Matthew 23:8
Our Lord does not wish to see the distinctions of Judaism, which had become so odious in his day, repeated in Christianity. He does not desire the dogmatism of the rabbis to be copied by the Christian teachers, or the authority of the rulers to be transferred to the Christian pastors. He does not want his people to think that they can best show their humility by losing their self-respect and cringing before ecclesiastical superiors. In opposition to all such tendencies, he enunciates his principles of Christian equality.

I. THE NATURE OF CHRISTIAN EQUALITY. Christianity is essentially democratic. Jesus Christ was a Man of the people, the greatest Tribune of the people the world has ever seen. He took the side of the oppressed against their oppressors, that of the "dim multitude," not that of the privileged few. His aim in this matter was to bring about a condition of brotherhood. There is a measure of inequality which no arrangements of men can set aside. One man is not always as good as another. People differ enormously in character, in ability, in energy. Therefore absolute equality is impossible. It is impossible according to the constitution of nature, and it is doubly impossible in face of the great variation of human conduct. But there is an equality to be striven for. The equality of Christian brotherhood is to be observed among Christians. Christ's words do not directly apply to the larger society of mankind. This equality should involve an equivalent in religious privileges which are meant to be freely offered to all. It should discourage any artificial distinctions.

II. THE GROUNDS OF CHRISTIAN EQUALITY.

1. The Fatherhood of God. We have one Father in heaven, and undue deference to men in religion obscures the honour due to God.

2. The Lordship of Christ. This is the specifically Christian principle, while the former one is a general religious principle. The Church is not a republic; it is a kingdom with Christ as its Head. Christians are bound to see that they put no one in the place of Christ. He has direct dealings with each of his people. He wants no grand vizier, no local satrap, no intermediate lord. He is the Master of each individual Christian, and every one can go to him personally for instructions.

III. THE VIOLATION OF CHRISTIAN EQUALITY. The words of Christ are ominous of coming dangers. They have a profound significance in the light of subsequent events. It is wonderful that their plain meaning should have been so egregiously disregarded as to permit of the construction of a monstrous ecclesiastical hierarchy in one direction and the creation of a system of dogmatic orthodoxy in another. Forgetting Christ and the privilege of closest relationship with him, Christian people have bowed their necks to the tyranny of various ecclesiastical masters and theological fathers. Order requires the appointment of officers in the Church, and truth demands respect for knowledge and for the capacity to teach. But it is a mistake, a wrong to God and Christ, to show such deference to human authorities as shall be false to Christian liberty. - W.F.A.







But be not ye called Rabbi.
The late Rev. Wm. Jay, in a sermon at Surrey Chapel, said "Some time ago a countryman observed to me, 'I was exceedingly alarmed this morning, sir. I was going down in a lonely place, and I thought I saw a strange monster. It seemed in motion, but I could not make out its form. I didn't like to turn back, but my heart beat, and the more I looked the more I was afraid. But, as we came nearer each other, I saw it was a man, and who do you think it was?' 'I know not.' 'Oh, it was my brother John!' 'Ah,' said I to myself, as he added that it was early in the morning, and very foggy, 'how often do we thus mistake our Christian brethren!'"

During the Peninsular war, an officer of artillery had just served a gun with admirable precision against a body of men posted in a wood to his left. When the Commander-in-Chief rode up, after turning his glass for a moment in the direction of the shot, he said, in his cool way, "Well aimed, captain; but no more; they are our own 99th." This sad blunder has been repeated too often in the armies of Jesus. The great guns of the Church, which might have battered down the citadels of Satan, have been misdirected against Christian brethren!

A Hindoo and a New Zealander met upon the deck of a missionary ship. They had been converted from their heathenism, and were brothers in Christ, but they could not speak to each other. They pointed to their Bibles, shook hands, smiled in each other's faces, but that was all. At last a happy thought occurred to the Hindoo. With sudden joy he exclaimed, "Hallelujah!" The New Zealander, in delight, cried out, "Amena!" Those two words, not found in their own heathen tongues, were to them the beginning of "one language and one speech."

It was on a sacramental Sabbath, and at the close of the service, Dr. Cumming invited Christ's followers to remain and partake of the emblems of His atoning love. As we changed our seat to take our place among the communicants, we found ourselves in the pew of the Duke of Sutherland. The only two persons in the pew, besides our republican self, were the beautiful Duchess (then apparently about five-and-thirty years of age) and a poor, coarsely-clad woman, who had strayed in there from her seat in the gallery. On seeing the name of the titled owner of the pew upon the psalm-book, the poor woman looked disconcerted, as if she was "in the wrong box." But when the sacramental bread was passed, the Duchess very courteously took the plate and handed it to her neighbour with such delicate graciousness that the "puir body" was made to feel quite at ease immediately. It was a striking illustration of the unity of Christ's household, in which the rich and the poor, the lofty and the lowly, meet together and feel that Jesus is the Saviour of them all. When the service ended I said to myself, "Now, which of these two women has had the most serious obstacle to contend with in taking up the cross for Christ? That poor labouring woman probably lives in some back alley, and thanks God for her daily meal of potatoes and salt. Her worldly temptations are few; her sources of enjoyment are few; and perhaps her chief comfort in life is found in her Bible, her prayers, her communion with Christ, and her hope of heaven. The Duchess dwells amid the splendours of Stafford House, with everything to attract her toward this world, and very little to remind her of eternity. She has troops of friends, and luxury tends to self-indulgence. The atmosphere of high life is unfavourable usually to godliness. Gold is often a hardener of the heart. So I decided that it required more grace to make the lady of rank a humbleminded, devoted disciple than it did to make the poor woman at her side a Christian. Was I not right? Remember the dear Master said, "How hard it is for them that have riches to enter into the kingdom of God."

(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

I. Human masters may transmit their words; Christ alone can impart His Spirit.

II. Human masters may teach the elements; Christ alone can conduct to the goal.

III. Human masters may establish schools; Christ alone can found a church.

(J. P. Lange, D. D.)

I. He Himself, by Himself, teaches us, and leads us by the way of virtue to heavenly glory. All others teach as they have been first taught by Him.

II. All others only teach in words that sound in the outward ears, like a tinkling cymbal; but Christ makes known their meaning inwardly to the mind.

III. All others only show what the law commands and what God requires; but Christ gives grace to the will, that we, when we hear the things which ought to be done, may indeed constantly fulfil the same.

(Lapide.)

"I am my own master," cried a young man, proudly, when a friend tried to dissuade him from an enterprize he had on hand, "I am my own master." "Did you ever consider what a responsible post that is?" asked his friend. "Responsible! what do you mean?" "A master must lay out the work which he wants done, and see that it is done right. He should try to secure the best ends by the best means. He must keep on the look-out against obstacles and accidents, and watch that everything goes straight, else he must fail. To be master of yourself, you have your conscience to keep clear, your heart to cultivate, your temper to govern, your will to direct, and your judgment to instruct. You are master over many servants, and, if you don't master them, they will master you." "That is so," said the young man. "Now I could undertake no such thing," continued his friend; " I should fail if I did. Saul wanted to be his own master, and failed. Herod failed. Judas failed. No man is fit to be his own master. 'One is your Master, even Christ.' I work under His direction."

I. Christians have a Master and a Father.

II. Christians have but one Master, but one Father.

III. There is no man upon earth that is the Christian's father or master.

IV. God is the Christian's only Father, Jesus Christ their only Master.

(Hezekiah Burton.)

Religion, like water, will not rise higher than the spring; if it derives its origin from this earth only, it will not rise and raise us up with it to heaven.

(Hezekiah Burton.)

The reasons for this caution are evident.

1. When the gospel began to be preached, men who were convinced of its truth, and inclined to receive it, were often in danger of incurring the displeasure of their nearest relations and dearest friends, of father and mother, as also of the rulers in Church and State.

2. The Jews at that time were accustomed to pay a blind and slavish deference to their spiritual fathers, their doctors, and wise men, and to prefer their authority even to that of their prophets and of their own sacred books.

3. Our Saviour foresaw that the same corruption would enter into His Church, and the same slavish obedience to the traditions and doctrines of men; that fathers, and monks, and councils, and synods, and prelates, and popes would at last so engross all power, both spiritual and temporal, and abuse it to such an enormous degree, that scarcely the shadow of Christianity would remain in the Christian Church.

(J. Jortin.)

The points may be reduced to three.

1. A belief in God, in opposition to atheism.

2. Moral duties, in opposition to vice and debauchery.

3. Christianity, in opposition to infidelity.

(J. Jortin.)

As God is our Father, a willing compliance and a cheerful obedience are due to Him. God is a Father to us in every sense of the word, bestowing upon us more than we could hope or expect, forgiving us our offences, ruling us with lenity, making allowances for human infirmities, temptations, surprises, mistakes, and errors, for everything that can claim compassion, and is not deliberate and stubborn. We should imitate and resemble Him. We should place our trust and confidence in Him. If God be the Father of all beings, they are all, in some way, related to us.

(J. Jortin.)

I. He is the Author of their spiritual being, gives life, and imparts His own nature.

II. God supplies all the need of His children. They are dependent, etc.

III. He provides them with a suitable home and habitation — Himself, His Church, His heaven.

IV. He secures the instruction of His children by His works, His word. He has appointed for them teachers.

V. He guards and protects His children.

VI. He gives them a glorious and everlasting portion. Reverence and fear Him; live and delight in Him; follow and obey Him, etc.

(J. Burns, LL. D.)

It is virtue that puts an esteem upon men, it makes their countenances lovely, their words to be remembered; it casts a perfume on all that men do or say; gives every word or action a rich scent. This will make our so much distasted habits and gestures that they shall not be contemned or derided, but reverenced and honoured.

(Hezekiah Burton.)

Excellent and admirable was the speech of Xunus, Emperor of China, to his son Tunis, who, according to the relation of Martinius, lived 2258 years before the birth of Christ. "Take," said he, when he was dying, "this sceptre, due to your virtue and merits; remember that you are the father of your people, that you are to deal with them as with your children; that the people are not born to serve you, but that you are born and designed to serve them; and that a king is alone raised up above all the rest that he might alone be able to serve all.

(C. Buckley.)

Do you see, so we have it in Herodotus, how God strikes the taller animals with His thunder, and causes them to disappear; while the small ones are not at all affected by it? Do you see how the loftiest houses and the highest trees are in a like manner thunder-stricken.

(C. Buckley.)

I. A PROHIBITION.

1. Against a proud, ambitious spirit — "Be not ye called Rabbi."

2. Against a servile spirit" And call no man your father upon earth."

II. A REVELATION.

1. As to Christ. He was their Master.

2. As to the unseen God. He is our Father in heaven.

III. AN IDEAL — "All ye are brethren."

(A. Scott.)

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