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IF THINE EYE OFFEND THEE [message #2421] Fri, 25 May 2018 23:48
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Mark 9:43
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

Mark 9:45
And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

Mark 9:47
And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:


IT is to us no matter of surprise that those who waited on our Saviour's ministry were heard saying, "Never man spake like this man." There was a wisdom and power in his words which proclaimed him to be a teacher sent from God. Truthful, disinterested, and fearless, he kept back nothing that it was profitable for the people to hear. . . . . He invites none to become his followers without telling them plainly of the self-denial and sacrifices involved in such a step. The way to everlasting life is straight and narrow, and only those who are deeply in earnest and put forth their utmost endeavors can enter through the gates into the city. The kingdom of heaven is like a "goodly pearl" or a "treasure hid in a field," and we can never come into the possession of it till we are ready to sell all that we have, and count all things loss for Christ's sake. To the young man whose trust in uncertain riches rendered his salvation like the passage of a camel through the eye of a needle, our Saviour said, "Go sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven." And to the "disciple" who only asked permission to go and bury his father, Jesus said, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead." And how searching and rigorous are these words of our Saviour, "If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out; it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than having two eyes to be cast into hell-fire." And if thy hand offend thee cut it off, etc. We are not here taught that the abuse or mutilation of the body is acceptable to God, or essential to the salvation of our souls. Sin has its seat in the soul, and no external appliance can work its cure. The member that has been used as an instrument of unrighteousness may be cut off, but that does not change the heart which is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. The proud man may famish his body with fastings or stripe it by flagellations; he may wear hair-cloth next his skin, and make his nightly couch an instrument of torture, but there is no necessary connection between these things and "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." But we are to renounce all our sins whether of pleasure or profit. All our habits of mind and courses of life, all our associations, pursuits and practices, are to be subordinated to the one purpose of serving God and saving our souls. Whatever betrays us into sin, or hinders our obedience to the gospel, is to be repudiated in the most prompt and decided manner. The thing that offends us - that is a snare and a trap - causing us to offend, is to be sacrificed, though dear to us as a right eye, or valuable as a right hand. And the fact that the surrender of an unlawful indulgence is difficult and painful, renders more apparent the necessity for immediate obedience to the Saviour's injunction. Nor is there anything forced or unnatural in comparing the crucifixion of the flesh with its affections and lusts, to cutting off a right hand or plucking out a right eye. There are thousands of men who would find it less difficult to suffer the loss of a hand or an eye, than to cut themselves loose from the sins that ensnare them.

And such are the obstacles in his way, that he may be thankful for any help from man or angel that enables him to make good his escape. Similar or greater difficulties stand in the way of those who have a legal title to property of which they must dispossess themselves before they can hope to attain mercy from the Lord. Some have robbed the widow and cheated the fatherless. Others have oppressed the poor and kept back the hire of the laborer. Another class have gone into voluntary bankruptcy, or turned unavoidable failures to profitable account, and are living in luxury on the money of which they have defrauded their creditors. It is written in the law, "Render to every man his due;" and in the eye of that law, fifty cents on a dollar does not discharge an honest debt. There are cases in which a creditor should release a debtor who is unable to meet his obligations in full.

But no such release invalidates the balance of the debt; that remains uncanceled, and must be adjusted in the day of judgment, if not before. The man who professes to have renounced his sins, while he holds fast to the gains of ungodliness, and refuses to make restitution to those whom he has wronged, is either self-deceived or a downright hypocrite. His repentance is hardly so good as that of Judas. The betrayer of our Lord went so far as to refuse to profit by his sin, yet he hanged himself and went to his own place. It is not easy to do justly, when doing justly involves the loss of social position, and a surrender of the elegances and comforts of life; - but there is no alternative if we would obey the Saviour - he has authoritatively settled the matter by saying, "If thine eye offend thee pluck it out." In other cases, the offense or hindrance to salvation is found in the alliances or associations into which individuals have entered. The man entangles himself in this way "as a bird hasteth to a snare and knoweth not that it is for his life," and only learns when it is too late that escape is almost impossible. The frank and fearless words of John the Baptist were riveted in the heart of Herod, but they proved only a savor of death unto death. Felix trembled as Paul reasoned of righteous temperance and judgment to come, but that was the end of the matter - he did not repent nor bring forth works meet for repentance. And how numerous are the persons who are joined to their idols, and who are saying by their lives, if not in words, "There is no hope, for we have loved strangers and after them will we go!" There is no hope indeed, unless they break away at once and forever from these corrupt alliances - and doing this is like cutting off the right hand or plucking out a right eye. In other cases, depraved appetites have been indulged and pampered, till they have gained such a mastery of the soul that their subjugation to reason and the word of God is almost impossible. We have somewhere met with a fable that illustrates this: "An Eastern king once permitted the Devil to kiss him on either shoulder. Immediately two serpents grew from his shoulders, who, furious with hunger, attacked his head, and attempted to get at his brain. The king pulled them away and tore them with his nails. But he soon saw with indescribable horror that they had become parts of himself, and that in wounding them he was lacerating his own flesh." This is very much the condition of the victims of appetite and lust.

The potations of the drunkard have poisoned his whole system. Every nerve and muscle of his body is affected; every drop of blood in his veins is "set on fire of hell." So insatiate is the appetite that consumes him, that for its indulgence he sacrifices health of body, peace of conscience, and all hope of heaven. His wife is already broken-hearted, his children worse than beggared; he sees before him a drunkard's grave and a drunkard's hell, and yet he continues to drink. He is not insensible to the degradation of his position. Often he weeps over it, and vows amendment, and tugs at the chains that binds him to his misery. Alas for him, he finds those chains to be iron and brass; and after testing their strength he cries out in despair, "Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?" To him and to all who are the slaves of sin, there is but one way of escape. There is to be no temporizing - no delay. An empiric might prescribe soothing appliances, but the great Physician says, Cut off the hand, pluck out the eye. Balsams and lotions will not answer; the amputating knife must be used with prompt and thorough vigor. The shrinking flesh may complain, it may be "resisting unto blood striving against sin," but it is the only way of entering into the kingdom of God. The words of our Saviour present us with the alternative of renouncing our sins or suffering the loss of our souls. "Who is wise, and he shall understand these things; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them, but the transgressors shall fall therein."


"Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" asked Job; and he replied to his own question: "Not one."

All who have ever lived have known themselves sinners, for the law of God speaks that "all the world may become guilty before God." Rom. 3:19. Even the unevangelised heathen, without the written revelation of God, have sufficient trace of the law of God written in their hearts by nature so that they know better than they do, and their consciences bear witness to their guilt. Rom. 2:11, 15.

How to get rid of the burden has been the problem. Paul's difficulty has been that of all who have tried to loose the burden themselves: "The law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate that I do." "How to perform that which is good I find not." Rom. 7:14, 15, 18. He was trying to bring a clean thing out of an unclean. But when he found Jesus Christ, he found power that was able to destroy the carnal mind and work the righteousness of God in the life. And the awful burden was gone. Out of the heart renewed came the cleansed life.

Luther, toiling on his knees up the so-called holy stairs in Rome, was trying to punish sin out of his flesh; but when he heard the voice speaking, "The just shall live by faith," he began to learn of a power able to set him free. All that system of penance and punishing of the flesh that has come into Christendom with monkery is based on the idea that there is good in man, and if only he is punished sufficiently the evil will be suppressed and the good remain. True, Jesus said, "If thy hand offend thee, cut it off," but it was only a striking way of emphasising His teaching that "from within, out of the heart of men" proceeds the evil. The trouble is not with hand, or foot, or tongue, but with the heart, and only the Lord Jesus who can give a new heart can deal with the trouble. The new heart and the new life come with the free forgiveness of sin, and if any weary, heavy-laden one will but confess his helplessness, and choose the life of obedience, the gift is his by the power of God. Professing Christians who still want to be saved in sin and not front sin need this message of life and righteousness by the gift of God, and the myriad souls in darkness who know nothing of a burden-bearing, loving Saviour need it.

Rome has no monopoly of penance and self-salvation. It is the religion of human nature. The Hindu, on his pilgrimage to a distant shrine may make his way on hands and knees or rolling over and over along the rough way; but his burden rolls with him. He may hold an arm in one position until shrunken and fixed; but the guilt is in the heart still. A veteran Indian missionary recently told a story of a seeker after liberty that is typical. Many years ago, after a days' work among the villages, he returned to his tent. Near by it a venerable grey-haired Brahmin was engaged in counting his beads and performing a wearisome service before a shrine. He says:-

Much struck by his reverent demeanour and evident earnestness, we watched him through the corded meshes of our tent window; and when he had finished his devotions, and had sat down to rest, we went out and, courteously addressing him, asked him what he sought by these prayers and circumambulations.

"Oh, sirs," said he, in a tone that struck us as one of intense earnestness, "I am seeking to get rid of the burden of sin. All my life I have been seeking it; but each effort that I make is as unsuccessful as the one before, and still the burden is here. My pilgrimages and prayers and penances for sixty years have all been in vain. Alas I know not how my desire can be accomplished."

Then, in answer to our inquiries, he gave us the story of his life. He told us how, in early life, he had been sorely troubled by the thought of his unexpiated sins; that his parents had both died when he was seventeen years of age, leaving him an only child, sole heir of their wealth; that the priests whom he consulted told him that if he would give all his property to endow a temple the burden of sin would be removed.

He gave his property, all of it. He endowed a temple; but the burden of sin was no lighter. His mind was not at peace. Obedient to further advice from the priests, his counsellors, he made the pilgrimage on foot all the long way to Benares, the holy city. He spent two years in the precincts of the temples in worship. He spent two years in bathing in the holy Ganges. "But," said he, "the Ganges water washed the foulness from my skin, not the foulness from my soul, and still the old burden was there, uneased." He told us how he had gone from thence, on foot, all the way to Rameswaram; begging his food all the two thousand miles; for he had given all his money to the temple, and thence again to Srirangam, and thence to other holy places. He told us how he had spent his whole life in these pilgrimages, and in penances, and in desert wanderings, apart from his kind, living on roots and nuts and jungle fruits, remaining for years at a time in the forest jungles, in the vain search for relief from the burden of sin.

"'And now, sirs,'" said he, 'my life is almost gone: my hair is thin and white; my eyes are dim; my teeth are gone; my cheeks are sunken; my body is wasted; I am an old, old man; and yet, sirs, the burden of sin is just as heavy as when, a young man, I started in pursuit of deliverance. Oh, sirs, does your Veda tell how I can get rid of this burden and be at peace? Our Vedas have not shown me how.'

"How gladly did we tell him of our gracious "Burden-bearer," and of His loving call, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." How eagerly did he listen as we told him of Jesus Christ, the God-man, the Saviour of the world, and told him what He had done for our salvation. How gladly did he pore over the Gospels we gave him, and what earnest questions did he ask during the day as to points in their teachings which he did not quite understand. During that night he left and went upon his way, taking the Gospels with him, and we never again saw him.

Though so many years have intervened, his earnest, reverent countenance remains photographed on my memory, and I shall look for him up there among the redeemed; for I believe that he was in earnest in seeking deliverance from the burden of sin; in vain, indeed, as he said, through Hinduism; I trust not in vain through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.



The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Volumes 1-27 (1850-1866)
Volume 17 November 27, 1860

The Bible Echo and Australasian Signs of the times Articles (1877-1906)
The Bible Echo, Vol. 12 (1897)
October 25, 1897

Your brother in Christ

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