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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Matthew 7

 

 

Verses 1-29

Matthew 7:1. Judge not, that ye be not judged. This refers to private and censorious reproaches of others. We must judge nothing before the time. It is better that ten bad men pass for innocent, than one innocent man be unjustly censured. Slander exasperates the injured to judge us again with great wrath, and it exposes us to the judgment and displeasure of God.

Matthew 7:6. Give not that which is holy to the dogs. A proverbial expression, importing that some men cannot be reformed by good words, being like the wild boars which often tear the hunters. How awful is the state of wicked men. They are dogs, biting and devouring one another, and like swine in regard of impurity. How often is their profane tongue employed in sneering at revelation, and mocking at experimental religion. What grace, what tears must it not require to change their nature into lambs.

Neither cast ye your pearls before swine, for divine wisdom is more precious than rubies. The unsanctified are not prepared to hear of the guidance and consolations of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 7:7. Ask, and it shall be given you. Here our Saviour resumes the duty of prayer, and combines it with the promise, ye shall receive. We are full of wants, and ought to pray: we have lost our paradise, and must seek till we find it. Hence here is something to be found, and something to be received. We have strayed in the wild wastes of sin, and we must return and knock at mercy’s door. As the cloudy vapours return in rains on the earth, so the breath of prayer recoils in blessings on our head. We are also encouraged to the duty by the consideration that we address a heavenly Father, who is more indulgent than any parent. And what father would give his hungry child a stone instead of bread? This alludes to some covetous masters who made for their slaves a very hard kind of bread which a child could not eat. Hence the proverb in Seneca, which calls the favour of hard men PANEM LAPIDOSUM, stony bread.

Matthew 7:12. Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you. This golden rule is an epitome of the bible, and the substance of all laws, of all maxims, and of all precepts. It rectifies the bias of self-love between all parties, it removes the mote from every eye, it harmonizes the world wherever it prevails, and it is short and simple that it may ever be remembered.

Matthew 7:13. Enter ye in at the strait gate. The Greeks have a similar saying: στενη η οδος η απαγουσα προς την ζωην. Strait is the way that leads to life. The crowd at jewish festivals would seek to enter at the wide brazen gates; but Christ took occasion to bid his disciples enter in at the narrow gate on the side of the great gates. The strait gate is, evangelically, regeneration, and the narrow way is the path of faith, piety and self-denial. We must leave our sins, our righteousness, and all inordinate love, or we cannot enter in at this gate. The broad way is the high road of the world, in which the crowd hurry on in the sunshine of youth and prosperity. But by and bye it leads from shady groves to the desert, and the desert leads to a precipice, and beneath is the lake of fire. Here the dying infidel, the deluded worldling starts back with baleful eyes; but the crowd behind, infatuated with divine vengeance, press him down into his gaping hell. On the contrary, the narrow way, a sort of shepherd’s path, rough and thorny in the outset, presently leads to a rising ground, and to a holy hill, where the pilgrim has a constant prospect of heaven, and whence, like his Saviour, he ascends to the paradise above. Sinner, thou art going the way of all the earth; make haste to leave the enchanting route of pleasure, and walk in the good way which leads to eternal joy.

Matthew 7:15. Beware of false prophets. Our Saviour addressed men who had before their eyes the Hebrew false prophets, of whom we have already spoken. Deuteronomy 18:20. Jeremiah 38:8. Jeremiah 28. Ezekiel 13. Micah 3. Those men imbued their hands in the blood of the Lord’s prophets, and were the ruin of themselves and of their country. But who are the christian false prophets, against whom we are cautioned? Men “who bring in damnable heresies, denying the Lord that bought them.”

2 Peter 2:1. Such are those, named in the notes on Jeremiah 23:6, and Micah 5:2. Men who deny the preëxistence of Christ, men who come in sheep’s clothing, in the holy robes of the sanctuary, and squander the sacred revenues of the church in circles of dissipation. They neglect all pastoral duties, because they have not the spirit of pastors. They persecute and waste the flock, and brand the more holy with the name of heretics. They are disguised infidels, bearing the titles of pastoral dignities. Calvin makes here a strong and pointed reference to certain doctors of the church of Rome, from whom the protestants were then sustaining bloody persecutions.

Matthew 7:24. Built his house upon a rock. In and near the tropic regions, the rivers annually overflow their banks. Hence he, who, invited by rural charms, builds near the rivers and rivulets, might by a higher inundation than usual have his house flooded; and a tempest happening at the same time, his house might be beaten down, with the loss of lives and goods. Now he who had built on an eminence, or a rising ground, would smile at his neighbour’s folly. Thus our Saviour made the happiest possible application of his discourse; and a sermon without an application, seems like a wandering stranger who knows not whither he is going. This rock is Christ. Isaiah 28:16. 1 Peter 2:6. The building is all the progress of faith and piety rising to a heavenly hope. So it is described in the new testament. 1 Corinthians 3:11-13. Hebrews 6:1. 1:20. But he who builds on the sand resembles our hearers who remain attached to their pleasures, riches, and carnal friends. The floods of divine visitation will shortly overtake them; and without a miracle of mercy, they will perish for want of a good foundation.

Matthew 7:29. He taught them as one having authority. See on Luke 4:32.

REFLECTIONS

On the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5-7.

How shall mortals speak when God hath spoken! Kings shall shut their mouth in his presence; yet he has said, Gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost. John had been a burning and a shining light, but the Saviour came arrayed with miracles, and adorned with grace. Therefore his fame had attracted multitudes from all the six provinces then occupied by the jews; and the Lord had compassion on the sheep going astray, without a shepherd.

Moses, in his Deuteronomy, combined all the great precepts of the law with the mellowing glosses of experience and age. David, in the hundred and nineteenth Psalm, has done the same, and in the beauties of a poetic dress. But our divine Master, from a larger anointing of the Spirit, has combined in this sermon the glory of the law with the superior grace of the gospel; and so connected the two Testaments as to lay a foundation for the economy of the Spirit which was to follow. Here is an epitome of moral duties and of practical piety; and the disciple who aims at sincere obedience to this code, shall surely sit down with his Master on a happier mount than where it was first delivered.

It may here be remarked, that there is an almost absolute certainty that the Lord delivered this sermon in substance, and recited his parables in different places; and that he would therefore vary his discourse as circumstances would require. This may also account for many inconsiderable variations in the evangelists. The Lord’s prayer assuredly was twice delivered. Matthew 6. Luke 11.

The beatitudes are eight in number: they are designed to comprise the whole of the christian temper, and they strikingly mark that our Saviour was influenced by the eternal Spirit who inspired the prophets. Instead of addressing himself to the learned and the noble in this sixfold multitude, he fixed his eyes first on the poor in spirit, and on the mourners. So when he commissioned Peter to feed his flock, he mentioned the lambs before the sheep. Thus the high and lofty One promises to dwell with the man who is poor, of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at his word.

He looked on the crowd, not for distinction of rank, and splendour of dress, but for all the tender emotions of the heart, and breathings after God. He addressed himself, not to rulers and senators, but to the family of his heavenly Father. He opened his mouth in benedictions, and his words dropped as honey from the rocks. He pronounced the poor blessed, and the mourners happy.

The crowds assembled before him varied much in age, in rank, and station. Many were teachers, learned in the law; and in the main, the people had come to learn, having hopes that Christ would soon appear. Therefore in a rich and comprehensive discourse he gave to each a portion of meat in due season.

Having preached good tidings to the meek, he met the prepossessions which the people had received from the scribes, that the new teacher was come to destroy the law, and supersede the prophets of the ancient church. Think not, said he, I am come to destroy, but to fulfil, to magnify the law and make it honourable. He illustrated the law, as a transcript of the moral grandeur of God, shining out in precepts, holy, just, and good. He exalted it above all codes, as extending to the thoughts of the heart, and made perfect in the love of God and of our neighbour.

This law, distinguished by prohibitions, is shown to possess a comprehension and a spirituality of which the jewish teachers were not aware. It not only forbids the foul deeds of murder and adultery, but takes cognizance of the thoughts of the heart. It regards anger as the harbinger of murder, and an unhallowed desire as every thing but the accomplishment of crime. Thus our Lord placed the jewish nation speechless at the bar, and prepared the way for true repentance. This law, so glorious and divine, he purified from all the dark shades thrown upon it, by a commixture with the commandments of men; sordid commandments, bringing lucre to the altar, and shame to the priests. Their corban he covered with reproach, their divorces with infamy; and the love of their neighbour, coupled with the hate of their enemy, he branded as a doctrine of darkness.

From all these sins he urged, not a slow and uncertain reform, but an instantaneous conversion. Cut off thy right hand, pluck out thy right eye; it is profitable to sacrifice thy concupiscence, rather than lose thy body and soul in the fire of gehenna, where the worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched. Agree therefore with thine adversary quickly, lest he cast thee into the abyss, whence thou canst not escape.

This Teacher, come from God, associated reformation with piety, else reform had been only as the morning cloud. He directed the culprit to bring his gift to the altar, to give alms to the poor, to fast and weep for sin, and pray to his Father who seeth in secret; then the rewards shall be open in grace here, and glory in the world to come. He clothed and adorned the church with a constellation of virtues, which shine with a celestial brilliancy on a benighted world. He allowed no one to revenge an injury, but on the contrary, to bless those that curse, and to pray for misguided and persecuting adversaries. This is to be perfect, in all the imitations of good in our heavenly Father.

In a word he gave a perfect consummation to his sermon, by directing the auditories to make a practical use of his doctrine, by building no longer on the sands of tradition, on washings, and talmudic tales. He exhorted them to imitate the wise architect who builds on a rock, and then the fabric stands in the day of tempest. This rock is the rock of ages; this foundation is love of God, the love of God unfolded in his promises. This wise man shall be unmoved when the blasts shall blow, when the rains shall descend; yea, when death himself shall assail our tabernacle, he shall stand like a rock, being of one spirit with the Lord.

The people on hearing this discourse were transported with delight. While the legislator expounded his law, they felt its sacred influence, and exclaimed, He teacheth not as a scribe, but as one having authority; for his word is with power.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 7:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/matthew-7.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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