Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. LET US LOOK AT THE PARABLE ABOUT THE WEDDING. (Vers. 7-11). To the Lord's eye the feast became the symbol of what is spiritual. The wedding of the parable is the consummation of the union between God and his people. The invitation is what is given in the gospel. Hence the advice is not instructive as to the prudential temper, but as to our spirit in coming before God. Shall it be the spirit which claims as right the highest room, or that which accepts as more than we deserve the lowest room? In other words, shall we come before God in a spirit of self-righteousness or in a spirit of self-abasement? Now, our Lord points out, from the collisions of social life, the absolute certainty of the self-important and self-righteous being abased among men: how much more in the righteous administration of God! The self-righteous under his administration shall be abased, how deeply and terribly we cannot conceive. On the other hand, those who have learned to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God shall be exalted in due season, and have glory in the presence of the celestial guests! Jesus thus attacked the self-righteousness of the Pharisees, not as a social, but as a spiritual question. God would at last cast it away from his presence and society with loathing and contempt On the other hand, self-abasement is the sure sign of grace and the sure earnest of glory. He who takes with gratitude the lowest room in God's house is certain of speedy promotion!
II. OUR HOSPITALITY SHOULD BE DIVINE IN ITS SPIRIT AND CHARACTER. (Vers. 12-14.) Having improved the conduct of the guests, and shown its spiritual bearings, he next turns to the host, and gives him an idea of what hospitality should be. It should not be speculative, but disinterested - something, in fact, which can only be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. In no clearer way could our Lord indicate that hospitality should be exercised in the light of eternity; and the bearing of it upon spiritual interests should constantly be regarded. And here we surely should learn:
1. How important it is to be social. God is social. His Trinity guarantees the sociality of his nature. We are to be God-like in our sociality.
2. It may be most helpful to lonely spirits upon earth. Many a lonely heart may be saved for better things by a timely social attention.
3. There is great blessing in giving attention to people who cannot return it. It is a great field of delight that those with large hearts may have. "It is more blessed to give than to receive." We are following God's plan in the attentions we bestow.
4. At the final arrangement of God's kingdom, all such disinterested hospitality shall be recompensed. How? Surely by opportunity being afforded of doing the like again! The hospitable heart, which keeps eternity in view in all its hospitality, shall have eternity to be still more hospitable in.
III. THE PARABLE OF THE GREAT SUPPER. (VEER. 15-24.) Jesus proceeds from the question of hospitalities to present the gospel in the light of a supper provided by the great Father above, and to which he invites sinners as his guests. And here we have to notice:
1. The greatness of the supper. The preparations were long and elaborate. How many centuries were consumed in preparing the feast which we have in the gospel! It was to be the greatest "feast of reason and flow of soul" the world has seen. And so it is. Nowhere else does man get such food for his mind and heart as in the gospel of Christ.
2. The freedom of the invitations. Many were bidden. No niggardliness about the invitations. They are scattered so freely that, alas! they are not by many sufficiently prized.
3. The supplementary summons by the faithful servant. It is not an invitation by ink and pen merely that God sends, but he backs the written revelation by personal persuasion by the mouth of faithful servants. Here is the sphere of the gospel ministry. These true ministers tell what a feast is ready in the gospel, and what their own experience of it has been.
4. The triviality of the excuses. To the invitations sent out by God men make excuses. There is something peculiarly sad and significant in refusals upon insufficient grounds. Our Lord gives us three examples of the excuses men make for refusing salvation and the gospel.
(1) The first man puts a piece of ground before salvation. "Real property" keeps many a man out of the kingdom of heaven.
(2) The second puts cattle before salvation. Many men are so interested in good "stock," and all the mysteries of breeding and work, as to have no time for their eternal interests. A few chattels keep multi-ruder out of God's kingdom.
(3) The third puts social concerns before spiritual. He has married a wife, and so cannot attend to the claims of God. Society, its attractions and allurements, is keeping multitudes out of the kingdom above. These are but specimens of the trivialities which are monopolizing men's attention, and preventing their giving good heed to the things of the gospel.
5. The extension of the invitation to those who are sure to accept it. The poor, maimed, halt, and blind represent the souls who feel their spiritual poverty and defects, and who are sure to appreciate God's gracious invitation. When the self-righteous spurn it, the abased and humiliated greedily receive it.
6. The abundant room, and the difficulty in getting the places filled. There is no possibility of any one coming and being refused admittance. There is room for all who Care to come. Those who will not taste of the supper are those who thought themselves better employed. In compelling men to come in, we must do our best in persuading them to accept the gospel. May we leave nothing undone that the Divine table may be filled. - R.M.E.
I. OUR LORD'S INTEREST IN THE HUMBLER DETAILS OF OUR DAILY LIFE. We might have imagined, judging antecedently, that the great Teacher would not concern himself with a matter so trivial as this; or that, if he did, we should not find a record of his remark in a narrative so brief as are our evangels. We know that he had occasion to rebuke the Pharisees for letting religious faith lose itself altogether in minute and infinitesimal prescriptions (Luke 11:42; Mark 7:4). And there is a very remarkable absence from our Master's teaching of petty regulations. He sought not to prescribe particulars of behaviour, but to convey Divine principles and to impart a holy and a loving spirit; he knew that these would spontaneously and invariably issue in appropriate conduct. But Jesus Christ would not have us think that he is indifferent to the way in which we act on small occasions. He could be "much displeased" by an act of small officiousness (Mark 10:13, 14); and he could be deeply moved by an act of simple generosity (Luke 21:2, 3). And we may learn from this incident that it is not a matter of indifference how we behave in the common occurrences of our daily life: to what homes we go, what place in the house we take, how we act at the table (1 Corinthians 10:31), what is the tone of our conversation (Matthew 12:87), with what raiment we are clothed (1 Peter 3:3), whether we encourage or discourage the weak and timid disciple (Matthew 10:42; Matthew 18:6). These things, and such things as these, are occasions when, by manifesting a kindly and humble spirit, we may greatly please our Divine Lord, or when, by an opposite spirit, we may seriously offend him.
II. THE PREFERENCE OF MODESTY TO SELF-ASSERTION. Jesus Christ here plainly and emphatically commends modesty of spirit and behaviour, and as decidedly condemns an immodest self-assertion. To take a lower place than we might claim to do is often found to be the prudent and remunerative course. Self-assertion frequently goes too far for its own ends, and is discomfited and dishonoured. Every one is pleased when the presumptuous person is humiliated. But modesty is frequently recognized and honoured, and every one is gratified when the man who "does not think more highly of himself than he ought to think" is the object of esteem. But when, in a more worldly and diplomatic sense, such modesty does not answer; when a strong complacency and a vigorous self-assertion do, as they often will, pass it in the race of life, and snatch the fading laurel of "success;" - still is it the becoming, the beautiful thing; still is it worth possessing for its own sake. To be lowly-minded is a far better portion than to have all the honours and all the gains which an ugly assertiveness may command.
III. THE VITAL VALUE OF HUMILITY. (Ver. 11.) Lowliness of mind, penitence, may be of small account in the eyes of men, but, on the part of those as guilty as we are, it is everything in the sight of God: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Spiritual pride is utterly offensive to God, and draws down his most serious condemnation; if we exalt ourselves we shall be abased by him. But a sense of our own unworthiness is what he looks to see in children that have forgotten their Father, in subjects that have been disloyal to their King; and when he sees it he is prepared to pardon and to restore. If we humble ourselves before him and plead his promise of life in Jesus Christ, he will exalt us; he will treat us as his children; he will make us his heirs; he will raise us up to "heavenly places in Christ Jesus." - C.
I. THE CORRECTION OF A COMMON FAULT. Jesus Christ did not, indeed, intend to condemn outright all family or social gatherings of a festive character. He had already sanctioned these by his own presence. The idiomatic language, "do not, but," signifies, not a positive interdiction of the one thing, but the superiority of the other. Yet may we not find here a correction of social, festive extravagance; the expenditure of an undue measure of our resources on mutual indulgences? It is a very easy and a very common thing for hospitality to pass into extravagance, and even into selfish indulgence. Those who invite neighbours to their house in the full expectation of being invited in return may seem to themselves to be open-handed and generous, when they are only pursuing a system of well-understood mutual ministry to the lower tastes and gratifications. And it is a fact that both then and now, both there and here, men are under a great temptation to expend upon mere enjoyment of this kind a degree of time and of income which seriously cripples and enfeebles them. Thus that is given to display and indulgence which might be reserved for benevolence and for piety; thus life is lowered, and its whole service is reduced; thus we fail to reach the stature to which we might attain, and to render to our Master and his cause the service we might bring. In the matter of indulgence, direct or (as here) indirect, while we should keep away from asceticism, it is of still greater consequence that we do not approach a faulty and incapacitating selfishness.
II. AN INVITATION TO A NOBLE HABIT. "Call the poor... and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee." An act of disinterested kindness carries its blessing with it.
1. It is an intrinsically excellent thing. "To do good and to communicate" is honourable and admirable; and to do this with no thought of return from those who are benefited, is an act of peculiar and exceptional worth. It takes very high rank in the scale of spiritual nobleness.
2. It allies us with the highest and the best in all the universe; with the noblest men and women that ever lived in any land or age; with the angels of God (Hebrews 1:14); with our Divine Exemplar (Mark 10:45); with the eternal Father himself (Matthew 5:45).
3. It leaves a benign and elevating influence on our own spirit. Every man is something the better, is so much the worthier and more Christ-like, for every humblest deed of disinterested benevolence.
III. THE PROMISE OF A PURE REWARD. If the idea of recompense is admitted, everything turns upon the character of the reward, so far as the virtue of the action is concerned. To do something for an immediate and sensible reward is unmeritorious; to act in the hope of some pure and distant recompense is an estimable because a spiritual procedure. Our life is, then, based upon faith, upon hope, and especially upon patience. To do good and to be content to wait for our recompense until "the resurrection of the just," when we shall reap the approval of the Divine Master and the gratitude of those whom we have served below, - this is conduct which our Lord approves; it bears the best mark it can bear - that of his Divine benediction. - C.
the habit of self-excuse. With one consent men excuse themselves. Now, an excuse is one of two things.
I. A PRETEXT which men invent, so as to shun, without self-reproach, a plain but painful duty. A tradesman is not prospering in business; he is aware that he is losing money; he feels sure that an examination of his books will show a serious deficit at the end of the year; he knows that he ought to acquaint himself with his actual financial position; but he is reluctant to see how far he is behind; he would much rather escape that scrutiny, and he consequently looks about for a reason that he can place before his own mind for postponing it. He easily discovers one. He could make better use of the time; he ought not to neglect an opportunity that offers of making a good bargain - or anything else. What does it matter? Anything will serve; one pretext is as good as another. Here is a human soul that owes much to its Creator; has received everything, and has paid nothing or scarcely anything-owes "ten thousand talents," and "has nothing to pay." One comes to him from God, and says, "See how things stand between you and your Maker; 'acquaint thyself with him, and be at peace.'" But the man shrinks from the scrutiny; he is in debt, and knows that he is; he would much rather enter into any other account than that. So he searches for some plausible reason for putting it off to another time. And he easily finds one. Excuses are in the air, at every one's command. He has no time for religious inquiry; so many people speak in God's Name, he is not sure who holds the truth; be will be under more favourable spiritual conditions further on - or something else. What does it matter? One excuse serves as well as another. It is nothing but a screen put up between the eye and the object. This is a course of action to be ashamed of. It is not manly; it is not right; it is perilous; it is delusive, and leads down to destruction.
II. A PREFERENCE of that which is second-rate to that which is of supreme importance. Here the particular illustrations of the parable serve us. These men are invited to be present at that which they ought to attend; but they allow something of inferior urgency to detain them. God is inviting us to partake of a most glorious spiritual provision; he is offering eternal life to his human children. He is sending his servants to say, "Come, for all things are ready!" But how many decline! and they decline because they "make excuse;" they put into the first place that which should come second. It is the demands of business; or it is the cares of the household; or it is the sweets of literature, of art, of family affection; or it is the claims of human friendship; or it is the hope of political influence or renown. It is something human, earthly, finite, on the ground of which the soul is saying, "Ambassador of Christ, I pray thee have me excused!" But it is wrong and it is ruinous to act thus.
1. Nothing will ever justify a man in placing first in his esteem that which God has placed second, in keeping behind that which has such sovereign claims to stand in front. The claims of God the eternal Father of spirits, of Jesus Christ our Divine Saviour, of our own priceless spirit, of those whom we love and for whose immortal well-being we are held responsible by God, - these cannot be relegated to a secondary and inferior position without serious guilt.
2. Nothing will make it other than foolish for a man to leave unappropriated the immeasurable blessings of godliness; to prefer any passing earthly good to the service of Jesus Christ, the service which hallows all joy, sanctifies all sorrow, ennobles all life, prepares for death, and makes ready for judgment and eternity. How can such folly be surpassed? - C.
I. THE LARGENESS OF GOD'S LOVING PURPOSE, God wills that his house *' shall be filled." This house of his grace is built on a large scale; in it are "many mansions," many rooms. The magnitude of it answers to the greatness of his power and to the boundlessness of his love. The number of the ultimately redeemed will be vast indeed. To this point:
1. The hopes of all holy and generous souls.
2. The terms of predictive Scripture.
3. The attributes of the wise, strong, benignant Father of men.
4. The duration of the redemptive scheme.
5. The character of the redemptive work - the Incarnation, the sorrow, the shame, the death, of the Son of God.
God's loving purpose is to gather a multitude which no man can number into the heavenly home, into the eternal mansions,
II. THE FULNESS OF THE DIVINE COMMISSION. Those who represent the Lord of the feast are to "go into the highways and hedges, and compel men to come in." No people are to be excluded; no efforts are to be spared; no "stone is to be left unturned "to win men to the feast. There is to be a sacred compulsion used rather than the efforts of the "servants" should be unsuccessful. Here is no warrant for persecution. No two things can conceivably be further apart from one another than the use of violence and the spirit of Christ. To employ cruelty in order to compel men into Christianity is worse than a senseless solecism; it is a flagrant and guilty contradiction. There are other and nobler ways of "compelling men to come in" to the kingdom and the Church of Christ - ways which are not discordant but harmonious with the spirit and the teaching of the Lord of love. They are such as these:
1. The constant and irresistible beauty of our daily life. The "waters" of spiritual loveliness "wear" the hardest stones of spiritual obduracy.
2. Occasional magnanimity of Christian conduct. Men are often compelled to bow down in admiration and even in reverence before some deed of noble self-sacrifice, of lofty heroism.
3. Convincing presentation of the Christian argument. The truth of Christ may be presented so cumulatively, so forcibly, so directly, so practically, so winningly, so affectionately, that the most defiant are abashed, the most prejudiced are convinced, the most impervious are penetrated, the most insensible are moved and won; they are compelled to come in.
4. Earnest persistency of Christian zeal. There is a blind, imprudent zeal, which is worse than worthless, which only teases and torments, which does not allure but drives to a greater distance. But there is also a wise, holy, Divine persistency, which will not be refused, which employs every weapon in the sacred armoury, which knows how to wait in patience as well as how to work in ardour, which, like the patient Saviour himself, "stands at the door, and knocks." This is the zeal which continues to plead with men for God, and ceases not to plead with God for men, until the barriers are broken down, until the indifference is broken up, until the heart looks up to heaven and cries, "What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life" - C
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCE WHICH SUGGESTED THE IDEA. It was the temporary popularity of Christ that led him to the strain of remark we have in the text. "There went great multitudes with him" (ver. 25), fascinated by his presence and bearing, or struck by his teaching, or marvelling at his mighty works. And these men and women were far from entering into his spirit or sharing his high purpose; it was necessary that they should understand what discipleship to Jesus meant, what absolute self-surrender it involved. So the Master gave utterance to the strong and trenchant words recorded in the context (vers. 26, 27). And the words of the text itself are explanatory of this utterance. Their import is this: "I say this because it is much better you should know what you are doing by following me than that you should enter upon a course which you will find yourselves obliged to abandon, than that you should undertake a duty to which you will find yourselves unequal. All wise people, before they definitely commit themselves to any policy carefully consider whether they can carry it through. Every wise builder calculates the cost before he begins to build; every wise king estimates his military strength before he declares war. So do you consider whether you are prepared to make a full surrender of your will to my will, of your life to my service, before you attach yourselves to my side; for whoever is not able to 'forsake all that he hath at my bidding, cannot be my disciple' Ponder the matter, therefore; weigh everything before you act, count the cost, decide deliberately and with a full understanding of what it is you are doing."
II. THE PLACE THERE IS FOR CALCULATION IN PERSONAL RELIGION.
1. At the entrance upon a Christian life. It would seem as if there could be no room for reckoning here. We may well ask - When God calls us to himself, when Christ invites us to come unto him, what time should we allow ourselves before responding to his summons? Should not our response be immediate, instantaneous? We reply - Time enough to understand what we are undertaking to be and to do; time enough to take the Divine message into our full and intelligent consideration; so that our choice may be not the impulse of an hour, but the fixed and final purpose of our soul. God would not have us act in ignorance, in misconception. In malice we may well be children, but in understanding we should be men. There is no step any man can take which is comparable in importance with that which is taken when a human soul enters the kingdom of God: on that hang everlasting issues. Let men, therefore, diligently and reverently inquire until they understand what it means to have a living faith in Jesus Christ, to enter his spiritual kingdom, and become one of his subjects; let them understand, among other things, that it means the cheerful and full surrender of themselves to the Saviour himself, with all that such surrender involves (ver. 33).
2. At the entrance on a public profession of personal religion. Here is a visible "Church" which we are invited to join, taking upon ourselves the Christian name, and openly avowing our attachment to our Lord; thus honouring him before men. This is a step to be taken deliberately. Before taking it, a man should certainly ask himself whether he is prepared to act in accordance with his profession everywhere, in all circles and in every sphere; not only where he will be encouraged to do the right, but where he will be solicited to do the wrong thing; not only in the midst of genial influences, but in the throng of perilous temptations. But while these things are to be carefully taken into account, there must be reckoned, on the other side, the assurance which genuine piety may always cherish of needed Divine succour. If we go forth in the Name and in the strength of our Lord to do that which is his own command, we may confidently count on his support; and with him at our right hand we shall not be moved from the path of integrity and consistency. Look the facts in the face, but include all the facts; and do not forget that among these are the promises of the faithful Friend.
3. Before undertaking any post of sacred service. It would be worse than foolish for a Christian man to go forth to any enterprise requiring an amount of physical strength, or of intellectual capacity, or of educational advantages, which he knows well he does not possess. That would be to begin to build and to be unable to finish, to declare war with the certainty of defeat. At all times, when we are thinking of Christian work, we must carefully consider our qualifications. A wise and modest refusal is a truer sacrifice than an indiscreet and unwarrantable acceptance. But, again, let our judgment include the great factor of the Divine presence and aid, and also the valid consideration that competency comes with exercise, that to him that hath (uses his capacities) is given, and he has abundance (of power and of success). - C.
I. NOTHING LESS THAN THE FIRST PLACE IN THE HEART MUST BE OFFERED UNTO JESUS. (Ver. 26.) He insists on being put before father and mother, before wife and children, before brothers and sisters. All relations are to be put below him. He must be more than them all. It is a great demand, and yet a most reasonable one. For:
1. The love of Jesus anticipated all parental love. In fact, the love of our parents is only the latest expression of his far-seeing and foreseeing love. The generations to whom we owe so much have only mediated for us the love of Jesus.
2. The unity of marriage only feebly illustrates the intensity of Christ's love. Husband owes much to wife, and wife to husband. The marriage union is a close and intimate one; but Jesus comes closer to our hearts than husband or wife can. He is nearer, and should be dearer, than either.
3. The rising generation does not lay so much love and hope at our feet as Jesus. Children are dear; the promise of their young lives and hearts is precious; they come as pledges for the future; they are prophecies of the world about to be; but "the holy Child Jesus" comes closer to our hearts than even they. He is the prophecy of all coming time, the goal and ideal at which, not the rising generation only, but generations yet unborn, are to aim.
4. He gives us a more profound brotherhood than brothers or sisters can. The brotherhood of Jesus, "the elder Brother born for all adversity, and who can never die," is an experience which brothers and sisters can only help us to understand. Jesus consequently claims first place, because in his manifold relations he is not only more than each, but more than all combined.
II. WE MUST PRIZE CHRIST MORE THAN LIFE ITSELF. (Ver. 26.) Life is another precious benefit which we naturally prize. Satan, in the trial of Job, imagined that Job would give all that he had rather than lose his life (Job 2:4). He fancied that the patriarch, who would not curse God under the loss of children and property, would break down if God touched his bone or his flesh. But Job was so spiritually minded as to be ready to trust God, even should he, for some mysterious and hidden reason, slay him (Job 13:15). Now, Jesus comes and insists on being put before life itself. When the two come into competition there must be no question about yielding the palm to Christ. Jesus is more to us than physical life, because he is our spiritual life (John 14:6). We can never forfeit blessed existence so long as we trust in Christ, and the mere existence of the body is but a bagatelle in comparison.
III. SELF-SACRIFICE IS THE MARCHING ORDER OF THE REDEEMED. (Ver. 27.) The idea of cross-bearing is often interpreted as if it simply meant enduring those "crosses" to which life is heir. But much more is meant than this. In the Revised Version it is put, "Whosoever cloth not bear his own cross." Now, as Christ carried his cross to die upon, so must we take our lives in our hands, and be ready at any moment to sacrifice them for Jesus. He was crucified for us: are we ready to be crucified for him, or to die in any other way he wishes? It is the martyr-spirit which Christ here insists upon. He is surely worthy of such self-sacrifice.
IV. WE MUST FORSAKE ALL AS A GROUND OF CONFIDENCE IF WE WOULD FOLLOW JESUS. (Ver. 33.) Christ, having insisted on disposing of our lives as he pleases, next insists on disposing of our property. He comes in with his right to tell us, as he told the rich young ruler, that we must give up our all for his sake. Not, of course, that he exercises this right often. Voluntary poverty has been an exceptional way of serving him. But we may all show plainly that our property is his, and that, when Christ and our possessions come into competition, all must give way to him. If we prize property more than Jesus, then he is nothing to us. We must be ready to put him before everything which we have, and to sacrifice everything when he claims it from us. In this way we make Christ first and all in all.
V. THE WORLD NEEDS SUCH PRINCIPLES IN PRACTICE TO KEEP IT FROM CORRUPTION. (Vers. 34, 35.) Were it not for the self-sacrifice of souls, the world would become utterly corrupt. Now, it is this heroic element which Christ's cause has par excellence supplied. Only by the martyr-band, whose pure self-sacrifice was unmistakable, has the world been kept from utter selfishness and corresponding corruption. It was mindful of this martyr-spirit which his gospel ensures, that Jesus told his servants they were "the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13). Unless this wholesome antidote to natural selfishness be supplied, society must go to pieces. It cannot be built on selfishness. The economics which assume no higher ethical element than each man looking after himself, may give expression to tendencies; but they must be overpassed by realities if the world is to keep moderately sweet and habitable. But suppose that Christ's servants make a mere profession of self-sacrifice, and do not carry out the spirit of their Master, then they become but insipid salt, which can only be trodden underfoot of men on the highway, where nothing is meant to grow. In other words, the Christians who are not genuine are sure to be despised. They are trodden down by a world whom they have vainly tried to deceive. A false professor is the most contemptible of all men. - R.M.E.
Matthew 10:34-36). By honouring and acknowledging him as the Messiah of the Jews and as the Redeemer of mankind, his disciples would excite the bitterest enmity in the minds of their own kindred; they would be obliged to act as if they hated them, causing them the keenest disappointment and the severest sorrow. They would be compelled to act as if they hated their own life also, for they would take a step which would remove all comfort and enjoyment from it, and make it valueless if not miserable. On the relation of Jesus Christ and his gospel to human kindred, it may be said that Christianity -
I. DISALLOWS PARENTAL TYRANNY. Such unmitigated authority as the Roman law gave to the parent over the child is not sanctioned, but implicitly condemned, by Jesus Christ. No human being is wise enough or good enough to exercise such prerogative; and to yield such deference is to cede the responsibility which our Creator has laid upon us, and which cannot be devolved.
II. DISALLOWS FILIAL WORSHIP. Such idolatrous homage as the children of the Chinese render to their parents is also distinctly unchristian; it is giving to the creature what is due only to the Creator. It is to elevate the human above its lawful level.
III. SANCTIONS AND ENJOINS FILIAL DEVOTEDNESS. Our Lord himself severely condemned the perversity of the Pharisees, who contrived to evade filial obligations by sacred subtleties (Mark 7:9-13). And amid the physical agonies and the spiritual struggles and sufferings of the cross he found time to commend his mother to the care of" the beloved disciple." His apostles explicitly enjoined filial obedience (Ephesians 6:1). And entering into the profounder spirit of our Lord's teaching, we are sure that he desires of children that they should not only be formally obedient to their parents' word, but that they should be careful to render to them all filial respect in manner; should have regard to their known will, whether uttered or unexpressed; should render the service of love and of cheerfulness rather than of constraint; should make their filial ministry to abound as parental health and strength decline.
IV. RESERVES ABSOLUTE OBEDIENCE FOR THE DIVINE REDEEMER. When Christianity is assailing a false faith, as in the first century, as in heathen lands to-day, it very frequently happens that disciples have to choose between their attachment to the earthly parent and their obligations to Christ. Then the words of Jesus Christ have a literal application; then the convert has to pass through the most severe and trying of all conflicts; he has to weigh one authority against another; he has to make a decision which will cause grief and wrath to one whom he would fain please and honour. But much as the human parent may have been to him, and strong as are his claims, the Divine Redeemer is more, and his claims are stronger still and stronger far. The Lord who created him (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16); who redeemed him with his own blood; who sought and found and restored him; who has made him an heir of eternal life; - this Lord, who has been upholding him by his power, and who is the one Hope and Refuge of his soul, has claims upon his obedience to which even those of a human parent are utterly unequal. And when the choice has to be made, as it sometimes has even here and now, there can be but one course which he recognizes as right; it is to choose the side and the service of the holy Saviour; meekly bearing the heavy cross of domestic severance; earnestly praying for the time when the human authority will be reconciled to the Divine; faithfully believing that the sacrifice which is thus entailed will bring with it, in Christ's own time and way, a large and abundant recompense (Mark 10:28-30). - C.
be the salt of the earth, doing in the human the same purifying work which salt does in the animal world.
I. THE PRESERVING POWER OF THE GOOD IN THE SOCIETY IN WHICH THEY ARE FOUND.
1. As those who act directly on God, and so on behalf of men. Had there been ten righteous men in Sodom, they would have preserved it from destruction. Similarly, the presence of a few righteous men would have saved the cities of Canaan. Is it not the presence of the righteous men and women in our modern cities which averts the retribution of God?
2. As those that act directly on man, and thus on God. As there is a tendency in animal nature, when life is extinct, towards putrefaction, so is there a tendency in human nature, when spiritual life is extinct, towards degeneracy and corruption. It is the function of salt in the economy of nature to prevent this result, to preserve sweetness and wholesomeness; it is the part of moral goodness to prevent corruption in society and to preserve purity and excellency there. And this it does. Purity, sobriety, uprightness, reverence, self-control, - these are powers for subduing, for restraining; they are powers that permeate, that sweeten, that preserve. This is eminently true of Christian discipleship: for it has
(1) truth to propound which is most cleansing in its character; and it has
(2) a life to live which is eminently purifying in its influence - the distinctive truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the life of the great Exemplar, which every follower of his is charged and is empowered to live again.
II. THE DANGER THAT THIS POWER WILL BE LOST. "Salt is good: but if the salt have lost its savour!" It may do so. The salt, by exposure to sun and rain, may lose its pungency and its virtue while retaining its appearance.
1. And so Christian truth may lose its distinguishing force. Men may use Christian forms of speech in their teaching, and yet the doctrine they declare may be an enfeebled and emasculated Christianity, from which all that is distinctive and all that is redeeming is extracted: it is salt without its savour.
2. And so Christian life may lose its excellency and its virtue. These may be blurred and blemished lives, or they may be spotted and stained lives, or they may be lives with nothing in them beyond mere conventional propriety - lives not animated by the love of Christ, not filled with the Spirit of Christ, not governed by the principles of Christ; not blamable, but not beautiful; not wicked, but worldly; not criminal, but not Christian: the salt has lost its savour.
III. THE EXTREME UNLIKELIHOOD OF RESTORATION. "If the salt have lost... wherewith shall it be seasoned?" That is an impossibility. Salt that has lost its virtue is useless for all ordinary purposes, and is "cast out." It is not absolutely impossible for the soul that has lost its Christian spirit and character to regain its worth, but it is very difficult and it is very rare. The recovery of lost feeling is a spiritual marvel.
1. It is so improbable that no man who loves his soul will expose himself to the peril; if he does, he most seriously endangers his spiritual life, he most gravely imperils his eternal future.
2. It is not so impossible that any unfaithful soul need despair. True penitence and genuine faith will bring back the wanderer from the fold to the shelter of the good Shepherd's love. - C.