Matthew 5:13

Christ regards his people as the salt of the earth and as the light of the world. In both characters they have a mission to others. The Church exists for the sake of the world. She has a large vocation; the whole earth is the field of her work, and there she is to labour not for her own ends, but to benefit mankind. How grievous is the perversion of those who exactly reverse the position of Christ, and behave as though the world only existed for the benefit of the Church!


1. Its function. The salt is to preserve that on which it is sprinkled from corrupting.

(1) The world is in danger of sinking into corruption. Society is threatened with disintegration by the mutual opposition of conflicting classes. Domestic life is corroded by immorality and intemperance. "Naturalism" defiles art. Frivolous amusements tend to become unwholesome. Therefore a preserving and purifying agent is needed.

(2) The world is worth preserving. Otherwise why salt it? Christ does not desire the destruction of civilization, but its preservation. Christianity is not nihilism. Politics, commerce, art, literature, are all worth keeping from corruption.

2. Its action. Salt is antiseptic. The Church is expected to be of the same character; not merely to be pure, but to purify. This is not confined to definite crusades against evil. The mere presence of good men and women in the world tends to keep it sound and healthy, by the silent influence of example. The old heathen world was rotting in vice when the Christians appeared and infused a new life of purity into society. We cannot calculate the advantage to the whole world of the presence in it to-day of pure-minded, earnest, unselfish, good men and women. A few such, like a little salt, have an immense influence in preserving a great mass of society.

3. Its failure. The salt may lose its savour. It may not have become corrupt. Yet as a negative thing it is then useless, and only fit to be cast away as so much dust. If the grace of God, if the spirit of' Christ, if the Divine life, vanish from the Church, the corporation may still exist, but its mission will have ceased. For the sake of the world the spiritual vigour of the Church must be preserved. It will not do to be too conciliatory to society. The Church is salt, not sugar.


1. Its nature. Light banishes night. It reveals our danger, shows our path, cheers our hearts, and refreshes our health. All these things are expected of Christian influence on the world.

2. Its position. A city on a hill; a lamp on its stand. Christians are not to be ashamed of their confession. It is the duty of the Church to be prominent, not for her own sake - for her own prestige - but to spread light on others.

3. Its radiance. The light streams out by means of good works. The world cares little for our words, but it has a sharp eye for our works. We want a new gospel for the present age, one written on the lives of Christians, that the world may see the reality of what we preach.

4. Its object, The glory of God. If this last point had not been added, it might have seemed as though the self-glorification were allowable. But our works are not to our own credit, because, if they are good, all the goodness in them comes from the grace of God. Therefore we glorify God in bearing fruit, by so living that his life shines out through our conduct. - W.F.A.

Salt of the earth.
I. Here is Christ's sublime DEFINITION OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, and of those who compose His Church. The Church exists for the world's sake more than for its own. Christ's disciples are to be saviours of others.

II. Is not this the DOCTRINE OF ELECTION as our Saviour understood it? God's people are chosen, not for their own comfort, but to show men the beauty of the Divine life, and to raise them to the same level.

III. IT IS QUALITY MORE THAN QUANTITY that does God's work in the world. All history and progress are at bottom the life-story of the chosen few.

IV. It should be one great object of our prayer and effort to KEEP UP THE MORAL AND SPIRITUAL STANDARD OF THE ELECT FEW.

(J. G. Greenhough, M. A.)

1. The disciples of Jesus Christ should seek to prevent the corruption of literature.

2. They should seek to prevent the corruption of public amusements.

3. They should seek to prevent the corruption of parochial and political. life.

4. They should seek to prevent the corruption of commercial life.

(G. W. McCree.)

1. Salt is intended to nourish: it is an article of food. The godly must nourish the earth spiritually.

2. Salt is intended to preserve.

3. Salt has also a consuming power. There is something sharp, biting, and aggressive in it. Laid on a wound it is painful. The Christian often pains men to heal them.

(T. Christlieb, D. D.)

These words must have seemed ridiculously presumptuous when they were first spoken.

I. THE HIGH TASK OF CHRIST'S DISCIPLES AS HERE SET FORTH. This metaphor involves two things: a grave judgment as to the actual state of society, and a lofty claim as to what Christ's followers can do for it. It is corrupt; you do not salt a living thing. It is the power and obligation of the good to arrest corruption by their own purity. The example of Christian men is not only repressive, it ought to tempt forth all that is purest in the people with whom they come into contact. Salt does its work by being brought into close contact with the thing which it is to work upon. It does its work silently, inconspicuously, gradually.

II. THE GRAVE POSSIBILITY OF THE SALT LOSING ITS SAVOUR. It is evident that there is the obliteration of the distinction between the salt and the mass into which it is inserted. Is there any difference between your ideal of happiness and the irreligious one?

III. The solemn question, Is THERE A POSSIBILITY OF RESALTING THE SALTLESS SALT, OF RESTORING THE LOST SAVOUR? These words not to be pushed to the extreme.

IV. THE CERTAIN END OF THE SALTLESS SALT. YOU cannot put it upon the soil; there is no fertilizing virtue in it. You cannot even fling it into the rubbish heap; it will do mischief there. Pitch it out into the road; it will stop a cranny somewhere between the stones when once it is well trodden down by men's heels. That is all it is fit for. God has no use for it; man has no use for it.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

I. The world as constituting the particular sphere of the Christian's influence. Moral state of the world at large, and that portion in particular where our influence is most felt. How insensible are we of it, etc.

II. Illustrate and apply this interesting and important truth. Explain the metaphor. All true believers in Jesus are denominated the " salt of the earth," because all that is Divine and holy and precious exists in them, and in them only. The moral influence of the Christian, as it is exerted, applies to the Church in its collective capacity.

III. The decay of the inner life, as manifested in the impaired vigour of Christian influence, figuratively set forth by the "salt that hath lost its savour," and its consequent unprofitableness. The salt may again be salted — the inner life may be revived.

(Dr. O. Winslow.)

The ideal of an active and efficient Christian character. It is like salt. How?

I. In its CONSTITUENT ELEMENTS. As salt is made up of chlorine and sodium chemically united, so a Christian character is composed of faith and works in union.(a) As chlorine gas is a deadly poison by itself, so faith without works killeth.(b) As the metal sodium is destitute alone of the saving quality of salt, so works without faith are destitute of merit to save the soul.(c) As the chemical union of the two elements forms a third substance, with a new and useful quality, so faith and works, when united, give life and efficiency to Christian character.

II. In its EFFECTS.(a) As salt prevents corruption and decay in animal and vegetable matter, so Christian character is the antidote of vice in the individual and in society.(b) As salt promotes digestion, and thus prevents deadly disease, so Christian character enables the soul to digest and profit by the various dispensations of Providence.(c) As salt renders palatable otherwise distasteful food, so a Christian character sweetens life's disappointments, and changes its crosses into crowns.

(P. S. . Davis.)There are three ideas suggested by the representation in the text.


(1)This is the case, truly, where THE SAVOUR OF THE GOSPEL DOES not prevail.

(2)There you will find no

(3)moral beauty, no

(4)fruits of benevolence and mercy.

(5)How insipid the dear delights even of the family, the sanctuary, and the sequestered recesses of the closet, if there be no manifestations of His love, or indications of His presence, to the spiritual and regenerate heart.

II. The second idea is FOLLY AND IGNORANCE,

1. True religion is wisdom.

2. Wickedness is folly.

3. Wicked men are as unwise as they are offensive to God.

4. True piety is an evidence of a well-seasoned and enlightened mind.

III. The third idea is TENDENCY TO DECAY.

(1)Mortality is the law of nature.

(2)All hasten to corruption. The figure denotes

(3)moral corruption.

(4)When health has left the physical frame, we say it is diseased;

(5)when life has fled, we say it is dead.

(6)We use the same figure and language to describe the dreadful disorders of the immortal soul.

(7)When the principle of love to God does not govern all its faculties, we say they are under a moral distemper.

(8)If the Divine Spirit breathes not the "breath, of life" into it, we say it is "dead in trespasses and sins."

(J. E. Good.)

The Latin Church, m its materialistic fashion, employs actual salt in the baptismal service. The priest puts it into the mouth of the person, adult or infant, who is baptized. It is an unauthorized ceremony; but it is a sort of traditional witness to the obligation lying on all Christians to have in themselves that which salt might symbolize.

(Dr. D. Fraser.)

A Roman proverb couples sunlight and salt together as the two things which keep the world alive and sweet. Homer calls it Divine; the substance clear to the gods; spoke of it as the emblem of righteousness, and our common phraseology, following the Greek and Latin writers, has chosen it as the symbol of wit and wisdom, of all that gives grace to speech, refinement to thought, pungency to writing, and individuality to character. The idea, then, which the metaphor on the Saviour's lips suggests is that His disciples are the noble and indispensable element in the world; they sweeten, purify, and enrich its work, its thoughts, its social intercourse, its joys, its laws and literature. They save it from corruption, decomposition, and moral death. The great sea of life, like the sea which washes our shores, would become putrid without it.

(J. G. Greenhough, M. A.)

Do you remember Arnold of Rugby's famous sixth form? He brought the boys who composed that first class into closer intercourse with himself, and gave them his choicest teachings, that he might make them models of honour, purity, sobriety, and godliness; strong with the sense of duty, dignified by the thought of their responsibility, so that they might give a healthy tone to the whole school, and that from them might flow a continual stream of purifying, elevating influence. "If I have confidence in my sixth form," said Arnold, "I would not exchange my place for the loftiest position in the world." They were the salt of the school, as Christ's disciples are to be the salt of the earth.

Maundrell, who visited the lake at Jebbful, tells us that he found salt there which had entirely "lost his savour," and the same abounds among the debris at Usdum, and in other localities of rock-salt at the south end of the:Dead Sea. It is a well-known fact that the salt of this country, if left long in contact with the ground, does become insipid and tasteless. From the manner in which it is gathered, much earth and other impurities are necessarily collected with it. Not a little of it is so impure that it cannot be used at all, and such Bali soon effloresces and turns to dust — not to fruitful soil, however. It is not only " good for nothing," but it actually destroys all fertility wherever it is thrown; and this is the reason why it is cast into the street, to be " trodden under the foot of men."

(W. M. Thomson, D. D.)

Globe Encyclopaedia.
Common salt, the chloride of sodium, is an extremely abundant substance in nature. It is found in almost inexhaustible deposits as rock-salt in various parts of the world: from such deposits arise brine springs, which are strongly impregnated with salt; and the water of the ocean, aa well as that of various inland seas, hold it in solution in inconceivable amount. From these various sources salt is prepared for use as an indispensable condiment in human food, and as a raw material in several most important and extensive chemical manufactures. In the United Kingdom great deposits of rock-salt occur in the new red sandstone strata in Cheshire and Worcester .... The total amount of salt produced in the United Kingdom, during 1876, was 2,273,256 tons, of which 154,538 tons were in the form of rock-salt. In the same year, 854,538 tons, of a value of £529,547, were exported; British India, the United States, and Russia, being the countries to which it was sent.

(Globe Encyclopaedia.)

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