Matthew 18:7
Woe to the world for the causes of sin. These stumbling blocks must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!
Sermons
A Discourse of OffencesBishop Fowler.Matthew 18:7
Christian InfluenceBishop Temple.Matthew 18:7
Necessity of Scandals ArisingLapide.Matthew 18:7
OffencesH. Kollock, D. D.Matthew 18:7
Offences Inevitable and EvilJoseph Benson.Matthew 18:7
Ways of OffendingBishop Fowler.Matthew 18:7
Necessity of Becoming Like Little ChildrenMarcus Dods Matthew 18:1-14
Better Suffer than SinDr. Culross.Matthew 18:6-9
Moral SurgeryJ. Kelly.Matthew 18:6-9
Occasions of StumblingJ.A. Macdonald Matthew 18:6-9
Renouncing Things that HinderOlshausen.Matthew 18:6-9
Self-DisciplineMatthew 18:6-9
Self-MortificationJohn Trapp.Matthew 18:6-9
To stumble is so to trip as to be hindered in faith or to be turned out of the way (cf. Matthew 5:29, 30; Matthew 11:6; Matthew 13:21; Matthew 15:12; Matthew 24:10; Matthew 26:31, 33; John 6:61, 62, 66; John 16:1). Occasions of stumbling are evil influences - allurements, persuasions, temptations, bad example, calumnies, insults, persecutions. The text teaches -

I. THAT CHRIST HOLDS THE WICKED RESPONSIBLE FOR THE INJURY THEY MAY OCCASION TO THE GOOD. The addition of the words, "which believe on me," shows that Christ is here speaking, not of "little ones" in age. but of his disciples, who are of a humble spirit. Observe:

1. There is no infallible final perseverance of the saints.

(1) The recognition of this truth is the very inspiration of this pathetic discourse. These woes would never have been denounced upon men for the doing of what, otherwise, would be impossible.

(2) Let not the believer in Christ be high-minded. Let him fear. Let him watch. Let him pray.

2. "It must needs be that the occasions come."

(1) They are permitted as part of the necessary discipline of our probation. They come from the abuse of free agency.

(2) To the faithful they prove blessed means of grace. They educate passive virtues. The habit of resisting temptation makes a strong character.

3. The instigator to evil is still responsible.

(1) Where he succeeds in causing the saint to stumble he will have to answer for the soul damaged or ruined. There is no impunity for those who turn the simple from their integrity by teaching them to imbibe sentiments subversive of the doctrines of genuine truth, or to indulge in evil practices which destroy or injure the capacity for receiving the graces of the kingdom.

(2) Where the tempter fails he is still responsible for his wickedness.

4. These things need to be emphasized.

(1) Because the wicked are too apt to transfer the blame of their irreligion to the account of the good, by accusing them of apathy and negligence. The good are undoubtedly responsible for the faithfulness of their testimony. They are not, however, beyond this, responsible for results. Noah's testimony was at once his own justification and the condemnation of the world.

(2) Because the wicked are too slow to recognize their responsibility, not only for their own non-reception of Christ, but for the injury they do in hindering others, and especially for damaging the good. To offend the innocent is to offend innocence.

II. THAT SUCH OFFENDERS ARE WARNED BY THE TERROR OF FORMIDABLE PUNISHMENT.

1. The sufferings of antichristian nations are admonitory. "Woe unto the world because of occasions of stumbling!"

(1) The Jews filled up the measure of their iniquity in crucifying Christ and persecuting his disciples, and wrath came upon them to the uttermost.

(2) Degradation and ruin have overtaken or are pursuing those nations which have persecuted the witnesses for Christ. The atheism of France, with its horrors and the decadence of that nation, are the reaction of the superstition and wickedness of earlier persecutions. Prosperity smiles upon the nations that have accepted the Reformation. They have been enriched by industries brought to them by Protestant refugees.

(3) All antichristian nations are doomed in the anticipations of prophecy. "Woe" hangs over "the world" in the larger sense.

2. Individuals also are admonished. "Woe to that man through whom the occasion cometh!"

(1) The retribution upon those who offend the disciples of Christ is worse than death. Jerome says that Christ here speaks according to the custom of the province in punishing the greatest criminals with drowning. The woe here denounced is worse (ver. 6).

(2) The retribution is as crushing as it is sudden. The culprit had no strength to release himself from the weight of the "great millstone," to turn which, supported in position, required the strength of an ass. "It seems to have grown into a proverb with the Jews for total ruin" (Doddridge).

(3) The more terrible punishment is described as a "Gehenna of fire," in allusion to the sufferings of the victims of Moloch (cf. 2 Chronicles 33:6). Burning there is more dreadful than drowning in the Lake of Galilee hard by (cf. Revelation 19:20). Those who play the devil in tempting saints may tremble with the devils.

3. But there is yet space for repentance.

(1) The offending hand must be cut off. Wrong doing must cease. However useful as the right hand. However dear.

(2) The offending foot must be cut off. Wrong going must cease. However natural it may have become through habit as the use of the right foot.

(3) The offending eye must be plucked out. Illicit desire must cease, whether instigated by covetousness, envy, pride, or passion (see Mark 7:22).

(4) These must be cast away. The hand or foot or eye refer to those sins of honour, interest, or pleasure, which men are prone to spare. The godly in this world are lame, deaf, dumb, blind, both to themselves and to others (see Psalm 38:14). The members most mortified here will shine with the greater lustre hereafter. - J.A.M.







Woe unto the world because of offences.
Some sinners defend themselves by saying that if they had not tempted their comrades to evil, some one else would. If your action made no difference in the man's ultimate course, it is not excused. It may be true that the temptation would have come without you; it by no means follows that it would have been equally powerful if you had not put it in the way; your example may have given it special force. How often is this so between friends and near kindred! Obedience to God extends to the temptation that is likely to lead to sin. The eye, the hand, must be plucked out, cut off, if it proved a temptation too strong for the man's resistance. If the temptation is clearly too much for you, you are bound to put yourself in such a position that it shall not be able to reach you. But our Lord not only requires a man to deal thus with himself, but also with his neighbour. We are not allowed to suppose that our brother's conduct is indifferent to us. We are to have regard to the effect of our conduct upon others. Let us consider the form which this teaching takes in sonic of the ordinary relations of life.

I. Look at life in our own HOMES. The doctrine that each must look only to himself would not be admitted here. We are ready to interfere with what affects our comfort; are we as ready with loving care to remove stumbling-blocks. It is easy to expose selfishness, but not so easy to be perpetually setting an example of sacrifice.

II. THE RELATIONSHIP OF MASTER AND SERVANT is peculiarly one which calls for the constant care for one another. How many temptations can we remove from the path of servants if we give our thoughts to it. Living in a household, servants imbibe the principle of their masters. What a power for removing temptation from a child does every servant possess.

III. Look at SOCIETY and see how the rule applies there. In a Christian country society should have regard for the weaknesses of humanity; to mould the customs of society so as to put as few temptations as possible in the way of these weaknesses. True, the demand for this is not so strong here as in our own homes; but it is easier to recognize. In the home you deal with individuals, peculiarity and diversity of temperament, and it may be hard to recognize what is a temptation, and what the best way of removing it; but in regard to society we have no such difficulties; here we have to deal with the effects of temptation on thousands, and this does not admit of much doubt. Every member of society is responsible for his share in customs which create temptation.

IV. Consider this rule as applied to LEGISLATION. No act of legislation ought to pass without consideration as to its moral effects, its likelihood to increase or diminish the temptations of the people. It is often urged that man gains strength by conflict with temptation, and that the removal of temptation is a weakness. This not the entire truth: the removal of temptation is often the only thing which gives the soul time to gather the forces of grace to triumph.

(Bishop Temple.)

I. LET US INQUIRE WHY IT MUST NEEDS BE THAT OFFENCES COME.

1. Not from any fault in the gospel of the Redeemer.

2. Not that God necessitates men to lay before others these hindrances in the path to heaven, and encouragements to sin.

3. Why then? "Light has come into the world, and men love darkness," etc. He does not interpose by omnipotent force.

II. LET US EXAMINE WHAT ARE THE CHIEF OFFENCES AGAINST WHICH WE SHOULD GUARD?

1. False sentiments in religion, and doctrines inconsistent with the Word of God often prove an offence and tend to lead others away from felicity.

2. The influence of unholy examples.

3. Persecution.

4. The unsuitable walk of professing Christians.

III. ILLUSTRATE THE PROPRIETY OF THE DOUBLE WOE PRONOUNCED BY OUR LORD.

1. Woe to the world because of offences, for many will be seduced by them.

2. Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.

(1)Because he frustrates as far as in his power the design which Christ had in coming into the world.

(2)Because he renders himself guilty of all the crimes he has led others to commit.

(3)Because the reparation of those evils is morally impossible.

(H. Kollock, D. D.)

A caution this, as has well observed, "particularly necessary for the disciples at this time striving for superiority; for if they had continued in that spirit, they would have turned out of the way those they had gained to the faith." Let us inquire —

I. WHAT WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND HERE BY "OFFENCES." Stumbling-blocks in the way that leads to heaven. Figurative expression (Romans 14:13, 21): offences may be taken when they are not given. Offences may be given when they are not taken. Stumbling-blocks are of three kinds —

1. Such as God has laid in the way.(1) Jesus Christ is in this sense a stumbling-block (1 Peter 2:6, 8; Romans 9:31-33; Isaiah 8:13-15; Luke 2:34; Matthew 13:57; Matthew 26:64, 65).(2) The doctrine of Christ is a cause of offence (Matthew 15:12; Matthew 19:22, 1 Corinthians 1:22, 23; John 6:61-66; Matthew 13:54).(3) The suffering and death of Christ on the cross is a stumblingblock (1 Corinthians 1:23; Matthew 26:31, 33; Luke 24:21). The Jews called Christ, in derision, "Talui," the man that was hanged. An offence without reason.

2. Such as are laid in the way by the subtlety and malice of the devil and his children. Such as false doctrine, reproaches, etc.

3. Such as, through the devices of the grand adversary, are laid in the way by the inattention, folly, and misconduct of those who are, or profess to be, the children of God (Romans 14:21; 1 Corinthians 8:7, 9).

II. How IT APPEARS THAT IT MUST NEEDS BE THAT OFFENCES COME.

1. Offences of the kind first mentioned must come (Matthew 2:6). These are only stumbling-blocks in our apprehension. They that stumble at these, stumble at their own mercies and salvation.

2. Offences of the second kind will come, not, strictly speaking of necessity, but in the nature of things. For the devil and his children will hate the children of God, etc. (Zechariah 3:2; 1 Corinthians 11:19; Acts 20:30; 2 Corinthians 11:26).

3. Offences of the last kind will also come, as appears from the text, and from (Luke 17:1), where the Greek word imports it is not to be expected, etc. He does not appoint or ordain these offences. He does not withhold the grace whereby they may be avoided. But He permits, or does not absolutely hinder them.

III. WHY OUR LORD PRONOUNCES A "WOE" UPON THE WORLD BECAUSE OF OFFENCES, AND UPON THAT MAN BY WHOM THE OFFENCE COMETH.

1. By "the world," may be here meant, those that know not, and love not, God (John 15:16, 19; John 17:9, 14; 1 John 5:19). Through offences, especially those of the last-mentioned kind, many of these perish eternally. Therefore, woe to them! They dishonour God, obstruct and injure others, and lose their own souls.

2. "The world," may mean mankind in general, including even the people of God.

3. "Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh." For he dishonours God in a manner none else can do — he does the work of the devil and pleases him — he confirms the wicked in their prejudices, etc. All this mischief will be required at his hands, etc.Application —

1. See that you offend not (ver. 6).

2. See that you be not offended yourself (ver. 8, 9).

(Joseph Benson.)

1. The unavoidables of offences.

2. The woes pronounced against them.

I. What we are to understand here by offences.

II. From whence the unavoidableness of them doth arise.

III. That offences are of woeful consequence, both to men in general, and to those particular persons by whom they come.

(Bishop Fowler.)

1. The drawing of our brethren into erroneous opinions; such as have an ill-influence on men's lives and manners.

2. Enticing men to sin by wicked advice and solicitations.

3. Affrighting or discouraging others from being religious, or from the doing of their duty in particular instances: such things as(1) persecuting for righteousness' sake:(2) representing the ways of religion as very rugged and difficult, and the duties thereof as over-harsh and severe:(3) making a great number of additions to the law of God, and imposing them as necessary to salvation:(4) treating those who have fallen into errors of judgment or practice, with too great harshness and severity.

4. Offering an evil example.

(Bishop Fowler.)

Let us grant that in individual cases a man may give such care and attention as not to sin, yet it is impossible that — taking all contingent events in the lump — a man should not sometimes be remiss, and fail. or slip. For this is the infirmity of the mind of man since the Fall. In the same way it is necessary that the most skilful archer, who to a certainty hits the mark as often as he chooses to do so, should sometimes miss it, if he is perpetually shooting at it. For this is a condition and result of human weakness — that mind, hand, or eye cannot long keep up the strain of their attention, that a man should hit the mark a hundred times running. He must miss sometimes.

(Lapide.)

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