Sermon on the
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
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.
it shall be measured to you again—This
proverbial maxim is used by our Lord in other connections—as in
Mr 4:24, and with a slightly different
application in Lu 6:38—as a great principle in the divine
administration. Unkind judgment of others will be judicially returned
upon ourselves, in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by
Jesus Christ. But, as in many other cases under the divine
administration, such harsh judgment gets self-punished even here. For
people shrink from contact with those who systematically deal out harsh
judgment upon others—naturally concluding that they themselves
may be the next victims—and feel impelled in self-defense, when
exposed to it, to roll back upon the assailant his own censures.
3. And why beholdest thou the
mote—"splinter," here very well rendered "mote," denoting any
that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest
not the beam that is in thine own eye?—denoting the much
greater fault which we overlook in ourselves.
4. Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me
pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own
5. Thou hypocrite—"Hypocrite."
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—Our Lord uses a most hyperbolical, but not
unfamiliar figure, to express the monstrous inconsistency of this
conduct. The "hypocrisy" which, not without indignation, He charges it
with, consists in the pretense of a zealous and compassionate charity,
which cannot possibly be real in one who suffers worse faults to lie
uncorrected in himself. He only is fit to be a reprover of others who
jealously and severely judges himself. Such persons will not only be
slow to undertake the office of censor on their neighbors, but, when
constrained in faithfulness to deal with them, will make it evident
that they do it with reluctance and not satisfaction, with
moderation and not exaggeration, with love and not
Prostitution of Holy Things (Mt 7:6). The opposite extreme to that of
censoriousness is here condemned—want of discrimination of
6. Give not that which is holy unto the
dogs—savage or snarling haters of truth and
neither cast ye your pearls before
swine—the impure or coarse, who are incapable of appreciating
the priceless jewels of Christianity. In the East, dogs are wilder and
more gregarious, and, feeding on carrion and garbage, are coarser and
fiercer than the same animals in the West. Dogs and swine, besides
being ceremonially unclean, were peculiarly repulsive to the Jews, and
indeed to the ancients generally.
lest they trample them under their
feet—as swine do.
and turn again and rend you—as dogs
do. Religion is brought into contempt, and its professors insulted,
when it is forced upon those who cannot value it and will not have it.
But while the indiscriminately zealous have need of this caution, let
us be on our guard against too readily setting our neighbors down as
dogs and swine, and excusing ourselves from endeavoring to do them good
on this poor plea.
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).
9. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son
ask bread—a loaf.
will he give him a stone?—round and
smooth like such a loaf or cake as was much in use, but only to mock
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
all things whatsoever ye would that men should
do to you, do ye even so to them—the same thing and in the
for this is the law and the
prophets—"This is the substance of all relative duty; all
Scripture in a nutshell." Incomparable summary! How well called "the
royal law!" (Jas 2:8;
13:9). It is true that
similar maxims are found floating in the writings of the cultivated
Greeks and Romans, and naturally enough in the Rabbinical writings. But
so expressed as it is here—in immediate connection with, and as
the sum of such duties as has been just enjoined, and such
principles as had been before taught—it is to be found nowhere
else. And the best commentary upon this fact is, that never till our
Lord came down thus to teach did men effectually and widely exemplify
it in their practice. The precise sense of the maxim is best referred
to common sense. It is not, of course, what—in our wayward,
capricious, gasping moods—we should wish that men would do
to us, that we are to hold ourselves bound to do to them; but only
what—in the exercise of an impartial judgment, and putting
ourselves in their place—we consider it reasonable that they
should do to us, that we are to do to them.
Mt 7:13-29. Conclusion and
Effect of the Sermon on the Mount.
We have here the application of the whole preceding
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 (Lu
13:24), "Strive to enter in
at the strait gate."
for wide is the gate—easily
and broad is the way—easily
that leadeth to destruction, and—thus
lured "many there be which go in thereat."
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).
few there be that find it—The
recommendation of the broad way is the ease with which it is trodden
and the abundance of company to be found in it. It is sailing with a
fair wind and a favorable tide. The natural inclinations are not
crossed, and fears of the issue, if not easily hushed, are in the long
run effectually subdued. The one disadvantage of this course is its
end—it "leadeth to destruction." The great Teacher says it, and
says it as "One having authority." To the supposed injustice or
harshness of this He never once adverts. He leaves it to be inferred
that such a course righteously, naturally, necessarily so ends. But
whether men see this or no, here He lays down the law of the kingdom,
and leaves it with us. As to the other way, the disadvantage of it lies
in its narrowness and solicitude. Its very first step involves a
revolution in all our purposes and plans for life, and a surrender of
all that is dear to natural inclination, while all that follows is but
a repetition of the first great act of self-sacrifice. No wonder, then,
that few find and few are found in it. But it has one
advantage—it "leadeth unto life." Some critics take "the gate"
here, not for the first, but the last step in religion; since gates
seldom open into roads, but roads usually terminate in a gate, leading
straight to a mansion. But as this would make our Lord's words to have
a very inverted and unnatural form as they stand, it is better, with
the majority of critics, to view them as we have done. But since such
teaching would be as unpopular as the way itself, our Lord next
forewarns His hearers that preachers of smooth things—the true
heirs and representatives of the false prophets of old—would be
rife enough in the new kingdom.
15. Beware—But beware.
of false prophets—that is, of teachers
coming as authorized expounders of the mind of God and guides to
heaven. (See Ac 20:29, 30; 2Pe 2:1, 2).
which come to you in sheep's
clothing—with a bland, gentle, plausible exterior; persuading
you that the gate is not strait nor the way narrow, and that to teach
so is illiberal and bigoted—precisely what the old prophets did
but inwardly they are ravening
wolves—bent on devouring the flock for their own ends (2Co 11:2,
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.
Do men gather grapes of thorns—any
kind of prickly plant.
or figs of thistles?—a three-pronged
variety. The general sense is obvious—Every tree bears its own
17. Even so every good tree bringeth forth good
fruit: but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
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.
19. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit
is hewn down, and cast into the fire—(See on Mt 3:10).
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 hypocrisy of teachers now leads to a solemn
warning against religious hypocrisy in general.
21. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord,
Lord—the reduplication of the title "Lord" denoting zeal in
according it to Christ (see Mr 14:45).
Yet our Lord claims and expects this of all His disciples, as when He
washed their feet: "Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so
I am" (Joh
shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he
that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven—that will
which it had been the great object of this discourse to set forth. Yet
our Lord says warily, not "the will of your Father," but "of
My Father"; thus claiming a relationship to His Father with
which His disciples might not intermeddle, and which He never lets
down. And He so speaks here to give authority to His asseverations. But
now He rises higher still—not formally announcing Himself
as the Judge, but intimating what men will say to Him, and He to them,
when He sits as their final judge.
22. Many will say to me in that day—What
day? It is emphatically unnamed. But it is the day to which He had just
referred, when men shall "enter" or not enter "into the kingdom of
heaven." (See a similar way of speaking of "that day" in 2Ti 1:12; 4:8).
Lord, Lord—The reiteration denotes
surprise. "What, Lord? How is this? Are we to be disowned?"
have we not prophesied—or, "publicly
taught." As one of the special gifts of the Spirit in the early Church,
it has the sense of "inspired and authoritative teaching," and is
ranked next to the apostleship. (See 1Co 12:28; Eph 4:11). In this sense it is used here, as
appears from what follows.
in thy name—or, "to thy name," and so
in the two following clauses—"having reference to Thy name as the
sole power in which we did it."
and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy
name done many wonderful works—or, miracles. These are
selected as three examples of the highest services rendered to the
Christian cause, and through the power of Christ's own name, invoked
for that purpose; He Himself, too, responding to the call. And the
threefold repetition of the question, each time in the same form,
expresses in the liveliest manner the astonishment of the speakers at
the view now taken of them.
23. And then will I profess unto
them—or, openly proclaim—tearing off the mask.
I never knew you—What they
claimed—intimacy with Christ—is just what He repudiates,
and with a certain scornful dignity. "Our acquaintance was not broken
off—there never was any."
depart from me—(Compare Mt 25:41). The connection here gives these words
an awful significance. They claimed intimacy with Christ, and in the
corresponding passage, Lu 13:26,
are represented as having gone out and in with Him on familiar terms.
"So much the worse for you," He replies: "I bore with that long enough;
ye that work iniquity—not "that
wrought iniquity"; for they are represented as fresh from the
scenes and acts of it as they stand before the Judge. (See on the
almost identical, but even more vivid and awful, description of the
scene in Lu 13:24-27). That the apostle alludes to these very
words in 2Ti 2:19
there can hardly be any doubt—"Nevertheless the foundation of God
standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are
His. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart
24. Therefore—to bring this discourse to
whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and
doeth them—see Jas 1:22,
which seems a plain allusion to these words; also Lu
11:28; Ro 2:13; 1Jo 3:7.
I will liken him unto a wise man—a
shrewd, prudent, provident man.
which built his house upon a rock—the
rock of true discipleship, or genuine subjection to Christ.
25. And the rain descended—from
and the floods came—from below.
and the winds blew—sweeping
and beat upon that house—thus from
and it fell not; for it was founded upon a
rock—See 1Jo 2:17.
26. And every one that heareth these sayings of
mine—in the attitude of discipleship.
and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a
foolish man, which built his house upon the sand—denoting a
loose foundation—that of an empty profession and mere external
27. And the rain descended, and the floods came,
and the winds blew, and beat upon that house—struck against
and it fell: and great was the fall of
it—terrible the ruin! How lively must this imagery have been
to an audience accustomed to the fierceness of an Eastern tempest, and
the suddenness and completeness with which it sweeps everything
unsteady before it!
Effect of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 7:28,
28. And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended
these sayings, the people were astonished at his
doctrine—rather, "His teaching," for the reference is to the
manner of it quite as much as the matter, or rather more so.
29. For he taught them as one having
authority—The word "one," which our translators have here
inserted, only weakens the statement.
and not as the scribes—The
consciousness of divine authority, as Lawgiver, Expounder and Judge, so
beamed through His teaching, that the scribes' teaching could not but
appear drivelling in such a light.