Sermon 2545. The Greatest Folly in the World
INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S DAY, NOVEMBER 28, 1897.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, AUGUST 10, 1884.
"There is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God." Romans 3:11.
We are told that God looked out of Heaven to see if there were any who had understanding, that did seek after Him. If therehad been any, God would have seen them, for He sees all things and all persons. If there had been any good people, God wouldhave discovered them. A good man is quick to see other good folks and the good God would soon have spied out good men. ButGod's description of the character of men, though we may be certain it is not uncharitable or unjust, is not in the leastlike that which I have heard ascribed to them by flattering preachers. It has become the fashion of the day to talk aboutthe nobility of manhood and the dignity of manhood. I remember that Mr. Whitefield used to say that man, by nature, beforethe Grace of God comes to him, is half beast and half devil. I shall leave you to judge who is nearer the truth-a good andfaithful preacher of the Lord in the days gone by-or the refined flatterers who are taking out of the Bible everything thatis objectionable to the superior minds of this 19th Century and who vainly imagine that, in so doing, they shall be acceptedof God.
Let me read you what God thinks of men in their natural state. Here is a Divinely-inspired description of their true character."As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one: there is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God.They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one. Theirthroat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouthsare full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways, and theway of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes." That is God's portrait of man by nature, andHe knows the truth about them better than we do! And, as I have already said, He is free from unchari-tableness or injustice.There is no motive in God to paint the picture blacker than it is. He gives our photographs in lines of absolute Truth. Thelight of God is the light of His Truth and what He depicts before us is undoubtedly just as He makes it appear.
What I want you to observe, dear Friends, is that all this is spoken of all mankind-of all unregenerate men-of all who arestill in the kingdom of darkness and under the power of sin, whether they are polished, learned, polite, wealthy, or whetherthey are illiterate and cast down in the very depths of degradation. "As in water, face answers to face, so the heart of manto man." Differences in station may make a difference in outward conduct, but not a difference in heart. "All have sinnedand come short of the glory of God." For, after all, be it never forgotten that the human race is one! The most degraded tribesof men still belong to the one great tribe of mankind-they are our brothers. "God has made of one blood all nations of menfor to dwell on all the face of the earth." What that savage is who has gone furthest aside from the paths of civilization-youand I would have become had it not been for certain influences which have kept us, in some measure, under restraint. The heartof all leopards, of all lions and of all tigers is the same as the heart of all the rest of their savage race. And in heart,all men are alike-they are all evil and if they were let alone, they would all go in one direction or another towards a yetgreater evil. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way." And we have all wandered awayfrom God-
"Each wandering in a different way, But all the downward road."
The race is one, there is a solidarity about it, and when God speaks concerning men, He describes the whole race without exceptionand uses those great all-encompassing, "alls." "They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable."And, in order that none should escape, He uses the negatives as well as the positives-"There is none that does good, no, notone."
"Now, why is it," some will ask, "that all men do not run to the same excess of riot? Surely, they cannot all be alike." Yes,there are many persons who go through life with an almost pure morality, yet their heart was always as evil as that of thosewho have defiled themselves with outward vice, the reason lying in the fact that they were not so much tempted as were thoseothers-they were not brought under the same conditions. You and I may fancy that we are a great deal better than other peoplewhom we have known, but if we had been exposed as they have been-if we had been left of God as they have been-we would havebecome as vile as they. And if we have not fallen into one form of sin which men agree in despising, yet we may have gonefurther in some other form of sin which is so common that men overlook it, but which is just as black and vile in the sightof God! It is our common habit to judge that sin to be the worst which injures men the most.
Therefore, if you call a man a criminal, his blood is up in a moment-he will not allow you to do that. Yet a criminal is aperson who has offended against man. If you call him a sinner, he says, "Oh, yes! Of course, we are allsinners!" That doesnot seem to be, in his eyes, at all a severe charge because it is only an offense against God! And this shows how completelyour hearts are turned upside down and how our judgment is perverted. Otherwise we would at once think it a far greater offenseto do dishonor to the great King and Lord of All than to do wrong towards our fellow men! We judge not as we ought and, therefore,some of us who may wrap ourselves up in the filthy rags of our self-righteousness may, after all, be just as bad at heartas the sinner whom we despise. Yes, that very despising of another is, in itself, a grave offense against the Infinite graciousnessof the God who has borne with us in our loathsome pride!
It is true, then-I am not going to prove it, I am not going to dwell longer upon it-but it is true that we have all gone asidefrom God and turned away from the path of holiness. "There is none who does good, no, not one." If any differ from this, Iwould recommend them not to dispute with God. If any still say, "It is not so," I will not contend with them-it is not mystatement,it is God's! He has said it and, as God has drawn man's likeness, it is not for you or for me to quibble at it, for it mustbe so. Better far that we should humble ourselves before the all-seeing God and seek to be healed of this desperate diseasewhich in His loving truthfulness He here exposes to our gaze.
Now let us come to the text. "There is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God." And, first, I want to showyou that not to seek after God argues a lack of understanding- ' 'There is none who understands, there is none who seeks afterGod." The two sentences are parallel and explanatory to one another. Secondly, this lack of understanding is very common andtakes many forms. Thirdly, this lack of understanding ought to be removed. Let us pray that it may be removed in the caseof any who are suffering from it.
I. So, first, may the Spirit of God help me to speak upon this Truth of God, THAT NOT TO SEEK AFTER GOD ARGUES A LACK OF UNDERSTANDING.Come, you thoughtful people, you who want to be right, I wish to speak with you as a brother would speak, as one who anxiouslydesires that you should prove truly wise in this life and make the best of it by preparing for the life that is to come.
First, let me remind you that if you do not seek after God, you miss the great end of your being. God has made you and thepurpose of your making lies within Himself. We may say to God, concerning all men, as the elders in the Revelation said concerningall things that He has made, "For Your pleasure they are and were created." If you make a thing, you do so in order that itmay serve a certain end-there is some objective which you have in view-and if it does not answer your purpose, you put itaside, for you feel that it is a failure. Why, you would not keep a horse if it did not labor for you! You would not evenlet a dog live in your house if it did not fawn upon you, or in some way recognize that it ought to love and serve you. Andwhen God made us men, He intended that we should serve Him. He meant that we should find our happiness in doing His will andHe has so formed us that if we do not glorify Him, we do not really enjoy life. If we are not holy, we are not happy. I thankmy Lord for that kind tenderness which constituted things after this blessed fashion! O Man, would you miss the objectiveof your being? Would you be designed for a certain purpose and then, after all, prove to be a failure? Oh, I pray that thismay not be the case with you! Surely, if you willingly allow it to be so and, therefore, you do not seek after God, it isbecause you have no understanding.
Again, he who does not seek after God neglects his highest duty. Every honest man wishes to discharge his debts. A right-mindedman will not lie under liabilities longer than he can help. He wishes to do what is expected of him in the position he occupies.Now, it must be the first duty of a creature to know, to love and to reverence its Creator. Man is such an amazing being,so fearfully and wonderfully made by the skill and power of God, that he ought, as a creature, at once acknowledge the wisdomand might displayed in his creation! It is his bounden duty to do so. Besides, we are daily fed by God's bounty-we are clothedby His charity, we are nurtured by His loving kindness, we are constantly sustained by His power-and for all these reasonswe ought to serve Him. It is the first obligation that we have! Shall not a servant obey his master? Shall not a child reverencehis father? And shall not we, indebted as we are to our Lord, overwhelmed with obligation to Him, see to this first and primaryduty of our being and seek after the God to whom we owe so much? If we do not, we act most foolishly, and prove that we haveno understanding.
Further, the man who does not seek after God loses his truest life. They who seek after God, by his Grace, live in a highersphere than others do. They have truer enjoyments and deeper delights than those which fall to the share of others. He whoseeks God, through Christ, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, receives a new and diviner life than belongs by nature to the fallensons of men. You, who are unconverted may not believe it, but we dare to affirm-and we are honest witnesses-that there isa life which God, alone, can give to men, which is far more exalted above the ordinary life of human beings than a man's lifeis above that of an ox! There is a heavenly sphere in which the spiritual move which makes them greater and more noble beingsthan they could have been apart from God. Oh, my Friend, if you are without God, what are you but an impotent rebel againstthe goodness of His majesty? But if you have found God in Christ, what are you then? You are His child, His heir, a partakerof His nature, indwelt by His Spirit, preserved by His power, and destined to an immortality of glory like that of the Lord,Himself! Can you bear the thought of missing all this blessing? O Man, if there were but a bare possibility of securing thisgift, I would recommend you try to obtain it. But, inasmuch as thousands bear witness that this privilege is a matter of factto them, you will be, indeed, without understanding if you do not seek after God and keep on seeking till you find Him!
Yet further, he who does not seek after God foregoes the highest form of strength. There is no power anywhere but the powerof God. All the forces of Nature, of which some talk so much, are but the ever-present Deity working according to certainrules of His own making. There is not a leaf that falls trembling from the tree in autumn but the Lord supplies the forcethat draws that leaf to the ground! God's own power, emanating from Himself, keeps everything in the universe as it is. If,therefore, I can link myself with God-if my heart desires to fulfill His purposes-if in prayer I seek His help and if, byfaith, I get it-what a strength I have! What troubles I can bear, what sorrows I can endure, what labors I can perform, whathopes I can indulge, what elevated joys I can obtain if I have but God with me! O Men, surely you do not love to be feeble!Every man wishes for power-that is an ambition which most, if not all of us, cherish, but the noblest power there is anywhereis that power which God gives to those who seek Him! When God is willing to gird the feeblest of mankind with His own Omnipotence,he who does not come to the Fountain of All Strength is, surely, a man who has no understanding!
Besides, let me also say that he who does not seek after God has missed the highest glory of his being. As I think of it,it does seem amazing that I, the creature of an hour, who shall soon dissolve back into dust and be as nothing, yet have withinme an immortal spark of heavenly flame and I am permitted, with my soul and mind, to commune with God, to speak to Him andto hear Him speak to me! Yes, it is amazing that I should receive from God His own Self in the Person of His dear Son and,yet more, that I should be allowed to give myself to Him and offer to Him the daily sacrifice of prayer and praise and soto give Himpleasure! By nature we are linked to materialism and are but as the dust on which we tread. When it is blown bythe wind and flies into our eyes, it seems to say, "I am akin to you! I am your Brother and I have come to make you hurt andto feel your own insignificance." Yet, for all that, we who have sought after God and who have found Him, are the Brothersof the Eternal Christ and the children of the Everlasting Jehovah! The King of Kings and Lord of Lords has adopted us intoHis family and put into us the spirit of adoption whereby we cry even to the God of all the earth, "Our Father, who are inHeaven." This is sublimity, itself, and not to seek to obtain this honor shows a gross lack of understanding-this is, indeed,the greatest folly in the world!
Moreover, my dear Brothers and Sisters, if we do not seek after God and do not find Him, in the end we shall lose everything.Suppose we live in this world simply to hoard up money? Is it a sublime thing to have it reported in The IllustratedLondonNews that we died "worth" so many thousands of pounds? What is the good of such a notice as that? Or, suppose we gain honorand fame so that our names are handed down to posterity? Will that charm the ear of Death, or keep a single worm from devouringour body in the grave? What is the use of fame-the breath of men's nostrils-when it is gained by flattery, or by doing thatwhich God would not have us do? Is there anything worth living for except our God? To die without God, oh, what an eternalloss is that! To wake up in the world to come and to have no Heavenly Father, to have no Advocate in the Day of Judgment,to have no Rock of refuge to hide under in the Last Tremendous Day! O Sirs, if you seek not God, you are, indeed, fools! Idare not use any milder expression than that. We are all fools that we did not seek Him earlier, but if we permit age to tellupon us and our God is still not sought, then write upon us that word, "FOOLS!" in capital letters and speak it with an emphasis,for so we deserve to be described! The first thing that a man who wishes to be accounted wise should do is to know his Godand to be right with his God. This must suffice concerning that first point-not to seek after God, argues a lack of understanding.
II. And now, secondly, let me say that THIS LACK OF UNDERSTANDING IS VERY COMMON AND TAKES
This is one form of it, the man sinks to mere brutishness. He lives for nothing else but this world. I will suppose that heis a poor man. He gets up very early in the morning and trudges off to work. He toils hard all day and when night comes, hereturns home, goes to bed and falls asleep. The next morning the big bell rings, the man gets up and he works just as he didyesterday. Six days in the week he works and toils. On the seventh, probably, he rests a bit, but he has no thought of God,even then, and all the week he just keeps on working, working, working, working, working, working! There are thousands uponthousands of our fellow men whose life consists in going round, and round, and round, and round, and round, and round likea poor horse in a mill, never getting a bit further. They are just where they were when they were young and they know no morethan they did then. They are just consumers of so much bread and meat-that is about all they are-and sometimes there is notenough of that to satisfy them.
Then look at the upper classes, as they consider themselves. What multitudes there are of them who do not do half as muchas the poor man! They have so little to do that they have to invent plans to "kill time!" They call upon one another and leavebits of pasteboard bearing their names and titles. They bow and scrape and talk in an affected style and think themselveswonderfully important, when all the while they are simply wasting their time laboriously doing nothing at all! That is a summaryof their whole life. You may take the lives of hundreds of wealthy men and when you have compressed them, they will not makea single square inch of anything that is worth having! Their talk, perhaps, would cover miles of the Times newspaper, butthe real, true life that there is in multitudes of our fellow citizens in this city is microscopic, or even less than that!Often, there is nothing whatever in it, and the reason is because they do not seek after God. This mode of living turns aman into a mere beast-
"Like brutes they live, like brutes they die." The meadow, if it is but flat, and the grass up to their knees quite contentsthem. If there is a standing pool of water and but few flies, and not much of being driven from meadow to meadow, then theyare perfectly satisfied and they say that they have had "a good time!" Poor brutish creatures! God preserve us from beinglike they! These are they who have no understanding and seek not after God.
Yes, but we have some better people than these! There are some who seem to have understanding, yet they seek not after Godbecause although they think a great deal, and see a great deal, yet they never see God. They are blind philosophers! A mangoes out among the mountains of Switzerland, or he sojourns among the lakes of Cumberland, or he goes down to stay at theseaside and when he comes back, you ask him what he has seen. He says that he has seen certain laws in action and he tellsyou that the laws of Nature are wonderfully operative. You ask him, "did you see God?" He replies that he did not think aboutGod and he did not want to think about Him. To him, there was no God where he went. You know what our Savior said to His disciples-"Blessedare the pure in heart, for they shall see God." The man who has his heart cleaned has also had his eyes cleansed-and whenhe looks upon Nature, he admires the Laws which God has made, but he admires much more the God who made them! As he looksup to the sky in the eventide and sees the varied light and shade, he blesses the God whose breath raised up the clouds andwhose pencil painted them. There is not a flower in the valley but speaks to him of the Most High, nor even a drop of spray,as it leaps upon the shore from the crest of the wave but makes him remember the God who holds all the waters in the hollowof His hand!
It is a great pity that people should go into any man's house and see, there, everything except the man, himself. They admirehis carpets, they rejoice at the regularity with which the meals are put upon the table. They see that there are certain lawsthat make provision for the breakfast and the dinner of all the household. They approve of the "laws" which have kept thehouse clean and the "laws" which have decorated it, and the "laws" which govern everything. But where is the master who madethose laws? Alas, they do not want to see him! They like to look at what he has provided. They like to sit with their legsunder his mahogany, but they do not want to see the master of the house. Surely, this must arise from a lack of understanding!When I am staying with a friend, I am pleased with his entertainment, but I want to spend as much time as possible with him.And I can truly say that I have been much more pleased to stay with a Christian man, whose means were very straitened, thanI have to lodge with some of the great ones of the earth with whom I have had but little Christian fellowship. It is the host-nothis dinner-that makes the true enjoyment of a visit and, in the world, it is God, Himself, not His Laws, nor all the productsof them, that affords us the highest joy! As he would be unwise who paid a visit and forgot to commune with his friend, butonly noticed his house and grounds, so is he most unwise who, in this matchless world, sees everything but Him who is everywhereand who made it all! This is folly, indeed!
There are some people of another kind who, though they seem to do so, do not really seek after God, but only have a form ofreligiousness without any reality. There are persons who go to a church or a chapel, but they have no spiritual understandingand they do not seek after God. Some go to a service because they want to hear a certain man preach-if he is not there, offthey run! Some go to see certain ceremonies, or to take part in a mere formal ritual. There are prayers, and collects, andPsalms, and chanting, and so on-and they like that sort of thing-but they do not worship God in it all. Others come to a placeof worship where everything is done with the greatest simplicity. They like it, but that is all, they have not sought afterGod. They have been to a place of worship and they are quite pleased with themselves-they evidently feel that they have donesomething that is most praiseworthy. The Sunday has passed very pleasantly and they go to sleep at night, but what do theymean by it all?
What do youmean, dear Friend, if I have been describing you? You have gone through this form of worship, but you have notsought after God. I am sick of this empty religiousness! We see it everywhere. It is not communion with God, it is not gettingto God. Indeed, God is not in it all. Some even say prayers regularly, have family prayer and read portions of the Bible,too, in due season. But God is not in it all. O Sirs, if you are going to be content with the husks of outward ceremoniesand of formal religiousness-and think that you can live on these-you are sadly mistaken! The true life of your soul cannotfeed on these outsides-it needs the kernel, which is God Himself! Oh, to seek after God! I would rather find God beneath ashed with half-a-dozen poor working men, than I would go and see the gorgeous ceremonies in a cathedral where God is not present!It is not the place, it is not the form, it is not the garb, it is not the sweet tone of song or music-it is getting nearto God that is the all-important matter! Whatever else we do-whether our service is plain as a Quaker's, or gorgeous as aRomanist's, if we do not seek God, it is all nothing-a bottle of smoke and it shall come to nothing. The outward ceremonialisthas no understanding, for he does not seek after God.
I shall go a little further, even, than that, for I believe that there are some who make their religion to consist in orthodoxbeliefs without any real seeking after God. God forbid that I should think or say anything against orthodox beliefs! Be asorthodox as ever you can and hold to nothing but the Truth of God, but, you know, you may say that you believe the Truth ofGod, you may even fight for it-you may be a Calvinist to the backbone if you think that to be the best form of Christianity-yet,after all, you may never have truly sought after God! What you believe is not unimportant, but it is often more importantthat you should seek God in what you believe and that you should never be satisfied unless you really find Him in it all.You must have a Father in Heaven, or you are orphans, indeed. You must have a Savior, or you are lost forever. You must havethe Holy Spirit, the Quickener, or you are still dead in trespasses and sins. These come not by mere outward forms and ceremonies,or by a dead creed-there must be a Divine work upon the inner man, the power of the Spirit of God working in us to will andto do of His good pleasure. And we must seek after that, or else we shall have no true understanding and we shall obtain nothingworth having.
III. I must not keep you longer than a minute or two while I just refer to the last point, namely, that THIS LACK OF UNDERSTANDINGOUGHT TO BE REMOVED.
I wish that it might be removed even now. My heart longs that it may be so with some dear friends here whom I love. I cansee them and I can truly say that, for years, I have never seen them in this place without praying distinctly for them, yetI fear they are not, at present, brought to know the Lord. I would like to say to them-dear Friends, you know that you oughtto seek after God and you know that you never will be happy till you do. You are often a good deal troubled about this matter.Then why not seek the Lord at once? We have often had God's blessing in this House of Prayer and I hope that some will findthe Savior at this service. Will you be among them? Just listen to these closing sentences of my sermon and try to followme step by step to the end.
If you would get a good understanding and seek the Lord, begin by confession. That is the way for you to commence who have,up to now, neglected concern for your souls. Confess your neglect. Admit your lack of understanding. Acknowledge that it hasbeen an unwise thing to run the awful risks that you have run, for you might have been dead before now-and if you had beentaken away, where would you have been? I would not have any of you run these risks any longer! If you are of a speculativeturn of mind, speculate with your gold if you can afford to lose it, but do not speculate with your soul! Do not, as it were,gamble with Heaven and Hell, as some are doing. Confess that you have been unwise, for, often, a confession of ignorance isthe doorstep to knowledge. He who begins with regret will end with rejoicing! And when you have thus confessed to God, thenset your face with determination to seek the Lord.
First, seek forgiveness for the past God proffers it through the precious blood of His dear Son. Then say to Him, "Lord, Itrust in Jesus; give me pardon for all the past." Then ask Him to renew you, to give you a new heart that your desires maybe changed, that you may not have that longing look after Sodom which was the ruin of Lot's wife, but that you may part withall your friends in the City of Destruction and run from it and seek the Celestial City and joys that last forever! Pray Godto help you to do so now.
When that is done, go on your knees and pray to God to manifest Himself to you. What you need, beyond all else, is God. Igave you this illustration, the other day, but I repeat it for the benefit of any who were not with us then. Here is a littlechild that we have picked up in the gutter, a poor, miserable-looking child. Look at it! It is foul, it is diseased, it isstarved, it is famished, it is naked, it is ready to die! What does that child need? Now, you mothers, come and look at itand tell me what it needs. Take out your black-lead pencils and a long strip of paper and make out a list of what it needsand, when you have done, I will undertake to tell you what it needs in one word-that little child needs its mother. And ifit gets its mother, it will get everything else that it needs! What you need, poor Sinner, in order to make you right, isthis, and that, and the other-you need such a number of things that I cannot stay to make out the list-but, in one word, youneed your God. And if you get your God, all will be right with you!
"Oh, but I am such a sinner," says one! God is ready to pardon. "Oh, but I have such troubles!" "As your days, so shall yourstrength be." "Oh, but you do not know what evil companions I have!" "Certainly I will be with you," says the Lord, and HisPresence will make you strong to overcome them all. "Oh, but I am such a wayward, fickle creature!" I know you are, but Godsays, "fear not, you worm, Jacob; I will help you." Only put yourselves into the keeping of God and all will be well. Do notsay, "I shall go and see such-and-such a good man," or, "I shall try to have a talk with the Pastor." You do not need them-theymay be of some use to you another time-but, just now, what you need is your God! Oh, if you stop short at your minister, youmight just as well have stopped before! He who goes to his priest has gained nothing! If he would really get what he needs,he must go to his God! Judas went to his priest and then went out and hanged himself! And I do not wonder that he did so.But go to God and confess your sin, and trust in Jesus, and you will not need to hang yourself after that. When you have Godas yours, then you have rest, peace, pardon, joy, help- help in time and help in eternity.
Oh, happy was the day when first I sought and found the Savior! I have never regretted it. I have never met with a man whodid and I shall never meet with such a man! Come, and seek Him. "If you seek Him, He will be found of you." He waits to begracious. "Seek you the Lord while He may be found; call you upon Him while He is near." It seems a very commonplace thingto hear me talk to you in these very simple tones with no kind of pretense at oratory. But I wish, somehow, that I could gethold of the hand of you who hesitate, you who linger, and say to you, "O dear Friend, seek the Lord!" As you love yourself,seek the Lord! As you would be happy, seek the Lord! As you would lead a life that shall be noble and pure, seek the Lord!As you would stand without trembling when the heavens are on fire, seek the Lord! As you would live forever when the sun isturned into a black coal and the moon is like sackcloth of hair, and the stars have fallen like withered leaves from the bough-asyou would be eternally blessed, seek the Lord!
And as you would escape the eternal destruction from the Presence of the Lord, seek His face. As you would escape that awfulword which Christ pronounced and which, therefore, I dare not soften-"These shall go away into everlasting punishment." Asyou would escape that-
"Come, guilty soul, and flee away Like doves to Jesus' wounds" and may His good Spirit receive you even now! And to His nameshall be praise forever and ever! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: Matthew 15:1-20;29-39.
Verses 1-14. Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do Your disciples transgress thetradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But He answered and said unto them, Why do you,also, transgress the Commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, honor your father and mother and, Hethat curses father or mother, let him die the death. But you say, Whoever shall say to his father or his mother, Whateveryou might beprofted by me, it is a gift to God-then he neednot honor his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus haveyou made the Commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. You hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, thispeople draws near unto Me with their mouth, and honors Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain theydo worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. And He called the multitude and said unto them, Hear, and understand:not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man; but that which comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man. Then came Hisdisciples, and said unto Him, Know You not that the Pharisees were offended after they heard this saying? But He answeredand said, Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they are blind leadersof the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Teacher and taught, Pharisee and disciple,"both shall fall into the ditch." Great responsibility rests upon the blind leader but not all of it, for great responsibilityalso attaches to the blind follower He should not follow a blind leader. He, above all others, needs a leader who can see.It is a pity that the man who can see should follow a blind leader, but if a man cannot see at all, then is he doubly unwiseif he has a blind leader.
15, 16. Then answered Peter and said unto Him, declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are you also yet without understanding?It was not a parable, it was a plain piece of simple language that the Savior had uttered-"not that which goes into the mouthdefiles a man, but that which comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man."
17, 18. Do you not yet understand that whatever enters in at the mouth goes into the belly, and is eliminated? But those thingswhich proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. I t is not that which we eat that defilesus. If it is such food as we ought to take, it builds up the body. If it is improper food, it may injure the body, yet itis not, in itself, capable of being regarded as sin. But a spiritual'thing-a thought, a desire, an imagination- comes outof the heart-and if that is evil, it does defile the man.
19. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. Whata horrible den the heart, itself, must be, then! If all these evils come out of it, what a nest of unclean things it mustbe! A dreadful sight to the all-seeing God must be an unclean human heart. Let me read this verse again-"For out of the heartproceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." All these evils come out ofthe heart of man, out of such a heart as yours until it is renewed by Grace. Though you sit very attentively in the Houseof God, unless His Grace has changed your heart, all these evil things are there and they only need an opportunity to comeout and reveal themselves!
20. These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unclean hands defiles not a man. You should understand that thewashing here meant was not such as you and I give our hands when we feel that we have soiled them with our labor-then it isvery proper to cleanse them. But this was a ceremonial washingwhich the scribes and Pharisees would have everybody do, whetherhis hands were clean or not, before he sat down to meat, and was a mere piece of absurdity, if not something worse! Yet theymagnified it into a most important matter and our Savior, here, shows what an idle thing it was.
Verses 29-32. And Jesus departed from there and came near unto thee sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain and sat downthere. And great multitudes came unto Him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, andcast them down at Jesus' feet; and He healed them: insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak,the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel. Then Jesus called Hisdisciples unto Him and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with Me now three days, and have nothingto eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way. Was not that a most gracious utterance? "I willnot send them away fasting." What confidence the disciples ought to have had that the people could be fed, and would be fed,when the Master gave that solemn promise, "I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way."
33, 34. And His disciples said unto Him, Where should we find so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?And Jesus said unto them, How many loaves have you? That is always a good form of enquiry-"How many loaves have you?" Howmuch Grace have you? How many gifts have you? How much ability have you? Are you using it all? Have you consecrated it allto the Master's service?
34, 35. And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes. And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. It is veryamazing that they did as He told them. They could not see anything to eat, and yet, when He bade them sit down, they obeyedHim and did so. Thus the Lord prepares men's hearts for the reception of the Gospel. I do not doubt that whenever we go faithfullyforth to break the Bread of Life, the Lord makes the people sit down in readiness to receive it.
36. And He took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and broke them, and gave to His disciples, and the disciplesto the multitude. Notice the order of our Lord's action-thanksgiving first, and then the breaking of the bread. We do notalways thank God for what we have already received, but the Lord, here, sets us the example of giving thanks for what is yetto come. For the multiplied loaves and fishes, He first gives thanks, and then passes them to His disciples to hand to themultitude.
37-39. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full And theythat did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children. And He sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came intothe coasts of Magdala.