3109. Sowing And Reaping

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No. 3109-54:433. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, August 16, 1874, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

1. I find, on reference to Luther’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, and to Calvin’s Commentary on this passage, that both those learned expositors consider that this refers to the treatment of ministers by their people in the matter of their financial support. They very properly point out the connection between the sixth verse and the seventh: “Let him who is taught in the Word share with him who teaches in all good things. Do not be deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that he shall also reap.” I suppose that there was a need for such an injunction in Paul’s day, and there is a need for it now. There were some hearers of the gospel, then, who contributed generously towards the maintenance of the preacher, and the apostle says that what they gave would be like sowing good seed, in return for which God would give to them an abundant harvest; but there were others who gave sparingly, and who would therefore have a proportionately smaller return.

2. But I feel sure that the apostle had a wider range than that, and that these words express a general principle: “Whatever a man sows, that he shall also reap.” So I begin my discourse by reminding you that our present lives are of the utmost possible importance, for on these winged hours hang eternal issues. Our present actions are not trifles, for they will decide our everlasting destiny. Everything we do is, to some extent, a sowing of which eternity will be the reaping.

3. I. So please notice, first, that our text tells as that GOD IS NOT TO BE TRIFLED WITH: “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that he shall also reap.”

4. Some trifle with God by holding, practically, if not theoretically, that, there will not be rewards for virtue, nor punishments for sin; that one end will come equally to all; that, whatever the dignity or the degradation of character may be, we shall all go to the same place, and sleep there in oblivion; or that, if there is any future life, it will be common to us all; and that, in fact, the whole question concerning the hereafter is a matter so utterly unimportant that we can afford to regard it with complete indifference.

5. But, dear friends, it is not so. There is an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God, and he is the moral Governor of the universe. He will not see his laws broken with impunity, his name defiled, his gospel despised, his Son rejected. He is intensely sensitive to the actions of mankind; he is not a god of granite or of steel. He takes note of the acts, and words, and even of the thoughts of those whom he has created; and if they are finally impenitent, sooner or later he will say, as he did in Isaiah’s day, “I will rid myself of my adversaries, and take vengeance on my enemies.”

6. Others seem to suppose that, even if there is a future, an eternity of rewards and punishments,—the reaping of which this life is the sowing,—a mere profession will suffice to save them. They appear to imagine that, if they only compliment their Maker with an occasional “Thank God!” and utter a few words of mere formal prayer, and are not grossly licentious, but live tolerably decent lives, that will satisfy God’s requirements. Nothing can be more mistaken than such an idea as that. God in the highest heavens is himself perfectly pure, his perfect law is like himself, and it is not for him to accommodate his righteous law to the wills of fallen man. Do not imagine that he will accept the mere external homage of your being. He must have your heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, or he will not be content. It is vain for anyone to attempt to mock God by supposing that anything will do for him in place of that heart-surrender and heart-service that he demands.

7. There are others who seem to suppose that, if they make a profession of religion, that will suffice. They think that, if they attend the parish church or the dissenting chapel, and subscribe regularly to religious and philanthropic societies, that is all that is required of them. That is how they mock God, that God who came to the top of Sinai, and there, amid thunders and lightnings, gave the Ten Commandments; but he is not to be satisfied by a mere profession of religion. To confess what we do not really feel, is only to increase our sin, and a hypocritical profession is a further aggravation of our sin. Does God accept your heartless sacrifices, your meaningless words and empty phrases? No; he is not to be mocked by mere outward religious forms and ceremonies.

8. Others imagine that God can be imposed on by a formal compliment when they are near death. A man is dying, and immediately the cry is, “Send for a minister!” They often send for a dissenting minister, although they have never attended his ministry; and they appear to imagine that, by some kind of magic, we can work wonders even for the poor creature who is probably unconscious before we get to him, and if he has not trusted in Christ before that time, no one can enable him to do it then. Yet his friends call us up in the middle of the night, thinking that we can do something for him. I am not now speaking of you who regularly hear the gospel, and who are, therefore, likely to know better, yet this opinion is very generally held; but I loathe the idea of having anything of priestly power imputed to me. I have not a bit more power than any of you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, have. I am only a preacher of the gospel, and I would gladly hear the gospel message from any one of you. It is blasphemous to pretend that sacred unction can be imparted by a mortal man. You must yourselves repent, and turn to God; I cannot do this for you. It is your own sowing, in this respect, that must bring you a blessed reaping;—not anything that you can get a so-called “priest” or even a minister of the gospel to sow for you. {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1250, “The Priest Dispensed With” 1241}

9. II. Now, secondly, I want to remind you that GOD’S MORAL LAWS, AS WELL AS GOD HIMSELF, ARE NOT TO BE TRIFLED WITH: “Whatever a man sows, that he shall also reap.”

10. First, it is so in nature. If it were possible for God not to observe what man does, yet what man does is, by itself, full of a power which will be to him what the harvest is to the soil; and just what he sows he will be sure to reap one of these days, or in eternity if not in time. If a man were to sow his field with garlic and expect to reap barley, he would be bitterly disappointed. If he were to sow tares, he might pray as long as he pleased for a crop of wheat, but he would not get it. God never changes his laws so as to make tares come up wheat, and he never will. The sowing always is, and always will be, the father of the reaping.

11. It is so, also, in providence. A man is idle, and neglects his business; he sleeps in the morning when he ought to be at work; he is dilatory and careless about his affairs; so, as the inevitable consequence, he goes from bad to worse, and is soon bankrupt. As he sows, so he reaps. Another indulges in the sins of the flesh; so, when you see him with a broken constitution, and his whole being the very incarnation of misery, you are not surprised. Another gambles, and wastes all his money, and, sooner or later, he comes to penury. As he sows, so he reaps. If a man is a drunkard, the poison he swallows will take effect sooner or later, however strong a constitution he may have.

12. As it is in nature, and in providence, so it is in the general moral government of God. Does not a man’s own conscience tell him to expect that what he does will come home to him? And though a man strives to lull his conscience to sleep, yet now and then it wakes up, and shakes him with its thunders, and causes him to be ill at ease. How is it that graceless men cannot bear to be alone? It is because conscience shakes them, and makes them think of the future, and dread even greater misery than they at present endure. Just suppose, for a moment, that this law could be reversed, and that I could now say to you, “You may sin as you like, and no evil consequences will follow.” Could you imagine any proclamation which would spread such alarm and terror? Why, the very fabric of society would be shattered in such a state of things. Suppose that I had to say, “There is nothing better in being generous and noble than there is in baseness and vice.” Why, it would be enough to put out the least spark of virtue that might be in existence anywhere. But we do not have to talk in that immoral manner. There is a God who judges actions, words, and even thoughts; and “he who sows to his flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap life everlasting.” God’s Word, which is our ultimate Court of Appeal, tells us that, in the great reaping time that is coming, Christ will “gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” The Book of Revelation, foretelling the future, says that “the books were opened;…and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” Oh you carefree, and light-hearted, and frivolous ones, it is not we who say this, but it is the declaration of the Spirit of God that, after death, comes the judgment; and that, at that judgment seat, you shall all appear, and for the acts committed in your lives you shall all be tried, and just as your lives have been so shall your eternal destiny be fixed.

13. III. This leads me to my third remark, which is, that EVIL SOWING WILL BRING EVIL REAPING. “Whatever a man sows, that he shall also reap.”

14. This is seen in the present result of certain sins. “He who sows to his flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption.” By “the flesh” is meant our corrupt human nature, in such sins as are mentioned in the fifth chapter of this Epistle, where we read, “Now the works of the flesh are revealed, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousy, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such-like: of which I tell you before, as I have also told you in times past, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” {Ga 5:19-21} These are “the works of the flesh.”

15. I am not going to expound this passage {a} fully, but I want to briefly show you that there are four classes of sins mentioned here. First, Paul mentions sins of lust;—adultery, which violates the most sacred ties;—fornication, which defiles the body; uncleanness, which is secret, not known to others, but which is fully known to God; fleshly thoughts, and fleshly words, and fleshly acts;—lasciviousness, the outward uncleanness which “society” condemns, yet often practises. He who is doing any of these things is sowing to his flesh, and he will, most surely, “from the flesh reap corruption.” You who are true Christians, of course hate all these things; as Jude says, “hating even the garment spotted by the flesh”; and take care that you also hate all books in which these things are worked up into attractive narratives, for you cannot even casually glance at such books, much less read them, without polluting your whole being. But as for those who practise these sins, which the apostle here enumerates, let them not dream that they can be saved while they continue to love what God hates with a perfect hatred.

16. The next sins in the apostle’s black catalogue are idolatry and sorcery;—idolatry, which is forbidden by the second commandment: “You shall not make for yourselves any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: you shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me: and showing mercy to thousands of those who love me, and keep my commandments.” To bow in worship before an “altar” so-called, or a cross, or an image or a picture of a saint, or before a real or supposed “holy” relic, or anything of the kind, is nothing but sheer idolatry; yet multitudes are committing this great sin under the notion that they are doing God service. There is a form of idolatry which is not so gross as this; yet it is also sinful,—the idolatry of loving ourselves, or our wife, or husband, or child, or father, or mother, or sister, or brother, more than we love the Lord.

17. Then the apostle mentions sorcery, by which is intended all real or pretended communion with evil spirits or with the dead. Necromancy, spiritualism, and everything of the kind are absolutely forbidden to all who desire to “inherit, the kingdom of God.”

18. Then follows a third set of evils, which may be classed under the heading of sins of temper: “hatred, contentions, jealousy, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambition, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders”;—all kinds of acts and forms of feeling which are not in harmony with Christian love. If you really want to sow to the flesh, you only have to make these things your own,—if you give way to a contentious spirit, foster disagreements, are filled with hatred and envy, so that you cannot bear to know that others prosper more than you, and desire to drag them down to your level;—if you give way to bursts of passion, or indulge in backbiting, for that is strife; you are sowing to the flesh. I grieve to say that these evil things abound all around us; but, oh men and women of God, keep clear of all these things!

19. Then, lastly, Paul mentions sins of appetite: “drunkenness, revellings, and such-like”; for you must include gluttony with drunkenness. All who commit any of the sins in this long black catalogue are sowing to the flesh, and not to the Spirit, and when a man sows to the flesh what will the harvest be? “He shall from the flesh reap corruption,”—putridity, rottenness, death! The sin that the sinner thought was sweet as honey turns bitter as gall to him. There are many men and women, in this world, who have lived in sin until it has become its own punishment; and if it is not so in this world, it will be so in the world to come.

20. What a dreadful thing sin is when it comes to the full! If there were no fire that shall never be quenched, and no worm that shall never die, you need not want any worse hell than that of wicked men by themselves, with no one to control them, no public opinion to hold them in check; you need not even turn the devil in with them, just leave them to themselves, with no restraint on their wickedness, and I can hardly imagine that hell itself can be worse than those sinners would soon become.

21. Ah, my friend, if you go on living in sin, you will wake up, one day, surrounded by the fruition of your own guilt in all its awful enormity. On every hand, the harvest of your sowing to the flesh will stare you in the face, and God will place in your hand a sharp sickle, and will say to you, “Reap here! Reap there!” You will say, “I cannot do it”; but you sowed it, so you must reap it. What terrible misery there will be for you there; yet it will only be your own sin in its ripeness, your own transgression fully developed; and that awful harvesting will be infinitely more than you will be able to bear. “Whatever a man sows, that he shall also reap.” The man who gripped the widow’s throat, the other day, and took away her few sticks of furniture, will look at her tearful face for all eternity! The man who led a fellow creature to sin will see her pale sorrow-stricken face before him for ever and ever; he may try to escape from it; but he will not be able to do so. Does that description fit anyone here, and does he complain that I am very personal in my remarks? That is what I am and what I intend to be, in the hope that he may repent of his great transgressions, and looking to Jesus on the cross, may receive forgiveness of his sins before it is too late.

22. IV. But now, lastly, I have something better to say, and that is, that GOOD SOWING WILL BRING GOOD REAPING.

23. I hear someone object, “But is that not salvation by works? Do you not preach that salvation is all by grace through faith in Jesus?” Yes, of course I do; but it is still true that good sowing will bring good reaping. But what kind of sowing do I mean? Why, the sowing that is mentioned in the verse following our text: “He who sows to his flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap life everlasting.” When a man sows to the flesh, he deceives himself, for the flesh is his old fallen nature, and such sowing is nothing but evil; but to sow well is to sow under the influence of another Power, and to sow in another way; in fact it is, as the apostle says, to “sow to the Spirit.”

24. First, we must sow under the influence of another Power. Sowing to the Spirit lifts our sowing altogether above the idea of human merit. He who sows to the Spirit is led and guided by the Spirit of God,—led to repent of sin, led to believe in Jesus, led to a new life, led to holiness, led to sanctification; and, therefore, he does not take any credit for himself for anything in him that is good, for he knows that, it was all implanted there by the Holy Spirit. Ah, my dear hearers, if we would have a good harvest, we must give up sowing to ourselves, and must sow to the Spirit; and the Spirit is freely given to all who seek his aid at the foot of Christ’s cross. Jesus said to his disciples, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” May the Spirit of God come over you, and prompt you to pray so that you may truly sow to the Spirit as to be regenerated in heart, and renewed in life, for then you shall most assuredly “reap, life everlasting.”

25. We are also to sow in another way. When the Jews, at Capernaum, asked Jesus, “What shall we do, so that we might work the works of God?” he answered, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” That is the first thing for you to do if you wish to sow to the Spirit. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” When you have rested on the great atoning work which Christ finished for ever on the cross of Calvary, you will begin to walk in newness of life, and you will seek in all things to be conformed to God’s will. So you “shall from the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

26. In verses 22 and 23 of the fifth chapter of this Epistle, the apostle tells what “the fruit of the Spirit” is. Firstly, “love.” You are not really saved if you do not have a loving spirit. Secondly, “joy.” Christians ought to exhibit a joyful cheerfulness, so that everyone around might see how happy they are. Thirdly, “peace”—the opposite of contentions. Fourthly, “longsuffering”—patience under provocation. Fifthly, “gentleness”—consideration for others, readiness to help them in any way that we can. Sixthly, “goodness”—not any holiness of which you boast, but such “goodness” as other people can see and admire. Seventhly, “faith”—reliability, keeping good faith with others, so that they know that your word is as good as your bond. Eighthly, “meekness”—that does not push itself to the forefront, and does not easily get provoked. Ninthly, “self-control”—which keeps every passion under control, not only with respect to food and drinks, but with regard to everything else.

27. Now, if you sow like this to the Spirit, you will “reap life everlasting.” The apostle does not say that you will reap everlasting existence, but everlasting life, which is quite another thing. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life.” That is the perfection of love and joy; you shall have that, and you shall ascend to successive stages of holiness and virtue through the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus, and the sanctification of the Spirit; and, one of these days, you shall throw out the last trace of the slough of sin, and then your disembodied spirit shall pass before the flaming eyes of him who is purer than the sun; and, eventually, “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout,” and your redeemed body shall arise, purified like the body of your own dear Lord and Saviour, which could not see corruption because it contained no trace of sin; and then your perfected body and soul and spirit shall triumph and reign with Jesus here below in his millennial glory, and after that you shall have the fulness of “life everlasting” in the glory yet to be revealed. All this honour will be given to you, not because you have deserved it, but by the free, sovereign grace of God. It is only given to those in whom there is the Spirit of God, and who, therefore, in their lives revealed that holiness of character, “without which no man shall see the Lord.”

28. May the Lord graciously give to all of us his Holy Spirit, and may we all meet in heaven, to part no more for ever, for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.

{a} Mr. Spurgeon’s expositions of the whole passage, Ga 5:13-26 will be found in the sermons:— {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2632, “What Shall the Harvest Be?” 2633} {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2831, “Burden Bearing” 2832}

Expositions By C. H. Spurgeon {Ps 80 Mt 9:36-10:42}

80:1-3. Give ear, oh Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock; you who dwell between the cherubims, shine out. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up your strength, and come and save us. Turn us again, oh God, and cause your face to shine; and we shall be saved.

To whom could Israel go, in times of distress, but to her God? It was good that her psalmists should teach her to pray like this. Notice the form of this prayer: “Come and save us. Turn us again, oh God.” We cannot be saved except by being turned from the ways of sin into the path of holiness. But who shall turn us? What power can reverse the current of the human soul? As well might Niagara begin to ascend of its own accord as for man to turn to God except as God turns him.

4-7. Oh LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry against the prayer of your people? You feed them with the bread of tears, and give them tears to drink in great measure. You make us a strife to our neighbours and our enemies laugh among themselves. Turn us again, oh God of hosts, and cause your face to shine; and we shall be saved.

Israel was evidently in very deep distress, yet still God’s own. It is no evidence of our having ceased to be God’s people that we are made to drink deep draughts of tears. We are not to imagine that God has cast us off because he chastens us; no, rather we are to argue the other way, “for whom the Lord loves he chastens.”

8-15. You have brought a vine out of Egypt: you have cast out the nations, and planted it. You prepared room for it, and caused it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with its shade, and its boughs were like the mighty cedars. She sent out her boughs to the sea, and her branches to the river. Why have you then broken down her hedges, so that all those who pass by the way pluck her fruit? The boar out of the woods wastes it, and the wild beast of the field devours it. Return, we beseech you, oh God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine; and the vineyard which your right hand has planted, and the branch that you made strong for yourself.

Notice how a soul, in deep distress, usually gets to God. Under some aspect or other, by some way or other, the heart gropes its way until it finds him. If poor Israel is like a vineyard given up to the wild boar of the woods, there is still hope through that “righteous Branch” of whom the Lord said to Jeremiah, “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely.”

16, 17. It is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of your countenance. Let your hand be on the man of your right hand, on the son of man whom you made strong for yourself.

“If you will not hear us, yet hear him. If you will place no honour on us, we will ask you to place the highest honours on him. Save us for his sake. Deliver your vineyard from the wild boar and restore the hedges that have been broken down, for is this not the vineyard of red wine which all belongs to him?”

18, 19. So we will not go back from you: quicken us, and we will call on your name. Turn us again, oh LORD God of hosts, cause your face to shine; and we shall be saved.

Reading from Matthew chapter 9:—

36. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.

The sight that Christ saw with his eye, deeply affected his heart: “He was moved with compassion on them.” The expression is a very strong one indicating that his whole being was stirred with an emotion which put every faculty into forceful movement.

37, 38. Then he says to his disciples, “The harvest is truly plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest, that he will send out labourers into his harvest.”

Pretenders were many, but real “labourers” were few. Only God can thrust out or “send out labourers.” Man-made ministers are useless, yet they abound all around us; but where are the instructive soul-winning ministries? Let us plead with the Lord of the harvest to care for his own harvest, and to thrust out his own harvestmen.

10:1. And when he had called his twelve disciples to him, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.

They were first Christ’s disciples, and then he sent them out as his apostles, clothed with power and authority very similar to his own.

2-4. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus, Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

The twelve apostles linked the spiritual Israel with the twelve tribes of the literal Israel which had typified it. They are mentioned in pairs, but this last couple is not a pair, for Simon the Zealot had little in common with the cool, cunning, calculating Judas Iscariot. There were only twelve apostles, yet one of them was a traitor; among the leaders of the nominal Christian Church today, is it possible that there is one traitor in every twelve?

5, 6. Jesus sent these twelve out, and commanded them, saying, “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter into any city of the Samaritans: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

This was “a mission to the Jews” only, meant for the general arousing of the chosen nation. It was a mission from Israel to Israel; not to the Gentiles, and not even to the people who were most like the Jews: “Do not enter into any city of the Samaritans.” After our Lord’s resurrection he gave the wider commission, “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

7, 8. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons: freely you have received, freely give.

They were to be medical missionaries, preaching the gospel, and healing the sick, and it was all to be done “freely.”

9, 10. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor copper in your purses, nor a bag for your journey, neither two coats, neither sandals, nor staffs: for the workman is worthy of his food.

The people at that time were favourably disposed to our Lord, and so his apostles might expect treatment of a more generous kind than can be looked for in these times. Certain of these regulations were altered on a subsequent mission, when the people were less favourably disposed.

11-15. And into whatever city or town you shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy, and stay there until you go out. And when you come into a household, greet it. And if the household is worthy, let your peace come on it: but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when you depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Truly I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.

Disclaim all fellowship with those who will not have fellowship with your Lord; let them know that you leave them because they refuse to receive your Master’s message. If they continue to reject the Saviour, their doom will be even more terrible than that of Sodom and Gomorrah.

16. Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves:

“Behold, I send you out.” What power there is in the word of the King of kings! “‘I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.’ You are like sheep, helpless and defenceless; yet ‘I send you out,’ and therefore it is right for you to go even into ‘the midst of wolves.’”

We might have imagined that the wolves would have devoured the sheep; yet, at the present time, there are a great many more sheep in the world than there are wolves. Sheep have always been weak and helpless, yet they have multiplied, wolves have always been strong and savage, yet they have diminished until there is not one of them left in this land, and in many other countries the same thing has happened. So, the weak, the helpless, who come under the care of “our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,” shall be preserved from all the wolves that would devour them, and even from the devil, who, “as a roaring lion, walks around, seeking whom he may devour.”

16. Therefore be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

“Be harmless because you are like sheep, but be wise as serpents because you have to live with wolves.” You, too, beloved, ought to be very wise because of the wisdom which has been imparted to you by the Master who has sent you out, and you ought to use your best wits in his service; yet never use that wisdom with any bad intent, for the Christ who sends you does no harm to men, but only good.

17, 18. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and you shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.

“Do not try to live on popular applause, ‘but beware of men.’ Expect bad treatment from them; if they can persecute you with the scourge, they will do so; but if that is beyond their power, they will persecute you with their tongues. You will be misunderstood, misrepresented, maligned; expect such treatment, for I, your Lord and Master, have had it before you.”

19, 20. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what you shall speak: for it shall be given to you in that same hour what you shall speak. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

It is very remarkable what wise answers many of the martyrs often gave. Illiterate men, when confronted by the learned ones of the earth, completely baffled them; and weak women have stumped their assailants and judges. A notable example of that is recorded in the history of the brave Anne Askew. {b} After they had tortured her on the rack, and her poor body was full of pain, she sat on the cold slabs of her prison, and asked such questions of the popish bishops and inquisitors as to utterly confound them: and Christ still, by his Holy Spirit, enables his faithful followers to triumph over all the craft and malice of men.

21, 22. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And you shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake: but he who endures to the end shall be saved.

When we give ourselves to Christ, we must do it without any reserve, and be prepared to follow him even to the bitter end if necessary. If all men should forsake us,—if death should be our portion because of our allegiance to Christ,—we dare not draw back. To do that, would lead to our destruction; but to endure to the end, this is eternal salvation.

23. But when they persecute you in this city, flee into another: for truly I say to you, You shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, until the Son of man is come.

I suppose Christ here alludes to that amazing coming of his in the destruction of Jerusalem. They had only a short time in which to evangelize that land, so they had to be quick in gathering out the Lord’s elect before he came in that terrible judgment. This same truth ought to quicken the action of every servant of Christ today. Be quick about your work, for your Master is on the road, and will soon be here. You may almost hear the rattling of his chariot wheels; for long ago he said “Surely I come quickly.” The trumpets are beginning to sound, and you will scarcely have gone over all the cities of the world before the Son of man shall come unless you hasten with the great task which he has entrusted to you.

24, 25. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he is as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call those of his household?

I do not know what worse names they might give to us than they gave to our master, but, no doubt, they might do so; for, since the servants are worse and less than their master, the world might, if it acted on the rule of proportion, apply much worse names to us than it has ever done to our blessed Lord and Master. Are we to be esteemed and reverenced in a world that persecuted and crucified Christ our Lord and Saviour? Do not be so foolish as to think so; and when you receive scorn and insults, accept it as being the lot of a follower of Christ.

26. Do not fear them therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hidden, that shall not be known.

When men slander you, they cannot take away your good name before God. There will be a resurrection of reputations as well as a resurrection of bodies; and good men, though their good names lie deeply buried, will certainly have a resurrection. There is Wycliffe, how little, comparatively, has ever been said about probably the greatest man since the time of the apostle Paul; but his name and fame will yet arise, and all history will ring with its praise. Depend on it, no man, who has faithfully served his Saviour, shall miss the honour which he has truly deserved. “Then the righteous shall shine out as the sun in the kingdom of their Father,” so be content to wait.

27. What I tell you in darkness, speak in light: and what you hear in the ear, preach on the house-tops.

There must first be that quiet lonely hearing,—that calm still sitting at the Master’s feet to learn the lesson; and then afterwards must come its brave proclamation,—speaking out though kings should hear, and never being silenced because of sinful shame.

28-31. And do not fear those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.

Do you not see the force of this argument? These little creatures, that are of so little account among men, are watched over by your Heavenly Father. They cannot die, no they cannot even light on the ground, without your Father noting it; can he then forget you, who are worth so much more than many sparrows? Will he not deal very gently, and tenderly, and considerately with you?

32, 33. Whoever therefore shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven.

You acknowledge Christ here, and Christ will acknowledge you there. Dare to bear reproach for him, and you shall be glorified together with him eventually, but if the tenor of your life is that you do not acknowledge Christ,—if you practically live as if there were no Saviour, ignoring him, depriving him of the trust which he deserves, and the honour which he has earned,—then, when he comes in the glory of the Father, he will say, “You never knew me, and I never knew you. Depart!”

34. Do not think that I am come to send peace on earth: I did not come to send peace, but a sword.

That is to say, the first consequence of Christ’s coming will not be that we shall lead easy and comfortable lives, but, on the contrary, he comes to enlist us in his army, and to make soldiers of us, and soldiers have to endure many hardships.

35, 36. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be those of his own household.

Many of the children of God have found this to be true, greatly to their sorrow. No foes can wound us so badly as those of our own household. They get at our hearts, and cut us to the very quick, while others can only give us flesh-wounds. Well, it must be so. Wherever light comes, darkness will be opposed to it. Truth will always find error ready to devour it if it can. Expect this, and half its bitterness will be gone when it comes because you expected it. “To be forewarned” here “is to be forearmed.”

37-42. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me. He who finds his life shall lose it; and he who looses his life for my sake shall find it. He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever shall give a drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, truly I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”

God’s great rewards for little service are given, not by debt, but by grace, “according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

{b} Anne Askew: (1520/1521-July 16, 1546) was an English poet and Protestant who was persecuted as a heretic. She is the only woman on record to have been tortured in the Tower of London before being burnt at the stake. See Explorer "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Askew"

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