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Matthew 7:1-20 - Homiletics

Various practical rules issuing out of the central duty of self-consecration.


1 . Gentleness in our estimate of the lives of others. The hypocrites trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others; they made an ostentatious display of their own supposed good deeds, and passed stern judgments on their neighbours. The righteousness of Christ's disciples must exceed that of the Pharisees in both respects. Indeed, Christ's words must not be understood in that literalness which was one of the characteristic errors of the Pharisees. The judge must pass sentence upon criminals; it is his duty to God, to society. The minister of God must "reprove, rebuke, exhort,": when God saith unto the wicked, "Thou wicked man, thou shalt surely die," he must warn the wicked of his sin; for otherwise (God himself hath said it) "that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thy hand." All Christians must hate sin, and show that they hate it. "Woe unto them," saith the Prophet Isaiah, "that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" Sometimes it is our duty to judge others. When it is our duty, we are safe, if we do it with pity for the sinner and with grief for the dishonour done to God (see Psalms 119:136 ). It is a duty full of danger and temptation; there is need of prayer and self-examination and careful scrutiny of our own thoughts and motives. When it is not our duty, it is never free from the danger of sin against the law of love. Censoriousness is one of the great blots of social intercourse. People who have nothing else to talk about, talk about their neighbours; they discuss their conduct; they impute unworthy motives; they repeat slanders, they exaggerate them; they take a sinful pleasure in condemning others; they often sin against the ninth, continually against the new, commandment. And these unchristian judgments imply self-righteousness, pride, hypocrisy; they usurp the prerogative of the great Judge, who alone can search the thoughts of the heart; they bring the uncharitable into exceeding great danger, for the commandment of the Judge is, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself;" and surely those who judge their brethren harshly take part (awful as it seems) rather with Satan, the accuser of the brethren, who accuses them before our God night and day, than with the Lord Jesus Christ, the most loving Saviour, who dearly loved the souls of men, who wept over impenitent Jerusalem, and said, "Father, forgive them," as they nailed him on the cross. Therefore "judge not, that ye be not judged." Men will judge harshly those who judge others harshly, and the human judgment passed upon the censorious is but a shadow of the more dreadful judgment that is to come.

2 . Strictness in judging ourselves. We extenuate our own faults; we always have excuses ready. We magnify the faults of others; we have no excuse for them. Our faults seem to us as motes, theirs as beams; our judgment is often reversed by the just judgment of God. Consider your own faults, concentrate your attention upon them—that is your duty; not, as a rule, to pass judgment upon your neighbours. "Every one of us shall give account of himself to God. " Of himself; then let him take heed to his own soul, let him look into its state narrowly and jealously, let him carefully remove every mote and every defilement, let him wash it white in the blood of the Lamb. This diligent self-examination will prepare us for the difficult and delicate task of helping others. He who would take heed to the flock must take heed first unto himself ( Acts 20:28 ); it needs a clean heart, and a close fellowship with Christ, and a purified spiritual vision, to see clearly to cast out the mote out of our brother's eye. There is need of true humility and heavenly wisdom and deep spiritual experience , if we are to deal successfully with the souls of others. If we are to restore others, it must be in the spirit of meekness, by the help of the good Spirit of God, always considering ourselves, lest we also be tempted.

3 . Holy caution in dealing with the worldly and the wicked. "Holy things for the holy," is a well-known direction in the ancient liturgies; it expresses the lesson which the Lord would teach us here. Judge not, but yet be careful. The deep things of spiritual experience are not for all men. The mysteries of the soul's converse with God are not to be lightly divulged in common talk. "My Beloved is mine, and I am his." The intercourse of the converted soul with the heavenly Bridegroom is a thing too sacred for ordinary conversation. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him … They that feared the Lord spake often one to another." The Christian can tell what God hath done for his soul only to the like-minded—the holy with the holy; and there are hidden things of which he speaks only to God in the silence of his heart. The deepest thoughts of that life which is hid with Christ in God, the blessed truths on which the soul leeds in loving faith, are far too sacred to be offered to the contentious, the unbelieving, the mere controversialist; far too precious to be thrown down to the gross and sensual, who despise the pearl of great price in comparison with their low and coarse enjoyments, who will turn angrily and scornfully upon him who introduces such subjects. Confessions of past sin, histories of conversions, spiritual experiences, are very sacred; but they are not for all men. They will do harm to the worldly; they wilt provoke them to scorn and derision.


1 . The duty and blessedness of prayer. "Ask … seek … knock." He bids us pray through whom all prayer is offered, in whose Name every knee must bow; he will hear us, we know. He has just taught us the blessed words of his own most holy prayer; he bids us use them, not as mere words uttered by the lips, but as true prayer prayed out of the depths of the heart. "Ask," he says, "and it shall be given you;… everyone that asketh receiveth. " It is not asking, to repeat a few words without real desire. The heart must ask; the heart asks by its longings, yearning after God with groanings that cannot be uttered. Ask thus, and surely ye shall have. "Seek," he says, "and ye shall find." You ask for that which you need; you seek that which has been lost, that which is hidden. Original innocence has been lost; the true treasure of the soul is a hidden treasure. Seek after righteousness, seek the kingdom of God, seek Christ. Seeking implies perseverance , careful, watchful effort. The Lord came to seek and to save that which was lost. He sought on and fainted not through the thirty years of his quiet life at Nazareth, through the three years of his ministry—those years of unwearying labour, self-forgetting love. He sought on even as he hung dying in agony on the cross: "Father, forgive." He sought and he found: "To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." He sought, and we must seek; we must seek him who is seeking us. If we seek as he sought, in patience, perseverance, in love, we shall surely find him; for he is still seeking, still calling, "Come unto me . " "Knock," he says, "and it shall be opened unto you." But knock now, while it is the day of grace. There are some who will stand without, and knock at the door, saying, "Lord, Lord, open unto us;" and he shall answer,"I know you not." Knock now. Knocking implies importunity. It is not enough to be "not far from the kingdom of God;" we need to enter in, into the presence of the most holy One. He will open if we knock in faith and strong desire; for he himself, in the wondrous condescension of his infinite love, deigns to knock at the door of our poor unworthy heart. "Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof." But he desires to enter, in his gracious mercy. "If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Then we know that he will open if we continue knocking; he will not keep the door shut against those souls of men whom he loved so very dearly. He will admit us, if we persevere in faithful prayer, into his most gracious presence now, into the joy of our Lord hereafter.

2 . Our Father hears the prayer of his children. Earthly fathers give their children what they need; they will not give a stone for bread, a scorpion for fish. They are sinful; the inherited corruption of sin cleaves to them all; yet they love their children and care for them. How much more does our Father which is in heaven, our Father who is Love, care for us, his children! Our Father listens to our voice, but he listens in wisdom and true holy love. We ask him sometimes for stones or scorpions, for earthly things which will only be a weight and hindrance in our heavenward journey, or perhaps may even tempt us to fall into sin, which is the sting of death. He will not give the evil things which we blindly ask; but it is in love that he refuses. "My grace is sufficient for thee." He gives the true bread—the bread which, if a man take, he shall live for ever. He gives good things to them that ask him; not always the good things of this world, which are not reckoned good in the world to come—" Son, thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things"—but things really good, things that the souls of the blessed can take with them when the world passeth away. He gives, in answer to the prayer of the heart, the best of all good things—the Holy Spirit of God.

3 . We must imitate him. "Be perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." To be like unto God is not to be strong and beautiful and brave, like Homer's godlike heroes, but to imitate God in that which, his apostle tells us, enters into his very nature. "God is Love." If we would have him give good things to us, we must give good things to our neighbours according to our power. Our Lord lays down a plain, simple rule to guide us in our daily walk: "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." We must ask ourselves how we would have our neighbour act towards us if our circumstances were reversed. Thus our own heart becomes our guide; it tells us just how we ought to act. Only let us be sincere, truthful with ourselves, and we cannot he deceived. The rule is wide in its range. It is not, "Do not to others what you would not they should do to you;" others before our Lord had said that much. The Lord's rule is far wider, far more stringent. It strikes hard at that selfishness which is the parent of so many sins; it extends over all the circumstances of life; it substitutes for the minute rules of the Pharisees one comprehensive principle; it implies the energy of holy love in the heart, for only true Christian love can enable a man to apply this commandment of the Lord to the government of his own life and actions. This is the Law and the Prophets. All the commandments of the second table are briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." And it implies the commandments of the first table; for Christian love, that charity which is the greatest of all graces, flows out of the love of God. "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his command-merits." Then this is the Law and the Prophets. All the practical teaching of Holy Scripture is contained in the one law of love; and one Teacher only can write that law upon our selfish hearts, and teach us to apply it to the details of our daily lives—the Holy Spirit of God, whom our Father which is in heaven will give (his blessed Son has promised it) to them that ask him.


1 . Their difficulty.

Therefore the Lord bids us enter in at the strait gate; in his tender love for our souls he condescends to show us the way, entering there himself. Few find it, but the Lord Jesus is with those few. He is their Guide; his cross goeth before them; they follow him in trustful faith, though often with much fear and trembling, sometimes with many anxious doubts. For the path is very narrow; it is hemmed in on each side with difficulties and dangers. Many side-paths open out from it; they seem sometimes to follow the same general direction, but a slight divergence at first often leads very far astray. They are sometimes very tempting; they look smoother, easier, pleasanter, than the one narrow way. There is need of much careful thought, much self-restraint, to keep the right path; it is steep, sometimes very rugged, leading ever upwards. Few find it. Sometimes, in moments of depression, they seem to us very few indeed; but we remember that when Elijah thought himself alone, God could tell him that there were seven thousand faithful men in Israel. And if they are but few, they are the followers of the Lamb, "called, chosen, faithful." He himself is with them, cheering, comforting, strengthening them. The narrow path is often a vale of weeping—there is much sorrow, many trials; but there is much comfort. The Lord is with his followers; therefore "they go on from strength to strength, and at the last unto the God of gods appeareth every one of them in Zion." For at the end of the narrow path lies the strait gate. It is strait; there is need of self-denial, diligence, holy thoughtfulness, even to the last. It is strait; but there is room for all to enter in who have chosen the service of Christ; for he has passed through that strait gate himself, and he will open it wide to his followers. It is strait; but it leadeth unto life—to that life which is indeed worth living; the everlasting life with God in heaven. For the strait gate of the parable is, indeed, the pearly gate of the golden city; there shall enter the saints of God, ten thousand times ten thousand, when the fight with sin and death is over, and the redeemed of the Lord, more than conquerors through the precious blood, go up with singing to Zion into the city of the living God.

2 . The influence of false teachers.


1 . The Lord teaches the great danger of idle and slanderous gossip; take heed, listen, and obey.

2 . Pray earnestly for grace to see your own faults, examine yourselves; be real, hate unreality, and hypocrisy.

3 . Pray always, in trustful faith, m persevering earnestness.

4 . Deny yourselves; only the way of the cross leadeth to the crown of life.

5 . Seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit; beware of false teachers.

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