The Sermon on the Mount.--Concluded.
SUMMARY.--Motes and Beams. Casting Pearls before Swine. Asking and Receiving. The Golden Rule. The Broad and Strait Gates. Wolves in Sheep's Clothing. The Tree Known by Its Fruits. The Kingdom Entered by Obedience. The Wise and Foolish Builders. The Wonderful Teacher.
1. Judge not, that you be not judged. The term "judge" is used in more than one sense, but Christ's meaning is plain. 1. He does not prohibit the civil judgment of the courts upon evil doers, for this is approved throughout the whole Bible. 2. He does not prohibit the judgment of the church, through its officers, upon those who walk disorderly, for both he and the apostles have enjoined this. 3. He does not forbid those private judgments that we are compelled to form the wrong-doers, for he himself tells us that we are to judge men by their fruits. (See verses 15-20 .) What he designs to prohibit is rash, uncharitable judgments, a fault-finding spirit, a disposition to condemn without examination of charges.
2. With what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged. Not by men, but by God. He takes note of the unkind, harsh, censorious spirit, and deals with the man according to his own spirit. There is declared here a great principle that runs through the moral government of God: Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
3. Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye? The Lord uses a figure to show the absurdity of judging severely the faults of others, while we have greater ones. The term translated "mote" means a little splinter, while the beam is something very large.
4, 5. Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye. The man who finds fault with another for sin, while he is more guilty, is a hypocrite. A great many are very zealous to convert the world, who are themselves unconverted.
6. Give not that which is holy unto dogs. The dog was regarded an unclean animal by the Jewish law. They probably represent snarling, scoffing opposers. The characteristic of dogs is brutality. To try to instill holy things into such low, unclean, and sordid brutal minds is useless. Neither cast pearls before swine. The swine were also unclean. They would have no use for pearls, and perhaps would rush upon those who scattered the pearls. So, too, there are men so dull, imbruted and senseless, as to reject the pearls of truth. It is our duty to help and to try to save others, but we must use common sense.
7, 8. Ask, . . . seek, . . . knock. The terms are here used with reference to prayer, and these constitute a climax. Ask implies a simple petition. Seek indicates an earnest search. Knock shows perseverance in spite of hindrances. The three represent earnest prayer. For every one that asketh receiveth, etc. Every one of the class concerning whom the Savior speaks. That class is those who can say, "Our Father in heaven; Hallowed be thy name; Thy will be done."
9, 10. If his son asks bread, will he give him a stone? The assurance of an answer to prayer is based on the fact that God is our Father. He treats his children as a good and wise earthly parent would. No kind parent would mock his child by answering his cry for bread with stones. Bread and fish were the chief articles of food of the Galilean peasant.
11. If ye, then, being evil. Men who have the natural affection of parents, even though sinful men, will not do such things. Whoever believes that the term Father, as applied to God, is more than a figure of speech, must believe in prayer. Give good gifts. Luke 11:13 , in the parallel passage, says, instead of "good gifts," "the Holy Spirit," as though this is heaven's greatest blessing.
12. Whatsoever . . . do ye even so to them. This does not imply that we are always to do to others as they wish, but what we would like to have done to ourselves if we were placed in their condition and they in ours. We might injure them by complying with their foolish wishes. A maxim similar to the Golden Rule is found in the teachings of various sages; Socrates among the Greeks, Buddha and Confucius among the Orientals, and Hillel among the Jews. But the other teachers do not come up to Christ's standard. Their maxim is negative and passive. They say: "Do not do to others what you would not have done to you." It is a rule of not doing, rather than of doing.
13. Enter ye in at the strait gate. The leading thought of the whole discourse is the kingdom of heaven and its conditions. Hence, when the Lord says, "Enter ye in," he means into the kingdom of heaven. Nearly every town in Palestine is surrounded by walls and is entered by gates. The principal ones are wide, with double doors, closed with locks and fastened with iron bars. The "strait gates" are in retired corners, are narrow, and are only opened to those who knock.
14. For strait is the gate. What is it, Augustine asks, that makes this gate so strait to us? It is not that it is strait, or narrow, in itself, but that we want to take in our pride, our self-will, our darling sins. Few there be that find it. It has been to be sought. The reason that men do not find it is not because it is hard to find, but because they prefer to walk in the broad way.
15. Beware of false prophets. The word prophet, as used in the Scriptures, means any one who teaches authoritatively the will of God. A false prophet is one who is a false teacher. Christ refers to the scribes and Pharisees. Come to you in sheep's clothing. While appearing as harmless as sheep they are wolves.
16. Ye shall know them by their fruits. This common figure is wonderfully expressive. Not leaves (professions), or appearance, are the proper tests of the life that is in the tree, but the fruit it bears. We are to test men and every institution by this principle. Grapes of thorns. Two of the most highly valued fruits of Palestine are grapes and figs. Nothing is more common than thorns and thistles. Geike says that it is the land of thorns and thorny plants. Good fruit cannot be expected on such evil stocks.
17, 18. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. The Lord points to the uniform law of nature. Every tree bears after its kind. As is the tree, so is the fruit. The same principle holds good in the moral world. A good man will show forth good deeds, while a bad man will bear fruit according to his nature.
19, 20. Every tree, . . . is hewn down, and cast into the fire. The test of good and bad trees, good and bad men, good and bad systems, has been presented. Now the figure is carried farther to show their destiny. The Savior states a principle that seems to run through the whole government of God. Whatever is useless and evil shall finally be swept away.
21. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom. The Lord has shown that the entrance into the kingdom is through the "strait gate." He now shows more particularly what is needed to enter. Certain ones are described who cannot enter in. "Not every one" implies that some who say, "Lord, Lord," etc., shall enter in. Those enter who do the will of my Father. No one can be a citizen of the kingdom who does not obey the King.
22. Many will say to me in that day. The great day of the Lord. Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? The Lord chooses out of the greatest class of non-doers to show that all such will fail of entrance. They have omitted the one thing needful, a faithful obedience.
23. I never knew you. "I never knew you" must be accepted in its deeper signification of "recognizing the disciples." Augustine says that for Christ to say, "I never knew you," is only another way of saying, "You never knew me." Depart, . . . ye that work iniquity. In spite of all their professions they had been evil doers. Their religion expended itself in professions and prayers. Hence, in "that day" they are commanded to depart. What it is to so depart we may learn from Matt. 25:41 . It is evident from this passage that many are self-deceived.
24. Every one that heareth these sayings of mine. The words that he has spoken in this discourse, and all his teachings. I will liken him unto a wise man. The wise man, with wise forethought, has built on a firm foundation. In a country with a rainy season and heavy floods this was essential. The man who "hears and does" Christ's words is building upon the rock ( Matt. 16:16 ).
25. The rain descended . . . and it fell not. Palestine is a country of torrents and sands. This verse gives a picture of the sudden violent storms and sweeping floods which are so common during the rainy season. The house founded upon the rock could not be undermined and destroyed, but would stand firm. So, says the Lord, shall it be with those who hear and obey. "They shall stand in the judgment" ( Psa. 1:5 ).
26. Heareth these sayings . . . and doeth them not. The hearer who obeys not is likened to the foolish man who built his house on the sand. Every one knows how transitory and shifting is a sandy foundation. Whole towns on the Missouri or lower Mississippi have been undermined and gone into the vortex because they were built upon the sand. So will fall the disobedient.
27. Great was the fall of it. The Lord describes the thoughtfulness of the builder on the sand, the storm and the utter destruction. There is an awful solemnity about this close to the wonderful sermon.
28. The people were astonished at his doctrine. At his teaching. No wonder they were astonished. The whole world still wonders as it studies this sermon.
29. As having authority. He spoke, not as a man, with human doubts and limitations, but as one who was omniscient. He came from God, and spoke as one divine; not as a human, hesitating, halting, limping expounders like the scribes, the interpreters of the Scriptures.
On what are you building, my brother,
Hearing and doing, we build on the Rock;