Matthew 15:7


Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Sincerely enough, and with a view to helping the people to apply the revealed principles of truth and duty, the national teachers had begun to supply commentaries on, and applications of, the Holy Scriptures. These became ever more and more elaborate; controversies were excited by them, and an authority was claimed for the minute, man-made rule rather than for the comprehensive and searching principle. One part of our Lord's mission was to liberate men from the painful and worryful pressure of these man-made rules, and recover for man the genuine unalloyed moral force on moral beings of God's commands. It was sometimes necessary for him to be severe in dealing with the claims made on behalf of traditions. We can but little conceive how religion was affected, in our Lord's time, by a mere ritual that was so comprehensive, so minute, and yet so ridiculous, that it must have made men hate the very name of religion.

I. MAN-MADE RELIGIOUS RULES ARE ATTRACTIVE TO MEN. It may be said, to all men. It can with confidence be said, to some men. There are, in every age and society, persons who prefer to have their religion done for them; who cannot, and will not, bear the burden of personal responsibility. They ask to have their conduct arranged by rules. And there have always been those who were willing to meet their requests, and to claim authority for so doing. It is a seemingly easy way in which to get through the difficult business of religion, if only it could be made satisfactory; but that it can never be. In all ages, and today, the man-made rules are sure to "make the Word of God of none effect." They are sure to push God out of those direct and personal relations which he bears to each one.

II. MAN-MADE RELIGIOUS RULES ARE RUINOUS FOR MEN. If they could keep them as mere helps and guides, all would be well. But that is just what man has never been able to do. Man-made rules are always pushing out of their place, and into a place which does not properly belong to them. The following points may be worked out and illustrated.

1. Man-made rules shift the basis of authority in religion from God to man, from the true authority to an altogether false one.

2. Man-made rules exaggerate the place of self in religion. For the authority of man is only the authority of idealized self.

3. Man-made rules substitute a religion of hand (conduct) for the religion of the heart. - R.T.









This people draweth near to Me with their mouth.
I. SHOW WHO THEY ARE WHO ANSWER TO THE DESCRIPTION IN THE TEXT. ALL merely nominal Christians. Formal, self-righteous persons. False professors.

II. EXPOSTULATE WITH THEM ON THEIR FOLLY. Is not conformity to Christ's demand of the heart practicable? Is not such consecration to Him necessary? Will not merely a feigned allegiance be disowned by Him? Shall we Hot wish at last that we had been sincere and upright?

(Pulpit Studies.)

I. The text DESCRIBES A GREAT PRIVILEGE.

II. POINTS OUT A SERIOUS ABUSE.

(J. Rawlinson.)

Words and works, believing and doing, confession of the mouth and confession of the life, a sense of religion and godliness in the Church, and a sense of religion and godliness in the world, are things that ought never to be separated.

I. Endeavour to convince you, that a various and manifest contrariety actually appears between the sentiments which we express in the Divine service, and particularly at the ordinance of the Sacred Supper, and our conduct in the ordinary course of life.

II. Endeavour to represent to you the absurdity and the danger of such a contradictions and inconsistent behaviour.

(Zollikofer.)

I. True sanctity consists not in THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD and religion, however extensive, however just and perspicuous it may be. Although that knowledge may be necessary to sanctity, it is not, however, competent to it; and though it constitutes the basis of it, yet it is no more sanctity itself than the foundation of an edifice is the edifice itself.

II. Neither does true sanctity consist in A FURIOUS ZEAL FOR THE KNOWN TRUTH, or for the honour and glory of that religion which we profess.

III. Neither does true sanctity consist in the diligent or STRICT ATTENDANCE ON THE RITES AND CEREMONIES which religion prescribes; nor in the observance, nor in the multiplication of the devotional exercises to which it advises its professors; nor in voluntary penances and mortifications, which they impose upon themselves.

IV. Neither does true sanctity consist in our occasionally OMITTING SOMETHING WHICH GOD HAS FORBIDDEN US, OR DOING SOMETHING WHICH HE HAS COMMANDED US; nor in our occasionally performing single good actions, whether of justice or beneficence, or of abstinence. True sanctity is a reigning, constantly active, disposition and. bent of the soul, manifesting itself in the several parts of our inward and outward conduct, and making us always willing and ready to do what, and nothing else but what, is agreeable to God, and correspondent to His will.

(Zollikofer.)

I. THE STATE DESCRIBED.

1. Marked by absence of sincerity and honesty.

2. Implies a state of alienation from God.

3. Try the meaning of the text by the common estimates we form of professed friendship. All stress is laid on motive and feeling.

II. THE LESSONS OF THE STATE HERE REFERRED TO.

1. The need of repentance.

2. That in the midst of religious ordinances there may be spiritual insensibility.

3. Yet though the heart be far off. the Good Shepherd seeks it.

(W. D. Harwood.)

Show the equity and importance of this assertion of our Saviour, "that they who ground their religious practices, or any part of them, upon human authority, do so far, or in that respect, worship God in vain" — that is, they cannot reasonably expect any one good effect from such worship.

I. Rest this matter on our Saviour's authority.

II. God is the supreme object of religious worship; and to Him all our devotions ought to be ultimately directed.

III. It is a matter of interest, as well as duty, for us so to do.

IV. The peace and wellbeing of mankind in general, and of every society in particular, are interested in it.

(Wm. West.)

Our Lord is here reproving the scribes and Pharisees for imposing on the people some commandments of their own, or traditions of their predecessors, as of equal obligations with the precepts of the law.

I. THE OBJECTS OF THIS CENSURE OR THE PERSONS SPECIALLY AFFECTED BY IT. The objects of the reproof were the scribes and Pharisees, the public authorized teachers of the law. There must be public teachers who shall command and instruct; but this authority is committed to them under restrictions.

II. WHEN ARE TEACHERS AND RULERS OF THE CHURCH GUILTY OF THE CRIME HERE REPROVED OF TEACHING FOR DOCTRINES THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN? For the better clearing of which it will be of use to consider —

1. What is meant by commandments of men. They are three sorts:(1) Where the matter of the human command is the same action that God has enjoined by His law. For human authority ought to command what God has commanded; particularly in such a society as the Christian Church formed upon the laws of the gospel.(2) A second sort of commandments of men are such whose matter contradicts or interferes with the prescriptions of the Divine law. And such are not only those which expressly forbid what God has commanded, or invert the prescribed order of God's commands.(3) A third sort of commandments of men are such whose matter is actions in their nature indifferent, and neither commanded nor forbidden by God; such as the washing hands before meat.

2. Then teaching these commandments of men as doctrines is proposing them as precepts of the Divine law, or of equal authority with them, and obliging the conscience as such.Rules supposed to be indifferent but convenient and orderly may obtain in a society; but this authority may be abused:

1. When such things are prescribed as binding the conscience by direct obligation.

2. The prescription of indifferent things will be liable to the censure in the text, when it is taught that obedience to them will excuse disobedience to a law of God.

3. This censure will also be incurred when indifferent things are prescribed by men as means of grace, as having power to convey remission of sins, or any other spiritual or supernatural gifts of the Holy Ghost. They may he means of grace, but God only has authority to make them so.

III. WHAT OUR LORD HAS HERE PRONOUNCED, THAT THEY WORSHIP GOD IN VAIN.

(J. Rogers, D. D.)

I. THE GREATNESS OF THE SIN. Proved by three general considerations: —

1. How tender God is of His worship (Leviticus 10:3; Ecclesiastes 5:2).

2. The more sincere any one is, the more he maketh conscience of his thoughts.

3. Carelessness in duties is the highway to atheism.Particularly: —

1. It is an affront to God, and a kind of mockery.

2. It grieveth the Spirit of God.

3. It is a spiritual disease.

4. It argueth the loss and non-acceptance of our prayers.There is a threefold distraction prayer: —

1. An unwilling distraction.

2. A negligent distraction.

3. A voluntary distraction.

II. THE CAUSES OF THIS ROVING AND INTRUSION OF VAIN THOUGHTS.

1. Satan is one cause.

2. The natural levity of our spirits.

3. Practical atheism.

4. Strong and unmortified lusts.

5. Want of love to God anti holy things.

6. Slightness and irreverence, or want of a sense of God's presence.

7. The curiosity of the senses.

8. Carking and distrustful cares.

III. THE REMEDIES.

1. GO to God and wait for the power of His grace.

2. Meditate on the greatness of Him before whom we are.

3. Mortify those lusts that are apt to withdraw our minds.

4. Before the duty there must be an actual preparation or a solemn discharge of all impediments, that we may not bring the world along with us.

5. Be severe to your purpose.

6. Bring with you to every holy service strong spiritual affections.

7. Remember the weight and consequence of the duties of religion.

8. Let every experimental wandering make you more humble and careful.

9. A constant heavenliness and holiness of heart.

10. Frequent and solemn meditation.

11. By use a man gets greater command over himself.

(T. Manton, M. D.)

As the strength of sin lies in the inward frame of the heart, so the strength of worship in the inward complexion and temper of the soul. Shadows are not to be offered instead of substance. God asks for the heart in worship, and commands outward ceremonies, as subservient to inward worship, and goads and spears unto it. What value had the offering of the human nature of Christ been, if he had not had a Divine nature to qualify Him to be the Priest? And what is the oblation of our bodies, without a priestly act of the spirit in the presentation of it? To offer a body with a sapless spirit, is a sacrilege of the same nature with that of the Israelities when they offered dead beasts. One sound sacrifice is better than a thousand rotten ones.

(Charnock.)

You would all judge it to be an affront to the majesty of God if a man should send his clothes stuffed with straw, or a puppet dressed up instead of himself, into the assemblies of God's people, and think that this would do instead of his personal presence. Yet our clothes stuffed with straw would be less offensive to God than our bodies without our souls. The absence of the spirit is the absence of the more noble part.

(T. Manton.)

We may be truly said to worship God, though we want perfection; but we cannot be said to worship Him if we want sincerity: a statue upon a tomb, with eyes and hands lifted up, offers as good and true a service; it wants only a voice, the gestures and postures are the same — nay, the service is better; it is not a mockery, it represents all that it can be framed to. But to worship without our spirits is presenting God with a picture, an echo, voice, and nothing else — a compliment, a mere lie.

(Charnock.)

We have sometimes seen a tree which looked with its great spreading arms and massive trunk as strong as other trees. "The storm beat upon it and it fell," and then we wondered that it could stand so long when little but the bark and outer fibre supported it, and within was nothing but decay. And do we not often find that where zeal has grown cold and the inner spiritual life has become dead, that habits of formal attention to religious duties are maintained for a long time before the crash comes that reveals the utter ruin and desolation of the spiritual life?

(J. G. Pilkington.)

I. THE TRUE OBJECT OF RELIGIOUS WORSHIP, which is here called drawing nigh unto God and honouring Him.

II. To DIRECT THE RIGHT MANNER OF PERFORMING RELIGIOUS WORSHIP.

1. God is to be worshipped in the way of His own appointment.

2. God is to be worshipped with the whole man, with our bodies and spirits which are His.

3. God is to be worshipped by the assistance of His spirit.

4. God is to be worshipped in the exercise of all suitable graces under the influence of His spirit.

5. God is to be worshipped with an eye to His glory, as our ultimate end.

6. God is to be worshipped in the name of Christ as our only Mediator.Reflections:

1. How must every one, more or less, stand reproved for defects in worship.

2. How becoming, glorious and delightful must it be to offer up such worship to God, as is agreeable to His will.

3. What glorious provision has God made in the gospel to assist this noble homage.

(Dr. Guyse.)

All religion must be Scripture religion, all worship Scripture worship, all zeal Scripture zeal; so that let a man have never such sublime knowledge and such burning zeal, yet if it be not according to the law and the testimony, there is no light in them. It is but a vain worship of God, because God doth not require this; so that the sum of all, and that into which all religion must be resolved at last, is the Scriptures — the Word of God; for if you once lay this aside, why should not the Turkish devotion be as good as thine? Why should not the Mahommedan zeal be as acceptable as thine, but only this makes the difference. What may be proved by Scripture is approved of by GOD; so that all these arguments, — "It's my conscience; I verily think I am bound to do thus; It's upon my spirit; I find much comfort and much sweetness in religion," — all this is nothing, for all false religions can and do say this; but hast thou the Word of God to warrant thee?doth that justify thee? all things else are but an empty shadow.

(A. Burgess.)

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