Matthew 5:13-16 - Homilies By P.c. Barker
The startling salutation.
The announcements of the Beatitudes were necessarily startling in their matter, even when considered as delivered simply generally, whether the world or any in it hear or forbear. They breathed a spirit and plainly laid down views with which those of the world were so utterly at variance. The estrangement was almost absolute, and amounted to the rigour of alienation. Notice, then, in these words—
I. THE ASSISTANCE THEY OFFER TO THE DISCIPLES TOWARDS REALIZING THEIR OWN RELATION IN PARTICULAR TO THESE BEATITUDES . If they are to be, in truth, disciples of Christ, it is necessary that they at least get a firm grip upon the principles underlying the Beatitudes. And it is a great assistance to this—how many significant analogies we know!—to have their own position, i.e. that awaiting them, placed so as to confront them at once. Great theoretic surprises are often converted most beneficently into startling personal and practical surprises. The theoretic surprise would end in nothing but vague dissipation of mind; the personal surprise startles into thought, duty, enterprise. And of such nature surely were these two descriptions of themselves addressed so unexpectedly to the disciples, viz. "Ye are the salt of the earth … ye are the light of the world." The value of the bracing effect of them cannot be overestimated.
II. THE ASSISTANCE THEY GAVE TO THE DISCIPLES TOWARDS COMPREHENDING THEIR OWN CALL . Of oral lessons, these must have been among the first; and in the nature of energizing, refreshing salutations to minds and lives that had never dreamed of what was in store for either the one or the other. Now must have dated the birth within them of some more adequate sense of the dread responsibility of that call. This awakening was not by the path of despairing, overawing, crushing convictions, but by the very contrary:
III. THE CROWNING ASSISTANCE THEY GAVE IN THE TWO FIGURES THEY USE . They are such very strong figures. They can't fall on listless ears. They can't fail of making their due impression. They well utter out their unambiguous significance to those disciples. They are of world-wide interpretation—" salt " for and of the earth, " light " for heaven and the whole procession of things created. The absolute plainness and boldness of these figures enhance immensely their likely usefulness, and go no little way to disarm them of one possible danger, viz. the danger, had they been more covert in their manner, of feeding self-importance, self-assertion, and vanity in those newly called disciples. St. Augustine well says, "Not he that suffers persecution is trodden underfoot of men, but he who through fear of persecution falls away."
IV. THE DISTINCT REFERENCE TO THE CARDINAL FACT THAT GOD WAS TO BE GLORIFIED IN ALL . The "light" of these men is to be the light of those who are "light in the Lord." Their light is to shine ; it is not to be hidden; it is not to be obscure. Their light is to be the light and lustre that assuredly belong to "good works." These "good works" are to be now "seen of men," and in one certain sense they are to be done. so that and in order that men may see them; but the end is to rest not there , and the glory is not to be reflected back on the disciples. The end is that "men may glorify" the Father, of whom the grace and power and light come that make "good works," and who himself is "all Light," and the "Giver of all light."—B.
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