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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW - Chapter 7 - Verse 28
Verse 28,29. His doctrine. His teaching.
As one having authority, and not as the Scribes. The scribes were the learned men and teachers of the Jewish nation, and were principally Pharisees. They taught chiefly the sentiments of their rabbins, and the traditions which had been delivered; they consumed much of their time in useless disputes, "vain jangling." Jesus was open, plain, grave, useful; delivering truth as became the oracles of God; not spending his time in trifling disputes, and debating questions of no importance; but confirming his doctrine by miracles and argument; teaching as having power, as it is in the original, and not in the vain and foolish manner of the Jewish doctors. He showed that he had authority to explain, enforce, and change the ceremonial laws of the Jews. He came with authority such as no man could have, and it is not remarkable that his explanations astonished them. From this chapter we may learn,
(1.) The evil of censorious judging, Mt 7:1-5. We cannot see the heart. We have ourselves possibly greater faults than the persons that we condemn. They may be of a different kind; but it is not strange for persons to be very censorious towards faults in others, which they have to much greater extent themselves.
(2.) We see how we are to treat men who are opposers of the gospel, Mt 7:6. We are not to present it to them when we know they will despise it, and abuse us. We should, however, be cautious in forming that opinion of them. Many men may be far more ready to hear the gospel than we imagine; and a word seasonably and kindly spoken may be the means of saving them, Pr 25:11; Ec 11:6. We should not meet violent and wicked opposers of the gospel with a harsh, overbearing, and lordly spirit; a spirit of dogmatizing and anger; nor should we violate the laws of social intercourse under the idea of faithfulness. Religion gains nothing by outraging the established laws of social life, 1 Pe 3:8. If men will not hear us when we speak to them kindly and respectfully, we may be sure they will not when we abuse them, and become angry. We harden them against the truth, and confirm them in the opinion that religion is of no value. Our Saviour was always mild and kind; and in not a single instance did he do violence to the laws of social intercourse, or faith in the respect due from one man to another. When with harshness men speak to their superiors; when they abuse them with unkind words, and coarse epithets, and unfeeling denunciations; when children and youth forget their station, and speak in harsh, authoritative tones to the aged, they are violating the very first principles of the gospel— meekness, respect, and love. Give honour to whom honour is due, and be kind, be courteous.
(3.) Christ gives peculiar encouragement to prayer, Mt 7:7-11. Especially his remarks apply to the young. What child is there that would not go to his parent, and ask him for things which were necessary? What child doubts the willingness of a kind parent to give what he thinks will be best for him? But God is more willing to give than the best parent. We need of him gifts of far more importance than we ever can of an earthly father. None but God can forgive, enlighten, sanctify, and save us. How strange that many ask favours of an earthly parent daily and hourly, and never ask of the Great Universal Father a single blessing, for time or eternity!
(4.) The danger of losing the soul, Mt 7:13,14. The way to ruin is broad, the road to heaven is narrow. Men naturally and readily go in the former; they never go in the latter without design. When we enter on the journey of life, we naturally fall into the broad and thronged way to ruin. Our original propensity; our native depravity; our disinclination to God and religion, lead us to that. And we never leave it without effort. How much more natural to tread in a way in which multitudes go, than in one where there are few travellers, and which requires an effort to find it! And how much danger is there that we shall continue to tread in that way, until it terminate in our ruin! No man is saved without effort. No man enters on the narrow way without design; no one by following his natural inclination and propensities. And yet how indisposed we are to effort; how unwilling to listen to the exhortations which would call us from the broad path to a narrower and less frequented course! How prone are men to feel that they are safe if they are with the many, and that the multitude that attend them constitute a safeguard from danger !
"Encompassed by a throng,
On numbers they depend;
They say so many can't be wrong,
And miss a happy end."
Yet, did God ever spare a guilty city because it was large? Did he spare the army of Sennacherib from the destroying angel because it was mighty? Does he hesitate to cut men down by the plague, the pestilence, and by famine, because they are numerous? Is he deterred from consigning men to the grave, because they swarm upon the earth, and because a mighty throng is going to death? So in the way to hell. Not numbers, nor power, nor might, nor talent in the road way, will deter him, or make that way safe; nor will the path to heaven be a dangerous road because few are seen travelling there. The Saviour knew and felt that men are in danger; and hence, with much solemnity, he warned them when he lived—and now warns us—to strive to enter into the strait gate.
(5.) The necessity of sincerity in religion, Mt 7:15-23. Profession is of no value without it. God sees the heart. And the day is near when he shall cut down and destroy all those who do not bring forth the fruits of righteousness in their lives. If in anything we should be honest and sincere, surely it should be in the things of religion. God is never deceived, Ga 6:7. And the things of eternity are of too much consequence to be lost by deluding ourselves or others. We may deceive our fellow-men, but we do not delude our Maker; and soon he will strip off our thin covering, and show us as we are to the universe. If anything is of prominent value in religion, it is honesty—honesty to ourselves, our fellow-men, and to God. Be willing to know the worst of your case. Be willing to be thought of, by God and men, as you are. Assume nothing which you do not possess; and pretend to nothing which you have not. Judge of yourselves as you do of others—not by words and promises, but by the life. Judge of yourselves as you do of trees—not by leaves and flowers, but by the fruits.
(6.) The importance of building our hopes of heaven on a firm foundation, Mt 7:24-27. No other can any man lay than that which is laid, which is Christ, 1 Co 3:11. He is the tried Corner Stone, 1 Pe 2:6; Eph 2:20. On an edifice raised on that foundation, the storms of persecution and calamity will beat in vain. Hopes thus reared sustain every adversity; are unshaken by the terrors of death; and secure us from the tempests of wrath that shall beat upon the guilty. How awful, in the day of judgment, will it be to have been deceived! How dreadful the shock to find then the house built on the sand! How dreadful the emotions, to see our hopes totter on the brink of ruin; to see sand after sand washed away, and the dwelling reel over the heaving deep, and fall into the abyss, to rise no more! Ruin, awful and eternal rum, awaits those who thus deceive themselves, and trust to a name to live, while they are dead.
(7.) Under what obligations are we for this sermon on the mount! In all languages there is not a discourse to be found that can be compared with it for purity, and truth, and beauty, and dignity. Were there no other evidence of the Divine mission of Christ, this alone would be sufficient to prove that he was sent from God. Were these doctrines obeyed and loved, how pure and peaceful would be the world! How would hypocrisy be abashed and confounded! How would impurity hang its head! How would peace reign in every family and nation! How would anger and wrath flee! And how would the race—the lost and benighted tribes of men, the poor, and needy, and sorrowful—bend themselves before their common Father, and seek peace and eternal life at the hands of a merciful and faithful God!
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