Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 14:7 - 14:10

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 14:7 - 14:10

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Luk_14:7-10. And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; and he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shall thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.

THE Christian is not prohibited from occasionally joining in carnal festivity; but he should carefully watch his own spirit and conduct when he ventures upon such dangerous ground, and should improve his intercourse with worldly company for the spiritual edification of himself and others. Our blessed Lord was sometimes present at feasts; but his conversation at those seasons was always pious and instructive. The things which occurred never failed to furnish him with abundant matter for useful observation. Having noticed at a wedding the indecent ambition of the guests, he animadverted on their conduct in the parable before us—

I.       The principle here inculcated—

Our Lord did not intend these words merely as a maxim for the regulating of our conduct in one particular, but as a parable that should be applied to the whole of our deportment in social life. The scope of the text, whether as originally delivered by Solomon, or as quoted and applied by our Lord, is to recommend humility [Note: Compare Pro_25:6-7. with ver. 11.]. But to enter fully into its meaning, we must analyse, as it were, the principle here inculcated; which implies,

1.       A deep sense of our own unworthiness—

[If we stand high in our own estimation, we cannot but expect a degree of homage from others, and shall be ready to claim precedence among our equals; but if we have an humiliating sense of our own extreme vileness, we shall readily concede pre-eminence to others, and take the lowest place, as that which properly belongs to us. Such a disposition cannot but spring from self-knowledge; nor can it fail of operating in this manner [Note: Php_2:3.].]

2.       An utter contempt of worldly distinctions—

[While we “love that honour which cometh of man,” we cannot but aspire after it, when it comes within our reach. But we are taught to be dead, yea crucified to the world [Note: Gal_6:14.]; and, this once obtained, we shall despise the baubles that are so much the objects of rivalship and contention.]

3.       A readiness to give honour to whom honour is due—

[Though religion teaches us an indifference to man’s applause, it does not warrant us to level the established orders of society. God requires us to “honour those that are in authority,” as well as to serve and honour him [Note: Rom_13:7.]. While therefore a sense of duty will keep us from coveting human distinctions for ourselves, it will induce us cheerfully to pay to others the tribute due to their rank and station.]

Excellent however as this principle is, it needs to be limited by prudence, and exercised with care—

[Though this principle can never operate to too great an extent, it may exert itself in a very absurd manner. There are certain decencies in society that ought not to be violated, as would be the case if the great and noble should literally take the lowest place among those who are of very inferior rank: besides, it is possible that we may be actuated by pride, while we thus put on an appearance of humility. We need therefore take heed both to our hearts and ways, that in obeying this precept we act with sincerity and discretion.]

Having endeavoured to explain the principle, we shall point out,

II.      Its importance in human life—

Humility is to the graces of a Christian what holiness is to the attributes of the Deity, the beauty and perfection of them all—

1.       It conduces in the highest degree to the comfort of mankind—

[Nothing tends more to the happiness of our own minds. What a source of vexation and anguish is pride! With what envy are they beheld, to whom precedence has been given! What indignation do they excite, who overlook our superior claims [Note: This idea will be fully understood by those who have ever mixed in public assemblies.]! A slight, whether real or supposed, will often fill us with rancour as much as the most serious injury could have done: but let humility possess our minds, and this source of uneasiness is destroyed. If we be willing to give honour to others, and be indifferent to it ourselves, and especially if we count ourselves unworthy of it, we shall feel no pain at seeing others preferred before us.

Nor does any thing more tend to the peace and comfort of society. What is it but pride that makes every neighbourhood a scene of contention [Note: Jam_3:14-16.]? What is it but pride that creates such factions in a state? What is it but pride that involves nations in war and desolation [Note: Jam_4:1.]? Even the Church of God itself is often torn and distracted by this fatal principle. Let humility once gain a proper ascendant in the hearts of men, and universal harmony will reign. Surely the importance of this principle cannot be too highly rated, or expressed in too energetic terms.]

2.       It is that whereby men most eminently adorn the Gospel—

[The avowed scope of the Gospel is to improve the principles and practice of mankind; and they who receive the truth, are expected to excel in every thing that is amiable and praiseworthy. How unseemly did the ambition of the sons of Zebedee appear [Note: Mat_20:20-28.]! The ungodly themselves do not hesitate to pronounce them hypocrites who, while they profess religion, are under the dominion of pride and ambition. On the other hand, humility irresistibly commends itself to all. Who does not admire the concessions made by Abraham to his nephew Lot [Note: Gen_13:9.]? Who does not adore the condescension of our Lord in washing his disciples’ feet [Note: Joh_13:4-5.]? Even those who are most elated with pride themselves, are constrained to applaud humility in others; and though nothing but the grace of God can induce any to embrace the Gospel, a suitable deportment in its professors will often silence the cavils, and disarm the prejudices, of those who ignorantly reject it [Note: 1Pe_2:13-15.].]

This subject will naturally lead us to contemplate,

1.       The folly of sin—

[There is really as much folly, as there is sinfulness, in sin. In how many instances do men attain by integrity and humility, what others in vain seek for by dishonesty and arrogance! This is well illustrated in the parable before us. Let us then simply endeavour to glorify God by a holy conversation, and leave our temporal advancement to his all-wise disposal.]

2.       The excellence of religion—

[Religion does not merely impose rules for our conduct towards God, but should regulate every disposition of our minds, and every action of our lives. Where it has its full influence, it gives a polish which is but poorly mimicked by the refinements of modern politeness: it will not indeed convert a clown into a courtier; but it will teach every one to act as becomes his station. Let us then exhibit in our respective spheres that simplicity of mind and manners, that, while it adorns the Gospel, shall disarm the malice of our enemies, and, if possible, conciliate their esteem [Note: Rom_12:10. 1Pe_5:5.].]