2. That the Jews were under a peculiar economy of Divine providence, and were more directly, immediately, and judicially rewarded with national prosperity, or punished with national calamity and ruin, in proportion to their piety and virtue, or impiety and wickedness, than any other nation.
3. That the spirit of pride, malice, and revenge, with which the Jews were possessed and instigated to their own destruction, is the worst that can possess the human breast, most injurious to society and pernicious to them who are actuated by it.
4. That we ought to congratulate ourselves, and be thankful to the providence of God that we live in an age and nation wherein this malignant spirit, which has been seen to prevail so much, and produce such terrible effects, not only amongst Jews, but Christians also, is happily abated, though not entirely extinguished. (S. Brown.)
Doctrine-the gospel is a large feast, stored with all kinds of spiritual provision in it. Consider-
1. Wherein the resemblance of the gospel to a feast appears.
2. In what respect it is a large feast.
3. What things we have need of against this feast.
4. What is the bill of fare?
5. What excellent properties there are in the provisions of the great supper.
6. What suitableness from God appears in them to the case of man.
7. Why it is a feast with all things in it.
8. What hindrances do make it to many ineffectual. (Joseph Hussey.)
Doctrine-that God makes an invitation to sinners in the preaching of the gospel to come in to this feast.
(1) It was a gracious;
(2) a free;
(3) a sovereign;
(4) a clear;
(5) a commanding;
(6) an open;
(7) a large and comprehensive;
(8) a pressing and earnest;
(9) a seasonable;
(10) an effectual and saving invitation. (Joseph Hussey.)
Causes of refusal to accept Christ
1. Worldly cares, incumbrances, secular business, or the concernments of this life, in providing earthly things.
2. The riches, or love of wealth, or earthly honour.
3. But it appears that sensual satisfaction, or the inordinate love of pleasures, is that which hath the greatest power over men, and which drowns and swallows up the spirit and soul of mortals: for this sort says, “they cannot come.” (Benjamin Keach.)
The gospel banquet
History tells of a banquet given by Henry VIII. to the French ambassadors. The best cooks in all the land were engaged. Privateers went through all the country to gather all the costliest viands, and when the day arrived the guests were kept hunting in the park so that their appetites might be keen, and then, at the right moment, to the sound of the trumpeters, they entered the hall, and sat down to the table, agleam with imperial plate and ablush with the costliest wines, with gold candles with a hundred tapers as large as torches. But I have to tell you to-day of a more wonderful entertainment. The Lord Jesus Christ is the banqueter; the angels of God are the cup-bearers; pardon, and peace, and life, and heaven are the viands; palaces hung with gardens of eternal beauty are the banqueting place; the chalices of God are the plates; and I am one of His servants, and I come out with the invitation to all the people-a written invitation to every man, woman, and child in all this audience. (Dr. Talmage.)
Making light of the gospel call
A celebrated preacher of the seventeenth century in a sermon to a crowded audience, described the terrors of the Last Judgment with such eloquence, pathos, and force of action, that some of his audience not only burst into tears, but sent forth piercing cries, as if the Judge Himself had been present, and was about to pass upon them their final sentence. In the height of this commotion the preacher called upon them to dry their tears and cease their cries, as he was about to add something still more awful and astonishing than anything he had yet brought before them. Silence being obtained, he, with an agitated countenance and solemn voice, addressed them thus: “In one quarter of an hour from this time the emotions which you have just now exhibited wilt be stifled; the remembrance of the fearful truths which excited them will vanish; you will return to your carnal occupations, or sinful pleasures, with your usual avidity, and you will treat all you have heard ‘as a tale that is told!’” (Cheerer.)
God’s anger against those who refuse the gospel invitation
Another proof of the earnestness of God in His invitation is His wrath against the murderers who had refused it. You are not much offended at one who refuses an invitation you have given in jest, or, for form’s sake, half hoping it would not be accepted. God is angry because you have treated in jest and made light of what has been most earnest to Him; because you have crossed Him in the sincerest purpose to bless you; because after He has at the greatest expense, not only of wealth and exertion, but of life, provided what He knows you need, you act towards Him as if He had done nothing that deserves the least consideration. This acceptance or rejection of God’s offers that we come and talk over, often as if the whole matter were in our hands, and we might deal with it as we arrange for a journey or an evening’s amusement, is to God the most earnest matter. If God is in earnest about anything, it is about this; if the whole -force of His nature concentrates on any one matter it is on this; if anywhere the amplitude and intensity of Divine earnestness, to which the most impassioned human earnestness is as the idle vacant sighing of the summer air, if these are anywhere in action, it is in the tenderness and sincerity with which He invites you to Himself … To save sinners from destruction is His grand purpose, and success in other parts of His government does not repay Him for failure here. And to make light of such an earnestness as this, an earnestness so wise, so called for, so loving, pure, and long-suffering, so Divine, is terrible indeed. To have been the object of such earnest love, to have had all the Divine attributes and resources set in motion to secure my eternal bliss, and to know myself capable of making light of such earnestness as this, is surely to be in the most forlorn and abject condition that any creature can reach. (Marcus Dods, D. D.)
The gospel feast
I. The nature of gospel blessings.
1. They are of God’s own providing.
2. They are rich and valuable as Well as Divine.
3. These blessings are suitable.
4. They are abundant.
II. The invitation given to partake of these blessings.
1. A feast so rich is designed for numerous guests.
2. The gospel is made known to mankind.
3. This invitation is free and gracious.
4. It is earnest and authoritative.
III. The reception which the invitation meets with, and the folly, guilt, and danger of rejecting it.
1. The Jews to whom it was first sent refused to come.
2. Some make light of the gospel from the love of worldly pleasures.
3. That the generality of those who hear it make light of it is evident from their conduct.
4. The folly to prefer the world to God who is the Supreme Good.
5. The guilt of to-day is in proportion to the freeness and suitableness of the blessings offered.
6. The blessings of the gospel are as necessary to your present as to your future happiness. (R. Fletcher.)
I. The history of the marriage.
1. The marriage purposed.
2. The preliminary arrangements.
3. The servants sent out.
4. The message.
5. The advent of the king.
6. The inspection.
II. Turn to Revelation 19:1-21. In Matthew 22:7 it is no longer a purpose, but an accomplishment. The marriage of the Lamb is come. In the parable we saw “all things are ready,” and the wedding garment was offered without money. Now in the Revelation we read, “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen,” etc. In the parable the servants were told to go and invite men (verse 9). Blessed are they which are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. The King came to see the guests (verse 11). “His eyes were as a flame of fire.” (Capel Molyneux, B. A.)
The marriage of the king’s son
I. The glorious banquet.
1. The giver of it. The great king. He had provided a banquet of beauty and wisdom in creation for the mind of man-of goodness in providence for the physical need of man. These did not supply the whole of man’s need. Hence this feast of redeeming love. In giving it He was moved by love, wisdom, grace.
2. The occasion of it.
3. The chief parties in it. The Divine Father. The equally Divine Son, our Saviour. The Bride, the Church-all who, being penitent, truly believe.
4. The hallowed joy that marked it. The Church rejoicing in the love and grace of the heavenly Bridegroom.
5. The sanctified provisions of it-mercy, love, etc., etc.; abundant, suitable, seasonable, etc.
II. The wide invitation.
1. Proclaimed by many tongues.
2. Urged on all people.
3. Enforced by many arguments.
4. Accompanied with gifts. A dress for each to wear offered. A new heart, etc.
III. The personal inspection.
1. A royal inspection.
2. A general inspection.
3. A discriminating inspection. (J. C. Gray.)
The marriage of Christ to His Church
I. How this union takes place.
1. The first mover is Christ Himself; but by His sweet constraints we begin to love Him.
2. In the presence of witnesses the covenant of marriage must be ratified. Angels and the Church look on when Christ confesses you to be His.
II. The consequence.
1. Into Christ you have merged your property, right, name, being, and all.
2. They do wrong who weaken the bonds, chill the feelings, or lower the rule of married life.
3. As Christ has done so much for you, you must be faithful to Him. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
The royal banquet
I. Invitations of gospel repeatedly given. God calls
(1) in every stage of life;
(2)by many voices.
II. Provisions of gospel fully completed.
III. Proffers of gospel basely rejected by-
(1) The proud;
IV. Messengers of gospel cruelly treated.
(1) Unlawful seizure;
(2) cruel treatment;
(3) unnatural murder.
V. Rejectors of gospel justly punished. They-
(1) Excite God’s anger;
(2) provoke His vengeance;
(3) incur His punishment.
VI. Proclamation of gospel universally commanded. There are-
(1) No bounds fixed-highways;
(2) no conditions.
VII. Success of gospel ultimately certain.
VIII. Professors of gospel will be personally examined. (J. T. Woodhouse.)
Guests for the wedding-feast
Our Lord Jesus has espoused His Church, and there must be a feast at the wedding. A feast would be a failure if none came to it, and therefore the present need is that the wedding be “furnished with guests.”
I. The first invitation was a failure. This is seen in Jewish history. Among Gentiles, those to whom the gospel invitation specially comes are, as a rule, unwilling to accept it. Up to this hour, children of godly parents, and hearers of the word, many of them refuse the invitation for reasons of their own. The invitation was refused-
(1) Not because it involved suffering, for it was a wedding-feast to which they were bidden;
(2) nor because there were no adequate preparations-“The wedding is ready”;
(3) nor because the invitations were not delivered, or were misunderstood-they “were bidden”;
(4) but because they were not fit for the high joy;
(a) they were not loyal to their king;
(b) they were not attached to his royal son;
(c) they were not pleased with his noble marriage;
(d) they were wrapt up in self-interest;
(e) they were cruel to well-intentioned messengers;
(5) therefore they were punished with fire and sword. But love must reign; mercy must be glorious; Christ must reveal His grace; otherwise He has no joy of His union with mankind. Therefore-
II. The commission was enlarged.
1. Disappointment must arouse activity and enterprise “Go ye.”
2. Disappointment suggests change of sphere-“Into the highways.”
3. A keen invitation is to be tried -” As many as ye shall find, bid.”
4. A keen outlook is to be kept-“As many as ye shall find.”
5. Publicity is to be courted-“Went out into the highways.”
6. Small numbers, ones and twos, are to be pressed in.
III. The new mission was fulfilled.
1. The former servants who had escaped death went out again.
2. Other servants, who had not gone at first, entered zealously into the joyful but needful service.
3. They went in many directions-“Into the highways.”
4. They went out at once. Not an hour could be left unused.
5. They pointed all they met to one centre.
6. They welcomed all sorts of characters-”As many as they found.”
7. They found them willing to come. He who sent the messengers inclined the guests; none seem to have refused.
IV. The great design was accomplished.
1. The king’s bounty was displayed before the world.
2. His provision was used. Think of grace and pardon unused.
3. The happiness of men was promoted; they feasted to the full.
4. The grateful praise was evoked. All the guests were joyful in their king, as they feasted at his table.
5. The marriage was graced.
6. The slight put upon the king’s son by the churls who refused to come was more than removed.
7. The quality of the guests most fully displayed the wisdom, grace, and condescension of the Host. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
But they made light of it.
Making light of Christ
I. What it is that the sinners make light of.
1. Of the messenger who brings them the news that the marriage supper is prepared.
2. These people despise the feast.
3. They make light of the King’s Son.
4. They make light also of the King.
5. Thou art making light of the great solemnities of eternity.
II. How is it that men make light of it?
1. When men go to hear and yet do not attend.
2. When they attend to something else with it.
3. Who makes a profession of religion, but does not live up to it.
III. Why they make light of it.
1. Because ignorant.
2. Because of pride.
3. Because they did not believe the messenger.
4. Because they were so worldly.
5. Because altogether thoughtless.
6. Out of sheer presumption.
7. Because of the commonness of the gospel. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Indifference to the gospel invitation
I. The causes.
5. All these excuses were derived from things that were lawful in themselves.
II. Substantiate the proofs. Must not bring such a charge without the clearest evidence; that you make light of the gospel proved-
1. From your thoughts.
2. From your words.
3. From your actions.
4. From your anxieties.
III. Expose this evil.
1. Consider the conduct of other beings. The devil, angels, saints do not make light of it.
2. Consider the truth of the subject.
3. The importance of the subject.
4. The guilt you contract.
IV. Rejoice in the cure of this indefference. (W. Jay.)
Trifling with the gospel
I. With whom do they trifle?
II. With what do men trifle?
1. With the soul.
2. With Jesus Christ.
3. With eternity.
IV. Under what circumstances do men thus dare to trifle?
1. While you thus trifle all beside you are in earnest.
2. While you thus trifle opportunities are passing away. (T. Raffles, D. D.)
Levity: Subjects often made light of
I. Life, with the faculties and powers we possess.
II. Time, with the opportunities which it offers.
III. Duty, with self-denial which it involves.
IV. Sin, with the misery which it entails.
V. Salvation, with the joys which it brings.
VI. Death, with the uncertainty which attends it. VII. Judgment, with the solemnity that surrounds it. (Seeds and Saplings.)
Making light of salvation
I. Men are apt to remember and affectionately think of things they highly esteem; but as for those which they disregard, they can easily forget them, and live daily without a single thought of them.
II. The things that men value will be the theme of frequent conversation.
III. Things only talked about, and not reduced to practice, are made light of.
IV. We take pains and labour to secure the things we value.
V. Things that men highly esteem deeply and tenderly affect them.
VI. Our estimate of things may he discovered by the diligence and earnestness of our endeavours after them.
VII. That which we highly value we think it impossible to buy too dearly.
VIII. Those things we highly value we shall help our friends to obtain.
1. Those who make light of the Saviour, make light of Him who did not make light of them.
2. They make light of matters of the greatest excellency and importance.
3. Consider whose salvation it is you make light of-your own.
4. This sin is aggravated by professing to believe that gospel you make light of.
5. Consider what things those are which you prefer to the neglect of these.
6. Making light of Christ and salvation is a certain evidence of no interest in them.
7. The time is hastening when none will make light of these things. (President Davies.)
1. They made light of their advantages.
2. They made light of their opportunities.
3. They made light of human life.
4. They made light of duty.
5. They made light of sin.
6. They made light of the gospel. (Dean Vaughan.)
He saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment.
I. The invitation itself is in Matthew 22:3-4. There is a double call. God will not take the first repulse, but will try again before He will quit a people. More particularly the first call was by the prophets, the second by the apostles. All things are ready, if we are ready.
II. The success of this invitation or offer of grace. Some slighted it, others rejected it with malice. Excusing is refusing.
III. The issue (Matthew 22:7). “When the king heard thereof,” etc. Contempt of the gospel, joined with persecution of the preachers of it, bringeth utter ruin and devastation.
The next part of the parable (Matthew 22:9-10).
I. The charge to invite.
II. The servants’ obedience and their success. A people may want God, but God cannot want a people to serve Him. All that give their names to God are not found; there is a mixture of good and bad. So sometimes the church is full, but heaven never the fuller; for though they receive the gospel, they do not receive it in full power and efficacy.
III. You have the carriage of the king towards the hypocritical guests.
I. The discovery. All that receive the gospel must look to have their sincerity tried, for the King will visit and observe the guests (Matthew 22:14). The meaning is, that in the throng and multitude of converts, if there be but one that is insincere, God can espy him, and find him out. Repentance and reformation of life is the new garment of the soul; that only will become the gospel feast.
II. The expostulation. God loveth to make the sinner convinced and condemned in his own conscience, that He may be clear when He judgeth, and justified in all His proceedings with Him. The man was speechless. They that embrace the gospel and live in an unmortified and impenitent manner can have nothing to plead by way of excuse.
III. The doom and sentence (Matthew 22:13). Conscience in hell will have a special kind of accusing, and self-tormenting in our reflecting on the refusal of the remedy. Christ will pronounce a heavier doom if we obey not the gospel, to which we profess to submit. It is dangerous to come to God’s feast without a wedding garment.
I. What is God’s feast? In the gospel all kinds of comforts and spiritual gifts and graces are ready prepared, and freely offered to us. God hath made excellent provision for the entertainment of His own family. This feast serveth for two uses.
1. For the honour of God, to show His magnificence and royalty, and the glory of His exceeding great grace and mercy in Jesus Christ (as Ezra 1:3-4), the choicest blessings. Love is gone to the utmost; beyond God there is nothing; God reconciled and God enjoyed are the chiefest blessings we can enjoy.
2. For the comfort and refreshment of sinful man. There is in it all we can expect in a feast.
(1) Ample satisfaction to every soul that is spiritually hungry and thirsty (Psalms 36:8; Psalms 22:26). There is no defect or want in God’s feast. But many prefer husks before the fatted calf. Swinish pleasures before these chaste delights. These besot the heart awhile, but they cannot satisfy it.
(2) Joy, pleasure, delight. What will cheer the heart and conscience? The pardon of sin is the true reviving thing (Matthew 9:2).
(3) God useth us as friends. We may sit down at His table. But what an honour it is to sit down at the feast of the King of Kings! It is a token of our reconciliation with Him, for eating together is an act of friendship.
II. What is coming to this feast? It is to profess ourselves Christians, and using the ordinances which belong thereunto.
III. What is the wedding garment? It is usual in Scripture to set forth sin by nakedness, and grace by a garment (Revelation 3:17-18). Graces are a beautiful ornament to the soul as garments are to the body. It is such a garment as becometh the solemnity of the marriage-feast of the king’s son; the wedding garment is that new array which becometh such a solemnity. As it is a royal feast, it must be something more than ordinary excellency that is required of us; a spiritual feast, a spiritual excellency. Therefore the wedding garment is holiness, habitual and actual, which is the glory of God, and the beauty of God and His people (Revelation 19:8). I must now represent the danger of entering upon the profession of the gospel, or coming to this feast without such a wedding garment.
IV. Thy odiousness of the sin in these considerations.
1. Your profession is partial; there is a twofold profession in word and deed. In word when we own Christ, in whom we have believed: in deed, when we walk answerably.
2. One part of the profession condemneth the other; if we own a God and do not live answerably our belief condemneth our practice (Titus 1:16). So while they own Christ they do but mock Him; they profess to honour Christ by coming to His feast, but they dishonour Him and affront Him while they come m their own and ordinary apparel. The ungodly lives of Christians are a reproach to Christianity. You should adorn, but you disgrace the gospel (Titus 2:10). Religion as visibly acted and expressed by you should be found a beautiful thing.
3. One part of your profession is abused to corrupt and destroy the other; and the Christian name is only taken on to patronize unchristian practices (Jude 1:4.). They come to the gospel feast that they may the more securely live in their sins.
V. The certainty of discovery.
1. When you come as guests to the marriage-feast your business lieth not with men, but with God. The king cometh to see the guests. You may have a garment to cover you before men, but not before God. But when the Lord looketh to the guests, He is the party with whom you have to do. How will you do to escape His eye and search? (Galatians 6:7).
2. God loveth to unease hypocrites (Proverbs 26:26). His anger is more kindled against them because they profess such a nearness to Him.
3. Hypocrisy is hateful to God in anything, but especially in coming to the gospel feast. For that is a kind of daring of God, or a putting it to the trial whether He will discover you or no.
4. There are certain times when God cometh in a more ,especial manner to discover those that are unsound in the profession of the gospel.
God doth always see their hearts, but there are certain seasons when they shall know that He seeth them.
1. By trying judgments. When the tree is shaken the rotten apples fall.
2. Sometimes by offences (1Co 2:19).
3. At death a man should always be provided for that hour. We carry nothing out of the world but a winding-sheet and a wedding garment-the one for the soul, the other for the body.
4. In the Day of Judgment. When all the world is arraigned before Christ, and He distinguisheth the sheep from the goats, then will He expostulate with you. Where is your wedding garment?
5. The doom and punishment.
(1) They are not permitted to taste of the feast. God denieth them grace, and so they have but an empty ordinance.
(2) They incur eternal wrath (Matthew 24:51); they are excluded the feast, and cast into the dungeon.
Use. To persuade us to get this wedding garment.
I. Then you are welcome and acceptable to God. You are not intruders, but welcome guests.
II. Then you may be bold, and will not be dashed out of countenance.
III. This showeth you were real friends to the Bridegroom, that you mean to honour Him with such a conversation as floweth from faith and love to Christ (Galatians 5:6).
IV. Nothing doth more concern you than that you should not be Christians in vain, and profess Christ to your loss.
What remaineth, then, but that we look after the wedding garment.
I. Determine what it is. An holy conversation coming out of a renewed heart is this wedding garment (Matthew 12:34).
II. Get this wedding garment out of the King’s wardrobe. God delights in the graces of His own Spirit. No man is born clothed; we have it from God.
III. Wear your wedding garment. Not only get grace, but exercise it in all duties towards God and man (Revelation 16:15).
IV. Keep your garments undefiled, and unspotted from the world (Revelation 3:4).
V. Wash your garments often in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14). (T. Manton, D. D.)
The wedding garment
We must consider what we are to understand.
I. By the wedding garment. It is the costume or spiritual dress necessary for the enjoyment of heaven-holiness often described as a garment (Job 29:14; Isaiah 61:10; Psalms 45:13; Revelation 3:18; Revelation 7:9).
II. The solemn scrutiny.
1. Was Divine.
2. Was personal, Religion is a personal concern.
III. The awful detection. We may form three conjectureS as to this robeless character.
1. It might have resulted from carelessness. He did not attend to the requirements of the king, etc. How many like him, etc. 2.:From procrastination. How many Such are always in God’s house.
3. From proud and wicked preference. Perhaps thought it not essential; had other views; would trust in the mercy of the king, or his own beautiful habiliments. How many of this class are there!
IV. The awful investigation.
1. It was public. Before all the guests. The enemies of Christ will be publicly confounded at the last day; clothed with shame and contempt.
2. It was reasonable. It gave an opportunity for the exhibition of righteousness. God will allow the sinner to plead.
3. It was overwhelming. He had no reason to assign, hence he was confounded.
V. The dreadful punishment.
1. The removal.
2. The sentence.
3. The misery.
1. Now, all that is necessary for heaven may be obtained, and that by all.
2. Let professors examine themselves, etc.
3. Let sinners be entreated. Listen to the voice of the gospel and live. (J. Burns, LL. D.)
The wedding garment
I. At this feast there was but one condition of acceptance-the wearing of a particular garment, Faith in Christ.
1. The wedding garment had no merit in itself: faith has no intrinsic worth.
2. It was all-important because commanded by the king: the fact that faith, as the instrument of justification, is ordained of God endows it with importance.
3. It was no arbitrary symbol.
4. It was highly significant.
II. There was one who failed to comply with this condition. Of whom is he the type?
1. He was in the guest-chamber.
2. He desired to eat of the feast.
3. He remained in the guest-chamber until the king came.
4. He may have been highly esteemed by the rest.
III. The probable reasons of his non-compliance. Pride, self-deception, pride of intellect. (R. Griffin.)
The hypocrite self-condemned
The guest referred to was speechless because-
I. He could not plead ignorance of the will of the king who had invited him to the feast.
II. He could not plead that in his case the wedding garment was not necessary.
III. He could not plead that a wedding garment was not placed within his reach.
IV. He had despised the wedding garment.
V. He was overwhelmed with a sense of guilt. Learn the worthlessness of mere profession, and the necessity of being prepared for coming judgment. (Studies.)
The wedding garment
Between this man and the other guests there are some points of resemblance, and some of difference. Let us trace-
I. The points of resemblance.
1. He Was an invited guest. We are all called to the great feast.
2. He was a needy guest. All equally needy.
3. He was an expectant guest.
II. The points of difference.
1. They differed in their appearances.
2. They not only differed in appearances, but in their principles, in their states, in their conduct. He had neglected to observe the conditions on which admission was granted, etc.
III. The causes of the difference. Perhaps it was carelessness, pride, mind pre-occupied, etc.
IV. The consequences to which it led.
2. Overwhelming confusion.
3. Destruction. (A. Weston.)
The wedding garment
I. The scrutiny of the king.
1. The manner of his discovery. He was not discovered till the king came in. Though the Lord knoweth them that are His, they that are His do not always know each other.
2. The language of the address, “Friend,” etc. God’s judgments proceed upon our self-assumed character. The man was not obliged to accept the king’s invitation. “Not having a wedding garment.” This was the affront.
II. The confusion of the criminal “He was speechless.” There was no excuse. Conscious guilt struck him dumb. Before the bar of God man will not be able to plead-the soul’s inborn sin. He could not plead inability to procure the garment. (D. Moore, M. A.)
The wedding garment
I. The points of resemblance between this man and the other guests.
1. He was an invited guest.
2. He was a needy guest.
3. He was an expecting guest.
II. The point of difference between the man here spoken of and the other guests. The wedding garment is, in short, a wedding spirit.
III. To what causes must we trace this difference between him and them. It must be traced to himself.
1. Perhaps carelessness, mere inconsideration, led to his refusal.
2. It may have been pride.
3. There was great irreverence in his conduct.
IV. The consequences to which it led.
3. Destruction. (C. Bradley.)
The dreadful consequence of being found at last without the wedding garment
I. The discovery.
II. The trial.
III. The condemnation of this man. (T. Drummond.)
The rejected guest
1. The folly of the human heart as seen in the way in which men attempt to impose upon God.
2. Though only one rejected, the guests admitted far less numerous than those invited.
3. It was the man’s own fault that he had not the wedding garment.
4. The wedding garment is something more than outward conduct, for it escaped human observation. It was something which the king could alone discover. (C. J. P. Eyre, M. A.)
1. You cannot say that the gospel plan is unworthy of your acceptance as a rational and immortal being.
2. You will be speechless because you cannot plead ignorance of the plan of salvation.
3. You cannot plead as an excuse for your wickedness the necessity of an irreligious life from the decrees of God. (A. Gilmour.)
The garment of life
Old stories and strange chronicles of other days come into the thoughts as we listen to the words of Christ. For instance, they tell us of one who sat, day after day, in her fair house, past which a strong river flowed toward the sea, and she ever wove and wove, and never looked up, nor heeded aught beyond that task; till, on one fatal day, there came by a vision of the pride and beauty of this world: then she looked up, and left her work, and was lost, and undone. And so may it be in many a life: there is work for us to do, and do it we must; here is a garment to be woven, and God has told us what is coming, and has set us at the task, here beside the great river of time, which shall become for each, ere long, the river of death. What are we at? Are our hearts in the task? Or are the eyes wandering, and is the thing like to be left for ever undone? (Morgan Dix, D. D.)
The wedding garment is essentially a habit of holiness and righteousness
It differs, specifically, from those vanities in which we take so much delight, in the following respects:
1. It is a clothing of humility; no robe of pride to dress up the sinner.
2. It truly corresponds to what the wearer is; no masquerade dress disguising the idle reveller or the stealthy conspirator.
3. It is a habit of the inner as well as of the outer man. A dress of the soul, the everyday costume of the devout and religious spirit, the inner habit which goes together with the outer, orderly, and sober life. (Morgan Dix, D. D.)
The wedding garment: the maker and the materials
I. The maker. It must be woven by our own hands, if ever woven at all. No such thing as getting it made for you. Every man is his own artisan: there are no workshops, and no workmen, here or elsewhere, to fit for heaven the souls of those who will not make themselves ready. We can buy, according to our means, sufficient, or more than sufficient, of lavish or gorgeous apparel, for this world and this life; but not one thread or one finger’s breadth of that which we need for the life to come.
II. The materials. These are from God. They are the redeeming work of Christ, His perfect righteousness, and absolute holiness, His merits, the benefits of His cross and passion, His mighty resurrection and glorious ascension. To weave these materials into a garment, skilled and industrious fingers are needed: faith, hope, love. We must weave a true Christian habit by Christian acts; we must take what the Lord has done for us, and of it we must work a holy life; we must become like Him.
III. We shall have his help if we work hard. If we do our best, God will supply all the defects in our work, and make it good; sufficient for every need. Such garment as the child of God tries to make, in accordance with God’s will, may need much altering and setting right; it shall need to be shaped, and washed, and made white, till it become that radiant dress which the King shall see with pleasure. (Morgan Dix, D. D.)
The wedding garment a festive robe
The garment must, surely, from the very nature of the image, have been intended to signify something public and visible, in which each wearer harmonises with all, and all with the spirit of the peculiar scene into which they are introduced, and to which the dress is appropriate. I would say, then, that by this remarkable symbol our Lord did not intend merely the inward principle of faith exclusively considered, nor yet merely the mysterious imputation of righteousness through identification with Christ (though these are, no doubt, necessary conditions and first steps to its possession); for apparel is, of all things, the most manifest and visible, and the wedding apparel is especially the apparel of joy. This festal garment of heaven, then, which each man must bring with him into the high presence of God, seems to be no other than that celestial temper which manifests itself by the infallible indications of a holy joy-that spiritual sympathy with the things of the spiritual world, which exhibits itself in cordial, irrepressible demonstration of the blessedness within; holy happiness, public and expressed; the “joy in the Holy Ghost”-no longer a secret, timid, half-uttered delight, but sparkling in the eye, and fearless in the voice; the “life” no longer “hid with Christ in God,” but “apparent with Him in glory.” I repeat it- inward, spiritual happiness, developed by the presence of God, and the consciousness of heaven, into visible manifestation-this is the wedding garment which Christ beholds and approves in “the saved.” (W. Archer Butler, M. A.)
Grace a garment
‘Tis usual in Scripture to set forth sin by nakedness, and grace by a garment. Graces are a beautiful ornament to the soul as garments are to the body. (T. Manton.)
False pretences in religion
I. The original and ground of this figurative expression, of having on the wedding garment. The constant and prevailing temper or disposition of any man’s spirit, can no way be Set forth more expressively than under the similitude of bodily garments, so investing the person as to be his proper and distinguishing attire.
II. Useful and practical observations.
1. How absolutely and indispensably God expects and requires, that every man who hopes to be admitted into the kingdom of heaven, should have his mind endued, and as it were clothed, with those habitual virtuous qualifications, which can no otherwise be acquired than by righteous practice.
2. There is such a thing as a false or ill-grounded hope; there are deceitful expectations, which may betray men into perdition.
3. The judgment of God will be according to right, in the sense that we understand just and right; in the sense, that even the wickedest of men shall not be able to deny, is according to righteousness and justice. The man convicted was speechless.
4. The reality of the concern God has for the salvation of men.
5. A very moving admonition, how dreadful at last will be the state of those whom the great goodness and long-suffering of God have not been able to bring to repentance, and to effectual amendment of life and manners. (S. Clarke.)
Personal dealings with individuals
The professors of the gospel will be personally examined.
1. There is a personal visit, “When the king came.”
2. There is a personal scrutiny, “He saw a man.”
3. There is a personal interrogation, “‘Friend, how camest thou in?”
4. There is a personal conviction, “He was speechless.”
5. There is a personal bondage, “Bind him.”
6. There is a personal exclusion, “Cast him into outer darkness.”
7. There is a personal torment, “Weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (J. T. Woodhouse.)
Providing festal garments
The framework of the parable probably pre-supposes the Oriental custom of providing garments for the guests who were invited to a royal feast. Wardrobes tilled with many thousand garments formed part of the wealth of every Eastern prince (Matthew 6:19; James 5:2), and it was part of his glory, as in the case of the assembly which Jehu held for the worshippers of Baal (2 Kings 10:22), to bring -them out for use on state occasions. On this assumption, the act of the man who was found “ not having a wedding garment” was one of wilful insult. He came in the “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6), of his old life, instead of putting on the “white linen “ meet for a kingly feast (Ecclesiastes 9:8; Revelation 3:4-5), which had been freely offered him. (Dean Plumptre.)
The wedding garment given
A coloured minister was once discoursing on salvation, which he illustrated as follows:-“Suppose,” said he, “any of you wanted a coat, and should go to a white gentleman to purchase one. Well, he has one that exactly fits you, and in all respects is just what you need. You ask the price; but, when told, find that you have not enough money, and shake your head-‘No, massa; I am too poor; must go without,’-and turn away. But he says, ‘I know you cannot pay me; I have concluded to give it you. Will you have it?’ What would you do in that case? Would you stop to hem and haw, and say, ‘Oh! he’s just laughing at me; he don’t mean it?’ No such thing. There is not one of you who would not take the coat, and say, ‘Yes, massa, and thank you, too.’ Now, my dear friends, God’s salvation is offered to you as freely as that. Why won’t you take it as freely? You are lost, undone sinners, and feel that you need a covering from His wrath. If you could keep His holy law blameless, you might purchase it by good works; but ah! you are full of sin. Prayers and tears are worthless. You are poor indeed, and if this is all your dependence I don’t wonder that you are turning off in despair. But stop! look here! God speaks now, and offers you the perfect robe of Christ’s righteousness that will cover all your sins, and fit all your wants, and He says that you may have it without money and without price.” (American Paper.)
Highways and hedges
We might do better if we went further afield. Our invitations to Christ, which fall so feebly on the ears of those who regularly hear us, would be welcomed by those to whom we never deliver them. We are fools to waste time in the shallows of our churches and chapels, when the deep outside teems with waiting fishes. We need fresh hearers: the newer the news to any man, the more likely is he to regard it as good news. Music-hall work, out-door preaching, house-to-house visitation have virgin soil to deal with, and there is none like it. Invite the oft-invited-certainly; but do not forget that those who have never been invited as yet cannot have been hardened by refusals. Beggars in the highways had never been bidden to a marriage-feast before; and so, when they were surprised with an invitation, they raised no questions, but gladly hastened to the banquet.
Lack of the wedding garment
Is there any common way of dealing with God’s invitation than that which this man adopted? He had no deep love for his king, no grateful and humbling sense of his kindness, no perception of what was due to him; but with the blundering stupidity of godlessness, thought selfishness would carry him through, and ran right upon his doom. What is commoner than this self-complacency, this utter blindness to the fact that God is holy, and that holiness must therefore be the rule everywhere; what is commoner than the feeling that we are well enough, that we shall somehow pass muster, that as we mean to take our places among the heavenly guests we shall surely not be rejected? How hard it is for any of us fully to grasp the radical nature of the inward change that is required if we are to be meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. Conformity to God, ability to rejoice with God and in God, humble and devoted reverence, a real willingness to do honour to the King’s Son-these are great attainments; but these constitute our wedding garment, without which we cannot remain in His presence nor abide His searching gaze. It is the heart that you bear towards Him that will determine your destiny. No mere appearance of accepting His invitation, no associating of yourself with those who love Him, no outward entrance into His presence, no making use of the right language is anything to the purpose. What is wanted is a profound sympathy with God, a real delight in what is holy, a radical acceptance of His will-in other words, and as the most untutored conscience might see, what is wanted is a state of mind in you which God can delight in, and approve of, and hold fellowship with. (Marcus Dods, D. D.)
Refusal of the wedding garment
Had the man any means of obtaining a dress more in keeping with the occasion? Was he not perhaps so poor that he could afford no preparation of any kind? Had this been so, it would have been pleaded in excuse. But no doubt the parable supposes that the not unusual custom of providing for the guests the needed garment had been adopted; a provision which this guest had despised and refused; he had pushed past the officious servants who would have clothed him. It is this that constituted the man’s audacity and guilt. Similar audacity in entering the king’s presence without putting on the robe sent by The king for that purpose, has been known to cost a prime minister his life. A traveller who was invited, with the ambassadors he accompanied, to the table of the Persian king, says: “We were told by the officer that we, according to their usage, must hang the splendid vests that were sent us from the king over our dresses, and so appear in his presence. The ambassadors at first refused, but the officer urged it” so earnestly, alleging, as also did others, that the omission would greatly displease the king, since all other envoys observed such a custom, that at last they consented, and hanged, as did we also, the splendid vests over their shoulders.” So at this, marriage, dresses had been provided by the king. The guests who had been picked off the streets were not told to go home and do the best they could for their dress, but in the palace, in the vestibule of the banquet-hall, each man was arrayed in the dress the king wished to see worn. Possibly the man who declined the offered garment had a dress of his own he grudged to cover. Possibly be thought he was as well dressed as need be. He would stroll in superciliously as a patron or spectator, thinking it very fit for those poor, coarse-clothed and dirty people to make use of the king’s wardrobe, but conscious of no speck or uncleanliness in his own raiment that should cause him to make any alteration of it. (Marcus Dods, D. D.)
The wedding garment
I. The multitude of guests.
II. The unfitted one.
III. The merciless end.
Piety outwardly manifested
All organized beings are sustained by an inner economy of life, which is made manifest by an outer life. There is in us an inner life of thoughts, opinions, beliefs, emotions, and desires. These should be brought in conformity with the mind and Spirit of Christ. They correspond with the root of the tree, or with the seed which you hide end bury in the ground. Now, you are not satisfied with the root and the sap of the tree, or the germ power in the seed that you have hid in the earth. These hidden, buried, and unrevealed powers do not suffice. You want them to come forth and put on their gay garments, that your eye may be delighted and gladdened by their beauty. And you cut down the tree, you plough up the seed, if it puts on no wedding garment of blossom and fruit. So, say not my faith is right, my opinions are correct, my emotions are warm; for God wants more than these. He looks for fruit, for the beautiful wedding garment of a pure, sweet, loving, unselfish, and Christ-like life. The outward beauty, it is true, grows out of the hidden life. It is not put on. ,The beauty of the lily is not put on the flower, as a man puts on his coat. It grows out of the lily-like nature of the flower, many put on the manners of the Christian; but when they are only put on they drop off and expose the nakedness of the wearer when temptation comes, or when there is no end to be answered by keeping them on. Let us train ourselves, day by day, into the habit and feeling of the Christian spirit and temper, so that acts of Christian love, nobleness, and self-denial may grow out of us, as the beautiful form and colour grow out of the lily, and the sweet fragrance out of the rose. (R. Davey.)
The wedding garment
1. An enemy at the feast.
2. The king at the feast.
3. The judge at the feast.
4. The criminal at the feast.
5. The executioner. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Speechless at the judgment
There is no speechlessness at present, when we ply men with questions as to their being unprepared for eternity: they have all some specious excuse to plead, or some empty promise to make. But there will be no death-like silence hereafter, throughout the company of those who come up from the grave unclothed for eternity. Every particular of their lives will have crowded in upon the memory, and the consciousness of what they might have been will repress all murmuring at what they are. I have read the singular account of some who have been recovered from apparent death by drowning, and they say, that, as life went away, every action, every occurrence from infancy upwards, presented itself to the mind with overpowering vividness, so that the close was as it were the resurrection of their existence; they seemed to themselves to have lived the whole of life over again, in those fearful moments when they were grappling with death, so energetically and with so marvellous an accuracy did long-forgotten things pass before them, and the picture of their every day, and every week, and every hour, paint itself on the mental retina. And if there is to come at last this resuscitation of memory, oh! we cannot wonder at the speechlessness of those who are condemned at the judgment. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
“Called, but not chosen”
What of necessity must be the character of that man who has put on that robe?
1. He must be a humble man.
2. He may walk into the feast boldly in his confidence.
3. He must be joyous. It is a feast.
4. He must be loving. It is a feast to commemorate love.
5. The Christ that is on him will be the Christ that is in him. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
The duty of an entire surrender to God
I. What those things are which we should render unto God.
1. Our time. Especially youth; and particularly the Sabbath.
2. Our substance.
3. Our children.
4. Our hearts.
5. Our whole selves.
6. The blessed fruits, and all the glory of His own grace, should: by the Christian, be rendered back to God.
II. How this is to be performed. That it may be an acceptable service we must do it-
1. If hitherto neglected, without delay.
2. Freely, and without reluctance.
3. Thankfully, and without murmuring.
4. Humbly, and without ostentation.
5. Wholly, and without reserve.
6. For perpetuity, and without drawback.
7. In the whole of this, we should have an eye to Christ. He is the medium of all communication from God, and conveyance to Him. (B. Beddome, M. A.)
Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity
I. In reference to what is in man.
1. Here was a profession of great piety and holiness, conjoined with very inexcusable hatred. The Pharisees were the most pretentious religionists of the day; this no proof of genuine piety. They could not refute Christ, but hated Him.
2. We observe here also a very base design. They “ took counsel how they might entangle Him in His talk.”
3. We observe here a very iniquitous co-partnership. The Pharisees and Herodians were radical enemies.
4. We observe here also a glib, obsequious, but treacherous and lying flattery: “Master, we know that Thou art true.” Their design was to throw Him off His guard.
5. Observe the devilish cunning of the plot. “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, etc.” They professed honest doubt in order to fasten Him on the horns of a dilemma.
II. With reference to what was in Christ.
1. We are here shown that Christ was a very dignified man. He was poor; but imposing majesty went along with His humble simplicity.
2. We are here shown that our Saviour had the reputation of a truthful man.
3. He was also a man of acknowledged intelligence.
4. He was, moreover, a man of honest faithfulness. But the subsequent parts of the narrative attest still higher qualities in our blessed Lord.
(1) With all the dissimulation of these men Jesus saw through the mask, and all their secret thoughts were open to Him. He “perceived their nakedness.”
(2) He found an easy way out of the net from which human trickery believed it impossible for Him to escape. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
God and Caesar
I. The gospel ought to penetrate everything. Human life in its most widely sundered spheres must submit to its action. That being said, I affirm-
II. That religious and civil society are profoundly distinct. This will appear if we consider-
1. The nature of the dominion they exercise. The dominion of the State is that of the present life, and of purely temporal interests. It must guarantee to each citizen the free enjoyment of his rights and liberties. Its supreme ideal is justice. On this side it meets morals. There is a social morality which should not be considered as doing violence to the individual conscience, but which may claim submission from all, and sacrifice, if necessary. They are mistaken, therefore, who make of civil society a mere community of interests. It knows, and can form, the citizen; it ought not to have possession of the man. It must stop at the threshold of religious conscience.
2. Nor is it only by the sphere in which their authority is to be felt that the Church and the State differ; it is still more by the nature of the means which they employ. The arm of the State is force; the arm of the Church is the Word (2 Corinthians 10:4).
3. Differing thus, the Church and civil society should in their inevitable relations conserve, each for itself, their independence with zealous care. This independence may be compromised in two ways: by the theocracy which submits the State to the Church, and by the opposite systems, which submit the Church to the State. In the eyes of many representatives of modern democracy, a religious society should be considered as any other society would be. It is to be governed by the rule of the majority of its members. But Christianity is a revealed fact, and does not depend on the chances of majorities. The Church should not be associated with any political party; it suffers in such alliance. An analogy will illustrate my thought: Every modern nation has two fundamental institutions-the army and the school. Now, that is no wise head which does not understand that neither the one nor the other of these should be open to discussion concerning politics. An army in which the generals became judges would surrender the nation to all sorts of dangers and assaults; schools, in which masters introduced the burning questions which divide us, would become a thorough raid on the liberty of families. In demanding that our soldiers and professors shall not intermingle political debates with their duties, no one understands that they are required to abdicate their independence, their patriotism, and their dignity as citizens. Need I say that the Church is a sphere infinitely superior to the school and the army, and that it is folly to allow party passions and hatreds to penetrate it? The Church places us face to face with eternity; she does not look at questions from the standpoint of the day or the hour, but rules over time and our passing differences. The mere earthly life becomes enslaving-and when has it been more so than to-day?-the more necessary it is that, from above it, we should affirm the grand invisible realities which do not pass away. The absolute, which is only another aspect of the eternal-that is the thing which the Church should proclaim. She must see questions in their relation to God. The domain of politics, on the contrary, is relative, and often even less than that. Politics takes men as they are, and circumstances as they are. I do not ask that religion should remain silent before the immoralities of politics; quite the contrary. I wish that, in order to denounce them with the greater force, she should not descend into the political arena; for, if she is suspected of speaking, not in the name of conscience, but in the name of party, she becomes nothing more than one voice more amid the discordant clamours of the day. Let us take a celebrated example, to which it behoves us always to recur. There is not one of us who has not admired the conduct of John the Baptist at Herod’s court, and the firm courage with which he said to the blameworthy king, “It is not lawful for thee to have her.” But let John the Baptist, in place of being the prophet of conscience, become a popular judge, and all his authority crumbles: for, behind his denunciation, you discern a political end and the triumph of a party.. Well, then, I cannot cease saying to those whose honour and privilege it is to represent the Church, “Never compromise it in struggles to which it should remain a stranger. Its grandeur and its force are in being the voice of eternal right, and of justice toward all.” (E. Bersier, D. D.)
Money morally stamped
The destination of money. How might a man moralize over a large heap of gold pieces, before they go forth from the mint to have their purity soiled by the rough usage of human hands. How many of you, he might say, are going to be the currency of selfishness, to be coined over by the chill spirit of avarice, and to have the symbol which the mint has left upon you effaced by the figure of Mammon, and the miserly mottoes that will be graved upon you when you become the instruments and objects of selfish greed? Some of them, the prophetic eye might see, were going to be spent for intemperate indulgence, to be offered on the altar of Bacchus, and so morally to be recoined with his reeling figure bloated upon it, and that awful text from his gospel, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” Others, it might be seen, were on their way to the hot prizes of the gaming-table, the innermost sanctuary of the pit, where feverish eyes should be fastened upon them, and desperate hearts stake their last treasure for them, and where they seem almost visibly to gleam with the fiery portrait of Satan, his chosen medallions, that burn every hand unlucky enough to win. Others go to purchase learning and culture, and the recorded thoughts of genius, and upon them the image and superscription of Apollo and Minerva are outlined. Some, again, will wear the forms of the Graces or the Muses, inlaid into their substance by the human tastes that make them serve as ministers. If the eye could foresee what ones would go on missions of mercy, would strengthen the interests of truth, would put wings on good ideas, would endow beneficent institutions with new power, would carry sympathy and help to the bed of some poor sufferer, kindle a fire upon the desolate hearth, spread a meal upon the table of destitution, clothe a pallid and shivering child, or give it some training of mind or heart-those, a man might say, are the Christian coins. It should seem that they ought to gleam more brightly among the heaps where they lie. The form of Christ is really stamped upon that silver and gold, and His superscription, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” enwreathes His image with immortal truth. Those are the dollars that look precious in the sight of heaven. The touch of benevolence transmutes them into eternal possessions. Who would not wish to own them? Who, when the hour of death comes, would not prefer to have spent such coin? What pleasure or profit would then look so bright, or give such comfort as the retrospect of these golden benefactors of the world! (T. Start King.)
The conscience exempt from civil rule
When certain persons attempted to persuade Stephen, King of Poland, to constrain some of his subjects, who were of a different religion, to embrace his, he said to them, “I am king of men, and not of consciences. The dominion of conscience belongs exclusively to God.”
The citizen’s twofold stewardship
Christ is not here defining two duties which stand in contrast or antithesis to each other. He is defining one duty, in its just relation to another and a higher duty out of which it grows. Recall the occasion of His words. Some one has brought to Him a penny, and asks Him whether it is lawful for a Jew to pay tribute to a Roman ruler. Says Christ in effect, “My brother, the penny itself has settled that question. It has, stamped upon it, an image or medallion which is Caesar’s likeness. It is current here because this is Caesar’s country; and you use it, whether you choose to own the fact or no, because you are Caesar’s subject. Give Caesar, therefore, his due. Pay your taxes, obey the laws, honour the civil authorities; but that you may do so, begin by paying your taxes to God. The penny bears an image; so do you. The penny is from the mint of the emperor; you are from the mint of God. The use of the penny is determined by its likeness. So, too, your use is determined by your likeness. Every faculty in you, every gift, every grace and charm and power which is most characteristic and distinctive, is the stamp of the Divine. You are God’s child. You bear His image. Render to Him your supreme and unceasing tribute; and in doing that, all other and minor questions will settle themselves. ‘Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,’ do I say? Yes. But render them because, and in the inspiration, of that higher duty which bids you render unto God the things that are God’s!” (Bishop H. C. Potter.)
The coinage of love and service for God and man
With many of us the stewardship of money is not our chiefest stewardship: of such a coinage we have little or nothing to put in circulation. Still, though we may not be able to circulate the currency that buys and sells, it is ours to circulate the far mightier currency that cheers and inspires and consoles. The world to-day is waiting for something besides money. It is waiting for love and thought and personal interest and painstaking. Whether, therefore, you are a capitalist or a clerk, a student or a teacher, a professional man or a woman living in the retirement of your kindred and home, take your slumbering sympathy (I will not believe that God has not implanted it within you!) and coin that into love and service for your kind. On your brow rests the stamp of Him whose coinage and currency you are. There are lost pieces of silver, aye and of gold, which also bear His image. They have long ago been missing from the Father’s treasury, and are trampled under foot of man and beast alike. But, if you can find them in the mire, if you will wash them with your tears, and burnish them back to brightness and beauty by your patient and loving touch, you will find on them the image of Him who made them, and the superscription of His immortal kingdom. Light the candle of your love, then, and sweep diligently till you find them. Think of some one, to-day, whose life is lonely, whose youth is gone, whose lot is hard and cheerless and unlovely, and try to lift them up, at least for the hour, into the atmosphere of a warmer and more beneficent brotherhood. (Bishop H. C. Potter.)
The claims of God and man
I. Notice the claims of Caesar, or civil governments. The just claims of civil governments are limited to civil exactions, in opposition to religious or sacred claims. Civil governments rightly demand-
1. Homage and subjection (Romans 13:1, etc.; 1 Peter 2:13, etc.).
2. Obedience, and tribute, or taxes. Christ did this (Matthew 17:27; Titus 3:1).
3. Thanksgiving and prayer to God on their behalf (1Ti 2:17, etc.). There are the claims of Caesar and civil governments. But civil governments may demand more than their rights; if they do so, they will be either in matters civil or ecclesiastical; if they levy unjust civil exactions, then, as citizens, they may be peacefully, yet firmly, resisted. This has been repeatedly done. By the three Hebrews, Daniel, Peter, and the apostles (Acts 4:18).
II. The claims of God. We are to render to God-
1. Religious belief and homage.
2. Religious awe and fear. “Fear before Him all the earth” (Psalms 96:4; Psalms 96:9).
3. Praise and thanksgiving.
4. Our highest love and delight.
5. Universal obedience.
1. That the Christian religion is favourable to order and obedience, but it limits the authority of the State to civil concerns.
2. It distinctly exhibits true liberty of conscience. Should not this be dear and sacred to every good man, especially when sanctioned by the spirit of our text? (J. Burns, LL. D.)
Our duties as subjects
I. That they should honourably and fully pay all taxes which are imposed upon them. The advantages of civil government are cosily, and means must be provided by the individuals of the nation. We must not defraud the government, or a neighbour, who will have to make good our default.
II. That Christians should acquiesce in that form of government under which they live, whatever be its character and origin. A nation has the right to secure its independence of a foreign nation; a nation has the right to amend its institutions; but the duty alleged is that of individuals. “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers.” This is God’s will. But if human government has its rights, God has His rights. As human governments depend on the authority of God, they must be subordinate to it. His rights are supreme, and the rights of the human government terminate where the rights of God begin. The contrast in “the things which are Caesar’s.”
1. It is the right of God to demand our worship.
2. General obedience to His laws.
3. That we should maintain that truth which He has revealed, by which He is glorified, and the world is to be blessed. How small a portion all this is of what we owe to God. Admire this feature of the law of Christ, which secures the order of states. Let us he good subjects. (B. W. Noel, M. A.)
I. We owe them honour inward, by a reverent conceit.
II. And outward, by an honourable testimony of the virtues in them, and the good we receive by them. And sure I am this we owe, “Not to speak evil of them that are in authority,” and if there were some infirmity, not to blaze, but to conceal and cover it, for that the Apostle maketh a part of honour (1 Corinthians 12:28).
III. We owe them our prayers, and daily devout remembrances; “for all,” saith St. Paul, “but, by special prerogative, for princes.”
IV. “We owe them the service of our bodies, which if we refuse to come in person to do, the angel of the Lord will curse us, as he did Meroz (Judges 5:23). (Bishop Andrewes.)
Rights of Caesar and rights of God
I. Some particular rights and privileges belong to Caesars, or sovereign princes:
1. Honour to their persons.
2. Obedience to their laws.
II. Some peculiar rights and prerogatives belong to God only.
1. All religious worship.
2. Due reverence and regard to all sacred things, such as
(b) God’s house;
(c)the Lord’s Day;
(d) Tenth part of our substance.
III. The duty of all Christians with reference to both, and that is, to render the respective rights and dues to each. (Matthew Hole.)
For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage.
The joys of heaven
The Gauls, an ancient people of France, after they had once tasted of the sweet wine of the grapes that grew in Italy, inquired after that country where such pleasant liquor was, and understanding of it, they made towards that place, and never rested till they came thither where such pleasant things grew. Could we only realize something of the joys of heaven, should we not more earnestly set ourselves to find the way? This thought often sustained Christian martyrs in their sufferings.
The angelic life
We must all of us develop one way or the other; manhood here is but the corn in the ear.
I. In what respects are these saints who have passed the stream of death like unto the angels.
1. The saints of God are like unto the angels as to the qualities of their persons. Sex is obliterated not in mental characteristics, but in bodily frame. Alike in their immortality they cannot die. Like the angels in the maturity of their being, the body is raised in glory. Resemble the angels in beauty, and equal them in strength. What a blessed personality will be yours when the present age is past.
2. There will be likeness between the angels and glorified saints in the matter of character. No inbred sin. Purity and perfection.
3. The souls of the blessed are like to angels as to their occupation. Adoration; wondering study; gazing upon God; untiring service-these their occupations.
4. We shall be like the angels in heavenliness. Here we want externals; eat and drink: there no desires of an earthly kind.
5. Like the angels as to our happiness.
II. The angelic life on earth. We may be like angels here below.
1. Be it ours, as it was theirs, to declare the word of God.
2. For fighting a good fight. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon.
3. In setting free those who are the prisoners of hope. The angel came to Peter in prison.
4. In ministering comfort to those who are saved. An angel said to Paul, “Fear not.”
5. In watching our souls. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Ignorance of Holy Scripture the source of error in religion
I. To establish the fact that ignorance of holy scripture is the source of error in religion. Holy Scripture is the truth from which error is the deviation. The Sadducees erred because they knew them not: they denied the resurrection of the dead. They substituted tradition for them: hence their error.
II. That misrepresentation of scripture leads to sinful consequences. “Destroy the temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Upon this false witnesses accused Christ. See how the misinterpretation of Christ’s words led to sin. Education that falls short of “knowing the Scriptures” will end in error. (C. Cator, M. A.)
A resurrection emblem
The churchyard at Oberhofen, Switzerland was beautiful, and the simplicity of the little remembrance-posts set upon the graves very pleasant. One who had been too poor to put up an engraved brass plate, or even a painted board, had written with ink on paper the birth and death of the being whose remains were below, and this had been fastened to a board, and mounted on the top of a stick at the head of the grave, the paper being protected by a little edge and roof. Such was the simple remembrance, but Nature had added her pathos, for under the shelter by the writing a caterpillar had fastened itself, and passed into its death-like state of chrysalis, and having ultimately assumed its final state, it had winged its way from the spot, and had left the corpse-like relics behind. How old and how beautiful is this figure of the resurrection! Surely it can never appear before our eyes without touching the thoughts. (Life of Faraday.)
Creation is more inexplicable than resurrection
For it is not the same thing to rekindle an extinguished lamp, as to show fire that has never yet appeared. It is not the same thing to raise up again a house that has fallen down, and to produce one which has never had an existence. (Chrysostom.)
The intermediate state
I. The soul of man subsists after death, and hath some place of abode allotted to it at the resurrection.
II. This intermediate state is, in all probability, not a state of insensibility to the souls of the righteous; but of thought and self-consciousness, and consequently of content and of happiness, in a certain degree. (John Jortin.)
Things said not to be in heaven, which yet are in heaven
There are many things said not to be in heaven, and yet, in another sense, said to be there. There is no temple in heaven; but the Lord God and the Lamb are the temple thereof. There is no sea in heaven; but there is a glassy sea proceeding from before the throne, not a tumultuous angry sea, but a translucent one whose, kindly waves are gently flowing. There is no night in heaven, but there are stars there: for they who turn many to righteousness shall shine as stars in the kingdom of heaven; and one star differeth from another star in glory. So there is no marriage in heaven, and yet heaven is one marriage, and its happiness is represented by a marriage festival, God Himself being the universal husband, and all the redeemed being to Him as one endeared wife. So we may be very sure that if marriage, as it exists here, be not the pattern of things to come, it is the parable of things to come. We may be very sure of this, that if relationships on earth shall not be entanglements hereafter, yet that whatever we enjoy now we shall enjoy then in a transfigured way; we may be very sure that in a world where there is no death, and therefore where there needs to be no birth, there shall be those varieties of life for which birth here provides. No death, therefore no birth, therefore not the ordinary terrestrial necessity for marriage as it exists around us. But marriage is an intimate delightful companionship; and shall the joy of companionship fail for ever? Nay; has not the one Lord-if we think deeply, and purify ore” thoughts from sensual relation-has not the one Lord a married nature? Can we think of Him otherwise than as having in Himself the perpetual joy of companionship, and, with a motherly heart and a fatherly heart blended in the one great heart of supreme love, giving forth to us, as the expression of Hit maternity and His fatherhood, His Son-the Lord Jesus Christ-so womanly in His tenderness, so manly in His strength. (T. T. Lynch.)
Voices from heaven
I was reading the other day that, on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, the wives of fishermen whose husbands have gone out on the deep are in the habit, at eventide, of going down to the sea-shore, and singing, as female voices only can, the first stanza of a beautiful hymn. After they have sung it, they listen till they hear, borne by the wind across the desert-sea, the second stanza, sung by their gallant husbands, as they are tossed by the gale upon the waves; and both are happy. Perhaps if we could listen, we, too, might hear on this desert-world of ours some sound, some whisper, borne from afar, to remind us that there is a heaven and a home; and, when we sing the hymn upon the shores of earth, perhaps we shall hear its sweet echo breaking in music upon the sands of time, and cheering the hearts of them that are pilgrims and strangers, and look for a city that hath foundations. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
As the angels
The blessed in heaven after the resurrection shall be like the angels, not by nature; but
(1) by purity;
(2) by spiritual life, for they live by spiritual not corporeal food:
(3) by incorruption and immortality;
(4) by happiness and glory, in which, like the angels, they will continue for all eternity. (Lapide.)
The functions of man’s animal nature not operative in heaven
Well, how is that? He did not say. He likened them to the angels, but did not tell us how the angels were. It was rather negative. He declared that one potential, universal part of the economy of human life, with all its incidents and concomitants, stopped at the grave. This is the part of man out of which multitudinous history, good and bad, is derived. But useful as it is, it ceases and does not go on into the other life; and it seems very natural, since man is a double being, born for this lower life, in transition and formation for a life to come, that a portion of the powers or faculties which fit him especially for this lower life, when they shall have performed their function, will, as it were, like the calyx of a flower, wither and fall back, and that into the other life we shall carry only those parts of our nature which are highest and noblest, and which have relation to the spiritual rather than to the physical. (H. W. Beecher.)
Heaven vaguely revealed yet a comfort to the human heart
I have sat on the summit of Mount Holyoke, and looked out over the Connecticut valley, and seen as entrancing views as ever comforted the heart of man, poet though he might be; and yet, if you had asked me, “What is in that field?” I could not have told you whether it was wheat, or rye, or grass, or corn. If you had asked me, “What is that village?” I could not have told you. I could just see a white glimmer among the green trees, but that was all. If you had asked me, “Who are those men working yonder?” or “What are they doing?” I could not have told you. I could see men that seemed to be about the size of ants crawling over the surface of the ground; but whether they were mowing, or hoeing, or walking, or running, I could not tell. The whole picture lay before me, magnificent, and quickened every spring of fancy, and comforted my heart; but I could not give much idea of its horticulture, or agriculture, or anything that went to make up the interior of its life. (H. W. Beecher.)
God’s power a guarantee for the care of men who have departed this life
The argument Christ uses so convincingly is really this, and it is very simple: God said, “I am the God of your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”-not i was, but I am-meaning, that these had been dear to Him, and still were. Now, if these were God’s children, and God loved them, why should they die? All “live unto Him,” says Christ-as He pleases, and as long as He pleases. If he speaks of your fathers as caring for their life, why should you think them dead? They lived from Him, and they lived for Him, and therefore they live still. If they lived from Him, and no power could take their life away without His permission; if they lived for Him in such a sense that they were endeared to Him-why should the)” die? Would we let any one dear to us die, if we had an absolute control over life, as God has? Leave the thought of persons, and take the baser case of money. If a man keeps his money upon his table, and has a sufficient watch over his house, why do we feel sure that the bags of money are safe? Because we know that, being in his power, he not only is not likely to throw them out of the window-he loves them too well for that-but that, having power also to keep them from the thief, his love answers for their security. If he could not keep them, it is likely enough that they would be lost, for there are other people that desire to have them. The fact of his having them would be no obstacle to their having them, if only they could lay hands on them. But if, in the ease of money, where a man has power to keep it, he certainly will, what shall we say of the soul-the soul on which God has bestowed His Fatherly care? If no one-no devouring lion-can pluck Abraham out of God’s hand, will God throw him away and say He cares for him no longer? If no one could destroy the lives of these fathers but God, was He likely to do it? (T. T. Lynch.)
Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
How may we attain to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds
I. What is it to love God with all the heart, soul, and mind?
1. What is love? It is not a carnal love. It is not a natural love. It is not a merely moral love.
2. What is love to God? Metaphors to illustrate what it is to love God.
(1) The soul’s love to God may be a little shadowed forth by the love of the iron to the loadstone.
(2) Our love to God is like the love of the flower of the sun to the sun.
(3) Our love to God is like the love of the turtle to her mate.
(4) Our love to God should be like, though exceed, Jacob’s love to Benjamin.
We must not love God only with the heart, but with the whole heart. The whole heart is opposed either to a divided and dispersed heart, or to a remiss and a sluggish heart. As the whole heart is opposed to a remiss and sluggish heart, the meaning is this-the care of our heart should be set upon nothing so much as upon the loving and pleasing God.
II. It is our indispensable duty thus to love God. To love God is our great natural duty. Man would more naturally love God than himself, were it not for sin. Christ’s reason in the following verse-“This is the first and the great commandment.” Not that any command of God is small. The commands in Scripture are like the stars in the firmament, which though to ignorant persons they are but like twinkling candles, yet are greater than the whole earth; so these commands, that careless persons overlook as inconsiderable, are such as without respect unto them there is no salvation. But this upon a manifold account is “ the great command.”
1. In respect of the object.
2. In respect of order and dignity.
3. In respect of obligation.
4. In respect of the matter of it.
5. In respect of the largeness of it.
6. In respect of its capacity.
7. In respect of the difficulties of it.
8. In respect of the end.
9. In respect of the lastingness of it.
III. What abilities are requisite to the performance of this duty, and how we may attain those abilities AS the only efficient cause of our loving God is God Himself, so the only procuring cause of our loving God is Jesus Christ, that Son of the Father’s love, who by His Spirit implants and actuates this grace of love, which He hath merited for us (Colossians 1:20). Impediments of our love to God.
2. Love of the world.
3. Spiritual sloth and carelessness of spirit.
4. The love of any sin whatsoever.
5. Inordinate love of things lawful.
Means to attain love to God.
1. Directing by spiritual knowledge.
(1) The knowledge of spiritual things.
(2) The knowledge of ordinary things in a spiritual manner, so as to make the knowledge of natural things serve heavenly designs.
2. Promoting means are various.
(2) Contempt of the world.
(3) Observation of God’s benefits to us.
(4) Watchfulness over our own hearts.
(7) Choice of friends.
3. Sustaining and conserving means.
(1) Faith, whereby we are persuaded that what God hath spoken is true and good.
(2) Hope, whereby we expect a future good.
(1) Prize the word.
(2) Set immediately upon the practice of those things which you shall be convinced to be your duty.
2. Exemplary means.
IV. How to improve and augment all our possible abilities to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Degrees of love.
1. The first degree is to love God for those good things which we do or hope to receive from Him.
2. The second step of our love to God is to love God for Himself, because He is the most excellent good.
3. The third step is to love nothing but for God’s sake, in Him, and for Him, and to Him.
4. The fourth step of our love to God is for our highest love of everything to be hatred in comparison of our love to God.
5. The most eminent degree of our love to God is ecstasy and ravishment. Properties of love to God.
1. To begin with the properties of our love to God.
(1) This Divine love is not at all in the unregenerate, unless only in show and imitation.
(2) This Divine love is far from perfection.
(3) Our love to God shall never be abolished.
(4) This Divine love is so unknown to the world, that when they behold the effects and flames of it in those that love God in an extraordinary manner, they are ready to explode it as mere vanity, folly, madness, ostentation, and hypocrisy.
2. The absolute properties of love to God are among many, some of them such as these.
(1) It is the most ingenious of all graces.
(2) Love to God is the most bold, strong, constant, and daring grace of all the graces of the Spirit of God.
(3) Love to God is the only self-emptying and satisfying grace.
(4) The love of God makes us anxiously weary of life itself.
3. This much of the positive properties; the transcendent properties of our love to God are-
(1) Love to God is the great general directing grace containing all other particular graces in it and most intimately goes through the acts of all of them (1 Corinthians 13:0).
(2) It is in a singular manner infinite. Effects of love to God:-They relate either to God Himself or to ourselves, or they are mutual.
1. Effects that relate to God are such as these-
(1) Hatred of and flight from all that is evil.
(2) The fear of God.
(3) Obedience to the commands of God, and to those commands which would never be obeyed but out of love to God (1 John 5:3).
(4) Resignation of ourselves to God.
(5) Adhesion and cleaving unto God, in every case and every condition.
(6) Tears and sighs through desires and joys.
2. The only effect I shall name as to us is a seeking of heaven and things above, with contempt of the world and all worldly excellences.
3. Mutual effects are these-
(1) Union with God.
(2) Communion with God.
(3) Familiar love-visits.
(4) A putting a love-interpretation upon all things.
1. Devotion, which is an absolute delivering up of ourselves to God’s worship and service, so as by no flatteries or dangers to be diverted.
2. The other concomitant is zeal, which is the most intense degree of desire and endeavour to please and honour God-
(1) In the exercise of zeal against sin observe this rule-whatever act of zeal you express towards others, double the first upon yourselves.
(2) For zeal about duties-in every duty you take in hand, endeavour to do it above your strength.
V. I propose to urge some persuasions to be graciously ambitious of such qualifications, and as graciously diligent in such exercises.
1. God is our great Benefactor.
2. Love to God ennobles all other graces.
3. Love to God rectifieth all other loves, and brings them in due bounds.
4. Our love to God doth more sensibly quiet our hearts, than God’s love to us. (S. Annesley, D. D.)
Love the fulfilling of the law
I. Look to the testimony of the Bible and see whether I am right in saying that the great controlling influence of religious life is to be love to God and man. Christian people spend much time watching their motives and actions that they have little or no time to attend to anything else. There is but one thing required of man, and that is, that he shall have love. If you take care of that, everything else will take care of itself. As in a watch there is a spring, which, if you coil it up, will of itself keep all the wheels in motion, so there is in the human soul a spring which, if you wind it up, will uncoil itself, and carry forward everything related to your duties and conduct in this world.
II. What is included in this love. God has made in the human soul a threefold provision for the exercise of affection: maternal love, personal affection, benevolence to men irrespective of character. To these forms of affection I must add a capacity for a higher love, by which we are able to develop out of ourselves a true love for that which is invisible and perfect-the ideal religious love. This is given us that we may find our way up to God, whom we have not seen, with love and trust.
III. What is the condition in which this state of mind is to exist? We are conscious that our feelings exist in a two-fold way-first as impulses, and second as dispositions. The former are occasional, the latter are permanent. Love must be a disposition, our natural equilibrium and rest. Some men are habitually in a state of industry; they are idle sometimes, but idleness with them is special, the exception. Industry is their abiding state. Love must be our abiding condition.
IV. I am to ask your attention to the relations of this disposition of love to the work of Christianity in the individual and in the world. This disposition of love is the atmosphere in which all other qualities ripen, and in which only they are perfect. Those duties impelled by fear are usually caustic, those impelled by conscience are usually hard; but those which spring from love are always easy. We shall never be able to treat our fellow-men aright without the disposition of love; to correct their faults; without love we cannot correctly present Christianity to the world. (H. W. Beecher.)
The law of the heart
We all know the physical phenomenon called attraction, that is to say, the still unexplained cause by which the molecules of matter draw one another. Science tells us that it is a general property of matter, that it exists in all bodies whether at rest or in movement and whatever their nature; that it acts irrespective of distance as well as in all substances; when it is operating amongst the stars, it is called universal gravitation; when it is manifested on the surface of our globe, it is called weight. All those who have known nature since the remotest periods, have known it. Newton was the first to give to this law the formula which we all learned by heart in our youth, and all ulterior observations have only verified it. This law of Newton then is only a sublime analogy of the law of love which, in the moral order, should bind together all thinking beings; and as there is not an atom of matter which can loosen itself from physical attraction, so there is not a moral being who can loosen himself from the law of love. “Thou shalt love.”
I. Let us face the objections that confront us. It is denied that the heart can have a law; it is said that the proper characteristic of the affections is to be free from every commandment. There is in every man a domain where nature reigns supreme. It is, however, the end of education to diminish in man the too powerful part of instinct and necessity, in order to develop that of intelligence and will. Instinct says when we suffer an injury, “Revenge thyself.” Social education keeps back the arm. The heart can be modified by the will. Christianity has commanded affections such as nature never had inspired. In Saul of Tarsus it overcame all the hatreds of his race. It is true that we can learn to love; the heart can overcome nature. Whence this love in a dead heart? God alone can inspire it.
II. When this love which comes from faith shall have been thus created in your hearts, it will be possible for you to love humanity, not only in vague enthusiasm of a general philosophy, but in that particular attachment which sees in each of its members a being created in the image of God.
1. To love humanity we must believe in humanity. The Christian sees under the most repulsive being the ideal which can one day be born of God in him.
2. Learn to see in him not that which is antagonistic to you, but all that is possible to be good, noble, and true. In the most benighted soul there remains some Divine spark.
3. Guard against those unjust prejudices, those harsh antipathies, which obscure the sight and hinder us from seeing, in their true features, those whom we meet with on our way.
4. Love in order to learn to love-“To him that hath shall be given.” If disorderly passions.have their bewilderments, if they drag down an incline that is never reascended by the souls that yield to them, do you not believe that it will be the same with the noblest, the holiest, the best of loves? Will it not have its enthusiasms, its irrepressible outbursts, which will fill the soul to a point that it will desire no other life, because that it would find there nothing but coldness and weariness? Those holy souls that reproduce upon earth something of the life of Christ, and make to circulate in the present world the current of a warm love, were at their beginning lukewarm and cold as you and your soul; they have known all the discouragements, all the repugnances, all the disgusts that you complain of. But they gave themselves first to God and afterwards to man; they loved, and love became their dominant passion; something of heaven has begun for them here below: henceforth all inferior ends will appear to them barren and unattractive; they have already found, they will soon possess in its infinite fulness, the eternal life of which love is the law. (E. Bersier, D. D.)
“The second is like unto it”
In the present day there are three classes of men who are disposed to confine the idea of duty to our relations with our fellow-men; either because they absolutely deny the existence of God, or because they think that nothing can be known about Him, or because they hold that there is something anthropomorphic about the idea of duty altogether, and therefore it is idle to speak of duty on the part of feeble creatures such as we are, towards the absolute and the infinite. One class consists of those in whom the spiritual organ is defective; the second of those who cannot believe without strict logical proof, and find a stumbling-block in the demand for faith; while a third consists of those who are repelled by moral difficulties. All these classes join to swell the tide of secularism. “To do as you would be done by, and to love your neighbour as yourself” constitutes the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality. Still the question remains, Is the rule here given sufficient in itself; can the second commandment stand thus isolated? Is it enough that a man should do to others as he would wish them to do to him? Does it necessarily lead to virtue? Take the example of a sensualist: what he wishes to have done is to have his appetites gratified, to be spared all self-denial. To act towards others as he would wish them to act towards him, might lead to the worst consequences. Also what is the “ love” of the sensualist, and what is the “self” which he loves. He loves the lower self in himself and in others. You must be sure that the man who loves you rightly loves himself. You must in short rise to the ideal that should be. In this there is a transcending the matter-of-fact rule-“Do as you would be done by.” But how and where is the ideal to be found. Is it a fancy, in nature, art, poetry? The dullest life offers some foothold for the God-given faculties of admiration, imagination, and affection. The beauties of nature are tokens of an existence outside ourselves, infinite in power and wisdom, sympathising with every higher feeling of the heart. This is confirmed by our own experience of life. The first dawn of consciousness reveals to us a mother’s unselfish devotion. We learn to appreciate the thoughtful justice of a father; watching the world we come to feel that we are in the midst of “ a stream of tendency which makes for righteousness,” and we see its effects on a large scale in the rise and fall of nations. Here then we find the right interpretation of the rule, “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” It is love the ideal in thy neighbour as thou lovest it in thyself. And to thin end we must keep our eyes open to the ideal in others. See your friend glorified, as what he may be by God’s grace. And now we have seen the Ideal at work both in life and in nature, we may take a further step, and ask whether there is any other name under which it is known to us. Two heathen philosophers shall furnish us with an answer. All lower ideals, says Plato, are summed up in one highest Ideal, the perfection of beauty and goodness. This Ideal is to the world of mind what the sun is to the world of matter, the fountain of life and light. Love is the yearning after this Ideal, at first a dim unconscious yearning, but as it grows in purity it comes to discern its object more clearly, until at length it beholds it face to face, and then there is heaven. For this ideal is God, the Author of the universe, the Father of each individual soul. And Seneca shall tell us what is the ideal nature formed within each:-sacer intra nos spiritus sedet, “a holy spirit dwells within us;” and again, prope est ad te deus, tecum est, intus est, “God is near you, He is with you, He is in you.” Need I remind you that the same truth is proclaimed by the voice of revelation-“In Him we live and move and have our being;” “The invisible things of Him are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead;” “In Him was life and the life was the light of men;” “That was the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Once only has the perfect Ideal of man been seen on earth, and that Ideal was one with the Father; the ideal can be formed in each one of us only by the Spirit of Christ within us. “Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, so neither can ye except ye abide in Me;” “If Christ be in you the spirit is life because of righteousness.” Here then we may advance to a further definition of our rule. When we say, “Love the ideal in thy neighbour,” we mean as we now see, “Love that which is Christ-like, that which is God-like in thy neighbour.” The natural object of love, as Plato has taught us, is the Divine perfection. That we are to love; that, in so far as our heart is in its right state, we cannot help loving, with all our soul and all our strength; all other things we shall love in so far as they embody or represent to us any portion of the Divine perfection. Thus the second commandment is like unto the first, because it is, in fact, an exemplification of it in one direction, just as we might have another exemplification, bidding us love and admire all the beauty and sublimity of outward nature, or, as our Lord bids, “Consider the lilies of the field.” The lessons, then, which we should draw from the consideration of the close connection between the first and the second commandments are mainly two. One is, to suspect all religious emotions in ourselves which do not tend to increase our love for our fellow-men. “Pure religion and undefiled,” says St. James, “is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” If our religion fails to do this, whatever ecstatic heights we may seem to soar to, it is mere self-deception; such religion is vain. The other is that on which we have already dwelt so much, that we are to love our fellow-men in God, as created by God, as redeemed by Christ, as called to be temples of the Holy Spirit, as all having in them the germ of a new and Divine life, which it is the privilege and the duty of human love to cherish and to strengthen, until at last the whole body of the Church, “being fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” (J. B. Mayor, M. A.)
Comprehensive summary of the Ten Commandments
There are many things about this law to fill us with admiration.
I. Its completeness. It includes the whole of life and all its chiefest duties.
II. Its twofold division. The first table of the law reveals and informs a man’s duty to God. The second, his duty to himself and his fellows.
III. Its twofold summary. When classified from a spiritual standpoint, it has two great commandments: supreme love to God; love to fellow-man as to one’s self.
IV. Reflections. Its uniqueness, origin, scope, simplicity, tendency to lead to Christ. (L. O. Thompson.)
The love of our neighbour
I. This duty arises out of our rational and social natures.
II. The obligations under which we are laid to the practice of the duty.
1. From the connection of this commandment with the first. If we love Cod, we shall love our brother.
2. A sense of justice, the golden rule, should lead us to do good to our neighbour.
3. The greatest difficulty to contend with is the more powerful influence of other motives addressed to the selfishness of the heart.
4. What is heaven, as to which we profess to aspire, but the region of perfect love.
III. Apply the subject and hold reasonings with the selfish spirit. To all we have said selfishness says, “I must mind myself.” (W. H. Burns.)
The law of love
the principle of philosophy of it. Most men are actuated by exclusive self-love. This law operates as a command and as a restraint.
II. The positive character which this law gives to all the commandments of the second table. By the first commandment of the second table, the different orders of society are protected; domesticated order the well-spring of all social order. Life is protected by the sixth commandment; by the next precept the person of our neighbour is protected, property, reputation. (R. Frost, M. A.)
The law of love
Mark the unity and the simplicity which characterises this law of love to God. It is based on the declaration that there is but one God the Lord.
I. The law of love in not inferior to the ten commandments; in fact, love of God and man includes all which these teach at greater length.
II. The law of love is superior
1. The positive, whereas the old law was negative.
2. The law of love is superior because exhaustive.
3. It is superior because it begins at the heart.
4. It is superior because it leads us directly to feel our need of the Spirit of God. (A. H. Charteris, D. D.)
The mind’s love for God
In the first place, then, we want to assure ourselves in general that there is such a power as intellectual affection, and that no man completely and worthily loves any noble thing or person unless he loves it with his mind as well as with his heart and soul. That will not, I think, be very hard to see. Take, for instance, your love for some beautiful scene of nature. There is somewhere upon the earth a lordly landscape which you love. When you are absent from it, you remember it with delight and longing. When you step into the sight of it after long absence, yore” heart thrills and leaps. While you sit quietly gazing day after day upon it, your whole nature rests in peace and satisfaction, Now, what is it in you that loves that loveliness? Love I take to be the delighted perception of the excellence of things. With what do you delightedly perceive how excellent is all that makes up that landscape’s beauty, the bending sky, the rolling hill, the sparkling lake, the waving harvest, and the brooding mist? First of all, no doubt, with your senses. It is the seeing eye, the hearing ear, the sense of feeling which in the glowing cheek is soothed or made to tingle, the sense of smell which catches sweet odours from the garden or the hayfield,-it is these that love the landscape first; you love it first with all your senses. But next to that what comes? Suppose that the bright scene is radiant with associations, suppose that by that river you have walked with your most helpful friend; upon that lake you have floated and frolicked when you were a boy; across that field you have guided the staggering plough; over that hill you have climbed in days when life was all sunshine and breeze. That part of you which is capable of delightedly perceiving these associations as they shine up to you from the glowing scenery, perceives them with delight and takes the landscape into its affection. You love the scene with all your heart. But yet again, suppose a deeper faculty in you perceives the hand of God in all this wondrous beauty; suppose a glad and earnest gratitude springs up in you and goes to meet the meadow and the sky; suppose that all seems to tell to some deep listening instinct in you that it was all made for you, and made by one who loved you; suppose that it all stands as a rich symbol of yet richer spiritual benefits of which you are aware; what then? Does not another part of you spring up and pour out its affection, your power of reverence and gratefulness; and so you love the landscape then with all your soul. Or yet again, if the whole scene appears to tempt you with invitations to work; the field calling on you to till it, and the river to bridge it, and the hill to set free the preciousness of gold or silver with which its heart is full and heavy; to that too you respond with your power of working; and then you love the scene with all your will or all your strength. And now, suppose that beyond all these another spirit comes out from the landscape to claim another yet unclaimed part of you; suppose that unsolved problems start out from the earth and from the sky. Glimpses of relationship between things and of qualities in things flit before you, just letting you see enough of them to set your curiosity all astir. The scene which cried before: “Come, admire me;” or, “Come, work on me;” now cries, “Come, study me.” What hangs the stars in their places and swings them on their way; how the earth builds the stately tree out of the pretty seed; how the river feeds the cornfield; where lie the metals in the mountains?-these, and a hundred other questions, leap out from the picture before you, and, pressing in past your senses and your emotions and your practical powers, will not rest till they have found out your intelligence. They appeal to the mind, and the mind responds to them; not coldly, as if it had nothing to do but just to find and register their answers, but enthusiastically, perceiving with delight the excellence of the truths at which they point, recognizing its appropriate task in their solution, and so loving the nature out of which they spring in its distinctive way. It would be strange indeed if it were not so; strange indeed if the noblest part of us were incapable of the noblest action; strange indeed if, while our senses could thrill and our hearts leap with affection, the mind must go its way in pure indifference, making its great discoveries with no emotion for the truths which it discovered, and for the men in whom those truths were uttered. But R is not so. The intellect can love. But can we think about God’s love and not feel ever present, as an element in it, the working of the infinite mind as well as of the perfect heart? No doubt men’s minds differ from one another exceedingly in their capacity of affection. You tell your scholar that he must study because his parents wish it, because he ought to be equal to his fellow-scholars, because he will be poor and dishonoured if he is ignorant. These motives are good, but they are only the kindling under the fire. Not until an enthusiasm of your scholar’s own intellect begins, and he loves the books you offer him with his mind, because of the way they lay hold of his power of knowing them; not until then has the wood really caught and your fire truly begun to burn. To that end every true teacher must devote himself, and not count his work fairly begun till that is gained. When that is gained the scholar is richer by a new power of loving-the power of loving with his intellect-and he goes on through life, carrying in the midst of all the sufferings and disappointments which he meets, a fountain of true joy in his own mind which can fill him with peace and happiness when men about him think that he has only dreariness and poverty and pain. (P. Brooks, D. D.)
Love of God to be the dominant passion
It could scarcely lead to any satisfactory result if we were to attempt nicely to discriminate between what is meant here by the heart, the soul, and the mind. In point of fact, of the four Greek representatives that we have of the same Hebrew original (Deuteronomy 6:5)-that of the Septuagint, and those of St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke-no two precisely agree in the words chosen for the purpose. And what this variation may seem to say to us is this: Apart from all metaphysical and psychological distinctions, whatever terms will best convey to you a description of all the powers, faculties, and capacities which can in any way be affected by love, let them be adopted and employed in exhibiting the nature and extent of the love that you owe to God. Feelings, intellect, and will may perhaps best express for popular purposes the different spheres or constituents of our moral nature which that love ought to pervade and influence. The combination of the three is absolutely essential.
1. The love of the understanding only-a love into which we have reasoned ourselves-which is based upon a certain balancing of argument for and against it, resulting in a decision favourable on the whole to the Divine claims; a love which we profess because we see clearly that God ought to be loved, that He has a right to a place, aye, and the very first place, in our hearts-this is not the kind of love which is looked for from us by Him who spared not His own Son, but freely gave Him up for us all.
2. Nor will He be content with the love which is merely a feeling, and which rests upon no solid foundation of a rational conviction that He is worthy of the love which is felt for Him. You must justify to your judgment the feeling that you have admitted.
3. The will-that power by which the feelings of the heart and the convictions of the understanding are made influential and operative in the conduct. This is the true test of the sincerity of those feelings, and the soundness of those convictions. Any love which stops short of this is but self-love. To be of the right sort, our love for God must be an active moving principle and power, which so determines our thoughts, words, and works, that God in all things may be glorified in us through Jesus Christ our Lord, and we ourselves, as it were, may be absorbed into that glory. (J. E. Kempe, M. A.)
Love for God the ruling energy
This, like Aaron’s rod of old, swallows up all evil enchantments of the heart. It enters the sacred temple within, and, like another Messiah, it expels every lurking desecration forthwith. It is a flame which not only lights up the dark chambers of the soul, but transmutes into its own pure essence all its elements of feeling and of thought. (Dr. Thomas.)
The second is like unto it
For it has-
1. The same Author. God spake all these words.
2. The same tie.
3. The same sanction and punishment of the violation.
4. It requires the same kind of love and service; for the love of our neighbour is the service of God. (John Trapp.)
Like unto it
in amplitude and largeness, inasmuch as it is the root out of which all laws of duty to men-ward have grown, as out of the former all offices of religion towards God. (R. Hooker.)
It is the duty of every man to love his neighbour as himself
It is requisite to show-
I. Who is our neighbour? We are to account as our neighbour any man whomsoever, friend or enemy, that lives nigh to us, or at a greater distance from us.
II. The lawfulness of a man’s loving himself. It is a duty incumbent on every man to love himself. There is a twofold self.
1. A natural self.
2. A sinful self. This is to be hated, the other loved.
He that came to destroy “the works of the devil” came to save the soul and body, the works of God (Luke 19:10).
1. A man may love his own body, and is bound to preserve the life of it (Ephesians 5:29). A man may sin against his own body by excessive labour, neglect, intemperance (1 Corinthians 6:18).
2. A man may and ought chiefly to love his own soul. The new nature, or spiritual self, is the best self we have, and should be most loved (Romans 14:12).
III. To lay down some conclusions.
1. That as God is to be loved above all things else, so He is to be loved for Himself (Luke 18:19).
2. That creatures may be loved according to that degree of goodness which God hath communicated to them, not for themselves, but for God, who “ made all things for Himself” (Proverbs 16:4).
3. No man can love himself or his neighbour aright while he remains in a state of sin. Love is a “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22).
I. How ought we to love our neighbour? In the same things wherein we show love to ourselves, we ought to show love to our neighbour.
1. Our thoughts of, and the judgment we pass upon, ourselves (1 Corinthians 13:5).
2. Our speeches (Titus 3:2).
3. Our desires after that which is good for ourselves. We should desire the good of others in all things as our own (Matthew 5:44).
4. Our actual endeavours that it may be well with us. So ought we to endeavour to do others good (1 Peter 4:10).
II. After the same manner that we love ourselves we ought to love others.
1. We do, or should, love ourselves holily, in the fear of God. In this manner we must love others. Every man is a creature upon whose soul there is, in a sort, the image of God (Titus 3:3-4).
2. Our love to ourselves should be orderly; we must first and chiefly love our souls, and then our bodies (Deuteronomy 4:9).
(1) We must seek the conversion of those who are unconverted (James 5:19-20).
(2) We should show our love to the souls of others by seeking the increase of their faith, holiness, and comfort (1 John 1:4).
3. Our love to ourselves goes out freely. In the like manner we should go forth to others (1 Timothy 6:18).
4. We love ourselves unfeignedly; and thus it is required we should be to others (1 John 3:18).
5. We do not only love ourselves truly and sincerely, but with some fervency; our love to others must not be cold (1 Peter 1:22).
6. We love ourselves very tenderly (Ephesians 5:29). It is required of us that we “be kind one to another, tender-hearted” (Ephesians 4:32). (Y. Milward, A. M.)
The royal law
The Christian finds what a right royal law this is of the Saviour’s, for he sees that it includes and covers every possible form of duty; that if this command be fulfilled, it necessitates the fulfilling of every other command. He who is content with visiting the lower eminences which surround Merit Blanc may wander about from one to another, and get picturesque views in detail; but, at the best, they are only partial and imperfect glimpses. He alone who reaches the topmost summit can command at one glance all the glorious view. In like manner must it be with him who wishes to serve God. He may try in detail to keep this or that commandment, and he will be the better and happier for his efforts. But, in order to observe them all truly and in their spirit, he must stand on the moral eminence of love towards God. Then he will be able to perform his duty, not bit by bit, but as a whole, complete and perfect, doing everything for God, and yet not neglecting man. (Hooper.)
Love to God
I. The nature of this principle.
1. Its definition. Love to God is a principle, not a passion.
2. Its extent.
3. Its sublimity.
II. The obligations of this principle. Love to God is
(1) the great commandment;
(a) in point of importance;
(b) in order of nature;
(c) as all others are dependent on it.
(2) It is most reasonable and simple.
(3) It is most powerful, binding, and endearing.
III. The influence of this principle. Observe
(1) the connection between the commandments.
(2) The comprehension of duty contained in this commandment.
(3) The certainty of this result-loving our neighbour-from the principle. (W. B. Collyer.)
Christ’s two commandments
I. How is the love of God said to be the first commandment? It is
(1) in order of time;
(2) in order of nature.
II. How is the love of God said to be the great commandment?
1. Upon the account of the greatness and dignity of the object-God.
2. Upon the account of the largeness and comprehensiveness of it-the whole duty of man.
3 Upon the account of the influence it hath upon all the parts and duties of religion, which have all their worth and acceptance entirely from it.
4. Upon the account of its perpetual and everlasting duration.
III. How is loving our neighbour the second commandment, and like unto it?
1. In respect of the authority that commands it, and our obligation to observe it.
2. In respect of the ground and motive of our obedience, which are some Divine perfections residing in God, and communicated to His creatures.
3. In respect of the extent and comprehensiveness of it.
4. In respect of the reward and punishment that attend the keeping and breaking of it. (Matthew Hole.)
The nature of moral and positive duties
I. All moral duties are contained in, and may be reduced to, these two heads-the love of God and of our neighbour.
II. All positive and ritual injunctions, though in their proper place they ought not to be left undone, yet they are but subordinate to these, and subservient to them. This appears from the following considerations.
1. The moral duties of life are things in their own nature good and excellent, of eternal and necessary obligation. All ritual and ceremonial observances have no intrinsic goodness in the nature of the things themselves; nor any obligation but what arises merely from their being positively and occasionally enjoined.
2. All positive and ritual injunctions whatsoever, can be but subordinate to the practice of moral virtues; because these latter are the end for which the former are commanded, and the former can be considered only as means to the latter.
3. Moral duties, or the practice of true virtue, will continue for ever, but all positive commandments are but of temporary obligation. (S. Clarke.)
The love of God man’s first duty
I. The nature of the love of God (i.e., our love to God)
II. The importance of it in point of duty.
III. Its influence on our happiness.
IV. The methods which infinite wisdom hath employed to cultivate it in our minds. (Archbishop Secker.)
Love of neighbour man’s second duty
Our neighbour signifies in Scripture, and not seldom in heathen writers, every person who is placed within our reach and influence. The principal causes of our narrowing the circle of our neighbours are-
1. Hatred, from diversity of faith and worship; or rivalship in profit, advancement, affection, and reputation.
2. Pride. They cannot allow such low creatures as the “multitude,” to claim their notice.
3. Selfishness. The selfish man acknowledges no neighbour; is concerned solely for himself, and what he is pleased to reckon his own interest. (Archbishop Secker.)
God the object of love
I can imagine nothing more perilous than the theory that piety is independent of the affections-it were better to be the enthusiast with every feeling excited than the mere philosophical reasoner with the belt of ice for ever round the heart.
I. This love of God is reasonable.
1. There are feelings which will be called into exercise according as God is surveyed under different points of view. The proper object of love, as distinguished from other affections, is goodness. It is not as the all-powerful Being that we love God; I have an awe of God as powerful. See how the case stands in regard of a creature. A man cannot be just and not love justice; neither can he be good and not love goodness. Suppose this creature was your friend, your governor, what would be the effect of this accumulation of qualities? Would not your love be enhanced by their depending on one upon whom it was safe to depend. Now substitute the Creator for the creature, and shall not He be the object of love. God has planted in us these affections, and there is that in Himself which should raise them to the highest pitch.
II. The threefold requirement comprehended in the loving “ with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the mind.” It is demanded that there be no energy unemployed in the service of God. If such a love seem unattainable, it is not the less to be proposed as the standard at which we should aim. Let it not be imagined that in demanding all, God leaves nothing for other objects of affection. The truth is that in proportion as we love the Creator, we shall love with a purer and warmer love every other lawful object of affection.
III. That in representing God as the alone sufficient object of love, we state a general truth whose full demonstration must be referred to the scenes of eternity. Let us throw away confused and indeterminate notions of happiness, and it must be admitted that happiness consists in every faculty having its proper object. And if love find its proper object in nothing short of God, may it not be that the perfect happiness of the future shall result from the fact, that every faculty will have found its object in God? But it is certain that in loving God, we have foretastes of its delights-for love is to survive, when faith and hope shall have passed away. Let us, then, take heed lest entangled with earthly attachments, forgetful of the rule that love of the creature must be secondary to love of the Creator, we provoke God to jealousy, and thus weaken the anticipation of heaven. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The true religion
I. We have here an explicit revelation of the true nature of religion, about which the whole world has been in so much dispute. The essence of true religion is love to God and love to man. It is towards God a whole and continuous sympathy and love. It is toward man a uniform and dominating disposition of benevolence.
II. We have here, then, the physiological idea of the Bible in regard to the perfect man. Christ’s ideal is neither philosophy, nor war, nor statecraft, but love to God and man. The capacity to create happiness will be the true ideal of man.
III. If this be so, we have now the only true test of personal religion. Conversion and regeneration are not only really possible, but they are indispensable; and no man can enter the kingdom of God, which is a kingdom of love and peace in the Holy Ghost, unless he is born again. Selfishness shall not enter into the kingdom of God.
IV. This is the true gauge by which to measure the spread, the progress of religion in the soul. We are apt to confound the question of growth in grace with the Greek idea of acquisition, self-culture. The gauge of religion is the intensity and the productiveness of the love principle. (H. W. Beecher.)
Love divinely cultured in us
There is not a daisy that was not organized to be a daisy, but I should like to see one that did not have the sun to help it up from the seed I there is not an aster that was not organized to be an aster, but where is there one that grew independent of the sun? What the sun is to flowers, that the Holy Ghost must be to our hearts, if we would be Christians. (H. W. Beecher.)
Love renders service easy
If one were sent to take care of the poor, miserable, wounded soldiers lying in the plague-stricken hospitals on the plain of Solferino, he would say to himself, “Money would not hire me to do it, but I must do it because it is my duty. Here are men who are suffering and need attention, and I am bound to look after their wants.” But let me find my own son among those unfortunate creatures, and, no matter how loathsome might be the offices to be performed toward him, could money buy from me the privilege of ministering to his necessities? Could any motive induce me to leave his side day or night? That which I should do in the one case through conscientiousness, or from a sense of duty, and which would be a disagreeable task, I should do in the other case through love, and it would then be a pleasure to me. I should do it with delight. There would not be hours enough in which I might serve in love my wounded son. (H. W. Beecher.)
The heart to be educated as well as the intellect
Is it not the special characteristic of the age that it trains the intellect with unrivalled zeal and success, while it leaves too often out of sight the heart and the affections? Are not all the prizes of life heaped together, and increasing in their value and what may be called their piquancy, in order to spur on to the utmost the culture of the intellect alone? There is not a schoolmaster who does not complain that he is ceaselessly goaded by the parents to press on their children even beyond their strength in the race for distinction. Nor does this pressure touch the child alone. In age as well as in youth, we are all pressed on by the swift tide of the world to worship the idol of intellect as though it had all to give in earth and heaven. And where, in all this eagerness to learn or gain distinctions, where is the education which all our life long should be bringing nearer to the heart the truths of the unseen world? (Capel Cure, M. A.)
Character made by love
The mere knowledge of things will not necessarily exert any influence on conduct; and it were profanely absurd to call that man religious whose deportment is unaffected by the great truths of religion.- In respect even of the things of sense, we require a combination of love with knowledge in order to the constitution of character; for we do not call a man a sensualist merely because he knows the objects of sense. He must love those objects, he must have given his heart to those objects, before we think of applying to him such a title; before we think of calling him a sensual man. In like manner you can have no right to say that acquaintance with the articles of religion makes a man a religious man. He may know the articles of religion just as he knows the objects of sense; but he is not a sensualist unless attached to the objects of sense; neither is he religious unless his affections fasten on the articles of religion. When, however, it has been allowed that the affections must be engaged in religion, there will arise various questions as to degree and direction. We have already said, that with many the majesty and the awfulness of the Almighty pass as evidence of the impossibility of His being the objects of our love. They will tell you that He might rightly be the object of the fear, of the reverence, of the adoration of His Creatures; but that it savours of an unholy familiarity, and therefore marks a species of enthusiasm to speak of Him as the object of love-and when you set against such an opinion the grave requirements of Scripture, which insist on the love of God as the sum and substance of religion, then you will be told that love as directed towards the Creator must be something wholly different from love as felt between man and man; and thus by representing it a mystic and unearthly thing, they will quite remove it from your comprehension and attainment. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Love ruling the soul, but not excluding other proper activities
This we may easily understand by familiar parallels. We say of persons who are cultivated, that their whole manhood is cultivated. We do not mean that there is a thing called cultivation which they have in exercise, and nothing besides. We simply mean that there is a given mode of activity; that the reason and the affections act in a certain fine way; that they act with a particular quality which we call cultivation. When we speak of a man as well-bred and refined, we do not mean that his taste is the only active part of his nature, but this: that whatever other faculties are acting, they all take on the quality of taste, so that they are of the nature of this predominant influence. Just the same is true of conscience. A man is said to be a conscientious man when conscience rules him. When we speak of a man as conscientious, we do not mean that conscience is the only feeling that rises up and acts, but that it so distributes itself through the mind that every other feeling which comes in acts conscientiously. And when we are commanded to love God with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, and our neighbour as ourselves, it is not meant that a man should sit down and love, love, love, love, with a repetition that is just like the ticking of a clock, which repeats the same tick over, and over, and over, and over again. It is not meant that we are to compress all the parts of our life into any such unity, or any such singleness, that they shall all be included in one thing, that one thing being love to God and love to man. It is meant that a strong predominant love to God and man shall so pervade the soul, that there cannot be in all the action of the mind one feeling that will go contrary to that spirit. The reason must be a reason acting in the spirit of love; the conscience must be a conscience acting in the atmosphere of love; the taste must be a taste acting in the atmosphere and spirit of love-love to God and love to man. The appetites and passions, and every other faculty of the mind, in all their power or variety or versatility, may act; but they will act as steeds that feel the one rein, which goes back to the hands of the one driver, whose name is Love. (H. W. Beecher.)
The worth of love determined by its object
Love is but an indifferent passion, till it be united to the thing loved, and then it gets a denomination. For example: If the object be earthly, it is an earthly love; if sensual, it is a brutish love; if it be man, it is a human love; if God, it is a Divine love: so that by our love we are changed and transformed into a thing more noble, or more vile. We therefore debase ourselves in loving any thing but God: there is nothing else worthy of our love. Whatsoever we love, we give it a kind of dominion over us, so that the will loseth its dignity and excellency when it loves inferior things; we are, as it were, married to that we love. “Suppose,” saith Raymundus, “a poor man, of mean stock and no reputation, have six daughters; they are all equal by birth as to reputation and esteem, but they are all differenced by their marriage. The eldest marries a farmer, the next a citizen, the third a knight, the fourth a duke, the fifth a king, the sixth an emperor; by these marriages there is a very great inequality. So, here, by the object of your love you are dignified or debased.” (S. Annesley, D. D.)
Proprietorship heightens love
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” Those things that are ours, though they are not always lovely, yet we love them; our own children, whether of our bodies or our minds, our own estates. We are more troubled at the loss of anything wherein our own propriety [property] is concerned, than in all the world besides. A small thing of our own is a thousand times more to us than a thousand times as much of another’s. We are more concerned for the cutting off our own finger, than the cutting off another man’s head. Propriety [proprietorship] doth exceedingly heighten love. (S. Annesley, D. D.)
Love is a busy grace
Love among the passions is like fire among the elements. Love among the graces is like the heart among the members. Now that which is most contrary to the nature of love must needs most obstruct the highest actings of it. The truth is, a careless frame of spirit is fit for nothing; a sluggish, lazy, slothful, careless person never attains to any excellency in any kind. (S. Annesley, D. D.)
The first and great command
Love to God is the most excellent of all graces (1 Corinthians 13:13). Love among the graces is like the sun among the stars, which not only enlightens the lower world, but communicates light to all the stars in the firmament; so love to God does not only its own office, but the offices of all other graces. (S. Annesley, D. D.)
What think ye of Christ?
I. There are some who never think of Christ at all.
II. There are some who deem it unnecessary to have fixed thoughts about Christ.
III. There are some who have many thoughts about Christ.
IV. There are some who have right thoughts about Christ, but wrong feelings.
V. There are some who have right thoughts about Christ, and right feelings. (Various.)
What think ye of His-
III. Condescension and grace?
V. Ability and willingness to save? (T. Raffles, D. D. , LL. D.)
A testing question
1. It recognizes in man a mighty power, the power to think.
2. It indicates that all right-thinking of Christ must have respect to Him as He is revealed in Holy Scriptures.
3. That to think of Christ is a personal and individual duty.
4. To think right of Christ is a matter of transcendent importance. (J. Williams.)
Revelation not to supersede thought
The Book of God is not a book for the mentally indolent. An amount of mental digging is needful to discover much of the precious ore that lies hidden under the poetry, parables, proverbs, figures, symbols, and the “many things hard to be understood” in Holy Writ. “The telescope, we know,” says Archbishop Whately, “brings within the sphere of our vision much that would be undiscoverable by the naked eye; but we must not the less employ our eyes in making use of it, and we must watch and calculate the motions, and reason on the appearances of the heavenly bodies which are visible only through the telescope, with the same care we employ in respect of those seen by the naked eye. And an analogous procedure is requisite if we would derive the intended benefit from the pages of inspiration, which were designed not to save us the trouble of inquiring and reflecting, but to enable us in some points to inquire and reflect to better purpose; not to supersede the use of reason, but to supply its dificiences.” (J. Williams.)
I. What think ye of Christ? For the religion of the Bible extends to the very thoughts. Our conduct towards Him must always be regulated by our views.
II. What esteem have you for him? He is esteemed by all most worthy of our regard: Abraham. What regard have you for His greatness?
III. What are you willing to part with for his sake? With your sins-the world-with learning-self-righteousness.
IV. What Is it that keeps you from him?
1. Is it ignorance?
V. What wilt, you do without him?
1. In the conviction of conscience.
2. In prosperity.
3. In adversity.
4. In death.
5. In the great day of account. (W. Jay.)
All doctrines equally true, but not equally important
There is a difference between the railing of the bridge and the keystone. The one is indeed ornamental, but the other is essential to the structure. Take from man an eye, or a hand, or a foot, and you injure him; but take away the head, or heart, or lungs, and you demolish him. The doctrines concerning Christ are of supreme importance. (W. Jay.)
What think ye of Christ?
This question is not an appeal to the faith of the Pharisees, but to their opinion.
I. I commend the question. You should think of Christ-
1. Because you cannot help yourself.
2. Because you cannot escape the consequences of the question.
3. As a man thinks of Christ so is he at the hour of his death.
II. Knowledge of Christ is necessary before answering this question.
1. Who is He? “Whose Son is He?”
2. Why did Christ come?
3. Whither is Christ gone?
4. Wherefore will He return?
III. Now what think ye of Christ?
1. Not what will you think to-morrow, but what do you think?
2. Improve the thought.
3. Strengthen the thought.
4. Express the thought. (C. Molyneux, B. A.)
The question of questions
On my own part, and on the part of those among us who are desirous to have expressed in a compendious form the primary grounds of that belief which makes them not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, I shall give (beginning for the most part in modern and non-theological language) an answer to that question of questions for every age, “What think ye of Christ?” That answer will land us at last on the highest summit of theological speculation.
I. “What think ye of Christ?” That he is exceptional in the spiritual world.
1. The holiest men are ever most conscious of their own sinfulness. Sublime dissatisfaction with self is the peculiarity of the Christian saint.
2. Jesus is the solitary exception to this rule. Besides the testimony both of enemies and of friends to the fact of His perfect innocence and sinlessness, we have His own witness. No utterance of conscious sin, no half-hid confession. He never includes Himself among sinners. We think, then, that Christ is unique and without parallel.
II. We “think” that the exceptional man has endowed us with exceptional fruits, with benefits unparalleled. Not merely fruits of thought, art, literature.
1. Christ’s living influence is yearly sending forth missionaries to the most abject tribes upon the earth.
2. Christ’s teaching and example furnish a perpetual motive for tending the sick-perpetuating His miracles of healing.
3. Christ did not merely preach a doctrine: He founded a Church, to be the home of charity. Is she not, with her ministries for the poor, like the mother whom we have seen on Alpine or Pyrenean ridges, as she passes some razor-like edge, knitting for her little ones while she goes, though her heart and eye are up among the clouds?
4. Who shall say what Christ gives daily to those who receive Him?
(a) Elevation above sordid selfishness.
III. We “think” of Christ that he is “first-born from the dead.”
1. The resurrection of Christ is not a fraud-not a singular recovery of a lacerated and tortured man, awakened from a death-like swoon by the coolness of the rocky chamber, or by the pungency of the spices l We have to account for cowards turned into heroes; for the faith that overcame the world.
2. Nor is the resurrection of Christ the projection of creative enthusiasm. The Church is too real for a foundation of mist. Faith did not create the resurrection: the resurrection created faith. We think, then, that as Christ was exceptional in His life, and in the benefits He conferred on humanity, so was He in His victory over the grave.
IV. This exceptional man must have had an exceptional origin. He is the Son of God (Luke 1:35). He is the Word of God (John 1:1). “And the Word was God.”
V. Christ is the wisdom ofGod.
VI. He is very man. His delights are with the sons of Adam. (Bishop William Alexander.)
The ideal Christ
I. Some people do not think much about him any way. Their minds are preoccupied. They think of something else.
1. These Pharisees were evidently stunned by our Lord’s inquiry.
2. We meet those in our time who have reached no convictions worth recording.
3. It is not the part of a wise man to miss such a question as this.
II. Some do thine; and now it is of much importance that we inquire what they thine.
1. There is a historic ideal of Christ. This admits the facts of His life.
2. There is a theologic ideal of Christ. A cold dogmatism is the result.
3. There is a poetic ideal of Christ. One imagines a Jesus to suit himself; the result is mystic or emotional.
4. There is an evangelic ideal of Christ. A sacrifice for sin. It holds all the history; receives the theology; accepts the poetry; it recognizes the atonement.
III. Let us ask what this will do for us?
1. Observe, then, how thinking affects the character; ideals control life. Observe also that one may study his ideal through his personal experience and character; and that is the safest way. What is your notion of Christ doing for you?
3. Observe that the only safety for a young believer is found in accepting the scriptural Christ for his all in all.
4. Observe how pitifully the the world’s hero-worship contrasts with the Christian’s love.
5. Observe that in after ages the question will be reversed; then it will be of the highest moment to ask, What does Christ think of me? (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Christ not thought about
I once asked a man what he thought, and he replied frankly, “I suppose I never do think of Jesus Christ.” Then I inquired when he was born. He gave the date-1843. “B.C. or A.D.?” I kept on. He smiled, as if he conjectured I might deem him an antediluvian. But I asked soberly, “Before Christ or after Christ?” He was silent, and I continued, “Have you been dating letters for twenty intelligent years without even reflecting that you were daily commemorating the nativity of Jesus Christ? Have you actually formed no opinion concerning that personage whose advent among men changed the reckoning of time, whose birthday shook the race into a new era, as His crucifixion shook the planet with a new earthquake?” (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Who a man’s parents were ordinarily makes very little difference to us. We gauge the man according to his own ability and efficiency, without reference to his origin. Our estimate of Shakespeare or of Bacon is no greater because we know their ancestry. But the case is otherwise with Christ. His practical relation to the world is bound up with His origin. His life suggests, and words lay claim to, a superhuman lineage; and it bears very directly upon the living and thinking of all of us, whether He be indeed born Lord of men and angels, co-equal with God, or whether He be no more than a man like unto ourselves. It makes the difference between worship and admiration; between allegiance and partial adherence; between implicit trust and critical discrimination; between passionate enthusiasm and cool respect. So it behoves us to press the question in this direction; “What think ye of Christ? Is He the Son of God or not?” (Marvin R. Vincent, D. D.)
The test question
I. Look at some things about Christ it is well for you to think of.
1. Think of Him as a Prophet.
2. Think of Him as Priest.
3. Think of Him as King, the immortal, the invisible.
4. Think of Him as qualified for these offices by uniting in Himself the nature of the Deity and the nature of man.
II. Reasons why you should think of Christ.
1. That you may know God.
2. That we may think rightly of ourselves.
3. That you may have faith. Faith comes through thinking. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
The responsibility of thought
He holds all responsible for their thoughts. The question is not how do you act, how do you treat Christ, but what think ye of Christ? The seed is held responsible for the harvest, the child for the man, the thought for the act, the character. Christ declared that he who lusted and bated was an adulterer, a murderer. A thought to the mind of God is a thing. The first requirement of education is that the man shall regulate his thoughts. Says the Apostle: “Whatsoever things are true” (Philippians 4:8). The thought is of first importance. Every harmony that moves the heart of men first swayed the soul of some one as an unexpressed thought. So it is of sculpture and of painting. The thought went before the creation of the universe. The philosopher strives to find out the things which do not appear from those which do appear. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
What think ye of Christ?-
I. That Christianity challenges human thought. It is a system of thought; its first impulse is to set the mind at work. You will find in all systems of error a tendency to prevent men from thinking. Tyrants do not wish their people to think. Man is not only to think of things on earth, but of things in heaven. How elevating the character of the thought; it travels to the spiritual and invisible.
II. The effect which the thoughts he. Gives has upon literature. The thoughts of Christ are the thoughts that give power to the world. The people who worship Christ are the great inventors and law-givers to our earth.
III. Where Christ is received as divine, humanity becomes dignified and ennobled; for if Christ was Divine, the human nature may be nearly joined to God. Man is lifted up from grovelling appetites, and becomes the prospective inhabitant of eternity; heir to a throne. Christ connected with human nature sanctifies it.
IV. Note one prophecy. Isaiah saw Him as a child that was born, a son given, called Wonderful, etc. These characteristics of Christ are all fulfilled in Christianity. Christianity was small at first. The cry of a child was heard; then it grew strong like a son, coming to grasp the government; and then it was wonderful. Then as the everlasting Father it is full of pity. “What think ye of Christ?” When we look at Him personally He is our Saviour. Whatever we think I know what others think; the angels, “Glory to God in the highest,” etc. What do the host of the departed think: “Unto Him that loved us,” etc. (Bishop Simpson.)
The God-man-Jesus Christ
That Christ was lineally descended from David, and that as such, He had the body and the mind and the heart of a man, is a historical fact. That body, first natural, then spiritual, became at His ascension a glorified body; but none the less it was the identical body. Christ is now in heaven. “The son of David”-a man-what is the result of that.
I. Whatever He came to this earth to do is finished and accepted, else He would not be resting there.
II. His presence there in manhood shows what manhood is capable of, what human nature may become.
III. There-in that man Christ, David’s son-we have a brother. What a possession-brotherhood in heaven.
1. He is there as a representative man. On the cross He was our substitute, not a representative. Now He is not a substitute, but a representative man.
2. He is pledged as the forerunner of us all.
3. So on earth and in heaven He is David’s son and David’s Lord. If Christ be man in heaven, no less He is God.
4. And now all that this man died to purchase, He now lives as God to give. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Christ’s solution of David’s assertion
I. The Jews had not the slightest difficulty in answering that Christ was David’s son. They had learned that all their lives. Natural that He should come from the nation’s greatest man. We all have our pictures for the future, and they correspond to Israel’s Christ in the part they perform in our lives. Whose sons are they to be? They are to be born of human exertion. The force of human exertion is all around us, and most of us owe all we have to it. It is the parent of great results in the world.
II. Human exertion is not all. David called Christ his “Lord.” “The Lord said unto my Lord.” They had magnified David and his greatness and his power so highly, that the thought of somebody being over him and having a right to command him did not form a very prominent feature in their conception of him; and yet they would have acknowledged that he had a Lord. For that, after all, is an essential of our thought in connection with everything. We all want God for a finish to our ideas, even if we do not want Him practically. If we are thinkers, we like God as representing to us the oneness of our system of thought. He forms a sort of easy transition from one line of thought-to another. The scientific man calls his God law or nature or some such vague term, and he magnifies it very much in all his thoughts and expressions. His Christ, his great ideal, is a lord to him-it is above all that he does. Another man makes his God the summary of all that is beautiful: he loves music or art, and the idea of God represents to him the perfection of that feeling of which he just catches a glimpse when he is wrapped up in one or other those pursuits. God stands to him for that wonderful effect which he cannot explain. Another man is busy with commonplace things; perhaps he sees much of the wickedness of the world, and he likes to think that there is a place where everything is better-that there is one who is not assailed, or even reached, with all that troubles him. He likes to think that there is one who realizes all that is good and pure, which he is sure exists, but in which his circumstances do not allow him to have a very great share. He holds to Christ as his Lord. He has one Christ whom he is to produce who is to be his son: he is working for that every day in the rush of life’s battles: he has another Christ who is his Lord-a pure, a high, a noble ideal, far above him: his Lord. Religion supplies just that element of romance to life which we feel the want of, for there is little enough of romance in human exertion, after the novelty of some new effort is over. To many men that thought of God as the great mysterious Lord of life-that thought of a coming power, a Christ as one above and beyond us-is just what they need and hold to, because their life is so busy. It is the dreamers who generally supply the infidels; they do not feel the want of a thought superior to this world so much as the men of affairs who will not let this idea of God the Lord depart from their creed, but hold to it because their thought needs it, little as their lives may use it. We have seen that men do hold these two thoughts of the power that is in the world, and that is to save it. Now, Christ’s question is seen in all its importance. It was, Can you hold these two together? David did; he called the same person Son and Lord; he worked to bring forth the Messiah by his great and powerful life, and yet all the time he knew that Messiah was his Lord. Whatever can combine these two ideas is the true Christ: that, and that only, can save the world. We separate these things. The things we work for, in our best moments, we will not acknowledge to be our Lord; She things we worship, the things we acknowledge to be great and pure, we forget when we get out at our work. Our sons are not our lords; our lords are not our sons. Hence, we have no true idea of Christ. Till our practical life, our life of human energy, and our thoughtful, our spiritual life, our life of aspiration, are at one, there is no hope of a real salvation for us. The flesh and the spirit are warring against each other, and that contest is wearing us out. Go tell that man who it working so hard to make a fortune, that that is all he is good for, that he has no thought above money, and he will say you insult him; he will tell you that all that work is only a means-he wants to make the fortune, but he has higher motives: and he will talk vaguely of doing good with it. He is the father of one thing, but he acknowledges another thing as lord. Who shall unite these two in our life? Who is our Christ? That is our Saviour’s pointed question. Have we the right idea in searching for a great Deliverer? Only God, in connection with earth, can supply such a want. We shall appreciate that as soon as we see the demand. For, let our object come from the earth, from ourselves, from our fellow-men, and it may stimulate our exertions-it may make us work hard. But we are lords of this earth, we are equal to our fellow-men, and so such an object cannot be our lord-and the best part of us, the cry for something higher, remains unsatisfied. It cannot be the pure thought of God as above us, as apart from us, God the pure and holy One: for, then, how can it be the son of any man, however great and high; how can it call upon our exertions for their assistance in its appearance upon the earth? We are almost driven to give up this idea of a Christ, so difficult does it seem to be to satisfy it; and we go to asking little unimportant questions, and erecting smaller tests as the Pharisees did, or letting the thing drift along unsettled. Jesus claims to be the one that fills this important requirement, and tells us that we must get back to that idea of a Christ before We can appreciate Him; we must answer that old difficulty of David’s. He is the Son of David, and the Son of every high and noble character who looks for Him. He came of David’s line; He was the fruit of the kingdom which David planted; He carried out into fulness all the character and acts of David’s life; He fulfilled all the prophecies and aspirations of David’s Psalms. We all know that, if we understand the facts of our Bible at all. But that line of historical facts is but the expression of the fact that He is the Son of all high devoted energy. Christ is to succeed in the world by our energy consecrated to Him. He calls on us to labour for and with Him. Christian character is produced-not by being forced upon us from without, but by the quickening of our own being-that it may bring forth more of Christ in the world. Christ is among us; His life was earthly in all its development; it was His life on earth and among men that made Him Christ. He was David’s Lord-far above David in every respect. We read the story of the two lives of David and Jesus, and we never think of doubting which was the life of the Master. (A. Brooks, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 22". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34