The impression produced on the multitudes. With the exception of the formula, "It came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings" (cf. Matthew 11:1 , note), the words are almost identical with Mark 1:22 ( Luke 4:31 , Luke 4:32 ), but the time is, as it seems, later. The oral statement of an impression which was probably often produced is affirmed of slightly different times.
For he taught them . Such was his constant habit ( ἦν ... διδάσκων ). As one having authority, and not as the scribes . Who, indeed, never claimed personal authority. Jewish teachers lean on the fact of their having received that which they expound. They professed]y sink their own personality in that of those of old time, to whom the teaching was first given ( Matthew 5:21 ). To this our Lord's personal claims stand in sharp contrast. The scribes ; Revised Version, their scribes , with the manuscripts; i.e. the scribes to which they were accustomed to listen. Whether the reference is primarily to scribes of the nation generally or only to those of the neighbouring district, is hardly material, for these were representatives of the one class. A few authorities add, "and the Pharisees," which may either be derived from Luke 5:30 or be an independent gloss due to the fact that the Pharisees were looked upon as the typical Jewish teachers.
Conclusion of the sermon.
I. THE NECESSITY OF OBEDIENCE .
1 . Not all disciples will be saved. They all say, "Lord, Lord;" they all call themselves by the holy name of Christians; but not all can enter into the kingdom of glory at the last. For our Father which is in heaven is the King of heaven; and none can enter into his kingdom but those who do his will. They all pray, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." It is mere hypocrisy, it is mocking God, to say that holy prayer and not to try to do the will of God ourselves. It is done in heaven. There is room for no other will there; all wills in heaven are one with the blessed will of God. We must learn to do our Father's will in earth, that our will may by his grace be more and more conformed to his most holy will; so may we one day enter into that blessed place where all do his will lovingly and perfectly.
2 . Not all teachers. In the great day men will call Jesus Lord. Could he say that, were he not what we know he was, the Lord God Almighty? He accepts the title, for it is his by right; he himself called no man lord. They will call him Lord then, some of them in terror and fearful anticipations; alas! he says there will be many such. They will plead, in deprecation of the dreadful judgment, their works done outwardly for him, and, as it seemed, by his help. "Did we not prophesy by thy Name?" But the gift of prophecy is nothing worth without the grace of love; there have been great preachers gifted with the mighty power of spiritual eloquence who yet knew not the Lord themselves, whose own hearts were cold while they kindled the love of others. " Did we not by thy Name cast out devils?" But so did Judas, who was the son of perdition, into whom the devil entered. "Did we not by thy Name do many mighty works?" But Holy Scripture tells us that though we had all faith, so that we could remove mountains, yet we should be nothing if charity were wanting. It seemed a great thing to have the gift of prophecy and the power of working miracles, but these great gifts will not save the soul; there is need of something deeper—the hidden life of holiness which the Father only sooth, the submission of the human will in love and faith to the holy will of God.
3. " The Lord knoweth them that are his. " "I know mine own," he saith, "and mine own know me." "I never knew you," he will say to the false prophets; to many, alas! who once seemed to be doing great things for him, but yet in their hearts loved him not. "Depart from me." For they were really working iniquity when in the eyes of men they were working for Christ; their life was a lie , untrue, unreal; it was a piece of acting, nothing more. And now the mask is torn away, and the miserable truth is seen. He never knew them as he knoweth his sheep, his chosen. Oh that he may know us as the Father knoweth him ( John 10:14 , John 10:15 ), with the knowledge of holy, heavenly love; and that we by his grace may learn to know the good Shepherd with that blessed knowledge which is life eternal ( John 17:3 )!
II. PARABLE OF HEARING AND DOING .
1 . The obedient hearer. He receives the Word with joy; he recognizes it as the Word of God. But he is not content with hearing. Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God ought to be listened to with solemn reverence. But there needs something more than solemn reverence, something more than intent listening. The Lord could look into the hearts and thoughts of the vast multitude gathered round the Mount of the Beatitudes. They were astonished at his doctrine; they had listened with interest, with admiration, and with wonder. They would go away. Sometimes they would remember the great Teacher; they would call to mind that look of Divine majesty, those holy eyes beaming with tender love, those tones of touching persuasion and more than human authority; they would tell their friends of the great audience, of the hushed silence, of the strange originality of the Lord's teaching, so utterly different from that of the scribes. But would their lives be changed? Would they live as many, most of them perhaps, had half intended to live while the sound of the holy words was yet falling on their ears? Alas! no. How many would very soon forget all that they had heard! They would relapse into their old ways; some of them would join the scribes and Pharisees in persecuting the great Master. The Lord knew it would be so; he forewarns them of the danger. The Word of God must be obeyed; obedience is greatly blessed. The obedient hearer is like a wise man, who built his house upon a rock. His religion is the house in which his soul is sheltered—the house which is to be his refuge in the storms of adversity, in the hour of death and in the day of judgment. The religion of the obedient hearer is real, deep, and true; it rests upon a rock. That Rock is Christ, the tried Stone, the sure Foundation. The faithful disciple had dug deep, below the surface of words and mere profession, and had reached the Rock; his house rested upon it, it was built into it, and in that union with the living Rock it was safe. Temptation might come, and suffering and persecution; sickness might come, pain of body and anguish of soul; it would come sooner or later; but the house that had foundations, the house that rested on the Rock, could not be shaken; it would stand even when the floods of the river of death were beating against it; for the faithful followers of the Saviour "die in the Lord," in vital union with him who is the Rock of ages.
2 . The careless hearer. He heareth, but doeth not. Perhaps he hears with pleasure, with interest; but this is a very unworthy result, if this is all. The Word of God is very sacred and august; it brings a solemn responsibility upon the hearers; it ought to produce conviction, obedience. He that doeth not shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand. It was without foundations; it rested not upon the Rock. That house is the mere profession of religion—outward worship, outward forms, outward conformity; there is no change of life, no reality, no obedience , no serf-denial; there are words only, and not deeds. And that house cannot stand. For a time it may seem fair and stately. It has a look, perhaps, of strength and solidity. But it has no foundations; it cannot give shelter to the trembling soul in sorrow and distress, in sickness and the fear of death. "It fell, and great was the fall of it."
III. THE FEELINGS OF THE AUDIENCE . The great sermon was over, but the spell of the Preacher's voice and manner vet held the people in astonishment. They compared him with the scribes; they were accustomed always to adduce the authority of others—Moses, or the prophets, or some famous rabbi. The Lord spake with authority: "I say unto you." He represented himself as the Judge who was to distinguish between the real and the unreal, who would say to the hypocrites," Depart from me. ' Only the Son of God could use these words, only One who knew in the depth of his consciousness that he himself was God over all. He spoke with authority then on the Mount of the Beatitudes. He speaks with authority now from heaven. Blessed are the true children of the kingdom. Great must be the fall of the hypocrite and the disobedient.
1 . Words will not save us; only holy obedience, the obedience of the heart: "Thy will be done."
2 . It will not help us to hear the greatest preachers unless we try to live as we are taught.
3 . Build upon the Rock; think of the end; the sand will not bear the house; the Rock is the Rock of ages.
The saying and hearing contrasted with the doing.
This passage bears internal and intrinsic evidence of standing in the original position at the end , and as the end of the discourse. Its connection with what precedes is also apparent. "Fruits" have been spoken of as the test of the false or the true prophet. And the discourse finishes with a forcible setting forth of the fact that practice, not profession, is the passport, whether into the kingdom of heaven on earth or into the kingdom of "that day." There would seem in form to be allusion to both of these, though we should confess their reality to be but one in either case. Notice—
I. THE INTRINSIC AND ESSENTIAL QUALIFICATION ] FOR CITIZENSHIP IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN . "But," says the Supreme Authority on the matter, "he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." Dwell on:
1 . The highness of this type.
2 . The encouragingness of it. It is n ot offered as a mocking of our feeble power of excellence, feeble grasp of high conceptions, or feeble, inconstant purposes.
3 . The condescendingness, withal, of it. What life of reality should it pour into our pictures of the future and our attempts of the present! What happy natural agreement there is between this statement and the formal petitions of the prayer, "Thy kingdom come; thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven"!
II. THE DISTINCT PROPHETIC DECLARATION OF MOST SAD , SOLEMN IMPORT , TO WHICH THE MIGHTY SEER COMMITS HIMSELF . Notice how:
1 . Christ specifies the number of the deluded and the presumptuous: "Many."
2 . Christ specifies the matters of their delusion and presumption. We have furnished to us hereby both constant warnings for all , and help, not extended for uncharitable use, towards judging of the too transparently impeachable motives of some very busy outer works of men.
III. THE THRILLING DISCLOSURE IN PART OF THE JUDGE OF " THAT DAY ," AND IN PART OF HIS JUDGMENT . Notice:
1 . The long forbearance that had been shown is here witnessed to: "Then I will profess to them." How long had he waited, tried, given room for repentance and for reality!
2 . The terrible indictment of the wasted, deluded lifetime: "I never knew you." Christ will not disown, in his glory, majesty, power, and in the startling day of their astounding manifestation, those whom he had once in the day of his hiddenness, or in the yet earlier days of his mortal sorrows, acknowledged. But Christ will say what none had the sure right to say before, "I never knew you," if this be indeed the awful truth!
IV. THE SIMILITUDE BY WHICH CHRIST NOW SETS FORTH THE DECISIVE AND DISASTROUS DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HIM WHO HEARS ONLY THE SAYINGS OF CHRISTIAN REVEALED TRUTH , AND HIM WHO ALSO DOES THEM .
1 . The man who hears and does the "sayings" of Christ makes knowledge, and the graces that abide, which are realities to abide, to abide here, and to abide evermore.
2 . The man who hears indeed, and who does not, makes knowledge, perhaps very much knowledge; it may tower aloft, it may make him tower aloft among men; but he grows no grace; which can come only of work, of discipline, of "much tribulation," and which is the only structure that abides. The exceeding directness, simplicity, and force of these similitudes, and of the comparison instituted by them, have always arrested attention. To "do the sayings" of Christ is the way, and the one only way, to build that holy "house" called a holy nature, a Christian life, the enduring character. Anything less than "doing" the things Christ says may make show; may rise, a very vision, it may be; and may have some sort of foundation; but it will not be the foundation called a rock, and least of all that called the Rock, which is Christ Jesus.—B.
Sermon on the mount: 8. Wise and foolish builders.
The righteousness required in God ' s kingdom is the subject of our Lord's teaching in this sermon. After contrasting this with various spurious forms of righteousness, he shows the ruin that results from false pretensions. This he does by means of three figures:
1 . The mere pretender is like a wolf in sheep's clothing; you cannot turn a wolf into a sheep by merely putting on it from the outside a fleece.
2 . Or he is like a thorn-bush that has artificial flowers and fine fruits stuck on to it. It may for a time excite the admiration of the ignorant, but the tree remains wholly unaffected.
3 . Or he is like a man who builds a superb mansion, sparing neither pains nor cost upon it, and yet neglecting the one essential that it should have—a foundation. Two objections may be taken to this simile, the first a trifling one.
I. THAT OUR LORD WARNS AGAINST TRUSTING TO APPEARANCES . He indicates that there is a stronger tendency to this in religion than in secular life, and more unsparingly and thoroughly does he tear off the mask of the hypocrite than the fiercest assailant of Christianity has ever done. The tendency to display, though we sometimes smile at the ways in which it manifests itself in others, is no venial fault; it is a species of dishonesty which gradually corrodes the whole character. In religion it is damaging in various ways.
1 . There is a large class among us, the class of respectable people, whose whole character and habits have been so formed under the influence of social opinion that when they wish to ascertain what is right or wrong, they think whether it will shock people or not. They unconsciously reverse our Lord's judgment; and to them the poor wretch who has fallen under the power of some evil habit, and ruined his prospects in life, is a far more hopeless and pitiable object than the hardhearted, self-righteous, respectable sinner, who has not a tenth part of the other's humility or longing after righteousness.
2 . However quick we may be to detect and repudiate what is showy in other departments of life, we are all liable to be shallow in religion. The primitive idea of God that he is exacting, a Lord who must be propitiated, is one so native to the guilty conscience, that it lingers among the motives of conduct long after we have mentally repudiated it. We will not comprehend that it is all for our benefit religion exists; that it is an essential of human life and happiness. So we do those things which it is supposed God requires, but we remain in nature unchanged.
3 . Or we may admire a certain kind of character, and set it up as our ideal, without possessing it even in its beginning. A man may have the reputation of being a Christian, and may learn to accept himself as one, while he has no foundation; it is only the appearance which is in his favour.
4 . Or we may have such an eagerness to hear teaching about righteousness, that we feel as if the hearing itself were sufficient evidence of a devout mind; we make such efforts to understand what God's will is, that we exonerate ourselves from doing it; we make such profuse declarations of our obligation to obey, that we feel we have done enough. But do not believe in your purpose to serve God better until you do serve him better. Give no credit to yourself for anything which is not actually accomplished. Do not let us be always speaking of endeavours, hopes, and intentions, and struggles, and convictions of what is right, but let us do God's will.
II. THE RESULTS OF SUPERFICIALITY are portrayed in language intended to bring out their overwhelmingly disastrous nature, but not less their certainty. For what is it that brings the house about the builder's ears? It is nothing exceptional; it is the inevitable that tests it. So it is with character. It is tested by the ordinary emergencies of life. Time is all that is required to test anything. The wolf may pretend to be a sheep for an hour or two, but his natural appetite soon reveals him; the tree makes a fair show till autumn tests it. So some reputations are short-lived. Some sudden temptation may reveal to others, and even to a man himself, that his most rooted motives are not what his conduct indicates. Other reputations survive all the storms of life, and a man passes to another world undetected by himself or others. But the evil day is thereby only delayed. Under the eye of Christ all disguises must drop off, and we shall be known for what we really are. The catastrophe of which we are forewarned can be averted by spending pains on the foundation. Through the surface soil of inherited tastes and tendencies, of social restraints and traditional morality, of pious desires and righteous resolves, try and get down to the very basis of your character; make sure that it has such a foundation that it will stand all the shocks of time and last to eternity. Make sure that you know why you strive and labour to reach righteousness, why you hope through all failure that yet righteousness awaits you. Make sure especially that if you are not bringing forth fruit as spontaneously and as regularly as a good tree, you yet know what is changing your nature, and giving you every day an increasing love for what is good and a readiness to do it.—D.
The title to the kingdom.
As our Lord concludes his sermon, bringing us before the judgment-seat, so should we habitually judge ourselves as in the searching light of eternity. He advises us—
I. THAT BY TRUE OBEDIENCE TO THE WILL OF GOD WE PROVE TITLE TO THE KINGDOM .
1 . That will is embodied in the "sayings" of Jesus.
2 . Profession is no substitute for obedience.
3 . Zeal in the cause of religion is no substitute for religion. The repetition of the word "Lord" suggests earnestness.
II. THAT IT IS OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE THAT WE BE THUS ABLE TO PROVE OUR TITLE .
1 . For the testing will be severe.
2 . The life-building founded on the Rock of Ages will abide.
3 . The life-building founded on the sand will be wrecked.
The distinguishing feature of Christ's teaching.
"As a rule, the scribe hardly ever gave his exposition without at least beginning by what had been said by Hillel or Shammai, by Rabbi Joseph or Rabbi Meir, depending almost or altogether upon what had thus been ruled before, as much as an English lawyer depends upon his precedents." Geikie mentions one of the rabbis who "boasted that every verse of the Bible was capable of six hundred thousand different interpretations." But on such principles who could hope to know or find the truth? To venture on originality and independence in teaching was something hitherto unknown; and the difference between the method of Jesus and the method of the scribes forcibly impressed the people. The point which may be profitably opened, illustrated, and impressed is the difference in power exerted by those who must be classed under the term "scribe," and, those who may be classed along with the Lord Jesus. And all our teachers, in home, school, church, society, literature, will thus divide.
I. THE POWER OF THE SCRIBE - LIKE TEACHER . A very small power. Such men often do more harm than good by their pettiness, narrow limitations, quibbles, interest in trifles, and uncertainties of mere verbal interpretation. They are always seriously affected by the prejudices of the schools to which they belong. They find it impossible to grasp or to apply great, comprehensive principles. Such are dangerous teachers still.
II. THE POWER OF THE CHRIST - LIKE TEACHER . NO doubt Christ had an authority arising from his office which was unique; but we can recognize also an authority in respect of which we may be like him. He was strong in unquestioning, unwavering, convictions of the truth. That is the kind of authority that is still needed. Prophet-like authority. The age needs men, like Christ, who can speak with the "accent of conviction." Our fellow-men—and we ourselves—are always best helped by those who hold truth with a great grasp of faith, and have no quavering in their voice as they speak to us the message of God. They are not stubborn men, but believing men. What they say to us is this, "I believe; therefore have I spoken."—R.T.