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SERMON ON THE MOUNT--concluded.
Mt 7:1-12. MISCELLANEOUS SUPPLEMENTARY COUNSELS.
That these verses are entirely supplementary is the simplest and most natural view of them. All attempts to make out any evident connection with the immediately preceding context are, in our judgment, forced. But, though supplementary, these counsels are far from being of subordinate importance. On the contrary, they involve some of the most delicate and vital duties of the Christian life. In the vivid form in which they are here presented, perhaps they could not have been introduced with the same effect under any of the foregoing heads; but they spring out of the same great principles, and are but other forms and manifestations of the same evangelical "righteousness."
Censorious Judgment (Mt 7:1-5).
1. Judge not, that ye be not judged--To "judge" here does not exactly mean to pronounce condemnatory judgment, nor does it refer to simple judging at all, whether favorable or the reverse. The context makes it clear that the thing here condemned is that disposition to look unfavorably on the character and actions of others, which leads invariably to the pronouncing of rash, unjust, and unlovely judgments upon them. No doubt it is the judgments so pronounced which are here spoken of; but what our Lord aims at is the spirit out of which they spring. Provided we eschew this unlovely spirit, we are not only warranted to sit in judgment upon a brother's character and actions, but in the exercise of a necessary discrimination are often constrained to do so for our own guidance. It is the violation of the law of love involved in the exercise of a censorious disposition which alone is here condemned. And the argument against it--"that ye be not judged"--confirms this: "that your own character and actions be not pronounced upon with the like severity"; that is, at the great day.
2. For with what judgments ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what
measure ye mete--whatever standard of judgment ye apply to others.
3. And why beholdest thou the mote--"splinter," here very well rendered
"mote," denoting any small fault.
5. Thou hypocrite--"Hypocrite."
Prostitution of Holy Things (Mt 7:6). The opposite extreme to that of censoriousness is here condemned--want of discrimination of character.
6. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs--savage or snarling
haters of truth and righteousness.
Prayer (Mt 7:7-11). Enough, one might think, had been said on this subject in Mt 6:5-15. But the difficulty of the foregoing duties seems to have recalled the subject, and this gives it quite a new turn. "How shall we ever be able to carry out such precepts as these, of tender, holy, yet discriminating love?" might the humble disciple inquire. "Go to God with it," is our Lord's reply; but He expresses this with a fulness which leaves nothing to be desired, urging now not only confidence, but importunity in prayer.
7. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you--Though there seems evidently a climax here, expressive of more and more importunity, yet each of these terms used presents what we desire of God in a different light. We ask for what we wish; we seek for what we miss; we knock for that from which we feel ourselves shut out. Answering to this threefold representation is the triple assurance of success to our believing efforts. "But ah!" might some humble disciple say, "I cannot persuade myself that I have any interest with God." To meet this, our Lord repeats the triple assurance He had just given, but in such a form as to silence every such complaint.
8. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened--Of course, it is presumed that he asks aright--that is, in faith--and with an honest purpose to make use of what he receives. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering (undecided whether to be altogether on the Lord's side). For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord" (Jas 1:5-7). Hence, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (Jas 4:3).
10. Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?--like it, indeed, but only to sting him.
11. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him!--Bad as our fallen nature is, the father in us is not extinguished. What a heart, then, must the Father of all fathers have towards His pleading children! In the corresponding passage in Luke (see on Lu 11:13), instead of "good things," our Lord asks whether He will not much more give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him. At this early stage of His ministry, and before such an audience, He seems to avoid such sharp doctrinal teaching as was more accordant with His plan at the riper stage indicated in Luke, and in addressing His own disciples exclusively.
Golden Rule (Mt 7:12).
12. Therefore--to say all in one word.
Mt 7:13-29. CONCLUSION AND EFFECT OF THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT.
We have here the application of the whole preceding discourse.
Conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 7:13-27). "The righteousness of the kingdom," so amply described, both in principle and in detail, would be seen to involve self-sacrifice at every step. Multitudes would never face this. But it must be faced, else the consequences will be fatal. This would divide all within the sound of these truths into two classes: the many, who will follow the path of ease and self-indulgence--end where it might; and the few, who, bent on eternal safety above everything else, take the way that leads to it--at whatever cost. This gives occasion to the two opening verses of this application.
13. Enter ye in at the strait gate--as if hardly wide enough to admit
one at all. This expresses the difficulty of the first right step in
religion, involving, as it does, a triumph over all our natural
inclinations. Hence the still stronger expression in Luke
"Strive to enter in at the strait gate."
14. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth
unto life--In other words, the whole course is as difficult as the
first step; and (so it comes to pass that).
15. Beware--But beware.
16. Ye shall know them by their fruits--not their doctrines--as many
of the elder interpreters and some later ones explain it--for that
corresponds to the tree itself; but the practical effect of their
teaching, which is the proper fruit of the tree.
18. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit--Obvious as is the truth here expressed in different forms--that the heart determines and is the only proper interpreter of the actions of our life--no one who knows how the Church of Rome makes a merit of actions, quite apart from the motives that prompt them, and how the same tendency manifests itself from time to time even among Protestant Christians, can think it too obvious to be insisted on by the teachers of divine truth. Here follows a wholesome digression.
20. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them--that is, But the point I now press is not so much the end of such, as the means of detecting them; and this, as already said, is their fruits. The GOTO NEXT CHAPTER - D. J-F-B INDEX & SEARCH