“These Sayings Of Mine”
Great discoveries of papyri have recently been made in the sands and ruins of Egypt. The scholars tell us that much information will be gathered from these ancient rolls.
Meantime while reading in the Gospel, now nearly two thousand years old, we have discovered some sayings of Christ uttered long ago. We have brought them up, and out, for the information of the people, and for the consideration of the children of God. Great discoveries may be made by poring over them. We may find out our true relation to God. Also whether we have changed, or the truth has altered. Whether the Gospel has drifted or Christians have lapsed.
Some one has said that the Bible is a much praised, but also a much neglected volume. The two practices are often indulged in by the same individual. Maybe the eulogium is intended as a kind of salve to the conscience for the failure of the duty.
In like manner we notice that Christ’s words are held up as worthy of universal obedience, but at the same time it is startling to see how many of them are completely ignored.
The Saviour referred to His utterances as “these sayings of mine,” and asserted that such were there importance that if a person heard them and did them not, he should be “likened unto a foolish man which built his house upon the sand; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell; and great was the fall of it.”
Men agree that the sayings of Christ are true and should, in a general way, be kept. But when it comes to their special and individual application that is another matter, and when it comes to keeping them all, then that is a very serious affair indeed, and hardly to be thought of at all. The “sayings” are right, but the applying them to one’s life would, at times, be very inconvenient, and at other times impossible. In fact the “sayings” had better remain sayings, and not be transformed into doings.
According to this idea of many, the Christian life is Utopian, a beautiful system to contemplate, but not possible to possess and practice. This view of course degrades Christ to the rank of a visionary reformer, completely eliminates the practical nature of the gospel, and overlooks the promised power from heaven that shall enable us to do all that is commanded.
But we started out to show that while there is obedience to many of the Saviour’s commands, there are other directions of His which are regarded and treated very much like certain words that have become obsolete in a language.
Take for instance what He says about divorced people marrying. Only for one cause can it be allowed. If we have not that Scriptural ground of marital unfaithfulness, then, “whosoever marrieth committeth adultery.”
What a storm it would create if the community should agree to call them such. And yet this is the brand which Christ puts upon them.
Another of His sayings refers to our daily language, “Let your communication be yea, yea; nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”
This is not to be construed literally, for Christ himself said more than yea and nay, but is a warning against extravagant speech. Of course it forbids expletives, oaths, and all that is felt to be a perversion and degradation of God’s great gift to us, but it also aims a blow at highly colored language, the piling up of adjectives, adverbs and interjections in the description of any and all things.
We are all familiar with this kind of writer and speaker. Everything is “grand,” “awful,” “gorgeous” and ”magnificent.” They never saw, never heard, never felt, never dreamed, never conceived anything like it in all their lives before. It was the most powerful sermon, wonderful prayer, sweetest hymn, greatest altar service, biggest revival they ever saw, heard of or read about.
The effect of this kind of talking and writing really weakens description. Then by and by through frequent repetition it has a damaging effect on the person himself. Certain faculties and sensibilities become blunted, and the way is prepared for actual and outright lying.
But we go down a little deeper. This time Christ speaks about the money question. “Lay not up for you selves treasures upon earth.”
Now we do not believe in taking an extreme view of these words as forbidding a man to make all adequate provision for the support of his family, so that they will not be left paupers and beggars on the community after he is dead. We agree with Paul that a man should provide for his household, and in addition we believe that parents should endeavor to give each child a trade or profession in order that they in turn might be self-supporting. This is all right. The practice which Christ struck at was the striving for and laying up of wealth.
We know what will be said at once in reply, as to who shall decide how much a man must possess, and what is wealth; that what will do for one, will not another.
My reply is that Christ will lead every individual in this matter who will allow Him. The only point we are trying to make in this chapter is that so far as the world is concerned, and many Christians as well, the Saviour might as well have never spoken. This is one of his sayings which they do not like, and have no idea of following.
Another saying of Christ refers to hospitality and the giving of feasts. The very injunction to be kind to those who can never repay you, is a hard commandment to some people, but when it comes to the description of the character of the company which Christ bids us invite to our banquets and feasts, the breath would verily be taken from many a family, social, and church circle the instant it should be heard. We gravely doubt whether any of our leading churches could hear the description read, and the preacher amplify and urge the duty upon them as being true, without a broad and general smile being plainly seen. Listen to Christ’s words upon the subject. “When thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.”
Such a person doing this today would be called a crank and yet Christ said do it.
That a holy, beautiful joy would spring up in that breast for such an act or series of acts, surely none can truthfully deny. Yet no one seems willing to seek joy in that way. This saying of Christ is regarded as one of the impossible commands.
Still another saying of Christ refers to the non-resistance of evil. The exact language is, “resist not evil.” Moral philosophers tell us that this does not mean that man is to allow another to walk up and burn his house, and kill his child without doing something to prevent.
Granting this, it does mean an utter absence of all retaliation, and more than that, a patient submission to wrong.
Some are doing this. We know of a number of God’s people who have been repeatedly slandered, and they never make a reply. Of others deeply wronged in various ways, and they never strike back. They leave the matter with God.
But not all do this. So as a startling novelty in the ethics of some religious people we commend this saying of Christ, “resist not evil.”
Another saying still refers to the removal and destruction of the dearest things that are found to be hurtful to the soul. Think of a man pulling out his own right eye, and cutting off his right arm with a knife in his left hand. What a painful, agonizing process. Yet these are the strong figures used to show that no matter what suffering it entails, certain heart and life idols have to go for the spirit’s sake.
Many of the present generation refuse to do this. They have discovered another gospel, which is easier and softer every way. The sayings of Christ are too severe altogether. They are beautiful, but will not do to live by. So the lust of the eye is gratified, the worldly circle sought after, the private dram indulged, the tobacco quid rolled under the tongue, the tobacco farm and store kept up, the cigar dreamily smoked, and other practices too numerous to mention followed, which without being vile yet certainly deaden the soul, and prevent a deep and sweet communion with God.
Another saying of Christ was directed to an obliging spirit. If a man comes borrowing, we are not to refuse him. If he asks for one’s coat, give the cloak also. If he begs you to go a mile with him, go with him twain.
There is a great deal of surly Christianity, or rather so called Christianity, for the religion given us by the Saviour is not cross-grained, but considerate and gracious.
The word “borrow” evidently shows that it is not a fortune the man is asking for, but some small favor. The cloak is added to the coat, and the second mile to the first simply as a figurative way of describing a person who does not empty himself with one deed of favor, but has kindness in abundant reserve over what has been done. Most Christians are exhausted at the beginning of the second mile stage, and bankrupt in feeling and deed when the cloak experience is reached. Happy is the man who can stand this strain and drain on him for Christ’s sake and the soul’s sake.
There must be something in this saying of Christ, that we are not to “turn away” from such people. Not one of us but will remember that when we have helped some individual, and he came again as a borrower on our patience, sympathies, time, and material help as well, and we refused him, or as Christ says, “turned away,” we always felt heartily ashamed of ourselves, and from the depths of a troubled spirit wished that we had gone five miles with the man, instead of two, and not only given the cloak, but also shoes, stockings, necktie and everything else he had requested. Moreover we may have been kind for the fifth, sixth or tenth time, but if we break down on the eleventh occasion, that one disobliging word and act seems to outweigh, in our minds, all the obliging acts that have gone before. We may not be so measured and weighed in God’s mind, but it is the way we feel in our own at the time of failure.
Other sayings of Christ crowd upon us which we can not expatiate on, but barely mention.
“Take no thought for the morrow,” that is, do not worry.
“Let not your left hand know what your right hand doeth.”
“Whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.”
“When thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room.”
“Cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” In a word, we are to reform at home, before we go to work on our neighbor; we are to have a private surgical operation on ourselves, before we cut and slash into somebody else.
We mention but one other saying of Christ. This last is in regard to the treatment of our enemies. He seems to be sure that we will have them. They may be made in different ways, and very possibly by a faithful walk in the path of duty. But this is not the point made then and that we are making now. The question is how to treat them when made. The “saying” is very clear and explicit. The dullest mind need not make a mistake here.
The duty is divided into four parts according to the saying, and each specification is stronger than its predecessor. We give them in the order mentioned by the Lord.
“Love your enemies.”
“Bless them that curse you.”
“Do good to them that hate you.”
“Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute.”
About this we are certain that most of our readers will agree. One is that according to the practice we see about us, the direction of Christ seems to be a very novel treatment of that class of people known as “our enemies.” Second, that such a treatment would very much astonish our enemies. Third, we cannot help but believe that such a course,if adopted, would about annihilate most of our enemies, that is, turn them into friends.
But who, but a very few, cares for the sayings of Jesus, the Perfect Teacher, the Incarnation of Love, Truth and Wisdom, the God-man, who “knows what is in man,” and the best way to win him? And who stops to think that He who said these very words is to try us at the Day of Judgment!