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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Luke 6

 

 

Verse 1-2

Luke 6:1-2

And it came to pass on the second Sabbath after the first, that He went through the corn-fields

The second-first Sabbath

This is a very difficult phrase, and all explanations of it must be conjectural, as there is apparently no Sabbath designated by this name in any Rabbinical writing.
One of the two following explanations seems most likely:

1. Either that it was the Sabbath which occurred during the Octave of Pentecost--the greatest Sabbath of the year being the Passover Sabbath (“that Sabbath day was an high day”-- Joh_19:31); and the one occurring at the next greatest feast, that of Pentecost, would be the next greatest, or next-first, or “second-first,” the Passover Sabbath being the first-first, or by far the greatest. The feast of Tabernacles would be the third.

2. But very many take it to be a Sabbath at the Passover, either the first Sabbath after the second day of that festival, from which the Sabbaths to Pentecost are numbered, or the last day of the feast, which was to be observed as a Sabbath. Whichever of these is the true meaning, it appears to me that St. Luke does not designate this day as the second-first, to mark the date when the transaction occurred, but to mark the peculiar holiness of the day. The disciples were, in their estimation, breaking no ordinary Sabbath, but one of the most sacred of all. (M. F. Sadler, M. A.)

Pleaeing Sabbath impressions

That Sunday of my childhood; the marvellous stillness of that day over all Lichfield town hill; that wondrous ringing of the bell; the strange interpretation that my young imagination gave to the crowing of the cock and to the singing of the birds; that wondering look which I used to have into things; that strange lifting halfway up into inspiration, as it were; that sense of the joyful influence that sometimes brooded down like a stormy day, and sometimes opened up like a gala-day in summer on me, made Sunday a more effectually marked day than any other of all my youthful life, and it stands out as clear as crystal until this hour. It might have been made happier and better if there had been a little more adaptation to my disposition and my wants; but, with all its limitations, I would rather have the other six days of the week weeded out of my memory than the Sabbath of my childhood. And this is right. Every child ought to be so brought up in the family, that when he thinks of home the first spot on which his thought rests shall be Sunday, as the culminating joy of the house-hold. (H. W. Beecher.)

Exemplary Sabbath-keeping

The Mayflower a name now immortal, had crossed the ocean. It had borne its hundred passengers over the vast deep, and after a perilous voyage had reached the bleak shores of New England, in the beginning of winter. The spot which was to furnish a home and a burial-place was now to be selected. The shallop was unshipped, but needed repairs, and sixteen weary days elapsed before it was ready for service. Amidst ice and snow it was then sent out, with some half a dozen pilgrims, to find a suitable place where to land. The spray of the sea, says the historian, froze on them, and made their clothes like coats of iron. Five days they wandered about, searching in vain for a suitable landing-place, a storm came on; the snow and the rain fell; the sea swelled; the rudder broke; the mast and the sail fell overboard. In this storm and cold, without a tent, a house, or the shelter of a rock, the Christian Sabbath approached, the day which they regarded as holy unto God; a day on which they were not to “do any work.” What should be done? As the evening before the Sabbath drew on they pushed over the surf, entered a fair sound, sheltered themselves under the lee of a rise of land, kindled a fire, and on that little island they spent the day in the solemn worship of their Maker. On the next day their feet touched the rock, now sacred as the place of the landing of the pilgrims. Nothing more strikingly marks the character of this people than this act, and I do not know that I could refer to a better illustration, even in their history, showing that theirs was the religion of principle, and that this religion made them what they were. (A. Barnes, D. D.)

The corn-field

There are many lessons that the corn-fields teach. The world, children, is one great cornfield, and you are growing in it. Now a question arises, are you growing there as corn, or as the poppy, the cockle, and the blue-bottle? Whoever passes by, through the corn-fields, sees the purple flower, and admires it. But the farmer loves it not, for its seeds contain a noxious element, which greatly injures the corn around, and fills his flour with black specks. When ripe, the capsule contains black glossy aromatic seeds, and in them is the mischievous saponine. While the wheat has been ripening wholesome grain, the corn-cockle has been maturing poisonous seeds. Both plants drank of the same dew, basked in the same sunlight, were fanned by the same breezes; the wheat made little show of flower, but has produced a precious grain; the cockle blazed with beauty, and ripens an injurious seed. I would have you, children, make up your minds early what you are going to be in God’s field, wheat or poppies; whether you are going to yield grain or blossom; whether you will be profitable or ornamental. I speak first to you girls. You will be called to live in the world, and to be, to some extent, ornaments in it. You will dress more gaily than boys, wear smart gowns, and ribbons, and feathers, whereas boys will clothe themselves in sober colours. There is, therefore, much more danger in your growing up to be cockle, and poppy, and blue-flower. I think that all the most showy flowers are without edible fruit. Dress modestly, becomingly, and prettily, against that there is no law; but as you value all that is holy, all that is eternal, do not let dress occupy your thoughts. There was a Duke of Tyrol, who went by the name of Frederick with the Empty Pockets. He had a little money in the coffer, so he spent it all in gilding the roof of the balcony that overhung the public square in Innsbruck. It is there still, with some of the gold still adhering to the tiles. There are plenty of men who act like Frederick with the Empty Pockets; all they have is laid on as exterior gilding, everything goes in making a great display. If they have money, it is exhibited in the most offensive and vulgar profusion; if they have a little learning, it is lugged in by the ears on all occasions; if they have some position it is made the most of. Gathered in bundles to be burned! Yes, that is the terrible end of the weed. The great lesson that I wish to impress on you, children, to day, is, to live for the future, and not for the present; to be concerned what fruit you shall bring forth, not what show you shall make. (S. Baring-Gould, M. A.)

Christ arguing with the Pharisees

We should naturally wish to know how a Divine Being would argue with men. We should expect that His arguments would be clear, convincing, and unanswerable, and, consequently, of that kind best adapted to the subject. In such expectation we shall not be disappointed.

1. Against the opinions of the Pharisees respecting the Sabbath, our Saviour’s first argument was taken from the example of David. David, by partaking of the shew-bread, had broken a positive law; but the disciples of Jesus had violated no law.

2. The second argument is still more pointed. The priests in the temple service did not observe rest on the Sabbath; for, according to the strict letter of the law, their duties could not be performed without violating the Sabbath; yet no blame was attached to them.

3. The third argument advances a step higher. God prefers the duties of humanity to positive commandments, when it is impossible to observe both these. Therefore, even if the plucking and eating of ears of corn on the Sabbath had been prohibited, the mercy of God would have overlooked it in a case of necessity.

4. The fourth argument was, that the Sabbath was made for man; therefore it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath. Thus we see that, according to our Saviour, no act of necessity nor of mercy is a breach of the Sabbath. (J. Thomson, D. D.)


Verse 5

Luke 6:5

That the Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath

A spiritual man Lord of the Sabbath

When is a son of man lord of the Sabbath-day?
To whom may the Sabbath safely become a shadow? I reply, he that has the mind of Christ may exercise discretionary lordship over the Sabbath-day. He who is in possession of the substance may let the shadow go. A man in health has done with the prescriptions of the physician. But for an unspiritual man to regulate his hours and amount of rest by his desires, is just as preposterous as for an unhealthy man to rule his appetites by his sensations. Win the mind of Christ--be like Him--and then in the reality of rest in God, the Sabbath form of rest will be superseded. Remain apart from Christ, and then you are under the law again--the fourth commandment is as necessary for you as it was for the Israelite; the prescriptive regimen which may discipline your soul to a sounder state. It is at his peril that the worldly man departs from the
rule of the day of rest. Nothing can make us free from the law but the Spirit. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Jesus and the two ideals

I. THE TITLE HE GIVES HIMSELF. Son of Man. We find Him both humbled and exalted as the Son of Man. As the Son of Man He hath not where to lay His head; and as the Son of Man He claims authority to forgive sin, and is Lord even of the Sabbath-day. He applied this phrase to Himself in all the different aspects of His great life. In Him, as the Son of Man, humanity is again in its Sonship of God.

II. THE CLAIM HE MAKES ON HIS OWN BEHALF, as Lord even of the Sabbath-day. The perfection of God and the perfection of man, as depicted in the Bible, are two distinct, and, out of their own spheres, incompatible ideals. These two ideals seem to have met in the Christ. He is humble and self-assertive, receptive and full. Authority and obedience meet in Him and blend. (J. Ogrnore Davies.)

The Sabbath, a saving economy

Sunday is God’s special present to the working man; and one of its chief objects is to prolong his life, and to preserve efficient his working tone. In the vital system it acts like a compensation pond; it replenishes the spirits, the elasticity and vigour which the last six days have drained away, and supplies the force which is to fill the six days succeeding. In the economy of life it answers the same purpose as, in the economy of income, is answered by a savings-bank. The frugal man who puts asides a pound to-day, and another pound next month, and who, in a quiet way, is always putting by his stated pound from time to time, when he grows old and frail gets not only the same pounds back again, but a good many pounds besides. And the conscientious man who husbands one day of existence every week--who, instead of allowing the Sunday to be trampled and torn in the hurry and scramble of life, treasures it devoutly up--will find that the “ Lord of the Sabbath “ keeps it for him, and in length of days and a hale old age gives it back with usury. The savings-bank of human existence is the weekly Sunday. (North British Review.)


Verses 6-11

Luke 6:6-11

And there was a man whose right hand was withered

The ability of Christ to heal the withered energies of the human soul

The miracle is a picture of sublime moral instruction.

I. THE BEST ENERGIES OF THE SOUL ARE IN A WITHERED CONDITION.

1. Man’s intellectual nature withered, and cannot attain to the inner meaning of Divine truth.

2. Man’s moral nature withered, and cannot attain to the rich blessings of the gospel.

3. Man’s compassionate sympathy withered, and not deeply sensitive to the woe occasioned by moral evil.

4. Hence, seeing that the best energies of man are withered, he cannot render to God the service due to Him.

II. THE WITHERED ENERGIES OF THE HUMAN SOUL ARE CAPABLE OF EFFECTIVE RESTORATION BY CHRIST.

1. We see from this narrative that Christ beholds the withered energies of the human soul with tender compassion.

2. That there is an intimate connection between the word of Christ and the restoration of the withered energies of the soul.

3. That the restoration of the withered energies of the soul is immediate, visible, and complete.

4. That the restoring of the withered energies of the soul can only be accomplished by Christ.

III. THERE ARE MANY INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE BUT LITTLE SYMPATHY WITH CHRIST IN HIS WORK OF SOUL-RESTORATION.

1. The Pharisees were cunning in their watching of Christ.

2. They were refuted in their contempt of Christ.

3. They were regarded by Christ with mingled feelings of pity and anger.

IV. WHY DID THESE PHARISEES OPPOSE THE BENEFICENT ACT OF CHRIST?

1. Because He did not fall in with their views as to the manner and time of the cure.

2. Because they were too proud in spirit to rejoice at the cure thus wrought.

3. Because they saw not the full meaning and blessing of the cure. (J. S.Exell, M. A.)

The construction of the hand

Tyndal writes of his ascent of the Weisshorn:--“There is scarcely a position possible to a human being which at one time or another during the day I was not forced to assume. The fingers, wrist, and forearm were my main reliance, and as a mechanical instrument the human hand appeared to me this day a miracle of constructive art … I opened my note-book to make a few observations, but soon relinquished the attempt. There was something incongruous, if not profane, in allowing the scientific faculty to interfere where silent worship seemed the reasonable service.” (Hours of Exercise in the Alps.)

Language of the hand

With the hand we demand, we promise, we call, dismiss, threaten, entreat, supplicate, deny, refuse, interrogate, admire, reckon, confess, repent; express fear, express shame, express doubt; we instruct, command, unite, encourage, swear, testify, accuse, condemn, acquit, insult, despise, defy, disdain, flatter, applaud, bless, abuse, ridicule, reconcile, recommend, exalt, regale, gladden, complain, afflict, discomfort, discourage, astonish; exclaim, indicate silence and what not I with a variety and multiplication that keep pace with the words spoken by the tongue.

Promptitude of faith

If the man in our text had been a scholar, his thought most likely would have risen up in instant protest against Christ’s command. Had he been a physicist, had he in particular been an anatomist, he could hardly have been healed. He would have thought too much. He would instantly have fallen into reasoning upon the utter anatomical and physiological impossibility of a withered hand stretching itself out; and such thinking would have been ruinous. It is here that religion and science break fellowship. Science thinks everything out. Thought is from its very nature surgical; it cuts in pieces. It is analytic, and unjoints and unhinges. Suppose that you are in the presence of a speaker that powerfully affects you. You realize his hand upon you and his mastery over you. This wakes up your inquisitiveness, and puts you upon asking the secret of his power, its elements. Thought begins at once to show how surgical it is; and before the speaker’s address is completed you have his oratorical talent accurately and elegantly dissected; such a percentage due to figure, such a percentage to manner, to matter, and the rest. And yet the process of analyzing his power has, so far as relates to you, destroyed his power, and you go home with the pocketed ingredients of his power when you might have gone home with an inspiration. You thought too much and too nicely. And it is remarkable how Christ in His intercourse with His disciples laboured to keep their thoughts quiet. He never provoked argument. He indulges in no definition-making. Hews and wherefores He regularly discouraged. Nicodemus wanted the matter of the rebirth stated analytically. Christ declined. One of the disciples wanted a statement of the methods of the Spirit’s operation. Christ declined. One trouble with our thinking powers is that they work at such a level as to create more problems than they solve. They are like a fly caught in a web, whose very struggles and buzzing only draw the tangled skein about it the more imprisoningly. All that saved the man in our story was that he did not stop to think. He pro-seeded as though there were no difficulties; and forthwith for him there were none. The unconverted men in our congregation can see just where this presses. All Christ’s commands to you are in the present tense, which means that the command is issued without any allowance of time for comprehending the mysteries of salvation, or for acquiring power to become a saved man. It is simply levelled to the range of the instant; not because thought is not advantageous in some circumstances, but because it is not in point here. The paralytic, with never so much thinking, would never have seen his way clear to do as he was told. Giving ourselves to Christ is not a matter of understanding what we are doing, but a matter of doing; something as when you tell your boy to raise his hand; he does not know how he raises his hand, and you know no more about it than he as regards the physiological intricacies of the act. And if he were to decline raising it until he understood the matter, you would tell him to do it first and understand at his leisure; your command was aimed at his will, and his resort to the intricacies of physiology only a side issue raised to divert your attention from his insubordination. God’s commands stand out of all relation to human power to grasp the problems, moral or theological, associated with obedience to those commands. God’s commands are like the pole-star, which with swift intuition finds out the magnetic-needle as easily by night-light as by daylight, and beats upon it with relentless compulsion equally in the darkness and the sunshine. They are not a question of can, but a question of will; and with the will once trembling obediently on the verge of action, all needed resource of power is at its instant service. This is another lesson of our text. In the case of the paralytic, God’s power came in just after the man’s will to stretch forth his hand, and just before the stretching act. As he had the will to do, God furnished him the power to do with, and that made out the miracle. It was pretty much the same thing done divinely as is done humanly when a child goes tottering and clambering up a staircase that is too steep for it, and the parent takes hold of the child’s hand liftingly. The child has the will to go up, and the parent puts some of his own strength at the service of that will; and in this way weakness does impossibilities by virtue of superior strength temporarily loaned. This is the incident of the paralytic turned into terms and relations of familiar experience. It is of the utmost necessity that we should feel that this case of the paralytic stands in Scripture to represent the continuous action of God, the continuous miracle of God, if you please, in so lending Himself to us as to match our power to the measure of our holy intents, and so making us able to do that which there is in us a righteous will to do; precisely as in our story Christ evened up the paralytic’s power exactly to the level of his willingness. This ought not to disturb us as implying a familiar and presumptuous dependence upon the Divine resources and bounty. It is only doing in the spiritual realm what every man does in a greater or less measure in the physical one. The forces that we call natural, that we use in every foot-tread, in the transportation of every pound of merchandise by wind or by steam, in the carrying of every shuttle and revolution of every spindle, these forces are as truly grounded in God as are the influences that emanate from the Holy Ghost, and that work in us holier purposes and affections of heart. It is from Him that cometh down every good and perfect gift. We are His beneficiaries in everything. It is as much making use of God to unfurl our sail in the draft of the west wind as it is to spread out our unfilled capacities of emotion and action in the draft of a spiritual Pentecost. It is a part of God that He yields Himself in all this rich diversity of ways to piece out man’s infirmity. There is no way in which we can so well serve Him as by letting Him serve us in our pursuit of holy ends. Religious ideas get their only value from their fitness to serve as conduits for the conveyance of Divine supply. We have all our city under-]aid with water-mains, but we prize them only because there is water in the reservoir that works down through those mains and presses up into our dwellings. Ideas do not strengthen us any more than the water-pipe refreshes or gas-pipe illuminates. And faith is not conceiving of God as an idea, but it is laying hold upon Him as a power and utilizing Him to the ends of holy living and Christian achieving, in just the same strenuous and practical way in which we lay hold on wind-pressure and steam-power, and let them even our resources up to the level of our secular ambition. If now the Church would link all its energies, all its devout desires as confidingly to the spiritual influences of God as the world links its ambitions to His cosmic energies of earth, sea, and air, hardly are there any results possible to be named that might not be achieved for the glory of God and the saving of men before the dawn of the approaching new century. And then one other lesson that follows on directly from this is the position of enlarged accountability and responsibility in which we are set. It is a common thing for us say that we are responsible for our use of the talents we have; that present power is the measure of accountability. It appears from what we have seen in our story and from the general drift of Scripture in fact, that our responsibility lies all the way around beyond the outer edge of our power and talent. The man in our text was responsible not only for his use of what was in him, but for what, as a result of his faith, he was able to have divinely added to him. All the way through Scripture God was continually commanding men to do more than they in themselves had the means to do, exactly as in our verse. One object of the miracle was to show that by faith we acquire a property in power that to our unfaith lies at an utter remove from us. We need some of the old-time audacity--some Pauline and Petrine presumption, which was audacious, not because it was uncalculating, but just because it was so grandly and discerningly calculating, and calculated not only on its own intrinsic force, but on a magnificent increment of working energy from on high. (G. H.Parkhurst, D. D.)

The withered hand

I. Discuss THAT SPIRITUAL POWERLESSNESS, OF WHICH THE WITHERED HAND IS A JUST AND APPROPRIATE SYMBOL, EXPLAINING WHAT IT IS AND WHEREIN IT CONSISTS.

II. I SHALL POINT OUT BRIEFLY WHAT CHRIST REQUIRES TO BE DONE, IN ORDER TO ITS REMOVAL.

1. “There was a man” in the synagogue “whose right hand was withered.” Here then are three distinct points to be noticed in our comment.

Spirit and the realities of eternity. We can (as it were) see them, hear them, contemplate, gaze upon, attend, give heed to them, but we cannot (by nature) touch them. I feel that herein I am powerless, and I am sure that you must feel the same. My understanding follows along with their evidence, even unto the clearest mental conviction, but an abiding energizing persuasion of their deep reality, this I have not, and, what is more, I am incompetent of myself to produce it; my hand is withered. And until the Lord speaks the word of power, it must remain withered.

II. But I hasten on to point out briefly WHAT CHRIST REQUIRES US TO DO, IN ORDER TO THE REMOVAL OF THIS INFIRMITY. We have said that He alone is competent to this removal--that man is utterly helpless and powerless in the work of his restoration. Brethren, God demands exertion and energy on our parts before He will consent to put forth that healing power, which alone can recover us from our soul’s infirmity. He bids us act as recovered men, ere yet we be recovered, and only in our sincerely striving so to act, will He visit and bless us. And if there be one holy exercise rather than another to which I must give myself, it is that of prayer. The Lord only can restore me. Shall I not apply to Him for restoration? (Dean Goulburn.)

Christ knew their thoughts

A paper was recently read before the German Asiatic Society of Japan on the magic mirror of Japan. It really possesses no magical quality, but, owing to the peculiarity of its structure, the reflection of the sun from the mirror OH the wall or ceiling reveals the figures or letters written on the back of the mirror. Thus the deepest secrets, the hidden thoughts, the hidden purposes of the heart are brought out by the light God turns upon us, and will turn upon us. What is written out of sight in our spirits shall be written by a sunbeam on the wall.

Not to save life is to destroy

See yonder poor wretches whose ship has gone down at sea, they have constructed a poor tottering raft, and have been swimming on it for days; their supply of bread and water is exhausted, and they are famishing, they have bound a handkerchief to a pole and hoisted it, and a vessel is within sight. The captain of the ship takes his telescope, looks at the object, and knows that it is a shipwrecked crew. “Oh!” says he to his men, “we are in a hurry with our cargo, we cannot stop to look after an unknown object; it may be somebody perishing, and it may not be, but however, it is not our business,” and he keeps on his course. His neglect has murdered those who died on the raft. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Saving a limb

To save a limb is a great thing. A poor young man was in a hospital who had crushed his arm at his work. The doctor said there was no help for it; his arm must be cut off or he must die. But the young man could not bear the thought of losing his arm, and said he would rather die first. But the lady at the head of the hospital did all she could to heal the young man’s arm. She dressed it carefully, she watched night and day, and did whatever she could to keep up the young man’s strength. And at last the arm was saved. The young man became quite well, and used to call that arm her arm, because she had been the means of saving it. It is a great thing to save a limb, but to save a soul is far greater. (G. T. Coster.)

Christ heals without causing suffering

My sister got her arm put out of joint. The neighbours of the country place came in, and they tried to put that arm in its place, and they laid hold and pulled mightily; they pulled until she was in anguish, but the bone did not go back to its place. After a while the surgeon came, and with one touch everything was adjusted. So we go out for Christian work, and for the lack of a sympathetic nature, or the lack of this gentleness of Christ, we make the wounds of the world worse, when some kind and gentle spirit comes along after us, and by one touch heals the torn ligaments, and the disturbing bones are rejoined. (Dr. Talmage.)

The power of faith in the Saviour’s word

A Sunday-school teacher, when teaching his class on one occasion, left his seat and went round among his scholars with his watch in his hand. Holding it out to the first child, he said, “I give you that watch.” The boy stared at it and stood still. The teacher then went to the next and repeated--“I give you that watch.” The boy blushed, but that was all. One by one the teacher repeated the words and the action to each. Some stared, some blushed, some smiled incredulously, but none took the watch. But when he came nearly to the bottom of the class a small boy put out his hand and took the watch which the teacher handed to him. As the latter returned to his seat, the little fellow said gently, “ Then, if you please, sir, the watch is mine?” “Yes, it is yours.” The elder boys were fairly roused by this time. “Do you mean to say, sir, that he may keep the watch?” “Certainly; I gave it to any boy who would have it.” “Oh, if I had known that,” exclaimed one of them, “I would have taken it.” “Did I not tell you I gave it to you?” “Oh, yes; but I did not believe you were in earnest.” “So much the worse for you; he believed me, and he has the watch.” Saving faith is as simple as this. It just takes God at His word and trusts Him. (Theodore Monod.)


Verse 7

Luke 6:7

And the scribes and Pharisees watched Him

The wily watchers of the good

I.
THEY ARE EVER ON THE OUTLOOK FOB AN APPARENT BREACH OF SOME CONVENTIONAL LAW.

1. These men are cunning.

2. They are diligent.

3. They are malicious.

II. THEIR GREAT DESIRE IS TO SLANDER THOSE WHOM THEY WATCH.

III. THEY ARE NOT TO BE ALLOWED TO INTERRUPT THE DUTY OF THE GOOD. Lessons:

1. Never be set by Satan to watch the conduct of the good to find defects.

2. Seek to find all the good in men you can.

3. Think of the heavenly watchers of the good. (J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Unsabbatical

The Pharisees are looking with keen hungry eyes upon One whom they have marked as their victim. To cherish these feelings, to be plotting murder, was not in their judgment at all unsabbatical. Their reverence for the law of God led them, so they believed, into this state of mind. (F. D. Maurice.)


Verse 12

Luke 6:12

And continued all night in prayer to God

Special protracted prayer

If any man of woman born might bare lived without prayer it was surely the Lord Jesus.
In some parts of prayer He could take no share,
e.g., confession of sin. Then again, He had no need for self-examination each night, and no need to pray to be protected from sin each morning. Yet never was there a man more abundant in prayer.

1. Notice the place which Christ selected for prayer. The solitude of a mountain. Why?

2. The time selected. The silent hours of night. To some of us, the night might be most inappropriate and unsuitable; if so, we must by no means select it, but must follow our Lord in the spirit rather than in the letter.

3. Again, our Lord sets us a good example in the matter of extraordinary seasons of devotion in the protracted character of His prayer. He continued all night in prayer. I do not think that we are bound to pray long as a general rule. Force is its standard rather than length. When the whole soul groans itself out in half a dozen sentences there may be more real devotion in them than in hours of mere wire drawing and word spinning. True prayer is the soul’s mounting up to God, and if it can ride upon a cherub or the wings of the wind so much the better, yet in extraordinary seasons, when the soul is thoroughly wrought up to an eminent intensity of devotion, it is well to continue it for a protracted season. We know not that our Lord was vocally praying all the time, He may have paused to contemplate; He may have surveyed the whole compass of the field over which His prayer should extend, meditating upon the character of His God recapitulating the precious promises, remembering the wants of His people, and thus arming Himself with arguments with which to return to wrestle and prevail. How very few of us have ever spent a whole night in prayer, and yet what boons we might have had for such asking!

4. Jesus has further instructed us in the art of special devotion by the manner of His prayer. Notice, he continued all night in prayer to God--to God. How much of our prayer is not prayer to God at all! That gunner will do no service to the army who takes no aim, but is content so long as he does but fire; that vessel makes an unremunerative voyage which is not steered for a port, but is satisfied to sail hither and thither. We must direct our prayers to God, and maintain soul-fellowship with Him, or our devotion will become a nullity, a name for a thing which is not.

5. Once more, we may learn from Jesus our Lord the occasion for special devotion. At the time when our Master continued all night in prayer He had been upbraided by the Pharisees. He fulfilled the resolve of the man after God’s own heart. “Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without a cause: but I will meditate in Thy precepts.” So David did, and so did David’s Lord. The best answer to the slanders of the ungodly is to be more constant in communion with God: (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Christ an example to us in the choice of seasons for prayer

I. OUR LORD WAS WONT TO PRAY WHEN ENGAGED, OR ABOUT TO ENGAGE IN ANY RELIGIOUS ORDINANCE (Luke 3:21). The ordinances of grace must be sanctified to us by prayer, or we shall derive no benefit from them.

II. OUR LORD PRAYED WHEN ABOUT TO ENGAGE IN MORE THAN USUALLY IMPORTANT AND SERIOUS BUSINESS. AS here before the ordination of the apostles.

III. ANOTHER SEASON FOR PRAYER IS A SEASON OF EXCEEDING ENJOYMENT OR HONOUR (Luke 9:28-29). Strange as it may sound, yet, it is true, that they who receive most of the Lord’s grace and goodness stand the most m need of the Lord’s grace and goodness; they need grace to use abundant grace and goodness well. Pride of heart is often called into exercise by it; or, if not pride of heart, an undue love of that mercy--giving up the sou! to the enjoyment of it.

IV. ANOTHER SEASON FOR SPECIAL PRAYER IS WHEN WE SEE OUR FRIENDS IN PECULIAR DANGER OR SORROW (Luke 22:32; John 17:1-26.). How can there be Christian love if the sorrows and wants of those we love do not excite prayer in us?

V. ONE SEASON MORE I MENTION AS PECULIARLY A SEASON OF SUPPLICATION--WHEN TROUBLE IS ON US OR EXPECTED TO COME Luke 22:44). Severe affliction is the season, of all others, for prayer. (Charles Bradley, M. A.)

Private devotion

Some, from the nature of their employments, or from mental constitution, or habit, do not find that they can often continue, or profitably continue, long at devotion at once; such may supply this, in a good measure, by frequency. Most clearly, however, sufficient time ought to be taken to get the mind fully engaged. When Christ, after labouring the whole day that was past, and having also to labour as soon as day dawned again, spent the whole night in prayer, it is a shame for any of His professing followers, however busy a life they may load, not to make a point of reserving from the cares of the day, or it may be, from the slumbers of the night, as much time as is necessary for morning and evening devotions. Mark, Christians, how the airy trifler gives the night-watch to devour the foolish romance; and how the pale student toils over the midnight lamp; and how, for the sake of this world’s gain, some rise early and sit up late, and even work whole nights; and how the votaries of dissipating pleasure often spend the whole, or almost the whole, night in its pursuits; and then, though you will by no means think yourselves called on literally to spend whole nights in prayer, yet you will be ashamed and confounded when you think that a moderate tarrying before the throne of grace should ever have been unnecessarily neglected by you, or felt as a burden; and you will desire to give more of your time and of your heart to seasons of communion with your God. (James Foote, M. A.)

Jesus praying all night

On more than one occasion in the life of our Lord, it is recorded that He continued all night in prayer to God. What need was there that He should sacrifice rest and sleep in this way? He knew that His Father always heard His prayer. He gave us as the model for our prayer a form which can easily be repeated in half a minute. Was His Father unwilling to hear Him? Or was it because He could not bring His mind to the proper prayer-point, and so had to pray for hours, in order to learn how to pray for one moment with real faith? It could not be for either of these reasons. We may suppose then that our Saviour spent that long time in prayer as a delightful employment to Himself. He loved to commune with our God and His God. To Him it was better than meat to do the will of Him that sent Him. So, doubtless, it was more soothing and refreshing than sleep for Him to talk to His Father. Jesus praying and the Father listening; that was a harmony more entrancing than the songs of angels. But no; it was not for enjoyment alone that Jesus prayed all night. His prayers were poured into the deep heart of God as easily as the water pours over the rock into the chasm below. His heart unfolded to His Father as gently as a flower is kissed open by the breeze of a summer-dawn. But Christ had a definite purpose in the night-long prayer. (National Baptist)

A night of prayer

I. THE TEXT SHOULD CONVINCE US OF THE EFFICACY OF PRAYER.

II. THE TEXT SHOULD IMPRESS US WITH THE NECESSITY FOR PRAYER.

III. THE TEXT SHOULD INSTRUCT US AS TO THE MANNER OF PRAYER.

1. Christians should have their seasons of secret prayer and of retirement from the world.

2. Christians should have special seasons set apart for prayer in view of special work. (D. MacEwen, D. D.)

Prayer a preliminary to important steps in life

We should give ourselves to special prayer when we are about to make any important changes in life:

1. Leaving home.

2. Entering on a business or profession.

3. Marriage. (B. Wilkinson, F. G. S.)

A night of solitary prayer

I. THE NIGHT OF NEEDFUL REST SHORTENED FOR PRAYER.

II. THE SOLITUDE SOUGHT FOR SPIRITUAL PREPARATION. The crisis at which our Lord had arrived--

1. Originated the Christian ministry.

2. Began the Christian Church.

3. Involved the selection of His own betrayer.

4. Was a preparation for the full exposition of His doctrines.

Sermon on the plain.

III. THE CONDUCT OF OUR GRACIOUS LORD COUNSELS US TO.

1. Lonely prayer.

2. Preparatory prayer.

3. Self-denying prayer.

4. Leisurely prayer--“All the night.”

5. Lingering prayer--“He continued.”

6. Blissful prayer--All night with God. (W. H. Jellie.)

Here is the great secret of much that we see in the active life of Jesus.

1. Secret prayer.

2. Long prayer. Prayer calms and strengthens the soul. After prayer a man descends upon his work rather than rises strainingly towards it. (J. Parker, D. D.)

JESUS PRAYING.

He sought the mountain and the loneliest height,

For He would meet His Father all alone,

And there, with many a tsar and many a groan,

He strove in prayer throughout the long, long night.

Why need He pray, who held by filial right,

O’er all the world alike of thought and sense,

The fulness of His Sire’s omnipotence?

Why crave in prayer what was His own by might?

Vain is the question--Christ was man in need,

And being man, His duty was to pray.

The Son of God confess’d the human need,

And doubtless ask’d a blessing every day,

Nor ceases yet for sinful man to plead,

Nor will, till heaven and earth shall pass away.

(Hartley Coleridge.)

All night in prayer

There are three classes of minds which are in danger of making too long prayers.

1. One is the loose, unconcentrative, who cumber thoughts with many words, and make vain, i.e., empty, repetitions of the same idea.

2. Another consists of those who, mistaking the nature of importunity, think that the more they say, the more they shall get--not seeing that in so doing they are virtually making their prayers a purchase-price, which they present in payment of what they ask--and forgetting, or not considering, the true character of prayer--that it is only the opening channel in a man’s mind, through which God may pour out into that mind His preordained and ready gifts.

3. And the third are they who, with a superstitious feeling, think that God will be angry if their prayers do not go to a certain extent, and so, in their intercourse with God, they stretch their prayers to a degree either inconsistent with their other duties, or incompatible with their own health. They do not know that oftentimes the very best prayer we ever pray, is not to pray, but to cast ourselves simply on the love of God. The general rule is, pray according to the condition of your heart. Do not let the prayer strain the thoughts, but let the thoughts determine and regulate the prayer. Pray as you feel drawn in prayer--or, in other words, as the Spirit of God in you leads and dictates. Nevertheless, the holler a man is, and the nearer heaven--the more, and the more continuously that man will be able to commune with God. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

All night in prayer

The Rev. John Welch, of Ayr, was accustomed to retire many nights to his church and spend the whole night in prayer--praying with an audible and sometimes with a loud voice. His wife, fearing he would catch cold, went one night to his closet where he had been long at prayer, and heard him say, “Lord, wilt Thou not grant me Scotland? “ and, after a pause, “Enough, Lord, enough.” Once he got such nearness to the Lord in prayer that he exclaimed, “Hold Thy hand, Lord; remember Thy servant is a clay vessel, and can hold no more.”


Verses 12-14

Verses 13-16

Luke 6:13-16

And when it was day, He called unto Him His disciples: and of them He chose twelve, whom also He named apostles

The call of the twelve

Up till this time it can hardly be said that the kingdom of God was set up.
At the hour of His widest popularity, yet at a crisis of gathering peril, in face of the people and the adversary together, He virtually sets up His kingdom. It was a moment of decision. It was a policy of safety, because a policy of boldness. It was an act of calm, foresighted courage, full in its simplicity of the moral sublime. Let us gather up and realize the circumstances.

1. Our Lord’s night-long preparation for this step is worthy of devout attention. The veil of loneliness and of night is on that prayer. But may we not humbly venture so far at least into that night’s solitary and sacred communings? Courage to go forward; wisdom to choose those whom His Father had chosen, and had given Him for that end. Can the Son of God be true brother to us all if at such an hour He needs not to ask these things for Himself? And for them, that they might rise to the height of their high calling. And for us, and for all the long line of Christian generations to be built up on these twelve foundations I May we not so read that long-night prayer of consecration and of intercession by our Priest and King? A lone dark watch on the cool hill-top, with the stars of God Looking calmly down on Him, and the great lake spread silently out below, as far from earthly care and sin, as near the heavens in their pureness, as may be--behold the oratory of the Son of Man.

2. When morning broke over the dark wall of the opposite shore, it showed Him pale from sleeplessness, but serene from prayer. Beneath Him, on the hill-side, was the gathering of His disciples. Man by man, He called whom He would by name; and man by man, the elect twelve left their wondering companions to take their places by the Master’s side, to be for ever now chief councillors in His kingdom, the next in honour and the next in danger. Most of them have been heard of already in the narrative: Simon the Rock and his lesser brother, with the two sons of Thunder, whom He had called together from their fishing-nets to be four partners in the ministry; Philip of Bethsaida and his friend Nathanael, as together a year ago they found the Christ; two of the Lord’s own brothers and the Capernaum publican just called two days before; and one Simon the Zealot and Thomas; and, last and strangest of all, that one, unsuspected as yet by any save Jesus, who was “a devil.” “The glorious company of the apostles,” the Church has called them in her hymn; but had we seen them that dawn, as they clustered round their King, we must have thought them a strange, unlikely, inglorious band. Twelve Galilean workmen, with average ability and the prejudices of their class; attracted indeed by the superiority of this Man, and yielding to His influence, but neither comprehending who He was, nor what He was to do; ignorant, rude, strong-passioned, ill-assorted: by these Twelve to lay the foundations of the Church of God so broad and deep that on them might be built the hopes of all mankind and the destinies of the saved, regenerated earth! Did ever means seem in more foolish disproportion to the end? Yet He did it. These foolish things (1 Corinthians 1:27) God chose to confound the wise. The might of Jesus’ spirit turned them to apostles; and to that dozen workmen on the hill all Christendom in all time has looked back as to the planters and fathers of its faith. It is always the same. For the humbling of human pride, and the practice of Christian faith, God works salvation for men by means which men despise. Look at that morning’! scene as the act of God our Saviour, and it will read you this lesson, that by using earthen vessels, soiled even and chipped, He would magnify the treasure of His strength, which groweth mighty to save through very weakness. Look at it as a great venture of the Son of Man launching His Father’s cause upon the world, and it is the grandest example of faith, setting itself to achieve the impossible by the help of the Almighty. (J. O. Dykes, D. D.)

The testimony of the apostles

The institution of the apostleship opens a new and solemn era in the ministry of Jesus Christ, and St. Luke tells us that our Lord prepared for it in solitude, meditation, and prayer. A few days after one of those frequent meetings with the Pharisees, which were as the painful stages of the weary pilgrimage which was to end in the cross, Jesus left His disciples; He went up a mountain, and there, beneath the starry sky of the East, during the long and silent hours of night, He communed with God. Then, when the day came, He selected twelve men from among those who followed Him, and made them His apostles. He chose twelve, to indicate that these men were about to form upon earth the true people of God, the spiritual Israel of which the first was but a type. He chose them, poor, ignorant, weak, in order to show that the power by which they were to conquer the world came not of them, but descended from above. We shall study together the aims of this institution. Why did Jesus institute apostles, and how did they fulfil the mission with which they had been entrusted?

I. Who says apostle, says MESSENGER. The twelve were to be the first missionaries of the gospel. Ignorant, poor, and without the least personal prestige, they dared to attempt the conquest of the world with no other arms than the Word of which they were the bearers.

II. Howbeit, this role of messengers of God, which the apostles fulfilled with so much power and fidelity, does not constitute the whole of their original and unique ministry. If we study the question closely, we shall see that the apostles are above all, and in a special sense, the WITNESSES of Jesus Christ: the personal, ocular, and duly accredited witnesses of the person, acts, and teaching of their Master.

III. THE NECESSITY OF THE APOSTOLICAL TESTIMONY IS NOW OBVIOUS. Let us go one step further, and consider whether this testimony is really worthy of belief.

1. They were sincere. But--

2. A man may be mistaken though sincere. Were they? Well, in the name of my reason, I rise up against this revolting hypothesis, a thousand times more miraculous than the miracles it will not own; it is in the name of my reason that I assert that the delusion of a few Galileans cannot have produced moral harmony, that folly cannot have given birth to the loftiest reason, that hallucination cannot have invented Jesus of Nazareth!

IV. But is there testimony sufficient for the Church? Evidently, no. It has pleased God that the eternal Christ, as well as the historical Christ, should have His witness from the very first days of the Church, and that is the profound signification of St. Paul’s apostleship.

V. Will our Protestant Churches continue to be apostolical Churches? Let this be our highest ambition--to be in our turn the witnesses of Christ. (E. Bersier, D. D.)

The King choosing His ministers

1. The words “when it was day,” recall the preceding verse. When the work most expressed His authority, He was still renouncing all independence. Every prayer is a renunciation of independence. Every prayer says, “We can do nothing without Thee.” As His prayers were the essentially true prayers, they must have had this meaning perfectly, without any reservation.

2. That night in which He was not alone, because the Father was with Him, prepared Him to come down amidst the disciples whom He had gathered about Him. He had gathered them; they knew it. Each of them had heard a voice, more or less distinctly, bidding him come. Each had yielded to One who, he felt, had a right to command him. And now He takes twelve out of their number. He calls them apostles. They are to be sent forth.

3. Clearly they were distinguished from the other members of the little flock. What had caused the difference? Bid He merely like them better that the rest? Had they merited some greater honour at His hands? Had He discovered some peculiar capacity in them? All such questions would occur to these poor fishermen; would occur to them not less because they were poor fishermen.

4. The number which our Lord fixed upon for His apostles of course reminded them of the tribes into which their nation was divided. (F. D. Maurice.)

Disciples and apostles

Disciple means learner. Apostle means missionary. When, then, Jesus turned His disciples into apostles you see what an event it was!

1. It was really the flowering of that gospel which He had been pouring into them through all their discipleship. The plant fills itself with the richness of the earth. No noise is made. The whole transaction lies between the plant and the rich earth that feeds it through its open roots. All is silent, private, restricted. But some day the world looks, and lo! the process has burst open. Upon the long-fed plant is burning a gorgeous flower for the world to see. The long supply of nourishment has opened into a great display of glory. The earth has sent its richness through the plant to enlighten and to bless the world. The disciple has turned to an apostle.

2. Notice, when Jesus took this great step forward He did not leave behind His old life with His disciples. He chose out of the number of His disciples twelve, whom also He named apostles. They were to be disciples still. They did not cease to be learners when He made them missionaries. The plant does not cease to feed itself out of the ground when it opens its glorious flowers for the world to see. All the more it needs supply, now that it has fulfilled its life. And so this great epoch in the Christian Church was an addition not a substitution.

3. And notice yet another thing. It is out of the very heart of the discipleship that the apostleship proceeds. It is the very best, the choicest, as we say, of the disciples, that are chosen to be apostles. It is they who have listened to Him longest, and most intelligently, and most lovingly. Always it is the best of the inward life of anything, that which lies the closest to its heart, and is the fullest of its spirit, which flowers into the outward impulse which comes to complete its life. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

The twelve apostles

They were not great men, strong men, learned men, but they must have had qualifications of some kind for the position to which they were called. What were these qualifications?

1. They were good men.

2. They were men of sensitive mind, ready for Divine calls, open to Divine impulses.

3. They were men of simple, child-like heart--men who had great capacity for faith. (J. Foster.)

The witness of the apostles

1. As their name implies, the apostles were men sent to do a given work. They did what they did because they were sent.

2. They were men with a definite work in hand; they had to witness to the world what their Master had been, and had done, and had suffered while they were with Him.

3. This witness they bore in three ways:--

Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother, James and John

Brotherhood in Christ

Two pairs of brothers. Significant and suggestive that twice in the small number of the twelve it should have happened that the natural tie of brotherhood was emphasized by a common call to the new life, and a common work in the same service. The world is covered with a network of brotherhoods. This network of brotherhoods, like every evident fact of life, sets us to ask three questions--

1. What is its immediate cause? The cause of this interwoven network, this reticulation of life with life, is the whole system of nature by which each human being takes its start from another human being, and is kept, for a time at least, in associations of company and dependence with the being from whom it sprang, and with the other beings who have the same source with it.

2. What is the direct result of such relationships? They are full of mutual helpfulness and pleasure.

3. What is the final reason of this relationship? Here the answer is not so entirely clear and certain. But as we watch and think it seems to me that we are at least led to wonder whether one final cause or purpose of this interlacing of life with life, by natural and indissoluble kinships, may not be just this, the providing, as it were, of open communications, of a system of shafts or channels piercing this human mass in every direction, crossing and recrossing one another, through which those higher influences, which ought to reach every corner and every individual of the great structural humanity, may be freely carried everywhere, and no most remote or insignificant atom of the mass be totally and necessarily untouched. And if we look at Christ’s larger method, at the way in which His work went on after it had gone beyond that earliest stage among his personal kindred, the same thing still appears. His truth ran abroad in the channels which were made by the natural relations of mankind. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

Reflections upon the list of apostles

In the service of Christ there is room and work for all sorts and conditions of men--for men of genius, for men of thought, for men of action.

1. Are we impetuous, adventurous, original? Christ has chosen and called US. If we are true to His call, we shall become steadfast as a rock, and, while we blunder on our way, we shall announce the coming and presence of the Lord.

2. Are we of those in whom the pale cast of thought is all sicklied o’er with doubt? Christ has chosen and called us. If we are true to His call, we shall see that we may believe, until we can believe even greater things than we can see.

3. Are we practical men, conversant with affairs, capable of handling them to purpose Christ has chosen and called us, that we may be with Him, and preach His gospel, that we may bear witness to Him by a life which reflects His own; and if we are true to His call, we shall also be with Him where He now is, seeing and sharing His everlasting and indisturbable peace. (T. T. Lynch.)

Our Lord’s choice of apostles

I. WHY DID OUR LORD CHOOSE APOSTLES?

1. TO spread the Christian religion after His ascension.

2. To record and transmit to future ages the most important facts concerning Jesus--His miracles, doctrines, precepts.

II. WHY WERE TWELVE THOUGHT NECESSARY?

1. AS the apostles were to be witnesses to the world of facts of the highest importance, it was proper that they should not be too few. The consistent evidence of twelve men must be unexceptionable. Their thorough agreement as to the same facts, doctrines, and precepts, is remarkable and convincing, especially when we consider that after Christ’s ascension they were so widely scattered as to shut off all possibility of collusion.

2. They were destined to propagate the gospel among many nations. They were not too numerous, in proportion to the duties assigned them.

3. If it be farther demanded why twelve were fixed on, rather than eleven, or thirteen, we can give no other answer, but that this was probably done to gratify the Jews, who might prefer twelve, as corresponding to the number of their tribes.

III. WHY DID JESUS GIVE A PREFERENCE TO THOSE INDIVIDUALS WHOM HE SELECTED? (J. Thomson, D. D.)

The apostolic band

The choice of apostles is one of the most brilliant proofs of the adorable wisdom of the Saviour.

1. He chooses simple-minded, yet already measurably-prepared men. To some has the Baptist’s instruction, to others the toilsome fisherman-life, or the active publican’s office, been a more suitable school of preparation than a scientific preparation by Hillel or Shammal.

2. Few, yet very diverse, men. He works intensively before He begins to labour extensively on the kingdom of God that is to be founded. He will rather perfect some than only partially train many. Accordingly He trains them with and also by means of one another, and shows how fully His gospel accommodates itself to every point of human development, and how it is perfectly calculated for every one’s individual necessities.

3. Some prominent to go with several less noticeable men whom He gathers together into a little company. So far as we can see, the beautiful figurative language used in 1 Corinthians 12:14-27, is also completely applicable to the organism of the apostolic circle. Had all been as distinguished as a Peter, a John, and as afterwards a Paul, the unity would have suffered by the diversity, and the one light would have been broken into altogether too many colours. (J. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.)

The catalogue of the apostles

1. A source of knowledge. This catalogue fills

2. A support of faith. It witnesses of

3. A school of life. It displays the image of the

Why was Judas Iscariot selected as an apostle

A circumstance calculated to excite our wonder; that He who was perfect Himself, and who came into the world to establish a religion of purity and holiness, should choose for one of His constant attendants a man; who was unprincipled and incorrigible. Mistake on Christ’s part was impossible John 2:25).

1. The testimony of Judas in favour of the purity of Jesus, renders the evidence complete. Judas, after committing his crime, was placed in that situation in which every fault, every accusation, every blemish, that he could bring against his Master, would have a tendency to palliate, if not to vindicate himself.

2. Judas testifies to all ages that the leading passions may be so bad, and the habits so inveterate, that the very best possible opportunities of improvement cannot be of any advantage.

3. The selection of Judas has furnished an excellent opportunity of teaching Christians another important truth: That if the means of instruction and improvement which Jesus Christ employed be neglected or perverted, no other means will be bestowed. (J. Thomson, D. D.)

The traitor among the twelve

It is natural to ask, Why was there a traitor among the twelve? and what good purpose was served by this development of iniquity, which He who rules over all was thus pleased to permit. Now, here was fulfilled, in the most striking way, the declaration that the wrath of men shall praise God, and the remainder of wrath He shall restrain.

I. THE HISTORY OF JUDAS ISCARIOT FURNISHES A STRIKING PROOF OF THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY.

1. It is a proof of this, as it is a fulfilment of prophecy (Psalms 69:1-36; Psa_109:1-31.; Zechariah 11:12, &c.).

2. It brings forward the testimony of an enemy, and a perfectly well-informed enemy, in support of Christianity.

II. This history teaches us that THE OCCASIONAL OCCURRENCE OF GRIEVOUS OFFENCES AMONG PROFESSORS OF RELIGION, SHOULD NOT PREJUDICE US AGAINST RELIGION ITSELF. If even among the apostles such a case occurred, it need not greatly surprise us that something similar should take place in the Church from time to time.

III. A MOST AWFUL WARNING TO ALL WHO PROFESS TO BE THE DISCIPLES

OF CHRIST, TO BEWARE LEST THEY FALL IN A SIMILAR WAY.

(James Foote, M. A.)

Zealots

Simon called Zelotes has apparently two surnames in Scripture, but they mean the same thing. He is called Simon the Cananite in Hebrew--not because he was an inhabitant of Cana or a Canaanite, but that word, when interpreted, means precisely the same as the Greek word Zelotes. He was called Simon the Zealot. I suppose that he had this name before his conversion. It is thought by some that he was a member of that very fierce and fanatical political sect of the Jews, called the Zealots, by whose means the siege of Jerusalem was rendered so much more bloody than it would have been; but this does not seem very probable, for the sect of the Zealots had scarcely arisen in the time of the Saviour, and therefore we are inclined to think with Hackett in his exposition of the Acts, that he was so called because of his zealous attachment to his religion as a Jew, for there were some in the different classes of Jewish society who were so excessively full of zeal as to gain the name of Zealot. But it strikes me that he must have been a zealot after conversion too, for within that sacred circle which surrounded our Lord, every word was truth, and the Master would not have allowed any of His disciples to have worn a surname which was not expressive or truthful. May we so act and live that we might truthfully wear the title of Christian Zealots.

I. LET US POURTRAY THE UNCONVERTED ZEALOT.

1. Zeal frequently expends itself on other things than religion. Politics. Science. Business.

2. The unconverted zealot, should his zeal expend itself upon religion, is generally exceedingly boastful. Jehu.

3. The unconverted zealot is generally an ignorant zealot (Romans 10:2). Probably there is more zeal to be found among the professors of false doctrine than among the followers of the truth.

4. The zeal of unconverted men is generally partial. It may be a zeal for something good, but not for everything that is good. Zealous he is for sect and party when the whole that the sect may hold is not of more value than the gnat, and yet great fundamental doctrinal truths are forgotten, as though they were of no value whatever. Brethren, may we be earnest men of God, but I pray that we may be zealous for all truth.

5. The zealot, again, while unconverted, is generally (if it be in his power) a persecutor. “concerning zeal, persecuting the Church.”

6. His aims are often sinister. Let us beware of a zeal for lifting up ourselves. Zeal must be pure--fire off the altar.

7. The unconverted zealot is generally but temporary in his zeal. “When he was sick,” says an old legend, “ the devil a monk would be”; but when he got well--you know how he gave up his fine intentions.

II. THE TRUE CHRISTIAN ZEALOT.

1. How his zeal manifests itself.

2. This brings us now, in the next place, to think awhile of how this zeal is maintained and kept up. To keep up a good fire of zeal we must have much fuel, and the fire will partake of the quality of the fuel, so that it must be good firing to make holy zeal.

3. I have to close by commending zeal. In commending zeal, let me say, methinks it should commend itself to every Christian man without a word of mine, but if you must have it, remember that God Himself is zealous. “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Christ was zealous. We read of Him that the zeal of God’s house had eaten Him up, and when He took the scourge of small cords and purged the Temple, John tells us that it was written of Him, “ The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up.” A prophet tells us that He was clothed with zeal as with a cloak. He had not zeal over a part of Him, but was clothed with it as with some great cloak covering Him from head to foot. Christ was all zeal. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 17

Luke 6:17; Luk_6:19

And the whole multitude sought to touch Him: for there went virtue out of Him, and healed them all

Christ the fountain of health

The subject will be found to involve two considerations; what is the virtue which proceeds out of Christ?
by what means is it appropriated to men?

I. We begin by observing, that in addition to the superiority of our Lord’s miracles in point of number over those of every other, there is also a great distinction in the manner of their achievement. The apostles, for example, nowhere pretend to have accomplished the prodigies which they performed by their own ability. The words of healing are, “In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” The distinction to which we advert is very obvious; the miracles of the apostles were wrought by an agency not their own; their touch, their voice, their shadow, had no inherent power to do cures; from Christ’s own person went out immediately the virtue which healed them all. The difference is remarkable. It is as though the indwelling Godhead did so impregnate the human flesh with life-giving energy, that no sickness or weakness could remain after contact with that immaculate frame. There resided in that sinless body a fulness of grace. It was, as it were, a spring of life to the bodies of others; the virtue dwelt in it, and was drawn forth by an act of faith in the diseased. Such we conceive to be the original meaning of the text; and thus understood, it will be found accurately to describe also the influence of Christ upon ourselves. The fact is not only that God chose to regard the offspring of Adam as iniquitous, but that they really were so. Thus, we repeat, it is not sufficient to consider that Adam’s fault placed his descendants in the position of criminals; it did really and actually render them corrupt. And what has Christ done for the vast family of man thus contemplated? We reply, in the words of the text, virtue goeth out of His body to heal them all. The Redeemer, we are told, took not on Him the nature of angels, but of men. Christ Jesus, the Second Adam, is set forth to be the Restorer of human nature. He removes the inherent disease, He destroys the natural defilement. From Him a new period commences; to all His disciples He is the new Stock, the Root, the Stem.

II. It remains that we very briefly allude to THE MEANS BY WHICH THE HEALING VIRTUE WHICH RESIDES IN CHRIST, IS APPROPRIATED TO MAN. Now as respects the communication of the healing virtue of Christ’s Manhood to our souls, we hesitate not to place it in the two Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These are between us and the Second Adam, what fleshly procreation is between us and the first Adam. There is healing virtue in the Second Adam; we obtain a share of it through our union with Him by His appointed ordinances. By the Sacraments we are spiritually connected with Christ, as closely as we are carnally connected with Adam and Eve. “We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.” In Him was life, but how was this life to be communicated to others? In Him was purity, but how should it be transmitted? He was the Being set forth to make all things new, but how was a connection to be wrought out between Him and us t Indeed not by any carnal alliance, but in a new and living way. Through these Sacraments, duly administered and faithfully taken, virtue goeth out of Him for the healing of the nations. And in connection with the present subject of discourse, it seems appropriate to remind you, in conclusion, that whilst our Lord’s Incarnation as a whole is full of healing virtue for all generations of believers, so are the several events of His life, taken separately, imbued with a similar efficiency. We have been very much struck with that most solemn part of the Litany, in which we call upon God the Son to deliver us, making mention of the various pains which He endured. “By Thy holy Nativity and Circumcision; by Thy Baptism, Fasting, and Temptation”; and then, in deeper and more thrilling strain, “By Thine Agony and Bloody Sweat; by Thy Cross and PaSsion; by Thy precious Death and Burial, Good Lord, deliver us.” It is probable that by many the passage is only regarded as an adjuration to the Second Person to be merciful unto us, by the strong plea of what He has done and suffered. The Church reminds her Lord, if we may so speak, of His own sorrows, and by the thought of them claims His grace. But is this all? We think not. We believe there is implied in the awful supplication the truth, that every one of the Redeemer’s acts, one by one recalled, is full of its own peculiar virtue. Thus in praying to be saved by His Nativity, we pray that we may be born anew unto holiness. The Collects for the days on which these single acts of Christ are commemorated, teach us what appropriate power belongs to each act. Turn to the Collect of the Circumcision. We find the mention of Christ’s Circumcision connected with the true circumcision of our spirits, the mortification, i.e., of our hearts and all our members. The Fasting and Temptation of the Saviour, as brought before us on the First Sunday in Lent, are to enable us to subdue our flesh to the Spirit. His Cross and Passion are to convey to us the grace of patience like His own. His Burial is to qualify us to be buried with Him, that through the grave and gate of death we may pass to our joyful resurrection. And thus are we to regard everything that He did; every act of His is as it were sacramental in its nature, associated with its own appropriate grace. You will at once see what a stupendous importance is thus attached to the least action of Christ. Here, then, is the Fountain of our life; there is no sin so great that Christ cannot cleanse; no weakness so inherent which He will not strengthen. Neither time nor distance can set bounds to those health-giving streams which flow from Him. (Bishop Woodford.)

Healing for the soul

I. Then, as it respects the soul of man, THERE IS A DISEASE WHICH IS COMMON TO US ALL AND THE ANALOGY BETWEEN THE SOUL AND BODY MUST HERE BE MANIFEST TO THE MOST SUPERFICIAL OBSERVER. In the great majority of instances, you need not inform even a child of the existence in any individual of bodily disease; for, however incompetent he may be to investigate the cause, he is perfectly familiar with the effect. Sometimes the morbid affection disfigures the countenance, sometimes it distorts the shape, sometimes it impedes the motion and paralyzes the limbs; in one it affects the utterance, in another it obscures the faculties of the mind, in a third it is betrayed at intervals by convulsive starts and spasms of sudden agony, in a fourth it antedates the halting step and wasted form of age ere yet the noon of life is past, and causes its victim to walk abroad amongst the living, impressed in their sight with the ghastly lineaments of death. And are not the effects, or symptoms, of the spiritual disease precisely similar? But here, again, an important feature in the analogy is presented to us, by the expedients which men employ, whether of business, or pleasure, or intemperance, or excess, in order to stifle thought. These things act upon the soul like opiates on the body; they mitigate the present suffering, but they aggravate the symptoms of the disease; they obscure the perception of danger, but they enhance and accelerate the danger itself. Under this head, moreover, we may learn another lesson, namely, that a knowledge of the disease is a prerequisite to the seeking of the remedy. They who brought to the Lord Jesus all that were diseased, laid the sick before Him in the streets; but neither would the sick have consented to be brought, had they not been conscious of the malady within, nor would their friends and kindred have brought them, had they not discerned the symptoms of it, as developed and exhibited without.

II. Such, then, being the disease, WHAT, IN THE NEXT PLACE, IS THE REMEDY? NOW, there can be no reasonable doubt, that on the occasion to which my text refers, and on other similar occasions, many sad effects of human infirmity and suffering, not a few of them incurable, and acknowledged to be so, by all human skill, because inaccessible to all known remedies, were exhibited in the presence of the Lord. We must set ourselves in right earnest to apply to the throbbing festering conscience the balm of Christ’s atonement, and to embody in the life the features of Christ’s example.

III. Since, then, THE REMEDY FOR OUR SPIRITUAL DISEASE IS JUST AS UNIVERSAL AS THE EXTENT OF IT--for “ all that believe are justified freely” by God’s grace--and since it is also unfailing in its efficacy, for “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin”; the narrative of the context is to teach us, next, the process of its application, In every ease they did what they could; and we should at least learn, from their example, this lesson, that what we can do we are not to leave undone.

IV. it only remains, then, that we complete our view of this most instructive and interesting analogy, by looking at THE RESULT OF THE APPLICATION OF SUCH A REMEDY--that remedy being the blood of Christ applied by the prayer of faith, or, if you will, the prayer against unbelief. What this will be, we may gather from the narration of either evangelist, which speaks of recovery at once universal and complete. “As many as touched Him,” said St. Matthew, or rather, as the margin reads, “as many as touched it” (that is, the hem of the garment), “were made whole”; and as you have heard by St. Luke in the text, though there was a multitude around Him, “there went virtue out of Him, and healed them all.” If the sick had not come, or had not been brought to Jesus, they would not have been healed; many blind were there in Israel, many lame, many palsied, many lepers, many demoniacs, many lunatics, who did not come, and therefore were not healed. But the amount of our individual responsibility depends upon the amount of our individual knowledge and of our individual opportunity; and if we know that all were healed who did come, or who were even brought, in faith, what greater encouragement and inducement can we desire for ourselves? (T. Dale M. A.)

Christ healing bodily disease emblematic of the Church’s functions

The whole multitude sought to touch Him; for there went virtue out of Him, and healed them all.”

1. Familiar as this statement must be to us, there is something in it truly wonderful and most worthy of admiration--I mean, that there is in the gospel this universal power to adapt itself to man. It constitutes perhaps its most wonderful and distinctive feature. We shall search in vain in any other system for its resemblance. In many systems, more or less of human invention--in systems of philosophy, so called--we may find attempts to remedy some of the evils under which man labours; one applies itself to one kind, and another to another; but often the remedy for one is fatal to the other. But the gospel is a universal remedy. In a word, there is truly no form of evil which the gospel of Christ does not meet and rectify; no want which it does not supply; no real good which it does not impart.

2. And scarcely less remarkable is it to observe how it takes hold of all the natural forms of character, and turns them to due account; how it enlists on the side of what is good even the natural temperaments of men. The burning zeal of a Peter, the restless energy of a Paul, the fervour and impetuosity of a John and James--it takes them all, sanctifies them all, concentrates them all on one holy end. These, and such like human dispositions, left to their natural courses, would have branched off into various forms of evil. But lo! they are touched by God’s Spirit from above, the gospel pours down upon them its sanctifying influences, turns the dross into gold, and makes what would have been natural imperfections (to say the least) to become noble features in the Christian character. Such, my brethren, is the power of the gospel; such is the virtue which goes out of Christ to heal. For if we inquire how the gospel possesses and exerts this influence, the reply assuredly is--By making Christ known to us. And here, too, the incident before us is strikingly emblematic. The thronging multitude were healed by touching Christ; and to us the gospel is made “ the power of God unto salvation,” simply by bringing us, so to speak, into spiritual contact with Christ. The power of His blessed sacraments consists in this: holy baptism uniting us to Christ and giving us spiritual life in Him--the holy Eucharist sustaining that life through the communion of thebody and blood of Christ. And so the Word of the gospel is effectual to its appointed end by testifying of Christ. He is the centre and the source of all its blessings.

3. But now let us carry this emblematic style of our blessed Lord’s teaching one step further. If we study the character of His ministry, there is no feature in it which we shall find more prominent than this: that it bore on its very front the aspect of mercy, and this not only in respect to the salvation of the soul from sin and misery, but also in a compassionate care for the bodily necessities of men. And now, my brethren, let us consider the application of this matter to ourselves. It is the high and holy prerogative of the Church to be on earth the representative of her Divine Master. Her highest and most glorious function--nay, we may say her only function--is to carry on and perfect the work of mercy which He began; ofspreading the knowledge of salvation through the world, and of blessing all who come within the influence of the Church’s sphere. We all know, from the history of the Acts of the Apostles, how well the early Church sustained this blessed office; not only by working miracles while that power lasted, but also by her self-denying charity--by a common fund, abundantly supported by the liberality of the first Christians, for the relief of every want and of every woe, to which our fallen human nature is subject. Wherever the Church was planted, there a fountain of mercy and goodness was opened; there a tree was planted, “ whose leaves were for the healing of the nations.” It brought, indeed, richer mercies than the natural eye could see or the natural ear could hear--salvation for the immortal soul, deliverance from the bands of sin and death, and “the glorious liberty of the children of God”; but in its zeal for the salvation of the immortal soul, it did not overlook the transient sufferings of the perishing body. It did not wait until the blind eyes and the dull hearts could perceive and appreciate those higher blessings which it had to bestow; but it accompanied the Word of grace with acts of more ostensible mercy. (W. Dodsworth, M. A.)

Christ’s healing power

Miracles, according to the records of Christ’s life, were of most frequent occurrence, not occasional. They were the simple details of His life, coming as naturally from Him as acts of kindness from the benevolent heart or gifts from the charitable. It was thus He expressed His sympathy with the poor and suffering. In this way Christ showed His message of mercy to man, and revealed the nature of that redemption of the race which He began by living and dying for the world. In no other way could He so deeply have impressed the world with the distinctive character of His redeeming power.

I. CHRIST’S POWER TO HEAL THE SOUL IS IN HIMSELF ALONE. It is not easy to understand this--that Christ, and Christ alone, is the source of all healing. We can understand that a doctrine received by the mind shall restore the mind to health; or that the heart may find rest in some object on which it shall place its affections; but that it is only from Christ that this healing power comes--why, it is hard to conceive. Men cannot apprehend the truth of God, even as Jesus reveals it, without Divine aid. The reason is strong, the will vigorous, the understanding clear; but there is need of the power of God’s Spirit, and that can only come through our personal touching of Christ. Power goes forth from Him--as the soul receives the Holy Ghost.

II. CHRIST’S POWER TO HEAL IS NOT EXERCISED INDISCRIMINATELY, BUT ONLY UPON THOSE WHO GO TO HIM. There are always many who see Him, and yet do not know Him, and are not healed by Him? Why? Because they do not seek to touch Him. You must go to Him, not trust a mother’s prayers--you must go yourself. Observe here, too, that the touch was effectual; touch His body and bodily disease was cured, because it was the touch of faith. Not the accidental touch, but the touch on purpose; not the touch which may be put forth out of curiosity, nor to escape the evil consequences of your sin; but the touch of the soul that wants to be healed.

III. CHRIST’S POWER IS EXERCISED TO HEAL ALL WHO TOUCH HIM. None were disappointed. None were too ill, too diseased. There was no asking, “How came you in this state? Your own faults,” &c. (H. W. Butcher.)

The philanthrophy of Christianity

The power which Jesus Christ exercised over physical disease was a guarantee that as long as He lived He would be surrounded by great multitudes of people. Those who would never go to Him for spiritual gifts would be sure to find Him in the time of physical pain and fear. It is thus that, even now, God binds the human race to Himself. They hunger and thirst; they are in sorrow and great distress; times of impoverishment and desolation overtake them; and under such circumstances the better nature rises and yearns for protection and comfort. The Church should create for itself a large sphere of practical service, because there are many who cannot understand the metaphysics of Christianity who may be touched by its philanthropy. Jesus Christ’s plan was to take hold of human nature as it chose to present itself to his attention; hence we find him not only speaking essential truths to Nicodemus, but attending to the bodily necessities of those who had no understanding whatever of the spiritual kingdom which He came to establish. (Dr. Parker.)


Verses 17-19

Verse 19

Luke 6:17; Luk_6:19

And the whole multitude sought to touch Him: for there went virtue out of Him, and healed them all

Christ the fountain of health

The subject will be found to involve two considerations; what is the virtue which proceeds out of Christ?
by what means is it appropriated to men?

I. We begin by observing, that in addition to the superiority of our Lord’s miracles in point of number over those of every other, there is also a great distinction in the manner of their achievement. The apostles, for example, nowhere pretend to have accomplished the prodigies which they performed by their own ability. The words of healing are, “In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” The distinction to which we advert is very obvious; the miracles of the apostles were wrought by an agency not their own; their touch, their voice, their shadow, had no inherent power to do cures; from Christ’s own person went out immediately the virtue which healed them all. The difference is remarkable. It is as though the indwelling Godhead did so impregnate the human flesh with life-giving energy, that no sickness or weakness could remain after contact with that immaculate frame. There resided in that sinless body a fulness of grace. It was, as it were, a spring of life to the bodies of others; the virtue dwelt in it, and was drawn forth by an act of faith in the diseased. Such we conceive to be the original meaning of the text; and thus understood, it will be found accurately to describe also the influence of Christ upon ourselves. The fact is not only that God chose to regard the offspring of Adam as iniquitous, but that they really were so. Thus, we repeat, it is not sufficient to consider that Adam’s fault placed his descendants in the position of criminals; it did really and actually render them corrupt. And what has Christ done for the vast family of man thus contemplated? We reply, in the words of the text, virtue goeth out of His body to heal them all. The Redeemer, we are told, took not on Him the nature of angels, but of men. Christ Jesus, the Second Adam, is set forth to be the Restorer of human nature. He removes the inherent disease, He destroys the natural defilement. From Him a new period commences; to all His disciples He is the new Stock, the Root, the Stem.

II. It remains that we very briefly allude to THE MEANS BY WHICH THE HEALING VIRTUE WHICH RESIDES IN CHRIST, IS APPROPRIATED TO MAN. Now as respects the communication of the healing virtue of Christ’s Manhood to our souls, we hesitate not to place it in the two Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These are between us and the Second Adam, what fleshly procreation is between us and the first Adam. There is healing virtue in the Second Adam; we obtain a share of it through our union with Him by His appointed ordinances. By the Sacraments we are spiritually connected with Christ, as closely as we are carnally connected with Adam and Eve. “We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.” In Him was life, but how was this life to be communicated to others? In Him was purity, but how should it be transmitted? He was the Being set forth to make all things new, but how was a connection to be wrought out between Him and us t Indeed not by any carnal alliance, but in a new and living way. Through these Sacraments, duly administered and faithfully taken, virtue goeth out of Him for the healing of the nations. And in connection with the present subject of discourse, it seems appropriate to remind you, in conclusion, that whilst our Lord’s Incarnation as a whole is full of healing virtue for all generations of believers, so are the several events of His life, taken separately, imbued with a similar efficiency. We have been very much struck with that most solemn part of the Litany, in which we call upon God the Son to deliver us, making mention of the various pains which He endured. “By Thy holy Nativity and Circumcision; by Thy Baptism, Fasting, and Temptation”; and then, in deeper and more thrilling strain, “By Thine Agony and Bloody Sweat; by Thy Cross and PaSsion; by Thy precious Death and Burial, Good Lord, deliver us.” It is probable that by many the passage is only regarded as an adjuration to the Second Person to be merciful unto us, by the strong plea of what He has done and suffered. The Church reminds her Lord, if we may so speak, of His own sorrows, and by the thought of them claims His grace. But is this all? We think not. We believe there is implied in the awful supplication the truth, that every one of the Redeemer’s acts, one by one recalled, is full of its own peculiar virtue. Thus in praying to be saved by His Nativity, we pray that we may be born anew unto holiness. The Collects for the days on which these single acts of Christ are commemorated, teach us what appropriate power belongs to each act. Turn to the Collect of the Circumcision. We find the mention of Christ’s Circumcision connected with the true circumcision of our spirits, the mortification, i.e., of our hearts and all our members. The Fasting and Temptation of the Saviour, as brought before us on the First Sunday in Lent, are to enable us to subdue our flesh to the Spirit. His Cross and Passion are to convey to us the grace of patience like His own. His Burial is to qualify us to be buried with Him, that through the grave and gate of death we may pass to our joyful resurrection. And thus are we to regard everything that He did; every act of His is as it were sacramental in its nature, associated with its own appropriate grace. You will at once see what a stupendous importance is thus attached to the least action of Christ. Here, then, is the Fountain of our life; there is no sin so great that Christ cannot cleanse; no weakness so inherent which He will not strengthen. Neither time nor distance can set bounds to those health-giving streams which flow from Him. (Bishop Woodford.)

Healing for the soul

I. Then, as it respects the soul of man, THERE IS A DISEASE WHICH IS COMMON TO US ALL AND THE ANALOGY BETWEEN THE SOUL AND BODY MUST HERE BE MANIFEST TO THE MOST SUPERFICIAL OBSERVER. In the great majority of instances, you need not inform even a child of the existence in any individual of bodily disease; for, however incompetent he may be to investigate the cause, he is perfectly familiar with the effect. Sometimes the morbid affection disfigures the countenance, sometimes it distorts the shape, sometimes it impedes the motion and paralyzes the limbs; in one it affects the utterance, in another it obscures the faculties of the mind, in a third it is betrayed at intervals by convulsive starts and spasms of sudden agony, in a fourth it antedates the halting step and wasted form of age ere yet the noon of life is past, and causes its victim to walk abroad amongst the living, impressed in their sight with the ghastly lineaments of death. And are not the effects, or symptoms, of the spiritual disease precisely similar? But here, again, an important feature in the analogy is presented to us, by the expedients which men employ, whether of business, or pleasure, or intemperance, or excess, in order to stifle thought. These things act upon the soul like opiates on the body; they mitigate the present suffering, but they aggravate the symptoms of the disease; they obscure the perception of danger, but they enhance and accelerate the danger itself. Under this head, moreover, we may learn another lesson, namely, that a knowledge of the disease is a prerequisite to the seeking of the remedy. They who brought to the Lord Jesus all that were diseased, laid the sick before Him in the streets; but neither would the sick have consented to be brought, had they not been conscious of the malady within, nor would their friends and kindred have brought them, had they not discerned the symptoms of it, as developed and exhibited without.

II. Such, then, being the disease, WHAT, IN THE NEXT PLACE, IS THE REMEDY? NOW, there can be no reasonable doubt, that on the occasion to which my text refers, and on other similar occasions, many sad effects of human infirmity and suffering, not a few of them incurable, and acknowledged to be so, by all human skill, because inaccessible to all known remedies, were exhibited in the presence of the Lord. We must set ourselves in right earnest to apply to the throbbing festering conscience the balm of Christ’s atonement, and to embody in the life the features of Christ’s example.

III. Since, then, THE REMEDY FOR OUR SPIRITUAL DISEASE IS JUST AS UNIVERSAL AS THE EXTENT OF IT--for “ all that believe are justified freely” by God’s grace--and since it is also unfailing in its efficacy, for “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin”; the narrative of the context is to teach us, next, the process of its application, In every ease they did what they could; and we should at least learn, from their example, this lesson, that what we can do we are not to leave undone.

IV. it only remains, then, that we complete our view of this most instructive and interesting analogy, by looking at THE RESULT OF THE APPLICATION OF SUCH A REMEDY--that remedy being the blood of Christ applied by the prayer of faith, or, if you will, the prayer against unbelief. What this will be, we may gather from the narration of either evangelist, which speaks of recovery at once universal and complete. “As many as touched Him,” said St. Matthew, or rather, as the margin reads, “as many as touched it” (that is, the hem of the garment), “were made whole”; and as you have heard by St. Luke in the text, though there was a multitude around Him, “there went virtue out of Him, and healed them all.” If the sick had not come, or had not been brought to Jesus, they would not have been healed; many blind were there in Israel, many lame, many palsied, many lepers, many demoniacs, many lunatics, who did not come, and therefore were not healed. But the amount of our individual responsibility depends upon the amount of our individual knowledge and of our individual opportunity; and if we know that all were healed who did come, or who were even brought, in faith, what greater encouragement and inducement can we desire for ourselves? (T. Dale M. A.)

Christ healing bodily disease emblematic of the Church’s functions

The whole multitude sought to touch Him; for there went virtue out of Him, and healed them all.”

1. Familiar as this statement must be to us, there is something in it truly wonderful and most worthy of admiration--I mean, that there is in the gospel this universal power to adapt itself to man. It constitutes perhaps its most wonderful and distinctive feature. We shall search in vain in any other system for its resemblance. In many systems, more or less of human invention--in systems of philosophy, so called--we may find attempts to remedy some of the evils under which man labours; one applies itself to one kind, and another to another; but often the remedy for one is fatal to the other. But the gospel is a universal remedy. In a word, there is truly no form of evil which the gospel of Christ does not meet and rectify; no want which it does not supply; no real good which it does not impart.

2. And scarcely less remarkable is it to observe how it takes hold of all the natural forms of character, and turns them to due account; how it enlists on the side of what is good even the natural temperaments of men. The burning zeal of a Peter, the restless energy of a Paul, the fervour and impetuosity of a John and James--it takes them all, sanctifies them all, concentrates them all on one holy end. These, and such like human dispositions, left to their natural courses, would have branched off into various forms of evil. But lo! they are touched by God’s Spirit from above, the gospel pours down upon them its sanctifying influences, turns the dross into gold, and makes what would have been natural imperfections (to say the least) to become noble features in the Christian character. Such, my brethren, is the power of the gospel; such is the virtue which goes out of Christ to heal. For if we inquire how the gospel possesses and exerts this influence, the reply assuredly is--By making Christ known to us. And here, too, the incident before us is strikingly emblematic. The thronging multitude were healed by touching Christ; and to us the gospel is made “ the power of God unto salvation,” simply by bringing us, so to speak, into spiritual contact with Christ. The power of His blessed sacraments consists in this: holy baptism uniting us to Christ and giving us spiritual life in Him--the holy Eucharist sustaining that life through the communion of thebody and blood of Christ. And so the Word of the gospel is effectual to its appointed end by testifying of Christ. He is the centre and the source of all its blessings.

3. But now let us carry this emblematic style of our blessed Lord’s teaching one step further. If we study the character of His ministry, there is no feature in it which we shall find more prominent than this: that it bore on its very front the aspect of mercy, and this not only in respect to the salvation of the soul from sin and misery, but also in a compassionate care for the bodily necessities of men. And now, my brethren, let us consider the application of this matter to ourselves. It is the high and holy prerogative of the Church to be on earth the representative of her Divine Master. Her highest and most glorious function--nay, we may say her only function--is to carry on and perfect the work of mercy which He began; ofspreading the knowledge of salvation through the world, and of blessing all who come within the influence of the Church’s sphere. We all know, from the history of the Acts of the Apostles, how well the early Church sustained this blessed office; not only by working miracles while that power lasted, but also by her self-denying charity--by a common fund, abundantly supported by the liberality of the first Christians, for the relief of every want and of every woe, to which our fallen human nature is subject. Wherever the Church was planted, there a fountain of mercy and goodness was opened; there a tree was planted, “ whose leaves were for the healing of the nations.” It brought, indeed, richer mercies than the natural eye could see or the natural ear could hear--salvation for the immortal soul, deliverance from the bands of sin and death, and “the glorious liberty of the children of God”; but in its zeal for the salvation of the immortal soul, it did not overlook the transient sufferings of the perishing body. It did not wait until the blind eyes and the dull hearts could perceive and appreciate those higher blessings which it had to bestow; but it accompanied the Word of grace with acts of more ostensible mercy. (W. Dodsworth, M. A.)

Christ’s healing power

Miracles, according to the records of Christ’s life, were of most frequent occurrence, not occasional. They were the simple details of His life, coming as naturally from Him as acts of kindness from the benevolent heart or gifts from the charitable. It was thus He expressed His sympathy with the poor and suffering. In this way Christ showed His message of mercy to man, and revealed the nature of that redemption of the race which He began by living and dying for the world. In no other way could He so deeply have impressed the world with the distinctive character of His redeeming power.

I. CHRIST’S POWER TO HEAL THE SOUL IS IN HIMSELF ALONE. It is not easy to understand this--that Christ, and Christ alone, is the source of all healing. We can understand that a doctrine received by the mind shall restore the mind to health; or that the heart may find rest in some object on which it shall place its affections; but that it is only from Christ that this healing power comes--why, it is hard to conceive. Men cannot apprehend the truth of God, even as Jesus reveals it, without Divine aid. The reason is strong, the will vigorous, the understanding clear; but there is need of the power of God’s Spirit, and that can only come through our personal touching of Christ. Power goes forth from Him--as the soul receives the Holy Ghost.

II. CHRIST’S POWER TO HEAL IS NOT EXERCISED INDISCRIMINATELY, BUT ONLY UPON THOSE WHO GO TO HIM. There are always many who see Him, and yet do not know Him, and are not healed by Him? Why? Because they do not seek to touch Him. You must go to Him, not trust a mother’s prayers--you must go yourself. Observe here, too, that the touch was effectual; touch His body and bodily disease was cured, because it was the touch of faith. Not the accidental touch, but the touch on purpose; not the touch which may be put forth out of curiosity, nor to escape the evil consequences of your sin; but the touch of the soul that wants to be healed.

III. CHRIST’S POWER IS EXERCISED TO HEAL ALL WHO TOUCH HIM. None were disappointed. None were too ill, too diseased. There was no asking, “How came you in this state? Your own faults,” &c. (H. W. Butcher.)

The philanthrophy of Christianity

The power which Jesus Christ exercised over physical disease was a guarantee that as long as He lived He would be surrounded by great multitudes of people. Those who would never go to Him for spiritual gifts would be sure to find Him in the time of physical pain and fear. It is thus that, even now, God binds the human race to Himself. They hunger and thirst; they are in sorrow and great distress; times of impoverishment and desolation overtake them; and under such circumstances the better nature rises and yearns for protection and comfort. The Church should create for itself a large sphere of practical service, because there are many who cannot understand the metaphysics of Christianity who may be touched by its philanthropy. Jesus Christ’s plan was to take hold of human nature as it chose to present itself to his attention; hence we find him not only speaking essential truths to Nicodemus, but attending to the bodily necessities of those who had no understanding whatever of the spiritual kingdom which He came to establish. (Dr. Parker.)


Verse 20

Luke 6:20

Blessed be ye poor: for yours Is the kingdom of God

Blessedness, rather than happiness, the want of man

It is not merely happiness, whatever our shallow moralists may say, that is “the aim and end of our being.
” Happiness implies merely the undisturbed enjoyment of the man. It may belong to the child, or to the selfish votary of the world. It may be spoken of the miser’s gold, or of the successful prizes of ambition, or o! the gilded baubles of social folly. There is no moral meaning in it. But it is blessedness that alone can satisfy the mind and heart, which are living for another end than self; blessedness, which has no hap in it, no chance, no merely outward success
. (E. A. Washburn, D. D.)

The spirit of gospel morality

The whole spirit of the gospel of Christ is in these beatitudes. It is at once a religion and a morality. It teaches us the essence of all Christian truth, which is in that real love of God, that is manifest in love of men, and holiness. Yet it is a Divine, a perfect morality. No other faith ever revealed itself in such personal teaching, in such living beauty, not of word, but of character. The Divine humanity of Christ and His religion stands forth here in this code, human yet more than man. If I were to put into language the morality of mankind, I should write the very opposite catalogue of beatitudes: Blessed are the rich. Blessed they who do not mourn. Blessed are the high-minded. Blessed they who hunger and thirst after the selfish gain. Blessed they who need no mercy. Blessed the cunning and cold of heart. Blessed they who win the battle of life. Blessed they who are prudent enough to escape persecution. It is this very excellence which always makes it appear to the mass of selfish men an unreal thing. Take any of those rules, and try for an hour to follow them out in practice, and the end would be that the Christian would be the laughing-stock of the crowd. And what is the inference? Why, the Author and Founder of this kingdom was probably one of the pure-hearted ideal enthusiasts of His time: His religion succeeded doubtless awhile, while it was the faith of a few poor devotees. But in proportion as it entered into the world, it lost of necessity this moral severity; and the Christianity of the Church and the world is little more than a civilized heathenism. We may admire much in the New Testament that is pure and beautiful. But we cannot call its morality a basis in any sense of human conduct, a Divine or authoritative standard for mankind. Such is the argument. And there is much that is plausible in it. It falls in with doubts that sometimes naturally rise in us as we read the gospel. It needs careful thought. For, if it be really so, it is plain that the gospel is no longer a standard of action, and cannot be Divine. Now, I would endeavour so to meet it as to set at rest such doubts, and to convince you that your religion is no gospel of dreamers, but a real, a practical morality for the man and the State.

1. I shall begin by granting freely everything that is fairly said of the Divine, absolute, ideal purity of Christ’s morality. Nay, I shall claim it as its noblest character. He sets before us the highest ideal of personal conduct. And I maintain that there is no domain, where the mind and will of man are employed, which does not recognize and demand such an ideal. It is so in science. It is only as the man, who holds up before him always the noblest standard of knowledge, a perfection beyond what any has reached, who never acknowledges a limit to his growth--it is he who reaches a stature above the crowd. It is so in art. A Thorwaldsen works in the clay model, conscious that in his mind there is an ideal which guides his fingers as he slowly sees the clay take shape. It is so in social order. And is it not true, is it not far truer, of the moral law of life? There must be, not for the monk in his cell, not for the dreamy recluse, but for the man in his daily sphere, an ideal above the common standard of the world in which he lives. If I shoot my arrow at the mark, I aim above it; and why? Because the necessary power of gravitation will carry it to a degree below the straight line; only the higher aim can guide it aright. If I will reach the bank, I steer above it, because the tide draws the boat downward, and my course is made of the two forces. But this law of physics is as much verified in morals. There are in the atmosphere of the world, in our own weakness, and the weight of selfish passion around us, forces that always drag down the will, the affections, below even the mark of attainable goodness. If there be no nobler aim than the common law of society, the outward fear of justice, the rule of a selfish prudence, it will make us but an inferior character. And thus the religion of Christ gives us the ideal and perfect standard. It plants it in the motive. It claims the pure desire of an unselfish heart. It proves that its truth is Divine, because it does not compromise with our false passions, with our earthly appetites, with our worldly dissimulations.

2. This ideal morality is not unreal, but more real, from this very character. It has entered into every human calling. It has inspired every class of mankind. It has taught the lowliest labourer honest thrift. It has taught, too, the highest humility. It has purified the vices of trade. It has nourished domestic love. It has no less presided over the councils of State than over the private heart. It alone has inspired the enthusiasm of humanity. Even in its extravagances, the gospel of Jesus Christ has been the source of all that is heroic, beautiful, pure, Divine, in mankind. Yet it is no less real. If its tides thus reach by such high water-marks the superhuman power it may at times attain, it is no less in its ordinary flow we are to reckon the breadth of its channel.

3. And thus I reach its noblest witness, in the life of society. Am I told by the sceptic that it is this powerless ideal, this gospel of the anchorite, this lofty yet fruitless morality of a faded age? Bear witness for me, this miracle, grander than all of the New Testament, of Christendom itself. (E. A.Washburn, D. D. )

The upward tendency of gospel morality

We are often told that the tendency of religious teaching is to make men indifferent to social improvement; to urge the poor to submit to false distinctions; to flatter the rich into the idea that they can keep their wealth, if they are charitable in alms. This is not the gospel. There is not a sentiment more contradictory to it. Not a cause of justice, of wise reform, not a true channel of social good it does not enforce; not a false barrier of caste it does not frown upon. It tells the wealthy that he is God’s steward; it tells the poor he is to labour in every honest calling, yet to remember that his aim is the wealth of a pure conscience and a holy life. It makes all men one in the spirit of unselfish equality. It is our disposition, not our position, which makes the real difference between man and man in the standard of the gospel morality. It is the Christian principle of social union. Who has the Christian intellect? It is he who pursues knowledge in the desire, not of personal reputation, but of a truth that shall make the world wiser and happier for his toil; and in that poverty of spirit, whether it be a Kepler studying the stars, or a Raphael painting his Madonna, or a Hooker expounding the laws of his Church, it is a sacred calling. Who is the great man in Christ’s definition? He who, if God hath made him a ruler in the State, rules in His fear, and loves justice and mercy more than his ambition. It is so in every calling. We may pursue our trade or profession for the noble end of a Christian life, or for money-getting and its rivalries. It is here we want our religion. (E. A.Washburn, D. D. )

Relation of this discourse to the Sermon on the Mount

Men have doubted whether the discourse in Matthew 5:1-48; Mat_6:1-34; Mat_7:1-29, is to be regarded as an ampler account of that which begins with this verse. Many passages occur in both. The general scope and purport is the same. Yet, as St. Matthew says expressly that Jesus spake sitting, on the mountain, and St. Luke that He spake standing, and in the plain, it seems not very unnatural to suppose that the one (that given by St. Matthew) was a discourse delivered, as it were, to the inner circle of His disciples, apart from the crowd of outside hearers; the other (that preserved by St. Luke), a briefer and more popular rehearsal of the chief topics of the former, addressed, immediately afterwards, on descending from the hill-top, to the promiscuous multitude. And the formation of the hill which tradition has marked as the Mount of the Beatitudes lends itself naturally to this supposition. For modern travellers have marked, upon its eastern summit, a little circular plain exactly suited for the gathering of a smaller and more select audience; and again, on the lower ridge, between that eastern and another western horn of the same mountain, a larger space, flattened also to a plain, corresponding, it would seem, with singular exactness to the scene described by St. Luke, and to the presence of that larger concourse to which the second and briefer discourse is thus conceived to have been addressed. (Dean Vaughan.)

A description of a poor-spirited man

But now, I say, suppose God hath given grace, yet still there is a great deal of poverty.

1. As, in the first place, That grace thou hast, it hath need of continual supply. There is no Christian can live upon the grace he hath without new supply. God will not trust thee with the stock of grace; it is not in thy hand, but in the hand of Christ: and this is the condition of the strongest godly man in the world; he must go daily and continually to Christ to fetch new supply, or he cannot subsist. And this is the poor condition that we are in-this spiritual poverty even of the saints.

2. The poverty of the saints consists in this: the graces that they have are but small. Thy grace is like a little spark wrapped up in a heap of embers, so that the maid is raking a good while before she can see it. Surely thou art but poor, then.

3. Even those that are godly, they are very poor, for they are always needy. We use to say of a man or woman that is always in want, and always complaining, Surely they are poor people.

4. Their services are very poor services that they do perform.

5. Again, poor are the very saints, the godly, for little temptations doth overcome them; at least, unsettle them and put them out of frame.

6. Poor they are, further, for they have but little ability to help others. (J. Burroughs.)

Poverty of spirit helpful to prayer

Men that are men of estates, and rich men, when they come to a door for business, if so be that they cannot have presently what they desire, away they will go; they will not stand waiting. Why? Because they are rich, and so proud in a suitable way to their riches. But now, one that is poor, and come for an alms, is content to wait, especially if he knows that there is no other door for him to go to at that time; if, indeed, he thinks he may have it at some other door, he will not wait, but if he comes for an alms, and he must have it here or nowhere, he is content then to wait. So those that are truly poor in spirit, they arc content to wait at God’s gates, knowing that there is no other door that they can have their alms only at the gates of God. (J. Burroughs.)

The reason why God regards poverty of spirit

1. The great reason why the Lord hath such regard unto such, it is because this disposition doth best serve the great design that God hath of glorifying Himself in the world, namely, the lifting up of His free grace. God would have His glory from the children of men. But what glory? The lifting up of free grace, that is the glory that God would have above all other. God would have the glory of His power, the glory of His wisdom, the glory of His bounty, of His patience; aye, but that is not the glory that God doth look at most; but that He might magnify His free grace in His Son, that is the glory that God doth most delight in. Now, of all dispositions in the world, this disposition of poverty of spirit is that that serves God’s end and God’s design best; and therefore no marvel though God cloth so much accept of it.

2. Such a disposition makes the soul to be conformable even unto Jesus Christ. Now, when Christ shall see a spirit that hath a conformity to His, Christ looks upon it and saith, “Here is one that is conformable to My Spirit. I was willing to be poor; and so is such a one. I was willing to empty Myself, and to be anything for the furtherance of the glory of My Father; and so do I see here such a poor creature that is willing to empty itself of anything that it hath, and is willing to give up itself for the glory of My Father and Me. Oh, blessed are these poor!” (J. Burroughs.)

Promises to the poor in spirit

1. The first is this, that God loves to honour those that are willing to debase themselves.

2. That blessedness doth not consist in any worldly thing--“ Blessed are the poor.” There in nothing in this world can make them blessed; it is the kingdom of heaven that must make them blessed. If you would be happy, you must look beyond the world.

3. In that it is said in the present tense, theirs is the kingdom of heaven. From whence the note is this, that the saints of God live not only upon comforts that they shall have hereafter, upon the assurance of what they shall have, but upon present comforts. They have enough for the present to uphold their hearts, in all their poor and mean condition in which they are in respect of the world.

4. That heaven is now to the saints. There is comfort indeed! There is certainly no man or woman upon the earth shall ever go to heaven but such as hath heaven come down to them. First: To open to you what is the meaning of this; what doth Christ mean by the kingdom of heaven? And then, secondly, to apply the kingdom of heaven to such as are poor in spirit.

I. THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. There is the kingdom of God’s power whereby He rules over the world; and then there is the kingdom that He hath given to His Son the Mediator. It is the second kingdom that is here meant. When God had made this world, He Himself reigned over it, and was the King of it. But the world that He made was spoiled with sin, and so God could not have that glory from the world that He made it for. Therefore, the Lord He was pleased to erect a new world, another spiritual, heavenly world, to glorify Himself in in another manner, more spiritual and heavenly than in the former world; and He makes His Son to be the King of that spiritual world--that new world which the Scripture speaks of when it saith, “ All old things are done away, and all things are become new”--which new world is begun in the work of grace in the hearts of the saints, and so carried on till it comes to eternal glory. Jesus Christ, He is the King of that world. Why is it called the kingdom of heaven?

1. It is called the kingdom of heaven because Christ is from heaven, who is the King thereof.

2. In distinction and opposition from or unto the kingdoms of the world.

3. Because that Christ His seat is now at the present in heaven.

4. Because that the way of His government it is spiritual and heavenly, not in an outward way.

5. Because it will certainly bring both soul and body to heaven at last.

There is infinite blessedness in this kingdom of heaven.

1. For it is Christ the Mediator that gives the laws. But in this kingdom of heaven, that is a blessedness that thou hast a law from Him that loves thee more than His life; He was willing to lay down His life for thee that gives thee thy law.

2. The second thing in the blessedness of this kingdom of heaven is this, that Jesus Christ He now rules in the hearts of His saints, by His word and Spirit, a great deal more fully than He did in the times of the law, or in any way can be conceived.

3. All transactions between God and them are in this kingdom, and not to go out of this kingdom. So now, wert thou in the kingdom of God’s power, as He is Creator of heaven and earth, and so rules the world, certainly any offence of thine would be eternal death to thee; and it is so with all those men and women that are, I say, only under the kingdom of God’s power--that is, they are God’s creatures, and God is their Creator, and so they have to deal with God as under the kingdom of His power; if they offend as creatures, God in that kingdom deals in a way of exact justice, so as to punish with death upon every offence. But now a believer brought into another kingdom, the kingdom of the Messiah, there he comes to have other privileges; so that when a believer offends he doth not go to answer in that court of His--to wit, the kingdom of His power--but he is to answer before the court of Jesus Christ, and Christ is to be the judge, and Christ He is to deal with them in that administration of His that He hath received from the loather, and so comes a believer to stand with comfort before God, notwithstanding all his offences and weaknesses, for the transaction is between God and Him within this kingdom, and not without it.

4. And then, further, from hence thou hast protection. Though thou beest poor and mean in thyself, thou hast Jesus Christ the Son of God that undertakes to protect thee, to deliver thee from evil, and to supply thee in all thy wants; that is the work of a king.

5. In this kingdom Christ undertakes to subdue all the enemies that are against thy spiritual and eternal good.

6. He, as a king, gives ordinances and gifts and administrations. All the ordinances, gifts, and administrations of the Church, they are given by Jesus Christ as the King of it, and thou that art poor in spirit, thou has right to them.

7. All the world is brought into subjection to this kingdom.

8. For this will bring thee at length to reign with Christ. (J. Burroughs.)

Comfort to the poor in spirit

1. Consider He that is the King of this kingdom of heaven, He was poor Himself; your King was poor.

2. Consider this, Christ’s poverty it was to sanctify your poverty.

3. This kingdom of heaven, it is so ordered out for the most part, that the poor in the world are the subjects of this kingdom.

4. The Lord hath so ordered things that the great transactions of this kingdom of heaven--that hath been opened unto you--hath been carried on by those that are mean and poor, not by the great ones of the world.

5. Hence follows, therefore, in the fifth place, that poverty it is no hindrance to the highest degree in this kingdom of heaven. Indeed, poverty it is a hindrance to degrees in the honours of a worldly kingdom.

6. Even those that are outwardly poor, if godly, they have right to all things in this world so far as may be good for them. It is said of Abraham Romans 4:13) that he was “ the heir of the world.”

7. In this kingdom are spiritual riches that may countervail to the full, and are infinitely good beyond all outward riches.

8. And then from all these follows, that hence the great temptations that those that are poor people are troubled withal may from the consideration of the blessing of the kingdom be taken away.

What are they?

1. As, first, I am afraid that God goes out against me, and doth not bless me in anything that I go about; and so they are afraid, and under great bondage.

2. The second is, I am in a poor condition, and therefore despised.

3. And then a third temptation is, they are useless in the world. Nay, this text will answer this temptation, Thine is the kingdom. (J. Burroughs.)

Our Lord’s first text

A fitting text for Christ’s first sermon, for He came to this earth to bless. His life was a life of blessing; His one thought how He might bless others, make others happy. He died to bless, and His arms outstretched on the cross, His hands wide open, told how He yearned to bless to the last. He rose to bless, and with words of blessing He greeted those who mourned Him as dead. And when He ascended, He was still true to the work of His life, for the last His disciples saw of Him as He disappeared, were His hands outstretched in blessing. And still He lives to bless; on high He ever liveth to make intercession for souls; here on earth He draws nigh to bless in every Sacrament, in every act of worship, in each meditation, in each sermon, in each hour of prayer, always present by His Spirit to bless.

I. HAPPINESS WAS THE END FOR WHICH MAN WAS CREATED. God’s intention for man was a life of beatitude. From God there came to him nothing but blessing. That the curse took the place of the blessing, misery of happiness, was not God’s work, but man’s, in abusing the power of freewill. But God would not leave man in his self-wrought misery. And so Jesus came to take away the curse of sin, and to bless mankind.

II. THIS BLESSEDNESS CAN ONLY BE OURS ON CERTAIN CONDITIONS,

1. It is a blessedness to be found in God alone. To reach it, we must climb. Above the city of Edinburgh there is a great rock, overhanging it like a crouching lion. It is a dim, misty, foggy day, such as sometimes envelopes even the modern Athens of the North. We leave the busy streets, go out of the town, and find ourselves on the path which leads up the side of Arthur’s seat. We have hardly taken a few steps ere we feel the mist is thinner, and we breathe more easily. Still we climb on, for the top is far above us; we can see it through the fog above us standing out sharp and clear against the sky. Still we climb, and the air becomes at every step more keen and bracing, and our lungs drink it in more freely, until at last we stand on the summit in the brightness of God’s sunshine, while at our feet lies the city buried in the mist. Cannot you read the parable? We are always seeking for happiness; we cannot help it. It is a craving of our being as irresistible as that of hunger or thirst. It will not be crushed out or destroyed. And there are times when we think we have attained to it, and we laugh and sing as we stand in the sunshine. But it is short-lived. The mist creeps over us again, we shiver as we feel its cold dampness, and we murmur and complain in our disappointment. What is wrong? Ah! we have forgotten to climb. We have thought to find what we want on earth, apart from God, and we have failed, as thousands of souls have failed before us.

2. Jesus tells us this blessedness may be ours now. He speaks of the beatitudes in the present tense. Some people will tell us that the innocent joys of earth, the pure affections of home, the pleasures of the intellect, the beauties of nature or art, are only as the fading tints of the sunset, or the falling golden autumn leaves. Ah! but they forget that there is a Power which will fix these fleeting colours, permanize these passing joys. Use them as God intends, as guide-posts to Himself.

3. But Jesus tells us this blessedness is hereafter too. If He speaks in the present tense, He speaks still more in the future. Yes, it must be so, for true blessedness is in God, in God known and realized; and here we see through a glass darkly, here we know only in part; it is yonder that in a fuller knowledge of God we shall find a fuller blessedness.

4. Blessedness can never be selfish. No one can be happy save as he seeks to share his happiness with others.

5. There are degrees of blessedness. It is a mountain which we have to climb. (C. J. Ridgeway, M. A.)

True happiness

Beatitude is the perfect being of every creature. It is that condition in which there remains nothing to be desired, nothing to be obtained.

I. MAN WAS MADE EXPRESSLY FOR THIS PERFECT BEATITUDE. It is because he was created for it, that his whole life is spent in the pursuit of it. The human soul must strain after happiness, it cannot help doing so, for happiness is its necessary object. It seeks it with the energy with which the stone detached from the mountain rolls to its foot, drawn by gravitation. Not only so, but the sinner himself, in all his errors, seeks happiness. He is mistaken in the place where he seeks, but it is happiness which he seeks; and when he find out that he has not obtained that which he desired, he falls back into disgust, and gropes for it elsewhere. The traveller in the desert rushes forward when he sees the mirage, thinking it water, and plunges among sand-hills; he is mistaken in looking for water there, but it is a true thirst which has impelled him towards the spot.

II. EVERYTHING THAT IS GOOD AND BEAUTIFUL, IN THIS WORLD IS GOOD AND BEAUTIFUL BECAUSE IT DERIVES ITS GOOD AND BEAUTY FROM GOD. Riches, pleasure, gaiety, &c., arc not evil in themselves, but only when sought as final ends, without thought of God. When they are sought as sources of happiness, and not as reflections of the perfections which are in God, then they are evil. The creatures which God made arc good, but if we content ourselves with loving and devoting ourselves to the creatures, we are falling away from the Creator. A great bishop and doctor of the Church (Bellarmine) wrote a very lovely book, called “The Ascent of the Mind by the Ladder of the Creature to God.” The creatures of God are guide-posts to God, not goals to which we are to run, and at which we are to lie down to rest.

III. PERFECT HAPPINESS OR BEATITUDE IS ONLY TO BE FOUND IN GOD. All secondary good things are imperfect because they are created, and for the same reason they are not imperishable. The soul must have that which is perfect and enduring. What is perfect and enduring is in God alone. (S. Baring-Gould, M. A.)

Christ’s standard and the world’s

How thoroughly Christ’s conception of blessedness contradicts the popular estimate of happiness. This Preacher seems studiously to reverse the world’s judgment. He frames His words so as to fly in the face of public opinion and the consent of men. This startling contradiction between Christ and the world rests on a radical difference in their way of looking at human life. They do not mean quite the same thing with their beatitudes. It is of condition the world is thinking; Christ of character. When society claps hands to the cry, “Oh, Felix!” “Oh, lucky fellow!” “Oh, rare success!” it is the fortunate circumstances of a man’s lot of which society is thinking. It is the blessedness of having a great deal of money, of being always comfortable, of being environed with what may minister to pleasure, and able always to command what one desires--it is this blessedness of condition which society crowns with its beatitudes, and to which men pay the tribute of enjoying it. Alas for this blessedness, which is outside the man; the blessedness of circumstance, and accident, and transient condition; the blessedness which Time’s scythe mows down like grass to be cast into the oven! Not condition does Jesus bless, but character. The happy man is the good man. Not what a man has, but what he is, is the ground of his blessedness. (J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)

God’s grace is the source of blessedness

The ground of blessedness is not made by our Lord to rest in the possession of character itself, but in that promised grace of God of which character is the condition. Some of the qualities here (Matthew 5:1-48.) called blessed might seem even to us to be their own reward. We can understand how it should be a blessed thing to be merciful, or pure, or pacific, though no promise were attached to these states of heart at all. With others it is not so. It is not in itself a good thing to be poor, or to mourn, or to hunger; but for us it becomes good, because otherwise we cannot be enriched, or comforted, or filled. Here the blessing is plainly not in the state of heart, but in that appropriate Divine gift which meets and answers such a state of heart. In every ease, therefore, there is a deeper Divine reason for the blessedness, which Christ’s eye sees, where man’s sees none. The sum of all the blessings which are here dropped along the course of a Christian’s life, or rather, that comprehensive blessing which opens out as a man needs it into many forms: which becomes to the mourner comfort, to the meek inheritance, food to the hungry, and mercy to the merciful; which gives to the pure-hearted the vision of God, and adoption to the peace-makers: this inclusive formula of beatitude is “the kingdom of heaven. (J. Oswald Dykes, D. D. )

The distinctively Christian character of the beatitudes

The beatitudes may be truly regarded as an exposition of morality purely Christian; and in attempting to make some examination of them, we are to consider ourselves as being under the full light of Christian truth and grace, not dealing with abstract or general morality, but with that which belongs to God’s saints in the Church of Christ, and is only possible to them--and to them possible only by the help of that Holy Spirit of whose blessed influence the saints arc permitted to drink in the Church. (Bishop Moberly.)

Passive virtues first

Mark how Jesus puts passive virtues in the foremost place. We can easily understand why He does this.

1. They are the foundations on which alone the superstructure of the active virtues can be built.

2. They are out of sight, and therefore are easily overlooked, their importance forgotten.

3. They were little thought of in the days when Jesus lived on this earth. (C. J.Ridgeway, M. A.)

St. Luke’s version of the Beatitudes

In Luke’s version of the Beatitudes they seem to refer to literal poverty, hunger, and sorrow. If the question be asked which of the two forms is the most original, our judgment inclines to that of Luke. Speaking generally, the more pregnant, kernel-like form of any saying of Jesus is always the more likely to have been that actually used by Him. Then the very breadth of the announcements in Luke is in favour of their being the authentic utterances of Jesus. It is intrinsically credible that He had something in His doctrine of happiness for the many, for the million; some such words as Luke puts into His mouth. The poor in spirit, the mourners for sin, the hungerers for righteousness, are a very select band; only a few of them were likely to be found in any crowd that heard Jesus preach. But the poor, the hungry, the sad, are always a large company; probably they embraced nine-tenths of the audience to which the Sermon on the Mount was spoken. Had He nothing to say to them; to catch their ears, and to awaken hopes in their heavy-laden hearts? Who can believe it that remembers that in His message to John Jesus Himself described His gospel as one specially addressed to the poor? We may, therefore, confidently assume that the Preacher on the Mount began His discourse by uttering words of good cheer to those present, to whom the epithets poor, hungry, sad, were applicable, saying, in effect, to such, “Blessed are ye whom the world counts wretched.” It was a strange, startling laying, which might need much exposition to evince its truth and reasonableness, but it was good to begin with; good to fix attention, provoke thought, and awaken hope. Proceeding now to consider the import of these surprising declarations, we understand--

1. That our Lord did not mean to pronounce the poor, hungry, and weeping “blessed,” simply in virtue of their poverty, hunger, and tears.

2. The connection between these classes and the kingdom of heaven and its blessings is not quite so immediate. Yet Christ was not mocking His hearers with idle words. He spoke gravely, sincerely, having weighty truths in His mind, every one of which much concerned the children of want and sorrow to know. One of these, the most immediately obvious, was that the classes addressed were in His heart, that He cared for them, sympathized with them, desired their well-being; in a word, that He was the poor man’s Friend. This at least is implied in the opening sentence of the sermon, “Blessed are ye poor.” The mere fact that this was the opening sentence was most significant.

3. But Jesus meant to say more than this to the poor and sorrowful; more than, “I feel for you”; or,” The bliss of the kingdom is possible for you.” He meant to say this further; “Just because ye are poor, and hungry, and sad, the kingdom of heaven is nearer to you than to others.” (A. B. Bruce, D. D.)

Christ’s paradoxical teaching

He who taught in parables taught also in paradoxes. His thoughts are not our thoughts. It is as though He had said, Happy are the unhappy, honourable the dishonoured, great the little, and rich the poor. Well, we must follow Him. We must learn His language, we must judge His judgment, if we would ever rejoice in His salvation. (Dean Vaughan.)

The title to the kingdom

Surely this first opening of His mouth in systematic teaching was at once a gospel. The more we are poor, the more we are rich! O blessed and life-giving announcement to the sorrowful and self-despairing! Your sense of poverty is the very title-deed of your kingdom. (Dean Vaughan.)

The possession of the kingdom

The kingdom is theirs. Theirs already, by a right all their own. In this life they possess it. For they, alone of all men, live their citizenship. They know that without their King they are beggars; without their franchise they are outlaws; without their home above, they are houseless and shelterless and comfortless exiles. Whatever others can do, they cannot do without their kingdom. They declare plainly, at each step of life’s journey, that they are seeking a country. And therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He hath prepared for them a city. And as they get nearer to its golden gates, and have nothing between it and them but that narrow stream of death which a Saviour once crossed for them, it may well be that the ownership of which the text speaks becomes at last scarcely more a faith than a sight; they can catch the very sounds of the heavenly song, and discern the bright forms of those who were once faithful unto death, and now follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. (Dean Vaughan.)

The kingdom for the poor

The kingdom of God comes down to meet the sinner as low as is at all possible; asks the very least; takes us up just where sin and the law left us, stripped and wounded; and at the outset, when a man is at his poorest, it enriches him with its royal riches. Are you only “poor”? There is no question yet about what some human teachers are ready enough to put foremost, express or vehement mourning for sin. The seed of that, indeed, is in poverty of spirit. But anxious souls often impede their own coming to Christ, by exacting of themselves a certain keenness of feeling, so much heaviness of heart, or so many tears. Be content. Mourning will come soon enough in the order of Jesus. It is not our poverty by itself, but God’s grace to us in our poverty, which makes sorrow flow. Jesus asks not for tears before He will bless; He asks only poverty. If you are so poor in grace that you cannot mourn, cannot hope or hunger as you would, can hardly pray, can only stand in dumb, desolate spiritual want before God, then you are poor enough. Poor enough to bring nothing but empty hands to God, and an empty heart; poor enough to take the heavenly kingdom as a gift from the most rich and bountiful Lord of it; poor enough to have a simple accepting faith when He says, “It is yours!” (J. O.Dykes, D. D.)

Poverty runs through every act of spiritual citizenship

Poverty of spirit runs through every act of citizenship; it is the secret of its beginning, continuance, and final fruition. It is the secret of entrance into the kingdom, for it is the very essence of baptism. We bring the infant to be baptized because it is nothing, has nothing, can do nothing, and therefore we ask God, of His great mercy, to make the child an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. It is the secret of perseverance, for poverty of spirit is the only fitness for the right use of every means of grace. In confirmation, he who comes urges this as his plea, “I am weak, strengthen me by Thy Spirit, O my Father.” In holy communion the communicants pray, “We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under Thy table.” In prayer our very posture reminds us that we are suppliants at the throne of grace. In every effort after holiness the Master’s words are ever sounding in our ears, “ Without Me ye can do nothing.” In every work of love we can only hope it will be accepted with the words, “ She hath done what she could.” In every almsgiving we must say with David, “All things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee.” And in final blessedness the attitude of the redeemed tells us that poverty of spirit belongs to the subjects of the heavenly kingdom, for see, they fall on their faces and cast their crowns at the feet of Him who sitteth upon the throne; and this is the song they sing, “Thou art worthy,” etc. (Revelation 4:11). (C. J. Ridgeway, M. A.)

How poverty of spirit may be attained

We cannot attain humility by directly striving to become so; it must be caught by guile, not taken by storm. It can be ours only by the power of faith. What is faith? It is the eye of spiritual sight by means of which we see God. This is what we need, is it not? We make a false estimate of life; we miscalculate ourselves and what we are; we weigh with false scales what we have; we measure with an imperfect standard what we do; we go on our way deceived as to the true value of all around us by the mists of the valley through which we are journeying; we neglect to climb, to try to get into the clearer atmosphere where God is; nay, we forget God, we leave Him out of our lives, we neglect to give Him His rightful claim; even in our acts of worship He is sometimes absent from our thoughts. And so it must be with us to the end of life, unless by God’s help we attain to the spirit of recollectedness of God’s presence, in the power of which David sang, “I have set God always before me; for He is on my right hand, therefore I shall not fall.”… Remember, this faith is ours already. It is God’s gift to each one of us in our baptism. But it needs to be exercised, developed, trained by use; left alone it will grow weak until it dies. (C. J. Ridgeway, M. A.)

Poverty favourable to piety in early times

The word “poor” admits of different degrees of extent. Being here opposed to the word “rich” in Luke 6:24, it probably includes vaguely all who are not usually called rich. It will naturally be asked, How can such persons be declared blessed, or happy, or fortunate? Can any happiness arise from mere indigence? No, certainly, if we mean by happiness present feelings of pleasure. But might there not be circumstances attending indigence which might lead to beneficial consequences, or future happiness? That this is the meaning of our Saviour is evident from what is added: “For the kingdom of God is theirs.” What, then, are we to understand by this? All that we can conclude is, merely that there were certain circumstances in the condition of the poor that would dispose them to receive the invitation of Christ more willingly than the rich. A rich man would not be inclined to make those sacrifices, and to expose himself to those sufferings to which all Christians, during the first ages, were liable. On the other hand, it was comparatively easy for a poor man to become a Christian; for he could lose little in this world, and would gain much in the world to come. (J. Thomson, D. D.)

Our Lord’s love of poverty

Let us see how Jesus by His example and word teaches the love of poverty, and wherein that poverty consists which He loves so tenderly.

I. His EXAMPLE. No one of us has chosen the circumstances of his birth. One is born in a poor hut, another in a magnificent palace. Our Saviour, being God as well as man, could have surrounded His human nature with a splendour surpassing human powers of conception. He who so clothes the lilies of the field that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed as one of them, could have clad His human body in a beauty far transcending that of all the lilies and flowers upon earth. He who created the precious stones and the glittering gold in the veins of the earth, and who gives the sun and the stars their splendour, could have built for Himself a palace, compared with which all palaces of men were mere hovels. But more than the beauty of flowers, more than the gorgeous glitter of diamonds and gold, more than the magnificence of palaces, more than the splendour of the sun, He loved poverty. He would be born as the bride of poverty, and the brother of the poor in spirit. In poverty came the Expected of nations into the world; in poverty He lived all His lifetime; in poverty He died on the cross. His whole life teaches us His love of poverty.

II. His WORD. As Jesus commenced His earthly life with poverty, so His first doctrine preached in His Sermon on the Mount was, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” thus intimating that, unless we be poor m spirit, we are not even able to understand His doctrine. He also pointed out to His disciples in the strongest terms the danger of worldly wealth.

III. THE NATURE OF CHRISTIAN POVERTY. Now the question arises, Wherein does the poverty, without which we cannot be saved, properly consist?

We distinguish four classes of men.

1. The first class comprises those who hart both riches and the love of them. These men are, in most cases, avaricious also. Men of this description are the farthest from Jesus Christ.

2. The second class comprises those who are enamoured with worldly goods, which, nevertheless, they do not possess; those who live in want, but vehemently, and with disquietude, long for the riches of which they are destitute. These men are in a worse condition than those who belong to the former class, for they have only the torment of an ungratified desire.

3. The third class comprises those who, although endowed with worldly wealth, preserve, nevertheless, poverty of spirit; who abound in temporal goods, but make good use of them, and are free from a lasting, vehement, and disquieting attachment to their possessions.

4. The fourth class comprises those who to temporal poverty unite poverty in spirit. Oh! that the poor would recognize how priceless a treasure is hidden in their poverty, if they be content with their condition, and joyfully embrace poverty for the sake of Christ. The world having neither joys nor consolations for those who are poor, doubly unhappy are they who forfeit the blessing belonging to poverty, by discontent and injustice. Christ repudiates them for their wickedness; the world for their poverty. (Bishop Ketteler.)

Music chiefly the inheritance of the poor

It is a curious fact that nearly all the great music of the world has been produced in humble life, and has been developed amid the environments of poverty and in the stern struggle for existence. The aristocracy has contributed very little to music, and that little can be spared without detriment. The enduring music has been the child of poverty, the outcome of sorrow, the apotheosis of suffering. Sebastian Bach was the son of a hireling musician. Beethoven’s father was a dissipated singer. Cherubini came from the lowest and poorest ranks of life. Gluck was a forester’s son. Lulli, in his childhood, was a page, and slept in palace kitchens. Haydn’s father was a wheelwright, and his mother, previous to marriage, was a cook in the kitchen of Count Harrach. Mozart’s father was a musician in humble circumstances, and his grandfather a bookbinder. Handel was the son of a barber and surgeon. Meluel was the son of a cook. Rossini’s father was a miserable strolling horn-player. Schubert was the son of a poor schoolmaster. Cimarosa’s father was a mason, and his mother a washerwoman. Schumann was a bookseller’s son, and Verdi the son of a Lombardian peasant. Weber’s father was a strolling actor and musician. Among all the prominent composers, but three were born in affluence--Auber, Meyerbeer, and Mendelssohn.

Joy the inheritance of the poor

The sunniest hearts I have ever found in my pastoral rounds have often been lodged in houses so poverty-stricken and obscure that even the tax-collector never found them. They were people who had very little of this world, but a great deal of the next. They took short views of this life; but long ones of the life to come. Living pretty much from “hand to mouth,” they learn to trust God a great deal more than their prosperous brethren, who secretly trust--their own bank-accounts and government bonds. The happiest heart I encounter in Brooklyn belongs to an aged cripple, who lives on charity in a fourth storey. She is old and poor, and without relatives, and lost even the power of speech twenty years ago l By dint of hard effort she can make a few words intelligible. But I never saw that withered face distorted by a frown; and a few Sabbaths since, when she was carried in to the communion-table, I looked down from the pulpit into that old saint’s countenance, and it “shone like the face of an angel.” She lives every day on the sunny side of Providence, and feeds hungrily on the promises. Jesus knows where she lives. He “ofttimes resorts thither.” She is one of His hidden ones. That old disciple will not have far to go when the summons comes from her Father’s house. She lives near the gates now, and catches the odours and the music of that “marriage supper” for which she has her wedding garment on. Would to God that some of the sourspirited, morose, and melancholy Christians of our acquaintance could drop in to that old woman’s garret occasionally, and borrow a vial of her sunshine! (Dr. Cuyler.)


Verses 20-49

Verse 21

Luke 6:21

Blessed are ye that hunger now; for ye shall be fllled

Hunger and thirst

Consider how much is conveyed in this figure.

1. Hunger and thirst are real things. We need no argument to prove this; we have all felt them for ourselves, even though it may have been in a very slight degree. Ay, how real they are He who spake of them well knew, for had He not but now ended His long fast of forty days in the wilderness?

2. They are active feelings that will assert themselves. The poor man may know his poverty, and yet be so accustomed to it as to have no wish to escape from it. The sick man may be too ill to want to get better, his only wish being to be let alone and die in peace. But hunger and thirst tell of a want within, a reaching after that without which they cannot be stilled.

3. They are intense, overpowering, and gain the mastery over the man, making him act contrary to the instincts of reason. What stories we have heard or read of the terrible extremities to which hunger or thirst have reduced men. Maddened by the desire of drink, they have drunk salt water, plunged into the sea to put an end to their sufferings, or drawn lots which should die to save the rest alive. Driven by gnawings of hunger, men have faced disgrace, and stooped to steal rather than suffer any longer.

4. They are universal, for they are felt by rich as well as poor; they are inseparable from our being, constituted as we are; they are God-implanted instincts.

5. They are lifelong. The man dying of thirst, able no longer to speak, opens his poor parched mouth, or looks his longing with his fevered eyes. The man perishing for lack of food holds out his thin, emaciated hands, and without a word begs for bread. But we need not to be told that Jesus is not speaking of bodily hunger, any more than of bodily poverty or bodily mourning. Just as the poverty He tells of may exist in the midst of the abundance of riches, and just as the mourning which He recommends may be found where eyes have never shed a tear, so hunger and thirst may be where there is plenty of food and drink. For every man is a sort of living sacrament. He has an outward and visible part--his body; but he has, too, an inward and spiritual part. And there is a close analogy between them. They have each similar feelings, desires, longings. And so the spirit of a man has its hunger and thirst. And this spiritual hunger and thirst are real things, are they not? They are active, asserting themselves, refusing to be ignored; they are intense, soul-agonizing, bringing, when unsatisfied, anguish and torment; they are universal, found in men of every age, and circumstance; they are life-long, with the man still as the breath of life quits his body. (C. J. Ridgeway, M. A.)

Hunger fits man to embrace the kingdom

The metaphor here chosen by our Saviour is the best and fittest that can be conceived to express a strong, powerful, active principle; for hunger is one of the strongest principles we know--it is an importunate desire, never satisfied till it obtains the means of gratification. The feeling of thirst is, perhaps, still stronger; for it is sufficient to absorb every other feeling, every other thought, and to confine the attention to the most immediate means of removing the distressing pain. For the same reason, that those who were not rich were in a favourable state to embrace Christianity, the hungry, who are also poor, would be in a similar situation; for, by embracing Christianity, all their nobler desires would be gratified. (J. Thomson, D. D.)

Times of righteousness promised to the Church

First, We shall open what this righteousness of Jesus Christ is which the saints do hunger and thirst after. Secondly, We shall show what their hunger and thirst is; the working of their hearts in their hungering and thirsting after this righteousness. Thirdly, What a desirable object this righteousness is; what there is in this righteousness that makes the saints so desire after it. Fourthly, Those that do thus desire after it are blessed. They are blessed for the present. Fifthly, That they certainly shall be filled with this righteousness.

I. For the first, What this righteousness is that now we are speaking of. It is the righteousness which is for justification.

II. Now the second thing that is to be opened, it is the work of the soul in the hungering and thirsting after this righteousness.

1. The soul doth clearly apprehend and is thoroughly convinced that it hath need of a righteousness to enable it to stand before the holy and righteous God. That is the first thing that raises this hunger and thirst.

2. The soul comes to be convinced of the insufficiency and imperfection of its own righteousness.

3. The soul comes to see that there is another righteousness beyond its own.

4. The soul likewise must be enlightened in the way of the gospel’s making over this righteousness to the creature.

Then mark how the soul puts forth itself in the hungering and thirsting after this righteousness.

1. In the first place, It doth feel it, it gets an assurance of it, it feels a mighty pain for the want of it; as you know in hunger and thirst there is a very great pain in the body till nature be supplied.

2. All other things whatsoever that you can tender unto a man that wants bread or drink, that is ready to perish for want of those things, tender what you will they are all nothing to him--he regards them as nothing, there is no savour in anything; come and bring him bags of gold or silver, it is bread that he must have; come and bring him brave suits of satin and velvet, what is that if he be ready to perish for want of bread?

3. As all things are nothing to him till this comes, so in hunger and thirst there is a might, strong desire, such a strong desire as the body is ready to faint if the desire be not satisfied, even to faint and die. So it is with the soul here; if I have not this righteousness I die, I faint and die--yea, I die eternally.

4. There are strong endeavours after it; that must needs be in hunger and thirst. We use to say that hunger will break through stone walls; there is no work accounted difficult to a man to get bread.

5. One that hungers and thirsts, his desires are resolute; there is power, and endeavours, and they are resolute; he doth not stand upon conditions, to indent this or that way, but let the endeavours be what they will be, and indeed this is the work of grace in the heart where a hypocrite fails.

6. Which is very observable: The soul is unsatisfied in this hunger and thirst till this righteousness doth come. A child that doth but play with his meat, or whose belly is full, may be crying after something that he sees, but you may put off a child with a rattle when his belly is full; but if he be thoroughly a-hungry, then offer him what rattles you will, yet he must have his hunger satisfied if he be hungry indeed: and so it is with the soul. (J. Burroughs.)

Hunger a sign of health

It is a good sign of a thriving Christian; not only of a living Christian, but of a thriving Christian. As you find it by experience in the body, when a man or woman begins to have a good appetite to their meat, to be hungry, we say, then they mend. A man that begins to have a stomach, to be hungry, and to taste his beer, he begins now to thrive: so it is with the soul. Thou hast not that growth that thy soul desires, but hast thou a stomach to thy meat, canst thou taste thy drink, canst thou taste the waters of life, canst thou say, These are sweet, oh that I might have more, I am athirst and desire after more? When thou comest to the Word, thou gettest some milk to nourish thee, and thou hungerest after more. It is an argument that thou art in a thriving condition, it is sign of health, that thy soul is hale, that thou hast not those distempers and corruptions that other men have. (J. Burroughs. )

Desires meet

Your desires and God’s meet. There is nothing in the world that God doth more freely bestow than righteousness. (J. Burroughs. )

No vacuities in mature

If God will fill vacuities in nature, and will hear the ravens when they cry unto Him, will He not fill the emptiness of thy soul? God hath so ordered things in nature that there shall be no vacuity. Philosophers say “that the world will sooner fall to nothing than there should be the least emptiness in the world,” but it must be filled with something or other. Now hath the Lord so appointed that there must not be the least vacuity in nature, but there must be something to fill it, surely the Lord will not suffer a vacuity in an immortal soul; but He hath something to fill that soul of thine that is empty for the present, and the Scripture tells us that the Lord fills every living thing with His blessing, and shall not a soul that hungers after righteousness, and the image of God, and the grace of the Spirit of God, shall it not be satisfied? (J. Burroughs. )

There are many that desire, but their desires are cold and lazy desires, such as shall never do them good; and therefore false desires they may be known by these characters:

1. Their desires are false who satisfy themselves with ignorant desires. Hath God enlightened your hearts to see the excellency of grace, that is more precious than rubies, of more worth than the gold of Ophir? If it come not from these grounds they are but false desires. Many have a false appetite.

2. Such desires are false who satisfy themselves with foolish desires. Will we not account that man a foolish man that shall desire food--Oh that I find something to eat! oh that I had bread or meat!--but will not seek for it, will not take pains to get it?

3. When men’s desires are absurd, such desires are false. They desire grace, and yet live in that which is quite contrary to grace.

4. Such as satisfy themselves in cold and weak desires, whose desires are turned all into wishings and wouldings; they could wish that they had grace, and oh that they had righteousness, oh that they were delivered from wrath to come I but they are not so peremptory upon it as to conclude, I must have it or I die. Now these desires they come to nothing, they will not grow up.

5. When men’s desires are conditional. Conditional desires are false desires; that is thus, they would have grace and holiness so far as might stand with such and such ends, and to carry on such and such designs of their own--as to keep their estates and their liberty, their ease and credit in the world.

6. When men’s desires are fleeting and unconstant desires, they have desires in some good moods, and in some pangs of conscience when the terrors of God are upon their spirits. But such desires as these they are hypocritical; they desire grace merely to serve their own turn, to stop the mouth of conscience, and not for grace sake.

7. When their desires are lazy desires, such are false desires; they are not willing to take pains for what they do desire. (J. Burroughs. )

Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh

The blessedness of tears and mourning

It sounds a paradox l We are wont to regard mourning and tears as evil things that come of sorrow and suffering. But here we are told of a mourning that, coming from some hidden source, flows on until it pours itself into the ocean of everlasting consolation. What can it mean? Certainly not that God really likes us to be always sad. The world of seen things around us, so bright, so beautiful, tells a very different tale. And yet methinks it tells us, too, that tears and blessings have to do with one another. Nature has its storms and rain; it has the bleak winds of spring, the thunder-clouds of summer, the falling leaves

of autumn, the cold, dark days of winter, and we know now that this sad side of things is not the evidence of the existence of angry deities who dwell in the unseen, but that under the overruling hand of a wise and loving God there is in these things a blessing brought to us, and to the world in which we live. Ah, yes, it is true. Continual laughter is not profitable. There are times when laughter is unseasonable. Even the world pronounces those happy who can weep. Too much ease, and pleasure, and happiness, as the world counts happiness, wean the spirit away from Him in whom alone true blessedness can be found. There is need of sorrow to bring us back to Psalms 119:67). God chastens to bless. His punishments are always corrective, never vindictive. Test by this touchstone all that men say of God’s dealings with mankind. Ay, answer with it the troubled promptings of your own conscience in the hour of trial and mourning. (C. J.Ridgeway, M. A.)

The seriousness of the kingdom

This is expressed in the same proverbial form as the two preceding beatitudes; and in proverbs, it is to be observed, that one example is selected to represent a class, or one feature to suggest a whole character. Thus, as weeping is generally accompanied with a serious frame of mind, or is the external symptom of sorrow, so it was probably employed to represent such a state (see Ecclesiastes 7:2-3). Never did any teacher present religion to the world with an aspect so forbidding as it is done by our Saviour in this passage. The Jews expected that the reign of the Messiah would be distinguished by wealth, grandeur, and joy. Our Saviour, therefore, took an early opportunity of undeceiving them, by showing them that those who possessed few or none of the good things of this world were much better fitted to be subjects in that kingdom, and even to exercise authority, than those who were favoured in a high degree with opulence and plenty. (J. Thomson, D. D.)

The blessing to Christian weepers

It is obvious that this blessing cannot apply to every kind of weeping; for there are tears shed for reasons altogether earthly, and there is a sorrow of the world that worketh death. But on all who weep as the disciples of Christ, or for the sake of Christ, or because of any penitential or truly Christian feeling, on all such this blessing rests. All such “shall laugh,” that is, shall greatly rejoice. (James Foote, M. A.)

The true joy of Christianity

He bade them even rejoice; not merely be resigned, but jubilant, and here He struck that keynote of resounding triumph and exhilaration which remains to this day the most original and characteristic sign of the Christian life. Inextinguishable joy in the dungeon--at the stake--amidst ruin and physical pain and loss; that isChristianity. The Stoic bears; the Epicurean submits; the Christian alone exults--“sorrowful, and yet always rejoicing.” (H. R. Haweis, M. A.)

Spiritual mourning

For the first, I may expound the point and the text both under one. You see the proposition what it is, every good mourner is in a happy condition. Here let us consider a little the terms to explicate them. Who is the party in speech? “Blessed is the mourner,” saith Christ, in Matthew; “Blessed,” saith He, in Luke 6:21, “are the weepers.” Both these, mourning and weeping, are fruits of the same tree and root. There is a carnal mourning, when a man mourns for the presence of goodness, and for the absence of sin, because he is restrained, and cannot be so bad as he would be. There is a natural mourning, when a man mourns upon natural motives, when natural losses and crosses are upon him. There is a spiritual mourning, when a man mourns in a spiritual manner, for spiritual things, upon spiritual motives, as afterwards we shall show; when he mourns, because good things that are spiritually good are so far from him, and spiritual ills are so near to him. This is the mourner that Christ here speaks of, and this is the mourning that hath the blessing. Other mourning may occasion this through God’s blessing, and may give some overture to this mourning, but the blessing belongs to the spiritual mourner and the spiritual mourning. “Blessed are the mourners, for they shall be comforted.” This reason will not hold in all kind of mourning and all kind of comfort. It is no good argument to say, Blessed is the man that is in pain, for he shall be refreshed and relieved; blessed is the man that is hungry, for he shall be fed and have his wants supplied. But yet this argument holds good, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted”; namely, with God’s comforts, with the comforts of the Spirit, with the comforts of the Word, the comforts of heaven. The comforts of God are beyond all the miseries and sorrows that a man can endure in this life; and though he do mourn and weep for them, yet notwithstanding, the comforts, the wages, will so far exceed all his sorrows that he is happy in this. He cannot buy spiritual comforts too dear, he cannot have them upon hard terms possibly. Yea, further, spiritual mourning carries comfort with it, besides the harvest of comfort that abides the mourner afterwards. There are first-fruits of comfort here to be reaped, so it is that the more a man mourns spiritually, the more he rejoiceth; the more his sorrow is, the more his comfort is.

1. He that mourns spiritually hath a good judgment, and therefore is happy. Spiritual affection it argues a spiritual judgment and understanding. For the affections work according as they receive information. A creature that is led by fancy hath brutish affections; a man that is guided with matter of reason hath rational affections, as we term them; but a man that hath his mind enlightened and sanctified hath holy affections.

2. It argues a good heart too.

3. As he is happy in the cause, so he will be happy in the effect, too, of his godly mourning. For godly sorrow and mourning brings forth blessed fruits and effects; the apostle in 2 Corinthians 7:10, seq., delivers divers of them, as there you see.

4. He is happy in regard of the event and issue of his mourning, because all shall end well with him, and all his tears shall one day be wiped away, and joy and gladness shall come in place; yea, he is happy in this, that spiritual mourning it is always accompanied with joy: that is a happy estate that tends to happiness.

Use 1. If it be a happy man that mourns aright, we have reason, first, to bewail our unhappiness; unhappy time and unhappy men may we well say, touching ourselves, that vary so much from the mind and prescription of our blessed Saviour. “Blessed,” saith our Saviour Christ, “are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” “Woe to you,” saith He, “that now laugh.” We, on the other side, say, Woe to them that here mourn; happy are they that can here laugh and be merry. And as we vary in our judgment from our Saviour, so much more we vary in our practice from His direction and counsel. God saith, “Humble yourselves that you may be exalted.” We on the other side say, Exalt ourselves, and we shall not be humbled. God saith, Throw down yourselves; we say, Secure ourselves. God saith, Afflict yourselves, and then you shall have comfort. The Lord saith, Let your laughter be turned into mourning, that so you may laugh. We on the other say, Let our mourning be turned into laughter, that so we may not mourn. And therefore when any grief, natural or spiritual, begins to breed or to grow on us, presently we betake ourselves to company, to sports and exercises, that may drown the noise of conscience, that may put out of our minds motives to spiritual grief and sorrow, and that may provoke us to carnal, or at the best to natural mirth and rejoicing. We think many times carnal sorrow, which in truth is but poison, will do us good, a great deal of ease; and when men have crossed us, and disappointed us, or dealt unkindly with us, we think we will go and weep it out; and when we have cried and blubbered a while, we think that we give ease to our souls, and content to our hearts. But when we come to spiritual mourning, which only is comfortable mourning, we think that undoes us. Many a man thinks he forfeits all his joy, all his peace, all his liberty, all his happiness, and he shall never see a merry day again in this world if he gives way to mourning for sin, to sound repentance, to works of humiliation, and examination of his own heart and ways.

Use 2. Well, in the next place, we have another use, to take Christ’s direction for comfort. Who would, who can be without it? Life is death without comfort. Every man’s aim is to lead a comfortable life. Mark the way that Christ chalks out: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

1. We must first show you how spiritual mourning differs, and is discerned from other mourning.

2. How it is gotten.

3. How it is exercised.

1. For the first of this: Spiritual mourning is known by the objects. Such as the object is, such is the faculty. Spiritual mourning hath spiritual objects, either materially or formally, as they speak in schools. This spiritual mourning is busied about spiritual goods and spiritual ills. We will instance in this first. For, first, if a man would know whether his sorrow be spiritual sorrow or no, let him see how he mourns for the absence of spiritual good things, how he mourns for the absence of God, the chief good. That is spiritual sorrow, when a man mourns because he hath lost God in his graces, in his communion, and in his comforts. Now, in the next place, how shall a man do to get this spiritual mourning? First, He must labour to have a heart capable of grief and sorrow that is spiritual, a tender and soft heart. He must see that he have a disposition to holy mourning, able and inclinable so to do, when just opportunity and occasion is offered. Now how shall a man get this tender heart? Why surely he must go to God in His means and ordinances, who hath promised, as you heard, in the covenant, to take “the stone out of our hearts, and to give us soft and fleshy hearts.”

1. Consider of a method that he must use; and then--

2. Of motives to stir him up thereunto.

1. For method.

2. There is another thing to be done for the order, and that is this, that a man must be sure to give over carnal mirth and carnal mourning, if he will mourn spiritually. His carnal laughter must be turned into mourning, as James speaks (James 4:9); and his carnal mirth must be turned into spiritual mourning, too, or else he will never come to spiritual mourning. The motives are many. He that will mourn must look to these. Now, in particular, consider these motives.

1. It is needful for us to mourn.

2. It is seasonable for us to mourn.

3. It is profitable. And--

4. It is comfortable.

1. It is needful to mourn in a spiritual manner. Whosoever hath sin must mourn.

2. As it is needful, so also it is very Seasonable. The very time tends that way, as it were; the season is the time of weeping; the Church of God weeps abroad. For sin is now grown to a fulness, to a ripeness.

3. As it is seasonable, so it is profitable: for godly mourning it never hurts, it always helps. Carnal sorrow leaves a man worse than it finds him. It makes him more sick and weak than it finds him. Spiritual sorrow leaves him better.

4. It is very comfortable. It doth wondrously refresh a man. We pass, therefore, from the doctrine here delivered, “Blessed are the mourners,” and come to the reason of it, “for they shall be comforted.” Let us join these together, and see how they do depend.

The point will be thus much--

1. That spiritual mourning it ends in spiritual mirth. He that can mourn spiritually and holily, he shall undoubtedly and certainly be comforted.

Holy tears, they are the seeds of holy joy. For the clearing of it further, let us know that we have good security for it,

1. The promise of God: and then--

2. The experience of God’s people. The best proofs that may be.

First, the Lord undertakes in His promise two things touching our comforts.

1. That all our godly sorrow shall end in true comfort. The next is--

2. That all our godly mournings are attended and accompanied with comfort for the present.

1. For the first of these, you know the promise, sorrow and weeping shall fly away, and joy and gladness shall come in place (Isaiah 35:1-10., last verse), which place will refer you to many more. God hath made a succession of these things, as of day and night. His children’s day begins in the night and in darkness, and ends in the day. God hath promised it shall be so; God hath appointed Christ, and fitted Him, and enabled Him to this word, that so it may be. God will take off the garment of mourning, and put on the garment of gladness in due time.

2. To this promise of God let us add the experience of God’s people.

If all this suffice not, let us consider of these reasons, and then we shall see that it is but reason that we should do so.

1. The first reason is drawn from the nature of sorrow and mourning. Sorrow is a kind of an imperfect thing, as it were. It is not made for itself, but for a higher and for a further end, to do service to something else, as it fares with all those that we call the declining affections. Hatred is servant to love; fear doth service to confidence; so likewise doth sorrow to joy. For God hath not appointed sorrow for sorrow’s sake, but to make way for joy and true comfort. The physician doth not make a man sick for sickness’ sake, but for health’s sake. But now the joy of a Christian man, a spiritual joy, it is a safe joy. It hurts no man, but doth a man good; it settles a man’s mind, it strengthens his thoughts, it perfects his wits and understanding. It makes him to have a sound judgment; it makes for the health of his body; it makes for the preservation of his life; it doth a man good every way. There is no provocation in it, there is no danger in it. Thirdly, as a Christian’s joy is best in that respect, that it is the safest, so in this, that it is the surest joy. For this joy is an everlasting joy. The righteous, then, hath the start of the wicked for matter of comfort and joy. He hath a more solid, a more safe and sure joy, a more sweet joy, a more reasonable joy a great deal than the other hath. As he is beyond him in his joy, so, in the next place, he is beyond him in his sorrow too. Our life must have comfort and sorrow. It is compounded of sweet and sour. As the year is compounded of winter and summer, and the day of day and night, so every man’s life is made up of these two. He hath some fair and some foul days, some joy and some sorrow. Now, as the righteous is beyond the wicked in his joy and comfort, so is he beyond him in his sorrow. First, his sorrow is far better; it is a more gainful, a more comfortable sorrow than others’ is. They are beyond the sorrows of the wicked in all the causes and in all the circumstances of them.

2. The second reason may be drawn from the nature of this spiritual comfort and joy that we speak of. For spiritual joy is very strong: “The joy of the Lord is your strength “ (Nehemiah 8:10). A strong thing is spiritual joy, and therefore it will overmatch, and overcome, and drink up, as it were, all our sorrows and fears in due time, as the sun overcomes the darkness of the night, and the fogginess of the mist in the morning.

3. A third reason may be drawn from the cause of our spiritual mourning and spiritual joy; for these are fruits that grow both from the same root. Spiritual joy and spiritual mourning, they come from the same fountain, from the same Spirit. The same Spirit, it causeth us to weep over Him whom we have pierced, and it causeth us also to rejoice in the Lord whom we have pierced: “The fruit of the Spirit is joy,” saith the apostle Galatians 5:22). The same Spirit manageth and guideth both the one and the other. Carnal passions and affections they oppose one another, they fight one with another, because they are carried on headlong, without any guide or order at all. But spiritual affections they are subordinate and subservient one to another; the one labours to further and to advance another. Thus the more a man joys, the more he grieves; and the more he grieves, the more he joys. Joy melts the heart, and gives it a kindly thaw; grief, on the other side, it easeth the heart, and makes it cheerful and lightsome.

4. Lastly, a reason may be drawn from the effects of godly mourning. If they be considered, it will be cleared, that he that mourns spiritually shall end in comfort at the last; for this spiritual mourning, what will it do? First, it takes off the power and strength of corruption. It weakens sin, it pricks the bladder of pride, and lets out our corruption. Spiritual mourning it takes down a man, it humbles him; and an humble heart is always a cheerful heart, so far as it is humbled. Spiritual mourning, again, makes way for prayer. For spiritual mourning sends a man to God. It causeth him to utter himself in petition, in confession, and complaints to his Father; to pour out himself to the bosom of his God in speeches, in sighs, and tears, in lamenting one way or other. All this tends to comfort. The more a man prays, the more he hath comfort. “Pray,” saith Christ, “that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). Now, the more a man mourns spiritually, the more he prays; and therefore the more he is filled with true joy. Again, this spiritual mourning, it is a wondrous help of faith. It is a hopeful mourning; it helps a man’s faith in the promises touching remission of sins. Now, the more a man’s faith and hope is furthered, the more his joy is furthered. Still, the apostle speaks that they should rejoice in believing. Now, the more he mourns, the more reason he hath to believe that that furthers his faith; and therefore it advanceth his joy and comfort. This point, then, being thus cleared, let us a little make some use of it to ourselves. The use is threefold.

1. Here is one use of information touching others. Who is the happiest man in the world? And for the deciding of this question we must not go with it to Solon, to Plato, or to the philosophers, but come to a judge, the Lord Jesus. And what saith He to the point? Blessed and happy, saith He, are they that mourn. His reason is, “ for they shall be comforted.” So that here, then, is the trial of a man’s state that is blessed. So that that man, then, that hath the best sorrow and the best joy, that man, then, is the happiest man. Now the Christian man is this man.

3. wicked man hath no matter of comfort within himself, but his comforts they hang upon outward things. His comfort sometimes lies in the bottom of a pot; sometimes it lies in the bottom of a dish; sometimes in the heels of a horse; sometimes in the wings of a bird; sometimes in some base lust, or in some such filthy sin. Here lies the comfort of a wicked man; but now the comfort of the godly is not so. The joy of the righteous, it is a massy and a substantial joy. His afflictions indeed are light and momentary, but then his joy is everlasting, as I shall show anon. It is a joy that hath substance in it. The joy of the wicked, at the best, it is but a little glazed, it is but gilt over, but it is naught within; but the joy of the righteous it is a golden joy, it is beaten gold, it is massy and substantial and precious. As we said before, the root of his joy he hath it in himself, he hath matter of comfort in himself. There is faith and grace, there is truth. Nay, it is not rooted in himself only, but the root of it is in heaven, in his Head, in Christ.

2. Now the next use is to the godly. First, a word of exhortation, and then a word of consolation. Stop up, my brethren, all the passages, dam them up if you can, that make way for worldly sorrow and for carnal grief, for this will come but too fast upon you; but, on the other side, pluck up the floodgates, and open all the passages, and give all the way to spiritual mourning and to godly tears.

1. Look to the object, that it be universal, So in spiritual things: he that is spiritually sorry he mourns for the want of goodness wheresoever he seeth it, be it in himself or in other men, nay, be it in his enemies.

2. Our sorrow will be spiritual and holy if it be accompanied with prayer; for holy mourning makes way for prayer.

3. Again, it is spiritual sorrow, when it is accompanied with thankfulness. A carnal man, when he is pinched and twinged, and knows not which way to turn himself, he will be glad to cry, when he sees there is no other refuge in the world, but either he must cry or sink. But a man that is a spiritual mourner, he will be thankful as well as prayerful. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)

Godly mourners shall be comforted

1. There is a foolish mourning, in which men and women are not blessed--that is, they mourn they know not for what.

2. A natural mourning; when there is a mourning merely because nature is pinched, and some evil hath befallen it, and you go no further. This hath not a blessedness in it.

3. A worldly mourning; worldly sorrow causes death; to mourn for the loss of worldly things as the great and the chief loss of all. This is not blessed, it causeth death; and--

4. An envious mourning; when men mourn and are grieved for the good of others. Surely this is not blessed, but cursed.

5. And there is, further, a devilish mourning; when men and women mourn that they cannot have opportunity to satisfy their lusts.

6. And lastly, there is a hellish, desperate mourning; when men and women mourn in despair. This is hellish, and not blessed. These mourners are not blessed. And then all those that mourn in a gracious way. You will say, When doth one mourn in a gracious way and manner? Now, the ground of the blessedness ariseth, first, from the mourning itself; secondly, from the promise.

Surely it is a blessed thing to be such a mourner.

1. Because that the lower our hearts are in our subjection to God in this mournful condition, the higher are our respects to God that brings us into this condition.

2. A mourning condition, when it is ordered by grace, it is a means of much good in the soul; it is that that takes away the rankness in the hearts of men. As weeds grow very rank in summer time, now in the winter the frost nips the weeds and keeps them under; but if it be a long frost it kills them.

3. It is that that delivers from many temptations. You think that jollity and bravery is the only happy life, but know there are a great many more temptations in that life than in a mournful condition.

4. They are blessed that are in a mournful condition, because God hath chosen for them that mourning condition in the most seasonable time. You know when a man is sick, then bitter things are more seasonable than sweet. Now we are all sickly poor creatures, and it is a great mercy of God in this time of our lives to choose for us a mournful condition--bitter things rather than sweet and luscious things.

5. And then especially here in this text, because they shall be comforted; it is but to make the comforts sweeter unto thee when they do come. You know that when a man would build a structure, a stately building, the stones that he intends principally to build withal are hacked and hewn, that so they may be comely and fit for his building; but as for other stones, they are not regarded as those that are thus polished which he intends to lay.

So it is an argument that the Lord hath great things for thee, great comforts for thee; He is now preparing thee in this thy mournful condition for great comforts.

1. They shall be comforted. When? Why, they shall be comforted when the wicked shall be sorrowful (Isaiah 65:13).

2. And then, you shall be comforted; there is a time when the Lord will communicate unto you the choicest of His mercies. Now the Lord communicates Himself, but in a very small and little way in comparison to what He doth intend. And this comfort that the mourners shall have, shall be, first, a pure comfort. We have something that is sweet, but there is a great deal of mixture with our sweet. And then they are spiritual comforts. Their comforts shall come more firstly in their souls, and so they shall have comfort to their bodies by way of the eradiation, as I may so say, of the comfort that they shall have to their souls.

3. Divine comforts they are that they shall have--that is, all comfort is from God one wet or other, but from God more immediately. Here we have our comforts at second or third or fourth hand, but now there shall be comfort that shall be from God more immediately. And such comforts as are from the very nature of God Himself--that is, such comfort as God is comforted in, such joy as God joys in, and God joys with them in 2:4. It is a full comfort, “Ask and you shall have, that your joy may be full.”

5. And then it shall be a strong comfort (Hebrews 6:18).

6. An eternal consolation; so yon have it in 2 Thessalonians 2:16; in 2 Timothy 2:11. As we read concerning Egypt, as there were more venomous creatures there than in other countries, so there was in no country more antidotes to cure them than in theirs. So, though religion may bring sorrow and trouble, yet there is nothing brings more cure and more help. (J. Burroughs.)

The folly of men rebuked who are all for mirth

1. If thy mourning be gracious, thy very tears and sorrows is a great deal better than the wine of the men of the world; thy tears are more sweet and pleasing to God than the mirth of wicked men can be to them.

2. Consider this for thy comfort, it may be, if thou hadst not been a-mourning thou wouldst have been a-sinning, thou wouldst have been a-doing that whereby thou wouldst have darkened the glory of God.

3. Consider that all thy sorrows are measured out by God, who is thy Father; thou dost not lie at the dispose of wicked men to mourn how much they will, or when they will, but thou art at the dispose of God, who is thy Father.

4. Consider for thy comfort that Christ was a man of sorrows, and in thy sorrowing thou art but conformable unto Him; and why shouldst thou think that to be a burden wherein thou art made like to Jesus Christ?

5. Let this be for thy comfort, to consider thou hast an interest in Him that is the God of all consolation; the darkness of thy condition cannot hinder thine interest in God. And then consider that God suffers more by thy sins than thou canst suffer from God’s hand in thy afflictions. The darkening of His glory in the least degree is a greater evil than any affliction that thou canst endure; and this should support thy spirit, to consider that God suffers more; and therefore thou shouldst not be unwilling to suffer something, seeing God suffers more than thou canst.

6. If thou wouldst be comforted, consider this: the way that God takes to comfort His saints, though thou hast it not in sense, thou mayest have it in faith; and therefore exercise faith, and fetch it in that way. Set faith on work in the promise, and let that bring out the comfort of the promise. Sense is not the way by which God comforts His people, and if we look for comfort in a sensual way we mistake ourselves; therefore let us labour to fetch in comfort from the exercise of faith. And indeed we should more prize those comforts that come from the exercise of our graces than from any sensible apprehensions.

7. Consider, though it be long before comfort come, yet this is no strange thing that thou art kept without comfort for a while.

8. Consider, that this is the time of mourning, and we know things are seasonable and best in their time. This is a Christian’s seed-time. In the world we must have trouble, and through many tribulations we must enter into heaven. We know the husbandman; he is contented to endure storms and hardships in seedtime, with this consideration--the harvest is a-coming. So, though thou now sowest in tears, there is a time of reaping in joy.

How we may so order our mourning that it may comfort us. Now for this I would entreat you to take notice of these rules.

1. In your mourning be sure that you keep good thoughts of God. Whatsoever your troubles be, let them not raise tumults and hard thoughts of God.

2. Be sure to take notice of all the mercy thou hast from God in the afflictions thou art in. Let not any affliction drown the mercy thou hast. It is very sad many times to see how one or two afflictions hinders the sight of many mercies that the saints do enjoy. A little thing will hinder the sight of the eye; a penny laid upon the eye will keep it from beholding the sun or the element above; so a little affliction, it darkens and hinders the soul from seeing a multitude of mercies; every little trouble darkens God’s mercies.

3. Take heed of a sullen, dogged disposition, either towards God or man in thy sorrows. It is very usual for men in a troubled condition, when they are in sorrow, to add frowardness to mourning; but we should labour to take heed of this as a great evil. Labour for a quiet and meek spirit.

4. Take heed of determining against a comfortable condition in sorrow, that it will never come. Say not that comfort will never come, because thou hast it not for the present. (J. Burroughs.)

How mourners should order their mourning

Now, then, such as mourn thus for sin are blessed; for--

1. By this they do much honour God. The sovereignty of God is honoured, and the holiness of God is honoured, and the justice of God is honoured.

2. It is a blessed thing to mourn for sin, because it is an evangelical grace.

3. Surely they are in a blessed condition, for it appears that they come now to have a right judgment. Their judgment is enlightened to understand what is truly good and truly evil, and to have a right temper of spirit.

4. This mourning for sin, it helps against all other mourning, it helps against other sorrows.

5. It is a means to prevent eternal sorrows. Certainly God will have every soul to know what sin means at one time or other.

6. It is that that fits for the grace of God. There is none that taste the sweetness of the grace of God in Christ more than those that are mourners for sin. Now one drop of mercy, how sweet is it; now it is worth more than ten thousand thousand worlds!

7. There is one more, and that is, they are blessed; why? because there are many promises that are made to those that mourn. That is certain--either a man’s sin will make an end of his mourning, or a man’s mourning will make an end of his sin, one of the two. If so be a man goes on in sin, he will leave off mourning, but if he doth not leave off mourning, he will leave off sinning; for certainly mourning for sin hath a special efficacy in it, it helps against the sin that thou dost mourn for. This bitter aloes that now thou hast is a special means for the helping against those crawling worms that are in thy soul. Hence, in the first place, the use might be very large, what shall become of those that rejoice in sin? And then surely mourning for sin is not melancholy; for one to mourn and be troubled for their sin is not to grow heavy and melancholy. It is the work of the Spirit of God that lays that weight of sin now upon the soul, because the Lord intends that this soul shall be blessed to all eternity. And do not think it a foolish thing for people to be troubled for their sin. (J. Burroughs.)


Verse 22-23

Luke 6:22-23

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

The necessity of persecution

Persecution is no accident in Christian life.
It is simply inevitable from the collision with evil of Christian righteousness when it becomes positive, especially when it becomes aggressive in the cause of peacemaking. It is the activity of Christian life which lays its own faggots, prepares for itself its own martyrdom. It is when the disciple follows in the wake of the first great Peacemaker, and from the side of God approaches the world’s evil with implied rebukes and an open summons to it to repent, submit, and be at peace, that it is most certain to encounter the world’s missiles. A very holy or unworldly life may be itself so telling a rebuke, even though a silent one, as to draw on some meek, pare souls dislike, and calumny, and malice. But it is the active, witness-bearing, and missionary type of Christian character which provokes the chief resistance. The Christianity of the wholly unpersecuted must be a Christianity defectively aggressive, which has not advanced sufficiently to the last stage, the stage of peacemaking. Nor is this all. Persecution is not simply inevitable as soon as the development of active Christian life leads it into collision with evil; it is an indispensable factor in the very development and perfecting of Christian life. Persecution is not indeed a grace; but persecution is the creator of a grace (
James 1:3-4). (J. C.Dykes, D. D.)

Bitterness of social and domestic persecution

I cannot but think that this has been, on the whole, not less trying than outward and violent persecutions, for persons assailed by it have to bear their troubles mostly in secret. They have little sympathy from others; nor any of the rising of the spirit of passive (passing into active) heroism which, when men’s eyes are on it, is naturally roused into energetic resistance. For, indeed, there are several things which tend to hold a man up in his visible endurance of visible persecution. He is as a champion of a cause; his personal bravery and earnestness, as well as his conscience, are on trial. He knows that even among those who hound on the cry of persecution against him, there are those who admire his firmness in bearing it. He believes that though overpowered himself, and put to death perhaps, yet suffering and death bravely borne leave a seed behind them which germinates and grows in spite of persecution, and is wont to outlive it. All these things and such as these mingle themselves up with the convictions of conscience, and strengthen it, when the persecution for righteousness’ sake takes place in the sight of men. But it is otherwise with all the secret and, if I may so call it, unpicturesque suffering of social or domestic life--the chill, and the estrangement, and the unkindness, and the evil report, and the misrepresentation, the thwarting and jealousy, all the details of inward and unseen misery which goes to make up the real persecution which has visited, and no doubt visits still, thousands of people whose hearts’ desire it is to serve God faithfully, and who are content to bear with evil for Christ’s sake. And so I can hardly doubt that “ when that last account ‘twixt heaven and earth shall be made up,” it will be found that the persecution of private and social life has been in total amount greater, and maybe its actual bitterness not less, and so its ultimate title of blessedness in Christ as great, as that of those who have been “persecuted unto blood” for Christ’s sake. (Bishop Moberly.)

Why persecution is to be accounted a blessing

1. It tests and proves the worth of our religion. It tells us whether our Christianity is positive and aggressive, or whether it is only negative.

2. It forms character, it purifies the life, it develops graces--the great end of religion.

3. A necessary factor in the spiritual life. No cross, no crown. (C. J.Ridgeway, M. A.)

Principles for suffering

1. Wherefore the first principle to enable Christians to suffer for righteousness is, that we should look on ourselves as sent into the world for this end, especially to bear witness to the truth.

2. The second suffering principle is this--It is better to lose for God than to enjoy for ourselves.

3. Whosoever suffers anything for God, in the midst of all their sufferings they are in a better case than their persecutors.

4. That it is a great deal better to suffer for Christ than to suffer for sin.

5. That God may make me suffer in spite of my heart. If I find a reluctancy in me to come off to suffer for Christ, I may be forced in spite of my heart to do it; and what comfort shall I then have in it? How much better is it to suffer freely and willingly for Jesus Christ than to be forced to suffer? and then there will be no exercise of grace in it, but I shall be merely passive. Christ can lay afflictions upon you, and diseases upon you.

6. No creature hath any good in it any farther than it is enjoyed in God, and improved for God.

7. The seventh suffering principle is this: There are no sufferings of any of the saints that they are called unto at any time, but they are ordered by God, for the time of the suffering, for the kind of the suffering, the continuance of the suffering, the instruments of the suffering.

8. That whenever we suffer for Christ, Christ suffers with us; we are partakers of His sufferings, and He is partaker of our sufferings (Isaiah 63:9).

9. There is more evil in sufferings before they come, in imagination, than when they are come.

10. That there is more evil in the least sin than in the greatest afflictions. It is an ill choice to choose the least sin rather than the greatest affliction.

Now for the blessedness that there is in suffering, many things might be said, but I shall but present before you some short view of what blessedness there is in suffering persecution.

1. If God gives thee a heart to suffer for Him, thou hast in this a full evidence of the truth of thy graces, yea, and of the strength and the eminency of thy graces.

2. There is a great deal of honour in suffering. It is a speech of Ignatius, “I had rather be a martyr than a monarch”; and so you know Moses chose “rather to suffer with the people of God, than to enjoy all the pleasures and riches of Egypt.”

3. It is a blessed thing to suffer for righteousness’ sake, for it is the highest and greatest improvement of men’s abilities, graces, comforts, whatsoever they enjoy. It is the highest improvement that can be for them to suffer. Never are men’s graces so improved as in times of suffering. As the spices have a more fragrant smell when they are beaten to powder that when they are whole; and so the saints’ graces are more fragrant in the nostrils of God, and do grow up more in the time of suffering than ever.

4. It is blessed, for those that suffer are under many blessed promises. Why, “If you suffer with Him, you shall be glorified with Him.” Read 2 Timothy 2:12, and in Romans 8:1-39., there you have divers excellent expressions wherein there are most excellent promises to such as suffer in the cause of Christ (Matthew 19:29). (J. Burroughs.)

Some arguments for the helping of saints to suffer

First, to show the history how all the prophets, disciples, and the saints that have gone before have suffered great and hard things. Secondly, wherein the argument lies of rejoicing under persecution. Thirdly, what use we are to make of the persecution of the prophets. I could handle but the first. To proceed to the second: wherein lies the power of this argument? There is a fivefold strength in this argument, or rather five arguments in it.

1. The same spirit of wickedness that opposed them doth still prevail, and it is the same spirit of truth that is opposed.

2. Hence you may see that those that are dear and precious to God, that they may suffer hard things.

3. If so be God should deal with you otherwise than He did formerly with others, then it might discourage you; but they are no other things than His servants heretofore have suffered.

4. It is the way that God hath brought all His servants into heaven by. Why should you think that God will bring you in a better way than He did others?

5. That though the prophets have suffered such things, yet the truth of God prevails. (J. Burroughs.)

Suffering for the truth’s sake

I. WE CANNOT BE SERVANTS OF JESUS WITHOUT SUFFERING. The contrast between the natural heart and the ideal Christian is not less marked to-day than it was eighteen hundred years ago. Nothing kindles so much hatred as evangelical love.

II. According to the Saviour’s declaration, SUFFERING IS A SOURCE OF HAPPINESS.

1. It is a happiness to suffer for a noble cause.

2. The fact that suffering for truth brings with it its own reward is also a reason for joy, as it ensures the triumph of our cause.

3. “Your reward is great in heaven,” said the Master, thus adding the consolation of a glorious hope to those which flow from duty performed.

4. This triumph of truth in heaven is not enough. It must have its glorious revenge on the very theatre of its humiliations and conflicts. The world must see how mistaken it was in rejecting it, and one day it will be forced to exclaim, “O Galilean, Thou hast overcome.” (E. de Pressense, D. D.)

The reward of the pious in heaven

I. THE FELICITY WHICH AWAITS THOSE WHO PERSEVERE, THROUGH GOOD REPORT AND EVIL REPORT, IN A STEDFAST ADHERENCE TO CHRIST, IS FREQUENTLY EXPRESSED IN THE SCRIPTURES BY THE NAME OF REWARD.

1. It is inseparably joined to obedience, and promised as a motive to encourage and sustain 2:2. It will be bestowed as a mark of approbation, and acceptance of the obedience to which it is annexed.

3. It will be proportionate to the degree of religious improvement, to the work of faith and labour of love.

II. THE SUPERIORITY OF HEAVENLY TO EARTHLY REWARDS.

1. The rewards of heaven are certain.

2. They are satisfying.

3. They are eternal. (R. Hall, A. M.)

Joy in persecution

Somebody pushed good Mr. Kilpin into the gutter and slapped him on the face at the same time, and said, “Take that, John Bunyan”; whereupon the good man took off his hat and said, “I would take fifty times as much as that to have the honour to be called John Bunyan.” Learn to look upon insults for Christ in the same light, and when they call you by an ill name do you reply, “I could bear a thousand times as much as that for the pleasure of being associated with Christ in the world’s derision.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Doing right

When the storm [concerning the slave trade] was at its highest, one of Mr. Buxton’s friends asked him, “What shall I say when I hear people abusing you?” “Say!” he replied, snapping his fingers, “say that. You good folk think too much of your good name. Do right, and right will be done.” (Life of Fowell Buxton.)

The failure of persecution

And so when bad men are not hardened in wickedness they can be won over by the good, but when they are they hate and persecute the good, whose mere silent lives rebuke them. It was thus that Sodom hated Lot; it was thus that the Ephesians expelled Hermodorus because he was virtuous; it was thus that the Athenians ostracised Aristides because he was just. “The honourable and religious gentleman,” said a slave-holding member of Parliament, speaking of William Wilberforce, in the House of Commons. He was properly scathed in reply with the lightnings of the great man’s eloquence, but the epithet spoke volumes with the silent, unconscious, inevitable rebuke of vice and protest for holiness by every true and righteous man. And mark, that when the bad, hating the good, sneer them out of court, repress them by violence, madden the blind multitude by lies against them, poison them as Socrates was poisoned, banish them as Epictetus was banished, burn them as Savonarola was burnt, execrate them as Whitfield was execrated, do not think that then the good have failed. Even in their ashes live their wonted fires, their voices even from the grave sound in the thunder’s mouth, their dead hands pull down the stronghold of their enemies, and tyrants tremble at their ghosts. What was the nature of Jesus? Between two murderers He hung in agony upon the cross, amid the howlings alike of secular and religious hatred. Before three centuries were over that gibbet of torture and infamy sat upon the sceptres and shone upon the crowns of kings. (Archdeacon Farrar.)

Sustained in persecution

The annals of the Church furnish terrible illustrations of persecution, and how Christians have been sustained in trial. A youth who had manifested extraordinary patience under the greatest torture, said afterwards, that at the time of his agony an angel seemed to stand beside him, and pointing him to heaven, enabled him to rise in spirit superior to his pain. Pastor Homel, of the French Protestant Church, had his bones all so broken on the wheel that he survived but forty hours. But then, in his dying agony, he said, “Though my bones are broken to shivers, my soul is filled with inexpressible joy.” (H. Burton.)

On persecution

I have a large field to go over, an Aceldama, “a field of blood,” a Golgotha, “a place of dead men’s skulls,” where you shall see “some stoned, some sawn asunder, some slain with the sword, others having trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, of bonds and imprisonment” Hebrews 11:36-37); but withal (what the eye of flesh cannot discover) blessedness waiting upon them, and shadowing them in the midst of horror. Here is a fair inscription upon a bitter roll, a pleasing preface to a tragical theme, a promise of pleasure in misery, of honour in dishonour, of life in death, of heaven in hell. Here we may see persecution making us strong by making us weak, making us rich by making us poor, making us happy by making us miserable, and driving us through this field of blood into Paradise. The parts of the text are manifestly but two: a blessing pronounced--“ Blessed are they that suffer persecution,” and a reason given--“For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” But we may, by a plain and natural deduction, make them three--

I. That they who begin in the other virtues and beatitudes must end in this; or, in the apostle’s words, “They that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

II. That persecution bringeth no blessing but to those “who suffer for righteousness’ sake.”

III. That to those it doth: which comprehendeth the inscription, “Blessedness”; and the reason of the inscription, “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

I. We find here persecution and blessedness joined together, wrought by the same hand, a hand of mercy, and like sweet and bitter water flow ing from the same fountain, a fountain of love. For it is God’s love and mercy to give us a kingdom; and it is His love and mercy to bring us to it by sufferings, to bring us, as the apostle speaketh, “through much tribulation,” through the noise and tumults of this world, to a place of rest (Acts 14:22). And the reason is as plain, even written with the sunbeams.

1. For, in this, God dealeth with them as a loving father; He doeth it “for the trial, or rather the demonstration, of their faith”; to make it appear that they do not “make a profession of their love, when they hate Him in their heart”; depend upon Him for their salvation and happiness, and, when persecution cometh, leave Him and exchange Him for the world, rather yield, and fall under the burden, than stand fast in the faith, and retain Him as their God. There must some occasion and opportunity be offered, some danger, some cross, that may fright me; and when I withstand all, and cleave fast unto Christ, then it will appear that I am His friend and servant. “A mariner is best seen in a tempest, and a Christian is best known when persecution rageth.”

2. Therefore, in the second place, this is the reason why God suffereth this mixture of good and evil, why He suffereth tyrants and blood-thirsty men to go on and prosper in their ways.

3. Therefore, in the third place, if we consider the Church, which is at her best nothing else but a collection and a body of righteous men, we shall find that, whilst she is on the earth, she is militant; and no other title doth so fully express her.

4. For, in the last place, it cometh not by chance that the righteous are persecuted. What hath chance to do in the school of Providence? No; persecution is brought towards the righteous by the providence and wisdom of a loving Father. I have now brought you into this Aceldama, this “field of blood,” where you may behold the ungodly for their own lust “persecuting the poor” (Psalms 10:2), where you may behold hypocrites and deceitful men “bending their bow, and shooting at the righteous in secret” (Psalms 64:4), and mighty men drawing their swords and drenching them in their blood. A sad sight, to see righteousness under the whip and harrow! But withal you may discover not only an angel going before them, as before the children of Israel in the wilderness, but Christ Himself leading them through these terrors and amazements to a place of refreshing, to “a city not made with hands,” to “the kingdom of heaven.” Oportet, “They must suffer”; but “there remaineth a sabbath for the children of God” (Hebrews 4:9). Persecution is the lot, the inheritance of the righteous: that was our first part.

II. and

III. We will now present you with the second: That every man that suffereth hath not title to this blessedness in the text, but only those “who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,” which comprehendeth all those duties which the gospel requireth at their hands who have given up their names unto Christ. For it is possible that a man may suffer for one virtue, and neglect the rest; may suffer to preserve his chastity, and yet be covetous. He can suffer for the law, and yet break it.

1. And, first, the cause; it must be the love of righteousness. For we see, as I told you, men will suffer for their lusts, suffer for their profit, suffer for fear, suffer for disdain. Be sure your cause be good, or else to venture goods or life upon it is the worst kind of prodigality in the world.

2. In the next place, as a good cause, so a good life, doth fit and qualify us to suffer for righteousness’ sake. Augustine--“He dieth not the death of a martyr who liveth not the life of a Christian.” An unclean beast is not fit to make a sacrifice. The persecuted and persecutor imply and suppose one another, and are never asunder.

1. But let them that suffer have the first place.

2. And now, as we have brought the righteous person into this field of blood, and prepared and strengthened him against the horror of it; so must we bring the persecutor also, that he may behold what desolation he hath made. Why boasteth thou thyself in thy mischief, O mighty man? Psalms 51:1), that “thou hast sped, that thou hast divided the prey”? 5:30). (A. Farindon, D. D.)

Protestants separated for Christ’s name’s sake

I. FROM WHOM CHRIST’S DISCIPLES SUFFER.

II. WHAT IT IS WHICH THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST SUFFER.

1. Hatred.

2. Separation.

3. Reproach.

4. The casting out of their names.

III. THE CAUSE OF THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST’S DISCIPLES. And here we meet--

1. The pretended cause. “They shall cast out your name as evil”; they shall fasten, as much as in them lies, all manner of calumnies upon you; and report of you, not as indeed you are, but as they who hate you would have you thought to be. But as to others, the supposed evil in the matter that Christ’s followers are charged with, is but a pretended cause of their being so evilly dealt withal.

2. The real cause for which they suffer. This is that which is at the bottom of all--it is for Christ’s sake, for their respect unto Him and His institutions, His truths and ordinances, that His disciples suffer. And this we may deduce from the following scheme.

I. It is for the truths of Christ, the doctrine owned, preached, and recommended by Him, that they thus deal with us.

II. It is for the purity of His worship, because we would serve God according to His own will, and not according to their will-worship, that they thus abhor us.

III. It is for His authority’s sake, because we dare not take the government from off His shoulders (Isaiah 9:6), nor pay that respect to any frail man which is only due unto Him who is “God blessed for evermore” (Romans 9:5)--or, if you will, it is because we dare not worship the beast--that they serve us thus. To sum up all in one--it is for the vindication of Christ in all His offices that we endure these indignities at their hands. Three consolatory inferences.

1. In that it is but from men--“When men shall hate you” (Matthew 10:28).

2. It is “for the Son of Man’s sake” that we thus suffer. And if He had required greater matters of us, would we not have done them?

3. Christ has pronounced such sufferers blessed--“Blessed are ye”


Verse 24

Luke 6:24

But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation

The danger of riches

Unless we were accustomed to read the New Testament from our childhood, I think we should be very much struck with the warnings it contains, not only against the love of riches, but the very possession of them.
That our Lord meant to speak of riches as being in some sense a calamity to the Christian is plain from His praises and recommendations of poverty.

1. The most obvious danger which worldly possessions present to our spiritual welfare is that they become practically a substitute in our hearts for that one object to which our supreme devotion is due. They are present; God is unseen. They are means at hand of effecting what we want; whether God will hear our petitions for these wants is uncertain. Thus they minister to the corrupt inclinations of our nature.

2. This, then, was some part of our Saviour’s meaning, when He connects together the having with the trusting in riches.

3. The danger of possessing riches is the carnal security to which they lead; that of desiring or pursuing them is that an object of this world is thus set before us as the end and aim of life. It is a part of Christian caution to see to it that our engagements do not become pursuits. Engagements are oar portion, but pursuits are for the most part of our own choosing.

4. Money is a sort of creation, and gives the acquirer, even more than the possessor, an imagination of his own power; and tends to make him idolize self. And if such be the result of gain on an individual, doubtless it will be the same on a nation; and if the peril be so great in the one case, why should it be less in the other? (J. H. Newman, D. D.)

The perils of rich men

1. One of the principal perils of rich men arises from their very exemption from many temptations to gross sin. Hence they are apt to think too well of themselves.

2. The rich man finds it very easy to do many kindly acts. It is very natural, therefore, that he should regard his own character and life complacently, and that he should think severely of the selfishness of these less fortunate than himself.

3. The rich man’s Bible, with its morocco binding and gilt edges, has very much less in it than the poor man’s Bible, bound in sheep. Pages which are read and re-read, which are marked, and scored, and thumbed in the one, are virtually mere blank paper in the other.

4. As the rich man loses many of the revelations of God’s sympathy, compassion, and care, which inspire the poor with intense and passionate gratitude, so he loses some of the most urgent motives to communion with God, which often make the poor man devout. (R. IV. Dale, LL. D.)

Danger of rich men

A holy woman was wont to say of the rich: “ They are hemmed round with no common misery; they go down to hell without thinking of it, because their staircase thither is of gold and porphyry.” ( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Riches; or, a knife for the canker

To the love of money we trace the melancholy apostasy of Demas, the awful perfidity of Judas, the fatal lie of Ananias and Sapphira--all, and some of them distinguished, professors of religion. Be on your guard. Watch and pray. Their history is written for our instruction. Nor need any of His people who allow the love of money to entwine itself around their hearts, expect that in saving them God will do otherwise than the woodman, who, seeking to save a tree, applies his knife to the canker thai eats into its heart, or the ivy that has climbed its trunk and is choking it in its close embraces. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Smothered by wealth

Many of you are in imminent peril God is multiplying the sources of your power. Your resources are becoming numerous as the sands of the sea. I am not sorry, I am glad; but I am anxious that you should rise up in the midst of these things, and show yourselves greater than prosperity, and stronger and better on account of it. I dread to see a man smothered under his wealth. When a man, driving from the meadow, sits and sings cheerily upon his vast load of fragrant hay, how every one, looking upon him, thinks of his happiness and content l But by and by, at an unlucky jog, down goes the wheel and over goes the load, and the man is at the bottom, with all the hay upon him. Just in that way rich men are in danger of being smothered. The whole wain of your prosperity may capsize, and the superincumbent mass may hide from you the air and the sun of a true life. (H. W. Beecher.)

Ye have received your consolation

Let the full force of the word “ consolation” be observed. It is used by way of contrast to the comfort which is promised to the Christian in the Beatitudes. Comfort, in the fulness of that word, as including help, guidance, encouragement, and support, is the peculiar promise of the gospel. There is then something very fearful in the intimation of the text, that those who have riches thereby receive their portion, such as it is, in full, instead of the heavenly gift of the gospel. The same doctrine is implied in our Lord’s words in the parable of Dives and Lazarus: “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.” (J. H. Newman, D. D.)

Conjunction and separation of woe and riches

We will therefore show--

I. In what conjunction these two, woe and riches, do stand.

II. How they may be sundered: find out why riches are so dangerous to receive, and how we may receive them without any danger. And with these we shall exercise your devotion at this time. “Woe to rich men”; which cannot be literally and generally true: for all rich men are not accursed. But it is the safest way to remove men as far from danger as may be. It is safest for some men to conceive feasting unlawful, that they may avoid gluttony; or sports unlawful, that they may not be wantons; to be afraid of an oath, that they may not be perjured; not to flatter themselves too much in the lawfulness of war, that they delight not in blood, but rather remember the lesson of Moses, or indeed of God: “When thou goest out with the host against thine enemies, then keep thee from all wickedness” (Deuteronomy 23:9).

1. But so far is the world from having that opinion of riches, that they have goodly and glorious titles bestowed upon them. They commend themselves unto us under the honest names of “thrift,” and “frugality,” and “wisdom.” What poor glass is a diamond, to him that is familiar with virtue! What trash is riches, to him who is filled with grace! What nicknames are the empty titles of secular honours, to him that knoweth the glory of a saint l What a nothing is the world, to him that hath studied heaven!

2. Further yet: Riches are accounted as necessaries, and as ornaments of virtue; and under that name we receive and entertain them.

3. Again: Riches are not only not necessary to religion and virtue, but rather a “hindrance.” They take us down from our third heaven, and take us off from “the contemplation” of future happiness, and bind our thoughts to the vanities of the earth, which so press them down and weary them that they cannot aspire. They are retinacula spei, “fetters of our hope.” For “now where is our hope?” (Job 17:15.) Even in the bowels of the earth.They are degraders of our faith. For whilst we walk in this vain shadow, how many degrees doth our faith fall back! The more we “trust in uncertain riches” the less we trust in God (1 Timothy 6:17). They are coolers and abaters of our charity: for, they make us ungrateful to God, severe to ourselves, and cruel to our brethren.

4. Further yet: As riches are a hindrance and obstacle to good, so are they instrumental to evil. They facilitate and help it forward, and are as the midwife to bring it to its birth, which otherwise peradventure had died in the womb, in the thought, and never seen the sun. If sin make “our members the weapons of unrighteousness,” riches are the handle without which they cannot well be managed. Every man cannot grind the face of the poor, every man cannot take his brother by the throat, every man cannot go into the foolish woman’s house, every man cannot bribe a judge, every man cannot be as wicked as he would. And it may seem to be a part of God’s restraining grace, to take riches from some men, as he took off the wheels of Pharaoh’s chariots, that they may not pursue their brethren. But when the purse is full, the heart will more easily vent all the poison it hath, in a reproach, in contempt, in a blow, in an injury, in oppression.

II. You have seen the rich and woe in a sad conjunction, a most malignant one as any astrology hath discovered. I am unwilling to leave them so; and therefore, in the last place, I must find out some means to put them asunder, that we may receive riches without danger; which is indeed “to lead the camel through the needle’s eye.”

1. We must bring riches into a subordination, nay, into a subjection, to Christianity. We may be rich, if we can be poor.

2. That the mind may be rightly affected, we must root out of it all love of riches. For if we set our hearts upon them, the love of them will estrange us from Christ, and make us idolaters.

3. I must bring you yet further, from not loving, not desiring riches, to contemning of them. For though I have emptied my store, and cast it before the wind, yet till I have made riches the object of my fear, till I can say within myself, “This lordship may undo me,” “These riches may beggar me,” “This money may destroy me”--till in this respect I make it the object of my contempt, and look upon it as a bait of Satan, I am not so far removed but that still the woe hangeth over me. For as, when a man taketh a wedge of lead upon his shoulders, it presseth and boweth his body to the earth; but if he put it under his feet, it will lift and keep him from the ground: so, when we place riches above us, and look upon them as upon our heaven; when we prefer them before salvation, and make gain our godliness; it must needs be that they will press us down to hell: but if we keep them below as slaves, and tread them under our feet, and contemn them as dung in comparison of Christ, they will then lift us up as high as heaven.

4. Therefore, in the last place, let me commend unto you a godly jealousy of yourselves. Suspicion in such a case as this is very useful.

5. I am unwilling to leave the rich and the woe so near together, but would set them at that distance that they may never meet. To conclude then: Let us not be too familiar with riches, lest whilst we embrace them we take the plague, and the woe enter into our very bowels. The love of the world is a catching disease, and it is drawn on with dallying, with a very look. We do not traffic for gold where there are no mines: nor can we find God in the world. He that maketh Him his purchase, will find business enough to take up his thoughts, and little time left for conference and commerce in the world, scarce any time to look upon it, but by the by and in the passage, as we use to look upon a stranger. A look is dangerous; a look of liking is too much: but a look Of love will bury us in the world, where we are sown in power, but are raised in weakness; sown in glory, but are raised in dishonour. We rest and sleep in this dust; and when we awake, the woe which hung over our heads falleth upon us. (A. Farindon, D. D.)


Verse 26

Luke 6:26

Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you

The dangers of praise

Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you.

1. First of all, it is more than probable that, if they do so, their judgment of you is fallacious; you do not deserve it. “In the like manner did their fathers unto the false prophets.” Men are fallible judges of one another’s real character.

2. And yet, secondly, you must remark that, however fallacious, however false, the popular estimate, it has a direct tendency to carry us along with it. One would have imagined that no man could be misled, in his own judgment of himself, by anything that another, or that all the world, could say of him.

3. And then follow, in the third place, certain practical consequences; all of them, in a Christian point of view, serious and even disastrous. The first of these is, the loss of humility.

4. With the decay of humility comes the loss of watchfulness.

5. And with the loss of humility and the loss of watchfulness comes as a natural consequence the loss of strength. Praise is an essentially enfeebling and enervating thing. It relaxes the sinews of the mind as sultry weather those of the body.

6. Again, it is an effect of being well spoken of, to make a man covet that approbation and at last live for it. The praise of men has a direct tendency to attach us to earth, and to make us forget heaven. “They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” And this leads us, in the last place, to suggest one or two cautions with which our Lord’s words in the text ought to be guarded, lest they should too much discourage one class of hearers. There are those whose characters possess a beauty and a charm which make it absolutely impossible that they should not be loved. And if there be amongst us to-day some of whom all men do not speak well; some who, whether through fault or no fault of theirs, are neither generally popular nor in danger of suffering from this kind of temptation; do not (he words of the text, so wise in their counsel, and (like all our Lord’s words) so wide in their application, suggest to them a sure ground of comfort under what at times they feel to be a heavy trial? (Dean Vaughan.)

The woe of a favourable reputation

In the life of Alexander Raleigh, D.D., we are told that at one period of his life, accusations were laid before the public in pamphlets which were well adapted to cause him pain and annoyance. The experience was new to him, who all his life had made no enemies. “You have at last,” said one of his people to him, meeting him on the street, “escaped one of the woes of Scripture;” Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you! It is reported of Titus Vespasian, that when any spake ill of him, he was wont to say that he was above false reports; and if they were true, he had more reason to be angry with himself than the relator. And the good Emperor Theodosius commanded no man should be punished that spake against him; “for what was spoken slightly,” said he, “was to be laughed at; what spitefully, to be pardoned; what angrily, to be pitied; and if truly, he would thank them for it.”


Verses 27-30

Luke 6:27-30

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies

The ideal of Christianity

This passage is in earnest.
You are to do this. Why? In order that you may come into the family of God. Here is not simply an additional moral maxim, but it is a critical turning thing. Whereas nature says, “Use all your powers of body and mind to repel injuries, and to punish those that are against you”; the spiritual kingdom says, “Use none of them; forgive, love, pray for, bless, help, carry a little heaven in your souls, and make it fair weather
around about all those that are your enemies.” Is it possible that any such thing as that can take place? I have known some men that came very near to it. One thing is certain--Jesus, whose life was a commentary on His own doctrine, did attain it; and we find Him acting easily, familiarly on that very ground, returning good for evil. Is it a thing, then, that comes with conversion? Men are turned from darkness to light, from selfishness to benevolence; they are said to be converted, but does that state of mind come with conversion? I wish it did, and I know it does not. It is a thing that must be the result of spiritual education in men. Men never come to their graces all at once. It is a law that prevails in the spiritual kingdom as well as in the exterior kingdom, that we come to lower and higher gradations by processes of unfolding, step by step, little by little, continuously through periods of time. (H. W.Beecher.)

On the love of enemies

1. By the love which is here enjoined we are not to understand the love of esteem or complacency, which in some respects is unreasonable and impossible; but that of benevolence or good-will.

2. The precept of the text evidently disallows and utterly excludes all kinds of revenge and retaliation.

I. THE REASONABLENESS OF THIS DUTY. What can be more agreeable to reason and wisdom than to keep evil, so much as possible, out of the world; and when it is in to use all proper means to drive it out. Instead of this, as enmity lets it in, so revenge keeps it there and propagates it.

II. THE EXCELLENCE OF THIS DUTY. General benevolence is general virtue; the true principle of a rational mind, and the great support and ornament of society. But in benevolence towards enemies there is additional worth, peculiar grace, for it raises men’s minds, and exalts their affections to the sublimest pitch.

III. THE ADVANTAGES AND BENEFITS WHICH REDOUND FROM THE PRACTICE OF THIS DUTY. Most evident they are, both in respect of society and every individual.

1. It would be of infinite service to the public if the precept in the text were generally observed and practised. Innumerable broils, feuds, and contentions, would be hereby prevented or soon stopped. Such a disposition, when rooted in the minds of men, would grow up in a firm bank against the overflowings of ill-will and the inundations of strife. The wrongs that were done would slide away gently, without spreading or giving much disturbance to the community; and in a little time be swallowed up and lost in the wide ocean of charity.

2. And as to the private advantages, they are manifestly great and unquestionable. The peace and tranquility of a man’s own mind; the delight of exercising benevolence towards enemies, and of conquering a wild affection. (J. Balguy, M. A.)

Love to enemies the outcome of Christianity

The Roman Triumph, with its naked ostentation of revenge, fairly represents the common feeling of the ancients. Nevertheless, forgiveness even of an enemy was not unknown to them. They could conceive it, and they could feel that there was a Divine beauty in it, but it seemed to them not merely, like the other Christians virtues, more than could be expected of ordinary men, but almost more than could be expected of human nature itself, almost superhuman. A passage near the close of the Ajax of Sophocles will illustrate this. As there was nothing of the antiquarian spirit about Greek tragedy, as it probably never occurred to Sophocles that the ancient heroes he depicts belonged to a less civilized age than his own, but on the contrary, as he conceived them to be better and nobler than his contemporaries, we may fairly suppose the feelings described in this passage to be of the highest standard of the poet’s own age, the age of Pericles. Ulysses, after the death of his enemy Ajax, is described as relenting towards him so far as to intercede with Agamemnon that his body may be decently buried, and not be exposed to the beasts and the birds. This may seem to be no great stretch of generosity. But the request is received by Agamemnon with the utmost bewilderment and annoyance. “What can you mean?” he says, “do you feel pity for a dead enemy?” On the other hand, the friends of Ajax are not less astonished, and break out into rapturous applause, “but,” says Tencer, “I hesitate to allow you to touch the grave, lest it should be disagreeable to the dead man.” The impression of strangeness which these words, “Do you feel pity for a dead enemy?” produce upon us is a proof of the change which Christianity has wrought in manners. A modern dramatist might have written the words, if he had been delineating an extremely savage character, but Sophocles is doing no such thing. He is expressing the natural sentiment of an average man. (Ecce Homo.)

An illustration of the influence of Christian teaching upon barbarous customs

Had the Son of Man been in body upon the earth during the Middle Ages, hardly one wrong and injustice would have wounded His pure soul like the system of torture. The main forces in medieval society, even those which tended to its improvement, did not touch this abuse. Roman law supported it; Stoicism was indifferent to it; Greek literature did not affect it; feudalism and arbitrary power encouraged a practice which they could use for their own ends; and even the hierarchy and a State Church so far forgot the truths they professed as to employ torture to support the religion of love. But against all these powers were the words of Jesus, bidding men “Love your enemies!” “Do good to them that spitefully use you!” and the like commands, working everywhere on individual souls, heard from pulpits and in monasteries, read over by humble believers, and slowly making their way against barbaric passion and hierarchic cruelty.

Gradually, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the books containing the message of Jesus circulated among all classes, and produced that state of mind and heart in which torture could not be used on a fellow-being, and in which such an abuse and enormity as the Inquisition was hurled to the earth. (C. L. Bruce.)

The master-word of Christianity is love. (R. S. Storrs, D. D. , LL. D.)

Loving our enemies a Christian duty

From the words we may observe--

I. That innocence is not always a protection from injuries.

II. That Christians must not recompense evil for evil. I shall--

I. Lay before you your PATTERN, and show you how Christ loved His enemies. And then--

II. I shall press the IMITATION of Him in this respect.

I. Our Saviour, the Son of God, when He was here on earth, had His enemies. Infinite purity, and the most extensive engaging goodness could not gain the love of all.

II. Now I am next to show you how our blessed Saviour carried it toward His enemies; what spirit He was of under such indignities. Christ is spoken of in the Word of God as subduing His enemies in a twofold sense.

1. By His vengeance, when they have filled up the measure of their iniquities.

2. There is another sense in which Christ may be said to conquer and subdue His enemies; by His grace, by His Word and Spirit.

Let us now inquire how Christ our great pattern manifested His love or good-will towards His enemies, and still shows Himself reconcilable to such as are so.

1. In His bearing their reproaches with meekness, and a tender concern for them, not using them with severity, any farther than He saw needful to convince them of their sin, and to awaken them to repentance. He did not render evil for evil, and railing for railing (1 Peter 2:21; 1Pe_2:23).

2. In His forbearing to take vengeance on His enemies, as one that came not to judge the world, but to save the world.

3. Christ showed His love to His enemies in forgiving them, on condition of their sincere repentance.

4. Our blessed Saviour manifested His good-will towards His enemies, His desire of their conversion and salvation, in His labours for their good, His preaching the Gospel to any that would attend upon Him, in His warning, instructing, and entreating them.

5. In His praying for them.

6. In that charge mentioned before, which He gave His apostles after His resurrection from the dead, to preach repentance and remission of sins first at Jerusalem.

I shall now close with two or three reflections on what has been delivered.

1. Let not those who have hitherto shown themselves enemies to Christ, despising His love, dishonouring His name, rejecting His gracious offers and abusing His gospel, despair of mercy, and think themselves utterly excluded from His favour.

2. Let the friends of Christ rejoice in their interest in His peculiar love.

I am now to proceed to the consideration of the second thing proposed, to press the IMITATION of our Lord in this respect.

1. The first thing to be considered is, who are our enemies. Not ministers who are ordained of God to show men their sins. Nor are rulers, such as bear the sword of justice. Nor are we to be offended with any that tell us of our faults, as if they were our enemies. This is not always a sign of men’s disaffection to us, but sometimes of their good-will. Nor, further, are we to reckon all our enemies that differ from us in their opinions about religion. But let us see who may justly be called our enemies. Now, they are such as have ill-will, bitterness and rancour in their hearts against us. Now, how are Christians to behave themselves towards those that hate them, and wrong them? Why, corrupt nature presently dictates an answer; hate them in like manner, recompense evil for evil, take revenge.

2. What is meant by loving our enemies? Not taking complacency and delight in them; not entering into familiarity with them, and making them our intimates, as we would our particular friends. In short, we should be well affected towards them.

Thirdly then, how are we to express our love to our enemies?

1. We must suppress all immoderate anger and passion.

2. We must express our good-will to our enemies by just faithful reproof.

3. We must not envy our enemies their ease and prosperity, nor wish that their circumstances were altered into worse, that God would lift up His hand against them, afflict and blast them. In the fourth place, we should be so far from desiring the adversity of our enemies, that we should pity them in their distress.

4. We must pray for our enemies.

I am now to offer to your consideration some motives to this duty.

1. Consider the excellency of this duty. It is difficult indeed, but then there is a peculiar beauty in it, which tends greatly to adorn Christianity.

2. This is a duty expressly commanded in the gospel of Christ.

3. By such a disposition of mind as is recommended in the text we should be conformed to God.

4. We have the example of Christ our Lord.

5. We have also the example of the apostles of Christ, who themselves practised this duty.

6. Hatred and malice, when they lie fretting in the heart, and break out in their unchristian inhuman effects, can do no good, but must needs be unprofitable and unpleasant. Lastly, you shall not lose your reward. “My prayer,” says David, “returned into my own bosom” (Psalms 35:13). “Love your enemies and do good; and your reward shall be great” Luke 6:35). (Thomas Whitty.)

The duty of loving our enemies stated and explained

I. Then, I am to STATE THE NATURE AND EXTENT OF THIS PRECEPT. There are two kinds of love which we must distinguish here; the love of approbation or esteem, and the love of benevolence or good-will. The love of approbation and the love of benevolence are, then, very distinct in their own nature. Our Saviour, at the same time that He expressed His disapprobation and dislike of Jerusalem for stoning the prophets, yet exemplified a very benevolent and compassionate regard for it, for He wept over it. Even resentment does not exclude benevolence, and we are very often angry at a person for committing a fault, even because we love him.

And as our Saviour loved and compassionated the Jews, though He abhorred their ungenerous treatment of Himself and the prophets; so we ought, with the same god-like generosity of soul, to love the man at the same time that we detest his vices; just as we may have an affectionate regard for a person that lies ill, but have an aversion to the disease he labours under. As to the extent and degrees of this duty, the Scripture nowhere enjoins an undistinguishing beneficence to men whether friendly or injurious. We ought to do the most good we can. Now, by singling out men of fortune, whatever relations may endear them to us, as the objects of our favour, we contribute little or nothing to their real enjoyments; but by being, what God is in a higher degree, the helper of the friendless and forlorn, we make the heart of one that was ready to perish sing for joy. In the former ease our bounty is like a shower to the ocean; in the latter it is like a shower to dry and thirsty ground. This is a very important rule, viz., that the extreme necessity of even our enemies, much more of other persons, is to take place of the mere conveniency of friends and relations, and that we ought rather to relieve the distressed than to promote the happiness of the easy; however the practice of it be disregarded by the world. But to proceed; the Scripture does not require any acts of kindness to our enemy which are confessedly prejudicial to our own interests: for we are not to love our neighbour better than ourselves. Our mercy to our enemies must not be so far extended as to expose us to the mercy of our enemies.

II. Having thus stated the nature and extent of this duty, I proceed, secondly, TO SHOW THE REASONABLENESS OF IT.

1. The great law of nature is an universal, active benevolence to the whole body of rational beings, as far as the sphere of our power extends. We were all sent into the world to promote one another’s happiness, as being all children of the same Father, our Father which is in heaven. What Moses said to the contending Israelites is applicable to all mankind: “Why do ye wrong one another, since ye are brethren? “ And no injuries can take away or cancel that unchangeable relation. For, do we do good to our nearest and dearest relations only because they are deserving? Do we not think ourselves obliged to serve them merely because they are relations? This relation is always a strong reason for doing good, when there is no stronger reason to supersede or set it aside. And this may serve to show, that however for ward persons of the first distinction in civil and military offices may be to engross to themselves the character of heroism or any uncommon degree of virtue; a man in a private capacity may be as truly a hero in virtue, as they can be in a larger and more public sphere of action. He is like one of the fixed stars, which though, through the disadvantage of its situation, it may be thought to be very little, inconsiderable, and obscure by unskilful beholders; yet is as truly great and glorious in itself as those heavenly lights, which, by being placed more commodiously for our view, shine with more distinguished lustre. For he shows, by his complacency, that he would have done the same if his abilities had been equal to his inclinations.

2. An argument may be drawn from the consideration of our own happiness. Now to cultivate the sweet and kindly passions, to cherish an affectionate and social temper, to beget in ourselves, by repeated acts of goodness, a settled complacency, good will and benevolence to all mankind in general, is a constant spring of satisfaction. To contract an unrelenting malice, sullenness, and discontent, to let a sudden discomposure of mind ripen into a fixed aversion and ill-will, to have a savageness of nature and an insensibility to pity; what is this but to make our breast, which should be the temple of God, as it were a den of savage passions? In acts of severity, even when necessary, there is always something that is irksome to a gentle and compassionate spirit, something of a harsh and ungrateful feeling within accompanies them; like armour, which, though we may be obliged to put it on for our necessary self-defence, yet always fits uneasy, cumbrous, and unwieldy. Some cool-thinking villains there may be, who can lay plots to injure others with a steadfast and sedate malice, and with an untoward complacency; their minds being like those nights, which are very calm, silent, and close, and yet very black and dark; nights in which there reigns a sullen stillness. But men of this stamp are very rare: the generality of mankind, when they strive to make others uneasy, certainly disquiet themselves, and work out the ruin of other men, as they should do their own salvation, with fear and trembling.

3. A third argument for the love of our enemies may be drawn from the forgiveness of them. Now, the forgiveness of our enemies is a duty incumbent on us: because, in the first place, malice is, as I showed before, destructive of our happiness: because, secondly, we cannot with any reason ask that of God which we are not willing to bestow: because, thirdly, all private revenge, and consequently the desire of it too, is in the nature of the thing unlawful; since if it were allowed, it would draw a fatal train of consequences after it, and make the world an Aceldama, or field of blood. We know that the malignity of the offence rises in proportion to the dignity of the person whom we offend: now, most people are inclined to think themselves much greater than they are; and consequently to think the offence committed against them to be so too; the consequence of which is obvious, if we were commissioned to revenge ourselves. The mists of passion would represent injuries bigger than they are, and it would be impossible to proportion the punishment to the indignity. In short, it can never be reasonable, that one man’s reputation, fortune, or life should be sacrificed to another man’s passion and malice. How are we to behave ourselves to those whom we forgive? Are we to behave ourselves to them as to enemies? Not as to enemies: for then we do not sincerely forgive them. Besides, it is unnatural to have a cold indifference to the happiness or misery of our fellow-creatures, when our minds are divested of all rancour towards them. Benevolence will naturally shed abroad in our heart its kindly and gentle beams, when the clouds, which the unfriendly passions cast over the soul, are removed and dispersed.

4. A fourth argument may be drawn from the nature of God. No creature ought to counteract his Creator.

III. I proceed to show THE PRACTICABLENESS OF THIS DUTY. And here two sorts of men fall under our consideration:

1. Men of cool and deliberate malice, who, like lions lurking in secret places, can wait a considerable time, till, a convenient season offering itself, they spring to vengeance, and crush their unwary foe. Their resentment is like a massive stone, slowly raised; but, when once it is raised, on whomsoever it falls, it will grind them to powder.

2. The men of fire and fury, who immediately discharge the malignity of their passion in words or actions. As to the first set of men: it is certain that the same power of mind, which enables them to suspend the prosecution of their revengeful designs till a commodious opportunity, enables them likewise to get the better of their revengeful desires; for a passion so importunate and clamorous in its demands as revenge, if it cannot be curbed and controlled, cannot be suspended, and put off; and if it can be controlled, it can likewise be quelled and overcome. As to the second set of men, viz., the men of passion and fury, they indeed will tell you, “God forgive them, it is their infirmity which they cannot help: they are apt to be transported into unseemly words and actions; but the storm is soon over.” These are the excuses of those, who, when their anger has spent itself, are very good-natured; and continue so, till fresh recruits of spirits enable their passions to take the field again. But the misfortune is, these notable excuses are quite spoiled, if we consider that these men can be, and are very often, upon their guard. They will not fall into an unseemly rage before a great person, whom they dread and revere. After all, it must be owned, that a provocation may be so shocking and flagrant, that nature may rebel against principle, and a desire of revenge may as naturally hurry away the soul as a whirlwind does the body. This is an extraordinary case, and no doubt a gracious God will make allowances for it. It is a common saying, that few people know their own weakness; but it is as true a one, that few people know their own strength till they are put to it, and resolved in the prosecution of any design. It has been often observed that our hatred is most implacable when it is most unjust.

IV. And lastly, TO CONCLUDE WITH SOME PRACTICAL ADVICE. Let US reflect, that we cannot expect to be benefited by our Saviour, as a full sacrifice for sin, unless we imitate Him, as a complete model of virtue; and this we cannot do without forgiving and loving our enemies. Can a mind think anything here worth an implacable animosity, whose comprehensive views are raised as high as heaven, and extended as far as eternity? Let us think what would become of us at the last decisive day, a day decisive of our eternal happiness or misery, if God should deal with us with the same unforgiving disposition as we would deal with others. (J. Seed.)

Of loving our enemies

I. WHAT IS NOT THAT LOVE WHICH WE MUST SHOW OUR ENEMIES: this we shall find to exclude several things which would fain wear this name.

1. As first, to treat an enemy with a fair deportment and amicable language, is not the love here enjoined by Christ. Love is a thing that scorns to dwell anywhere but in the heart. The kindness of the heart never kills, but that of the tongue often does. Was ever the hungry fed, or the naked clothed, with good looks or fair speeches? These are but thin garments to keep out the cold, and but a slender repast to conjure down the rage of a craving appetite. But we are not to rest here; fair speeches and looks are not only very insignificant as to the real effects of love, but are for the most part the instruments of hatred in the execution of the greatest mischiefs. For it is oil that whets the razor, and the smoothest edge is still the sharpest: they are the complacencies of an enemy that kill, the closest hugs that stifle, and love must be pretended before malice can be effectually practised. In a word, he must get into his heart with fair speeches and promises, before he can come at it with his dagger.

2. Fair promises are not the love that our Saviour here commands us to show our enemies. For what trouble is it to promise, what charge is it to spend a little breath, for a man to give one his word, who never intends to give him anything else? And yet, according to the measures of the world, this must sometimes pass for a high piece of love. In a word, I may say of human promises, what expositors say of Divine prophecies, “that they are never understood till they come to be fulfilled.”

3. But thirdly and lastly, to advance a degree yet higher, to do one or two kind offices for an enemy is not to fulfil the precept of loving him. It is like pardoning a man the debt of a penny, and in the meantime suing him fiercely for a talent. Love is then only of reality and value when it deals forth benefits in a full proportion to one’s need: and when it shows itself both in universality and constancy. Other wise it is only a trick to serve a turn, and carry on a design. The skilful rider strokes and pleases the unruly horse, only that he may come so near him, as to get the bit into his mouth, and then he rides, and rules, and domineers over him at his pleasure. So he who hates his enemy with a cunning equal to his malice, will not strain to do this or that good turn for him, so long as it does not thwart, but rather promote the main design of his utter subversion, For all this is but like the helping a man over the stile, who is going to be hanged, which surely is no very great or difficult piece of civility.

II. And thus having done with the negative, I come now to the second general thing proposed, namely, to show POSITIVELY WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE DUTY OF LOVING OUR ENEMIES. It includes these three things.

1. A discharging the mind of all rancour and virulence towards an adversary.

2. To love an enemy is to do him all the real offices of kindness that opportunity shall lay in our way. Love is of too substantial a nature to be made up of mere negatives, and withal too operative to terminate in bare desires.

3. The last and crowning instance of our love to our enemies, is to pray for them. For by this a man, as it were, acknowledges himself unable to do enough for his enemy; and therefore he calls in the assistance of heaven, and engages omnipotence to complete the kindness. He would fain outdo himself, and therefore finding his own stores short and dry, he repairs to infinity. Prayer for a man’s self is indeed a choice duty, yet it is but a kind of lawful and pious selfishness. But when I pray as heartily for my enemy as I do for my daily bread; when I strive with prayers and tears to make God his friend, who himself will not be mine; when I reckon his felicity among my own necessities; surely this is such a love as, in a literal sense, may be said to reach up to heaven. For nobody judges that a small and trivial thing for which he dares to pray: no man comes into the presence of a king to beg pins.

III. I come now to the third and last thing, viz., TO ASSIGN MOTIVES AND ARGUMENTS TO ENFORCE THIS LOVE TO OUR ENEMY and they shall be taken--

1. From the condition of our enemy’s person, For the first of these, if we consider our enemy, we shall find that he sustains several capacities, which may give him a just claim to our charitable affection.

2. A second motive or argument to the same shall be taken from the excellency of the duty itself. It is the highest perfection that human nature can reach unto. The excellency of the duty is sufficiently proclaimed by the difficulty of its practice. Nothing certainly but an excellent disposition improved by a mighty grace, can bear a man up to this perfection.

3. The third motive or argument shall be drawn from the great examples which recommend this duty to us. (R. South, D. D.)

Example of the early Christians

Justin Martyr, one of the earliest writers, in his “Apology “ to the heathen in behalf of the Christians, says, “We who once hated and murdered one another, we who would not enjoy the hearth in common with strangers, on account of the difference of our customs, now live in common with them, since the appearance of Christ; we pray for our enemies; we seek to persuade those who hate us unjustly, that they may direct their lives according to the glorious doctrines of Christ, and may share with us the joyful hope of enjoying the same privileges from God the Lord of all things.”

Example of Origen

Origen, one of the greatest scholars and theologians of the Christian Church in the third century, when he was cruelly persecuted by Demetrius, and through his efforts excommunicated by the synod, beautifully exhibited the same mild and forgiving spirit. Speaking in his defence against the synod, he mentions wicked priests and rulers thus: “We must pity them rather than hate them, pray for them rather than curse them, for we are created for blessing rather than cursing.”

The Carthaginian Christians

In the time of a great pestilence, Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, in the third century, exhorts his flock to take care of the sick and dying, not only among their friends, but their foes. “If,” says he, “we only do good to our own people, we do no more than publicans and heathens. But if we are the children of God, who makes His sun to shine and His rain to descend upon the just and upon the unjust, who sheds abroad His blessings, not upon His friends alone, but upon those whose thoughts are far from Him, we must show this by our actions, blessing those who curse us, and doing good to those who persecute us.” Stimulated by their bishop’s admonition, the members of the Church addressed themselves to the work, the rich contributing their money and the poor their labour. Thus the sick were attended to, the streets soon cleared of the corpses that filled them, and the city saved from the dangers of a universal pestilence.

Mr. Burkitt and his injurers

Mr. Burkitt observes in his journal, that some persons would never have had a particular share in his prayers but for the injuries they had done him!

Mr. Lawrence’s charge to his sons

Mr. Lawrence once going, with some of his sons, by the house of a gentleman who had been injurious to him, charged them that they should never think or speak amiss of that gentleman on account of anything he had done against him, but, whenever they passed his house, they should lift up their hearts in prayer to God for him and his family. This good man had read our text to some purpose.

A persuasive to love our enemies

Negative holiness is short of Christianity more than the one half. It is not enough that we do others no ill, but we must do them good as we have access. Nor is it enough that we fly not out in passion and revenge on those who have wronged us, but we must love them.

I. We shall consider THE DUTY OF LOVING OUR ENEMIES. And here I shall show who are to be understood by our enemies. In general, it aims at those about whom there is least to engage our love to them.

1. Does not the psalmist say, “Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate Thee? And am not I grieved with those that rise up against Thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies”? (Psalms 139:21-22.) And does not Jehu the son of Hanani the seer say to King Jehoshaphat, “Shouldst thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?” (2 Chronicles 19:2.)

1. Yea they are, and for them too, in different respects; the former in respect of their wicked works, the latter in respect of their persons.

2. It is to be understood of those who are adversaries to us, or are against us any manner of way, whether they in that matter be against God or not. And so it takes in--

(a) Those whom we take for our enemies, but are really only smiting friends.

(b) Those whom we take for our enemies, but are only competitors with us in a lawful way. There is so much selfishness in the world, and so little regard to the interest of our neighbour, that a great many imaginary enemies are made this way.

1. Stated public enemies, who, in their principles and by open profession, are opposite to us, and practise accordingly. Such were the unbelieving Jews, particularly the Scribes and Pharisees, to the followers of Christ, inwardly hating them, openly cursing them. This party-enmity is frequent in the world, and it is the bane of the Church.

2. Stated private enemies, who set themselves in a course of enmity against such and such persons. Such enemies were Herod and Pilate to one another Luke 23:12). Such had Joseph’s brethren against him, Ahab against Micaiah, and Absalom against his brother Amnon. This is frequent everywhere, spreading itself like venom among neighbours, yea, among relations, and among neighbours of all sorts.

1. Heart-enemies, who in their hearts are set against us, burning with grudge, malice, and rancour at us. The text is plain as to our duty in that case, “Do good to them that hate you.”

2. Tongue-enemies, who employ their tongues against us like swords, arrows, fire, and scourges. “Bless them that curse you.” These are very dangerous enemies, and sometimes give very deep and galling wounds Psalms 57:4). And tongue-love will not pay that debt, it must be heart- Pro_10:18). Wit may furnish the former, but true wisdom must furnish the latter in that case.

3. Hand-enemies, who in their actions and deeds are enemies to us; not only in their hearts wishing us ill, and with their tongues speaking ill of us, but to their power, and as they have occasion, doing ill to us”Pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Our Lord binds us even to love these, and that while they are doing against us. The corrupt heart’s motion is to do ill for ill, but by grace we must do good for ill: that is heaven’s exchange.

II. I come to show WHAT THAT LOVE IS WHICH WE OWE TO OUR ENEMIES We must love them. It is necessary to explain this, both negatively and positively. First, Negatively. We are not bound to love them--

I. So as for their sakes to be reconciled to and at peace with their sin. We must love and strive to please one another, but to edification, not to destruction.

2. Neither does this love bar seeking redress of wrongs in an orderly way. If God had meant that men should be in the earth, like the fishes in the sea, where the greater swallow up the lesser, without possibility of redress, nothing being left to the weaker but to yield themselves, He had never appointed the magistrate, “a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:4).

3. Neither doth it bind us to a love of complacency in them. That is, we are not obliged to take delight in them, make them our intimate and familiar companions, associate with them as our friends, being in a course of enmity against God. Jehoshaphat was reproved for that (2 Chronicles 19:2). David makes it a mark of his sincerity, that he abstained from it (Psalms 139:21). Solomon tells us, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20). Secondly, Positively. There is a threefold love that uses to be distinguished.

First, We owe to our enemies, our real enemies, a love of good-will Romans 13:9).

1. We must not wish them ill as ill to them (Psalms 40:14). We must pluck up the roots from which ill wishes to them do spring up. Envy, which looks with an ill eye on their welfare, and would eat it up (James 3:16); hatred, which blocks up all good from us to them (Leviticus 19:17); grudge, which is a train lying within the heart, ready to be blown up on occasion for mischief to them (Leviticus 19:18); and malice, which like a burning fire pursues them with ill-will (Ephesians 4:31). Our ill wishes Can do them no ill, but they do ourselves much. Every ill wish is an item in our accounts before God, and the reigning root of ill-will to our neighbour proves one to be naught (1 John 2:11). But this extends not to these two cases.

2. We must not take pleasure in any ill that befalls them, as ill to them Proverbs 24:17).

3. We must heartily wish them well (1 Timothy 1:5). “Pray for them,” says the text. We must wish them the best things, that they may be for ever happy; may have favour and peace with God (Luke 33:34); and that for that cause God may grant them faith, repentance, and all other saving graces. For it is a vain wish, and worse than vain, to wish people happy, living and going on in their sins.

4. We must wish them well, as well to them (Psalms 122:8). Men may wish well to their enemies, from a mere carnal principle, not as being well for them, but for themselves. That is, they may wish them repentance, dec., for their own ease, not from any love to their souls.

Secondly, We owe to our enemies, our real enemies, a love of beneficence, whereby we will be ready to do them good as we have access; and therefore says the apostle (1 John 3:18).

1. We must not practise revenge upon them, by doing one ill turn for another they have done us (Romans 12:19).

2. We must not withhold from them the good that is due to them from us by any particular tie; but must be sure to be in our duty to them, though they be out of their duty to us, “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it” (Proverbs 3:27).

3. We must be ready to do them good as Providence puts an opportunity in our hand. “As we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men” Galatians 6:10). Now we must be ready to do them good--

(a) To speak for their good: for a good word is often of such usefulness to men, that it may be reckoned among good deeds.

(b) To act for their good (Romans 12:20).

III. The next general head is to show, THAT THIS LOVING OF OUR ENEMIES IS A NECESSARY MARK AND EVIDENCE OF A CHILD OF GOD.

1. The living in malice and envy against any, is an evidence of one in the black state of nature, a child of hell. Hence says the apostle (Titus 3:3).

2. To love our friends and hate our enemies, is nothing above the reach of nature, corrupt as it is.

3. The want of it will evince the person to want the true love of God; and he who wants that, surely is not a child of God, but a child of the devil.

4. It is a necessary consequent of regeneration, and without that no man shall see heaven (1 John 3:9-10).

5. If we love not our enemies, we are not like God; and if we be not like Him, we are not His children: for all His children have His Spirit in them Galatians 4:6). And they all bear His image (Colossians 3:10).

6. If we love not our enemies, we have not the Spirit of Christ, and so are none of His (Romans 8:9).

7. Without this we are murderers in the sight of God, and so have no share in eternal life. “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15).

This shows us that--

1. It is not easy to be a Christian indeed, however easy it is to take on the name and profession of it.

2. Christianity lies in a Christian or Christ-like disposition of heart, and a conduct of life agreeable thereto (James 1:22).

3. Those who pick and chose in religion, taking the easier, and not meddling with the difficult duties thereof laid before them, do but deceive themselves.

4. Christianity is the best friend of human society. O how happy might the world be if it should obtain! What peace, safety, and ease would there be among nations, in neighbourhoods, and in families? It would be an effectual quench-coal to all the fightings, quarrellings, jarrings, strifes, and wrongs, that take away the comfort of society.

5. There are few Christians in the world: the children of God’s family are very rare; even as rare as they are who love their enemies. Hereby ye may discern, whether ye are the children of God or not. This is an evidence proposed by Christ Himself, the elder brother of the family. But ye may safely take the comfort of love to your enemies--

To press this, let me suggest the following motives.

1. It is the command of God and His Son Jesus Christ.

2. Ye were baptized in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, all of you, and many of you have communicated in the Lord’s Supper. Since ye have taken on the external badge of the family, walk as becomes members of that holy society.

3. The more ye have of this, ye are the more like God; the less ye have of it, ye are the more unlike Him. Here is your true glory.

4. This is the way to be useful in the world.

5. It will be much to your own advantage.

6. Your claim to the family of God depends on it.

I shall conclude with a few directions.

1. Come to Christ, and unite with Him by faith (Hebrews 11:6).

2. Bear up in your hearts a deep sense of your sinfulness, with the faith of pardon thereof.

3. Ply your hearts with the believing thoughts of the beneficence of God to His enemies, and the love of Christ dying for His enemies to redeem them from wrath.

4. Consider that even your enemies were made originally after God’s image Genesis 9:6), and they may be for all you know the objects of everlasting love; for whom special favour is secured by the eternal transaction.

5. As there are readily none, but they have something desirable about them; so fix ye upon that, and love them for it, as ye will love gold, though ye should find it in a mire. Beware lest the faults of others and their blemishes blind your eyes to their beauties and excellencies.

6. Consider them rather as objects of pity and compassion, than of hatred.

7. Consider the shortness of time, their and your own (Ecclesiastes 9:6). We have no time to spend in these petty quarrels of this world. (T. Boston, D. D.)

Returning good for evil, the wisest course

Thus, with intimate knowledge of our common life, does Jesus trace the workings of revengeful irritation down from the buffet which burns upon the cheek, to the neighbour who only pesters us with his borrowing. Everywhere he bids us substitute for the passion which calls for retaliation that nobler charity which repays evil with good. Shallow or selfish hearts are apt to say this is to put a premium on aggression, and meekly invite a repetition of it. No doubt there are foolish ways of yielding a literal obedience to this law, which would have no better effect than to provoke a second blow on the other cheek. Yet love is wise, not foolish; and often wiser in its generous confidence than selfishness in its calculating suspiciousness, which it terms prudence. God has made human souls more susceptible, on the whole, to kindness than to any other moral force; and such kindness as this, which can net only forgive, but suffer, offence, is fit to melt the rock and to tame the brute. Good, by the simple and lovely strength of its own goodness, does in the end overcome evil; or if it does not, it is because evil cannot be overcome. At all events, when a patient lover of men is trying, by unaffected meekness and unrequited generosity, to wear out the evil-doing of the bad and shame them into penitence, he is only taking the course which both God’s wisdom has prescribed and God’s own love has followed. It is not by His words only, but much more by His acts, that Jesus has fulfilled this law which substitutes generosity for revenge. In His person we see the supreme example of His own rule. (J. O. Dykes, D. D.)

The good use of an enemy

It was the opinion of Diogenes, that our life had need either of faithful friends, or sharp and severe enemies. And indeed our enemies oftentimes do us more good than those we esteem our friends; for a friend will often pass over ordinary failings, and out of respect, connivance, or self-interest, speak only what shall be grateful, or, at least, not displeasing; while aa enemy will catch at every error, and sets himself as a spy upon all our actions, whereby, as by a tyrant governor, we are kept impaled within the bounds of virtue and prudence, beyond whose limits if we dare to wander, we are presently whipped by him into the circle of discretion. Like the sergeant of a regiment, if we be out of rank, he checks us again into the place and file appointed us. To a fool, he is the bellows of passion; but to a wise man, he may be made a schoolmaster of virtue. An enemy also, not only hinders the growth and progress of our vices, but enkindles, exercises, and exalts our virtues. Our patience is improved, by bearing calmly the indignities he strives to load us with; our charity is enflamed by returning good for ill, and by pardoning and forgiving the injuries he does us; our prudence is increased by wisely managing ourselves in our demeanour, so as not to give him opportunity to wound us; our fortitude is strengthened by a manful repelling of scorns, and by giving occasions for the display of an undaunted courage in all our actions; our industry is strengthened and confirmed by watching all his attacks and stratagems; and by our contriving how we may best acquit ourselves in all our contests. And doubtless we ought, in another respect, to be thankful for an enemy. He causes us to show the world our parts and piety, which else perhaps might go with us to our dark graves, and moulder and die with us, quite unknown; or, could not otherwise well be seen, without the vanity of a light and ostentatious mind. Miltiades had missed his trophy, if he had missed an enemy in the Marathonian fields. Our enemies, then, are to be reckoned in the number of those by whom we may be rendered better if we will. As the hardest stone is the most proper for a basis, so there is not a better pedestal to raise a trophy of our virtues upon, than an outward enemy, if we can but keep ourselves from inward enemies, our vices and our weaknesses. (Owen Felltham.)

Returning good for evil

Difference between man’s way of doing it and God’s way. When we do it we fail in various ways.

1. Sometimes it is done through sycophancy or cowardice.

2. Through weakness or easy indulgence; we “return good” to a spoilt child (or dependant) for evil which requires checking, by selfishly or idly ignoring it.

3. Through indifference or apathy, want of sensitiveness and real abhorrence of evil; we “take no notice,” we condone and are tolerant of it, thinking thus to “return good.”

4. We calculate that our good-returning will pay us; in praise and influence or reputation for instance.

5. We do it at the wrong time (i.e., what is good for the evil-doer at one time is bad for him at another)
; or we return a wrong (
i.e., unsuitable)
kind or form of good and in the wrong way; so that it is perverted and misunderstood, and becomes evil.

6. We do it so as to encourage the evil-doer to repeat his injury on another, perhaps more helpless; we harden him by impunity, we refuse to help him against himself. There is thus nothing more vitally important in returning good for evil than to be sure that it is good in the highest sense of the word; God’s own good, not our selfish or shallow or one-sided notions of it.

The difficult commandment

I. ILLUSTRATE THIS DUTY.

1. The objects--“Enemies.”

2. The feelings we must exercise towards them--“ Love. “

II. ENFORCE THIS DUTY.

1. On the ground of Christ’s indisputable authority.

2. On the ground of Christ’s blessed example.

3. Our acceptance with God is suspended upon 2:4. It is essential to true religion here, and to happiness hereafter.

III. ANSWER OBJECTIONS. It is objected--

1. “That it is incompatible with self-love.” We reply, that we are not to love the injury, but the injurer; and the soul’s sweetest felicity will thus be produced.

2. “Revenge is sweet.” It is so to demons, and wicked men who possess the spirit of the wicked one. But mercy and pity only are really sweet to those who are renewed in their hearts by the saving grace of God.

3. “Revenge is honourable.” It is false honour--the honour of a bad world, and of depraved hearts. It is the glory of the blessed God to forgive us, who have been enemies to Him; and it is our highest dignity to be conformed to His holy image.

4. “It is impossible.” So it is to the carnal mind, without Divine aid, without crucifying our own carnal self. Stephen prayed for his murderers. And the blessed Jesus, who knows what is in man, and what he is capable of doing, and whose yoke is easy, has enjoined it; and therefore, however difficult, it is evidently possible. (J. Burns, D. D.)

Love to an enemy

During the American Revolutionary War there was living, in Pennsylvania, Peter Milier, pastor of a little Baptist Church. Near the church lived a man who secured an unenviable notoriety by his abuse of Miller and the Baptists. He was also guilty of treason, and was for this sentenced to death. No sooner was the sentence pronounced than Peter Miller set out on foot to visit General Washington, at Philadelphia, to intercede for the man’s life. He was told that his prayer could not be granted. “My friend!” exclaimed Miller, “I have not a worse enemy living than that man.” “What,” rejoined Washington, “ you have walked sixty miles to save the life of your enemy? That in my judgment puts the matter in a different light. I will grant you his pardon.” The pardon was made out, and Miller at once proceeded on foot to a place fifteen miles distant, where the execution was to take place on the afternoon of the Same day. He arrived just as the man was being carried to the scaffold, who, seeing Miller in the crowd, remarked: “There is old Peter Miller. He has walked all the way from Ephrata to have his revenge gratified to-day by seeing me hung.” These words were scarcely spoken before Miller gave him his pardon, and his life was spared.

A proof of the gospel being from God

Henry Clay once replied to some sneering allusion to the character of American Evangelical Christianity: “I do not know practically what the Churches call religion. I wish I did. But I do know what it effects.” And then reciting the case of a bitter feud between two neighbouring families in Kentucky which had kept the community in a ferment for years, but at last had been settled by the conversion of both parties, he said: “I tell you that whatever will change a Kentucky feud into a fellowship so soon and effectively is of God. No power short of His could do it.”

Doing good to an enemy

In the old persecuting times there lived in Cheapside one who feared God and attended the secret meetings of the saints; and near him there dwelt a poor cobbler, whose wants were often relieved by the merchant; but the poor man was a cross-grained being, and most ungratefully, from hope of reward, laid as information against his kind friend on the score of religion. This accusation would have brought the merchant to death by burning if he had not found a means of escape. Returning to his house, the injured man did not change his generous behaviour to the malignant cobbler, but, on the contrary, was more liberal than ever. The cobbler was, however, in an ill mood, and avoided the good man with all his might, running away at his approach. One day he was obliged to meet him face to face, and the Christian man asked him gently, “Why do you shun me? I am not your enemy. I know all that you did to injure me, but I never had an angry thought against you. I have helped you, and I am willing to do so as long as I live, only let us be friends.” Do you marvel that they clasped hands? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Returning good for evil

Arcadius, an Argive, was incessantly railing at Philip of Macedon. Venturing once into the dominions of Philip, the courtiers reminded their prince that he had now an opportunity to punish Arcadius for his past insolences, and to put it out of his power to repeat them. The king, however, instead of seizing the hostile stranger and putting him to death, dismissed him loaded with courtesies and kindnesses. Some time after Arcadius’s departure from Macedon, word was brought that the king’s old enemy was become one of his warmest friends, and did nothing but diffuse his praises wherever he went. On hearing this, Philip turned to his courtiers, and asked, with a smile, “Am not I a better physician than you?”

Good for evil

A man was seen one day going in a boat on a river with a large dog, which he wished to get rid of by drowning. He succeeded in throwing the animal into the water; but the creature sought to re-enter the boat. As the man was attempting to beat off the dog from the boat, he fell overboard, and would have been drowned, had not the dog seized him by his coat, and brought him to the shore.

Love to enemies

A few poor Cherokee women, who had been converted to Christianity, formed themselves into a society for the propagation of the gospel, which was now become so dear to them. The produce of the first year was about ten dollars, and the question was, To what immediate object this should be applied? At length a poor woman proposed that it should be given to promote the circulation of the gospel in the Osage nation; “For,” said she, “the Master has told us to love and do good to our enemies, and I believe the Osages are the greatest enemies the Cherokees have.”

Dr. Mather’s ambition

It was the laudable ambition of Cotton Mather to be able to say, that “he did not know of any person in the world who had done him an ill office, but he had done him a good one for it.”

The Chinese monarch and the rebels

A Chinese emperor being told that his enemies had raised an insurrection in one of the distant provinces, “Come, then, my friends,” said he, “follow me, and I promise you that we shall quickly destroy them.” He marched forward, and the rebels submitted upon his approach. All now thought that he would take the most signal revenge; but were surprised to see the captives treated with mildness and humanity. “How,” cried the first minister; “is this the manner in which you fulfil your promise? Your royal word was given that your enemies should be destroyed; and behold you have pardoned them all, and even caressed some of them!” “I promised,” replied the emperor, with a gracious air, “to destroy my enemies. I have fulfilled my word; for, see, they are enemies no longer; I have made friends of them!” Let every Christian imitate so noble an example, and learn to overcome evil with good.

Literal obedience; or, rules versus principles

It is said that many years ago an eminent minister of the gospel, who had been a great athlete in his youth, on returning to his native town soon after he had been ordained, encountered in the High Street an old companion whom he had often fought and thrashed in his godless days. “So, you’ve turned Christian, they tell me, Charley?” said the man. “Yes,” replied the minister. “Well, then, you know the Book says, If you’re struck on one cheek, you’re to turn the other. Take that”; and with that he hit him a stinging blow. “There then,” replied the minister, quietly, turning the other side of his face toward him. The man was brute enough to strike him heavily again. Whereupon the minister said, “ And there my commission ends,” pulled off his coat, and gave his antagonist a severe thrashing, which no doubt he richly deserved. But did the minister keep the command of Christ? He obeyed the letter of the rule: but did he not violate the principle, the spirit, of it? Hear the other story, and judge. It is told of a celebrated officer in the army that, as he stood leaning over a wall in the barrack-yard, one of his military servants, mistaking him for a comrade, came softly up behind him, and suddenly struck him a hard blow. When the officer looked round, his servant, covered with confusion, stammered out, “I beg your pardon, sir; I thought it was George.” His master gently replied: “And if it were George, why strike so hard?” Now which of these two, think you, really obeyed the command of Christ? the minister who made a rule of it and kept to the letter of the rule, or the officer who made a principle of it, and acting on the spirit of it, neglected the letter? Obviously, the minister disobeyed the command in obeying it, while the officer obeyed the command in disobeying it. And here we may see the immense superiority of a principle over a rule. Take a rule, any rule, and there is only one way of keeping it, the way of literal obedience, and this may often prove a foolish and even a disobedient way. But get a principle, and there are a thousand ways in which you may apply it, all of which may be wise, beneficial to you, and no less beneficial to your neighbour. (S. Cox, D. D.)

Turning the other cheek

A Swiss colporteur entered a three-story house, in which, according to the custom of the country, three different families lived. He began with the highest story, and sold copies of the Scriptures in this and in the next. On inquiring about the family on the ground-floor, he was warned not to enter, but he did enter. He found both the man and his wife at home. He offered his Bibles; his offer was replied to with abuse, and a positive order to leave the house instantaneously; he, however, stayed, urging them to buy and read God’s holy Word. The man then rose in a violent rage, and struck him a severe blow on the cheek. Up to this moment the colporteur stood quietly with his knapsack on his back. He now deliberately unstrapped it, laid it on the table, and turned up the sleeve of his right arm, all the while steadily looking his opponent in the face. The colporteur was a very strong man. Addressing his opponent he said, “ Look at my hand--its furrows show that I have worked; feel my muscles--they show that I am fit for work. Look me straight in the face; do I quail before you? Judge, then, for yourself if it is fear that moves me to do what I am about to do. In this Book my Master says, When they smite you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. You have smitten me on one cheek; here is the other! Smite I I will not return the blow.” The man was thunderstruck. He did not smite, but bought the Book which, under the influence of God’s Spirit, works marvels in the human heart. (W. Baxendale.)

Bible precepts to be spiritually interpreted

You cannot make language more explicit, yet I say that to carry it out literally would be to pervert human society so that there could be no such thing as Christianity in this world. I affirm this, not theoretically, but as the result of the revelation of God’s providence among men, and as a fulfilment of God’s teaching in revelation--that great unending perpetual revelation that is going on in the human raze. It would destroy the whole framework and order of society. That in a far-off state, that in the ripeness of human development, the law of non-resistance will have a universal application, I think to be more than likely; but that it should have a universal application now is not possible. Take another point, that of almsgiving. Do our friends, the Quakers, who insist upon the literal translation of the passage on the subject of non-resistance, take a literal view of this passage also? Do they put their hands in their pockets for all that ask of them, and draw them out full? No. “This,” they say, “you are to take in its spirit.” Yes, I say that you are to take it in its spirit, and not in its letter. A literal interpretation of it would slay mankind, almost. It would well-nigh destroy the business-life of organized society. It would break up fellowship between man and man. It would promote the very opposite of that which it is the object of the New Testament to inculcate. Take the spirit of the command. Interpret it as enjoining the practice of generosity, of helpfulness, of kindness one toward another. Accept it as inculcating a disposition in every man to look, not on his own things, but on the things of others. That is to say, make it a principle adaptable according to your feeling and judgment. (H. W.Beecher.)

Cloak and coat

The Jews of the first century always wore the tunic and mantle or robe. These were the two indispensable garments. The tunic was of linen. It fitted the figure, had sleeves and came down to the feet. It was worn next to the skin, or over an under-garment of linen very full and long. That of the rabbi, scribe, or doctor, was specially large, and yet was not to be visible more than a handbreadth under the mantle. The mantle or robe was worn over all. A man must be very poor to have only one cloak, and yet this is what Christ enjoined on His disciples. According to Luke’s Gospel He said one day, “If any man will take away thy cloak, forbid him not take thy coat also.” This precept can be understood; a robber would naturally lay hold first of the outer garment. But Matthew puts it the other way. Under this form it is harder to understand, and we may well suppose that in transcribing [Matthew’s version] the copyist may have misplaced the two words coat and cloak. (E. Stapfer, D. D.)

Almsgiving

Many of you know the name of William Law, the author of the “Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life.” He was one of the best of clergymen, and was bent on leading a life of Christian obedience in the most thorough and unshrinking manner. He and two rich friends agreed to live together, and to spend as little as possible on themselves, and to give away almost their joint income. They did so by relieving all who applied to them and who represented themselves as in want. The result was that they attracted crowds of idle and lying mendicants. For a long time Law shut his eyes to the evil of which he and his friends were thus the occasion; until at last his fellow-parishioners were driven to present a memorial to the magistrates, entreating them in some way to prevent Mr. Law from thus demoralizing their parish. A sad and pathetic incident illustrating the perplexities and contradictions of human life! The best men are not above the need of learning wisdom from experience. The real Christian duty of these good people was not to be less self-denying and liberal, but to consider anxiously how they might lay out their means so as to do the most good and the least evil. If you give sixpence to a poor creature, when you know, or may know, if you think or inquire, that the sixpence will be turned at once into intoxicating drink, you are putting a stumbling-block or occasion of falling in the way of a brother or sister for whom Christ died. What is it that forbids you to do this? Is it political economy? Perhaps, but it is certainly also Christian duty, Christian love. I once heard an excellent clergyman say, “Warn as you will, if I were to refuse help to the apparently hungry woman who begs me to give her food, I could not eat my own dinner in comfort.” My answer to such a remark would be, “What does it matter whether you eat your own dinner in comfort or not? This is a very secondary consideration, compared with the question of doing good or harm to the brother or sister for whom Christ died.” People are imposed upon, as we say, not unfrequently: when they find it out they are vexed; but too often their regret is limited to their own humiliation, to their own insignificant loss; and they fail to reproach themselves for having in their carelessness put an occasion of falling in the way of the weak brother for whom Christ died. (J. H. Davies, M. A.)


Verse 31

Luke 6:31

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

What would we that men should do unto us?

1. That they should deal with us honestly.

2. That they should treat us generously.

3. That they should deal with us faithfully; warning us of any danger into which we are liable to fall.

4. That they should be patient with us. (H. S. Brown.)

The royal law

I. THE LAW ITSELF--

1. Teaches us to take the initiative; to begin to do for others what we conceive they ought to do for us.

2. Teaches us that the standard we set up for others must be the measure of our own conduct.

3. Teaches us that the end of our duty is the good of humanity.

II. THE WORKING OF THE LAW.

1. In the home-life.

2. In our social relationships.

3. In relation to business in all shapes and forms.

4. In relation to party politics.

5. In relation to church life. (J. B. Walton, B. A.)

“Do as you would be done by”

Men who neglect Christianity nevertheless do acknowledge this precept; men of experience, practical, intelligent, when talked to upon the subject of religion will not scruple to say: “My religion is this--‘Do as you would be done by.’” And yet they fail to apply this to the claim of Jesus Christ upon them. All who have lived and died, all who are now living--all combined, have not the claim on my life that Jesus Christ has. I ask you how you dare to say that all your religion is “Do as you would be done by,” if you fail to apply it to Him who has done so much for you. Do it, and you must dedicate all you have and all you are to His glory. (Dr. Deems.)

Was the golden rule original?

The gold in the Golden Rule is not its newness but its goodness. (A. Macleod, D. D.)

The rule and the test of morality

The light and warmth of the sun no more clearly bespeak the hand that formed it, than the excellence of this rule of conduct declares it to be from God. Although no rule is perhaps so universally admired, yet none is more universally broken.

I. TO EXPLAIN THE RULE. In explaining the rule, let us examine the different parts of it. “All things whatsoever.” This clause declares its universal extent. We may do some things, perhaps many things, to others which we would wish them to do to us, and yet in many other things be wholly and habitually selfish. A man, for example, may give food to the hungry, but Habitually overreach and defraud. No matter who he is, whether friend or enemy, if he is a fellow-creature, one of your own species, a man, you must be governed by this rule in all that you do toward him. “Do ye even so.” In this clause we are directed not only to do the things themselves which we would that others should do to us, but also to the utmost exactness in doing so. What, then, are we to understand by the clause, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you”? It has commonly been supposed, by commentators, that a literal interpretation of this text is inconsistent with other plain scriptural duties, and that therefore the rule is to be explained by certain qualifications or restrictions not expressed in it; for our desires of good from others may be selfish and extravagant, and to make such desires the measure of what we are to do to others, would in many cases be doing what is not required, as well as what is forbidden. For example, a rich man may feel and say, “If I were in that poor man’s place and he in mine, I should wish him to give me his estate; and now, if I am to do as I would be done by, I am to show him the same kindness, and give him my estate.” This difficulty evidently arises from inadequate views of the text. The rule contains its own explanation and limitation. If I am to do to others as I would that they should do to me, then I am to love them as I love myself; not them more than myself, nor myself more than them. If, therefore, I were to give my estate, if I we’re rich, to a poor man, I should do that which in this respect would imply that I loved him more than myself, which would be a palpable violation of the rule. Besides, how can I, putting myself in the poor man’s place, wish another to give me his estate--wish that he should impoverish himself to enrich me, without violatingthe rule. In this very wish I am desiring my own happiness more than my neighbour’s, and thus I counteract the very spirit and letter of the rule itself. In deciding what we would that others should do to us--i.e., in forming our desires of good from others--we are to remember that we are to cherish the same desires to impart good to them. Thus one desire is to check and regulate and define the other. Thus the rule aims directly at the utter extinction of all selfish inordinate desires of good, and requires simply that what we would on disinterested principles desire from others, were we in their circumstances and they in ours, we are to do to them. Let us examine this a little further. We are to do to others what we would on truly benevolent principles desire from them. The existence of the happiness of one man, other things being equal, is of equal value with that of another. The simple fact that the happiness of one of the two is mine, gives it no additional value. It has precisely the same value as when it is the happiness of another. All the value which I can reasonably attach to my happiness, because it is mine, he can us reasonably attach to his, because it is his. All that I am to myself he is to himself, and all that I am as it respects him he is as it respects me. The reason why I should regard his happiness as much as my own, circumstances being tile same, is as plain and conclusive as that things of equal value ought to be equally loved or desired. If my right lays him under obligation to me, his right lays me under the same obligation to him. There is a great diversity in the character and stations of men. It is very desirable there should be, and as it is not in our power so it is not our duty, on principles of true benevolence, to wish to alter them. There is, therefore, a consequent variety of duties owed to men. But we can easily determine, by the rule before us, what these duties are. Thus a ruler is to treat his subjects as he would wish to be treated were he a subject. But he is not bound to yield that submission to his subjects which, as a ruler, he justly demands of them. This he could not do without sacrificing the public good to private interest--i.e., he could not do it on disinterested principles. For, if he were a subject, he could not on such principles wish for the submission and obedience of a ruler to himself. A judge is not required to acquit, though he might on selfish principles wish, were he the criminal, to be acquitted, because he could not on benevolent principles wish the laws of justice to be abandoned, and the guilty to go unpunished. Thus, too, a parent or head of a family is not required to neglect to promote the welfare of his own household, to promote the welfare of his neighbours, because on truly disinterested principles he could not wish his neighbour to do so by him. So, also, an individual is not required to sacrifice his own happiness to promote an equal degree of happiness in another individual, because it is as right that the former should enjoy it, if but one can enjoy it, as that the latter should; and therefore the former could not, on truly disinterested principles, desire that the latter should do so by him. On the same principle we are not required to put our property into common stock for the equal benefit of all. This would tend, as a general rule, to promote so many evils, that if we were poor we could not, on benevolent principles, desire it. The amount of this rule of our Lord is, that in determining what our duty is to others, and in performing it, our selfishness is to have no voice and no influence. It is as if our Lord had said: Regard your neighbour in his wants, his rights, his happiness, as another self. Ask, then, how, as a reasonable, disinterested man, you would be treated by him: and treat him exactly in that manner.

II. To ENFORCE THE DUTY.

1. God has commanded it.

2. The duty is obviously reasonable and right.

3. This rule has a most direct and effectual tendency to promote the happiness of men.

4. Obedience to this rule is the most ennobling character of man. The spirit inculcated is the very opposite of selfishness; and selfishness is the very substance of moral degradation. But behold the man who loves his neighbour as himself! Behold him raised, as it were to heaven, by the principles just described; behold his heart fixed on the good of his fellowmen, his friends, his enemies, his neighbour, and the stranger, as on his own happiness! What is there lovely, what of good report, what of moral beauty, that does not shine in such a character? Is it not real greatness to be like him?

5. We can neither be fit for, nor admitted into heaven without this character. It is impossible not to see in every page of the Scriptures the necessity of a fitness for heaven which consists in the subjugation of selfish to benevolent principles, and which are all summed up in one expressive term, “Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”

Remarks:

1. We see that many things which are deemed consistent with this rule of Christ’s are direct violations of it. Why does the duelist consent that his antagonist should take his life if he can do it? That he may have an opportunity to take that of a fellow-creature. Is this being willing to give up his life to another from motives of disinterested love? Must one or the other die; and rather than that his neighbour should die, does he consent to die himself? Why, too, is the gambler, or the man who takes undue advantage of his neighbour in trade, willing that others should do to him as he does to them? For the same reason substantially, as it respects the morality of the act that governs the duelist. They are willing that others should treat them thus, that they may obtain, or at least have the opportunity of obtaining, their neighbours’ property without an equivalent. For, if they are really willing their neighbours should have their property without an equivalent, why not give it to them directly? My hearers, such is the deception which men practise on themselves, in these and a thousand other cases. They are not willing to do as they pretend; the proof is, that they do not do it. They are at most willing to run the hazard of being injured themselves, for the privilege of injuring their neighbour.

2. We remark that there is very little genuine morality in the world.

3. How it would commend the religion of the gospel to all, if there were more of the spirit of the text manifested by its professors.

4. I cannot close without remarking, how much we all need a Saviour! I say all; for, let it be noticed, that to condemn what is wrong in the professors of religion, does not justify what is wrong in those who are not. (N. W. Taylor, D. D.)

On the great Christian law of reciprocity between man and man

Let a man, in fact, give himself up to a strict and literal observation of the precept in this verse, and it will impress a twofold direction upon him. It will not only guide him to certain performances of good in behalf of others,’ but it will guide him to the regulation of his own desires of good from them. For his desires of good from others are here set up as the measure of his performances of good to others. The more selfish and unbounded his desires are, the larger are those performances with the obligation of which he is burdened. Whatsoever he would that others should do unto him, he is bound to do unto them; and therefore, the more he gives way to ungenerous and extravagant wishes of service from those who are around him, the heavier and more insupportable is the load of duty which he brings upon himself. The commandment is quite imperative, and there is no escaping from it; and if he, by the excess of his selfishness, should render it impracticable, then the whole punishment due to the guilt of casting aside the authority of this commandment, follows in that train of punishment which is annexed to selfishness. There is one way of being relieved from such a burden. There is one way of reducing this verse to a moderate and practicable requirement; and that is, just to give up selfishness- just to stifle all ungenerous desires- just to moderate every wish of service or liberality from others, down to the standard of what is right and equitable; and then there may be other verses in the Bible, by which we are called to be kind even to the evil and to the unthankful. But most assuredly this verse lays upon us none other thing than that we should do such services for others as are right and equitable. The operation is somewhat like that of a governor or fly in mechanism. This is a very happy contrivance, by which all that is defective or excessive in the motion, is confined within the limits of equability; and every tendency, in particular, to any mischievous acceleration is restrained. The impulse given by this verse to the conduct of man among his fellows, would seem, to a superficial observer, to carry him to all the excesses of a most ruinous and quixotic benevolence. But let him only look to the skilful adaptation of the fly. Just suppose the control of moderation and equity to be laid upon his own wishes, and there is not a single impulse given to his conduct beyond the rate of moderation and equity. You are not required here to do all things whatsoever in behalf of others, but to do all things whatsoever for them, that you would should be done unto yourself. This is the check by which the whole of the bidden movement is governed, and kept from running out into any hurtful excess. And such is the beautiful operation of that piece of moral mechanism that we are now employed in contemplating, that while it keeps down all the aspirations of selfishness, it does, in fact, restrain every extravagancy, and impresses on its obedient subjects no other movement than that of an even and inflexible justice. This rule of our Saviour’s, then, prescribes moderation to our desires of good from others, as well as generosity to our doings in behalf of others; and makes the first the measure of obligation to the second. There is nothing in the humble condition of life they occupy which precludes them from all that is great or graceful in human charity. There is a way in which they may equal, and even outpeer, the wealthiest of the land, in that very virtue of which wealth alone has been conceived to have the exclusive inheritance. There is a pervading character in humanity which the varieties of rank do not obliterate; and as, in virtue of the common corruption the poor man may be as effectually the rapacious despoiler of his brethren, as the man of opulence above him--so, there is a common excellence attainable by both; and through which the poor man may, to the full, be as splendid in generosity as the rich, and yield a far more important contribution to the peace and comfort of society. To make this plain--it is in virtue of a generous doing on the part of a rich man, when a sum of money is offered for the relief of want; and it is in virtue of a generous desire on the part of a poor man, when this money is refused; when, with the feeling that his necessities do not just warrant him to be yet a burden upon others, he declines to touch the offered liberality; when, with a delicate recoil from the unlooked-for proposal, he still resolves to put it for the present away, and to find, if possible, for himself a little longer; when, standing on the very margin of dependence, he would yet like to struggle with the difficulties of his situation, and to maintain this severe but honourable conflict, till hard necessity should force him to surrender. Let the money which he has thus so nobly shifted from himself take some new direction to another; and who, we ask, is the giver of it? The first and most obvious reply is, that it is he who owned it; but, it is still more emphatically true, that it is he who has declined it. It came originally out of the rich man’s abundance; but it was the noble-hearted generosity of the poor man that handed it onwards to its final destination. Thus it is, that when Christianity becomes universal, the doings of the one party, and the desires of the other, will meet and overpass. The poor will wish for no more than the rich will be delighted to bestow; and the rule of our text, which every real Christian at present finds so practicable, will, when carried over the face of society, bind all the members of it into one consenting brotherhood. The duty of doing good to others will then coalesce with that counterpart duty which regulates our desires of good from them; and the work of benevolence will, at length, be prosecuted without that alloy of rapacity on the one hand, and distrust on the other, which serve so much to fester and disturb the whole of this ministration. To complete this adjustment, it is in every way as necessary to lay all the incumbent moralities on those who ask, as on those who confer; and never till the whole text, which comprehends the wishes of man as well as his actions, wield its entire authority over the species, will the disgusts and the prejudices, which form such a barrier between the ranks of human life, be effectually done away. It is not by the abolition of rank, but by assigning to each rank its duties, that peace and friendship and order will at length be firmly established in our world. We should not have dwelt so long upon this lesson, were it not for the essential Christian principle that is involved in it. The morality of the gospel is not more strenuous on the side of the duty of giving of this world’s goods when it is needed, than it is against the desire of receiving when it is not needed. ( T. Chalmers, D. D.)

The golden rule taught by an Indian

Some time before the war between the English and the Indians in Pennsylvania broke out, an English gentleman, who lived on the borders of the province, was standing one evening at his door, when an Indian came and desired a little food. He answered, he had none for him. He then asked for a little beer, and received the same answer. Not yet discouraged, he begged for a little water; but the gentleman only answered, “ Get you gone for an Indian dog.” The Indian fixed his eye for a little time on the Englishman, and then went away. Some time after, this gentleman, who was fond of shooting, pursued his game till he was lost in the woods. After wandering a while, he saw an Indian hut, and went to it to inquire his way to some plantation. The Indian said, “It is a great way off, and the sun is near going down; you cannot reach it to-night, and if you stay in the woods the wolves will eat you up; but if you have a mind to lodge with me, you may.” The gentleman gladly accepted the invitation, and went in. The Indian boiled a little venison for him, gave him some rum and water, and then spread some deer skins for him to lie upon; having done this, himself and another Indian went and lay at the other side of the hut. He called the gentleman in the morning, telling him that the sun was up, and that he had a great way to go to the plantation, but that he would show him the way. Taking their guns, the two Indians went forward, and he followed. When they had gone several miles, the Indian told him he was within two miles of the plantation he wanted; then, stepping before him, he said, “Do you know me?” In great confusion, the gentleman replied, “I have seen you.” “Yes,” said the Indian, you have seen me at your own doer; and I will give you a piece of advice: when a poor Indian, who is hungry, and dry, and faint, again asks you for a little meat or drink, do not bid him ‘get him gone for an Indian dog.’ “So he turned and went away. Which of these two was to be commended, or which acted most agreeably to the Saviour’s golden rule in the text?


Verses 32-34

Luke 6:32-34

For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye?
--

The heroic in Christianity

Our Master, evidently, from the verses before us, did not come into the world to teach us to conform to the ways of our fellow-men; but He would have us go far beyond the ordinary conduct of our fellows. If I were called to address an ordinary company of men and women upon feats of valour, I might speak with bated breath if I exhorted them to heroism in war; but if I had lived some thousands of years ago, and had been called upon to talk to Spartan warriors, all equipped for battle, men graved and scored with the scars of conflict, I should set no bounds to my exhortations; I would bestir them as a lion arouses the young lions and urges them to the prey. I should tell them that their name and parentage should not be disgraced by the idea of defeat, but that they must expect victory, and seize it as their right. No orator would have spoken to Spartans as to Boeotians: it was their very life and business to fight, and deeds of prowess were therefore to be looked for from them. Is it not so with you, ye followers of the Crucified?

I. MUCH THAT IS NATURALLY GOOD MAY FALL FAR SHORT OF CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. Do not make the mistake of saying that moral excellence is not good. Some have broadly declared that there is no good thing in an unconverted man; but this is scarcely true. Many who are total strangers to the grace of God yet exhibit sparkling forms of the human virtues in integrity, generosity, kindness, courage, self-sacrifice, and patience. If the question be whether our character is the offspring of nature or of grace, it will be a sad thing if the verdict should turn out to be that it is the dead child of nature finely dressed, but not the living child of grace Divine. We may be decorated with gems which glitter and glow, and yet they may be mere paste, and none of them the work of God’s Spirit. Observe the three things mentioned in the text against which there is no law, but of which much is to be spoken in commendation. These acts are good, but they do not come up to Christ’s standard.

1. It is very proper and seemly that kindly feeling should awaken kindly feeling in return; that to those who are friendly to us we should be friendly also. We say “Love begets love,” and it is natural that it should do so. Our duty is not merely to love those who love us, but to love them that hate and despitefully entreat us.

2. The next thing, in the verses before us, is grateful return. “If ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye?” It is a very right thing that if persons have served us we should endeavour to repay the benefit. Followers of Jesus are called upon to do good to those who have done them harm. You know the old saying, Evil for good is devil-like, evil for evil is beast-like, good for good is man-like, good for evil is God-like. Rise you to that God-like point. If a man has taken the bread out of your mouth, seize the first opportunity to help him to a livelihood.

3. Again, mention is made of helping others in a neighbourly way with the expectation of their returning the friendly deed. “If ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye?” Temporary help is often rendered in the expectation that, if ever we are in the same need, we shall only need to ask, and receive like aid. I lend you an axe, and you will one day lend me a saw. I help you and you help me--a very proper thing to do, and the more of such brotherly and neighbourly co-operation the better, but still there is nothing so very virtuous in it. You as a Christian are to rise to something higher than this: to be ready to help without the expectation of being helped again.

II. CHRISTIAN VIRTUE IS IN MANY RESPECTS EXTRAORDINARY, AND MIGHT BE CALLED HEROIC. In the point of love, kindness, consideration for men’s needs, and desire to do good, the Christian life is to rise above every other, till it becomes sublime. Heathen moralists recommended kindness, but they did not suggest its being lavished upon enemies. I have been somewhat amused by the caution of Cicero. He says, “Kindness must not be shown to a youth nor to an old man; not to the aged, because he is likely to die before he can have an occasion to repay you the benefit; and not to the young man, for he is sure to forget it.” Our Lord bids us seek no reward from men, and he assures us that then a greater reward will come. We shall by shunning it secure it. We shall find a reward in being unrewarded. Next, Luke 9:54-55, and you will see that the Christian is to rise above human passion in the matter of gentleness. In the elevation of his joy the Christian is also to rise above all other men. He may rejoice as they do in the common bounties of providence, but that joy is to hold very secondary rank. Even in his own success as a Christian worker he takes but measured satisfaction. Read Luke 10:20. The Christian is heroic, next, in his fearlessness (Luke 12:4). The true believer is to be willing to bear reproach; ay, and to bear much more than reproach, as saints of God have done times out of mind. See how far the true believer is lifted up above the world, as you turn to Luke 12:22, where the Lord bids us cultivate a holy ease of heart as to all temporal things. The rich man finds his wealth in his bursting barns, but the believer finds his treasure in the all-sufficiency of his God. Another point in which Christian heroism is seen is in humility and in delight in service. Turn to the fourteenth chapter and see our Lord’s directions to His disciples not to seek out the highest, but rather the lowest room, for, saith He, “Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Habitually a Christian man is to have a modest esteem of himself.

III. THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION SUPPLIES DUE NOURISHMENT FOR THE MOST HEROIC LIFE.

1. The economy of grace requires it.

2. Think again, brethren, we are helped to holy heroism by the reward which it brings; for our blessed Master, though He bids us spurn the thought of reward on earth, yet tells us that there is a reward in the thing itself. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The moral demands of the Lord Jesus Christ

Here, for instance, is one of the maxims of Epictetus, “It is possible that you observe some other person more honoured than yourself, invited to entertainments when you are left out, saluted before you are taken any notice of, thought more proper to advise with, and his counsel followed rather than yours. But are these forms of respect which are paid to him good or evil? If they deserve to be esteemed good, this ought to be matter of joy to you that that person is happy in them; but if they be evil, how unreasonable is it to be troubled that they have not fallen to your own share.” That was how a heathen moralist thought we ought to regard the honours paid to other men. I want to know whether many of us have passed far beyond him? If we consider our social life and our political and philanthropic movements, is it quite clear that we Christian Englishmen are in advance of this ancient Roman slave? Take another of the maxims of Epictetus, “My duty to my father is to assist and take care of him, to support his age and his infirmities, to yield to him and pay him service and respect upon all occasions But you will say he is a rigorous and unnatural father. What is that to the purpose? Yon are to remember, this obligation to duty does not arise from the consideration of his goodness, but from the relation he bears to you. No failings of his can make him cease to be a father, and consequently none can absolve you from the obedience of a son. Your brother has done you an injury, but do not suppose that this dispenses with the kindness you owe him. You are still to observe what becomes you; not to imitate what misbecame him.” I think that I have known Christian men and women who have supposed that the harshness of a parent relieved them from their obligations as children, and that the injury they had received from a brother justified them in showing an unbrotherly and unsisterly spirit. Christ assumes that our standard of moral duty ought always to be loftier than that which exists among those who have never heard of His teaching. If, without self-reproach, we permit ourselves to indulge in a spirit which even heathen moralists condemned, how can we answer his question, What do ye more than others? Epictetus was originally a Greek slave. Let us turn to a man of another sort--Marcus Antoninus the Roman emperor. “A branch,” he says, “cut off from the adjacent branch must of necessity be cut off from the whole tree also. So, too, a man, when he is separated from another man, has fallen off from the whole social community.” How many of us have a profounder conception than the heathen emperor of the duty of avoiding personal quarrels, of suppressing the vanity, the resentment, the wilfulness and selfishness by which we might be separated from our neighbour and so cut off from the life of the race? Take his caution against forming hard judgments of others. He says, what is true in innumerable cases, “Thou dost not even understand whether men are doing wrong or not, for many things are done with a certain reference to circumstances. And, in short, a man must learn a great deal to enable him to pass a correct judgment on another man’s acts.” I wonder whether most of us, before passing hard judgments on others, remember how much we must know, before we can judge them fairly? Here is another maxim, “Whatever any one else does or says, I must be good--just as if the gold, or the emerald, or the purple were always saying this--‘Whatever any one does or says, I must keep my colour.’ It is royal to do good and to be abused.” Some of you are masters. Do you see clearly that whatever your servants” do or say “you must be always just and kind and considerate to them? Some of you are workmen. Have you made up your minds that you must always be good workmen, no matter whether you have a good master or a bad master; that you must serve a bad master as faithfully and as zealously as you serve a good one? And whatever our position may be, is it the constant temper of our mind to “do good,” whether we are praised for it or not--to “do good” even when we are “abused” for doing it? Again, “If any man is able to convince me and show me that I do not think or act right, I will gladly change, for I seek the truth, by which no man was ever injured. But he is injured who abides in his error and ignorance.” It is not my experience that many Christian people cultivate this noble spirit. But what I am especially anxious to insist upon just now is that in the writings of heathen moralists there are maxims inculcating virtues which some Christian people have never thought of trying to attain. Their moral standard is so defective that in many points they are inferior to heathen men in their conceptions of duty. Christ assumes that His servants will be at least as clear-sighted as the heathen, and that the virtues which the heathen honoured we shall honour, and He goes on to require more. What this higher law is, in all its applications, we have to learn, and we learn it very gradually; it is one of the great subjects about which Christian men should be always learning. Christ has not given us a complete code, but He has given us specimens of the contrast between this higher law and the common laws recognized by ordinary men. We have to work out the whole code of Christian morals in the light of this teaching. This is the method of the new science. We have to take the virtues which are recognized as virtues by all the world honesty, industry, kindness, temperance, the spirit of cheerful contentment with our condition--and we have to learn for ourselves the larger requirements of Christ in relation to every one of them. The Spirit of Christ, if we seek His guidance, will lead us into all the truth. Every Christian man must be left very much to the guidance of the Spirit in these high matters. We can do something to help each other, but not very much. I should have to be a draper to learn what a Christian draper should do “more” than other honest drapers; and a carpenter to learn what a Christian carpenter should do “ more” than other good carpenters; and a banker to learn what a Christian banker should do “mere” than other upright bankers. The root of the whole matter lies in the fact that we are the servants of Christ, and that very much of the service we render to Christ consists in the service we render to our fellow-men, whether we are ministers, lawyers, mechanics, clerks, housemaids, milliners, merchants, or tradesmen. If we are zealous to please Christ we shall find many ways of doing it of which some of us, perhaps, have no conception; and this will result in nobler ideas of moral duty in all the common affairs of life. While many other men, in their business transactions, keep only just within the limits of the law which is administered by human tribunals, let Christian men be governed by the rules of a diviner equity. While many other men do public work as long as they are honoured for doing it, let Christian men go on doing it whether they are honoured or not, accepting it as the service to which God has appointed them. Let the Christian manufacturer recognize the Higher Law, in the quality of his goods, in his treatment of his partners and his men, and in his careful avoidance of whatever personal extravagances and whatever commercial risks and speculations might prevent him from paying his debts. Let the Christian builder be so exact in doing his work according to the specifications that his employers shall feel that a clerk of the works is a useless expense. Let the Christian carpenter and engine-fitter make the eye of the foreman unnecessary. But perhaps some of you will say that conduct of this kind will prevent you from getting on in the world; that if you act in the way I have described you will make money slowly; that if you do not push to the front and keep yourself there, you will never get your value recognized. The real reply--the Christian reply--to your objection is, that it is not your business to get on in the world, to make money, to have your worth recognized, but to serve God. You cannot serve both God and mammon. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Selfishness the essence of moral depravity

I. Let us consider why SINNERS LOVE THEMSELVES. It is plainly supposed in the text that sinners love themselves, for they are said to love those that love them, which could not be accounted for if they were wholly destitute of love to themselves. In other passages of Scripture, they are said to be lovers of their ownselves, and to seek their own things and not the things of others. But this is too evident from experience and observation to need any proof. Sinners certainly love themselves. But why? Every creature, perhaps, whether rational or irrational, takes pleasure in receiving its proper food; but this love to its food is not love to itself, or selfishness. The saint and the sinner may equally love honey, because it is agreeable to the taste; but this love to honey is neither interested nor disinterested love, and of course is neither virtuous nor vicious. Men never love any particular food from a moral motive, but from the constitution of their nature, in which they are passive, and have no active concern. The case is different in loving themselves. In this they properly act, and act from a moral motive. Sinners love themselves not because they are a part of the intellectual system, nor because the general good requires them to regard their personal happiness, but because they are themselves. They love their own interest because it is their own, in distinction from the interest of all other created or uncreated beings. This is a free, voluntary exercise, which is contrary to their reason and conscience, and which they know to be in its own nature wrong. Their interest is really no more valuable for being theirs, than if it belonged to others; and they themselves are no more valuable than other creatures of the same character and capacity. To love themselves, therefore, because they are themselves, is to love themselves from a motive peculiar to selfish creatures.

II. We are to consider WHY SINNERS LOVE OTHERS. Our Saviour said to His disciples, that if they were of the world, the world would love them. And He said in the text that sinners love those that love them. For the same reason that sinners love themselves, they naturally love those that love them and are disposed to do them good. As they love their own interest because it is their own, so they love every person or object which serves to increase or preserve their own interest. They do not value and love others because they are valuable and worthy to be loved, but merely because they view them as means or instruments of securing or advancing their own personal happiness. They value their fellow-men for the same reason that they value their own houses and lands, flocks and herds.

III. It remains to inquire WHY THERE IS NO MORAL GOODNESS IN THE LOVE WHICH SINNERS EXERCISE TOWARDS THEMSELVES AND OTHERS? Christ supposes that they all know the nature of their love, and that there is nothing virtuous or praiseworthy in it. “If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye?” We never thank men for loving themselves, nor for loving us merely for their own sake. It is the unanimous sentiment of mankind that there is no virtue in that love which flows entirely from mercenary motives. But why? Here then I would observe--

1. That there is no moral goodness in the love which sinners feel and express, because it is not a conformity to that love which God feels and expresses. He is good unto all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. He seeks not only His own glory, but the real good of others. It bears no conformity to the love of God, which is the standard of all moral perfection.

2. The selfish love of sinners has no moral goodness in it, because it is no obedience to the Divine law. This law requires them to love God with all the heart, and to love their fellow-men as themselves. But when they love themselves because they are themselves, and love others only because they have received or expect to receive benefit from them, do they obey the Divine law?

3. There is no moral goodness in the selfishness of sinners, because it is the very essence of all moral evil. All the wickedness of Satan consists in his selfishness. He loves himself because he is himself, and loves only those who love him, because their love serves to promote what he considers as his cause and interest. IMPROVEMENT:

1. If sinners may love themselves and others from mere selfish motives, then it is easy to account for all their kind and friendly conduct towards their fellow creatures, consistently with their total depravity.

2. If the moral depravity of sinners consists in selfishness, then the moral depravity of Adam consisted in selfishness, and not in the mere want of holiness.

4. If sinners are constantly under the governing influences of selfishness, then they must experience an essential change in their affections, in order to be saved.

5. If sinners love themselves because they are themselves, which is selfish and sinful, then after they experience a saving change from selfishness to benevolence, they love themselves in a manner totally different from what they did before. They love themselves in the same manner that God loves them.

6. Finally, it appears from this discourse that it is highly necessary to explain and inculcate the total selfishness of sinners. They never will believe that they are totally depraved, until they see wherein total depravity consists. (N. Emmons, D. D.)


Verse 35

Luke 6:35

And ye shall be the children of the Highest

The Christian aim and motive

1st.
The Christian aim--perfection. 2nd. The Christian motive--because it is right and Godlike to be perfect.

I. THE CHRISTIAN AIM IS THIS--to be perfect. “Be ye therefore perfect.” Now distinguish this, I pray you, from mere worldly morality. It is not conformity to a creed that is here required, but aspiration after a state. It is not demanded of us to perform a number of duties, but to yield obedience to a certain spiritual law. Will not that inflame our pride, and increase our natural vainglory? Now the nature and possibility of human perfection, what it is and how it is possible, are both contained in one single expression in the text, “Even as your father which is in Heaven is perfect.” The relationship between father and son implies consanguinity, likeness, similarity of character and nature. God made the insect, the stone, the lily; but God is not the Father of the caterpillar, the lily, or the stone. When, therefore, God is said to be our Father, something more is implied in this than that God created man. And so when the Son of Man came proclaiming the fact that we are the children of God, it was in the truest sense a revelation. He told us that the nature of God resembles the nature of man, that love in God is not a mere figure of speech, but means the same thing as love in us, and that Divine anger is the same thing as human anger divested of its emotions and imperfections. When we are commanded to be like God, it implies that God has that nature of which we have already the germs. And this has been taught by the incarnation of the Redeemer. Things absolutely dissimilar in their nature cannot mingle. Water cannot coalesce with fire--water cannot mix with oil. If, then, Humanity and Divinity were united in the person of the Redeemer, it follows that there must be something kindred between the two, or else the incarnation had been impossible. So that the incarnation is the realization of man’s perfection. Here, however, you will observe another difficulty. It will be said at once--there is something in this comparison of man with God which looks like blasphemy, because one is finite and the other infinite. Let us, then, endeavour to find out the evidences of this infinitude in the nature of man. First of all we find it in this--that the desires of man are for something boundless and unattainable. The boundless, endless, infinite void in the soul of man can be satisfied with nothing but God. Satisfaction lies not in having, but in being. There is no satisfaction even in doing. Man cannot be satisfied with his own performances. A second trace of this infinitude in man’s nature we find in the infinite capacities of the soul. This is true intellectually and morally. For there is no man, however low his intellectual powers may be, who has not at one time or another felt a rush of thought, a glow of inspiration, which seemed to make all things possible, as if it were merely the effect of some imperfect organization which stood in the way of his doing whatever he desired to do. With respect to our moral and spiritual capacities, we remark that they are not only indefinite, but absolutely infinite. Let that man answer who has ever truly and heartily loved another. Again, we perceive a third trace of this infinitude in man, in the power which he possesses of giving up self. In this, perhaps more than in anything else, man may claim kindred with God. Before passing on let us observe that were it not for this conviction of the Divine origin, and consequent perfectibility of our nature, the very thought of God would be painful to us.

II. We pass on, in the second place, to consider the CHRISTIAN MOTIVE--“Even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.” Brethren, worldly prudence, miscalled morality, say--“ Be honest; you will find your gain in being so. Do right; you will be the better for it--even in this world you will not lose by it.” The mistaken religionist only magnifies this on a large scale. “Your duty,” he says, “is to save your soul. Give up this world to have the next. Lose here, that you may gain hereafter.” In opposition to all such sentiments as these, thus speaks the gospel--“Be ye perfect.” Why? “Because your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.” Do right, because it is Godlike and right so to do. In conclusion, we observe, there are two things which are to be learned from this passage. The first is this, that happiness is not our end and aim. The Christian’s aim is perfection, not happiness. The second thing we have to learn is this, that on this earth there can be no rest for man. The last thing we learn from this is the impossibility of obtaining that of which some men speak--the satisfaction of a good conscience. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

Concerning the perfection of God

I. THE ABSOLUTE PERFECTION OF THE DIVINE NATURE SUPPOSED--“As your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.”

1. I shall consider how we are to conceive of the Divine perfection, these two ways.

2. To lay down some rules by which we may rectify and govern our opinions concerning the attributes and perfections of God: the best I can think of are these following:

II. THE PERFECTION OF GOD IS PROPOUNDED AS A PATTERN FOR OUR IMITATION. To show how far we are to imitate the perfections of God, and particularly what those Divine qualities are which our Saviour doth here more especially propound to our imitation.

1. That our imitation of God is certainly restrained to the communicable perfections of God, and such as creatures are capable of; as I have shown before. For it is so far from being a duty to affect or attempt to be like God in His peculiar perfections, that it was probably the sin of the apostate angels.

2. Our imitation of the Divine perfections, which are communicable to creatures, is likewise to be restrained to such degrees of these perfections, as creatures are capable of. For no creature can ever be so perfectly good as God is; nor partake of any other excellency, in that transcendant degree, in which the Divine nature is possessed of it.

3. But there is no manner of inconvenience in having a pattern propounded to us of so great perfection, as is above our reach to attain to; and there may be great advantages in it. The way to excel in any kind is to propose the highest and most perfect examples to our imitation. He that aims at the heavens, which yet he is sure to come short of, is like to shoot higher than he that aims at a mark within his reach. Besides that, the excellency of the pattern, as it leaves room for continual improvement, so it kindles ambition, and makes men strain and contend to the utmost to do better. And we may reasonably presume that to do all we can towards the fulfilling of this precept will be as acceptable to God, and as beneficial to ourselves, as if our power had been greater, and we had perfectly fulfilled it.

4. And lastly, Which will fully clear this matter; this precept cloth not oblige us to come up to a perfect equality with the pattern propounded to us, but only imports a vigorous imitation of it; that we be perpetually ascending and climbing up higher, still advancing from one degree of goodness to another, and continually aspiring after a near resemblance to God. And this seems to be no inconsiderable ingredient and enhancement of the happiness of heaven, that the holiness of good men (which is the similitude of God) is never at a stand, nor at its full growth and period; but that the glorified saints (yea, and blessed angels too) may be continually growing and improving, and they themselves still become better and happier to all eternity.

III. All that now remains is to draw some useful INFERENCES from this discourse which I have made; and they shall be these two:

1. That the strongest and surest reasonings in religion are grounded upon the essential perfections of God.

2. That the truest and most substantial practice of religion consists in the imitation of God. (J. Tillotson, D. D.)


Verse 36

Luke 6:36

Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful

The blessing of mercy

“Mercy” is the one great cry of human nature.
We dare not ask for justice, we can only plead for mercy. We, who want so much mercy from God, must learn to show mercy to our fellow-men. How can we look to Him for mercy if we never show mercy, how can we ask forgiveness unless we forgive? Think of some of the ways in which we can show mercy.

1. We must show mercy and loving-kindness, practically, by deeds, not words.

2. We can show mercy by for giving those who injure us. Few things are more talked of, and less practised, than the duty of forgiveness.

3. Mercy ever brings its sweet reward. Every act of loving-kindness comes back to us with abundant interest. Once a farmer, out on the western prairies of America, started for a distant town, to receive some money due to him. As he left his house, his only child, a little girl, clung lovingly to him, and reminded him of his promise to bring her home a present. Late on the same night the farmer left the town on his way home. The night was very dark and stormy, and he was yet far from his home, and in the wildest part of the road, when he heard the cry of a child. The farmer thought that it might be the device of some robber, as he was known to carry money with him. He was weary and wet with his journey, and inclined to hasten on, but again the cry reached him. The farmer determined that whatever happened he must search for the child, if child there were. Groping in the darkness, at last he found a little figure, drenched with rain, and shivering with cold. Wrapping his cloak about the child, he rode homewards as fast as possible, but when he reached his house, he found it full of neighbours, standing round his weeping wife. One said to another, “Do not tell him, it will drive him mad.” Then the farmer set down his bundle, and his wife with a cry of joy saw that it was their own lost child. The little one had set forth to meet her father, and had missed her way. The man had, without knowing it, saved his own daughter. (H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)

Imitation of the mercy of God

What can be a more endearing motive to the mind of man, than to propose to him a resemblance to the most high God; to urge the conduct of the Father of the universe, as an example for his imitation.

1. The first excellence in the mercy of God which will naturally occur to our thoughts, as deserving our imitation, is its entire disinterestedness and perfect liberality. Our goodness, therefore, must be void of selfish and earthly motives.

2. Its universality. We must endeavour to do all the good we can to all around us, neither slighting the ignorant, nor despising the mean and indigent, nor abandoning the vicious and unworthy in their distress.

3. Its unwearied perseverance. Let us, like God, be “not weary in well-doing.”

4. Its long-suffering patience.

5. Its readiness and willingness to forgive. (James Biddoch, M. A.)

Practical manifestations of mercy

In how many thousand instances does a man hold in his own hands the power of manifesting this blessed quality of mercy! You are an employer; there is some boy in your employment who commits his first transgression, perhaps not really conscious of the evil that he does. Perhaps in an unguarded moment he takes from you something that belongs to you. You do not injure society by exercising mercy towards that boy. How often is it the case that your judicious act of mercy, tempered by justice, has been the means of saving that boy from open exposure, from public punishment; how often it is the salvation of that boy! Do you suppose that it is justice in that case that the penalty of the law shall brand him--that he shall be marked as a criminal, that he shall be self-degraded? This is an instance which men of business will tell me often occurs, and can there be any doubt as to what justice is in that case? So I say, when a man’s reputation lies at our mercy, we are bound to make all the allowance we can for his action. If he does a foolish thing, let us be disposed, as far as possible, to make allowance, to think what may have been the peculiar circumstances under which he did it. We are all called upon to exercise this prerogative of mercy, and that in innumerable forms. (E. H. Chapin, D. D.)

Gospel for the fourth Sunday after Trinity

I. WE ARE INCITED TO IMITATION-OF OUR HEAVENLY FATHER. We are His children, and children ought to resemble their parents (Ephesians 5:1, R.V.)

II. AN APPEAL IS MADE TO OUR SELF-INTEREST. It is a principle of the Divine administration that the standard you apply to others shall be applied to you.

III. OUR LORD SUGGESTS THE WAY IN WHICH WE MAY HOPE TO PASS RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENTS UPON OTHERS. By being first jealous and severe judges of ourselves. (Homiletic Quarterly.)

Man a child of mercy

When God, in His eternal counsel, conceived the thought of man’s creation, He called to Him the three ministers who wait constantly upon His throne--Justice, Truth, and Mercy--and thus addressed them: “Shall we make man?” Then said Justice, “O God! make him not: for he will trample upon Thy laws.” Truth made answer also, “O God! make him not, for he will pollute Thy sanctuaries.” But Mercy, dropping upon her knees, and looking up through her tears, exclaimed, “O God! make him. I will watch over him with my care through all the dark paths which he may have to tread.” Then God made man, and said to him, “O man! thou art the child of Mercy: go and deal with thy brother.” (Crittenden.)

A condition of receiving mercy

Being sent for by a slave-holder who was seriously unwell, to pray with him, Father Craven approached his bedside and inquired if he had in his will bequeathed liberty to his slaves? “No,” said the slave-holder, “I have bequeathed them to my children.” “Then,” said Father Craven, “prayer will be of no avail--God will not show mercy to these who show none to their fellow-men.” So he bade him farewell. Soon after a second message was sent for Father Craven to visit the slave-holder and pray with him. He went and asked the slave-holder if he had emancipated his slaves? “Yes,” said the slave-holder, “I have now emancipated them by my will. Will you pray for me?” “Certainly,” said the good man, and he knelt down and commended to God the soul of the sufferer, who seemed near his end. Father Craven agreed with John Jay, a leader in the American revolution, who said, “Till America comes into the measure (of abolition) her prayers to heaven will be impious.” (Handbook to Scripture Doctrines.)

An all-availing plea

A minister belonging to the Calvinistic Methodists, in a country town, had taught his little boy, who is in his second year, each night before going to sleep, to repeat the prayer: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” The other Sabbath, while the minister had gone to preach to a village congregation, the child upset the inkstand, and was told his father would whip him for the accident. The minister had no sooner returned, than the child climbed his knee, and putting his mouth close to the father’s ear, softly whispered: “Be merciful to me, a sinner, papa.” Moved by the ingenuity of the plea, the father kissed his boy, and could not find it in his heart to chide or correct the bright little fellow.

Importance of mercy

Mercy is in the air which we breathe, the daily light which shines upon us, the gracious rain of God’s inheritance. It is the public spring for all the thirsty, the common hospital for all the needy. All the streets of the church are paved with these stones. What would become of the children, if there were not these breasts of consolation? It is mercy that takes us out of the womb, feeds us in the days of our pilgrimage, furnishes us with spiritual provision, closes our eyes in peace, and translates us to a secure resting-place. It is the first petitioner’s suit, and the first believer’s article, the contemplation of Enoch, the confidence of Abraham, the burden of the prophetic songs, and the glory of all the apostles, the plea of the penitent, the ecstasies of the reconciled, the believer’s hosannah, the angel’s hallelujah. Ordinances, oracles, altars, pulpits, the gates of the grave, and the gates of heaven, do all depend upon mercy. It is the loadstar of the wandering, the ransom of the captive, the antidote of the tempted, the prophet of the living, and the effectual comfort of the dying: there would not be one regenerate saint upon earth, nor one glorified saint in heaven, if it were not for mercy. (The Dictionary of Illustrations.)

Mercy reciprocated

The Marshall D’Armont, having taken Crodon, ordered every Spaniard found in the garrison to be put to death. Though it was death to disobey orders, an English soldier ventured to save a Spaniard. He was arraigned for the offence, confessed the fact, and declared himself ready to suffer death if they would save the life of the Spaniard. Surprised at the request, they inquired why he was so much interested. “Because,” replied he, “in a similar situation, he once saved my life.” The marshall was so greatly pleased, that he granted him pardon, and saved the Spaniard’s life as well.

Provision for mercy

Abraham Lincoln’s doorkeeper had standing orders from him, that no matter how great might be the throng, if either senators or representatives had to wait, or to be turned away without an audience, he must see, before the day closed, every messenger who came to him with a petition for the saving of life.

The law of love

All that is really good is the outcome of the law of love, and its first result and inseparable companion is mercy.

I. FORBEAR.

1. A passion for judging others seems to exist in men. Every one, however backward to amend himself, is ready to correct others. The origin of this spirit is too clear. Deep in man’s native selfishness. Exalts self, depresses others.

2. Are we never, then, to judge?

II. FORGIVE.

1. Revenge is as natural to man as passing judgment.

2. Often as false and hypocritical, hiding itself under similar disguises.

3. Its root is ultimately the same. Selfishness--contradiction of the law of love.

4. Consequently condemned by example and spirit of Christ. His forgiving mercy was habitual, ready, cordial.

III. GIVE. The more active side of mercy. Opposed to bargaining or exchange--no thought of return. An evidence of sonship of God. When we are merciful, we come nearest to the Divine perfection. (W. R. Clark, M. A.)

Mercy

I. ITS ACTS.

1. Consideration.2. Compassion.

3. Prayer.

4. Helpfulness, according to the need of the object.

II. ITS OBJECTS. Our neighbour.

1. Erring (James 5:19-20).

2. Offending.

3. Under persecution.

4. In want.

5. In sickness.

6. In misfortune by the loss of good friends, or the unkindness of bad relations.

III. THE MANNER OF ITS EXERCISE. Acts of mercy are to be performed--

1. With readiness and forwardness of mind (2 Corinthians 9:7).

2. With modesty and humility (Matthew 6:1).

3. From a kind and merciful, not from a selfish and mercenary temper (Luke 6:32).

4. Without delay (Proverbs 4:23).

5. Bountifully (1 Timothy 6:18).

6. With minds full of gratitude to God (1 Chronicles 29:13; 1Ch_29:17).

7. As to Christ Himself (Matthew 10:42).

IV. THE BLESSING PROMISED TO THE MERCIFUL. AS for external mercies, the Bible promises them very fully to the merciful.

1. Deliverance out of trouble (Isaiah 58:10; Psalms 41:1).

2. God’s blessing on his labours and undertakings

Deuteronomy 15:7-10).

3. The staving off of his trouble, and the lengthening of his tranquility (Daniel 4:27).

4. Plenty (Proverbs 19:17; Pro_3:9).

B Honour (Psalms 112:9).

6. Deliverance from enemies (Psalms 41:2).

7. God s comforts in his sickness (Psalms 51:3).

8. A blessing on his posterity (Psalms 37:26).

9. More particularly, man’s help in distress and God’s providence. (J. Blair, D. D.)

Are we merciful in our speech to men?

Do we not sometimes take pleasure in making a criticism as sharp and pungent as we can make it? Do we in our literature, in our judgments of the political work or social life of others, strive to speak charitably; or rather, is it not a keen gratification to think that the world enjoys the criticism when the writer is sharp and piquant, and seasons his criticism with that unkindness which sends it home as the feather sends the arrow? (Bishop W. C. Magee.)

Are we merciful as employers of others?

Do we feel that those around us in domestic service, in business, should have their feelings carefully considered? Surely there is a sad want of thoughtful mercy amongst us all I There is no lack of that mercy which comes of being strongly appealed to, and which moves a man to give largely of his money, time, and energy, for the removal of suffering. But the thoughtful, considerate mercy which seeks to prevent suffering and to hinder crime is what we desire to see. (Bishop W. C. Magee.)

The merciful

The world of the natural man is by no means predominantly a merciful world. “The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” A thoroughly bad man is seldom a kind man. The kindliness of a bad man is generally both capricious and selfish. At its best it lacks the essential condition of a Christian charity. Not everything which passes for kindness, not everything which is kindness, is “mercy” in the sense here intended. There is another word in Scripture, which stands for pity, and the two ideas differ.

1. The objects of pity are the unhappy: the objects of mercy are the undeserving.

2. The nature of mercy.

3. The working of mercy.

Mercifulness

What is it to be “merciful”? Like other virtues, this, too, has its imitations, worthless and spurious. There is a mercy current among men which is merely an outlet for energy, or the fashion of the day. There is a mercy, so called, which is in reality a luxury, a refined sort of self-indulgence. There is a sort of mercy which people call charity, which gives, but without discrimination or thought. But these, none of these, are mercifulness. No, nor, on the other hand, is it to be confused with pity, a feeling of compassion for the unfortunate; nor has it to do with merely deeds of mercy, acts of kindness. For mercifulness and mercy do not mean the same thing. Mercifulness is what we are and what we do. Mercy, as men count it, may be all outside, no heart in it, or may take its rise from wrong or unworthy motives; while mercifulness must go down to the inner springs of actions, not stop short of guiding principles, have its roots in sound and holy motives. It deals with the quality of the deed rather than the quantity; it examines the texture of which it is made, not the smoothness or bright shimmer; it asks not whether it glitters, but whether it is gold with the true ring.

1. True mercifulness is a characteristic of those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and they alone will be merciful in God’s way, seeking not to please themselves, but to do His will “who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.”

2. True mercifulness is always guided by meekness. It is exercised towards those who have ill requited our kindness, and are undeserving of our mercy.

3. True mercifulness can only be felt by those who have learned to mourn their sin, and in repentance turned unto God, and so have a fellow feeling with those who sin, and long to rescue them.

4. True mercifulness has, as its earliest beginning, poverty of spirit, for only those who in humility know themselves aright will never despair of others, or tire of showing mercy to the undeserving. (C. J. Ridgeway, M. A.)

The mercifulness of God as seen in Christ

1. He was merciful to all, not to some.

2. His mercifulness was provident, thoughtful, wise, seeking the real good of men, marked by the discrimination of prudence, withholding to-day what will do harm instead of good, giving to one what He refuses to another, always keeping before Him as the only true object of mercifulness the well-being of those He came to succour.

3. His mercifulness is unchanging. Time does not wear it out, nor years weaken it. He was merciful even as He loved, unto the end. Many waters could not quench it, neither the floods drown it. The waters came in even unto His soul, suffering and anguish overwhelmed Him; but His mercifulness lived on; it burned like the beacon light of the lighthouse, undimmed by the great storm of affliction that raged around. Nor is He changed now. His mercifulness is as true in His exaltation as in His Passion Hebrews 2:17-18; Heb_7:24-25). (C. J. Ridgeway, M. A.)

Christ’s mercifulness and ours

Compare what we call mercifulness with His. His a mercifulness which always kept God’s glory in view, and ours so often centring about self. His a mercifulness shown towards those who were ever seeking His heart, and ours so easily quenched by the first appearance of ingratitude. His a mercifulness that recognized sin as the source of every man’s misery, and ours so indifferent to the deepest needs of the men and women around us. His a mercifulness that stooped to help, that touched as well as pitied, and ours always bestowed with a gloved hand, and at a safe distance. His a mercifulness so catholic and wide in its embrace, and ours so narrow and limited by national or religious, or, worse still, party prejudice. His a mercifulness that was provident and wise, and ours capricious and thoughtless, giving to the professional beggar because she importunes us at the very door of the church, or to the man who in veriest cruelty drags little children, often hired for the purpose, through the wet and muddy streets, in the cold and wet, for they are never to be seen on fine days; while to calls that come from those that can guarantee their worth, or to the really poor who will not beg, or to the appeals which are made in God’s house for definite objects, our mercifulness turns a deaf ear. Believe me, it is time for us to learn that true mercifulness is discriminating, thoughtful, wise. His a mercifulness that is always the same, ours so fitful, uncertain, unreliable. His a mercifulness that cost Him self-sacrifice, ours a doing or giving what will not even cost us a thought. His a mercifulness that permeated the whole man in every thought, and word, and deed, ours so superficial, so unreal, our thoughts often breathing harsh judgment upon others, our actions marked by so little consideration of those about us or below us to whom we might be merciful. (C. J. Ridgeway, M. A.)

Christian mercy

I. THE NATURE OF CHRISTIAN MERCY.

1. It has its seat in the heart.

2. It is a supernatural quality.

3. It is an active principle.

II. THE GROUNDS OF CHRISTIAN MERCY.

1. Because it is strictly enjoined by God.

2. Because we stand in constant need of Divine mercy. Were it withdrawn, there would be nothing before us but a fearful looking for of judgment.

3. Because our profession binds us to imitate Christ, who is the perfect pattern of mercy. In Him mercy was embodied. If we are His disciples, we will walk even as He walked.

4. We should be merciful because of the true pleasure which is associated with acts of mercy.

5. Because it is an express condition of our obtaining mercy.

III. THE REWARDS OF CHRISTIAN MERCY.

1. A good name.

2. A peculiar interest in the kind and merciful arrangements of Divine providence.

3. The merciful are blessed with the prayers and blessings of the miserable whom they have relieved.

4. They shall be blessed with the public approval of Christ at the last day. Application:

1. Let the exercise of mercy be pressed on all Christ’s disciples. Cultivate it. Rejoice in all opportunities of doing good.

2. Let the mercy of God to us be highly valued. We need it daily. Only one channel for its communication--through Christ. Only one way to obtain it--through faith in His word.

3. The unmerciful shall have judgment without mercy. What a dreadful portion to the guilty sinner! (J. Burns, D. D.)


Verse 37

Luke 6:37

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged

Judge not

No man, avers Sir Thomas Browne, can justly censure or condemn another, because, in fact, no man truly knows another.
“This I perceive in myself; for I am in the dark to all the world, and my nearest friends behold me but in a cloud.”… Further, no man can judge another, because no man knows himself. The Vicar of Gravenhurst, in his position of parish priest, owns himself compelled to confess that the best people are not the best in every relation of life, and the worst people not bad in every relation of life; so that with experience, he finds himself growing lenient in his blame, if also reticent in his praise. “Again and again I say to myself that only the Omniscient can be the equitable judge of human beings, so complicated are our virtue with our failings, and so many are the hidden virtues, as well as hidden vices, of our fellow-men.” If judge at all we dare and do, be it in the spirit and to the latter of Wordsworth’s counsel:--

“From all rash censure be the mind kept free;

He only judges right who weighs, compares,

and, in the sternest sentence which his voice pronounces, “ne’er abandons charity.” Never let it be forgotten, insists a Quarterly Reviewer, that there is scarcely a single moral action of a single human being of which other men have such a knowledge--its ultimate grounds, its surrounding incidents, and the real determining causes of its merits--as to warrant their pronouncing a conclusive judgment.

“Who made the heart, ‘tis He alone

Decidedly can try us;

He knows each chord--its various tone,

Each spring its various bias;

Then at the balance let’s be mute,

We never can adjust it.”

(F. Jacox.)

Falsely judged

It is related of a broker in one of the Italian cities, that his strict economy brought on him the reputation of miserliness. He lived plainly and poorly, and at his death a hundred thousand men in the city were ready to curse him until his will was opened, in which he declared that early his heart was touched with the sufferings of the poor in the city for the lack of water. Springs there were none, and the public wells were bad; and he had spent his life in accumulating a fortune that should be devoted to bringing, by an aqueduct, from the neighbouring mountains, streams that should pour abundantly into the baths and dwellings of the poor of the city; and he not only denied himself many of the comforts of life, but toiled by day and by night, yea, and bore obloquy, that he might bless his fellow-citizens. He is dead; but those streams pour their health yet into that city.

A self-denying brother misjudged

The majority of people are ever ready to judge the conduct of their neighbours--in other words, to “cast the first stone.” But we have no right to judge others until we know all the circumstances that influence their conduct. In many cases we might imitate those we condemn, under like circumstances. A young man employed in a printing office in one of our large towns, incurred the ridicule of the other compositors, on account of his poor clothes and unsocial behaviour. On several occasions subscription papers were presented to him for various objects, but he refused to give his money. One day a compositor asked him to contribute for a picnic party, but was politely refused. Thereupon, the other accused him of niggardliness--an accusation which he resented. “You little know,” he said, “how unjustly you have been treating me. For more than a year, I have been starving myself to save money enough to send my poor blind sister to Paris, to be treated by a physician who has treated many cases of blindness similar to hers. I have always done my duty here in this office, and have minded my own business. I am sacrificing everything in life for another. Would either of you do as much? Could any one do more?” He had been judged without a knowledge of circumstances.

We cannot read the heart of others, and in many cases to know all is to judge all. “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (Dr. Guyler.)

Difficulty of judging aright

While we are coldly discussing a man’s career, sneering at his mistakes, blaming his rashness, and labelling his opinions--“Evangelical and narrow,” or “Latitudinarian and Pantheistic,” or “Anglican and supercilious”--that man in his solitude is, perhaps, shedding hot tears because his sacrifice is a hard one, because strength and patience are failing him to speak the difficult word, and do the difficult deed. (George Eliot.)

The censorious spirit

1. Springs not from the Divine but from the malign elements of our nature.

2. Some men exercise it under the form of a blunt, plain-speaking honesty. There is nothing so blunt as a bull; but a bull is not usually considered to be a good thing to have in orphan asylums or in society. Men, however, who have come up along that line of development, go bellowing and horning their way through life, and justify their action because they are blunt, honest, plain-spoken men.

3. Then there are men who “hate hypocrisy,” and who are always and everywhere looking around and suspecting people.

4. There is another form of uncharitableness which in some respects is harder to bear than any other. That is where criticism is put in the form of wit. Gold and silver are gold and silver, whether they be in the shape of coin or not; but when they are in the shape of coin and are in circulation, they have a power which otherwise they would not have.

5. The spirit of uncharitableness adds to the irritations, and quarrellings, and sufferings of life.

6. To form judgments of men, so far as their superficial qualities are concerned, requires but little; but to form judgments of their character and disposition is one of the most elaborate and difficult things possible. (H. W.Beecher.)

Concerning fault-finders

“Judge not and ye shall not be judged”; by whom? By your fellow-men? It is to be feared that whether a man judge them or not, they will judge him. The most uncensorious man in the world will not escape the censure of the uncharitable; they will censure even his uncensoriousness, and pronounce him hypocrite or fool, because he speaks well of all. When your uncharitably-disposed man cannot find a vice in his neighbour, he is so disappointed and out of temper, that he begins to pull his neighbour’s virtues to pieces. No, this is a warning of Divine judgments; judge not your neighbour lest God judge you. God will bring us into judgment for all our unkind and unfair judgments of our fellow-men. (H. S. Brown.)

The judging spirit

I. We do not hesitate to judge those whom God has placed in a condition, the effects of which, in character and habit, we have no means of correctly estimating.

II. And even supposing actual sin in the case of the exposed man, still judgment on its proceeding from us may be a condemnation of ourselves. What should we have been in his place?

III. In our common life the judging spirit places us in a hard, unfriendly attitude towards both God and man.

IV. The judging spirit, with the injustice it leads to, often displays a remarkable ignorance of human nature which would certainly be corrected by something more of self-inspection, and by that generosity towards others which a thorough knowledge of one’s self always excites in a just mind.

V. There is one large part of our subject which I can only name: the habit of judging of the whole spirit and inward life of a man from the religion he has embraced. Creeds separate, as if the souls of men were of different natures, and one God were not the Father of all. (J. H. Them.)

Against censoriousness

“Judge not.”

I. WE HAVE NOT SUFFICIENT DATA. We see a few of the actions which a man performs, we hear a few of the words he utters; and that is all we know of him. Yet some of us imagine that, on the strength of this knowledge, we can form a complete and infallible judgment in regard to his moral worth. We could not make a greater or more foolish mistake. In order to arrive at a correct decision, we must know the history of the man’s ancestors for hundreds of years past, and the different tendencies towards right and towards wrong which they have transmitted to him. “Many of us are born,” says the author of “John Inglesant,” “with seeds within us which make moral victory hopeless from the first.”

II. WE CAN NEVER SEE WHAT GOES ON IN ANOTHER’S HEART.

III. EVEN IF WE WERE ACQUAINTED WITH THE FACTS, WE SHOULD BE INCAPABLE OF ESTIMATING CORRECTLY THEIR MORAL SIGNIFICANCE. This is owing partly to the misleading influence of self-esteem. According to an old Indian legend, there once appeared among a nation of hunchbacks, a young and beautiful god. The people gathered round him; and when they saw that his back was destitute of a hump, they began to hoot and jeer and taunt him. One of them, however, more philosophical than the rest, said: “My friends, what are we doing? let us not insult this miserable creature. If heaven has made us beautiful, if it has adorned our backs with a mount of flesh, let us with pious gratitude repair to the temple and render our acknowledgments to the immortal gods.” This quaint legend illustrates very forcibly some of the curious delusions resulting from self-esteem. We are apt to plume ourselves even on our defects, and condemn those who differ from us merely because they differ. (A. W. Mornerie, M.A., D.Sc.)

On censoriousness

Whatever censuring is contrary to truth and justice, humanity and charity, civility and good manners, is here expressly forbidden.

I. THIS DISPOSITION IS TRACEABLE--

II. THE GREAT EVIL AND MALIGNITY OF IT CONSIST IN THE FACT THAT--

Christ warns us against judging

I. WHAT IS HERE FORBIDDEN. It is plain that the thing forbidden is not the office, or the upright discharge of the office, of a magistrate or a judge. When provision is made, in a Christian town or state, for the due punishment of offenders against the tranquility of our streets or the security of our homes, there is nothing in this contrary to the will or precept of Christ. He was Himself a respecter of civil order, and of the authority by which it is maintained. Only let the heart of the judge, in the exercise of his office, be full of humility and of compassion; only let him remember that common infirmity, that universal sinfulness, in which he himself is the fellow and the brother of him who stands at his bar for judgment; only let him acknowledge with becoming thankfulness that Divine goodness, of grace and of providence, which alone has made him to differ; and his administration of justice may be the offspring of a Christian devotion, the exercise of a calling in which he was called, of a ministry acceptable and well-pleasing to God.

2. Nor do we understand Him to blame the expression in common society of a righteous displeasure against deeds and against doers of iniquity. It is no charity to call evil good, or to refrain, out of a misplaced tenderness, from calling evil evil. Only let us remember what we ourselves are, and where--sinners living amid temptations; and let us, therefore, speak in humility, in sincerity, and in truth.

3. Yet the world is full of such judgments as are here forbidden.

II. WHY IT IS FORBIDDEN.

1. There is a retaliation in such things. A law of retribution. The censorious man will have his censor, whereas the merciful man will be mercifully judged--both here and hereafter. Not that a mere abstinence from censorious judgment will purchase for a sinner exemption from the sentence due to his own sins; but this we may say, that a merciful spirit in judging others will both be regarded as an indication of good in the man otherwise not blameless, and will save him from that aggravation of guilt which belongs to him who has both sinned and judged.

2. Such judgment as is here forbidden is an invasion of God’s peculiar office (Romans 12:19).

3. To judge is to betray in ourselves a root of self-ignorance, self-complacency, and self-righteousness. No man could thus judge, who really felt himself to be a sinner.

4. As the root of this unchristian judgment is in self-ignorance, so the fruit of it is definite injury to the cause of the gospel, to the soul of our neighbour, and, most of all, to our own. Who can love so unlovely a Christianity? Who is not disgusted and alienated by that religion which clothes itself in a garb so odious.

5. The whole spirit of the self-constituted judge is, in reality, a spirit of hypocrisy. When he professes to be distressed by the fault of his brother, he has, in truth, within him a tenfold greater fault of his own. He knows not his own weakness; he offers a strength which he has not. He cares not for the cure; he cares only for the distinction, for the superiority, of the healer. Conclusion: No man is fit, in his own strength, to be the counsellor or the guide of man. Every man has his own faults and his own sins; and it is only self-ignorance which makes him overlook them. If any man undertakes to judge another, he thereby judges himself. Let a man first look into himself, try and examine himself as in the sight of God, drag his own transgressions to the light of God’s judgment, and pass sentence with an unsparing strictness upon his own omissions of duty and commissions of sin. (Dean Vaughan.)

The danger of usurping God’s prerogatives

God has reserved three prerogatives royal to Himself--vengeance, glory, and judgment. As it is not safe for us, then, to encroach upon God’s royalties in either of the other two--glory or vengeance--so neither in this, of judgment. We have no right to judge; and so our judging is usurpation. We may err in out judgment; and so our judgment is rashness. We take things the worse way when we judge: and so our judging is uncharitable. We offer occasion of offence by our judging; and so our judging is scandalous (De Isaiah 41:8; Romans 12:10; Rom_14:4). (Bishop Sanderson.)

Of judging charitably

I never yet knew any man so bad, but some have thought him honest, and afforded him love; nor any one so good, but some have thought him vile, and hated him. Few are so thoroughly wicked as not to be estimable to some; and few are so just, as not to seem to some unequal: ignorance, envy, and partiality, enter much into the opinions that we form of others. Nor can a man in himself, always appear alike to all. In some, nature has made a disparity; in some, report has blinded judgment; and in others, accident is the cause of disposing us to love, or hate; or, if not these, the variation of the body’s humours; or, perhaps, not any of these. The soul is often led by secret motions and attachments, she knows not why. There are impulsive instincts, which urge us to a liking; as if there were some hidden beauty of a more magnetic force than what the eye can see; and this, too, is more powerful at cue time than at another. The same man that has now welcomed me with a free expression of love and courtesy, at another time has left me unsaluted at all. Yet, knowing him well, I have been certain of his sound affection, and have found it to proceed not from an intended neglect, but from an indisposedness, or a mind seriously busied within. Occasion rules the motions of the stirring mind: like men who walk in their sleep, we are led about, we neither know whither nor how. I know there are some who vary their behaviour out of pride, and in strangers I confess I know not how to distinguish; for there is no disposition but has a varnished visor, as well as an unpencilled face. Some people deceive the world; are bad, but are not thought so; in some, the world is deceived, believing them ill, when they are not. I have known the world at large to fall into an error. Though report once vented, like a stone cast into a pond, begets circle upon circle, till it meets with the bank that bounds it: yet fame often plays the cur, and opens when she springs no game. Why should I positively condemn any man, whom I know but superficially? as if I were a God, to see the inward soul. (Owen Felltham.)

The absurdity of judging others

One would have thought that experience must have convinced us, if not of the sin, yet of the absurdity of judging others. The ignorance, the blunders, of other people with regard to ourselves, strike home with startling force to our minds. We know the shame which we have felt, when they have praised us for actions whose motives deserved blame; we know how their disapproval has disheartened us, when we were making the bravest struggle to do right. We feel how little they can know of our deepest feelings--of our moments of fierce conflict, of passionate affection, of sharpest Suffering. There is nothing strange in this ignorance. But what is strange, is, that in the very teeth of this experience, we should calmly sit in judgment on others, and self-complacently try to determine the degree of their feelings, the depth or shallowness of their characters, the quality of their motives, and the precise measure of praise or blame which they deserve. (E. C. R.)

The way to righteousness

The way to righteousness lies in finding not other people’s sins, but our own. (Olshausen.)

The danger of judging others

Of all the faults into which people are liable to fall, that of judging others is one of the most common. Pride, or envy, or a tinge of ill-nature, or an amalgamation of all three, causes them to arraign before the bar of their private judgment the actions, even the motives and thoughts of others. Many evils result from this. Even if we do not consider the habit as rather an ugly deformation of an otherwise lovable disposition, we may still see that it heralds into the soul some undesirable companions.

1. It engenders self-esteem and self-satisfaction in some. If a man always looks outside of himself, at the blots which mar the characters which he contemplates, he will forget what virtues he lacks himself. He will not be conscious of the beam that is in his own eye, yet he will imagine that he is quite capable of pulling out the mote in his brother’s eye. He will, so to speak, put the large end of the contemplative telescope to his mental eye when he looks at his own heart; the small end when investigating his neighbour’s. Consequently, there will be an inverse ratio in the investigation. His neighbour’s motes will appear standing out in unjust relief; his own beams--the withered, shrivelled, sapless stanchion of self-love--the yawning chasm of avarice--the covert jungle of hypocrisy--the ungenial rock of pride--will become apparently very small, and in the distant prospect will have almost a charm about them.

2. Further, this spirit of judging others has the evil effect of providing untenable excuses for faults committed. People who are guilty of little sins, little failings, little excesses, are in danger of falling into this kind of error. They are, perhaps, aware of their shortcomings. They may even go so far as to acknowledge that they have them. But, in place of grappling with them and seeking to subdue them, they make excuses for them. And this is because they judge others. They compare themselves with others, and the comparison is prejudicial in their own favour.

3. And this judging of others prevents s healthy spirit of self-examination, and consequently of self-improvement. The man who continually pries into other people’s affairs must neglect his own. So the man who looks out constantly with a critical eye on the motives of others, must be unaware of those which actuate himself. There is a means, indeed, by which we may benefit ourselves by a contemplation of others. We have it summed up in the saying of an old Roman writer--“Look into men’s lives, as into looking-glasses.” That is, judge them not, but seek to see yourself reflected in them. See them in their trials and temptations, see them in crises of thought and action, and consider how you would have fared in similar circumstances. This will help you to solve the problem of life, “Know thyself.” It will also teach you to appreciate the Christian attributes of charity and forbearance. Conclusion: Man’s heart, as it weighs and measures its judgment, is sometimes harsh and hard, and the picture of others which it conjures up is often a dark one. But behold arising in the soul the dayspring of the knowledge of the Most High; behold, awakening to a knowledge of self, the soul to which Christ shall give His light, and you will see that light reflected on to the contemplated scene. There may be shades, but there are bright, sunny spots, too, and even the shades take a fairer colour from their proximity. Seen with the eye, which faith, and hope, and love in Christ inspire, all hardness and harshness, all unkindly cynicism, all uncongenial sneers, all puerile ill-nature, all sordid envy, will gradually disappear. And as the beams in the one eye are thus plucked out, the motes in the other eye will be plucked out too. The one character will have its effect on the other. Christ’s love is too great, too powerful, too immense, too vigorous, to loiter. It will push all before it. It will reflect itself on and on, like the dancing of sunbeams from wave to wave; and the motes and the mists and the fogs and the clouds--whatever they be--will disperse, even at His reflected light, making an entrance to prepare the soul for the full glory of His own presence. So may man’s soul be a meet temple for the mighty Spirit. So may something of heaven’s warmth be felt on earth. (C. E. Drought, M. A.)

On rash and censorious judgment

There is nothing more difficult in itself than to judge justly of the dispositions and conduct of other men; nothing more dangerous, or generally more hurtful, to the person who undertakes it; hardly anything more destructive of the peace and happiness of society; and but very few sins to which we have fewer temptations, and from which we can reap less pleasure or profit. And yet there is hardly anything that all of us undertake, with less diffidence of our abilities for the work--with less sense of our danger, or apprehension of the consequences; hardly any sin more universal, or in which inhumane and unthinking persons more persevere to the end of their lives. How few can lay their hands to their hearts, and say, “I am entirely free from this guilt!”

1. Rash censorious judgment of the dispositions or conduct of others, must always arise from great disorder in the heart, and proves that it is powerfully influenced, either by pride, or envy, or malice; and therefore must be very hateful to Him who knows all the secret and original springs of every part of our conduct.

2. It is a very presumptuous disobedience of the will and laws of God.

3. It is an arrogant usurpation of the great prerogative of the Almighty Creator, and of the office of our Blessed Saviour; and an uncharitable invasion of the rights and privileges of our fellowmen. (James Riddoch, M. A.)

The folly of judging others

1. We have no capacity to do so with truth and justice. To know, without judging, might be modesty and charity; but to judge without knowing, must be always indiscretion and cruelty; and we must always be without proper knowledge, when we presume censoriously and rashly to judge our neighbour’s conduct. Upon what insufficient evidence do men venture to censure and slander others.

2. By judging others we expose ourselves to very great danger. It is impossible for any one habitually to censure others, and to judge of their conduct with severity, without passing sentence against some of his own sins; and nothing can be more just, than that our Judge should ratify these judgments as far as they respect ourselves, and condemn us out of our own mouths.

3. We are rarely so much divested of passions and prejudices, as to be in a capacity to judge righteous judgment. Dislike, affection, interest, envy, connection, and a thousand other things to which we do not even ourselves advert, insensibly mislead the understanding, and bias the judgment. Men judge according to the passions and prejudices that prevail in themselves, rather than according to the virtues or vices that appears in their neighbour’s conduct. (James Riddoch, M. A. )

Judging others forbidden

I. THE FACULTY OF JUDGMENT MAY BE MISAPPLIED TO IMPROPER SUBJECTS. This happens when it is applied to the character of our neigh-bouts for the mere purpose of detecting faults. Now, the province assigned to us is the detection and correction of our own faults, which is a prior and more important duty; and which we have it in our power to perform more correctly and more usefully than we can do respecting the faults of others. Besides, till we discover and amend our own faults, we shall be very ill-qualified to reform the faults of our neighbour.

II. THIS FACULTY MAY BE EXERCISED IN A CRIMINAL AND PERNICIOUS MANNER. In forming our opinions respecting our neighbours, we are apt to judge without evidence, or from evidence very defective. Our knowledge of our neighbour’s faults is obtained either by our own observation, or from the testimony of others. Our own observation is often partial and defective; and from ambiguous appearances we often draw hasty and harsh conclusions. In admitting the testimony of others we are often incautious. For we are apt to forget that many judge from their passions; that some who see only a part, fill up what is wanting by the exercise of imagination; that some, anxious only to amuse or surprise, delight in telling wonderful stories of their own creation; that many cannot see things as they are; and that others can repeat nothing correctly. It is a matter, then, of great importance to the justness of our opinions concerning our neighbour, as well as to our own respectability, to be able to distinguish among our acquaintances the persons in whose testimony we can confide. Now, we shall easily discover that the man on whose accuracy we can rely is not the man who employs himself in retailing the faults of his neighbours. (J. Thomson, D. D.)

Judging others

I. Consider ONE OR TWO THINGS WHICH OUGHT TO CHECK AND RESTRAIN US IN OUR JUDGMENTS AND CRITICISMS UPON OTHERS.

1. Let us think how little we really know. What we see is but a small part of what is unseen and what can never be seen.

2. Again, in judging of others, we are apt to overlook their difficulties and temptations.

II. Consider THAT YOUR JUDGMENT OF OTHERS IS THE MEASURE OF THAT JUDGMENT WHICH MUST OVERTAKE YOURSELF. If a man, then, is rigorous and severe--if he applies to the conduct of others a high standard, and if he expects that standard to be reached--finding fault and passing condemnation where it is not reached--he is virtually laying claim to a high knowledge of what right and wrong really are; and it is only just and reasonable that this knowledge should be the criterion to which his own conduct and life should be brought: he cannot complain if he is judged by what he actually knows. So far, we see how there is no vindictiveness in judging men as they have judged others. We cannot say that this result is attained all at once. Our Lord Himself was an instance to the contrary: He did not receive into His bosom what He had given out; He did great good, and sought the good of others, but He was requited with evil and with ingratitude.

III. IT IS CARRYING OUT THE SAME TRUTH IN FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE WHEN CHRIST says, “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” To a man with the spirit of penitence in him, his own faults are never made less than they are; and indeed the more he condemns himself, the more will he be ready to justify others. He feels the mote in his own eye to be as a beam, and he reserves his highest condemnation for his own faults and sins.

IV. ARE WE, THEN, TO BE BLIND TO THE SINS OF THE WORLD AROUND US? Our Lord’s teaching is calculated to enforce righteous judgment, not partial or false judgment. There is nothing in Christian teaching to sanction tolerance towards sin. It is not every kind of judgment which Christ condemns. Let the spirit of love be in the heart, and the spirit of true judgment will follow.

1. Before judging of the individual, then, in any ease, pause to think how much you really know, and let not your judgment of a man be formed on hearsay and imagination.

2. Remember that your judgment of others is the measure of that judgment which must overtake you.

3. Let your judgment of others take the tone of your judgment passed first on yourself.

4. Let all things be done tinder the remembrance of how much we ourselves owe to a love which is boundless, a forgiveness which has raised us from doubt and fear. (A. Watson, D. D.)

Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven

Forgiveness, human and Divine

There is no point on which Christianity is more vital, searching, and severe than on this--the requisition of a forgiving spirit, as the highest form of benevolence or well-wishing towards our fellow-men. That we have an average good-nature towards good folks is all very well; that we forgive things done against us which we do not feel is all very well; but when an assault of any kind has been made in some tender and sensitive point, and we feel ourselves to be greatly wronged, then to have such a Divine sense of the great law of benevolence as that, under the stinging sensibility of the wrong, we can rise out of the selfness and think well of the offender--that is an example of Godlike love which evidences the Divine presence in the soul. A Christian man who hates, and will not forgive, is as much worse than an ordinary man, as salt that has lost all saltness is worse than common dirt; it is not good for manure; it is only good to make paths with. The only thing that it will not hurt is the bottom of one’s foot. (H. W. Beecher.)

Forgiving others

In the Middle Ages, when the lords and knights were always at war with each other, one of them resolved to revenge himself on a neighbour who had offended him. It chanced that on the very evening when he had made this resolution, he heard that his enemy was to pass near his castle with only a few men with him. He determined not to let the opportunity pass. He spoke of his plan in the presence of his chaplain, who tried in vain to persuade him to give it up. The good man said a great deal to the duke about the sin of what he was going to do, but in vain. At length, seeing that all his words had no effect, he said, “ My lord, since I cannot persuade you to give up this plan of yours, will you at least come with me to the chapel, that we may pray together before you go?” The duke consented, and the chaplain and he kneeled together in prayer. Then the mercy-loving Christian said to the revengeful warrior, “Will you repeat after me, sentence by sentence, the prayer which our Lord taught to His disciples?” “I will do it,” replied the duke. He did it accordingly. The chaplain said a sentence, and the duke repeated it, till he came to the petition, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive.” There the duke was silent. “My lord duke, you are silent,” said the chaplain. “Will you be so good as to continue to repeat the words after me, if you dare to do so?” “I cannot,” replied the duke. “Well, God cannot forgive you, for He has said so. He Himself has given us this prayer. Therefore you must either give up your revenge, or give up saying this prayer; for to ask God to pardon you, as you pardon others, is to ask Him to take vengeance on you for all your sins. Go now, my lord, and meet your victim. God will meet you at the great day of judgment.” The iron will of the duke was broken. “No,” said he, “I will finish my prayer. My God, my Father, pardon me; forgive me, as I desire to forgive him who has offended me; lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.” “Amen,” said the chaplain. “Amen,” repeated the duke, who now understood the Lord’s Prayer better than he had ever done before, since he had learned to apply it to himself. (Preacher’s Lantern.)

Christian forgiveness

I. THE PRETENCE OF GOOD-WILL TOWARDS OUR ENEMIES. “I wish nothing so much,” a man will say, “as to be reconciled; I am perfectly disposed to it; and, whenever my adversary pleases, I will receive him in such a manner, as to show that no resentment remains with me.” Now, this is plausible language; it seems to show generosity, and greatness of mind. But, would you know whence these fine words proceed? From great self-love and little Christianity. You wish to have the credit of a reconciliation without the fancied mortification of it.

II. THE PRETENCE OF SENSIBILITY. “If the affront were not so very galling,” you may say, “if the injury were not so personal, I could make this sacrifice to God and religion; but I cannot forget what is due to myself, and be void of all feeling.” I understand you well; this is the language commonly spoken in the world. And I reply, If you were insensible, or if the injury done to you were not deeply felt, I should mot labour to persuade you to forgive; I should consider this precept of the gospel as scarcely directed to you. You renounce both the spirit and the example of the cross.

III. THE PRETENCE OF PRUDENCE IS URGED for omitting this great Christian duty of forgiveness. “ I cannot be heartily reconciled to my adversary; he is a bad man, and has been treacherous and base to me; prudence requires me to avoid such a one; and, as to religion, it cannot enjoin dissimulation, nor oblige me to do anything imprudent and dangerous!”

IV. LET ME CARRY FORWARD YOUR THOUGHTS BEYOND DEATH AND THE GRAVE. (S. Partridge, M. A.)

Forgiveness

I. FORGIVENESS IS POSSIBLE. TO deem it impossible to forgive your offender is--

1. A fatal self-delusion. There have always been men who considered revenge a base passion, and have readily forgiven the greatest offences. Such men have been

2. A blasphemy. God requires you to forgive your offender, and has a right to do so.

II. FORGIVENESS IS NECESSARY.

1. Reason teaches it.

2. Revelation requires it (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 5:38-48; Mat_6:12; Romans 12:19-21; Ephesians 4:26; Colossians 3:13).

III. FORGIVENESS IS LAUDABLE AND MERITORIOUS.

1. By forgiving the offences committed against you, you gain

2. He who is not willing to forgive those who have offended him, sins

The evil of an unforgiving spirit

Go home to your own breast, and ask your heart these questions: “Hast thou, my heart, no other passions but pride and anger? What is become of the humanity and benevolence whereof, on some occasions, thou hast given such pleasing proofs? Wilt thou suffer thy pride to tyrannise over thy love? What an heart art thou, if rage, revenge, and mischief, can afford thee more pleasure than forgiveness and acts of kindness and generosity!” If an enemy is thus able to transform and degrade a man to the most odious class of beings, that man not only is now, but was before the injury done him, a very despicable being, and liable, it seems, to an infinitely worse sort of injury, than can possibly be done in regard to fortune, liberty, character, or even life itself; an injury, I mean, in regard to virtue. The enemy who can turn a good man into a bad one is the worst of all enemies. No man, however, can do this to us without our own concurrence. (Philip Skelton, M. A.)

God will measure to you in your own bushel

Forgive, saith a master to one of his servants, in your hearing, forgive your fellow-servant the guinea he owes you, and you shall be forgiven the hundred you owe me. Forgive that other fellow-servant the reproaches he hath flung at you, and you shall be forgiven the theft you lately committed, when you were discovered stealing my goods. Forgive that third fellow-servant the blow you just now received from him, and you shall be forgiven the assault you committed on me, your master, for which you are now under prosecution. If you do not comply with me in this, you shall be paid your guinea; but then I will exact my hundred guineas of you to the very last farthing. You shall have satisfaction, too, for the affront offered you; but shall be publicly exposed to the infamy your theft has deserved. I will punish the man who struck you, as justice requires; but will also execute on you the rigour of that justice for your act of rebellion and violence against myself. As you measure from you, I will measure to you; mercy for mercy, justice for justice, vengeance for vengeance. You demand an exact account, and shall have it; but you shall also give it. You think this servant a perfect madman when you hear him crying out, “I insist on an account; I will be paid; I will have satisfaction.” Do you indeed? Well, then, Christ is the Master, and thou art the man. What! will you not forgive a trifle, to be forgiven that which is infinite? Will you plunge to the bottom of the lake for the pleasure of seeing your enemy swim on the surface? How is it that you judge so clearly in things of little moment, which relate to others, while in a case of the same nature, but of the last consequence to yourself, you are wholly stupid? Is it self that shuts your eyes? Self! which of all things ought to open them, when your salvation is brought in question? Amazing! Whom will you see for, if you cannot see for yourself? Whom will be wise for, if you will not be wise for yourself? (Philip Skelton, M. A. )


Verse 38

Luke 6:38

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down

On Christian giving

I.
GET, GATHER. Are there not many persona of a very careless and prodigal disposition?

II. GIVE. Begin to give as soon as you begin to get. That will prevent the danger of a growing covetousness.

III. THE GIVING SHOULD BE IN SOME PROPORTION TO THE INCOME. I do not presume to fix the proportion. But I the more insist on the principle of a fair and just proportion, and on the duty o! the individual to turn the principle into practice. This proportion, however, will never be reached, or at any rate, will hardly for any long time be continued, except in connection with another principle of far deeper hold and wider sway, the principle that--

IV. WHAT IS LEFT IS GIVEN TOO. It is also true that we shall never understand really what Christian giving is until--

V. WE GET BEYOND WHAT IS CALLED THE DUTY OF IT TO THE HIGHER GROUND OF THE BLESSEDNESS OF IT. “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” is a universal truth applicable not to money alone, but to the whole of life’s experiences.

1. Thought.

2. Sympathy.

3. Life itself.

The possibility of giving life, self, to God for ever. The certainty of having at length to yield the gift of life into the hand of God. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

The duty of giving

I. WHY SHOULD WE GIVE? It is our duty. It is for God’s glory. It is more blessed to give than to receive.

II. WHAT SHOULD WE GIVE?

1. Ourselves. St. Paul says of the Macedonians that they “first gave their own selves unto the Lord.” This will make all else well-pleasing unto the Lord.

2. Our time.

3. Our influence.

4. Our money. We are but stewards of all that we possess.

III. HOW ARE WE TO GIVE?

1. Willingly.

2. Unostentatiously. “ Let not thy right hand,” &c.

3. Lovingly--from a principle of love to God and man in the heart.

IV. HOW MUCH ARE WE TO GIVE? The Bible does not give us exact and particular rules, but lays down general principles by which we are to govern our conduct. We must not offer to the Lord that which doth cost us nothing.

V. WHEN ARE WE TO GIVE? When cases of need, objects of compassion, or means of advancing the honour of God or the good of our fellow-men come before us. The injunction of the apostle was, “On the first day of the week,” &c. (1 Corinthians 16:2).

VI. WHERE ARE WE TO GIVE? That question may be best answered by asking another, Where are we not to give? VII. WHO IS TO GIVE? The answer is “every man”--the rich of their abundance, the poor something even of their poverty. Widow and two mites. “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (H. Whitehead, M.A.)

The reward of the giver

There are, doubtless, those who think that this statement is not borne out by the facts of their own experience. Too often they have obtained not even gratitude. And others there are who listen doubtfully to such words, not on account of any personal disappointments of their own, for they have not put themselves in the way of suffering such disappointments, but rather from observation of other people’s experience, as well as from their own theory of life. What, then, are we to make of our Lord’s statement that men shall give this good measure?

1. Our Lord did not say that men would do anything of the kind. We are to hope for nothing again (Luke 6:35).

2. Yet our Lord proposes a reward. Yes. “Ye shall be the children of the Highest.” The reward, then, consists in being like God. Whatever else is mentioned in the nature of reward is not an object to be sought after, but a consequence which must needs ensue.

3. Among these consequences will be found a measure even of human gratitude. For if our Lord did not say that men shall give the good measure, it may also be observed that He did not say they will not. The good measure will be given, and even men will have their share in giving it. (H. Whitehead, M. A.)

Penalty of not giving to God

There are hundreds of business men, Christian men, in New York city, who have gone down, for the simple reason, as I believe, that they did not give to God that which belonged to Him. They did not give Him any percentage at all, or such a very small percentage that the Lord God collected His own bills, by fire, by storm, or by death. Two men I knew very well, some years ago, on the streets of New York. They were talking about the matter of benevolence. One said to the other, “You give too much. I will wait until I get a large pile of money, and then I will give.” “No,” said the other, “I will give as God prospers me.” Hear the sequel. The former lives in New York city to-day, dollarless. The latter gathered two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. I believe that the reason why many people are kept poor is because they do not give enough. If a man gives in the right spirit to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the Church, he is insured for time and for eternity. The Bank of England is a weak institution compared with the bank that any Christian man can draw upon. (Dr. Talmage.)

Righteous retribution

One remembers, of course, the Regent Morton hugged to death by the “maiden” he had been the means of introducing into Scotland. The French doctor, Guillotin, is even now not uncommonly believed to have perished in the Reign of Terror by the instrument invented by and named after him; whereas he quietly died in his bed, many many years later than that. But the Revolution history is well stored with instances like that of Chalier, condemned to death by the criminal tribunal at Lyons--the guillotine which he had sent for from Paris to destroy his enemies being first destined to sever his own head from his body. A bungling executioner prolonged the last agonies of this man, who, in fact, was hacked to death, not decapitated. He tasted slowly, as Lamartine says, of the death, a thirst for which he had so often sought to excite in the people; “he was glutted with blood, but it was his own.” Alison recognizes in the death of Murat a memorable instance of the moral retribution which often attends on “great deeds of iniquity, and by the instrumentality of the very acts which appeared to place them beyond its reach,” He underwent in 1815 the very fate to which, seven years before, he had consigned a hundred Spaniards at Madrid, guilty of no other crime than that of defending their country; and this, as Sir Archibald adds, “by the application of a law to his own case which he himself had introduced to check the attempt of the Bourbons to regain a throne which he had usurped.” (Francis Jacox.)

God a good paymaster

A boy, hearing the Rev. J. Wesley preach, cheerfully put a shilling on the plate. Twenty years afterwards the boy told Mr. Wesley that God was a good paymaster; for he was then worth £20,000, and had the grace of God in his heart. (Sunday School Treasury.)

Happiness in doing good

Alexander, the Emperor, was one day out hunting; and hating gone ahead of his suite, he fancied he heard a groan; the groan pierced his heart; he alighted on the spot, looked around him, and found a poor man at the point of death. He bent over him, chafed his temples; excited the poor man, or tried to do so; he went by a public road, and called the attention of a surgeon to the case of the poor man. “Oh!” said the surgeon, “he is dead; he is dead.” “Try what you can do,” said Alexander. The surgeon adopted a set of experimental processes at the command of the emperor; and at last a drop of blood appeared. At the mouth of the opened vein there was suction; respiration was forming in the chest of the man. Alexander’s eyes flashed fire, and he said” Oh! this is the happiest day of my life; I have saved another man’s life!” What said another great man among ourselves--Lord Eldon? In a letter to his sister, which he wrote in his old age, he says--“It was my duty, as Lord Chancellor, to listen to the record of the sentences passed by the Recorder of the City of London. It used to be a formal thing, when the sentences of death were read over, that the chancellor should give his assent; but I determined after the first time that I would go into each case, and have each case clearly and distinctly stated. It used to give me a great deal of trouble in addition to all my other duties; but the consequence of this was, that I saved the lives of several persons.” I say, do good in the cause of truth and righteousness, and you will promote your own honour and happiness; and when the eye sees you it will bless you, and when the ear hears you it will bear witness to you. (J. Beaumont.)

The naturalness of giving

If we view this microcosm, the human body, we shall find that the heart does not receive the blood to store it up, but while it pumps it in at one valve, it sends it forth at another. The blood is always circulating everywhere, and is stagnant nowhere; the same is true of all the fluids in a healthy body; they are in a constant state of expenditure.

If one cell stores up for a few moments its peculiar secretion, it only retains it till it is perfectly fitted for its appointed use in the body; for if any cell in the body should begin to store up its secretion, its store would soon become the cause of inveterate disease; nay, the organ would soon lose the power to secrete at all, if it did not give forth its products. The whole of the human system lives by giving. The eye cannot say to the foot, I have no need of thee, and will not guide thee; for if it does not perform its watchful office, the whole man will be in the ditch, and the eye will be covered with mire. If the members refuse to contribute to the general stock, the whole body will become poverty-stricken, and be given up to the bankruptcy of death. Let us learn, then, from the analogy of nature, the great lesson, that to get, we must give; that to accumulate, we must scatter; that to make ourselves happy, we must make others happy; and that to get good and become spiritually vigorous, we must do good, and seek the spiritual good of others. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Reward of effort for others

A traveller, ready to perish amid the snows of the Alps, meets a fellow-traveller in worse condition than himself. He puts forth every effort to save him, and is rewarded by the life of his fellow, and by new warmth and life in his own freezing limbs.

Benefits of liberality

I never prospered more in my small estate than when I gave most and needed least. My own rule hath been, first, to contrive to need myself as little as may be, and lay out none on need-nots, but to bye frugally on a little; second, to serve God in my place, upon that competency which He allowed me to myself, that what I had myself might be as good a work for common good as that which I gave to others; and, third, to do all the good I could with the rest, preferring the most public and the most durable object, and the nearest. And the more I have practised this, the more I have had to do it with; and, when I gave almost all, more came in (without any’s gift), I scarce knew how, at least unexpected: but when by improvidence I have cast myself into necessities of using more upon myself, or upon things in themselves of less importance, I have prospered much less than when I did otherwise. And when I had contented myself to devote that stock which I had gotten to charitable uses after my death, instead of laying out at present, that so I might secure somewhat for myself while I lived, in probability all that is like to be lost; whereas, when I took that present opportunity, and trusted God for the time to come, I wanted nothing, and lost nothing. (Richard Baxter.)

The liberal man is always rich

In defiance of all the torture, of all the might, of all the malice of the world, the liberal man will ever be rich; for God’s providence is his estate, God’s wisdom and power are his defence, God’s love and favour are his reward, and God’s Word is his security. (Isaac Barrow, D. D.)

The reward of giving

I. AS TO TEMPORAL THINGS.

1. A good conscience. Sometimes the requital of a man’s openheartedness, and the readiness with which he has bestowed of what he has upon others, is furnished to him in the feelings of his own heart; and he herein gains a rich, abundant, and blessed recompense. Labour may have been sweet to him; he may have been willing to toil on, as he was gradually making progress to his object; success has been full of delight, as he gradually mastered difficulties, and looking back upon the way which he had passed, found how he had climbed to heights, to which his youthful ambition hardly dared to aspire. But neither is labour so sweet, nor its most successful results so delightful, as when a man whom God has prospered in his getting, has the heart readily and liberally to bestow. When he has gone to the habitations of the poor, when he has stood by the bedside of the sick, when he has ministered to those human necessities which fell within the compass of his ability to remove, then there has been in his own soul a far better requital for his expenditure, than if he had bestowed his money in any other possible way,

2. Gratitude of those benefited. The most prosperous man, the man to whom in God’s providence there seems to be a larger than usual amount of success appointed, has no security; he cannot tell what a year, or even a day, may bring forth. His fortune may be laid in the dust; his riches may make themselves wings; he may be reduced lower even than he was at his starting-place. Be it so; God has not forgotten him. Then will come the very especial occasion on which he will prove, by his own individual instance, that the promise of the text is true. When he possessed much, he gave liberally; he was the friend of all who were in necessity; he turned no deaf ear to the supplications of the desolate; he was not inaccessible to the sons and daughters of sorrow; and in his own day of disaster, many a heart and many a hand are open to him. For whom is it, that a whole neighbourhood are anxious? For whose affliction is it that all are concerned? For whose renovated fortunes are all deeply anxious? Is it not the man who, when he was in other circumstances, held himself the steward of God, and because he possessed all things in charge, used them as one who had to give account. Perhaps it may be that even his temporal condition is restored; but, whether that be so or not, does he not gain a most blessed return for all his charges and all his labour, in that there are hearts which feel for him, and friends who sympathise deeply with him, and those in whose prayers he knows that he has a place?

II. IN SPIRITUAL THINGS. Application to devoted preachers of the gospel, missionaries, &c. Also to parents who have brought up their children conscientiously. Our own portion in heaven will be all the more blessed, because of its being shared with those to whom on earth we were helpers. (S. Robins, M. A.)

The gift and its return

The New Testament is full of the idea of a natural and necessary reciprocity between man and the things by which he is surrounded (Galatians 6:7; 2 Corinthians 9:6). The world seems to be a great field in which every man drops his seed, and which gives back to every man, not just the same thing which he dropped there, any more than the brown earth holds up to you in the autumn the same black berry which you hid under its bosom in the spring, but something which has its true correspondence and proportion to the seed to which it is the legitimate and natural reply. Every gift has its return, every act has its consequence, every call has its answer in this great live, alert world, where man stands central, and all things have their eyes on him and their ears open to his voice. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

The law of reciprocity

It is a law of vast extent and wonderful exactness. The world is far more orderly than we believe; a deeper and a truer justice runs through it than we imagine. We all go about calling ourselves victims, discoursing on the cruel world, and wondering that it should treat us so, when really we are only meeting the rebound of our own lives. What we have been to things about us has made it necessary that they should be this to us. As we have given ourselves to them, so they have given themselves to us.

1. Even with man’s relations to the material earth the law is true. What different things she is to all of us, this earth we live in I Why is it that one man laughs at another’s view about the earth, and thinks him mad because of some strange value that he places on it? Three men stand in the same field and look around them: and then they all cry out together. One of them exclaims, How rich! another cries, How strange! another cries, How beautiful! and then the three divide the field between them, and they build their houses there; and in a year you come back and see what answer the same earth has made to each of her three questioners. They have all talked with the ground on which they lived, and heard its answers. They have all held out their several hands, and the same ground has put its own gift into each of them. What have they got to show you? One cries, “Come here and see my barn”; another cries, “Come here and see my museum”; the other says, “Let me read you my poem.” That is a picture of the way in which a generation or the race takes the great earth and makes it different things to all its children. With what measure we mete to it, it measures to us again.

2. The same law holds good with regard to our relations to the world of men. What does it mean, that one man cannot go among any kind of men, however base and low, without getting happiness and good; while another man cannot go into the midst of the noblest and sweetest company without bringing out misery and despair and sin? Here are Jesus and Judas: both go and give themselves to the Pharisees; both stand in the Pharisees’ presence and hear what they have to say. To Jesus these Pharisees give back in return every day a deeper consciousness of His own wondrous nature, a devouter consecration to His Father, and a more earnest pity for them. To Judas they give only blacker dreams of treason, a falser disregard of friendship and loyalty and honour. Take two boys in a class at college; two clerks in a shop in town. It is not good when either of them is made cynical, and sneers at the possibility of virtue because of the vice which he has felt in its contamination at his side. The true soul, with a character of its own, will learn the possibility of being good from his own consciousness, all the more strongly because of the vice that touches him. No soul, bad in itself, can really learn the possibility of goodness by mere sight and touch even of a world of saints, and no soul really good can lose the noble consciousness that man was made for goodness, even though all the world but him is steeped in wickedness, nay, in subtle ways he will feed that consciousness there.

3. The same law applies to the truths which men believe, or the causes for which they labour. Generous or stingy, large-idead or small-idead, appreciative or unappreciative of other occupations than your own; these things you will be, not invariably according to the kind of trade you are engaged in, but distinctively according to the kind of manhood which you put into your trade. And so with creeds. A creed must fill a man’s character before it really takes possession of his mind, as the ocean has to fill a vessel with its water before it can swallow it up into its depth. You cannot finally judge men by their creeds. A man may hold the most spiritual doctrine, and be carnal and mercenary; a man may hold the broadest truth, and be a bigot; and, on the other hand, all our religious history bears witness that a man may hold hard crude, narrow doctrine, and yet gather out of his belief in it rich, warm, sweet holiness which men and God must love.

4. I turn to one more illustration of the working of our law--the highest, the completest of them all. It is the gift of oneself to Jesus. There are different measures in which men give themselves to Christ, and Christ despises none of them; but in different measures He again is compelled to give Himself back to them. See how they come! One man approaches the Divine Redeemer asking no Divine redemption, but touched and fascinated by the beauty of that perfect life. He would feed his wonder, he would cultivate his taste, upon it. To him Jesus gives what he asks, and with delighted wonder and with cultivated taste the satisfied asker goes away. It is as if a man painted a mountain for its picturesqueness, and carried off his picture in delight, never dreaming that he left behind him in the mountain’s bosom treasures of gold which only waited for his hand to gather them. Another man comes to Jesus with a self that is all alive with curiosity. He takes Christ’s revelations--for Christ does not refuse him either--and goes away content to know much of God and man, and what there is beyond this world. Another man comes to Jesus with a self all trembling with fear, all eager for safety, and Jesus satisfies him; He lets him know that even the humblest, and most ignorant, and least aspiring soul, which repents of and forsakes its sin, and seeks forgiveness, shall not be lost. Each gets from Jesus that which the nature which he brings can take. With what measure each gives himself to the Saviour, the Saviour gives Himself in His salvation back to each. Only when at last there comes a man with his self all open, with door behind door, back into the most secret chambers, all unclosed, ready to give himself entirely, wanting everything, ready to take everything that Jesus has to give, wanting and ready to take the whole of Jesus into the whole of himself, only then are the last gates withdrawn; and as when the ocean gathers itself up and enters with its tide the open mouth of the river, like a conqueror riding into a surrendered town, so does the Lord in all His richness, with His perfect standards, His mighty motives, His infinite hopes, give Himself to the soul which has been utterly given to Him. It is not enough that Christ should stand ready to give us His blessings. He must give us the nature to which those blessings can be given. What we want of Him is not merely His gifts; it is ourselves; He must give us them first. To them only can He give Himself, which is His perfect gift. Not merely with outstretched hands but with open hearts we must stand before Him. We must pray not merely that the kingdom of heaven may come, but that we may be born again, so that we may see it. (Phillips Brooks, D. D. )


Verse 39

Luke 6:39

Can the blind lead the blind?
Shall they not both fall into the ditch?

The suggestive supposition is made by Dr. Reid (“Inquiry into the human mind”) that it had been as uncommon to be born with the power of sight as it is now to be born incapable of it, in which case “the few who had this rare gift would appear as prophets or inspired teachers to the many.”

Blind-led blind

Many a paraphrase of the proverb, and of a perishing people where there is no vision, might be cited from the histories and miscellanies of Mr. Carlyle. It is a trite theme with him--the need of what he calls men with an eye, to lead those who need guidance. We might apply what Shakespere’s Gloster, in King Lear, says, after his eyes have been barbarously put out, and he seeks a guide in Mad Tom, and is warned, “Alack, sir, he’s mad!” “‘Tis the time’s plague, when madmen lead the blind.” Ill fare the people that take up with blind guides. Like Elymas, when there fell upon him a mist and a darkness, they go about seeking some one to lead them by the hand. Some one, any one. Who will show us any good--who will deliver us from this hour and power of darkness? And sometimes he that is struck blind takes for guide him that is born blind. And straightway they make for the ditch. St. Gregory the Great, in his treatise on the pastoral care, vigorously censures those who, without proper qualifications, undertake the care of souls, which he calls the art of all arts. Who does not know, he says, that the wounds of the mind are more difficult to be understood than those of the body! And yet men unacquainted with the spiritual precepts will profess themselves physicians of the heart, while those who are ignorant of the effects of drugs would blush to set up for physicians of the body. And anon he quotes the proverb of the blind-led blind. In no such connection, and in no such spirit, Shelley quotes it, when describing priests and princes pale with terror, whose faith “fell, like a shaft loosed by the bowman’s error, on their own hearts.”

“They sought and they could find O refuge--’twas the blind who led the blind.”

But, after all, there may be something worse than even a blind guide; for, as South observes in his sermon on the fatal imposture of words, “A blind guide is certainly a great mischief: but a guide that blinds those whom he should lead, is certainly a greater.” The proverb was full in South’s eye when, in another sermon, discussing the case of a man who exerts all the faculties of his soul, and plies all means and opportunities in the search of truth which God has vouchsafed him, the preacher concludes that such a man may rest upon the judgment of his conscience so informed, as a warrantable guide of those actions which he must account to God for: “and if by following such a guide he fall into the ditch, the ditch shall never drown him.” But the same vigorous divine elsewhere deprecates a blind watchman as “equally a nuisance and an impertinence”--and such a paradox, both in reason and in practice, he contends, is a deluded conscience, namely a counsellor who cannot advise, and a guide not able to direct. The will and the affections are made to follow and obey, not to lead and direct; and therefore, he goes on to say, if error has perverted the order, and disturbed the original economy of our faculties, and a blind will thereupon comes to be led by a blind understanding, “there is no remedy, but it must trip and stumble, and sometimes fall into the noisome ditch of the foulest enormities and immoralities. (F. Jacox.)

Blind leaders

I. THE CASE PROPOSED--“Can the blind lead the blind?” Upon this we found the following remarks:

1. All men by nature are in a state of spiritual blindness. The proofs of this moral and spiritual blindness press upon our attention on every hand.

2. I remark that to the blind some sort of guidance is absolutely necessary. We all feel this with respect to the calamity of natural blindness.

3. It is obvious to remark that those who proffer themselves to be the guides of the blind should themselves possess the visual faculty. What supplemental aid can the blind derive from those who are themselves in the same unhappy condition?

II. THE CATASTROPHE PREDICTED. “If the blind lead the blind, shall they not both fall into the ditch?” Upon this I would remark:

1. That ignorant and unfaithful teachers are to be considered as the heaviest imaginable curse wherever they exist.

2. The text reminds us that the consequence of this state o! things is that both shall fall into the ditch. The blind who are led, and the blind leaders by whom they are led, it is much to be feared will share one common doom. They will fall into sentimental errors--they will fall into practical immoralities-they will fall into final perdition--unless the grace and mercy of the Most High prevent.

III. Let me apply the principles which have been thus briefly developed in favour of the institution for which I am about to plead. You are aware I am to ask your benevolent aid on behalf of the Home Missionary Society.

1. Let me remind you of the necessity which there exists for the interposition of such efforts as those which this society exerts.

2. Consider the erroneous guidance under which a vast proportion of this population is actually placed. (G. Clayton, M. A.)

The choice o/ a leader

Two extremes exist in reference to the pilgrimage and scholarship of life. Some assert that man needs no guide whatever. “Is he not a noble creature, gifted with high intelligence? Can he not reason and judge, and understand and discern? He can surely find his own way, without direction from without. As a learner, why needs he a teacher? He can instruct himself. Such self-sufficient boasters will not, therefore, condescend to sit at the feet of a master, or follow the track of a guide, and consequently they frequently become erratic, singular, lawless, and unreasonable in their modes of thought, and even of act. Into the mazes of infidelity and atheism such pilgrims wander; into foolishness and strong delusion such teachers of themselves conduct their own minds. This scheme is dangerous, but its opposite pole is not less so. Deliver a man from rationalism, and he often swings into superstition, and says, “I see that I need a guide, I will take the one nearest to hand.” Between these two extremes there is a narrow path of right, and happy is he who finds it, viz., the honestly and sincerely judging who the leader and teacher should be, the discovery that a leader has been appointed in the person of the Lord Jesus, and a teacher in the Divine Spirit, and then a complete, willing, and believing submission of the whole man to this infallible guidance.

I. The text announces to us A GREAT, GENERAL PRINCIPLE AS A WARNING, viz., that a disciple does not get above his master, but becomes like him.

1. It is evident that the disciple is generally drawn to the master who is most like himself. There is about us all a natural tendency to admire our own image, and to be willing to submit to any who are superior to us, and yet are of our type. If the blind man only could see he would not choose a blind man to be his guide; but as he cannot see he meets with one who talks as blind men talk; who judges things as they are in the dark, and who does not know what sighted men know, and therefore never reminds the blind man of his infirmity; and at once he says, “This is my ideal of a man, he is exactly the leader I require, and I will commit myself to him.” So the blind man takes the blind man to be his guide, and this is the reason why error has been so popular. No error would live if it did not chime in with some evil propensity of human nature, if it did not gratify some error in man to which it is congruous. Mind, then, whom you choose for a guide.

2. Having chosen his tutor, the student gradually becomes more and more like his master; or, having taken his guide, the tendency is to tread more closely in his footsteps, and obey his rules more fully every day. We imitate those whom we admire.

3. The pupil does not go beyond the tutor, nor does the man who submits to be led go beyond his guide. Such a case is very rarely found--indeed, I may say, never; for when the one who is led goes beyond his leader, he is not in truth led any longer; rarely enough does it ever come to that. Men, if they outstrip their leaders, generally do so in a wrong direction. They seldom exaggerate their virtues, those they frequently omit, but they usually exaggerate peculiarities, follies, failings, and faults. It is said that in the court of Richard III., because the king was round-shouldered, the courtiers gradually became hump-backed; and we have seen a whole country idiotic enough, not in the last century, but in this century, to have almost all its women limping, because a popular princess was afflicted with a temporary lameness.

4. When a man chooses a bad leader for his soul, at the end of all bad leadership there is a ditch. A small turn of the switch on the railway is the means of taking the train to the far east or to the far west: the first turn is very little indeed, but the points arrived at are remote. Let us not take any man whatever as our leader, for if we trust to any mere man, though he may be right in ninety-nine of the hundred, be is wrong somewhere, and our tendency will be to be more influenced by his one wrong point, than by any one of his righteous. There is One whom you may follow implicitly, and one only--the Man Christ Jesus, the Son of God.

II. SPECIAL APPLICATION OF THIS GREAT GENERAL PRINCIPLE TO JESUS CHRIST FOR OUR ENCOURAGEMENT. If we have Him for our leader we certainly cannot go beyond our leader, but we shall be privileged to grow more and more like Him, and we shall be perfected according to our text, as our leader is.

1. This is what we might have expected. He is the Creator; can He not create in us His image! From such an one as He is, we confidently expect it.

2. This was virtually promised.

3. What we might have expected, and what God has virtually promised, has been actually seen; for the disciples have been like their Lord.

III. WE MAY PUT ALL THIS TO THE TEST IF WE WILL. If you are not already Christ’s disciple, you may be. He will receive you though you have been to other masters, and learned a great deal under them, all of which you will have to unlearn. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The blind and the ditch

An awful warning to all teachers, especially preachers, followed as it is by the warning of the “beam” that is before “one’s own eye,” when one sees a small thing before another’s. We know of whom it was first intended--men who were not doubted; men who did not doubt themselves; men who led confidently into the ditch; men who killed the Lord of Glory, to saw their place and nation, and then destroyed them both. They stand before us as a warning, how awful it is to undertake to lead, only to lead astray or into ruin. Blindness (say some) is no sin, “are we blind also? If ye had been blind, ye had not had sin, but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” There is none so bad as that which is blind to itself. There are many blindnesses--as defect of thought, or learning--which drive the hearers into what the speakers never dreamt of; defect of practical knowledge of life and circumstances, making advice untenable or pernicious; such as on the clashing of submission to parents and zeal for God; want of spirituality--how can any teach what he has never learnt, and therefore never understood? A dwelling upon some parts of truth to the exclusion of all the rest, as the Pharisees did on the letter of purification, or as some on self-denial, till all religion is swallowed up in it, or some on spirituality and faith, till plain moral laws are broken. It is possible to dwell on sacraments till conversion is ignored; or to make conversion a sole object, till Christian life and edification are despised, and only strong excitement satisfies. It is far easier to preach a party, or a church, or a sect, than to preach Christ. All these are blindnesses, and, so far as they go, injure both guide and followers. But how hard it is to see: to trace out all our thoughts to their consequences, to know how to speak to or of all men, to be thoughtful and not cold, to know the life of the Spirit without pride. In fact, there are none who see all things, no one perfect guide, none to whom we can blindly trust. It is a case of those who see but little, and have more need to advise together than to lead and follow confidently. The work of preaching and advice is not to supersede thought, but to make men think; it is not what you hear, but what you make of what you hear. The best part of a sermon is the application, and that is made by the heart at home. But remember that blind leaders are made by blind followers. People crowd to a preacher as others to a theatre for a new excitement; and when they are moved, they long for a guide. Thinking is a labour, following is easy, a confident leader never lacks followers. This is the attraction in our days of the Church of Rome, and blind followers push her to greater extremes, while blind horror sends some into infidelity, for horror and foolhardiness go hand in hand. But it is not only in religion that these principles hold; in politics, in local business, in fashions and customs, there are the same blind leaders and blind followers. There is the same love of being first, the same desire to stick to one’s party, and be saved the trouble of thinking. Let it warn us in all these things to try to know where we are going, not to take other men’s fall on our own shoulders and help a whole crowd to destruction. Pause to think. Is it wise to follow? Am I sure I know my own way, when I long so to lead, and am so vexed when others do not follow? For in truth, though all are blind in something, in something all can see. Our first anxiety must be to see our own way, and then not to make others follow us, but to make them see. There are ditches enough. We see men every day falling into them, and there are enough before ourselves. If we think, and speak, and hear thus--as one family--for mutual help--we shall find that though the blind cannot lead the blind, they can help one another very much. (Bishop E. Steere.)


Verse 40

Luke 6:40

The disciple is not above his Master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his Master

The disciple not above his master

This saying was already a proverb in the time of our Lord, or He made it a proverb by His frequent use of it Matthew 10:24-25; John 13:12-16; Joh_15:20).
On the occasion referred to by St. Luke, He uses it in its widest, its most general scope; for here He is speaking of any and every master, of any and every disciple. “No disciple,” He says, “while he remains a disciple, can reasonably expect to be wiser than his master, whoever his master may be.” On every other occasion our Lord limits the scope of the proverb by applying it to
Himself and to the disciples who followed Him. Here it follows a parable with which it seems to many to have little connection, to some no connection at all although it is not easy to see how any attentive reader should have missed it. Surely the meaning of the entire passage, and its sequence of thought, are obvious enough. If a teacher be blind, if, that is, he lack intellectual or spiritual discernments, if he therefore frame partial and erroneous conclusions, what can be expected but that his disciples should fall into the very same errors, and fall into them all the more surely in proportion as they are faithful disciples? The disciple is not above his master; the learner is not wiser than the teacher. It is a question whether the disciple will ever rise to the level of his master. He will have done much if he do so much as that. From our Lord’s use of this proverb here we may infer some lessons of no small practical importance, and, in learning them, still further develop its meaning.

I. THE IMMENSE IMPORTANCE OF BOTH HAVING AND PRESENTING A TRUE AIM, A TRUE IDEAL, OF LIFE. What is our aim then? What should it be? The old catechism answer, rightly understood, is surely as good as any: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.” But it is of the last importance that we should set a single aim before us, and that the highest of which we are capable.

II. How HAPPY ARE WE, AND HOW GREATLY ASSISTED IN OUR PURSUIT OF IT, SHOULD THIS AIM, THIS ABSTRACT IDEAL, CLOTHE ITSELF IN FLESH AND BLOOD, AND STAND BEFORE US IN THE PERSON OF A MAN OF LIKE PASSIONS WITH OURSELVES! An embodied ideal, a realized and incarnate ideal, is worth a thousand pale abstractions. It is much to have a noble aim before us; but, oh, how much more to have it clothed in the loveliness of a perfect life. The lofty but abstract ideals of character which men have framed incarnate themselves, clothe themselves, with life and power and loveliness, in Christ, the Son of Man.

III. If it be important that we should have it for ourselves, it is also important that WE SHOULD PRESENT A TRUE IDEAL OF LIFE TO OTHERS. We may seek even the highest good selfishly; but, in proportion as we find it, we shall cease to be selfish: we shall seek to be good for the sake of others as well as for our own sake. Let us remember that if in any respect--national, commercial, intellectual, social, spiritual--we are above any of our neighbours, to them, without our permission being asked, we have become masters, i.e., teachers and examples. And therefore we should seek and strive for grace to set them a good example, that our influence may be stimulating and helpful to them. Above all, we should try so to follow Christ as that we may lead them to the Perfect Example, and make them disciples of the only Master who can never mislead them. (S. Cox, D. D.)

The force of example

This is true as an observation: men do grow up into the likeness of what they admire. It is seldom that any come quite up to it. Great philosophers, men of science, divines, soldiers, statesmen--these are taken as models, and each one has shaped the lives of many others. It is not always a conscious imitation. But we do grow like those we admire or love: even mere association shapes us. A man may be known by his associates. If he is not like them he soon will be. They are his masters in some degree, and he will be like them. We should take care, then, whom we imitate. In very many eases men forget to notice what was the end of those they admire. Statesmen have thought of Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, without considering their deaths, and the ruin they left behind them. Fame and power draw great men to seek them, and lead them into the ditch into which their masters fell before them. Our leaders are not generally people who have made a name in history, but some one not far off our own station in life, who has made himself a name, and “got on in the world.” It is a very good thing to have examples; we all want lifting, and want fresh thoughts to be given us. But before we give ourselves up to follow, we had better consider our masters as a whole. We may never come up to them, but we cannot hope to fare better than they. Are they exactly what we should like to be; did they end as we should like to end? Now, we find mostly some drawback, something we hope to avoid. We must remember that it began far back in their career. There is many a man of business who buys success at the cost of health and life, or of truth and honesty, Or of family and duty, or of eternity. If that is what he paid, he is no master for us to follow. There is nothing in the world that cannot be bought too dear. And of our masters in social life, pleasant companions, friends, clever fellows: look at them well--do we want to be like them? One and another of our old acquaintances are gone; what has become of them? Take the man who has gone farthest, and then you will see what the road leads to. If it leads to peace, and honour, and health--follow it. If it leads at last only to some filthy ditch--stop while you can. You say, “I can stop short”; do it then. It will not grow easier, it will cost you more every day. Many a man says, “I was a great fool to begin, but now I cannot help it.” It is always easiest to go downwards. It is not very difficult, if we deal honestly with ourselves, to see to what our mode of life has led, and we may feel sure we shall be no exception to the general law. But then there is another sense in which these same words were used; they are a comfort and support. We must not expect to be free from the losses, trials, difficulties, which have harassed those who went before us. No man ever grew without patient years of work. Our Lord told His disciples to look at Him, and not expect to be better treated. There has never been a time when there has been no undeserved ill-will. God does not make us perfect by always giving us what we wish for. Others have been tried, and where are they? Those who sought rest and pleasure, those who faced difficulty and kept right and truth--where are they? (John 16:33.) A good Christian is not known in the world by his good fortune, but by a hope that does not make ashamed. If we choose the highest model, even Christ, what must we expect? Troubles and difficulties enough, and after them-to be as our Master. Here, indeed, is a glorious future worth all the effort it costs. To be like God Himself in heaven! What other service can give such a reward as this? (Bishop E. Steere.)

The use of a great leader

During one of the campaigns in the American Civil War, when the winter weather was very severe, some of Stonewall Jackson’s men having crawled out in the morning from their snowladen blankets, half-frozen, began to curse him as the cause of their sufferings. He lay close by under a tree, also snowed under, and heard all this: but without noticing it, presently crawled out too, and, shaking off the snow, made some jocular remark to the nearest men, who had no idea he had ridden up in the night and lain down amongst them I The incident ran through the army in a few hours, and reconciled his followers to all the hardships of the expedition, and fully re-established his popularity. (Mackay.)

Perfect as the Master

The explanation of this verse seems to turn upon the word translated “perfect,” a word entirely different from that which is so translated in other passages, e.g., Matthew 5:48. The meaning is this: complete in discipline, finished or perfect in the sense in which we should speak of a piece of workmanship as perfect, when it has received the last touch of the workman’s hand. [R. V., “every one when he is perfected.”] So that when our Lord speaks of a man who is “perfect” being like his master, He means to describe the condition of a person who has received from his master, whoever that master may be, all the teaching and discipline which the master can give him, and He asserts that all that can be expected from such a finished disciple is that he shall be equal to his master; his master cannot raise him above himself; his master’s acquirements are (as it were), the limit towards which the growth of the disciple tends. If this be the meaning of our Lord’s words, we find in them an important warning not to His apostles only but to all teachers. The words show the necessity of those who would teach others growing in grace themselves; they must not expect that they can be worldly-minded and their disciples spiritual, that they can serve Mammon and their disciples serve God; and conversely, they may expect that as they grow more in the knowledge of their God and Saviour, their own growth in knowledge will reflect itself in their disciples, and tend to raise them to that point of spiritual life to which they themselves have already attained. (Bishop H. Goodwin.)


Verse 41-42

Luke 6:41-42

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 true and the false reformer contrasted

Now, as no age has been without its abominations, so none has been without its reformers. We read of them alike in sacred and in secular history. We hear of them alike in Heathendom and in Christendom, in lands of barbarous darkness and in lands of religious enlightenment. Abel, Enoch, and Noah were reformers. So were Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah--in fact, all the Israelitish prophets, and many of the Israelitish kings. Confucius in China, Zoroaster in Persia, Socrates in Greece, Cato in Rome, were all of the same order. In truth, all genuine Christians, rightly viewed, are reformers. “Ye are the salt.of the earth,” to rectify its putrescencies. “Ye are the light of the world,” to disperse its shades of darkness. But every genuine good thing amongst men has also its counterfeit. The grand forger and fabricator of all such hollow, delusive imitations of the exterior of excellence, is the devil. God prepares a purifying salt, Satan also manufactures an article, resembling it in appearance, but without its pungent savour and antiseptic properties. Our Lord, in His Sermon on the Mount, warns us against being deceived by these pseudo-reformers: and also against the still more fatal position of actually belonging to their ranks. We may gather from this passage of stern rebuke the character of a false or pretended reformer; and, by considering its contrast, that of a true and effective one likewise. Both may be zealous; both may be bold; both may be firm. Earnestness, intrepidity, immobility, may belong to each alike. No! the distinction between the true and the false reformer consists not in any difference of ardour, perseverance, or resoluteness. It is not a variation of degrees, but a variety of kind. It stands not in diversities of intensity, but in contradictions of essential quality. We shall find, by an analysis of our text, that the false reformer is at the antipodes of the true in all that goes to constitute fundamental, or radical, distinctions in moral character.

1. They start from opposite points of the compass. The one begins by reforming his neighbours; the other, by reforming himself. The one begins by looking around; the other, by looking within: the one, by sweeping the streets of the city; the other, by cleaning the rooms of his own house: the one, by attempting to remodel society; the other, by seeking a change in his own character. The one sees first what is amiss abroad; the other, what is amiss at home. “First cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

2. When both are engaged in the work of the world’s reformation, they differ in the selection of the objects on which their corrective measures are brought to bear. They not only start from contrary points, but they also proceed in contrary directions. The false reformer is presumptuous, the true reformer is condescending. The one looks above himself, the other looks below. All this, too, appears plainly from the text, “Cast out the beam from thine own eye, then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

3. A distinction between the real and the apparent reformer is to be found in the state of their own minds respectively. The former is clear in his perceptions and correct in his judgments. He knows how to discriminate cautiously and accurately, between good and evil. But the latter is ever confused in his views and erring in his decisions. Through precipitancy and prejudice, he mistakes the sweet for the bitter, and tim bitter for the sweet. We do not indeed claim infallibility for the true saint, but we do claim for him as correct a discernment of character and knowledge of truth as may be attainable by man in this world. The Scriptures doubtless guarantee this to every simple-hearted, docile, prayerful man, who studies their pages.

Hence we read of the anointing of the Holy One, which leads those who receive it into all truth: and we are told, that if any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God. Again, if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light: and, if any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men freely, and without up braiding. Such as are the sons of God are represented as being led by His Spirit You find him opposing only what ought to be opposed, and promoting only what deserves encouragement. He does not magnify the mole-hill into a mountain, nor minify the mountain into a mole-hill. He does not treat trifles as matters of essential moment, nor momentous matters as trifles. He is not deceived by mere, or by first appearances.. The sham reformer hides the real nature of objects, or deceitfully exaggerates their dimensions. He beholds all persons and things through a discolouring and perverting medium. Through the magical spectacles of prejudice he ever looks, and therefore sees not what really is, but what his own fancy conjures up, or his excited passions prompt him to desire. Whilst gazing upon others, their noblest virtues become transformed into foulest vices, their little infirmities swell into hideous sins. And how should it be otherwise? The man has a beam in his eye. He is dismally blinded. His whole soul is in darkness. His mind is bewitched by the sorceries of sin and Satan a dreadful spell has bound his spirit: a moral madness has distracted his heart. He can see neither perspicuously nor correctly: not afar off at all, and nigh at hand only imperfectly. Such is the delusion and blindness of the pseudo-reformer, hinted at so intelligibly in the expression of the text, “Then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

4. There is a contrast between the real and the pretended reformer, not only in the head, but in the heart; not only in the perceptions, but in the intentions; not only in the understanding, but in the motives and affections. Indeed, here lies the root of the whole matter. The one is sound, the other “rotten at the core.” The one is sincere, the other deceitful. The one rejoices inwardly in the truth, the other in iniquity. The one means to amend, the other to cavil and find fault. The one is actuated by an honest desire to see improvement in others, the other by a malignant censoriousness, which rather revels in prevalent corruption than bewails it. The true reformer loves those whom he strives to benefit: the false reformer really despises or hates those in whom he professes to be interested. He is spiteful and envious, a carping meddler, a dangerous busybody. He is a disguised foe to society. He has no love of peace, no relish for trustful concord.

1. We allude to that company of captious borderers just beyond the limits of Church communion, who refuse to step across those limits, because of the alleged inconsistencies or sins of some who are already there. Such persons can see nothing in the gospel but its difficulties, nothing in ecclesiastical organizations but their defects, nothing in Church members but their inconsistencies, real or attributed.

2. There is a class of the hypocrites, rebuked in the text, to be found inside the pale of Church communion. The needed remedy must be applied to thine own heart. It is at home where reform, as well as charity, must begin. Get all set right between thine own conscience and God. Let His love again expand and cheer thy heart: and then thy fellow-believer will appear more amiable in thy sight. If any little inconsistencies attach to him, thou shalt clearly see them, and mayest be able, with all the nice discrimination of a sound mind, and all the delicate dexterity of a charitable hand, to take the mote out of thy neighbour’s eye: and both of you shall be benefited by the operation. “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” (Sermons by Wesleyan Ministers.)

The mete and the beam

1. This parable implies that there are different degrees of sin. Not that any sin is trifling; but some are more heinous than others, either in themselves, or by reason Of aggravating circumstances.

2. Our sins often are really very great in themselves; and they would appear so to us, did we properly consider everything with which we are acquainted in our own case,

3. Men are generally most ready to mark the sins of others, when they are insensible of their own.

4. To be severe on the sins of others, and indulgent to one’s own, is very hypocritical.

5. In order to be prepared for the office of a reformer, a man must be reformed himself.

6. It is the duty of those who are reformed, to try to reform others. (James Foote, M. A.)

On censuring others

Nothing is so easy as to censure, or to contradict a truth; for truth is but one, and seeming truths are many; and few works are performed without errors. No man can write six lines, but there may be something one may carp at, if he be disposed to cavil. Men think by censuring to be accounted wise; but, in my conceit, there is nothing shows more of the fool. For this, you may ever observe, that they who know the least, are most given to censure; and this I believe to be a reason, why men of secluded lives are often rash in this particular. Their retiredness keeps them ignorant of the world; if they weighed the imperfections of humanity, they would be less prone to condemn others. Ignorance gives disparagement a louder tongue than knowledge. Wise men had rather know than tell. Frequent dispraises, at best, show an uncharitable mind. Any clown may see when a furrow is crooked; but where is the man who can plough me a straight one? The best works are not without defects. The cleanest corn is not without some dirt among it; no, not after frequent winnowing. I would wish men, in the works of others, to examine two things before they judge: whether there be more of what is good, than of what is ill, in what they examine? and whether they themselves could at first have done it better? If there be most of good, we do amiss, for some errors, to condemn the whole. As man is not judged good or bad for one action, or for the fewest number, but as he is most in general: so in works, we should weigh the generality, and our censure should be accordingly. If there be more of good than ill in him, I think he deserves some praise for raising nature above her ordinary flight. Nothing in this world can be framed so entirely perfect, but it will have in it some imperfections; if it were not so, it were not from human nature, but the immediate Deity. And next, whether we could do better than that which we condemn? To espy the inconveniences of a house when built, is easy; but to lay the plan well at first, is matter of more pate, and speaks the praise of a good contriver. Judgment is easier in things done, than in knowing what is best to be done. If we decry a copy, and are not able to produce an original, we show more criticism than ability. We ought rather to magnify him who has gone beyond us, than condemn him for a few faults. Self-examination will make our judgments charitable. It is from where there is no judgment, that the heaviest judgment comes. If we must needs censure, it is good to do it as Suetonius writes of the twelve Caesars, to tell both their virtues and their vices impartially, and leave others to determine for themselves. So shall men learn, by hearing of the faults of others, to avoid them, and by knowing their virtues, endeavour to practise the like. We ought rather to commend a man for the best part of his character, than brand him for the worst part of it. We are full of faults by nature; we are good, not without our care and industry. (Owen Felltham.)

Hypocrisy and self-ignorance

The words which thus meet us are not only proverbial in form but have become proverbial in their application. They have passed into the common speech of men. They furnish the readiest answer to the man who condemns another for sins of which he himself is guilty. The hypocrite is confronted by them at every turn.

1. First, then, we have the law, that the habit of judging others--of looking at their evil deeds--is a hindrance to self-knowledge. The man forgets the beam that is in his own eye, because his whole mind is bent on observing the motes that are in his brother’s eye. And this is, as the words of Christ imply, the act of one who is a hypocrite. The hypocrisy is all the more deadly and evil in its nature because it is in part unconscious. The man who strives to know what God is--who lets the light shine in on him--who is taught to see himself by that light in the mirror of God’s Word,will find it impossible to go on acting a part which is not his own. If he knows truth and goodness to be the great blessings of earth and Heaven, he will find the misery of seeming to be true and good when he is not so, altogether insupportable. The warning which this law involves is necessary for all men. It is absolutely essential for those who have been called, by an outward or inward vocation, by the circumstances of their lives or the solemn purposes which God has put into their hearts, to do battle in His service against the world and the flesh, to feel that in fighting against them they are fighting also against the devil. Consider what the work of those disciples must have been, as they preached the glad tidings of the kingdom in the cities and villages of Galileo, as they afterwards had to proclaim the same message in the great cities of Asia or Europe. How often they must have been tempted to think with scorn of those who were living in brutalizing sins, or bowing before dumb idols, or warring and fighting with each other! Was it not easy to think that their warfare against these monstrous forms of wickedness was so urgent as to leave them no leisure for self-scrutiny or self-discipline? easy to forget the law that the battle could not be fought successfully without it? And was there not an almost equal risk, when they protested, as their Lord had taught them to protest, against proud, self-righteous formalists, of their falling unconsciously into the sin which they rebuked?

2. But, secondly, we are taught that this self-discipline is not to end in itself. It is the means to something beyond it, the preparation for a work which could not be done successfully without it? One who rested in the first half of the precept might satisfy himself by a simple indifference to the acts, whether good or evil, which he witnessed. Silence would seem an adequate fulfilment of it. To check the expression of any judgment with the lips, to endeavour to suppress even the half-formed judgment of the mind, to pass through the world without coming into collision with its selfishness and godlessness--this would be to such a man the ideal of a blameless life. He might easily come to persuade himself that this was the temper of the true Christian charity which “hopeth all things, endureth all things, and believeth all things.” But the charity which Christ requires--it would be truer to say, the charity which Christ gives, of which His life on earth was the manifestation--is the very opposite of all this. It cannot remain neutral in the great battle between good and evil, between the armies of the living God and the lust and hatred that war against His order. It burns, as with a consuming fire, against the tyranny and wrong-doing wherewith one man works misery and destruction for his brothers, against the worship of sensuous lusts, or the idolatry of wealth, which lead men to forget the honour which is due to God. Words and acts which are to all appearance simply indifferent, light things, which may be passed over--idle words, for which men think that they shall not have to render an account in the day of judgment--will be seen by those whose eyes are opened, to be the outgrowths of some root of bitterness, stifling and strangling the growth of the good seed, hindering it from bringing forth any fruit to perfection. They therefore will, of all men, be least disposed to sit still, in the comfort of an easy-going Epicurean neutrality, when there are giant evils in the world still unchecked, and monstrous wrongs still unredressed. They will least allow those, the souls for whom Christ died and who are fellow-heirs with them of His eternal kingdom, to perish for lack of knowledge or continue in their blindness till they sleep the sleep of death. But then they will have learnt to contend against evil and falsehood, without judging the doer of evil or him who is the slave of falsehood. They will find it possible to make that distinction which the man who has not perceived and cast out the mote that was in his own eye never makes, between the offence which must be condemned, and, if need be, punished, and the offender who stands at God’s judgment-seat and not at ours. They can say, “The thing that has been done is evil; the man who has done it has thereby made himself the slave of evil, and brought himself into darkness and misery, and God is calling us to help him.” Conclusion: We must not look, either in ourselves or in others, for a perfect union of these two forms of charity. This is not reached at once. Even he who is earnestly striving after it will make mistakes. But he will not forget that these very mistakes form a part of the education by which God is training him to do His work on earth more effectually. They teach him to retrace his steps, to go through the process of preparation mice again, once again to cast out the beam that is in his own eye that he may “see clearly” to pull out the mote that is in his brother’s eye. They tend to make his sympathy with the hearts of his fellow-men wider and deeper than it was. (J. S. Hoare, M. A.)

The mote and the beam

Morality is not religion, but morality and religion have an organic unity. False religions sever religion and morality. Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount, makes morality grow out of religion. We are to be kind because God is kind; ready to forgive because God is merciful; slow to judge because we have a Judge whose dealings with us will be regulated by our dealings with others. Let us now say something of the caution in the text, reading it in the light of the great truths which we find in the context.

I. If a Christian man be thoroughly penetrated with the truth respecting his own relations, and those of other men, to God it is quite certain that JUDGING AND REPROVING OTHERS WILL BE A WORE WHICH, SO FAR AS MAY BE, HE WILL DECLINE. And this for two reasons:

1. Because he doubts his own knowledge of other men; and--

2. Because he doubts the strength of his own sympathy.

II. But now, besides these thoughts, there is the most conclusive thought of all--OUR OWN DEMERIT: OUR LYING OPEN OURSELVES TO GOD’S JUDGMENT AND TO MAN’S. The case which the Saviour here points to is not simply that of one judging another, who is himself an evil-doer, but the case of one judging another whose sin is to that of the person he censures as the beam to the mote. When we are wrong-doers ourselves, and when we see our own acts under the colouring lights of self-love; when we review them with the help of all the apologies and extenuations which we are able to devise, and then turn to other persons’ acts, all these lights being withdrawn, and criticise them in a clear, cold, and speculative way, or, even worse, under the influence of anger, or jealousy, or prejudice, is it not quite certain that we shall think less of the beam in our own eye than of the mote in our brother’s eye? (J. A. Jacob, M. A.)

The splinter and the beam

This metaphor in frequent use among the Jews. Thus, for instance, Rabbi Tarphon, when lamenting the impatience of correction which marked his time, complains that if any one said to his neighbour, “Cast out this or that straw from thine eye,” the response was sure to be, “Cast out the beam from thine own eye.” The good man, being one of those just persons who need no repentance, never dreamt that there was a beam in his eye, and that therefore the retort was perfectly fair. The Lord Jesus adopted the Hebrew metaphor, but not in the Hebrew spirit. On His lips it does not justify, but censures, those who assumed to judge and rebuke their brethren.

1. If we are so quick to see straws in the eyes of our neighbours that we can hardly look into any face without detecting one, the probability is that we carry a beam in our own eye of which we greatly need to be rid.

2. The Lord Jesus says that we are hypocrites, if, with a beam jutting from our own eye, we say to our brother, “Let me pull out the splinter from thine eye.” Is it hypocritical, then, to do a kindness, and to offer help, when we ourselves stand in need of help? By no means. But while our words mean, “O it is very wrong to suffer the smallest speck to remain in the eye”; our conduct means, “There is no great harm in letting even a beam remain in it.” That is to say, we are hypocrites; we talk one thing and act another. If the sinner rebuke sin, who will listen? If the sinner, while rebuking sin, affect a righteous austerity and assume to be innocent of transgression, who will not scorn both him and his rebuke?

3. But here we touch on a question of grave practical moment: “Are only the holy to open their mouth against sin P “ When Miss Nightingale went about among the sick soldiers of the Crimean hospitals, there was no need to rebuke them for profane language or obscene jests, although these were familiar to many of their lips. They felt they could not utter them in a presence so kind and pure. Many of them, we are told, folded their hands as if in prayer while she passed by. Do you imagine that.when she spoke to a man, if she ever did, of his faults and sins, he felt that she had no right to speak, that she was a hypocrite for her pains? But why not? Simply because, as they looked up into that pure, single eye, they could see the splinters in their own, and grew ashamed of them. See what force a holy character gives to rebuke!

4. From this man with a beam in his eye we may learn at least what to avoid. What are his faults?

5. Is not this parable true to our experience of life? It is against the unconscious self-assumption so prevalent among us that our Lord warns us in this parable. (S. Cox, D. D.)

An eye with a beam, and an eye for a mete

It takes a long time to learn by heart so as to take to heart Archbishop Whately’s maxim, that ten thou sand of the greatest faults in our neighbours are of less consequence to us than one of the smallest in ourselves. Elsewhere he says, “Never is the mind less fitted for self-examination than when most occupied in detecting the faults of others.” Have you never, asks Ellesmere, found the critic disclose four errors on his own part for one he delights to point out in the sayings or doings of the persons he criticizes? Shakespeare’s Birch claims the right to ask his companions, noble and royal alike, Dumain, Longueville, and the King of Navarre, addressing them singly and collectively:--

“But are you not ashamed? nay, are you not,

All three of you, to be thus much o’ershot?

You found his mote; the king your mote did see,

But! a beam do find in each of three.”

Who, exclaims Juvenal, can stand hearing the Gracchi complaining of sedition?

“O wad some pow’r the giftie gie us

To see oursels as ithers see us!”

For that, presumably, would from many a blunder free us, and foolish notion--

“We, who surround a common table, And imitate the fashionable, Wear each two eye-glasses: this lens Shows us our faults, that other men’s. We do not care how dim may be This by whose aid our own we see; But, ever anxiously alert That all may have their whole desert, We would melt down the stars and sun In our heart’s furnace, to make one Through which th’ enlightened world might spy A mote upon a brother’s eye.” (F. Jacob.)

Among sins, which are motes and which are beams?

We are apt to answer such a question according to our taste, and our habits; the motes being the sins we “are inclined to,” the beams those “we have no mind to.” To one the mote is covetousness, and the beam the drinking of a glass of wine or the smoking of a cigar. To another the mote is sharp practice in business and the beam taking a walk on a Sunday. To a third the mote is spending the evening in scandalising one’s neighbours all round, and the beam spending it at whist. To a fourth the mote is behaving like a bear or any other brute in his own house, and the beam any offence against good manners in his neighbour’s house. To a fifth the mote is swindling to the extent of £100,000, and the beam the neglect of family prayer. To a sixth the mote is theft, and the beam the being found out and exposed. To a seventh the mote is fraudulent bankruptcy, and the beam unsound views about original sin. And so we might go on, and show that, in our judgment, the mote and the beam often take each other’s places, the less sin being accounted the greater, and the greater the less. Now when we try to learn what Jesus meant by the mote and what by the beam, we arrive at this result--that the sins of the publicans and sinners, who knew no better, their drunkenness, their lewdness, their Sabbath-breaking, their profaneness, their disregard for all religion and all morality, were, in His estimation, as motes compared with the sins of the scribes and Pharisees who laid claim to much goodness, and yet were covetous, unjust, and extortionate under the cover of a religious profession. Their sins were beams, and the beam of beams was hypocrisy. There was no open and avowed sin that our Lord seems to have detested so much as a false profession of religion. And it were well for us to bear this in mind, so that we may have a just idea of the greater and lesser sins, and so neither deceive ourselves, nor too severely judge our neighbour, whose sin may be to our own no more than the smallest splinter of a lucifer-match in comparison with a tree fit to make the mast of a ship. (H. S. Brown.)

Correcting others’ faults

If it was out of place to set up as the censurer of your brother’s mote when your own faults were to his as a plank to a splinter, it is surely still more out of place to set yourself up for his correcter. The comparison sounds extravagant; since, though minute fragments from a twig may get into the eye and need to be taken out, to speak of a great beam of timber in the same connection is absurd. The extravagance of the phrase, however, did not hinder its being a usual and accepted one in oriental speech; and as such our Lord borrowed it to point His moral. What that moral is, is plain enough. In the first place, it is in a preposterous degree unbecoming to be so quick to see, much more to propose to mend, small faults in another when one’s own are so very great. It is, as we say, like “Satan reproving sin.” Besides, it is not only a grotesque betrayal of self-ignorance, but a presumptuous over-estimate of one’s own ability. To mend a brother’s fault, one has need of a most clear and undistorted spiritual vision, an eye of the soul quite single and limpid, No task asks cleaner motives, a truer insight, or more of that perfect fairness which can only spring from love, than this task of a reformer of manners. But there is more to be said than this. The interference of such blind guides and ignorant teachers is worse than a blunder. It is an hypocrisy. You profess to be so deeply concerned for the faults of your neigh-hour, that you would fain do him a service by ridding him of them: you are ardent in the interest of his reformation, a self-constituted preacher of righteousness. That looks well. But if it were really concern for the correction of evil and the cure of souls which inspired this officious zeal of yours, would it not show itself first of all in the reformation of yourself? A very little honest desire to have God’s kingdom come and His will done would suffice to reveal to yourself how much more shameful and painful your own moral disorders are than any you propose to remedy; and in the hard task of casting out your own huge sins of heart, you would find work enough to keep your hands full. The tu quoque rejoinder, “Physician, heal thyself,” is in its place here. “First cast out the beam.” This very officiousness in well-doing, this arrogant setting up as a correcter of morals, this immodest and loveless meddling with your neighbours--what is it but a sign how pride has made you stone-blind, and a proof that it is not the sympathy of a penitent which inspires you, but the conceit of a fault-finder? (J. O. Dykes, D. D.)

Fault-finding reproved

Why will you search another man’s wound while your own is bleeding? Take heed that your own vesture be not full of duet, when you are brushing your neighbour’s. Complain not of dirty streets, when heaps lie at your own doors, Many people are no longer well than while they arc holding their fingers upon another person’s sores: such are no better in their conduct than crows, which prey only upon carrion. (Archbishop Secker.)

Beholding others’ faults

A wise heathen said, “Every man carries two wallets with him, hanging the one before and the other behind him. Into that before, he puts the faults of others; into that behind, he puts his own. By this means he never sees his own failings, while he has those of others always before him.”

Ignoring the “Beam”

I recollect firing a shot once with much greater success than I knew of h certain person had frequently said to me that I had been the subject of her earnest prayers lest I should be exalted above measure, for she could see my danger; and after having heard this so many times that I really knew it by heart, I just made the remark, that I thought it would be my duty to pray for her too, lest she should be exalted above measure. I was greatly amused when this answer came, “I have no temptation to be proud; my experience is such that I am in no danger whatever of being puffed up”; not knowing that her little speech was about the proudest statement that could have been made, and that everybody else thought her to be the most officious and haughty person within ten miles. Why, do not you believe there may be as much pride in rags as in an alderman’s gown? Is it not just as possible for a man to be proud in a dust cart, as if he rode in her Majesty’s chariot? A man may be just as proud with half a yard of ground as Alexander with all his kingdoms, and may be just as lifted up with a few pence as Croesus with all his treasure. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Self-reformation the most effective

That earnest-minded man, Legh Richmond, was passing once through Stockport, at a time when political strifes disturbed the country. In consequence of his lameness, he was never able to walk far without resting. He was leaning on his stick and looking about him, when a poor fellow ran up to him, and offering his hand, inquired with considerable earnestness, “Sir, are you a radical?” “Yes, my friend,” answered Mr. Richmond, “I am a radical; a thorough radical.” “Then give me your hand,” said the man. “Stop, sir, stop,” replied Legh Richmond, “I must explain myself: we all need a radical reformation; our hearts are full of disorders--the root and principle within is altogether corrupt. Let you and me mend matters there, and then all will be well, and we shall cease to complain of the times and government.” “Right, sir,” answered the radical, “you are right,” and bowing, retired. (Sword and Trowel.)

Goodness essential to the true reformer

How bitter is the wail of the mighty Mirabeau, “If I had but character, if I had but been a good man, if I had not degraded my life by sensuality, and my youth by evil passions, I could have saved France.” Many a man has felt the same; he has clipped his own wings, he has suffered to be shorn away the sunny locks of the Nazarite who once lay weeping upon his shoulders, and wherein would have lain his strength. He has wounded himself, and even when the wound is healed, the fearful scar remains. But if, while he is himself still in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity, he essays to amend the morals of the world, he will either disgrace and weaken his own cause, or the good he does in one direction will be more than undone by the evil he is doing in another. To such a one, shaming him, warning him that they who bear the vessels of the sanctuary must themselves be clean, come the stern words of Christ--“First cast the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to take out the mute which is in thy brother’s eye.” (Archdeacon Farrar.)


Verse 43-44

Luke 6:43-44

For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither a corrupt tree bringeth forth good fruit

Good works the evidence of new creation

We cannot perform any good works, unless we are created unto them in Christ Jesus; and hence that creation in Christ Jesus cannot be anywise the effect or consequence of our good works: we were saved, as the apostle tells us, by grace, when we were dead in trespasses and sins.
But if we are indeed created anew in Christ Jesus, our good works must follow, as a necessary, certain, irrepressible result. They are the only evidence of that creation to others: and they are no less indispensable to ourselves, to certify us of its reality. If we do not bring forth good works, we ought to be convinced that we cannot have been created anew in Christ Jesus, that in one way or other the process of our regeneration has been marred. Good works are the mark, the proof, the evidence of Christian life; they are the badge of a Christian community; and they are the means through which the members of that community are bound together, and the Christian life is brought to pervade them all. When they are scanty, the Christian life must be feeble; when they are totally wanting, whether in an individual or a community, the Christian life must be all but extinct. They are the evidences of the Christian life, and they are also the means of growing in it; for it is by exercise, by action, that every living principle is strengthened. This is no way at variance with the assertion that the Christian life is not the effect of our good works. The primary creative cause is, in all instances except the highest, distinct from the highest nutritive causes. The bread which feeds will not beget a man. By study we do not acquire the power of knowing; but we improve and increase that power, End may do so almost indefinitely. By practising any art--be it music, or painting, or statuary--we do not acquire that particular faculty of the mind which fits a man for becoming a musician, or a painter, or a sculptor, any more than we acquire our eyes by seeing: indeed, if a man has not that faculty already within him, no teaching or practising will draw it out of him; but when he has it, practice will greatly sharpen and better it. Such, too, is the case with the Christian life. It is not created by our good works, but is to be fostered and nourished by them, and may be so to a wonderful extent, if we always bear in mind how it originated, and are careful to have it replenished from its only source; while, on the other hand, without them it will pine and die. Indeed, in this instance we have the special assurance: “To him who hath shall be given,” &c
. (J. C,. Hare.)

A new nature needed to produce good fruit

Without a change of nature, men’s practice will not be thoroughly changed. Until the tree be made good, the fruit will not be good. Men do not gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles. The swine may be washed, and appear clean for a little while, but yet, without a change of nature, he will still wallow in the mire. Nature is a more powerful principle of action than anything that opposes it: though it may be violently restrained for a while, it will finally overcome that which restrains it. It is like the stream of a river, it may be stopped for a while with a dam, but if nothing be done to dry the fountain, it will not be stopped always; it will have a course, either in its old channel, or a new one. Nature is a thing more constant and permanent than any of those things that are the foundation of carnal men’s reformation and righteousness. When a natural man denies his lust, lives a strict, religious life, and seems humble, painful, and earnest in religion, it is not natural, it is all a force ‘against nature; as when a stone is violently thrown upwards. But that force will be gradually spent; nature will remain in its full strength, and so prevails again, and the stone returns to the earth. As long as corrupt nature is not mortified, but the principle left whole in a man, it is a vain thing to expect that it should not govern. But if the old nature be indeed mortified, and a new heavenly nature infused, then may it well be expected that men will walk in newness of life, and continue to do so to the end of their days. (Jonathan Edwards.)

Reformation must begin at the heart

If we desire a true reformation, let us begin on reforming our hearts and lives, in keeping Christ’s commandments. All outward forms and models of reformation, though they be never so good in their kind, yet they are of little worth to us without this inward reformation of the heart. Tin, or lead, or any baser metal, if it be cast into never so good a mould and made up into never so elegant a figure, yet it is but tin or lead still; it is the same metal that it was before. If adulterate silver, that has much alloy or dross in it, have never so current a stamp put upon it, yet it will not pass when the touchstone tries it. We must be reformed within, with a spirit of fire and a spirit of burning, to purge us from the dross and corruption of our hearts, and refine us as gold and silver, and then we shall be reformed truly, and not before. (R. Cudworth, D. D.)

Underlying element of moral character

Moral character is--

1. Man’s only real property.

2. The only measure of man’s real worth.

3. The only earthly product man will bear to another world.

4. The source whence springs lasting weal or woe.

I. It is a vital source of action.

II. It is either radically corrupt or good.

III. When corrupt, generally disguised.

IV. When disguised, may, and should be detected. (Dr. Thomas.)

Religion seen in principle before it appears in conduct

When the Sidonians were once going to choose a king, they determined that their election should fall upon the man who should first see the sun on the following morning. All the candidates, towards the hour of sunrise, eagerly looked towards the east, but one, to the astonishment of his countrymen, fixed his eyes pertinaciously on the opposite side of the horizon, where he saw the reflection of the sun’s rays before the orb itself was seen by those looking towards the east. The choice instantly fell on him who had seen the reflection of the sun; and by the same reasoning, the influence of religion on the heart is frequently perceptible in the conduct, even before a person has made direct profession of the principle by which he is actuated.

False reputation of trees:--The upas tree once had a bad name, as its leaves were supposed to exhale a poison, which, spreading over a wide region, was fatal to man and beast.. But scientific investigation has shown that the tree is harmless, and that its reputation is due to its growing in a bad neighbourhood. The tree grows in volcanic valleys in Java, which are noted for their desolation. It is the only green thing in a region where death seems to reign. But the fatal poison comes not from the tree, but from the gases of the volcano, amid which the upas thrives though all other vegetable forms perish. Another tree, the Eucalyptus, has enjoyed undue credit, as the upas has suffered undue odium. This tree was said to exhale from its leaves healthful influences, which made it an antidote to many forms of malaria. It belongs to Australia, and it was noticed that in its neighbourhood malarial fevers were unknown. This fact caused it to be planted in some of the worst malarial districts of Italy, and there, too, fevers gradually disappeared. The inference seemed inevitable that its foliage exerted some occult influence which prevented malaria. But science, by careful examinations, explains the mystery in a new way. The tree is such a great absorbent of water that its roots easily drain marshy land. It destroys malaria, not by giving out healthful influences, but by absorbing the moisture which creates the disease. It is believed that the terrible Campagna of Rome can be made healthy by the draining power of the Eucalyptus.

Judging by the fruits

A young man of considerable gifts was introduced to a knowledge of the truth in the revival of 1859, and became an occasional preacher or exhorter at the meetings. When he went to study in Edinburgh he parted with all his old beliefs one by one, and ultimately embraced Pantheism. For several years he lived a blameless life morally, but an utterly blank life spiritually, having no hope and without God in the world. He went out to India, where the unnameable horrors of heathenism had the extraordinary effect of convincing him that Christianity must be true, and could be the only hope of the world. Meekly and humbly he began to seek a true knowledge of God, and in due course entered into the family circle of the children of God. (A. Craig.)

Christianity’s fruits Divine fruits

The subject of my lecture this evening is, The truth of Christianity proved by its fruits.

I. I begin, then, by showing WHAT EFFECT CHRISTIANITY HAS HAD ON LIBERTY. What was the state of matters in regard to liberty in the Roman Empire in the days of the apostles? When we look at Roman society, we see that there was no recognition of individual liberty as a natural right, and that a most debasing slavery had obtained gigantic proportions. In the city of Rome there was a population of 1,610,000, and of that number 900,000 were slaves: that is to say, that of every five persons in the capital three were slaves. And if we take the whole of the empire, then Gibbon’s deliberate opinion is that “the slaves were at least equal in number to the free inhabitants of the Roman world”; and the entire population he estimates at 120,000,000; so that there were, as stated in a previous lecture, 60,000,000 slaves. Their numbers were recruited, not wholly, indeed, but largely from war. The Romans made slaves of those whom they captured. And how were they treated? In its mildest form, slavery is a galling burden; but Roman slavery was noted for its cruelty. The slaves were the absolute property of their master. He could treat them as he chose, so that, as it has been said, “a dog with us has more rights than a Roman slave had.” Tholuck, in his work on the “Nature and Moral Influence of Heathenism,” gives the following description of their treatment: “A scanty and disgusting dress, and dog-skin cap, distinguished them from all the rest of the inhabitants. Those who were too strong had to be weakened by various kinds of ill-treatment; and if the masters did not do this, they became themselves liable to a penalty. Every slave received annually a certain number of stripes to remind him that he was a slave. Hymns of a nobler kind they were not allowed to sing, but only gay and sensual songs. TO complete their degradation, they were sometimes compelled to sing songs in disgrace and ridicule of themselves; and to the same purpose they were also compelled to perform indecent dances. In order to make the sons of the Spartans loathe the vice of drunkenness, the slaves were compelled to intoxicate themselves in public assemblies. When they became too numerous, they were murdered clandestinely; every year at a certain period the young Spartans, clad in armour, used to hunt them, and to prevent their increase they were killed with daggers.” Christianity is thus in its very essence hostile to slavery; and this was one reason why the educated heathen opposed it so bitterly. But this was what it did; and hence the social change it accomplished. It undermined and threw down this monster evil of Roman slavery. As early as the time of Trajan, A.D. 98117, one Hermes, who had embraced Christianity, liberated 1250 of his slaves; and even under Domitian, who reigned before him, A.D. 81-96, a prefect of Rome, called Cromacius, “liberated 1400 slaves, who had been baptized, and said unto them: ‘Those who begin to be the children of God ought no longer to be the slaves of men.’” That was the way in which it began to work, and as the gospel leaven widened its area, slavery disappeared. Through their contact with the Mahommedans in the fifteenth century, the Portuguese began to traffic in negro slaves; and you know to what the traffic grew, how it spread over the colonies, and continued to hold its ground in spite of Christian influence. But the gospel has also proved itself victorious here. It was through the power of Christian principle that Great Britain, at a vast pecuniary sacrifice, washed her hands of all complicity with the evil in her colonies.

II. I next proceed to show WHAT EFFECT CHRISTIANITY HAS HAD ON LABOUR But let us see what change Christianity has wrought on the industrial life. It gave no countenance to the old Roman idea that labour was unbecoming a free man. To labour was in a sense to pray; work was worship. And its civilizing power is especially striking when we look at what it has wrought in our own time in heathen lands. When Christianity has been fairly rooted in heathen soil, its inhabitants are lifted up to the plane of a new and civilized life. They begin to clothe themselves, to build proper houses, to cultivate the land, and to develop all its resources. This is the effect of their new belief; this is one practical shape which Christianity takes in them, when it has been received in the love of it. And so commerce has followed in the wake of the missionary enterprise. Some have spoken contemptuously of the expenditure on Christian missions, as if it were a waste of money. But I hold that, even on the low ground of purely worldly profit, they pay themselves many times over in commercial gain, and I adduce the following facts in proof:--The Basutos in South Africa are now beginning to dress decently, to cultivate the land, and to build proper villages, and they have created a traffic of £150,000 a year. And every year English goods find their way to Kuruman to the value of £75,000, where, according to Dr. Moffat, scarcely a pocket handkerchief, or string of beads, or other trifle was bought. In Samoa, in the Pacific, where the people have nearly all become Christians, the imports reach the value of £50,000 and the exports £100,000, and all this within fifty years. Before that time there was almost no trade with the island. An American clergyman has calculated, on the ground of statistical data, that the traffic originated by means of the mission repays tenfold the capital expended. But can we not give the heathen our civilization without our Christianity? I most emphatically answer, No; for, as it has been well said, “no nation can appropriate the fruits of Christian civilization apart from its roots.”

III. The next point with which I propose to deal is THE INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY ON FAMILY AND SOCIAL LIFE. But let us now turn to the marvellous and beneficent change effected by Christianity. It has lifted up woman, and made her, as a moral and spiritual being, man’s equal in privilege. Home life under the influence of Christianity became a new thing, nobler than what had ever existed under heathenism. Moreover, Christianity defined and hallowed the relations of parents and children. And in confirmation of this, I would adduce one or two facts from the records of modern missions in savage lands. “In the Polynesian Islands,” says Dr. War-neck, “Christianity has the undeniable merit--that it has suppressed cannibalism, human sacrifice, and child murder, ameliorated the family life, restrained drunkenness, and wherever it has got a footing has led to the orderly establishment of rights … The weapons of war and instruments of death may be seen hanging from the rafters of their humble cottages, covered with dust and become unusable, or they are converted into tools of industry, or they are given to visitors as useless curiosities.” That is how Christianity has affected those who were living in a savage state. I give another quotation, containing the confession of a Christian who had been a cannibal, and from it you will see what has been in his case the gospel’s power. It was a sacramental day at the mission church. “When I approached the table,” he says, “I did net know beside whom I should have to kneel. Then I suddenly saw I was beside the man who, some years ago, slew my father, and drank his blood, and whom I then swore I would kill the first time that I should see him. Now think what I felt when I suddenly knelt beside him. It came upon me with terrible power, and I could not prevent it, and so I went back to my seat. Arrived there, I saw in the spirit the upper sanctuary, and seemed to hear a voice, ‘Thereby shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.’ That made a deep impression on me, and at the same time I thought I saw another sight--a Cross and a Man nailed thereon, and I heard Him say, ‘Father, forgivethem, for they know not what they do.’ Then I went back to the altar.” All this will show you what great and beneficent changes Christianity has wrought in family and social life, and what evidence is thus furnished of its being a stream from the fountain of Divine love.

IV. I proceed now to show HOW CHRISTIANITY HAS AFFECTED THE INTELLECTUAL AND MORAL LIFE. There has been high intellectual culture without Christianity. In pagan Greece and Rome, as we have seen, it reached a lofty eminence. But neither the ancient religions, nor any philosophic teaching, nor any literary culture, could so transform the heart as to ennoble the moral life of society. The ancient religions did not even attempt this. When morality was taught, it was the philosophers who stepped forward and not the priest. The old mythologies were demoralizing. The gods were represented as fighting with one another, and goddesses as engaging in intrigues; and thus the conscience of the people who believed in this was debauched. But what have been the intellectual and moral fruits of the gospel? Christ came not only to free men from guilt, but from corruption. It is the religious teaching of Christianity which gives power to its moral teaching. As the natural sun not only gives us light but heat to quicken life, so from Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, come those Divine rays which vitalize while they enlighten. And if we turn to the New Hebrides, we find the evidence to the regenerating power of Christianity equally striking. Take Aneityum, one of the group. In 1848 this was its condition, according to the Rev. J. G. Paten, the devoted missionary who has long laboured, and is still labouring, there: “Every widow was strangled to death the moment her husband died; infanticide was common; and children destroyed their parents when long sick or aged. Neighbouring tribes were often at war with each other; and all the killed were feasted on by the conquerors.” But now the whole population of this island, then 3,500, has been led to embrace Christianity. “Heathen practices have been abolished; churches built; family worship established; and the Sabbath has become a day of rest.” And they have sent 150 of their best and ablest men and women as teachers to the other islands. They have paid £1,400 for printing the Bible, and will contribute £200 this year (1885) for the support of the gospel. I should like to have been able to deal more fully with the influence of Christianity on the believer in all his varied circumstances; but I have drawn so long on your attention that I must close. (A. Oliver, B. A.)

A fair test

When I was in Rome a priest came to one of my meetings and asked me what authority I had to preach. I said, “Two horses ran a race on your Corso. One had a grand pedigree, but he was lame in three legs and could not stand on the other. The second horse had no pedigree, but quickly ran over the course. Which should have the prize? Can you show thieves made honest, drunkards sober? Come to my tabernacle and I can show you hundreds. These are my certificates.” The people cheered vociferously, and the priest, a notorious profligate, beat a retreat. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

Personal effects of Christianity and Atheism contrasted

A youth who had been carefully brought up in the fear of God, and had been a Sunday-school teacher, and a frequent speaker in small meetings, went to college to study for the ministry. There he was led to become a Freethinker. It took a good while to do, but in course of time he did not even believe in a God. In this way he lived about a year, hiding the truth from friends as well as he could. One day, in the class-room, there came a thought into his mind which he could not get rid of. “What kind of man are you now as compared with what you were when a Christian?” Reason and conscience combined m answering: “A worse man every way. As a Christian you were a better man to your parents and to others; you lived a worthier, nobler, and more unselfish life; your unbelief has lowered you in every respect: what produces the best life must be the right creed.” The Father, whose loving heart had thus spoken to him, was not far away, speedily received him back as a wanderer made welcome, and in due time sent him out to preach the faith he had once denied. (A. Craig.)

Fruits of Godliness

Faith in Jesus is the invisible root of religion concealed within the soul; but deeds of holy duty are the glorious outgrowth of stalwart trunk, and branches broad, and luxurious masses of foliage lifted into the airs of heaven. And amid these goodly boughs are found the fruits of godliness, shining--as quaint Andrew Marvell said of the Bermuda oranges--

“Like golden lamps in a deep green night.”

Aim immediately at fruits.

(Dr. Cuyler.)

The constant and legitimate result is the test of every doctrine

The general principle laid down here is, that the truth of a doctrine, a system of doctrine, is to be tested by the life and conduct of its professors. Stated thus broadly, the rule commends itself at once to the common sense of men, partly in consequence of the truth contained in it, and partly from its being mistaken for a statement that the effect of a practical doctrine upon the life of its professor is the true test of the hold which that doctrine has upon his mind. This is something quite different from the truth or falsehood of the doctrine in itself. A life which would be conclusive as to a man’s sincerity might be no proof at all of his doctrinal soundness.

I. THESE TWO QUESTIONS, THEN, MUST BE KEPT DISTINCT from one another in the inquiry suggested by the text, viz., how the rule that good conduct is evidence of sound doctrine must be understood when we come to apply it to the different cases in which, as we shall see presently, we need great caution in its application.

1. All the difficulties that meet us are contained in this one, viz., that men who hold sound doctrines lead bad lives, and men who hold unsound doctrines lead good lives. This is a useless weapon in controversies between conflicting creeds, because there never has been a religious party without discreditable adherents. Its tendency is, not to establish any doctrine as superior to any other, but to produce an indifference to doctrine altogether. It tends also to engender the belief that it is no matter what any one believes if iris life be such as to call for no unfavourable comment.

2. Time enough to refute this view when people apply it to other matters as well as to religion. Conventionalisms in society, &c.

3. The question is not as to the value of the fruit or its desirableness; but as to its use in enabling us to judge of the doctrine from which it springs. For this we must take into consideration something more than the mere fact of its being good when presented to us for examination.

4. Our Lord assumes, in those who were to apply the test, a knowledge of the natural productions of trees, i.e., a knowledge of the tendency of particular doctrines, as a necessary qualification for judging how far practice, presented in connection with them, may be regarded as attesting their truth.

5. The fruit by which we may judge of a tree must be its legitimate fruit and its habitual, or average, fruit.

II. Bearing this in mind, let us APPLY THE RULE OF THE TEXT TO SOME OF THOSE CASES IN WHICH WE MIGHT BE LED ASTRAY BY A WANT OF SUFFICIENT CAUTION.

1. There are trees artificially covered, for an occasion, with fruits by which, obviously, the tree could not be “known.” A fir-tree, adorned for an occasion with oranges, could assuredly not be known by them. Its power of producing oranges could not be known. So, impulsive and exceptional acts of kindness and benevolence on the part of persons without any definite belief at all furnish so tests as to the practical creed of those by whom they are performed, from the circumstance that they are impulsive and exceptional.

2. When conduct, undeniably good, is found constantly to attend upon the holding of doctrines which legitimately should issue in what was positively bad, or in nothing practical whatever, we are in danger of accepting the doctrines on beholding the fruit. This is as though a mountain-ash had been engrafted with a cutting of a pear-tree, and a person, from seeing the fruit, and knowing that it grew upon a particular stock in the present instance, should thence conclude that in all cases the same stock might be expected to bear the same fruit, and that the surest way to produce an abundance of pears would be to secure the multiplication of mountain-ash trees! In such cases, though the fruit is habitual, it is not legitimate.

3. A third kind of conduct which is constantly appealed to as attesting the truth of doctrine is that which may be likened to fruit produced by means of unusually stimulating culture, and in very high temperature. Extraordinary means have been used, and an extraordinary produce is the result; and its worthlessness as a test is the fact that it is extraordinary.

III. The rule remains thus: That WHEN CONDUCT, LEGITIMATELY FOLLOWING FROM DOCTRINE HELD, IS GOOD--HABITUALLY GOOD--THAT DOCTRINE IS TRUTH that where there is genuine piety, self-denial, humility, where what the New Testament calls the “fruits of the Spirit” are found in place, in proportion, in constancy, the doctrines of which they are the lawful consequences are true.

1. To this it will at once be said that the spirit of the New Testament teaching has manifested itself in the lives of men whose creeds were widely different, and even avowedly antagonistic. True; but between a man’s “creed” in the sense of the document of his Church or sect and his “creed” in the sense of his working belief there is often a wide difference. If the lives of many men are worse than their pure creed, the lives of others may be better than their corrupt one. In the creed which produces a life like that sketched out in the New Testament there is undoubtedly some of the essential truth of the New Testament doctrine; and it is from this that the practice springs.

2. There are many whose hearts are better than their heads; who will do what is right, while they maintain what is wrong; or who will hold at the same time two doctrines subversive of one another, without being aware of it. They live by truth while they profess with it a great deal of falsehood.

3. It is true, then, that men of different religious professions will produce the genuine fruits of righteousness by which the trees may be “ known.” But these are not the produce of the different creeds; but of such parts of each of them as agreed in being essential truth. They are the fruits of gardens stocked very differently--some of them full of tempting and poisonous shrubs, through which few could pass without harm--but still the fruits of the same tree in each garden. In a garden bad on the whole, good fruit may be found, and it may be spoken of as the fruit of that garden. In a garden good on the whole, evil fruit may be pointed out; but “a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them; of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble-bush gather they grapes.” Conclusion: For the most part men will apply the test of the text inconsiderately, and decide for or against doctrines on insufficient grounds. They will be won to a creed, or turned away from it, by the exceptional conduct of its professors. Much is it to be wished that men had sufficient grounds for their belief, and had them capable of ready production; but a very little experience will dispel any large expectations we may have formed in this direction. And, therefore, so long as men will judge of doctrines by individual instances among their professors, and the more men do this, the more important is the conduct of each individual Christian. (J. C.Coglilan, D. D.)

Christians known by their fruits

The religion of Jesus Christ is one of deeds, not words; a life of action, not of dreaming. If we would know whether we are being led by the Holy Spirit, we must see if we are bringing forth fruits of the Spirit. If we would discover if the works of a clock are right, we look at the hands. So, by our words and deeds, we shall show whether our hearts are right with God. A religion of the lips is worth nothing. It is easy enough to assume the character and manner of a Christian, but to live the Christian life is not so easy. A man can make a sham diamond in a very short time, but the real gem must lie for ages in the earth before it can sparkle with perfect purity. We have far too many of these quickly-made Christians amongst us, who have never brought forth fruits meet for repentance, nor gone through the fire of trial, and sorrow, and self-sacrifice. Do not trust to feelings or words in yourselves or others, but look at your life; a real and a false diamond are very much alike, and yet there is all the difference in the world in their value. Let us look into our lives very closely, and see whether we are mistaking outward form for true religion, words and professions for holiness, leaves for fruit. What are some of the fruits which God looks for in the life of a Christian?

1. At the head of all we must place love. Really trying to do God’s will; showing kindness to brethren; trying to lead others to God. A Christian cannot be selfish.

2. Another fruit for which God looks in a Christian’s life is humility. Every act and word of Christ’s earthly life teaches this. The longer we go to His school, and the more we know of the way of godliness, the humbler we become.

3. Another fruit God expects to find in the lives of His people is forgetfulness of self. (H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)

The true test

The most important thing to know is one’s self. No one, however, can know his own character aright without first making himself acquainted with that of God. It is in His light that we see light clearly.

What a miserable thing for a man to know how to make money, and make it too--to know science so well that he is familiar with the secrets of nature, can measure the distance of a star, and follow a wandering comet on its fiery track--to know statesmanship so well that his country, in a crisis of her affairs, might call him to the helm, as before all others the pilot that could weather the storm--and yet not to know whether he is at peace with God; whether, should he die to-night, he is saved or lost, is going to heaven or to hell!

I. IT IS POSSIBLE TO ASCERTAIN OUR REAL STATE AND CHARACTER. Who has any difficulty in settling whether it is day or night? whether he enjoys sound health or pines on a bed of sickness? whether he is a free man or a slave? No man could mistake a Briton sitting under the tree of liberty which was planted by the hands of our fathers and watered with their blood for the negro who stands up weeping in the auction-mart, to be sold with his master’s cattle, or crouches in the rice-swamp, bleeding under his master’s lash. Degraded by a system that curses both man and master, the black man may be content to eat the bread and wear the brand of bondage. Still he, as much as we do, knows the difference between fetters and freedom; he feels that he is a slave, and I feel that I am free. Even so may we know whether we belong to the class of saints or to that of sinners; for sin is darkness, sickness, bondage.

II. OUR RELIGIOUS PROFESSION IS NOT ALWAYS A TEST OF OUR STATE.

1. It may be a test in certain circumstances. Look, e.g., at two men on parade. They wear the same dress and arms; and both, the result of drill and discipline, have acquired such a martial air that you cannot tell which is the hero and which the coward. But change the scene. Leave the parade-ground for the field of battle; and when, as bugles sound the charge, I see, through clouds of smoke and amid the clash of arms, the sword of one flashing, and his plume dancing in the very front of the fight, while his comrade, pale and paralyzed with fear, is only borne forward in the tumult like a seaweed on the rushing billow--how easy now to tell beneath whose martial dress there beats a soldier’s heart! So, though the profession does net prove the possession of religion in a time of peace, show me a man, like the soldier following his colours into the thick of battle, who holds fast the profession of his faith in the face of obloquy, of persecution, of death itself, and there is little room to doubt that his piety is genuine--that he has the root of the matter in him.

2. The profession of religion is not a test of the reality of religion in our times. Like flowers which close their leaves whenever it rains, or birds that seek shelter and their nests when storms rise, there are Christians so timid by natural constitution, that they shrink from scorn, and could as soon face a battery of cannon as the jeers and laughter of the ungodly. Granting this, still it is true that, where there is no profession of serious religion, we have little reason to expect its reality. Perhaps there never was a time when the mere profession of religion was a less satisfactory test of its reality than at present. There have been dark and evil days, and these not long gone, when religion was, if I may so express myself, at a discount: piety was not fashionable: profane swearing and deep drinking were the accomplishments of a gentleman; the man who assembled his household for prayer was accounted a hypocrite, the woman who did so a fool: missionary societies were repudiated by the courts of the Church, and eyed with suspicion by the officers of the Crown; Robert Haldane was denied an opportunity of consecrating his fortune to the cause of Christ in India; Carey and Marshman, while seeking to convert the Hindoos, were driven from the British territories, and had to seek protection from a foreign Power; and such as formed missionary associations launched them on society with the anxieties and prayers of her who, cradling her infant in an ark of bulrushes, committed him to the waters of the Nile and the providence of her God. Power, rank, fashion, science, literature, and mammon were all arrayed in arms against everything that appeared in the form and breathed the spirit of a devoted piety. Thank God, it is not so now I He has touched the heart of the Egyptian, and she has adopted the outcast as her son. From holes and caves of the earth, religion has found her way into palaces and the mansions of the great and noble. Science has become a priestess at her altar. Literature has courted her alliance. Infidelity assumes even a Christian-like disguise. Iniquity, as ashamed, is made to hide her face. The tide has turned; and those who now make a profession of zealous and active piety find themselves no longer opposed to the stream and spirit of the age. This is a subject of gratitude. Yet it suggests caution in judging of ourselves; and warns us to take care, since a profession of religion is rather fashionable than otherwise, that in making it we are not the creatures of fashion, but new creatures in Jesus Christ. Hence the necessity for trying ourselves by such a test as ray text suggests. The tree is known, not by its leaves, nor we by our professions; not by its blossoms, nor we by the promises of which they are lovely images; but by its fruit, and we by those things which the fruit represents--our hearts and habits, our true life and character. “The tree is known by its fruits; moreover, every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.”

III. THE TRUE EVIDENCE OF OUR STATE IS TO BE FOUND IN OUR HEART AND HABITS. We have often sat in judgment on others; it is of more consequence that we form a right estimate of ourselves. In attempting to form a correct estimate of our own state and character--in the words of the Greek sage, to know ourselves--let us bring to this solemn task all the care and the conscientiousness with which a jury weigh the evidence in a case of life and death. They return from their room to the court to give in a verdict, amid breathless silence, which sends him whom they left pale and trembling at the bar to liberty or to the gallows; yet, sacred as human life is, on our judgment here hangs a more momentous issue. A mistake there may send a man to the scaffold, but one here to perdition; that involves the life of the body, this of the immortal soul. Judges sometimes find it difficult to know how to shape their charge, and juries how to shape their verdicts--the evidence is conflicting--not clear either way. The case is obscure,perplexing; perhaps a bloody mystery, from which no hand but God’s can raise the veil. But light and darkness, life and death, are not more unlike than the heart and habits of believers, on the one hand, and those of unbelievers, on the other; and with such a catalogue of the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit as Paul has given us, how can it be difficult for a man to settle under which of these two classes his are to be ranked--with which they most closely correspond? A man may fancy himself possessed of talents which he has not, and a woman of beauty which she has not. But with all our strong bias to form a favourable and flattering opinion of ourselves, each “to think more highly of himself than he ought to think,” it seems as impossible for a man who is an adulterer, a fornicator, unclean, a drunkard, whose bosom burns with unholy and hateful passions, to imagine himself virtuous, as to mistake night for day, a bloated, fetid corpse for one in the bloom and rosy beauty of her youth. It is often only by a careful application of delicate tests that the chemist discovers a deadly poison or a precious metal; but how easy is it by a few simple questions to bring out our real character! Have you suffered a heavy wrong, for example, at the hands of another? You remember it. But where? Is it at the throne of grace, and to pray with Him whose blood fell alike on the head of foe and friend, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”? Again, when you think of perishing souls, is yours the spirit of Cain or of Christ? Can you no more stand by with folded hands to see sinners perishing than men drowning? Are you moved by such generous impulse as draws the hurrying crowd to the pool where one is sinking, and moves some brave man, at the jeopardy of life, to leap in and pluck him from the jaws of death? There is no better evidence that we have received the nature as well as the name of Christ than an anxious wish to save lost souls, and a sympathy with the joy of angels over every sinner that is converted. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

The testing time

“The tree is known by his fruit.” That is a fact with which we are all familiar. To stock the garden with fruit-trees, I repair to the nursery, but not in spring, when all are robed alike in green, nor in summer, when the bad equally with the best are covered with a flush of blossoms: it is when the corn turns yellow, and sheaves stand in the stubble-fields, and fair blossoms are gone, and withered leaves sail through the air and strew the ground--it is in autumn I go to select the trees, judging them by their fruit. And as certainly--may I not say as easily?--as the tree is known by his fruit, may we know our spiritual state and character, if we will only be honest, nor act like the merchant who, suspecting his affairs to be verging on bankruptcy, shuts his eyes to the danger, takes no stock, and strikes no balance. Or take, for another example, two houses that stand on the banks of the same stream. Under a cloudless sky, amid the calm of the glen in a summer day, with no sound falling on the ear but the bleatings of the flock, the baying of a sheep-dog, the muffled sound of a distant waterfall, the gentle murmur of the shallow waters over their pebbly bed, each house in its smiling garden offers, to one weary of the din and dust of cities, an equally pleasant and, to appearance, an equally secure retreat. But let the weather change; and after brewing for hours, from out the darkness that has deepened into an ominous and frightful gloom let the storm burst! Suddenly, followed by a crash like that of falling skies, a stream of lightning, dazzling the eye, glares out; and now the war of elements begins. Peal rolls on peal; flash follows flash; and to the roar of incessant thunders is added the rush of a deluge, and the hoarse voices of a hundred streams that leap foaming from hill and rock down into the bed of the river. Red, rolling, swelling, it bursts its dykes, overflows all its banks, and, attacking the foundations of both houses, breaches the walls of one, and at length tumbles the whole fabric, all of a heap, into the roaring flood; and while the houseless family that had fled from its rocking walls gather, shivering on a neighbouring height to see, where once stood their pleasant home, only the rush and hear only the roar of waters--how easy, as we look on the other, erect and defiant in this widespread sea, to know that the one had been built on sand, but the other founded on a rock. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

The fruits of heathenism and of Christianity

The intellect of Greece was keen, her poetry splendid, her art unrivalled, her eloquence overwhelming; and yet when the poor worn Jew of Tarsus trod the streets of Athens, a hunted, persecuted man--when his bent frame and feeble steps passed along her avenues of noble sculpture; when his strange words were jeered at by philosophers under the shadow of the Acropolis; when the stoic mocked at the message of Jesus and the resurrection--who could have believed that the might and glory of the future was with the poor Jew, not with these philosophic and gifted Athenians? Who would have guessed that, in spite of her aegis, and flaming helm, and threatening spear, the awful Pallas of the Acropolis should be forced to resign her Parthenon to the humble Virgin of Nazareth? Not many years afterwards, that same suffering missionary who had been ridiculed in Athens was dragged a prisoner to Rome. At that time her Caesar seemed omnipotent, her iron arms unconquerable. And Rome did not yield without a desperate struggle. She strove to crush and extirpate this “execrable superstition” (as her great writers called Christianity)with sword and flame; she made Christianity a treason; she made her Coliseum swim with the massacre of its martyrs. Yet it was all in vain! The worshippers of the Capitol succumbed before the worshippers in the Catacombs. The thirty legions, the white-robed senators, the ivory sceptre, the curule chair, were all defeated by the Cross, which was the vilest emblem of a slave’s torture; and the greatest of earthly empires, with her dominion yet unimpaired, embraced the gospel preached by the unlettered peasants of the race which she most despised. Why was it? It was because a tree is known by its fruits, and every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. The fruits of heathendom had been selfishness, and cruelty, and corruption; the fruits of Christianity were love, joy, peace, longsuffering, temperance, goodness, faith, meekness, charity, and the leaves of that tree were for the healing of the nations. (Archdeacon Farrar.)

Reasons for watching our actions

The whole value of our deeds depends upon the state of heart out of which they come. As our hearts are, so are our deeds.

1. One reason, then, why we ought to be careful to notice our actions is, because they help us to read ourselves. We may have succeeded in persuading ourselves that we are very kindly and charitably disposed towards others; many a man goes on fancying this to be the case, year after year, simply trusting to his own feeling that he is so. But now, let him just try himself by this simple practical test: let him ask himself, What kind and charitable actions have I performed within the last day, or week, or month? and if, in putting this question to himself, he finds that, with all his warmth and kindness of heart, he has done nothing in the way of helping his poor and distressed neighbours, he must confess that he is very much mistaken in the estimate which he has hitherto formed of himself.

2. Not only do our actions show us exactly what we are, but they also materially contribute to make us what we are; over and above the impression which they receive from the heart which originates them, they themselves in turn react upon the heart. Take, e.g., the case of a boy who feels very much tempted to take something that does not belong to him. No doubt the very indulgence in such a thought is highly dishonest in itself; still, there is something in the very act of stealing, when he at last comes to it, that puts him in a worse state than he was in before. He has now actually committed himself to what he might still have drawn back from only a few minutes since; he has set his seal to what was before only melted wax, already softened indeed, and quite fitted to receive the impression, still not moulded as yet into any defined and permanent shape.

3. A third and last reason why we must attend carefully to the deeds which proceed from our hearts, as well as to our hearts themselves, is, that our deeds will form the standard by which we shall all be judged at the last day Revelation 20:11-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). What the body is to the soul, so are our deeds to the heart out of which they spring; our deeds are the bodies in which our hearts and desires show themselves and clothe themselves. And as our bodies form a real part of ourselves, so do our actions; as our bodies obey the direction of our souls, so do our actions; as our bodies will rise again at the last day, so our actions, too, will rise again along with them, and will be judged along with them. (Henry Harris, B. D.)

“Every tree is known by his own fruit”

I. We observe of a tree, THAT WHAT IT IS BY NATURE IT WILL, IF LEFT TO ITSELF, EVER REMAIN. The thorn will continue a thorn, the bramble-bush will ever be a bramble-bush. If you go and seek for fruit on either, you will be disappointed, and the prickly branches may wound your hands. No mere pruning of the tree or fertilizing of the soil around its roots will alter its nature.

II. Having thus seen that the natural man, when left to himself, must ever continue unproductive in good works pleasing and acceptable to God, LET US NOW OBSERVE THE WORK OF GRACE IN THE HEART FOLLOWING UPON REPENTANCE, AND CAUSING AMENDMENT OF LIFE. “Every tree is known by his own fruit.” The wild vine, the wild olive, the wild apple, bear each a semblance of fruit. So in the natural man there may be a semblance of good works. Moral virtues, amiable qualities, a noble disposition, adorn the character of many an unrenewed nature, spring from many an unconverted heart. Moral excellencies and Christian graces often so nearly resemble each other, that they are confounded together in the estimation of man, but never in the judgment of God. Our Saviour said of the Pharisees, who rested upon an outward appearance of holiness,” Every plant which My heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up.” When a bud or graft has been made upon a wild tree, all which springs from that scion resembles the parent stem from which it was taken. The rose will have the same colour, fragrance, and shape; the apple will have the same taste and form. The beauty of the flower and the sweetness of the fruit are owing, not to the nature of the stock, but to the character of the graft made upon it. And yet the roots and stem of the wild tree are in a measure necessary and conducive to the fruitfulness of the graft. The sap, in being conveyed through a new branch, undergoes such a change, that it is made to produce fragrant and beautiful flowers or fine and luscious fruit. So with the converted man who has been united by living faith to Jesus: by union to his Saviour his moral virtues become Christian graces. There is the same brain, the same heart, in their material properties, but all the thoughts, feelings, and desires which they originate flow through a renewed nature, and become changed in principle and action. Even the very passions which expended themselves in vice and lust, now flowing through the pure channel of a sanctified mind and will, breathe the fragrance and assume the loveliness of heaven-born virtues. In gardening, we can perceive and understand how the process of grafting is carried on. The bud or shoot is made so to adhere to the stock on which it is placed, that it unites to the stem, and grows into it and with it; the flow of the sap passes on unchecked, and produces growth and fertility to the scion. It is by the closeness of the union, and the assimilation of the parts, that life is maintained, and vegetation proceeds. In spiritual things, we know that it is by our union to Christ that the life of faith and the fruits of righteousness are produced, through the agency of the Holy Spirit. The practical application of our subject leads to the personal inquiry, “What fruit do I bear?” The vitality of our spiritual life depends upon our union with Christ. (S. Charlesworth, M. A.)

The fruits of Christianity

Let us not be guilty of the rashness that ascribes all the good of earth to the Christian philosophy. There are those who, in a zeal without knowledge, will declare all our arts and sciences, our compass, telegraph, and steam-engine, to have come to the world through the evangelical religion. But all such generalities damage the cause they are designed to support. The youth drilled in this kind of declamation subsequently find that the Greek and Roman worlds were wonderful in science, art, literature, law, and inventions before our era began; that they had grand things which we boastful ones of the nineteenth century cannot equal. Four thousand years before Christ came, God the Father declared the world to be “very good,” and, having such a Creator, the goodness poured into man at his creation burst forth from the soul all along, from Adam to Socrates. We need not take the garlands from the Father to bestow them upon the Son. The world of God was good, the world of Christ only better. The first great fruit of the Christian tree is certainly the better path of salvation it brought. It brought no wholly new method; but it perfected the ideas that lay only in outline. The idea of sacrifice can never go beyond the death of Christ. After God came with His Lamb there was no more need of the flocks and herds of a thousand hills. And after Christ taught His ethics there was room for nothing more; His hopes, His penitence, His virtue, His love, were all the zenith of those moral heights. Let us pass by these fruits and go to fields less familiar to all our thoughts. It is a great injustice to Christianity if one views it only as being an escape from hell hereafter to a heaven also beyond. The real truth is, Christ has blended Himself with all the annals of Christian lands, and He has given new colour to all the days of the great era that wears His name. As the setting sun shining through a watery air makes all things--fence, hut, log, forest, and field--to be gold like himself, so Christ blends with the rich and the humble details of society, and sheds His heavenly blush upon the great pageant of humanity marching beneath. If we dare not say Christianity invented the steamboat and the railroad, we may say that it reshaped literature and all the arts, and has deeply affected law and the whole moral aspect of civilization. There is an art which Christianity created almost wholly, asking little of outside aid. Music is that peculiar child. The long-continued vision of heaven, the struggle of the tones of voice and of instrument to find something worthy of the deep feelings of religion, resulted at last in those mighty chants that formed the mountain-springs of our musical Nile. There could have been no music had not depths of feeling come to man. The men who went up to the pagan temples went with no such love, with no sorrow of repentance, with no exultant joy. It was necessary for Jesus Christ to come along and transfer religion from the form to the spirit, and from an “airy nothingness” to a love stronger than life, before hymns like those of Luther, and Wesley, and Watts could break from the heart. The doctrine of repentance must live in the world awhile before we can have a “Miserere,” and the exultant hope of the Christian must come before the mind can invent a “Gloria.” There could be no music until the soul had become full. Therefore, when John drew his picture of heaven, when Magdalen shed her tears, when Christ died on the cross, when the Christian martyrs began to die for their faith, when Paul astonished the world with his self-denial and heroism, when the religion of Jesus began to picture the immortality of man, then the foundation of music began to be laid, wide, and massive, and deep. Thus you may glance over all the arts, and find that the great ideas and emotions of the new religion affected them all--the paintings of Raphael and Angelo, and the architecture of all the great middle centuries, great in the construction of temples. Christianity helped to make Angelo and Raphael by furnishing them with grand themes. As no lips can be eloquent unless they are speaking in the name of a great truth, so no painter can paint unless some one brings him a great subject. Heaven and hell made the poet Dante; Christianity made Beatrice; paradise made John Milton; the mother of our Lord and the last judgment made Angelo. It is the great theme that makes the orator, the painter, the poet. (David Swing.)


Verse 45

Luke 6:45

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart

Religion seated in the heart

1.
Christ referred true religion to the heart as the seat of its vitality.

2. Nor is it in essence alone that religion is thus intensely spiritual and inward; religious acts, to have reality and value, must proceed from the heart, and fairly represent its spiritual frames.

3. What, then, is this good treasure of the heart? True religion is an inward principle of holy living, through consecration to a holy God. (J. P.Thompson.)

Prepared heart treasures

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh; and our best abundance of the heart must be slowly and in quietness prepared. The cattle, when they rest, are yet working to prepare from the grass that sweetest and most wholesome of beverages--milk. So must we prepare the abundance of the heart. If the milk of our word is to flow from us nourishingly, we must turn the common things of daily life--the grass--by slow and quiet processes, into sweet wisdom. In retired, meditative hours the digesting and secreting powers of the spirit act; and thus ourselves are nourished, and we store nourishment for others. (T. T. Lynch.)

Words reveal hearts

Our words are the commentaries on our wills; for when we speak we make, as it were, a dissection of our own hearts, and read an anatomy-lecture upon ourselves. Our wanton talk discovers a stew in our heart; when our words are swords, our hearts are a slaughter-house; when we bear false witness, that is the mint; when we worship Mammon, that is the temple. The heart is the shop and workhouse of all evil Proverbs 4:23-24; Matthew 15:19). (A. Farindon.)

The rising of the sun is known by the shining beams; the fire is known by its burning; the life of the body is known by its moving: even so certainly is the presence of God’s Spirit known by the shining light of a holy conversation; even so the purging fire of grace is known by the burning zeal against sin, and a fervent desire to keep God’s commandments; even so, certainly, the life and liveliness of faith is known by the good motives of the heart, by the bestirring of all the powers, both of the soul and body, to de whatsoever God wills us to be doing, as soon as we once know He would have us do it. He that hath this evidence hath a bulwark against despair, and may dare the devil to his face; he that bath this hath the broad seal of eternal life, and such a man shall live for ever (Acts 9:6; 1 John 2:3). (J. Mede.)


Verse 46

Luke 6:46

And why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
--

Religion, the doing of God’s will

I. In the first place, LET US BE WARNED AGAINST MAKING OUR RELIGION A MATTER MERELY OF OPINION. Said William Law to John Wesley, “The bead can as easily amuse itself with a living and justifying faith in the blood of Jesus, as with any other notion.” It is even so. A truer word, pointed in warning against a greater peril, was never uttered. The mistake in question is a very subtle one, but very serious, and more common than, perhaps, we think. As thus of the doctrines, so also of the duties of our religion. These duties may be objects merely of belief, arranged in well-ordered systems, and acknowledged to be the proper code of life, without being actually reduced to practice.

II. In the second place, LET US BE WARNED AGAINST MAKING OUR RELIGION A MATTER MERELY OF FEELING. This piety of moods and feelings, which goes by spasms, and not by the even pulses of a robust life, is not the sort of piety we need, my hearers. It dishonours our Master, who has something larger to do for us than simply to make us happy in our religion. It wrongs our own souls, which ought to be looking higher than their own enjoyment.

III. Finally, LET US BE MOVED TO MAKE OUR RELIGION A MATTER OF THE LIFE FINDING THE TEST AND MEASURE OF OUR DISCIPLESHIP, NEITHER IN WHAT WE BELIEVE, NOR IN WHAT WE FEEL, BUT IN WHAT WE ARE, AS ANNOUNCING ITSELF IN WHAT WE DO. Not that we counsel the disparagement of Christian doctrine. There must be religious opinions, more or less clearly defined, conditioning the religious life; and the more clearly defined, the better. And the nearer we come to the teachings of Scripture, as interpreted by the Christian consciousness of the successive generations of believers; the nearer we come to those grand settlements of doctrine effected by the great expounders of doctrine, as Athanasius, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Edwards, the nearer we shall come to the hidings of Christian power. Neither would we disparage religious feeling. The new life has its beginning in feeling; while to be past feeling is the surest mark of reprobation. It is impossible for a man to be convinced of sin by the Spirit of God without being profoundly agitated. (R. D.Hitchcock, D. D.)

Obedience--not profession

I. WHY IS DOING THE WILL OF GOD LIKE BUILDING UPON A ROCK?

1. Doing is the way to being. God’s doing flows from His being; His work is the outflow of His nature. He radiates outwards into all the departments of the universe from a settled centre; and because He is so gloriously good, all His works are gloriously good. The work derives its character from the being--the unchangeable being or nature of God. But there is a vast immeasurable distance between us and God; and the grand question is, How a nature so disordered, so miserably poor in knowledge, so shallow in thought and conviction, so low in aspiration, so uncertain in the use of its freedom, prostituting it so often to low ends, and so seldom using it for our emancipation from evil; how is such a nature as ours to find its way up to

God till it shall have attained to His settled goodness and unchangeable excellence? The answer is, By exercising ourselves in those rules of goodness which Christ has given us as Divine. We must do in order to be. You must learn how to love your enemy, how to pray for them that despitefully use you. For there can be no true and perfect love in a nature that harbours hatred even towards an enemy. Self-denial and self-sacrifice, constraint and cross-bearing, are painful mow, because we are only learning; but when we have left school, and our nature has reached the standard for the attainment of which it has been under discipline, to love God and all creatures will involve no effort or constraint or painful cross-bearing; for love in us will be as spontaneous as it is in God: we shall have become a law unto ourselves, and we shall instinctively, and of our own free impulse, choose the good, the right, and the pure.

2. Doing is the way to knowing. To know physical facts is the way to gain material power; to know the hidden laws that govern nature is to become its lord and master, able, as with a magician’s wand, to call forth her inexhaustible resources for the service and advantage of man. To know human nature in its prejudices and passions is necessary to the statesmen who would make laws that are to be beneficial to our empire. And Christ says, if you will do the will of God, you shall know what doctrine is Divine and what is not. Such knowledge--growing out of a hallowed experience--plants our feet immovably upon the Rock of certainty, and not all thestorms of opinion and doubt will be able to dislodge us.

3. Doing is the way to bless others. Even when a man is not making his fellow-man the object of his thought or deed--when he is not directly fulfilling some social duty, but while he is more specially engaged in nourishing his own interior manhood, strengthening his own attachment to what is true, and pure, and brave--he is nevertheless blessing others. For such a man creates unconsciously a moral atmosphere around him which his neighbours breathe he loads the air with a sacred perfume; an influence goes forth from him, like heat from fire, which insensibly leavens the minds of others. But when such a man comes into contact with his fellows in the relations of life--in business, in friendship, and in religion--he strengthens and perpetuates his unconscious influence. He does the will of God; he does to others as he would they should do unto him. He upholds the laws of justice and generosity against injustice and meanness.

II. HEARING BUT NOT DOING IS LIKE BUILDING ON THE SAND.

1. It issues in a false self-deceptive life. “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works?” “Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you.” One of the most portentous facts in the constitution of our nature is--the power we have of self-deception. And yet when we come to consider, there is nothing capricious or malignant in it. It begins in conscious unfaithfulness. We hear the Word of God, but knowingly neglect to do it. We do not obey, but we must come to terms with the conscience.

2. Hearers and not doers will be convicted of egregious folly. “I will liken him unto the foolish man.” Disobedience to known duty is not only a violation of the conscience, which is guilt; it is also a violation of the reason, which is folly. Reason says it is folly to choose the evil and reject the good. No man would prefer the delusions of madness to the realities of a healthy mind. Reason says it is folly to purchase the present at the cost of the future. But this is what men are doing who are only hearers. For if our life-house should fall, great will be the fall of it. A mighty catastrophe is the fall of a soul! (C. Short, M. A.)

The sin, folly, and danger of men’s calling Christ their Lord, and not yielding obedience to His laws; or the sinfulness and hazard of a profession of religion, without a correspondent practice

Wherein we have--

1. A concession. He grants they made a fair profession; they called Him Lord, their Lord.

2. A charge. He charges them with nothing like this in their practice. Though they called Him their Lord, they carried not themselves at all as His subjects and servants.

3. An expostulation. He puts them to consider the inconsistency of these things, and the unaccountableness of yoking together a profession and a practice that destroyed one another. Why will ye plead the relation and yet throw off the duty of the relation? “If ye call Me your Lord, why do ye not what I say or bid you? If you will not do what I say or bid you, why do ye call Me your Lord?” Two doctrines are deducible from the text thus explained.

I. There are who call Christ their Lord, owning His authority over them, and looking for benefit by Him, who yet make not conscience of doing the things which He as a Lord says to them, and requires of them. In discoursing this doctrine I shall--

I. Consider men’s calling Christ their Lord.

II. Consider their not doing the things which He says, notwithstanding of their calling Him their Lord.

III. Show how it comes to pass that people call Christ Lord, and their Lord, and yet make not conscience of doing what He says.

IV. Apply the doctrine.

I. I will consider MEN’S CALLING CHRIST THEIR LORD. Under this head, I will show--

1. How men call Christ their Lord.

2. What they do call Christ, that call Him their Lord.

3. What is the import of their calling Him Lord.

1. I will show how men call Christ their Lord. Men call Him their Lord--

2. I will show what they do call Christ, that call Him their Lord.

3. What is the import of their calling Him Lord? Men calling Him so, do in effect own, acknowledge, and profess--

II. I will consider MEN’S NOT DOING THE THINGS WHICH HE SAYS, NOTWITHSTANDING ALL THIS. We may take it up in three things.

1. Christ as a Lord prescribes duty to His subjects. He has not an empty title of lordship and dominion, but is a Lawgiver--“He is our Lawgiver” Isaiah 33:22). And the law of the ten commands, in their spirituality

and extent, is His law, binding by His authority on all that call Him Lord Exodus 20:2-3, &c.).

2. He intimates His will to them as to their duty. He says what He would have them to do. We have His written laws in the Bible, which is God’s Word to every one into whose hand it comes.

3. Yet men neglect it, and regard it not in their practice. They plead the relation to Him, but make no conscience of the duty of it.

III. The third general head is, to SHOW HOW IT COMES TO PASS, TEXT PEOPLE CALL CHRIST LORD, AND THEIR LORD, AND YET MAKE NOT CONSCIENCE OF DOING WHAT HE SAYS. The springs of this ruining practice, that so prevails, are many: as--

1. The want of a thorough change in their nature: “A good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit: neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit “ Luke 6:43-44).

2. Entertaining wrong notions of religion. They form to themselves such notions of religion, as leave them at liberty in the course of their walk.

3. Reigning unbelief. Of this our Lord complained: “Ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).

4. Want of consideration (Luke 15:17).

5. The natural enmity of the heart prevailing against conviction Romans 8:7).

6. Unmortified lusts still keeping the rule and dominion over the soul, though Christ has the name of their Lord. Doctrine

II. It lies on men’s consciences before the Lord, to take it home to themselves, to consider and answer it, how they come to call Christ their Lord, and yet not make conscience of doing the things which He as a Lord says to them, and requires of them. In discoursing this doctrine, I shall only show the import of the expostulation in the text, and then conclude with a word of application. I will show the import of this expostulation. It imports--

1. That Christ is in earnest for our obedience. He is not indifferent what regard we show to what He says as our Lord (Psalms 119:4).

2. It is possible for us in this life to get the things that Christ says, done acceptably, in all the parts thereof. If it were not so, then, by the text, nobody at all would be allowed to call Him Lord; which is certainly false Matthew 7:21). So there are two sorts that call Him Lord; some that do, some that do not what He says; the former allowed, the other rejected. The doctrine of the imperfection of the saint’s obedience is a stone of stumbling to many a blind soul. To prevent your stumbling--

3. Notwithstanding the things that Christ says may be got done acceptably, yet many that call Him Lord will not do them. “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him,” &c. (Titus 1:16).

4. Christ is highly displeased with the disobedience of those that call Him Lord, who will not do what He says (Psalms 50:16-22). But to persuade you of it, consider--

5. There is a great evil in calling Christ Lord, and not doing what He says; an evil that highly provokes Him, as casting dishonour on Him in a very special manner.

6. People ought to consider it, see what account they can make of it, and how they will answer it. And--

Practical obedience

I. In the first place, OUTWARD OBEDIENCE IS THE NECESSARY FRUIT, AND THE ABSOLUTE TEST OF INWARD LIFE. He alone will enter into the kingdom of heaven “that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.” Let us pause over the words. They cannot refer to the man who accidentally does the will of God because it so happens that his pleasure coincides with God’s pleasure, just as a person may walk in the same path as another without intending to be his companion. In such an act there would be no inward element. But they must refer to the man who intentionally does God’s will; does it, that is, because it is God’s will; independently of any further consideration of whether it be pleasant or not in itself. Observe, therefore, there is no picking and choosing in such an obedience. The word “doeth” does not mean intention, profession, or promise, but action in those practical details of actual life, which make up the real sum total of human existence. A saving religion is not that which is up in the air, but that which plants its sacred feet on the solid earth of daily life. Such a religion is exceedingly difficult, and there is one power alone which can accomplish it in us. It is the power of God. To use an respired illustration, “we are God’s workmanship.” Not only does an artist’s work show the genius of the artist, but every artist has his own touch and style. We look at an exquisite picture, and we recognize the hand of the painter: we exclaim, with undoubting confidence, “Raphael,” “Guido,” “Rembrandt.” Thus when we look at a true Christian who bears and reflects Christ all over him, we say, “God.” That is God’s work; God’s Spirit alone can have done that. God is “admired in His saints, and glorified in all them that believe.” And how can it be otherwise if we reverse the order, and, instead of looking from the act to the principle, trace the principle down into the act? For what is salvation, but deliverance from sin; and what is sin, but opposition to the will of God? To be saved, therefore, is to be brought into conformity with God’s will. A good man is full of the Holy Ghost. Bat the Holy Ghost can no more abide in a heart without making it holy, without compelling it by the most sweet inward necessity to do God’s will, than there can be a sun without light, a stream without water, a summer without flowers, a life without activity.

II. But there is another point of view from which the lesson may be regarded. OUTWARD OBEDIENCE MY BE, IN THE HANDS OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD, THE INSTRUMENT OF INWARD LIFE, AND THEREFORE, WHERE INWARD LIFE ALREADY EXISTS, THE MEANS AND STIMULANT OF A HIGHER GROWTH IN GRACE. A man is truly in earnest, and sets himself without reserve to do God’s will as he finds it in His Word. What is the first experience that such a man will gain? what his earliest lesson, his first upward step Godward, although it be apparently a step downward into the dark? I say that it is a knowledge of failure and of sin. He cannot keep God’s will in its inward spirit and power through the weakness of his flesh. Must he not ask himself why he fails? Ah, why, indeed, but from indwelling sin I Thus there flashes upon the soul a sense of sin and a consciousness of guilt before God. And when the soul once stands face to face with this truth, the impossibility of self-righteousness and of doing God’s will as he fondly thought in his own strength must become clear as the flash of the sunshine. “Then I am a helpless sinner,” he exclaims, “vile and worthless, and where shall I find help and hope? If I cannot save myself, who can save me?” He flings the arms of his faith around the feet of the dying Jesus, and cries out, “My Lord and my God, my Saviour, Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification.” (E. Garbett, M. A.)

The necessity of doing the will of God

Some of you, perhaps, suppose that you do enough to show that you are Christians if you come here on Sundays. One purpose for which you come here is to learn how to live elsewhere. It can be no excuse for breaking God’s commandments on Monday that you made a great effort on Sunday--came a mile and a half through the wind and rain--to learn what God’s commandments are. Suppose a man were caught trespassing in a gentleman’s private grounds, and when asked for a defence of his conduct answered that though no doubt he was trespassing, he hoped that it would be a palliation of his offence that once a week for twenty years he had taken care to read the notice on the board--“Private road. Trespassing forbidden.” Would that be a rational excuse? Or suppose you had a man in your works who was constantly breaking some of the printed regulations which are put up in the shops, what would you say if he asked you to look over his bad conduct because he always read through the regulations every Monday morning? We see the folly of a plea of that kind when alleged to cover a violation of any of our own rules and regulations; and yet so easily do we deceive ourselves, that we are all in danger of supposing that because we read the Bible and come to public worship in order to learn God’s laws we have something to set off against breaking them. Christ’s words are clear. We are none the better for knowing the will of God; we must obey it. We must do the will of God. Some men have such a keen admiration for moral goodness that they take it forgranted that they are really good. You admire industry--good; but if you are to enter into the kingdom of heaven you must be industrious. Emotion of other kinds--good in its place--is also mistaken for actual well-doing. When we begin to hold political meetings in the winter there will be hundreds of men, belonging to both political parties, who will think that they are animated by a generous patriotism and a noble zeal for the public good, because they give enthusiastic cheers to the eloquence of their favourite orators; but ask them to do some canvassing, or to give a subscription towards the expenses of a contested election, and you will find that their patriotism and their zeal have all vanished. Doing God’s will is one thing, being sorry for not doing it is a different thing altogether. But suppose we resolve to do better--is not this satisfactory? Satisfactory? No; not unless we actually do better as the result of our good resolutions. Christ does not say that the man who resolves to do the will of God will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the man who does it; and between good resolutions and good deeds there is apt to be a very precarious connection. Some people appear to use up all their strength in making good resolutions, and they have no strength left to carry them out. We must do the will of God if we are to enter into heaven. However perfect our excuses may seem for not doing it, I cannot see that these excuses are admissible. One man pleads his natural temperament as a justification of the violence or irritability of his temper. Another pleads the sharp necessities of business as an excuse for resorting to accommodation bills and other illegitimate methods of raising money. Another pleads the bad treatment he has received from a relative or a friend in defence of rough and hard and uncharitable words about him. God who made us, knows our frame and He re members that we are dust; Christ can be touched with a feeling of our infirmities, having been tempted in all points as we are. We may rely on the Divine tenderness and mercy. God will not deal hardly with us; He treats us more generously than we treat each other; sometimes He treats us more mercifully than we treat ourselves. But to allege temptation as an apology for sin is clearly to defy the authority of the Divine law and to dissolve all moral obligations. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

The folly of a fruitless profession

I. SHOW WHO THEY ARE WHO DESERVE THE CENSURE IN THE TEXT.

1. Mere nominal Christians.

2. Formal, self-righteous persons.

3. False professors.

II. EXPOSTULATE WITH THEM ON THE FOLLY OF THEIR CONDUCT.

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

2. Is not obedience to Him necessary?

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

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

APPLICATION.


Verses 47-49

Luke 6:47-49

Whosoever cometh to Me, and heareth My sayings, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like

The similitude of hearing Christ’s sayings

I.
WHAT IS MEANT BY THE SAYINGS OF CHRIST.

1. The doctrine of faith and repentance.

2. The doctrine of regeneration.

3. The doctrine of self-denial.

4. But, more particularly, that doctrine and those sayings which He had just concluded, urging a holy life, and explaining the nature and spirituality of the moral law.

II. WHAT IS MEANT BY HEARING CHRIST’S SAYINGS.

1. TO hear His word and sayings with attention: to hear in hearing.

2. To hear His sayings and holy doctrine, as it is His word, not as the word of man, but as it is indeed the Word of God. Thus those in Thessalonica heard it, and received it, which becomes effectual in all that believe.

3. They hear Christ’s sayings with holy trembling. Thus the good king Josiah heard the book of the law.

4. To hear Christ’s sayings and heavenly doctrine believingly; “Who hath believed our report?” Isaiah 53:1.

5. To hear with understanding; may hear but remain ignorant of their state, do not understand the purport of the word, which is to convince them of the evil of sin, and of their woful and undone condition thereby, and of the necessity of a Mediator, or of a Saviour; as also of the excellency of that blessed Saviour, together with that mighty power and ability that He is clothed with to save.

6. The wise hearer hears Christ’s sayings and retains them, he is not a forgetful hearer; he sees the excellency of the word; likes and approves of the sayings and doctrine of Jesus Christ; he is like to Mary who pondered, “And kept all these sayings in her heart.” These persons, with holy David, love God’s Word above gold, yea, above fine gold; “therefore I esteem,, all thy precepts concerning all things to be right, and hate every false way Psalms 119:127-128).

7. It is a hearing of Christ’s word and sayings subjectively; such hear and come to Christ. “Whosoever cometh to Me, and heareth My sayings,” &c., Luke 6:47). In coming to Christ they hear, and in hearing, come, that is, then believe, and receive Jesus Christ.

III. WHAT MEANT BY DOING CHRIST’S SAYINGS.

1. It is to believe whatsoever is matter of faith; and to do and practise whatsoever is matter of practice and duty.

2. He may be said to do what Christ saith that hath his whole trust and dependence upon Him, or that resteth wholly upon Christ’s merits and righteousness for justification and eternal life.

3. To do Christ’s sayings is to yield ready and hearty obedience to the precepts He hath given forth in the gospel: some will not hear what Christ says; others will hear, but they hear carelessly; others hear but do not. “If I am your Lord and Master, why do ye not what I say? Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

4. They that uprightly do Christ’s sayings, do them sincerely, in truth, not out of by-ends and alms; neither for loaves, not for self and carnal profit, nor for self-applause.

5. They do Christ’s sayings from right principles, from a principle of life, from faith in, and love to Christ: if ye love Me, keep My commandments; that obedience which proceeds not from faith and love, is not regarded, nor accepted of by Jesus Christ.

6. They are such that do all Christ’s sayings; “Ye are My friends if ye do whatsoever I say” (John 15:14).

7. Such continue in doing Christ’s sayings; they abide in their obedience, they obey always, or continue in well doing.

IV. WHAT IS MEANT BY HIS HOUSE.

1. By this house is, doubtless, meant his hope of salvation; “Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be as the spider’s web” (Job 8:14).

1. A house is that which we rest in, and where we take our repose; a true believer resteth on Christ, he builds his house, i.e., his hope, his soul, and all he doth, on Christ; he that hath a right hope, a true faith, he hath a firm and well-built house, where he reposeth himself, or resteth continually.

2. A house is a place of shelter to us, in a tempestuous or stormy season, when rain, hail, snow, thunder, &c., are like to annoy us; so this man that builds his hope in Christ is secured and safe, when Satan raises storms of temptations upon him; he is safe also from the thunderings of mount Sinai, or the thunderbolts of the law and of the wrath of God, which all unbelievers lie open to.

3. A house is often assaulted by thieves, and if not firm and strong, may be broke up, and all that dwell in it may be robbed, nay murdered; so is the hope of a Christian often attacked by Satan, and if his faith and hope was not built upon Christ, he was certainly in danger of losing all he hath; nay, his precious soul for ever.

V. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE ROCK. By the rock is no doubt meant Jesus Christ; He is often called a rock; “The Lord is my rock and my fortress” Psalms 18:2). “Who is a rock save our God?” (Psalms 18:13.) “O Lord, my rock, be not silent” (Psalms 28:1). “Upon this rock will I build My Church” (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 10:4). Jesus Christ may be fitly compared to a rock.

1. A rock is a firm and immovable thing, therefore good for a foundation; that which is built on a rock, stands sure; so Christ is a firm and sure foundation--“ Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

2. Christ may be compared to a rock, in regard that in ancient times people built their houses in rocks, as well as built upon them; “they hewed out houses, or habitations in rocks” (Isaiah 22:16) Christ is a believer’s spiritual habitation; “they, like the dove, make their dwelling in the clefts of the rock.” “He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God.”

3. Rocks are strong, and were made use of for places of defence; no fortifications like some rocks, they are impregnable: David for security fled into a rock; in this respect Christ may also be compared to a rock, because He is our refuge from the wrath and vengeance of God, the curse of the law, and rage of wicked men, sin, and devils; a believer in Christ is safe, his dwelling place is impregnable.

4. Rocks are durable, permanent, and lasting; Jesus Christ hath the stability of a rock, He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; hence He is called the Rock of Ages.

VI. WHY A GODLY MAN IS CALLED A WISE MAN.

1. A godly man ponders well all future dangers.

2. All future safety and security; how he may avoid and escape the one, and enjoy the other. If he builds not with wisdom, he foresees the danger that will follow, for his soul will fall into hell.

3. A godly man may be looked upon to be wise, because he so consults matters, that he may not suffer the loss of all his labour and cost; such who hear Christ’s sayings and do them not, that do not believe in Him, nor obey His precepts; though they may make a visible profession, and do many things, and give to the poor, and suffer much external loss, yet all their labour, pains, and costs, and future hopes, will be utterly lost; but a true Christian is so wise as to close savingly with Christ, and obey His precepts, by which he knows his labour will not be in vain in the Lord.

4. A godly man is a wise man, because he complies with, and approves of that great and glorious design and purpose of God in Jesus Christ; it being the contrivance of His infinite wisdom, this way only to restore and save lost man: Now seeing a true Christian accepteth of Christ alone, and builds upon Him as the only foundation, it shows he is a wise man.

5. Because he seeks the honour of his blessed Lord and Master, and thereby keeps in His love and favour; it is not his own good only, but Christ’s glory which he seeks, and this is a great point of wisdom. Because nothing but God, and an interest in Him, and the eternal enjoyment of this God, will satisfy his soul; if God be the chief good, then to place all our hope and happiness in Him, and to enjoy Him, must needs be a part of highest wisdom. “He that keepeth his commandments, dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 3:24). This man hath God to be his God; O what man is wise, save this man only? Others have the shell, but this man hath the kernel: others have the cabinet, and that contents them, but this man hath also the jewel.

7. Because these men are the declared friends of Jesus Christ, and only favourites of heaven: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command John 15:14).

8. He is a wise man, because he is resolved to keep a good conscience: brethren, conscience is a tender thing, and to offend it is a piece of greatest folly; it is for a man to arm himself to murder his own soul, or kill himself; better to have all men in the world against us, and to reproach us, than to have our own conscience to accuse and reproach us.

VII. WHEREIN HIS WISDOM CONSISTS.

1. In his thoughtfulness of soul.

2. In his care to provide a house for his soul.

3. In building his house upon a good and safe foundation.

4. In digging deep. If it be a great and famous building, some magnificent fabric which a man designs to build, he will dig deep to lay a firm and sure foundation, he digs until he comes to a rock, or sound bottom: now it is a great and glorious fabric that a Christian is to build, a building that is to stand for ever, and endure all storms and assaults of Satan, and all other enemies of the soul. Besides, pardon of sin, justification, and eternal life, are great things; and the soul being so excellent, so precious, the house that is to be built for it, ought to bear some proportion unto it; also Jesus Christ the prince of kings of the earth, designs to dwell with the soul, so that it may be truly said to be a house for the great king; therefore, on all these respects, it beloveth us to dig deep, and to lay a safe and sure foundation.

5. In building his house of proper and fit materials.

6. In building by rule.

7. In building in the proper time.

8. In sitting down to count the cost.

1. Tremble, all ye foolish builders, who hear Christ’s sayings, but do them not, that hear His word, but do not believe; who are reformed perhaps in your lives, but not changed in your hearts.

2. Be exhorted to try yourselves, examine your hearts, see with what materials you have built your house, I mean your hope for heaven; if it be not upon Jesus Christ, if it be on the sands of your own works, or inherent righteousness, or on your duties, or upon your external privileges, or on gifts, parts, or knowledge, or traditions; pull down your house and new build it, build it on the only and sure foundation.

3. Let all professors prepare for a storm; the winds will blow, the rain will fall, and the floods will come; you shall all be tried; God will try every man’s work. If temptations of Satan, if tribulation and persecution from men, do not beat down your house and hope, yet death will.

4. We infer from hence, that the state of false professors, or all such who are no more than bare hearers of the word, is very sad and deplorable, their hope will be as the spider’s web.

5. Sinners, doubtless you have got some house, or hope, or another; but any hope will not serve your turn. O how near may you be to a storm, death may be at the door, and then your hope will perish, and your souls be lost.

6. What comfort is hero for believers, they are safe! (Benjamin Keach)

The wise and the foolish hearers

The contrast intended is not that between two men deliberately selecting different foundations on which to build, but that between two men, one of whom makes the foundation a matter of deliberate consideration, while the other never takes a moment’s thought about a foundation, but proceeds to build at haphazard, on the surface, anywhere, just where he happens to be--on the loose sands on the banks, or even in the bed of a river dried up by severe drought and scorching heat of summer, as rivers are so apt to be in the East.

1. In the light of the true distinction between the two builders, as above stated, we can see the special appropriateness of the emblem employed by our Lord to represent two different types of men in reference to religion. The characteristics of the one builder are considerateness and thoroughness, as those of the other are inconsiderateness and superficiality.

2. But the difference between the two classes of men is too important to be disposed of in a sentence. Our Lord Himself distinguishes the two classes by representing a man of the one class as one who heareth His sayings and doeth them, and a man of the other class as one who heareth His sayings and doeth them not. No man who is thoroughly in sympathy with the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is in danger of making any serious mistake as to the footing on which he stands before God. Thoroughgoing moral earnestness is the sure road to faith in Divine grace as the source of salvation, as the history of Paul and of Luther shows. A little earnestness may make a man a Pharisee, but a great consuming earnestness will make him a Christian, after the Pauline type. Two points of difference in character are clearly hinted at.

3. We have thus ascertained the distinctive characteristics of the two classes of hearers. But it is one thing to discriminate between these two classes on paper, another thing to discern and judge between them as existing in real life. Who, then, is to decide as to the merits of the two builders? The Divine preacher, with true insight into the state of the case, replies, “The elements.” The rain, the winds, and the floods, are the infallible judges of the builders and their work. The elements in the metaphor represent generally times of severe trial, the judgment-days which overtake men even in this world occasionally, and in which many fair edifices of religious profession go down. The forms in which the trial may come are very diverse.

Foundations

1. All men are building.

2. All builders have a choice of foundations.

3. All foundations will be tried.

4. Only one foundation will stand. (W. W. Wythe.)

My sayings

We may claim for Christ’s sayings an originality, a compass, and loving energy, such as have not been rivalled by any speaker. “Never man spake like this man,” was the testimony of His enemies. After reading the doctrines of Plato, Socrates, or Aristotle, we feel that the specific difference between their words and Christ’s is the difference between an inquiry and a revelation.

1. The sayings of Christ may be said to be Divine because they are so human.

2. The sayings of Christ determined the destiny of all who heard them. To have heard these sayings is to have incurred the gravest responsibility. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Hearers and doers

I. First then, THE DISTINCTION OF CHARACTER.

II. NOW, OBSERVE NEXT, THE CONTRAST IN THE HOPES OF THESE TWO CHARACTERS. The man who builds his house on the rock is said to dig deep before he begins to build; but the man who is likened to the foolish man takes no trouble about digging deep. He is “like a man that without a foundation builds his house upon the earth.”

1. Here, then, is the first contrast between a real believer in Christ, and a mere professor of religion. The believer’s safety is preceded by anxiety. The mere professor’s hope of heaven it has cost him no trouble to attain; he has formed it without any previous anxiety. Now, it is just so with a real believer in Jesus Christ--one who has any anxiety about his soul’s salvation. He dares not take it for granted that he is all right. A man who does take for granted that he is right for heaven, is like a man who builds on the surface. One who is really anxious about his soul digs to see whether his foundation is good before he begins to build.

2. Observe, next, that the Christian’s hope rests thus upon a solid foundation. Until the sinner finds that salvation which God has laid, of course he cannot rest upon a solid foundation.

3. The real believer finds that his house stands in the time of trial. There may be affliction, there may be persecution, there may be peculiar temptations; or if he escape these, there is the great trial of death and the prospect of judgment; but he who finds that he is resting on Christ--that he has been trying to know what Christ would have him do, and then to do it--finds himself secure. The promise of his Saviour, the oath of his covenant God, omnipotence itself secures his safety. He may be shaken in his mind in consequence of trouble and adversity, but he cannot be moved off from the rock on which he rests. Storms come very suddenly sometimes and very unexpectedly. Men may be in the enjoyment of health and strength and vigour, and may be lawfully pursuing their worldly duties, when some unexpected sickness reaches them, and after a few days, it may be, of pain and anguish, their medical attendants signify that there is no hope of their recovery; and now comes a time to test whether we have been building on a foundation or not. (W. Cadman, M. A.)

The two builders

Much as all men resemble one another, there is yet between us a most affecting difference. Our form and nature are the same; our conditions, and wants, and troubles are alike; but beneath this outward resemblance there lies unseen, and perhaps unthought of, a dissimilarity of the very utmost importance. Some of us are the friends of the living God, while others are His enemies.

I. AS TO THE SIMILARITY of the two men mentioned in the text.

1. They were both builders. Both are described as actually at work. Not the openly profane or careless, but professing Christians.

2. They were building a house, A dwelling-place, refuge, home. A shelter for support under the cares of life, for consolation in its troubles, and a protection from the wrath of God throughout eternity.

3. The house of each of these builders has its strength severely tried. We must expect our religion to be brought to the test, and its real character to be disclosed. Till this trial comes, we can know but little of ourselves. Almost any religion will stand in a calm. It is temptation--trifling, worldly, and sensual companions; it is affliction--disappointment, poverty, sickness, mental oppression; it is a change of scene, or circumstances, or society; these are the things which show us what manner of men we are, and often surprise and confound us by the discovery which we make.

II. THEIR DISSIMILARITIES.

1. One of these men built his house with foresight; the other heedlessly. A Christian must look forward, and labour for something that will stand a storm; a faith that will support him when everything else gives way: a hope that will bear him up when conscience stings, and Satan accuses, and death strikes; a refuge for his soul amidst all the convulsions and terrors of a departing world.

2. One of these men is a painstaking builder; the other is comparatively indolent. True religion is a laborious work, and the most important parts of it are those which require the most labour and make the least appearance. The foundations must be dug deep, and built on the solid rock.

3. One of these builders looks well to the foundation of his house; the other is indifferent about it.

4. Mark the difference in the end of these men. Conclusion: This parable may teach us--

1. The object of true religion. Salvation.

2. The nature of true religion. A building, a work, a progressive labour. An earnest and unceasing effort for the working out of salvation.

3. The wisdom of true religion. The pursuing of a good end by the best means. Simple obedience to the commands of Christ; earnest labouring after salvation in God’s way and manner.

4. The folly of that religion which trusts for salvation in itself. (C. Bradley, M. A.)

He only is a Christian who does what Christ bids him

This closing lesson is rendered impressive and memorable, not only by the vivid double simile under which it is conveyed, but still more even by the full round roll of the style; the intentional repetition of the same phrases in both halves of the parable; the continuous solemn sweep of the long, redoubled sentence which seems to dwell upon the ear, and afterwards to haunt the memory. The materials of the picture were familiar to His audience. Syrian houses of the poorer class were then probably (as they still are) very slight--built of mud or a few unhewn stones, roughly daubed with “untempered mortar,” and roofed in by no stouter materials than brushwood, with a layer of grass-grown earth over it. Two such houses have been erected in one of the precipitous wadys which everywhere seam the limestone ranges of Palestine, and swiftly drain off its superfluous rainfall. So long as summer lasts and the bed of the watercourse is dry, both of them stand equally well, and appear to be equally secure. But a day of testing comes. One of those terrific storms of rain and hail which the treacherous winds of the Levant bring up suddenly from the sea, swells the brook in a few hours into a torrent; and when the flood sweeps down its narrow channel like a tide, turbid and white with foam from one rocky bank to the other, while the fierce rain-storm drives up the ravine before the western gale, and lashes on roof and sides; then is put to proof the stability of both dwellings; then everything depends on the character of their foundation. The one has been built, with careless want of foresight, upon nothing better than the layer of loose sand or gravel brought down by former floods. Of course, the waters which eddy now about its base fret away from beneath it the very soil on which it stands, till the force of the storm, beating down upon its undermined and unsupported walls, crushes it into ruin. It was a “refuge of lies,” for it pretended to a foundation which it had not; and “the overflowing scourge” rolls it indignantly to the sea. The other builder, on the contrary, when he began to build, took the precaution to clear away that drift sand, deep though it was, and, digging down to the rock beneath, laid his foundation there. Now he finds the reward of his prudent pains and thoroughness. The flood may wash away, no doubt, whatever is movable from about the base of his house, even as from his neighbour’s; but when its walls are laid bare to the very rock, the secret strength of his “hidingplace” is only discovered to view; and though roof and sides may suffer here and there in their weaker portions (see 1 Corinthians 3:14-15,) from the searching of wind or rain, yet his house at least, as a place to shelter him, is secure from demolition: it falls not, for it is founded on the rock. So Jesus leaves His parable to interpret itself. The contrast betwixt a superficial profession of discipleship, in which self-deceived Christians confide as sufficient, and that thoroughgoing, profound moral earnestness which is concerned to make sure work of it, and to be all that it seems to be: this lies on the surface on the parable. But it seems not unreasonable to find in our Lord’s words something more than this. That moral thoroughness in the Christian life which aims at consistent obedience to Christ, succeeds in doing His word only by coming into close and trustful contact with Himself. He who would be practically a Christian, must have nothing betwixt his naked soul and the eternal Rock, Christ; for it is only as based on Him, fastened to Him, that any disciple learns to love His word, or gets strength to do it. Let us look each one to his foundation. There are so many who seem to be taking their stand for eternity on Jesus Christ; there are possibly so few whose lives are built into the Rock. So many of us hear, so few are manifestly doing, His words (James 1:22). (J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)

A solid foundation

Yon lighthouse tower, that stands among the tumbling waves, seems to have nothing but them to rest on; yet there stately and stable it stands, beautiful in the calm, and calm in the wintry tempest, guiding the sailor on to his desired haven, past the rolling reef, through the gloom of the darkest night, and the waters of the stormiest sea. Blessed tower that with its light, piercing the gloom, shines and rises on many an eye as a star of hope. Why is it stable? You see nothing but the waves, but beneath the waves, down below the rolling, foaming, tumbling billows, its foundation is the solid rock. And what that tower is to the house on yon sand.bank, which the last storm threw up, and the next shall sweep back into the sea, Christ’s righteousness is to mine--Christ’s works to my best ones. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Safe on the rock

Mr. Moody, in his Christian Convention at Northfield, said, “We want more Christians like the Irishman who, when asked if he didn’t tremble during a certain storm when he was standing out upon a rocky eminence, said, ‘Yes, my legs trembled, but the rock didn’t, and because my feet were on the rock I felt safe.’”

Laying hold on the rock

The wind had been blowing--it was a dreadful hurricane, and Gotthold walked into a forest and saw many trees torn up by the roots; he marvelled much at one tree which stood alone and yet had been unmoved in the tempest. He said, “How is this? The trees that were together have fallen, and this alone stands fast i “ He observed that when the trees grow too closely they cannot send their roots into the earth; they lean too much upon each other; but this tree, standing alone, had space to thrust its roots into the earth, and lay hold on the rock and stones, and so when the wind came, it fell not. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The only firm foundation

Men who stand on any other foundation than the rock Christ Jesus, are like birds that build in trees by the side of rivers. The bird sings in the branches, and the river sings below, but all the while the waters are undermining the soil about the roots, till, in some unsuspected hour, the tree falls with a crash into the stream; and then its nest is sunk, its home is gone, and the bird is a wanderer. But birds that hide their young in the clefts of the rock are undisturbed, and, after every winter, coming again, they find their nest awaiting them, and all their life long brood the summer in the same places, impregnable to time or storm. (H. W.Beecher.)

Sandy foundations

Recollect that all religion which is not the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart will have to be unravelled, let it be woven ever so cunningly. We may build, as our little children do on the sea-shore, our sand houses, and we may pile them up very quickly too, and be very pleased with them, but they will all come down as the tide of time advances; only that which God the Holy Ghost builds upon the foundation of Christ’s finished work will stand the test of time and eternity. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

On laying foundations

All hearers are builders of houses for their souls: they are each one doing something to set up a spiritual habitation. Some of these go a considerable distance in this house-building, and even crown the structure by publicly confessing Christ. They say unto Him, “Lord, Lord”: they meet with His followers, and join with them in reverence to the Master’s name; but they do not obey the Lord; they hear Him, but they fail to do the things which He says.

I. Our first subject will be A COMMON TEMPTATION WITH SPIRITUAL BUILDERS. A common temptation with hearers of the Word is to neglect foundation work, to get hurriedly over the first part of the business, and run up the building quickly.

1. This temptation is all the more dangerous, first, because these young beginners have no experience. Even the most experienced child of God is often deceived; how much more the pilgrim who has but just entered the wicket-gate! The tried saint sometimes mistakes that for a virtue which is only a gilded fault, and he fancies that to be genuine which is mere counterfeit; how, then, without any experience whatever, can the new babe in grace escape deception unless he be graciously preserved? Newly awakened, and rendered serious, earnest hearts get to work in the Divine life with much hurry, seizing upon that which first comes to hand, building in heedless haste, without due care and examination. Something must be done, and they do it without asking whether it is according to the teaching of the Lord. They call Jesus “Lord”; but they do what others say rather than what Jesus says.

2. There is this to help the temptation, too, that this plan for the present saves a great deal of trouble. Your mind is distressed, and you want comfort; well, it will comfort you to say, “Lord, Lord,” though you do not the things that Christ says.

3. This kind of building without foundation has this advantage to back up the temptation--it enables a man to run up a religion very quickly. He makes splendid progress. He takes every good thing for granted, and votes that all is gold which glitters. See how fast he goes! The fog is dense, but he steams through it, heedless of danger? He has joined the Church; he has commenced work for God; he is boasting of his own attainments; he hints that he is perfect. But is this mushroom building safe? Will it pass muster in the last great survey? When a man travels upon a wrong road, the faster he runs the further he will go astray. If you build quickly because you build without a foundation, your time and toll are thrown away.

4. How common, how deceptive, is this temptation I For the young beginner, the man who is just aroused to seek the Lord, will find a great many to help him in his mistake, should he neglect the foundation. Kind, good, Christian friends often, without a thought of doing so, help to mislead seeking souls. Let us beware lest we cry “Peace, peace,” where there is no peace.

5. No doubt many are encouraged in slight building by the fact that so many professors are making a fair show, and yet their building is without foundation. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that in all Churches there are persons who have no depth of spiritual root, and we are afraid no real spiritual life. Beware of loose professors, who are as wreckers! lights that lure men upon the rocks. Make sure work for eternity, and bid triflers begone.

6. Again, there is always at the back of all this an inducement to build without a foundation because it will not be known, and possibly may not be found out for years. Foundation-work is quite out of sight, and the house can be got up and be very useful in a great many ways, and it may stand a good while without the underground work; for houses without foundations do not tumble down at once; they will stand for years; nobody knows how long they may keep up; perhaps they may even be inhabited with comfort till the last great flood. Death alone will discover some impostures.

II. So I advance to the second step, and there we will consider A WISE PRECAUTION WHICH SAFE BUILDERS NEVER FORGET, They dig deep, and never rest till they get a good substantial foundation; they are glad to get to the bottom of all the loose earth and to build on the rock. Let me commend this wise precaution to all of you.

1. Follow the text, and learn to see to your sincerity. The Lord Jesus says, “Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” May the Holy Ghost make you true to the core. Be afraid to say a word more than you feel.

2. The next thing is thoroughness. For observe, according to our Lord, the wise builder digged deep. You cannot do a right thing too well. Dig deep if you do dig a foundation.

3. Next to that add self-renunciation; for that is in the parable. When a man digs a deep foundation he has much earth to throw out. So he that builds for eternity has a great deal to get rid of. Self-trust must go at the beginning; love of sin must follow; worldliness, pride, self-seeking, all sorts of iniquity--these must be cast aside. There is very much rubbish, and the rubbish must go.

4. Then must come solid principle. The man who is determined that if he does build he will build securely, digs down to the rock. What God has said is a rock; what man teaches is mere shifting sand.

5. These truthful principles must be firmly adhered to. Remember the huge shaft at Bradford, and how many were slain by its fall, and let it teach you to hold hard to foundation truths, and never depart from them.

III. Gather from the text A SET OF ARGUMENTS, URGING US TO TAKE CARE OF THE FOUNDATION.

1. We ought to build with a good foundation at the beginning, because otherwise we shall not build well in any other part of the house. Bad work in the foundation influences all the rest of the courses. In the Revised Version, at the end of the forty-eighth verse, instead of “For it was founded upon a rock,” we read, “Because it had been well builded.” The house was built well at the bottom, and that led the workman to put in good work all the way up, so that all through “it had been well builded.” The other man built badly underground, and did the same up to the roof. When you get into the habit of slovenly work in secret, the tendency is to be slovenly in public too. If the underground part of our religion is not firmly laid upon Christ, then in the upper part there will be rotten work, half-baked bricks, mud instead of mortar, and a general scamping of everything. When a great Grecian artist was fashioning an image for the temple, he was diligently carving the back part of the goddess, and one said to him, “You need not finish that part of the statue, because it is to be built into the wall.” He replied, “The gods can see in the wall.” He had a right idea of what is due to God. That part of my religion which no man can see should be as perfect as if it were to be observed by all. The day shall declare it. When Christ shall come everything shall be made known, and published before the universe. Therefore see to it that it be fit to be thus made known.

2. See, again, that we ought to have good foundations when we look at the situation whereon the house is to be built. It is clear from this parable that both these houses were built in places not far from a river, or where streams might be expected to come. Certain parts of the South of France are marvellously like Palestine, and perhaps at the present moment they are more like what the Holy Land was in Christ’s day than the Holy Land now is. When I reached Cannes last year I found that there had been a flood in the town. This flood did not come by reason of a river being swollen, but through a deluge of rain. A waterspout seems to have burst upon the hill side, tearing up earth, and rocks, and stones, and then hurrying down to the sea. It rushed across the railway station, and poured down the street which led to it, drowning several per sons in its progress. When I was there a large hotel--I should think five stories high--was shored up with timber, and was evidently doomed; for when this stream rushed down the narrow street it undermined the lower courses of the building and as there were no foundations at all able to bear such a test, the whole erection was rendered unsafe. The Saviour had some such case in His mind’s eye. A torrent of water would come tearing down the side of the mountain, and if a house was built on the mere earth, it would be carried away directly, but if it were fastened into the rock so that it became part and parcel of it, then the flood might rush all around it, but it would not shake the walls. Beloved builder of a house for your soul, your house is so situated that one of these days there must come great pressure upon it. “How do you know?” Well, I know that the house wherein my soul lives is pitched just where winds blow, and waves rise, and storms beat. Where is yours? Do you live in a snug corner? Yes, but one of these times you will find that the snug corner will be no more shielded than the open riverside; for God so orders providence that every man has his test sooner or later.

3. The next argument is, build deep, because of the ruin which will result from a bad foundation. What happened to this house without a foundation? The stream beat vehemently on it. The river’s bed had long been dry, but suddenly it was flooded, and the torrent rolled with tremendous power. Perhaps it was persecution, perhaps prosperity, perhaps trouble, perhaps temptation, perhaps prevalent scepticism, perhaps death; but, anyhow, the flood beat vehemently upon that house--“and immediately it fell”! It did not stand a prolonged assault, it was captured at once. Then it is added, “And the ruin of that house was great.” The house came down with a crash, and it was the man’s all. The man was an eminent professor, and hence his ruin was all the more notable. For, lastly, and perhaps this will be the best argument, observe the effect of this good, sure building, this deep building. We read that when the flood beat upon the wise man’s house “it could not shake it.” That is very beautiful. Not only could it not carry it away, but “it could not shake it.” I see the man; he lost his money and became poor, but he did not give up his faith--“It could not shake it.” He was ridiculed and slandered, and many of his former friends gave him the cold shoulder, but “It could not shake it.” He went to Jesus under his great trial, and he was sustained--“It could not shake it.” He was very sick, and his spirit was depressed within him, but still he held his confidence in Christ--“It could not shake it.” He was near to die; he knew that he must soon depart out of this world, but all the pains of death and the certainty of dissolution could not shake him. He died as he lived, firm as a rock, rejoicing as much as ever, nay, rejoicing more, because he was nearer to the kingdom and to the fruition of all his hopes. “It could not shake it.” It is a grand thing to have a faith which cannot be shaken. I saw one day a number of beech trees which had formed a wood; they had all fallen to the ground through a storm. The fact was they leaned upon one another to a great extent, and the thickness of the wood prevented each tree from getting a firm hold of the soil. They kept each other up, and also constrained each other to grow up tall and thin, to the neglect of root-growth. When the tempest forced down the first few trees the others readily followed one after the other. Close to that same spot I saw another tree in the open, bravely defying the blast, in solitary strength. The hurricane had beaten upon it, but it had endured all its force unsheltered. That lone, brave tree seemed to be better rooted than before the storm. I thought, “Is it not so with professors?” They often hold together, and help each other to grow up, but if they have not firm personal foothold, when a storm arises they fall in rows. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The two builders

1. We are here admonished of the duty, and vast importance, of what has been called “building for eternity”; that is, attending to the salvation of our souls. Every one is building, labouring corporeally and materially, or speculating mentally, in one way or another. Some are engaged with great schemes; and some, who have neither substance nor strength to expend on great works, are nevertheless as deeply engaged as those who have. How many, however, are building, as we may say, only for this world! Their schemes terminate here. But “he builds too tow, who builds beneath the skies.” To have a hope for heaven ought to be the great object with us all. This is the one thing needful.

2. Every wise man will be careful to found well--“on the rock.” Some even proceed on religion so much at random that they have never thought of any determinate principles; they cannot tell what their foundation is; in fact, they have no foundation at all--they are, spiritually, building castles in the air. It is not so, however, with the wise builder; he is not so easily satisfied. And, as in the literal case of a building, so in the spiritual case under consideration, two things are necessary to be attended to in laying the foundation--the one is, that the builder know what is a sufficient foundation; and the other is, that he do actually cause his building to rest upon it. An error with respect to either of these things is fatal. God has laid the foundation, and we must build upon it. A Saviour is offered, and we must accept Him.

3. The wise do not neglect the superstructure because they have a good foundation. Rather, the knowledge that he has begun well is an encouragement for him to go on well--with confidence and with care.

4. In the time of trial, the hope of the true Christian, like the house of the wise builder, will stand; while the hope of the hypocrite and the formalist, like the house of the foolish builder, will be overthrown. When the great day of wrath is come, then it will be seen who shall be able to stand. God will set His own people’s feet on a rock, and will establish their goings. (James Foote, M. A.)

The rock and the sand

Last April, on the same morning I set my eyes on the island of Corsica where Napoleon I. was born, and on the island of Elba on which he was confined as a discomfited prisoner--the coming shadows of Waterloo hung over his bleak exile. The next day I saw the spot where another famous prisoner landed on his way to Rome, and where he “thanked God and took courage.” Napoleon’s boasted “rock” of imperial power proved to be but a fog-bank. What a contrast between the defeated and disappointed exile of Elba, and the glorious old prisoner of Caesar who sang triumphantly in his cell: “I have fought a good fight! Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day!” The French Emperor’s crown was a lost bauble; the apostle’s diadem will blaze with stars through all eternity. There is no sharper contrast in all history between the wisdom of building on the rock and the fatal folly of building on the quicksand. Yet, on a smaller scale, tens of thousands among us are constantly repeating this folly. One man rears his expectations upon wealth. This is his foundation on which he will build up solid happiness for himself and his family. He means to be happy in making money, happy in holding it, and happy in all the social eclat and luxuries which it will purchase for him. “Other men don’t know how to keep money or to enjoy it; but 1 mean to enjoy mine.” He calls it mine--not the Lord’s; and he does not mean that the Lord shall have it. Ere long the coveted riches take wing, like a swallow, and fly away. Even if he holds on to them, they do not give the happiness he dreamed of; they do not fill up the gnawing emptiness of his soul. They do not bring quiet sleep or a contented conscience; his Government bonds cannot stop the heartache. Gold, unless used for God, makes a hard dying pillow. When the richest American of his day was in his last fatal sickness, a Christian friend proposed to sing for him; and the hymn he named was “Come, ye sinners, poor and needy.” “Yes, yes,” replied the dying millionaire, “sing that for me, I feel poor and needy.” Yet at that moment the stock-markets of the globe were watching and waiting for the demise of the man who could shake them with a nod of his head. “Poor and needy!” How the sand sweeps from under a man’s soul in much an hour as that! Literary fame is no solider a footing for an immortal being’s happiness than wealth. There is hardly a sadder verse in the English language than that which the brilliant Byron addressed to his own weary and wretched soul--

“Count o’er the joys thine hours have seen;

Count o’er thy days from anguish free;

And know--whatever thou hast been,

’Tis something better--not to be!”

What a fearful thought that a human soul, in the very height of its coveted intellectual renown, should seek a refuge for its misery in utter annihilation! Last year a poverty-stricken invalid in Brooklyn, who sustained her helpless husband and only child by her needle, made her little dingy home bright as sunshine by her brave, cheerful trust in God. Her daily song was, “The Lord liveth, and blessed be my Rock.” In many a hut of poverty, where faith eats its scanty loaf and gives thanks for it; from many a room of sickness, where Jesus has cheered the long wakeful nights; over many a casket in which a darling child was sleeping in its last slumber, has the believer’s testimony come forth clear and strong: “I know whom I have believed; He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him until that day.” God never intended that we should have more than one rock. All else is quicksand. When we take His inspired Word for our guide, embrace Christ as our Saviour, rest on His atonement for pardon and His grace for support, then are we “founded on a rock.” A solid character for this life and a solid hope for eternity can be built on this sure foundation. Christ really underlies a genuine Christian as the everlasting mass of Moriah’s rook-bed underlay the ancient temple of Jerusalem. Those only are the solid, reliable, and enduring members in our various Churches, who have Christ embedded in the very depths of their hearts. Such never fall away under the stress of strong temptations. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

Deep life

I. THE LIFE WHICH IS SIMPLY A SURFACE LIFE. Not exactly what we call a wicked life, but a vain, thoughtless, shallow life. An animal life, finding pleasure only in the senses; a childish life, occupied only with trifles; a life in which there is no deep thought, feeling, conviction, purpose. One would think it almost impossible to lead such a life. The Spirit of God within us is ever seeking to awaken solemn and holy thoughts. And this is truly a thought-provoking world. Many will scarcely suffer a large thought, a serious thought. They dwell on the most exterior surfaces, and their little-mindedness is seen in everything, felt in everything. Mark their pleasures. Consider their reading--the emptiest, silliest trash. Listen to their conversation--chaff which the wind driveth away. And all their aims in life are unspeakably contemptible. Better be the desolate tree on the naked heath bowed by the storm, stripped by the storm, if it only give us depth of life, than the green bay-tree rooted only in the sod. We may be thankful for anything that knocks the toys out of our hands, that stops our idiot joy, and drives us inward, downward, to the reality of things and the grand purpose of existence. Notice again--

II. THE LIFE WHICH DIES BELOW THE SURFACE AND YET DOES NOT REACH THE DEPTHS. Many men consider themselves as serious, deep-sealed men who are not really so. There is an iron pillar at Delhi, a very ancient column, and the Hindus believed that its roots were in the centre of the earth, but the profane European took to digging and found its foundation only twenty inches below the surface. And so many among us fancy their life rooted in the centre of things when a little examination would show them they have only dipped below the surface. There is an intellectual life which goes beneath the surface, but not to the depths. Thinking men, full of intellectual power and penetration, but who concern themselves only with the universe that passes away, are of this order. One would think the scientific men who sound the depths of the ocean or the star-depths of the heaven, had gone deep, but in truth, with all their parade of dredges, telescopes, spectroscopes, they have gone but twenty inches below the surface who miss the Almighty Spirit, of whom are all things, by whom are all things, to whom are all things. There is a moral life which goes below the surface, and yet fails to grasp the depths. A morality which finds its origin, its reasons, its sanctions, its inspirations, its compensations altogether within human society and temporal interests, is but rooted in the sand. There is a religious life which sinks below the surface without sounding the depths. The Pharisees failed here--they thought the pillar on which they leaned had its roots in the centre of the world, but Christ made them understand that proud ancient pillar of theirs was only twenty inches in the sand.

III. THE LIFE WHICH DIGS DEEP AND RESTS ON A ROCK. The Word of God assures us that there is rock. The universe is not a theatre of dissolving views, itself a dissolving view. There is an Eternal Being. There is an Eternal World. “A city that hath foundations”--a realm of infinite endless perfection and blessedness. There is an Eternal Righteousness. There is an Eternal Life. He only digs deep who gets down to these central realities.

1. Only in this deeper life do we find true satisfaction. Men think sometimes, I know, that a deeper life means much of strife, of sorrow, of sadness; and so it does. But, you must remember, out of those depths breaks forth the sunshine, out of those depths breaks forth the music. You will never find true light, harmony, joy, until you reach the depths of self-despair, until you live the life of thought, contrition, prayer, humility, reverence.

2. Only as we live this deeper life does our character acquire strength and fulness. The superficial Pharisee was ever working at the outside of character; Christ showed them more radical work was wanted; they must go to the depths of life. And this is the teaching of the Epistles. Our modern gardeners think far less of pruning the branches of trees than the old husbandmen used to think; the gardeners of to-day are persuaded that the tree must be treated in its roots.

3. Only as we live this deeper life is our joy assured for ever. The teaching of our Lord in this parable is that, whatever in character, joy, hope, is not based on the deepest life, life in Himself, must be overthrown. As most of you know, in connection with the principal palace at Babylon was the remarkable construction known to the Greeks as “the Hanging Garden.” Several tiers of arches formed an artificial imitation of a mountain, and on the top of this structure was a mass of earth on which grew flowers, and shrubs, and trees. Where are these artificial elevations now? Gone, gone long ago, shaken to the earth, buried in the ditch. Now all around us you see the glory, the joy, the hope of men resting like the “Hanging Gardens” of Babylon on quite an artificial basis, and any slight accident brings the whole fabric to the ground. A sickness, a death, any one of a thousand changes wrecks the treasure and pride of life. But the natural gardens of Babylon which rested on the granite pillars of the earth bloom to-day as they ever did--the grass as green, the blossoms as sweet, the trees as magnificent. So it is when we build on Christ, and find our strength and felicity and hope in Him.

“What can our foundations shock?

Though the shattered earth remove,

Stands our city on a rock,

On the rock of heavenly Love.”

Live below the senses, live above society, live beyond time, get to the root truths that are in Christ, nay, get to Christ Himself, the root-truth, and your life shall be full of energy, freedom, brightness, fruitfulness, blessing, and you shall bloom for ever in the paradise of God. (W. L. Watkinson.)

The two principles of life

It is here indicated by our Lord that every one must live his life on some principle or plan; and He plainly states the utter ruin of any life which hears the Word of God, and does not act accordingly.

I. Apply it first to THE CONSCIOUS ACTION OF MEN UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF THE SPIRIT. To build without foundation is to put off, make only some slight resolution for good, go on the old way, only with a little more earnestness, or choosing the easiest way of religion as a salve to the conscience.

II. THE WARNINGS THAT COME GENERALLY LATER IN LIFE.

III. THE WAY OF DEALING WITH SORROW FOR SIN. Two kinds.

1. The sorrow of the world--mere regret: hopes to do better; time will bring relief.

2. Godly sorrow, real repentance--going to the very root of the matter; content with nothing but laying bare the whole heart to God; probing to the very centre the wounds of nature, in spite of pain and discomfort; determined at any cost to get rid of all corruption and its cause. The result of this is true healing and benefit. Conclusion: The great lesson is one of thoroughness and heartiness in all our life; no more trifling; no resting satisfied with partial relief--the pleasant weather for the present, without any thought of the storms that may be coming. (George Low, M. A.)

Doing and dreaming

Now, in the course of my travels, I have met with three distinct dreamers.

I. There is the rationalistic dreamer. He beholds his face in a glass, and stands before it, admiring it. To him religion is a system of ideas, and no idea represents reality. His religion is “a face in the glass” or an unsubstantial “house on the sand.”

II. There is the sentimental dreamer. He will talk to you for hours of the presence of God in nature, A house of sentiment is the last place I should fly to, to shelter me from the storm.

III. There is the pietistic dreamer. There is a form of church-going piety which does not influence daily conduct; people whose religion is an impersonated sigh.

1. The religion of the dreamer is a religion of theory. The religion of the doer is one of experience.

2. The religion of the dreamer will always be one of doubt. The religion of the doer will always be a religion of evidence. This follows the last remark, because doing leads to knowing.

3. Hence, let me say, the dreamer confines his religion to solitude; the doer finds a vent for his in society. Religion comforts solitude, and consoles it; it does not encourage the spirit of it. If we are to enter the solitude, it is that we may collect the moral forces of our nature, and come forth, inspired by the Divine Spirit, to cry aloud, “O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord.”

4. The religion of the dreamer is a religion without love. But the life of the doer is love. Our love, in fact, is proportioned to our labours--our labour proportions our love. Love is the fountain of all true knowledge. Every man understands more by his affections than by his reason.

5. And there is, finally, no salvation for the dreamer. Come, let us walk along the sands, and see the houses they build there; these are tile buildings of which the apostle spoke, “wood, hay, and stubble”; these are the buildings which will not stand either the flood or the fire; these are the buildings reared by the religious dreamers, whose houses are unsubstantial as the palaces in the clouds. Here is the house of wood--the building reared out of notions of natural amiability and goodness, a religion of politeness and native grace: in this house the inhabitants will talk to you of God, and of worshipping God, but you will hear nothing of God in Christ, nothing of the love of the Father for a lost world. The Unitarian builds his edifice from such material, and thus all those buildings rise which leave out of view the supernatural in the ruin and recovery of man. How unsubstantial i there is not one brick of all the building made from “these sayings of Mine,” and here “the flood will come and sweep them all away.” Let us walk further along the sands. Here is a house, strangely built of hay; of rhetoric, and philosophy, and superstitious notions; and sometimes, when the ice hangs its pendulets on the absurd, grotesque building, and the sun shines in its cold wintry ray, it seems an uncouth but glittering cave upon the sand: within, the inhabitants have so many pretty sentiments about religion, and so many brilliant sayings, and so many deep and philosophical views, and strange pretences glide to and fro through the heavy chambers, and even the neighbourhood to the awful sea makes the building sometimes seem so safe for shelter; but in the incongruous building nothing is reared from “these sayings of Mine,” and the “flood will come and sweep them all away.” Now, come, I will carry you to two death-beds; for they die in the castle on the rock and in the palace on the sand. Ah! how fine it looks! By the two death-beds you may hear the two confessions. I draw the curtain in the palace: let us hear. “How are you; are you happy?” “Well, I am easy.” “What are your foundations?” “Well, Lord, Thou knowest I have had some very pretty notions in religion. I have usually gone to church once a day. I was certainly away frequently on account of our dinner-parties; but I am sure God won’t be strict. On the whole, I am happy I I have ever tried to pay everybody their own, twenty shillings in the pound--and God is love.” Now step into the poor room on the Rock. “How do you feel?” “I feel happy, but only by taking hold on Christ. Lord, I feel I am a poor creature, but I come to Thee through Christ; and I can only cry, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” Hark! the rain is on the roof; what a tempest. Oh that cry--The Flood! the Flood! the Flood! Yes; the rain descends, and the flood comes, and the winds blow and beat; behold yonder the advancing floods; and see yonder the drifting soul on the broken spar. What is the hope of the hypocrite, when God shall take away his soul? Yonder they drift away. Hark! it is a voice of singing from the eternal Rock, a strain from the heights of the strong foundations. (E. P. Hood.)

Designing the house not enough

It is not enough to have gotten an abstracted mathematical scheme, or diagram, of this spiritual building in our brain; it is the mechanical labouring part of religion, that must make up the edifice, the work, and toil, and sweat of the soul, the business not of the designer, but the carpenter; that, which takes the rough unpolished, though excellent, materials, and trims and fits them for use; which cuts and polishes the rich but, as yet, deformed jewels of the soul, and makes them shine indeed, and sparkle, like stars in the firmament The divinity and learning of these times floats and hovers too much in the brain, hath not either weight or sobriety enough in it, to sink down and settle in the heart. (Dr. Hammond.)

Digging deep

Inasmuch as it is said that the wise builder “digged deep,” let us remember that God is not to be found on the surface. (Gregory.)

Insecure foundations

There is a twice-told tale about Julian the apostate: how in youth he essayed to raise a memorial shrine to the holy Mamas; but as he built, the earth at the foundations crumbled; for God and His holy martyr deigned not to accept the labour and offering of his hands. It is an allegory of men who toil and build on rotten and insecure foundations.

Neglecting the foundation

On the comer of one of the busiest streets of a certain town, there is a large brick building with stone finishings and no little display of fancy work, both on cornice and corners. It looks well at a distance. Closer inspection, however, shows that this building is sadly disfigured with ugly cracks and misshapen walls, and the whole structure is in danger of tumbling down. On investigation it was discovered that the cause of all this was the bad foundation put under the building by an inefficient and dishonest contractor. He had employed cheap workmen and put in cheap material, because the foundation being out of sight, he thought no one would ever see it, and it would make no difference.

Two kinds of foundations

Two young fishermen came to the water-side to live, and to try their luck in a new home. Now, here they were very successful, and soon had a ready sale for all they caught in the village beyond the hill. “Now, we will each build a hut for ourselves, for this is a good place, and here we will each bring a wife, and have a home.” “That is a good thought,” replied Simplex; “here is a fine stretch of beach, and we shall have no trouble in drawing stones and timber, and making comfortable dwellings at small cost and labour.” “Oh, no,” answered Prudens; the storms and winds and waves will come and sweep away our houses. Look yonder among that grass there; up beyond are some rocks. They will make a fine foundation, and we need fear nothing.” “Oh, you foolish Prudens, to give yourself so much trouble I The season of storms is past; the beautiful days are coming; and how will you climb up among those rocks when you are worn out and tired? See how easy it will be to run up a house here, and then to sit, after our day’s work is over, and gaze out upon the water, and see that no one molests our boats or nets.” “Well, brother, storms may come even during the beautiful days, and I shall build up yonder on the rocks.” So each man built during the next few weeks each a neat little hut, and I must confess that Prudens’ was not nearly so pretty as Simplex’s, because it was much harder for Prudens to draw his materials away up the rocks, and to plan so that the foundations should be firm, and the windows protected. But in time both houses were complete, and in each a pretty little wife kept the home in good order, and the men were well content with their plans. But one night there were signs of a change of weather. The waters sighed and moaned and groaned and muttered as if they were angry, and the men hastened to make all secure, for, said they, “the waves are coming and the tide is rising.” Prudens went to Simplex to beg that he and his wife would come up to his house, lest haply the waters should come over the beach. Simplex laughed at the fears of his friend; but the wife was timid, and she persuaded her husband just for one night to accept the invitation. “You will smile at your fears in the morning, Gretchen dear, but for your sake I will go--what can harm our home except a few dashes of salt water? You are not much of a sailor’s wife.” Then they went, and the fearful storm came, and the wind rose and beat away the nets and the boats. The women could not sleep, and, when the morning broke, they hastened to see what had happened in the night. They looked first towards the cottage of Simplex. There was no cottage there, but timbers and a heap of stones and a low wall, and the beach strewn with the wreck of the house. Gretchen began to cry, but Simplex dared not look at Prudens. Safe on the rocks, his house had stood out the storm. “Alas, my brother, why did I not heed your advice? I built on the sand, and my house has fallen. Yours stood because founded on a rock.” This story is a parable. Who will tell what it means, and from what part of Scripture it is taken?.


Verses 47-49

Luke 6:47-49

Whosoever cometh to Me, and heareth My sayings, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like

The similitude of hearing Christ’s sayings

I.
WHAT IS MEANT BY THE SAYINGS OF CHRIST.

1. The doctrine of faith and repentance.

2. The doctrine of regeneration.

3. The doctrine of self-denial.

4. But, more particularly, that doctrine and those sayings which He had just concluded, urging a holy life, and explaining the nature and spirituality of the moral law.

II. WHAT IS MEANT BY HEARING CHRIST’S SAYINGS.

1. TO hear His word and sayings with attention: to hear in hearing.

2. To hear His sayings and holy doctrine, as it is His word, not as the word of man, but as it is indeed the Word of God. Thus those in Thessalonica heard it, and received it, which becomes effectual in all that believe.

3. They hear Christ’s sayings with holy trembling. Thus the good king Josiah heard the book of the law.

4. To hear Christ’s sayings and heavenly doctrine believingly; “Who hath believed our report?” Isaiah 53:1.

5. To hear with understanding; may hear but remain ignorant of their state, do not understand the purport of the word, which is to convince them of the evil of sin, and of their woful and undone condition thereby, and of the necessity of a Mediator, or of a Saviour; as also of the excellency of that blessed Saviour, together with that mighty power and ability that He is clothed with to save.

6. The wise hearer hears Christ’s sayings and retains them, he is not a forgetful hearer; he sees the excellency of the word; likes and approves of the sayings and doctrine of Jesus Christ; he is like to Mary who pondered, “And kept all these sayings in her heart.” These persons, with holy David, love God’s Word above gold, yea, above fine gold; “therefore I esteem,, all thy precepts concerning all things to be right, and hate every false way Psalms 119:127-128).

7. It is a hearing of Christ’s word and sayings subjectively; such hear and come to Christ. “Whosoever cometh to Me, and heareth My sayings,” &c., Luke 6:47). In coming to Christ they hear, and in hearing, come, that is, then believe, and receive Jesus Christ.

III. WHAT MEANT BY DOING CHRIST’S SAYINGS.

1. It is to believe whatsoever is matter of faith; and to do and practise whatsoever is matter of practice and duty.

2. He may be said to do what Christ saith that hath his whole trust and dependence upon Him, or that resteth wholly upon Christ’s merits and righteousness for justification and eternal life.

3. To do Christ’s sayings is to yield ready and hearty obedience to the precepts He hath given forth in the gospel: some will not hear what Christ says; others will hear, but they hear carelessly; others hear but do not. “If I am your Lord and Master, why do ye not what I say? Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

4. They that uprightly do Christ’s sayings, do them sincerely, in truth, not out of by-ends and alms; neither for loaves, not for self and carnal profit, nor for self-applause.

5. They do Christ’s sayings from right principles, from a principle of life, from faith in, and love to Christ: if ye love Me, keep My commandments; that obedience which proceeds not from faith and love, is not regarded, nor accepted of by Jesus Christ.

6. They are such that do all Christ’s sayings; “Ye are My friends if ye do whatsoever I say” (John 15:14).

7. Such continue in doing Christ’s sayings; they abide in their obedience, they obey always, or continue in well doing.

IV. WHAT IS MEANT BY HIS HOUSE.

1. By this house is, doubtless, meant his hope of salvation; “Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be as the spider’s web” (Job 8:14).

1. A house is that which we rest in, and where we take our repose; a true believer resteth on Christ, he builds his house, i.e., his hope, his soul, and all he doth, on Christ; he that hath a right hope, a true faith, he hath a firm and well-built house, where he reposeth himself, or resteth continually.

2. A house is a place of shelter to us, in a tempestuous or stormy season, when rain, hail, snow, thunder, &c., are like to annoy us; so this man that builds his hope in Christ is secured and safe, when Satan raises storms of temptations upon him; he is safe also from the thunderings of mount Sinai, or the thunderbolts of the law and of the wrath of God, which all unbelievers lie open to.

3. A house is often assaulted by thieves, and if not firm and strong, may be broke up, and all that dwell in it may be robbed, nay murdered; so is the hope of a Christian often attacked by Satan, and if his faith and hope was not built upon Christ, he was certainly in danger of losing all he hath; nay, his precious soul for ever.

V. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE ROCK. By the rock is no doubt meant Jesus Christ; He is often called a rock; “The Lord is my rock and my fortress” Psalms 18:2). “Who is a rock save our God?” (Psalms 18:13.) “O Lord, my rock, be not silent” (Psalms 28:1). “Upon this rock will I build My Church” (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 10:4). Jesus Christ may be fitly compared to a rock.

1. A rock is a firm and immovable thing, therefore good for a foundation; that which is built on a rock, stands sure; so Christ is a firm and sure foundation--“ Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

2. Christ may be compared to a rock, in regard that in ancient times people built their houses in rocks, as well as built upon them; “they hewed out houses, or habitations in rocks” (Isaiah 22:16) Christ is a believer’s spiritual habitation; “they, like the dove, make their dwelling in the clefts of the rock.” “He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God.”

3. Rocks are strong, and were made use of for places of defence; no fortifications like some rocks, they are impregnable: David for security fled into a rock; in this respect Christ may also be compared to a rock, because He is our refuge from the wrath and vengeance of God, the curse of the law, and rage of wicked men, sin, and devils; a believer in Christ is safe, his dwelling place is impregnable.

4. Rocks are durable, permanent, and lasting; Jesus Christ hath the stability of a rock, He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; hence He is called the Rock of Ages.

VI. WHY A GODLY MAN IS CALLED A WISE MAN.

1. A godly man ponders well all future dangers.

2. All future safety and security; how he may avoid and escape the one, and enjoy the other. If he builds not with wisdom, he foresees the danger that will follow, for his soul will fall into hell.

3. A godly man may be looked upon to be wise, because he so consults matters, that he may not suffer the loss of all his labour and cost; such who hear Christ’s sayings and do them not, that do not believe in Him, nor obey His precepts; though they may make a visible profession, and do many things, and give to the poor, and suffer much external loss, yet all their labour, pains, and costs, and future hopes, will be utterly lost; but a true Christian is so wise as to close savingly with Christ, and obey His precepts, by which he knows his labour will not be in vain in the Lord.

4. A godly man is a wise man, because he complies with, and approves of that great and glorious design and purpose of God in Jesus Christ; it being the contrivance of His infinite wisdom, this way only to restore and save lost man: Now seeing a true Christian accepteth of Christ alone, and builds upon Him as the only foundation, it shows he is a wise man.

5. Because he seeks the honour of his blessed Lord and Master, and thereby keeps in His love and favour; it is not his own good only, but Christ’s glory which he seeks, and this is a great point of wisdom. Because nothing but God, and an interest in Him, and the eternal enjoyment of this God, will satisfy his soul; if God be the chief good, then to place all our hope and happiness in Him, and to enjoy Him, must needs be a part of highest wisdom. “He that keepeth his commandments, dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 3:24). This man hath God to be his God; O what man is wise, save this man only? Others have the shell, but this man hath the kernel: others have the cabinet, and that contents them, but this man hath also the jewel.

7. Because these men are the declared friends of Jesus Christ, and only favourites of heaven: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command John 15:14).

8. He is a wise man, because he is resolved to keep a good conscience: brethren, conscience is a tender thing, and to offend it is a piece of greatest folly; it is for a man to arm himself to murder his own soul, or kill himself; better to have all men in the world against us, and to reproach us, than to have our own conscience to accuse and reproach us.

VII. WHEREIN HIS WISDOM CONSISTS.

1. In his thoughtfulness of soul.

2. In his care to provide a house for his soul.

3. In building his house upon a good and safe foundation.

4. In digging deep. If it be a great and famous building, some magnificent fabric which a man designs to build, he will dig deep to lay a firm and sure foundation, he digs until he comes to a rock, or sound bottom: now it is a great and glorious fabric that a Christian is to build, a building that is to stand for ever, and endure all storms and assaults of Satan, and all other enemies of the soul. Besides, pardon of sin, justification, and eternal life, are great things; and the soul being so excellent, so precious, the house that is to be built for it, ought to bear some proportion unto it; also Jesus Christ the prince of kings of the earth, designs to dwell with the soul, so that it may be truly said to be a house for the great king; therefore, on all these respects, it beloveth us to dig deep, and to lay a safe and sure foundation.

5. In building his house of proper and fit materials.

6. In building by rule.

7. In building in the proper time.

8. In sitting down to count the cost.

1. Tremble, all ye foolish builders, who hear Christ’s sayings, but do them not, that hear His word, but do not believe; who are reformed perhaps in your lives, but not changed in your hearts.

2. Be exhorted to try yourselves, examine your hearts, see with what materials you have built your house, I mean your hope for heaven; if it be not upon Jesus Christ, if it be on the sands of your own works, or inherent righteousness, or on your duties, or upon your external privileges, or on gifts, parts, or knowledge, or traditions; pull down your house and new build it, build it on the only and sure foundation.

3. Let all professors prepare for a storm; the winds will blow, the rain will fall, and the floods will come; you shall all be tried; God will try every man’s work. If temptations of Satan, if tribulation and persecution from men, do not beat down your house and hope, yet death will.

4. We infer from hence, that the state of false professors, or all such who are no more than bare hearers of the word, is very sad and deplorable, their hope will be as the spider’s web.

5. Sinners, doubtless you have got some house, or hope, or another; but any hope will not serve your turn. O how near may you be to a storm, death may be at the door, and then your hope will perish, and your souls be lost.

6. What comfort is hero for believers, they are safe! (Benjamin Keach)

The wise and the foolish hearers

The contrast intended is not that between two men deliberately selecting different foundations on which to build, but that between two men, one of whom makes the foundation a matter of deliberate consideration, while the other never takes a moment’s thought about a foundation, but proceeds to build at haphazard, on the surface, anywhere, just where he happens to be--on the loose sands on the banks, or even in the bed of a river dried up by severe drought and scorching heat of summer, as rivers are so apt to be in the East.

1. In the light of the true distinction between the two builders, as above stated, we can see the special appropriateness of the emblem employed by our Lord to represent two different types of men in reference to religion. The characteristics of the one builder are considerateness and thoroughness, as those of the other are inconsiderateness and superficiality.

2. But the difference between the two classes of men is too important to be disposed of in a sentence. Our Lord Himself distinguishes the two classes by representing a man of the one class as one who heareth His sayings and doeth them, and a man of the other class as one who heareth His sayings and doeth them not. No man who is thoroughly in sympathy with the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is in danger of making any serious mistake as to the footing on which he stands before God. Thoroughgoing moral earnestness is the sure road to faith in Divine grace as the source of salvation, as the history of Paul and of Luther shows. A little earnestness may make a man a Pharisee, but a great consuming earnestness will make him a Christian, after the Pauline type. Two points of difference in character are clearly hinted at.

3. We have thus ascertained the distinctive characteristics of the two classes of hearers. But it is one thing to discriminate between these two classes on paper, another thing to discern and judge between them as existing in real life. Who, then, is to decide as to the merits of the two builders? The Divine preacher, with true insight into the state of the case, replies, “The elements.” The rain, the winds, and the floods, are the infallible judges of the builders and their work. The elements in the metaphor represent generally times of severe trial, the judgment-days which overtake men even in this world occasionally, and in which many fair edifices of religious profession go down. The forms in which the trial may come are very diverse.

Foundations

1. All men are building.

2. All builders have a choice of foundations.

3. All foundations will be tried.

4. Only one foundation will stand. (W. W. Wythe.)

My sayings

We may claim for Christ’s sayings an originality, a compass, and loving energy, such as have not been rivalled by any speaker. “Never man spake like this man,” was the testimony of His enemies. After reading the doctrines of Plato, Socrates, or Aristotle, we feel that the specific difference between their words and Christ’s is the difference between an inquiry and a revelation.

1. The sayings of Christ may be said to be Divine because they are so human.

2. The sayings of Christ determined the destiny of all who heard them. To have heard these sayings is to have incurred the gravest responsibility. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Hearers and doers

I. First then, THE DISTINCTION OF CHARACTER.

II. NOW, OBSERVE NEXT, THE CONTRAST IN THE HOPES OF THESE TWO CHARACTERS. The man who builds his house on the rock is said to dig deep before he begins to build; but the man who is likened to the foolish man takes no trouble about digging deep. He is “like a man that without a foundation builds his house upon the earth.”

1. Here, then, is the first contrast between a real believer in Christ, and a mere professor of religion. The believer’s safety is preceded by anxiety. The mere professor’s hope of heaven it has cost him no trouble to attain; he has formed it without any previous anxiety. Now, it is just so with a real believer in Jesus Christ--one who has any anxiety about his soul’s salvation. He dares not take it for granted that he is all right. A man who does take for granted that he is right for heaven, is like a man who builds on the surface. One who is really anxious about his soul digs to see whether his foundation is good before he begins to build.

2. Observe, next, that the Christian’s hope rests thus upon a solid foundation. Until the sinner finds that salvation which God has laid, of course he cannot rest upon a solid foundation.

3. The real believer finds that his house stands in the time of trial. There may be affliction, there may be persecution, there may be peculiar temptations; or if he escape these, there is the great trial of death and the prospect of judgment; but he who finds that he is resting on Christ--that he has been trying to know what Christ would have him do, and then to do it--finds himself secure. The promise of his Saviour, the oath of his covenant God, omnipotence itself secures his safety. He may be shaken in his mind in consequence of trouble and adversity, but he cannot be moved off from the rock on which he rests. Storms come very suddenly sometimes and very unexpectedly. Men may be in the enjoyment of health and strength and vigour, and may be lawfully pursuing their worldly duties, when some unexpected sickness reaches them, and after a few days, it may be, of pain and anguish, their medical attendants signify that there is no hope of their recovery; and now comes a time to test whether we have been building on a foundation or not. (W. Cadman, M. A.)

The two builders

Much as all men resemble one another, there is yet between us a most affecting difference. Our form and nature are the same; our conditions, and wants, and troubles are alike; but beneath this outward resemblance there lies unseen, and perhaps unthought of, a dissimilarity of the very utmost importance. Some of us are the friends of the living God, while others are His enemies.

I. AS TO THE SIMILARITY of the two men mentioned in the text.

1. They were both builders. Both are described as actually at work. Not the openly profane or careless, but professing Christians.

2. They were building a house, A dwelling-place, refuge, home. A shelter for support under the cares of life, for consolation in its troubles, and a protection from the wrath of God throughout eternity.

3. The house of each of these builders has its strength severely tried. We must expect our religion to be brought to the test, and its real character to be disclosed. Till this trial comes, we can know but little of ourselves. Almost any religion will stand in a calm. It is temptation--trifling, worldly, and sensual companions; it is affliction--disappointment, poverty, sickness, mental oppression; it is a change of scene, or circumstances, or society; these are the things which show us what manner of men we are, and often surprise and confound us by the discovery which we make.

II. THEIR DISSIMILARITIES.

1. One of these men built his house with foresight; the other heedlessly. A Christian must look forward, and labour for something that will stand a storm; a faith that will support him when everything else gives way: a hope that will bear him up when conscience stings, and Satan accuses, and death strikes; a refuge for his soul amidst all the convulsions and terrors of a departing world.

2. One of these men is a painstaking builder; the other is comparatively indolent. True religion is a laborious work, and the most important parts of it are those which require the most labour and make the least appearance. The foundations must be dug deep, and built on the solid rock.

3. One of these builders looks well to the foundation of his house; the other is indifferent about it.

4. Mark the difference in the end of these men. Conclusion: This parable may teach us--

1. The object of true religion. Salvation.

2. The nature of true religion. A building, a work, a progressive labour. An earnest and unceasing effort for the working out of salvation.

3. The wisdom of true religion. The pursuing of a good end by the best means. Simple obedience to the commands of Christ; earnest labouring after salvation in God’s way and manner.

4. The folly of that religion which trusts for salvation in itself. (C. Bradley, M. A.)

He only is a Christian who does what Christ bids him

This closing lesson is rendered impressive and memorable, not only by the vivid double simile under which it is conveyed, but still more even by the full round roll of the style; the intentional repetition of the same phrases in both halves of the parable; the continuous solemn sweep of the long, redoubled sentence which seems to dwell upon the ear, and afterwards to haunt the memory. The materials of the picture were familiar to His audience. Syrian houses of the poorer class were then probably (as they still are) very slight--built of mud or a few unhewn stones, roughly daubed with “untempered mortar,” and roofed in by no stouter materials than brushwood, with a layer of grass-grown earth over it. Two such houses have been erected in one of the precipitous wadys which everywhere seam the limestone ranges of Palestine, and swiftly drain off its superfluous rainfall. So long as summer lasts and the bed of the watercourse is dry, both of them stand equally well, and appear to be equally secure. But a day of testing comes. One of those terrific storms of rain and hail which the treacherous winds of the Levant bring up suddenly from the sea, swells the brook in a few hours into a torrent; and when the flood sweeps down its narrow channel like a tide, turbid and white with foam from one rocky bank to the other, while the fierce rain-storm drives up the ravine before the western gale, and lashes on roof and sides; then is put to proof the stability of both dwellings; then everything depends on the character of their foundation. The one has been built, with careless want of foresight, upon nothing better than the layer of loose sand or gravel brought down by former floods. Of course, the waters which eddy now about its base fret away from beneath it the very soil on which it stands, till the force of the storm, beating down upon its undermined and unsupported walls, crushes it into ruin. It was a “refuge of lies,” for it pretended to a foundation which it had not; and “the overflowing scourge” rolls it indignantly to the sea. The other builder, on the contrary, when he began to build, took the precaution to clear away that drift sand, deep though it was, and, digging down to the rock beneath, laid his foundation there. Now he finds the reward of his prudent pains and thoroughness. The flood may wash away, no doubt, whatever is movable from about the base of his house, even as from his neighbour’s; but when its walls are laid bare to the very rock, the secret strength of his “hidingplace” is only discovered to view; and though roof and sides may suffer here and there in their weaker portions (see 1 Corinthians 3:14-15,) from the searching of wind or rain, yet his house at least, as a place to shelter him, is secure from demolition: it falls not, for it is founded on the rock. So Jesus leaves His parable to interpret itself. The contrast betwixt a superficial profession of discipleship, in which self-deceived Christians confide as sufficient, and that thoroughgoing, profound moral earnestness which is concerned to make sure work of it, and to be all that it seems to be: this lies on the surface on the parable. But it seems not unreasonable to find in our Lord’s words something more than this. That moral thoroughness in the Christian life which aims at consistent obedience to Christ, succeeds in doing His word only by coming into close and trustful contact with Himself. He who would be practically a Christian, must have nothing betwixt his naked soul and the eternal Rock, Christ; for it is only as based on Him, fastened to Him, that any disciple learns to love His word, or gets strength to do it. Let us look each one to his foundation. There are so many who seem to be taking their stand for eternity on Jesus Christ; there are possibly so few whose lives are built into the Rock. So many of us hear, so few are manifestly doing, His words (James 1:22). (J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)

A solid foundation

Yon lighthouse tower, that stands among the tumbling waves, seems to have nothing but them to rest on; yet there stately and stable it stands, beautiful in the calm, and calm in the wintry tempest, guiding the sailor on to his desired haven, past the rolling reef, through the gloom of the darkest night, and the waters of the stormiest sea. Blessed tower that with its light, piercing the gloom, shines and rises on many an eye as a star of hope. Why is it stable? You see nothing but the waves, but beneath the waves, down below the rolling, foaming, tumbling billows, its foundation is the solid rock. And what that tower is to the house on yon sand.bank, which the last storm threw up, and the next shall sweep back into the sea, Christ’s righteousness is to mine--Christ’s works to my best ones. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Safe on the rock

Mr. Moody, in his Christian Convention at Northfield, said, “We want more Christians like the Irishman who, when asked if he didn’t tremble during a certain storm when he was standing out upon a rocky eminence, said, ‘Yes, my legs trembled, but the rock didn’t, and because my feet were on the rock I felt safe.’”

Laying hold on the rock

The wind had been blowing--it was a dreadful hurricane, and Gotthold walked into a forest and saw many trees torn up by the roots; he marvelled much at one tree which stood alone and yet had been unmoved in the tempest. He said, “How is this? The trees that were together have fallen, and this alone stands fast i “ He observed that when the trees grow too closely they cannot send their roots into the earth; they lean too much upon each other; but this tree, standing alone, had space to thrust its roots into the earth, and lay hold on the rock and stones, and so when the wind came, it fell not. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The only firm foundation

Men who stand on any other foundation than the rock Christ Jesus, are like birds that build in trees by the side of rivers. The bird sings in the branches, and the river sings below, but all the while the waters are undermining the soil about the roots, till, in some unsuspected hour, the tree falls with a crash into the stream; and then its nest is sunk, its home is gone, and the bird is a wanderer. But birds that hide their young in the clefts of the rock are undisturbed, and, after every winter, coming again, they find their nest awaiting them, and all their life long brood the summer in the same places, impregnable to time or storm. (H. W.Beecher.)

Sandy foundations

Recollect that all religion which is not the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart will have to be unravelled, let it be woven ever so cunningly. We may build, as our little children do on the sea-shore, our sand houses, and we may pile them up very quickly too, and be very pleased with them, but they will all come down as the tide of time advances; only that which God the Holy Ghost builds upon the foundation of Christ’s finished work will stand the test of time and eternity. (C. H.Spurgeon.)

On laying foundations

All hearers are builders of houses for their souls: they are each one doing something to set up a spiritual habitation. Some of these go a considerable distance in this house-building, and even crown the structure by publicly confessing Christ. They say unto Him, “Lord, Lord”: they meet with His followers, and join with them in reverence to the Master’s name; but they do not obey the Lord; they hear Him, but they fail to do the things which He says.

I. Our first subject will be A COMMON TEMPTATION WITH SPIRITUAL BUILDERS. A common temptation with hearers of the Word is to neglect foundation work, to get hurriedly over the first part of the business, and run up the building quickly.

1. This temptation is all the more dangerous, first, because these young beginners have no experience. Even the most experienced child of God is often deceived; how much more the pilgrim who has but just entered the wicket-gate! The tried saint sometimes mistakes that for a virtue which is only a gilded fault, and he fancies that to be genuine which is mere counterfeit; how, then, without any experience whatever, can the new babe in grace escape deception unless he be graciously preserved? Newly awakened, and rendered serious, earnest hearts get to work in the Divine life with much hurry, seizing upon that which first comes to hand, building in heedless haste, without due care and examination. Something must be done, and they do it without asking whether it is according to the teaching of the Lord. They call Jesus “Lord”; but they do what others say rather than what Jesus says.

2. There is this to help the temptation, too, that this plan for the present saves a great deal of trouble. Your mind is distressed, and you want comfort; well, it will comfort you to say, “Lord, Lord,” though you do not the things that Christ says.

3. This kind of building without foundation has this advantage to back up the temptation--it enables a man to run up a religion very quickly. He makes splendid progress. He takes every good thing for granted, and votes that all is gold which glitters. See how fast he goes! The fog is dense, but he steams through it, heedless of danger? He has joined the Church; he has commenced work for God; he is boasting of his own attainments; he hints that he is perfect. But is this mushroom building safe? Will it pass muster in the last great survey? When a man travels upon a wrong road, the faster he runs the further he will go astray. If you build quickly because you build without a foundation, your time and toll are thrown away.

4. How common, how deceptive, is this temptation I For the young beginner, the man who is just aroused to seek the Lord, will find a great many to help him in his mistake, should he neglect the foundation. Kind, good, Christian friends often, without a thought of doing so, help to mislead seeking souls. Let us beware lest we cry “Peace, peace,” where there is no peace.

5. No doubt many are encouraged in slight building by the fact that so many professors are making a fair show, and yet their building is without foundation. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that in all Churches there are persons who have no depth of spiritual root, and we are afraid no real spiritual life. Beware of loose professors, who are as wreckers! lights that lure men upon the rocks. Make sure work for eternity, and bid triflers begone.

6. Again, there is always at the back of all this an inducement to build without a foundation because it will not be known, and possibly may not be found out for years. Foundation-work is quite out of sight, and the house can be got up and be very useful in a great many ways, and it may stand a good while without the underground work; for houses without foundations do not tumble down at once; they will stand for years; nobody knows how long they may keep up; perhaps they may even be inhabited with comfort till the last great flood. Death alone will discover some impostures.

II. So I advance to the second step, and there we will consider A WISE PRECAUTION WHICH SAFE BUILDERS NEVER FORGET, They dig deep, and never rest till they get a good substantial foundation; they are glad to get to the bottom of all the loose earth and to build on the rock. Let me commend this wise precaution to all of you.

1. Follow the text, and learn to see to your sincerity. The Lord Jesus says, “Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” May the Holy Ghost make you true to the core. Be afraid to say a word more than you feel.

2. The next thing is thoroughness. For observe, according to our Lord, the wise builder digged deep. You cannot do a right thing too well. Dig deep if you do dig a foundation.

3. Next to that add self-renunciation; for that is in the parable. When a man digs a deep foundation he has much earth to throw out. So he that builds for eternity has a great deal to get rid of. Self-trust must go at the beginning; love of sin must follow; worldliness, pride, self-seeking, all sorts of iniquity--these must be cast aside. There is very much rubbish, and the rubbish must go.

4. Then must come solid principle. The man who is determined that if he does build he will build securely, digs down to the rock. What God has said is a rock; what man teaches is mere shifting sand.

5. These truthful principles must be firmly adhered to. Remember the huge shaft at Bradford, and how many were slain by its fall, and let it teach you to hold hard to foundation truths, and never depart from them.

III. Gather from the text A SET OF ARGUMENTS, URGING US TO TAKE CARE OF THE FOUNDATION.

1. We ought to build with a good foundation at the beginning, because otherwise we shall not build well in any other part of the house. Bad work in the foundation influences all the rest of the courses. In the Revised Version, at the end of the forty-eighth verse, instead of “For it was founded upon a rock,” we read, “Because it had been well builded.” The house was built well at the bottom, and that led the workman to put in good work all the way up, so that all through “it had been well builded.” The other man built badly underground, and did the same up to the roof. When you get into the habit of slovenly work in secret, the tendency is to be slovenly in public too. If the underground part of our religion is not firmly laid upon Christ, then in the upper part there will be rotten work, half-baked bricks, mud instead of mortar, and a general scamping of everything. When a great Grecian artist was fashioning an image for the temple, he was diligently carving the back part of the goddess, and one said to him, “You need not finish that part of the statue, because it is to be built into the wall.” He replied, “The gods can see in the wall.” He had a right idea of what is due to God. That part of my religion which no man can see should be as perfect as if it were to be observed by all. The day shall declare it. When Christ shall come everything shall be made known, and published before the universe. Therefore see to it that it be fit to be thus made known.

2. See, again, that we ought to have good foundations when we look at the situation whereon the house is to be built. It is clear from this parable that both these houses were built in places not far from a river, or where streams might be expected to come. Certain parts of the South of France are marvellously like Palestine, and perhaps at the present moment they are more like what the Holy Land was in Christ’s day than the Holy Land now is. When I reached Cannes last year I found that there had been a flood in the town. This flood did not come by reason of a river being swollen, but through a deluge of rain. A waterspout seems to have burst upon the hill side, tearing up earth, and rocks, and stones, and then hurrying down to the sea. It rushed across the railway station, and poured down the street which led to it, drowning several per sons in its progress. When I was there a large hotel--I should think five stories high--was shored up with timber, and was evidently doomed; for when this stream rushed down the narrow street it undermined the lower courses of the building and as there were no foundations at all able to bear such a test, the whole erection was rendered unsafe. The Saviour had some such case in His mind’s eye. A torrent of water would come tearing down the side of the mountain, and if a house was built on the mere earth, it would be carried away directly, but if it were fastened into the rock so that it became part and parcel of it, then the flood might rush all around it, but it would not shake the walls. Beloved builder of a house for your soul, your house is so situated that one of these days there must come great pressure upon it. “How do you know?” Well, I know that the house wherein my soul lives is pitched just where winds blow, and waves rise, and storms beat. Where is yours? Do you live in a snug corner? Yes, but one of these times you will find that the snug corner will be no more shielded than the open riverside; for God so orders providence that every man has his test sooner or later.

3. The next argument is, build deep, because of the ruin which will result from a bad foundation. What happened to this house without a foundation? The stream beat vehemently on it. The river’s bed had long been dry, but suddenly it was flooded, and the torrent rolled with tremendous power. Perhaps it was persecution, perhaps prosperity, perhaps trouble, perhaps temptation, perhaps prevalent scepticism, perhaps death; but, anyhow, the flood beat vehemently upon that house--“and immediately it fell”! It did not stand a prolonged assault, it was captured at once. Then it is added, “And the ruin of that house was great.” The house came down with a crash, and it was the man’s all. The man was an eminent professor, and hence his ruin was all the more notable. For, lastly, and perhaps this will be the best argument, observe the effect of this good, sure building, this deep building. We read that when the flood beat upon the wise man’s house “it could not shake it.” That is very beautiful. Not only could it not carry it away, but “it could not shake it.” I see the man; he lost his money and became poor, but he did not give up his faith--“It could not shake it.” He was ridiculed and slandered, and many of his former friends gave him the cold shoulder, but “It could not shake it.” He went to Jesus under his great trial, and he was sustained--“It could not shake it.” He was very sick, and his spirit was depressed within him, but still he held his confidence in Christ--“It could not shake it.” He was near to die; he knew that he must soon depart out of this world, but all the pains of death and the certainty of dissolution could not shake him. He died as he lived, firm as a rock, rejoicing as much as ever, nay, rejoicing more, because he was nearer to the kingdom and to the fruition of all his hopes. “It could not shake it.” It is a grand thing to have a faith which cannot be shaken. I saw one day a number of beech trees which had formed a wood; they had all fallen to the ground through a storm. The fact was they leaned upon one another to a great extent, and the thickness of the wood prevented each tree from getting a firm hold of the soil. They kept each other up, and also constrained each other to grow up tall and thin, to the neglect of root-growth. When the tempest forced down the first few trees the others readily followed one after the other. Close to that same spot I saw another tree in the open, bravely defying the blast, in solitary strength. The hurricane had beaten upon it, but it had endured all its force unsheltered. That lone, brave tree seemed to be better rooted than before the storm. I thought, “Is it not so with professors?” They often hold together, and help each other to grow up, but if they have not firm personal foothold, when a storm arises they fall in rows. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The two builders

1. We are here admonished of the duty, and vast importance, of what has been called “building for eternity”; that is, attending to the salvation of our souls. Every one is building, labouring corporeally and materially, or speculating mentally, in one way or another. Some are engaged with great schemes; and some, who have neither substance nor strength to expend on great works, are nevertheless as deeply engaged as those who have. How many, however, are building, as we may say, only for this world! Their schemes terminate here. But “he builds too tow, who builds beneath the skies.” To have a hope for heaven ought to be the great object with us all. This is the one thing needful.

2. Every wise man will be careful to found well--“on the rock.” Some even proceed on religion so much at random that they have never thought of any determinate principles; they cannot tell what their foundation is; in fact, they have no foundation at all--they are, spiritually, building castles in the air. It is not so, however, with the wise builder; he is not so easily satisfied. And, as in the literal case of a building, so in the spiritual case under consideration, two things are necessary to be attended to in laying the foundation--the one is, that the builder know what is a sufficient foundation; and the other is, that he do actually cause his building to rest upon it. An error with respect to either of these things is fatal. God has laid the foundation, and we must build upon it. A Saviour is offered, and we must accept Him.

3. The wise do not neglect the superstructure because they have a good foundation. Rather, the knowledge that he has begun well is an encouragement for him to go on well--with confidence and with care.

4. In the time of trial, the hope of the true Christian, like the house of the wise builder, will stand; while the hope of the hypocrite and the formalist, like the house of the foolish builder, will be overthrown. When the great day of wrath is come, then it will be seen who shall be able to stand. God will set His own people’s feet on a rock, and will establish their goings. (James Foote, M. A.)

The rock and the sand

Last April, on the same morning I set my eyes on the island of Corsica where Napoleon I. was born, and on the island of Elba on which he was confined as a discomfited prisoner--the coming shadows of Waterloo hung over his bleak exile. The next day I saw the spot where another famous prisoner landed on his way to Rome, and where he “thanked God and took courage.” Napoleon’s boasted “rock” of imperial power proved to be but a fog-bank. What a contrast between the defeated and disappointed exile of Elba, and the glorious old prisoner of Caesar who sang triumphantly in his cell: “I have fought a good fight! Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day!” The French Emperor’s crown was a lost bauble; the apostle’s diadem will blaze with stars through all eternity. There is no sharper contrast in all history between the wisdom of building on the rock and the fatal folly of building on the quicksand. Yet, on a smaller scale, tens of thousands among us are constantly repeating this folly. One man rears his expectations upon wealth. This is his foundation on which he will build up solid happiness for himself and his family. He means to be happy in making money, happy in holding it, and happy in all the social eclat and luxuries which it will purchase for him. “Other men don’t know how to keep money or to enjoy it; but 1 mean to enjoy mine.” He calls it mine--not the Lord’s; and he does not mean that the Lord shall have it. Ere long the coveted riches take wing, like a swallow, and fly away. Even if he holds on to them, they do not give the happiness he dreamed of; they do not fill up the gnawing emptiness of his soul. They do not bring quiet sleep or a contented conscience; his Government bonds cannot stop the heartache. Gold, unless used for God, makes a hard dying pillow. When the richest American of his day was in his last fatal sickness, a Christian friend proposed to sing for him; and the hymn he named was “Come, ye sinners, poor and needy.” “Yes, yes,” replied the dying millionaire, “sing that for me, I feel poor and needy.” Yet at that moment the stock-markets of the globe were watching and waiting for the demise of the man who could shake them with a nod of his head. “Poor and needy!” How the sand sweeps from under a man’s soul in much an hour as that! Literary fame is no solider a footing for an immortal being’s happiness than wealth. There is hardly a sadder verse in the English language than that which the brilliant Byron addressed to his own weary and wretched soul--

“Count o’er the joys thine hours have seen;

Count o’er thy days from anguish free;

And know--whatever thou hast been,

’Tis something better--not to be!”

What a fearful thought that a human soul, in the very height of its coveted intellectual renown, should seek a refuge for its misery in utter annihilation! Last year a poverty-stricken invalid in Brooklyn, who sustained her helpless husband and only child by her needle, made her little dingy home bright as sunshine by her brave, cheerful trust in God. Her daily song was, “The Lord liveth, and blessed be my Rock.” In many a hut of poverty, where faith eats its scanty loaf and gives thanks for it; from many a room of sickness, where Jesus has cheered the long wakeful nights; over many a casket in which a darling child was sleeping in its last slumber, has the believer’s testimony come forth clear and strong: “I know whom I have believed; He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him until that day.” God never intended that we should have more than one rock. All else is quicksand. When we take His inspired Word for our guide, embrace Christ as our Saviour, rest on His atonement for pardon and His grace for support, then are we “founded on a rock.” A solid character for this life and a solid hope for eternity can be built on this sure foundation. Christ really underlies a genuine Christian as the everlasting mass of Moriah’s rook-bed underlay the ancient temple of Jerusalem. Those only are the solid, reliable, and enduring members in our various Churches, who have Christ embedded in the very depths of their hearts. Such never fall away under the stress of strong temptations. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

Deep life

I. THE LIFE WHICH IS SIMPLY A SURFACE LIFE. Not exactly what we call a wicked life, but a vain, thoughtless, shallow life. An animal life, finding pleasure only in the senses; a childish life, occupied only with trifles; a life in which there is no deep thought, feeling, conviction, purpose. One would think it almost impossible to lead such a life. The Spirit of God within us is ever seeking to awaken solemn and holy thoughts. And this is truly a thought-provoking world. Many will scarcely suffer a large thought, a serious thought. They dwell on the most exterior surfaces, and their little-mindedness is seen in everything, felt in everything. Mark their pleasures. Consider their reading--the emptiest, silliest trash. Listen to their conversation--chaff which the wind driveth away. And all their aims in life are unspeakably contemptible. Better be the desolate tree on the naked heath bowed by the storm, stripped by the storm, if it only give us depth of life, than the green bay-tree rooted only in the sod. We may be thankful for anything that knocks the toys out of our hands, that stops our idiot joy, and drives us inward, downward, to the reality of things and the grand purpose of existence. Notice again--

II. THE LIFE WHICH DIES BELOW THE SURFACE AND YET DOES NOT REACH THE DEPTHS. Many men consider themselves as serious, deep-sealed men who are not really so. There is an iron pillar at Delhi, a very ancient column, and the Hindus believed that its roots were in the centre of the earth, but the profane European took to digging and found its foundation only twenty inches below the surface. And so many among us fancy their life rooted in the centre of things when a little examination would show them they have only dipped below the surface. There is an intellectual life which goes beneath the surface, but not to the depths. Thinking men, full of intellectual power and penetration, but who concern themselves only with the universe that passes away, are of this order. One would think the scientific men who sound the depths of the ocean or the star-depths of the heaven, had gone deep, but in truth, with all their parade of dredges, telescopes, spectroscopes, they have gone but twenty inches below the surface who miss the Almighty Spirit, of whom are all things, by whom are all things, to whom are all things. There is a moral life which goes below the surface, and yet fails to grasp the depths. A morality which finds its origin, its reasons, its sanctions, its inspirations, its compensations altogether within human society and temporal interests, is but rooted in the sand. There is a religious life which sinks below the surface without sounding the depths. The Pharisees failed here--they thought the pillar on which they leaned had its roots in the centre of the world, but Christ made them understand that proud ancient pillar of theirs was only twenty inches in the sand.

III. THE LIFE WHICH DIGS DEEP AND RESTS ON A ROCK. The Word of God assures us that there is rock. The universe is not a theatre of dissolving views, itself a dissolving view. There is an Eternal Being. There is an Eternal World. “A city that hath foundations”--a realm of infinite endless perfection and blessedness. There is an Eternal Righteousness. There is an Eternal Life. He only digs deep who gets down to these central realities.

1. Only in this deeper life do we find true satisfaction. Men think sometimes, I know, that a deeper life means much of strife, of sorrow, of sadness; and so it does. But, you must remember, out of those depths breaks forth the sunshine, out of those depths breaks forth the music. You will never find true light, harmony, joy, until you reach the depths of self-despair, until you live the life of thought, contrition, prayer, humility, reverence.

2. Only as we live this deeper life does our character acquire strength and fulness. The superficial Pharisee was ever working at the outside of character; Christ showed them more radical work was wanted; they must go to the depths of life. And this is the teaching of the Epistles. Our modern gardeners think far less of pruning the branches of trees than the old husbandmen used to think; the gardeners of to-day are persuaded that the tree must be treated in its roots.

3. Only as we live this deeper life is our joy assured for ever. The teaching of our Lord in this parable is that, whatever in character, joy, hope, is not based on the deepest life, life in Himself, must be overthrown. As most of you know, in connection with the principal palace at Babylon was the remarkable construction known to the Greeks as “the Hanging Garden.” Several tiers of arches formed an artificial imitation of a mountain, and on the top of this structure was a mass of earth on which grew flowers, and shrubs, and trees. Where are these artificial elevations now? Gone, gone long ago, shaken to the earth, buried in the ditch. Now all around us you see the glory, the joy, the hope of men resting like the “Hanging Gardens” of Babylon on quite an artificial basis, and any slight accident brings the whole fabric to the ground. A sickness, a death, any one of a thousand changes wrecks the treasure and pride of life. But the natural gardens of Babylon which rested on the granite pillars of the earth bloom to-day as they ever did--the grass as green, the blossoms as sweet, the trees as magnificent. So it is when we build on Christ, and find our strength and felicity and hope in Him.

“What can our foundations shock?

Though the shattered earth remove,

Stands our city on a rock,

On the rock of heavenly Love.”

Live below the senses, live above society, live beyond time, get to the root truths that are in Christ, nay, get to Christ Himself, the root-truth, and your life shall be full of energy, freedom, brightness, fruitfulness, blessing, and you shall bloom for ever in the paradise of God. (W. L. Watkinson.)

The two principles of life

It is here indicated by our Lord that every one must live his life on some principle or plan; and He plainly states the utter ruin of any life which hears the Word of God, and does not act accordingly.

I. Apply it first to THE CONSCIOUS ACTION OF MEN UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF THE SPIRIT. To build without foundation is to put off, make only some slight resolution for good, go on the old way, only with a little more earnestness, or choosing the easiest way of religion as a salve to the conscience.

II. THE WARNINGS THAT COME GENERALLY LATER IN LIFE.

III. THE WAY OF DEALING WITH SORROW FOR SIN. Two kinds.

1. The sorrow of the world--mere regret: hopes to do better; time will bring relief.

2. Godly sorrow, real repentance--going to the very root of the matter; content with nothing but laying bare the whole heart to God; probing to the very centre the wounds of nature, in spite of pain and discomfort; determined at any cost to get rid of all corruption and its cause. The result of this is true healing and benefit. Conclusion: The great lesson is one of thoroughness and heartiness in all our life; no more trifling; no resting satisfied with partial relief--the pleasant weather for the present, without any thought of the storms that may be coming. (George Low, M. A.)

Doing and dreaming

Now, in the course of my travels, I have met with three distinct dreamers.

I. There is the rationalistic dreamer. He beholds his face in a glass, and stands before it, admiring it. To him religion is a system of ideas, and no idea represents reality. His religion is “a face in the glass” or an unsubstantial “house on the sand.”

II. There is the sentimental dreamer. He will talk to you for hours of the presence of God in nature, A house of sentiment is the last place I should fly to, to shelter me from the storm.

III. There is the pietistic dreamer. There is a form of church-going piety which does not influence daily conduct; people whose religion is an impersonated sigh.

1. The religion of the dreamer is a religion of theory. The religion of the doer is one of experience.

2. The religion of the dreamer will always be one of doubt. The religion of the doer will always be a religion of evidence. This follows the last remark, because doing leads to knowing.

3. Hence, let me say, the dreamer confines his religion to solitude; the doer finds a vent for his in society. Religion comforts solitude, and consoles it; it does not encourage the spirit of it. If we are to enter the solitude, it is that we may collect the moral forces of our nature, and come forth, inspired by the Divine Spirit, to cry aloud, “O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord.”

4. The religion of the dreamer is a religion without love. But the life of the doer is love. Our love, in fact, is proportioned to our labours--our labour proportions our love. Love is the fountain of all true knowledge. Every man understands more by his affections than by his reason.

5. And there is, finally, no salvation for the dreamer. Come, let us walk along the sands, and see the houses they build there; these are tile buildings of which the apostle spoke, “wood, hay, and stubble”; these are the buildings which will not stand either the flood or the fire; these are the buildings reared by the religious dreamers, whose houses are unsubstantial as the palaces in the clouds. Here is the house of wood--the building reared out of notions of natural amiability and goodness, a religion of politeness and native grace: in this house the inhabitants will talk to you of God, and of worshipping God, but you will hear nothing of God in Christ, nothing of the love of the Father for a lost world. The Unitarian builds his edifice from such material, and thus all those buildings rise which leave out of view the supernatural in the ruin and recovery of man. How unsubstantial i there is not one brick of all the building made from “these sayings of Mine,” and here “the flood will come and sweep them all away.” Let us walk further along the sands. Here is a house, strangely built of hay; of rhetoric, and philosophy, and superstitious notions; and sometimes, when the ice hangs its pendulets on the absurd, grotesque building, and the sun shines in its cold wintry ray, it seems an uncouth but glittering cave upon the sand: within, the inhabitants have so many pretty sentiments about religion, and so many brilliant sayings, and so many deep and philosophical views, and strange pretences glide to and fro through the heavy chambers, and even the neighbourhood to the awful sea makes the building sometimes seem so safe for shelter; but in the incongruous building nothing is reared from “these sayings of Mine,” and the “flood will come and sweep them all away.” Now, come, I will carry you to two death-beds; for they die in the castle on the rock and in the palace on the sand. Ah! how fine it looks! By the two death-beds you may hear the two confessions. I draw the curtain in the palace: let us hear. “How are you; are you happy?” “Well, I am easy.” “What are your foundations?” “Well, Lord, Thou knowest I have had some very pretty notions in religion. I have usually gone to church once a day. I was certainly away frequently on account of our dinner-parties; but I am sure God won’t be strict. On the whole, I am happy I I have ever tried to pay everybody their own, twenty shillings in the pound--and God is love.” Now step into the poor room on the Rock. “How do you feel?” “I feel happy, but only by taking hold on Christ. Lord, I feel I am a poor creature, but I come to Thee through Christ; and I can only cry, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” Hark! the rain is on the roof; what a tempest. Oh that cry--The Flood! the Flood! the Flood! Yes; the rain descends, and the flood comes, and the winds blow and beat; behold yonder the advancing floods; and see yonder the drifting soul on the broken spar. What is the hope of the hypocrite, when God shall take away his soul? Yonder they drift away. Hark! it is a voice of singing from the eternal Rock, a strain from the heights of the strong foundations. (E. P. Hood.)

Designing the house not enough

It is not enough to have gotten an abstracted mathematical scheme, or diagram, of this spiritual building in our brain; it is the mechanical labouring part of religion, that must make up the edifice, the work, and toil, and sweat of the soul, the business not of the designer, but the carpenter; that, which takes the rough unpolished, though excellent, materials, and trims and fits them for use; which cuts and polishes the rich but, as yet, deformed jewels of the soul, and makes them shine indeed, and sparkle, like stars in the firmament The divinity and learning of these times floats and hovers too much in the brain, hath not either weight or sobriety enough in it, to sink down and settle in the heart. (Dr. Hammond.)

Digging deep

Inasmuch as it is said that the wise builder “digged deep,” let us remember that God is not to be found on the surface. (Gregory.)

Insecure foundations

There is a twice-told tale about Julian the apostate: how in youth he essayed to raise a memorial shrine to the holy Mamas; but as he built, the earth at the foundations crumbled; for God and His holy martyr deigned not to accept the labour and offering of his hands. It is an allegory of men who toil and build on rotten and insecure foundations.

Neglecting the foundation

On the comer of one of the busiest streets of a certain town, there is a large brick building with stone finishings and no little display of fancy work, both on cornice and corners. It looks well at a distance. Closer inspection, however, shows that this building is sadly disfigured with ugly cracks and misshapen walls, and the whole structure is in danger of tumbling down. On investigation it was discovered that the cause of all this was the bad foundation put under the building by an inefficient and dishonest contractor. He had employed cheap workmen and put in cheap material, because the foundation being out of sight, he thought no one would ever see it, and it would make no difference.

Two kinds of foundations

Two young fishermen came to the water-side to live, and to try their luck in a new home. Now, here they were very successful, and soon had a ready sale for all they caught in the village beyond the hill. “Now, we will each build a hut for ourselves, for this is a good place, and here we will each bring a wife, and have a home.” “That is a good thought,” replied Simplex; “here is a fine stretch of beach, and we shall have no trouble in drawing stones and timber, and making comfortable dwellings at small cost and labour.” “Oh, no,” answered Prudens; the storms and winds and waves will come and sweep away our houses. Look yonder among that grass there; up beyond are some rocks. They will make a fine foundation, and we need fear nothing.” “Oh, you foolish Prudens, to give yourself so much trouble I The season of storms is past; the beautiful days are coming; and how will you climb up among those rocks when you are worn out and tired? See how easy it will be to run up a house here, and then to sit, after our day’s work is over, and gaze out upon the water, and see that no one molests our boats or nets.” “Well, brother, storms may come even during the beautiful days, and I shall build up yonder on the rocks.” So each man built during the next few weeks each a neat little hut, and I must confess that Prudens’ was not nearly so pretty as Simplex’s, because it was much harder for Prudens to draw his materials away up the rocks, and to plan so that the foundations should be firm, and the windows protected. But in time both houses were complete, and in each a pretty little wife kept the home in good order, and the men were well content with their plans. But one night there were signs of a change of weather. The waters sighed and moaned and groaned and muttered as if they were angry, and the men hastened to make all secure, for, said they, “the waves are coming and the tide is rising.” Prudens went to Simplex to beg that he and his wife would come up to his house, lest haply the waters should come over the beach. Simplex laughed at the fears of his friend; but the wife was timid, and she persuaded her husband just for one night to accept the invitation. “You will smile at your fears in the morning, Gretchen dear, but for your sake I will go--what can harm our home except a few dashes of salt water? You are not much of a sailor’s wife.” Then they went, and the fearful storm came, and the wind rose and beat away the nets and the boats. The women could not sleep, and, when the morning broke, they hastened to see what had happened in the night. They looked first towards the cottage of Simplex. There was no cottage there, but timbers and a heap of stones and a low wall, and the beach strewn with the wreck of the house. Gretchen began to cry, but Simplex dared not look at Prudens. Safe on the rocks, his house had stood out the storm. “Alas, my brother, why did I not heed your advice? I built on the sand, and my house has fallen. Yours stood because founded on a rock.” This story is a parable. Who will tell what it means, and from what part of Scripture it is taken?.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Luke 6:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/luke-6.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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