Yesterday’s post gave a potted biography of one of the first Anglican evangelicals, Charles Simeon (1759-1836).
(Image credit: Wikipedia)
It is useful in order to glean a better understanding of what he says of Matthew 7:6 (ESV):
“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
This is the King James Version:
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
Charles Simeon had a very difficult time as vicar of Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge. The congregation and students actively rejected and persecuted his piety and preaching for 12 years. Even after more than 50 years there, he still received a measure of opposition from the townspeople and some at the university. Yet, he died among faithful friends and left a deep spiritual legacy. His Simeon Trust is still active today.
As Simeon had such an awful time as vicar, he was careful to preach according to his audience. His essay, ‘Caution to Be Used in Reproving’ is on the second half of a very helpful page of insights on Matthew 7:6 at the Precept Austin site.
Although excerpts and a summary of Simeon’s essay follow, please take the time to read it in full. Emphases in bold are in the original; those in purple are mine.
The second half of the introduction discusses judging others rightly, considering their state of mind, and ensuring we do so with a pure heart:
To judge others uncharitably will expose us to similar treatment from them, as well as to the displeasure of Almighty God. Before we presume to judge others at all, we ought to be diligent in searching out and amending our own faults; without which we are but ill qualified to reprove the faults of others. We ought also to consider the state of the person whom we undertake to reprove: for if he be hardened in his wickedness, and disposed to resent our well-meant endeavours, it will be more prudent to let him alone, and to wait for some season when we may speak to him with a better prospect of success. Such is the import of the caution in our text; from whence we may observe,
I. That religious instruction is often most unworthily received—
The value of religious instruction is but little known—
[… A richly-furnished mind, a cultivated taste, a polished manner, are distinctions which the richer part of the community particularly affect: and they are most envied who possess in the highest measure such accomplishments. But divine knowledge is considered as of little worth: though it would enrich the soul beyond all conception, and adorn it with all the most amiable graces, and is therefore most fully characterized by the name of “pearls,” yet has it no beauty, no excellency, in the eyes of carnal men: the generality are as insensible of its value as swine are of the value of pearls, which they would “trample under their feet” as mire and dirt …]
Many, instead of being pleased, are only irritated and offended at it—
[Nothing under heaven has ever given more offence than this. Men may utter lewdness and blasphemy, and create but little disgust: but let them bear their testimony against sin, or proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ, and instantly an indignation is excited in every bosom. In the house of God indeed a certain licence is allowed, provided the preacher be not too faithful: but in a private company the mention of such things is considered as a death-blow to social comfort, and is reprobated as an insufferable nuisance. Even in the public ministry those who “labour with fidelity in the word and doctrine” are not unfrequently treated with every species of indignity. No name is too odious for them to bear, no opposition too violent to be raised against them …
The essay goes on to explore various examples from the Bible, especially involving our Lord and later St Paul who suffered from rejection of their teachings, concluding:
there ever have been multitudes who would take offence at the kindest efforts for their welfare, and, like ferocious “dogs, would turn again and rend you.” Reprove iniquity, and you will still be deemed “the troublers of Israel;” and those who are reproved will say of you, “I hate Micaiah, for he doth not speak good of me, but evil.”]
From this aversion which men feel to religious instruction, it appears,
II. That great caution is to be used in administering it—
The direction in our text was given to the whole multitude of those who heard our Lord’s discourse; and therefore may be considered as applicable,
1. To ministers—
[Though it is not to be confined to them, it does not exclude them. Doubtless where numbers of persons are assembled to hear the word of God, it is not possible to suit oneself to the disposition and taste of every individual … He should consider the state of his hearers, and should adapt his discourses to their necessities … we should be content to give “milk to babes,” and to reserve the “strong meat” for such as are able to digest it … we should “search out acceptable words,” and be especially careful to “speak the truth in love.” Our great object should be not to “deliver our own souls,” (though doubtless we must be careful to do that,) but principally to “win the souls” of others.]
2. To Christians in general—
[… in endeavouring to instruct others, we should consider the tune, the manner, the measure of instruction, that will be most likely to ensure success. In particular, we should not press matters when our exhortations are contemned as foolish, or resented as injurious. Not that our concern should be about ourselves, as though we feared either the contempt of men, or their resentment; but we should be afraid of hardening them, and thereby increasing their guilt and condemnation … If, indeed, after all our labour, we find that our efforts are only rejected by them with disdain, we may then with propriety leave them to themselves, and, like the Apostles, bestow our attention on more hopeful subjects. As the priests imparted of the holy food to every member of their families, but gave none of it to dogs, so may you give your holy things to others, and withhold it from those who have shewn themselves so unworthy of it.]
We will now apply the subject,
1. To those who are strangers to the truth—
[From the indifference which is usually shewn to divine things, it is evident that the value of religious knowledge is but little known. If we could inform persons how to restore their health, or how to recover an estate, or how to obtain any great temporal benefit, they would hear us gladly, and follow our advice with thankfulness; but when we speak of spiritual benefits, they have no ears to hear, no hearts to understand: they are ready to say to us, as the demoniac to Christ, “Art thou come to torment us before our time?” …]
2. To those who know it—
[Whilst we exhort you to be cautious in admonishing others, we would caution you also against being soon discouraged. Think not every one assimilated to dogs or swine because he resists the truth for a season; … if God peradventure will give them repentance, and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, by whom they have been led captive at his will.”
And whilst you take upon you to admonish others, be willing to receive admonition also yourselves … Watch over your own spirit, therefore, and exemplify in yourselves the conduct you require in others.]
This is such a great essay with so much truth. Although Simeon intended it for clergy and seminarians, Christian bloggers can also glean much wisdom from it.
Tomorrow: more on Charles Simeon