Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
SERMON ON THE
That these verses are entirely supplementary is the simplest and most
natural view of them. All attempts to make out any evident connection
with the immediately preceding context are, in our judgment, forced.
But, though supplementary, these counsels are far from being of
subordinate importance. On the contrary, they involve some of the most
delicate and vital duties of the Christian life. In the vivid form in
which they are here presented, perhaps they could not have been
introduced with the same effect under any of the foregoing heads; but
they spring out of the same great principles, and are but other forms
and manifestations of the same evangelical "righteousness."
1. Judge not, that ye be not judged--To "judge" here does not exactly
mean to pronounce condemnatory judgment, nor does it refer to simple
judging at all, whether favorable or the reverse. The context makes it
clear that the thing here condemned is that disposition to look
unfavorably on the character and actions of others, which leads
invariably to the pronouncing of rash, unjust, and unlovely judgments
upon them. No doubt it is the judgments so pronounced which are here
spoken of; but what our Lord aims at is the spirit out of which they
spring. Provided we eschew this unlovely spirit, we are not only
warranted to sit in judgment upon a brother's character and actions, but
in the exercise of a necessary discrimination are often constrained to
do so for our own guidance. It is the violation of the law of love
involved in the exercise of a censorious disposition which alone is here
condemned. And the argument against it--"that ye be not
judged"--confirms this: "that your own character and actions be not
pronounced upon with the like severity"; that is, at the great day.
2. For with what judgments ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what
measure ye mete--whatever standard of judgment ye apply to others.
it shall be measured to you again--This proverbial maxim is used by our
Lord in other connections--as in
and with a slightly different application in
--as a great principle in the divine administration. Unkind judgment of
others will be judicially returned upon ourselves, in the day when God
shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ. But, as in many other
cases under the divine administration, such harsh judgment gets
self-punished even here. For people shrink from contact with those who
systematically deal out harsh judgment upon others--naturally
concluding that they themselves may be the next victims--and feel
impelled in self-defense, when exposed to it, to roll back upon the
assailant his own censures.
3. And why beholdest thou the mote--"splinter," here very well rendered
"mote," denoting any small fault.
that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in
thine own eye?--denoting the much greater fault which we overlook in
4. Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out
of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5. Thou hypocrite--"Hypocrite."
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--Our Lord uses a
most hyperbolical, but not unfamiliar figure, to express the monstrous
inconsistency of this conduct. The "hypocrisy" which, not without
indignation, He charges it with, consists in the pretense of a zealous
and compassionate charity, which cannot possibly be real in one who
suffers worse faults to lie uncorrected in himself. He only is fit to be
a reprover of others who jealously and severely judges himself. Such
persons will not only be slow to undertake the office of censor on their
neighbors, but, when constrained in faithfulness to deal with them, will
make it evident that they do it with reluctance and not
satisfaction, with moderation and not exaggeration, with love
and not harshness.
Prostitution of Holy Things
The opposite extreme to that of censoriousness is here condemned--want
of discrimination of character.
6. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs--savage or snarling
haters of truth and righteousness.
neither cast ye your pearls before swine--the impure or coarse, who
are incapable of appreciating the priceless jewels of Christianity. In
the East, dogs are wilder and more gregarious, and, feeding on carrion
and garbage, are coarser and fiercer than the same animals in the West.
Dogs and swine, besides being ceremonially unclean, were peculiarly
repulsive to the Jews, and indeed to the ancients generally.
lest they trample them under their feet--as swine do.
and turn again and rend you--as dogs do. Religion is brought into
contempt, and its professors insulted, when it is forced upon those who
cannot value it and will not have it. But while the indiscriminately
zealous have need of this caution, let us be on our guard against too
readily setting our neighbors down as dogs and swine, and excusing
ourselves from endeavoring to do them good on this poor plea.
Enough, one might think, had been said on this subject in
But the difficulty of the foregoing duties seems to have recalled the
subject, and this gives it quite a new turn. "How shall we ever be able
to carry out such precepts as these, of tender, holy, yet discriminating
love?" might the humble disciple inquire. "Go to God with it," is our
Lord's reply; but He expresses this with a fulness which leaves nothing
to be desired, urging now not only confidence, but importunity in
7. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and
it shall be opened unto you--Though there seems evidently a climax
here, expressive of more and more importunity, yet each of these terms
used presents what we desire of God in a different light. We ask for
what we wish; we seek for what we miss; we knock for that
from which we feel ourselves shut out. Answering to this threefold
representation is the triple assurance of success to our believing
efforts. "But ah!" might some humble disciple say, "I cannot persuade
myself that I have any interest with God." To meet this, our Lord
repeats the triple assurance He had just given, but in such a form as to
silence every such complaint.
8. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth;
and to him that knocketh it shall be opened--Of course, it is presumed
that he asks aright--that is, in faith--and with an honest purpose to
make use of what he receives. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of
God. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering (undecided whether to be
altogether on the Lord's side). For he that wavereth is like a wave of
the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For
let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord"
Hence, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may
consume it upon your lusts"
9. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread--a loaf.
will he give him a stone?--round and smooth like such a loaf or cake
as was much in use, but only to mock him.
10. Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?--like it, indeed,
but only to sting him.
11. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your
children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good
things to them that ask him!--Bad as our fallen nature is, the
father in us is not extinguished. What a heart, then, must the
Father of all fathers have towards His pleading children! In the
corresponding passage in Luke (see on
instead of "good things," our Lord asks whether He will not much more
give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him. At this early stage
of His ministry, and before such an audience, He seems to avoid such
sharp doctrinal teaching as was more accordant with His plan at the
riper stage indicated in Luke, and in addressing His own disciples
12. Therefore--to say all in one word.
all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even
so to them--the same thing and in the same way.
for this is the law and the prophets--"This is the substance of all
relative duty; all Scripture in a nutshell." Incomparable summary! How
well called "the royal law!"
It is true that similar maxims are found floating in the writings of
the cultivated Greeks and Romans, and naturally enough in the
Rabbinical writings. But so expressed as it is here--in immediate
connection with, and as the sum of such duties as has been just
enjoined, and such principles as had been before taught--it is to be
found nowhere else. And the best commentary upon this fact is, that
never till our Lord came down thus to teach did men effectually and
widely exemplify it in their practice. The precise sense of the maxim
is best referred to common sense. It is not, of course, what--in our
wayward, capricious, gasping moods--we should wish that men
would do to us, that we are to hold ourselves bound to do to them; but
only what--in the exercise of an impartial judgment, and putting
ourselves in their place--we consider it reasonable that they should do
to us, that we are to do to them.
EFFECT OF THE
SERMON ON THE
We have here the application of the whole preceding discourse.
Conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount
"The righteousness of the kingdom," so amply described, both in
principle and in detail, would be seen to involve self-sacrifice
at every step. Multitudes would never face this. But it must be faced,
else the consequences will be fatal. This would divide all within the
sound of these truths into two classes: the many, who will follow the
path of ease and self-indulgence--end where it might; and the few, who,
bent on eternal safety above everything else, take the way that leads
to it--at whatever cost. This gives occasion to the two opening verses
of this application.
13. Enter ye in at the strait gate--as if hardly wide enough to admit
one at all. This expresses the difficulty of the first right step in
religion, involving, as it does, a triumph over all our natural
inclinations. Hence the still stronger expression in Luke
"Strive to enter in at the strait gate."
for wide is the gate--easily entered.
and broad is the way--easily trodden.
that leadeth to destruction, and--thus lured "many there be which go
14. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth
unto life--In other words, the whole course is as difficult as the
first step; and (so it comes to pass that).
few there be that find it--The recommendation of the broad way is the
ease with which it is trodden and the abundance of company to be found
in it. It is sailing with a fair wind and a favorable tide. The natural
inclinations are not crossed, and fears of the issue, if not easily
hushed, are in the long run effectually subdued. The one disadvantage of
this course is its end--it "leadeth to destruction." The great Teacher
says it, and says it as "One having authority." To the supposed
injustice or harshness of this He never once adverts. He leaves it to
be inferred that such a course righteously, naturally, necessarily so
ends. But whether men see this or no, here He lays down the law of the
kingdom, and leaves it with us. As to the other way, the disadvantage of
it lies in its narrowness and solicitude. Its very first step involves a
revolution in all our purposes and plans for life, and a surrender of
all that is dear to natural inclination, while all that follows is but a
repetition of the first great act of self-sacrifice. No wonder, then,
that few find and few are found in it. But it has one advantage--it
"leadeth unto life." Some critics take "the gate" here, not for the
first, but the last step in religion; since gates seldom open into
roads, but roads usually terminate in a gate, leading straight to a
mansion. But as this would make our Lord's words to have a very inverted
and unnatural form as they stand, it is better, with the majority of
critics, to view them as we have done. But since such teaching would be
as unpopular as the way itself, our Lord next forewarns His hearers that
preachers of smooth things--the true heirs and representatives of the
false prophets of old--would be rife enough in the new kingdom.
15. Beware--But beware.
of false prophets--that is, of teachers coming as authorized expounders
of the mind of God and guides to heaven. (See
Ac 20:29, 30;
2Pe 2:1, 2).
which come to you in sheep's clothing--with a bland, gentle, plausible
exterior; persuading you that the gate is not strait nor the way narrow,
and that to teach so is illiberal and bigoted--precisely what the old
(Eze 13:1-10, 22).
but inwardly they are ravening wolves--bent on devouring the flock for
their own ends
(2Co 11:2, 3, 13-15).
16. Ye shall know them by their fruits--not their doctrines--as many
of the elder interpreters and some later ones explain it--for that
corresponds to the tree itself; but the practical effect of their
teaching, which is the proper fruit of the tree.
Do men gather grapes of thorns--any kind of prickly plant.
or figs of thistles?--a three-pronged variety. The general sense is
obvious--Every tree bears its own fruit.
17. Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit: but a corrupt
tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt
tree bring forth good fruit--Obvious as is the truth here expressed
in different forms--that the heart determines and is the only proper
interpreter of the actions of our life--no one who knows how the Church
of Rome makes a merit of actions, quite apart from the motives that
prompt them, and how the same tendency manifests itself from time to
time even among Protestant Christians, can think it too obvious to be
insisted on by the teachers of divine truth. Here follows a wholesome
19. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and
cast into the fire--(See on
20. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them--that is, But the
point I now press is not so much the end of such, as the means of
detecting them; and this, as already said, is their fruits. The
hypocrisy of teachers now leads to a solemn warning against religious
hypocrisy in general.
21. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord--the reduplication
of the title "Lord" denoting zeal in according it to Christ (see
Yet our Lord claims and expects this of all His disciples, as when He
washed their feet: "Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so
shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of
my Father which is in heaven--that will which it had been the great
object of this discourse to set forth. Yet our Lord says warily, not
"the will of your Father," but "of My Father"; thus claiming a
relationship to His Father with which His disciples might not
intermeddle, and which He never lets down. And He so speaks here to give
authority to His asseverations. But now He rises higher still--not
formally announcing Himself as the Judge, but intimating what men
will say to Him, and He to them, when He sits as their final judge.
22. Many will say to me in that day--What day? It is emphatically
unnamed. But it is the day to which He had just referred, when men shall
"enter" or not enter "into the kingdom of heaven." (See a similar way of
speaking of "that day" in
2Ti 1:12; 4:8).
Lord, Lord--The reiteration denotes surprise. "What, Lord? How is this?
Are we to be disowned?"
have we not prophesied--or, "publicly taught." As one of the special
gifts of the Spirit in the early Church, it has the sense of "inspired
and authoritative teaching," and is ranked next to the apostleship. (See
In this sense it is used here, as appears from what follows.
in thy name--or, "to thy name," and so in the two following
clauses--"having reference to Thy name as the sole power in which we did
and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many
wonderful works--or, miracles. These are selected as three examples
of the highest services rendered to the Christian cause, and through the
power of Christ's own name, invoked for that purpose; He Himself, too,
responding to the call. And the threefold repetition of the question,
each time in the same form, expresses in the liveliest manner the
astonishment of the speakers at the view now taken of them.
23. And then will I profess unto them--or, openly proclaim--tearing
off the mask.
I never knew you--What they claimed--intimacy with Christ--is
just what He repudiates, and with a certain scornful dignity. "Our
acquaintance was not broken off--there never was any."
depart from me--(Compare
The connection here gives these words an awful significance. They
claimed intimacy with Christ, and in the corresponding passage,
are represented as having gone out and in with Him on familiar terms.
"So much the worse for you," He replies: "I bore with that long enough;
ye that work iniquity--not "that wrought iniquity"; for
they are represented as fresh from the scenes and acts of it as they
stand before the Judge. (See on the almost identical, but even more
vivid and awful, description of the scene in
That the apostle alludes to these very words in
there can hardly be any doubt--"Nevertheless the foundation of God
standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are
His. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart
24. Therefore--to bring this discourse to a close.
whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them--see
which seems a plain allusion to these words; also
I will liken him unto a wise man--a shrewd, prudent, provident man.
which built his house upon a rock--the rock of true discipleship, or
genuine subjection to Christ.
25. And the rain descended--from above.
and the floods came--from below.
and the winds blew--sweeping across.
and beat upon that house--thus from every direction.
and it fell not; for it was founded upon a
26. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine--in the attitude
and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built
his house upon the sand--denoting a loose foundation--that of an empty
profession and mere external services.
27. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew,
and beat upon that house--struck against that house;
and it fell: and great was the fall of it--terrible the ruin! How
lively must this imagery have been to an audience accustomed to the
fierceness of an Eastern tempest, and the suddenness and completeness
with which it sweeps everything unsteady before it!
Effect of the Sermon on the Mount
(Mt 7:28, 29).
28. And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the
people were astonished at his doctrine--rather, "His teaching," for
the reference is to the manner of it quite as much as the matter, or
rather more so.
29. For he taught them as one having authority--The word "one,"
which our translators have here inserted, only weakens the statement.
and not as the scribes--The consciousness of divine authority,
as Lawgiver, Expounder and Judge, so beamed through His teaching, that
the scribes' teaching could not but appear drivelling in such a