Wednesday, June 7th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
The Biblical Illustrator The Biblical Illustrator
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 5". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tbi/ matthew-5.html. 1905-1909. New York.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 5". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
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And taught them.
I. Who they are, not the rich, gay, self-asserting, satisfied. It. Their peculiar felicity.
III. Their beneficent influence.
1. One effect of such a character is to provoke resistance.
2. But there comes out a more pleasing effect, “salt,” “light.”
3. Is your character such as the Saviour describes? (Sermons by the Monday Cloth.)
Jesus Christ was every way ennobled and qualified for the work of the ministry.
I. Christ was an intelligent preacher. He
(1) had the spirit without measure (John 3:34);
(2) Knew how to speak a word in due season, when to humble, when to comfort. He
(3) understood what doctrine would best suit with them; as the husbandman can tell what sort of grain is proper for such a soil.
II. Christ was a powerful preacher. He
(1) spake with authority;
(2) could set men’s sins before them, and show them their very hearts.
(3) He preached to the conscience;
(4) breathed as much zeal as eloquence: He often touched upon the heart-strings.
III. Christ was a successful preacher.
1. He had the art of converting souls.
2. Many believed on Him.
IV. Christ was a lawful preacher.
(1) He had His unction from His Father, so
(2) His mission. (Thomas Watson.)
Christ expounds on the mount. From whence observe that Christ’s ministers, according to His pattern, must embrace every opportunity of doing good.
I. Their commission.
(1) God hath entrusted them as ambassadors. As an ambassador waits for a day of audience, and then faithfully and impartially delivers the mind of his prince, so
(2) Christ’s ministers, having a commission delegated to them to negotiate for souls, should be glad when there is a day of audience, that they may
(3) impart the mind and will of Christ to His people.
II. Their titles.
1. God’s seeds-men (1 Corinthians 9:11). Therefore they must upon all occasions use the blessed seed of the Word.
2. Stars: therefore they must shine by word and doctrine, in the firmament of the Church.
3. Christ calls them the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), therefore they must be always giving forth their lustre. (Thomas Watson.)
I. Christ’s ministers must catch at all occasions of doing good to others, in regard of the work they are about, and that is, saving of souls.
1. The soul is a flower of eternity, here in the bud, in heaven fully ripe and blown.
2. It is one of the richest pieces of embroidery God ever made; the understanding bespangled with light; the will invested with liberty; the affections, like musical instruments, tuned with the finger of the Holy Ghost.
3. The soul is Christ’s partner, the angels’ familiar. Oh, how zealously industrious should Christ’s ministers be to save these souls!
II. Christ’s ministers, seeing the multitude must ascend the mount, because so many emissaries of Satan wait to subvert souls.
1. Ministers must not only be pastors, but praeliatores; in one hand holding the
(1) bread of life, and feed the flock of God; in the other hand they must hold the
(2) sword of the Spirit, and fight against error.
III. Christ’s ministers should wait for all opportunities of soul service.
(1) Never did pilot meet with so many euroclydons and cross winds in a voyage as the
(2) spiritual pilots of God’s Church do, when they are transporting souls to heaven. (Thomas Watson.)
I. Some hearers have bad memories like leaking vessels; all the precious wine of holy doctrine poured in, runs out presently. Ministers cannot find a truth so fast as others can lose it.
(1) How many truths have they been robbed of which might have been so many death-bed cordials!
(2) If the Word preached slides so fast out of the memory, ministers had need go oftener up the preaching mount, that at least some truth may abide.
II. The ears of many hearers are stopped with cares of the world, that the Word preached will not enter.
(1) If a man be in a mill, though you speak never so loud to him, he doth not hear you for the noise of the mill.
(2) We preach to men about matters of salvation, but the mill of worldly business makes such a noise that they cannot hear.
(3) Therefore ministers need often ascend the mount, and lift up their voices like a trumpet, that the deaf ear may hear what the Spirit saith to the Churches.
III. Others have a stone in their hearts. Ministers must, if possible, pierce the heart of stone. When the earth is sun-scorched, it is so hard and crusted together that a shower of rain will not soften it; there must be shower after shower before it will be moist or fertile. So the hardened heart oft needs precept upon precept. Our doctrine must distil as dew, etc. (Deuteronomy 32:2). They that are teachers shall shine-not as lamps or tapers, but as stars; not as planets, but fixed stars in the firmament of glory for ever. (Thomas Watson.)
I. The illustrious personage introduced to us.
1. He is wonderful in Person.
2. His extraordinary condescension.
3. His deep humiliation.
4. The work He came to accomplish.
II. The interesting objects which attract His attention. “The multitudes,” etc. Many circumstances rendered them interesting.
1. They were God’s creatures.
2. They were of the human race.
3. They were endowed with rational faculties.
4. They were immortal creatures.
5. They were the creatures He came to save.
III. The line of conduct which our Lord pursued.
1. “He went up into a mountain;” convenient for Him, and free from noise.
2. “He sat down.” The priests of the Mosaic economy sat down to deliver their instructions.
3. He opened His mouth and taught.”
(1) What did He teach? Purity of worship; pure morality.
(2) How did He teach? With simplicity; with authority; with tenderness. Give attentive ear to all our Lord has taught; be doers of the Word. (J. Jordan.)
Christ a Teacher
I. The character of Jesus as a Teacher. Greater than the prophets or the angels. He possessed infinite knowledge and wisdom, holiness and truth, goodness and love, condescension and patience. He enforced and ratified all by Divine power and authority.
II. The subjects of His instructions. They were all important, chiefly practical, perfect and abiding.
III. The claims of Christ as a Teacher. Profound reverence, intense attention, highest gratitude, prompt obedience. (Types and metaphors.)
A concise view of the beatitudes
They all agree in three things.
1. They are all spiritual.
2. They are all unpopular.
3. They are all present. (F. Wagstaff.)
I. Happiness. Nine of these verses begin with “blessed.” The meaning of that word. Jesus came to bring happiness (Luke 2:14). “How to be happy” is everybody’s question. Jesus answers it in these “‘ beatitudes.”
II. True happiness is within. Not in pleasure, wealth, etc.
III. This happiness is endowed with many promises.
IV. This happiness may continue in adverse circumstances (vers. 10-12).
V. Such happiness is diffusive (vers. 13-16). (W. O. Simpson.)
The Christian character
I. Christian character, or the proper disposition for Christ’s disciples.
II. The influence which such character is sure to exert.
III. The persecutions which such characters must expect to meet with.
IV. The effort we must make to secure the exertion of good influence. Learn
(1) That the world may honour the strong and self-asserting, but Christ honours the meek;
(2) that only the penitent and the humble can receive forgiveness;
(3) that those who are forgiven will want to be made pure and righteous;
(4) that they must not wander if earnest piety brings outward persecution; and
(5) that if we have won any graces and virtues we must earnestly watch over them, and nourish them, lest they should be lost.
Poor in spirit.
Poor in spirit
I. Examine the character here spoken of.
1. We should not confound the poor in spirit with the poor in worldly circumstances.
2. We are not to associate the mean-spirited with the poor in spirit.
3. We are not to understand that the poor in spirit are poor in spirituality. Poorness of spirit involves-
II. In what their blessedness consists.
1. Theirs are the privileges of the Church on earth; reconciliation; illumination; communion; joy.
2. The felicities of the Church in heaven. (J. Jordan.)
The blessedness of the poor in spirit
I. By the poor in spirit are meant those who have been convinced of their spiritual poverty. All without Christ are wretched, blind, naked, poor. They are sensible of their wants; the higher their attainments, the deeper their humiliation. Have high thoughts of Christ. We are not to understand the poor in this world; not the poor-spirited or cowardly in the service of Christ; not the excessively timid and poor-spirited.
II. In what does their blessedness consist? By whom was this assurance given? By Him who is the source of all blessings. They are heirs of the kingdom of peace, righteousness, and joy. (D. Rees.)
Poverty of spirit
1. Do not misjudge a Christian’s expression of lowliness, for these are genuine expressions of poverty of spirit.
2. So far as you find restfulness and complacency in your own attainments, you may doubt the reality of your growth.
3. Poverty of nature rather than poverty of spirit may be revealed by censoriousness.
4. The Holy Spirit alone can correct self-ignorance; from His illumination will result genuine poverty of spirit. (J. T. Duryea, D. D.)
A few considerations which may serve to cherish this spirit
I. Let us think much on the character of God as shown to us in His Holy Word.
II. Let us be careful to separate any good intentions which we may find springing up in our hearts from ourselves, and ascribe them to God’s Holy Spirit.
III. Let us be watchful against occasions of pride.:IV. Another great step to the attainment of humility, is to forget those things which are behind, and press onward to those before.
V. We must be ever looking at the Cross. (H. Alford, M. A.)
The blessedness of the poor in spirit
1. The promises of the gospel belong to them.
2. They enjoy the means of grace.
3. In the Christian conflict the humble man has all the advantage. (H. Alford, M. A.)
The poor in spirit
I. Some things which must be rejected as not intended by Christ. It is not a mere peculiarity of temperament-not the obsequiousness and meanness often associated with poverty-not the simple fact of being poor-not voluntary religious poverty.
II. The features of spiritual poverty.
1. The conditions: In a spiritual sense all are poor.
2. The state of mind-poor in spirit, implying great humbling-difficult of attainment, so repugnant to the flesh, so opposed to our fancied excellence.
III. The blessing promised. It is the spirit in which the kingdom is to be received (Matthew 18:1-5). Is the spirit of the Master (Philippians 2:1-12). Blessed with all the titles and riches of the kingdom (James 2:5). Is the essence of a filial spirit. (W. Barker.)
Blessedness is the perfection of a rational creature; it is the whetstone of a Christian’s industry; the height of his ambition; the flower of his joy; the desire of all men.
I. Let us so deport ourselves that we may express to others that we do believe a blessedness to come, by seeking after an interest in God, and that our union with God and the chief good makes us blessed.
II. Let us proclaim to the world that we believe in blessedness to come, by living blessed lives; walk as become the heirs of blessedness. Let us lead blessed lives, and so declare plainly that we seek a country (Hebrews 11:14). (Thomas Watson.)
You may as well expect fruit to grow without a root, as the other graces without this; till a man be poor in spirit he cannot mourn.
I. Till we are poor in spirit we are not capable of receiving grace.
1. God doth first empty a man of himself, before He pours in the precious wine of His grace.
2. None but the poor in spirit are within Christ’s commission.
II. Till we are poor in spirit, Christ is never precious.
(1) Before we see our own wants we never see
(2) Christ’s worth.
(3) He that wants bread, and is ready to starve, will have it, whatever it cost; bread he must have, or he is undone;
(4) So to him that is poor in spirit, that sees his want of Christ, how precious is the Saviour i
III. Till we are poor in spirit we cannot go to heaven.
(1) The great cable cannot go through the eye of the needle, but let it be untwisted and made into small threads, then it may.
(2) Poverty of spirit untwists the great cable;
(3) Makes a man little in his own eyes, and now an entrance shall be made unto him. (Thomas Watson.)
I. He that is poor in spirit is weaned from himself.
1. The vine catcheth hold of everything that is near, to stay itself upon. There is some bough or other, a man would be catching hold of to rest upon; how hard it is to be brought quite off himself.
II. He that is poor in spirit is a Christ-admirer.
1. He sees himself wounded, and, as the wounded deer runs to the water, so he thirsts for the water of life.
2. “Lord,” saith he, “give me Christ, or I die.”
III. He that is poor in spirit is ever complaining of his spiritual estate.
1. He ever complains, “I want a broken heart, a thankful heart.”
2. He mourns he hath on more grace.
IV. He that is poor in spirit is lowly in heart.
2. He blusheth more at the defects of his graces, than others do at the excess of their sins.
V. He that is poor in spirit is much in prayer.
1. Ever begging for spiritual alms.
2. Will not away from the gate, till he have his dole.
VI. The poor in spirit is content to take Christ upon His own terms.
1. Sees himself lost without Christ.
2. Willing to have Him upon His own terms.
VII. He that is poor in spirit is an exalter of free grace.
1. He blesses God for the least crumb that falls from the table of free grace.
2. He magnifies mercy, and is thankful. (Thomas Watson.)
Poverty of spirit
Christ begins with this, and we must begin here if ever we be saved. Poverty of spirit is the foundation stone on which God lays the superstructure of glory. There are four things may persuade Christians to be poor in spirit:-
I. This poverty is your riches.
1. You may have the world’s riches, and yet be poor.
2. You cannot have this poverty, but you must be rich.
3. Poverty of spirit entitles you to all Christ’s riches.
II. This poverty is your nobility.
1. God looks upon you as persons of honour.
2. He that is wile in his own eyes, is precious in God’s eyes.
3. The way to rise is to fall.
4. God esteems the valley highest.
III. Poverty of spirit doth sweetly quiet the soul.
(1) When a man is brought of himself to rest on Christ, what a
(2) blessed calm is in the heart!
IV. Poverty of spirit paves a causeway for blessedness.
1. Are you poor in spirit? You are blessed. (Thomas Watson.)
The kingdom for the poor in spirit.
Here is comfort to the people of God.
I. God hath provided them with a kingdom.
1. A child of God is oft so low in the world that he hath not a foot of laud to inherit; he is poor in purse, as well as poor in spirit.
2. Here is a fountain of consolation opened.
3. The poorest saint who hath lost all his golden fleece is heir to a kingdom.
II. This kingdom excels all the kingdoms and principalities of the world.
III. The hope of this kingdom, saith Basil, should carry a Christian with courage and cheerfulness through all his afflictions; and it is a saying of Luther’s “The sea of God’s mercy, overflowing in spiritual blessings, should drown all the sufferings of this life.”
IV. What though thou goest now in rags! Thou shalt have thy white robes. What though thou art fed like Daniel, with pulse, and hast coarser fare! Thou shalt feast when thou comest to the kingdom. Here thou drinkest the water of tears; shortly thou shalt drink the wine of paradise. Be comforted with the thoughts of a kingdom. (Thomas Watson.)
I. Who are meant by the poor in spirit? To the poor in spirit, or those that possess a spirit of poverty, the text annexes a blessedness, and promises a reward.
II. What are the proper virtues of a poor and low estate, such as every man, whether high or low, rich or poor, is bound to endeavour after?
(4) Trust and hope in God. (Bishop Ofspring Blackall, D. D.)
Virtues taught by a state of poverty of spirit are
(1) Industry. They that want nothing think it needless to labour;
(4) Contempt of the world. (Sir William Davies, Ban. , D. D.)
Neither indigence nor wealth in itself has the least connection with real religion.
I. Poverty of spirit consists in A deep conviction of guilt and depravity, before a pure and holy Being.
(1) By the entrance of God’s Word into the mind, and the
(2) triumph of His grace in the soul, we become “poor in spirit.”
(3) When conviction flashes in the conscience of a sinner, when he sees the
(4) number of his sins,
(5) strength of his corruptions, and
(6) weakness of his resolutions, then this disposition is implanted in him. Already he hath a beginning of blessedness in his breast,
II. Poverty of spirit consists in humility through every stage of the Christian’s pilgrimage.
1. It commences with a deep sense of sin, guilt, and desert of punishment.
2. It is the vital principle of the believer’s spiritual constitution.
3. It grows with his grace.
4. Increases with the increase of his knowledge in God.
5. As he becomes a father in Christ, he will become a little child in his own estimation.
6. The most eminent Christian is the most humble.
7. His humility exalts him, and makes him great.
III. Poverty of spirit includes contentment with the allotments of Providence.
1. It is opposed to the restlessness of ambition, and the haughtiness of pride.
2. It turns away from that “covetousness which is idolatry.”
3. It does not eagerly and improperly desire the honours and riches of this world.
4. “Having food and raiment,” it has learned to be contented therewith.
Such an elevation of soul should be acquired, and such a spirit of cheerful contentment should be cultivated by all who have taken on them the Christian name. (J. E. Good.)
There may be pride in poverty as well as in wealth
There was a story in old times told of a severe, cynical philosopher, visiting the house of one who was far his superior in genius as in modesty. He found the good philosopher living in a comfortable house, with easy-chairs and pleasant pictures round him, and he came in with his feet stained with dust and mud, and said, as he walked upon the beautiful carpets, “Thus I trample on the pride of Plato.” The good philosopher paid no attention at first, but returned the visit, and when he saw the ragged furniture and the scanty covering of the floor of the house in which the other ,ostentatiously lived, he said, “I see the pride of Diogenes through the holes in his carpet.” Many a one there is whose pride is thus seen by his affecting to be without it; many a one whose poverty, whose modesty in spirit, can best be appreciated by seeing how the outward comforts and splendour of life can be used by him without paying any attention to them. (Dean Stanley.)
Poverty of spirit conducive to prayer.
Never pauper pleaded more at your gate for some gift of charity than he does. And because he has nothing but what he receives, therefore he is always asking. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
They that mourn.
The mourners who are not entitled to the blessings here named
I. Those who indulge the sorrow of discontent.
II. The inordinate sorrow for worldly losses.
III. Sorrow for wounded pride.
IV. A despairing spirit as to their acceptance with God. Those who are blessed:-
1. There is a mourning arising from a sense of having offended God.
2. Those who mourn under the afflicting dispensations of God’s providence.
3. A few words to those who enjoy worldly contentment: you are no mourners.
4. May God give us grace to mourn so as to be comforted. (H. Alford, M. A.)
I. What we are to understand by the mourning mentioned.
1. It is not the mourning of a melancholy disposition.
2. It is not sorrow over temporal distress.
3. It is not sorrow in adversity.
4. It is not sorrow because of disappointed hopes. It arises purely from religion.
II. What are the causes of this mourning?
1. Sin is one-
(1) Because it dishonours God;
(2) Because it cleaves to himself.
(3) The prevalence of sin causes him to mourn
(4) because of the punishment it shall receive.
2. Another cause of his mourning is the absence of spiritual joys.
3. Another cause is the imperfect and afflicted state of the Church.
III. The import of the gracious promise made by the Saviour.
1. Spiritual mourners shall be comforted by an assurance of their personal interest in Christ.
2. By the assurance that the causes of their present mourning shall be removed.
3. By the expression of Divine approbation.
4. If the Christian be thus comforted here, what must be his comfort in heaven?
1. How mistaken is the world in its decisions! It supposes the mourner miserable; he only has joy.
2. Are you a spiritual mourner? (J. Jordan.)
The blessed mourners
I. Their character. We do not say that piety is never clothed in the garb of sorrow. The things which excite grief in the ungodly cause it in the godly. But while the sorrow is common, they do not mourn in the same spirit. Sorrow for sin chiefly meant in the text: no source of sorrow equal to this. Mourn for the sins of others; their own small attainment in grace.
1. Their sorrow is sincere.
2. It is bitter, not superficial.
3. It is godly.
4. They mourn in faith.
II. Their blessedness.
1. They may think that they are far from being in a blessed state.
2. By whom shall they be comforted? By God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
3. How shall comfort be imparted to them? By clear views of Christ and of His grace, etc.
4. By what means does God usually comfort the mourners? Prayer, worship, work, converse, sacrament. (D. Rees.)
The blessedness of sanctified sorrow
I. What that mourning is which Christ thus pronounces blessed. Not every kind of mourning. There is the sorrow of the world that worketh death:-
1. Such is the mourning that springs from a bad source. From pride or discontent.
2. Such is the mourning that is the expression of a bad spirit. But
(1) Blessed are they who mourn for themselves;
(2) Who mourn for their Christian brethren;
(3) Who mourn for the Church;
(4) Who mourn for the world.
II. What is the blessedness of that comfort which the redeemer here assures us is attached to this mourning.
1. It is present and positive.
2. There are comparative and contrasted blessings connected with this sorrow; the situation of such is less dangerous than that of others.
3. It is less equivocal than that of others. “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.”
4. This blessedness is peculiar to themselves. (Dr. T. Raffles.)
Zion’s mourners comforted
Administration of Divine comfort to the subjects of godly contrition, the benevolent purpose of Messiah (Isaiah 61:3; Luke 4:18). Immediately on entering His ministry the prediction was accomplished.
I. The mourners addressed. The nature, cause, and evidences of their sorrow.
II. The consolation promised. Spiritual, seasonable, abundant, gracious (2 Chronicles 30:9; Isaiah 55:7-9; Hosea 6:1; Zechariah 1:3-4; Luke 15:7-10; Luke 17:21; Luke 17:24; Luke 17:32). (Anon.)
I. The mourning intended. Not murmuring, natural sorrow, or grief, but the sorrow connected with sin-“godly sorrow”-the mourning in the house of affliction, and mourning in Zion-sighing over the abominations of the people, etc.
II. The blessing promised. The sorrow, whatever its nature, shall not overwhelm. The comfort is certain. (W. Barker.)
I. What is the sorrow that is blessed? Not the vulgar sorrow that every man feels, etc. But-
1. Sorrow at the recollection and the sense of sin-for sin rather than for the consequences-secret sins-sin seen in the light of Christ’s countenance-”godly sorrow.”
2. Sorrow because of the sins that we see around us (Jeremiah 9:18; Psalms 119:36). Sins of the world, and sins of the Church-inconsistency, etc.
3. Sorrow because of the little progress of Christianity.
4. That we are able to do so little.
5. Sorrow that makes one sometimes long to be “ absent from the body,” etc.
II. They who sorrow thus shall be comforted. There is a comfort in such sorrow, as well as beyond it. Such sorrow is blessed in its endurance, and at the close of it. It is Divine, complete, unalloyed comfort. (Dr. J. Gumming.)
The mourning here intended is that which arises from the due consideration of our own sins, and the sins of others.
I. Such was the godly sorrow of David (Psalms 51:4).
1. The same kind was that of the woman who “was a sinner,” and whose conversion is briefly related by St. Luke (chap. 7.).
2. Peter mourned when his Lord looked on him after his cruel denial. He went out and “wept bitterly.”
3. Such was the sorrow of the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 7:11).
II. The generous spirit of the Christian deeply mourns the sins of others.
1. Thus saith the pious king of Israel: “I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved,” etc.
2. Such was the lamentation of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:1-2).
3. The most perfect illustration of holy sorrow is seen in our Lord (Luke 19:41-42). (J. E. Good.)
The mourning which will entitle a man to blessedness hath these qualifications
I. It is spontaneous and free.
1. It must come as water out of a spring, not as fire from flint.
2. Tears for sin must be like the myrrh which drops from the tree freely, without cutting or forcing.
II. It is spiritual, that is when we mourn for sin more than suffering. We must mourn for sin as it is
(1) An act of hostility and enmity that
(2) affronts and resists the Holy Ghost;
(3) An ingratitude, in its unkindness against God;
(4) A privation that keeps good things from us, and hinders our communion with God.
III. It sends the soul to God. When the prodigal son repented, he went to his father.
IV. It is for sin in particular. There must, be a particular repentance before we have a general pardon.
V. It is with hope. Believing that though our tears drop to the earth, our faith must reach heaven.
VI. It is joined with self-loathing.
VII. It must be purifying. Our tears must, make us more holy. The waters of holy mourning are like the river Jordan, wherein Naaman washed, and was cleansed of his leprosy.
VIII. It must be joined with hatred of sin. We must not only abstain from sin, but abhor it. The dove hates the least feather of the hawk; a true mourner hates the least motion to sin.
IX. It is joined with restitution. If we have eclipsed the good name of others, we are bound to ask them forgiveness; if we have wronged them by unjust, fraudulent dealing, we must make them compensation.
X. It must be speedy.
XI. It must be constant. The waters of repentance must not overflow in the morning, at the first hearing of the gospel; and at mid-day, in the midst of health and prosperity, grow cold and be ready to freeze. It must be a dally weeping, a daily mourning. (Thomas Watson.)
Spiritual comforts are pure
They are not muddied with guilt, nor mixed with fear-they are the pure wine of the Spirit; what the mourner feels is joy, and nothing but joy. The comforts God gives His mourners are-
I. Sweet. The love of God shed into the heart is said to be better than wine (Song of Solomon 1:2).
II. They are holy. Divine comforts give the soul more acquaintance with God.
III. They are satisfying. They fill the heart and make it run over.
IV. They are powerful. Strong cordials.
1. They strengthen for duty.
2. Support, under affliction.
V. They are abiding; abound in us, and so abide ever with us. Worldly comforts are still upon the wing, ready to fly. The comforts of the Spirit are immortal and eternal. Oh, how rare and superlative are these comforts! (Thomas Watson.)
I. The grief which is here specified. It will be proper:-
1. To ascertain its cause.
(1) He is led to view the immense debt of obedience due to the blessed God as the Sovereign Ruler of the universe.
(2) The awful consequences attending the non-payment of this debt.
(3) His utter inability to make restitution.
2. To ascertain its character.
(1) It is voluntary and sincere; not forced or artificial.
(2) It is deep, not superficial.
(3) It is evangelical and spiritual.
(4) It is characterized by a hatred and an abandonment of sin.
II. The consolation with which it is associated. “They shall be comforted.” This intimates certainty as well as the futurity of the comfort. But some may ask-
1. What is this consolation? It arises from the satisfaction Christ has made; none so rich, free, and satisfying as this.
2. Whence does this comfort proceed? From the free favour of God.
3. How is this comfort applied? It is the work of the Holy Spirit. (R. May.)
I. A general idea of this Christian virtue. It is not that mildness of temper which is natural to some people. This amiable disposition is manifest
(1) In the closet;
(2)In the family;
(3) In the Church;
(4) In the sanctuary;
(5) In the world.
II. Reasons why we should attend to the cultivation of this virtue.
1. In order to be conformed to the example of the Son of God.
2. In order to refute the calumnies of the infidel.
3. In obedience to the Scriptures.
III. The inheritance which is connected with its possession.
1. The meek shall inherit the present earth, and be happy in it.
2. They shall inherit the new earth. (J. Jordan.)
Benedictions, or the blessed life
I. What constitutes a meek spirit? Not a natural quietness of character-amiableness. A meek spirit is a spirit of goodwill and clemency: is placid and calm amidst the vexations and cares of life (1 Peter 3:4); is tractable and submissive; forbearing and forgiving; bows to the rod of affliction.
II. The blessedness of this spirit. It is an evidence of our union to Christ-a unity with the spirit of the noble sufferers and martyrs of the past: enjoy the benefits of Divine providences “inherit the earth,” in a mystic sense, far superior to worldly possessions: enjoy a superior measure of the Spirit of God: shall in the end literally enjoy the earth. (W. Barker.)
There is a twofold meekness-towards God and towards man. Towards God implies two things.
I. Submission to His will.
1. Carrying ourselves calmly, without murmuring, under the dispensations of Providence.
2. Let God do what He will with me, I will submit.
II. Flexibility to His Word.
1. He is spiritually meek who conforms himself to the mind of God, and doth not quarrel with the instructions of the Word, but the corruptions of his heart.
2. How happy it is when the Word which comes with majesty is received with meekness. Meekness towards man consists in three things.
I. Bearing of injuries.
II. Forgiving of injuries.
III. Recompensing good for evil. (Thomas Watson.)
I. Conditions and circumstances.
1. In prosperity a meek, quiet, and humble spirit is not puffed up.
2. Does not esteem himself better because of his position.
3. Looks upon the good things he possesses as a gift from God.
4. Not as the reward of his own merit.
5. Not as the purchase of his own industry. He will consider that as much as he excels others in these outward gifts of fortune, so much they may excel him in the inward gifts of grace, in knowledge, in wisdom, in piety, and in virtue.
II. 1. In adversity, being of a meek and humble spirit, he will be contented with his condition.
2. Easy and quiet under all misfortune and affliction.
3. Will not envy those who are in a more flourishing condition: rather will rejoice thereat.
4. Though in want or pain, he will be glad that” others are at ease.
5. Would rather be miserable alone, than have sharers in his misfortune.
6. Will gladly accept and thankfully acknowledge help and relief from others.
III. A meek man will behave himself in relation to God, in a humble spirit.
1. Willing to be instructed by God.
2. Yielding a ready belief to all Divine revelations.
3. Cheerfully obedient to Divine command.
4. With prompt submission of self to the wisdom and will of God.
5. Patiently enduring inflictions and dispensations of God’s providence towards him.
IV. Meekness IN relation towards men consists in
(1) Owning the authority and dominion of our superiors;
(2) In acknowledging the equality of our equals;
(3) In thoughtfulness and care for our inferiors;
(4) In being free from malice towards those who have wronged us.
V. Blessed are the meek.
1. In that they have command over their passions.
2. In that they possess valour and fortitude.
3. In that they have everlasting peace of mind. (Bishop Ofspring Blackall, D. D.)
I. It is the fruit of that humbleness of spirit and sorrow for sin of which the preceding beatitudes speak.
(1) It flows from Christian humility and
(2) penitential sorrow. It is
(3) acquiescence with God’s ways;
(4) Resignation to His will; and
(5) Subjection of the mind and judgment to the revelation He has made of His character and grace.
II. It is not only meekness in relation to God, but also meekness in relation to man.
(1) It is kindness to adversaries;
(2) Gentleness to foes;
(3) Submission for the sake of peace, on all occasions where principles are not required to be compromised, or the conscience violated;
(4) It is s principle of Christianity; and
(5) the existence of vital, solid religion in the heart. (J. E. Good.)
The chief adversaries of meekness
1.That irritableness which comes from untrained or overspent nerves.
2. Pride is an indefatigable enemy of meekness.
3. Conscience is a great adversary, as the world works, of meekness; it finds conscience in its way. (H. W. Beecher.)
Meekness not insensibility
There is no discord possible on the bassviol to a string that does not exist, or that has not been brought to any tension. (H. W. Beecher.)
Meekness more effective than severity
Behold the barren field. Everything sleeps or is dead. Call, now, to the winds in January. Call now, to the sheeting snows in February to redeem the field and the forest, and all their violence falls short. Call for nature’s rudest forces, that walk the earth invisible in rugged power, or storms and winds, and what change can violence work upon the dead field and the waking forest? Yet there is a prophecy of silence in the south, and there are winds that wander, rim before the coming sun. Now the morning comes earlier and the evening lingers later. Now milder heavens; now come birds, singing victory; more light, longer days, gentler heat, and, behold, death is slain and June is here, and in her lap all falls. The storms can no longer touch, nor frosts destroy. And so shall be the advancing forces of love and meekness, but not in January nor in February, nor in the March, in which the world is now hying, but in June and summer. (H. W. Beecher.)
Meekness generally successful
Look at it. A very proud father has a son. He naturally governs him with rigour and peremptoriness. He finds out that the boy has, in his visitations, allied himself prematurely with a family with which it is very desirable there should not be a connection. On hearing of it he rages and storms; and his wife says to him, “My dear, don’t you know that if you undertake to oppose this thing in that way, you will do more harm than good? Don’t you know that if you are violent with the boy you will only ratify him in his determination? “He recognizes that fact, and calms down. He goes to the boy and says pleasantly, “Well, nay son, how is it with you? I hear that you have been visiting.” “Yes,” says the boy, “I have.” “Well, I am very glad of it; where have you been?” “In Mr. So-and-So’s family.” “All! there are many excellent things in that family. I suppose you have become acquainted with the young people?” “Yes, sir.” “And it is very natural that young people should become attached to each other.” So he goes on with the conversation in a spirit of sweetness and gentleness, till, by and by, he has brought the young man round, and drawn him away from these dangerous grounds and connections. (H. W. Beecher.)
Anthony Blanc’s meekness
Anthony Blanc, one of Felix Neff’s earlier converts, was very earnest in winning souls to Christ. The enemies of the gospel were angry at his success, and used alike scoffs and threats against him. One night, as he was returning home from a religious meeting, he was followed by a man in a rage, who struck him a violent blow on the head. “May God forgive and bless you!” was Anthony’s quiet and Christian rejoinder. “Ah!” replied his assailant, furiously, “if God does not kill you, I’ll do it myself!” Some days afterwards Anthony met the same person in a narrow road, where two persons could hardly pass. “Now I shall be struck by him again,” he said to himself. But he was surprised, on approaching, to see this man, once so bitter towards him, reach out his hand, and say to him, in a tremulous voice, “Mr. Blanc, will you forgive me, and let all be over?” Thus, this disciple of Christ, by gentle and peaceful words, had made a friend of an enemy.
A poor Christian man, illustrating this text, said, “I went through my lord’s park, and the great house looked so grand. Well, I said, ‘Bless the Lord, it is a fine house.’ I didn’t envy it, bless the Lord! but I seemed so to enjoy the great house. I said, ‘That’s mine, surely; I enjoy it, I do.’ Then the sheep looked so nice, and the cattle and the horses; and I said, ‘Bless the Lord! they are all my Father’s, and they are all mine.’ I didn’t want to have them, but I did enjoy them so. And the trees, and the grass, and the plantations, all looked so beautiful, I appeared to enjoy them so. I said, ‘Lord, they are all Lord-’s; but they’re all mine, too.’” And so they were. Well indeed would it have been for their proprietor, an unconverted man, had he been capable of enjoying them in the same sanctified manner. A missionary in Jamaica was once questioning the little black boys on the meaning of this text, and asked, “Who are the meek?” A boy answered, “Those who give soft answers to rough questions.” (Anecdotes.)
How different from the teaching of Christ is that of the great apostle of infidelity-David Hume!” Nothing,” says the latter, “carries a man through the world like a true, genuine, natural impudence.” The religion of a man whose morality is loose like this, could scarcely assume any other character than that of an unblushing scepticism and licentiousness.
They which do hunger and thirst.
I. A few features of the disposition here commended. The term righteousness is variously used.
1. Sometimes it signifies rectitude.
2. Sometimes imputed righteousness.
3. Sometimes personal righteousness. But here it means-
(1) A death unto sin;
(2) A renunciation of the world;
(3) A deliberate choice of God.
II. Trace this disposition to its legitimate source.
III. Attend to the gracious statement made respecting the possession of this disposition.
1. It implies that their desires shall be satisfied.
2. It implies a plenitude of satisfaction.
3. The text implies the stability of the promise, that this satisfaction is sure.
1. Is the disposition possessed by us?
2. Have you an ardent desire for righteousness. (J. Jordan.)
A test of heavenly citizenship
I. An object of Christian desire-righteousness. This is conformity to God’s will. God is righteous.
1. Personal purity.
2. It also takes the form of doing right.
II. This object is a matter of desire.
1. The desire for righteousness is present more or less in most men.
2. The attention is not drawn to its possession, but to the desire for it.
III. The attainment of this object. They shall have righteousness.
1. The desire for righteousness is met by the actual presence of sin. Jesus died that sin might be removed.
2. The desire for righteousness is met and apparently hindered by the moral feebleness of our moral nature. The Holy Ghost is given to him.
IV. The possession of this object is happiness. (W. Butcher.)
I. The vastness and intensty of the religious life. Hunger and thirst are primitive appetites; they cover life.
II. The glory Of the religious life. We assimilate the strength of what we feed on.
III. The progressiveness of the religious life.
IV. The satisfaction of the religious life. (T. T. Sherlock, B. A.)
1. Man may be measured by his desires.
2. Righteousness a supreme object of desire.
3. The desire is the measure of the supply.
4. A real desire culminates in action, hunger drives to work. (G. Elliot.)
The want of spiritual appetite
1. Desire is a condition and prophecy of religious attainments.
2. This law of desire explains our spiritual poverty.
3. This want of appetite for righteousness is the curse of mankind. (Am. Hem. Monthly.)
Longing for righteousness
I. He who would have the blessing promised in the text, must want righteousness-as a hungry man wants food. This tests the value of our superficial professions. In order to this longing he must perceive the intrinsic worth of the thing desired.
II. What is here meant by righteousness.
1. It is not the single virtue of justice or rectitude. It implies the essence of the thing, a state of mind and heart; a soil out of which all single virtues grow.
2. It is not merely a desire to see righteous-mess prevailing in the world at large.
3. It is a desire not merely for doing righteously, but for being righteous.
III. The result. I fear some are not hungering for righteousness, but for the rewards of righteousness. Worldly good cannot fill man. Intellectual attainment cannot. Goodness will satisfy. There is no condition where we cannot be satisfied in the enjoyment of righteousness. Goodness does not forsake a man. (E. H. Chaplin.)
I. The state or condition described.
1. What righteousness is it? God’s justifying righteousness. The necessity for it is deeply felt. This hungering is a special condition of mind, an indication of healthy, spiritual life.
II. The blessedness of this state of mind. Satisfied because it quenches the desire of sin. A mark of the Divine favour. Security and permanency of the blessing. Identical with that of the glorified in heaven. (W. Barker.)
I. What is this righteousness?
II. What is it that leads persons thus to hunger and thirst? A sense of insufficiency and dissatisfaction in all created things; a sense of guilt; a perception of the utter inefficacy of all human prescriptions to remove sin or supply righteousness; a discovery of that righteousness which is “ unto all and upon all that believe.”
III. Those who thus hunger and thirst are pronounced blessed. Because it is the evidence of a new nature-acceptance with God. They are drawn off from the disappointing and perplexing pursuits of the things of this world; they are “filled”-satisfied-with righteousness, happiness, and finally with the likeness of God, etc. We learn that real religion is a matter of personal experience. (Dr. J. Cramming.)
See here at what a low price God sets heavenly things; it is but hungering and thirsting.
I. Do but hunger and you shall have righteousness.
(1) Hunger less after the world and
(2) more after righteousness.
(3) Say concerning spiritual things: “Lord, evermore give me this bread.”
(4) Hunger after that righteousness which delivereth from death.
II. If we do not thirst here, we shall thirst when it is too late.
(1) If we do not thirst as David did (Psalms 42:2),
(2) we shall thirst as Dives did, for a drop of water.
(3) Oh, is it not better to thirst for righteousness while it is to be had, than to thirst for mercy when there is none to be had? (Thomas Watson.)
What an encouragement is this to hunger after righteousness! Such shall be filled. God chargeth us to fill the hungry (Isaiah 58:10). He blames those who do not fill the hungry (Isaiah 32:6). And do we think He will be slack in that which He blames us for not doing? God is a fountain. If we bring the vessels of our desires to this fountain, He is able to fill them. The fulness in God is:-
I. An infinite fulness.
(1) Though He fill us, yet He hath never the less Himself.
(2) As it hath its resplendency, so
(3) its redundancy. It is inexhaustible and fathomless,
II. It is a constant fulness.
1. The fulness of the creature is mutable. It ebbs and changeth.
2. God’s fulness is overflowing and everflowing.
3. It is a never-failing goodness.
III. God fills the hungry soul with-
1. Grace. Grace is filling because suitable to the soul.
2. Peace. Israel had honey out of the rock; this honey of peace comes out of the rock Christ.
3. Bliss. Glory is a filling thing. When a Christian awakes out of the sleep of death, then he shall be satisfied. Then shall the soul be filled brimful. (Thomas Watson.)
I. What is here meant by righteousness.
1. Actual and inherent righteousness; living a life in sincere and perfect obedience to all the laws of God.
2. Imputed righteousness.
II. What is it to hunger and thirst after righteousness?
1. TO contend fiercely and fight manfully against our spiritual adversaries.
2. To desire ardently and intensely for spiritual sustenance.
3. To discharge our duty in every point to the best of our skill and power.
4. To willingly suffer hunger, thirst, cold, nakedness, and the want of anything necessary for the support and comfort of life, rather than knowingly transgress any point of duty. (Bishop Ofspring Blackall, D. D.)
Soul starvation a sad and guilty thing
The utter starving of the soul, if we could see it as we see other things, would strike us as one of the saddest of things. When the shepherd, over in New York, had a house for the reception of orphan children, and on inspection it was found that the soup was very thin, that there was but little of it, that the food was most stingily dealt out, and that these children were gradually coming to be skin and bones by starvation charity, the whole city flamed with indignation. They threw open the door of the cell, and seized him by the throat, and pitched him in ignominiously. But look into your own soul and see how the things that are nearest to God are shut up in you. While your awakened appetites and passions are fully clothed, and are walking up and down the palace of your soul, having their own way, I hear a faint cry in some remote chamber thereof. It is conscience moaning and pleading for food; and. I hear the thundering rap of passions on the door as they say, “Hush! Be still! Are you never going to sleep? Will you never die?” In another quarter I hear the soul crying for food. “What ails you?” is the response; and a bone is thrown in for it to gnaw on. (Beecher.)
It is not merely the single virtue of justice or rectitude-in fact, no virtue is absolutely single, if we look at it closely. A man cannot really have one virtue, and but one, genuine and complete. He cannot have one without having all virtues and all graces, for no one virtue or grace is complete without the intermingling of the life and reciprocal action of all the rest. We make a great mistake if we suppose otherwise. There have been men who could play delightful music on one string of the violin, but there never was a man who could produce the harmonies of heaven in his soul by one-stringed virtue. Can a man be thoroughly and strictly honest, and at the same time be a selfish man? Can he be temperate. Suppose a man, for instance, pursuing a course of virtue, a course of temperance, or of rectitude, has the promise that he shall be wealthy, and that he shall have long life-shall make a fortune, and shall be respected. This is all very good; but what is the essence of all this’? It is in being righteous; that is the great blessing. So that if you have a long life, it is a righteous life; and if you have wealth, it is righteous wealth, as you make a righteous use and disposition of it. With this, any condition is blessed; without it, no condition is blessed. So the essence of all promises is in the possession of this intrinsic righteousness. (E. H. Chaplin.)
Moral hunger a developing energy
Now, the same law prevails in the mind. That is to say, outward activity grows from some sort of inward uneasiness or impulse. Hunger existing in the body works outwardly, first, into that industry which supplies it, and then enlarges gradually, and inspires a more complex industry. And so almost; all of life in its upper sphere proceeds from a kind of hunger which exists in the soul. Some yearning, or longing, or action, or some faculty developing itself and working to produce its appropriate gratification-this is the analogue; and the character, as formed by the faculties, answers to the industrial creations produced by sensations of hunger and thirst in the body. (Beecher.)
I. What is Christian mercy?
1. Its nature.
2. Its objects.
3. Its author.
4. Its design.
II. How is it exemplified?
1. In the forgiveness of enemies.
2. In various acts of kindness.
3. In deep concern and effort for the spread of the gospel.
III. What is the blessing which Christian mercy insures?
1. He will have mercy shown him from the subjects of his bounty.
2. A merciful Providence will attend the merciful Christian.
3. Mercy shall be shown him at the last day.
IV. A few observations to excite you to cherish a merciful disposition.
1. The more you abound in mercy, the more you are conformed to the precepts of the Scriptures.
2. The more you abound in mercy, the more will you resemble God.
3. The more we abound in mercy, the more eminently we appear to possess the spirit of Christ. (J. Jordan.)
The blessing of mercifulness
I. What is the character of this mercifulness? It is a quality exercised between man and man independent of written law, and which is not so much certain acts of forgiveness as a temper of the soul. It is a temper which makes him who has it not so much sorry that he has been injured, but sorry that the injurer should have the heart to do the wrong. All memory of wrong fades from him.
II. The reward. Christ did not mean a man to be merciful for the sake of obtaining mercy, but as a necessary result he would obtain it. Mercy is the reward of mercy. (S. A. Brooke.)
The sin of cruelty to animals
1. It is inconsistent with any just idea of the place assigned to man upon earth, and of the power granted to him over the other creatures, who occupy the same scene with himself.
2. It is out of harmony with the feelings and graces of character which ought to belong to all who profess the Christian faith.
3. It has a manifest tendency to pervert the entire moral nature of him who indulges it.
4. It is seen to be odious when we consider that the creatures against whom it is directed are those to whom man is most indebted for valuable service. (A. Goldie.)
I. What is implied in being merciful, and to whom does this character properly belong?
II. What is the blessedness promised?
III. The obligation we are under to be merciful. (Joseph Benson.)
The very first grace that grows, like a beautiful spring flower, on the ground of righteousness, is the grace of mercy, or compassion.
I. What is mercy, or compassion? It is sorrow at the suffering of a fellow-creature, rational or irrational, and, along with that sorrow, an earnest desire, if possible, to relieve it. It does not ask the question, “Is the sufferer of my nation, sect, party, or Church; does the man deserve relief?” It simply asks the question, “Does he suffer?” We are to go farther and to pity the sufferer as a sinner, and to show mercy to him simply because he is a sinner. This mercy is frequently enjoined in Holy Scripture, and always represented as the characteristic of the loftiest nature. This grace is obligatory upon all. In eider to exercise it, let us think of the mercy we have received.
II. The benediction pronounced upon it. Conscious joy. Special benedictions (Isaiah 58:6). Blessed because they are Godlike. “They shall obtain mercy”-from others in this world, and from God, even in this world, and at “ that day.” (Dr. J. Cumming.)
Let me exhort you to deeds of mercy, let your fingers drop with the myrrh of liberality, sow your golden seed, and ye shall reap an abundant harvest.
I. In Christ: labour that your persons may be in Christ.
1. The best works not springing from faith are lost.
2. That fruit is most sweet and genuine which is brought forth in the Vine (John 15:14).
3. Out of Christ all our alms-deeds are but the fruit of the wild olive; they are not good works, but dead works.
II. For Christ: for His sake, that you may testify your love to Him. Love mellows and ripens our alms-deeds, it makes them a precious perfume to God.
III. All works of mercy are to be done in humility. As the silkworm, while she weaves her curious works hides herself within the silk, and is not seen, so we should hide ourselves from pride and vainglory. (Thomas Watson.)
I. Are we wanting in this grace of mercy? Let us compare ourselves with God. God’s mercy is changeless, ours is fitful. God’s mercy is provident and thoughtful, ours capricious and thoughtless.
II. How may we hope to have this mercy supplied to us? In the redemption of the fallen world by the Son of God. This thoughtful, universal, and provident mercy is unblurred by single line.
III. Are we merciful in judgment of others? In our speech? Do we not take pleasure in sharp criticism? Are we merciful in consideration for others? Are we merciful employers? (Dr. Chalmers Smith.)
The exercise of mercy chiefly consists of two things.
I. To prevent any evil or mischief which we apprehend our neighbour to be in.
(1) By abstaining from all acts of cruelty or unmercifulness towards anybody or creature;
(2) By using our dominion or authority over others with tenderness and moderation;
(3) By considering our neighbour’s case as our own.
II. To endeavour to deliver others from difficulties, or at least to ease others of their burdens.
(1) By warning our neighbour;
(2) By friendly admonition. Thus preventing our neighbour falling into evil or mischief;
(3) To comfort others in sickness, sorrow, reproach, or disgrace;
(4) To disperse slanders and aspersions;
(5) To help the needy, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and take care of the poor. (Bishop Ofspring Blackall, D. D.)
Mercifulness a quality of the entire
Mercifulness, then, is a quality of the whole nature; a certain soft, sweet, tender, gentle, gracious atmosphere in which the whole man lives and breathes; in which he continually acts toward injury and wrong; and under its warm and sunny rays injury and wrong melt away day by day, like icebergs that come floating down into the tropical stream. And those are blest who have it. They live in soft sunshine of their own making, and in it all the simple charities of life, which are like the common flowers that adorn and make sweet the woods and fields, flourish until the whole world rejoices in the life of those who live by mercy. And their speech is delightful as the songs of birds, and their daily acts like the soft murmur of such streams as gently flow through meadows. In all this inward beauty of soul they are blest indeed, for mercy blesses him who gives it. (S. A. Brooke.)
The pure in heart.
Purity of heart
I. Purity of heart demands our attention.
1. It implies a change of heart.
2. It implies that the faculties of the soul are purified.
3. It implies the purity of the affections. 4, It implies the purity of the thoughts and desires.
5. It leads to purity of worship.
6. It leads to purity of life.
II. The blessedness promised to the pure in heart.
1. What is denoted by seeing God.
2. This vision will constitute the blessedness of the pure in heart. (J. Jordan.)
The blessedness of the pure in heart
I. Inquire into The meaning of purity of heart.
1. The words carry us into the inner regions of man’s being. At first sight they only suggest the absence of the impure. But, there is no purity apart from the absolute authority of God in the affections. Man is not made by negatives.
II. Purity of heart gives the vision of God. The phrase “see God” does not refer to any manifestation of His glory visible to the eye of sense. It is to the far deeper sight of the soul that Christ refers. Your best friend is not seen by the eye of the body; you see him spiritually, his qualities of mind and heart.
1. None but the pure in heart can see Him. It is useless to tell the selfish about the beauty of unselfishness; you might as well tell the blind about the glory of colour.
2. That to the pure in heart the full glory of the Divine nature reveals itself. God is light and love. These are seen by the pure soul.
III. The vision is its own exceeding blessedness.
1. It is blessed because to see God satisfies the longings of the heart.
2. Because it clothes life in glory.
3. Because it is the dawning of immortal hope. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)
I. Let us try to ascertain what this purity Is which is here so extolled. It was in Adam by nature-it is in us by grace, etc. In us it is as seed cast into the soil, etc. It is a living principle, ever powerful, ever resisted, yet never beaten, growing daily in aspirations and likeness, until it is made perfect by seeing Christ as He is, when we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. Constantly enjoined. Is true beauty. The qualification for heaven. The Holy Spirit its author. The heart its seat. Manifest in the outer life. Will ever be ready to disclose itself to God in prayer.
II. Such persons are blessed. In having this characteristic. Evidence of being amongst the people of God. To them all things are pure. “Shall see God”-in life’s trials, life’s prosperity, providential dealings, in all creation, in the sacred page, in ordinances, and, above all, in glory-transforming, satisfying, joyful. “Create in me,” etc. (Dr. J. Caroming.)
By the “heart” we are to understand the inward part of man, comprehending the mind and soul with all their faculties and affections, purposes and inclinations, the secret recesses into which mortal eye cannot penetrate.
I. The foliage and branches are of the same kind with the stock that bears them.
1. Before we can bring forth good fruit we must be renovated.
2. There may be the semblance of purity in the life when there is no real principle of holiness in the heart.
II. Purity is
(1) the mind renewed, the
(2) disordered spirit restored, and
(3) conformed to the “ image of God,” in righteousness and true holiness.
III. From the definition of the principle there are three things which it includes.
1. Frank and genuine sincerity in opposition to dissimulation and deceit.
2. Spiritual worship in opposition to that which is formal.
3. A holy and heavenly mind, in opposition to one that is polluted and sensual. (J. E. Good.)
I. A great privilege proposed by our Saviour to His followers. “They shall see God”-in this life and in heaven.
II. The qualification required for this enjoyment-parity of heart. Nature and necessity of heart-purity.
1. Try your hopes of heaven by this rule.
2. Follow after purity-heart and life. (Henry Grove.)
See here what is the beauty that sets off a soul in God’s eye: purity of heart.
I. Thou who art never so beautiful, art but a spiritual leper, till thou art pure in heart,
1. Therein God sees His own picture drawn.
2. Holiness is a beam of God.
II. Thou who art pure in heart hast the angel’s glory in thee, and the embroidery and workmanship of the Holy Ghost upon thee.
III. The pure heart is God’s paradise, where He delights to walk; it is His lesser heaven. The dove delights in the purest air; the Holy Ghost, who descended in the likeness of a dove, delights in the purest soul. How may this raise the esteem of purity! This is a beauty that, never fades! (Thomas Watson.)
I. Purity of heart stands in direct opposition to that external affectation of purity which is the offspring of hypocrisy.
1. Actions are the outward symbols or expressions of virtue and vice, not virtue and vice themselves.
2. Actions when separated from their motives are indifferent, but it is the disposition of benevolence by which the mind is actuated in which the virtue lies.
3. Words, like actions, when separated from their motives, are indifferent; but it is the inward malignity of soul from which the words proceed, in which the vice consists.
4. The form of purity, like that o! godliness without its power, is only a delusive counterfeit.
5. All external services and sacrifices are of no value without this internal purity.
II. Purity implies the absence of moral grossness. Whatever is defiled is essentially repugnant to the spirit of purity.
(1) By the law of nature clouds darken the face of the sky, fogs and vapours stagnate and corrupt the air.
(2) By the law of conscience and religion, moral blots and corruptions stain the beauty of the soul, and cast a shade upon its brightness.
III. Purity is an active and vigorous disposition, which incessantly prompts the soul in which it resides, to
(1) admire what is amiable;
(2) To approve what is excellent;
(3) To relish what is delicate;
(4) To pursue what is refined. Purity is the only way to blessedness-purity is blessedness itself. (David Lament, D. D.)
The man of heart blessed
So came these peaceful words of Jesus: Blessed, not the man of force, but the man of heart. (E. J. Haynes.)
A pure heart uses God’s creatures without injury
We stood, the day we left home to begin life for ourselves, amid all the “creatures” of God, as stands the druggist’s clerk on the first morning of his apprenticing, not knowing which is sweet, or sour, or would kill, or would make alive; aye, and with a perverted impulse for the wrong use of all. Behold that tree which nods at the church window. Sometimes there is too much moisture in the air; sometimes too much heat; poisons are at its root, its leaf, its stock. Yet so “pure” is the tree, so does it follow just God’s law, that it chooses and uses, not abuses, but fructifies by all. So amid all nature will be the really pure in heart; not that pure heart is all-wise, but it is so in harmony with God’s law, so far as it is instructed, that it uses all things according to the Creator’s intention. How? For beauty, purity, peace, and joy. (E. J. Haynes.)
A pure heart is blessed in the feeling of security
He says, “I am not conscious of any desire within which shall go half-way to meet the allurements of sin; no little rivulets of half-indulgence which have eaten the sand from under my walls.” Oh, how weak is guilt, how strong is purity! I have seen the hawk flap out of the top of tall hemlocks at my coming in the pasture. “Why, hawk, I’ll not shoot you; it is but a walking-stick I carry in my hand.” “All! yes, but I think it may have a ball in it.” And he sails high above the village steeple. “Nay, hawk,” says the steeple, “I’ll not hurt. I’m but the finger pointing to your Maker.” “Ah! but I think you are a trap.” He even parts company with the harmless sparrow, for the sparrow “ may be a snare.” Not so the dove. It lives in the cornice of men’s dwellings, and nods good morning to the children in the chamber crib; it touches the foot of the housemaid as she shakes her cloth of crumbs; it rests up in the steeples of old churches, and the Sabbath bell, far from being a fright, is but the signal for the cooing chorus to begin. The man of pure heart is blessed with peaceful self-respect. He is not happy who cannot respect himself. And no man can respect himself who is living in more or less constant communion with bad thoughts and evil pictures of imaginatian. Suppose we grunt that we are not altogether responsible for our thoughts, but, by the complications of daily life, before we know it we have planned a sin; or, by Satan’s foes beleaguered, we are thrust upon by pictures of iniquity. Still my proposition is true, that no such life could be a happy one. Could the master of a strong house be at peace, even if bolts and bars and granite strength kept all his foes at bay; if, ever and anon, the mob thrust the death’s head at his windows? Aye, more, could he respect-himself if, now and then, as impure hearts do, he showed a face for parley, or cautiously, yet surely, invited one of the red-shifted horde within, to see how ha looked near by? The sunflower might say of wasps, and hornets, and bees: “Why do they pester me, and so hang about? “ and the wasps would reply: “You enter-rain us, sir; you have what we love.” And so the judge within man, true to his heaven-given instinct, makes reply to him pestered by bad thoughts: “There’s something, sir, about you that these buzzards love!” I saw by Lake Leman the old castle of Chillon. Up above, the royal, tapestry-hung apartments of the Duke of Savoy and his gay bride; down below, the dungeon where Bonnivard was chained; where creeping things crawl forth to ogle at the visitors, and instruments of torture are; and I wondered if never, in some scene of revelry above, the groans of martyrs rose to stir the arras on gorgeous walls. There are those we meet in social life, the rooms of whose souls which are open to friends are fair as a palace. But alas! who shall tell us of the secret kept unseen? Not so pure heart. I do not pretend to say that ever on this earth we are freed from all solicitations of evil; but there is many a soul so “ blessed” that, when winged thoughts of sin come flying to the windows, God’s angel rises up, and draws the shutters to; when disturbing thoughts of hate, revenge, avarice, and pride draw near, God’s angel meets them at the outer gate, and bids them all begone. (E. J. Haynes.)
Pure heart is “blest” in his relations with his fellow-man. Pure Heart is blest because he knows no envy of another’s success jealousy at another’s praise. Dear, simple old heart, it never occurs to him that there is any less of summer’s sun for him because a million others bask in its beams. O King Great Heart! thyself no man’s enemy, thou thinkest no man thine, but dost beam upon the world like the October sunset upon the harvest fields. “He shall see God.” How? Thus. Mozart and his friend, the royal huntsman, went forth arm-in-arm to the fields. The wind came up heavily through the copse of trees. “Look!” says the hunter, “it will startle a hare!” “Listen!” says Mozart, “what a diapason from God’s great organ!” A ]ark rose on soaring wing, with its own sweet song. “Look!” says the gamester. “what a shot!” “Ah!” says Mozart, “what would I give could I catch that thrill!” There be dull souls who cannot see nor hear. Are they sick? “Oh! what misfortune!” Are they bereaved? “Some enemy hath done this!” Are they well and prosperous? “Good luck!” Not so Pure Heart. He can see God’s hand in every sorrow chastening for good; God’s face in every blessing; God’s smile in the morning light, the blossoming harvest, and the evening shade; His heart is attuned. (E. J. Haynes.)
Vision of God in heaven
I. God is a pure Spirit, and invisible. It cannot be with our bodily eyes that we shall see Him.
II. They shall see Him. This word expresses immediate intuition of what is plainly offered review. Now we see through a glass, darkly. Wilt thou see God’s wisdom, power, love, holiness, glory?
1. This is an appropriating vision.
2. It is an assimilating vision.
3. It is a satisfying vision.
III. How excellent the soul of man which is capable of such felicity!
IV. If such be the nature of the future blessedness, then a change of heart is requisite to enable us to enjoy it.
V. What gratitude do we owe to that God who has provided such a felicity for His children.
VI. What a source of consolation under the afflictions of life.
VII. This subject calls us to mourn for the folly of the children of men, who for toys barter away glory and immortality. (H. Kollock, D. D.)
They shall see God
1. In the work of creation.
2. In the ordinances of the gospel.
3. In the dispensation of Providence.
4. In the day of judgment.
5. In heaven for ever. (J. C. Edwards, M. A.)
Purity an unmixed motive
A thing is pure when there is nothing in it out of harmony with its nature. Water is pure, air is pure, when they contain only their constituent elements, and in the right proportion. Gold is pure when it has been separated by fire from all foreign matter. The diamond is pure, the crystal is pure, when there is nothing in them which binders the refraction and reflection of light. It is thus with the heart, which is the emotional part of the soul. It is pure, when it loves only that which it ought to love. (The Abbe Beutain.)
Spiritual sigh conditioned by purity
1. It may be easily understood that impurity of heart hinders the soul from seeing God. Under the power of perverse affections the mind sees nothing aright-nothing in its just relations and proportions. Least of all can the mind thus blinded in its highest faculties see God aright; it gets no inspiring and attractive perception of His glory. As earthly vapours, condensed into clouds and darkening the world with storms, hide from the outward sense the beauty and glory of the visible heaven, so sensual passions, grovelling affections, and the dominion of sin in the soul, all the habits of an impure and unbelieving mind, intervene as with impenetrable clouds, to shut off from the view and reach of the spiritual faculties the grand realities of that upper sphere, where the eternal relations of duty are and where God is.
2. This is further illustrated by remembering distinctly that the normal or right state of the mind-the state in which its faculties and susceptibilities are properly adjusted in relation to each other and in relation to their objects-is just what our Saviour means by purity in heart. As the normal condition of the eye is not when the optic nerve is paralysed or otherwise diseased, nor when the surface is covered by a film, nor when inflammation or a mote under the eyelids makes the light painful, but only when all obstruction or disease is absent, so the normal condition of the mind, as made for the knowledge of things invisible and eternal, is not when its sensibilities are perverted by selfishness, not when sin reigns within, but only when the heart is pure.
We may now inquire, What is the blessedness of thus seeing God?
1. To see God is to see the central light which reveals the order and beauty of the universe. The unity of all created things is found only in their relation to God’s power, to His love and wisdom, to His plan and government.
2. To see God is to see the fountain of all blessedness. Such intuition of God’s glory is identical with the peace of God that passeth all understanding
3. Such an intuition of God as this promise assures to the pure in heart is that for which the soul was created. It is the soul’s chief end, and therefore it is the highest blessedness of which the soul is capable. (L. Bacon.)
I. How great a blessing is peace.
1. It is the preserver of life.
2. It is the preserver of prosperity.
3. It is the preserver of happiness.
4. They are not easily offended.
5. If offended they are not irreconcilable.
6. They exert themselves to reconcile contending parties.
7. Their great effort is to reconcile sinners to God.
`II. The reward which awaits them.
1. They are the children of God by regeneration.
2. By adoption.
3. By their relationship to our Lord Jesus Christ.
4. They shall be acknowledged as the children of God. (J. Jordan.)
I. The principles of the peacemakers. They are heavenly: this seen from the Great Peacemakers-the God of Peace; the prince of Peace; the Spirit of Peace. All the Divine Persons are active for peace. Many things operate to disturb this peace.
II. The way in which they are shown.
1. To compose differences which may exist between ourselves and others.
2. By striving to bring others to a knowledge of Jesus, that they may know the true peace.
3. In the endeavour to make peace between others. (W. Reeve.)
I. He must understand what things have the capacity of agreement.
II. He must understand the true cause of disagreement.
III. He must take a deep interest in the contending parties.
IV. He must obey the Divine call for inter:position.
V. He must believe that God has made provision for pacifying world. (Caleb Morris.)
I. View God as a peacemaker.
1. He is a Lover of peace.
2. He is a Maker of peace.
II. Delineate Christians as peacemakers.
1. They love peace.
2. They make peace.
3. They promote peace.
III. Their blessedness.
1. They are pronounced God’s children.
2. They have the inward happiness of self-approval.
3. They look forward to being rewarded by God. (J. G. Horton.)
I. Before they can become true peacemakers and be entitled to this beatitude, they must seek and obtain inward peace for themselves (Ephesians 2:13-17).
II. It then becomes their duty to promote peace and restore it where lacking-between man and God, and man and man-in the Church, in the community, in the world at large.
III. The means to be employed. To obtain peace for ourselves and lead others to its possession, we must use the means of grace. To reconcile man to man, we must set an example of peace (Romans 12:18).
IV. Then we shall be blessed.
1. In the enjoyment of peace (John 14:27; James 3:18).
2. In being known as the children of God, etc. (L. O. Thompson.)
The world is full of peace-breakers. Peacemakers
I. In the family.
II. In society.
III. In the church.
IV. In the state. (J. Mackay, B. D.)
This is the seventh step of the golden ladder which leads to blessedness. The name of peace is sweet, and the work of peace a blessed work.
I. The peace a godly man seeks is not to have a league of amity with sinners, though we are to be
(1) at peace with their persons, yet we are to have war with their
(3) Grace teacheth good nature; we are to be civil to the worst, but not twist into a cord of friendship; that were to be brethren in iniquity.
II. We must not so far have peace with others as to endanger ourselves.
1. If a man hath the plague, we will be helpful to him and send him our best receipts, but we are careful not to suck his infectious breath.
2. So we may be peaceable towards all-nay, helpful.
3. Pray for, counsel, and relieve them, but let us take heed of too much familiarity, lest we suck their infection.
4. We must so make peace with men that we do not break our peace with conscience.
III. We must not so seek peace with others as to wrong truth.
1. Peace must not be bought with the sale of truth.
2. We must so seek the flower of peace as not to lose the pearl of truth.
3. Truth is the most orient gem of the Church’s crown.
IV. We must not let any of God’s truth fall to the ground.
1. We must not so be in love with the golden crown of peace as to pluck off the jewels of truth.
2. Rather let peace go than truth, (Thomas Watson.)
Blessed are the peacemakers
I. 1. They that are desirous to preserve peace among their neighbours.
2. They that avoid and endeavour as much as they can to discourage and prevent in others those practices which are the usual means of raising quarrels and contentions among men.
3. They who avoid backbiting, tale-bearing, slander, detraction, and the like.
II. 1. The peaceful man, if there be any dissension already begun among them, will endeavour to incline parties to coolness and moderation.
2. If his neighbours will not be subdued by his good words and entreaties, he can at least in a great measure allay the dissension.
III. By promoting peace we
(1) do a work pleasing to God,
(2) and for which we shall receive abundant reward. (Bishop Ofspring Blackall, D. D.)
Children of God
Peacemakers are the children of the Most High.
I. By eternal generation: so Christ is the natural Son of His Father (Psalms 2:7).
II. By creation: so the angels are sons of God (Job 1:6; Job 38:7). When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.
III. By participation of dignity: so kings and rulers are said to be children of the High God (Psalms 8:2; Psalms 8:6).
IV. By visible profession: so God hath many children. Hypocrites forge a title of sonship (Genesis 6:2).
V. By real sanctification: so the faithful are particularly and eminently the children of God. (Thomas Watson.)
Let us carry ourselves as becomes the children of God.
I. In obedience.
(1) Obey God out of love;
(3) every command of His.
II. In humility. Look in the glass of God s Word, and see therein our sinful spots.
III. In speech.
1. Grace must be the salt that seasons our words.
2. Sobriety must govern our actions. Error is a spiritual intoxication.
IV. In fidelity. Faithful in all things.
V. In sedulity. We must labour in a calling: God will bless our diligence, not our laziness.
VI. In magnanimity.
1. Must do nothing sordidly.
2. Must not fear the faces of men, but be brave-spirited as Nehemiah.
VII. In sanctity. Holiness is a diadem of beauty. In this let us endeavour to imitate our heavenly Father.
VIII. In cheerfulness. Why do the children of God walk so pensively? Are they not heirs of heaven?
IX. Let us carry ourselves as the children of God in holy longings and expectations. Children are still longing to be at home. There is bread enough in our Father’s house. Oh, how we should ever be longing for home! (Thomas Watson.)
There is a fulness of meaning in the term as it stands in the Scripture, which includes both the effort; to make peace, and the disposition of the mind towards it.
I. A man may be officially or otherwise employed in composing a difference that exists between two families or two individuals, without possessing the spirit and disposition of peace which the word includes.
(1) No one can be the peacemaker of the text without; he
(2) possesses a peaceable and conciliatory disposition.
II. The duty combines the attempt to reconcile men to God, through the peace-speaking blood of the cross, with the effort to heal the breach of friendship which has been made among individuals.
(1) This of all labours the most noble and Divine.
(2) We overlook the most essential part of making peace if we confine our endeavours to the composing of differences among men, while we
(3) pass by multitudes around us who are “contending with their Maker.” (J. E. Good.)
I. Describe the peacemaker.
1. He is a citizen.
2. He is a neighbour.
3. He is a Christian.
II. Declare his blessedness.
1. He is blessed of God.
2. He is one of the children of God.
3. They shall be called the children of God.
III. Set the peacemaker to work. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
How the Rev. John Owen restored peace between the Rev. Robert Hall and the Rev. Charles Simeon
A pleasing instance of a successful effort to restore peace is related in the life of the Rev. John Owen. The Rev. Charles Simeon and the Rev. Robert Hall were offended with each other, and in their anger declined intercourse. After several friends had tried to restore peace, and failed, Mr. Owen wrote the under-mentioned lines on two cards, and then left one at the house of each person”-
“How rare that task a prosperous issue finds,
Which seeks to reconcile discordant minds!
How many scruples rise to passion’s touch!
This yields too little, and that asks too much.
Each wishes each with other’s eyes to see:
And many sinners can’t make two agree:
What mediation, then, the Saviour showed,
Who singly reconciled us all to God.”
The first man who read the lines was so strongly impressed by them that he hastened from his house to call immediately upon his offended friend; the friend had also read the lines, and, being affected by them, had done the same, and the offended persons met each other in the street. A reconciliation instantly took place-a reconciliation which, it is believed, was never interrupted or regretted by either of those useful and highly esteemed men.
Persecuted for righteousness.
I. In what religious persecution consists.
1. Negative persecution which falls short of violence.
2. Domestic persecution.
3. Private persecution.
4. Public persecution.
II. The folly and wickedness of those who inflict persecution.
1. It is contrary to mound reason.
2. It is contrary to sound policy.
3. It is contrary to Scripture.
4. Persecution for righteousness is virtually aimed at Christ.
III. The happiness of those who endure it.
1. They are furnished with satisfactory evidence of the sincerity of their religion.
2. They are blessed in the enjoyment of those consolations which are generally administered under circumstances of persecution.
3. They largely share the sympathy of the children of God.
4. They are encircled with high associations,” so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
5. They are blessed in extensive usefulness.
6. Great reward in heaven.
7. Let us be thankful that we are happily exempted, in a great measure, from the evil of persecution.
8. Let us not go out of our way to provoke persecution.
9. Support those who suffer persecution. (E. Clagton.)
I. The nature of true religion.
1. Its principles-These are spiritual-unpopular-present. Not something without a man, but within. Not of earth, but from above. They are: poverty of spirit, docility of mind, intense aspirations after God, purity of heart.
2. Its practice. Penitential sorrow, mercy, peaceableness, endurance.
II. The blessedness of those who possess true religion. They have peace, true satisfaction. They enjoy all spiritual blessings they are children of God-then all things are theirs.
1. Have you in possession the principles of true religion?
2. Do you daily reduce them to practice? (Good Seed for the Lord’s Sowers.)
Persecution for righteousness’ sake.
I. What persecution is. It is more than affliction. It is cruel and unjust.
II. The subjects of persecution. Many suffer for their own peculiarities.
III. The promise belonging to it-“Great is your reward in heaven.” (W. Reeve, M. A.)
I. The persecutions which attend the followers of Christ.
1. It is seen in marked disrespect.
2. In the Christian’s company being avoided.
3. In ridicule and slander.
II. The causes of persecution.
1. The degenerate state of the world.
2. The influence which Satan exercises over the minds of men.
3. The conduct of Christians in the world.
III. The manner in which we are called to suffer persecution. “Rejoice,” etc.
1. Because the terra of our suffering at most can be but short.
2. Because we suffer in a righteous cause.
3. Because we have the most illustrious example.
4. Because if we suffer with Christ we shall also reign with Him.
IV. The encouragement afforded.
1. So persecuted they the Prophets.
2. They possess the kingdom of heaven.
3. Great is their reward in heaven. (J. Jordan.)
I. The grounds of persecution.
II. The times.
1. In heathen lands.
2. When its professors are despised, and in a minority.
3. When their doctrines strongly clash with reigning maxims and controlling interests.
III. The ways.
IV. The extent.
1. Upon property.
2. Upon relatives.
3. Upon good name.
4. Upon life.
V. The rewards. (L. O. Thompson.)
The blessedness of persecution.
I. The fact that true spiritual Christianity exposes to persecution.
1. See this illustrated.
2. The form of the persecution. Reviling, injurious treatment, slander.
3. The ground of it. Because righteous.
4. The source of it. Enmity against God.
II. To view persecution as a ground of rejoicing.
1. As an attestation of Christian goodness.
2. It connects you with the Prophets.
3. It brings great reward in heaven. Expect persecution; bear it; profit by it. (T. G. Horton.)
I. True godliness is usually attended with persecution.
1. Christ died to take the curse from us, not the cross.
2. Piety will not shield us from suffering.
3. The way to heaven, though full of roses in regard of the comforts of the holy, is full of thorns in regard of persecutions.
4. Before Israel reached Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey, they must go through a wilderness of serpents and a Red Sea.
5. So, the children of God in their passage to the Holy Land, must meet with fiery serpents and a Red Sea of persecution.
II. Christianity is sanctity joined with suffering.
1. Saints carry Christ in their hearts, and the cross on their shoulders.
2. Christ and His cross are never parted.
3. It is too much for a Christian to have two heavens-one here and one hereafter.
4. What is the meaning of the shield of faith, the helmet of hope, the breastplate of patience, but to imply that we must encounter with sufferings?
III. Was Christ’s head crowned with thorns, and do we think to be crowned with roses?
1. If we are God’s gold, it is not strange to be cast into the fire.
2. Persecutions are pledges of God’s love, badges of honour.
3. In the sharpest trial there is sweetest comfort; God’s fanning His wheat is but to make it purer. (Thomas Watson.)
I. What is persecution?
1. An abuse of power employed to the harm of another, with something of eagerness, pursuit, and perseverance.
2. No mortal is so weak, so wholly destitute of power, but that he has wherewithal to be some way or other upon the offensive; so there is no one in his turn is not some way or other capable of persecution.
3. The meanest vassals upon earth can have the insolence to say, “With our tongue we will prevail! our lips are our own, who is lord over us? “
II. Persecution for righteousness’ sake. Men may be said to suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake when they suffer for doing the duties of their stations, not in those acts alone which respect the faith and worship of God (though these more especially), but throughout the whole stage of Christian virtue, as princes, magistrates, subjects, or Christians.
1. When a prince is made uneasy by potent factions in the government, when designs for public good are directly opposed, or artificially frustrated, then is he persecuted.
2. When a magistrate finds a weight thrown in the scales of justice, and the furious power of parties bears heavy on his hands, then is he persecuted.
3. When a faithful subject’s good deeds are lessened and undervalued or skillfully ascribed to ill ends: in a word, whenever he suffers in his goods or good name for adhering unmovably to an even course of duty, then is he persecuted.
4. When a man’s sobriety and conscientiousness are traduced as preciseness; his firm adherence to well-established principles, as stiffness, bigotry, and narrowness of mind; his moderation disputed-then is he persecuted. (Lancelot Blackburn.)
Persecution, in the Scriptural use of the term, is evil treatment on a religious account.
I. It is the infliction of an injury, or the withholding of a right, because the person thus persecuted renders what he regards a duty to his God.
(1) Every person who suffers in his name, person, or family, for the faithful discharge of what he considers to be his duty to God, and who is actuated,
(2) not by a spirit of pride, or affected singularity, but by a
(3) commendable regard to Divine authority, and a
(4) sincere intention of promoting the interests of Christianity, and the good of man, is “persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”
II. There are other modes of persecution.
1. The carnal mind in its “enmity against God” has devised crafty and cruel schemes for the “vexation and embarrassment of the servants of Christ.
(1) There is persecution “by speech.”
(2) “Men shall revile you.” (J. E. Good.)
Mean things dignified
It is said of Joan, Countess of Shrewsbury, that in the midst of court festivities, she let her garter fall unawares; and, upon her blushing at the accident, the king took it up in his hand, whereat the nobility smiled. “Well,” said the king, “I will make this an honourable ornament ere long.” Upon that came the Order of the Knights of the Garter, the garter thus becoming an ornament of the highest order. If man can put honour on such mean things, then God much more. He ennobleth reproaches, and sanctifieth afflictions to His children, and maketh the sufferings of His servants as so many ensigns of heavenly nobility. If men had but the true skill of Christianity, they would be ambitious of the crown of martyrdom, and look upon it as a blessed thing when men speak all manner of evil of them. (Spencer.)
For My sake.
For My sake
The supreme and commanding claims implied. Endeavour to understand the meaning of the words, “for my sake.” All intelligent creatures act from some consideration or other-for the “ sake “ of something. At the root of the life we are living there is a strong and dominant reason; or, if not one, several that sway us in turn. Motive in every action-money, pleasure, etc., regard for others. So that the principle which is contained in the text is by no means new or exceptional, but is as old and as wide as the world. Comes before us in its highest and most glorious application. The claims involved. We have, then, here-
I. A person. A unique person.
III. A unique person who claims to be Lord of our life. What are we to do for the sake of Christ? To labour and suffer. (Dr. Mellor.)
For My sake.
1. There is a self-assertion here, which is justified by the character and position of the speaker.
2. All beings capable of love and hatred must, if placed together, act with direct regard to each other, and they will do many things for each other’s sake.
I. What is the nature of Jesus’ claims?
1. Jesus claims work for His sake.
2. We owe to Jesus Christ patient endurance of suffering for His sake.
3. Jesus claims cheerful and generous gifts for His sake.
4. Jesus claims attachment to life, with a readiness to die, for His sake.
5. Jesus claims the devotion of ourselves to Him.
II. Some of the means by which we may stir up ourselves to recognize these claims more cordially.
1. Distinct ideas of the person of Christ are essential to our being moved by considerations which originate in Himself.
2. Frequent meditation upon the service He has rendered.
3. In order to this we need the communion of the Holy Ghost. (S. Martin, D,D.)
The words bring before us the relation of the Christian to his living and loving Lord.
I. Let us seek clearer views of the influence of Christian motive. Christ has certain peculiar and special claims on us. There is the authority of His Godhead. The love of His incarnation and death.
II. Let us get a juster estimate of its range.
1. It bears on our efforts after personal holiness.
2. On the Christian’s work for others.
3. It extends to the enduring of suffering for conscience’ sake.
4. It applies to the sacrifices we are required to make. This principle possesses a testing power to reveal whether or not we are what we profess to be as followers of Christ. (Dr. W. M. Taylor.)
Great is your reward.
The reward of the saints
I. Consider its preciousness. It is shown-
1. By remembering who bestows it.
2. It is in heaven.
3. It meets and satisfies the yearning of the saints here.
4. It exceeds our power to measure.
5. It is connected with recognition of service.
6. It is freed from all admixture of sorrow.
7. It is carefully prepared for us.
8. It is certain.
9. It is the highest elevation.
II. Consider it as a legitimate motive to action (Hebrews 10:35; Hebrews 11:26).
III. Concluding reflections.
1. The saints’ great reward, not in this life.
2. They have an ever-brightening prospect.
3. God’s desire to stimulate us to a better life by revealing to us the great reward.
4. A support in trial. (J. W. Hussey, M. A.)
Salt of the earth.
The elect of God
I. Here is Christ’s sublime definition of the Christian life, and of those who compose His Church. The Church exists for the world’s sake more than for its own. Christ’s disciples are to be saviours of others.
II. Is not this the doctrine of election as our Saviour understood it? God’s people are chosen, not for their own comfort, but to show men the beauty of the Divine life, and to raise them to the same level.
III. It is quality more than quantity that does God’s work in the world. All history and progress are at bottom the life-story of the chosen few.
IV. It should be one great object of our prayer and effort to keep up the moral and spiritual standard of the elect few. (J. G. Greenhough, M. A.)
The purification of society
1. The disciples of Jesus Christ should seek to prevent the corruption of literature.
2. They should seek to prevent the corruption of public amusements.
3. They should seek to prevent the corruption of parochial and political life.
4. They should seek to prevent the corruption of commercial life. (G. W. McCree.)
The great calling of the disciples of Christ
1. Salt is intended to nourish: it is an article of food. The godly must nourish the earth spiritually.
2. Salt is intended to preserve.
3. Salt has also a consuming power. There is something sharp, biting, and aggressive in it. Laid on a wound it is painful. The Christian often pains men to heal them. (T. Christlieb, D. D.)
Salt without savour
These words must have seemed ridiculously presumptuous when they were first spoken.
I. The high task of Christ’s disciples as here set forth. This metaphor involves two things: a grave judgment as to the actual state of society, and a lofty claim as to what Christ’s followers can do for it. It is corrupt; you do not salt a living thing. It is the power and obligation of the good to arrest corruption by their own purity. The example of Christian men is not only repressive, it ought to tempt forth all that is purest in the people with whom they come into contact. Salt does its work by being brought into close contact with the thing which it is to work upon. It does its work silently, inconspicuously, gradually.
II. The grave possibility of the salt losing its savour. It is evident that there is the obliteration of the distinction between the salt and the mass into which it is inserted. Is there any difference between your ideal of happiness and the irreligious one?
III. The solemn question, Is there a possibility of resalting the saltless salt, of restoring the lost savour? These words not to be pushed to the extreme.
IV. The certain end of the saltless salt. You cannot put it upon the soil; there is no fertilizing virtue in it. You cannot even fling it into the rubbish heap; it will do mischief there. Pitch it out into the road; it will stop a cranny somewhere between the stones when once it is well trodden down by men’s heels. That is all it is fit for. God has no use for it; man has no use for it. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. The world as constituting the particular sphere of the Christian’s influence. Moral state of the world at large, and that portion in particular where our influence is most felt. How insensible are we of it, etc.
II. Illustrate and apply this interesting and important truth. Explain the metaphor. All true believers in Jesus are denominated the “ salt of the earth,” because all that is Divine and holy and precious exists in them, and in them only. The moral influence of the Christian, as it is exerted, applies to the Church in its collective capacity.
III. The decay of the inner life, as manifested in the impaired vigour of Christian influence, figuratively set forth by the “salt that hath lost its savour,” and its consequent unprofitableness. The salt may again be salted-the inner life may be revived. (Dr. O. Winslow.)
Christians called salt
The ideal of an active and efficient Christian character. It is like salt. How?
I. In its constituent elements. As salt is made up of chlorine and sodium chemically united, so a Christian character is composed of faith and works in union.
(a) As chlorine gas is a deadly poison by itself, so faith without works killeth.
(b) As the metal sodium is destitute alone of the saving quality of salt, so works without faith are destitute of merit to save the soul.
(c) As the chemical union of the two elements forms a third substance, with a new and useful quality, so faith and works, when united, give life and efficiency to Christian character.
II. In its effects.
(a) As salt prevents corruption and decay in animal and vegetable matter, so Christian character is the antidote of vice in the individual and in society.
(b) As salt promotes digestion, and thus prevents deadly disease, so Christian character enables the soul to digest and profit by the various dispensations of Providence.
(c) As salt renders palatable otherwise distasteful food, so a Christian character sweetens life’s disappointments, and changes its crosses into crowns. (P. S. Davis.)
There are three ideas suggested by the representation in the text.
I. The first is insipidity, or tastelessness.
(1) This is the case, truly, where the savour of the gospel does not prevail.
(2) There you will find no
(3) moral beauty, no
(4) fruits of benevolence and mercy.
(5) How insipid the dear delights even of the family, the sanctuary, and the sequestered recesses of the closet, if there be no manifestations of His love, or indications of His presence, to the spiritual and regenerate heart.
II. The second idea is folly and ignorance,
1. True religion is wisdom.
2. Wickedness is folly.
3. Wicked men are as unwise as they are offensive to God.
4. True piety is an evidence of a well-seasoned and enlightened mind.
III. The third idea is tendency to decay.
(1) Mortality is the law of nature.
(2) All hasten to corruption. The figure denotes
(3) moral corruption.
(4) When health has left the physical frame, we say it is diseased;
(5) when life has fled, we say it is dead.
(6) We use the same figure and language to describe the dreadful disorders of the immortal soul.
(7) When the principle of love to God does not govern all its faculties, we say they are under a moral distemper.
(8) If the Divine Spirit breathes not the “breath, of life” into it, we say it is “dead in trespasses and sins.” (J. E. Good.)
Salt used in the baptismal service
The Latin Church, m its materialistic fashion, employs actual salt in the baptismal service. The priest puts it into the mouth of the person, adult or infant, who is baptized. It is an unauthorized ceremony; but it is a sort of traditional witness to the obligation lying on all Christians to have in themselves that which salt might symbolize. (Dr. D. Fraser.)
Salt and sunlight
A Roman proverb couples sunlight and salt together as the two things which keep the world alive and sweet. Homer calls it Divine; Plato the substance clear to the gods; Pythagoras spoke of it as the emblem of righteousness, and our common phraseology, following the Greek and Latin writers, has chosen it as the symbol of wit and wisdom, of all that gives grace to speech, refinement to thought, pungency to writing, and individuality to character. The idea, then, which the metaphor on the Saviour’s lips suggests is that His disciples are the noble and indispensable element in the world; they sweeten, purify, and enrich its work, its thoughts, its social intercourse, its joys, its laws and literature. They save it from corruption, decomposition, and moral death. The great sea of life, like the sea which washes our shores, would become putrid without it. (J. G. Greenhough, M. A.)
Influence working from the few to the many
Do you remember Arnold of Rugby’s famous sixth form? He brought the boys who composed that first class into closer intercourse with himself, and gave them his choicest teachings, that he might make them models of honour, purity, sobriety, and godliness; strong with the sense of duty, dignified by the thought of their responsibility, so that they might give a healthy tone to the whole school, and that from them might flow a continual stream of purifying, elevating influence. “If I have confidence in my sixth form,” said Arnold, “I would not exchange my place for the loftiest position in the world.” They were the salt of the school, as Christ’s disciples are to be the salt of the earth.
Maundrell, who visited the lake at Jebbful, tells us that he found salt there which had entirely “lost his savour,” and the same abounds among the debris at Usdum, and in other localities of rock-salt at the south end of the:Dead Sea. It is a well-known fact that the salt of this country, if left long in contact with the ground, does become insipid and tasteless. From the manner in which it is gathered, much earth and other impurities are necessarily collected with it. Not a little of it is so impure that it cannot be used at all, and such Bali soon effloresces and turns to dust-not to fruitful soil, however. It is not only “ good for nothing,” but it actually destroys all fertility wherever it is thrown; and this is the reason why it is cast into the street, to be “ trodden under the foot of men.” (W. M. Thomson, D. D.)
Common salt, the chloride of sodium, is an extremely abundant substance in nature. It is found in almost inexhaustible deposits as rock-salt in various parts of the world: from such deposits arise brine springs, which are strongly impregnated with salt; and the water of the ocean, aa well as that of various inland seas, hold it in solution in inconceivable amount. From these various sources salt is prepared for use as an indispensable condiment in human food, and as a raw material in several most important and extensive chemical manufactures. In the United Kingdom great deposits of rock-salt occur in the new red sandstone strata in Cheshire and Worcester … The total amount of salt produced in the United Kingdom, during 1876, was 2,273,256 tons, of which 154,538 tons were in the form of rock-salt. In the same year, 854,538 tons, of a value of £529,547, were exported; British India, the United States, and Russia, being the countries to which it was sent. (Globe Encyclopaedia.)
Ye are the light of the world.
Christians the light of the world
The Church can diffuse light.
1. By reflection.
2. By dispersing it. (L H. Evans, M. A.)
The Church of Christ the light of the world
I. These words as trey proclaim the redeemer.
1. These words proclaim the moral grandeur of His sentiments.
2. They show the Divine wisdom of His doctrine.
3. The prophetic grasp of His language.
II. These words as they specify the Christian.
1. Here is a distinction of persons-“Ye.”
2. A distinction of principle-“light.”
3. A distinction of efficacy-“light of the world.”
III. These words as they illustrate the world.
1. The world is dark in reference to God.
2. The world is dead, Christianity its salt. (R. Montgomery, M. A.)
Christians the light of the world
I. Vindicate the truth here asserted.
1. The world is dark.
2. A contrast to the gloom-of a principle, the antagonist of this moral darkness. Believers are “the light of the world.”
(1) As in their own souls they possess Christ.
(2) As in their life and labour they exhibit Christ.
II. Apply this truth to the case before us.
1. In the way of privilege.
2. In the way of duty and obligation. (F. Goode, M. A.)
I. Explain the symbol.
1. Light an emblem of purity.
II. Enforce the doctrine.
1. The test of discipleship.
2. The criterion at the judgment. (W. W. Wythe.)
I. The world’s moral darkness implied. Jesus knew all the attainments of the earth, and He could appreciate their excellency and beauty too;… but nothing of all this could east light on the deepest problems that agitate the human heart-what must I do to be saved? Beneath the surface of all this beauty … we find lurking the most revolting immorality. It is the light of Christianity that solves the deepest questions and answers the most anxious inquiries of mankind. The object of light is to disclose what would be otherwise unseen. This light discloses God, the way to heaven, etc. This holy light possesses a peculiar character, which the light of mere science, literature, or secular knowledge has not and cannot have. And since its dawn, even those bright things that were proposed as substitutes for it, this light has seized and made handmaids to it. Science and religion need not be divided.
II. Christians are the bearers of this light into all the ends of the world. Kindled from the Sun, they are to go forth and cast their light upon the world. Our mission is to enlighten the sphere in which we are placed, etc. (Dr. J. Cussing.)
Keep the light bright or you will hear of it
I read somewhere of a traveller at Calais going one dark and stormy night to the lighthouse there. Whilst standing looking on, the keeper of the house boasted of its brilliancy and beauty, observing there were few such lights in the world beside. The traveller said, thoughtlessly it may be, “What if one of these burners should go out to-night? … What!” said the keeper, “go out, sir? Oh, sir,” said he, “look at that dark and stormy sea. You cannot see them, but there are ships passing and repassing there to every point of the compass. Were the light to go out from my inattention, in six months news would arrive from every part of the coast, that such ships and crews were lost through my neglect! No, no! God forbid that such a thing should ever occur. I feel every night as I look at my burner as if all the eyes of all the sailors of the world were looking at my lights, and watching me!” If such was his care of lights, the extinction of which could lead only to temporal catastrophes, oh I what should be ours!
I. The true disciple’s position and calling. His position is like that of a city set on a hill, eminently conspicuous; he “cannot be hid,” and he ought not to try to be hid. His calling is from the elevated position he occupies, to shed light upon the whole world.
II. The qualifications needed by Christ’s disciples for a right discharge of the duties of their position and calling (vers. 3-10):
III. The rewards of a right discharge of our duties as true disciples. The hatred of men, the esteem and love of men, the unspeakable blessedness of seeing others led by our influence to worship God (ver. 16; 1 Thessalonians 2:19), the approval of God (ver. 9), everlasting blessedness (vers. 3, 8, 12; Revelation 21:10). (The Preachers’ Monthly.)
These words are descriptive of:-
I. The genuine Christian’s character-”light.”
II. The Christian’s place and functions.
III. The Church’s responsibility. (James Stewart.)
Example is the source of the Christian’s most powerful influence on the world. In analyzing that power there are three or four elements.
I. It is the most successful method of illustrating truth and imparting instruction.
II. It is a demonstration of the practicability of religious life, as well as the truthfulness of Christianity, and the most successful method of removing objections to it.
III. It attracts attention.
IV. It is the most successful method of reproving wrong-doing.
V. It is also the most successful way of winning the esteem of the world. (Christian Age.)
Christian example a converting agency
When Lord Peterborough lodged for s, season with Fenelon, Archbishop of Cambray, he was so delighted with his piety and virtue, that he exclaimed at parting, “If I stay here any longer, I shall become a Christian in spite of myself.” (Anecdotes.)
Christian example an argument of weight
A young minister, when about to be ordained, stated that at one period of his life he was nearly an infidel. “But,” said he, “there was one argument in favour of Christianity, which I could never refute-the consistent conduct of my own father.” (Anecdotes.)
I. Christian professing. TO let our light shine is, undoubtedly, to make a Christian profession. This implies that the true light has been kindled in us. This Christian profession should be made in union with the Church of Christ.
II. Christian consistency. If the light which you let shine in your profession be the true light, there will be good works to be seen. The lowest requirement of Christian consistency is the absence of every evil work-the least immorality vitiates the entire profession. This Christian consistency requires nonconformity to the world, and the good works of an active Christian life.
III. Christian influence. This will be the result of Christian consistency. Our Heavenly Father shall be glorified by the influence for good we thus exert over the minds of those who see our good works. They will ascribe to God the power by which we have been made what we are. They will recognize the truth and Divinity of Christ’s religion, and many will be thus led to embrace it for themselves. How does the matter stand between our profession and our conduct? (W. S. Dewstoe.)
God glorified by our good works
I. Remove a difficulty which may have arises from an apparent inconsistency between our text and the words of our Lord in a subsequent part of His discourse. In the sixth chapter our Lord gives cautions against ostentation in religion. “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men.” It may appear from this that secrecy is necessary to prayer and almsgiving; but that it is not the lesson inculcated, is evident from the tenor of Scripture. Solomon prayed before an assembly. Daniel With regard to almsgiving, the Psalmist, speaks of it as properly exciting the esteem of men. “He hath dispersed abroad,” etc. The prohibition is of religious acts from a wrong motive, “that they may be seen of men.” The reproof of ostentation does not apply when the motive is already good. On the contrary, many advantages may arise to the cause of religion from the exhibition of piety. A Christian that hums with holy love to God cannot be-unnoticed.
II. How can men, the creatures, be said to glorify the creator? “God is the eternal fountain of all honour and glory, therefore, strictly speaking, cannot be dishonoured; He cannot but be glorified, because to be Himself is to be-infinitely glorious. God is glorified by our repentance-faith-charity. (H. Hughes, M. A.)
And yet He is pleased to say that our sins dishonour Him, and that our obedience glorifies Him. Just as the glorious orb of day, prying into the recesses of rocks and valleys, receives from the glassy lake and the limpid stream, and from every bright object, beautiful reflections of himself, though nothing could be seen at all without his own light; so God, contemplating the race of man, though he finds among us nothing but what He Himself enables us to exhibit, discovers in every heart that is faithful, in every heart that is pure, in every heart that is holy, merciful, and kind, beautiful representations of His own sublime perfections, and these He is pleased to call glorifications of Himself, though they are made so only by His own gracious acceptation. (H. Hughes, M. A.)
The light of Christian example
1. The first thing to be done with a lamp is to light it. God alone can light you; teachers may polish.
2. The next thing to do with a lamp is to set it where it may be seen and give light.
3. A lamp must be fed with oil, or it will not keep alight.
4. A lamp must be trimmed if it is to give a good light. (H. J. Wilmot Buxton.)
I. That religion, if it exists, cannot be concealed.
II. That where it is not manifest in the life, it does not exist.
III. That professors of religion, who live like other men, give evidence that they have not been renewed.
IV. That to attempt to conceal or hide our light is to betray our trust, and hinder the cause of piety, and render our lives useless.
V. That good actions will be seen, and will lead men to honour God. (Dr. A. Barnes.)
I. Consider the lighting.
1. A Divine work.
2. A separating work.
3. A personal work to every man who is the subject of it.
4. A work which needs sustaining.
5. It consecrates a man entirely to the service of light.giving.
II. Consider the placing.
III. The shining. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Lamp and the Bushel
I. A word about the great conception of a Christian man’s office which is set forth in this metaphor. “Ye are the light of the world.” Then our Lord goes on to explain what kind of a light it is to which He would compare His people-the light of a tamp kindled. Christian men individually, and the Christian Church as a whole, shine by derived light. Before the incarnation Christ was the light of men; also the historic Christ is the source of all revelation. Light signifies knowledge and moral purity.
II. The certainty that if we are light we shall shine. The nature and property of light is to radiate. All earnest Christian conviction will demand expression; and all deep experience of the purifying power of Christ upon character will show itself in conduct.
III. This obligation of giving light is still further enforced by the thought that that was Christ’s very purpose in all that he has done with us and for us. It is possible for good men to smother and shroud their light. We can bury the light of the Word under cowardly and indifferent silence.
IV. Let your light shine. Candles are not lit to be looked at, but that something else may be seen by them. Men may see God through our works. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
If you are not warming the world, the world is chilling you
If you take a red-hot ball out of a furnace and lay it down upon a frosty moor, two processes will go on-the ball will lose its heat and the surrounding atmosphere will gain. There are two ways by which you equalize the temperature of a hotter and a colder body, the one is by the hot one getting cold, and the other is by the cold one getting hot. If you are not warming the world, the world is freezing you. Every man influences all about him, and receives influences from them, and if there be not more exports than imports, he is a poor creature at the mercy of circumstances. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
No light apart from Christ
A sunbeam has no power to shine if it be severed from the sun than a man has to give light in this dark world if he be parted from Jesus Christ. Cut the current and the electric light dies, slacken the engine and the electric are becomes dim, quicken it and it burns bright. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The duty of letting our light shine before men
I. How shine. Because Christ has put light into His people, he does not intend it to be hid.
II. Why shine. Not to be seen of men. The Christian must show that he is earnest about religion. Habitual holiness is required. There must be a proper control of the temper. He must shine:-
1. As a member of society he must be blameless.
2. As a subject he must be orderly.
3. As a member of the Church of Christ he must show good will.
4. As a neighbour he must be accommodating.
5. As a father he will have proper regard for the spiritual good of his children.
6. As a son he will show the excellence of his principles.
7. As a master his Christian character must shine.
8. As a servant he will be obedient.
9. He must keep within the limits of his proper place. (E. Cooper.)
The importance of good example
Some suppose that they need not set a shining light, but keep from great irregularities.
1. The world, though corrupt, is very sensible of what Christian practice ought to be.
2. The withholding of a good example may be more fatal to religion than positive irregularities, because the turpitude of the latter destroys their power of seduction.
3. The scandal is, not to see religion opposed by unbelievers, but that Christians dare not maintain their religion with zeal and proclaim it as their greatest honour and glory.
4. It is not enough to be Christians only to ourselves, we must be so before God and men.
5. We are naturally inclined to imitation.
6. Not only the honour but the progress of religion depend upon your examples. The greatest praise we cam bestow upon a religion is to practise it. (S. Partridge, M. A.)
Christians the light
of the world:-
I. The positive injunction that Christians are to do all in their power to secure that their light shall shine as brightly as possible.
1. This is to be done by the position we take up.
2. By the character which we form.
3. By the exertions which we make for the conversion of our fellow men.
II. Look at the negative side of this injunction, which requires that we remove everything which tends to hide or obscure the light.
1. We should get rid of that undue reserve which keeps the real character from being as powerful an influence for good as otherwise it might be.
2. We should avoid all self-display. (W. M. Taylor.)
I. The primary and secondary purpose of the Christian life.
1. The glory of God.
2. The well-pleasing of men.
II. The means by which this witness-bearing may be the most effectually done.
1. Light is derived, and therefore humble.
2. Light is self-evident and consistent.
3. Then the light is a joyous and happy sort of thing. (W. M. Punshon.)
Christians the light of the world
I. Their character. All others are in darkness. Goshen only has light: Christians once dark; hut have received light.
1. The word light implies a saving knowledge of the truth.
2. Holiness of heart and life.
II. Their duty. Christians are made what they are to attract the world. Must use their blessings for the good of others, their knowledge, holiness, and happiness.
III. Their motive.
1. That they may see your good works, not yourselves, but your actions. Three things are necessary to render a work good.
(1) It must be done under the influence of faith in Christ.
(2) From love to God
(3) with a view to His glory.
2. That they may glorify your Father which is in heaven. (D. Rees.)
What are the limits of lawful showing of our deeds, so that we may not break the law which bids us be secret?
1. The passage read to the end will remove the difficulty suggested. “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them.” Secrecy in good deeds is not absolute, but relative; not positive, and for its own sake, but in order to exhibit the vitiating effect of ostentation.
2. And so the text seems to offer the antidote to its own difficulty. “And glorify your Father which is in Heaven.” Your good works may be seen, and ought to be seen, but to God’s glory, and not your own. Not to let our works be seen when they ought to be seen would be to desert our Lord. This rule may serve for some external direction in this perplexed case. Let the separate deeds be hidden, according to the precept of the sixth chapter; let the general design of goodness be known, according to the text. But the principle guide in cases like these is not to be found so much in an external rule as in a spiritually enlightened discrimination, which feels instinctively when is the time for secrecy and when for publicity.
How dangerous to our Christian modesty everything must be which takes off from the delicacy of our natural modesty.
1. Do not fear that you incur any danger of ostentation in performing visibly such religious observances as your parents or teachers direct.
2. Be real, let all be really addressed to God.
3. Be consistent.
4. Be modest in other things. These rules will aid spiritual modesty. (G. Moberley, D. C. L.)
1. Every man has a light peculiar to himself.
2. There is a right way of shedding light.
3. Men are to see the works, not the worker.
4. Men are affected by what they see. (W. W. Wythe.)
A good life the great means of glorifying God
I. The fact that there is a light possessed by Christians which peculiarly belongs to them. It is with borrowed rays that the Christian at any time illuminates others.
II. The duty of Christians to exhibit their light in a godly conversation. “See your good works.”
III. The end with a view to which the exhibition takes place. “Glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (W. Curling, M. A.)
The beauty of moral qualities
I. The moral qualities enjoined in Christianity are in the highest degree natural-not artificial or secondary. The human mind was constructed so that every faculty in its organization tends to produce good qualities. It is better adapted to good than bad. The bad is something interposed between the original creative design and the execution. Irreligion is artificial.
II. There is a moral constitution by reason of which Christian qualities seem admirable to men. The eye was not made any more for beauty in the outward world than a man’s moral nature was made for beauty in the moral world. Men oppose light and yet light is pleasant to them.
III. It is upon this state of facts that Christ ordained that men should carry their moral faculties up to the highest degree of excellence.
IV. The success of the gospel was made to depend not on preaching, but upon living men.
V. The impressions which a Church makes on the moral consciousness of the community in which it byes is a fair test of its life and power. (H. W. Beecher.)
I. The holy and exemplary lives of Christians will naturally attract the eyes of unbelievers. By so doing will engage them in some serious reflections upon the Christian religion.
II. The holy and exemplary lives of Christians provoke men to a curious observation and examination of them, and also of the grounds and principles from which they proceed.
III. The holy and exemplary lives of Christians will be a sure means of recommending them to the favour and esteem, love and friendship, of unbelievers; and consequently a sure means of gaining opportunities of conversing familiarly with them, insinuating truth into them, and making them willing and easy to receive it.
IV. The holy and exemplary lives of Christians will so powerfully represent to unbelievers the reasonableness and excellency of the Christian religion, as well as the usefulness and advantage of it, towards the present and future happiness and well-being of mankind, that they will be led to examine into the grounds of it. Hence it appears that we ought frequently to contemplate the examples of good men, out of which there are so many and so great advantages to be drawn. We should learn in them to see our own faults, and to mend them. (Sir William Dawes, Bart. , D. D.)
Christian example leads to the discovery of Christian sympathy
When the English minstrel went to seek for his master of the Lion Heart, he played everywhere the monarch’s favourite tune, and was at length rewarded by hearing its notes sent feebly back to him from the prison wherein Richard was confined. In like manner, if wherever you go you would sound out the music of your Christian experience, other hearts would respond to the melody, and your joy would be redoubled.
Christian example must be free from inconsistency
The visitor to a lighthouse is struck with the perfect cleanness of everything about the lantern or the lamps. The silver reflectors are burnished to the brightest purity, and every funnel and glass are absolutely without a spot. There must be nothing to mar the brilliancy of the light. So in us there should be nothing of evil to draw away men’s eyes from the light and fix them upon our imperfections. That there is light in us at all makes it all the more important that we should keep ourselves pure. You may have a window all covered with dust, and spun over with the cobwebs of spiders, that have not been disturbed for years, and the passer-by, in the darkness, will take no note of its impurity. But so soon as you put a light behind it you thereby reveal its filthiness to every beholder. In the same way the evil deeds of open and avowed unbelievers are taken no notice of by the world, for there is no light behind them. But so soon as a man becomes connected with Christ and His Church, the light that is within him will be sure to make manifest his inconsistencies to all around.
God, not self, the end of Christian example
The purpose of letting our light shine is, that God, not ourselves, may be glorified. In looking at a painted window, we think more of the artist and his picture than of the light. And there are many who put such devices on the window, through which the light of their characters shines, that no beholder is ever moved to think of God. The best style in writing is that which gives the thought with such transparency that the reader sees nothing else; and that is the noblest Christian character which shows the most of Christ. When I was a lad, in my native town, I knew a painter there whose favourite works were all portraits of himself, taken in different costumes; and one of England’s most famous poets produced a series of writings, in which his moody, misanthropic self was ever the central figure. So there are Christians among us who, while letting their light shine, contrive to paint themselves upon the glass of the lamp in which it is enclosed. Their song, like that of the cuckoo, is a constant repetition of their own name, and the listener is wearied with its iteration. Let it not be so with us. Let Christ be all and in all. It was Michael Angelo who, according to the beautiful illustration of a Boston preacher, placed his candle so in his pasteboard cap that his own shadow might not fall upon his work. Let our song be like that of the skylark, as he rises with dewy breast from his lowly earth-couch, singing as he soars, until, unseen in the deep blue above, he rains a shower of melody on the listening earth. It matters not though we be unseen, if but the light be clear; for then we are fulfilling the command. (W. M. Taylor.)
Christ shines into the world through the lives of His people
Do you ever pause to think out how it is that our streets are nightly lighted up? By that discovery, to which we have been so long accustomed that we have ceased to reckon it wonderful. A great central storehouse of coal-gas is accumulated, and with that all the lamps are connected by a hidden system of pipes, so that each is supplied with the necessary quantity; and, as the result, we can thread our way through the intricate places of the city as easily, if not as safely, by night as by day. The city is lit by lamps, and yet it is the gas that lightens it. Both statements are true. The gas would be unavailable without the lamps; the lamps would be useless without the gas. Now, similarly, Christ is the hidden source and centre of the world’s enlightenment; but Christians, united to Him by the spiritual tubing of faith, draw off from Him that influence by which they are enabled, each in his own place and in his own measure, to dispel some portion of the darkness by which they are surrounded. (W. M. Taylor.)
Christians must be receptive of light
Our measure of light will depend greatly upon the clearness and sensibility of our spiritual perceptive and receptive capacities. All the glass in the optical instruments, whether they are intended for scientific purposes, or for ordinary use, should be free from dross. (S. Slocombe.)
Work entailed by Christ on His people
1. A reflector of spiritual light.
2. A reproducer of this light.
3. A prism, analyrically solving this moral light, and exhibiting its beauties of colour. (S. Slocombe.)
Christian example not transient
Be not a flashing meteor, exciting transitory curiosity with thy blaze of profession.
Men more ready to shine socially than morally
Persons who are not averse to make all the show they can in social life are wonderfully sensitive about any disclosure of spiritual conviction or feeling. (Dr. D. Fraser.)
Th,e light to reveal the work, not the worker
It is thus that his own sun works daily in the heavens: who dares look at the sun when he so shines as to fill the earth with all the beauty of summer? We turn our eyes up to him and he rebukes us with darts of fire; he says, “Look down, not up: look at the works, not the worker.” So we may feast our eyes upon a paradise of flowers, and get much of heaven out of it, but the moment we venture to say, “Who did this-where is he? Show me the worker,” the sun answers us with a rebuke of intolerable light. (Dr. Parker.)
Hidden light dies.
If he persists in this selfishness, his penalty is sure. The light that is in him will wax dim and incur great risk of going out, because it is shut up, and not set to burn on the lamp-stand,where the fresh air may reach and feed the flame. (D. Fraser, D. D.)
Wanted, much wanted, bright Christians!
The figure of the house-lamp suggests domestic Christianity; that of the conspicuous city the more public and collective duty of Christians. (D. Fraser, D. D.)
Shine by expressed conviction
I do say that if the fountain never rises into the sunlight above the dead level of the pool there can be very little pressure at the main; that if a man has not the longing to speak his religious convictions, these convictions must be feeble. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The purity of example the primary care of the Christian
The lighthouse-keeper takes no pains that the ships tossing away out at sea may behold the beam that shines from his lamp, but all that he does is to feed and tend it. That is all you and I have to do-tend the light, and do not like cowards cover it up. Modestly but yet bravely carry out your Christianity, and men will see it. Do not be as a dark lantern, burning with the shades down and illuminating nothing and nobody. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
A good example a rebuke of evil
A good man or woman reveals the ugliness of evil by showing the beauty of holiness. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Missionaries the light of the world
Look at the primitive Schwartz, at the devoted Brainerd, at the zealous Corrie, and many others; Oh! how Godlike was their employ. These were “ burning and shining lights “ in the darkness; these displayed the glory of the Saviour’s love and power to save, in the very midst of Satan’s empire. (F. Goode, M. A.)
But to fulfil.
The moral law eternal and immutable
I. Negatively-that Christ did not come to destroy the law or the prophets. This may be illustrated as follows.
1. If the cause be immutably good, the operation and effects must be the same; especially if the cause be infinitely wise; all this is evident from the Word of God. If any persons declare that the moral law is altered, to be consistent, they must also suppose that the Divine nature is altered.
2. The law of God is perfect, the ceremonial law was imperfect. The moral law being perfect, the impress of the Divine image, it cannot be done away.
II. The great end that our lord had in view with respect to the moral law-“to fulfil.” He undertakes this important work with the greatest cheerfulness, lie was obedient to the moral law in His childhood. Sufferings were necessary as well as active obedience. Our Lord set forth the spirituality of the moral law, and could not after that set about to destroy it. (W. Kemp.)
Jesus Christ the moral legislator
I. lie fulfilled the law by spiritualizing it.
II. He fulfilled the law by developing it.
III. He fulfilled the law by generalising it and making it universal.
1. Breaking down class distinctions.
2. He abolished national distinctions in morality.
3. He abolished sex distinctions in morality. (J. C. Jones.)
The mission of Christ in relation to the moral law.
I. To expound its spirituality.
II. To embody its principles.
III. To honour its breach.
1. It had been broken in the practice of man, and He came to atone for it.
2. It had been broken in the estimation of man, and He came to show him its glory.
IV. To secure its fulfilment.
1. By the presentation of a sufficient motive.
2. By the impartation of Divine power. (T. Baron.)
I. The greatness of the assumption here made by Christ. Christ accepts the prophecies of the Old Testament as Divine, and points to Himself as their fulfilment.
II. These words of Jesus reveal the historical continuity of Christianity.
III. These words teach us the permanent authority of the moral principles of the Jewish law. Nothing that is moral can be destroyed. We do not need the light of stars when the sun has risen; but the stars are shining still. (G. S. Barrett.)
Christ’s relation to the law
I. Mark the position our Saviour occupied, as forming a key to the whole of the Sermon on the Mount.
II. The meaning of these words.
1. Christ fulfilled the law in His teaching. He completed it.
2. Christ fulfilled the law by His own personal, unbroken obedience.
3. Christ fulfilled the law by. His sufferings and death. (W. G. Barrett.)
I. In a critical age, that has so many errors to be destroyed, reason acquires a destructive habit; against this habit one must guard, lest, instead of being a light to guide us, reason becomes only mildew to blight a world once beautiful.
II. The soul grows great, useful, and happy, not by what it denies, but by what it cordially affirms and loves.
III. Should you not all seek union with some positive, active, trusting Church? Let the Church you seek be broad, but not broad in its destructiveness, but in its soul, hopes, and charity; not broad by the absence of God, but by His infinite presence; not broad like the Sahara, in its treeless, birdless, dewless sands; not broad like the Arctic Sea, in perpetual silence and ice, but broad like an infinite paradise, full of all verdure, fruits, music, industry, happiness, and worship; wide enough for all to come. (D. Swing.)
Destruction the law of increase
Christ certainly did come to destroy the law and the prophets-the outside of them. He knew perfectly well, if He had foresight, that they would be, as they have largely been, swept away; but He said, “That which these externalities include-the kernel, the heart-I came to fulfil. It was not the morality and spirituality for the sake of which Moses and the prophets had written that were to be destroyed. Even a crab knows enough once a year to get rid of its shell in order to have a bigger one: it is the sectary that does not know it! Men think, if you disturb beliefs, creeds, institutions, customs, methods, manners, that of course you disturb all they contain; but Christ said, “No; the very way to fulfil these things is to give them a chance to open a larger way.” h bud must be destroyed if you are going to have a flower. The flower must be destroyed if you are going to have a seed. The seed must die if you are going to have the same thing a hundred-fold increased. (Beecher.)
Law tends to enlarge itself
So all institutions that carry in themselves, not merely external procedure, but methods of truth, justice, and righteousness, must of necessity, if they follow the ages, dig their own graves. A law that can last a thousand years is a law that is inefficacious. A law that is active, influential, fruitful, destroys itself. It is not large enough. It produces a state of things among men which requires that the law itself should have a larger expression and a different application. (Beecher.)
As a painter laying fresh colours upon an old picture. (Hacket.)
Break one of these least commandments.
The perilous harmfulness of little sins
Man is set free from the curse of the law, but not from its authority.
I. Let us consider these minor violations of the moral law as they are considered in relation to the lawgiver himself. The least commandment has the same authority as the greatest. Little sins will soon acquire all the gigantic proportions of the greatest. It is no paradox to say, that little sins are peculiarly offending in the sight of God, because they are little; in other words, because we run the risk of offending Him for what on our own showing we care very little about, and from which we only expect an insignificant return. It would aggravate the venality of a Judge that the bribe was so paltry. The least sin is aggravated by the small degree of temptation by which it is accompanied.
II. The awful danger of these little sins in regard to ourselves. Little sins leave men hardly conscious float they have broken God’s law; great sins stir up piercing thoughts. See the peril of little sins, as they are sure to draw greater ones after them. It is fool’s sport to play with firebrands. The multiplication of little sins show how we need the merit of an infinite atonement. (D. Moore, M. A.)
I. That all the law of God is binding on Christians (James 2:10).
II. That all the commands of God should be preached in their proper place by Christian ministers.
III. That they who pretend that there are any laws of God so small that they need not obey them, are unworthy of His kingdom.
IV. That true piety has respect to all the commands of God, and keeps them (Psalms 119:64). (Dr. A. Barnes.)
I. Christ does not hereby authorise us to suppose any of His commandments to be little. The meaning is-anything contained under or included in them, though seemingly small to us; as anger, scornful speaking, and reviling is the sin of murder.
II. As little in it, as he accounts of them; that is nothing; they shall be excluded.
(1) Observe the danger of vacating God’s commands.
(2) In any respect.
(3) In any one instance. (Thomas Adam.)
A little sin indicative of a carnal disposition
That an act in itself inconsiderable, may indicate the existing state of feeling, as clearly as one that is more palpable. As the motion of a leaf shows the quarter from which the wind blows as certainly as the agitated branches of an oak, so you may gather any one’s dislike, though he does not strike you, or abuse you, or attempt insidiously to destroy your reputation. Only let him receive you with coldness, and his disaffection is as indisputable as if it were manifest in angry assault … Is it not evident that the man who has brought himself to the perpetration of one fraud, has broken down the only security against the perpetration of a score, lie who can be the oppressor of a few, wants only the means to become the despot of an empire. (C. Williams.)
Avoid the least sin
If we would save the big ship, let us stop the small leak. If we would save the palace from flames, let us put out the spark. (Newman Hall.)
The great evil and danger of little sins
I. What is meant by the “least commandment.” It must not be understood as if one commandment were less necessary to be obeyed than another; God’s commands are all alike necessary.
1. They are all enjoined by the same authority.
2. They are all necessary to be performed in order to eternal life. But when Christ speaks of the least commandment, He alludes
(1) to the corrupt doctrine of the Scribes distinguishing God’s commands into small and great.
(2) Those commandments which are great in respect of the Lawgiver, may yet be least in comparison with other commands of the same law, which are indeed thought greatest. This inequality arises from the inequality of the objects about which they are concerned, our duty to God or man. Sometimes it arises from the latitude that any command hath in it, to our thoughts, words, or actions; a thought is said to be less than an action.
II. What is meant by “being least in the kingdom of heaven.” Either the kingdom of grace, the Church, heaven. Little sins carry great guilt and bring heavy condemnation.
1. This appears in that the least sin is a most high affront and provocation of the great God.
2. It is a violation of a holy and strict law.
3. What a complicated evil every sin is, that the commission of the least makes you guilty of the greatest.
4. The authority of the great God seems more to be despised by the commission of small sins than by the commission of great.
5. Little sins do greatly deface the image of God in the soul. In curious pictures, a little scratch is a great deformity.
6. Little sins have in them ordinarily of temptation, and therefore more of wilfulness.
7. Little sins do maintain the trade and course of sinning.
III. The evil and danger of little sins hath been made apparent: I shall add farther proofs of their aggravated guilt.
1. Little sins usually are the destroying sins.
2. Small sins-what they want in weight, usually make up in number. A ship may have a heavy burden of sands, as well as of millstones; and may be as soon sunk with them.
3. It is very difficult to convince men of the great evil and danger of little sins.
4. The allowance of the least sin is a certain sign of a rotten heart.
5. Little sins usually make way for the vilest.
(1) The devil, by his temptations, nurses up youngling sins, till they arrive at full stature.
(2) Natural corruption is of a growing nature.
6. Little sins are the greatest provocations; murder is a reproach to all; unbelief does not provoke public scandal.
7. Damnation for little sins will be most intolerable-here for such little sins!
1. If little sins have so much danger, what shall we think of great impieties?
2. Then behold a fearful shipwreck of all the hopes of formalists.
3. What absolute need we stand in of Christ.
4. What cause we have to bemoan and humble ourselves before God.
5. Pray for a tender conscience.
6. Keep alive reverent thoughts of God.
7. Get a more thorough sense of the spirituality of the law. (Bp. Hopkins.)
Little sins accumulate
The devil cannot expect always to receive such returns of great and crying impieties: but yet, when he keeps the stock of corruption going, and drives on the trade of sinning by lesser sins, believe it, corruption will be on the thriving hand, and you may grow rich in guilt, and treasure up to yourselves wrath against the day of wrath, by adding those that you call little sins unto the heap. (Bp. Hopkins.)
Great advancement made in sin by little stages
If Satan prevails with us to go with him one step out of our way, we axe in danger to stop nowhere till we come to the height of all profaneness: he will make us take a second, and a third, and so to travel on to destruction; for each of these is but one step: the last step of sin is but one step, as well as the first; and if the devil prevail with us to take one step, why should he not prevail with us to take the last step as well as the first step, seeing it is but one? Your second sin no more exceeds your first, than your first doth your duty; and so of the rest. (Bp. Hopkins.)
Little sins are often united with great, which together sweep the soul to destruction
As you see in rivers, the natural course of them tends to the sea; but the tide, joining with them, makes the current run the swifter and the more forcibly: so is it with sin. Little sins are the natural stream of a man’s life; that do of themselves tend hell-ward, and are of themselves enough to carry the soul down silently and calmly to destruction: but, when greater and grosser sins join with them, they make a violent tide, that hurries the soul away with a more swift and rampant motion down to hell, than little sins would or could do of themselves. (Bp. Hopkins.)
The need of a sensitive conscience
A tender conscience is like the apple of a man’s eye: the least dust that gets into it afflicts it. (Bp. Hopkins.)
Your righteousness shall exceed.
An exceeding righteousness
I. What is the nature of the righteousness God accepts from us? It is a righteousness in excess of the most scrupulous moralist.
1. A Christian righteousness exceeds a natural or Jewish in that it is positive and not negative.
2. All other righteousness does the orders of God: this does His will. Here lies the greater part of the Christian’s obedience-in doing what he knows will please, though it was never laid down.
3. The motive is different.
4. As the moving power is within, so the righteousness is first an inward righteousness.
5. No wonder that such an inner righteousness when it is wrought out, goes very deep, and soars very high. It does not calculate how little it can do for God, but how much.
6. The righteousness of Christ is the exceeding righteousness; in this only can we stand before a holy God.(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
I. What is that righteousness which must fail if relied on for entrance to the kingdom of heaven, Much in it that was good but only external. It was heart-deficiency.
II. The righteousness which will of necessity be effectual Exceed it-
1. In regard to its source.
2. In its quality.
(1) It must be spiritual.
(2) It must be evangelical righteousness; not by the works of the law.
(3) It must be a moral righteousness, possessed as well as imputed.
(4) It must be an essential righteousness, as essential as the air we breathe.
Address those whose righteousness does not come up to the standard of the Scribes and Pharisees; those who are trusting in the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees; those who through grace have found the effectual righteousness. (G. Fisk, LL. B.)
The Pharisee’s righteousness excelled by that of the Christian
I. It must differ from that of the Pharisee.
1. The seat of righteousness. Both Pharisee and Christian look alike in their conduct; the latter from the heart.
2. The righteousness of the Pharisee is limited by the narrow rule of sectarianism, that of the Christian is wide as the Word of God.
3. The righteousness of the Pharisee is at fault in its source. Its beginning and end is self. Christ is our righteousness.
II. It excels.
1. In the object of its faith.
2. In enabling the Christian to reach heaven. (W. D. Harwood.)
The Christian righteousness
The sense it which it must surpass them:-
I. In kind.
II. In spirit.
1. Not of mere outward zeal for the law, but of inward conformity.
2. Not of servile fear, but of filial confidence.
3. Not of religious pride, but of devout humility.
III. In aim, not to be seen of men.
1. This will rectify our judgment of righteousness.
2. Animate our pursuit of righteousness.
3. Brighten our prospect of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8). (Prof. Griffith, M. A.)
Necessity of evangelical righteousness
I. The nature of that righteousness which distinguished the Scribes and Pharisees. Was, according to God’s law, extensive, connected with great devotion, self-denial, liberality, and zeal.
II. The nature of that righteousness necessary to our entering the kingdom of God. Ours must “ exceed “ theirs in its origin, nature, extent, end, effects. The revelation of this righteousness is given in God’s blessed Word. It is obtained by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who is made unto us, “wisdom,” etc. The purity of the Divine law, etc., render this righteousness necessary. (Dr. Burns.)
I. The righteousness of the pharisees.
II. Its defectiveness.
III. The righteousness commanded.
2. Through faith.
3. Originating in love. (W. W. Whythe.)
Love more than regard for a mere rule
Now, no man can develop a true manhood who does not love the things which he does. No man ever does anything that marks him as masterly except it be done by a certain inspiration into which the whole soul enters. A man that paints, hating his business, never is an artist, and never can be one. A man that is a teacher, and hates teaching, making drudgery of it, can never be an inspirational teacher. A man that is a true workman in any sphere must work by a stimulation which comes from the actual enthusiasm of loving the thing done. A man that obeys moral laws without loving them is like a man who walks within the walls of a penitentiary. (Beecher.)
The righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.
I. What it was. It consisted in-
1. A speculative knowledge of the truth and doctrines of religion.
2. A scrupulous observance of the forms of religion.
3. A freedom from scandalous sins.
II. Its defectiveness and insufficiency.
1. The righteousness here spoken of is insufficient for justification.
2. It is insufficient as the evidence of a justified state. It fell short in three respects.
(1) It was altogether external.
(2) It was partial in its requirements.
(3) It left its followers under the unrestrained influence of spiritual pride.
3. How delighted we should be that our righteousness does exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees. (E. Cooper.)
Morality the gate to spirituality
There are several kinds of religion.
1. There is the religion of simple technical observances.
2. There is a religion of conduct, or morality.
3. There is the religion of spirituality: this contemplates God and ignores man’s needs.
4. There is the religion of morality and spirituality. Right conduct springing from right motives. Let us look at the nature and value of morality.
I. Morality may be defined as conformity to the laws of our condition. The laws of the body, the law of fellowship, civil laws.
II. The advantages of morality.
1. It is the gateway of spirituality.
2. All the things that come within the range of morality are good in themselves.
3. It has a tendency to educate men.
4. When men try to place themselves in conformity to the law of morals they put themselves in a line in which they will be illumined and carried to a higher Christian experience.
5. We must not suppose that morality is a substitute for the higher forms of religion.
6. It must not be a mask for self-indulgence.
7. Morality relates especially to this life, but religion to eternity, as fully realized in immortal existence.
Mere morality does not go far enough
A man builds him a house two stories high; but money fails, and he does not put on any roof. What is he going to do now? Live in it? He cannot live in it. It is good as far as it goes, but good for what? Until somebody can put a roof on it, and close it in, it is not good to live in. Honesty is a good thing. Kindness and neighbourliness are good things. Care for the laws of life is a very good thing. If this was all of our life, if these external and bodily relationships represented the sum total of all our existence, all that we should want would be morality. But we live again. (H. W. Beecher.)
A shipmaster wants to anchor. He throws out his anchor, and puts out his cable, and comes within about twenty feet of the bottom. It is not any longer. What is it good for? It is good as far as it goes; but it does not go far enough to touch the bottom, and therefore it is not good for anything. (H. W. Beecher.)
Exceeding the righteousness of the Pharisees
What is it to enter the kingdom of heaven? It involves leaving the kingdom of evil. There is no admission to it without righteousness.
I. Describe the righteousness of the Pharisees.
1. They were celebrated for their knowledge. As Scribes, they were acquainted with the Scriptures.
2. In religious matters they were particular and earnest. Always at temple, earnest at prayer.
3. They were wonderfully generous. They gave tithes of all they possessed.
4. They were held in high esteem by their fellow-countrymen.
5. Can you hope to excel them? Out of Christ you cannot.
II. How then is it possible to enter into the kingdom of heaven? Two ways:
1. By works.
2. By faith. No thoroughfare along the first way. In nature’s loom we cannot weave a better righteousness. Christ’s righteousness exceeds; as the sunlight exceeds the glimmer of the glow-worm. (Thomas Spurgeon.)
The measure of righteousness
I. The Scribes represent those who are formalists in the treatment of God’s Word.
II. The Pharisees, the formalists in religious life. (Dean Alford.)
Faith in Christ the only way of righteousness
Will you try to imagine that just in front of you there is roaring the great cataract of Niagara? Now, there are two ways of getting over the cataract. “What are they? “ asks one. Well, do you see that thin airy looking bridge, which in the distance seems like a spider’s web, which has been flung athwart the torrent? That is the suspension bridge of Niagara, and that is one way across, and the best way too. There is another way-the way that poor foolhardy Captain Webb went-right through the breakers. You may say that he did not get across. No; but it was his fault that he went that way, for it was not a way after all. And there are two ways to cross the cataract of sin and the avalanche of God’s wrath. One way is the bridge of salvation which God, in mercy, through the blood and sacrifice of Christ, has flung right across the mighty stream. Its buttresses are eternal power and everlasting love, and feeble as it looks it is strong enough to bear creation. There is another way, and there thou shalt battle with the flood thyself, and stem the breakers in thine own strength, and dash thyself against the stones, and sink to rise no more. Any man in his senses would choose the simplest path, the way that everybody else goes. (T. Spurgeon.)
Well to have a standard of self-measurement
I have sometimes seen, at athletic sports, how, when one has jumped the long jump, an opponent, another competitor in the jump, will come and look how far his rival has jumped, and mark the place; and I see him go away, with rather dejected head, as he sees what his rival has accomplished, and wonders whether he can do as much, and wonders much more whether he can exceed that wondrous jump. Now, I want to show you how far the Scribes and Pharisees jumped; and then I have to tell you that you have to jump farther than they did. (T. Spurgeon.)
The “kingdom of heaven,”
Here, as elsewhere in the Gospels, designates that spiritual society which Jesus came on earth to found. The righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees was at fault because they placed righteousness in what a man does, irrespective of what he is, and though practising many things which might be called virtues, yet they did so from outward considerations. The results springing from these false principles were:
I. Divorce of religion from common life.
II. Overlaying of the spirit of God’s law by the letter.
III. Ostentation in the performance of their so-called religious duties, and uncharitable judgment of others. Pharisaism is a form of righteousness that is not extinct among us. (Dr. W. M. Taylor.)
Here we have two things to consider:
I. What was the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees?
II. How far that is to be exceeded by the righteousness of Christians.
(1) The Pharisees obeyed the commandments in the letter, not in the spirit. They minded what God spake, but not what He intended; they were busy in the outward work of the hand, but not careful of the affections and choice of the heart. This was just as if a man should run on his master’s errand, and do no business when he came there.
(2) The Scribes and Pharisees placed their righteousness in negatives; they would not commit what was forbidden, but they cared little for the included positive, and the omissions of good actions did not much trouble them.
(3) They broke Moses’s tables into pieces, and gathering up the fragments, took to themselves what part of duty they pleased, and let the rest alone.
(1) When it is said our “righteousness must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees,” we must do all that lies before us, all that is in our hand; the outward work must be done, and it is not enough to say “ my heart went right, but my hand went aside.”
(2) Our righteousness must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, by extension of our obedience to things of the same signification. Whatever ministers to sin, and is the way of it, it partakes of its nature and its curse.
(3) Christ’s commandments extend our duty, not only to what is named, and what is not named of the same nature and design, but that we abstain from all such things as are like to sins. Of this there are many. All violences of passion, prodigality of our time, doing things unworthy our birth or profession, aptness to go to law, misconstruction of the words and actions of our brother, easiness to believe evil of others, willingness to report the evil we hear, indiscreet and importune standing for place, and other things prohibited by the Christian and royal law of charity. (Jeremy Taylor.)
1. It was a righteousness of the outward letter rather than of the inward spirit. They washed their hands, but not their hearts.
2. Another defect in their righteousness was its narrowness and partiality. God’s commandment is exceeding broad; condemns anger as well as murder.
3. It contented itself too much with mere abstinences and negatives.
4. They mutilated the law’s proper unity, reversed the principle that failure in one point makes guilty of all, and considered it enough to keep the law in general.
5. It leaned more on the blood in the veins than on thorough obedience in the life. They were of Jacob.
6. Their greatest defect was their self-sufficiency. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
A man should not be content with morality when spirituality is possible
A man should not live in a hovel when he can live in a house. A man is not content to live in a house when he can live in a mansion. And no man, I think, would live in a mansion when he could live in a palace. So no man is living rightly or honourably who demands of himself no more than morality requires. (Beecher.)
Angry with his brother.
-“Thou shalt not kill.” Are you sure you do not? How has Christ decided the point? He tells us plainly that if we have
(1) any malice;
(4) scornful anger against our brother, we are guilty of a breach of this commandment.
(5) God will accept nothing at our hands; no worship, no service that we can pay Him, if we are not reconciled to, and at peace with all the world. Not outwardly only, but in heart and soul. (Thomas Adam.)
I. The sin which our Lord here condemns.
II. The guilt of this unjustifiable anger.
1. Causeless anger has in it the nature of murder.
2. Evident from the greatness of the punishment.
III. The duty of avoiding such anger.
1. In order that we may render acceptable service to God-“If thou bring thy gift to the altar.”
2. That we may avoid the doom of those who are implacable. We learn from this how spiritual is the law of God; also the utter worthlessness of human righteousness. (E. Balyley, M. A.)
Restraint of hasty temper possible
La Fontaine, chaplain of the Prussian army, once preached an earnest sermon on the sin and folly of yielding to a hasty temper. The next day a Major of the regiment accosted him in no very good humour, saying: “Well, sir! I think you made use of the prerogative of your office to annoy me with some very sharp hits yesterday.” “I certainly thought of you while I was preparing the sermon,” the chaplain answered, “but I had no intention of being personal or sharp.” “Well, it is of no use,” said the Major, “I have a hasty temper, and I cannot help it. I cannot control it; the thing is impossible.” The following Sunday La Fontaine preached on self-deception, and the vain excuses which men are accustomed to make. “Why.” said he, “a man will declare it is impossible to control his temper, when he very well knows that were the same provocation to happen in the presence of his sovereign, he not only could, but would control himself entirely. And yet he dares to say that the continual presence of the King of kings imposes upon him neither restraint nor fear.” The next day the preacher met the officer again, who said, humbly, “You were right yesterday, chaplain. Hereafter, whenever you see me in the danger of falling, remind me of the King.”
Be reconciled to thy brother.
I. That a worshipper of God may be in a state of discord in reference to his brother.
II. That public worship rightly used is one of the means to detect and remove this wrong affection. It leads to reflection.
III. Conciliation is of superior value even to public worship.
IV. That it is the duty of brethren to be immediately conciliated. (Caleb Morris.)
I. In order to worship God acceptably, we must do justice to our fellow-men. Our worship will not be acceptable, unless we do all we can to live peaceably with others.
II. It is our duty to seek reconciliation with others when we have injured them.
III. This should be done before we attempt to worship God. This is often the reason why God does not accept our offerings, and we go empty away from our devotions. We do not do what we ought to do to others; we cherish improper feelings, or refuse to make proper acknowledgments, and God will not accept such attempts to worship Him. (Dr. A. Barnes.)
I. Observe the word brother.
1. So God teaches thee to call every one.
2. Think with what tenderness and love thou oughtest, and perhaps wouldst behave to him, if he really were such.
II. Does not Christ Himself call the Scribes and Pharisees fools? Truly; but with Divine compassion, to rouse them to a consideration of their state.
(1) The sin is in the anger, the scorn,
(2) the pride of heart in one sinner towards another.
III. Nothing will be accepted from thee in this disposition.
1. Agree with thy brother.
2. The loss of an hour may be the loss of thy soul. (Thomas Adam.)
Agree with thine adversary.
Reconciliation with God
1. Man by his sin has made God his adversary.
2. God has opened a way by which sinners, though they have thus grossly offended, may be brought back into a state of reconciliation with Him.
3. To show you that it is man’s duty and interest to avail himself of the opportunity of coming into agreement with God.
I. Who are the persons that may rightly apply to themselves the motives by which i shall urge the business of agreement with God. God is the adversary of any child of Adam who has not availed himself of pardon, the man of private virtue as well as his profligate neighbour.
II. Motives by which this business is urged won you.
1. Consider what it is I am endeavouring to enforce upon your attention. No trifle, agreement with God.
2. What would be the blessings that would result if you were thus reconciled to God.
3. What will be the consequences if you are not reconciled?
4. Let me remind you of the interest others take in your reconciliation with God.
III. Begin that reconciliation immediately “Whiles thou art in the way.”
1. God is now waiting to come to agreement with you.
2. What reason have you to advance why you should not.
3. Consider the uncertainty of life.
4. All the opportunities of agreement are confined to this present life.
5. The results that in another world will follow a want of reconciliation with God in this, are indescribably dreadful.
6. The punishment will be inevitable and eternal. (J. A. James, D. D.)
Agree with thine adversary quickly
1. The Lord warns us to make our Christian peace in time.
2. To take care that our sacramental offering of charity and forgiveness be not delayed.
3. Lest our adversary be no more in the way with us; lest, among the many partings of this world, we lose sight of him for ever.
4. And that on the ground of God’s awful judgment.
5. For to Him the unreconciled quarrels of this world must be referred.
6. He will exact the uttermost farthing of His own incalculable debt from those who have been unkind and unforgiving to their fellow-servants. (G. Moberley, D. C. L.)
In his heart.
The heart or will is, in man, the seat of virtue or vice.
I. Actions must be our invariable touchstone of truth whilst we sojourn in this state of imperfect knowledge and comparative obscurity, where expression is the only avenue to sentiment, and action the only publisher of intention.
II. Actions are the only public representatives of our private sentiments.
1. So many channels through which the heart discharges its flow of various passions.
2. So many mirrors by the reflection of which the internal dispositions of the soul become externally visible.
III. Actions viewed in a moral light are to the soul what
(1) streams are to the fountain;
(2) branches are to the root.
Branches have no existence but what they derive from the root. Streams have no existence but what they derive from the fountain. Actions have no moral existence but that which they derive from the heart.
When God judges man, the heart is the rule of judgment.
1. The heart, the source of these actions, is to Him uncovered
2. The heart, having the principle of religion so strong as to prevent an unlawful enjoyment, will likewise be sufficiently strong to prevent an unlawful resolution.
3. The depraved heart is before God of the same criminality as the depraved life, and exposes us to the same punishment from God. Let us therefore eternally renounce every inclination inconsistent with religion and reproachful to humanity. Let us cultivate purity of heart. (David Lamont, D. D.)
Thy right hand offend.
I. Rather than anything, though ever so dear and precious to thee, should hinder thee in thy Christian progress, or prove a means of snaring thy soul and body, absolutely and totally forego it.
1. Whatsoever opposes God in the heart, or keeps Him out of it, must be abhored and east out;
2. All sin and temptation must be resisted, and the outward act of any sin must be avoided.
3. For some temptations are against my retirement, against my prayers, against my possession and enjoyment of Christ, against peace in life, comfort in death, against time, eternity, and all my hopes. (Thomas Adam.)
Strange conduct of a Land-Crab
One of the most useful pioneer evangelists of the Samoan mission was Teava, who, after many years of active services returned to Rarotonga. Though very feeble and bent with age, his place in the sanctuary was never vacant; and he was ever ready with a word of exhortation. On one occasion he said, “I have been meditating this morning upon our Lord’s words: ‘If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and east it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.’ When I laboured at Tutuila I often felt rebuked by the strange conduct of a large species of land-crab, called there the ‘ mali’o,’ here the ‘tupa.’ It bores deep into the soil, the holes sometimes extending a considerable distance. At night this crab loves to make its way to the sea, for the purpose of laving itself in the salt water and drinking it. Now it sometimes happens that, when hurrying through the tall grass and fern, some of its legs become defiled by contact with filth. So great is the vexation of this crab at its mishap, that it delays its march to the sea in order to wrench off the offending legs! One may sometimes meet a mutilated individual hobbling along without two or three of its legs-a self-inflicted punishment! In some rare instances it has been known to wrench off all its eight legs to escape defilement. It is then content to drag itself over the ground with considerable difficulty by means of its nippers, until it reaches its hole, where it hides until the legs partially develop themselves again, though not of their original length and beauty.” “Were we,” added Teava, “as willing to part with our favourite sins as this ‘ mali’o’ crab is with its defiled limbs, there would be little doubt of our reaching heaven! This is what our Lord means by our cutting off our right hand, and casting it from us.”
How may beloved lusts be discovered and mortified?-
1. That we ourselves must engage in the mortifying of our lusts. It is not enough to cry to God, and be idle.
2. That we must be willing in this as in other duties.
3. It is not said, “If thine eye offend thee, observe it more than ordinarily,” but “pluck it out.”
4. It must be renounced for ever-“cast it from thee.”
1. That the eye and hand are useful parts of the body of man.
2. That offences are from ourselves.
3. That sin is to all intents and purposes our own.
I. Why sin is expressed in scripture by pants and members of our body.
1. The whole mass of corruption in Scripture is called “the old man,” and “the body of sin” (Romans 6:6).
2. As the natural body makes use of its several parts in work, so corruption makes use of several lusts.
3. Sin is, according to some, conveyed into the soul by means of the body.
4. Corruption shews itself by the sinful actions of the body, and therefore may have its denomination by the parts of it.
II. That every man hath his particular iniquity.
III. How it comes to pass that particular persons have their particular sins.
1. Men have particular temperaments, and therefore sins suitable to their constitutions.
2. There are distinct and peculiar periods of times and ages that incline to peculiar sins.
3. Men have distinct and particular callings that incline to particular sins.
4. Men have distinct and particular ways of breeding and education, and upon that account have particular sins.
IV. The use and application.
1. Examination: how this sin may be discovered-
(1) By the love the sinner bears it;
(2) The sin which distracts us in holy worship is our beloved sin;
(3) It may be known by its commanding power over other sins;
(4) The sin that conscience doth most chide for;
(5) It may be known by being impatient of reproof;
(6) It makes a man notoriously partial in his own case;
(7) it may be known by the fair pretences that the sinner hath for it;
(8) The sin which a man wishes were no sin;
(9) The sin we think of first in the morning and latest at evening;
(10) The sin which most infests us in our solitudes;
(11) The sin we are willing to endure greatest hardship for.
2. Press upon you the mortification of your beloved sin;
(1) Seek holy courage and resolution against it;
(2) Let your repentance be against it;
(3) Beware of those things that occasion it;
(4) Pray to God that thou mayest not fall into that condition favourable to it;
(5) Learn to suspect things that are delightful;
(6) Labour to act that grace that is contrary to thy beloved sin;
(7) Keep watch over thy heart;
(8) Get respect to all God’s laws;
(9) Lay hold on God’s strength.
1. Bight-eye sins are the greatest hindrances to the soul’s closing with Christ.
2. They are a great trouble to the soul afterwards.
3. It is a choice evidence of regeneration. (B. Needler, B. C. L.)
I. Profane swearing is always the evidence of a depraved heart.
II. No man is believed any sooner in common conversation because he swears to a thing.
III. It is no mark of a gentleman to swear.
IV. Profaneness does no man any good. It is degrading, etc.
V. God will not hold the profane swearer guiltless. There is not in the universe more cause of amazement at God’s forbearance. (Dr. A. Barnes.)
I. It is mean to swear.
II. It is rude to swear.
III. Swearing is the sign of an empty head.
IV. Swearing is wicked. (J. N. Norton.)
In order to keep us at the greatest distance from all profanation of the sacred name, Christ warns us here to avoid oaths of every kind.
(1) Except in cases of necessity.
(2) How trifling soever they may seem to us.
(3) As implying an appeal to God contrary to the reverence we owe Him, and to that simplicity of speech which becomes those who fear Him.
II. Let the general probity of your character and known regard to the truth be such that your bare word may be credited. Whether it is or not, resolve to go no farther, for whatsoever is more than these, cometh of evil. (Thomas Admire.)
The lawfulness and obligation of oaths
I. This precept does not absolutely forbid all use of oaths. An oath is a solemn appeal to God, as a witness of the truth of what we declare, and of our sincerity in what we promise. Oaths are assertory and promissory.
1. It is not uncommon for Scripture to use general expressions, which are to be understood in a qualified sense.
2. From the reasons of the charge and other passages of Scripture. Oaths are necessary in civil society: they are of Divine institution; St. Paul used them; God swears by Himself.
II. Christ condemns-
2. Customary swearing in common conversation.
3. As we may not use the Divine name wantonly so neither may we swear by any of God’s creatures.
4. He forbids all rash imprecations.
5. All scoffing at religion, contempt of the writings of God, and all sporting with Scripture. Profane language is a sure evidence of a bad disposition of mind. It tends to produce greater hardness and to extinguish all reverence: it is most pernicious in its consequences:it is unreasonable yet infectious; it heaps guilt upon the soul. (J. Lathrop, D. D.)
I. The Christian Jaw in regard to oaths (Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 30:2).
II. The Christian law of retaliation.
III. Practical lessons. The sin of perjury is said to be growing appallingly frequent. Whilst technical vows are no longer in harmony with the liberty of the new dispensation, still the spirit of the vow by which one dedicates himself to Divine service is as sacred and as useful as ever. Avoid using expressions that are in the nature of an oath without having its technical form. Outright profanity is a terrible sin, as useless as it is hardening. What a confession of man’s proneness to lie, is his habitual appeal to God as a witness of the truth! The law of retaliating love laid down by Christ shows Him to be the one and supreme Teacher. (J. S. Doolittle, D. D.)
1. Language should be the simple expression of the heart.
2. Christianity seeks to simplify human communications.
3. Exaggerated expressions lead to an untrue life.
4. Christ’s law of speech will regulate our social intercourse. (W. W. Whythe.)
This sin is awfully prevalent.
I. The excuses usually made for it. Ignorance, custom, example, surprise, passion, confirmation of what is said, meaning no harm, inconsistencies of professors, etc. (2 Samuel 12:14; Ezekiel 36:20; Romans 2:24; 2 Peter 2:2).
II. The evil consequences of it. Destroys the little remains of the fear of God. Leads to the disobedience of all His commands. Such a horrid example to others, especially to the young, etc.
III. The powerful arguments against it. God hears. He is holy and jealous. Before His bar the swearer must appear. He is able to punish, and declares He will (2 Kings 19:22; 2 Kings 19:28; Isaiah 37:23; Isaiah 37:36; Isaiah 37:38; Ezekiel 20:27; Ezekiel 20:33; Ezekiel 35:12-14). (A. Tucker.)
The Sin of Swearing
I. Explain the sin in question.
1. One branch of this sin is cursing and swearing.
2. Another branch is the familiar introduction of oaths into common conversation.
3. A mingling religious language in our common discourse without any corresponding feelings in our heart.
II. Its aggravated guilt.
1. It is a gratuitous sin.
2. It is a wilful sin.
3. It is a presumptuous sin.
III. The awful state of those who practise this sin.
1. Awful because God has denounced His vengeance against them.
2. It is a state of fitness for destruction.
3. It is a sure sign of an unregenerate condition. (E. Cooper.)
Charlie Harold, speaking to his grandmother about something he did not like, exclaimed, “By thunder I … Hush I “ said the old lady, “you must not swear, my dear. Don’t you know that Jesus said, ‘Swear not at all! … . Did:He? Well, I didn’t know it was swearing to say ‘By thunder,’ or ‘By golly.’ Is it, grandma? … All such expressions, my dear, in which ‘ by’ is used, partake of the nature of swearing, and a boy who wishes to be good will never let them fall from his lips.” Charlie sat silent for several minutes, in grave thought, and then said, “‘Grandma, what makes the newspaper swear every morning? … Does it,” inquired the old lady, looking over the top of her spectacles with curious eyes. “Yes, it says, ‘By telegraph.’” The old lady could not help laughing, but she explained to Charlie the difference between an exclamation such as “ By thunder,” used to give emphasis to a remark, and an incomplete sentence such as “By telegraph.” The little boy determined that he would not offend in this way again, and I have told you the story, hoping that you may make the same wise rule. (J. N. Norton.)
Keep from Swearing
A lad in Boston, rather small for his years, worked in an office as errand boy for four gentlemen who did business there. One day the gentlemen were teasing him a little about being so small, and said to him: “You never will amount to much, you never can do much business, you are too small.” The little fellow looked at them. “Well,” said he, “as small as I am, I can do something which none of you four men can do.” “Ah, what is that?” said they. “I don’t know as I ought to tell you,” he replied. But they were anxious to know, and urged him to tell what he could do that none of them were able to do. “I can keep from swearing!” said the little fellow. There were some blushes on four manly faces, and there seemed to be very little anxiety for further information on the point.
Swear in the Gaelic tongue
A lady travelling from Edinburgh to Glasgow was much annoyed by a young officer’s conversation in the carriage being interspersed with oaths. She sat uneasy till she could no longer keep silence. “Sir,” she said to the officer, “can you talk in the Gaelic tongue?” To this he replied in the affirmative, seemingly with great pleasure, expecting to have some conversation with the lady in that dialect. She then politely requested that if he wished to swear any more, it might be in that language, as the practice of swearing was very offensive to herself and the rest of the company. The officer was confounded at this reproof, and no more oaths were heard from him during the remainder of the journey.
The tongue and the temper
1. The language of irreverence.
2. The language of retaliation.
3. The language of revenge. (Sermons by Monday Club.)
Love your enemies.
Forgiveness of injuries
The duty of forgiveness does not forbid resentment, but the excess or abuse of it.
I. Such resentment in excess is wrong, for anger produces anger; revenge, malice, and that without limit: an aggravation of misery; and such resentment is a painful remedy to him who suffers from it, and, if not a remedy, it becomes an unmixed evil: the gratification of this passion is never innocent except when necessary.
II. Love to our enemies is a duty; for it is part of the law of general benevolence, which, however, admits resentment, though not the abuses of it. Resentment is consistent with good-will. To love our enemies is not rant, unless benevolence is so; but is as reasonable as the opposite ix mischievous.
III. Reflections adapted to beget and strengthen the temper. Self-love is apt to magnify things amiss in others and lessen them in ourselves. So is anger. Moderation, therefore, is only common sense, trying to ascertain the truth; and is perfectly reasonable. The origin of wrong done is not generally malice, but some passion in itself, and within proper limits, allowable. The object of our resentment is himself a sufferer, and therefore a fit object of compassion. We ourselves need forgiveness, and a forgiving disposition is essential to it. (Bishop Butler, D. C. L.)
Man’s nature is to be judged, not as to whether it is best in the abstract, but on a comparison with his circumstances. Here we have to consider-
I. The nature of the emotion. Sudden and deliberate. Sudden anger is an instinct, excited by violence or harm, not necessarily a wrong, and the end of this passion is the resistance or prevention of violence. Deliberate anger, or resentment, is a passion, excited by wrong or injury undeserved. Hence called indignation, which is not malice, and is stronger the more nearly the injury affects ourselves. The sense of wrong is essential to it, as is plain from the circumstances which aggravate the feeling.
II. The end for which the emotion is implanted: to prevent or remedy injury.
III. The abuses of the emotion of resentment. Sudden: passion, peevishness. Deliberate: resentment against such as innocently injure us; obstinacy in resisting evidence of innocence. Though liable to abuse, the emotion is important, as a balance against the weakness of pity, and in punishing crime. Hence fresh proofs of the reality of virtue, which has certain emotions on its side, and of the wisdom and goodness of God, who makes an instance of them, even the emotion of resentment. (Bishop Butler, D. C. L.)
The Christian’s duty to prisoners
Never, perhaps, does guilty, suffering humanity assume a form more likely to be overlooked or despised by the world at large than in the person of the imprisoned convict. But Christians may be justly expected to regard him with pity-may be justly expected to make prompt and vigorous exertions to promote his welfare. This I argue:
I. From the character of Christians. Disinterested benevolence. Deep sense of personal guilt which they maintain. Efficacy of Divine grace to work a radical change.
II. From the means of usefulness they are able to employ.
III. The commands of Jesus Christ.
IV. The Providence of God. (Beriah Green.)
In what manner are you to repress the rising of improper
1. Remember your own feelings.
2. The evil in the city is permitted by God.
3. Recollect the unwearied patience of God.
4. The treatment the Saviour endured.
5. This will not make a Christian mean-spirited; were there any in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar that showed such greatness of soul as Daniel? (E. Irving.)
1. The supreme art of life, above all other arts, is the art of living together justly and charitably.
2. To get on with men will constitute the most persistent aim within the Christian disposition. (H. W. Beecher.)
On forgiveness of injuries and against revenge
This law reasonable:
I. If we consider the nature of the act here required, which is to love-the most natural, easy, and delightful of all the affections; whereas ill-will and revenge are troublesome and vexatious passions. The devising of mischief, accomplishment of it, and reflection upon it are uneasy.
II. If we consider the qualification of the object-Our enemy. The two great foundations of love are relation and likeness. Men alike and related in essential nature. The hatred of an enemy, if we make a right use of it, may prove of greater advantage to us than the civilities of our best friend; is better and less dangerous than the flatterer. Reconciled enemies often prove our best friends.
III. If we consider the excellence and generosity of the thing itself. It is the most perfect act of the most perfect of all graces-in spite of provocation.
IV. The perfection and prevalency of the examples which the gospel proposeth to us to allure to this duty.
1. The example of God Himself.
2. The example of Jesus Christ.
It is objected that the bearing of injuries like this invites more.
1. Few so bad as to make so barbarous a return for generosity.
2. Christ never intended that our goodness should be void of all prudence.
1. Let us be careful how we make enemies, if it be thus difficult to love them.
2. How great ought our kindness to be to others.
3. The excellence of Christian religion which hath carried our duty so high.
4. The humanity of the Christian religion. (T. Tillotson.)
Prayer for enemies
I wonder how many prayers you ever sent up for those that hate you? I think it did not take the top of one sheet in the angel’s record-book to put down all the prayers that you ever made for men that hate you. (Beecher.)
Difficult to forgive a sneaking enemy
When a large house-dog comes out with an announcement of himself, a man knows what he has got to meet: but when one of those little nasty Spitz dogs that don’t bark at all, but run behind and nip, you don’t know whether to run or to stand still, whether to fight or to give it up. An enemy that is an enemy outwardly and openly, and strikes fair blows, can be met; but whisperers, backbiters, mean folks that follow you, and nip you, and sneak in and out of the fence to save themselves, we do not know how to deal with; and yet we are commanded to pray for them. (Beecher.)
The marrow of the gospel
1. The teaching of the New Testament is that love is the only religion.
2. It teaches that love is a comprehensive disposition.
3. There is no worship of God which is an equivalent or substitute for love. “If thou bring thy gift to the altar.”
4. No man can love God except through the practice of loving men.
5. Love carries with it a double capacity, of perceiving an ideal excellence, and of loving men who represent the opposite. Love goes out to men, not according to their righteousness, but according to their needs.
6. True gospel love is a love that re-creates men. (Beecher.)
Love a universal disposition
A man does not love according to Scripture, simply because he can count well, and say, “I love that person, that one.” That is not it. What kind of a candle would that be which, being set on your table, only shone on particular things-on this book, on that vase, on that mirror, on that picture, and nowhere else. A candle is put upon a candlestick, that it may give light to all in the house. Love must leave nothing out. (Beecher.)
Love attracted by need rather than by character
Is your heart a physician to cure men that need curing, no matter who they may be? (Beecher.)
Love is sometimes severe in its methods
Love is like the old surgery, which took blood, that the fever might go, and that life might come. Love is no poor moonshiney, pale light, caring for nothing. Love is a revelator; it discriminates between right and wrong. It likes the right and hates the wrong, and helps men out of the wrong into the right. (Beecher.)
Love severe in order to salvation
The mother, under ordinary circumstances, is unwilling to singe the child’s hair or scourge its skin, because she loves it so, yet, if there is some conflagration, and she sees that the way of life is through the flame, with wild strength she bears the child through in her bosom, though it be burned in every part. Such is her love for the child that she would rather see it wounded than see it perish. (Beecher.)
The enemies of Louis XII. of France
There is a story told of Louis XII. of France. He had many enemies; and when he succeeded to the throne, he caused a list of these to be drawn up, and marked against each of their names a large black cross. When this became known, the enemies of the king fled, because they thought it was a sign that he intended to punish them. The king, hearing of their alarm, recalled them, and gave them an assurance of his good will, saying that he had placed a cross beside their names to remind him of the Cross that brings pardon to all; and he urged them, by his own example, and especially by the example of Him who prayed for His enemies, to go and do likewise.
Sir Eardley Wilmot’s advice
A gentleman who had filled many high stations in public life, with the greatest honour to himself and advantage to the nation, once went to Sir Eardley Wilmot in great anger at a real injury he had received from a person high in the political world, which he was considering how to resent in the most effectual manner. After relating the particulars to Sir Eardley, he asked if he did not think it would be manly to resent it? “Yes,” said Sir Eardley, “it would doubtless be manly to resent it, but it would be Godlike to forget it.” This the gentleman declared had such an instantaneous effect upon him, that he came away quite another man, and in temper entirely altered from that in which he went.
But I say unto you.
The imperatives of Jesus
I. The range and extent of Jesus’ imperative speeches. He keeps up to His own superior level of command upon all occasions and before all men. Men like us only assume without offence an imperative mood in certain relations of life. Christ did before the Rulers, before the Roman power.
II. The nature and significance of these relations of life, and those elements of human nature, over which Jesus quietly assumed mastery.
1. The miracles of Christ not the greatest of His wonderful works; a greater assumption of power to exercise authority over the higher principles and laws of our human nature, than to claim authority over winds and waves.
2. With what calm consciousness of right Jesus assumes this authority-which belongs to God alone-over human hearts.
3. The nature or right of this supremacy of the Christ.
(1) One ever-present illustration of what Jesus is to this universe we have within us in conscience. Hence you have a means of understanding the authority of Christ.
(2) It reappears in the law of love. He is the righteousness of God with man.
4. We should bring obedience.
5. Do we not need, all of us, to be most thoroughly commanded by something higher and better than ourselves? We fall from our own possibilities, and need a command to step forth like princes to our high calling. (Newman Smyth, D. D.)
The authority of Jesus over human nature and history resembles the lordship of the sun over the earth
The world feels it from centre to circumference; every fruitful field rejoices in it, and this earth would be indeed worthless and dark without it; but we can only make guesses at the riddle of its gravitation and its light; and while any child knows that it is, the wisest can only declare in part, in very little part, how it is. (Newman Smyth, D. D.)
What do ye more?
I. What have we more than others?
1. You have forgiveness of sins.
2. Peace with God.
3. Fellowship with God.
4. You have in expectation a perfect deliverance from evil contact with sin.
5. You have in expectation the resurrection of your bodies.
II. What Do ye more than others?
1. The first obligation is to be thankful.
2. The second obligation is to be boastful: “My soul shall make her boast in the Lord.”
3. To be loving towards all men, but especially towards the household of faith.
4. We must do more than others because more has been done for us, and more is expected of us. (H. McNeile.)
I. The question is suggestive of duty. For whom?
(1) More for themselves.
(2) For their families.
(3) For their neighbours.
(4) For their country.
(5) For the world.
By what means? By use of their tongue, pen, purse. For what reasons?
(1) Because they know more.
(2) Because they have received more.
(3) Because they enjoy more.
(4) Because they profess more.
(5) Because they expect more.
(6) Because they are responsible for more.
II. The question implies doubt. (J. Morgan.)
The superiority of the Christian
I. On what ground this superiority may be challenged. More is required of Christians because more is done for them, expected of them, can be accomplished by them, has been realized by them.
II. The works and evidences that this superiority should assume. They will always have recourse to a higher standard and motives than others. By an unfeigned attachment to the cause of Christ. They must openly commit themselves to the cause and interest of the Church. As to the estimate they form of the world. In a strict observance of all religious ordinances. By engrafting in all their ordinary virtues those which are extraordinary.
`III. To what practical purpose the enforcement of the subject may be applied? It is often requisite to ask Christians what they do because a considerable odium attaches itself to evangelical doctrine. There is greater evil in hollow friendship than open hostility; they are prone to coldness and neglect. (Dr. R. W. Hamilton.)
I. Explain why as Christians we ought to do more than others. Because we underlie special obligations-are endowed with supernatural strength, acknowledge a higher standard of duty-burdened with a heavier responsibility.
II. Inquire whether we do more than others. For our own souls, our families, the Church, our race? (G. Brooks.)
The superior obligations of Christians
While all men are under one sovereign law, some by voluntary profession bring themselves an additional accountableness. We must not compare ourselves with the worst of men. On looking on others and forming judgments, we may specify points of admonitory comparison.
1. They will observe and feel a very limited sense of responsibility.
2. They will observe the lamentably small effects of admitted truth.
3. A different sensibility to the evils which affect mankind.
4. What good things they do not that they might. We must beware of the sad tendency there is to the “less” in any good thing, instead of the “more.” Consider the extent of what there is to be clone; where we should have been if there had not been persons in every age to “do more” than others, such as Wicliff, Luther, etc.; consider how we talk of imitating excellent examples. Those who desire to do more than others must not be discouraged by the disposition that will show itself to depreciate and obstruct. This obligation is increased by the fact that others do less than they ought.
In this comparison with others we must have regard to the motive which leads us to exceed them, and also respecting the equity in the mode of making the comparison. We must beware of seeming to be admired and set off in invidious comparison. There must be no motive of self-merit. A word on the equity of the comparison.
1. Let there be a jealous watchfulness on the propensity to magnify ours and to diminish theirs.
2. The others with whom the comparison is made may have more difficulties than we are aware of.
3. Those of larger means are not to consider themselves as doing more, unless according to that proportion.
4. A man must not compare his most against another’s least.
5. Our Lord when on earth did more than all other men. (J. Foster.)
A call to holy living
I. The grounds for expecting more from Christians.
1. They profess more.
2. True Christians are more than others.
3. It is certain the true Christian can do more than others, he has the Holy Spirit within him.
4. They have more.
5. They are looking for more than others.
II. Matters in which we may naturally look for the Christian to do more than others.
1. To set a more godly example.
2. A more exact performance of the Divine will.
3. To excel all others in gentleness.
4. In purity.
5. In truthfulness.
6. In forbearance.
7. In love to mankind.
III. Reasons for doing more than others.
1. By our fruits we are to be known.
2. Works are to be evidence at last.
3. By them the mouths of gainsayers are stopped.
4. God is glorified. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. What is not to be understood by this requirement, or what Christian perfection is not. Not perfection of knowledge, freedom from temptation, conflict, etc.
II. What is the perfection here required? Perfect obedience to the law of God.
III. That this perfection is a duty. For God requires it.
IV. That it is attainable. It is commanded-God wills it; it is promised; it is the object for which the Holy Spirit is promised and given, etc. Answer objections. (Professor Finney.)
The moral perfections of God
I. God is perfectly wise. Wisdom implies right use of knowledge, and lies in the will as well as in the understanding He acts wisely whose will is directed by right reason. Practical improvement we should make of the wisdom of God.
1. We should be hereby excited to seek wisdom (Proverbs 4:5; Proverbs 4:7).
2. We should ask wisdom of God to direct us in our ways.
3. It becomes us to resign to His will and acquiesce in His appointments.
II. God is perfectly good. His other attributes are rendered engaging to us by His goodness. How extensive the Divine goodness (Psalms 145:9; Psalms 145:16). Is God perfectly good?
1. Then all our powers ought to be awakened to bless His name.
2. Then how hateful should sin be to us.
3. Then we ought to be careful to practise goodness.
III. God is perfectly holy. This denotes the transcendent excellence of His nature, while He is infinitely distinguished from all other beings. Then we should follow after holiness.
IV. God is perfectly just. Justice is commonly distinguished into commutative and distributive, the former in an equal exchange of benefits; this can have no place in our dealings with God. Distributive justice, which ought to be exercised by rulers towards their subjects, consists in the equal distribution of rewards and punishments. God cannot be awed by any power to pervert judgment. The judgments of God cannot be fathomed at present. Is God just?
1. This should awaken in us holy awe.
2. It is of great concern to us guilty creatures to be found in Jesus Christ, having on His righteousness.
V. God is truth.
1. Then we must embrace whatever God has revealed to us.
2. The reasonableness of reliance on God’s promises.
1. It should yield us satisfaction that such a perfect Being as God is governs the world.
2. We should in our contemplations of Him have a strict regard to the harmony of His attributes.
3. Blessed are they who upon good grounds can call this perfect Being their Father and God. (S. Price.)