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Ye are the salt of the earth. . . . Matthew 5:13.

How apparently contrary to fact!

Ye are the salt of the earth! Would not reality appear to relegate this statement to the category of vain boast?

Ye!

No, the Lord is not addressing the elite of His day, the wise and influential men of His day, the doctors of philosophy, the scholarly theologians, the Pharisees and Sadducees and Scribes, the famously religious men of the nation, the men that always cautiously demanded a sign. . . .

Ye!

His audience to whom He is directing this appraisal does not consist of men that are of renown in this world, the men that deal with the problems of mankind, of life and existence, of society and the state, of national and. international relationships, of peace and war, of self-defense and prosperity, the men that unceasingly seek after wisdom. . . .

He is not even addressing the whole multitude!

For, indeed, a multitude, a great multitude had followed Him. His fame had spread throughout all the land, and even throughout all Syria. And no wonder! For, this Jesus of Nazareth was a wonderman, traversing all the land, teaching and preaching the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, and healing all kinds of sickness and disease and imperfections among the people, giving eyesight to the blind, opening the ears of the deaf, enabling the dumb to speak, making the lame leap with joy, casting out devils, raising the dead! And immense multitudes followed Him, from every part of the land: Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judaea, Perea. Indeed! But whatever may be the meaning of the first verse of this chapter, on this “Mount of the Sermon” He is addressing His disciples, and them alone; not, perhaps, in the narrow sense of “the twelve,” but His disciples nevertheless.

And it is in their capacity of disciples that He calls them the salt of the earth!

Whatever else they may be from any natural, earthly viewpoint does not at all deserve consideration here, has nothing to do with their being the salt of the earth. Only the fact that they are His disciples make them worthy of this evaluation.

Ye!

But who, then, are they?

Listen: they are the poor in spirit, they that mourn, the meek, they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers. . . .

The salt of the earth! They?

And listen: they are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, whom men revile, persecute, speak all manner of evil against falsely!

They are the salt of the earth.

How impracticable.

Wonderful appraisal!

The salt of the earth are ye!

And what may be the meaning of this metaphor?

Men have interpreted the figure according to their own philosophy. Salt, say they, we put into different substances to preserve it, to protect it against putrefaction. It is, therefore, a means of preservation and purification. When, therefore, the Lord declares that His disciples, that His Church is the salt of the earth,-the meaning is, evidently that the Church is the power that preserves a sinful and corrupt world from corruption.

Still more.

Our philosophy about the meaning of salt is somewhat freely applied until it signifies that the Church even purifies, acts as a leaven upon the present world, to improve it, to make it a more decent world to live in!

And thus, finally, the positive declaration of the Lord: “ye are the salt of the earth” is distorted into an admonition, as if the Lord had said: “Be ye the salt of the earth.” And thus the whole is given a very “practical” application: Church of Christ, understand your sacred calling to improve the world in which you live. Act as the salt of the earth!

But what do the Scriptures say?

For, surely, the question cannot and may not be what significance we may be able to give to a figure that occurs in Holy Writ; it must be what meaning the Bible itself attaches to it.

And then there can be no question that the interpretation must be rejected which would make salt the figurative expression of the power of preservation against corruption, and that it must be understood as representing a seasoning medium, making that to which it is added palatable, pleasant to the taste. Is not this evident from what the Lord continues to say in this same verse: “but if the salt lost his savor, wherein shall it be salted?” And is not this the fundamental thought in the similar passage in Mark 9:50: “Salt is good: but if the salt shall have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another”? Or what else is the meaning of the figure in the light of Job 6:6: “Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? or is there any taste in the white of an egg?” And are not the people of God admonished in Col. 4:6: “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man”?

Let us remember, “too, that it was an ancient custom for parties that had concluded a covenant to ratify or celebrate the ratification of such a covenant by eating bread with salt, thereby expressing that the friendship thus concluded was pleasant to the taste of both parties. Whence also the expression “covenant of salt” in Scripture. All the heave offerings of the holy things, offered unto the Lord by the children of Israel, were given to the priest and his family; it was a covenant of salt for ever before the Lord, Nu. 18:19. And by a covenant of salt the Lord gave the kingdom over Israel to David and to his sons, II Chron. 13:5.

And what is still more significant in this connection is that all the sacrifices offered by Israel unto the Lord must be seasoned with salt. Very specific is the commandment: “And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt,” Lev. 2:13. The salt, as the symbol of the disposition of him that brought the offering, humility, contrition, the fear of the Lord, made the offering “palatable” to Jehovah, pleasing in His sight.

Ye are the salt of the earth!

Notice, the earth. Apart from the fact, that the world is corrupt in sin, and that no salt is ever put into substances that are already rotten, still less is added to them for the purpose of curing them, the text does not say that the Church is the salt of the world, but that it is the salt of the earth.

Of the earth and its fullness!

The earth and its creatures, its treasures, its powers, its products, the means of subsistence and development it offers to man, its rain and its sunshine, its fruit and its crops, its clothing and shelter; the bread you eat, the water you drink, the air you breathe, the light you behold. . . .

The earth and its fullness conceived as an offering that must be brought to the Lord!

For the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof!

And all things in the earth are designed to serve man, in order that man may serve his God!

Ye are the salt of the earth!

Ye, people of God, are the element that causes the earth and its fullness to be pleasing to Jehovah!

A sweet smelling savor!

Gracious distinction!

Ye are the salt of the earth!

The statement expresses a. fact; it is not in the form of an exhortation. It informs the subjects of the kingdom of heaven, the poor in spirit and them that mourn, the meek and them that hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful and pure in heart and peacemakers, of their true nature and purpose and relation to all things.

How proper!

The fact must needs be before the exhortation; the latter is useless unless the former is present.

For, how can anything work and serve as salt unless it be salt first? And how could any exhortation to consecrate all things to God and offer them to Him as a sacrifice of a sweet smelling savor possibly be heeded, unless there first be a priesthood, holy unto God, ready and glad to bring themselves and all things as an offering unto the Most High?

Ye are the salt of the earth.

That royal priesthood is realized in you, citizens of the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the world. Emphatically, distinctively, ye are the salt of the earth; no one else is. Through you, in you, on account of you all things are pleasing to God. If it were not for you no sweet smelling savor would arise to the Most High from the things that are on the earth. The salt of the earth ye are antithetically, in distinction from the children of this world. For your sake only the Lord takes pleasure in the earth. Even as it, was in His covenant with Noah. Indeed, a covenant of salt it was. For Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast and every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savor, the savor of His grace, of the humble and contrite heart that would bring Him the glory of His name, and He said: “I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake. . . .neither will I again smite any more every living thing, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease,” Gen. 9:20-22.

And it is through grace that this distinction is yours.

Not of works, lest any man should boast, and thereby the salt should lose its savor.

Man, indeed, was originally created the priest- king of creation, the servant of the Lord that as such had dominion over all things earthly, in whose heart all earthly things concentrated and culminated, in order from and by that heart to be consecrated unto the living God. Made after the image of God he stood in covenant relation of friendship to the Most High, a relation of a covenant of salt, indeed; in order that he might rightly know, heartily love and wholly serve the Lord His God, in all things, before all, things, through all things that were on the earth, subjected under him; that God might taste the sweetness of man’s sacrifice and devotion, and man might experience that, the loving-kindness of the Most High is better than life!

But a change was wrought.

The salt lost his savor.

For, the change, was wrought in man’s heart. The servant rebelled. The friend of God became His enemy, willing slave of the devil. His light was changed to darkness, his righteousness to unrighteousness and perversion of his whole nature, his holiness into corruption. Still he stands in the midst of the earth. Still he exercises dominion. Still the earthly creature, even in its present bondage and vanity, would serve him. But no longer is he God’s priest, and no longer does he consecrate all things a sacrifice of sweet smelling savor unto the Lord. Instead he presses all the earth and its fullness into the service of the flesh, of sin and corruption and iniquity, of the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

Even his would-be sacrifice is an abomination unto Jehovah.

For in it the Lord does not smell the sweet smelling savor of humility and contrition, the love and fear of

God, righteousness and holiness; but rather the terrible stink of man’s pride!

Ye are the salt of the earth!

Not, indeed, of yourselves. There is no reason to boast. There is cause only for humble thanksgiving.

For, ye are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God before prepared that ye might walk in them. Christ Jesus, the Anointed of the Lord, ordained to be Jehovah’s King-Priest from before the foundation of the world,—He is centrally and in the highest sense the salt of the earth. No sacrifice was and is ever of a sweeter savor than His. He offered Himself; He became obedient even unto death, yea, unto the death of the cross. And He ever liveth as the High Priest of His own, to present the sweet savor of His sacrifice unto the Father and to make intercession for us!

He redeemed us!

He gained for us the right to be delivered from the power of darkness and corruption, the right, to sing the praises and declare the virtues of the Most High once more, and to taste the sweetness of His friendship.

And through Him, by the grace of His good Spirit we are also delivered from the bondage of corruption, and led into liberty, the liberty of the sons of God!

Called out of darkness into His marvelous light, that we might proclaim His glory!

Formed into a holy, royal priesthood.

The salt of the earth!

Give thanks, then, unto the Lord!

Glorify Him with gladness, not only on this day, but all the days of your life, for all His benefits, because of all His wonderful praises!

Thus may be the exhortation to you and to me, based upon this declaration: ye are the salt of the earth.

There is room, indeed, for this exhortation.

For, first of all, there is this difference between salt and the people of God, that the former does its work, serves its purpose, without knowledge, will or conscious purpose; but God’s people are His rational, moral children, always acting with their mind and will, freely serving and loving the Lord, making His purpose their own. And, secondly, sin remains in their old nature, so that there is the danger that the salt shall lose its savor and become worthless.

Let us hear, then, the Word of God! Ye are the salt of the earth; willingly, gladly serve your purpose!

Give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good!

His mercy endureth forever!