Matthew 15:11
A man is not defiled by what enters his mouth, but by what comes out of it."
The Source of DefilementW.F. Adeney Matthew 15:11
Casuistry ReprovedJ.A. Macdonald Matthew 15:1-20
On Hand WashingMarcus Dods Matthew 15:1-20
The Secret of Human DefilementR. Tuck Matthew 15:11, 19, 20

The religious people in the time of Christ were right in being anxious to avoid defilement, but they made a great mistake in their idea as to its source, and therefore they went wrong in their notions of the evil thing itself.


1. On its own account. Children who have been brought up in the gutter have no idea of cleanliness and no desire for it; and souls that have habitually wallowed in filth do not perceive their own degradation until a new and better influence has been brought to bear upon them. Nevertheless, man, made in the image of God, cannot attain his true end while the Divine image is corrupted and befouled, and when a gleam of his better nature awakes he longs to be pure. The cultivation of the spiritual life brings a horror of defilement. For its own sake the soul then longs to be clean.

2. Because of the effects of defilement.

(1) Shame. The first perception of defilement seen side by side with purity sends a shock of shame through the awakened soul.

(2) Banishment from God. Without holiness no one can see God. Nothing unclean can enter heaven, i.e. the presence of God (Revelation 21:27).

(3) Blindness. The defiled soul is dark; it cannot perceive spiritual truth.

II. THE PERVERTED CONSCIENCE MISTAKES THE SOURCE OF DEFILEMENT. The root error of the Pharisees was externalism. The prim propriety of demeanour which characterized the professional saints of Jerusalem covered hearts as corrupt as any of the publicans' and sinners'. Yet the Pharisees thought themselves clean. They dreaded contact with a corpse, but they had little scruple in entertaining a corrupt thought. They would stop their ears at the sound of blasphemy, but they would give the reins to their tongues in malignant words. The evil of Pharisaism is by no means extinct today. Religious people dread to be found in association with questionable characters. They are anxious to be perfectly correct in the external observances of worship. They do not go to the extreme of the folly of the Pharisees, but they too often manifest the same spirit.

III. THE ENLIGHTENED CONSCIENCE PERCEIVES THE TRUE SOURCE OF DEFILEMENT WITHIN ITSELF. It is part of the work of Christ to arouse and guide the consciences of men. Thus he shows us that the real origin of defilement is in our own hearts. A black fountain will always pour out a black flood, do what we may to cleanse the stream; on the other hand, a spring of pure water will quickly wash away any casual defilement that falls into it. A man is not his environment. It is dangerous to be in the midst of corrupting influences; and yet a bed of lilies may grow out of foulest mire. A herd of swine will not be converted into a troupe of pure virgins by entering temple; they will only convert the sanctuary into a sty. The corruption of a bad heart will be detected in language and conduct. When these are unworthy they will reflect shame on the debased heart from which they come. It is the great lesson of Christ, needed much in our own day, that as the root of all evil in the world is the evil heart of man, the only radical cleansing must be that which washes the heart. We must have done with the superficial treatment of mere appearances. Christ's method is to renew the life within. - W.F.A.

Why do Thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?
I. The worst form of hypocrisy is that which sets aside plain moral duties on the plea that they binder spiritual worship; for, if done as in God's presence, they are spiritual worship.

II. No moral duty is more clearly expressed, either in the Bible or in the heart, than that of obeying, honouring, and ministering to parents.

1. They are the first of our fellow-creatures towards whom we have responsibilities.

2. They are the representatives of God to us. Through them we are to rise to know Him as our Eternal Father, and through them we are to learn how to care for and regard His human family.

III. Strange perversion of what constitutes the service of God, to imagine that a man can free himself from so fundamental a duty as ministering to his parents, by professing to dedicate his property to the support of the temple-worship, and that such a freeing of himself will be acceptable to Him who prefers obedience to sacrifice, and who is Himself honoured in the honour shown to parents. Such external worship is, in God's sight, empty and worthless.

(V. W. Hutton, M. A.)

The fatal mistake of many is that they think of nothing but the profession — the mere externalities of religion — the name, the form, the visible rite, or, at most, the aesthetic emotion. Thus, with all their religiousness, they have no religion, no spiritual vitality, no renewal of nature, and no union with Christ. It is recorded of a certain Spartan in olden times, that he tried hard to make a corpse stand; but utterly failing to do so, in spite of every effort, he said, "I see it wants something within." So it is with these — they want life, and grace, and unction. Censorious men: — Censorious men commonly take up magnifying glasses to look at other persons' imperfections, and diminishing glasses to look at their own enormities.


Reader, why will you search another man's wound while your own is bleeding? Take heed that your own vesture be not full of dust, when you are brushing your neighbour's. Complain not of dirty streets, when heaps lie at your own doors. Many people are no longer well than while they are holding their fingers upon other persons' sores; such are no better in their conduct than crows, which prey only upon carrion.


Christ, no doubt, would exceed all scribes and Pharisees in the love of real cleanliness, inner and outer. But He felt constrained to lay His ban upon the imaginary virtue that was supposed to be inherent in the act of removing imaginary uncleanness. It was supposed that there was a demon called Shibta, which sits upon men's hands during night; and if any person touches his food with unwashed hands, then that demon sits upon his food, and makes it dangerous?

(J. Morison, D. D.)

It is customary with all, but obligatory for Muslims, to wash the hands before eating. The sect of the Sunnites, which includes the Turks and Arabs, wash both hands, but the Sheites, or Persians, only the right, with which the food is taken and conveyed to the mouth. Thus did the Pharisees in the time of our Saviour. For this purpose a ewer and basin are presented to each guest in turn by a servant, who drops upon his right knee while he rests the basin upon the left; the towel is carried upon his shoulder, or is offered by anotherservant.

(Van Lennep.)

As to those who would officiously substitute their traditions in the room of the clear light of the written Word; it is a similar case as if you should fall in with one travelling on the way, and he offers himself to be your companion and guide; and tells you that you have eyes to make use of in choosing your way, but that these eyes are only troublesome to you; that they represent to you diversities of objects that invite you this way and that, so that you cannot mind your path. "And pray," saith he, "let me pull out those eyes of yours, and submit yourself to my guidance;" and all this that he may draw you into a pit!

(J. Howe.)

Would persons as readily believe the correctness of a report transmitted by word of mouth in popular rumours from one end of the kingdom to another, as if it came in a letter passed from one person to another over the same space? Would they think that because they could trust most servants to deliver a letter however long or important, therefore they could trust the same man to deliver the contents of a long and important letter, in a message by word of mouth? Let us put a familiar case: a footman brings you a letter from a friend upon whose word you can perfectly rely, giving an account of something that has happened to himself, and the exact account of which it concerned you to know. While you are reading and answering the letter, the footman goes into the kitchen and there gives your cook an account of the same thing, which he says he overheard the upper servants at home talking over as related to them by the valet, who said he had it from your friend's son's own lips; the cook relates the story to your groom, and he in turn tells you. Would you judge of that story by the letter, or the letter by the story?

(Illustrations of Truth.)

The late William Jay, in his "Practical Illustrations of Character," says, "What a difference must a Christian and a minister feel, between the trammels of some systems of divinity and the advantage of Scripture freedom, the glorious liberty of the sons of God. The one is the horse standing in the street in harness, feeding indeed, but on the contents of a bag tossed up and down; the other, the same animal in a large, fine meadow, where he lies down in green pastures, and feeds beside the still waters.

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