All these sayings of Christ we had before in Matthew; some of them in Matt. 7:1-29, others in other places. They were sayings that Christ often used; they needed only to be mentioned, it was easy to apply them. Grotius thinks that we need not be critical here in seeking for the coherence: they are golden sentences, like Solomon’s proverbs or parables. Let us observe here,
I. We ought to be very candid in our censures of others, because we need grains of allowance ourselves: “Therefore judge not others, because then you yourselves shall not be judged; therefore condemn not others, because then you yourselves shall not be condemned, Luke 6:37. Exercise towards others that charity which thinks no evil, which bears all things, believes and hopes all things; and then others will exercise that charity towards you. God will not judge and condemn you, men will not.” They that are merciful to other people’s names shall find others merciful to theirs.
II. If we are of a giving and a forgiving spirit, we shall ourselves reap the benefit of it: Forgive and you shall be forgiven. If we forgive the injuries done to us by others, others will forgive our inadvertencies. If we forgive others’ trespasses against us, God will forgive our trespasses against him. And he will be no less mindful of the liberal that devise liberal things (Luke 6:38): Give, and it shall be given to you. God, in his providence, will recompense it to you; it is lent to him, and he is not unrighteous to forget it (Heb. 6:10), but he will pay it again. Men shall return it into your bosom; for God often makes use of men as instruments, not only of his avenging, but of his rewarding justice. If we in a right manner give to others when they need, God will incline the hearts of others to give to us when we need, and to give liberally, good measure pressed down and shaken together. They that sow plentifully shall reap plentifully. Whom God recompenses he recompenses abundantly.
III. We must expect to be dealt with ourselves as we deal with others: With the same measure that ye mete it shall be measured to you again. Those that deal hardly with others must acknowledge, as Adoni-bezek did (Jdg. 1:7), that God is righteous, if others deal hardly with them, and they may expect to be paid in their own coin; but they that deal kindly with others have reason to hope that, when they have occasion, God will raise them up friends who will deal kindly with them. Though Providence does not always go by this rule, because the full and exact retributions are reserved for another world, yet, ordinarily, it observes a proportion sufficient to deter us from all acts of rigour and to encourage us in all acts of beneficence.
IV. Those who put themselves under the guidance of the ignorant and erroneous are likely to perish with them (Luke 6:39): Can the blind lead the blind? Can the Pharisees, who are blinded with pride, prejudice, and bigotry, lead the blind people into the right way? Shall not both fall together into the ditch? How can they expect any other? Those that are led by the common opinion, course, and custom, of this world, are themselves blind, and are led by the blind, and will perish with the world that sits in darkness. Those that ignorantly, and at a venture, follow the multitude to do evil, follow the blind in the broad way that leads the many to destruction.
V. Christ’s followers cannot expect better treatment in the world than their Master had, Luke 6:40. Let them not promise themselves more honour or pleasure in the world than Christ had, nor aim at the worldly pomp and grandeur which he was never ambitious of, but always declined, nor affect that power in secular things which he would not assume; but every one that would show himself perfect, an established disciple, let him be as his Master—dead to the world, and every thing in it, as his Master is; let him live a life of labour and self-denial as his Master doth, and make himself a servant of all; let him stoop, and let him toil, and do all the good he can, and then he will be a complete disciple.
VI. Those who take upon them to rebuke and reform others are concerned to look to it that they be themselves blameless, and harmless, and without rebuke, Luke 6:41, 42. 1. Those with a very ill grace censure the faults of others who are not aware of their own faults. It is very absurd for any to pretend to be so quick-sighted as to spy small faults in others, like a mote in the eye, when they are themselves so perfectly past feeling as not to perceive a beam in their own eye. 2. Those are altogether unfit to help to reform others whose reforming charity does not begin at home. How canst thou offer thy service to thy brother, to pull out the mote from his eye, which requires a good eye as well as a good hand, when thou thyself hast a beam in thine own eye, and makest no complaint of it? 3. Those therefore who would be serviceable to the souls of others must first make it appear that they are solicitous about their own souls. To help to pull the mote out of our brother’s eye is a good work, but then we must qualify ourselves for it by beginning with ourselves; and our reforming our own lives may, by the influence of example, contribute to others reforming theirs.
VII. We may expect that men’s words and actions will be according as they are, according as their hearts are, and according as their principles are.
1. The heart is the tree, and the words and actions are fruit according to the nature of the tree, Luke 6:43, 44. If a man be really a good man, if he have a principle of grace in his heart, and the prevailing bent and bias of the soul be towards God and heaven, though perhaps he may not abound in fruit, though some of his fruits be blasted, and though he may be sometimes like a tree in winter, yet he does not bring forth corrupt fruit; though he may not do you all the good he should, yet he will not in any material instance do you hurt. If he cannot reform ill manners, he will not corrupt good manners. If the fruit that a man brings forth be corrupt, if a man’s devotion tend to debauch the mind and conversation, if a man’s conversation be vicious, if he be a drunkard or fornicator, if he be a swearer or liar, if he be in any instance unjust or unnatural, his fruit is corrupt, and you may be sure that he is not a good tree. On the other hand, a corrupt tree doth not bring forth good fruit, though it may bring forth green leaves; for of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble do they gather grapes. You may, if you please, stick figs upon thorns, and hang a bunch of grapes upon a bramble, but they neither are, nor can be, the natural product of the trees; so neither can you expect any good conduct from those who have justly a bad character. If the fruit be good, you may conclude that the tree is so; if the conversation be holy, heavenly, and regular, though you cannot infallibly know the heart, yet you may charitably hope that it is upright with God; for every tree is known by its fruit. But the vile person will speak villany (Isa. 32:6), and the experience of the moderns herein agrees with the proverb of the ancients, that wickedness proceedeth from the wicked, 1 Sam. 24:13.
2. The heart is the treasure, and the words and actions are the expenses or produce from that treasure, Luke 6:45. This we had, Matt. 12:34, 35. The reigning love of God and Christ in the heart denominates a man a good man; and it is a good treasure a man may bring forth that which is good. But where the love of the world and the flesh reign there is an evil treasure in the heart, out of which an evil man is continually bringing forth that which is evil; and by what is brought forth you may know what is in the heart, as you may know what is in the vessel, water or wine, by what is drawn out from it, John 2:8. Of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks; what the mouth ordinarily speaks, speaks with relish and delight, generally agrees with what is innermost and uppermost in the heart: He that speaks of the earth is earthly, John 3:31. Not but that a good man may possibly drop a bad word, and a wicked man make use of a good word to serve a bad turn; but, for the most part, the heart is as the words are, vain or serious; it therefore concerns us to get our hearts filled, not only with good, but with abundance of it.
VIII. It is not enough to hear the sayings of Christ, but we must do them; not enough to profess relation to him, as his servants, but we must make conscience of obeying him.
1. It is putting an affront upon him to call him Lord, Lord, as if we were wholly at his command, and had devoted ourselves to his service, if we do not make conscience of conforming to his will and serving the interests of his kingdom. We do but mock Christ, as they that in scorn said, Hail, King of the Jews, if we call him ever so often Lord, Lord, and yet walk in the way of our own hearts and in the sight of our own eyes. Why do we call him Lord, Lord, in prayer (compare Matt. 7:21, 22), if we do not obey his commands? He that turns away his ear from hearing the law, his prayer shall be an abomination.
2. It is putting a cheat upon ourselves if we think that a bare profession of religion will save us, that hearing the sayings of Christ will bring us to heaven, without doing them. This he illustrates by a similitude (Luke 6:47-49), which shows,
(1.) That those only make sure work for their souls and eternity, and take the course that will stand them in stead in a trying time, who do not only come to Christ as his scholars, and hear his sayings but do them, who think, and speak, and act, in every thing according to the established rules of his holy religion. They are like a house built on a rock. These are they that take pains in religion, as they do,—that dig deep, that found their hope upon Christ, who is the Rock of ages (and other foundation can no man lay); these are they who provide for hereafter, who get ready for the worst, who lay up in store a good foundation for the time to come, for the eternity to come, 1 Tim. 6:19. They who do thus do well for themselves; for, [1.] They shall keep their integrity, in times of temptation and persecution; when others fall from their own stedfastness, as the seed on the stony ground, they shall stand fast in the Lord. [2.] They shall keep their comfort, and peace, and hope, and joy, in the midst of the greatest distresses. The storms and streams of affliction shall not shock them, for their feet are set upon a rock, a rock higher than they. [3.] Their everlasting welfare is secured. In death and judgment they are safe. Obedient believers are kept by the power of Christ, through faith, unto salvation, and shall never perish.
(2.) That those who rest in a bare hearing of the sayings of Christ, and do not live up to them, are but preparing for a fatal disappointment: He that heareth and doeth not (that knows his duty, but lives in the neglect of it), he is like a man that built a house without a foundation. He pleases himself with hopes that he has no ground for, and his hopes will fail him when he most needs the comfort of them, and when he expects the crowning of them; when the stream beats vehemently upon his house, it is gone, the sand it is built upon is washed away, and immediately it falls, Such is the hope of the hypocrite, though he has gained, when God takes away his soul; it is as the spider’s web, and the giving up of the ghost.