His doctrine – His teaching.
As one having authority, and not as the scribes – The scribes were the learned people and teachers of the Jewish nation and were principally Pharisees. They taught chiefly the sentiments of their Rabbis, and the traditions which had been delivered; they consumed much of their time in useless disputes and “vain jangling.” Jesus was open, plain, grave, useful, delivering truth as “became” the oracles of God; not spending his time in trifling disputes and debating questions of no importance, but confirming his doctrine by miracles and argument; teaching “as having power,” as it is in the original, and not in the vain and foolish manner of the Jewish doctors. He showed that he had the authority to explain, to enforce, and to “change” the ceremonial laws of the Jews. He came with authority such as no “man” could have, and it is not remarkable that his explanations astonished them. From this chapter, we may learn,
1. The evil of censorious judging, Matthew 7:1-5. We cannot see the heart. We have ourselves possibly greater faults than the persons that we condemn. They may possibly be of a different kind; but it is nevertheless not uncommon for persons to he very censorious toward faults in others, which they have to much greater extent themselves.
2. We see how we are to treat people who are opposers of the gospel, Matthew 7:6. We are not to present it to them when we know they will despise it and abuse us. We should, however, be cautious in forming that opinion of them. Many people may be far more ready to hear the gospel than we imagine, and a word seasonably and kindly spoken may be the means of saving them, Proverbs 25:11; Ecclesiastes 11:6. We should not meet violent and wicked opposers of the gospel with a harsh, overbearing, and lordly spirit – a spirit of dogmatizing and anger; nor should we violate the laws of social contact under the idea of “faithfulness.” Religion gains nothing by outraging the established laws of social life, 1 Peter 3:8. If people will not hear us when we speak to them kindly and respectfully, we may be sure they will not when we abuse them and become angry. We harden them against the truth and confirm them in the opinion that religion is of no value. Our Saviour was always mild and kind, “and in not a single instance did he do violence to the laws of social intercourse, or fail in the respect due from one man to another.” When with harshness people speak to their superiors; when they abuse them with unkind words, coarse epithets, and unfeeling denunciations; when children and youth forget their station, and speak in harsh, authoritative tones to the aged, they are violating the very first principles of the gospel – meekness, respect, and love. Give honour to whom honour is due, and be kind, be courteous.
3. Christ gives special encouragement to prayer, Matthew 7:7-11. Especially his remarks apply to the young. What child is there that would not go to his parent and ask him for things which were necessary? What child doubts the willingness of a kind parent to give what he thinks will be best for him? But God is more willing to give than the best parent. We need of, “him” gifts of far more important than we ever can of an earthly father. None but God can forgive, enlighten, sanctify, and save us. How strange that many ask favours of an “earthly” parent daily and hourly, and never ask of the Great Universal Father a single blessing for time or eternity!
4. There is a danger of losing the soul, Matthew 7:13-14. The way to ruin is broad; the path to heaven is narrow. People naturally and readily go in the former; they never go in the latter without design. When we enter on the journey of life, we naturally fall into the broad and thronged way to ruin. Our original propensity, our native depravity, our disinclination to God and religion, lead us to that, and we never leave it without effort. How much more natural to tread in a way in which multitudes go, than in one where there are few travellers, and which requires an effort to find it! And how much danger is there that we shall continue to walk in that way until it terminates in our ruin! No one is saved without effort. No one enters on the narrow way without design; no one by following his natural inclination and propensities. And yet how indisposed we are to effort! how unwilling to listen to the exhortations which would call us from the broad path to a narrower and less frequented course! How prone are people to feel that they are safe if they are with the many and that the multitude that attends them constitute a safeguard from danger!
“Encompassed by a throng,
On ‘numbers’ they depend;
They say so many can’t be wrong,
And miss a happy end.”
Yet did God ever spare a guilty city because it was large? Did he save the army of Sennacherib from the destroying angel because it was mighty? Does he hesitate to cut people down by the plague, the pestilence, and by famine, because they are numerous? Is he deterred from consigning people to the grave because they swarm upon the earth, and because a mighty throng is going to die? So in the way to hell. Not numbers, nor power, nor might, nor talent will make that way safe; nor will the path to heaven be a dangerous road because few are seen travelling there. The Saviour knew and felt that people are in danger; and hence, with much solemnity, he warned them when he lived, and now warns us, to strive to enter in at the narrow gate.
5. Sincerity is necessary for religion, Matthew 7:15-23. The profession is of no value without it. God sees the heart, and the day is near when He will cut down and destroy all those who do not bring forth the fruits of righteousness in their lives. If in anything we should be honest and sincere, surely it should be in the things of religion. God is never deceived Galatians 6:7, and the things of eternity are of too much consequence, to be lost by deluding ourselves or others. We may deceive our fellowmen, but we do not deceive our Maker, and soon He will strip off our thin covering and show us as we are to the universe. If anything is of prominent value in religion, it is “honesty” – honesty to ourselves, to our fellow-men, and to God. Be willing to know the worst of your case. Be willing to be thought of, by God and people, “as you are.” Assume nothing which you do not possess, and pretend to nothing which you have not. Judge of yourselves as you do of others – not by words and promises, but by the life. Judge of yourselves as you do of trees; not by leaves and flowers, but by the fruit.
6. We may learn the importance of building our hopes of heaven on a firm foundation, Matthew 7:24-27. No other foundation can any man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 3:11. He is the tried Corner Stone, 1 Peter 2:6; Ephesians 2:20. On an edifice raised on that foundation, the storms of persecution and calamity will beat in vain. Hopes thus reared will sustain us in every adversity, will remain unshaken by the terrors of death, and will secure us from the tempests of wrath that shall beat upon the guilty. How awful, in the day of judgment, will it be to have been deceived! How dreadful the shock to find then that the house has been built on the sand! How dreadful the emotions, to see our hopes totter on the brink of ruin; to see sand after sand washed away, and the dwelling reel over the heaving deep, and fall into the abyss to rise no more! Ruin, awful and eternal ruin, awaits those who thus deceive themselves, and who trust to a name to live, while they are dead.
7. Under what obligations are we for this “Sermon on the Mount!” In all languages, there is not discourse to be found that can be compared with it for purity, and truth, and beauty, and dignity. Were there no other evidence of the divine mission of Christ, this alone would be sufficient to prove that he was sent from God. Were these doctrines obeyed and loved, how pure and peaceful would be the world! How would hypocrisy be abashed and confounded! How would impurity hang its head! How would peace reign in every family and nation! How would anger and wrath flee! And how would the race – the lost and benighted tribes of people, the poor, and needy, and sorrowful – bend themselves before their common Father, and seek peace and eternal life at the hands of a merciful and faithful God!