Mark 9:50

These verses have been the subject of much controversy. They are obscure and difficult'; but the context is of great assistance, and a uniform interpretation of the term "salted" in the first and second clauses of ver. 50 will do much to remove the hindrances in the way of construing them together. Manuscript authority is not strong enough to compel the rejection of either clause, although our revisers have omitted the latter. Everything turns upon the sense given to "salted." It is evidently "purified," "preserved from corruption," in the second clause. So ought it to be understood in the first. "Consumed "is a sense implied in the sense "purified," and secondary to it. The whole emphasis of the passage is thus in favor of Christian purification. Again, the second clause of ver. 50 does not appear to have been quoted merely in confirmatory or illustrative allusion, but as a statement of the consequence which will flow from the first; the conjunction having a slightly illative force.

I. HOW SPIRITUAL PURITY IS PRODUCED AND SUSTAINED, 1, "With fire:" a figurative term, relating itself to the fire that is not quenched of the preceding passage, and the description of the baptism of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 3:11, 12). "Even when manifested in its most awful forms, it is still true that they who 'walk righteously and speak uprightly' may dwell with 'everlasting burnings" (Plumptre). "Thy God is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24); and that to the evil in his people, as well as that out of which they are taken. This may refer

(1) to the general spiritual experience of the child of God as subject to the influences of the Holy Spirit;

(2) to Divine chastisement;

(3) to "the spirit to which our Savior refers in vers. 43-48, the spirit that parts, for righteousness sake, with a hand, a foot, an eye (Morison). It is an alternative fire," "which indeed scorches the sensibility to agony, but which in the end consumes only what is bad, and leaves the soul freed from those moral combustibles on which the penal fire of Gehenna could feed." "He is preserved from corruption, and consequent everlasting destruction, by the fire of unsparing self-sacrifice (ibid.).

2. This is the universal experience of true. Christians. Because it is essential to the Divine life in the soul, if indeed it be not rather identical with it. Have we endured this scourging," without which no son is received by our Father? Is this our spirit? Herein we can examine ourselves.

II. ITS INFLUENCE. It affects:

1. Christians

(1) individually;

(2) collectively. Have suit in yourselves, and be at peace one with another. Purity of aim and spirit will obviate misunderstandings, and allay bitternesses between true believers.

2. Their sacrifices. It is in a sense the spirit of Christ's sacrifice communicated to theirs. As it was a law of the Levitical code that "every sacrifice should be salted with salt," so it is a law of the spiritual life, fulfilled through the spirit of self-sacrifice communicated to the particular act and object of sacrifice. This applies to the whole outcome and expression of the spiritual life of the children of God, their thought, word, action, as well as to their gifts to the cause of Christ.

3. The general life of the world. "Ye are the salt of the earth." An indirect and incomplete, but still a positive blessing to the world of the unconverted. For this constant renewals of grace are required, from a source independent of ourselves. Watchfulness, prayer, ceaseless self-sacrifice in the spirit of Christ. - M.

Salt is good.
This is only another form of exhorting Christians to have strength of character as Christians. But since a strong character, in the spiritual as in the natural man, is apt to come into collision with others equally strong, our Lord cautions His disciples against any breach of the law of love. Staunch they must be in their adherence to principle; but they may not be quarrelsome. "Have peace one with another."

1. The salt of self-denial.

2. The salt of energy.

3. The salt of truthfulness.

(Dean Goulburn.)

Preachers Monthly.

1. Christ is the symbol of the covenant of everlasting mercy, but of everlasting mercy as the basis of a sinner's new life.

2. Salt symbolizes not only God's covenant of mercy with man, but man's covenant with God. The life of the animal was devoted and offered with salt to signify — not only the Divine fact of atonement, but the human fact of self-surrender: and the worshipper said, "I have given the life of the animal to Thee to signify that henceforth my own life is forever Thine."

3. Salt is also the principle of counteractive grace — "Have salt in yourselves."

4. Salt signifies the preventive, corrective, life-nourishing power of the Christian society in the world — "Ye are the salt of the earth."

5. Salt is also the principle of peace. It destroys the unbenevolent passions.

II. The Saviour's lesson concerning the deterioration of the salt.

1. The possibility of deterioration — "If the salt have lost its savour."

2. Christ marks here three things as characteristic of men in this state.

(1)They are useless,.

(2)They are contemptible.

(3)They are rejected with disdain.

(Preachers Monthly.)

The two principal terms are salt and peace.

I. THE MEANING OF EACH. Salt as a metaphor applied to human character in the New Testament, signifies in general the grace of God sanctifying the whole nature, and in particular the sterner virtues — faithfulness, boldness, righteousness, truth, purity. The term indicates holiness on its harder side; and holiness has a hard side, for it must needs be strong. In this use of the analogy the preserving power of salt is the predominating idea. Salt appears here as the stern, sharp antagonist of all corruption. Christians baptized into the Spirit of Christ act as salt in a tainted world. In union with the virtue that preserves, there is a pungency that pains. You may observe, however, that salt does not irritate whole skin. Apply it to an open sore, and the patient winces; but a healthy member of a living body does not shrink from its touch. A similar distinction obtains in the moral region. Stringent faithfulness in the conduct of his neighbour will not offend a just man: but those who do not give justice do not like to get it. Purity in contact with impurity makes the impure miserable. Peace. Surely it is not necessary to explain what this word means. You may comprehend it without the aid of critical analysis. It is like the shining sun or the sweet breath of early summer; it is its own expositor. Wherever it is, it makes its presence and its nature known. As the traveller who has missed his way thinks more of the light, and understands it better, while he is groping in the dark than he did in the blaze of noon; so those best understand and value peace who suffer the horrors of war. You know the worth of it when you know the want of it. The greatest peace is, peace with the Greatest; the greatest peace is, peace with God. The Mediator who makes it is the greatest Peacemaker. Peace — including all the characteristics of a Christian which make for peace — is holiness on its softer side; and holiness has a soft side, that it may win the world.

II. THE RECIPROCAL RELATION BETWEEN SALT IN OURSELVES AND PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER. To a certain extent these two are opposites; peace maintained with your neighbour is antagonist to the vigour of salt in yourselves. Accordingly error appears in two opposite directions. One man has so much salt in himself that he cannot maintain peace with his neighbours; another man is so soft and peaceable towards all that he manifests scarcely any of the faithfulness which is indicated by salt. It is instructive to examine the limits and extent of this antagonism. Faithfulness does sometimes disturb peace; and peace is sometimes obtained at the expense of faithfulness. It is not inherent in the nature, but is introduced by sin. When Christ has made an end of sin the contradiction will disappear from the new world. In heaven all are peaceful and yet pure; pure and yet peaceful. There the salt does not disturb, because there is no corruption; peace does not degenerate into indifference, for there is no vile appetite to be indulged. Meanwhile, that which comes as a curse is, under the arrangements of Providence, converted into a blessing. As toil to keep down thorns and thistles is a useful exercise for physical health, the effort to maintain faithfulness without breaking peace keeps the spirit healthful and fits for heaven. Every effort made by the disciple of Christ to soften his own faithfulness and invigorate his own tenderness goes to increase the treasures which he shall enjoy at God's right hand. Watch on the right side, and on the left.

1. On the side of peace. There cannot be too much gentle peace making in the character and conduct of a man. But if the folds of our peace are so large, and thick, and warm, as to overlay and smother our faithfulness, the peacemakers are not blest by God, and are not blessings to the world.

2. On the side of truth and faithfulness. There cannot be too much of faithfulness in the character of a Christian; but even faithfulness to truth may become hurtful, if it is dissociated from the gentleness of Christ. Similar antagonisms in the system of nature constitute at once the exercise and the evidence of the Creator's skill. Results are frequently obtained through the union of antagonist forces neutralizing each other. A familiar example is supplied by the centripetal and centrifugal forces, which insure the stability of the solar system. Take another case, equally instructive, though not so obvious. In the structure of a bird, with a view to the discharge of its functions, two qualities, in a great measure reciprocally antagonistic, must be united; these are strength and lightness. As a general rule, strength is incompatible with lightness, and lightness incompatible with strength. You cannot increase the one without proportionally diminishing the other. The body of the bird must float in the air, therefore it must be proportionally lighter than quadrupeds or fishes; but the creature must sustain itself for long periods in the atmosphere, and perform journeys of vast length, therefore its members must be strong. The structure of a bird, accordingly, exhibits a marvellous contrivance for the combination of the utmost possible lightness. Everyone is familiar with the structure of the feathers that compose the wing. The quill barrel gives you an example of a minimum of material so disposed as to produce a maximum of strength. The bones of birds are formed on the same plan. They are greater in circumference than the corresponding bones of other animals, but they are hollower in the heart. In iron castings we repeat the process which we have learned from nature. This union of antagonists for the production of a common beneficent result is like the labour of a Christian life. Let the timid and retiring nature stir up his soul to a greater measure of truthful courage, without letting any of his gentleness go. Let the vine of his tenderness cling to an oak of stern faithfulness; it will thus bear more fruit than if it were allowed to trail on the ground. The arms that impart strength to the chair only hurt the occupant if they lack the cushion that ought to cover them. For strength, there should be an iron hand in the velvet glove; but for softness, a velvet glove should be on the iron hand when it grasps the flesh of a brother. Self-love, like a huge lump of iron concealed under the deck right below the ship's compass, draws the magnet aside; thus the life takes a wrong direction, and the soul is shipwrecked. Self-love draws the life now to the right and now to the left; the errors lie not all on one side. One man, soft from selfishness, basely sacrifices truth and duty for ease; another, hard from selfishness, bristles all over with sharp points, like thorns that tear the flesh of the passenger, and when he has kindled discord among brethren, calls his own bad temper faithfulness to truth. There is no limit to the aberration of a human judgment under the bias of self-interest. It will not scruple to dispute the distinction between black and white, if it can thereby hope to gain its selfish end. Oh, how precious are these words of our Lord, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." It is easier to explore the sources of the Nile, than to discover the true motives whence our own actions spring; and easier to turn the Nile from his track, than to turn the volume of thoughts and purposes which issue from a human heart and constitute the body of a human life. We cheat ourselves and our neighbours as to the character of our motives and the meaning of our acts. Some people mistake acid for salt; their own passions for godly zeal. Jehu drives furiously forward to purify the administration of the kingdom; but it is a cruel, selfish ambition that spurs him on. When such a man scatters a shower of acid from his tongue, and sees that his neighbours are hurt by the biting drops, he points to their contortions, and exclaims, See how pungent my salt is! The true savour is in my salt; for see how these people smart under its sting! Ah, the acid, in common with salt, makes a tender place smart in a brother; but it possesses not in common with salt, the faculty of warding off corruption. Itself corrupts and undermines; it corrodes and destroys all that it drops upon. "Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God."

(W. Arnot.)

In the Valley of Salt, which is about four hours from Aleppo, there is a kind of dry crust of salt, which sounds, when the horses go upon it, like frozen snow when it is walked upon. Along on one side of the valley, viz., that towards Gibul, there is a small precipice about two men's lengths, occasioned by the continual taking away the salt; and in this you may see how the veins of it lie. I broke a piece of it, of which the part that was exposed to the rain, sun, and air, though it had the sparks and particles of salt, yet it had perfectly lost its savour. The inner part, which was connected with the rock, retained its savour, as I found by proof.


Whatever may be the case with literal salt, Christ is referring to spiritual salt, which undoubtedly, in so far as it consists of a phase of character, may be metamorphosed into its negative or contradictory. Such metamorphic changes of character are possible in two directions; They may be realized upwardly, in bad beings becoming good; or downwardly, in good beings becoming bad. Hatred may be transformed into love, or love into hatred. In either case there is "conversion" from contrary to contrary.

(J. Morison, D. D.)

Every Christian requires as a sacrifice the salt of fire; the salt of fiery trial, the salt of searching, fiery self-restraint, refusing sin, breaking off from evil, cutting off the right hand, plucking out the right eye, preferring the fire of self-denial on earth to the terrible fire reserved for impenitent sinners in hell. Such salt, such searching, pungent, self-purifying salt is good; but, if it have lost its saltness, wherewith will ye season it? If those who are bound in covenant with God to refrain from sin, and offer themselves holy sacrifices to Him, yield instead of resisting, there is no acceptableness in them, God will not receive them; shunning the earthly fires of self-government and self-denial, there is nothing for them to look forward to but that awful hell fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels. This seems to be the true and just method of paraphrasing our Lord's words about salt, with their context, as they occur in the ninth chapter of St. Mark.

(G. Moberly, D. C. L.)

Do they not show that to be a Christian, a Christian such as God approves and will accept, there needs heroism? Yes, not less than a true heroism of spirit, maintaining a visible or secret strife against evil, and conquering it, even to the loss of hand, foot, or eye, even to the destruction of friendship, if so be, the loss of love, the relinquishment even of life. Does it not show that this heroism of spirit, this clear, bright, searching salt of hearts, is required of all?

(G. Moberly, D. C. L.)


1. Teaching disciples, ministers must be well seasoned within with the power of godliness.(1) A teacher who is himself well seasoned is the most fit to season others. There is ever most life in that man's teaching who teaches from experience.(2) An unseasoned minister cannot choose but break forth into some outward scandal. His inward rottenness cannot possibly be so smothered or tempered, but it will make his course to be unsavoury.

2. The same is to be endeavoured for by every Christian, that is, every Christian must labour so as to have a name and a show of godliness without, so that he feels the power of godliness within.(1) Until this holy salt has fretted out the evil from the heart the Lord can have no pleasure therein; until this is done a man does not know what true religion means; there can be no constancy in religion where this wants. It is not possible for a man to hold out his profession unless he is well seasoned.(2) These duties, required of each Christian, admonishing, confuting, etc., can never be practised aright but by a man who is able and willing to do them out of personal feeling. That which is in itself unsavoury can never make another thing to be sweet.

(Samuel Hieron.)

For thine own particular, learn of the housewife; if there be anything in the house needs seasoning, she falls to work with the salt forthwith. Look into thyself, see what corrupt affections there be in thee, what careless desires, what inordinate motions, what crookedness of will, what barrenness of spiritual grace, a thousand to one if the salt were good which thou broughtest home, it will do thee service for the bringing of those corrupt humours to a better temper; chiefly take note of this. I am not ashamed to use this household kitchen similitude still. She that powdereth meat to keep it sweet, look what places are most bloody and moisty; there she ever puts in most salt, such parts are most apt to putrify. So do thou, consider with thyself what is thy chiefest sin, thy most prevailing fault, thy most strong corruption, that which thou mayest call by David's phrase, "My wickedness"; thou shalt soon know it by the strength of the affection to it, and thy unwillingness to forego it. Oh, clap in, put on store of salt there; rub it in hard. If thou hast heard of any judgment, or reproof, thrust it on close, it may be it may smart a little; it is no matter, better so than ever ache, this will soak out the rank humours, and make thee become a sweet lump before the Lord. It is a fault many times, men sprinkle a little salt of doctrine upon themselves here and there superficially, they consider not what be their master, their bloody, their reigning sins, they search not within and without to see where salt needs especially, and so they become loathsome through the lack of an effectual powdering. Neither is this all required in the use of this salt for one's own particular, but there is also a more general and an universal use to be made thereof. What day is there in the family, wherein there is no use of common salt? Truth is, there is neither day in the life of a Christian, nor action in that day, wherein this spiritual salt can justly be thought superfluous. Every sacrifice must be salted with salt, it was a rule of the ancient law.

(Samuel Hieron.)

Good it were if masters of families would think themselves bound to carry home some of this salt, and bestow it on those that are of their household charge.

(Samuel Hieron.)

peace: — Our God is the God of Peace. Our Saviour is the Prince of Peace. The gospel which is preached amongst us, is the gospel of peace. The substance of it is glad tidings of peace. Our calling is in peace. They which are the Lord's are called the sons of peace; so we ought all to endeavour to keep "the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace"; and to live in peace. Christians must follow peace with all men; and if it be possible have peace with all men; and therefore among themselves they must seek it, and ensue it much more. I must open this as the former doctrine by distinguishing upon Christ's disciples. Some are preachers of peace, some are professors of peace. Let me show you how this doctrine reacheth unto both.

Their agreement, their peace, their consent, is a great motive to the people to entertain their doctrine. Hereupon was that use of Paul's, to prefix the names of others with his own, as "Paul and our brother Sostenes;" "Paul and our brother Timotheus;" "Paul and all the brethren that are with me;" "Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus." The ease stands in the building of the spiritual body, as it did in the typical body, in fighting the Lord's battle, by those whose office it is to fight the good fight of faith, as in the fighting for Israel against Ammon. The agreement of the builders will advance the building both with speed and beauty; the joint proceeding of the leaders will undoubtedly prevail against the common enemy. Solomon's temple was builded without noise; neither hammer, nor axe, nor any tool of iron was heard in the house while it was in building; a type, I doubt not, of the stillness in respect of freedom from mutual contentions which ought to be amongst pastors. Again, the want of this agreement and peace will be a great prejudice to the growth of the truth. The means used in God's wisdom to hinder Babel's building was a strife of tongues among the builders; so when those which are the builders of the spiritual House of God, the Church, are rent asunder in affection, the work cannot go forward as it should. The shepherds being divided, the sheep must needs be scattered. This to prove that the teachers of peace must have peace one towards another. God hath sent us praedicare, not praeliari, to work and not to wrangle; while we strive the devil works for himself: atheism, popery, do advantage themselves by our dissentions. There must be mutual peace among the professors of peace, the places which I first named in the beginning of the doctrine do enjoin it. This is the mark by which they are known. "By this shall all men know that ye be my disciples, if ye have love one to another." To love one another, and to have peace one towards another, are all one. Be wise and learn how to judge and what to think in this point of ministerial consent and peace, that you may not easily stumble through mistaking. Here, therefore, in order, I pray heartily observe these particulars. First, that consent and agreement of teachers is no certain mark of truth in that wherein they consent; Aaron and all the other Levites consented to the making of the golden calf, four hundred prophets joined together to persuade good success to Ahab, yet that was false which they persuaded. Our Saviour was condemned by a common consent of elders and priests. Secondly, that it is possible for some dissention to fall out sometimes even amongst the best men. A controversy betwixt Peter and Paul, betwixt Peter and the other Apostles and brethren at Jerusalem. The difference between Paul and Barnabas was very eager. Dissentions in Corinth. Great and vehement quarrels betwixt Austen and Hierome, Cyril and , and Theophilact, as histories and their own writings testify. It is so; first, by the cunning of the devil, who, to stop the course of the gospel, laboureth to sow the seeds of dissention. Secondly, by reason of the remainders of corruption which are in all; there is much ignorance and self. love even in the best, and these things cause differences, while men either see not the truth. That among professors and preachers of religion there is, or may be, a three-fold consent. First, in one faith and doctrine; namely, a consent of judgment. Secondly, in affection. Thirdly, in speech; namely, when their teaching and manner of holding and defending of points of doctrines is the same.

(Samuel Hieron.)

"Salt is good, but if the salt have lost its saltness wherewith will ye season it?" In every good thing there is one supreme essential, besides much that is of minor importance. Let that one element be lacking, and all the rest is a mockery. If sugar be not sweet, if fruit have no flavour, if meat be without nutriment, what folly to give it commendation for any other quality! If a man lack manliness, if a woman lack womanliness, if a child lack childlikeness, praise for any other characteristic is little else than censure or a sneer. What is home without affection? What is friendship without mutual confidence? What is character without sincerity? What is salt without saltness? If you are a disciple of Christ the real question is, How much of Christian discipleship is there in you? Everything else — all your popularity, all your supposed usefulness, all your zeal in good works — is something outside of the only that is really worth taking into account in an estimate of your worth as a disciple of Christ.

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