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God had chosen them. “Behold,” He says, “I have formed this people for myself, that they may show forth my praise." To a certain degree they did so. In the midst of a world that knew not God, they maintained the record of Him, who in the “ beginning created the heaven and the earth.”
But through their faithlessness and wickedness the salt had lost its savour. St. Paul rebukes them, saying, “ Thou which_teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law, dishonourest thou God ? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, whereas, it ought to have been glorified. Wherewith, then, shall the earth be salted ? how shall it be purified from corruption, if they who are to preserve it have no virtue remaining in them? Such salt is only fit to be cast out as worthless, and to be trodden under foot of men : deserves no better treatment than is impending over the degenerate inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah.
Another example follows, equally suited to raise the minds of the disciples, by showing them the place they were to occupy, and the duty which devolved on them. 14. “ Ye are the light of the world. A city which is set on an hill cannot be hid.”
Properly speaking, there is but one light of the world, the Lord Himself
, “ the sun of righteous- . They were not that light, but they were Isa. xliii. 21.
? Rom. ii. 21—24.
to hold up that light, and so draw others to it, that they also might be delivered out of darkness.
Or they might be compared to a city set on an hill, which cannot be hid ; distinctly visible, so that all belonging to it is known. If the sun shines brightly upon it, it is seen from afar: if it is overhung with clouds, men miss the object to which they have been accustomed, and a traveller can no longer use it to direct his course. So with those who profess to be disciples of Christ. They cannot be hid. If by their good example they do not show forth the praise of Him who called them, they become a dishonour and reproach to the name they bear. For they are set up as a light which men should walk by; this was the purpose of their calling. 15. “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a
bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all
that are in the house. 16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see
your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
A light is kindled, not that it may be concealed under a bed, or covered by a hollow vessel, but that it may furnish useful light to those who have work to do which without it they could not perform. This is an example of that light which was now
come into the world, that as many as should look up to it "might not abide in darkness.” The apostles were to hold forth that light both in their doctrine and in their practice : and their disciples were to do the same to the end of time; that “God might be glorified, through Jesus Christ,” by a faithful and obedient people, “ redeemed from all iniquity, and zealous of good works."
The light of such a people shines before men, and directs them in the course which they themselves should choose and follow.
Zaccheus, for example, held up a light before his brother publicans, when he openly avowed his repentance, and declared his future resolutions. “ Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor : and if I have taken anything from any one by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” St. Paul speaks of the Thessalonian Christians as setting the same example to all the neighbouring countries ; when they turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, so that “in every place, their faith to Godward was spread abroad, superseding, as it were, the need of the apostles' preaching St. Peter, in like manner, expects that by the light of her good example, the believing wife may convey the truth to her unbelieving husband, whilst he “beholds her chaste conversation,” and learns by what power it is guided and maintained.
Thus the consistent Christian becomes as salt or as light to the world in which he lives. Were it not for the light which he exhibits, “ darkness would cover the earth, and gross darkness the
8 Tit. ii. 14.
* Luke xix. 8. 5 “ So that we need not to speak anything." See 1 Thess. i. 7–10.
61 Pet. iii. 2.
people.” Whereas his benevolence relieves : his meekness tranquillises; his purity chastens ; his zeal awakens; his piety edifies ; his
prayers draw down a blessing. And the author of all, “the God and Father of lights,” is glorified in His faithful servant.
Indeed, every one in his own station, whether knowingly or unknowingly, is a light to others; either a light which misleads, or a light which instructs. Either for good or for evil, EXAMPLE is the guide which a multitude will follow. In the sad account which many will have to render at the great day, the wickedness, which by their own bad conduct they have caused in others, will be added to the wickedness which they themselves have practised. Whilst they, who, walking in the world by faith, not “after the flesh, but after the spirit,” have been kept from the evil with which the world abounds, and by their integrity, charity, moderation, purity of life, prove themselves obedient disciples of their Lord,—these lead others in the way of righteousness, whilst they “work out their own salvation." And the Lord's words are made good and illustrated; Men see their good works, and glorify their Father which is in heaven.
THE RIGHT DIRECTION OF THE HEART : SINGLE AND
MATT. vi. 22, 23. In the preceding verses our Lord's words are designed to turn the desires and feelings of the heart into the right direction. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where they cannot long profit you; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, which shall be yours after many days. Let your chief thought, your main purpose, be to attain “ that world and the resurrection of the dead." Judge of earthly things, not as they are pleasing or profitable now, but as they will promote or hinder your first business, which is the salvation of the soul. 'As St. John has repeated, in other words, his Lord's exhortation, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. For the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, are not of the Father, but of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God, abideth for ever." 1
The danger, therefore, against which we are here warned, is not merely the sin of covetousness. The precept forbids that any earthly object shall so possess the heart as to furnish its ruling
11 John ii. 15.