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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Luke 6

 

 

Verse 12-13

DISCOURSE: 1493

THE APOSTLES CHOSEN

Luke 6:12-13. And it came to pass in those days that 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, whom also he named Apostles.

THE short period of our Lord’s ministry on earth rendered it expedient for him to employ others as his co-adjutors in the work. Accordingly, in reference to the twelve Patriarchs, who might be considered as the fathers of the Jewish Church, he selected twelve of his Disciples, who should be his instruments for planting and establishing his Church. There were other seventy, whom at a later period he sent forth, two and two, for the purpose of preparing the minds of the people for his personal ministry among them [Note: Luke 10:1.]; but the Apostles were to be his stated servants after that he should have left this world and returned to his heavenly Father. The circumstances of their appointment were peculiar, and deserve our most attentive consideration. The night previous to their appointment he spent in prayer to his heavenly Father [Note: If we suppose προσευχῇ to mean “in a place of prayer,” we still can have no doubt what his occupation there was.]:which remarkable occurrence it will be proper to notice in a threefold view:

I. As an act for our benefit—

The appointment of the Apostles was a work of singular importance—

[They were to be employed in the Church as his messengers to declare his truth—his witnesses to attest it—as patterns also to illustrate—and as martyrs to confirm it. But whence could a number of poor fishermen attain “a sufficiency for these things?” — — —]

Hence our blessed Lord continued the whole night in prayer for them—

[His heavenly Father was able to furnish them for this great work, and to give them success in it; and therefore our Lord importunately sought for them the grace which they stood in need of: nor would he cease from his exertions, till he had obtained all that their necessities required. The benefit of his prayer was fully manifested as soon as they were endued with power from on high: then nothing could withstand their wisdom, or subdue their courage: they were deaf to menaces, and regardless of death. Their success was rapid, extensive, permanent: and we at this day enjoy the fruits of their labours. Through that prayer the Apostles were richly furnished unto every good work; and were enabled so to establish the kingdom of our Lord, that neither earth nor hell have ever been able to prevail against it.]

II. As a lesson for our instruction—

The ordination of ministers is also a most important work—

[On them, under God, depends the everlasting welfare of thousands. We need only compare the state of those congregations where the Gospel is faithfully preached with those which are under the superintendence of careless ministers: in the one will be found little but ignorance and irrehligion; in the other, there will be many whose minds are enlightened with divine truth, and whose souls are quickened to a new and heavenly life.

But where shall persons be found duly qualified for the work—where those who will be willing to undertake it? True; if the ministry of the word be made a source of temporal emolument, there will be multitudes ready to engage in it: but if the “signs of a minister,” or accompaniments of the ministry, be like those in the Apostles’ days, “reproaches, necessities, and distresses for Christ’s sake [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:10; 2 Corinthians 12:12.],” and the only pluralities be “labours, stripes, prisons, deaths [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.],” there will not be many candidates for the office, nor will the qualifications for it be thought so common as they are at present. How few are ready to go and preach to the heathen, where the labour and self-denial are great, and the earthly recompence is small! Large benefices, where little is to be done, or the work can be done by proxy, are caught up with avidity: but if nothing but a future reward be held forth, and God say, “Who will go for us?” there are few indeed that will answer with the prophet, “Here am I, send me [Note: Isaiah 6:8.].”]

This, therefore, should be the subject of our devoutest prayers—

[God himself has commanded us to commit the matter to him in prayer: “The harvest truly is plenteous, and the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth (thrust out [Note: ἑκβάλῃ, Matthew 9:37-38.]) labourers into his harvest.” And truly, all ranks and orders of men are concerned to “labour earnestly in prayer” concerning it.

How fervently should they pray, to whom the office of ordaining others is committed! for “if they lay hands suddenly on any man, they make themselves partakers of other men’s sins [Note: 1 Timothy 5:22.].” Nor should they be less earnest who are to be ordained. When we consider how arduous their work is, and how great their responsibility before God; when we reflect that their word will be “a savour of life to the life and salvation of many, or a savour of death to their death” and condemnation [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:16.]; and that the blood of all that perish through their neglect will be required at their hands; methinks it is a wonder that any one can be found, who, for the sake of filthy lucre, will dare to undertake it. Were the weight of the office duly considered, no one would presume to enter upon it without much prayer to God to qualify him for the discharge of it, and to bless his labours to the edification of the people.

But the people themselves also are no less concerned to pray, that God would “send them pastors after his own heart;” for the welfare of their souls essentially depends on the kind of ministry which they attend: if Christ be not exhibited to them in his person and offices; if they be not encouraged to receive out of his fulness all the blessings of salvation; if they be not led into discoveries of the evil of their own hearts, and instructed in the nature of that change which the Holy Spirit will effect within them; if, in short, they have not “the whole counsel of God set before them,” they will be left to rest in very low attainments, if not to “perish utterly through lack of knowledge.”

This lesson then should be learned by all; and so learned, as to be reduced to practice.]

III. As a pattern for our imitation—

Prayer is both the duty and the privilege of all—

[Our blessed Lord had doubtless more intimate communion with his Father than we can possibly have; yet are we also authorized to call God “our Father;” yea, we are commanded to do it, and to “open our mouths wide, that he may fill them.” It is not, indeed, required of us that we should spend whole nights in prayer to God; for that would probably, unless in some very peculiar circumstances, render us unfit for prosecuting the duties of the ensuing day: but we are required to “continue in prayer, and to watch thereunto with thanksgiving [Note: Colossians 4:2.]:” and the more nearly we can approach to the example of our blessed Lord in the frequency and urgency of our prayers [Note: Psalms 22:2. Hebrews 5:7.], the more remarkable will be the answers that we shall receive, and the more abundant the communications of God to our souls. If we wrestled more like Jacob, we should certainly prevail to a much greater extent than in general we do [Note: Genesis 32:24-26.].]

We should therefore resort to it on every particular emergency—

[Though the particular object of our Lord’s continuance in prayer does not occur to us, yet we all have some occasions that call for more than ordinary direction and assistance from God. On these occasions, whatever they may be, whether they relate to the body or the soul, to time or to eternity, we should go and spread our wants before God. His own command to us is, “In every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” “In all our ways we must acknowledge him, and he will direct our paths.”

In this then must all of us resemble the Lord Jesus Christ. In this has “he set us an example, that we should follow his steps:” and “we must walk as he walked.” By this must all his followers be distinguished; for they are “a people near unto him.” They are hypocrites, of whom it is said, “They will not always call upon God:” all true Christians can say, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”]

Application—

[Learn hence the real state of your souls before God. Prayer has often been called the pulse of the soul: and truly it is so; for by that you may discern the state of the soul, incomparably better than you can by the pulse the state of the body. If you are prayerless people, you are dead, altogether dead in trespasses and sins. If your prayers are habitually cold and formal, they are such as God will never accept. No prayer will enter into the ears of the Lord of Hosts, but that which is offered “in spirit and in truth.” Let us then beg of God to give us a spirit of grace and of supplication; and let us interest ourselves with God for the welfare of his Church. Let us especially remember “those who are over us in the Lord,” and “labour always fervently for them in prayer,” that they may be enabled to fulfil their ministry with diligence and success. Thus shall we both ensure blessings to our own souls, and be instrumental to the hastening on of that day, when “all shall know the Lord, from the least to the greatest,” and “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”]


Verse 19

DISCOURSE: 1494

THE ANALOGY BETWEEN BODILY AND SPIRITUAL CURES

Luke 6:19. And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.

IN perusing the histories of ancient heroes, we may often be led to admire their skill and valour; but we shall much oftener be shocked at the means they used to exalt and aggrandize themselves; and, when we see them raising trophies to themselves on the ruins of slaughtered nations, we shall be induced to consider them rather as the plagues and scourges of mankind. But how different will be our sensations, when we read the history of Jesus! There we shall meet with nothing which will not be delightful to a benevolent mind. If we trace him in his circuits through the country, and view in every place the objects that surround him, we shall behold at one time the eyes he has just now opened, gazing on him with wonder and amazement; and at another time the ears he has unstopped, drinking in his words with insatiable eagerness and attention. Here we shall behold the hands he has restored to use, stretched forth to proclaim his praises; and the feet he has strengthened, leaping and dancing round him with inexpressible delight: there we shall hear the tongues he has loosed, shouting with exquisite love and gratitude; and see those whom he has dispossessed of devils, sitting with composure at the feet of their Benefactor. Sometimes we shall see the very dead starting forth into life and vigour at his command, and either rapturously saluting their disconsolate relations, or rending the air with their acclamations and hosannas. Such accounts as these, if considered only in a temporal view, cannot but excite in us a sympathetic joy, and afford the most pleasing sensations: but, no doubt, they were intended also to convey some spiritual instruction; in which view they acquire an additional, and almost an infinite, importance. Perhaps it may be too much to say that the miracles, wrought by our Lord, were types of the spiritual blessings he conveys; but we may affirm without hesitation, that there is a very strong analogy between them: and therefore, when we see what he did to the bodies of men, we have, at least, a very just occasion of considering what he will do for our souls.

In this view we propose to consider the account given us in the chapter before us. We are informed that a great multitude came to him out of Jud ζa and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases: and then it is said, in the words of the text, “The whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.”

To illustrate this subject we shall,

I. Trace the analogy between the miracles wrought by our blessed Lord on the bodies of men, and those which he yet works on men’s souls—

For the more distinct elucidation of this point, we may observe,

1. There is resemblance between the disorders of the body, and the disorders of the soul—

[Many were brought to our Lord, who were blind, deaf, leprous, and possessed with devils. And such are men at this time, in a spiritual view. Like the Laodiceans, however they may “think themselves rich and increased with goods, they are wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind; and therefore need to take counsel of our Lord, and to anoint their eyes with his eye-salve, that they may see [Note: Revelation 3:17-18.].” “Their eyes must be opened, before they will turn from the power of Satan unto God [Note: Acts 26:18.].”

The natural man too is represented as spiritually deaf; as having ears, and not hearing [Note: Matthew 13:15.]; as being unable to hear the voice of the good Shepherd [Note: John 8:47.]; yea, as like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear [Note: Psalms 58:4.].

The leprosy also of sin lies deep in our hearts; as the prophet intimates, when, in allusion to the convicted leper, he says of himself, and of all around him, “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips, and dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips [Note: Isaiah 6:5.].”

Though demoniacal possessions were not properly disorders, yet are they always enumerated with them, when the miracles of our Lord are recited. And, however humiliating the truth may be, it is certain that we are all, while in an unconverted state, possessed by Satan. The unbelieving world are blinded [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:4.], governed [Note: Ephesians 2:2.], and led captive by him at his will [Note: 2 Timothy 2:26.]. And, whatever evil they are excited to commit, it is through the instigation of that wicked fiend [Note: John 13:27. Acts 5:3.].]

2. There is a resemblance between the cures wrought by our Lord upon the bodies of men, and the cures which he will work upon their souls—

[Wherever the blessings of salvation are mentioned in the prophets, they are set forth in some highly figurative expressions; and by none more commonly than by those relating to bodily cures. Isaiah says, “In that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind see out of, obscurity and out of darkness [Note: Isaiah 29:18; Isaiah 32:3.].” And again, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped: then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing [Note: Isaiah 35:5-6.];” which figures are afterwards explained as relating to the spiritual salvation of the Church [Note: Isaiah 35:10.].

The application which the inspired Apostles make of these prophecies further evinces the truth of our position. St. Matthew quotes a passage, which beyond all doubt relates to spiritual benefits that were to be obtained through the death of Christ, and explains it, in a way of accommodation, as referring to the bodily cures which our Lord had wrought [Note: Compare Isaiah 53:4. with Matthew 8:16-17.]. Further, our Lord himself, having healed a blind man, takes occasion to trace this very analogy between the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees, and the bodily blindness which he had just healed: “For judgment I am come into this world, that they who see not might see, and that they who see might be made blind [Note: John 9:39.].” And both the answer which the Pharisees made to him, and the reply which our Lord gave them, manifest that this analogy was intended to be pointed out [Note: John 9:40-41.].]

3. There is a resemblance between the manner in which the diseased persons applied to our Lord for healing, and the manner in which we should apply to him for spiritual healing—

[Of all the multitudes that came to our Lord, there was not one who was not sensible of his disease. Moreover, they all came to him with deep humility, prostrating themselves before him in the most abject manner [Note: Luke 8:28; Luke 8:41.], and acknowledging the utter insufficiency of all other means [Note: Mark 5:26; Mark 5:33.]. And such was their earnestness, that they came from afar [Note: Mark 8:3.], and could not be prevailed upon to hold their peace [Note: Matthew 20:30-31.], nor would take a denial even from our Lord himself [Note: Matthew 15:22-28.]. It is worthy of notice also, that they all came in faith: some few indeed doubted his power, and some his willingness, to help them: but none doubted both his power and his willingness; and the greater part entertained no doubt at all.

Thus then should we go to him, “weary and heavy-laden” with our sins, and so sensible of our spiritual wants, that if he should ask us, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? we may answer him immediately, “Lord, that this disorder may be healed, and that sin forgiven [Note: Matthew 20:33.].” We must also, with all lowliness of mind, confess our inability to obtain relief from any other quarter, and our dependence on him alone [Note: Hosea 14:1-3.]. Moreover, in proof of our earnestness, we must not merely seek, but strive [Note: Luke 13:24.], determining to take the kingdom of heaven by violence [Note: Matthew 11:12.], and not to let the Saviour go, except he bless us [Note: Genesis 32:26.]. Lastly, we must be sure to exercise faith on Christ, believing him both able and willing to save us: for we are expressly told that, he who wavereth and is of a doubtful mind, must not expect to receive any thing of the Lord [Note: James 1:6-7.].]

4. There is a resemblance between the manner in which our Lord cured their disorders and the manner in which he will cure ours—

[He sometimes healed the people secretly, as when he took the deaf man aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and said, Ephphatha, be opened, and then charged him to tell no man [Note: Mark 7:34; Mark 7:36.]. So he has now many “hidden ones [Note: Psalms 83:3.],” in whose hearts he carries on a secret work, and heals them without attracting the notice of the world. At other times he performed the cures openly, and in the sight of all; as when he bade the man with the withered hand to stand forth [Note: Matthew 3:3; Matthew 3:5.]. So he often converts the souls of profligate sinners, or bitter persecutors, in such a striking manner, as to fill all around them with wonder and amazement.

Sometimes he wrought his cures instantaneously; as in the man at the pool of Bethesda [Note: John 5:8.]: and so he effects a sudden change in the hearts of many, causing them to cry out like the first converts and the jailor, “What shall I do to be saved [Note: Acts 2:37; Acts 16:30.]?” At other times he performed his cures gradually, as in the blind man, who at first saw men, as trees, walking [Note: Mark 8:24.]: and so he often carries on his work in a gradual manner in our souls, leading us from progressive conviction to thorough conversion.

Sometimes he used means in curing them; as when he put clay and spittle on the blind man’s eyes [Note: John 9:6.]: so he now converts many by the preaching of his Gospel. At other times he used no means, as in the case of the ten lepers, who were cleansed as they were going in the way [Note: Luke 17:14.]: and so he often imparts the knowledge of himself by the teachings of his Spirit, without using any particular means or instrument to convey it.

But however varied his manner was with respect to these things, in one respect it was uniformly the same: whomsoever he cured, he cured perfectly: and thus he always carries on the work he has begun in the souls of men [Note: Philippians 1:6.], and perfects that which concerneth them [Note: Psalms 138:8.].]

Since then, without any forced interpretations or conceits, we may draw such instruction from the miracles in general, let us endeavour to,

II. Improve the particular miracle recorded in the text—

If, in the concerns of our souls, we desire either direction or encouragement, we cannot find them any where more suitably afforded than in the passage before us; where the conduct of the multitude suggests the former, and the conduct of Jesus the latter. Let us then improve it,

1. For direction—

[We should not dare to exhort you in general to follow the multitude; since that would be to lead you in the broad road to destruction [Note: Matthew 7:13.]. But in the present instance we say, Follow that multitude.

Follow them in the conviction which they had of their own need of Christ. Every one felt within himself that he laboured under a disorder which needed healing; and, if each of them had been asked, ‘What is your disorder? and what is yours?’ they could all have specified the principal symptoms of the disorders under which they laboured. Now thus must we go to Jesus, feeling and lamenting the ravages which sin has made upon our souls. It is not sufficient for us to confess in general that we are sinners; we must open our case to him, and tell him, “Thus and thus have I done [Note: Joshua 7:20.]!” And, if the Spirit of God have truly convinced us of sin, we shall find no more difficulty in this, than a poor man does in opening his complaints to a physician. More particularly, we should get our hearts impressed with the evil of our besetting sin; and, carrying it to Jesus, we should confess it, lament it, aggravate it, and implore both his mercy to pardon it, and his grace to subdue it: and, if we thus go to him labouring and heavy-laden, we have his promise that he will give us rest [Note: Matthew 11:28.].

Follow them also in their earnestness. We are told that the people pressed on Jesus, so that they who were nearest to him could not maintain their place by reason of the multitudes, who strove to get access to him, and to touch him [Note: Mark 3:10.]. They not only left their own business, but, in many instances, prevailed on their friends to relinquish their occupations also, in order to carry them to Jesus. In short, they postponed every consideration to that of obtaining a cure from him. And who could blame them? They felt their need of healing, and knew that they might obtain it by going to him, and therefore they would on no account lose the opportunity afforded them: and, when they could in no other way get access to him, they would go up to the top of the house, and let down their diseased friends in a couch through the tiling [Note: Luke 5:19.]. Would to God that we were all thus earnest for the salvation of our souls! that no consideration whatever were suffered to detain us from the Lord! and that not one of us might delay another hour to go unto him! We are far more favourably circumstanced than they were, since we can go to him without removing from our chamber, or intermitting our earthly business. He is every where present to heal us; if we can only break through the crowd of lusts and cares that are within our own hearts, there is no other crowd that can keep us from him. How anxious should we be to get immediate relief from an acute disorder, especially if there were but one physician able to heal us, and his continuance in our neighbourhood were likely to be very short! Let us then shew the same care for our souls, and go to Jesus without delay, knowing that “this is the accepted time, this is the day of salvation.”

Once more—Follow them in their faith. They were not only convinced of Christ’s power and willingness to heal them, but were assured that, if they could but touch his garment, they should be whole [Note: Matthew 9:21.]. They did not stand reasoning about the matter, or go and try other means, but applied to him as their all-sufficient helper. So must we go to him, not endeavouring first to heal ourselves by our repentance, or labouring to make ourselves fit for him by our amendments, or questioning whether he be willing to receive us: we must go to him just as we are, altogether filthy and abominable; and be firmly persuaded that we shall not seek his face in vain. To be reasoning and yielding to doubts and fears will be of little avail; but to go to Christ in faith, will prove an infallible remedy for every ill: whatever be our complaint, he will say, “Go thy way; and, as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee;” and we shall be made whole from that very hour [Note: Matthew 8:13.].]

2. For encouragement—

[We cannot conceive any thing more encouraging than the behaviour of our blessed Lord to the people.

Behold his condescension! How wonderful was it, that he, the Lord of glory, should suffer such a multitude of miserable and filthy objects to press upon him! yea, that he should go about through all cities, towns, and villages, for that very purpose! And will he now be inattentive to our spiritual wants? When we rush, as it were, with holy violence into his presence, and seek to touch him, will he forbid us? Will he withdraw himself from us, or say, ‘Stand off; thou art too vile to be admitted to my presence?’ Has he not said, on the contrary, that “whosoever cometh unto him, he will in no wise cast out [Note: John 6:3; John 6:37.]?” Let the trembling sinner then take courage; for his sighing shall soon be turned into that triumphant song, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name, who forgiveth all thy sins, and healeth all thy diseases [Note: Psalms 103:1-3.]!”

Behold also his compassion! There was not one of all the multitudes that came to him, dismissed without a cure. Though many of them probably had despised him, and though he foresaw that many of those very persons would join in that general cry, “Away with him, crucify him, crucify him!” (as it is highly probable they did) yet his bowels of compassion yearned over them. Many, no doubt, were as unthankful as the nine lepers; yet did he not withhold his mercy from their bodies. How much more then will he have compassion on those who seek him for their souls! When he beholds them supplicating for the pardon of their sins, and the renovation of their hearts, will he turn from them, and shut his ear at their cry? no; he will rather fall upon their neck, and kiss them [Note: Luke 15:20.]; or, as the prophet speaks, “He will save; he will rejoice over them with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over them with singing [Note: Zephaniah 3:17.].” Only let us seek him in truth, and we shall find him rich in mercy unto all that call upon him [Note: Romans 10:12.].

Lastly, behold his power! However inveterate the diseases of many might be, the whole multitude were healed. And has he less power now that he is in heaven? Has he not “the residue of the Spirit,” yea, and “all the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in him?” Why then should any be discouraged? What though our sins be great? can he not forgive them? What though our habits be deeply rooted? can he not overcome them? What though our temptations be manifold? can he not deliver us out of all? Be our “enemies ever so mighty, he that dwelleth on high is mightier.” Let us all surround him in expectation of his benefits; and “we shall find him able to save us to the uttermost.”]

To Conclude—

[Let us now picture to ourselves the state of the multitudes who had touched him: what joys! what raptures! what ecstasies! what congratulations from surrounding friends! what universal shouts and acclamations to the honour of the Lord Jesus! none ascribing their recovery to an arm of flesh; but all acknowledging Jesus as the sole author of their happiness! And why should it not be thus with us at this time? Surely, if this whole congregation would but vie with each other in their endeavours to obtain his blessing, they would soon have far more abundant cause for joy, than ever they had, whose bodily health was restored: for their souls should be freed from the deadly malady of sin, yea, “virtue should come forth from him to heal us all.”]


Verses 20-26

DISCOURSE: 1495

TRUE HAPPINESS STATED

Luke 6:20-26. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. 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. 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. But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.

MEN who dislike the doctrines of the Gospel are no less averse to its precepts. They may both approve and practice heathen morality; but the morality of Jesus will appear to them unamiable and precise. The words before us will fully establish this assertion [Note: It should be observed that this passage has no direct reference to the deeper mysteries of our religion: it is altogether of a practical nature: and the terms are so full, that they scarcely need any elucidation, while they are at the same time so plain as to be almost incapable of perversion.]: they lead us to consider,

I. The false notions which the world entertains of happiness—

Many have been the speculations of philosophers on this subject; but there are general views in which the world at large are agreed—

[They think that wealth must of necessity conduce much to our happiness: they think that a freedom from care and trouble will greatly augment it: they think that an easy access to pleasurable amusements and carnal enjoyments will abundantly promote it; and, above all, that universal respect and honour will complete it.]

These views, however, are very erroneous—

[We deny not but that these sources of enjoyment afford a present gratification: nor do we say that wealth, or ease, or pleasure, or reputation, may not be very innocently enjoined: but it is a great mistake to think that happiness consists in these things; or that, if possessed in ever so great abundance, they would compensate for the want of spiritual blessings. There are riches of far greater value than the wealth of this world; nor can any one possess those, who is very solicitous about this [Note: Matthew 13:44.]. None can know his need of divine grace, and not pant after it [Note: Psalms 42:1.]: in such indigent creatures, a Laodicean state is abominable [Note: Revelation 3:16-17.]. Moreover, God calls men to mourn and weep for their sins [Note: James 4:9-10.]: is it desirable then to possess a light and vacant mind? Such too is the enmity of the world against God, that it is not possible to retain the friendship of both at the same time [Note: James 4:4.]. Should we then consider human estimation as of transcendent value? Surely these things may shew us how erroneous the world’s judgment is.]

Nor is there any delusion more fatal—

[Our Lord could not be mistaken in his judgment; yet he denounces the heaviest woes against the rich, the full, the gay, and the respected, and distinctly assigns his reason for each denunciation. They who are occupied with carnal gratifications, make no provision for their eternal welfare. Hence, when bereft of the things of this life, they will be for ever destitute. Having had their portion now with the men of this world, they will participate in their lot hereafter. We may see these truths realized in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus [Note: No flagrant evil whatever is imputed to the Rich Man. He was not wholly destitute even of liberality, since Lazarus received his daily subsistence from his table. The reason of his condemnation was, that, while he abounded in wealth, ease, pleasure, and honour, he wept not for his sins, nor hungered after the blessings of grace and glory.].]

Having exposed error, we would establish truth, by shewing,

II. The representations of happiness given us in the Scriptures—

Poverty, dissatisfaction, sorrow, and contempt, are, it must be confessed, not pleasing in themselves; nor indeed does any blessing necessarily attach to them; but under certain circumstances they may be a desirable portion—

[Poverty and sorrow often have been, and still are endured for Christ’s sake; nor is there any thing more common than for his servants to be reviled and despised for their fidelity to him. It should seem indeed that the world could not hate and execrate those whom God esteems and declares blessed; but the treatment which the prophets, and Christ, and his Apostles, met with, proves the contrary. If we then be treated like them, we have no reason to be dejected; yea rather, we may consider it as an honour conferred on us by God [Note: Philippians 1:29.].]

In a spiritual sense, poverty, hunger, &c. are great blessings—

[No doubt there is a spiritual meaning also in our Lord’s words [Note: Compare Matthew 5:3-4.]. And what so desirable as to feel our need of Christ? And what so desirable as to be hungering after his righteousness? And what so desirable as to be mourning for our corruptions? And what so desirable as to endure shame for his sake [Note: Acts 5:41.]? They who experience most of this state, find most delight in it; they are most fortified against the incursions of worldly sorrow, and most abound in spiritual consolations.]

And all who now submit to the pressure of spiritual afflictions, shall be abundantly recompensed in the eternal world—

[In heaven there is enough to repay all our labours. The riches of glory will compensate for all present losses; the fulness of joy in those blest abodes will satiate the hungry soul; the inconceivable delights will far outweigh our transient sorrows [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:17.]; and the honour which God will put upon us in the society of saints and angels, will make us forget our short-lived disgrace. Christ, the true and faithful witness, has repeatedly affirmed this: and he who declares such persons blessed, himself will make them so.]

Address—

1. The mistaken votaries of this world—

[All profess to seek after happiness; but how many mistake the shadow for the substance. We may even appeal to you to declare who are truly blessed [Note: Comment on the text according to the world’s views; “Woe to you poor, &c.: but no woes to you that are rich, &c.; ye are blessed:” Who would endure such a comment?]. O that we would take eternity into our estimate of present things! O that we would cease from circulating our fatal errors, and acquiesce in the unerring declarations of God! We can easily see, that a man who should drink a palatable but poisonous draught, would be no object of envy. Let us be persuaded then that momentary delights can never constitute us blessed. He alone is happy, who is happy for eternity.

2. The humble followers of Jesus—

[Let not your hearts envy the prosperity of sinners [Note: Psalms 37:1-2.]. Remember that you are the only blessed people upon earth. Your very griefs and sorrows are grounds of self-congratulation. The time is shortly coming, when men’s apparent states will be reversed. Then will be fulfilled that glorious prophecy of Isaiah [Note: Isaiah 65:13-14.]—Be content then to “fill up the measure of Christ’s sufferings,” and take for your comfort that delightful promise [Note: Psalms 126:5-6.]—]


Verse 39

DISCOURSE: 1496

THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND

Luke 6:39. And he spake a parable unto them; Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?

IGNORANCE is, in itself, more excusable than vice; but in some cases its effects are equally pernicious [Note: A person may ruin himself no less by imprudence than by debauchery; and a General may bring as great calamities on his army through unskilfulness, as if he had betrayed them into the hands of their enemies.]. This is manifestly true in the concerns of the soul: a person, ignorant of the way of salvation, must fall short of heaven; and if he undertake to direct others, will ruin all who follow him. To impress this truth on our minds, our Lord repeatedly uttered this parable [Note: Matthew 15:14.]—

I. The scope of the parable—

The Pharisees, through their professed sanctity, gained extensive influence, and were implicitly followed by the deluded populace. The consequences were extremely fatal to them both.

In this parable our Lord intended to reprove,

1. The presumption of such guides—

[No man should undertake an office for which he is not qualified, much less so important an office as that of guiding men to heaven. Yet many assume it for filthy lucre’s sake, without any other qualification than that of a little human learning. But what would be thought of a man, who, because he was conversant with the learned languages, and philosophy, should engage to navigate a ship? Yet he would only subject a few hundreds of persons to temporal death; whereas a minister that misleads his people, involves thousands in everlasting destruction. How horrible is such presumption! and how surely must it bring down upon the offenders the signal vengeance of heaven [Note: 2 Chronicles 26:16-21.]! Let all who would not perish under such an accumulated load of guilt, examine well their motives for undertaking, their qualifications for discharging, and their manner of executing, this high office [Note: It should be remembered, that it is not human learning which can qualify a man for the ministerial office, but rather an experience of true religion in his own soul. The Pharisees were acquainted with the letter of the Scriptures, but they understood not the spirit of them: they saw not the spirituality of the moral law, nor the typical import of the ceremonial law. Thus being ignorant of their fallen state, and of the means appointed for their recovery, they were only blind guides. A man must be converted himself, before he undertakes to convert others: he must be able to adopt the language of the Apostle.—See 1 John 1:1; 1 John 1:3.].]

2. The folly of such followers—

[The generality never once consider whether their guide be competent to direct them, nor inquire into the truth of the directions given them. They commit their souls to his care, as though there were no possibility of erring, or no danger in error. They even prefer such teachers as “prophesy unto them smooth things [Note: Isaiah 30:9-11. Jeremiah 5:30-31.].” But would any man act thus in matters of less importance? Would any person who had a disorder to be healed, or a cause to be tried, employ a physician or a lawyer that was ignorant of his profession, if he could have access to one of approved ability? Would any blind person commit himself to the guidance of one who also was destitute of sight? Can any one doubt what would be the consequence of such folly? What madness then is it for men to rest satisfied with the instructions of those, whose whole dispositions and conduct manifest, that they are ignorant of the way to heaven! That their guides will be partakers of their doom, will afford but little consolation to them, when they themselves are suffering the bitter consequences of their folly [Note: The whole of this subject requires to be treated with peculiar tenderness, lest we appear to be bringing only a railing accusation against our brethren, when we should be seeking rather the edification of our flock. We must not indeed shrink from expounding any portion of God’s word; but we must always be careful to “speak the truth in love.”].]

The truth asserted in the parable is too obvious to need either proof or illustration; we shall therefore proceed to consider,

II. The lessons we should learn from it—

Though the familiarity of our Lord’s expressions appears at first sight calculated to produce a smile, they afford just occasion for the most solemn admonitions.

1. Guard against errorin the concerns of your souls—

[Many suppose that ignorance is an excuse for error: but God has sufficiently warned us against this mistake [Note: Hosea 4:6. Isaiah 27:11. Ephesians 5:6.]. It is certain, that there is a great diversity of doctrines among those who undertake to teach — — — and, that error is more prevalent than truth — — — But the multitudes who throng the broad road, cannot procure safety for those who walk in it. We must dare to leave the beaten track of self-righteousness and formality, for the less frequented path of faith and holiness; nor must we hope to reach the fold of God, unless we follow the footsteps of his flock [Note: Song of Solomon 1:8. Matthew 7:13-14.].]

2. Try what you hear by the touchstone of God’s word—

[The Scriptures are the only proper rule of our faith and practice: to them we must refer every thing as to an unerring standard [Note: Isaiah 8:20.], nor must any human authority supersede the exercise of our own judgment [Note: Matthew 23:8-10.]. If an angel from heaven were to preach, we ought to try his word by this test. This was approved in the Bereans of old [Note: Acts 17:11.]; and it is expressly enjoined on us [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:21.].]

3. Seek the instruction and guidance of the Holy Spirit—

[However plainly man may preach, God alone can enable you to profit [Note: Isaiah 48:17.]. Of yourselves you will be far more ready to embrace the self-exalting tenets of deceivers, than the humiliating doctrines of the Gospel. But the Holy Ghost shall be given to those who seek his influence [Note: Luke 11:13.], and shall guide into all truth those who submit to his teaching [Note: John 16:13, 1 John 2:20.]. Let all then, whatever be their capacity or attainments, implore his help: then, though babes in human science, they shall be taught the things that are hid from the wise and prudent [Note: Matthew 11:25-26.].]


Verses 43-45

DISCOURSE: 1497

THE TREE KNOWN BY ITS FRUITS

Luke 6:43-45. 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 of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble-bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

IT is of infinite importance to every man to attain a knowledge of his state and character before God. For, as such a knowledge would be the best preservative against a self-exalting and censorious spirit, so would it keep us from deluding ourselves with a merely nominal and formal religion [Note: See the context.]. In order to attain it we must examine our words and actions, and trace them to their proper source. Thus, by discovering what is in the heart, we shall be enabled to form a just estimate of our own character, and be guarded against a fatal presumption on the one hand, and a needless disquietude on the other. This mode of inquiry is suggested in the parable before us; which indeed deserves the more attention, because it was delivered by our Lord on several different occasions. There are two truths which it offers to our consideration:

I. It is the heart that regulates the life—

The heart is, as it were, a fountain, from whence all our actions proceed—

In it there is a treasure either of good or evil—

[While we are unregenerate, we are full of erroneous principles, and sinful affections. We “think that God is even such an one as ourselves;” that he will neither “do good” to them that serve him, “nor evil” to those who rebel against him [Note: Psalms 50:21. Zephaniah 1:12.]. We judge sin to be light and venial, and a worldly carnal life to be consistent with a hope of immortality and glory. While such are our principles, what can be expected, but that “our affections should be set on things below, and not on things above?” Our hopes and fears, our joys and sorrows, are excited only by the things of time and sense: and those invisible realities, which alone deserve our esteem, are disregarded and despised. What a “treasure of evil” is thus formed within us [Note: Mark 7:21-23.]! who can number our rebellious thoughts, our unhallowed desires, our vicious indulgences? How has this treasure been accumulating from our earliest infancy to this present moment! and we, alas! are as averse to part with it as if it rendered us really happy, or would “profit us in the day of wrath.” The regenerate person, on the contrary, has within him a “treasure of good.” His principles and affections are the very reverse of what they once were. His views of God, of sin, and the world, are regulated by the Holy Scriptures; and his desires and pursuits are conformable to the dictates of religion. Thanks be to God, this treasure also is daily accumulating; and he esteems himself rich only in proportion as the love and fear of God increase in his heart.]

According as this treasure is, such will be the life—

[The “waters flowing from a fountain” must of necessity be “bitter or sweet” according as the fountain itself is good or bad. So where a treasure of evil is in the heart, the words and actions must be evil also. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speak;” and by that great moving spring will all the members be actuated. Doubtless there may be a freedom from gross immorality, and a conduct in many respects amiable and praiseworthy, while yet the heart is unrenewed: but fruit that is really good can no more proceed from an unregenerate soul, than “figs and grapes from a thorn or bramble-bush.” On the other hand, where the treasure of the heart is good, the life will certainly be good also. A holy practice must of necessity flow from holy principles and heavenly affections. We say not indeed but that there may be found some faults even in the holiest of men, even as blighted or unsound fruit may be found upon the choicest tree. But the good can no more practise iniquity, so as to continue in it, than the bad can bring forth habitually the fruits of righteousness. St. John assigns the same reason as is suggested in the text, “He can not sin, because the seed of God remainethin him [Note: 1 John 3:9.],” and, as an operative principle, regulates his life.]

This truth being established, the other follows as a necessary consequence, viz.

II. It is by the life that we must judge of the heart—

Though we are not to scrutinize too nicely the motives by which others are actuated, so as to form an uncharitable judgment respecting them, yet we may, and must in some cases, judge of men by their actions. Our Lord uttered the very parable before us on one occasion, expressly with a view to guard us against the influence of false teachers and false brethren [Note: Matthew 7:15-16.]. But it is of our own hearts that we are principally called to judge; and assuredly,

The man whose life is good may know his heart also to be good—

[If “every tree is known by its own fruit,” (and no man hesitates to call a vine, or a bramble, by its proper name when he sees the fruit) we need be in no fear of concluding that our hearts are good, when our dispositions and actions accord with the word of God. No man indeed is perfectly good, because we still carry about with us “a body of sin and death:” but he, who discovers the renovation of his heart by the holiness of his life, is certainly possessed of a “good treasure,” and may justly be called “a good man.”]

The man also whose life is evil may conclude with equal certainty that his heart is evil—

[Many, when they cannot deny the sinfulness of their conduct, will yet affirm that their hearts are good. But what is this but to affirm, in spite of the most indubitable evidence to the contrary, that a bramble is a vine or fig-tree? Let any man put the question to his own conscience, Can a man, who lives in a neglect of God and his own soul, have a good heart? Can the proud, the passionate, the revengeful, the lewd, the intemperate, the covetous, have good hearts? Then may a bramble be a fig-tree, notwithstanding it never bears any thing but thorns and briers.]

Address—

1. Those whose fruits are evil—

[It is not the openly profane, or the grossly sensual alone, but all, who are not really bringing forth the fruits of righteousness and true holiness, that we now address. And what must we say? Shall we flatter you? We dare not: the Scripture speaks plainly; and it would be at the peril of our souls to conceal the truth: St. John expressly calls you children of the devil [Note: 1 John 3:8; 1 John 3:10.]: and our Lord declares that everlasting fire must be your portion [Note: Matthew 7:19; Matthew 12:35-37.]. Shall it seem unreasonable that such should be the doom of the ungodly, while the righteous are admitted into heaven? Are you at a loss to assign a reason why so great a difference should be put between persons, who, to outward appearance, do not differ very widely from each other? Know that, if you trace the stream to its source, and examine their hearts, there will be found as great a difference between them, as between the portions that they shall hereafter receive. The one has nothing but a treasure of evil principles and evil affections within him; the other is a “partaker of the Divine nature,” and is “transformed into the very image of his God.” Seek then to have “a new heart and a right spirit renewed within you.” “Ye must be born again;” and that too for this plain reason, because what you have by nature is altogether carnal; and you must receive a spiritual nature to qualify you for the enjoyment of a spiritual kingdom [Note: John 3:6.]. Ye must become “new creatures:” “instead of the thorn must come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier must come up the myrtle-tree,” if ever you would be monuments of God’s saving mercy [Note: Isaiah 55:13.].]

2. Those whose fruits are good—

[Doubtless you wish to have your evidences of conversion more and more clear. With this view it will be well to mark all your words and actions, and to trace them to their motives and principles. But do not forget that though your own works are the evidences of your conversion, they are not the grounds of your acceptance with God. It is Christ’s obedience unto death that must be the one foundation of your hope. However holy your life be, your eyes must never be turned from Christ. He is your only, and your all-sufficient Saviour. In him you are to hope, as well when your evidences are obscured, as when they are bright. Nevertheless you should endeavour to abound more and more in all the fruits of righteousness, that you may have the comfort of an assured hope, and God may be glorified in your deportment.]


Verse 46

DISCOURSE: 1498

THE FOLLY OF A FRUITLESS PROFESSION

Luke 6:46. Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

THE honour of Christ and the salvation of our souls depend on our having right views of the Gospel: we cannot therefore too earnestly insist on the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ. Nevertheless we should constantly urge the practice of good works as the fruits and evidences of our faith. The folly of expecting salvation while we neglect them is strongly represented by our Lord in the text.

I. Shew who they are that deserve the censure in the text—

The heathens have less to aggravate their sins than Christians. The greater part of those who live in countries that are evangelized are obnoxious to this censure—

1. Mere nominal Christians deserve it—

[Many are Christ’s, as having been devoted to him in baptism. By the appellation of Christians they profess themselves his followers; but they are in no respect subject to his will and word. Christ commands them to “seek first the kingdom of God,” &c and they seek it last.]

2. Formal, self-righteous persons deserve it—

[Many will go far in the outward duties of religion: they will profess too a veneration for the name of Christ: but he calls them to regeneration [Note: John 3:3.], and they deny their need of it. He bids them live by faith on him, and it proves a hard saying [Note: John 6:53; John 6:60.]: they are satisfied with the form of godliness, without the power.]

3. False professors deserve it—

[None are so worthy of reproof as they: they will talk much of their dependence on Christ: they will profess perhaps to have experienced much of his power and grace: they may even glory in the recollection of his truth and faithfulness; but in the midst of all, they can be proud, covetous, passionate, censorious, unforgiving, deceitful, and dishonest. To such the text may be applied with peculiar energy.].

Such persons ought to be addressed with all plainness of speech—

II. Expostulate with them on the folly of their conduct—

The service of God is justly called a “reasonable service;” but a fruitless profession is most unreasonable. No reason can be assigned “why” persons should rest in such a state—

1. Is not a conformity to Christ’s precepts practicable?

[Many allege, that such strictness as he requires is unattainable. We allow that absolute perfection is not to be expected in this world; but an unreserved devotedness of ourselves to God is attainable. Thousands of the saints of old have walked thus with God: there is a cloud of living witnesses who exemplify this conduct. God has promised grace to all who seek it diligently.]

2. Is not obedience to him necessary?

[We may be good citizens if we possess only the virtues of heathens; but an unfeigned regard to Christ is necessary to constitute us Christians. St. Paul has fully declared the in-efficacy of outward religion [Note: Romans 2:28-29.]. Judas and the foolish virgins awfully exemplified it [Note: Matthew 25:3; Matthew 25:11-12.]. Our Lord has warned us all respecting it [Note: Matthew 7:21-23.].]

3. Will not a feigned allegiance be discovered by him?

[We may easily deceive our fellow-creatures; but every motion of our hearts is visible to Christ [Note: Hebrews 4:13.]: nor can the most specious appearances deceive him [Note: John 2:24-25.]. In his final judgment he will shew that he was privy to our most secret thoughts and desires [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:5.].]

4. Shall we not wish at last that we had been sincere and upright?

[The reproach which attends the exercise of real religion, may make us satisfied with the form of it at present; but in the day of judgment we shall see our folly [Note: Wisd. 5:1–9.]. We shall not know what to reply to this question then. The vain excuses we now make we shall not even dare to offer.]

Application—

[Let all then seek to become Christians indeed. Let us not be afraid to confess our Lord before men; and let us regard “what he says” not only above all, but in opposition to all, that human counsellors can suggest. Let us take care that our lives be consistent with our professions. Let us trust in the Lord as simply, as if obedience were not required. Let us obey the Lord as zealously, as if obedience only were required.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Luke 6:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/luke-6.html. 1832.

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