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I. The prohibition. It refers to the conduct of private individuals, not to men in a public capacity; nor to hinder private persons from forming any opinion upon the misconduct of others. It forbids the indulgence of a censorious temper.
II. The methods by which he reproves and condemns it.
1. He refers to the common principle of retribution.
2. As another corrective we are reminded of our own imperfections.
(1) Men of this description have no right to sit in judgment on others, who are themselves guilty of the same crimes.
(2) They have no moral qualification for its discharge.
3. Our Saviour directs us to reform our own conduct before we undertake to sit in judgment on that of others.
III. The caution which we must observe in its discharge-“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs,” etc. (J. E. Good.)
Judgments and retributive judgments
1. We are warned against judgments that are prejudiced. Not to judge others by a sort of hasty inspiration, by their manner, or by their class or locality.
2. We are warned against judgments that are uncalled for. Sometimes our duty; but often not required of us to judge our neighbour’s character.
3. We are warned against judgments that are one-sided. Must hear both sides.
4. We are warned against unmerciful judgments. Danger arises from attributing motives. We must beware lest we ignore the possibilities of good even in a bad man. Be as merciful as you can be to the sinner.
5. We are warned against blind judgment-“Why beholdest thou,” etc. Evil men more suspicious of others.
II. Retributive judgments-who will inflict them (Luke 6:37-38).
1. The first solution is that they are the judgments of men. This not practically true.
2. Consider the interpretation which attributes the retributive judgments to angels. It is not our Lord’s wont to attribute judgment, forgiveness, etc., to angels.
3. God will inflict them. He judges men according to the state of mind in which they live. (J. E. Rust, M. A.)
The evil of judging rashly
I. The duty-“Judge not.”
1. From the context it is evident that the Saviour here speaks only of those judgments that we form concerning our neighbour. Favourable judgments are not forbidden; unfavourable judgments allowed, when our station or clear evidence require. Judges, parents, teachers, must condemn and publicly censure. Our Lord condemns-
1. The inward disposition of the mind which inclines persons to judge the actions of their neighbours with
2. He condemns the habit of communicating to others the rash and severe judgments we have formed, when no necessity requires it. We multiply the injury in proportion to the number of persons to whom we communicate our unfavourable opinions.
II. The motive. If we thus judge our brethren, there is more than one tribunal at which we shall be condemned.
1. We shall find for ourselves in society judges without pity.
2. The rigour at the last judgment. God will punish those who have encroached upon His rights, and who have trampled down the rules of justice and charity. (H. Kollock, D. D.)
Reasons against a censorious spirit
1. Such judgment provokes retaliation.
2. Such judgment is not becoming in us. Such a sinner has no right to sit in the judgment seat.
3. Such judgment shows incapacity for true judgment. (Sermons by Monday Climb.)
Against rash censuring and judging
There are divers sorts of judging which it is requisite to distinguish from the judging prohibited:-
1. That exercising public judgment, or administering justice, is not here prohibited.
2. The trial and censure, although out of court, which any kind of superiors do exercise on their inferiors, committed to their care, such as masters and servants.
3. Neither is friendly reproof proceeding out of charitable design, on clear ground, in fit season, within reasonable compass, concerned in this prohibition.
4. All observing and reflecting on our neighbours’ actions, all framing an opinion about them, and expressing our minds concerning them, are not forbidden.
5. We are not hence obliged to think so well of all men as without competent knowledge always to rely on their pretences, or to entrust our interests in their hands.
6. We are not obliged, in contradiction to plain sense, to judge all men well.
1. No judge should intrude himself into the office, or assume a judicial power, without competent authority, either by delegation from superior powers, or by voluntary reference to the parties concerned.
2. A judge should be free from all prejudices and all partial affections.
3. A judge should never proceed in judgment without careful examination of the cause, so as well to understand it.
4. A judge should never pronounce final sentence, but after certain proof and on full conviction.
5. Hence there are divers causes wholly exempt from our judgment, such as the secret thoughts of men.
6. Hence we should not judge the state of our neighbour in regard to God.
7. A judge should not proceed against any man without warning, and affording him opportunity to defend himself.
8. Moreover a judge is obliged to conform all his determinations to the settled rules of judgment.
9. He must be a person of good knowledge and ability.
10. It is proper for a judge not to make himself an accuser.
11. He should himself be innocent.
12. He should proceed with great moderation.
1. Censuring is an impious practice in regard to God.
2. In respect to our neighbour it is an unjust practice.
3. It is an uncharitable practice.
4. It is a foolish and vain practice.
5. It will produce many inconveniences and mischiefs.
(1) We provoke others to requite us in the same kind.
(2) We pass censure on ourselves, as we are seldom clear.
(3) We aggravate our own faults and deprive them of excuse.
(4) We forget to what a dreadful judgment we stand obnoxious to.
(5) It causes us to leave our own faults uncorrected.
(6) The best men are the most candid and gentle.
(7) It signifies bad conscience; a vulturous nature smelleth out carrion. (Dr. Barrow.)
little boy once went home to his mother and said, “Mother, sister and I went out into the garden, and we were calling about, and there was some boy mocking us.” “How do you mean, Johnny?” said his mother. “Why,” said the child, “I was calling out, ‘He!’ and this boy said, ‘He!’ So I said to him, ‘Who are you?’ and he answered, ‘Who are you?’ I said, ‘What is your name?’ he said, ‘What is your name?’ And I said to him, ‘Why don’t you show yourself?’ he said, ‘ Show yourself?’ And I jumped over the ditch, and I went into the woods, and I could not find him, and I came back, and said, ‘If you don’t come out I will punch your head!’ and he said, ‘I will punch your head!’ “So his mother said, “Ah, Johnny I if you had said, ‘I love you,’ he would have said, ‘I love You.’ If you had said, ‘Your voice is sweet,’ he would have said, ‘Your voice is sweet.’ Whatever you said to him, he would have said back to you.” And the mother also said, “Now, Johnny, when you grow and get to be a man, whatever you say to others they will, by and by, say back to you.” And his mother took him to that old text in the Scripture, “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
Censoriousness a compound of the worst passions
Censoriousness is a compound of many of the worst passions; latent pride, which discovers the mote in our brother’s eye, but hides the beam in our own; malignant envy, which, wounded at the noble talents and superior prosperity of others, transforms them into the objects and food of its malice-if possible, obscuring the splendour it is too base to emulate; disguised hatred, which diffuses, in its perpetual mutterings, the irritable venom of the heart; servile duplicity, which fulsomely praises to the face and blackens behind the back; shameless levity, which sacrifices the peace and reputation of the absent, merely to give barbarous stings to a jocular conversation; altogether forming an aggregate the most desolating on earth, and nearest in character to the malice of hell. (E. L. Magoon.)
Men self-reflected in their judgment of others
Pedley, who was a well-known natural simpleton, was wont to say, “God help the fool.” None are more ready to pity the folly of others than those who have a small share of wit themselves. “There is no love among Christians,” cries the man who is destitute of true charity. “Zeal has vanished,” exclaims the idle talker. “O for more consistency,” groans out the hypocrite. “We want more vital godliness,” protests the false pretender. As in the old legend, the wolf preached against sheep-stealing, so very many hunt down those sins in others, which they gladly shelter in themselves. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Judgment should combine moderation
Avoid forming refined and romantic notions of human perfection in anything. For these are much apter to heighten our expectations from others, and our demands upon them, than to increase our watchfulness over ourselves; and so every failure provokes us more highly than it would have done else.
The mote that is in thy brother’s eye.
Three lessons stand out conspicuously in the text.
1. Close inspection of ourselves, lest any evil lurk there unobserved which we abhor in others; lest we be like the farmer whose field is overrun with weeds, who delights in pointing out the defective condition of a neighbour’s farm.
2. Avoidance of passing rash judgments on others.
3. Readiness to assist others in overcoming their faults. (Baring Gould, M. A.)
The beam and the mote
I. That sin may exist in man to an enormous extent, and yet he be unconscious of it-“the beam.” Several things tend to produce this unconsciousness.
3. Satanic agency.
II. That however unconscious of our own sins, we may be alive to the sins of others.
1. Sin does not destroy the faculty for discerning moral distinctions.
2. The importance of Christians being circumspect in their conduct.
III. That self-improvement is a necessity qualification for the improvement of others. (Dr. David Thomas.)
Self-knowledge needful in a minister
At Wragby, in Yorkshire, in the vestry of the church is a very curious old painted window, representing in coloured glass the subject of my text; a man with a huge piece of wood before his eyes is trying diligently to extract a mere speck from the eye of another man. And this picture is most appropriately placed in the vestry, as it reminds the priest, whose ministry it is to declare to the people their faults and sins, that he should closely examine himself, lest, after he has preached to others, he himself should be a cast-away. (Baring Gould, M. A.)
Social intercourse should be free from scandal
I have got a piece of plate, probably two hundred years old, for the table at meal time. On the silver is embossed a representation of the mote and the beam; a man with a spiked log sticking into his eye is trying hard to pick a tiny grain out of the eye of another. Perhaps you may think it most inappropriate to have such a group and subject on a piece of plate before one’s eyes commonly. But I do not think so. It is when families meet, or guests assemble round the board, that the characters of neighbours are most freely talked over. (Baring Gould, M. A.)
A knowledge of self gives skill in dealing with others
It is only when we have wrestled with and overcome our own besetting sins, that we have the insight and tact to direct others how to overcome theirs. Massillon, the great French preacher, was once asked where he obtained his profound knowledge of the world and of the human passions, and his skill in solving religious difficulties. “From my own heart,” he replied. In his endeavours after personal holiness he had met and vanquished, one by one, those bosom sins which trouble men. Their false excuses, their specious pretences, their conflicts with temptation, their weak submission to vices which they have vowed to forsake, their remorse, their fears-he knew them all from experience, and he described them as one who knew. Hence the convicting pungency of his preaching, by which the careless courtiers of Versailles were impressed, and to which Louis XIV. himself bore witness. At the close of a sermon the king said to him, “I have heard several great orators, and been very much pleased with them; but every time I have heard you I have been very much displeased with myself.” The ability to minister to others is acquired through faithful self-treatment.
Consistency required in the reprover
Before thou reprehend another, take heed that thou art not culpable in what thou goest about to reprehend. He that cleanses a blot with blurred fingers will make a greater blot. E yen the candle-snuffers of the sanctuary were of pure gold. (Quarles.)
Nowadays men take upon themselves to reprove others for committing such things as themselves do practise without amendment. Therefore these are like some tailors, who are busy in decking and tricking up others, but go both bare and beggarly themselves. (Henry Smith.)
If my carriage be unblamable, my counsel and reproof will be the more acceptable. Wholesome meat often is distasteful, coming out of nasty hands. A bad liver cannot be a good counsellor or bold reprover; such a man must speak softly for fear of awaking his own guilty conscience. If the bell be cracked, the sound must needs be jarring. (Swinnock.)
The vicious reproving vice, is the raven chiding blackness. (Eliza Cook.)
It is easier to judge others than to improve ourselves
Easy and ordinary is it for men to be others’ physicians, rather than their own. They can weed others’ gardens, whiles their own is overrun with nettles. But charity begins at home; and he that loves not his own soul, I will hardly trust him with mine. The usurer blames his son’s pride, sees not his own extortion; and whiles the hypocrite is helping the dissolute out of the mire, he sticks in deeper himself. No marvel if, when we fix both our eyes on others’ wants, we lack a third to see our own. If two blind men rush one upon another in the way, either complains of other’s blindness, neither of his own. Thus, like mannerly guests, when a good morsel is carved us, we lay it liberally on another’s trencher, and fast ourselves. How much better were it for us to feed on our own portion! (Adams.)
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs.
Prudence necessary in conversing upon religious subjects
I. The bad characters and dispositions of some; men here represented by the allusion of “ dogs” and “ swine.”
1. We may be sure they are unworthy the powers and dignity of human nature. There are in their character-
(1) Stupid impunity;
(2) Stubborn forwardness. They snarl at admonitions.
2. How deplorably human nature is capable of being corrupted.
3. Watch against all tendencies towards the beginnings of these evil dispositions.
II. The necessity and reasonableness of treating the affairs of religion with caution and prudence in our conversing with others.
1. Since we know that sacred things are so liable to be abused by profane persons.
2. That it may be attended with bad consequences of ill treatment to ourselves-“lest they turn again and rend you.” (J. Abernethy, M. A.)
The dogs and the swine
The lesson is one of reverence and discretion.
I. As to the preaching of the gospel.
II. As to statements of spiritual experience.
III. As to the admission to sacred privileges and functions in the Church. (D. Fraser, D. D.)
Ask, and it shall be given you.
I. We have in these words, not formal definition of prayer, but an incidental definition, and most complete. To pray is to “ask” of God; the more childlike the asking the better.
II. A recognition of the hindrances which we meet in prayer. We are to ask when God is nigh; mercies are sometimes hid, then seek.
III. A positive injunction. Prayer not optional; it is a duty.
IV. Christ stimulates to obedience by words of encouragement.
1. He calls attention to universal experience-“Every one that asketh, receiveth.” Prayer is not an experiment.
2. Christ points to the conduct of parents towards their children.
3. A gentle reference to our common depravity-“If ye, being evil.” God far above all earthly parents, mere willing to give good gifts. (S. Martin.)
Prayer a duty, even though there be no desire to pray
In certain states of the body men lose all appetite for food. Are they to yield to this want of appetite? If they do yield to it, they are soon starved to death. Sometimes without appetite, it becomes necessary for them to take, day by day, nourishment. Just so with prayer. If I cannot pray as a privilege, I am to pray as a duty.
Prayer not a runaway knock
Watch in prayer to see what cometh. Foolish boys, that knock at a door in wantonness, will not stay till somebody cometh to open to them; but a man that hath business will knock, and knock again, till he gets his answer. (T. Manton.)
Keeping up a suit
Keep up the suit and it will come to a hearing-day ere it be long. (T. Manton.)
Ask and receive
1. Every promise is attached to a duty.
2. That concerning any duty it is not enough that you do it, you must do it scripturally.
3. It does not say when you shall receive.
4. The whole Trinity combine before there can be prayer.
5. This is the language of entire dependence. “Ask.” Man is empty.
6. It is God’s method to try the grace which He intends to crown. “Seek.”
7. Never be afraid of being too earnest. “Knock.”
8. God wishes you to have a clear understanding about the certainty of prayer. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Ask: Children speaking to God
I. Ask, whom? Not to angels, saints. God is the only Being who is everywhere present, and therefore the only one to whom we should pray.
II. Ask, when? Any time; some times better than others. Morning, etc.; the time of perplexity, etc.
III. Ask, where? “I will that men pray everywhere.”
IV. Ask, How?
1. Orderly; think about what you are going to ask.
2. Earnestly; not carelessly.
3. Repeatedly: until you receive an answer.
4. In your own style-as children.
5. In faith.
6. In the name of Jesus, the only Mediator, etc. (A. McAuslane, D. D.)
How to find the Lord
A man said to me the other night in the inquiry-room, “Mr. Moody, I wish you would tell me why I can’t find the Lord.” Said I: “I can tell you why you can’t find Him.” “Why is it?” “Why, you haven’t sought for Him with all your heart.” He looked at me, and said he thought he had. “Well,” said I, “I think you haven’t; because you will surely find Him when you seek for Him with all your heart. Now, my friend, I can tell you the day and hour you are going to be converted.” The man looked at me, and I have no doubt thought I was a little wild. Said I: “The Scripture tells me, ‘He that seeketh findeth.’” It don’t take a man long to find the Lord when he makes his mind up to do it.
Life a research
1 Life is a research.
2. Not get some one else to seek for you.
3. The Lord assigns no limit to the research. (A. Coquerel.)
Rogation Days. Ask, and it shall be given you
In May almost always the Rogation Days come. The fitness of this. These days are meant to prepare the people’s hearts for the coming festival of the Ascension; but mainly to be days of intercession “ for the fruits of the earth, which are then tender, that they may not be blasted,” as well as for health and peace at that season of the year when war and pestilence may be expected to begin. These intentions are indeed closely blended, for when our Lord ascended up on high He received gifts for men.
I. We pray for a blessing upon the fruits of the earth. We can scarcely help it unless we are untrue to nature. Man’s heart is on his fields; he has done all his work as far as crops are concerned-now he can only hope, watch, and pray. Now all depends upon what God will be pleased to do. We are not powerless: prayer is left to us. Thirteen centuries ago Rogation Days were first appointed; it was then felt that prayer was a power to secure peace and plenty. Though there is no service for these Days, there is nothing to prevent us from keeping them. Our great authority for them is found in the first and second chapters of Joel. In these days of agricultural depression we have need to remember them. (E. T. Marshall, M. A.)
Prayer, Knock with confidence
When thou standest before His gate, knock loudly and boldly, not as a beggar knocks, but as one who belongs to the house; not as a vagabond, who is afraid of the police, but as a friend and an intimate acquaintance; not as one who is apprehensive of being troublesome, or of coming at an improper time, but of a guest who may rest assured of a hearty welcome. (Dr. F. W. Krummacher.)
The nature and efficacy of prayer
I. The precept.
1. The nature of the duty.
2. A few of our obligations to this holy duty:
(1) The Divine command.
(2) The pious example of holy men.
(3) It is reasonable.
3. Some of the motives by which it is enforced:
(1) Its necessity.
(2) Its great importance in preparing the mind for the duties of the sanctuary and the family.
(3) Another motive arises from the maintenance of the power of religion within us.
(4) The pleasure of walking with God is a powerful incentive.
II. The encouragement which the text affords us.
1. The promise itself.
2. Its Divine fulness.
(1) It comprehends every human being that presents his prayer for relief.
(2) The quality of the blessing-“good things.”
1. How happy is the believer.
2. How important to know the medium of acceptable prayer. (J. E. Good.)
Prayer the characteristic action of religion
I. Prayer is religion in action. It is the soul of man engaging in that particular form of activity which presupposes the existence of a great bond between itself and God. It is the noblest kind of human action, in which man realizes the highest capacity of his being. This estimate of prayer not universal amongst even educated people. They regard it as an outlet for feeling, a means of discipline; but less worthy the energies of a thinking man than hard work. But prayer is indeed work. The dignity of labour is proverbial.
1. Is it true that prayer is little else than the half-passive play of sentiment? Let those who have truly prayed give the answer. Jacob wrestled with an unseen Power (Matthew 11:12).
2. Take prayer to pieces; it consists of three different forms of activity.
(1) To pray is to put the understanding in motion, and to direct it upon the Highest Object. How overwhelming are the ideas which thus pass before it. The issues are realized. This an absorbing occupation for the understanding.
(2) To pray is to put the affections in motion, it is to open the heart; this movement of the affections is sustained throughout prayer.
(3) To pray is to put the will in motion, just as decidedly as we do when we sit down to read hard, or when we walk up a steep hill. It enters vitally into the action of prayer, and is in proportion to sincerity. Now these three ingredients of prayer are also ingredients in all real work, whether of brain or hand; in prayer they are more evenly balanced. The dignity of prayer as being real work becomes clear if we reflect on the faculties it employs; and clearer if we consider the effect of it upon the habitual atmosphere of the soul. It places the soul face to face with facts of the first order of solemnity; with its real self and with its God. And just as labour in any department is elevating when it takes us out of and beyond the petty range of daily and material interests, while yet it quickens interest in them by kindling higher enthusiasms into life, so in a transcendent sense is it with prayer. It is so noble, because it is the work of man as man; of man realizing his being and destiny with a vividness which is necessary to him in no other occupation. The nobleness of his best form of toil must fall infinitely below that of a spirit entering consciously into converse with the eternal God.
II. But granted the dignity of prayer even as of labour: what if this labour be misapplied?
1. There is here no question as to the subjective effects of prayer; this is admitted by all.
2. Prayer is not chiefly a petition for something that we want and do not possess. It is intercourse with God, often seeking no end.
3. If prayer is to be persevered in, it must be on the conviction that it is heard by a living Person. We cannot practise trickery upon ourselves with a view to our moral edification. If God exists, if He be a Personal Being, then surely we may reach Him if we will. Where is the barrier that can arrest our thought, as it rises to the all-embracing intelligence of God. And if God be not merely an infinite intelligence, but a moral Being, a mighty heart, so that justice and tenderness are attributes of His, then surely we appeal to Him with some purpose. It is on this ground that God is said to hear prayer in Scripture. That He should do so follows from the reality of His nature as God. He who has planted in our breasts feelings of interest and pity for one another cannot be insensible to our need and pain.
III. But will God answer prayer when it takes the form of a petition for some specific blessing which must be either granted or refused?
1. The first presumed barrier against the efficacy of prayer to which men point is the scientific idea of law reigning throughout the spiritual as well as the material universe. But the laws of nature are not self-sustained forces; God can use His own laws. They have not escaped His control.
2. A second barrier to the efficacy of prayer is sometimes discovered in the truth that all which comes to pass is fore-determined in the predestination of God. Prayer, too, is a foreseen action of man, and is embraced in the eternal purpose of God.
3. The third barrier is the false idea of the Divine dignity which is borrowed from our notions of human royalties. Need not depreciate man’s place in the universe; God’s best creature, and He cares for the lowest.
4. A fourth barrier to the efficacy of prayer is thought to be discernible in an inadequate conception of the interests of human beings as a whole. But Christian prayer is conditioned.
5. The last barrier is really to be discovered in man’s idea of his own self-sufficiency,
6. That prayer is answered is a matter of personal experience. (Canon Liddon.)
The bread of God’s Word not to be petrified by preachers
Petrarch’s works are said to have laid so long in the roof of St. Mark’s, at Venice, that they became turned into stone; by what process deponent sayeth not. To many men it might well seem that the Word of God had become petrified, for they receive it as a hard, lifeless creed, a stone upon which to sharpen the daggers of controversy, a stumbling-block for young beginners, a millstone with which to break opponents’ heads, after the manner experienced by Abimelech at Thebez. A man must have a stout digestion to feed upon some men’s theology; no sap, no sweetness, no life, but all stern accuracy, and fleshless definition. Proclaimed without tenderness, and argued without affection, the gospel from such men rather resembles a missile from a catapult than bread from a Father’s table. Teeth are needlessly broken over the grit of systematic theology, while souls are famishing. To turn stones into bread was a temptation of our Master, but how many of His servants yield readily to the far worse temptation to turn bread into stone! Go thy way, metaphysical divine, to the stone-yard, and break granite for McAdam, but stand not in the way of loving spirits who would feed the family of God with living bread. The inspired Word is to us spirit and life, and we cannot afford to have it hardened into a huge monolith, or a spiritual Stonehenge-sublime, but cold; majestic, but lifeless; far rather would we have it as our own household book, our bosom companion, the poor man’s counsellor and friend. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
How much more shall your Father.
The heavenly and the earthly Parent
I. The facts which our text recognizes.
1. The moral condition of earthly parents-“evil.”
2. The natural affection of earthly parents.
II. The argument our text expresses. Suggested by contrast. Strengthened by condition. Confirmed by covenant.
III. The appeal it supplies. Addressed to your consciousness of duty, compassion for suffering, recollection of heavenly goodness. (Anon.)
I. An encouraging character of the Being to whom we pray-a father. Most endearing. He feels the tenderest concern for us. We have freedom of access to Him, etc. But the extent of His Fatherly relation is in the text illustrated-by appeal and by contrast.
II. The blessings We shall receive from our heavenly Father in answer to our prayers-“good things.” Temporal and spiritual “things.” What an encouragement to pray! How careful we should be to pray aright. Address those who do not pray. (R. Watson.)
God the best of Fathers
I. How pre-eminently he sustains the parental office.
1. The first instance of His superiority is derived from His knowledge.
2. The superiority of His correction.
3. God surpasses every earthly parent in His nearness and observation. Parents cannot always be with their children.
4. Parents may be unable to relieve their children, if with them.
5. Other parents are not suffered to continue, by reason of death.
6. The love of parents is far exceeded by the love of God.
7. Parents give good things to their offspring, however imperfectly they make known their wants and desires. (W. Jay.)
Dependence upon God
I. What is implied in this dependence? A conviction that we are not able to provide for ourselves, and therefore need to depend on Him. That there is nothing to prevent God’s providing for us.
II. How the spirit of dependence is to be expressed,
III. The support that is given to the spirit of dependence. The express promise of God. The experience of God’s people. The relationship which God bears to His people.. There is a lesson of instruction, rebuke, warning, encouragement, (R. Tuck, B. A.)
Good gifts to our children
Our Lord refers here to the disposition of the father rather than to his discernment, his willingness more than his wisdom. The impulse of affection not always wise. What are the gifts we owe to our children?
1. First among them is a careful training in obedience.
2. Another gift we owe our children is a careful training in the unselfish virtues.
3. Another gift we owe our children is a high and worthy ideal.
4. Another good gift we may impart to our children is education.
5. Finally, a good gift wherewith you may enrich your children is your confidence. (W. Gladden, D. D.)
God a royal Father concerned for the welfare of His children
A king is sitting with his council deliberating on high affairs of state involving the destiny of nations, when suddenly he hears the sorrowful cry of his little child who has fallen down, or been frightened by a wasp; he rises and runs to his relief, assuages his sorrows and relieves his fears. Is there anything unkingly here? Is it not most natural? Does it not even elevate the monarch in your esteem? Why then do we think it dishonourable to the King of kings, our heavenly Father, to consider the small matters of His children? It is infinitely condescending, but is it not also superlatively natural that being a Father He should act as such? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
That men should do to you, do ye even so to them.
Wherein lies that exact righteousness which is required between man and man
I. The expectation of it. Put thyself into the place and circumstances of every man with whom thou hast to do. This is an exact rule. It is plain and easy. Three things are to be done before this rule will be of use to us.
1. We must make it appear reasonable.
2. Make it certain.
3. Make it practicable.
(1) Labour to understand truly every man’s condition so far as you have opportunity.
(2) When from distance, self-interest you cannot understand, trust the concurrent experience of others that are in that condition.
(3) Conclude that in cases between superiors and inferiors, the partiality is usually on the inferiors’ side.
(4) In judging of your present condition and circumstances, always abate something for the presence of them, for self-love and self-interest and other passions.
II. The grounds of this. The equity of the rule stands upon these foundations.
1. All men are equal in many things, and these the greatest things.
2. In most of those things wherein we are unequal, the inequality is not considerable, so as to be a ground of any unequal dealing with one another.
3. In all these things wherein men are unequal, the inequality is not fixed and constant, but mutable and by turns.
4. Among other grounds is the mutual and universal equity and advantage of this rule.
5. The absurdity and inconvenience of the contrary.
III. The instances.
1. In matters of civil respect and conversation.
2. In matters of kindness and courtesies.
3. In matters of charity and compassion.
4. In matters of forbearance and forgiveness.
5. In matters of report and representation of other men, and their actions.
6. In matters of trust and fidelity.
7. In matters of duty and obedience.
8. In matters of freedom and liberty, which are not determined by natural or positive law.
9. In matters of commerce and contracts which arise from thence.
IV. Rules for directing our commerce.
1. Impose upon no man’s ignorance or unskilfulness.
2. Impose upon no man’s necessity.
3. Use plainness in all your dealings.
4. In matters of fancy use moderation. Let us not revenge ourselves. (J. Tillotson, D. D.)
It is sometimes said that Christians are defective in the duties of the second table; hypocrites may be, but not real Christians.
I. A rule of life. This precept may be considered in the affirmative and negative; the latter to restrain injury, the former to do good. To impress this rule in the negative sense take four considerations.
1. That in the duties of the second table we have more light than we have in the first, for in the first we are to love God with all our heart (Matthew 22:26; Matthew 22:37), but the love to our neighbour is a measure more discernible. Love will tell us what is good for ourselves; in guiding our love to God we need many rules.
2. The breach of the rule is more evil in him which hath experienced the bitterness of wrongs, than in another; because experience giveth us a truer knowledge of things, than a naked conception of them. Thus conscience worketh in the way of restraint.
3. That this rule is spiritual, and concerneth the inward man as well as the outward, thoughts as well as actions.
4. This rule must be done not only out of love to man, but out of love to God, and as an act of obedience. Self-love is the measure, but not the principle, of our action. Now take the affirmative part.
1. In giving. Be as ready to do as to receive good.
2. In forgiving.
II. Vindicate this rule.
1. It seems not to be so perfect a rule: because many desire and wish much evil to themselves.
2. It seems to make all men equal, and destroy order and superiority, as master and servant.
3. Doth not this establish revenge and retaliation?
4. Is not this to impose a restraint upon the Christian from which others are free, and so to expose to constant loss?
III. The equity of this rule.
1. The actual equality of all men by nature.
2. The possible equality of all men as to condition and state of life.
IV. The illative particle “Therefore.”
1. That God is the judge of human actions. He will see whether you do to others as they do to you, and you shall hear of it in your dealing with God.
2. That the usage we expect from God the same in measure we should deal out to others. Application: What an advantage religion is to mankind in the present life.
(1) How securely we might live one by another.
(2) How mutually helpful men would be to each other.
(3) How much mankind have degenerated, and how few live Christians in the world. (J. Manton, D. D.)
Duty towards our neighbour
The several capacities wherein we can help or hinder him.
I. As to his soul. Promote its good by-
II. As to the body we must do as we would be done by.
III. We must deal with our neigh-bout as we desire be should deal with us, in respect of his good name.
IV. This rule extends to men’s estates.
2. Charity. Some motives to induce the the practice of this rule:
1. The first shall be taken from the end for which they were made.
2. From the intrinsic beauty and loveliness of the rule itself.
3. Because we and they both bear the same stamp and impress of heaven.
4. Because if we be just and generous in time of our prosperity, it will cause a like affection in others to us.
5. It would be the best security of our lives, honour, reputation, riches, power. (Dr. Barrow.)
1. The mutual dependence of man upon his fellow man.
2. The duty which devolves on each to assist his neighbour, especially in spiritual things. (Bishop of Winchester.)
The golden rule
I. What is the true meaning of this Divine rule? That we practise toward our neighbour in such a manner as our hearts and consciences would think it reasonable he should practise towards us in a like case.
II. What is the special argument that our Lord uses in order to enforce it.
III. Wherein its particular excellencies appear. It is easy to be understood and applied, easy to be remembered, carries greater evidence to the conscience than any other rule of virtue, includes a powerful motive, will secure our neighbour from injury and us from guilt, as fitted to awaken repentance as to direct to duty, suits all stations, etc., includes all actions and duties, a rule of the highest prudence, and fitted to make the whole world happy.
IV. Reflections. How compendious the Saviour’s method of providing for the practice of all the moral duties enjoined by Moses and the prophets! What Divine wisdom to make the golden rule a fundamental law in both the Jewish and Christian systems. (Dr. Watts.)
Concerning this rule or principle note the following facts:
I. It is a golden rule. It is sound throughout and very precious.
II. This is our Saviour’s golden rule.
III. It is a revolutionary rule.
IV. It is a very stringent rule.
V. It is an evangelical rule. Whoever thinks about it cannot fail to see two things. His need of God’s forgiveness and God’s grace.
VI. Following the golden rule we shall be led to our duty and therefore to blessedness. (Anon.)
The golden rule of gospel equity
I. The precept itself and the limitations with which it is to be understood. We must not make what we expect others would do in our circumstances the rule of conduct; because we expect selfishness, we must not be selfish; this is retaliation. The rule of the text does not apply when what we would is inconsistent with the well-being of society; a creditor need not forego a just debt. So this rule has equity and right reason as a limit. We must not take too favourable views of our individual case and form an exaggerated estimate of what we are entitled to at the hands of a neighbour. Anger may be justified.
II. The excellency of this rule, and the grounds on which we claim for it the respect of mankind.
1. Its reasonableness, as founded on the original equality of all men.
2. Its capability of easy and immediate application.
3. The beneficence of such a rule in relation to ourselves. God seems to let us make our own laws.
III. A few practical illustrations of the way in which this rule may be applied.
1. Let the rule be applied to the civilities of social intercourse.
2. To the practice of neighhourly charities and compassions. “Ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
3. To the rights, properties, and good name of all around us.
4. To the social duties falling under no special name, regard for the opinions of others.
5. The connection of these several duties with the sinner’s acceptance with God. (D. Moore, M. A.)
The golden rule
I. The righteous rule of conduct here laid down.
1. In order to the performance of this duty there must be a sameness of circumstances. There is a diversity in the station and character of men; this requires diversity of duty towards them.
2. We must carefully observe the measure by which we are to regulate our conduct towards others. It is not what they actually do, but what we would desire they should do, which is to be our rule.
3. This rule must be taken with certain modifications, not absolutely; we might wish others to do things unreasonable and sinful; it must recognize the law of God.
II. Its excellence.
1. Its brevity.
2. Its comprehensiveness-“All things.”
3. Its perfect justice.
III. A few considerations to enforce obedience to it.
1. The argument exhibited by our Lord-“For this is the law and the prophets.”
2. The injunction of our Lord on this subject.
3. The powerful recommendation such u course would prove to the gospel of our Lord.
4. It is enforced by the benevolent and righteous example of Him who gave it.
1. It presents a most invaluable testimony to the truth of Christianity.
2. How happy will be the world when the religion of Jesus Christ shall be universally diffused. (J. E. Good.)
The golden rule a fundamental law
Nature’s great law that matter attracts matter; that a vast central world will attract planets from a straight line into a circle; that an earth will draw a falling apple to itself, and hold its liquid sea and liquid air close to itself, and will hold the seas under the air and the land under the sea, is not more fundamental in the material world than the golden rule is in the world of duty and happiness. Take away the single principle discovered by Newton, and the organized universe-is at once dissolved; air and water and land mingle; our globe would become a fluid, and fill its orbit with a floating debris of itself. The golden rule underlies our public and private justice, our society, our charity, our education, our religion; and the sorrows of bad government, of famine, of war, of caste, of slavery, have come from contempt of this principle. (D. Swing.)
Christ did not originate the golden rule, but gave it new meaning and power over men
To find the glory, therefore, of a truth you must not pause with the man who may have first announced it, for he may have had no conception of its worth, and may have given it little love, like the Sibyl who wrote prophecies which she did not herself understand, and which, written upon leaves, she permitted the winds to carry about never to be seen or eared for again. In order to locate the glory of discovery you must measure the heart and mind that first took hold of the idea or taw in its infancy or later life. You will find the word liberty in Caesar’s history and in Cicero’s ethics, but they knew nothing of the idea as compared with that conception of the word in the mind of a Wilberforce or a Polish exile. (D. Swing.)
The golden rule a portable law
By that I mean it is always at hand, always ready to be appealed to. It is like the “ two-foot rule “ which the skilful artizan always carries with him ready to take the measurement of any work to which he is called; a rule is his that can measure the brick that is but of few inches length, or that could compute the height of the pyramids. So is it with this law. Other social regulations, such as those of professional etiquette, of trade customs, and even of national statutes, are continually failing men according to the class or country in which they are found. But this is ever at hand. (U. R. Thomas.)
The golden rule should be remembered in the infliction of punishment
The Emperor Alexander Severus was so charmed by the excellence of this “golden rule,” that he obliged a crier to repeat it whenever he had occasion to punish any person; and caused it to be inscribed in the most noted parts of his palace, and on many of the public buildings: he also professed so high a regard for Christ, as having been the author of so excellent a rule, that he desired to have Him enrolled among the deities.
Enter ye in at the strait gate.
The strait gate not a shut gate
I. The faithfulness of a holy God. God has told us the way is difficult. It is against nature.
II. The tenderness of a merciful father.
1. There is a gate.
2. The gate leadeth unto life. If the pleasures of sin must be left behind, the pleasures of holiness await.
3. Those who enter neither make nor open the gate; they only find it. Men cannot make ways of peace for themselves; they cannot force, but find the way.
4. He who made the way, and keeps it open now, is glad when many “go in thereat.” (W. Arnot.)
Salvation: joy that the gate is open
If some of the Queen’s soldiers were taken prisoner by the enemy, and confined in a fortress far in the interior of a foreign land; and if an intimation were conveyed to the captives by a friendly hand that, at a certain part of their prison walls there is an opening to liberty and home, but that the opening is narrow and the path beyond it rough, their hearts would forthwith till with joy. They would feel already free. Strait gate! what do they care for its straitness?-enough for them that there is a gate. Ere that setting sun get round to gild the east again, many long miles will be between them and the house of bondage. Surer and safer is their outgate, if slaves to sin were as willing to be free. (W. Arnot.)
Salvation: the gate cannot be forced
Outside the frowning barrier swarm the multitudes of all kindreds and tongues, who strive to be their own saviours. One will give ten thousand rivers of oil. Another, more alarmed, and more in earnest, will give the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul. Another will waste or wound his own flesh at the bidding of a priest who will assure him of an entrance. Another, without the intervention of any human mediator, will, under the spur of an alarmed but unenlightened conscience, abandon this life to blank, slavish fear, not daring to enjoy any comfort or any hour, in order that he may more surely propitiate the judge, and finally make his way into heaven. It is all labour lost. There is no gate on that side, and you cannot make one. (W. Arnot.)
The supreme importance of personal salvation
I. The facility of attaining destruction. Will appear from the following considerations:-
1. Temptation to evil.
2. Man’s susceptibility to temptation.
3. The large numbers who tread this way.
4. The needlessness of effort to tread this way.
II. The difficulty of attaining salvation. The attainment of salvation demands
(1) The resistance of temptation;
(2) The exercise of self-denial;
(3) The overcoming of difficulties.
III. The duty of striving to attain salvation.
1. Strive to trust in God.
2. Strive to watch and work. (William Jones.)
The difficulty of salvation
We wish not to discourage, but awaken Christians from their languor.
1. The figures Christ has employed set forth the difficulty of salvation. A warfare in which we must engage; a building we must erect.
2. Perhaps the places where Christ speaks without figures will be less severe. “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence.” “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
3. The exalted perfection of the law of Jesus Christ joined to the extreme weakness of man in the state of corrupt nature.
4. What shall I say of outward obstacles?
5. Those who have been influenced by sincere desire to work out their salvation have perfectly understood its difficulty.
6. Wily has God made the way to heaven so difficult?
(1) It does not belong to us to cult God to account.
(2) The difficulty comes from man, to whom God has given all necessary strength to do well.
(3) All good men have had other sentiments on this alleged difficulty, wonder that God for so few things should save His people.
(4) When a thing is not absolutely necessary difficulty may dishearten; but when of indispensable necessity, there is nothing that we ought not to surmount.
(5) Above all, we must have recourse to God with this prayer, “Lord, save us, or we perish.” (Cheminais.)
The strait gate and the wide; the narrow way and the broad
1. They all produce destruction of peace.
2. Some of its paths lead to destruction of character.
3. Some of its paths lead to destruction of health.
4. Some of these paths lead to the destruction of life.
5. They all lead to the destruction of the soul. (J. Gwyther, B. A.)
The broad way
I. The place they enter-”wide gate.”
1. Wide enough to admit spiritual ignorance.
2. Wide enough for inconsistency and sloth.
II. The road they travel.
III. The numbers which bear the ungodly company.
IV. The end to which they come. (D. Moore, M. A.)
I. A contrast with respect to the entrances-“strait,” “wide.”
II. Two ways contrasted-“broad,” “narrow.”
III. A contrast as to the number that journey in these ways.
IV. A contrast as to the ends to which these ways lead. (Garrard.)
I. The idea which our Lord gives of future misery-“destruction.” Although the powers of the soul will be preserved in all their might, yet the sources of sensual gratification will be destroyed. It is a positive penalty inflicted by the justice of God. The ruin is complete, often sudden, certain, eternal.
II. A confirmation of the statement made concerning it. The gate is “wide,” etc. The way of sin is broad, considering the ease with which it is found. Broad by its enticements. So broad as to admit persons of all descriptions, etc. What entering in at the strait gate implies. Inducements to comply with this admonition. (R. Treffry.)
I. The sinner’s imminent danger. Great, certain, near, hastening.
II. The sinner’s immediate duty. To search the Scriptures, self-examination, prayer, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The destruction of sinners will be charged to themselves. If you are in the narrow way be thankful. (Dr. J. Matthews.)
The way to life and the way to destruction unfolded
I. An exhortation and warning, how to direct our course for the other world, which this life is but the avenue to.
1. The safe course.
2. The unsafe course.
3. Our duty and interest with respect to these gates.
II. A reason for this exhortation and warning. That though the other gate is easy and much frequented, yet it is most dangerous. The nature of the gate opposite to that we are called to enter in by, and of the way of joining it.
1. It is wide.
2. It is broad. They are not hampered by conscience, Bible etc.
3. The use made of it. There are many dispositions of carnal men.
4. The end of it.
The safe way:-
1. The gate is strait.
2. The way is narrow. It is like a strait shoe that presses the foot. It is not easy walking in it. Afflictions and temptations beset it.
3. The ungrequentedness of it.
4. The happy tendency and end of it. (T. Boston, D. D.)
What makes the gate strait?
1. The mighty contrariety of our nature to it.
2. The various lusts hanging about the soul.
3. The keen opposition made by Satan to the soul’s entry.
4. The enmity of the world against religion.
5. The nature of the thing makes it a strait gate.
The entering in by the strait gate
What they enter into by it:
1. A new road (2 Corinthians 5:17).
2. A safe road (Proverbs 1:33).
3. Into a house all ease and comfort (Revelation 21:7).
How do they enter in by this gate?
1 Coming out of themselves.
2. Coming to Christ in the free promise of the gospel faith.
3. Coming unto God by Christ.
What this entering bears
1. A discerning of the gate.
2. A finding of an absolute necessity of entering by it.
3. Resoluteness for a happy arrival.
4. A contentment to forego our present ease.
5. Nobody walking carelessly will get a safe arrival.
6. They must begin well who would end well.
The wide gate
1. It is a deceitful way.
2. It is an unprofitable way.
3. It is a trifling way.
4. It is a restless way.
5. It is a disappointing way.
6. It is easy to fall on it.
7. It is easy walking in it.
8. It is not easy to get off it.
This way leads to destruction
1. This is the constant voice of the word of God.
2. The rectorial justice of God demands it.
3. The nature of things manifests it.
4. The voice of the natural conscience confirms it.
The multitude in the broad way
1. Seen in the universal corruption of human nature.
2. The constant call to the multitude to repent.
3. The judgments God has sent on the world.
4. From our own observation.
5. It is the most agreeable way to the corrupt nature.
6. The blindness of the human mind.
7. Prejudices against the way.
8. The broad way is easiest.
9. Satan influences thereto it.
10. Example contributes to it.
11. Also want of consideration. (T. Boston, D. D.)
The facility with which sinners go to destruction
This will appear-
I. From the fact that it is agreeable to the nature of man to pursue a sinful course.
II. From the spiritual sloth of the transgressor.
III. The blindness of the carnal mind.
IV. The strength of unbelief, the allurements of the world, and the devices of Satan.
V. The effect of things present, compared with the influence of things distant.
VI. The imperfections and sins of professing Christians. VII. The example of the multitude. These obstacles must be overcome, or we inevitably perish. (W. Mitchell, A. M.)
The broad and the narrow way
I. The way of destruction.
1. The gate into it is wide.
2. The way itself is broad.
3. It is the way along which the great bulk of mankind are travelling.
II. The way of life.
1. The gate into it is strait.
2. The way itself is narrow.
3. It is a way little travelled.
III. Let us judge as to which way we are walking in. (E. Cooper.)
The two ways
I. The way of sin which we are directed to avoid.
1. The gate is wide. It requires no difficulty.
2. It is broad. It is lawless.
3. It is crowded.
4. Its termination.
II. The path of Christian holiness which we are to pursue.
1. Its entrance.
2. Its dimensions.
3. Its paucity of passengers.
4. Its blissful end.
1. There is an inseparable connection between the present and the future.
2. There is no middle path in religion.
3. Never suffer the world to be your authority in matters of religion.
4. Strive to enter in at the strait gate. (J. E. Good.)
The narrowness of the gospel
I know nothing broader than Christianity; not one of the ideas of which it has taken hold that it has not enlarged in infinite proportions. Take the ideas of God, humanity, and destiny of man. Yet it is accused of narrowness. The cause not in any weakness, but in the gospel itself. It is narrow-
I. Because it is the way of truth. It can tolerate no other way. Truth alone is good. In science men prefer it: why not in religion? Because morally inconvenient.
II. Because it is the way of holiness. Each would like to retain his favourite inclination. It will not let our vices pass.
III. Because it is the way of humility. It is closed even to virtuous pride, to fancied merits.
IV. Because it is the way of love. The Divine love is narrow in that it rejects all that is contrary to it. Your love is narrow, and seeks the welfare of its object. But none can reject the privations of this narrow way. (E. Bersier, D. D.)
The gate of salvation too narrow for the self-righteous
See in the middle of the night a house on which fire has caught. Everywhere the flame breaks out with the rapidity of lightning. Cries of alarm are raised, for there is an unfortunate sleeper above this furnace which is going to consume him. He awakes, he turns his scared looks everywhere. Before him a single passage remains open, narrow, but sufficient to save his life. What does he do? With a grasping and feverish hand he gathers all that he can save of his goods, and laden with his treasures, bending under his burden, he arrives at this door which refuses to give him passage. “For me,” he cries then, “for me! the door is too narrow.” Ah! poor idiot! leave there thy treasures which will cost thee thy life, strip thyself of that which prevents thy progress, consent to sacrifice all; thy salvation is only at that price. You have understood me, brethren. This house which is falling in is our life; this devouring flame is the judgment of the holy God; this open door is pardon; and these treasures which will ruin you, are those qualities, those virtues, those merits, which you wish to preserve at all cost. Yes, the door of heaven is too narrow for the selfrighteous, and because of this the Gospel raises so much repugnance and irritation amongst them. (E. Bersier, D. D.)
Salvation: its difficulty argues its worth
The difficulty of obtaining shows the excellency; and, surely, if you consider but what it cost Christ to purchase it; what it costs God’s Spirit to bring men’s hearts to it; what it costs ministers to persuade to it; what it costs Christians, after all this, to obtain it; and what it costs many a half-Christian that, after all, goes without it; you will say that here is difficulty, and therefore excellency. Trifles may be had at a trivial rate, and men may have damnation- far more easily. Conclude, then, it is surely somewhat worth that must cost all this. (Baxter.)
Salvation: its difficulty the law of entrance to it and all other kingdoms
Into what kingdom is it that you are anxious now to enter? Above all things you wish to enter into the kingdom of music. Very well. This is the New Testament doctrine concerning the kingdom of music. “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto excellence in music, and few there be that find it.” You have to study night and day, you have no time for yourself, you are at it, always at it, or getting ready for it, criticizing or being criticized, repeating, rehearsing, going over it again and again, still higher and higher. If that is the law of your little kingdom of music, why should it not be the law of the larger kingdom of life which includes all beauty and learning and music, and power? (J. Parker, D. D.)
The world way
All the world is a way. It is so broad that the whole generation for the time travel abreast upon it. (W. Arnot.)
The way of sin easy
You have nothing more to do than lie like a Withered leaf upon the stream, and without a thought or an effort you are carried quickly down. Sinners do not find it difficult to sin. (W. Arnot.)
Beware of false prophets.
The false and the true
I. The tests by which the false and the true may be known.
II. The ultimate destiny of the false and the true.
1. In respect to the paths they tread.
2. In respect to the fruit they bear.
3. In respect to the profession they make.
4. In respect to the foundations on which they build. The plainness of these tests. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
But while we are thinking of the teachers that are without, let us not forget that we all have within us a false prophet, the most insidious, and therefore the most dangerous of all. (W. O. Humphry, M. A.)
False prophets and false Christians
The Scriptures treat largely of the false-false gods, false doctrines, false Christs, and false hopes.
I. False prophets. A prophet in the strict sense of the word is one who foretells future events. A false prophet is one who assumes the office without a call from God, or who puts forward his own thoughts as if they had Divine sanction. It is not always easy to detect which are the true prophets, and which the false; but though difficult, they may be detected. Their plausible guises are among their marks. Some under-estimate errors in matters of doctrine.
II. False christians. Most men have some religion; man has religious instincts. The religion of some is a mere profession: they say unto Him, “Lord, Lord.” Others add to their profession some of the more striking works and offices of Christianity. The fearful end of this self-deception. Let us not receive the grace of God in vain. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
The prophecies of deceit
They hinder repentance by bidding us believe
(1) In delay: no need to repent now;
(2) In an easy return to holiness;
(3) That sin is not so dreadful as it is represented:
(4) That repentance may be worse for us in the end, if we fall away from it;
(5) That by some one great act we can atone for sin. (J. M. Ashley.)
The false prophet
I. The imposture. They “ come in sheep’s clothing: “in the garb of
II. Its detection.
III. Its punishment. (J. M. Ashley.)
Wisdom needed to detect little errors
The first appearances of error are many times modest. There is a chain of truths; the devil taketh out a link here and there, that all may fall to pieces. (T. Manton, D. D.)
Satan knows that we would never consent to give up a wheel of the gospel chariot, and therefore in his craftiness he only asks for the linch-pins to be handed over to him. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Ability cannot condone error
Mere talent ought not to attract us; carrion well dressed and served upon Palissy ware, is still unfit for men. Who thrusts his arm into the fire because its flame is brilliant? Who knowingly drinks from a poisoned cup because the beaded bubbles on the brim reflect the colours of the rainbow? As we would not be fascinated by the azure hues of a serpent, so neither should we be thrown off our guard by the talent-of an unsound theologian. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Know them by their fruits.
Utility the test of truth
The two criteria on which men most chiefly rest for the guidance “of their religious opinions would here be of no avail; authority would be claimed by the prophet; and private judgment might possibly lead his votaries astray. Both these useful, but require caution. Let us get a clear conception of the notion of utility as a criterion. It is an acknowledged fact that every human action and word is followed inevitably by certain consequences, which are good or bad. Those acts which produce happiness are useful; those which do not are injurious. We must extend our notion of happiness beyond the ancient conception of it. Christianity has made happiness in worldly good things alone impossible. It must now include peace with God. This a criterion which cannot be mistaken. Apply this test.
I. As an argument for Christianity in the widest sense of the word. “When Christianity appeared in the world, Roman civilization had practically failed. The privilege of Roman citizenship had done much-had kindled a feeling of community of interest; but needed a higher sanction. The Incarnation taught men brotherhood; nations which possess this truth have the principle of vitality.
II. Let us apply this test to our English Christianity. Doubtless there are physical reasons which make the English race so strong; but also moral, latent in our Christianity.
III. As an argument supplying to us each practical reasons for following in our conduct that line of duty, which conscience tells us to be right. It is a solemn thought that we can be like a good tree or a bad one. It is the uses of a man which determine his status before God. (J. T. Coxhead, M. A.)
The test of true religion
I. The rule laid down by Christ in the text is infallible in character and universal in application. It is true in the natural world as in the spiritual.
II. By their fruits ye shall know them.
1. This test is a reasonable one.
2. It is a sensible one.
3. It is a simple one.
4. It is a just one.
5. It is a sure one.
6. It is one which men apply continually in judging of each other’s conduct.
7. It is one which the Judge will apply on the final day. (J. N. Sherwood, D. D.)
The standard of good and evil
I. That there is a standard of good and evil.
1. It is fixed.
2. It is just.
3. It is evidenced by experience.
4. It is knowable.
5. It is practical.
II. By this standard God will judge.
1. Men cannot plead ignorance, it being written in the hearts of those who have not the Scriptures.
2. Judgment will not be according to profession.
3. Nor with respect of persons.
4. Conscience approves these principles.
5. The Holy Spirit will, if we ask, teach us the will of God.
III. By this standard Christians are to judge.
1. False prophets must needs be, they are foretold, and are busy perverting the truth.
2. We must judge them by the Word of God. (Flavel Cook.)
The moral influence of doubting
I. Doubt loosens the moral hold of the principle of the Bible upon our personal obedience.
II. The position of antagonism into which doubting throws a man is, in itself, unfavourable to growth in moral virtue.
III. Doubt presents no incentive to holiness like that which Christianity offers. (Bishop Cheney.)
The test of the fruitage
We do not usually connect fruitbearing with children. This is a mistake. Notice three things.
I. What one flavour should there be in all fruits? Many different flavours in fruits, yet there is something common to them which makes us approve of them all. This may be applied to children. There are many varieties of disposition, but we can call all children good, if we can detect in them the flavour of godliness-Christlikeness. That is just the wonderful, beautiful thing about the Lord Jesus; He can he a model for all-for the young and for the old.
II. What peculiarities of flavour should there be in children’s fruits? Unselfishness, thoughtfulness, truthfulness, gentleness. These flavours are to be found in our words and in our deeds.
III. What is the secret which accounts for the best flavoured and most abundant fruitage? For even in fruits of one kind of flavour, we find differences, “From me is thy fruit found”-the Lord Jesus, the life. (R. Tuck, B. A.)
Good fruits the test of principle
I. The persons whom our lord directs us to shun.
1. Their deception.
2. Their artifice.
3. Their end.
II. The satisfactory and equitable test by which they are to be ascertained, Of this rule we remark
(1) that it is infallible;
(2) it is easily comprehended;
(3) it is of universal application-to personal religion and doctrine, etc.;
(4) it will apply to the several views of Christianity which are propagated in the world. (J. E. Good.)
The false and the true
I. That action, and not appearance, is the test that determines the genuineness of religion.
II. The announcement of the law of moral certainties-“A good tree cannot,” etc.
III. That mere sincerity is not salvation.
`IV. Christ and His gospel are man’s only security. (Monday Club Sermons.)
Figs or thistles?
It has pleased God to make every tree and herb “after its kind.” There are three reasons for this:-
1. That people may know what to expect.
2. That diligent work may be rewarded.
3. That great results may be caused to grow out of small beginnings.
4. We reap what we sow. (E. R. Colder, D. D.)
Conduct indicates character.
I. As illustrated by the well-known comparison which is here employed.
II. In reference to the special characters which are here described.
1. Their office.
2. Their outward aspect-sanctimonious.
3. Their evil designs. “Inwardly they were ravening wolves.”
III. In its general application.
1. This is the only true standard by which to judge either ourselves or others. Profession, feelings, are deceptive.
2. According to this rule the decisions of the great day will be regulated. (Expository Outlines.)
The effects of the Bible
1. Upon the laws of nations.
2. Upon the liberty of nations.
3. Upon the morality of nations.
4. Upon the charity of nations.
5. Upon the literature of nations.
6. Upon the acts of nations.
7. Upon social life and domestic relationships.
8. Upon individuals. Thus judged by its fruits it is a good book. (J. H. Hitchens.)
Christian known by their fruits
Not by our acquired knowledge, or fancied experience, or creed; but by fruits.
I. The primary and immediate design of our Lord in the declaration before us. This text connected with the preceding (vers. 15-20)-”Wherefore.” The greater part of the Sermon on the Mount was designed to rectify the errors of the Pharisees.
1. The false prophets whom our Lord condemns were guilty of lowering the standard of moral duty by explaining away the spirituality and extent of the law, and reducing the whole of human obedience to a few unimportant ceremonies.
2. They frustrate the free grace of the gospel by insisting on the meritoriousness of human obedience. Thus did the Judaising teachers in Corinth, Galatia, and Ephesus.
II. The practical nature of Christianity as a decisive proof of its divinity.
1. The influence of genuine Christianity is always practically holy.
2. Let the actual results of the influence of Christianity upon the world be examined, and it will be found that they are uniformly of a holy and felicitating character. (J. Savill.)
But who expect to gather grapes of thorns and figs of thistles
I. The man who expects to obtain happiness without a holy life.
II. The man who expects to obtain a holy life without a renewed heart.
III. The man who expects to obtain a renewed heart without faith in evangelical truth. (R. Halley, D. D.)
There is a schoolboy, yawning over his lesson. He sits with his books before him, but he is not working. If we ask him why, he says, “Oh, I hate Latin! … Well, perhaps you like arithmetic better? … Oh no, I hate doing sums.” “Well, do you like geography? … Oh no, I hate geography worst of all.” The real truth is, he hates work. He is sowing thistles; and by and by, when his school-days are over, the prickles will sting him, and the empty, useless seed be a plague in his neighbours’ fields. (E. R. Conder, D. D.)
Grace seen in conduct
The apples appear when the sap is not seen. It is the operative and lively graces that will discover themselves. A man may think well, or speak well; but it is that grace which governeth his actions which most showeth itself. (T. Manton, D. D.)
It is all very fine to plead, as some have done, that they are doing inside work; if their fruit is all within, they will have to be cut down that it-may be got at. A true epistle of Christ is not written in invisible ink, and then sealed up, but it is known and read of all men. A tree of the Lord’s right hand planting bears fruit to His glory, visible to all about him. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Christian fruitful in a barren scene
Those who travel through deserts would often be at a loss for water, if certain indications, which the hand of Providence has marked oat, did not serve to guide them to a supply. The secret wells are for the most part discoverable from the verdure which is nourished by their presence. So the fruitfulness of good works of the believer, amidst the deadness and sterility around him, proclaim the Christian’s life. (Salter.)
Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord.
The connection between holy obedience to the will of God, and the happiness of heaven
I. Description of the character of those who make an external profession of religion, but walk unworthy of its precepts, connected with the impossibility of their entering in such a state into the kingdom of heaven.
1. It is evident that a person may have much which bears the semblance of piety, while he is far from feeling its genuine influence.
2. The text may refer to the lukewarm and indifferent.
II. THE connection between the character of those who not only profess Christianity, but adorn it by a suitable conversation, with the reward which is held out for their encouragement.
1. The will of God is a term of vast extent.
2. It is easy to see the connection between the character of those who do the will of their Father who is in heaven, and the prospects of future bliss.
1. That active obedience to the precepts of Christianity is the surest mark of a genuine Christian believer.
2. The necessity of unremitting endeavours, relying on the strength of Divine grace to qualify us for admission into heaven. (D. Kelly, M. A.)
I. A great truth proclaimed. The religion of Christ is to be practised,
1. For the teachings of Jesus are only understood as they are put into practice.
2. They are only honoured as they are put into practice.
II. A great error perpetrated-mere profession.
1. This error is common.
2. It is displeasing to Christ.
3. It injures the individual who practises it.
4. It is a misrepresentation of Christianity.
III. A great duty. (U. R. Thomas.)
I. The true qualification for admission into the kingdom of heaven. “He that doeth the will,” etc.
II. The delusive hopes which many will cherish as to admission into Christ’s kingdom by means of other qualifications.
1. The first having made a strong and ambitious profession of His name.
2. Arising from a life of practical usefulness to others.
III. These hopes wilt, destroyed. (G. T. Noel.)
Profession and practice
Let us observe the kingdom of God in the light of this text.
1. It is a kingdom of fruit, not of thorns, not of leaves.
2. We see that the faith which is so essential to it is an active grace. The proof of sincerity is doing. It is not a mere emotion destitute of energy.
3. That every one that cometh into it must do God’s will. Active trust not enough; it must be in the proper direction. The world is a great law-keeper. Even Christ did the will of His Father.
1. That active obeying the will of God is the decisive test of being in the kingdom of God.
2. That it is one thing to hear and another to do the will of God.
3. Nor is confidence sufficient. The Pharisees were sure that they were on the rock. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
I. They went a long way in religion.
II. They kept it up a long while.
III. They were fatally mistaken.
IV. They found it out in a terrible way. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Self-confidence no security
You remember the lighthouse that was built off the coast of England by Winstanley. The architect was confident that the structure was strong, and laughed at the criticisms upon it. To show his confidence, he took up his abode in the building. In the midst of that fearful November storm, how little that confidence availed him as the structure was caught in the grasp of the winds and shaken to pieces! Now another lighthouse stands there well founded, well builded, and lights the mariner to the safe harbour. So that character that is rightly founded and builded in Christ will not only be secure itself, but light others to security, (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Sincere obedience necessary to our acceptance with God
I. Explain the false pretences to the favour of God and the kingdom of heaven.
1. The first pretence is saying to Christ, “Lord, Lord “-a mere profession of Christianity.
2. The second founded on the gift of prophecy-that is to propagate Christianity and promote edification, separable from a holy life.
II. To illustrate that only solid ground of hope which our Lord establishes.
1. The will of God is revealed plainly.
2. In what sense is it to be done? Infirmity cleaves to us all; the gospel of pardon in Christ requires sincerity in doing His will; a partial obedience will not please Him.
3. There must be a persevering continuance in well doing. This the only ground of hope. (J. Abernethy, M. A.)
The final rejection of false professors
I. The qualifying terms of our admission to heaven-”He that doeth the will,” etc.
II. The opposite grounds of dependence which many prefer:-
1. National privilege and profession. With such persons religion is a question of geography; they are Christians because born in a land of knowledge.
2. Splendid professions of zeal.
3. Deeds of charity and mercy.
III. The final rejection of all who place their confidence on these insufficient grounds.
1. The period.
2. The dignity of the Son of God at that time.
3. The nature of the profession itself-“I never knew you.”
4. The designation given to those unhappy men-”Workers in iniquity.” (J. E. Good.)
The danger of formality and hypocrisy
1. That in the great day there will be an earnest desire in many to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
2. A mere profession of religion will then be found insufficient.
3. All true and obedient believers will be admitted into the heavenly kingdom. (G. Burder.)
Christian profession easy
It is easy enough to assume the character and manner of a Christian, but to live the Christian life is not so easy. A man can make a sham diamond in a very short time, but the real gem must lie for ages in the earth before it can sparkle with perfect purity. We have far too many of these quickly made Christians amongst us, who have never brought forth fruits meet for repentance, nor gone through the fire of trial, and sorrow, and self-sacrifice. Do not trust to feelings, or words, in yourselves or others, look at your life; a real and a false diamond are very much alike, and yet there is all the difference in the world in their value. (Wilmot Buxton.)
Christian profession partial
There is a variety of mineral which, when held before the light, exhibits translucency only on its edges. They are dark in the centre; such are marble, flint, or hornstone. It is so with some men; the light of Christianity has shone upon them and modified much of their external conduct, and produced a considerable regard for piety, but within, the centre of their being, remains in the darkness of sin. (Professor Hitchcock.)
There are many men like ponds, clear at the top, and mud at the bottom; fair in their tongues, but foul in their hearts. (Swinnock.)
Like a beautiful flower, full of colour, but without scent, are the fine but fruitless words of him who does not act accordingly. (Buddha.)
The testimony of works more reliable than that of words
Actions are a greater discovery of a principle than words. The testimony of works is louder and clearer than that of words, and the frame of men’s hearts must be measured rather by what they do than by what they say. There may be a mighty distance between the tongue and the heart, but a course of action is as little guilty of lying as interest is, according to our common saying. All outward impieties are the branches of an atheism at the root of our nature, as all pestilential sores are expressions of the contagion in the blood. Men’s practices are the best indexes of their principles. The current of a man’s life is the counterpart of the frame of his heart; who can deny an error in the spring or wheels when he perceives an error in the hand of the dial? Who can deny atheism in the heart when so much is visible in the life? The taste of the water discovers what mineral it is strained through. (Charnock.)
I will liken him unto a wise man which built his house upon a rock.
I. The building. Every immortal creature is supposed to be building a house-entertaining a hope of heaven. They know they cannot always live in their present earthly house, etc.
II. The foundation. There is the foundation of the formalist, hypocrite, presumptuous enthusiast. The foundation of the real saint-Christ, the Rock. All his hopes of pardon, etc., founded on Christ alone.
III. The trial The storm of tribulation and persecution, affliction, death, judgment, will try every man’s work, what sort it is. All joy to the believer.
IV. The result, certain. Nothing can then prevent the fall of a house not built on the true foundation; nothing can then endanger the hope that is built on Christ. Total: Irrevocable.
1. Look well to the foundation.
2. If the true foundation be laid, see that the superstructure goes on.
3. No ground for boasting. (J. Hirst.)
The two builders
I. The points of resemblance. They both heard Christ’s sayings; both saw the necessity of building a house, or place of refuge; both actually erected a house; both houses were exposed to storms; both builders rested with security in the edifices they had raised.
II. Those things in which they differed. In their personal character; in their practice; in the foundations on which they built; in the final result of each.
1. How necessary is careful examination.
2. How important a saving knowledge of Christ.
3. How indispensable practical godliness. (J. Burns, LL. D.)
The wise and foolish builders
I. The builders.
1. They were alike
(1) in their need of a house.
(2) In their privileges. Both heard the same words of Jesus.
(3) In their efforts; both built.
2. They were unlike
(1) in their character.
(2) In their choice.
(3) In faith and love. One heard and did not. “If a man love Me, he will keep My words.”
II. The foundations. The one sure, the other insecure.
III. The superstructure.
IV. The trial.
V. The results. (American Hom. Monthly.)
The wise and the foolish building for eternity
I. The designation-“Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them.”
1. Fortuity. “Whosoever,” a pronoun contingent; we cannot foresee the issue. We must leave our spiritual toils with God.
2. Privilege. Privilege to hear the gospel.
3. Docility. “Doeth them.”
1. Design. Building a house denotes an intention to live in it.
2. Selection. If you build, you must look after a place.
3. Perseverance. He went on building in face of difficulties.
4. Stability. If the works of art are less durable than the works of nature, the works of grace outshine the works of nature much more. There is something enduring when you are enabled to build upon the Rock of Ages.
1. Concession. He could not manage without a house.
2. Labour. He took much pains.
3. Promise. It looked fair.
4. Fall. The fall of a soul! Ruinous. (E. Andrews, LL. D.)
The great Teacher
I. The sayings of Christ are eminently practical.
II. They are practicable. It Was no impossible ideal. God has provided helpful agencies.
1. The agency of the Holy Ghost.
2. A means of Christian holiness is the earthly life of the personal and human Christ.
3. There is the encouragement of conscious progress.
III. The sayings of Christ are authoritative.
IV. The sayings of Christ are imperative. (H. Allele.)
The wise and foolish builders
1. We have every one of us a house to build; or, in other words, a soul to save.
2. There is a Rock provided for us, on which we may safely build our house.
3. On this Rock we must build if we would escape everlasting destruction.
4. The danger of delaying to place your building upon the right foundation. (E. Cooper.)
I. Wherein these two builders resembled each other.
1. They both heard Christ’s sayings.
2. They both saw the necessity of building a refuge.
3. They both actually erected a house.
4. Both houses were exposed to storms.
5. Both builders rest securely in their houses.
II. Wherein they differed.
1. In their characters.
2. In their practice-one was a hearer, the other a doer.
3. In their judgments of the foundation.
4. In the final issue.
III. The consequences which followed.
1. The fallen house involves the eternal ruin of the inmate.
2. It is a disappointment of fondly-cherished hopes.
3. It is fall, total and irreparable, for ever.
4. The inmate in the other house is in no danger.
5. He lives in peace and plenty on earth.
6. He shall reign with God in glory. (J. B. Baker.)
The sure foundation
I. The points of resemblance between the converted and the unconverted professor,
1. Both profess to be religious. Both build a house.
2. Both have their religion put to the test.
II. The points of difference between them.
1. In their conduct. The one indolent, the other was laborious; one idly plants his house, the other digs for foundation.
2. In the foundation of their hopes.
3. In their end, How wise the genuine believer! How foolish the unconverted professor! (C. Clayton, M. A.)
Building upon the Rock
1. True religion is likened to a man’s own house. Every one’s real life is his own home.
2. There are a few persons who are fond of looking at foundations, and questioning whether they rest on the right place; others make the far more vital mistake of not searching into them enough.
3. Foundations are found, after much search, in deep places; certain floating ideas about religion are not enough to build a life upon-such as “He is a kind God, and will not punish.”
4. The Spirit of God shows a man the Rock. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
The foundation imparts strength to the structure
But what can the hurricane do? Just what the elements do in nature. Whatever they do not break, they consolidate. Your trials will only consolidate-they will consolidate your principles, your affections, your hopes-they will make you, on “the Rock,” yourselves a rock. Judgments may fall from above, like the descending “ rain.” Disappointments, afflictions, persecutions, may swell around you, like rolling “floods.” Temptations may buffet you with all the mysteriousness of the invisible “wind.” Yet St. Luke says, “They could not shake it.” The strength of “the Rock” is in the believer-he passes all his troubles on to his “Rock,” and from his “Rock” he draws his strength. And the eternal unchangeableness of the foundation, makes the poorest, weakest stone that is once fastened to it, unshaken and impregnable as the throne of Jehovah. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
The two builders and their houses
I. The two builders,
1. They were equally impressed with the need of building a house.
2. They were both alike resolved to obtain a house.
3. They were equally well skilled in architecture.
4. They both persevered and finished their structure.
II. their houses.
1. The chief apparent difference between the two edifices probably was this, that one of them built his house more quickly than the other,
2. One was built with far less trouble than the other.
3. The main difference lay out of sight-underground.
III. The common trial of the two houses.
IV. The different results of the trials. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
False foundations removed, and true ones laid for such wise builders as design to build for eternity
I. To show the reasons why practice or obedience is the best and surest foundation for a man to build his design for heaven and the hopes of his salvation upon.
1. Because, according to the economy of God’s working upon the hearts of men, nothing but practice can change our corrupt nature; and practice continued in, by the grace of God, will.
2. Because action is the highest perfection and drawing forth of the utmost power, vigour, and activity of man’s nature.
3. Because the main drift of religion is the active part of it.
(1) Thus God is honoured.
(2) The good of society.
II. Those false and sandy foundations which many venture to build upon, and are accordingly deceived by.
1. An unoperative faith.
2. Honesty of intention.
3. Party and singularity.
III. Whence it is that such ill-founded structures are, upon trial, sure to fall. The force and opposition from without. Satan. (R. South, D. D.)
The wise builder
I. The sayings to which the Saviour refers.
II. The practical attention they demand.
III. The dispositions of mind necessary for the due reception and practice of the truth.
1. A holy vigilance against whatever may prove an obstacle; custom, curiosity, criticism.
2. To cherish whatever may be likely to promote the due reception of the gospel, freedom of the mind from worldly entanglements; there must be reverence for the truth, docility, self-application, faith in the Son of God, prayer.
IV. The inviolable safety of such hearers of the word.
1. The faith and hope of the Christian may be rudely assailed in the present life.
2. However assailed the Christian is secure. (J. E. Good.)
The foolish builder
I. Who among the hearers of the gospel are intended by this representation.
1. It applies to all who build their hope of heaven upon the mere belief of the doctrines of Christianity.
2. The individual who builds upon his own goodness, and rejects, either in part or whole, the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. The foolish builder represents likewise the hearer of the gospel, on whose mind its Divine truths only partially operate.
4. The persons on whose minds the influence of the Word is transient,
II. The fearful and tremendous overthrow which awaits such hearers of the word.
1. As regards the time of its occurrence. It fell in the storm, when the builder had most need of it.
2. It was great as to the sacrifice of property. The plans and toils of the wicked are vain.
3. It was great because it was irreparable. Too late to build another. (J. E. Good.)
The two houses in building; the two houses in the storm.
I. We are all of us builders. People are often building something quite different from what they fancy. A man fancies lie is building a fortune, when in reality he is building a prison for himself. Some persons go on building for sixty years, and have nothing to show worth calling a life.
II. If we would build safely and well we must build on a right foundation. It is so in small things. The want of a good foundation does not always show at once, but sooner or later the trial comes.
1. Sometimes it is the temptations of worldly companionship and influence that try our foundations.
2. Sometimes it is sorrow.
3. Sometimes sickness searches out the hidden weakness of the foundation. (E. R. Conder, D. D.)
Life a structural process
The trust-house. A quiet, bright girl is sitting at work in a cottage by her mother’s side; ready, with cheerful promptness, to run on an errand, to spread the table, to fetch her little brother from school, or to teach and amuse the younger children. Is she building anything? Many things. For one thing, a feeling of trust in her mother’s heart. Years hence, when that mother is stricken down with sickness, she will not have to say with a sigh, “Jane means well, but I can’t trust her.” She will say, “I can trust you, my child, to do all that I have been used to do-all that you know I should wish. (E. R. Conder, D. D.)
A brother and sister are sitting together by the fireside, listening to their father’s teaching, to their mother’s sweet voice reading aloud: they repeat the same hymns; they turn over the leaves of one book; they kneel side by side at firefly prayer. What are they building? A happy, holy chamber of memory, of which they two alone will have the key. (E. R. Conder, D. D.)
Shall we look at one or two other builders? A grave, bright-eyed boy is sitting before a fire, earnestly watching the bubbling, hissing, steaming tea-kettle, and thinking, thinking, thinking. What is he building? Neither he nor any one else can guess; but in truth he is building things as wonderful as the enchanted castles and palaces of the genii in fairy-tales. Steam-engines, steamboats, locomotives, with their long trains of railway carriages, and the long lines of railway made for them to run on: all these are, in time, to grow out of the thought which that boy is building in his busy brain. All the steam-engines that ever will be built were wrapped up, like a forest of oaks in a single acorn, in the first thought of the steam-engine in the mind of James Watt. For, let me tell you (though I scarcely expect you to understand it), of all that men build in granite, or marble, or iron, or whatever else they please, nothing is so strong and lasting as thought. The pyramids themselves might be blown up and shattered into fragments, but what power could destroy the twenty-third Psalm? (E. R. Conder, D. D.)
Life-structures are varied
Some men’s lives are like palaces, fair and spacious and lofty; full of nobleness. Some are like castles, grim and stern and tyrannical, with dark cells and secret winding passages. Some are like mills and warehouses, stuffed so full with machinery and merchandise that the owner has scarce room to move about; and not a glimpse of the bright blue sky can he catch through their dusty windows. Some, again, are lighthouses, standing bravely on their rock amid the dashing waves, and holding forth the light by which many a storm-tossed voyager is guided into port. Some lives are more like ships than houses, ever wandering, nowhere abiding. Some are like quiet cottage homes, with no splendid outside or towering pinnacles, but full of homely peace and quiet usefulness. And some-how many!-never get beyond the beginning: just a few courses laid. (E. R. Conder, D. D.)
Foundations always important even in small things.
If you are going to paint a picture, and get the outline wrong (which is the foundation of the picture), all the picture will be wrong. If you have a long division sum to do, and make a mistake in the first step, all the sum will be wrong. A child soon learns that he cannot even build a card house on a shining, polished table, or on a crooked, ricketty table; or a house of toy bricks without a firm level foundation. How much more must this be so in greater matters! (E. R. Conder, D. D.)
When Jesus had ended these sayings.
The Sermon on the Mount
I. Some few characteristics which the Sermon possesses.
1. The wonderful literary beauty of the language cannot have been unobserved by any one.
2. Then we have remarked the desultory arrangement and the apparently disconnected progress of ideas.
3. Chiefly, however, all of us have perceived the one great absence in this discourse, I might almost say lack, as we contemplated it from our Christian outlook. There is no allusion to the atonement. Christ is here as the preaching prophet, not as the atoning priest.
4. Hence the history of the Sermon affords a conspicuous example of the way in which men sometimes pervert God’s Word. They say, “Our sufficient creed is the Sermon on the Mount.”
5. Many of us would admit this statement, for we remember a startling and supernatural reach of requirement in this discourse-“Be ye therefore perfect,” &c,
II. The purpose Of this Sermon.
1. We find in it the description of a character.
2. We find in it a rule of life.
3. A standard of spiritual and experimental attainment.
4. We find in this Sermon an instrument of condemnation.
5. We find in it an incitement to holiness. (C. S. Robinson,D. D.)
Effects of our Lord’s Sermon on the people
I. The impression of this Sermon on the minds of the people-“They were astonished,” etc.
2. Some were penetrated with the importance of the word, and became “ renewed in the spirit of their mind.” It is not so much information, as vital impression which the masses of the people require.
II. The cause to which it is ascribed-“For he taught them,” etc.
1. His doctrine.
2. His manner. There was a combination of dignity, earnestness, and affection.
III. A few points of instruction which the whole conveys.
1. The true nature of personal religion.
2. To exercise Christian charity towards all mankind.
3. Never to despair of the Salvation of any of the human family.
4. A lesson of caution to all who attend the ministry of the Word. (J. E. Good.)
Truth gains by being lived
For whereas precepts and discourses of virtue are only the dead pictures and artificial landscapes and descriptions of it, a virtuous example is virtue itself; informed and animated, alive and in motion, exerting and exhibiting itself in all its natural charms and graces. And, therefore, as we know a man much better when we see him alive and in action than when we only see his picture; so we understand virtue much better when we see it living and acting in a good example than when we only behold it described and pictured in various precepts and discourses. (J. Scott.)
Truth attracts by being lived
A belief without any adequate expression in acts is like an organ when all its pipes are silent and its keys untouched. It is dumb. It charms no one. It attracts no one. But bring forth the player; let him press the keys, let the dead air in all the choral columns be started into vibrations, and how the anthem swells, and how hearts are lifted on the waves of sound, and all the thousands applaud, some with their hands, others with eyes filled with happy tears. (W. H. H. Murray.)
The doctrine of Christian obedience rewarded
1. Let us take A general view of the doctrine of Christ.
II. The effect which it had upon the minds of the surrounding multitude.
1. These may be an astonishment of delight and approbation.
2. It may be a feeling of voluntary unbelief.
3. The high and irresistible authority with which He taught these holy truths.
III. The promised reward of obedience to the doctrine of Christ-“He shall in no wise lose his reward.”
1. Because the Lord has said it.
2. Because godliness with contentment is gain.
3. Because godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come”
4. Because if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
5. Because though they walk through the valley of the shadow of death they will fear no evil. (S. Morrell.)
The great authority
There resides in what is called an “ authority “ a power which we shall do well to contemplate. By it I mean that position as an adviser which is gained only by diligent study and habitual practical research; or else by the inherent endowment or special gifts of a superior nature. The medicine man, the legal man, gain authority by study. The importance of finding in Jesus the authority in the affairs of the soul, and also of the mind when brought up against eternal questions. There is a class of mind which takes delight to fathom the unfathomable. Faith is as much an integral part as our ignorance, in our imperfect condition. It is the aim of faith to turn ignorance into bliss in the perplexities of life, with respect to most of which it were folly to be wise. What a calamity if in this half-fledged condition we knew all about ourselves and God. We should shake our dispositions with thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls. Christ knows. He is the authority for the soul. (U. P. Philpot, M. A.)
Authority His result of knowledge
We have lately learned among the laws of solar light which have been revealed to us-for science also has its late and lagging revelations-the astonishing fact, that beyond the atmosphere of our world, as of all other worlds, all is blackness and darkness, even till the eye again reaches the airy envelopes of other worlds, and catches the bright particular stars which are the sources, direct or mediate, of the rays that play upon its tiny pupil. And so we find it to be round all the circle of science, round every world of knowledge there is also a darkness which no knowledge can penetrate. We live and move and have our being upon the edge of a ring of precipitous and abysmal darkness. But, as we have seen to be the case in the fiery- citadels of heaven, so we Christians believe it to be in the moral world; that, dark as its surroundings are -in respect of the origin and workings of evil, and all the problems that hang about this inquiry, there abides above and beyond all a Paternal source of Light. “God is a central and Personal Sun, Who gives light to all, and borrows none from any, and in Whom,” as Jesus shows Him to us, “is no darkness at all.” In that light Jesus dwells, “having no part dark,” and from that light He speaks to us, and teaches with an authority which is unique. (U. P. Philpot, M. A.)
Audacity, in reverent sense, better expresses the word than authority. This He did-
1. In declaring His pre-existence.
2. In declaring His identity with the Godhead.
3. In assuming Divine prerogatives.
4. In arrogating exclusive rights, and exhausting in Himself the similitude of things.
1. A proof that Christ was what He professed to be.
2. This was the only consistent course.
3. An audacious Christ should have an audacious Church. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Authority of our Saviour as a teacher
The nature of this authority.
1. It was the authority of truth. There was no artifice or affectation in His manner; no excess; solemnity. Earnestness of conviction apparent.
2. It was derived from the intrinsic truth of the doctrines which Jesus communicated, as from the sincerity with which they were taught.
3. It arose from the purity of His character. It was the authority of a good life.
4. It was the authority of heaven. The Divine assistance was afforded to Jesus; God confirmed what He said, and miracles were wrought. We are too familiar with Christ’s doctrine to be astonished at it. (F. W. P. Greenwood, D. D.)
Truth, not beauty, gives authority to doctrine
The question is not whether a doctrine is beautiful, but whether it is true. When we want to go to a place, we don’t ask whether the road leads through a pretty country, but whether it is the right road, the road pointed out by authority, the turnpike-road. (Hare.)
Christ an unconventional but model preacher
I. He was A model as to the matter of his preaching, which was unconventional. Christ taught Himself.
1. He had nothing higher to represent than Himself.
2. He had nothing that the world required more than Himself.
II. HE was A model as to the manner of his teaching, which was unconventional.
1. His positiveness.
2. His self-assurance.
3. His naturalness.
4. His freshness.
5. His suggestiveness.
6. His definiteness.
7. His tenderness.
8. His faithfulness.
9. His consistency.
10. His devoutness. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 7". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20