"They had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus
said unto them, Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees
and of the Sadducees." —Matt. xvi. 5, 6.
"He began to say unto His disciples first of all,
Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."—Luke
In the first of these verses two kinds of evil leaven
are pointed out by the Lord as more dangerous than even that want of
bread which the disciples, by their carelessness, were suffering from.
They were told to take heed and beware, for there was
danger, and to this danger professing disciples are perhaps more liable
than others; for He
said "to His disciples first of all, Beware," &c.; and, lest they
should he in any doubt as to His meaning, He tells them plainly that the
leaven of the Pharisees is hypocrisy. It was the sin of the Pharisees
that they affected an appearance of godliness without the reality; the
Sadducees, on the other hand, were unbelievers,—and this, too, perhaps
oftener in appearance than in reality, for an affectation of bold
carelessness sometimes hides secret terrors. From both extremes His
disciples were to flee. Some minds are prone to the Pharisee leaven,
others to the Sadducee, and the same mind may be at different times
tempted to both. A lively faith, working by love, will avoid both, for
both are hateful to a God of truth; and let us seek to "purge out
the old leaven" which lies by nature in every heart, and to substitute
for it the "unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
"Let all thy actions be sincere,
Thy conscience as the noon-day clear,
For God's all-seeing eye surveys
Thy secret thoughts, thy words and ways."
"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and
the life : he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall
he live."—John xi. 25.
When we see death around us and beside us, everywhere
taking away those to whom we cling most fondly, and shaking every
earthly prop from our grasp, how earnestly do we long for some sure
standing-place beyond the reach of decay or the power of death. And this
Jesus has given us; He has told us of a glorious resurrection, when all
who believe shall live for ever in Him; and welcome, indeed, is this
word of life in a dying world! Sin is the cause of death; sin is itself
death; but in the new life with Christ Jesus, there will be no
place found for either sin or death, for He has conquered "him that had
the power of death, that is the devil." "What a light does His glorious
gospel shed upon man's whole state and destiny ! How does it raise the
mourning spirit from the grave and the dust; and tell it the glad
tidings of a blessed eternity obtained by Christ for His people; when
not their ransomed souls alone, but their ransomed bodies, the whole
man, shall live and praise Him, by the working of the same mighty power
of God which raised Jesus Christ himself from the dead.
"As Jesus died and rose again
Victorious from the dead,
So His disciples rise and reign
"With their triumphant Head."
"This is a faithful saying, and these things I
will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in
God might be careful to maintain good works."—Tit. iii. 8.
God calls us to the high honour of working for Him,
or rather with Him, not that we can thereby obtain salvation, but
that we may shew and enjoy our love to Him who has so loved us. He needs
not our feeble services. "If thou be righteous, what givest thou Him ? "
(Job xxxv. 7.) And often, as if to teach us that
"God doth not need
Either man's work or His own gifts,"
we see some faithful labourer in His service suddenly
taken away from us, lest we should lean too much upon man! He does not
need us to help His cause, but all the more should we esteem it our
highest honour that He condescends to employ us as His
intelligent, sympathising instruments—He who might have sent whole
armies of angels to do the work! Oh, may this thought arouse us to zeal
in His holy and blessed service! May no day pass over our heads in which
we are not careful to maintain some good work as He gives us
grace and opportunity; and let us pray for opportunities ! If
sickness, weakness, or any other real hindrance prevents us from active
work, let us engage the more earnestly in praying work, silent
heart-work, patient, cheerful, submissive work; and if we
cannot speak for God to others, we shall be not less useful nor honoured
if we are found, in our retirement, all the more diligent in speaking
for them to God. To accept of God's good will at all times, is at
all times true work, though we can neither speak nor move a hand.
"Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and
given Him a name which is above every name : that at the name of
Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in
earth, and things under the earth."—Phil. ii. 9, 10.
There are many names which the world exalts—there is
one name which God exalts, and which is "above every name" to us, if we
have the mind of God. And the esteem in which we hold this name is a
test by which we may try ourselves, and examine whether we are indeed
His people. Once His name was a term of the deepest reproach, so that
His disciples named it at the risk of martyrdom. Now, in this Christian
land, that name is outwardly exalted by so many who have never exalted
Him in their hearts, that there is great danger of self-deception, lest
men should be found saying, "Lord, Lord, while they do not the things He
commands. Oh, may we be found not only confessing Him with the mouth,
but believing on Him with the heart unto righteousness! May the name
which God hath highly exalted, the precious name of Jesus, be so written
upon our inmost souls, that, through His grace our names may be
written in His book of life. Let us walk worthy of Him in whose name we
"To those who know the Lord I speak—
Is my Beloved near?
The Bridegroom of my soul I seek,
Oh, when will He appear?
"Though once a man of grief and shame,
Yet now He fills a throne,
And bears the greatest, sweetest name,
That earth or heaven has known."
"For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is
among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and
walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another,
I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?"—1 Cor, iii. 3, 4.
"Therefore let no man glory in men: for all
things are yours."—1 Con. iii. 21.
Let me watch over myself against the spirit for which
the Corinthians were reproved—the spirit of faction, which is not
less prevalent now than in the days of St Paul. It is no light evil; it
made the men of Corinth weak as babes, so that the apostle says he could
not feed them with meat, for they were not able to bear it. By looking
at the instruction he gave to the Ephesians, we may see what he meant by
this, and how he refrained from feeding the "carnal" men of Corinth with
the deep doctrinal food which he saw others fit to receive. They had not
the meekness, the "laying aside of all malice," which are necessary to
our receiving the "Word of truth. Thus they lost much by their
divisions. He meets the evil here by teaching them that men are but
God's instruments, therefore "let no man glory in men;" the wisdom of
this world is foolishness with God; the teaching of His servants is of
no avail, even from the mouth of an apostle, unless God give the
increase. They were "God's building," "God's husbandry."
And there is the highest comfort in this; for while we own the weakness
of man, Ave are reminded of the strength of God. The work is His own; He
will accomplish it, if we cast ourselves simply upon Him. The apostle
tells his people, "All are yours." God's ministers, therefore,
are yours! "Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas." Let us be thankful
that there is among us now, as at Corinth, a variety of gifts, which God
blesses to all varieties of minds. May we be careful lest we despise any
of them, or fail to account of them "as of the ministers of Christ, and
stewards of the mysteries of God!"