Wednesday, May 31st, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Sermon Bible Commentary Sermon Bible Commentary
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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Matthew 10". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ sbc/ matthew-10.html.
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Matthew 10". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/
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Jesus giving His Power to His Followers.
I. The work Christ's followers were to do. They were to do the mysterious work which the Master had done, and to preach as both He and John had preached. They were sent forth to do and to serve, but were done by and served as they went. Having been entrusted with the responsibility of a great message, and furnished with a power which was the envy and amazement of all, there ought to be an elevation of their consciousness into some correspondence with the dignity of their theme and the mystery of their power. They were called as servants, but were sent forth as friends in the communion of the mystery of the Master's power. He ought to have been more to them for ever after that.
II. The trials they were to endure. The brute forces of the world would be aroused against them as they preached the kingdom that cometh not by observation, and the savage in the man would be awakened by their cry for repentance. Law, as expounded by the scribe, and administered by the magistrate, would be made to appear against them. The force of religious prejudice and conviction was to be directed against them, and zeal for God to be turned to the detriment of God's servants. What were they against the mighty host coming up against them? Nothing, indeed, unless the eye rested on God.
III. The conduct they were to pursue. (1) Whatever should betide them, they were to remember Him by whom they had been sent. (2) They were to be wise as serpents. The apostle of any movement needs the by no means ordinary combination of zeal and wisdom. (3) They were to be harmless as doves; their wisdom was to be used neither to hurt nor to unnecessarily annoy. Their only concern was to be both harmless and wise, beyond that they had nothing and they had all, for they had God.
J. O. Davies, Sunrise on the Soul, p. 137.
References: Matthew 10:1 Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1127. Matthew 10:1 , Matthew 10:2 . Ibid., vol. xii., No. 702.Matthew 10:1-4 . A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 30; Parker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 177; Ibid., Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 125.
Brotherhood in Christ.
The world is covered with a network of brotherhoods. The first and simplest relationships run in and out in every direction, and multiply themselves till hardly any man stands entirely alone. This network of brotherhoods, like every evident fact of life, sets us to asking three questions: (1) What is its immediate cause? (2) What is its direct result? (3) What is its final reason?
I. The natural relations which exist between man and man have one at least of their purposes, and one of their most sacred purposes, in this that they are God's great system, along whose lines He means to diffuse His truth and influence through the world. Every higher and more spiritual influence avails itself of this same first fact of related human life, this fact that no man stands alone, but each is bound by some kind of kinship in with all the rest.
II. If religion spreads itself among mankind along the lines of man's natural affections and relationships, the results which we may look for will be two: (1) the exaltation and refinement of those affections and relationships themselves; and (2) the simplifying and humanizing of religion. We all know how the natural relations between human creatures all have their downward as well as their upward tendency, their animal as well as their spiritual side. The lusts of power and pride, and cruelty and passion, all come in to make foul and mean that which ought to be pure and high. What is there that can keep the purity and loftiness of domestic life? What is there that can preserve the colour and glory of the family like the perpetual consciousness, running through all the open channels of its life, that they are being used to convey the truth and power of God? The father who counts himself one link in the ever-developing perpetuation of truth among mankind, handing on to his children what has been already handed down to him; the brother who without struggle or effort feels all that he believes flowing through this life into the open life of the brother by his side; are not these the men in whom brotherhood and fatherhood keep their true dignity, and never grow base, jealous, tawdry, or tyrannical? Everything keeps its best nature only by being put to its best use.
Phillips Brooks, Twenty Sermons, p. 76.
Reference: Matthew 10:2 . J. Foster, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 366.
A mere list of names! A good deal may be made of a list of names, but it depends on whose names they are. There is a Book which has in it nothing but names. That Book would interest the universe if it were to be opened up and read "the Lamb's Book of Life." We may look on these men
I. Officially. They are selected, chosen, set apart by Christ as apostles. (1) The first thing suggested here is the marvellous results that flowed out of this selection, and the great fact out of which it arose. (2) The second thing is the little power naturally there would seem to have been in these men to have produced any great results. On the whole they were respectable men, of good common education, but not cultivated; men of no rank; some of them had a natural power, a rude energy, a faculty of speech, so we may conclude, when we find them called "Sons of Consolation" or "Sons of Thunder." (3) Thirdly, there is the list complete; twelve men are selected and ordained, all of them, and yet comparatively few of them stand out large and in full length in history.
II. Personally. We may read it as a list of persons in society and in the Church. Notice (1) how the Gospel embraces persons of different temper and tastes; yet all are looked on by the eye of the loving Father, and all are part of the one Church. Here is Peter, with his boldness and yet cowardice; John, with his sensitiveness; Nathanael, with his habit of retirement. (2) Another thing to be observed here is how the good cause may be advanced by relationship, friendship, brotherhood. There are three pairs of brothers in this list. (3) A catalogue might be made out of a Church book of those whose previous lives had been rather questionable. Observe how we can understand the Christian mellowing with age. The better nature comes to be developed, and the imperfections slough off, and are gone. So is it with the true man; he grows up into Christ.
T. Binney, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 8.
References: Matthew 10:2-4 . F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit vol. xxii., p. 312.Matthew 10:3 . J. Foster, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 403; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 171; Expositor, 3rd series, vol. i., p. 79; H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1,964.Matthew 10:4 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 105.
The Obscure Apostles.
Half of these twelve are never heard of again as doing any work for Christ. Peter and James and John we know; the other James and Judas have possibly left us short letters; Matthew gives us a Gospel; and of all the rest no trace is left.
I. The first thought which this peculiar and unexpected silence suggests is of the true worker in the Church's progress. Men are nothing except as instruments and organs of God. He is all, and His whole fulness is in Jesus Christ. Christ is the sole Worker in the progress of His Church. That is the teaching of all the New Testament.
II. This same silence of Scripture, as to so many of the Apostles, may be taken as suggesting what the real work of these delegated workers was. Peter's words, on proposing the election of a new apostle, lay down the duty as simply to bear witness of the resurrection. Not supernatural channels of mysterious grace, not lords over God's heritage, not even leaders of the Church, but bearers of a testimony to the great historical fact on the acceptance of which all belief in an historical Christ depended then, and depends now. Christ is the true Worker, and all our work is but to proclaim Him, and what He has done and is doing for ourselves and for all men.
III. We may gather, too, the great lesson of how often faithful work is unrewarded and forgotten. The world has a short memory, and as the years go on the list that it has to remember grows so crowded that it is harder and harder to find room to write a new name on it, or to read the old. All that matters very little. The notoriety of our work is of no consequence. The earnestness and accuracy with which we strike our blow are all-important, but it matters nothing how far it echoes.
IV. Finally, we may add that forgotten work is remembered, and unrecorded names are recorded above. In that last vision of the great city which the seer beheld descending from God, we read that in its "foundations were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." All were graven there the inconspicuous names carved on no record of earth, as well as the familiar ones cut deep in the rock, to be seen of all men for ever.
A. Maclaren, The Secret of Power, p. 265.
References: Matthew 10:5 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 141.Matthew 10:5-23 . Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., p. 135.Matthew 10:5-42 . A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 99. Matthew 10:6 . A. Mursell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 356; H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 179; W. Wilkinson, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 133.
We learn from this passage how needful it is for us all to remember that the kingdom of God exists now in the world.
I. What this remembrance means. The kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, may appear to many a man an obscure conception, a mere way of speaking, one of the old-fashioned, far-fetched expressions of Holy Scripture, belonging to the ecclesiastical style of former times, but meaning little to our modern culture. Yet it is not so. The Jews to whom it was first announced possessed the key to its meaning they expected the Messiah, that Divine King, who would establish the kingdom of God. Pity only that so many of them spoiled that key by intruding their own worldly and fleshly thoughts into the Divine revelation. St. Paul contradicted their views when he said, "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." The kingdom of heaven is among us, therefore heaven has come down to earth. God has come forth from His hidden place that we may know Him as a people knows its king, may have communion with Him, and may love Him, as a subject loves his sovereign. Our labour is from henceforth no longer earthly and perishable; it reaches on to heaven. Here with our poor labours we may gain for ourselves everlasting possessions, may hold fellowship with the everlasting God, and with all His saints. Each man labours, not for himself alone, but working together with all the forces of the kingdom of God. One reaches out his hand to another, not for things immediate and visible only, but for things eternal; we labour together for the kingdom of God, and thus our work is carried on in love and friendship.
II. Who are those that most need this reminder? (1) Those who are well satisfied with earth, who blindly live by the day, apparently oblivious even to the idea of a kingdom of God. (2) Those who by a spiritualizing of earthly things seek to transform the earth itself into the kingdom of heaven. To them I would say, The kingdom that you strive to raise is here already no realm of dreams, but a kingdom of glorious reality; break loose from your enchanted world, and believe in the truth which has appeared among us! (3) Those who think their own power sufficient to establish the kingdom of heaven. To them I would say, The heaven that is to fill you with joy and gladness must be high above yourself; it must be a rich and abundant heaven; it must come down from above. Receive it as a gift of grace. You cannot take it by force; become, then, as a little child, and receive it as the gift of love.
R. Rothe, Predigten, p. 52.
Reference: Matthew 10:7 , Matthew 10:8 . T. Spurgeon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 152.
The opening of this commission, in a world eaten up by selfishness, proclaimed the advent of a new era, and was the sign of the establishment of the kingdom of God among men. From that time forth there would be a band of men upon earth consecrated to minister to its woes and needs.
I. These servants of the kingdom of heaven, of which we, too, are subjects and ministers, were sent forth to a practical conflict with the actual sufferings and maladies of mankind. The Lord does not content Himself with proclaiming truth to our spirits, leaving our bodies to be wasted with disease, and pinched by hunger, while our hearts are wrung with anguish. Every actual wrong and pain grieved and troubled Him, and He meant that His kingdom should do away with it all. He came to enter His protest against all which made earth's life so unlike heaven's, and to promise that the lost harmony, for which man was unconsciously pining, should be restored.
II. I gather a second broad fact about the ministry of this kingdom to the world from the language of the text. It rests man's duty to man on man's duty and relationship to God. "Freely ye have received, freely give." It is the only law which can girdle the earth with benignant ministers, and drop dews of blessing on each succeeding generation of mankind.
III. The ground of this duty the text declares, "Freely ye have received." Whatever you hold by this tenure you hold as trustees. The very word "freely" seems in fatal opposition to (1) that selfish sense cf possession which set up the "I" and the "my" as kings over all our communications; and only gives when the gift is likely to be humbly recognized, and to return, at any rate, a tribute of praise. (2) It equally, though not so palpably, condemns that giving by rule and measure which is the fashion nowadays. Such a method binds the very freeness of spirit which the Gospel enjoins and inspires.
IV. Consider that this principle alone (1) meets the need of humanity; (2) vindicates the method of the Divine government; (3) fulfils the purpose of the Lord.
J. Baldwin Brown, The Divine Lift in Man, p. 335.
Reference: Matthew 10:10 . J. O. Wills, The Dundee Pulpit, p. 185.
I. The God of all peace sends peace to all His creatures. As He sends the light, as He sends the air, so He sends peace. And in token that He desires peace for us, He has set apart and empowered and accredited certain men to deliver it. The fact that there is a ministry at this moment is a proof that God means peace for us. But it all depends upon one thing upon adaptation. The peace is to the house, but the question whether the house or any one in it can have the peace turns upon the point of adaptation. "If the house is worthy" that is, if there be a fitness or adaptation in the house to receive then the peace will enter. But if the house be not worthy, then the peace will not enter, but it will rebound, it will find no correspondence in the thing which it seeks to light upon.
II. Consider what this peace means. (1) It is peace with God the peace which a man feels when his sins are forgiven, and he knows that God is no longer his enemy, but his Friend. (2) It is peace through the blood of Jesus Christ. It is the peace which has no fear in it. It is the peace which gives a man strength to live and confidence to die. (3) It is a peace within between a man and himself. His conscience, being sprinkled, is at peace; and the past does not now awake up to torment him, and the man is one, which he was not before; his heart is single, and singleness of heart is peace. (4) It is peace with the whole world. The peace with God made a peace within; and the peace within makes peace without. He is too humble to quarrel, and too little in his own eyes to see wrong in other men. He contemplates God till he grows like Him; as God is, so is he in this world; and God is love.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 6th series, p. 276.
References: Matthew 10:16 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii., No. 1370; J. H. Newman, Sermons on Subjects of the Day, p. 367. Matthew 10:19-20 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 394.Matthew 10:22 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x., No. 554.
We have here a precept, and a reason for it. Both are difficult. The precept is unusual, and the reason ambiguous.
I. The precept is a precept of prudence. It says, There is a great work before you a work which requires workmen. The labourers are few at the best, and they must not be made fewer by wanton self-sacrifices. Think of the work, think of the object, think of souls, think of the Saviour; think of these more than of yourselves. Martyrdom itself may be a sublime selfishness, enthusiasm may exaggerate even sacrifice; or, at least, the sacrifice of the life may be nobler, more heroic, more divine than the sacrifice of the death. Each as God wills; but you must interpret the will of God by the exigencies of the work. Flight may be courage, if it be flight for Christ and with Christ.
II. The work of Christ in the world will never be finished till He comes. Not only will the workmen, one by one, be removed by death the work itself will be cut short, unfinished, by the advent of Christ. "Ye shall not have finished the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come." Our Lord thus ministers to our necessities by warning us against several mistakes which are apt to spoil and ruin true work. One of these is the demand beforehand for a roundness and completeness of defined duty, which is not often to be found, and which must certainly not be waited for. The life and work, and the Christ-work of which this text tells, are never finished till the Son of man comes. (1) One reason for this lies in the mere sequence of human generations. Births and deaths are incessant. "One generation goeth, and another generation cometh," but they are both on the stage at once during a large part of the lifetime of earth, and the board is never cleared for a new beginning. (2) Another and a deeper reason lies in the nature of the work. The most real work of all is the intangible, impalpable thing which we call influence. Influence is the thing which Christ looks for, and it is an indefinite, and so an interminable thing. (3) We can see one other reason for this arrangement the incompleteness of all work that is worth the name; and it is the security thus given for the salubriousness of labour.
C. J. Vaughan, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 257.
Reference: Matthew 10:23 . H. Ware, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 202.
I. Likeness to the teacher in wisdom is the disciple's perfection. "If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." "The disciple is not greater than his master." "It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master." If that be a true principle, that the best that can happen to the scholar is to tread in his teacher's footsteps, to see with his eyes, to absorb his wisdom, to learn his truth, we may apply it in two opposite directions. First, it teaches us the limitations, and the misery, and the folly of taking men for our masters; and then, on the other hand, it teaches us the large hope, the blessing, freedom, and joy of having Christ for our Master. (1) Look first at the principle as bearing upon the relation of disciple and human teacher. All such teachers have their limitations. Each man has his little circle of favourite ideas, that he is perpetually reiterating. In fact it seems as if one truth was about as much as one teacher could manage, and as if whensoever God had any great truth to give to the world He had to take one man and make him its sole apostle; so that teachers become mere fragments, and to listen to them is to dwarf and narrow oneself. It is safe to follow Christ absolutely, and Him alone. In following Christ as our absolute Teacher there is no sacrifice of independence or freedom of mind, but listening to Him is the very way to secure that in its highest degree.
II. Turn to the second application of this principle. Likeness to the Master in life is the law of a disciple's conduct. There is no discipleship worth naming which does not at least attempt that likeness. They whose earthly life is following Christ, with faltering steps and afar off, shall have for their heavenly blessedness, they shall "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth."
III. Likeness to the Master in relation to the world is the fate that the disciple must put up with. If we are like Jesus Christ in conduct, and if we have received His word as the truth upon which we repose, depend upon it, in our measure and in varying fashions, we shall have to bear the same kind of treatment from the world. If you do not know what it is to find yourselves out of harmony with the world, I am afraid it is because you have less of the Master's spirit than you have of the world's. The world loves its own. If you are not of the world, the world will hate you. If it does not, it must be because, in spite of your name, you belong to it.
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, June 18th, 1885.
References: Matthew 10:24 , Matthew 10:25 . Expositor, 1st series, vol. xi., p. 179; H. W. Beecher, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 195.Matthew 10:24-42 . Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. ii., pp. 145, 154.Matthew 10:25 . Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 317.
Jesus Comforting and Warning.
I. What the disciples were not to fear. They were not to fear them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. Man's power in God is very great, but out of Him very little. He is not able to kill the soul; he can, however, kill the body, and the power to kill the body is, after all, a terrible power. It was not in disdain of the body, with its functions and sensibilities, that Christ said, "Fear not them which kill the body." But if the body must be wasted in the path of duty, it must go; if the hands and feet must be pierced, the Master taught that the decease must be accomplished, "for the servant is not above his Lord."
II. He warns them of something that should be feared. "Rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." The fear which they were not to have of men was that vague dread which would unman them for the service of their life. The word "fear" has a very different complexion in this connection from the word "fear" in such an injunction as "Fear the Lord." The text says to us, Fear him, the arch-enemy, unto whose power you may commit yourselves, the enemy of your souls. The destroyer of body and of soul comes to us all, and finds much in us much in our lower passions, and much in our noblest faculties. Sin, whatever form and by whatever means appealed to, fear ye him.
III. What they were to do. They were to speak in light what they heard in darkness. There are dark and secret places in every life. It depends much on ourselves whether or not these dark and secret places are a gain or a loss to us. A loss if we cannot be still in the dark, and fearless and calm enough to hear what the darkness tells; a gain if we are still enough to hear and understand what is told us. If you could be quiet through the night, you would have something to say on the morrow.
J. O. Davies, Sunrise on the Soul, p. 153.
References: Matthew 10:26 , Matthew 10:27 . S. Cox, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. i. p. 372.Matthew 10:27 . Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts p. 27; Phillips Brooks, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 56. Matthew 10:27 , Matthew 10:28 . J. Berry, Ibid., vol. xxxi., p. 283.Matthew 10:29 . G. T. Coster, Ibid., vol. xi., p. 406. Matthew 10:29 , Matthew 10:30 . C. Kingsley, The Water of Life, p. 243.Matthew 10:29-31 . H. E. Bennett, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 43.
I. Our Saviour's words were evidently intended to convey the general comfort of the truth that His people are exceedingly dear and precious in His sight; that they always live in His thoughts; and that He is interested in, and watches over and superintends, the least possible matter which concerns their happiness. But specially as regards their bodies; for the whole line of thought about the "sparrows" and about the little "hairs" springs out of the words, "Fear not them which kill the body."
II. God never exposes His jewels till He has catalogued them. It is a safe and pleasant thought, that all which goes to make life to us all we prize and hold most dear God has placed it and counted it in His own treasury. It cannot be wronged, and it cannot be injured, and it cannot be touched but He is aware of it; and He has made Himself responsible for it.
III. Seeing then that it is so, we should (1) never be afraid to pray about the little things; (2) never be afraid of feeling ourselves in a centre, about which God is making all kind things to circulate. Do not hesitate to believe that God is working for you in the most express and direct manner possible. (3) And go on without anxiety, for anxiety grieves God. All you love and all you want are in God's registry; and whatever is once written there His glory is committed to it. It is quite safe. (4) And once more, remember all the inner life is there too. The sorrows and the joys, the conflicts and the peace, the earnest longings and the bitter memories, and all the soul's chequered life and shade all are in the record.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 2nd series, p. 214.
References: Matthew 10:30 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 187; Ibid., My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 30.
For us there are two things here: human fear, and Christ's Divine dissuasives from it.
I. Our fears. Happily they are not, in this country at least, of the kind that beset these first Christians, and especially these first Christian preachers. Our fears are those which may be called normal; which, at any rate, are continual, and widely entertained by Christian people. They may be divided into two kinds: those which respect this world, the temporalities of our life; and those which respect the world to come and our spiritual state in relation to it. As regards the world and its affairs, something depends on temperament in the way individual men take things. Some go through life much more anxiously than others; they are of quicker apprehension, more hopeful, or more timid, or more sensitive. As a matter of fact, no one can doubt that some people do take a great care about worldly things. We must never forget that the noblest and fullest victory over care and fear of every kind is to be gained only by looking to, and living for, a higher world.
II. Observe how the dissuasive, the "fear not," of this passage, is supported and commended by our blessed Lord Himself. It is not merely a word of kindness and well-wishing. It is a strong argument, built up on facts and assurances of the utmost worth for the purpose for which they are used. (1) The limited character of human power, and of the power of circumstances, is, when vividly apprehended, a great dissuasive from fear. Just so much unfriendliness, or hostility, or wrong, or annoyance of any kind; and then, "after that there is no more that they can do." (2) With God is the unlimited power. And this is another reason urged in the passage in support of the Divine dissuasive, "Fear not." "He is able to cast both soul and body into hell." There is no limit to His power except the moral attributes of His own nature. (3) In one word and this is another support of the general dissuasive He is "our Father." There is a special, a higher care over us. "Ye are of more value than many sparrows."
A. Raleigh, The Way to the City, p. 271.
References: Matthew 10:31 . R. W. Evans, Parochial Sermons, vol. i., p. 134.Matthew 10:32 . Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 15.Matthew 10:33-42 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 20. Matthew 10:34 . Ibid., vol. ix., p. 321; J. Keble, Sermons on Various Occasions, p. 120; J. C. Hare, Sermons in Herstmonceux Church, vol. ii., pp. 245, 265; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 365.Matthew 10:34-38 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 379. Matthew 10:34-39 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 260. Matthew 10:35 , Matthew 10:36 . J. C. Hare, Sermons in Herstmonceux Church, vol. ii., p. 281.
"They began to make excuse." There is one excuse by which we either plead the example and authority of our neighbours for doing evil, or for fear of their laughing at us and persecuting us, leave off to do good, and become even ashamed of appearing to care for it. In this state it may well be said that "a man's foes will be they of his own household;" that nothing is so dangerous to his salvation as the principles and practice of other men with whom he is living in daily intercourse, nothing so much to be feared as that he should make their opinions his standard, instead of the declared will of God.
I. Nothing, I suppose, shows the weakness of human nature more than this perpetual craving after some guide and support out of itself this living upon the judgment of others rather than upon our own. And it is not to be disputed that we do need a guide and support out of ourselves, if we would but choose the right one. For the bulk of mankind there is a choice of only two things they must worship God or one another; they must seek the praise and favour of God above all things, or the praise and favour of man. Being too weak to stand alone, they must lean upon the Rock of Ages, or upon the perishing and treacherous pillar of human opinion.
II. It is so natural an excuse to deceive our consciences, that we are but doing what every one else does, that we are but doing what no one else considers to be wrong. We make it a sort of merit that in general we do follow a higher standard; and on the strength of this we think ourselves entitled to follow the lower one sometimes, when we are particularly tempted to do so. I could imagine that St. James had had much experience of people of this description, from several passages in his Epistle. Those double-minded men whom he bids to purify their hearts, and whom he tells not to think that they shall receive anything of the Lord they apparently were persons who lived in general far above the heathen standard, who only wished to keep in reserve some convenient points on which they might gratify their evil inclinations, and say in their excuse that no one else thought there was any harm in such things. They thought and knew that there was harm in them, for their eyes had been opened by Gospel light, and they would be judged by their own knowledge, and not by their neighbours' ignorance.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 101.
The Sword of the Kingdom of Heaven.
I. Consider the twofold aspect of the problem which Christianity undertook to solve, the dual nature of its work. It had both to take to pieces and to reconstruct society, and this is the true key to much that is most perplexing in its history. It could not, by a simple reformation, convert the pagan empire into a kingdom of heaven, nor a pagan home into a household of faith. But one means existed for the accomplishment of that purpose the spiritual renewing of the individual elements of which the households and the states were composed. The condition of that renewing was a personal faith in Christ. And faith transformed the man; he passed under a higher government, and became subject to a new and absolute Lord. You see what a discomposing, dissolving force was here at work. The strain on the bonds which had held society together would be tremendous. The man would find himself under new and holy constraints, which all around thought unholy; opposed to friends, comrades, and all that he had been wont to regard as the most sacred duties of life. Those who have looked at all into the inner life of the first Christian ages know well how terrible was the rending of bonds which the love of Christ compelled.
II. But the matter does not end here. The fact of our nature is that men cannot live without Christ. Depart from us, leave us alone, men cry; and then suffer moan till He returns. "Who will show us any good?" is in the end the cry of all pagan societies and all worldly hearts. And it really means, "O Christ, help us." The unrest of a Christless soul, a Christless nation, a Christless world is really the beginning of a vital process, which in its first stages is always a travail. The constant sorrowful failures of man's wrath and self-will to work out salvation for himself and for society are part of the method by which God is seeking to draw man to Himself. "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but I am thy Saviour," is the witness which His Word is ever bearing. The same voice is ever repeating the same sentence, in the sorrows, the anguish of nations, and in the chronic miseries of all self-willed sensual hearts.
J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, p. 211.
References: Matthew 10:36 . H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 281.Matthew 10:36-38 . C. G. Finney, Sermons on Gospel Themes, p. 319.
It is not for a moment to be supposed that Christ speaks in disparagement of the domestic affections. It is a question of priority, it is a question of degree. Who has the first, who has the chief claim? Is the claim of the household or the claim of Christ the stronger? This and passages like this leave no room for doubt as to the answer. Surely Jesus Christ Himself knows what He is, and what His claims are, and what Christian discipleship is. The Lord knoweth them that are His, and He knows them by this, that they love Him such at least is their desire and their endeavour. Him first, Him most, Him without end. That is the inner pith of Christian discipleship.
I. Here are the children of a family, rising up into life; what ought the parents to wish for them supremely? The common answer would be "Success." But what is success? Ought not Christian parents who love Christ supremely to be strong in the idea and belief that success of the highest kind is absolutely attainable by every one, if he will? And ought they not to give that idea to their children, and to create that faith in their hearts, as far as they can? High character is success. To mean well; to aim rightly; to strive fairly; and then to take what comes is not that success, at least begun?
II. Parents may show a tendency to love son or daughter more than Christ by objecting to, or resisting as far as they can, the discipline of Providence, which is brought to bear upon them as the result of their own mistakes, failures, and sin.
III. There comes sometimes, in these human homes and families, a deeper trial yet of love and loyalty to Christ. Son or daughter is needed in the other world; the message comes, and must be obeyed. To give up so much that is precious, to have the home made dark, is not easy. To some it is for a while impossible. But Christ takes His children to Himself; and then, when all is over, if not before, His faithful ones submit without murmuring to His will, and begin to cheer and strengthen themselves with this thought, which will apply to themselves ere long, that to depart and to be with Christ is far better.
A. Raleigh, The Way to the City, p. 340.
References: Matthew 10:37 . G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 34; Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 321; C. C. Bartholomew, Sermons Chiefly Practical, p. 53; J. C. Hare, Sermons in Herstmonceux Church, vol. ii., p. 301.Matthew 10:37-39 . A. Scott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 277. Matthew 10:38 . Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Gospels and Acts, p. 33.Matthew 10:38 , Matthew 10:39 . T. Birkett Dover, A Lent Manual, p. 95.
The Partial and the Perfect Self.
There is a self-denial which is merely an elaborate and subtle form of self-seeking. The self-sacrifice required of Christians is a reasonable service; when we directly aim at doing good to others we indirectly achieve greater good for ourselves than any selfish conduct could accomplish; or, as our text puts it, he who loseth his life for Christ's sake shall find it.
I. We have seen that a man is distinguished from an animal by the fact that he is able to regard his nature as a whole, and to gather up its passing experiences into the unity of a consistent life. But he is also, and still more strikingly, distinguished by the fact that he can live in the lives of others. He may so identify himself with others as to make their lives his own, and unless he does this he is not really human. It is only as our individual, narrow, exclusive, isolated self is developed into a larger, inclusive, sympathetic self that we come to our highest life.
II. The capacity of love and self-sacrifice is the capacity to make the happiness of others my own, and to identify my life with an ever-widening sphere of life beyond myself. As a rule, this capacity is called forth in early life; and when once it has been brought into exercise it should grow with our growth and strengthen with our strength.
III. The self-denial, then, which Christ requires of us is not self-destruction, but self-completion; it is not self-mutilation, but self-development; it is not self-neglect, but self-fulfilment. It will bring us gradually to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. It does not ignore any of the various elements in our nature, but it enables them all to work together harmoniously for the perfecting of the whole man. He who has learned the lesson of self-sacrifice is so changed from what he was before he learned it that he may emphatically be called a new creature, and yet he is not less a man than formerly; rather, we should say, it is he and such as he alone who really deserve that exalted title.
A. W. Momerie, The Origin of Evil, p. 147.
To do God's work needs manliness and courage. It needs manliness and courage to be His loyal servant, and to defy the opinion of the great world about us manliness, the courage which may accomplish so much in the great sad world we have to live and work in; and this must be first struggled after in our bright, sunny, if thoughtless, early days.
I. What motive is there to make and choose a life of self-sacrifice, self-surrender, self-forgetfulness, spending our lives for others instead of saving them for ourselves, instead of living sordidly, selfishly, amassing money, building up comfort, rank, good things for ourselves, living as though the chief good were to be able to help on the fair work of Christ? What motive is set before us to induce us to choose this life? In reply, I quote the words of the text the three strange, solemn words, spoken, we know, so often by the Master to His own, "For My sake;" the three strange words which moved the holy twelve, the hundred and twenty first disciples, the band of noble, gallant pioneers of the early Christian centuries; the three words which nerved so many men, so many weak women, children, and grey-haired, to endure all things, to bear willingly the loss of everything men count dear and precious home, friends, even life.
II. This is the motive. Is it not a sufficient one? What appeal can be imagined more solemn, more touching, more persuasive, than these three little words? Be good men, said our Christ; be loyal, truthful, generous, loving men, helpers of the weak, comforters of the comfortless, the friends of the orphan and the widow, the mourner and the forlorn, for My sake; for My sake, who left the home of grandeur and of peace, and entered on a dark and dreadful contest to rescue you from sin and misery and endless shame and sorrow. Help Me, says the Redeemer, to carry on My mighty, eternal work of reconciliation and reparation; help on My triumph over sin and misery and sorrow.
III. See what such teaching involves. It changes everything for us: men no longer painfully obey a grave moral law from a sense of right and duty; they no longer keep themselves pure for fear of certain dread consequences; no longer, as it has been well said, look on acts of generosity and self-denial as on a "tale of bricks," to be delivered often with wearied limbs and dull, submissive hearts. The brave, manly life of self-surrender; the generous toil for others; the knightly thought for others; the loving to give rather than to receive these things done for His sake, the life that is lived for His sake is no longer difficult and hard, but the yoke becomes easy and the burden light when the gleam of the love of Christ falls upon them.
D. M. Spence, Oxford and Cambridge Journal, Nov. 11th, 1880.
References: Matthew 10:39 . Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 119; H. W. Beecher, Plymouth Pulpit, 4th series, p. 135.Matthew 10:41 . J. Brierley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 73; S. Cox, Expositor, 2nd series, p. 81; J. Keble, Sermons from Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 96.
The Greatest in the Kingdom, and their Reward.
I. Observe, first, the three classes of character which are dealt with "prophet," "righteous man," "these little ones." At first sight it looks as if we had here to do with a descending scale, as if we began at the top and went downwards. But we remember that Jesus Christ Himself declared that the least of the little ones was greater than the greatest who had gone before. The Christian type of character is distinctly higher than the Old Testament type, and the humblest believer is blessed above prophets and righteous men, because his eyes behold and his heart welcomes the Christ. Therefore I am inclined to think that we have here an ascending series; that we begin at the bottom and not at the top; that the prophet is less than the righteous man, and the righteous man less than the little one who believes in Christ. Here is the climax: gifts and endowments at the bottom, character and morality in the middle, and at the top faith in Jesus Christ.
II. Notice the variety of the reward according to the character. The prophet has his, the righteous man has his, the little one has his. That is to say, each level of spiritual or moral stature receives its own prize. All courses of obedient conduct have their own appropriate consequences and satisfaction. Every character is adapted to receive, and does receive, in the measure of its goodness, certain blessings and joys, here and now. "Surely the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth."
III. The best point that is here is the substantial identity of the reward to all that stand on the same level, however different may be the form of their lives. The active prophet, righteous man, or disciple, and the passive recognizer of each in that character, who receives each as a prophet, or righteous man, or disciple, stand practically and substantially on the same level; though the one of them may have his lips glowing with the Divine inspiration, and the other may never have opened his mouth for God. That is beautiful and deep. The power of sympathizing with any character is the partial possession of that character for ourselves. He that helps a prophet because he is a prophet has got the making of a prophet in himself.
A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 2nd series, p. 331.
Good of Little Acts to please God.
I. We are apt, as to this life or the life to come, to think of God as dealing with us, in a sort of general way, just as we do, "in a lump," as we speak. We think of getting to heaven in a general way, as something purchased for us (as it indeed is) by the precious blood of Christ. We do not think what our own acts, one by one, day by day, and hour after hour, have to do with our everlasting lot. Every act in our lives is not only a step towards heaven or towards hell; it not only leads to God or from God; but wherever you are, each act has to do with your everlasting condition when there. You know how, in piece-work, not only the labour of the week or day is counted as a whole, but every single act of that labour tells. Now this is just the way in which Almighty God vouchsafes to speak to us, to deal with us. Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. As in earthly things each act of labour tells towards its end, so in our heavenly husbandry. The reward is above measure, as God is above man; yet every act done for the love of God tells towards that infinite reward.
II. In everything you do there is an inside and an outside; a part which man may see, and a part which God only can thoroughly see through. That inside is the intent with which we do it. Now in everything we do there may be a whole world of inward life. Give to God, when you wake in the morning, one strong earnest desire that in all the acts, thoughts, deeds of the day you may please Him. Whatever you do, try from time to time to do it as well as you possibly can, to please Him. All is lost which is not in some way done for Him. Some things may be done out of the very habit of desiring to do what He wills. Some things are done expressly to please Him; some things are done with a faint wish to please Him; some with a strong desire; some with a struggle, because the wish to please ourselves interferes; some things easily, because we have long been used to desire in this way to please God, and use, in God's grace, has made it easy to us. God has given us this Advent, that we may the more think of His second coming, that we may anew prepare to meet Him. How shall we prepare? Not with great things, but by preparing our hearts, through His grace, in all, little or great, to please Him.
E. B. Pusey, Sermons for the Church's Seasons, p. 31.
References: Matthew 10:42 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 18; A. Hannay, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 436; Parker, Cavendish Pulpit, p. 127.