Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye?
I. THE KEENNESS OF SPIRITUAL VISION some men exhibit. They have the nicest discernment of faults and failings in their brethren. There is nothing too minute to escape their notice and their condemnation. Censoriousness is a very great mistake in every light. Those who are guilty of "beholding the mote in their brother's eye" are wrong in four respects.
1. They do substantial injustice in their judgment and by their action; for they lay stress on the one small infirmity while they leave unregarded and unacknowledged many honourable acquisitions, many valuable virtues.
2. They are inconsiderate of the difficulties which the victims of their severity have had to contend with, and in doing battle with which they may have put forth the most commendable exertion.
3. They forget that every one of us is and will be subject to the judgment and (where it is due) the condemnation of God (see Romans 14:4, 10).
4. They show a perverted ingenuity. It would be a most excellent quality to cultivate if they would only exert the same subtlety and patient observation in descrying the virtues and the beauties of those in whom they detect so many failures. This keenness of spiritual vision is a mistake in two other ways.
(1) It is usually unprofitable; for it is more irritating than advantageous to those on whom it is expended.
(2) It is odious to man, and it is unpleasing in the sight of God. Both in the human and in the Divine estimate, severity is the unattractive and charity is the becoming thing.
II. THE DULNESS OF SPIRITUAL VISION other men manifest. They do "not perceive the beam that is in their own eye." This fact in human experience is only too palpable. We see men whose souls are painfully charged with selfishness, or pride, or frivolity, or cruelty, or irreverence, or impurity, who have no conception that they are in grave spiritual delinquency and danger. There is not a mote but a beam in their eye, and they are blind to it altogether. They are not entitled to offer a judgment on the defects or transgressions of others, so far are they themselves from the straight line of truth. And any note of censure from their lips is utterly and even ludicrously misplaced.
III. OUR WISDOM IN VIEW OF THESE MISTAKES. It is to be far more concerned to be right and pure in our own hearts than to be keen in the detection and exposure of other people's shortcoming. Since men do so seriously and so fatally mistake their own spirit and condition, it behoves us to do these three things:
1. To examine our own. hearts with impartial and anxious eye.
2. To welcome any friendly counsel or warning that may be offered us; and "it is lawful to learn even from an enemy.
3. To be often and earnestly asking God to show us what is wrong within, that we may see ourselves as he sees us. Who can understand his errors .9 Cleanse thou me from secret faults!" (Psalm 19:12, 13; and see Psalm 139:23, 24). - C.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Sermons by Wesleyan Ministers.Now, as no age has been without its abominations, so none has been without its reformers. We read of them alike in sacred and in secular history. We hear of them alike in Heathendom and in Christendom, in lands of barbarous darkness and in lands of religious enlightenment. Abel, Enoch, and Noah were reformers. So were Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah — in fact, all the Israelitish prophets, and many of the Israelitish kings. Confucius in China, Zoroaster in Persia, Socrates in Greece, Cato in Rome, were all of the same order. In truth, all genuine Christians, rightly viewed, are reformers. "Ye are the salt.of the earth," to rectify its putrescencies. "Ye are the light of the world," to disperse its shades of darkness. But every genuine good thing amongst men has also its counterfeit. The grand forger and fabricator of all such hollow, delusive imitations of the exterior of excellence, is the devil. God prepares a purifying salt, Satan also manufactures an article, resembling it in appearance, but without its pungent savour and antiseptic properties. Our Lord, in His Sermon on the Mount, warns us against being deceived by these pseudo-reformers: and also against the still more fatal position of actually belonging to their ranks. We may gather from this passage of stern rebuke the character of a false or pretended reformer; and, by considering its contrast, that of a true and effective one likewise. Both may be zealous; both may be bold; both may be firm. Earnestness, intrepidity, immobility, may belong to each alike. No! the distinction between the true and the false reformer consists not in any difference of ardour, perseverance, or resoluteness. It is not a variation of degrees, but a variety of kind. It stands not in diversities of intensity, but in contradictions of essential quality. We shall find, by an analysis of our text, that the false reformer is at the antipodes of the true in all that goes to constitute fundamental, or radical, distinctions in moral character.
1. They start from opposite points of the compass. The one begins by reforming his neighbours; the other, by reforming himself. The one begins by looking around; the other, by looking within: the one, by sweeping the streets of the city; the other, by cleaning the rooms of his own house: the one, by attempting to remodel society; the other, by seeking a change in his own character. The one sees first what is amiss abroad; the other, what is amiss at home. "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."
2. When both are engaged in the work of the world's reformation, they differ in the selection of the objects on which their corrective measures are brought to bear. They not only start from contrary points, but they also proceed in contrary directions. The false reformer is presumptuous, the true reformer is condescending. The one looks above himself, the other looks below. All this, too, appears plainly from the text, "Cast out the beam from thine own eye, then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."
3. A distinction between the real and the apparent reformer is to be found in the state of their own minds respectively. The former is clear in his perceptions and correct in his judgments. He knows how to discriminate cautiously and accurately, between good and evil. But the latter is ever confused in his views and erring in his decisions. Through precipitancy and prejudice, he mistakes the sweet for the bitter, and tim bitter for the sweet. We do not indeed claim infallibility for the true saint, but we do claim for him as correct a discernment of character and knowledge of truth as may be attainable by man in this world. The Scriptures doubtless guarantee this to every simple-hearted, docile, prayerful man, who studies their pages. Hence we read of the anointing of the Holy One, which leads those who receive it into all truth: and we are told, that if any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God. Again, if thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light: and, if any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men freely, and without up. braiding. Such as are the sons of God are represented as being led by His Spirit You find him opposing only what ought to be opposed, and promoting only what deserves encouragement. He does not magnify the mole-hill into a mountain, nor minify the mountain into a mole-hill. He does not treat trifles as matters of essential moment, nor momentous matters as trifles. He is not deceived by mere, or by first appearances.. The sham reformer hides the real nature of objects, or deceitfully exaggerates their dimensions. He beholds all persons and things through a discolouring and perverting medium. Through the magical spectacles of prejudice he ever looks, and therefore sees not what really is, but what his own fancy conjures up, or his excited passions prompt him to desire. Whilst gazing upon others, their noblest virtues become transformed into foulest vices, their little infirmities swell into hideous sins. And how should it be otherwise? The man has a beam in his eye. He is dismally blinded. His whole soul is in darkness. His mind is bewitched by the sorceries of sin and Satan. a dreadful spell has bound his spirit: a moral madness has distracted his heart. He can see neither perspicuously nor correctly: not afar off at all, and nigh at hand only imperfectly. Such is the delusion and blindness of the pseudo-reformer, hinted at so intelligibly in the expression of the text, "Then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."
4. There is a contrast between the real and the pretended reformer, not only in the head, but in the heart; not only in the perceptions, but in the intentions; not only in the understanding, but in the motives and affections. Indeed, here lies the root of the whole matter. The one is sound, the other "rotten at the core." The one is sincere, the other deceitful. The one rejoices inwardly in the truth, the other in iniquity. The one means to amend, the other to cavil and find fault. The one is actuated by an honest desire to see improvement in others, the other by a malignant censoriousness, which rather revels in prevalent corruption than bewails it. The true reformer loves those whom he strives to benefit: the false reformer really despises or hates those in whom he professes to be interested. He is spiteful and envious, a carping meddler, a dangerous busy-body. He is a disguised foe to society. He has no love of peace, no relish for trustful concord.
1. We allude to that company of captious borderers just beyond the limits of Church communion, who refuse to step across those limits, because of the alleged inconsistencies or sins of some who are already there. Such persons can see nothing in the gospel but its difficulties, nothing in ecclesiastical organizations but their defects, nothing in Church members but their inconsistencies, real or attributed.
2. There is a class of the hypocrites, rebuked in the text, to be found inside the pale of Church communion. The needed remedy must be applied to thine own heart. It is at home where reform, as well as charity, must begin. Get all set right between thine own conscience and God. Let His love again expand and cheer thy heart: and then thy fellow-believer will appear more amiable in thy sight. If any little inconsistencies attach to him, thou shalt clearly see them, and mayest be able, with all the nice discrimination of a sound mind, and all the delicate dexterity of a charitable hand, to take the mote out of thy neighbour's eye: and both of you shall be benefited by the operation. "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."
(Sermons by Wesleyan Ministers.)1. This parable implies that there are different degrees of sin. Not that any sin is trifling; but some are more heinous than others, either in themselves, or by reason Of aggravating circumstances.
2. Our sins often are really very great in themselves; and they would appear so to us, did we properly consider everything with which we are acquainted in our own case,
3. Men are generally most ready to mark the sins of others, when they are insensible of their own.
4. To be severe on the sins of others, and indulgent to one's own, is very hypocritical.
5. In order to be prepared for the office of a reformer, a man must be reformed himself.
6. It is the duty of those who are reformed, to try to reform others.
(James Foote, M. A.)
1. First, then, we have the law, that the habit of judging others — of looking at their evil deeds — is a hindrance to self-knowledge. The man forgets the beam that is in his own eye, because his whole mind is bent on observing the motes that are in his brother's eye. And this is, as the words of Christ imply, the act of one who is a hypocrite. The hypocrisy is all the more deadly and evil in its nature because it is in part unconscious. The man who strives to know what God is — who lets the light shine in on him — who is taught to see himself by that light in the mirror of God's Word, will find it impossible to go on acting a part which is not his own. If he knows truth and goodness to be the great blessings of earth and Heaven, he will find the misery of seeming to be true and good when he is not so, altogether insupportable. The warning which this law involves is necessary for all men. It is absolutely essential for those who have been called, by an outward or inward vocation, by the circumstances of their lives or the solemn purposes which God has put into their hearts, to do battle in His service against the world and the flesh, to feel that in fighting against them they are fighting also against the devil. Consider what the work of those disciples must have been, as they preached the glad tidings of the kingdom in the cities and villages of Galileo, as they afterwards had to proclaim the same message in the great cities of Asia or Europe. How often they must have been tempted to think with scorn of those who were living in brutalizing sins, or bowing before dumb idols, or warring and fighting with each other! Was it not easy to think that their warfare against these monstrous forms of wickedness was so urgent as to leave them no leisure for self-scrutiny or self-discipline? easy to forget the law that the battle could not be fought successfully without it? And was there not an almost equal risk, when they protested, as their Lord had taught them to protest, against proud, self-righteous formalists, of their falling unconsciously into the sin which they rebuked?
2. But, secondly, we are taught that this self-discipline is not to end in itself. It is the means to something beyond it, the preparation for a work which could not be done successfully without it? One who rested in the first half of the precept might satisfy himself by a simple indifference to the acts, whether good or evil, which he witnessed. Silence would seem an adequate fulfilment of it. To check the expression of any judgment with the lips, to endeavour to suppress even the half-formed judgment of the mind, to pass through the world without coming into collision with its selfishness and godlessness — this would be to such a man the ideal of a blameless life. He might easily come to persuade himself that this was the temper of the true Christian charity which "hopeth all things, endureth all things, and believeth all things." But the charity which Christ requires — it would be truer to say, the charity which Christ gives, of which His life on earth was the manifestation — is the very opposite of all this. It cannot remain neutral in the great battle between good and evil, between the armies of the living God and the lust and hatred that war against His order. It burns, as with a consuming fire, against the tyranny and wrong-doing wherewith one man works misery and destruction for his brothers, against the worship of sensuous lusts, or the idolatry of wealth, which lead men to forget the honour which is due to God. Words and acts which are to all appearance simply indifferent, light things, which may be passed over — idle words, for which men think that they shall not have to render an account in the day of judgment — will be seen by those whose eyes are opened, to be the outgrowths of some root of bitterness, stifling and strangling the growth of the good seed, hindering it from bringing forth any fruit to perfection. They therefore will, of all men, be least disposed to sit still, in the comfort of an easy-going Epicurean neutrality, when there are giant evils in the world still unchecked, and monstrous wrongs still unredressed. They will least allow those, the souls for whom Christ died and who are fellow-heirs with them of His eternal kingdom, to perish for lack of knowledge or continue in their blindness till they sleep the sleep of death. But then they will have learnt to contend against evil and falsehood, without judging the doer of evil or him who is the slave of falsehood. They will find it possible to make that distinction which the man who has not perceived and cast out the mote that was in his own eye never makes, between the offence which must be condemned, and, if need be, punished, and the offender who stands at God's judgment-seat and not at ours. They can say, "The thing that has been done is evil; the man who has done it has thereby made himself the slave of evil, and brought himself into darkness and misery, and God is calling us to help him." Conclusion: We must not look, either in ourselves or in others, for a perfect union of these two forms of charity. This is not reached at once. Even he who is earnestly striving after it will make mistakes. But he will not forget that these very mistakes form a part of the education by which God is training him to do His work on earth more effectually. They teach him to retrace his steps, to go through the process of preparation mice again, once again to cast out the beam that is in his own eye that he may "see clearly" to pull out the mote that is in his brother's eye. They tend to make his sympathy with the hearts of his fellow-men wider and deeper than it was.
(J. S. Hoare, M. A.)
I. If a Christian man be thoroughly penetrated with the truth respecting his own relations, and those of other men, to God it is quite certain that JUDGING AND REPROVING OTHERS WILL BE A WORE WHICH, SO FAR AS MAY BE, HE WILL DECLINE. And this for two reasons:
1. Because he doubts his own knowledge of other men; and —
2. Because he doubts the strength of his own sympathy.
II. But now, besides these thoughts, there is the most conclusive thought of all — OUR OWN DEMERIT: OUR LYING OPEN OURSELVES TO GOD'S JUDGMENT AND TO MAN'S. The case which the Saviour here points to is not simply that of one judging another, who is himself an evil-doer, but the case of one judging another whose sin is to that of the person he censures as the beam to the mote. When we are wrong-doers ourselves, and when we see our own acts under the colouring lights of self-love; when we review them with the help of all the apologies and extenuations which we are able to devise, and then turn to other persons' acts, all these lights being withdrawn, and criticise them in a clear, cold, and speculative way, or, even worse, under the influence of anger, or jealousy, or prejudice, is it not quite certain that we shall think less of the beam in our own eye than of the mote in our brother's eye?
(J. A. Jacob, M. A.)was a beam in his eye, and that therefore the retort was perfectly fair. The Lord Jesus adopted the Hebrew metaphor, but not in the Hebrew spirit. On His lips it does not justify, but censures, those who assumed to judge and rebuke their brethren.
1. If we are so quick to see straws in the eyes of our neighbours that we can hardly look into any face without detecting one, the probability is that we carry a beam in our own eye of which we greatly need to be rid.
2. The Lord Jesus says that we are hypocrites, if, with a beam jutting from our own eye, we say to our brother, "Let me pull out the splinter from thine eye." Is it hypocritical, then, to do a kindness, and to offer help, when we ourselves stand in need of help? By no means. But while our words mean, "O it is very wrong to suffer the smallest speck to remain in the eye"; our conduct means, "There is no great harm in letting even a beam remain in it." That is to say, we are hypocrites; we talk one thing and act another. If the sinner rebuke sin, who will listen? If the sinner, while rebuking sin, affect a righteous austerity and assume to be innocent of transgression, who will not scorn both him and his rebuke?
3. But here we touch on a question of grave practical moment: "Are only the holy to open their mouth against sin P " When Miss Nightingale went about among the sick soldiers of the Crimean hospitals, there was no need to rebuke them for profane language or obscene jests, although these were familiar to many of their lips. They felt they could not utter them in a presence so kind and pure. Many of them, we are told, folded their hands as if in prayer while she passed by. Do you imagine that.when she spoke to a man, if she ever did, of his faults and sins, he felt that she had no right to speak, that she was a hypocrite for her pains? But why not? Simply because, as they looked up into that pure, single eye, they could see the splinters in their own, and grew ashamed of them. See what force a holy character gives to rebuke!
4. From this man with a beam in his eye we may learn at least what to avoid. What are his faults?(1) lie does not know that the beam is there.(2) Because he is not conscious of the beam in his own eye, he assumes airs of moral superiority, and carries himself like a judge instead of a brother. Put these two pictures side by side, and you will not doubt from which of them we should draw our inspiration. There goes a judge, immaculate in his own conceit; he stares with cold rebuke at the splinters which deform all eyes but his, and condemns in others faults not comparable to the crimes with which he pollutes the judgment-seat. And here come two brothers; and as they fall on each other's neck, they cry, "Ah, brother, I see you are troubled with the very straws and splinters which afflict reel help me, and let me help you, that we may both be quit of them."
5. Is not this parable true to our experience of life? It is against the unconscious self-assumption so prevalent among us that our Lord warns us in this parable.
(S. Cox, D. D.)a mete: — It takes a long time to learn by heart so as to take to heart Archbishop Whately's maxim, that ten thou. sand of the greatest faults in our neighbours are of less consequence to us than one of the smallest in ourselves. Elsewhere he says, "Never is the mind less fitted for self-examination than when most occupied in detecting the faults of others." Have you never, asks Ellesmere, found the critic disclose four errors on his own part for one he delights to point out in the sayings or doings of the persons he criticizes? Shakespeare's Birch claims the right to ask his companions, noble and royal alike, Dumain, Longueville, and the King of Navarre, addressing them singly and collectively: —
"But are you not ashamed? nay, are you not,
All three of you, to be thus much o'ershot?
You found his mote; the king your mote did see,
But! a beam do find in each of three."
Who, exclaims Juvenal, can stand hearing the Gracchi complaining of sedition?this lens Shows us our faults, that other men's. We do not care how dim may be This by whose aid our own we see; But, ever anxiously alert That all may have their whole desert, We would melt down the stars and sun In our heart's furnace, to make one Through which th' enlightened world might spy A mote upon a brother's eye.
(H. S. Brown.)tu quoque rejoinder, "Physician, heal thyself," is in its place here. "First cast out the beam." This very officiousness in well-doing, this arrogant setting up as a correcter of morals, this immodest and loveless meddling with your neighbours — what is it but a sign how pride has made you stone-blind, and a proof that it is not the sympathy of a penitent which inspires you, but the conceit of a fault-finder?
(J. O. Dykes, D. D.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(Sword and Trowel.)
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