Luke 6In the former part of this chapter we find our blessed Saviour defending his disciples from the clamorous accusations of the Pharisees for breaking the sabbath day, because they plucked the ears of corn, and rubbed them in their hands, in order to the satisfying of their hunger.
Where note, 1. The great poverty, the low estate and condition, of Christ's own disciples in the world. They wanted bread, and were forced to pluck the ears of corn to satisfy their hunger. God may, and sometimes does suffer his dearest children to fall into straits, and to taste of want, for the trial of their faith and dependence upon his power and goodness.
Note, 2. How the hypocritical Pharisees blame this action of the disciples, namely, their plucking off the ears of corn; yet did they not charge them with theft for so doing; because to take in our great necessity so much of our neighbor's goods as we may reasonably suppose, that, if he were present and knew our circumstances, he would not deny us, is no theft. But it was the servile labor on the sabbath, in gathering the ears of corn which the Pharisees scruple and object against.
Where note, how hypocrites expend their zeal in and about the lesser things of the law, while they neglect the greater; placing all holiness in the observation of outward ceremonies, while they neglect moral duties.
Note, 3. The argument with which our Saviour defends this action of his disciples; it is taken from the example of David: necessity freed him from fault and blame in eating the consecrated bread, which none but the priests might lawfully eat; for in case of necessity, a ceremonial precept must give place to a moral duty. Works of mercy for the preserving our lives, and the better fitting us for sabbath services, are certainly lawful on the sabbath day.
Note, lastly, the argument which our Saviour uses to prove the sabbath's observation may be dispensed with in a case of absolute necessity, and that is drawn from that authority which Christ, the institutor and Lord of the sabbath, had over it: The Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath; that is, he has authority and power as God and as Mediator, to institute and appoint a sabbath, to alter and change it, to dispense with a breach of it upon a just and great occasion; and consequently, acts of mercy, which tend to fit us for works of piety, not only may, but ought, to be done on the sabbath day.
This action of the disciples being of that nature, is without just cause censured and condemned by the Pharisees; a sort of men who were resolved to cavil at, and quarrel with, whatever our Saviour or his disciples either did or said.
Observe here, 1. The miraculous cure which our Saviour wrought upon the man which had the withered hand.
And 2. The effect which this miracle had upon the wicked Pharisees. In the former note, the place where our Saviour wrought this miracle, in the synagogue: the time when, on the sabbath day; the manner how, by speaking of a word; the persons before whom, namely, the envious and malicious Pharisees. These men were always slandering Christ's doctrine, and cavilling at his miracles, yet does our holy Lord go on with his work before their faces without discouragement.
Learn thence, that the unjust censures and malicious cavils of wicked men against us, for well-doing, must not discourage us from doing our duty, either towards God or towards our neighbor. Although the Pharisees watched our Saviour wherever he went, and when they could find no occasion of quarrel, would invent and make one, yet such was our Lord's courage and resolution, that he bids the man that had the withered hand stand forth; to show that he was resolved to heal him, notwithstanding their malicious purpose to accuse him for it as a breaker of the sabbath. Opposition met with in doing our duty, must not discourage us from doing good, if we follow the example of our blessed Redeemer.
Observe, 2. The influence and effect which this miracle had upon the wicked Pharisees; they were filled with madness, and took counsel to kill him. Instead of being convinced by this miracle, they conspire against him for it. The enemies of Christ and his holy religion, when arguments fail fall to violence. It is a certain sign of a weak cause that must be supported by passion: which is all tongue, and no ear.
Observe here, 1. The duty which our holy Lord performed: the duty of prayer. We have much more business with God in prayer than Christ had; he had no sins to confess, no want of grace to make known, yet did our Lord spend much time, even a whole night, in this duty.
Lord, what delight did thou take in paying this homage to thy heavenly Father! O how does thy zeal and forwardness condemn our remissness and lukewarmness!
Observe, 2. It was solitary prayer that our Lord did so exceedingly delight in: He went into the mountain alone to pray, not suffering his very disciples to be with him. There are times and seasons when a Christian would not be willing that his dearest relations upon earth should hear that conversation which passes between him and his God.
Observe, 3. The place which our Lord withdraws to for privacy in prayer: He went into a mountain as a place of retiredness: God delights to meet his children alone. The modest Bridegroom of the church, says St. Bernard, will not impart himself to his spouse before company.
Observe, 4. The time when Christ retired into this mountain to pray, and to spend a whole night in prayer, to God. If we look back to the former part of the chapter, we shall find that it was at a time when the Pharisees were filled with rage and madness against him, and conspired to take away his life.
Thence learn, that it is our duty at such times, especially when enemies lie in wait to do us hurt, to give ourselves much unto prayer.
Again, if we look forward, the next verse tells us, that our Saviour was now about to send forth his twelve apostles to preach and propagate the gospel. Christ thought so great a work was not to be done without solemn and extraordinary prayer.
Accordingly he spends a whole night in prayer to God upon that occasion, leaving herein a most instructive example to his church, to continue in prayer at all times: but then especially to abound in it, when persons are to be set apart for the momentous work of the ministry, that they enterprise it with extraordinary dread and caution, not with aspiring but tremendous thoughts; for who is sufficient for these things?
As the Jewish church arose from twelve patriarchs, so the Christian church became planted by twelve apostles. The person sending them forth was Christ; none may undertake the work and calling of the ministry, but those whom Christ appoints and calls, not immediately by himself, but mediately by the governors of his church. The persons commissioned were disciples before they were apostles; to teach us, that Christ will have such as preach the gospel to be disciples before they are ministers; trained up in the faith and doctrine of the gospel, before they undertake a public charge.
Observe next, how carefully the names of the twelve apostles, those laborious persons in the service of souls, are recorded and transmitted with honor to posterity. God will singularly honor those who singularly honor him, and are the special instruments of his glory.
Of the twelve apostles, Peter is named first, and Judas last: Peter is first named, because probably older than the rest, or because for order's sake he might speak before the rest; from which may be inferred a primacy, but no supremacy; a priority of order, but no superiority of degree; as a foreman of a grand jury has a precedency, but no pre-eminency; he is first in order before the rest, but has no authority over the rest; neither did St. Peter ever assume to himself a power of deciding controversies.
But we find St. James, in that first general council mentioned speaking somewhat definitely, Thus I judge, or determine the matter, and yet St. Peter was then and there present. Acts 15:13 Had the champions of the church of Rome such a passage in all the scripture for St. Peter's authority, it would make a louder noise than feed my sheep. Joh 21:16
Again, as St. Peter is named first, so Judas is mentioned last, with a brand of infamy upon him, the traitor; the person that betrayed his Lord and Master.
From which we may gather, that though the truth of grace be absolutely necessary to a minister's salvation, yet the want of it does not disannul his office, nor hinder the lawfulness of his ministry Judas, though a traitor, was yet a lawful minister; and a heart-hypocrite is no hypocrite before the church, though he should be damned for his hypocrisy before God.
Observe here, 1. The great zeal and forwardness of the people in attending upon our Saviour's ministry; he had newly begun to preach in this place, and the people flocked after him from all parts, from Judea, from Jerusalem, from Tyre and Sidon, to hear his doctrine and see his miracles. When our Saviour first began to preach the people came unto him from every quarter. His ministers find it thus: at our first coming among a people, our labors are most acceptable, and they do most good. Our people's affections are then warm, and perhaps our own too.
2. What sort of people they were who attended thus zealousy on our Saviour's ministry: they were the common and ordinary people; the poor received the gospel; the learned scribes, the knowing Pharisees, those wise men after the flesh, the mighty, the noble, the great and honorable, these despised our Saviour's person, slighted his ministry, yea, sought to take away his life.
Thus from the first plantation of the gospel to this day, the poorer and meaner sort of people have entertained the glad tidings of salvation; it is a sad but a certain truth, that heaven is a place where few, comparatively but very few, of the great men of the world, are like to come; their temptations are many, their corruptions strong, and their great estates, through their own abuse, become fuel to their lusts.
Lord, how rare it is to find those that are eminently great, exemplary good!
Observe, 3. The nature of our Saviour's miracles. Moses's miracles were as great judgments as wonders, but Christ's miracles were as great mercies as wonders; they were salubrious and healing: there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.
Christ's miracles were like the author of them, full of goodness; yet would not the obstinate Pharisees be convinced, either by the goodness that was in them, or by that omnipotent power which wrought them.
All our Saviour's miracles were wonderful, but wonders of love and mercy.
As our Saviour's condition in this world was very poor, so was his disciples' condition also; therefore to relieve them against their poverty and low estate in the world, he thus bespeaks them, Blessed be ye poor; you that believe in me, and follow me, are in a happier condition than those that are rich, and have received their consolation; for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
Christ was the poor man's preacher, and the poor man's comforter; yet a bare outward poverty, or an avowed voluntary poverty, will entitle none to the blessing. It is not a poverty of possession, but a poverty of spirit, that makes us members of the kingdom of grace, and heirs of the kingdom of glory.
Hunger and thirst are not blessings in themselves, nor are they yet curses in themselves. Sanctified hunger is a far greater blessing than surfeiting fullness: Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness. Matt 5:6
Learn thence, 1. That such as spiritually hunger and thirst after Christ and his righteousness, are certainly in a happy and blessed condition.
1. That the happiness of those who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, consists in being filled, Blessed are ye that weep now, for ye shall laugh.
As if Christ had said, "You, my disciples, that are now in a sad, mournful, and afflicted state, are blessed; for there will come a time when you shall be comforted, a time when God shall wipe away all tears from your eyes:" yet we must not think that we have nothing to do but to mourn; there is a time to rejoice, as well as to mourn; not that bare mourning and weeping in itself, and for its own sake, is acceptable unto God; but when we mourn rationally for our sins, and the sins of others, God will comfort us in this world by his word and Spirit, and in the world to come with the sight of himself.
Observe here, the sufferers described, the disciples; and their sufferings foretold; ye shall be hated, separated and reproached.
Hatred of Christ's disciples is the bitter root from which persecution grows. Where there is hatred in the heart, no wonder that reviling is in the lips. And as the disciples of Christ were then for his sake hated, reproached, and cast out of the Jewish church; so now such disciples as will cordially embrace, and steadfastly hold fast, the faith delivered by our Saviour, must expect and prepare for hatred and persecution; to be separated from civil society, excommunicated for church fellowship, and all this by them who shall call themselves the guides and governors of an infallible church.
Observe here, 1. That though St. Luke omits divers of the beatitudes mentioned by St. Matthew, chap. 5, yet he recites the woes which St. Matthew omitted. If we will understand our Saviour's doctrine fully, we must consult all the evangelists thoroughly.
Observe, 2. These woes are not to be understood absolutely, but restrainedly: the woes do not belong to men because they are rich, because they are full, because they do laugh; but because they place their happiness in these things; take up with them for their portions, and rejoice in them as their chief good, valuing themselves by what they have in hand, not by what they have in hope.
He that is rich and righteous, he that is great and gracious, he that has his hands full of this world, and his heart empty of pride and vain confidence; he that laughs when God smiles, he that expresses himself joyfully when God expresses himself graciously, such a man is rich in grace, who is thus gracious in the midst of riches. For to be rich and holy, argues much riches of holiness.
Our Saviour's design in these words, is not to condemn any of his disciples or ministers, who have, by doing their duty, gained a fair reputation amongst the men of the world, but to let us understand how rarely and seldom it is attained; for usually the best of men are the worst spoken of. Neither the prophets of the Old Testament, nor John the Baptist, the prophet of the New Testament, nor Christ himself, nor his apostles, did ever gain either the good will or the good word, of the men of that generation in which they lived. The applause of the multitude, that contingent judge of good, and evil, rather attends the vain than the virtuous. None have ever been so much reproached by man as the faithful ministers of God, who have learned to take pleasure in reproaches; for though grace does not bid us invite reproaches, yet it teaches us to bid them welcome. The world has all along taken effectual care by their cruel mockings, bitter reproaches, sharp invectives, to free the ministers of God in all ages from the danger of our Saviour's woe here denounced: Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you.
Observe here, 1. The noble spirit of Christianity, and the large extent of Christian charity; the Jewish kindess was limited and confined to those of their own religion, kindred, and nation, their charity began and ended at home; but our Saviour obliges his followers to the exercise of a more extensive charity, even to all mankind, even the worst of men, our enemies that seek our destruction. Christianity is so far from allowing us to persecute them that hate us, that it commands us to love them that persecute us.
Observe, 2. The nature and quality of the duty enjoined: Love your enemies: there the inward affection is required. Bless them that curse you: there outward civility and affability is required. Do good to them that hate you; here real acts of kindness and beneficence are required to be done to the worst of enemies, though they be guilty of the worst of crimes, calumny and cruelty; striking both at our reputation and our life.
Learn, that Christianity obliges us to bear a sincere love to our most malicious enemies, to be ready at all times to pray for them, and upon all occasions to do good unto them. Thus to do, is an imitation of God our maker of Christ our master: it is for the good of this lower world, and the way to a better; it is the ornament of our religion, and the perfection of our nature, and an high degree and pitch of virtue. To which may be added the next duty, Not to revenge injuries; where private revenge is the thing forbidden, and we are directed, rather to suffer a double wrong than to seek a private revenge.
Christianity obliges us to bear many injuries patiently, rather than to revenge one privately; we must leave the matter to God and the magistrate. The truth is, revenge is a very troublesome and vexatious passion, the man's soul swells and boils, and is in pain and anguish, and has no ease. Besides, by our avenging of one injury, we necessarily draw on another, and so bring on a perpetual circulation of injuries and revenges; whereas forgiveness prevents vexation to others, disquietment to ourselves.
These and the like precepts of our Saviour are not to be taken strictly, but restrainedly: we are thereby obliged to charity according to others' necessities, and our own abilities, but not bound to give to every one that has the confidence to ask for what we have. Indeed every man that really wants is the proper object of our Christian charity: and we must with a compassionate heart and open hand, relieve him according to his necessity, but answerable to our ability.
Nor must the second part of the verse be understood as forbidding Christians to seek the recovery of their just rights, by pursuing thieves, and following the law upon oppressors; but requiring us to forbear all acts of private revenge, as directly contrary to the spirit and temper of Christianity.
As jealousy is the rage of a man, so revenge is the rage of the devil, it is the very soul and spirit of the apostate nature.
Here our Saviour lays down a most excellent rule of life, for all his disciples and followers to walk by, namely, always to do as we would be done by. The golden rule of justice and equity in all our dealings with men is this, To do as we would be done unto. It is a full rule, a clear rule, a most just and equitable rule, which the light of nature, and the law of Christ, binds upon us.
This is the law and the prophets; Matt 7:12 That is, the sum of the Old Testament, and the substance of the second table. The whole of the law is this; to love God above ourselves, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
The design of our blessed Saviour in all and every one of these precepts is to recommend unto us all sorts and kinds of mercy and charity; namely, charity in giving, charity in forgiving, charity in lending; it is sometimes our duty (if we have ability) to lend to such poor persons as we cannot expect will ever be in a capacity, either to pay or to requite us. This is to imitate the Divine bounty, which does good to all, even to the unthankful and to the unholy.
Love for love is justice; love for no love, is favor and kindness; but love and charity, mercy and compassion, to all persons, even the undeserving and the ill-deservings, this is a divine goodness, a Christ-like temper, which will render us illustrious on earth, and glorious in heaven.
St. Luke says here, Be ye merciful, as your Father is merciful. St. Matthew says, Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect; Matt 5:48 implying, that love and mercy, charity and compassion, is the perfection of a Christian's graces; he that is made perfect in love, is perfect in all divine graces; in the account of God.
Perfection in graces, but especially in love and charity, ought to be our aim in this life, and shall be our attainment in the next.
This prohibition, Judge not, is not to be understood of ourselves, but our neighbors. Self-judging is a great and necessary duty; rash judging of others is an heinous and grievous sin, which exposes to the righteous judgment of God. It is private judging and private condemning of persons which God forbids; it follows, forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Not that a bare forgiving of others is all that God requires in order to your forgiveness, but it is one part of that obedience which we owe to God, without which it is in vain to expect forgiveness from God: Forgive and ye shall be forgiven. Matt 7:1
I think there is not one text of scripture that declares the bounty of God more fully in rewarding acts of charity and mercy than this before us. O how liberal a paymaster is God! How sure and bountiful are the returns Christ makes to us for the relief given to him in his members!
He promises us here, 1. Not bare measure but good measure.
2. Pressed down, shaken together, and running over; nothing adds more to the measure than the shaking of the bushel, the crowding and pressing of the corn, and heaping till the measure runs over: now a measure will run over as long as you will pour.
Learn hence, that charities done in faith, in obedience to God, and with an eye to the glory of God, will produce a certain and plentiful increase. Liberality is the way to riches; giving is the best and surest way of thriving. A little charity from us, if we have but a little, is looked upon by God as a great deal. But it is the greatest imprudence as well as impiety, to do but a little when we have the ability to do much; for he that sows bountifully shall reap bountifully: good measure, pressed down, and running over.
Our Saviour doubtless applied these words to the scribes and Pharisees, the Jewish leaders, doctors, and teachers, who being ignorant of the spiritual sense of the law, (interpreting it only to the restraining of the outward man,) were very unfit to instruct and lead others; for where one blind man leads another, both are in danger of the ditch; that is to run into ruin and destruction.
Learn, 1. That ignorant, erroneous, or unfaithful ministers, are the greatest plague, and sorest punishment, that can befall a people.
2. That Christ having forewarned us of such guides, to follow them will be an inexcusable sin and folly, and never free us from the danger of destruction, but rather be an aggravation of our condemnation: If the blind follow the blind, both will, inevitably yet inexcusably, fall into the ditch.
The application of these words, no doubt, our Saviour intended to his own disciples, partly to comfort them under sufferings, and partly to encourage them to obedience. Did they suffer hard things from an unkind world? The remembrance of what their master suffered before them may support them. Did they meet with hard and difficult duties, such as loving enemies, doing good to them that hate and persecute them? Their Lord's example may encourage and instruct them, who loved them when they were enemies, who prayed for his murderers, and offered up his blood to God on behalf of them that shed it.
Learn hence, that the perfection of a Christian in this world, consists in the imitation of Christ Jesus, in being as our Master; in coming as near his example as it is possible for persons clothed with flesh and blood to arrive at. Every one that is perfect must be as his Master.
By the mote in our brother's eye, is meant some small and little sins discerned, or some sin suspected. By the beam in our own eye, some greater sin undiscerned. Now, says our Saviour, there is no greater sin of hypocrisy than to be curious in spying out the smaller faults of others, and at the same time indulge greater in ourselves.
Learn hence, that there is no such way to teach us charity in judging of others, as to exercise severity in judging of ourselves.
2. That those who desire others should look upon their failings with a compassionate eye, must not look upon the failings of others with a censorius eye; for with what measure we mete, it shall be measured to us again.
Our Saviour here and elsewhere frequently compares persons to trees; the heart of man is as the root, the actions as the fruit; as the root is the principle from which the fruit springs, so the heart of man is a principle from which all human actions flow: an holy heart will be accompanied with an holy life, where there is a vital principle of grace within, there will be the actings of grace without; a good conscience will be accompanied with a good conversation.
Observe farther, a double treasure discovered in the heart of man.
1. An evil treasure of sin and corruption, from which flow evil things: but why should sin be called a treasure? Not for the precious- ness of it, but for the abundance of it; a little does not make a treasure: and also for the continuance of it; for though sin be perpetually overflowing in the life, yet does the heart continue full. The treasure of original corruption in man's heart and nature, though by sanctifying grace it may be drawn low, yet it is never in this life drawn dry.
2. Here is a good treasure of grace discovered in a sanctified and renewed man; which is the source and spring from which all gracious actions do proceed and flow; namely, a sanctified and renewed heart and nature. When once the will of man is made conformable to the will of God, it does will and desire, choose and embrace, take pleasure and delight in, what God approves, commands, and loves; and it will lay an injuction upon all the members of the body to act comformably thereunto.
Our Saviour here concludes his sermon with an elegant similtude: he compares the faithful doer of the word to a wise builder, which grounded his house upon a rock. Others he resembles to a foolish builder, that built his house upon the sand.
The house is the hope of heaven and eternal life;
the rock is Christ; the building upon the sand, is resting upon the bare performance of outward duties;
the rain, the winds, and the floods, are all kinds of afflicting evils, sufferings, and persecutions, that may befall us.
The sum is: men's hopes of salvation built upon any other besides Christ, or built upon Christ without a sincere and uniform obedience to him, are vain hopes, deceitful hopes; for when the storm arises, when affliction or persecution comes, their confidence will fail them, their foundation will be shaken.
Learn, 1. That the obedient believer is the only wise man, that builds his hopes of heaven upon a sure and abiding foundation; Christ is the rock that he builds upon, and one Christ is before a thousand creatures, one rock better than millions of sands to build upon.
2. That such professors as rest in the bare performance of outward duties, are foolish builders; their foundation is weak and sandy, and all their hopes of salvation vain and deceitful.
Lord! How does the carnal world build all their hopes upon the sand, on the wisdom of the flesh, on their policies, councils, friends and riches! They bottom their very soul upon fancies, presumptions, delusions, and vain hopes. They expect to be happy without being holy, which is to expect to be easy without being healthy.
Woe to that man whose portion lies in the creature's hands, who builds all his hopes upon this earth; for when the earth is shaken, his hopes are shaken, his heart is shaken, and he is at his wits' end: whereas the Christian that builds upon the rock, stands firm and sure; for if ever the Christian falls, Christ must fall with him: he shall never be disappointed of his hopes, unless faithfulness can disappoint; he shall never be deceived, unless truth itself can deceive. If it be impossible for the obedient, holy, and circumspect Christian finally to miscarry.
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