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heard him might become so; but of his disciples he says, Ye are the salt of the earth. In every country, salt is necessary to man.
But in the climate of Judea, the products of the earth would be useless without it. And as salt gives to these their value, and makes them salutary and profitable ; so must his disciples be to the inhabitants of the world. They must mix with them, and season them with their own faith and with the habits springing from it, and so keep them from corruption.
The Jewish people should have been this salt to the nations of the earth. For this purpose, God had chosen them. “ Behold,” He says, “I have formed this people for myself
, that they may show forth my praise." To a certain degree they did so. In the midst of a world that knew not God, they maintained the record of Him, who " in the beginning created the heaven and the earth.”
But through their faithlessness and wickedness, the salt had lost its savour. St. Paul rebukes them, saying, “Thou which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you,” whereas, it ought to have been glorified. Wherewith, then, shall the earth be salted; how shall it be purified from corruption ;—if they who are to preserve it have no virtue remaining in them? Such salt is only fit to be cast out as worthless, and to be trodden under foot of men: deserves no better treatment, than is impending over the degenerate inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah.
Another example follows, equally suited to raise the minds of the disciples, by showing them the place they were to occupy, and the duty which devolved on them. 14. “ Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill can
not be hid.”
Properly speaking, there is but one light of the world, the Lord himself," the sun of righteousness.” They were not that light, but they were to hold up that light, and so draw others to it, that they also might be delivered out of darkness.
Or they might be compared to a city set on an hill, which cannot be hid; distinctly visible, so that all belonging to it is known. If the sun shines brightly upon it, it is seen from afar: if it is overhung with clouds, men miss the object to which they have been accustomed, and a traveller can no longer use it to direct his course. So with those who profess to be disciples of Christ. They cannot be hid. If by their good example they do not show forth the praise of Him who called them, they become a dishonour and reproach to the name they bear. For they are set up as a light which men should walk by; this was the purpose of their calling. 15. “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but
on a candlestick ; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
A light is kindled, not that it may be concealed under a bed, or covered by a hollow vessel, but that it may furnish useful light to those who have work to do which without it they could not perform. This is an example of that light which was now come into the world, that as many as should look up to it“ might not abide in darkness.” The apostles were to hold forth that light both in their doctrine and in their practice: and their disciples were to do the same to the end of time; that “God might be glorified through Jesus Christ” by a faithful and obedient people, “ redeemed_from all iniquity, and zealous of good
The light of such a people shines before men, and directs them in the course which they themselves should choose and follow.
3 As in the parallel passage, Mark iv. 21. 4 Tit. ii. 14.
Zaccheus, for example, held up a light before his brother publicans, when he openly avowed his repentance, and declared his future resolutions. “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor : and if I have taken anything from any one by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” St. Paul speaks of the Thessalonian Christians as setting the same example to all the neighbouring countries; when“ they turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven," so that “ in every place their faith to Godward was spread abroad,” superseding, as it were, the need of the apostle's preaching St. Peter, in like manner, expects that by the light of her good example, the believing wife may convey the truth to her unbelieving husband, whilst he“ beholds her chaste conversation,” and learns by what power it is guided and maintained.?
Thus the consistent Christian becomes as salt or as light to the world in which he lives. Were it not for the light which he exhibits,“ darkness would cover the earth, and gross darkness the people.” Whereas his benevolence relieves ; his meekness tranquillises ; his purity chastens ; his zeal awakens; his piety edifies ; his prayers draw down a blessing. And the Author of all, “ the God and Father of lights,” is glorified in his faithful servant.
Indeed, every one in his own station, whether knowingly or unknowingly, is a light to others : either a light which misleads, or a light which instructs. Either for good or for evil, EXAMPLE is the guide which a multitude will follow. In the sad account which many will have to render at the great day, the wickedness which by their own bad conduct they have caused in others will be added to the wickedness which they themselves have practised. Whilst they who walking in the world by faith, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” have been kept from the evil with which the world abounds, and by their integrity, charity, moderation, purity of life, prove themselves obedient disciples of their Lord,—these lead others in the way ousness, whilst they “work out their own salvation." And the Lord's words are made good and illustrated; Men see their good works, and glorify their Father which is in heaven.
5 Luke xix. 8. 6 “So that we need not to speak anything." See 1 Thess. i. 7–10. 71 Pet. iii. 2.
THE EXTENT OF CHRISTIAN RIGHTEOUSNESS.
MATT. V. 17–20.
17. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets : I
am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18. “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or
one tittle' shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19. “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments,
and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be
called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus had been now long enough engaged in teaching, that reports concerning Him should be spread abroad ; and, doubtless, many things were stated, partly true and partly false. Among them, perhaps, some might affirm that He was come to set aside the law ; to introduce a new doctrine which should contradict Moses and the prophets. As was alleged against Stephen afterwards : « This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law.”2 The Lord calls attention to the fact, that He not come to destroy, but to fulfil. The prophecies
1 Alluding probably to the little strokes or dashes by which the difference was made, in Hebrew and Syriac writings, between letters almost alike.—Lightfoot.
2 Acts vi. 13,
centered in Him: and He did not yield up his spirit as man, till He had accomplished all things which were written concerning Him. From the ceremonial law not one jot or tittle passed, till it had fulfilled its purpose : : and from the moral law, prescribing the duty of man, not one jot or one tittle shall ever pass, till heaven and earth pass : as long as the world itself endures. It is the law which God has from the first ordained, that men should walk in it. And so far from the kingdom of Christ being established in opposition to these commandments, whoever taught and practised them most perfectly should be called greatest in that kingdom: and he should be called least in the kingdom of heaven, not reckoned worthy of a place in it, who by false teaching or bad example encouraged men to break one of the least of them. This the Scribes and Pharisees had done,“ making the word of God of none effect through their traditions. Yet they were looked up to, as the strictest teachers : and those who heard our Lord's words would be surprised to learn that his disciples must have a different and a better righteousness than theirs. 20. “ For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed
the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Here something is proposed to the Christian, which may lead him to a useful train of self-inquiry. Our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees ; must be of a better and purer nature. Let us think, then, what theirs was; in what it fell short; in what it was mistaken.
The Pharisees were very strict in observing the exact letter of the law. They kept the sabbath, for instance, most rigorously. When our Lord's disciples plucked some ears of corn and rubbed them out on that day, they inquired, “Why do your disciples that
3 John ix. 28.