Matthew 7Judge not; that is, severely, censoriously.
With what judgment ye judge, &c., that is, the calumniator will be calumniated; he who unjustly condemns others, must expect to be himself condemned.
Beholdest thou the mote, &c. The mote represents the smaller faults of our neighbor; the beam, greater and more serious ones of ourselves.
By that which is holy, and pearls, are meant the truths and doctrines of the gospel; by dogs, and swine, debased and utterly profligate men. The sentiment is, that religious instruction is not to be urged upon men who are so sunk in depravity that they will receive it with imprecations and blasphemy.
Ask; that is, ask of God. The whole passage (7-11) offers to the Christian a strong assurance of favorable answers to sincere prayer. According to the usual custom of our Savior in his instructions, the principle is stated in a broad and unqualified manner, on the presumption that the good sense and candor of the hearer would apply the qualifications to which all general statements are liable. The very illustration which the Savior uses, show that these limitations are implied. The great Father of all like human parents, sometimes finds best to deny the requests, of his children, and often to answer them unexpected ways.
This is the law, &c.; that is, this principle is the foundation of all the detailed instructions of the ancient scriptures, in respect to the relative duties of man.
Strait; narrow, difficult to be entered. It requires watchfulness and a constant struggle to resist temptation, and to live in obedience to the precepts of Christ. And there are comparatively very few who do thus live, and they are consequently here represented as travelling in an unfrequented path. The great multitude give themselves up to sin. They are therefore represented as travelling the broad highway.
False prophets; false teachers of religion—Who come in sheep's clothing; who assume the appearance of piety.—Ravening wolves. They take more than the life; they destroy the soul.
Fruits; their conduct, and the effects of their preaching. The meaning is, that to expect that devout and holy lives would be produced by false religious teaching, is like looking for grapes to grow upon a thorn bush. The universal truth of this criterion has been proved by the experience of the Christian world for eighteen centuries, and the test is now as certain as ever.
Is hewn down and cast into the fire; that is, is to be terribly destroyed. This expression, as well as all the other language which the Savior uses in respect to the end of those who persist in impenitence and sin, shows that he looked forward, not to their ultimate restoration to God and to happiness, but to their hopeless and final ruin. Thus, in verse 13, the broad way is represented as leading to destruction. In this case, the awful denunciation seems to be particularly applied to false teachers; to those, who, to please their hearers, or for any other unworthy motive, preach what they secretly know is not true. They are trees producing corrupt and poisonous fruits, and they are destined to be hewn down and cast into the fire.
That is, the faith which manifests itself in obedience is the only faith which can save the soul. Our Savior changed ceremonial observances, but he gave new force and authority to moral law. The strictness of our obedience to this law, as Jesus illustrated and enforced it, is the test by which we are to judge of the true character of the faith which we profess to exercise.
Were astonished. This discourse seems to have made at the time, an impression upon those who listened to it, such as its character might have led us to expect. The clearness and simplicity of the aspects of truth which it presents, the force and elegance of its diction, and the beauty and appropriateness of its imagery, would combine to raise the sermon on the mount to the very highest rank, if we were to consider it simply as human composition. And vast has been the influence, too, which has exerted upon all that portion of the human race, to which the pen and the press have yet made it known; as it has now, for sixty successive generations, stood conspicuously before mankind, holding up to view the true tests and characteristics of virtue,—exposing, hypocrisy, promoting feelings of filial affection towards God, and a calm and happy trust in his superintending providence,—quieting the anxieties of human life, and lightening its cares,—and, more than all, soothing the anguish of remorse for sin, by pointing out the means and the certainty of pardon. It is remarkable, too, that its principles, new and startling as they were, when first announced, and hostile as they have ever been to the received maxims and established customs of society have never been seriously assailed. They cannot be assailed; and there is a certain sublime confidence in the majesty of truth exhibited in the form of simple assertion, in which these great principles are left, unsustained by argument or authority. They are left to stand, self-supported, by the innate power of truth, and by the testimony of that incorruptible, witness, ever ready, in the human soul, to confirm, by its voice, the immutable and eternal distinctions between right and wrong.
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