Let the prophet who has a dream retell it, but let him who has My word speak it truthfully. For what is straw compared to grain? declares the LORD.
I. HUMAN INTERMIXTURES WITH DIVINE TRUTH ARE HURTFUL AND WEAKENING IN THEIR INFLUENCE. The word of human origin is placed on the same level with the Divine. When the former is proved fallible or untrue, the latter is discredited. Efforts after novelty and strangeness generally ensue; and these are condemned by the Word of God (vers. 30, 31).
II. THESE ARE WHOLLY UNNECESSARY, AS THE WORD OF GOD IS SUFFICIENT FOR ITS PURPOSE. "God's Word shall not return unto him void" (Isaiah 55:11). It is the truth, and must prevail.
III. THE SPURIOUS INTERMIXTURE WILL BE REVEALED BY THE DIFFERENCE OF ITS EFFECTS. "What has the straw to do with the grain?" - a question sure to arise in those who receive such messages. The connection of the one element with the other is evidently incongruous. The stalk sustains the ear which develops from it whilst growing; but when the field has been harvested the two are separated, and have to be used apart. To mix up the chopped straw with the grain would only be to spoil the latter. And so it is when human ideas are mixed with Divine revelations: the mixture fails to edify or satisfy. And in its effect upon the moral nature the true message distinguishes itself from the false. "Fire," in its scorching, consuming power, cannot well be counterfeited; but such is the effect of the Word of God. The "hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces" demonstrates its legitimacy as an instrument of grace by its power upon the hard and impenitent heart (Hebrews 4:12). - M.
I. A COMPARISON INSTITUTED AND ILLUSTRATED. "What is the chaff to the wheat?" The comparison is instituted between the pure authorised Word of God, and the vain fancies and delusions of men, called here "dreams." Dreams are those vague speculations of men who profess to be trying to find something new in the world of religion about God, man, and the future life,-while at the same time they depart from the truth. Their endeavour seems to be to comfort and cheer those who are anxious about spiritual things, and the future, by throwing doubt upon the old teachings, and they cry, "Peace, peace, when there is no peace." But the sure Word of God tends to arouse men, to quicken their consciences, and show them what they are within themselves. Revelation is a light streaming from the throne of God upon our dark world; where its beams shine, the night of pagan darkness retires, the spectres of ancient superstition depart, and errors which had enslaved the mind for ages melt away; there Truth erects her throne and bestows the blessings of her reign; she breaks the iron sceptres of despotism, throws open wide the putrid dungeons of oppression, removes the fetters of the slave, awakens the torpid powers of the mind, erects the prone savage into a man, transforms man into a saint, and fits him to dwell with the angels of God. In the time of sorrow, when life is darkened with affliction and bereavement, what are the dreams of men then when compared with the Word of God? said a man some time ago, who had not gone to the Word of God for his comfort and hope in times of trial, but he had tried to find comfort and hope in the philosophy, falsely so called, of human reason; finding, as he thought, a refuge in agnosticism; but when his beloved daughter died, and when he saw the corpse prepared for its last resting-place, his heart was sad, for he saw nothing beyond; in his philosophy he could find no help, not a ray of light to lighten the gloom, and there was nothing to soothe his sorrow, until from the lips of the man of God standing by the side of the casket he heard words that seemed to drop from Heaven for him: "Let not your heart," &c. "Then," he said, "whilst the tears were not dried, and the sorrow for the present loss yet remained, yet through the tears I could see a light breaking through the darkness, and above the sorrow a fountain of joy, which would be eternal, and I rested upon the Word and found peace."
The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath My Word, let him speak My Word faithfully.
1. The natural and apparent meaning is ordinarily the true one. The Bible is God teaching men by human speech. To do this effectually it conforms to the laws of human speech. It is popular teaching clothed in popular phraseology, and not in the technical language of scientific theology.
2. That meaning of any particular passage of Scripture is the true one, which harmonises with the general strain of its teaching. We are not to build doctrines on isolated texts, if there are other texts which, fairly considered, operate to modify and limit their sense. God must he consistent with Himself. What He says in one place cannot contradict what He says in another. And the true sense in either must be that which gives a consistent sense in both.
3. The ancient meaning is to be preferred to any that is more modern. There are no such things as discoveries in Christianity. It is not an improvable system. It has no such thing as growth. Christianity came from the hands of its Author perfect and unalterable. No doctrine that was unknown in early ages is any part of it. We are to remember that the Gospel was taught before it was written, that a definite system of belief and practice was established before the Christian Scriptures were composed. And the Scriptures do but echo and republish this, and with this system in our minds, handed down from the beginning in the Church, we are to read them. The meanings that conform to it we are to embrace, the meanings that contradict it we are to reject.
(R. A. Hallam, D. D.)
Homilist.I. RELIGIOUS ERROR IS A HUMAN DREAM BUT RELIGIOUS TRUTH IS A DIVINE WORD.
1. Let us notice a few of the religious errors that have ever been prevalent in the world.(1) Sacramentalism — the idea that we can discharge our moral obligations, and obtain the favour of God, by attending to certain religious ceremonies.(2) Moritorialism the Pharisaical idea that, on the ground of our own individual excellence, we have a claim to the Divine benignancy.(3) Functionalism — the idea that certain periodical religious services rendered to our Maker, where the life is selfish and worldly, are acceptable worship.(4) Proxyism — the idea that we can be saved through the merits or offices of some priest, or supposed heaven-favoured man.(5) Fatalism — the idea that we can do nothing; that if we are to be saved, we shall be saved, and that, therefore, we must run the risk.
2. These ideas are all human dreams.(1) They imply a partial dormancy of the soul.(2) They are temporary illusions. There is a morning to dawn on every soul, when they will melt away as visions.
3. But while these religious errors are mere human dreams, religious truth is God's Word. A "word" is the representative of mind. God's Word is the representative of His all-perfect Mind; it is the "arm of the Lord revealed."
II. RELIGIOUS ERROR, AS WELL AS TRUTH, IS ALLOWED A VOICE IN THIS WORLD.
1. God allows it to speak. He does not seal the lips of the false prophet. This fact indicates —(1) The superior force of truth. God knows that truth is sufficient to conquer any error, if His prophets will but speak out "faithfully."(2) Man's inalienable right to free speech. God allows it even to the false prophet. It is not, therefore, for man to interfere with this right.(3) The probability of future retribution. False prophets will not always speak; their mouths will one day be "stopped"; they will be "speechless." Eternal justice demands this.
2. But whilst the false is allowed to speak, the true is bound to speak. "He that hath My Word, let him speak My Word faithfully." My Word, not his own; not the word of others, but Mine, and that "faithfully." Though it clash with men's tastes, prejudices, and practices, speak it; — though it rouse the bitterest opposition, lead to the sacrifice of property, health, life itself, speak it, and speak it faithfully.
III. THE RELATIVE VALUE OF RELIGIOUS TRUTH AND RELIGIOUS ERROR DOES NOT ADMIT OF COMPARISON.
1. What are these human dreams, these religions errors, though elaborated into intellectual systems, or organised into gorgeous rituals, compared to My Word? Chaff.
2. But this pithy appeal may be viewed in other applications without violating its spirit.(1) It may apply to ideas and their expressions. There is a man who is exceedingly particular about the garb of thought: all his talk is about style. Mere style is chaff.(2) It will apply to religion and its forms. There is another who is wondrously attached to certain forms of worship; he has but little sympathy with those who adopt not his ritualism. Mere formalities are chaff.(3) It will apply to character and its accidents. There is another who has not much sympathy with a brother, because of his appearance, manners, or connections. These accidents of character are chaff.(4) It will apply to spiritual and secular worth. There is yet another who is striving after worldly wealth; who thinks more about property than principle — the body than the soul. The world is chaff compared with the soul.
II. AN ADMONITION TO MINISTERS, URGING THEM TO FAITHFULNESS IN THE DELIVERY OF THE DIVINE WORD. "And he that hath My Word let him speak My Word faithfully." Let him maintain its Divine authority. Let him hold to the truth and proclaim the Word that has the "thus saith the Lord" behind it. Speak it not as the word of men, but as the Word of God. Let the dreams of men be told (if they must be told) as dreams, but let the faithful minister proclaim the Word of God with all faithfulness and earnestness. Let him speak it correctly. Keep close to instruction, neither add to nor take from, bring no corrupt glosses, but receive it at the mouth of God, and deliver it pure and unadulterated to the people. But there is also, I think, in the text a word or suggestion for the hearers, as well as for the preacher. They should take heed how they hear, and should never indulge in the desire for human speculation instead of the Word of God.
(John T. Wills, D. D.)
1. That a minister under. stands it. "He that hath My Word," &c. By having the Word of God is meant having the knowledge of it, in distinction from having a dream, or a mere imaginary idea of Divine truth. It is true that a perfect knowledge of every text in the Bible is not necessary, in order to preach the Word of God faithfully. No man does, nor perhaps ever will, possess such a universal and perfect knowledge of the Scriptures. But yet a clear, a just and general knowledge of the first principles of the oracles of God, is necessary to qualify a preacher for the faithful discharge of his duty. Ministers must have the Word of God in their understandings as well as in their hearts, in order to be able and faithful instructors of the doctrines and duties of Christianity.
2. They must not only understand the Word of God, but know that they understand it. "He that hath a dream," saith the Lord, "let him tell a dream," and not pretend it is My Word; "and he that hath My Word, let him speak My Word"; and speak it as Mine, and not as his own. But if ministers do not know that they understand the Word of God, how can they, with propriety and sincerity, preach His Word as His Word? To do this would be daring presumption. The primitive preachers -of the Gospel knew that they knew, not only the inspiration but the doctrines of the Gospel. They could say, "We believe, and therefore speak." They could confidently declare that they did not preach cunningly devised fables.
3. Fidelity requires ministers to preach the Word of God fully, and lay open the great system of doctrines contained in it. The apostle Paul declares that he did not preach the Gospel in a partial and superficial manner, nor shun to declare the whole counsel of God. And if we look into his epistles we shall find that he developed the great plan of salvation as devised by God the Father, as executed by God the Son, and as applied by God the Holy Ghost. He explained the distinct offices and operations of the ever. blessed Trinity, in creating, redeeming, and governing the world. Of course, he taught the doctrine of Divine decrees; the doctrine of human depravity the doctrine of vicarious atonement; and the doctrine of Divine agency in pro. paring all mankind for their future and final destination. It is difficult to see how ministers can preach the Word of God faithfully, unless they preach it in such a full and comprehensive manner.
4. They must preach the Word of God plainly, so as to be understood; but they cannot be understood by the great majority of their hearers, unless they use proper words, arranged in their usual, natural, and proper order. Christ preached as He conversed, with peculiar perspicuity. Paul imitated His example. He said he had rather speak five words which were easy to be understood, and edifying to common Christians, than ten thousand which they could not understand, and which could do them no good.
5. Fidelity requires ministers to preach the Gospel in its purity and simplicity. They have no right to mix their own crude and confounded opinions with the revealed truths which they are commanded to deliver. Truth mixed with error is often more dangerous than mere error alone.
6. It belongs to the office of those who preach the Word of God, to defend it against its open enemies. They are set for the defence of the Gospel; and charged, in meekness, to instruct those who oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth. And to hold fast the faithful Word that by sound doctrine they may both exhort and convince gainsayers, whose mouths must be stopped.
7. The faithful preaching of the Gospel necessarily includes godly sincerity. Christ requires those to love Him supremely, whom He employs to feed His sheep and lambs.
II. ENFORCE THE PRACTICE OF MINISTERIAL FIDELITY.
1. God expressly commands those who preach His Word to be faithful in the discharge of their duty.
2. It concerns them to consider, that they have solemnly bound themselves to be faithful in their sacred office.
3. Faithful preaching has a tendency to save, but unfaithful preaching has a tendency to destroy the souls of men.Conclusion —
1. If preaching the Gospel faithfully includes so much as has been represented, then ministers have a very arduous and laborious work to perform.(1) It requires much reading and much thinking to acquire that knowledge of the Gospel, and that knowledge of the human heart, and that knowledge of the various ways of preaching and affecting the human heart, which is necessary in order to preach plainly, instructively, and impressively.(2) Besides preaching, they have a vast many pastoral services to perform, which require the exercise of all their wisdom, prudence, zeal, and self-denial.
2. If ministers are bound to preach the truth and the whole truth faithfully, then they are bound to preach against every species of error, whether in principle or practice. They are set as watchmen to espy danger, and warn their people against it.
3. If ministers are bound to preach the Word of God faithfully, then they can have no excuse for being unfaithful Their obligations to fidelity are superior to all the reasons they can possibly urge in excuse for unfaithfulness. The commands of God, their own engagements, the cause of Christ, and the salvation of souls, create obligations to fidelity, paramount to all possible excuses for unfaithfulness, in the sight of God and man.
4. If ministers are bound to preach the Word of God faithfully, then they ought not be afraid to preach it faithfully.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)
What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord.
I. THE HUMAN DREAM IS EMPTY; BUT THE DIVINE WORD IS SUBSTANTIAL. Chaff is a mere husk, but wheat is all grain. So the antagonists of the Bible deal in vague speculations, or empty negations; whereas the Scriptures are positive and satisfying. Try the human dream in the hour of bereavement. What has it to say to the mourner weeping over the casket that holds his dead beloved? I challenge infidelity to utter then a word which has in it a single particle of comfort for the stricken one. If he choose to repress the intuitions of his own nature, and shut his eyes to the evidences of intelligent design which exist in the external world, one may affirm that there is no God. But what comfort is there in that at such a time? The specific in medicine has won its recognition when it is seen to be unfailing. In like manner the power of the Gospel to comfort the mourner establishes its claim to be received as the Divine, specific for his grief, and he will not give it up unless he gets something better in its place; least of all will he part with it for that which is unsubstantial as an airy nothing.
II. THE HUMAN DREAM IS DESTITUTE OF NOURISHMENT FOR MAN'S SPIRITUAL NATURE, WHILE THE DIVINE WORD IS STRENGTHENING, AND MINISTERS TO ITS GROWTH. Chaff does not feed; but wheat gives nutriment. So mere speculation has in it no educating and ennobling influence, It occupies the mind without strengthening the character. Scepticism puts an arrest on progress. It stimulates the critical faculty into excess; and, instead of stirring a man up to the formation and development of his own character, it makes him a mere anatomist of the characters of others. The great majority of mere critics have become so through their lack or loss of personal religious faith. What a contrast, in this regard, there is between the lives of the two Frenchmen, Vinet and St. Beuve! They were companions in youth, and, indeed, friends through life. But St. Beuve lost his religious faith and became a literary critic, one of the very best of critics, indeed, yet only a critic, delighting the readers of his Causeries du Lundi with his expositions of the systems of other men and his estimates of their worth; but Vinci, who retained his faith to the last, became a producer himself, added something great to the thought and work of his time, and earned the right to be called the "Chalmers of Switzerland."
III. THE "HUMAN DREAM" HAS NO AGGRESSIVENESS IN IT TO ARREST OR OVERCOME THE EVILS THAT ARE IN THE WORLD, BUT THE DIVINE WORD IS REGENERATING AND REFORMING. "Is not My Word like as a fire? saith the Lord, and like a hammer," &c. Where shall we look for anything like similar results from those who are the votaries of the human "dreams" of agnosticism, scepticism, or infidelity? What has any one of these done to improve the characters of individual men, or elevate society, or bless the world? Let the advocates of infidelity either do more than we have accomplished, or let them for ever hold their peace.
IV. THE HUMAN DREAM IS SHORT-LIVED, BUT THE DIVINE WORD IS ENDURING. Chaff is easily blown away,, but the wheat remains. And so the "little systems" of human speculation "have their day and cease to be"; but the "Word of the Lord endureth for ever." The arguments of the first antagonists of the Gospel are now read only in the pages of the apologists who replied to them. And in more recent times, how many adversaries have advanced to assail it, with haughty boasting that it would speedily be defeated, but with the same result? Voltaire said that it took twelve men to establish the Gospel, but he would show that one man could overthrow it. Yet the Gospel is here studied by millions, and how few now read Voltaire! A certain German rationalist alleged that the Gospel was not worth twenty-five years' purchase; but half a century has gone since he wrote, and the Gospel is more vigorous than ever, while he is forgotten. Again and again, in the estimation of its adversaries, it ought to have been demolished; but it will not die, for there is deep truth in Bezas motto for the French Protestant Church, which surmounts the device of an anvil surrounded by blacksmiths, at whose feet are many broken hammers, and which I once heard Frederick Monod translate thus —
"Hammer away, ye hostile bands:
Your hammers break, God's anvil stands."
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
I. IN APPLICATION TO ALL MINISTRIES Of God's Word, let us first of all face the question, "What is the chaff to the wheat? " That ministry which comes from God is distinguished altogether from that which is not of His own sending by its effects.
1. It is sure to be heart-breaking. If thou hast not been made to feel thyself lost, ruined, and undone by the Word, I charge thee by the living God to be dissatisfied with thyself, or else with the ministry under which thou art sitting; for if it were God's ministry to thy soul, it would break thy heart in shivers, and make thee cry, "God be merciful to me a sinner!"
2. Not less also is a God-sent ministry clothed with power by God's Spirit, to bind up the heart so broken. Only let a ministry be full of Jesus, let Christ be lifted up and set forth, evidently crucified in the midst of the assembly — let His name be poured forth, like a sweet perfume, it shall be as ointment to the wounded heart, and then it will be recognised as the ministry of wheat, and not a ministry of chaff to your souls.
3. Further, the ministry which God does not send is of no service in producing holiness. Dr. Chalmers tells us that, when he first began to preach, it was his great end and aim to produce morality, and in order to do so he preached the moral virtues and their excellences. This he did, he says, till most of the people he thought honest turned thieves, and he had scarcely any left that knew much about morality practically. But no sooner did Chalmers begin to understand, as he afterwards did so sweetly, the power of the Cross, and to speak about the atoning blood in the name and strength of the eternal Spirit, than the morality, which could not be developed by preaching moral essays, became the immediate result of simply proclaiming the love of God in Christ Jesus. What we all want, is to have less and less of that which comes from ourselves and savours of the creature, and to have more and more of that which comes from our God, who, though we cannot see Him, is still in our midst, the mighty to will and to do; for His power is the only power, and His life is the only life by which we can be saved ourselves, and those that hear us.
II. APPLY THE TEXT, AS INDIVIDUALS, TO OURSELVES.
1. No doubt, we are all well aware that if we have wheat in us, there is chaff too. Which preponderates, it may be difficult for us to tell. Some Christians are greatly puzzled when we begin to talk about the experimental riddle which the Christian finds in himself; but, if they be perplexed, we cannot help them out of the difficulty except by describing the case. I know in my own soul that I feel myself to be like two distinct men. There is the old man, as base as ever, and the new man, that cannot sin, because he is born of God. I cannot myself understand the experience of those Christians who do not find a conflict within, for my experience goes to show this, if it shows anything, that there is an incessant contention between the old nature — Oh, that we could be rid of it! — and the new nature, for the strength of which God be thanked! This suggests great searching of the heart in connection with the question, "What is" the chaff to the wheat? Oh, let us feel that the chaff is to be all got rid of. Let us feel that it is a heavy burden to moan and groan under, that it is not a grievance we should be contented with. Let us make no provision for the flesh. Let us not ask that any chaff may be spared to us.
2. A great deal of our religiousness is chaff likewise. Do you never find yourselves borrowing other people's experience? What is that but chaff? Do you never find yourselves at a prayer-meeting glowing with somebody else's fervour? What is that but chaff? Does not your faith sometimes depend upon companionship with some fellow-Christians? Well, I will not say that your faith is chaff, but I think I may say that such growth in faith as is altogether the result of second causes and not immediately of God, is very much like chaff. "Lord, take from me all the guilt, leave me nothing but the gold; take from me all the paint, the graining and the varnish, and leave me nothing but what is veritable and bona fide." It is a prayer for every Christian to offer.
III. THIS TEXT MAY HAVE A VERY STRONG BEARING UPON THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. Take any of our churches, take this church, and do you suppose that all of yon who now profess to be Christians would be willing to burn at the stake for your Master? I wish we could believe it, but we cannot. I dare not tell you we believe it, because some of you have been put to much smaller tests than that, and what has become of you? The nautilus is often seen sailing in tiny fleets in the Mediterranean Sea, upon the smooth surface of the water. It is a beautiful sight, but as soon as ever the tempest wind begins to blow, and the first ripple appears upon the surface of the sea, the little mariners draw in their sails and betake themselves to the bottom of the sea, and you see them no more. How many of you are like that? When all goes well with Christianity, many go sailing along fairly, in the summer tide, but no sooner does trouble, or affliction, or persecution arise, where are they? Ah! where are they? They have gone.
IV. We may use this text, sorrowfully and solemnly, WITH REGARD TO THE WHOLE MASS OF HUMAN SOCIETY. The whole mass of our population may just be divided into the wheat and the chaff. Both are mixed up together now, and it would be impossible for you or for me to divide them. In courts of law and the houses of commerce, on the Exchange, and in the committee-rooms, in busy thoroughfares with their various shops, and in the open streets among those that ply different callings, here in this tabernacle, and in the many churches and chapels where multitudes are wont to assemble, we are all mixed up together — the wheat and the chaff. And it is wonderful how united the chaff is with the wheat, for see, the wheat once slept in the bosom of the chaff. There is chaff on the best threshing-floor. There are ungodly sons and daughters in the best families. Unconverted persons are to be found in intimate association with the holiest men and women. Two shall be grinding at the mill, one shall be taken and the other left. Two shall be in one bed, and one shall be taken and the other left. God will make a division, sharp, decisive, everlasting, between the chaff and the wheat. Oh, thou thoughtless, frivolous, light, chaffy, giddy spirit, canst thou bear the thought of being thus separated for ever?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)I. WHAT ARE WORLDLY MAXIMS, COMPARED WITH THE WORD OF GOD, BUT AS THE CHAFF TO THE WHEAT? Regard the conduct of men who call themselves men of the world; by what principles are they governed t what maxims do they follow? to what authority do they defer? To the authority of Him who made them, who sent His own adorable Son to buy lost, guilty offenders with the shedding of His precious blood; or to the authority of him who deceived our first parents, and hath ever since been spreading snares for their posterity? Doth it not encourage the worldling to spend the precious and unreturning season of mercy in laying up treasure to himself, instead of being rich toward God? Doth it not industriously stigmatise all true religion, as the dreams of enthusiasm, or the inventions of hypocrisy? But "what is the chaff to the wheat?" What is the authority of the world, compared with the authority of Him who reigneth supreme, King of kings and Lord of lords, King over His enemies? What is the ridicule which deters many a feeble-minded professor from seeking Christ, compared with the indignation of Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell? What is the present judgment of man respecting us, compared with God's decisions?
II. WHAT IS THE VALUE OF THAT LEGAL RIGHTEOUSNESS IN WHICH CARNAL MAN DELIGHTS, COMPARED WITH THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST JESUS, AS A GROUND OF JUSTIFICATION BEFORE GOD? A self-complacent Pharisee may regard himself to be, "touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless." An amiable moralist may gather, and deservedly gather, around him the esteem and love of men, and may ask, in the spirit of presumption, "What lack I yet?" Let the Spirit shine into his heart, take him as by the hand, and flash the lightnings of an injured law in his eyes; let him see God condemning sin in the flesh, by sending Christ to die for it in the flesh; let him see his own miserable shortcoming of that obedience, which a pure and heart-searching Judge requires, and then "what is the chaff to the wheat?"
III. WHAT IS THE HAPPINESS OF THE WORLDLING, COMPARED WITH THE HAPPINESS OF A CHILD OF GOD? What is the chaff of his perishing joys, compared to the happiness of a believer t He hears the joyful sound of Gospel love, receives it through infinite grace into his heart, and walks in the light of his Father's countenance.
IV. WHAT ARE THE PRESENT PLEASURES OF SIN, WHICH ARE FOR A SEASON, COMPARED WITH THE GLORY OF HEAVEN, WHICH WILL BE FORFEITED BY THEIR INDULGENCE?
(R. P. Buddicom, M. A.)
I. MOTIVES AND ACTS HOLD THE RELATION WHICH CHAFF AND WHEAT HOLD TO EACH OTHER. Every act a man performs has behind it a motive. This may be good, bad, or indifferent. The motive determines everything, and however much the world condemn us for our actions, if they are done in the spirit of Christ, this reward will be ours, that our characters will become Christlike. Don't despise a man's actions, but never forget that it is the motive that made him do these that makes them commendable or condemnable.
II. GOD JUDGES NOT THE ACTS BUT THE MOTIVES. Whilst the world is applauding some men because they have given some money to put a fancy window in some old church, God has written down words of condemnation. The motive in giving the money was as base as base could be. The day is coming when the harvest of God will be gathered. Woeful and sad will that man be who in the threshing day will give abundance of chaff but no wheat.
III. THE PRESENT LIFE AND THE FUTURE HOLD THE RELATION OF CHAFF TO WHEAT. In answer to the question, What is this life? two extreme answers have been given. Some say that this life is not worth living. Others live in this world as if this world were everything. The truth, as in all extremes, lies between the two. Now, as to life not being worth living, let me say this is throwing stones at the wisdom of God, and is as absurd as saying chaff has no place in this world. The present life is the chaff covering an eternal life. Within each of us there is a precious wheat that needs nourishing and protection. The trials and difficulties of this life are all working together towards its development. Instead of this world not being a help, like chaff it is God's appointed means whereby the eternal life may grow within us and spring into full perfection. The chaff may not appear worth all the sunshine and rains bestowed on it, yet it is. It has its purpose to fulfil To-day, as when God made the world, it can be said "and behold it was very good." If the one extreme — that life is not worth living — is false, how shall I stigmatise that answer which says in deeds that the present life is everything? How absurd for a man to say chaff — this present life — is all he wants! Fancy a farmer collecting all his chaff in sacks and burning all the golden grain. Would we consider him to be in his sane senses?
(J. M. Dryerre.)
1. As admonitory to Christian people. Human speculations present themselves at the bar of my taste or judgment. In self-complacency I pass judgment upon them, but when God's Word is heard, it breathes authority, and my place is in the dust. Keep, then, the chaff of man free from the wheat of God.
2. As counsel to us who are teachers.(1) Let parents inculcate the thought of God. Endued with His Spirit, their children may be left in confidence, for the promise is to us and our children.(2) Teachers in the Sunday School are to give, not guesses, but Gospel.(3) The clergy need this counsel. They cannot, ought not to stay the current of free thought. Yet, in the wide activity of intellectual conflict, in the bewildering notions and "refractory egotism" of the age, we must discriminate. Stability is found in loyalty to God s truth. Applying these thoughts —
1. We are now better able to estimate what reputation really is. We are not to be indifferent to men's estimate of us. It is a useful stimulus, but it needs to be regulated. It is "a small matter to be judged" by them. What is God's estimate?
2. What is success? Many look at pecuniary results. They play fast and loose with conscience. Some affect a supercilious devotion and look down on others above whom they seem to rise. What is God's estimate?
3. Finally, we learn to understand the value of the life we are living as compared with that which is eternal. There is no antagonism in the interests of each. Even the chaff envelops and protects the wheat. It has its place and work, though perishable.
(John Hall, D. D.)I. WHAT IS MAN'S WORD TO THE WORD OF GOD? God's Word has its base deep down amongst the eternal things of the mysterious past; and if there be clouds and dimness upon some of its higher peaks, it is because its top rises up amongst the sublimities of a glorious future. Now and then a gleam lights up the awful heights to which revelation towers, and the eye of faith is strong enough to see the rosy tints, which tell that those holier mysteries are near to the beauteous heaven to which they point. At such a time, the believer will say, "What is the chaff to the wheat?" The fallible comment to the infallible text? The earthly setting to the heavenly jewel? The basket of silver to the apples of gold?
II. WHAT IS MAN'S FAVOUR TO THE LOVE OF GOD? It is pleasant to live in the creature's love. There are happy family groups on this our beautiful earth, upon which the loving eye is glad-to be permitted to look. There are satisfactions which come over the soul when pleasures of earth are many, and the hopes for time are bright. The first sip of pleasure's cup is sweet. The first climb up ambition's hill is sunny. The first burst of hope s young bud is beautiful. Some are so smitten with the loveliness here, that they care not to look for the brighter things which are in store hereafter. But "what is the chaff to the wheat? "What is all this to the love of God? Oh, glorious thought! that I am loved by the Father of Lights, the King of uncreated glory! It is the candle of the Lord within my soul. It is the comfort of the Holy Ghost springing up unto everlasting life. To know the love of God, which passeth knowledge: this is peace, this is bliss, this is life.
III. WHAT IS THE BODY TO THE SOUL? We are fearfully and wonderfully made. This mortal body is beautiful in the very ruins by which sin has laid it low. And when the building of God, the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, shall have been given us, — when our vile bodies shall have been fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body, then the beauty of our material part shall be seen in all its glory. But "what is the chaff to the wheat?" Who can tell of all the value of a human soul? Coated, as it is now, by earthly matter, we see something of the brightness which this gem can wear. What will the soul be, under the light of heaven, in the crown of Christ? In righteousness and true holiness — seeing Jesus face to face — amid the pleasures which are at God's right hand for evermore, the spirit of the just made perfect, the soul of the redeemed in the garments of salvation: oh, it must be a glorious thing!
IV. WHAT IS THE WATER TO THE BLOOD? No earthly fountain can suffice to wash away sin. After all that civilisation has ever done to wash the outside of the cup and platter, it has never been able to touch, much less to purge, the heart. Man's resolution, man's effort to reform himself, man's contrivance to cure the soul's running sore, have all and altogether failed. The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin. It is the blood of sprinkling which purges the soul and conscience. Turn ye, then, from doing to believing; turn from self to Jesus; turn from earning to accepting; turn from water, which cannot cleanse, to the blood which will make filthy garments white: say in the matter of merit and salvation, "What is the chaff to the wheat?" What is self to the Saviour?
V. WHAT IS THE FORM TO THE LIFE? The words of worship are easily said. The attitude of worship may be soon assumed. But "what is the chaff to the wheat?" The eye of God is upon the worshipper's heart. The ear of God listens to the language of the soul. Put off, spiritually, the shoes from off your feet. Gird up the loins of your minds. Let the holy fire be kindled upon the altar of your heart, and the incense cloud of grateful praise will rise with acceptance before the mercy seat.
VI. WHAT ARE THE THINGS OF TIME TO THE THINGS OF ETERNITY? In life's endless progress, the earthly is the shortest stage. In the continuous chain of being, the lowest link is the least. When we shall climb up the great hill of eternal life, we shall see how small our earthly dwelling looks at the mountain base. How small earth looks to the eye which can travel over the visible orbs which come even within its limited field of vision. Oh, it is an important thing so to live that we may have life everlasting! Jesus bids us "seek first the kingdom of God." His servants say, "Here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come" True wisdom bids a man "set your affections upon things above, not on things on the earth." We are all moving, things are all changing: it is madness to cling to these passing things, and say, Here will I dwell for ever. It may not be, it should never be desired. God has found some better thing for His children. He says, "What is the chaff to the wheat?"
(J. Richardson, M. A.)
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