Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his flavor, with which shall it be seasoned?…
Among the substances that enter into the composition of this globe of earth, salt is a very important one, being of essential use in the economy of the world, and eminently conducive to the preservation of human life. It may be regarded as the grand conservative principle of nature, whose office is to keep this earth, the habitation of man, in a wholesome state, to check the progress of decay and corruption, and promote the health and wellbeing of the animal world. To fit it for these important purposes, the All-wise Creator, who communicates to every element its peculiar character, has given it the quality of being soluble in water, and has thus made it capable of diffusing itself over the whole globe, impregnating the various departments of nature, and penetrating the finest fibres of vegetable and animal substances — a hidden agent that, by means of the element that holds it in solution, conveys its salutary influence to every region of creation. Suspended in strong infusion in the ocean, it preserves its immense reservoirs from putrefaction, and makes them the means of conveying health to the shores they wash, and salubrity to the atmosphere that rises above them; while it further serves, by increasing the gravity of the waters, to aid in buoying up the tribes that inhabit and the ships that navigate them. It is largely deposited in the heart of the earth, in rocks and strata. It is also found to enter into the composition of plants, some of which yield it in large quantities, and even to form an ingredient in the bodies of animals. If this element were withdrawn, the great deep, we have reason to think, would become a putrid pool, the air would consequently be a pestilential vapour, and vegetable and animal life would quickly be extinct. Now our Lord here speaks of salt in a figurative sense, using it as an illustration to declare the excellence and usefulness of the Christian character, as exemplified in those who maintain it faithfully and consistently; and the loss of all excellence, the shipwreck of all valuable attainments and of all good hope, in those who forsake and abandon the principles and spirit with which they once started on the Christian race.
I. THE EXCELLENCE AND USEFULNESS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHARACTER The disciples of Christ are destined to the same office in the moral world that salt supplies in the natural — namely, to check the progress of corruption, and diffuse salubrity and health; and while they preserve their appropriate character, they fulfil this high destination. Sound in principle and exemplary in conduct themselves, they serve to arrest corruption in others; savouring the things of God, they communicate the same unction to others; active and beneficent, they extend a beneficial influence around them. The faithful followers of Christ are like "good salt," in respect of those principles of truth which they embrace and maintain. For error corrupts the mind, and, insinuating itself through its faculties, "will eat as doth a canker," and blend in all its communications; truth is the healing salt that arrests its progress and defeats the operation of the poison. Again, the true disciples are like good salt in respect of that temper of mind, and those good and gracious affections, which they cherish and manifest. For the truths of the gospel, when received in faith, fail not to renovate the heart and inspire it with corresponding dispositions: they necessarily awaken an unfeigned piety and holy reverence toward God, a simple, child-like dependence on Christ, a genuine benevolence toward men, a true humility, a spirit of sympathy with the afflicted, a desire to do good to all, a disposition to forgive injuries and to overcome evil with good. Now this temper of mind has a healing efficacy: like salt, it is diffusive, and tends to preserve the atmosphere of life from the putrid exhalations of selfishness, envy, and malevolence; it gives also a grateful relish and gracious aspect to society, fostering and maintaining in healthful exercise the substantial blessings of mutual esteem, friendship, and harmony. In a word, the true disciples are like good salt in respect of their whole conduct in life; which, while they act in character, cannot fail to have a beneficial influence, since it both presents a model to be copied, and suggests the motives and arguments that commend it. For their whole manner of life, if candidly interpreted, shows that they are governed by high and heavenly principles — that they are "not of the world, but of the Father."
II. THE RUINED AND UNHAPPY CONDITION OF THOSE WHO ABANDON THAT CHARACTER. If he who bears the Christian name lose the distinctive qualities of his Christianity — if he relinquish those principles of truth which he has professed — if he forsake the Christian temper — if, forgetful of heavenly things, he immerse himself in the world and live for himself, for gain, for pleasure, and not for Christ — alas! "the glory is departed," the usefulness of his character as a guide or example is at an end; he becomes, if not a betrayer, yet a deserter, worthless and contemptible, fit only to be "cast out, and trodden under foot."
1. The salt loses its savour when professing Christians lose their relish for those Divine truths that peculiarly distinguish the gospel and make it what it is.
2. The salt loses its savour when professing Christians lose their relish for the duties of religion.
3. The salt loses its savour when professing Christians imbibe the love and become conformed to the spirit of the world.
4. The salt loses its savour when the professor of religion falls into open immorality. Finally, the salt has lost its savour when the soul learns to vindicate its errors and without shame to persist in them — when reproof is unwelcome, when expostulation is offensive, and the man is anxious rather to defend his character than amend his ways — when, deaf to admonition and rebuke, he wilfully yields himself to the snare of the devil, to be "led captive at his will." How calamitous such termination of what was hopeful in its beginning!
(H. Gray, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned?