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The Lord's teaching on the question of the observance of the sabbath.
And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first. The expression accompanying this note of time of St. Luke, "the second sabbath after the first," more literally, "the second-first sabbath," has always been a difficulty with expositors of this Gospel. The word is absolutely unique, and is found in no other Greek author. Recent investigations in the text of the New Testament have proved that this word is not found in the majority of the more ancient authorities. Of the modern critical editors, Alford and Lachmann enclose the disputed word in brackets; Tregelles and Meyer omit it altogether; but the Revisers of the English Version relegate it to the margin in its literal form, "second-first;" Tischendorf alone admits it in his text. The question is of interest to the antiquarian, but scarcely of any to the theologian. It was, perhaps, introduced at an early date into many of the manuscripts of St. Luke, owing to some copyist writing n the margin of his parchment in this place "first" to distinguish this sabbath and its scene from the other sabbath alluded to four verses further on; "second" was not unlikely to have been written in correction of "first" by some other copyist using the manuscript, thinking it better thus to distinguish this from the sabbath alluded to in Luke 4:31; and thus the two corrections may have got confused in many of the primitive copies. It can scarcely be imagined, if it really formed part of the original work of St. Luke, that so remarkable a word could ever have dropped out of the text of the most ancient and trustworthy authorities. Supposing it to have been a part of the original writing, scholars have suggested many explanations. Of these the simplest and most satisfactory are:
(1) The first sabbath of each of the seven years which made a sabbatic cycle was called first, second, third, etc., sabbath. Thus the "second-first" sabbath would signify the first sabbath of the second year of the seven-years' cycle. This is Wieseler's theory.
(2) The civil year of the Jews began in autumn about mid-September to mid-October (month Tisri), and the ecclesiastical year in spring, about mid-March to mid-April (month Nisan). Thus there were every year two first sabbaths—one at the commencement of the civil year, which would be called 'first-first;' the other at the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, which would be called 'second-first.' The period here alluded to by St. Luke would perfectly agree with either of these explanations. The latter theory was suggested by Louis Cappel, and is quoted with approval by Godet. And his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands. St. Matthew adds here that they "were an hungred." This they might well have been in following the Master in his teaching in different places, even though some of their homes were nigh at hand. We have no need to introduce the question of their poverty—which, in the case of several of them at least, we know did not exist—here leading them to this method of satisfying their hunger. They had probably been out for some hours with Jesus without breaking their fast, and, finding themselves in a field of ripe corn, took this easy, present means of gratifying a natural want. The Law expressly permitted them to do this: "When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand" (Deuteronomy 23:25).
And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days? It would seem that these Pharisees came from Jerusalem, and were no doubt privately commissioned to watch narrowly the acts of the new Teacher who was beginning to attract such general attention, and who already was openly setting at nought the numberless additions which the Jewish schools had added to the Law. Round the original "sabbath law" of Moses thirty-nine prohibitions had been laid down in the oral law; round these "thirty-nine" a vast number of smaller rules had grouped themselves. Amongst these greater and lesser sabbath restrictions were prohibitions against "reaping and threshing." Now, plucking ears of corn was defined to be a kind of "reaping," and rubbing the ears in the hands a kind of "threshing." "See," cried some of these spying Pharisees, "do thy disciples publicly break the sabbath, and dost thou not rebuke them?" The Lord's reply does not attempt to discuss what was and what was not lawful on the sabbath, but in broad terms he expounds the great doctrine respecting the significance, limits, and purpose of every law relating to outward acts, even in the event of that law having been given by God, which was not the case in the present alleged transgression. How rigidly the stricter Jews some fourteen or fifteen centuries later still kept these strained and exaggerated traditional sabbath-day restrictions, is shown in a curious anecdote of the famous Abarbanel, "when, in 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain, and were forbidden to enter the city of Fez, lest they should cause a famine, they lived on grass; yet even in this state 'religiously avoided the violation of their sabbath by plucking the grass with their hands.' To avoid this they took the much more laborious method of grovelling on their knees, and cropping it with their teeth!"
Luke 6:3, Luke 6:4
And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him; how he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone? Their own loved David, said the new Teacher to his jealous accusers, scrupled not, when he "was an hungred," to set at nought the twofold ordinance of sacrilege and of sabbath-breaking. (The reference is to 1 Samuel 21:5. David's visit to the sanctuary at Nob took place evidently on the sabbath, as the fresh supply of shewbread had been apparently just laid out; he must, too, have violated another rule by his journey on that day. See Stier, 'Words of the Lord Jesus,' on Matthew 12:3, Matthew 12:4.) The lesson which Jesus intended to draw from the example of the great hero-king and the high priest was that no ceremonial law was to override. the general principle of providing for the necessities of the body. St. Matthew adds here a very forcible saying of the Lord's spoken on this occasion, which goes to the root of the whole matter, "But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless." These laws, as God originally gave them, were never intended to be a burden, rather they were meant to be a blessing for man. After verse 5, Codex I)—a very ancient authority, written in the fifth century, now in the University Library at Cambridge, but one which contains many passages not found in any other trustworthy manuscript or version—adds the following strange narrative: "The same day, Jesus seeing a man who was working on the sabbath, saith to him, O man, if thou knowest what thou art doing, blessed art thou; but if thou knowest not, thou art accursed, and a transgressor of the Law." As no other ancient authority of weight contains this remarkable addition to the recital of our Lord's teaching respecting the observance of the sabbath, it must be pronounced an interpolation. It belongs most likely to the very early days of the Christian story, and was probably founded on some tradition current in the primitive Church. The framework of the anecdote in its present form, too, shows a state of things simply impossible at this time. Any Jew who, in the days of Jesus Christ's earthly ministry, openly, like the man of the story, broke the sabbath in the daring way related, would have been liable to be arrested and condemned to death by stoning.
And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. The Master closed his reply to the Pharisee inquirers with one of those short assertions of his awful greatness which puzzled and alarmed his jealous foes. Who, then, was he, this poor unknown Carpenter of despised and ignorant Nazareth? He was either a blasphemer too wicked to be allowed to live, or the alternative must have been a very awful thought to some of the nobler spirits among those Jerusalem learned men. Across their minds must have flitted not once or twice in that eventful period some anxious questionings as to who and what was the strange and powerful Being who had appeared in their midst.
And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. This was the second part of his sabbath teaching. The first had taken place in the open country, in one of the corn-fields near the Lake of Gennesaret. The second was given in a synagogue possibly in the city of Capernaum. St. Luke inserts this scene, which may have taken place several weeks after the one above related, because it completes in a way the teaching of the Lord on this important point of the ceremonial law.
And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him. The Pharisee emissaries from the capital were carefully watching him. The Master was perfectly aware of their presence, and well knew the spirit in which they listened to his words and marked his acts, and on this sabbath day he was evidently determined to let them see clearly what was in his mind respecting the present state of Jewish religious training.
But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. When he perceived or was informed of the presence of the afflicted sufferer in the synagogue, who no doubt had come there with a view of seeing Jesus and asking his help as a physician, Jesus publicly bade the sufferer to stand out in a prominent place in the assembly, and then in the hush that followed proceeded with his public instruction, the poor man with the withered hand standing before him. The Gospel which Jerome found among the Nazarenes gives at length the prayer of this man with the withered hand. "I was a mason earning my livelihood with my own hands; I pray thee, Jesus, restore me to health, in order that I may not with shame beg my bread." This Nazarene Gospel was only used among a sect of early Jewish Christians, and has not been preserved. It possibly was one of those alluded to by the compiler of the Third Gospel in his preface (Luke 1:1).
Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it? The sum and substance of the Master's teaching here is—works of love done for the bodies and souls of men never mar or in any way interfere with the holiness of a day of rest. St. Matthew in his account of the plucking the ears of corn on the sabbath day (xii. 5), tells us, on that occasion Jesus asked how it was that the priests on the sabbath days profaned the sabbath and were blameless? The Jews in later days used to declare, perhaps in answer to Jesus Christ's famous question here, "that in the temple was there no sabbatism." Now, the Lord pressed home to those who listened to his voice the great truth that in all labours of love, of pity, and of kindness, done anywhere, there was no sabbatism.
Stretch forth thy hand! It must have sounded a strange command to the people in the synagogue. How could he stretch out that withered, powerless limb? But with the command went forth the power. In other words, "Stretch forth that poor hand of thine; thou canst now, for, lo! the disease is gone." And we read that he did so, and as he stretched out the limb, so long powerless, the man discovered and the people saw that the cure was already performed.
And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus. The storm was already gathering. From this time we gather from the words of SS. Matthew and Mark, that in the minds of others as well as in the mind of Jesus, the thought of his death was ever present. The thought-leaders of the Jews—the men whose position was secured as long as the rabbinic teaching held sway in the hearts of the people, but no longer—from this hour resolved upon the death of that strange mighty Reformer. He was, said they, an impostor, a fanatic; one who led men's minds astray. Had they no doubts, we ask; no qualms of conscience, no deep searchings of heart? Were these great ones of earth really persuaded that he was a deceiver?
The choice of the twelve.
And it came to pass in those days. That is to say, in the course of his ministry in Galilee, especially in the thickly populated district lying round the Lake of Genessaret, and after the events related in Luke 5:1-39. and the first eleven verses of Luke 6:1-49., Jesus proceeded to choose, out of the company of those who had especially attached themselves to him, twelve who should henceforth be always with him. These he purposed to train up as the authorized exponents of his doctrine, and as the future leaders of his Church. Things had assumed a new aspect during the last few months. Jerusalem and the hierarchy, supported by the great teachers of that form of Judaism which for so long a period had swayed the hearts of the people, had, although not yet openly, declared against the views and teaching of Jesus. His acts—but far more his words—had gathered round him, especially in Galilee, in the north and central districts of Palestine, a large and rapidly increasing following. It was necessary that some steps should be taken at once to introduce among the people who had received his words gladly, some kind of organization; hence the formal choice of the twelve, who from henceforth stood nearest to him. We possess the following four lists of these twelve men:—
James of Alphaeus
James of Alphaeus
James of Alphaeus
James of Alphaeus
Simon the Kananite
Simon the Kananite
Judas of James
Judas of James
He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve. St. Luke frequently alludes to Jesus spending periods of time in prayer. He would have the readers of his Gospel never lose sight of the perfect humanity of the Saviour, and, while ever keeping in view the higher objects of his earthly mission, still is careful always to present him as the Example of a true life. This is why he mentions so often the prayers of Jesus. This time the Master continued in prayer all night. It was a momentous task which lay before him on the following morning—the choice of a few men, the measureless influence of whose life and work we, though we live eighteen centuries after the choice was made, and see already how the twelve have moved the world, are utterly unable to apprehend. In these solemn hours of communion with the Eternal, we may in all reverence suppose that the Blessed One took counsel with his Father, presenting, as Godet phrases it, one by one to the All-seing, while God's finger pointed out those to whom he was to entrust the salvation of the world. Whom also he named apostles. The literal meaning of this term is "one who is sent," but in classical Greek it had acquired a distinct meaning as "envoy or ambassador" of a sovereign or of a state. These favoured men, then, received this as the official designation by which they were ever to be known. Unknown, unhonoured, and for the most part unlearned men, they with all their love and devotion for their Master who had called them, little recked that morning on the mountain-side to what they were called, and of whom they were the chosen envoys! The four lists of the apostles copied above vary very slightly. There was evidently in the matter of the holy twelve an unerring tradition at the time when Luke wrote these chronicles at Rome or Alexandria, at Ephesus or at Antioch,—all knew every detail connected with the great first leaders of the faith. The bare list of names was enough. The Church of the first days knew a hundred facts connected with these famous men. The Church of the future needed no details of private history. These apostles, great though they were, were only instruments in the Master's hand; what they did and suffered was, after all, of little moment to those who should come after. In the four bare skeleton lists, though, certain points are noticeable.
(1) Each catalogue fails into three divisions containing four names. In each of these divisions the same name always stands first, as though some precedence or authority was deputed to this one over the other three forming the division. This, in the absence of any further notice, must not be pressed. It is, however, a very probable inference. The names of these three are Peter, Philip, James.
(2) The twelve were thus divided into three distinct companies, of which the first (this is clearly borne out by the gospel story) stood in the closest relation to Jesus. Of the twelve, the first five came from Bethsaida on the lake, and they all apparently with the exception of Judas the traitor, who came from a town in Judaea—were Galileans. The names are all Hebrew (Aramaic) with the exception of Philip and Andrew, which are Greek. It was, however, at that time by no means uncommon for Jews to possess Greek names, so widely did Hellenic influence extend over Egypt, Syria, and the Mediterranean-washed countries of Asia.
Simon, (whom he also named Peter). The Master had already, reading as he did the future, bestowed upon this often erring, but noble and devoted servant. the surname, Cephas, literally, a "mass of rock." And Andrew. One of the first believers, and reckoned among the four whose office placed them in closest relation to their Master, and yet for some—to us—unexplained reason, Andrew did not occupy that position of intimacy shared by Peter, James, and John. He was apparently the intimate friend and associate of Philip, the first of the second "four." James and John. Well-known and honoured names in the records of the first days. Mark adds a vivid detail which throws much light on the character and fortunes of the brothers; he calls them Boanerges, "sons of thunder." The burning enthusiasm of James no doubt led to his receiving the first martyr-crown allotted to "the glorious company of the apostles," while the same fiery zeal in the loved apostle colours the Apocalypse. Philip. John 6:5 may be quoted to show that the Lord was on terms of peculiar friendship with this first of the second four. Bartholomew; Bar-Tolmai: son of Tolmai, He therefore must have been known also by some other name. In St. John's Gospel Bartholomew is never mentioned, but Nathanael, whose name appears in the Fourth Gospel among the apostles, and who is not alluded to in the memoirs of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, evidently represents the same person. The real name of the son of Tolmai, then, would appear to have been Nathanael.
Matthew. In the list contained in the Gospel which unanimous Church traditions ascribe to this apostle, "the publican" (tax-gatherer) is significantly added. His brother evangelists, Mark and Luke, in their catalogues, omit the hated profession to which he once belonged. Simon called Zelotes. In SS. Matthew and Mark this apostle is called "Simon the Kananite." This epithet does not mean that Simon was a native or dweller in Cana of Galilee, but the epithet "Kananite" had the same signification as "Zelotes," the surname given by St. Luke, which is best rendered as "the Zealot." Kananite is derived from the Hebrew word אנק, zeal. "He had once, therefore, belonged to the sect of terrible fanatics who thought any deed of violence justifiable for the recovery of national freedom, and had probably been one of the wild followers of Judas the Gaulonite (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 4.3. 9). Their name was derived from 1 Macc. 2:50, where the dying Mattathias, father of Judas Maccabaeus, says to the Assidaeans (Chasidim, i.e. 'all such as were voluntarily devoted to the Law'), 'Be ye zealous for the Law, and give your lives for the covenant of your fathers'" (Archdeacon Farrar).
Judas the brother of James; more accurately, Judas, or Jude, son of James, or simply James's Jude. So this disciple is termed in both the writings ascribed to St. Luke (the Gospel and Acts). In St. Matthew's list we find a "Lebbaeus," and in St. Mark's a "Thaddaeus" occupying a position in the third division which in St. Luke's list is filled by "James's Jude." There is no doubt that Lebbaeus and Thaddaeus were surnames by which James's Jude, or Judas, was known generally in the Church. The necessity of some surname to distinguish this apostle was obvious. Already in the company of apostles there was a Judas, or Jude, who was afterwards known as 'the betrayer." One, too, of the Lord's so-called brothers, a figure well known in the society of the Church of the first days, was also named Jude. The meaning of the two epithets is somewhat similar; they both were probably derived from the apostle's character—Lebbaeus from the Hebrew בל (lev), the heart. Jude was probably so styled on account of his loving earnestness. Thaddaeus, from thad, a word which in later Hebrew meant the female breast, was suggested possibly by his even feminine devotedness and tenderness of disposition. The addition in St. Matthew's catalogue to "Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thad-daeus," which we read in our Authorized Version, does not occur in any of the older authorities, "Thaddaeus" being only found in St. Mark's list. And Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor. Some scholars have derived "Iscariot" from as-cara, strangulation; or from sheker, a lie, ish sheker, the man of a lie; these derivations are, however, most improbable. The surname is evidently derived from the place whence this Judas came. Kerioth, possibly the modern town or village of Kuryetein, not far from Hebron in Judah. Kerioth is mentioned in Joshua 15:25, ish-Kerioth, a man of Kerioth.
And he came down with them, and stood in the plain. Leaving the uppermost slopes of the hill—the modern Kurm Hattin, or "Horns of Hattin"—where he had spent the night alone in prayer—Jesus probably descended a little and rejoined the band of disciples. Out of these he called the twelve above mentioned; and titan, with the whole body of disciples—the twelve, no doubt, closest to his Person—he continued the descent for some way. On a level spot situate on the hillside, very likely a fiat space between the two peaks of Hattin, the Master and his followers came upon a crowd of inquirers, who had ascended thus far to meet him. These were composed, as we shall see, of various nationalities. Some came with their sick friends, seeking a cure; some were urged by curiosity; others by a real longing to hear more of the words of life from his Divine lips. It was to this crowd that, surrounded by the newly elected twelve, as well as by the larger company of disciples, that Jesus spoke the famous discourse known as the sermon on the mount. A great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea-coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him. To the places here enumerated, St. Matthew adds Galilee, Decapolis, and the region beyond Jordan. St. Mark (Mark 3:8)—where the same period of our Lord's ministry is treated of—alludes to people from Idumaea forming part of the multitude which just then used to crowd round the Master as he taught. Thus the great sermon was addressed to men of various nationalities—to rigid and careless Jews, to Romans and Greeks, to Phoenicians from Tyre and Sidon, and to nomad Arabs from Idumaea.
And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all. The words here used are few, and we pass them over often without pausing to think of what they involve. It was, perhaps, the hour in the ministry of Jesus when his miraculous power was most abundantly displayed.
St. Luke's report of the discourse of our Lord commonly termed the sermon on the mount. We consider that the discourse contained in the following thirty verses (20-49) is identical with that longer "sermon on the mount" reported by St. Matthew (5.). Certain differences are alleged to exist in the framework of the two discourses.
In St. Matthew the Lord is stated to have spoken it on the mountain; in St. Luke, in the plain. This apparent discrepancy has been already discussed (see above, on verse 17). The "plain" of St. Luke was, no doubt, simply a level spot on the hillside, on the fiat space between the two peaks of the hill.
The more important differences in the Master's utterances—of which, perhaps, one of the weightiest is the addition of St. Matthew to that first beatitude which explains what poor were blessed—the" poor in spirit "—probably arose from some questions put to the Master as he was teaching. In his reply he probably amplified or paraphrased the first utterance, which gave rise to the question; hence the occasional discrepancies in the two accounts. It is, too, most likely that many of the weightier utterances of the great sermon were several times reproduced in a longer or shorter form in the course of his teaching. Such repetitions would be likely to produce the differences we find in the two reports of the great sermon.
The plan or scheme of the two Gospels was not the same. St. Luke, doubtless, had before him, when he compiled his work, copious notes or memoranda of the famous discourse. He evidently selected such small portions of it as fell in with his design. The two discourses reported by SS. Matthew and Luke have besides many striking resemblances—both beginning with the beatitudes, both concluding with the same simile or parable of the two buildings, both immediately succeeded by the same miracle, the healing of the centurion's servant. It is scarcely possible—when these points are taken into consideration—to suppose that the reports are of two distinct discourses. The theory held by some scholars, that the great sermon was delivered twice on the same day, on the hillside to a smaller and more selected auditory, then on the plain below to the multitude in a shorter form, is in the highest degree improbable.
No portion of the public teaching of the Lord seems to have made so deep an impression as the mount-sermon. St. James, the so-called brother of Jesus, the first president of the Jerusalem Church, repeatedly quotes it in his Epistle. It was evidently the groundwork of his teaching in the first days. Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Polycarp, the nameless author of the recently found 'Teaching of the Apostles,' whose writings represent to us most of the Christian literature which we possess of the first century after the death of St. Paul, quote it often. It may be taken, indeed, as the pattern discourse which mirrors better and mere fully than any other portion of the Gospels the Lord's teaching concerning the life he would have his followers lead.
It is not easy to give a precis of such a report as that of St. Luke, necessarily brief, and yet containing, we feel, many of the words, and even sentences, in the very form in which the Lord spoke them. What we possess here is, perhaps, little more itself than a summary of the great original discourse to which the disciples and the people listened. Godet has attempted, and not unsuccessfully, to give a resume of the contents of St. Luke's memoir here. Still, it must be felt that any such work must necessarily be unsatisfactory.
There appear to be three main divisions in the sermon:
(1) A description of the persons to Whom Jesus chiefly addressed himself (verses 20-26).
(2) The proclamation of the fundamental principles of the new society (verses 27-45).
(3) An announcement of the judgment to which the members of the new kingdom of God will have to submit (verses 46-49).
Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God; better rendered, blessed are ye poor, etc. It is the exact equivalent of the well-known Hebrew expression with which the Psalms begin: שׁיאִהָ ירֵשְׁאַ, which should be rendered, "Oh the blessedness of the man," etc.! This was probably the exact form in which Jesus began the sermon: "Blessed are the poor." He was gazing on a vast congregation mostly made of the literally poor. Those Standing nearest to him belonged to the masses—the fishermen, the carpenters, and the like. The crowd was mainly composed of the trading and artisan class, and they, at least then, were friendly to him, heard him gladly, came out to him from their villages, their poor industries, their little farms, their boats. The comparatively few rich and powerful who were present that day in the listening multitude were for the most part enemies, jealous, angry men, spying emissaries of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, men who hated rather than loved the words and works of the Galilaean Teacher. The literally poor, then, represented the friends of Jesus; the rich, his enemies. But we may conceive of some like Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathaea, Gamaliel, or the wealthy patrician centurion, in that listening crowd, gently asking the Teacher as he taught, "Are only the poor, then, to be reckoned among thy blessed ones?" Some such question, we think, elicited the qualifying words of Matthew, "Blessed are the poor in spirit,' with some such underlying thought as, "Alas! this is not very often the character of the rich." It certainly was not while the Lord worked among men. While, then, the blessedness he spoke of belonged not to the poor because they were poor, yet it seemed to belong to them especially as a class, because they welcomed the Master and tried to share his life, while the rich and powerful as a class did not. It runs indisputably all through the teaching of Paul and Luke, this tender love for the poor and despised of this world; full of warnings are their writings against the perils and dangers of riches. The awful parable of the rich man and Lazarus gathers up, in the story form best understood by Oriental peoples, that truth of which these great servants of the Redeemer were so intensely conscious, that the poor stand better than the rich for the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God. Not here, not now. Just a few drops from the river of joy which flows through that kingdom will sprinkle the life of his blessed ones while they live and struggle to do his will on earth; but the kingdom of God, in its full glorious signification, will be only enjoyed hereafter. It is an expression which includes citizenship in his city, a home among the mansions of the blessed, a place in the society of heaven, the enjoyment of the sight of God—the beatific vision.
Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. A similar question probably to the one suggested above, brought out the addition reported in St. Matthew's account—" after righteousness." Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. There is a mourning which, as Augustine says, has no blessing from heaven attached to it, at best only a sorrow of this world and for the things of this world. What Jesus speaks of is a nobler grief', a weeping for our sins and the sins of others, for our weary exile here. This is "the only instance," writes Dean Plumptre, "in the New Testament of the use of 'laughter' as the symbol of spiritual joy ... The Greek word was too much associated with the lower forms of mirth ... It is probable that the Aramaic word which our Lord doubtless used here had a somewhat higher meaning. Hebrew laughter was a somewhat graver thing than that of Greek or Roman. Comedy was unknown among the Hebrew people." It is observable that we read of our Lord weeping. His joy is mentioned, and his sorrow. He sympathized with all classes and orders, talked with them, even ate and drank with them; but we never read that he laughed. There was a tradition in the early Church that Lazarus, after he rose from the dead, was never seen again to smile.
Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. An onlook into the yet distant future. These words would be repeated by many a brave confessor in the days when persecution, at the hands of a far stronger and more far-reaching government than that of Jerusalem, should be the general lot of his followers. We find from pagan writers of the next age that Christians were charged with plotting every vile and detestable crime that could be conceived against man-. kind (see, for instance, the historian Tacitus, 'Annal.,' 15.44; Suetonius, 'Nero.,' 16).
Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets. Well and faithfully did his followers in after, days fulfil their Master's prophetic charge. Not only did men like Paul and his brother apostles welcome persecution "for the Name" with joy, but long after Paul and his fellows had "fallen asleep," Christians in well-nigh every populous centre of the empire followed the same glorious lead. Indeed, we find the great teachers of the faith positively condemning the fiery zeal of men and women who even too literally obeyed this and other like charges of their adored Master, who positively courted a painful martyrdom, too willingly throwing away their lives, so deeply had words like these burned into their souls. The terrible persecutions which many of the old Hebrew prophets underwent were well known. These men of God endured this treatment during several generations, while evil princes sat on the thrones of Judah and Israel. Thus Elijah mourned the wholesale massacre of his brother prophets when Ahab and Jezebel reigned (1 Kings 19:10). Urijah was slain by Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 26:23). Jeremiah himself underwent long and painful persecution. Amos was accused and banished, and, according to tradition, beaten to death. Isaiah, so the Jews said, was sawn asunder by order of King Manasseh. These are only a few instances of the treatment which faithful prophets of the Lord had undergone.
But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. These "rich" referred to here signify men of good social position. These, as a class, opposed Jesus with a bitter and unreasoning opposition. Again the same warning cry to the so-called fortunate ones of this world is re-echoed with greater force in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. "Thou in thy lifetime," said Abraham, speaking from Paradise to the poor lost Dives, "receivedst thy good things;" and yet the very characters represented in that most awful of the parable-stories of the pitiful Lord correct any false notion which, from words like these, men may entertain respecting the condemnation of the rich and great because they are rich and great. Abraham, who speaks the grave stern words, was himself a sheik of great power and consideration, and at the same time very rich. Prophets and apostles, as well as the Son of God, never ceased to warn men of the danger of misusing wealth and power; but at the same time they always represented these dangerous gifts as gifts from God, capable of a noble use, and, if nobly used, these teachers sent by God pointed out, these gifts would bring to the men who so used them a proportional reward.
Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. This saying points to men who used their wealth for self-indulgence, for the mere gratification of the senses. "The fulness," writes Dean Plumptre, "is the satiety of over-indulgence." Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. These are they who, proudly self-satisfied, dreamed that they needed nothing, neither repentance in themselves nor forgiveness from God—a character too faithfully represented in the self-satisfied, haughty Pharisee of the time of our Lord, a character, alas! not extinct even when the hapless men to whom the Lord specially referred had paid the awful penalty of extinction of name and race, loss of home and wealth. The hunger, the mourning, and the weeping were terribly realized in the case of the men and their proud houses in the national war with Rome which quickly followed the public teaching of Jesus. When the Master spoke the words of this sermon the date was about a.d. 30-31. In a.d. 70—that is, within forty years—Jerusalem, its temple, and its beautiful houses, were a mass of shapeless ruins. Its people, rich and poor, were ruined. Its very name, as a city and nation, blotted out. But from parables, and still more from direct words, we gather, too, that the hunger, the mourning, and the weeping point to the cheerless state of things in which those poor souls who have lived alone for this world will find themselves after death.
Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! Dean Plumptre, with great force, remarks that these words "open a wide question as to the worth of praise as a test of human conduct, and tend to a conclusion quite the reverse of that implied in the maxim, Vox populi, vox Dei." So did their fathers to the false prophets. A good instance of this is found in 1 Kings 18:19, where Queen Jezebel honours the false prophets. See, too, King Ahab's conduct to such men (1 Kings 22:1-53.), and Jeremiah's bitter plaint respecting the popularity of these false men (Jeremiah 5:31). At this point, according to St. Luke's report, the Master paused. It would seem as though he was fearful lest the awful woes foretold as the doom of the rich, the powerful, and the persecutor, should impart a too sombre hue to the thoughts which his followers would in coming days entertain of the world of men about them. He would have his own think of the circle outside the little world of believers with no bitter and revengeful thoughts, but rather with that Divine pity which he felt and showed to all poor fallen creatures. 'See now," the Master went on to say, "notwithstanding the wee which will one day fall on the selfish rich and great ones of earth, and to whom you, my people, will surely be objects of dislike and hate, while you and they are on earth together, the part you have to play with regard to these is steadily to return love for hate."
Pray for them which despitefully use you. Jesus himself, on his cross, when he prayed that his murderers might be forgiven, for they knew not what they were doing, and his true servant Stephen, who copied faithfully his Lord in his own dying moments, are beautiful though extreme examples of what is meant here. It is St. Luke alone who mentions this act of Jesus on the cross; it is St. Luke, again, who has preserved St. Stephen's words, uttered while they were stoning him to death. He would show how the Lord's command could be carried out.
And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other. This and the following direction is clothed in language of Eastern. picturesqueness, to drive home to the listening crowds the great and novel truths he was urging upon them. No reasonable, thoughtful man would feel himself bound to the letter of these commandments. Our Lord, for instance, himself did not offer himself to be stricken again (John 18:22, John 18:23), but firmly, though with exquisite courtesy, rebuked the one who struck him. St. Paul, too (Acts 23:3), never dreamed of obeying the letter of this charge. It is but an assertion of a great principle, and so, with the exception of a very few mistaken fanatics, all the great teachers of Christianity have understood it.
Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. Here, again, it is clear that faithfully to cling to the literal interpretation would be utterly to ignore the true spirit of the Lord's words here, where he sets forth his sublime ideal of a charity which ignores its own rights and knows no limits to its self-sacrifice. Augustine quaintly suggests that in the words themselves will be found the limitation required. "'Give to every man,' but not everything,' suggesting that in many cases a medicine for the hurt of the soul would better carry out the words of the Lord than the gift of material help for the needs of the body. But such ingenious exposition, after all, is needless. What the Lord inculcated here was that broad, unselfish generosity which acts as though it really believed those other beautiful words of Jesus, that "it is more blessed to give than to receive."
Luke 6:32, Luke 6:33
For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. There are three manners of return, as Augustine—quoted by Archbishop Trench in his 'Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount'—observes, which men may make one to another: the returning good for good and evil for evil,—this is the ordinary rule of man; then beneath this there is the returning of evil for good, which is devilish; while above it there is the returning of good for evil, which is Divine,—and this is what is commanded for the followers of Jesus here. On the words, "sinners also love those that love them," Augustine's words are singularly terse and quaint: "Amas amantes te filios et parentes. Amat et latro, amat et draco, amant et lupi, amant et ursi".
And your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest. It has been objected by the enemies of Christianity that, after all, Jesus offered his followers a reward by way of payment to them for their self-sacrificing lives on earth. What, however, is this reward? Is it not a share in that Divine and glorious life of God, who is all love; a hope of participation in that eternal work of his which will go from blessing to blessing, from glory to glory; a certain expectation of dying only to wake up in his likeness, satisfied? The Eternal had already made a similar promise to his faithful servant Abraham. when he bade him fear not, because here on earth God was his Shield, and after death would be his exceeding great Reward.
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. "Yes," goes on the Master, "be ye kind, tender-hearted, merciful; stop not short at the easier love, but go on to the harder; and do this because God does it even to the unthankful and evil" (Luke 6:35). On this attribute of the mercy of the Most High, James, who had evidently drunk deep of the wisdom contained in this great discourse of his so-called brother, speaks of the Lord as "very pitiful, and of tender mercy" (James 5:11).
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged. Jesus would have his followers avoid one great error which was too common in the religious Jewish life of his time—the habit of censoriously judging others. This uncharitable and often untrue censorship of the motives which led to the acts of others, was one of the practices of the day which stunted and marred all true healthy religious life. Condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned. That pitiless condemnation which, regardless of circumstances, condemned as sinners beyond the pale of mercy, whole classes of their fellow-country-men, publicans, Samaritans, and the like. This haughty judgment of others in the case of the dominant sects of the Jews resulted in an undue estimate of themselves. His disciples must be very careful how they judged and condemned others; their rule must be, not condemnation, but forgiveness of others.
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over. The grand characteristic feature of the society of his followers must be generosity. They must be known among men as givers rather than judges. Boundless generosity, limitless kindness to all, saint and sinner—that is what he, the Master, would press home to those who would follow his lead (see 3 John 1:5, 3 John 1:6). Men would find out in time what generous friends they were, and would in their turn freely give to them. Shall men give into your bosom. The image is an Eastern one. In the dress then worn, a largo bag-shaped fold in the robe above the cincture or girdle was used instead of a pocket.
And he spake a parable unto them. St. Luke closes his report of the great sermon with four little parables taken from everyday life. With these pictures drawn from common life, the Master purposed to bring home to the hearts of the men and women listening to him the solemn warnings he had just been enunciating. They—if they would be his followers—must indeed refrain from ever setting up themselves as judges of others. "See," he went on to say, "I will show you what ruin this wicked, ungenerous practice will result in: listen to me." Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? It is not improbable that some of the links in the Master's argument here have been omitted by St. Luke; still, the connection of this saying and what follows, with the preceding grave warning against the bitter censorious spirit which had exercised so fatal an influence on religious teaching in Israel, is clear. The figure of the blind man setting himself up as a guide was evidently in the Lord's mind as a fair representation of the present thought-leaders of the people (the Pharisees). This is evident from the imagery of the beam and mote which follows (verses 41, 42). Can these blind guides lead others more ignorant and blind too? What is the natural result? he asks; will not destruction naturally overtake the blind leader and the blind led? Both will, of course, end by falling into the ditch.
The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. "Both," he went on to say, "will be lost hopelessly. You cannot expect the disciples of these mistaken men, surely, to be wiser than their teachers; for you know the oft-repeated saying, 'Every one that is perfect [better rendered, that has been perfected] shall be as his master;' in other words, the pupils of these censorious, evil-judging, narrow-minded, bitter men will grow up—as they become perfected in this teaching—in their turn equally narrow-minded and bitter as their masters." The conclusion, felt though not expressed, of course, is, "But my followers must be something different to these; another and nobler spirit, nobler because more generous, must rule in their hearts."
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? The thought-leaders of the day were in good truth hypocrites, proud, avaricious, in many cases self-indulgent, bigoted, and selfish; they were utterly unfit to be the moral teachers of the people—a position they had arrogated to themselves. The homely but well-known Jewish proverb of the mote and the beam picturesquely put before his listeners the position as it appeared to the Lord. The very defects among the people which the religious teachers professed to lecture upon and to discuss, disfigured and marred their own lives. They were—these priests and scribes and Pharisees—worse than self deceivers; they were religious hypocrites. The now famous illustration of the mote and the beam is, as has been said, purely Jewish, and was no doubt a familiar one to the people. It is found in the Talmud (treatise 'Bava Bathra' fol. 15. 2). Farrar quotes from Chaucer—
"He can wel in myn eye see a stalke,
But in his owne he can nought see a balke."
The word "mote" translates the Greek κάρφος, a chip. In Dutch mot is the dust of wood. In Spanish recta is the flue on cloth.
Luke 6:43, Luke 6:44
For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For a religious teacher ever to work any real work of good, the first requirement is that he should be known as a faithful doer of the thing he advocates. He must be intensely in earnest, and to be in earnest he must be real. This is emphatically what the religious scribes of Israel were not. This portion of the report of the great sermon, at one period of the Church's history possessed a special importance. It was used as one of the foundations of the system of dualism taught in the once widespread Manichaean heresy, which apparently reached its culminating period of popularity in the fifth century. This heretical school taught that there were two original principles—one good, from which good proceeded; one evil, from which evil came; that there were two races of men, having severally their descent from the one and from the other. The Manichaean teachers, while rejecting many of the Christian doctrines, made much of the sermon on the mount, calling it the "Divine discourse," mainly on account of the statement we are here discussing. Yet here, when the words of Jesus are carefully considered, there is no assertion of Manichaean dualism, neither does the Master hint that there is anything irrevocably fixed in men's natures, so that some can never become good, and others never evil, but only that, so long as a man is as an evil tree, he cannot bring forth good fruit; that if he would do good he must first be good. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. This imagery is taken from what is a common sight in Palestine; behind rough hedges of thorn and of the prickly pear, fig-trees are often seen completely covered with the twining tendrils of vine branches.
And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? It is evident from this heart-stirring appeal of Jesus that he had already obtained a large measure of recognition from the people. We should hardly be prepared to aver that any large number of the Palestinian inhabitants looked on him as Messiah, though probably some did; but that generally at this period he was looked on by the common folk, at all events, and by a few perhaps of their rulers, as a Being of no ordinary power, as a Prophet, and probably as One greater than a prophet. It is scarcely likely that even they who regarded him with the deepest reverence when he spoke the mount-sermon would have been able to define their own feelings towards him. But underneath the Lord's words lies this thought: "Those blind guides of whom I have been telling you, they with their lips profess to adore the eternal God of Israel, and yet live their lives of sin. You, my followers, do not the same thing."
Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like: he is like a man which built a house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built a house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great. "The surrounding scenery may, in this as in other instances, have suggested the illustration. As in all hilly countries, the streams of Galilee rush down the torrent-beds during the winter and early spring, sweep all before them, overflow their banks, and leave beds of alluvial deposit on either side. When summer comes their waters fail (comp. Jeremiah 15:18; Job 6:15), and what had seemed a goodly river is then a tract covered with debris of stones and sand. A stranger coming to build might be attracted by the ready-prepared level surface of the sand. It would be easier to build there instead of working upon the hard and rugged rock. But the people of the land would know and mock the folly of such a builder, and he would pass into a byword of reproach. On such a house the winter torrent had swept down in its fury, and the storms had raged, and then the fair fabric, on which time and money had been expended, had given way and fallen into a heap of ruins" (Dean Plumptre). Augustine has some weighty and practical comments on this simile of the Master's, with which, as a picture of what they had no doubt seen with their own eyes, the listening multitude would be singularly impressed. The great Latin Father calls special attention to the fact that in this picture of our Lord's the declared rejecters of the truth do not appear mirrored. In both the cases here instanced there is a readiness to hear the truth. Both the men of the parable-story built their house, but in one case the building ends in terrible disaster. "Would it have been better," asks Augustine, "not to have built at all if the building is thus to perish?" He answers, "Scarcely so; that were not to hear at all—to have built nothing. The fate of such will be to be swept away naked, exposed to wind and rain and torrents. The doom is similar in both cases; the lesson of the Lord is one easy to grasp. The wise man will hear, and, when he hears, will do, that is, will translate his impressions into actions. This will be to build a house upon a rock". There is something very striking in the words with which our Master concluded his great sermon, "and the ruin of that house was great." "After all," men would say, "it was only the destruction of one human being." But our Lord's saying reminds us that in his eyes the ruin of one immortal soul is a thought full of unspeakable sorrow. "Jesus, in closing his discourse, leaves his hearers under the impression of this solemn thought. Each of them, while listening to this last word, might think that he heard the crash of the falling edifice, and say within himself, 'This disaster will be mine, if I prove hypocritical or inconsistent'" (Godet). In Luke 6:48 some, though not all, of the ancient authorities, instead of the words, "for it was founded upon a rock," read, "because it had been well built." This text is adopted in the Revised Version, the old reading, as less probably correct, being relegated to the margin.
Christ and the sabbath day.
No feature of Christ's ministry is more striking than his attitude towards the sabbath of Israel. His first conflict with the Jewish authorities was associated with the sabbath. St. John tells us the story of this conflict in the fifth chapter of his Gospel. A man, paralyzed for thirty-eight years, had heard the voice, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk;" and, made instantly whole, he had gathered up the pallet which for so long had been stretched by the Pool of Bethesda, and had walked. "It is the sabbath day!" cried the narrow pedants who sat in Moses' chair; "it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed." From that hour one of the things which spies and emissaries were instructed specially to watch was the conduct of Jesus on the sabbath. Behold the opportunity of accusation that is supplied in the incidents here related—two incidents, if not on the same sabbath, at least on sabbaths separated by a very short interval from each other. In these incidents—the plucking and rubbing of the ears of corn, and the healing of the man with the withered hand—there are presented lessons of permanent value. Two points in particular may be noticed.
I. The question—IS THE SABBATH OF THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT CONTINUED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR? In the light of Christ's teaching we can distinguish between what was dispensational and temporary and what is abiding because rooted in the fitness of things. The Christian sabbath is not merely the Jewish sabbath continued. It is a new day, reminding us of a new state of things, conjoining with the remembrance of the creation in the beginning the witness for the new creation, the new making of things in heaven and earth, through the resurrection of the Lord, calling us to acts of worship and praise and to offerings of love as the Israelitish sabbath did not. Ours is not the seventh, but the first day, and this first day is the Lord's day. To surround it with vexing and irksome restrictions is to take us back from the substance into the dim land of shadows. But, this said, the balancing and completing truth must not be omitted. It is urged by some that the fourth commandment is no longer our authority. But why is that commandment one of the ten great words? Is it not because it is the expression of something essentially and therefore permanently right? because behind it there is the original commandment of the Creator—that which is written in our human nature? The sabbath—this is the testimony of Jesus—was no mere dispensational ordinance, no mere local or tribal arrangement. Grand and solemn is the word, "The sabbath was made for man." It is not by doing away with it, but by bringing into view its right proportions and its highest benefits, that he proves himself the Lord of the sabbath. What is the truth of the supremacy thus claimed? Some persons take the sentence of the fifth verse, "The Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath," as implying that any one born of woman has authority to subordinate to the sense of his own need the sabbath which was made for man. Even supposing that this use of the word "Son of man" were allowable, is the conclusion drawn permissible? Would the idea for an instant be tolerated that, because laws are imposed by the ruler for the benefit of his subjects, each subject might change them or dispense with them at his own convenience? But there can be no doubt that the "Son of man" spoken of is Christ himself, the second Adam, the representative Man. He—realizing, on the one hand, the true purpose of the sabbath, and discriminating, on the other, between such a use as shall keep the institution subordinate to the end, the good of man, and such an abuse as practically inverts this order, making man a mere creature of the institution—gives the true note of the blessed sabbath-keeping.
II. WHAT IS THIS BLESSED SABBATH-KEEPING? Observe:
1. There is no disturbance of the primary conception—rest. That is implied in the very word "sabbath." Rest, undoubtedly, is the need to which the ordinance immediately refers. "Six days shalt thou labour" is part of the Divine injunction. "But on the seventh day thou shalt not do any work." What a blessing is the weekly cessation from weary toil! The experiment of a tenth-day rest has been tried, and has failed. The septennial period seems to be the proportion adapted to the human system. In our complex social life individuals must suffer for the general good; some must work that the greater number may rest. But can we too jealously guard the rights of the poorest, ay, of beast as well as man? Can we too earnestly demand that there shall be no causeless multiplication of labour on the day of the Lord? Yes; God's sabbath is for repose of body, brain, mind, spirit. What promotes a healthy rest is in harmony with it; what hinders is alien to it. A day of pleasure-seeking and excitement is not a help. Take two men-one spending his Sunday in search of mere enjoyment; the other spending it quietly in the midst of his family, at church, taking the quiet walk, doing some little service for Christ: which of the two is the more rested, soothed, fitted for the labour of the Monday morning? Rest but not torpor, repose but not inaction, is a want for which the sabbath was made.
2. But with this comes into view what is distinctive in Christ's theory of sabbath-keeping. Negatively, in the reply about the rubbing of the ears of corn. He reminds us that no dull uniformity must overbear pressing human necessities. These are not to be met by a categorical "It is not lawful." The consideration of human well-being must allow for a certain flexibility in all enactments. But, positively, remark what is shown in the case of the man with a withered hand. This—that a beneficent activity is the highest fulfilment of the sabbath. Therefore the activity of worship and instruction; therefore also the activity of kindness-doing, of seeking the good of our fellows, of having a part with God the Healer. The ideal of the rest-day is a day in which a due proportion of these two forms of well-doing is maintained—the assembly for the service of God in prayer and praise and mutual edification, and room for doing good in the home and in the world. Do we realize, or even attempt to realize, this ideal as we should? How listless, how wanting in brightness and usefulness, is the observance of Sunday by even religiously minded persons! Ah! the most lawful of lawful things is to do well on the sabbath day, and the holier and more refreshing will the day be the more that in it the opportunity is realized of doing good and saving life, and thus proving ourselves his brethren who, being the Son of man, is Lord also of the sabbath.
The foundation of the kingdom.
The work set before us in this portion is great and solemn. It is the beginning of a new epoch of the earthly ministry. Hitherto Christ had been the Rabbi, the Prophet, the Healer. Now he is to "gird his sword on his thigh," to take to himself the power of the King. And for this work observe the preparation mentioned by the evangelist (Luke 6:12, Luke 6:13), "All night in prayer to God." The hush breathed over nature; the silence unbroken except by the cry of the wild beast seeking, in its own way, its meat from God; the glories of the firmament above, united with the sabbath-quiet of the earth around,—these were the features which invited, not slumber to the eyelids, but prayer, meditation, conference with the Father in heaven. We cannot avoid the conclusion that the retreat and the "all-night prayer" were specially in view of the action of the morrow. Oh, what a rebuke on our listless, quickly dismissed intercessions! How impressive the reminder that, for the appointment of men to minister in the house of the Lord, to render any spiritual service, the right beginning is effectual fervent prayer! Would there not be more fruits of work, more blessing for workmen, if there were more diligent following of Christ's example? Compare this passage with Acts 13:3. Note the two points in the foundation-laying of the kingdom of heaven—the personal agency, and the Law.
I. "HE CALLED THE DISCIPLES"—the larger company, including those who had attached themselves to his Person, many, no doubt, of the healed, of those who had been delivered from demons and brought to their right mind; and "of them he chose twelve." Let us assume that the number is part of the ordering (see Luke 22:29, Luke 22:30). And recollect also the significance attached to twelve—as the complete number of the Church—in the Book Of Revelation. Do not exaggerate, but do not underrate, the significance of the numbers found in Scripture. The naturalist who would learn the differences, truths, and natures of things must take into account the curious parallels, the typical forms, the numbers which he discovers running through genera and species. It is the perception of these minute evidences of method, of purpose in details, which is part of the scientific man's paradise. And it is the same kind of perception, the "searching rapturous glance "into the hidden truth of Scripture, which carries the devout mind through the mere outer boundaries of the garden into the enjoyment of its delicacies and delights. Observe the statement as to the twelve.
1. The Lord chose them. 'He called," it is said in St. Mark, "whom he would." This is the foundation of the apostolate for each and all. The choice is in his own hands, determined, not by any plan or rule of mere prudential wisdom, but because of that which, the night before, he had seen and heard of his Father. And to this same royalty all selection for spiritual office is evermore the witness. The action of the Church, through its officers, is only a supplementary or declarative action. The originating and efficient action is what we style the call of the Holy Ghost—an inward aptitude or anointing of Divine love and grace in the character so manifest that we can read the sentence, "Called because the Lord has willed."
2. The Lord ordained. This is expressly stated by St. Mark. It is included in St. Luke's "he named." Probably there was an outward act or symbol—that laying on of hands, which carried out well-known Hebrew associations, and, for designation to office, has been appropriated by the Christian Church from the earliest period of its history. Be this as it may, the ordination was also a disjunction; it was the final severance from the former calling; they were henceforth to give themselves wholly to the Word of God, the Master's meat their meat, the Master himself their all in all. Immediately before he suffered, Christ reminded the eleven of that transaction on the mountain-side, "I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit." And, again, on the Resurrection morning, the fuller truth of the ordination symbol was realized when he said, "As the Father sent me, so have I sent you," and having so said, he breathed on them, and added, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost."
3. What were the functions of the twelve? Following the guidance of St. Mark, we reply: First, to be with Christ, his associates, sharing his temptations, eye-witnesses of his glory and majesty, depositaries of his words and of his inmost confidences. Second, to preach, to go forth declaring him and his gospel and his kingdom. Third, to exercise among men his own power of healing sickness and casting out devils. Keep hold of this sequence—this first, second, third. The first requirement is always life with Christ, communion with the personal Saviour: there is no real preaching, no real power, without that. A man must be taught before he can teach. And where and by whom shall he be taught? The university is well. Never more to be desired than now is a body of Christian instructors learned as well as godly. Experience of men is well: thence comes tact, the skill by which souls are attracted and won for higher things. But there is a graduation better still—one which is necessary to spiritual force—graduation in the school of Christ; the learning of Christ. And this can be realized only through day-by-day fellowship with him, beholding his beauty, and inquiring in his temple. Then the second demand is, preach him, speak out what he speaks in. And so also there is the third function, to work for him, to be in this world presences of healing and blessing, in Jesus' name "casting out devils, speaking with new tongues, taking up serpents, laying hands on the sick that they may recover." Thus were the twelve named apostles—the sent of the Lord. And, having been named, they were made ready by Christ himself for the day when they should do greater works than any which they had witnessed, because he had gone to the Father, and shed forth the promise of the Holy Ghost. A strange kingdom, indeed! The King, that lowly Man seated on one of the horns of Mount Hattin, and his princes and companions these poor, uncouth-looking, unlearned men! Never, it might be thought, was such a burlesque of royalty seen. But that was, that is, the monarchy whose sceptre shall stretch from pole to pole, that at the name of Jesus every knee may bow.
II. HE CAME DOWN WITH THE TWELVE, it is added, and stood on the plain—the King and the kingdom meeting the parliament of man. Yes, the King meek and lowly, but "the mighty God, the Lord, is about to speak, and call the earth from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof." He would not speak until he had constituted his Church. For the Man is before the Law, the Voice before the Scripture, the order before the ordering. This has been done, and he comes down to the great world with its fevers and diseases and spirits of uncleanness surging before him, and seeking to touch him from whom, as a great stream of healing, the power goes forth. The law, the manifesto of the kingdom, is published. What this law is admits of being more fully expounded in connection with the Gospel of St. Matthew. The differences between the reports in the two Gospels deserve to be studied. It is sufficient here to indicate the sum and substance of the legislation of Christ the King on the holy hill of Zion. Clearly the old Law, that delivered from Sinai, is fully in the mind of Jesus. It is quoted again and again. But how striking the contrast between that past and this present! That past, when
"Around the trembling mountain-base
The prostrate people lay;
A day of wrath and not of grace;
A dim and dreadful day;"
this present, the soft grassy slope, the bright sky overhead, the rejoicing world around, the many sitting before him who had received the healing virtue; himself, in tones full of the music of love, declaring the truth for which the soul of man is made as the eye is made for the light. Not that the past is ruthlessly swept away. All is preserved—preserved because fulfilled. But his law-giving is a new law-making, because it penetrates to the innermost region of the life; it searches the spirit as with the candle of the Lord; its dealing is not so much with the mere outer conduct as with the inner motive power. The man is right when the heart is right—this is the cardinal principle. And the sermon passes onward, from the beatitudes with which it begins, through the exposition of true soul-rectitude, to the sublime conclusion which may God help all to ponder. "Every one that cometh unto me, and heareth my words, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like … But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like," etc. From the great ruin foretold may the good Lord deliver us!
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
Sin disabling, Christ restoring.
Being in the right place, our Lord found an opportunity of doing that for which he came, and much more besides. The doing of duty often leads to the finding of privilege and the exercise of power for good. We learn—
I. THAT SIN DISABLES US. This man came into the synagogue with a withered hand. That which was the natural instrument of power—his right hand—was powerless. Gradually its strength had been disappearing until it had completely gone; and that with which God meant him to do his work, to greet his fellows, to make his mark in the world around him, had become an inefficient and useless member. The disease from which he was suffering, whatever it may have been, had by slow degrees wasted and worn away its vital power, and it could do nothing of all that it was created to do. Just such is the action of sin. It is a disabling spiritual disease. Its effect is to reduce and finally to remove those spiritual powers with which our Creator endowed us, and in the exercise of which our true life is found. Our human power, as we came forth from God, was that of worship, of contemplation, of recognizing and rejoicing in the truth, of delighting in God, of obedience to his commandments, of acquiescence in his will, of living in our sphere the life he lives in his, of reflecting his own likeness in our character and our deeds. But sin has been taking this away from us; away from our race, away from the individual who allows it to reign over his soul. More and more it disables us from taking the part we were intended to take, and doing the work we were intended to do. It is the great and sad disabling force in the spiritual sphere.
II. THAT CHRIST COMES TO RESTORE US. He comes to say to us, "Stretch forth thy hand; " resume thy power; have again and use. again those precious spiritual faculties which, under tile grievous injury of sin, have lain dormant within thee. And even as he wrought a cure in this afflicted man which was radical and thorough, making the life-blood to course through all his veins and nourish every nerve and muscle which had shrunk and withered, so does he heal our hearts by a process which is not superficial, which does not merely affect the extremities, but which goes to and proceeds from the heart. He shows us our true selves—whence we came; what we were created to be; how far we have fallen from our right heritage and condition; what is our unworthiness and guilt; what we may yet become. And he reveals himself to us—the Divine Mediator, Saviour, Lord, through whom we have access to God, in whom we are restored to God's favour, unto whom we dedicate, joyfully and unreservedly, all the faculties of our nature. In Christ Jesus we enter on a new life; all the springs of our soul are touched and renewed; we regain our lost possession; we stretch forth the right hand of our spiritual power; we do our work in his world.
III. THAT CHRIST DEMANDS OF US AN IMMEDIATE, PRACTICAL RESPONSE. That he may heal us, he summons us to act. He said, "Stretch forth thy hand!" and in the act of obedience the cure was wrought. To us he says, "Come unto me!" "Abide in me!" and as we endeavour to comply we begin to be restored.
IV. THAT PRACTICAL KINDNESS IS A PRINCIPAL MANIFESTATION OF RENEWED POWER. The great Restorer was at the same time the great Teacher. By the whole incident, and especially by his healing act, our Lord was making known to us for all time that, whatever may be the worth of religious observances—and they have their own great value—they are distinctly second in his sight to those acts of human pity and beneficence by which we lift a load from a brother's heart, and brighten the rest of his life on earth.—C.
The designation of the twelve.
Our Lord appears to have formally designated the twelve, on this occasion, to be his apostles. He had called them singly before; now he appoints them to their post in a more formal manner. This act of his suggests to us some thoughts upon—
I. THEIR LIKENESS TO ONE ANOTHER, and the consequent bond of union between one another. This consisted in:
1. A common nationality, with all that meant to an intensely patriotic people.
2. A common faith, including a common hope that a new prophet would arise and accomplish all that was looked for from the expected Messiah.
3. Similar circumstances, education and social position; not the same, indeed, but of the same class.
4. A common attachment to Jesus Christ; in the case of most of them a trust and an affection that were to deepen every day, in the case of one of them a faith that was to slacken and to depart.
II. THEIR DIVERGENCES FROM ONE ANOTHER.
1. In the habits of mind and life formed by different occupations.
2. In mental constitution and moral disposition. How different Peter from John, and both from Thomas, and all three from James, etc.!
3. In reputation. Of some of them we know nothing but their names; we do not know where they laboured or what was the kind or measure of their service. Tradition has been busy with their names, but history tells us nothing. Of others we have a considerable knowledge, and their reputation is great indeed and will be ever growing.
4. In their career: one ending in shame and gloom; the others in honour and in glory.
III. THEIR FUNCTIONS. These, according to Mark, were threefold.
1. Being with Christ, and witnessing his life; thus qualifying themselves to attest his purity, his power, his love.
2. Preaching the gospel; making known to their countrymen that the Promised One for whom they had so long been looking had come at last, and had come with the most gracious words on his lips that man had ever spoken.
3. Verifying the truth by acts of beneficent power—they were to exercise "power to heal." And it is in no small or mean sense that our Lord summons us all to do these same things.
(1) To be with him; sitting at his feet and learning of him his heavenly truth; following him along his course, and becoming filled with a deep sense of his stainless purity and surpassing love; kneeling at his cross, and receiving all the benefit and blessing of his great salvation.
(2) Declaring to others all that we have thus learned of Christ, our Lord and Saviour; making known to the sad, the suffering, the sinful, what a Friend and Refuge they will find in him.
(3) Verifying the truth of our attestations by comforting stricken hearts, by enlightening darkened minds, by transforming evil lives, by lifting men up, God helping us, from the depths of wrong and of despair to the noble and blessed heights of holiness and joy and hope.—C.
The blessedness of humility.
Acting on the established and valid principle that we must interpret the less by the more complete, we determine the meaning of this passage by the words as recorded in Matthew's Gospel, "Blessed are the poor in spirit,' etc.; and thus taking it, we conclude—
I. THAT NARROWNESS OF MEANS IS NOT A DESIRABLE THING. Our Lord could not have intended to teach that the poor (in outward circumstances) were necessarily blessed, for poverty itself means privation, inability to command the various bounties and treasures our Creator has provided for our enjoyment and enrichment. Moreover, it by no means constantly or certainly leads to anything which can be called "the kingdom of God;" on the contrary, it frequently conducts to dishonesty, servility, demoralization (see Proverbs 30:8, Proverbs 30:9). Neither, therefore, in the present nor in the future can such poverty be pronounced blessed (see, however, homily on Luke 4:18, "to preach the gospel to the poor").
II. THAT POOR-SPIRITEDNESS IS A DECIDEDLY UNWORTHY THING. A "poor-spirited" man, according to the common usage of the term, is a man no one can esteem, and he is a man who cannot respect himself. Christ could not have intended to commend him as the heir of the kingdom of God. He did indeed say much in praise of the meek, the enduring, the merciful, the forgiving; he did say much in deprecation of violence and retaliation. But meekness is a vastly different thing from meanness or cowardice; and a man may be nobly superior to mere violence who fights bravest battles for truth and righteousness. All struggle is not soldiership; and he who has most of what Christ meant when he blessed the poor in spirit may be very valiant and very aggressive at his post as the champion of all that is true and pure.
III. THAT HUMILITY OF HEART IS THE DESIRABLE THING FOR SINFUL MEN. Blessed are the men who have in their hearts a deep sense of their own unworthiness. And they are so because this is:
1. The true and therefore the right thing. Truth is always and under all circumstances to be preferred to error. It would make a man much more comfortable in his mind to persuade him that he is everything that is good, and that he had done everything that was required of him. But what a hollow and rotten thing such a satisfaction would be, if the man were wrong and guilty! How much better for him to know that he was guilty, in need of cleansing and of mercy! How pitiable (not enviable) the Church or the nation that supposes itself to be rich and strong when it is utterly poor and weak! How enviable (not pitiable) the man who has come to understand that he is in urgent need of those resources which he may have if he will seek them, and which—now that he knows his necessity—he will not fail to seek! To have a deep sense of our unworthiness before God is to know ourselves as we are; it is to recognize our lives as they have been. It is to perceive how far we have failed to be that which we should have been to our Divine Father; it is to realize how much there has been in our lives which God's Law condemns, how much there has been absent from them which his Word demands. It is to hold the truth in our hearts; it is, so far, to be in the right. It is a blessed estate as compared with its opposite—that of error and delusion. But it is also:
2. The receptive and therefore the hopeful thing. When a man imagines himself to be safe he admits no Saviour to his heart; when he knows and feels himself to be in danger and in difficulty he opens his door wide to one that will befriend him. The man in whose heart is a true humility, who finds himself to be wrong with God, who sees how far he is from perfect rectitude, is the very man who will welcome Jesus Christ in all his gracious offices.
(1) Conscious ignorance will welcome the Divine Teacher.
(2) Conscious guilt will rejoice in an all-sufficient Saviour.
(3) Conscious weakness will lean on Almighty Power, and be ever seeking the upholding grace of a mighty Spirit.
(4) Conscious error and insufficiency will yield itself to the guidance and direction of a Divine Lord and Leader. And surrendering ourselves to Christ, we enter the kingdom of God.—C.
The blessedness of spiritual hunger.
On the same principle of interpretation as that which applies to the preceding verse (see preceding homily), we conclude that our Master is referring to those who hunger after righteousness, who are affected by a keen spiritual appetite. These are in a state of earnest religious inquiry; they are like the young man who ran eagerly and anxiously to "know what he must do to inherit eternal life" (Luke 18:18). In other words, they are earnestly desirous of gaining the favour and also the likeness of God; of being such that God will not condemn them as guilty, but count them as righteous; such also that they will in a very serious sense be righteous even as he is righteous, be "partakers of his holiness." Now, wherein consists the blessedness of this spiritual condition?
I. SEEKING GOD IS THE ONLY HONEST AND RIGHT THING TO DO. Those who believe of God what most men do believe—that he is the Author of their being and the Source of all their blessings, that he is more nearly and importantly related to them than any human being can be, that they owe everything they are and have to him—are most strongly and sacredly bound to seek his favour. To be blind when he is beckoning, deaf when he is calling, insensible when he lays his hand upon them,—this is to be wholly, sadly, shamefully in the wrong.
II. SEEKING GOD IS THE LOFTY AND NOBLE THING. To seek God, to hunger and thirst after him and his righteousness, is the true heritage of our manhood; it is that which, incalculably more than anything else, lifts us up to a high and noble level. Not to be a-hungred and athirst after the living God is to be forfeiting the very best portion for which our Creator called us into existence.
III. SEEKING GOD IS THE ONE SATISFYING THING. 'Blessed are ye that hunger: for ye shall be filled;' and those who hunger after that which is lesser and lower are not filled. No earthly joy fills the soul; it leaves it still craving.
1. Not even the purer joys of earth fill the soul; not even beholding the beauties and glories of creation; "the eye is not satisfied with seeing" these. Not even listening to the sweetest melodies that can be heard; "the ear is not satisfied with hearing" them.
2. Much less with the grosser delights—making money, wielding power, receiving homage, indulging in bodily gratifications; certainly the tongue is not satisfied with tasting, and "he that loveth silver is not satisfied with silver" (Ecclesiastes 5:10). But:
3. The love of God, the possession of the friendship of Jesus Christ, the spending of our days and our powers in the holy, elevating service of a Divine Redeemer,—this is that which fills the heart with a restful and abiding joy, and which brightens the life with a light that does not fade.
"These are the joys which satisfy
And sanctify the mind."
These are the joys which last; which live when the passions of youth have been burnt out, when the ambitions of manhood are dead, when life is lived through and death is waiting for its own; the-joys which, as all else grows dim and worthless, become more and more precious still. "Blessed are they that hunger thus: for they shall be filled.'—C.
Luke 6:22, Luke 6:23
The blessedness of martyrdom.
Using the word 'martyrdom' in its broader sense, we have to consider the Lord's saying respecting it. It certainly is paradoxical enough. Yet his meaning is to be found for the looking. It is, indeed, true—
I. THAT THE ENMITY OF OTHERS IS A SORE TRIAL TO OUR SPIRIT. Other things bruise us beside bludgeons, and other things cut us beside whipcord. The manifest hatred of other hearts, the cruel reproaches of unsparing lips, banishment from the society of our fellow-men as being unworthy to remain, blighting a fair fame with unjust aspersions,—these things cut deep into the human soul, they bruise almost to breaking tender and sensitive spirits. Some, indeed, are so constituted that the roughest treatment on the part of others will not hurt them; they can throw it off, can cast it aside with indifference; it is to them "as the idle wind which they regard not." But these are the exception, and not the rule among men. God meant us to be affected by the judgment of our brethren and sisters, to be encouraged and sustained by their approval, to be discouraged and checked by their censure. It is a part of our humanity that, upon the whole, works for righteousness. But only too often its effect is evil; only too often the pure are pelted with reproaches, the faithful are condemned for their fidelity, the holy are exposed to the hatred and ribaldry of the profane. Then there is suffering which God never intended his children to endure,—that of the faithful witness to the truth, that of the brave, unyielding martyr to the cause of Jesus Christ. And many are they who would more readily welcome and more easily endure blows or imprisonment than bitter malignity of heart and cold severity of speech. But then it is also true—
II. THAT CHRISTIAN CONSIDERATIONS TRIUMPH OVER ALL. Our Master and Teacher would have our hearts to be so filled with the other and opposite aspect of the case, that our natural inclination to be saddened and stricken in spirit will be completely overborne, and that, instead of sorrow, there will be joy. "Our reward is great in heaven;" so great that we who are reproached for Christ's sake are "blessed; ' we are, indeed, to "leap for joy." What, then, are these balancing, these overbalancing considerations?
1. That we are taking rank with the very noblest men: "In like manner … unto the prophets." We stand, then, on the same level with Moses, with Samuel, with Elijah, with Isaiah, with Jeremiah; with a noble company of men and women who, long since their day and their dispensation, have "gone without the camp, bearing his reproach;" men and women were these "of whom the world was not worthy," to be classed with whom is the highest honour we can enjoy.
2. That we take rank with One who was nobler than all; for did not he, our Lord himself, bear shame and obloquy? was not he crowned with the crown of thorns, because he was here "bearing witness unto the truth" (John 18:37)?
3. That we are serving our self-sacrificing Saviour. A modern missionary relates that when he and another were assaulted by a Chinese crowd, and when, putting his hand to his head where he had been hit, he found it moist with his blood, he felt a strange thrill of exceeding joy as he realized that he had been permitted to shed his blood for that Divine Saviour who had poured out his life for him.
4. That we are truly serving our race; for the truth to which we bear a rejected testimony to-day will, and partly as the result of our suffering witness, be accepted further on, and become the nourishment of the people.
5. That we are on our way to the highest heavenly honour. They who suffer shame "for the Son of man's sake" now shall one day be exalted in the presence of the holy angels. Great will be their reward in the heavenly kingdom.—C.
Luke 6:27, Luke 6:28, Luke 6:32-35
Seeking the highest good from the highest motive.
In these words our Lord commends to us—
I. THE HIGHEST CONCEIVABLE MORAL EXCELLENCE. There are four gradations by which we may ascend from the devilish to the Divine, in spirit and in character.
1. We may hate those who love us. There are bad men bad enough, like enough to the evil one himself, to positively hate those who are trying to redeem them, who repay the devoted efforts of their truest friends with sneers and revilings.
2. We may hate those who hate us. Not only may we do this, we do it. As sin has perverted it, it is in the human heart to return hatred for hatred, blow for blow.
3. We may love those who love us. Most men are equal to that: "Sinners also love those that love them."
4. We may love those who hate us. "I say unto you, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you," etc. Let us understand whom Christ would have us consider our enemies, and whom, as such, he would have us love. These are not only our national enemies; but they are certainly included. To allow ourselves to be carried into the current of bitter animosity against those with whom our country is at strife, so as to rejoice in their suffering and their death,—this is here rebuked by our Master. But our "enemies" are more often found at home. They include all those whose relation to ourselves is likely to provoke ill feeling; e.g. those effectively opposing us in counsel or debate; those successfully contending with us in business; those engaged in vindicating their "rights" (as they seem to them) against us; those whose material interests clash with ours; those who have spoken against us or have taken any active steps to injure us. We must also understand what Christ meant by our loving these. Clearly he could not have intended that we should cherish toward them that full and complete friendship which is the very precious fruit of gratitude and esteem, and which can only be felt toward those to whom we owe great things, or for whom we have a real veneration. That is impossible in the nature of things. But it is not impossible, it is quite open to us, to extract from our heart every root of bitterness toward our enemies, to exclude all desire for their ill fortune; and, going much further than that, to nourish in our souls a positively kind feeling toward them, a readiness to serve them; nay, more, to form the habit of praying for them, and of looking out for an opportunity to show them kindness. Surely this is the supreme thing in human morality. No teacher has summoned us to climb higher than this; no learner has reached a loftier summit. And Christ asks us to do this—
II. FROM THE HIGHEST CONCEIVABLE MOTIVE. We might endeavour after this true nobility because:
1. God positively requires it of us (Mark 11:26; Matthew 18:35).
2. It is the noblest victory over ourself. "He that ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city."
3. It is the greatest victory over others. "In so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his' head." But there is an incentive higher than these—the highest of all; it is that which our Lord gives us in the text; because:
4. By so doing we resemble God himself. "Ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil." Here is the loftiest aspiration cherished for the loftiest reason. Think kindly of those who are judging harshly of you; feel friendly toward those who are feeling bitterly about you; speak generously of those who are talking disparagingly of you; do deeds of kindness to those who are acting unhandsomely toward you; bend the knee in prayer on behalf of those who are persecuting you;—do this because then you will be breathing the very atmosphere of magnanimity which God breathes in heaven, because you will then be animated by the very spirit by which he is prompted in all he is doing there, because you will then be ruling your humble life by the very principles on which he is ruling his broad and boundless empire. "Love ye your enemies … and your reward shall be great;" indeed, you shall be "the children of the Highest;" the mind that is in him shall be in you, you shall then be perfected (Matthew 5:48), crowning every other virtue and grace of your character, even as God crowns all his other attributes, with the glorious, regal, transcendent excellency of an unquenchable, victorious love.—C.
The golden rule.
We call this precept of Christ "the golden rule;" probably we intend thereby to pay it the highest honour we can offer it. But it is the "precious metal," rather than the admirable precept, to which the compliment is paid by the association of the two. For if this rule of our Lord were only illustrated in the daily life of men, they would be enriched as no imaginable quantity of gold could enrich them. Then would such a revolution be effected as no statesman has ever dreamed of working; then would all social evils for ever disappear; then would human life wear another aspect from that which now saddens and shames us; for the golden rule, enacted in the lives of men, would soon inaugurate the "golden year." We look at—
I. ITS SURPASSING EXCELLENCY,
1. It is within all men's apprehension. It is no learned, erudite definition, requiring much culture to comprehend. The most simpleminded can understand it.
2. It commends itself to all men's conscience. It is not one of those commandments which require much thought and much practice to appreciate. It is obviously just and fair. It hardly admits of dispute. Every one can see, every one must feel—if "the light that is in him be not darkness"—that it is the right thing for him to do.
3. It excludes all evasions. No man can shield himself under any misrepresentation of the rule. He must know whether or not he is trying to act toward his neighbour as he would that his neighbour should act toward him.
4. It covers the entire range of human life, so far as our relations to one another are concerned. It covers:
(1) Action, and also inaction; including in its sweep not only those things we do, but those we leave undone—the attention, the kindness, the consideration, the return we should render but may be withholding.
(2) The judgment we form of others; the right they have to our patient, impartial, intelligent, charitable judgment; the claim they may fairly make that we should attribute the worthy rather than the unworthy, the pure rather than the impure, the generous rather than the mean motive.
(3) Our speech; the utterance of the kind and true word of our neigh-hour, and also to him.
(4) Conduct-all our dealings and doings, of all kinds whatsoever, in all the varied relations in which we stand to our fellow-men. This one rule of Christ is a powerful test and solvent of all other prescriptions. If they can be carried out and yet leave us short, in our practice, of doing to others as they would like us to act toward them, these rules are imperfect. They leave something to be desired and to be attained.
II. THE INSPIRATION WE NEED TO FULFIL IT. This great precept of Christ is not to be translated into action like any ordinary military or municipal regulation. We must gain some inspiration from our Lord himself if we are to keep this great commandment. And we must be prompted by three things.
1. An earnest desire to follow Christ's own example.
2. A strong purpose of heart to do his holy will, that we may please and honour him.
3. A kind and Christian interest in our neighbours; a gracious pity for those whom he pitied, and for whom he suffered and died; a warm interest in their welfare; a firm faith that they can be raised and renewed and refined; a holy love for all those who love him.—C.
These words must be taken with discrimination; they must be applied in the exercise of our natural intelligence, distinguishing between things that differ. We must observe—
I. THE TRUTH WHICH LIES OUTSIDE THE THOUGHT OF CHRIST. Our Lord could not possibly have meant to condemn the exercise of the individual judgment on men or things. By so doing, indeed, he would have condemned himself; for did he not say, "Why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right"? And almost in the same breath he intimates that men are to be judged by their actions as is a tree by its fruit (Luke 6:44). We are commanded by the Apostle Paul to "prove all things, and to hold fast that which is good;" and John exhorts us to "try the spirits whether they are of God." Things must be judged by us; new doctrines, new institutions, new methods of worship and of work, come up for our support or our condemnation, and we must judge them, by reason, by conscience, by Scripture, that we rosy know what course we are to pursue. Men must be judged by us also. We have to decide whether we will give them our confidence, our friendship; whether we will admit them into the family circle, into the society, into the Church. To decline to judge men is to neglect one of the most serious duties and most weighty obligations of our life. And knowing all that we do know from Jesus Christ what men and things should be, having learned of him the essential value of reverence, of purity, of rectitude, of charity, we are in a position to "judge righteous judgment," as he has desired us to do.
II. THE SINFUL ERROR WHICH CHRIST CONDEMNS. The judging and the condemning which our Lord here forbids are those of a wrong and guilty order. They are, at least, threefold.
1. Hasty judgment; coming to unfavourable conclusions on slight and insufficient evidence; not giving to the inculpated neighbour any fair opportunity of explaining the occurrence; not waiting to think or to learn what has to be taken into account on the other side.
2. Uncharitable judgment, and therefore unjust judgment; for we are never so unjust as when we are uncharitable—as when we ascribe the lower motive, the ignobler purpose, the impure desire, to our neighbour. All uncharitableness is sin in the sight of Jesus Christ; and when the want of a kindly charity leads us to misjudge and so to wrong our brother, we fall under the condemnation of this his word, and under his own personal displeasure.
3. Harsh condemnation; taking a tone and using a language which are unnecessarily severe, which tend to crush rather than to reform, which daunt the spirit instead of inciting it to better things; condemnation which is not after the manner of him who "hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities," who "will not always chide, neither doth he keep his anger for ever;" condemnation which would be disallowed by him who rebuked his disciples when they rebuked those mothers who were bringing their children to his feet, and who forbade these disciples to forbid any one doing good in his name, even though he "followed not" with them.
III. THE PENALTY WE PAY FOR OUR TRANSGRESSION. If we wrongly judge and wrongly condemn, we shall suffer for our mistake, for our sin.
1. God will condemn us for our injustice, or our undue and inconsiderate severity.
2. We shall have, some day, to reproach ourselves. But the most marked penalty will be found elsewhere.
3. Our fellow-men will treat us with the severity we impose on them. It is the universal habit among men to take up the attitude toward any neighbour which he assumes toward them. Toward the merciful we are merciful, even as our Father is; toward the severe we are severe. Again and again does the fact present itself to our observation that the men who have been relentless in their punishment of others have been held fast to the letter of the bond in the day of their own shortcoming; they who show no mercy will find none when they need it for their own soul. But if we judge leniently and condemn sparingly, we shall find for ourselves that men are just unto the just and generous unto the generous.—C.
This word of Christ may be taken with that other on the same subject, which none of the evangelists recorded, but which we could ill have spared, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." We may consider—
I. WHAT WE HAVE TO GIVE. We have much that we can draw from if we desire to benefit and to bless our fellow-men.
1. Our possessions—our money, our time, our books, our clothes, etc.
2. Ourselves—our thought, our affection, our sympathy.
II. WHO SHOULD BE OUR RECIPIENTS. These should be:
1. Our kindred according to the flesh.
2. Our kindred according to the spirit—our fellow-Christians, our fellow-members.
3. Our neighbours, those who, as the nearest and most within reach, should receive our kind thoughtfulness.
4. The children of want, of sorrow, of spiritual destitution, both at home and abroad. There is a sense, and that a truly Christian one, in which those who are in the saddest need and in the darkest error, aye, and even in the most deplorable iniquity, have the greatest claim on our pity and our help.
III. WHAT MAY BE OUR INCENTIVES.
1. That giving is that act which is most emphatically Divine. God lives to give—to bestow life, and health, and beauty, and joy on his creatures. Christ Jesus came to give himself for man.
2. That it is truly angelic.
3. That it is the heroic thing to do. Men have been true heroes in proportion as they have spent themselves and their powers on behalf of their kind.
4. That it is most elevating in its influence on ourselves and, when wisely directed, on those for whom it is expended.
IV. WHAT WILL BE OUR RECOMPENSE.
1. The Divine approval. "For God loveth a cheerful giver."
2. The unconscious and uncalculated reaction that will be received by ourselves, enlarging our heart and lifting us toward the level of the supreme Giver.
3. The response we shall receive from those we serve. This is the recompense which is promised in the text. "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure … shall men give into your bosom." There is far too much ingratitude in this world; more, perhaps, than we are willing to believe, until sad experience has convinced us. Nevertheless, there is also a very large measure of human responsiveness on which we may safely reckon. If we give to others, men will give to us; if we love them, they will love us. Do not even the publicans so? (Matthew 5:46). Even those whose hearts have been unchanged by the truth and grace of Christ will respond to genuine kindness. Patronage they will recognize and resent; officialism they will distinguish and may endure. But the help which comes straight from the heart they will appreciate, and to him who gives it they will give a free and gladdening response. To the really generous man, as distinguished from the formal "benefactor" or the professional philanthropist, there will flow a stream of warm-hearted gratitude and affection which will far more than repay all the time and treasure, and even all the sympathy and service, that have been expended. The generous giver will be the recipient of
(1) the regard,
(2) the gratitude,
(3) the affection, and,
(4) when it may be needed,
the substantial kindness of those whom he has tried to serve, and of many others outside that circle. And to these may be added that which, if its worth be less calculable, yet may be even more valuable and more acceptable than any or all of these—the prayers of the good. Selfishness often misses its own poor mark, and it always fails to bless its author with an inward blessing; but beneficence is always blessed. God rains down his large benedictions from above, and below men offer their glad and free contribution. "Give, and it shall be given unto you … for with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again."—C.
Luke 6:39, Luke 6:40
We may learn from this parable some truths of the greatest consequence to all those who are teachers of religion; and this will include not only all Christian pastors and evangelists, but all those who are training the young, whether at school or at home.
I. THAT THE WISDOM OF THE WORLD DEPENDS VERY LARGELY ON THAT OF ITS RELIGIOUS TEACHERS. The multitude have never yet been able to think great theological questions through; they have not attempted the settlement of them by their own examination. They have left that very largely indeed to their religious leaders. It is so in other departments of human knowledge, and so it has been and will be in the realm of 'religion. What our teachers teach the people will believe concerning the great and supreme questions affecting our relation to God, to our neighbours, to the future.
II. THAT BLINDNESS ON THE PART OF THE TEACHER MEANS DISASTROUS ERROR TO THE PEOPLE. "Both will fall into the ditch." Religious truth is the most elevating of all knowledge; but error in religion is the most injurious of all errors. Men can make mistakes in the realms of literature, of physical science, of philosophy, and even of political economy, without fatal consequences. But serious errors in religion are nothing short of calamities. Teacher and taught fall into a deep ditch, from which they do not escape without much injury, both done and suffered. These evil consequences include:
1. Departure and distance of the mind from the thought of God, from truth and wisdom.
2. Superstitions which degrade and demoralize; or, on the other hand, unbelief which robs the soul of its true heritage, and leaves life without nobility and death without hope.
3. Morbid fancies which prey upon the mind, or shocking cruelties practised on the victim of error himself or on others.
4. Spiritual death.
III. THAT THE TEACHER OF TRUTH IS LIMITED IN HIS INFLUENCE BY HIS OWN ATTAINMENTS. "The disciple is not above his master." It is indeed true that a teacher may bring a disciple into connection with Jesus Christ; and from him and from his followers and his institutions he may gain help which his first teacher could not have imparted; but this is not derived from the teacher himself. This man, as teacher, can only render to his disciples the good which he has in himself—the knowledge he has in his own mind, the worth he has in his own character, the wisdom contained in the principles on which he is fashioning his own life. Let every teacher be impressed with the serious truth of this limitation. He cannot give what he has not gained. He has to say, "Follow me so far as I am following Christ,"—not a step further. If he ceases to acquire, if his path of progress in the knowledge or the likeness of God is arrested, there is stopped at the same hour his power of leading his disciples on and up those sacred and glorious heights. Therefore let him be always acquiring, always attaining.
IV. THAT THE FAITHFUL TEACHER HAS A VERY NOBLE OPPORTUNITY. Every one that has been fully instructed "shall be as his master." If he is a" true philanthropist who makes two blades of grass to grow where only one grew before," what shall we not think of him who plants in the hearts of men true thoughts of God, of the human soul, of human life, of the future? This is the teacher's lofty function. And he can go beyond this. By the power of language, especially when that is illuminated by deep conviction and intense earnestness of spirit, he can pass on to his disciples so much of Divine truth, and he can communicate so much of heavenly wisdom, that they who "have been fully instructed," who are his mature or "perfect" disciples, will have in them the mind and temper which are in him. So that they will be "as he is," will think as he thinks, will feel what he feels, will live for the same objects for which he is living. Surely there is no nobler work that any man can do than this; it is well worth while the teacher's
(1) most careful preparation,
(2) most energetic effort,
(3) most earnest prayer.—C.
Luke 6:41, Luke 6:42
Keenness and dulness of spiritual vision.
Of all the surprising things in this world there is nothing more wonderful than the way in which men mistake one another and misconceive themselves. Their vision is so seriously, so thoroughly distorted.
I. THE KEENNESS OF SPIRITUAL VISION some men exhibit. They have the nicest discernment of faults and failings in their brethren. There is nothing too minute to escape their notice and their condemnation. Censoriousness is a very great mistake in every light. Those who are guilty of "beholding the mote in their brother's eye" are wrong in four respects.
1. They do substantial injustice in their judgment and by their action; for they lay stress on the one small infirmity while they leave unregarded and unacknowledged many honourable acquisitions, many valuable virtues.
2. They are inconsiderate of the difficulties which the victims of their severity have had to contend with, and in doing battle with which they may have put forth the most commendable exertion.
3. They forget that every one of us is and will be subject to the judgment and (where it is due) the condemnation of God (see Romans 14:4, Romans 14:10).
4. They show a perverted ingenuity. It would be a most excellent quality to cultivate if they would only exert the same subtlety and patient observation in descrying the virtues and the beauties of those in whom they detect so many failures. This keenness of spiritual vision is a mistake in two other ways.
(1) It is usually unprofitable; for it is more irritating than advantageous to those on whom it is expended.
(2) It is odious to man, and it is unpleasing in the sight of God. Both in the human and in the Divine estimate, severity is the unattractive and charity is the becoming thing.
II. THE DULNESS OF SPIRITUAL VISION other men manifest. They do "not perceive the beam that is in their own eye." This fact in human experience is only too palpable. We see men whose souls are painfully charged with selfishness, or pride, or frivolity, or cruelty, or irreverence, or impurity, who have no conception that they are in grave spiritual delinquency and danger. There is not a mote but a beam in their eye, and they are blind to it altogether. They are not entitled to offer a judgment on the defects or transgressions of others, so far are they themselves from the straight line of truth. And any note of censure from their lips is utterly and even ludicrously misplaced.
III. OUR WISDOM IN VIEW OF THESE MISTAKES. It is to be far more concerned to be right and pure in our own hearts than to be keen in the detection and exposure of other people's shortcoming. Since men do so seriously and so fatally mistake their own spirit and condition, it behoves us to do these three things:
1. To examine our own. hearts with impartial and anxious eye.
2. To welcome any friendly counsel or warning that may be offered us; and "it is lawful to learn even from an enemy."
3. To be often and earnestly asking God to show us what is wrong within, that we may see ourselves as he sees us. "Who can understand his errors 9 Cleanse thou me from secret faults!" (Psalms 19:12, Psalms 19:13; and see Psalms 139:23, Psalms 139:24).—C.
Being and doing.
The great Teacher here puts into figurative language the truth which was afterwards so tersely and forcibly expressed by his most appreciative disciple, "He that doeth righteousness is righteous." We have here—
I. THE FOUNDATION-TRUTH on which our Lord's word is built, viz. that life is the outcome of character; that as men are so they will live. "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good," etc. Granted that a man is sound at heart, it is certain that he will spend a good life, that he will shrink from the evil and pursue and practise the holy thing. Granted that a man is radically corrupt, it is certain that his life will be unworthy and sinful. Character must come forth into conduct; behaviour is the manifestation of the secret spring which is within the soul. "A good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit," etc.
II. THE APPARENT EXCEPTIONS, which are only apparent, and not real. If this be true, we want to know how it is, on the one hand,
(1) that men we feel sure are bad at heart are found living lives that are blameless and even devout; and how it is, on the other hand, (2)that men we feel sure are sound at heart deviate so often from the straight line of propriety. The answer to this question is manifold.
1. It must be remembered that much of that which seems goodness of life, and which seems as if it must have come from a true heart, is not real goodness—it is only pretence. Hypocrisy, the affectation of piety and virtue, is not a good fruit, though it may look very much like it; it is no more "good fruit" in the garden of the Lord than poisonous berries are good fruit on the trees or shrubs of our visible garden.
2. And it must also be taken into account that much of that which seems like departure from moral excellence, and which seems as if it cannot have proceeded from the good heart, is not really "evil;" it is either mannerism that is only skin-deep, to be regretted indeed, but not to be confounded with essential moral evil; or it is undeveloped, struggling righteousness, the crude and imperfect attempt of a soul that is moving upwards from below; there is many a slip and many a false step, but then there is much honourable effort and much spiritual earnestness recognized and owned by the patient Father of spirits.
III. THE PRACTICAL CONCLUSION for which we must be prepared. "Every tree is known by his own fruit." "By their fruits ye shall know them." Men must form their judgment about us; and they must judge us by the lives they witness. If, therefore, we do not manifest a Christian temper and a loving spirit, if righteous principles are not visible in our daily dealings, if we do not give evidence of caring more for truth and for God and for the establishment of his holy kingdom on the earth than we care for our own temporal prosperity or present enjoyment,—we must not complain if men count us among the ungodly. Our godliness, our spirituality, our rectitude, ought to shine forth clearly and unmistakably from our daily life.
IV. THE PRACTICAL TRUTH which we must apply to ourselves—that, if we would live a life of uprightness in the sight of God, we must be right at heart in his esteem. It must be out of the fulness of our soul that we do right actions; it must be out of "the abundance of the heart that our mouth must speak" his praise and his truth; or our proprieties of behaviour and our suitableness of language will weigh nothing whatever in his balances. The first thing for every man to do is to become right in his own heart with God; to return in spirit unto him; to go to him in humility and in faith; to find mercy of him in Jesus Christ, and, having thus entered into sonship, to live the life of filial obedience to his Word; then and thus will the good tree bring forth good fruit.—C.
Luke 6:46 Luke 6:49
Good and bad building.
In the moral and spiritual as well as in the material world there is good and bad, sound and unsound, safe and unsafe building We are all builders; we are all planning, preparing, laying our foundation, erecting our walls, putting on our topstone.
I. THE FABRIC OF ENJOYMENT OR OF SUCCESS. That of enjoyment, of the gratification of indulgence, is indeed hardly worthy of the name of building; yet are there those who spend upon it a very large amount of thought and labour. To pursue this as the object of life is unworthy of our manhood, is to dishonour ourselves, is to degrade our lives; it is to expend our strength on putting up a miserable hovel when we might use it in the erection of a noble mansion; it is, also, to be laboriously constructing a heap of sand which the first strong wave will wash away. Worthier than this, though quite unsatisfying and unsatisfactory, is the pursuit of temporal prosperity, the building up of a fortune, or of a great name, or of personal authority and command. Not that such aims and efforts are wrong in themselves. On the other hand, they are necessary, honourable, and even creditable. But they are not sufficient; they are wholly inadequate as the aspiration of a human soul and the achievement of a human life. They do not fill the heart of man; they do not give it rest; they leave a large void unfilled, a craving and a yearning unsatisfied. Moreover, they do not stand the test of time; they are buildings that will soon be washed away, The tide of time will soon advance and sweep away the strongest of such edifices as those. Do not be content with building for twenty, or forty, or sixty years; build for eternity. "The world passeth away … but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
II. THE FORTRESS OF CHARACTER. It is of this that our Lord is speaking in the text; and he says concerning it—Dig deep, build on the rock, erect that which the most violent storm cannot shake to its fall. What is that character which answers to this counsel?
1. Not that which is founded on ceremony and rite. Reason, Scripture, and experience all prove that this is a character built upon the sand.
2. Not that which is founded upon sentiment or occasional emotion. Many are they who like and who demand to be acted upon by powerful influences, and to be thus excited to strong feelings. In these moments of aroused sensibility they cry, "Lord! Lord!" with apparent earnestness. But if piety ends in sensibility" it is nothing;" it is worthless; it will be washed away by the first storm that breaks.
3. It is that which is established in sacred conviction and fixed determination. This is the rock to which we must dig down—sacred conviction passing into real consecration; the conviction that we owe everything to our God and Saviour, and the determination, in the sight and by the grace of God, to yield our hearts and lives to him. A character thus built, sustained by Christian services and ceremonies, will be strong against all assault. The subtlest influences will not undermine it, the mightiest earthly forces will not overturn it; let the storms come, and it will stand.
III. THE EDIFICE OF CHRISTIAN USEFULNESS. Paul, in his first letter to the Church at Corinth, speaks of the wood, hay, and stubble, and also of gold, silver, and precious stones, i.e. of the combustible and the inflammable materials with which men construct their building in the field of holy service. And he says the fire will try every man's work; so that we have apostolic warning also to take heed how we build. Let the Christian workman see to it that he too builds on the rock, that he effects that which will stand the waters and the fires that will try his work. Let him depend little on ceremonialism, little on excitement; let him strive to produce deep, sacred convictions in the soul; let him endeavour to lead men on to a whole-hearted dedication of themselves to Jesus Christ; let him persuade men to the formation of wise habits of devotion and sell-government; so shall he be building that which the waters of time will not remove, and which the last fires will purify but not destroy.—C.
The greatest ruin.
"The ruin of that house was great." Occasionally there occurs a panic in the commercial world. As the cause or, often enough, as the consequence of this, some great house is "broken;" its liabilities are too great for its resources; it cannot meet the claims that are falling due. And some morning it is found that when all other houses are open, its doors are closed—it has suspended payment; it has fallen; and it may be said, seriously enough, that "the ruin of that house is great." Great is the fall and sad is the ruin of
(1) a great human reputation; or of
(2) a great human hope.
With the fall of either of these there is bitter sorrow, keen humiliation, a dark shadow cast, not on one heart and home only, but on many. For we stand, in human society, not like detached houses in large grounds, but like houses that are close together, and when one falls it brings harm and injury to many that are connected with it. But the ruin, which is great indeed, compared with which all others are but small, is the ruin of a human soul.
I. THE SOUL IS ITSELF A BUILDING; it is the main, the chief building which we are rearing. Whatever else we may be erecting—material, social, political—the one thing we do with which other things will not compare in seriousness and in consequence is to "build up ourselves" (see Jud Luke 1:20). It is a daily, an hourly process; it proceeds with every thought we admit into our mind, with every feeling we cherish in our heart, with every purpose we form in our soul. That which we are to-day in the sight of God is the whole result of all that we have been doing, of all our visible and invisible acts, up to the present hour.
II. IT IS A BUILDING WHICH MAY BE OVERTHROWN, We all know the man who is the wreck and ruin of himself. What he once was he is no more. Instead of devotion is impiety; instead of purity is laxity; instead of the beauty of holiness is the unsightliness of sin; instead of honour is shame. The fair house of moral and spiritual integrity is down; there is nothing left but the foundations; and the ruin of that house is great indeed.
III. THIS OVERTHROW IS SAD BEYOND EXPRESSION. For consider:
1. What it cost to build. We do not mind if a hut or shanty is blown down; that represents no great loss. But if a mansion or cathedral is destroyed, we grieve; for the result of incalculable skill and toil is laid waste. And when a human soul is lost, what labour is thrown away, what experiences, what patience, what suffering, what discipline, what prayers and tears, both on the part of the man himself and of those who have loved him and watched over him and striven for him!
2. How intrinsically precious a thing it is. We do not know the absolute value of a human spirit; our language will not utter it; our minds cannot estimate it. God alone knows that, and the Son of God has told us that it is worth more than all the material world (Mark 8:36).
3. How it drags down others with it. As one large "house" in a great city drags down others in its fall, so does the house of a human spirit. What is it to the family when the father or the mother is morally lost '? for the neighbourhood when the minister or the magistrate sinks and perishes? We do not fall alone; we draw others down with us, and often those whom we are most sacredly bound to uplift or to sustain.
IV. THERE IS A WAY OF RECOVERY, "It is not the will of our heavenly Father that one … should perish." "God so loved the world … that whosoever believeth … should not perish." The fallen house may be down beyond recovery; not so the human soul. In the gospel of Jesus Christ the way of restoration is revealed. By the power of the Holy Spirit the soul that has fallen the furthest may be raised up again, and be restored to the favour and the likeness and the service of God. By true penitence and genuine faith we may lay hold on eternal life; and when the heart heeds the voice of its merciful Father summoning it to return, and when it hastens to the feet of Jesus Christ and seeks in him a Refuge and a Saviour, and when it lives a new life of faith and love and hope in him, it is restored to all that it once was; and the restoration of that soul is great.—C.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
The Lord of the sabbath, and his work.
We have just seen how Jesus treated with deserved dishonour the tradition of the elders about fasting. He showed his disciples a more excellent way. Fasting is not an end, but only a means to an end, and this is the restoration of the soul to fellowship with its Saviour. In this way should Christians use fasting. And now we pass on to notice how on sabbath-keeping tradition again intruded itself and made cumbrous additions to the Mosaic commandment. Our Lord once more, as we shall see, set at nought the tradition, while he held firmly by the Mosaic Law. The evangelist groups two sabbath-scenes for us in the history here—the first in the corn-fields, the second in the synagogue, but both illustrating our Lord's sabbatic principle and practice. As the most interesting method of considering the subject, let us notice—
I. THE PHARISAIC PRINCIPLE ABOUT SABBATH-KEEPING WAS THAT MAN WAS MADE FOR THE DAY, NOT THE DAY FOR THE MAN. (Luke 6:2, Luke 6:7.) These reputedly religious men had a certain idea about the day. They must have a holy day, and so it must be so sacred that all work shall be deemed unlawful, lest it should be secularized. What they objected to in the first case was not the plucking of the ears of corn, but the rubbing of them in the hands. This was a violation of their tradition. In the second case they objected to work on the sabbath day, even though it took the form of healing. Their ideal was, therefore, a day of such physical inactivity as would refuse to minister to man's hunger or to man's healing. The fallacy underlying this idea was that work is in its essence a secular thing, and that idleness is somehow sacred. To declare this emphatically, they were ready to rebuke hungry men for satisfying themselves in the corn-fields, and to deny healing to the man with the withered arm because he presented himself for it on the sabbath day. The day above the man, then, was the Pharisees' notion. Hunger and helplessness must be endured in order that a day of pretentious idleness may be presented to mankind. Healthy desire must he stifled, longing for power and self-help must be denied, that a sufficiently idle sabbath may be secured. The apotheosis of idleness, the vindication of indifference, man this and more is involved in the Pharisaic criticism of Christ and of his disciples. Now, it is important to bring out clearly how contrary to God's idea all this is. Work is not secularizing in itself. The infinite Father never ceases working, but his work is sacred all through the year. Of course, men may secularize themselves by the selfishness of their work, but they may secularize themselves as really by the selfishness of their idleness. An idle day is not likely to be a holy one; a busy day may be most holy if the glory of God and the good of souls be kept steadily in view.
II. CHRIST'S BETTER PRINCIPLE OF SABBATH-KEEPING IS THAT THE DAY IS MADE FOR MAN. (Luke 6:3-5, Luke 6:9.) Hence necessity must be recognized as a law for the sabbath. Even the ceremonial rite should give way before the needs of human nature, as the case of David's hungry men being saved from famishing by a meal of shewbread indicates. Hence the hungry disciples, in rubbing the corn in their hands, were vindicated by that sublime necessity which recognizes no higher law. Again, in the case of the helpless fellow-man whose right hand was withered, our Lord is clear that the sabbath should be a day for saving life, and not for allowing it to perish. In other words, Christ would devote the day to man's salvation, while the Pharisees were prepared to sacrifice the man to the peculiar sacredness which they thought 'belonged to an idle day. But if the day is thus a means towards man's good, is he to employ it as he pleases? Is every man to be lord of the sabbath by doing as he likes upon it? This would be a dangerous prerogative to give to men. Not every one is fit to exercise it. The Pharisees, in fact, had taken the sabbath under their control and spoiled it altogether. Hence the sovereignty of the sabbath must be left in the hands of him who is called the Son of man. Christ is the Lord who can so order the sabbath that it shall be truly sanctified. It is, consequently, from Christ's sabbath-keeping that we learn what it ought to be. And we see from his life that he made the sabbaths his special opportunities for philanthropic effort. Most of his miracles were sabbath-day performances. He seems to have been busier on the sabbath than on any day of the week. We are safe in following along the lines of his most intelligent philanthropy. The sabbath is made for man. It Christ would have the hungry fed and the helpless healed, he would also have the souls fed with the bread of life and all spiritual helplessness removed. This is the purpose, therefore, of those means of grace which are presented with special earnestness on the Lord's day!
III. CHRIST DEMONSTRATED THE TRUTH OF HIS PRINCIPLE BY THE MIRACLE. (Luke 6:10.) Now, this miracle, like the healing of the paralytic, was the test of a principle. In the former case Christ claimed the prerogative of absolution, and he demonstrated that he possessed the prerogative by telling the paralytic to rise and walk, and healing him. In the present case he has taken issue with the Pharisees as to the sabbath being a day for philanthropy. Healing is to be performed on it, if it is required. And now he singles out the patient with the withered hand, and by a word cures him. Thus he put their ideas on sabbath-observance to confusion. Instead, however, of rejoicing in the poor man's cure, they are filled with madness at their own discomfiture. Misanthropy in them is the contrast to the philanthropy of Jesus. But is not the miracle a sign of those miracles which are performed from sabbath to sabbath? Man comes in his weakness, his hand is withered, he can do nothing; but through the power of God he is enabled to stretch forth his hand, and enter into the sphere of spiritual power.
IV. THE SELECTION OF THE TWELVE WAS MADE BY CHRIST A MATTER OF VERY SPECIAL PRAYER. (Luke 6:12-16.) We are told that he spent a whole night in prayer to God. This showed how important in his view the selection of the disciples was, and the establishment of his kingdom among men. He chose them in the morning after the prayerful view of the whole case before the Father. If Jesus realized the need of long-continued prayer before selecting them, how prayerfully should we go about our work for him! It is no easy matter to act wisely in our dealings with men and in our use of them. The persons selected were such as only Divine wisdom, as distinguished from worldly prudence, would have chosen. There was not an "influential'' person among them; and it was not till after the Pentecost that any of them became what we should now call reliable. Into the analysis of the persons selected we do not enter. They have been divided into three groups: the first, containing the names of Peter and Andrew, James and John, gives us the chiefs of the apostolic band, the men of insight; the second, containing the names of Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, and Matthew, are reflective, and, at first, sceptical, men; and the third and last contains the names of James the son of Alphaeus, Jude, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, all practical men. £ Our Lord has thus use in his Church for all grades of men, and can even make use of traitors to serve his purpose.
V. THE HEALER IN THE MIDST OF THE MULTITUDE. (Jude 1:17-19.) From the mountain-top of prayer he descends to the valley of opportunity, and there finds a vast multitude from the heathen parts of Tyre and Sidon, as well as from the Jewish districts of Judaea and Jerusalem, who have come to hear and to be healed of their diseases. Here were the two spheres—the sphere of mind, to which the ear is the great entrance; and the sphere of body, where disease may be checked and healing given. The mission of Jesus was to save men. Miracles were part of his message to mankind. The healing of the diseases of men was to tell how he can heal their souls and save them everlastingly. Moreover, they connected the cure with his Person. From him virtue or healing power radiated. His Person is the centre of healing influence. And for salvation this also holds good. It is to the Person of the Saviour we must come if we are to get really healed, It is surely well to have the source of all healing defined—it is the Person of our Saviour. To him, therefore, let us all come!—R.M.E.
The Legislator on the mount.
We have seen how, after a whole night spent in prayer, our Lord proceeded to the important work of selecting his apostles. In this way he organized his kingdom. And now, having healed all who needed healing, and had been brought or had come to him, he has the ground cleared for legislative work. From this mountain-top in Galilee he publishes the laws of the kingdom, and thus gives to the world such a high-toned morality as has not been surpassed or superseded by any ethical speculations since. It may be safely said that all the Christless ethics which have been offered to the world in lieu of the Christian, contain nothing valuable which Christ's system has not in better form, and that they err by defect in many places. Christ is still, in the department of ethics, "the Light of the world." £ The audience to whom the sermon on the mount was delivered was almost entirely Jewish, and they doubtless entertained the usual ideas about the kingdom of Messiah. This kingdom was, they hoped, to be one where they would enjoy immunity from trouble, and be in flourishing worldly circumstances. Theirs was a worldly dream. They wanted a golden age of wealth and worldly power. It was needful for our Lord, consequently, to correct these superficial notions, and to create a kingdom which could flourish in spite of the world's opposition and of all possible disadvantages. Accordingly, we find the Divine Legislator first quietly describing the members of his kingdom and distinguishing them from the worldly minded outside; secondly, laying down the policy his people should pursue; thirdly, pointing out the secret of true leadership among men; and lastly, the stability of the obedient. To these points let us devote ourselves for a little in their order.
I. CHRIST DIFFERENTIATES HIS SUBJECTS FROM THE WORLDLY MINDED OUTSIDE. (Luke 6:20-26.) For the simple statement of the Beatitudes, and of the woes that constitute their contrast, really draws the line between his kingdom and the world. Matthew, in his fuller version of this sermon on the mount, gives eight Beatitudes and no woes; Luke balances the four Beatitudes by four contrasted woes. The teaching in both versions is, however, practically identical. And when we look into our Lord's declarations, we find, in the first place, that, in his kingdom, the poor, the hungry, the tearful, and the persecuted are enabled to realize blessedness. This is the paradox of Christian experience, that, in spite of poverty, and of hunger, and of sorrow, and of opposition, Christ enables his people to maintain a blessed spirit. The poor are "rich in faith;" the hungry, especially those whose appetite is keen for righteousness (el. Matthew 5:6), are certain to be filled; the tearful have the assurance that God will wipe away all tears from their eyes, if not on earth, at all events in heaven (cf. Revelation 7:17); and the persecuted for Christ's sake are enabled to rejoice in view of that great reward in heaven which awaits all Christ's faithful martyrs. This blessedness is maintained in all these cases in spite of everything which militates against it. On the other hand, our Lord shows the rich, and the satiated, and the laughter-indulging, and the popularity-hunting people that, having received their consolation in this life, there is nothing in the next life for them but disappointment, lamentation, and woe. This may easily be verified. Those who "trust in uncertain riches"—and it is to these our Lord refers, as parallel passages show—must be woefully disappointed when they have to cross the Stygian river without their gold. All that they trusted in shall then have failed them for evermore. Those, again, who are satiated with this world's pleasures, and who have contracted no higher appetite, will be terribly empty when this world and all its pleasures shall have passed away like a dream. Those, again, who lived for laughter—the sportsmen of the world—shall find no provision made in another life for such profitless people, and shall mourn and weep over the lost opportunities of life. And, lastly, the popularity-hunters, who made the good opinion of the populace their great ambition, and were satisfied when all men spoke well of them, will find, like the popular false prophets of the past, that the other life is constructed upon such lines as will assign to each his due, and to popularity-hunting the doom of those who love applause rather than principle. Upon the worldly minded and successful, so far as this life is concerned, there is cast, by the great Lawgiver, the shadow of doom. For such people there is no reserve fund in a future life; they have eaten up both capital and interest.
II. CHRIST LAYS DOWN THE POLICY HIS PEOPLE SHOULD PURSUE, (Verses 27-38.) Now, one of the cardinal principles of worldly policy is to "give nothing for nothing." The world insists on a quid pro quo. Hence the worldly minded will always ask the question about the course a person pursues, "What does he expect to gain by it?" To act without hope of recompense is what the world cannot understand. And in strict conformity with this, the world is prompted to "give as much as it gets" in the way of injury. Curse for curse, hatred for hatred, a blow for a blow, a counterplot for a plot. This is the gamut of the world's revenge. The great Legislator, on the other hand, sets his face against all this worldly policy. He ridicules doing good for the sake of getting good. Such speculative philanthropy is pure worldliness. He must have a better system within his kingdom. He can dispense with revenge and the quid. pro quo, and work his kingdom upon purely philanthropic lines. God the Father is the great Philanthropist, and men, by entertaining love for its own sake, may become "children of the Highest" and the elements of a new kingdom. Hence our Lord directs his people to love their enemies, to do good to those that hate them, to bless those that curse them, to pray for their persecutors, to give a kiss for a blow, to suffer violence a second time rather than practise it revengefully; to give to the utmost of their power to all who ask. In short, they are to love and do good and lend, hoping for nothing again; they are to be merciful, like their Father in heaven; they are to be free from censoriousness, and forgiving; and they may rest assured that in another life they shall get a great reward. What Christ proposes, therefore, is a policy of patient phitanthropy—a policy of consideration, doing always to others what we would like to receive were we in their circumstances. And it is this new policy of love which is sure to overcome the world.
III. CHRIST SHOWS THE SECRET OF TRUE LEADERSHIP AMONG MEN. (Verses 39-45.) But if love is to regulate all our conduct, may not others suffer through the proverbial "blindness" of love? There is little danger from the blindness of real love, only from the blindness induced by selfishness. Our danger, as the Lord here shows, is always from exaggerated self-love; we are blind to our own faults; we see motes in a brother's eye, and forget the beam in our own. Hence he recommends here severe self-criticism, such self-criticism as will prevent all hypocrisy, and secure that our eyes be truly purged. When this is the ease, then we can see the little faults in others, and deal with them after we have dealt honestly with the great ones of our own. And so heart-purity is the great secret of successful leadership among men. If our hearts are set right with God, if we are washed and cleansed from secret faults, if we are purged from an evil conscience and dead works,—then are we in a fit state to deal tenderly with erring brothers and lead them to a better way. And so our Saviour shows, by this part of his legislation, that only the purified in heart can become successful leaders of their fellows. It is he who knows his own heart's plagues that can tenderly and skilfully deal with the plagues of others, and put them, by God's blessing, on a better way.
IV. CHRIST FINALLY BRINGS OUT THE STABILITY OF THE OBEDIENT. Now, it is important to recognize the position taken up here by the great Lawgiver. He claims absolute sovereignty. His word is to be law. Once we know his will, we have only got to do it. But the claim is not unreasonable, nor is it excessive. He understands the strain and stress of human temptations thoroughly. He not only understand these speculatively, but experimentally; for he "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). He can consequently give to us the best advice, advice infallible. If we would stand like a rock amid the temptations of life, then we have got simply and cordially to obey Christ. He is the Rock of ages; nothing can shake him; and nothing can disturb those who have learned to trust him. But those who hear his advice and do it not, shall be swept away by the torrent of temptation and involved in a ruin that is great. Obedience is the secret, therefore, of stability. May it be our experience continually!—R.M.E.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Luke 6". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13