Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Matthew 7:28; Luke 7:1). The second Passover of our Lord was now past; and this discourse was not as near the beginning of his public life as its apparent early place in St. Matthew's Gospel would ordinarily lead one to infer. To remember., its later place is to vindicate more clearly its seasonableness to the minds of the disciples and people, and its usefulness as another higher standard in the "teaching" of the world. In these two preliminary and introductory verses we may notice as, at all events, suggestions that lie on the surface, the following things.
I. IN THE BORN TEACHER OF MORALS, AND ESPECIALLY RELIGION, THE SIGHT OF "THE MULTITUDES" IN ITSELF A PROMPT AND STRONG IMPULSE. Trace the fact historically, that it is the moral gaze on "the people" that is the spring of this impulse; and that otherwise the ages have rather hedged up knowledge to the few; and that the world's greater teachers have been prone and glad to avert their teaching-thought when the multitudes have been thrust before their eye by any accident.
II. A TYPICAL INSTANCE OF A MORAL IMPULSE; PROMPT AND VERY STRONG, IT DOES NOT PAUSE AT THOUGHT, NOR EXHAUST ITSELF IN FEELING: IT IS PRACTICAL. Point out the illustration of this that is spoken in Christ's pursuit of method, and in his use of intermediate agents and in his measured calmness herein. But through and after all there is a sure outcome of action and something practical.
III. THE MOUNTAIN-PLATFORM A MORAL VANTAGE-GROUND. For it secured at the same time some apparently very various results and ends, each very desirable.
1. It cannot be denied that it fairly challenges the observation of earth and heaven.
2. But it does at the same time win much retirement from the noise of earth, and shall foster thought and high feeling rather than distract them.
3. It speaks the large sweep and outlook of moral and religious truth.
4. And at the same time the large room and welcome that the truth offers to all who will receive it. One may imagine at this point, in a literal sense, the position of Jesus himself, with all that his eye overlooked and surveyed each moment, and moral analogies will rise not slowly in the wake of the literal facts.
IV. A TYPICAL INSTANCE OF THE TRUE TRADITION, OF HEAVENLY WISDOM, HEAVENLY TEACHING, AND THE GREAT MASTER'S OWN WORK, INTO THE CHARGE OF MEN.
1. The work of Christ is to be carried on by the living instrumentality of living men, imperfect as they are sure to be, and far removed from the goodness, grace, power, and wisdom of the Master.
2. These men must be in real character disciples.
3. They must be progressing learners as well.
4. It must be of the things they themselves in very truth have learned of the great Teacher that they are to tell others. They must not only be, for instance, hearers, but must be of the taught, the successfully and humbly taught.
V. THE FINAL SUMMONS TO AN UNTAUGHT, LISTLESS WORLD TO GIVE EAR AND LISTEN. Jesus "opened his mouth and taught."
1. What an authoritative summons!
2. What an encouraging summons!
3. What a rewarding and comforting summons! - B.
I. A SUITABLE PLACE.
1. Noble edifices have been raised by the piety of men.
(1) Even heathenism has its gorgeous temples - ancient; modern.
(2) Wonderful cathedrals have been raised - in England; on the continent of Europe.
(3) Solomon's temple must have exceeded all others in magnificence. The plan was Divine. The workmen were inspired.
2. Here was a cathedral worthy of the occasion.
(1) The roofing. The blue dome so vast as to bound the range of sight. So wonderfully constituted that wherever we go we are still in its very centre.
(2) The pavement. It is set in mosaics of living foliage and flowers of ever-varying form and hue. Each tessellation will bear the microscope, and under its scrutiny discover inexhaustible beauties and glories.
(3) The lighting. The sun is the one sufficient lamp. The electric light looks black upon its disc. The glories of the night are lost in its brightness.
(4) The pulpit. The "mountain." Mountains had been chosen theatres of memorable events - Eden, Ararat, Horeb, Sinai, Hor, Nebo, Zion, Carmel. The New Testament also had its mountains - Tabor, Calvary, Olivet, Zion, this mount.
(5) The consecration. Human consecrations have their uses. Sometimes their abuses to superstition. Divine consecration is essential. The whole earth was consecrated to preaching by the sermon on the mount. Open-air preaching has the highest sanction and encouragement.
II. A SUITABLE CONGREGATION.
1. Here were multitudes.
(1) In actual presence. Not multitudes of mere units. Immortal men. Tremendous destinies. Glorious possibilities.
(2) In representative presence. Each person was the centre of a vast influence. Each individual represented a social series.
2. Multitudes with whom Jesus sympathized. "Seeing the multitudes," etc.
(1) He estimated their personal value as no one else could. He paid the enormous price of their redemption.
(2) He estimated their representative value as no one else could. He saw the end from the beginning.
(3) How profoundly should we sympathize with men! Our neighbour with whom we converse. The heathen - at home; abroad.
3. Ever-increasing multitudes.
(1) That congregation included all the congregations of Christendom from that time to the present. The sentences of the sermon upon the mount have echoed from millions of pulpits to hundreds of millions of men.
(2) How many hundreds of millions yet unborn are destined to hear the echoes of the sermon on the mount!
4. Jesus teaches the world through his Churches.
(1) "His disciples came unto him, and he opened his mouth and taught them. The disciples formed an inner circle. In the morning of this day, after the night of prayer, he had chosen from the large number of his disciples his twelve apostles (cf. Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-49).
(2) He taught the outside multitude in parables. To his disciples apart he revealed the mysteries of the kingdom.
(3) So it is still. The natural man perceiveth not the things of the Spirit of God." We must become disciples of Jesus if we would learn the spiritual and saving truth of his doctrine.
III. A SUITABLE PREACHER.
1. The sermon presupposes the preacher.
(1) Great preachers are not made in universities. Universities have their uses. Learning is of very great importance. He that despises learning is a fool.
(2) God's ministers are raised up and qualified by himself. The "Lord of the harvest" finds his "labourers." He gives them the spiritual qualification needed for spiritual work.
(3) His people should "pray" him.
2. Christ was an incomparable Preacher.
(1) The promised Messiah. As such attested by prophecy.
(2) Heralded by the Baptist. "All men accounted John that he was a prophet indeed."
(3) Approved by heavenly signs. The wonders at his birth. The voice of the God of glory at his baptism.
(4) Self-authenticated by miracles. Turning water into wine at Cana (John 2:1-11). Driving the hucksters out of the temple at Jerusalem (John 2:13-22). Working many wonders in Galilee (Matthew 4:12-24).
3. He claim, all attention.
(1) "When he was set," viz. according to the custom of the Jewish doctors. "Sitting" among the rabbins is synonymous with teaching. The assumption of that posture was a claim for respect. This claim sets forth the value of knowledge. No such knowledge as the knowledge of God.
(2) "He opened his mouth and taught." "Man is the mouth of creation, Christ is the mouth of humanity" (Lange).
(3) Here is an admirable case. He had perfect knowledge of man's ignorance and need. Also of heaven's secrets. His human intelligence was radiated by the Divine.
(4) Here also is an idea of profusion. Teaching wells from his lips as from a fountain. It is gracious teaching. "Grace is poured upon his lips." Beatitudes stream forth. Let us learn from the lips of Jesus. Search his Word. Invoke his Spirit. - J.A.M.
theme, a new style, and a new power.
I. THE NEW THEME. There is the virtually new' and the actually new. That which has long been covered over and lost seems new when it is restored to its place again. The spiritual truths of Mosaism had long been hidden under a mass of rabbinical opinions and ceremonies. Christ brought those spiritual truths and claims into power and prominence again. He took up the much-debated question, "What is righteousness? and how is it to be obtained?" The ruling theme of this first discourse is righteousness; and our Lord makes it a new thing, by sweeping away the rabbinical idea that righteousness is a routine. He shows that it is
(1) character, and
(2) conduct inspired and toned by character.
II. THE NEW STYLE. The prevailing style was a series of petty quibbles and minute discussions, over which men were ever ready to quarrel, but which never touched the heart of truth. Christ's style was plain, searching, spiritual; it made appeal to the best and deepest in men, and woke into power the best and deepest by the appeal. Christ dealt with men as spiritual beings.
III. THE NEW POWER. We respond at once to a speaker of power, who has full command of his subject and of himself. We approve of the "accent of conviction," and that our Lord had. There is self-assertion, but it is the self-assertion of the commissioned Prophet of God. - R.T.
1. But he knows the secret of happiness too well to attempt to shed joy in any other way than through those channels by which, in the very constitution of things, God has appointed it to flow. There is a necessary connection between each Beatitude and the character blessed. The reward is not an extraneous gift, but a natural fruit, although it is by the generosity of God that the fruit is made to grow.
2. Moreover, it is to be noted that, although there is this necessary connection between character and happiness, there is more than one way to the goal. Joy is manifold, and different kinds of people may reach it by different roads. Therefore there is a plurality of Beatitudes.
3. A common tone pervades all the Beatitudes. They all depend on some excellency of character, and all the excellences are unpretentious and gentle. Together they suggest a new type of character, as distinct from the stern Jewish ideal as it is from free and superficial pagan notion of goodness. To a large extent the Beatitudes are facets from the character of Christ himself. He who enjoys all these blessings in his own person will be most like the great Teacher who revealed them. Let us consider the first three Beatitudes -
I. POVERTY OF SPIRIT. In the world wealth is increasingly favoured. But no golden key opens the gates of the kingdom of heaven. Christ's gospel is for the poor (Matthew 11:5), because it is for all. The poor in spirit, however, are not the same as those people whose earthly possessions are meagre. They are the people who are conscious of their own spiritual deficiency. They are the spiritually humble. Thus their disposition is the exact opposite of the pride of Pharisaism. The great, comprehensive blessing of the kingdom of heaven is for such souls. Christ had announced the coming of the kingdom in his earlier preaching. Now he shows who are to receive it. Humility, a sense of emptiness and helplessness, - this is just the condition in which to receive Christ and his kingdom.
II. MOURNING. The second Beatitude had a direct relation to the state of Israel in the days of Christ; that was a condition of moral and national decay. Some were indifferent, others proudly rebellious. For such people Christ had no blessing. But for those who deplored the evil of the times there was comfort in the gospel of Christ.
1. Christ brings consolation to those who mourn for sin by bringing forgiveness.
2. He comforts those who deplore the evils of society by introducing a hope of human brotherhood.
3. He consoles those who weep for the dead by shedding light on the life beyond the tomb.
III. MEEKNESS. This is a peculiarly Christian grace, scorned by the pagan world. It does not mean the lack of energy and courage. The truly meek man is no coward. Strength of self-control is needed in order to bear an affront with patience. Jesus was never so strong as when "he was led as a lamb to the slaughter." Even Pilate was baffled by the calm strength of his meekness. Now our Lord promises a temporal reward to this grace. Heavenly blessings coveted by martyrs might be expected; but Jesus promises even the inheritance of the earth.
1. Ultimately this will come in the reign of Christ which his people are to share.
2. At present it is experienced in a capacity to make the best use of earthly things, by possessing one's soul in patience. - W.F.A.
I. IT IS NOT FLAUNTED IN PROMINENCE AND IN BRIGHTEST, LOUDEST COLOUR ON HIS FLAG.
II. IT FINDS A PLACE NEVERTHELESS AND IS EXHIBITED, BUT IS RARELY EXHIBITED. AND THEN NOT WITH ANY HERALD'S FLOURISH OF TRUMPETS, BUT WITH SUDDENNESS, WITH SCARCELY A NOTE OF PREPARATION; WITH APPEAL TO THOSE ONLY WHO HAVE EYES OPEN TO SEE.
III. IT IS PROMPTLY ASCERTAINED TO BE BASED ON AN' UNUSUAL FOUNDATION, AND ONE UNUSUALLY DEEP. AMID OTHER BUILDINGS INNUMERABLE, IT IS BUILDED ON A ROCK.
IV. WHEN CONSIDERED IN ITSELF, IT IS DISCOVERED TO BE WROUGHT OUT OF DISPOSITION RATHER THAN BESTOWED UPON IT; THE ESSENTIAL AND SURE OUTCOME OF QUALITY AND OF HEART RATHER THAN BOON, PRIZE, OR REWARD CONFERRED UPON THEM BY ANY THEORY OF RECOMPENSE.
V. IT IS IN ITS ENDURANCE AS LASTING, FAR-SEEING, FAR-REACHING, AS IT IS IN ITS NATURE INTRINSIC. Show that these peculiarities of the blessedness that Jesus esteems are illustrated by all the instances following in vers. 3-11, etc.; and that they entitle it to be said firmly and emphatically that -
VI. IT IS THE "CHIEF GOOD," FOUND AT LAST AND FOUND SURELY; THE "CHIEF GOOD," NOT OF THE PHILOSOPHER'S QUEST MERELY, BUT OF THAT OF THE UNIVERSAL HUMAN HEART AND LIFE. "The chief good is the only motive of philosophical inquiry; but whatever confers blessedness, that is the chief good; therefore Jesus begins, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Aug., 'De Civ. Dei,' 19:1). - B.
(1) the brief descriptive title of those who are pronounced "blessed," and
(2) the leading suggestion as to the source of their blessedness. Consider -
I. THIS DESCRIPTIVE TITLE OF CERTAIN CHARACTERS - THOSE WHO ARE "POOR IN SPIRIT" - WHO ARE THEY? Do we not long for Christ's own determination of his own descriptions in these cases? Probably with singular unity and distinctest outline he would convey to us just who his "poor in spirit" design - just what his poverty in spirit aims at. In each succeeding case (but especially in the present and some of the others) we seem to need to give marks more than one of the disposition we think to be intended, in order to approach the meaning of Christ, rather than feel that we are successfully hitting the mark, the one mark of his meaning. Failing, however, that coveted dictum interpretation, we can but make the most faithful use of our own resources. We shall be safe in saying most unhesitatingly that no commendation is intended of those whom we call in modern days the poor-spirited, nor of those who are poor in intellect, or imagination, or in the power of high aspiration, or poor in moral virtues and graces. But, on the other hand, those who answer to such a description as follows may be designated, viz. who own to the essence of humility, of docility (and so far forth of a species of deservingness, not likely to go unnoticed, unrewarded, of the great Giver of all), in that, whatever wealth of things of real greatness, goodness, as seen by the side of some others, they may possess, yet, first, they take no praise of it to themselves; secondly, are profoundly conscious that still they stand but in mere sight of the threshold of knowledge, power, grace; thirdly, are simply abased in the presence of him who is the living, moving Power - the King - in that same kingdom. To be "poor in spirit ' is synonymous with being full-filled of a genuine humility. And there is no humility that has a chance of being as real, as genuine, as that which comes of the largest knowledge and the largest grace. For it postulates the largest knowledge, for a man to have anything approaching an intelligent idea of his abyss of ignorance; and the largest grace, for a man to be at all competent to gauge his defect of goodness.
II. THE LEADING SUGGESTION OR CLUE AS TO THE SOURCE OF THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE POOR IN SPIRIT. In the few words of Jesus' lips, it is because these have "the freedom," not of earth's greatest city, but of" the kingdom of heaven." No artificial condition or qualification gives entrance to this kingdom, much less a continued sojourn in it, least of all to the glorious "freedom" of it. But a pure docility and a determined growingness give each and all of these, one after another. And such pure docility and unresting growing are led in by that unchallengeable angel, the angel of humility. There is no surer docility than that which comes in the wake of humility - nay, owes its life to her, as to a mother; cleverness and quickness of intelligence is no equivalent of docility. A practical commentary upon this very aspect of the subject at the treatment of Christ himself is indeed not withheld from us, but is given us in the parable of the "little child" (Matthew 18:1-5; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48). And to furnish ourselves with an impressive idea of the stress Christ lays, must lay, on docility, we need but to think of the place, the high place, that the universal Church feels to belong to those persuasively beseeching words of his, "Come to me... and learn of me" What words of Jesus have endeared themselves more to the whole Church of all the ages gone? To be "poor in spirit" is to have that condition prior to all others for belonging to the kingdom of heaven - the condition of receptivity unfeigned, of mind, heart, all the nature, unknown in its vastness. And the man who has that receptivity is already in divinest sympathy with the life of the "kingdom of heaven." For he can find his emptiness filled nowhere else, his capacity to receive satisfied nowhere else. - B.
(1) of the citizens of the kingdom;
(2) of the law of the kingdom;
(3) of the life, the devotional and practical conduct of the kingdom.
The citizens of the kingdom are first described, their character being indicated in the first paragraph, their influence being referred to in vers. 13-16. The passage containing the Beatitudes will best yield its meaning if we consider
(1) that Christ offers blessedness;
(2) in what this blessedness consists;
(3) to whom it is imparted.
I. OUR LORD IS IN AGREEMENT WITH THE INSTINCT OF HUMAN NATURE, WHICH CRAVES HAPPINESS, AND SETS THIS AS THE ULTIMATE END, OR CHIEF GOOD. It is indeed almost a truism to call it so, because to say that a man is happy or blessed is just to say that no more need be done for him; that he has attained. Other things, such as wealth, power, knowledge, we seek as a means to some end beyond themselves; happiness we seek for its own sake, and not as a means to something beyond itself. A man does not seek to be happy in order that he may be rich; he seeks to be rich in order that he may be happy. And though this idea has been so much abused, and made the pretext for finding enjoyment in sensual and debasing pleasure, our Lord makes no scruple in giving the idea a foremost place in his teaching, and implying it throughout his whole scheme of human life. No one preaches self sacrifice as our Lord does; no one goes the same length in requiring that we shall lay down life itself for others. But with what argument does he induce us to do so? By assuring us that he that loseth his life, the same shall save it. In the very words which command absolute self-sacrifice, he respects the instinct for self-preservation. But to say that happiness is the chief good is quite a different thing from saying that we can find our way to happiness by choosing what promises to bring it us. This would require in us the power of looking at life as a whole, of weighing to-morrow with to-day, and giving no part of our nature a preference over other parts - a wisdom which we have not got. As with many other things, we most certainly attain when we cease to seek. The child does not grow to manhood by considering how he can grow, but by following his natural appetite for food. And to secure the great end of happiness there is also an appetite that guides us - the appetite for righteousness. It is not by asking - Will this or that conduce to my happiness? that we discover what we should do, but by asking ourselves - Is this right or wrong? Through neglect of this consideration many have been scandalized that so much should be said about rewards and punishments in the Bible. It is true that our Lord considers happiness the chief good, and promises it continually, but he never bids men make this their practical aim in life. On the contrary, in this very sermon, so full of reward and of promise of happiness, he lays down another law of conduct: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness." Happiness is found when righteousness is sought. Neither could the conduct enjoined by our Lord have been done from a self-seeking motive. No hope of reward could make a man love his enemies, or hunger and thirst for righteousness.
II. To describe the blessedness offered, OUR LORD MAKES USE OF PHRASES WITH WHICH THE PEOPLE WERE FAMILIAR AS DENOTING THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE KINGDOM, but which here start into new significance. The Comforter was one of the most familiar designations of the Messiah among those who waited for the consolation of Israel, and he says to them, "Blessed are ye that mourn: for ye shall be comforted." The inheritance of the land was looked for as an accompaniment of Messiah's reign, and he says, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." They were to be filled, not with corn and wine, but in a spiritual sense. But is the blessedness here described such as really answers our wants. Use our Lord's method, and contrast it with the blessedness which many in our own day look for. There are earnest men among us who hold the confident faith that if only the sources of mental and physical suffering were removed, there is no reason why every man should not enjoy the happiness which every one seeks. The sources of suffering are, they think, within human control, and though the conquest is grievously slow, yet every individual may derive deep and rational enjoyment from his efforts for the common advancement. But the blessedness of an advancing civilization offers no relief for the two most painful of human woes - separation from those we love, and bondage to evil desires. It has nothing to say of death or sin. Will the individual work for his race if there is no wider horizon than this world? Will any but those naturally virtuous abstain from sin, if all you can offer is that in some far-off age they may possibly benefit in an infinitesimal degree one or two individuals? The blessedness our Lord offers is of a very different kind. Look at one or two of the terms in which it is described: "Fulness of righteousness to those who hunger and thirst for it." It is a remarkable fact that, bad as we are, there should be in so many of us an insatiable craving for what is good. Through all conditions of men we find this craving to stand free from pollution, superior to infirmity. And this blessedness our Lord gives. Again, there is the intense persistent craving to see God, to be as sure that God is with us as if we saw him. With what gladness and steadfastness, with what strength and hope, with what confident self-sacrifice, should we face the world and its ills if we knew and were sure that a loving, mighty God was at our side! What is there in duty, what is there in self-devotion, that can be difficult for those who have seen God? The day, says our Lord, is coming when this shall be. Be pure in heart, he says, and you will know and see me. Be like me, and you shall look upon me." Such is the blessedness which Christ does not despair of bringing to the world. He reveals a kingdom "different from that we see, but not less real " - a kingdom in which there is to be found u satisfaction for all the wants the world fails to satisfy, and a remedy for the miseries it inflicts."
III. THIS BLESSEDNESS IS FOR INDIVIDUALS, AND ESPECIALLY FOR THE WEAK AND THE SUFFERINGS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE FAILED IN THIS LIFE AND WHO FEEL THAT IT IS A POOR AND PITIABLE DECEPTION if there is nothing to compensate for the wrong and misery they have suffered here, or to respond to the deepest longings of their nature. "Blessed," says our Lord, "are ye whom this world has not enriched and satisfied;" blessed are ye, because this emptiness leaves room for the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are ye that mourn," because for all sorrow there is a special Beatitude - a being drawn to the very heart of God, and a receiving of his special fatherly care. While our Lord bids his followers seek first the kingdom of God, while he assures them they must take up the cross and follow him, he at the same time certifies them of blessedness in the end. Sorrow, doubt, defeat, anguish of spirit, are what mark the course of thousands of his followers, but he calmly pronounces them blessed. No craving for righteousness, no natural impulse thwarted, no earthly hope renounced, no happiness postponed for others' sake, shall lose its reward. We have all learned that present pleasure and immediate gratification very frequently lead to permanent sorrow; we are here taught that present trouble and sorrow are often the direct path to permanent joy. How do we stand with regard to the Beatitudes? Can you bring yourself certainly under one or other of these categories? Many never reach happiness, because they neglect to seek it on those lines which our Lord here points out as leading to everlasting happiness. - D.
I. REVIEW THE QUALITIES HERE COMMENDED.
1. Poverty of spirit.
(1) The "poor in spirit" are not the poor in profession. The monks routed by Henry VIII. had professed "perpetual poverty;" but many of them were both lusty in flesh and haughty in spirit.
(2) Neither are they the poor in circumstances. Poverty, in the abstract, is no virtue. Many owe their poverty to stupidity; many to crime.
(3) Neither are they the poor-spirited. The slaves of lust are moral cowards. "Conscience makes cowards of us all."
(4) They are the spiritually humble. Those who are humbled before God by the sense of unworthiness. Those who value others rather than themselves. Those whose righteousness is Christ. Those who chafe not under providential reverses, but in everything give thanks (see Philippians 4:11-13).
(1) On account of personal sin. Who mourn not despairingly, as Judas, as lost souls. But with an eye to Christ (see Zechariah 12:10).
(2) On account of sin in others. As Jesus wept over Jerusalem. In this we mourn with Christ, who, passing with pure human sympathies through a world of sinners, was a "Man of sorrows."
(3) In sympathy with the mourning of others. With sinners in penitence. With saints in affliction (see Psalm 137:1-6).
(1) The meek are those who lovingly bow to the authority of God. Who in affliction bless him (see 2 Samuel 12:22, 23). Who by prayer seek his guidance.
(2) Those who are slow to give offence (Titus 3:1, 2). Whose bearing to superiors is modest - to parents, masters, rulers. To inferiors con-descending - to children, servants, the poor. Let your condescension be without affectation.
(3) Those who are slow to resent offences. The nero boy was well instructed who, when asked, "Who are the meek?" replied, "Those who give soft answers to rough questions" (cf. Proverbs 16:1; 1 Corinthians 13:5-7; James 1:19). Christian meekness would soon end the scandal of Church squabbles.
(4) Christ is our Model. Even Moses, "the meekest of [mere] men," was "angered at the waters of strife" (Psalm 106:32, 33).
II. MEDITATE UPON THEIR BLESSEDNESS.
1. The kingdom of heaven is for the poor in spirit.
(1) It is theirs in prospect. They may be worsted in competition with the impudent in this earth; but they will have the advantage in the great future.
(2) It is theirs in possession. "The kingdom of heaven is within. The kingdoms of this world consist in meat and drink." Of that, in "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." The meek will accept this kingdom, while the proud refuse it. The meek are accepted, while the proud are refused.
(3) The spiritual experience of the meek is to the heaven of the future as the sod of infeoffment given into the hand of the heir of an estate.
(4) Note: Meekness is put first, because self-denial is the first lesson of Christian discipleship (cf. Matthew 10:38; Matthew 16:24; Luke 14:27). When we would build high, the foundation must be laid low.
2. There is comfort for the mourner.
(1) For the penitent seeker the comfort of pardon. The Holy Spirit, as the Comforter, witnesses this to the heart. The "fruits of the Spirit" comfort his reflections.
(2) For the afflicted saint the comfort of holy sympathy. The sympathy of Christ. Of his servants.
(3) For the sympathetic spirit union with Christ.
"'Midst blessings infinite, (4) Heaven will be a place of comfort. It will compensate for suffering (cf. Luke 16:25). "Glorified together" with Christ. 3. The meek shall inherit the earth. (1) They do now, in a remarkable manner, inherit it. For they make few enemies. Contentment gives them riches in the fewness of their wants. Providence is on their side (see Psalm 76:9). Look around. Who but the good rationally enjoys life here? (2) They shall more fully inherit it in the millennium (see Psalm 37:10, 11). Those who die without inheriting will be raised to inherit. Abraham (cf. Matthew 22:31, 32; Hebrews 11:13-16). Daniel (see Daniel 12:2, 13). The innocents (see Jeremiah 31:15-17). So the Gentile children of Abraham's faith - the fellow-heirs of the believing Jews, (3) The meek shall inherit the new earth (2 Peter 3:13). Let us qualify for this blessedness by cultivating the virtues that may claim it. - J.A.M.
(4) Heaven will be a place of comfort. It will compensate for suffering (cf. Luke 16:25). "Glorified together" with Christ.
3. The meek shall inherit the earth.
(1) They do now, in a remarkable manner, inherit it. For they make few enemies. Contentment gives them riches in the fewness of their wants. Providence is on their side (see Psalm 76:9). Look around. Who but the good rationally enjoys life here?
(2) They shall more fully inherit it in the millennium (see Psalm 37:10, 11). Those who die without inheriting will be raised to inherit. Abraham (cf. Matthew 22:31, 32; Hebrews 11:13-16). Daniel (see Daniel 12:2, 13). The innocents (see Jeremiah 31:15-17). So the Gentile children of Abraham's faith - the fellow-heirs of the believing Jews,
(3) The meek shall inherit the new earth (2 Peter 3:13). Let us qualify for this blessedness by cultivating the virtues that may claim it. - J.A.M.
beati, which is used in the Vulgate. By it our Lord indicates what will be especially esteemed, and receive special honour, in his new kingdom. To see our Lord's point we should observe what the Pharisaic teachers of his day were proclaiming. According to them, God's blessing rested upon minute acts of obedience; upon precision in keeping every detail of a series of elaborate, man-made rules. The teaching of the day was surface-teaching. God's blessing rested on good conduct, but it was not moral conduct; it was conduct regarded ecclesiastically, reckoned by wearisome amplification of Mosaic rites and rules. (Of this illustration may be given from some of the rabbinical sabbath laws.)
I. GOD'S BLESSING RESTS ON CHARACTER. This is the revelation brought by Christ. This is the point of his teaching. This is the essence of his mission. According to the Pharisees a man need not be a good man to be an accepted man with God. They were not themselves "good men," and yet they never for a moment doubted their own acceptance. Now, in this our Lord did but revive the work of the prophets, who were sent to teach men that God gave his blessing to moral righteousness, and not to mere ritualistic obedience (see Isaiah 1.).. It is usual to contrast the subjects of the Beatitudes with the strong, active virtues that were prized by paganism, which meant "valour' when it spoke of "virtue." But that can hardly be our Lord's contrast. We must seek for the prevailing ideas of the people to whom he spake; and then we find the contrast is between goodness as conduct, and goodness as character inspiring conduct,
II. CHARACTER DEPENDS ON STATES OF MIND. It will be noticed that our Lord deals with character in its fountains rather than in its expressions. He commends the "poor in spirit. Five states of mind are presented as the bases of character on which God's benedictions can rest.
Let these be the rootages of character in a man, we can be quite sure what its flowerings, in all the relations of life, will be. Test the Pharisee by these five tests, and his goodness of mere conduct is exposed.
III. CHARACTERS WILL BE SURE TO DECIDE CONDUCT. This was our Lord's constant teaching. Make the tree good, and the fruit will come right." Character is to conduct as the life is to the body. There is health in the body when there is purity and vigour in the life. - R.T.
I. MOURNING EXPRESSES AT THE LOWEST ESTIMATE A HOPEFUL SUSCEPTIBILITY. Where tears are, there is some susceptibility, at all events. Fatal fever does not rage, and is not doing its irremediable worst. Pitiless heat, shut-up heavens, unyielding drought, have not scorched up irrecoverably the verdure of the heart. One tear in the eye tells of at least one spring in the heart, though it lie ever so concealed. Esau's deluge of tears testified that, though his birthright was irrecoverably lost, yet he himself was not so. The woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears had lost more, and more irrecoverably, than Esau lost, yet she herself was saved, and Jesus guaranteed it: "Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace." Peter, at the fire of the judgment-hall. renounced his faith, his Lord, his hope; and was not his conscience seared and his soul branded for a lost soul? No, for he "went out and wept bitterly." But there was another who also denied Jesus. He was close by, and he too "went out," but not to weep; we read not of one tear. So, even so, on the lowest showing, the mourner is blessed.
II. THE TRUE THING MOURNING SPEAKS OF THE PROBATION OF EARTH. Violent grief, wailing, gnashing of teeth, are indeed revealed as characteristic of the place or state of future woe. But the true spirit of mourning, unknown in heaven, ungiven to hell, marks "the day of grace" that belongs to earth. It is one of the chiefest signs of earth's trial and education, and one of the chiefest symptoms of earth's hope. It subserves highest and most intrinsic uses - uses not the sequel of God's displeasure only, but the arguments of his most gracious love, till such time as "the former things have passed away, and God wipe away all tears from the eye." What mercy lies ambushed in mourning!
III. MOURNING IN ITS VARIOUS KINDS HAS ABSOLUTE AND VALUABLE USES.
1. There is the mourning of sympathy. The reaction of sympathy is of Divinest use. Whatever it gives, it takes inevitably more. It opens the whole fulness of the spiritual eye, enlarges the heart, gives liberty and free action to each faculty for love, and each limb for service.
2. There is the mourning of pain. Pain presses it forth, and it expresses pain. That very expression is relief. Even physical pain is a power in and throughout the whole world. It has a widely pervading usefulness, a deeply penetrating service, in this world's stages- of spiritual growth and spiritual immaturity. The mourning of pain, for infancy, childhood, youth, strong age. and old age, we cannot tell what it has not been the means, directly or indirectly, of sparing to flesh, blood, mind; what fever of body and soul it has not averted, adding endurance to patience, vigour to energy, length of days to life itself.
3. There is the mourning of a full heart, whether the heart that is full of sorrow or of joy. How often is it the safety of the heart surcharged with grief, or likely to be overbalanced with joy! So Hagar wept. So Joseph wept when he heard of his father, "the old man, yet alive." So wept the exile patriots "by the rivers of Babylon." So the overjoyed father, whose prayer had successfully wrestled, and who with tears cried out, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." And so was Mary's mourning, as she stood "without at the sepulchre," transmuted into an ever-springing well of joy.
4. There is the mourning of bereavement. Of all the heart's mourning, irrespective of that toward God in penitence, there is none more deep, more keen, more pitifully bowed down. Even when we Sorrow as those with a good hope, the poet's verse is most true -
"Oh! 'tis the pang severest 5. Beyond the natural history of mourning there is that spiritual history of it, that sacred service belonging to it, infinitely removed from all mere sentiment, unfeignedly acknowledged by the strongest man, the tenderest woman, the frailest child - the mourning of penitence. This has no meritorious worth. Nor does it derive any consecration from our being able to say it was shared by Jesus. But it was sanctioned by him, looked on with most gracious approval by him, commended by him, as surely as those very different shouts of triumph and loud hosannas that echoed to the skies when once he was journeying into the city of Jerusalem. Yet what a touching history belongs to the mourning of penitence! With what extraordinary experiences has it been allied! Upon what fears, darkness, struggles, anguish, has it at last followed with its infinite peace! What workings in the deepest unseen of the heart has it betrayed! And what irresistible energy has it argued in that majestic friend of silent persuasiveness - God's Holy Spirit! 6. Once more, there is the mourning which may be called specially that of Christ - the mourning over sinners, and because of sin. He who had no sin for which to reproach himself is he who wept most freely over the sins of others. "He beheld the city, and wept over it." "He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, and wept." In proportion as any disciple of Christ attains resemblance to him, he will be marked by the same hatred of sin and its work, by the same grief over the sinner and his folly. Holy men of old, moved by God's Spirit, knew such grief. "I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved, because they kept not thy Word Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy Law." Our genuine mourning over sin will bring us into some faint resemblance, at least, to him of whom we thus sing - "The Son of God in tears, IV. MOURNING HAS ITS PERIOD DIVINELY FIXED. There is this particular "comfort" attached to it - that, though painful at present, it is useful; and that when its main uses are gained, itself is lost in "comfort." To the believer in Christ mourning cannot be unalloyed, for he knows its present sacred advantages, and he believes its early termination. "Blessed are the mourners: for they shall be comforted." Comforted, indeed, now by many a sanctified use and fruit of affliction, and by many a sanctified suggestion, but most of all by the sanctified assurance that ere long, nay, right early, God shall abolish it, and shall "wipe away all tears from the eye." So it is no mere end to which mourning comes; it is not the mere extinction of nature; it is the doing of God's own kind hand, moved by his own kind heart. This Beatitude is good as a rainbow covenant between heaven and earth, for souls and their inner' skies. Whether any Christian sorrow more or less, he may now, with this Beatitude of sorrow, "rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory." - B.
5. Beyond the natural history of mourning there is that spiritual history of it, that sacred service belonging to it, infinitely removed from all mere sentiment, unfeignedly acknowledged by the strongest man, the tenderest woman, the frailest child - the mourning of penitence. This has no meritorious worth. Nor does it derive any consecration from our being able to say it was shared by Jesus. But it was sanctioned by him, looked on with most gracious approval by him, commended by him, as surely as those very different shouts of triumph and loud hosannas that echoed to the skies when once he was journeying into the city of Jerusalem. Yet what a touching history belongs to the mourning of penitence! With what extraordinary experiences has it been allied! Upon what fears, darkness, struggles, anguish, has it at last followed with its infinite peace! What workings in the deepest unseen of the heart has it betrayed! And what irresistible energy has it argued in that majestic friend of silent persuasiveness - God's Holy Spirit!
6. Once more, there is the mourning which may be called specially that of Christ - the mourning over sinners, and because of sin. He who had no sin for which to reproach himself is he who wept most freely over the sins of others. "He beheld the city, and wept over it." "He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, and wept." In proportion as any disciple of Christ attains resemblance to him, he will be marked by the same hatred of sin and its work, by the same grief over the sinner and his folly. Holy men of old, moved by God's Spirit, knew such grief. "I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved, because they kept not thy Word Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy Law." Our genuine mourning over sin will bring us into some faint resemblance, at least, to him of whom we thus sing -
"The Son of God in tears, IV. MOURNING HAS ITS PERIOD DIVINELY FIXED. There is this particular "comfort" attached to it - that, though painful at present, it is useful; and that when its main uses are gained, itself is lost in "comfort." To the believer in Christ mourning cannot be unalloyed, for he knows its present sacred advantages, and he believes its early termination. "Blessed are the mourners: for they shall be comforted." Comforted, indeed, now by many a sanctified use and fruit of affliction, and by many a sanctified suggestion, but most of all by the sanctified assurance that ere long, nay, right early, God shall abolish it, and shall "wipe away all tears from the eye." So it is no mere end to which mourning comes; it is not the mere extinction of nature; it is the doing of God's own kind hand, moved by his own kind heart. This Beatitude is good as a rainbow covenant between heaven and earth, for souls and their inner' skies. Whether any Christian sorrow more or less, he may now, with this Beatitude of sorrow, "rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory." - B.
IV. MOURNING HAS ITS PERIOD DIVINELY FIXED. There is this particular "comfort" attached to it - that, though painful at present, it is useful; and that when its main uses are gained, itself is lost in "comfort." To the believer in Christ mourning cannot be unalloyed, for he knows its present sacred advantages, and he believes its early termination. "Blessed are the mourners: for they shall be comforted." Comforted, indeed, now by many a sanctified use and fruit of affliction, and by many a sanctified suggestion, but most of all by the sanctified assurance that ere long, nay, right early, God shall abolish it, and shall "wipe away all tears from the eye." So it is no mere end to which mourning comes; it is not the mere extinction of nature; it is the doing of God's own kind hand, moved by his own kind heart. This Beatitude is good as a rainbow covenant between heaven and earth, for souls and their inner' skies. Whether any Christian sorrow more or less, he may now, with this Beatitude of sorrow, "rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory." - B.
Psalm 37:11), The promise attached to the Beatitude is one the special habitat of which is the page of the Old Testament. And this helps to guide us to the genius of the present passage. Meekness must be indeed a quality of the person; it must undoubtedly be in the most essential sense a personal quality. It is nowhere, unless it is deep down in a man's heart, and in genuine possession of it. Though this be so, however, it is here a virtue that faces less to the individual character and life than to the social, collective, national. Let a man be more than as meek as Moses, he and his individual solitary meekness would never make that conquest of the heritage of the earth which is here extolled and set up as a mark and a goal. Had, however, the chosen people been meek, true to meekness, continuously and growingly meek, meek subjects of the heavenly and theocratic rule, then dispossession would not have been their heritage of shame. A growing heritage of the earth would have been their glory and pride. Now, all this, unobtained by the Law of Moses and Sinai, with its commandments and the prophets, remains to be obtained. It is yet to be. The earth is to be inherited, and it is to be inherited by men whose conquest of it shall be, not by might, nor by power and pride, but by meekness! We may read, therefore, in this Beatitude -
I. CREATION'S CHARTER PROCLAIMED ANEW, OF MAN'S RIGHT IN THE EARTH.
II. DEEPER AND FAR MORE SIGNIFY[CANT INTIMATION OF THE REAL WAY IN WHICH THE CONQUEST OF THE EARTH SHOULD BE EFFECTED. The whole earth and mankind themselves, alike in their most scientific aspects and their moral aspects, are best understood, and certainly best mastered, by those methods of observation rather than of dictation, of induction rather than presuming speculation and hazardous conjecture, which the greatest, truest philosophers (like Lord Bacon) came at last to recognize and teach. This meekness is, even for the physical conquest of the earth and all things in it, the masterly meekness.
III. THE HIGHEST SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLE DECLARED - THAT THE MEEKNESS THAT MINISTERS, THAT SERVES, THAT IS EVER READY TO MAKE ITSELF THE LEAST, IN PURSUIT OF THE HIGHEST WELFARE OF MEN, IS THAT FORCE WHICH MOST UNFAILINGLY WINS EVENTUALLY THE CHIEFEST PLACE, THE GREATEST HONOUR AND INFLUENCE, AND MOST ROYAL AND ENDURING EMPIRE. The Beatitude does not for a moment purport to say anything to the honour of the man who might possibly be lord of a million acres, but it does purport these two things at the lowest estimate - to honour the man who through meek obedience, diligence, industry, study, should out of actual poverty win for himself but a single acre; and, secondly, much more to honour the man who by the like qualities makes the earth more tenantable for its citizens, and its citizens longer-lived and happier tenants of it.
IV. A GRACIOUS AND UNFALTERING ASSURANCE FOR ALL THOSE WHO ARE MEEK IN THIS SENSE, THAT THEY ARE STUDYING TO GROW IN REAL HARMONY WITH THE WILL OF HEAVEN AND ITS LOVE, THAT IT IS FOR THEM TO FIND AT LAST THEIR LONG PRAYER DIVINELY AND MOST PRACTICALLY ANSWERED, AND GOD'S "KINGDOM COME, AND HIS WILL DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN." There is no sense truer than this in which the meek shall "inherit the earth." - B.
I. HUNGER AND THIRST AFTER RIGHTEOUSNESS.
1. This is a desire for righteousness on its own account, and not for its rewards. It is very different from the merely selfish wish to escape from the penalty of sin. Righteousness is regarded as an end in itself.
2. This is a deep appetite, like hunger and thirst. The most primitive, the most universal, the most imperious appetites are the types of this desire. In our better moments does it not wake up in us with an inexpressible longing? If we could but be like Christ the sinless!
3. It is rewarded by its own satisfaction. These hungry and thirsty ones are to be filled. Nothing but the object of the appetite will appease its craving.
4. Righteousness is attainable in Christ. The Epistle to the Romans shows how this Beatitude is realized in experience.
II. MERCIFULNESS. The previous Beatitude referred to the interior life and the personal desires of individual souls. This Beatitude concerns an attitude towards other people. Perfect happiness is not possible without a right regard to the social relations of life.
1. It is a peculiarly Christian view of those relations to see them in the light of mercy. We are to think especially of kindness
(1) to the helpless,
(2) to the undeserving,
(3) to those who have wronged us. This is just the Christ-spirit.
2. The reward of it is to be treated in a similar manner:
(1) even by men whose gratitude is worn;
(2) especially by God, who cannot pardon the unforgiving, and who makes our forgiveness of others the standard of his forgiveness of us (Matthew 6:12).
III. PURITY OF HEART. We have reached the holy of holies, the inner sanctuary of the Christian life. God regards the state of the heart as of supreme importance. He does not consider that we can have clean hands if we do not possess a pure heart. While foul imaginations are welcomed and gross desires cherished, the whole life is degraded in the sight of God. But the purity of heart has a wonderful reward reserved for it alone - the vision of God. Pure Sir Galahad can see the holy grail which great Sir Launcelot was doomed by his sin to miss. Here, as elsewhere, there is an essential connection between the grace and the reward. Sin blinds the soul; purity is clear-eyed in the spiritual world. Moreover, it is only to the pure in heart that the vision of God can be a reward. The impure would but be scorched by it, and would cry on the rocks and hills to cover them from its awful presence.
IV. PEACEMAKING. We now come to an active grace. The Christian is not to shut himself up in monastic seclusion, indifferent to the evils of the world around him. He is to interfere for its betterment. Peace is the greatest interest of nations, brotherhood the greatest requisite of society. Happy are they who can bring about such things. The process is dangerous and likely to be misunderstood, for the peacemaker is often regarded as an enemy by both sides of the quarrel. His reward, however, is great - to be accounted one of God's sons; like the only begotten Son, who is the Prince of peacemakers. The fitness of the reward springs from the fact that the work is most God-like.
V. PERSECUTION. How far-reaching is the prophetic gaze of Christ to foresee persecution when in the flush of early popularity! How honest is he to foretell it! How serene is his contemplation of it! He knows that there is a great beyond. Already the heavenly treasures are stored up for those who may lose all for Christ's sake. Fidelity till death is rewarded with a crown of life after death (Revelation 2:10). - W.F.A.
can rise to appreciate that which is the highest of things that are holiest. It postulates the possibility, though it were only a possibility, of our attaining the disposition to feel in genuine, unfeigned sympathy with it, that principle of so lofty height; and so much so as to long with the longing of hunger and thirst to live, actually live, in practical harmony with it, and habitual exemplification of it. Such encouragement is not the illusion of vanity, or of self-sufficient exaltings of what man is or may be; it is the outcome of the knowledge, the gracious condescending love and power of that true Teacher, and the Lifter-up of our souls, who spoke the Beatitude - spoke it in that strange gathering and at that strange time of day. In what he said we may certainly repose the confidence of hope and of firmest faith. Let us ask -
I. WHAT IS THE THING HERE CALLED RIGHTEOUSNESS? The word may well be a study. It may well and most wisely be intended for a study. How much - a compressed volume in a word - must there be condensed in the quality, the disposition, the power, the great reality, be it what it may, which Christ here calls righteousness! It is the thing man failed of at the first, and spoiled fresh-born human nature. It is God's own undeviating rightness; the unfaltering love of that which he unfalteringly loves, and unfailing practice of that which he unfailingly practises. It is, indeed, the supreme ideal, but the most undoubted reality. It soars to highest thought, and to lowliest practice it stoops. It is "exceeding broad," but fine and penetrating as a "two-edged sword." God's Law, God's will, God's love, the moral projection of the heavenly kingdom on earth, how great, how wise, how generous, how omnipresent, filling all spaces whatsoever like the flowing tide to all the world, it must surely be! The type of moral perfection is that which constitutes the righteousness here spoken of, in which a perfect moral nature rests in satisfied blissful repose, and for which our imperfect moral condition should make us hunger and thirst. Whether the knowledge of that type is reached by us direct from the pattern in the heavens, and in the Divine Being himself; or whether we attain it with Divine help through a perpetual exalting of each and every germ and tendency and quality of goodness that our human nature has ever shown, is comparatively immaterial to inquire. We are persuaded of its existence, and we have some knowledge of its proportions, according to the greater advance or the backwardness of our own moral discernments. And though the image be all too broken, the reflection too uncertain and scattered, like that upon the sin face of troubled waters, yet there is this strange fact to be noted, that while entirely lost in none, all perhaps have a completer notion and scheme of it than they, for the most part, care to own to. Such is its reality, its vitality, and its deep-cut graving on the heart I
II. WHAT ABE THE THINGS WHICH LIE INCLUDED IN THE DESCRIPTION OF "HUNGERING AND THIRSTING" AFTER IT?
1. The unfeigned belief in that perfect thing called righteousness, and the acknowledgment of the principle that the righteousness of a perfect life should be still and always the object of endeavour, kept before the gaze of even fallen man. Even for him it is still the genuine ideal. Though we should never actually attain it here, the sight of it and the attempt to reach it will not be fruitless. These will be preservatives against dissipation. They will guard against despair. They will exert a constant practical elevating influence. They are the protest against a false creed, and the very pernicious creed, that we are not in any sense required to live to the same standard to which we were once created; and that as to attain it perfectly may be impossible, so it is nugatory to try, and matters less than nothing how little we try. Merely in this view of it, this Beatitude was a startling announcement and novelty for those, in their very degraded national state, whose ears first received it from those most gracious lips that first spoke it. Is it not for unnumbered millions still the same, and for us all far too much the same?
2. The genuine craving, continual craving, intense craving, of the soul after it. The unresting deep want, the unquenched aspiration so well known to the heart, must have exchanged other objects for this supreme one object. It is the gift of God. As such it justifies the asking of it, that it show the depth, determination, and lastingness of divinely implanted qualities. The desire of all the nature after righteousness must be at least strong and real as nature, for so it is called "hunger and thirst," the figurative language serving its purpose to the furthest extent possible, but none the less, as we well know, in fact inadequate, as figure should always be to fact. The spiritual appetite here shadowed forth must be, and. when in its perfection has shown itself so many times, a far more powerful, commanding, consuming force than all mere natural appetite. It has borne the greatest strain, faced the greatest perils, dared all enemies, and "overcome the world," within and without. Yet nevertheless, in the quieter times of the world's course and our own individual history, it is pre-eminently entitled to ask time to grow, to find food, to gain strength and robustness, to learn its own high quality, and feel its own intrinsic force. For often the desire that feared itself and distrusted itself, that did not know whether it would live and could stand certain chili winds, has been rooting itself the more firmly, and has become the dominant holy passion of the soul. That which did not look quite like it at first has become the genuine, constant, and intense craving of the soul.
III. WHAT IS THE GROUND ON WHICH CHRIST PRONOUNCES THOSE BLESSED WHO HUNGER AND THIRST AFTER RIGHTEOUSNESS? The ground which our Saviour assigns for the blessedness of such is that their desire shall not be mocked; shall not find itself empty, hollow, and such as must come to nothing; shall not find itself unsatisfied. They shall have, have enough, "be filled," but be filled without being sated! How many desires, how many hopes, how many objects of pursuit, how many worthy and even noble enterprises and high-pitched ambitions, fail of fruition; or, not entirely failing of fruition, yet fail of such satisfying and such being satisfied as will bring them up to the meaning of Christ when he says, "for they shall be filled! It is an infinite loss that we court, that we incur, when we leave unsought, uncared for, the abiding, the satisfying, the unstinted abundance, for that which wastes, perishes in the using, and does not fill the infinite capacity of a human heart. - B.
I. THAT IN RIGHTEOUSNESS ALONE IS SATISFACTION.
1. The sphere of intellect is filled with God.
(1) He is the Origin of all things. They came out of nothing by his power.
(2) He is the End of all things. They were made for his pleasure. In his pleasure they consist.
(3) Science is miserably deficient when it ignores God. The Godward side is the nobler side of all things.
(4) The pure knowledge of God is the crowning science. God is self-revealed. Herein is satisfaction; for there is nothing above or beyond.
2. The sphere of affection is filled with God.
(1) Illicit affections are demoralizing. In demoralization there can be no satisfaction. Reason is insulted. Conscience is outraged. God is provoked.
(2) Inordinate affections are demoralizing. A man comes to resemble that he loves. If he love supremely that which is inferior to himself, he is degraded. He may love his neighbour as himself. He may not low the World as his neighbour.
(3) God alone may be supremely loved. The supreme love of God is what the Bible calls "perfect love." There is nothing above, nothing beyond. Herein our happiness is full.
3. Righteousness secures the highest favour.
(1) No approval is comparable to that of God. It is founded in justice and truth.
(2) The sense of that favour is the earnest of a magnificent reward. What resources are behind the favour of God!
(3) In the sense of righteousness is the soul of contentment. It sends joy into affliction. It is the crown of martyrdom. Witness the face of Stephen, and the triumphing of his "noble army."
II. THAT RIGHTEOUSNESS MUST BE SOUGHT IN THE SPIRIT OF EARNESTNESS,
1. God ]PGBR> is in earnest. (1) This is evinced in his "unspeakable Gift." Had he given a world for us, there would have been millions of worlds left. He, the Maker of all worlds, gave himself for us. (2) It is evinced in the glories of heaven. He must love perfect righteousness with all the strength of his being. He is himself that righteousness. He must love his saints correspondingly in proportion to the measure of their righteousness. This viewed in Christ is great. Heaven is the expression of that love. (3) It is evinced in the horrors of perdition. Hell is no scarecrow. It is the antithesis of heaven. (4) By all these arguments we should "hunger and thirst after righteousness." 2. Satan is in earnest. (1) This is evinced in the number of his agents. They are numerous as swarms of flies. He is called Beelzebub, "lord of flies." (2) In the order in which he marshals them. "Legion" (cf. Revelation 16:13, 14). (3) In the variety of his "devices." His subtlety and ingenuity are surprising. (4) In his indomitable perseverance. If thwarted, he changes his front. He pursues us to the very gate of heaven. 3. True repentance is earnest. (1) Its earnestness is here likened to the strongest instincts of our physical nature. (2) What is the world to a man who is in the arms of death? To save his life, the mariner will throw overboard bales of richest treasure. So will the true penitent give up everything for the salvation of his soul. (3) His hunger and thirst are stimulated by his convictions. He is convinced that God is righteousness itself. Sin is seen to be hideous and odious. III. THAT RIGHTEOUSNESS MUST BE SOUGHT IN THE SPIRIT OF MERCY. 1. The righteousness of God cannot be compromised to his mercy. (1) Time was when man had no need of mercy. He was created in innocency. But he transgressed the Law, and became obnoxious to judgment. Mercy can have no place until righteousness be vindicated. (2) Righteousness is vindicated in the vicarious sufferings of Christ. These sufferings therefore opened an avenue for mercy. (3) Righteousness must still be vindicated in the conditions of mercy. Repentance is therefore indispensable. In it the sinner confesses the righteousness of God. So is faith. In this the sinner renounces false righteousness. 2. Hence the spirit of mercy is required in the suppliant. (1) If we would be forgiven we must also forgive. This is insisted upon in the Lord's Prayer and in the comment which he added (see Matthew 6:14, 15). This is the moral of the parable of the debtors. (2) Beneficence is another form of mercy which is required by the beneficent God. The sinner must repent of his covetousness. The sinfulness of covetousness is not duly estimated. No sin is, in Scripture, more severely denounced (cf. Psalm 10:3; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:10; Ephesians 5:3, 5). (3) Have you sought without success the righteousness of justification before God? Have you sought it in the spirit of earnestness? Have you sought it in the spirit of mercy? "He will have judgment without mercy that hath shown no mercy." - J.A.M.
(1) This is evinced in his "unspeakable Gift." Had he given a world for us, there would have been millions of worlds left. He, the Maker of all worlds, gave himself for us.
(2) It is evinced in the glories of heaven. He must love perfect righteousness with all the strength of his being. He is himself that righteousness. He must love his saints correspondingly in proportion to the measure of their righteousness. This viewed in Christ is great. Heaven is the expression of that love.
(3) It is evinced in the horrors of perdition. Hell is no scarecrow. It is the antithesis of heaven.
(4) By all these arguments we should "hunger and thirst after righteousness."
2. Satan is in earnest.
(1) This is evinced in the number of his agents. They are numerous as swarms of flies. He is called Beelzebub, "lord of flies."
(2) In the order in which he marshals them. "Legion" (cf. Revelation 16:13, 14).
(3) In the variety of his "devices." His subtlety and ingenuity are surprising.
(4) In his indomitable perseverance. If thwarted, he changes his front. He pursues us to the very gate of heaven.
3. True repentance is earnest.
(1) Its earnestness is here likened to the strongest instincts of our physical nature.
(2) What is the world to a man who is in the arms of death? To save his life, the mariner will throw overboard bales of richest treasure. So will the true penitent give up everything for the salvation of his soul.
(3) His hunger and thirst are stimulated by his convictions. He is convinced that God is righteousness itself. Sin is seen to be hideous and odious.
III. THAT RIGHTEOUSNESS MUST BE SOUGHT IN THE SPIRIT OF MERCY.
1. The righteousness of God cannot be compromised to his mercy.
(1) Time was when man had no need of mercy. He was created in innocency. But he transgressed the Law, and became obnoxious to judgment. Mercy can have no place until righteousness be vindicated.
(2) Righteousness is vindicated in the vicarious sufferings of Christ. These sufferings therefore opened an avenue for mercy.
(3) Righteousness must still be vindicated in the conditions of mercy. Repentance is therefore indispensable. In it the sinner confesses the righteousness of God. So is faith. In this the sinner renounces false righteousness.
2. Hence the spirit of mercy is required in the suppliant.
(1) If we would be forgiven we must also forgive. This is insisted upon in the Lord's Prayer and in the comment which he added (see Matthew 6:14, 15). This is the moral of the parable of the debtors.
(2) Beneficence is another form of mercy which is required by the beneficent God. The sinner must repent of his covetousness. The sinfulness of covetousness is not duly estimated. No sin is, in Scripture, more severely denounced (cf. Psalm 10:3; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:10; Ephesians 5:3, 5).
(3) Have you sought without success the righteousness of justification before God? Have you sought it in the spirit of earnestness? Have you sought it in the spirit of mercy? "He will have judgment without mercy that hath shown no mercy." - J.A.M.
righteousness; and it must be righteousness according to God's idea.
I. MAN HAS A SPIRITUAL NATURE, AND SPIRITUAL NEEDS. "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." "Man was made for God, and can find no rest till he finds rest in him." Two things tend to crush down the spiritual nature, and silence the cry of the spiritual needs.
1. Excessive concern for the body.
2. Excessive demands of religious routine.
The first is always doing its mischievous work; the second has its evil influence at times. It was doing an almost fatal work in the times of Christ.
II. HIS MANHOOD DEPENDS ON DUE ATTENTION TO THEM. "Man doth not live by bread alone." His soul-hunger is of far greater importance than his body-hunger. Illustrate, that man is not a true, full man who, by reason of the absorption of his powers in business, has no response to the worlds of thought or of art. So the man is not a true, full man who makes no attempt to satisfy the hunger of his soul for righteousness.
III. FOSTER THE SOUL'S LONGINGS FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND THEY WILL GROW INTO SANCTIFYING PASSIONS. They will become the supreme purpose of life. They will put character - judged according to the Divine standard - in its proper place, and that is the first place. The man who "seeks first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness," is not made unworldly, but he does learn how to sanctify all worldly relations.
IV. THERE IS ALWAYS THE CERTAINTY OF THEIR SUPPLY. "They shall be filled." God the Spirit responds to the cry of spirits. God the eternal Righteousness is gracious in dealing with all who would be "righteous as he is righteous." - R.T.
vice versa. The distinction, nevertheless, does exist, and in some of the Beatitudes utters itself forth clearly. It is so with the one, fifth in order, now before us. Our mercifulness has no operation towards God, though it must be that he observes with an ever-open eye whether we observe it, and how liberally or otherwise we observe it to others! He taught the petition and its very wording, "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us." Consider -
I. THE OBJECTS OF THIS BEATITUDE. They are the "merciful," i.e. those who have mercy of heart; and if they have this, it must be that they will show and practise it. A man may have money in his pocket and not show it. He may have some skill, some knowledge, some talent, in his composition, and may not show them. But mercy is that which, to have it, is to show it and "do" it. So a man cannot be credited with the "forgiving" disposition unless he habitually practise forgiveness. Mercy in itself is (with Remigius, presbyter, and monk of Auxerre, A.D. 880) "to count another's misery or want one's own, and to be sad at all another's grief as at one's own." The spring of it lies perhaps far away, concealed certainly from general sight and from feeble sight, high up in the hills. Sympathy is its twin rill, and its ever-fresh, crystal, flowing tributary. Its stream now has somehow become deep and full, and circles the world around; for it has become a vital necessity for human-kind. Its compass extends from the freshest, youngest possibilities of the works of the sweetest charity, to the anguished, shamed, smarting sense of pity awakened by and for the worst of sinners. Point special attention to:
1. The grand Exemplar of this quality, the mercy of God in Jesus Christ.
2. The crying, awful, supreme need of it, as poured on a world by him; and as multiplying itself then by the myriad (however weak and small yet) genuine reproductions of its own spirit,
3. The wide, universal use of it - every-where, in everything, in the home, the city, the Church, the nation, for the body and for the soul - where is there the variety or where the grouping of society which does not hang precarious on mercy and its works?
4. The deep degradation signified by the absence of it, and illustrated so patently, so lamentably, wherever in the world, on smaller or larger scale, the level of it is now lowest. Contrast the world of Christian mercy with all its imperfection, and every blot that lies upon it, and all its wayward inconsistency, i.e. at its worst, with the unchristian world, to which mercy is a stranger all but absolute. Mercy is indeed "mightiest in the mightiest;" but of the mightiest earth has not a pattern to show, unless mercy be there to give the solid strength and enduring framework. Only mercy has in it to find what can meet and bear the strain.
II. THE PROMISE ON WHICH THEIR BLESSEDNESS IS BASED. "They shall obtain mercy." This assurance is the justification and the original of that claim on behalf of mercy that it is "twice blessed," blessing him that gives as well as him that takes. Point forcible attention to the fact that here it is signified:
1. That "to obtain mercy" is indeed blessedness. Is it not the necessary deep foundation of all individual and all real blessedness? Quote and compare the beautiful and encouraging exhortation," Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy," as if to say that it is the first and last great effect of the throne of grace.
2. That as "God is not unrighteous to forget the work and labour of love" which is "showed toward his Name" when any "minister to the saints," so certainly he specially appraises this ministry, whether showed to the saints, or possibly yet more, when not shown to saints at all, viz. the ministry of mercifulness.
3. That the reward apparently set forth here, as the return of mercy for mercy, is no mere equivalent. Far otherwise; for, as Chrysostom says, "human mercy and Divine mercy cannot be put on an equality." The latter is "much more" - nay, is it not infinitely "much more"? The two are compared by the warrant of this very passage. But is it not only in one sense, important and significant indeed, but yet limited, that they are compared, viz. for the motive of them? Intrinsically are they not incomparable? The mercifulness of a human heart taught of God, touched by Jesus, is indeed the evidence of its parentage, and a most grateful one. But what mercy of human action can for a moment compare with that here in view when it is said, "for they shall obtain mercy"?
CONCLUSION. Let all lay to heart what, in the estimate of Jesus Christ, must be the place in the world, and in human life and all the compass of its social relations, for this grace of mercifulness, that it should be enshrined in this elegant, chaste temple of the Beatitude, and fill one niche out of so sacred a nine! - B.
this, on the other hand, the eighth in order, must certainly be held (and all the more so by force of the latter clause of it)to place us face to face with God - how certainly, also, to the subsequent advantage of our fellow-man none can doubt. Simple as are the words of this Beatitude, the central word, that one on which the meaning of all hinges, may be rendered yet a little more expressively and unmistakably by the word "clean," which is the Authorized Version rendering ten times out of the twenty-eight times of its occurrence in the New Testament. Three other times is this "clean heart" spoken of, viz.: "The end of the commandment is charity out of a clean heart" (1 Timothy 1:5); "With them that call on the Lord out of a clean heart" (2 Timothy 2:22); "Love one another with a clean heart fervently" (1 Peter 1:22). And in addition twice is a "clean conscience" spoken of, viz.: "Holding the mystery of the faith in a clean conscience" (1 Timothy 3:9); "God, whom I serve from my forefathers with a clean conscience" (2 Timothy 1:3). It is a ." clean linen cloth" in which the sacred body is wrapped (Matthew 27:59); the "seven angels" are "clothed in clean and white linen" (Revelation 15:6); the "Lamb's wife" is "arrayed in fine linen, clean and white" (Revelation 19:8); and "the armies, which followed the Word of God," were "clothed in fine linen, white and clean" (Revelation 19:14). If it were possible to hesitate as to what "the pure heart" of this Beatitude might mean, few could hesitate as to the chief meaning of a "clean" heart.
I. THE CLEAN IN HEART ARE THOSE WHOSE AFFECTIONS, THOUGHTS, WISHES, ARE CLEAN. David's prayer, "Create in me a clean heart, O God," is ever a most practical commentary on the too solemn, too dangerous subject. And St. Peter's earnest entreaty to those whom he counts even as "dearly beloved," that they "abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul," is another. This unclean heart is described by the lips of Jesus Christ himself: "Out of it proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matthew 15:19). And the description is followed on by St. Paul, when he speaks of the "works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:19). Human affections, pure, clean, innocent (partial and imperfect and temporary though they be), lead on to the Divine and eternal; but human passions and the desires of the flesh are the worst foes to the spirit. Into the heart contaminated by entertaining such guests, higher and purer cannot, will not, come. It cannot be pronounced "blessed;" it cannot be "blessed." It has its own eyes indeed, but they are not eyes with which God can be seen. Purity of heart must mean first of all pure thoughts, pure desires, pure affections. Love of the visible, the near, the present, always takes advantage to hinder the love of God, but impure affections fail not to destroy it absolutely.
II. THE PURE IN HEART ARE THOSE WHOSE HIGHER JUDGMENT, BETTER FEELING, TRUER VISION, ARE NOT DISTURBED BY THAT ILLUSION OF SELF-INTEREST WHICH HAS SO BRITTLE, AND AT THE BEST SO BRIEF, A TENURE OF LIFE. The larger examples of the disastrous interferences of what for a while wears all the semblance of expedience, policy, self-interest, and even justifiable self-regard, speak distinctly for themselves when they occur. But the amazing, the incredible work of mischief, invisibly, sometimes unconsciously, rarely enough confessedly, piled up with the effect of crushing unsuspectedly all that is best in the individual heart, it would seem only the plunge into the eternal world can reveal, whether to others or to the victims themselves, whose name is legion. Souls could not have been gambled away more mercilessly or in more ruinous number than they have by these ways committed suicide. They have melted down like the snow, and vanished like phantom troops. The pure in heart know and abide by the right, though it be dressed in rags, and they have no fellowship with the plausible, though arrayed in purple. The pure in heart have an instinct, which holds them faithful adherents to that higher judgment, that better feeling, that truer vision of which the world thinks so little, and which it sells for a delusive nothing. A pure heart believes in it all, without a sidelong glance and without" looking back;" guides itself by what it knows to be the right, and brushes off sophistry as it would a detected traitor-friend. That heart is training to "see God."
III. THE PURE IN HEART ARE THOSE WHOSE HEART ANSWERS AS FAR AS POSSIBLE TO PURE MOTIVE ONLY. Motives are those hidden impulses and inducements of individual actions which so soon usurp the authority of habitual guides of our conduct. Perhaps, to aid our feeble conception of a subject little within our grasp, we might imagine that our heart in its first form was just the scene and domain of feeling - feeling blessedly gentle like infants' breathing; blessedly innocent, that knew no evil; exquisitely sensitive, and - grateful, it knew not why nor to whom. In the midst of that calm scene the plant of thought grew up, inevitably coloured with colour's every tint by feeling. It was no clear thought of reason or of the intellect alone. It was warm with the warmth of human life, and with all its mystery of individual hope, wish, and inclinings. This peculiar domain of feeling and thought, the human soul, became the main place of the originating of action - the fruitful, too prolific seed-bed of all those deeds of the body for which, when we "all appear at the judgment-seat of Christ, we must receive... according to that done, whether good or bad." Now, that is a motive which determines feeling and thought to shape itself into action, and which decides its form. Whence those motives come (so multitudinous, so various, so mixed in their character), often enough the heart itself has lost the stern simplicity to know, and no earthly judge can safely pronounce. The complication has become what human skill cannot disentangle. Even the uncharitable and censorious world has, to a proverb, professed at any rate to renounce the judging of men's motives. None the less realities, yet are they fearful ghostly realities to summon before our bar, indeed I Grant all this, yet every one of us knows, if he will say it, whether those inducements of his actions within him are or are not honest, kind, useful, right, unpoisoned by absolute selfishness, fit to be brought to the light, good, holy - in a word, whether they are "pure," or prejudiced by every degree of the taintedness of impurity, from the least to the greatest. To set this house in order is indeed a task. To suffer, to harbour in it no ill motive, to encourage each better and higher motive, to keep a "clean conscience," the fairest flower and fruit of which is "charity" toward the motives of others, stern strictness toward our own, or humbly, earnestly to try and pray to do this, as far as it is not" impossible with man," is to have, or to approach toward having, the "pure heart," which begins even now to "see God."
CONCLUSION. Dwell upon the very encouraging light thrown on human nature, and on its future - that the vision of God is suggested as granted even here to a growing moral likeness to him, and a nearing moral sympathy with him; while every present and necessarily partial vision of him here is an earnest of the vision of full fruition to came. Partial though the clearest, brightest, best vision here confessedly is, yet is it not the deepest and purest bliss to be had? To this said the reputed Chrysosom of old, "So far as any one has rescued himself from evil, and works things that are good, so far does he see God, either hardly, or fully, or sometimes, or always, according to the capabilities of human nature." - B.
I. THAT MAN IS ENDOWED WITH SPIRITUAL SENSES.
1. The body is the material image of the soul.
(1) The Scriptures suggest this truth when they speak of the "natural man" and the "spiritual man;" of the "outward man" and the "inward man;" of the "hidden man of the heart" as opposed to the ostensible man of the body (1 Corinthians 2:14, 15; 2 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Peter 3:4).
(2) It is involved in the doctrine of the image of God in man. Man is not an incorporeal but an incarnate spirit. After this definition, he is "in the image and after the similitudes of God." In these "similitudes" God revealed himself to man in corporeal human form.
(3) If the spirit be the counterpart of the body, there must be spiritual to correspond to corporeal senses.
2. We experience spiritual sensation.
(1) This is acknowledged in current language. We talk of ideas, or things seen, viz. in the mind. Of soul-perceptions we say, "I see," "I feel;" "He is a man of taste;" "His scent is keen."
(3) They are mentioned in detail. Thus: Feeling (Acts 17:27; Ephesians 4:19). Tasting (Psalm 34:8; Hebrews 6:4, 5; 1 Peter 2:3). Smelling (Psalm 45:8; Song of Solomon 1:3; Matthew 16:23; 2 Corinthians 2:14). Hearing (Isaiah 50:4, 5; John 10:3, 4; John 18:37). Seeing (Acts 26:18; Ephesians 1:18).
(4) We experience them in dreaming when the mind imposes upon itself the spiritual for the corporeal sensations. This is imagination? Just so. The faculty of imagination is the sensorium, or seat of the senses of the spirit.
II. THAT MORAL PURITY IS THE CONDITION OF THEIR HIGHEST EXERCISE.
1. To the pure especially God reveals himself in his works.
(1) In his works his power, wisdom, and goodness may be "seen" even by the heathen (Romans 1:20).
(2) By the pure all this is invested with superior lustre. Things take complexion from the mental moods of the observer. The best mental mood in which to see God in nature is when the soul is lifted into the sunshine of his grace.
(3) The child of God sees the hand of a Father in the works of God. "My Father made them all."
2. To the pure exclusively God reveals himself by his Spirit.
(1) This revelation of God is that more especially intended here.
(2) There is the personal manifestation of the Son of God (see John 14:15-23). This vision is peculiar to the spiritual. Philip did not truly see Jesus, though corporeally before him, until the eyes of his spirit were opened to see the Father in the Son - the Godhead in the manhood.
(3) The world have no such vision of God. If they regard this doctrine as fanatical, this is just what Scripture leads us to expect from them (see i Con. 2:14, 15). "Eyes have they, but they see not; ears, but they hear not."
3. Spiritual revelation is often vivid.
(1) The visions of the prophets were so. Whether they came in "dreams" or in "open vision." These were impressions made upon the senses of the soul. The "visions of God" were sometimes overwhelming (cf. Ezekiel 1:28; Daniel 10:7, 8; Revelation 1:17).
(2) They were so vivid as to be mistaken for corporeal impressions. Samuel thought that a sound came to his outward ear when God spoke into the ear of his soul. Eli was within the range of natural hearing, but heard not this voice (1 Samuel 3:8). Peter, when his corporeal senses were addressed, familiar with the vividness of spiritual impressions, "thought he saw a vision" (Acts 12:9). Paul, in his famous rapture, could not determine whether he was "in the body or out of the body" - whether his bodily or spiritual senses were addressed (1 Corinthians 12:1-4).
4. We have now the philosophy of religious experience.
(1) What is the "witness of the Spirit" to a man's adoption into the family of God but an address made by the Spirit of God to the spirit of the believer? In such "spiritual revelations" we enjoy communion with God.
(2) They are sometimes as vivid as were the visions of prophecy. Who has not heard narratives of such experiences from the children of God?
(3) Let us seek earnestly that purity which qualifies us for this nobler spiritual vision. By complete self-consecration. By habits of faith. By habits of holy living.
III. THAT THE FUTURE OPENS PROSPECTS OF SUPERIOR SENSATION.
1. In the experiences of the disembodied state.
(1) We are in this earth principally conversant with the material. It is so by our constitution. Angels are about us, but we see them not. The body acts as a veil to obstruct our spiritual vision.
(2) But the veil is torn in death. When the veil of Christ's flesh was torn, the veil of the temple was torn. The most holy place then discovered was the type of heaven.
(3) Then shall we see God as the angels do continually behold his face. The most holy place of the temple was the place of the Shechinah.
(4) Then also shall we recover our friends. In the spiritual world spirits will take palpable shape. They will appear as embodied, and be identified through the correspondence which there is between the body and the mind.
2. In the experiences of the resurrection-state.
(1) As these bodies are psychical or soulish, i.e. adapted to the companionship of the appetitive soul, so will the body of the resurrection be "spiritual," i.e. adapted to the companionship of the rational, contemplative spirit. (See the noble sermons of Bishop Ellicott, in his volume entitled, 'The Destiny of the Creature.') Being "spiritual," the body will no longer act as a veil to obstruct the freedom of spiritual sensation.
(2) Corporeal sensation will be improved. Defects, effects of sin, will have no place. The powers of sensation will be enlarged. Vision may be telescopic and microscopic. Hearing may be telephonic and microphonic. We may experience compound sensation. We may at once see as well as hear sound. We may at once hear as well as see colour.
(3) Corporeal and spiritual sensations will articulate. They do so now, in part; but then perfectly. What worlds of fresh experience, comparison, and reflection will be opened when we see together the material and spiritual complements of the great universe of God!
(4) Divine revelations will then be grauder. The new heavens and earth will open to us a materialism of richer harmonies. Added also to the discovery of spiritual natures, there will be the royal vision of God in a glorified Christ. Let us wash in the fountain opened in the house of David, that we may be qualified for a blessedness that eye hath not seen. - J.A.M.
certain work, the gift, and even the honest fervent desire, argues the foundation-grace. And certainly not least so in exactly an instance like the present. As there are some graces and virtues (like patience, for instance) that come little, indeed, naturally or of preference or predilection to any one, so also there are some works, the first to be needed, very likely, but the last to be chosen of any one. And this is one of them. Thus are some men blessed for their works' sake in double sense. It may, then, be safely assumed that the man who volunteers for the peacemaker's work
(1) loves peace himself from the heart;
(2) has diligently sought to follow peace with all men; and
(3) has, by God's grace, subdued the warring elements of his own heart, as far as might be, first.
These are his best and true credentials for his work. The name of special honour and special love put by Jesus himself on the peacemaker pronounces at the same time the high eulogium of his life upon that man's work. The peacemakers' added title is to be understood to be "the children of God." Notice, then -
I. HOW DEAR TO GOD PEACE ITSELF MUST BE. This is because there is a meaning in it, and a beauty and a joy in it, which no doubt we at present fail to comprehend. This is in keeping with some grand expressions in other portions of Scripture applied to peace, and positions of special honour in which it is placed; e.g. "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding;" "the God of love and peace;" "grace, mercy, and peace from God;" "the very God of peace;" "peace in heaven;" "peace be unto you;" "my peace I give unto you."
II. HOW NEAR THE CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN THE MAKING OF PEACE AND THE REMAKING OF THE FAMILY OF GOD ON EARTH. Note the names employed by Scripture to describe the people of God on earth, and how to each belongs by special right the claim of concord, harmony, peace; e.g. "the brotherhood," "the family," "the whole family in heaven and earth," "one fold," "my father's house," etc.; and again note, conversely, how all "enmity," "strife," "divisions," "fightings," and both works and words of "wrath," "unkindness," "malice," "falsehood," and those various ways that must wreck the very thought of peace, are particularly characterized as the works of the devil.
III. HOW PEACE IS IN THE STRICT SENSE A CONSEQUENCE, A RESULT; AND NOT MERELY A CONSEQUENCE IN THE LESS REAL SENSE OF A PRIZE, REWARD, OR FREE GIFT. Accordingly, the person who makes peace makes a great deal else. He has done a great deal underneath, preparatory and out of sight. All this is what is now really the work transpiring in the world - the work of Christ the great Peacemaker and of all his disciples, and those especially whose gift and grace are to promote the reign of peace! The underneath work is long; its fortunes appear very various - now ebbing, again on the flow; the elements concerned in the struggle are very numerous, very complex, very dark, very malignant. Of the actual present period, almost the world around, the things plain to sight are wounds, and the merciless laying open of them; difference, dissension, with opposition as the watchword, euphemistically described not seldom as "inquiry," and "examination into first principles," and "putting the things that are to the test." The peacemakers' work is not the slight healing over of a wound. It includes in it, comprehends under its sweet title, a task which, for the amount of the work it comprises, and for the character of it, makes it coincident with the task of a world's redemption - Christ's own task.
IV. HOW THE GRACIOUS, HOMELY, NATURAL FORM OF THE WORDING OF THIS BEATITUDE MARKS THE CONDESCENDING ACCEPTANCE ON THE PART OF THAT SAME MIGHTY SUFFERER, MIGHTY WORKER IN HIS MIGHTY TASK, OF EACH HUMBLEST CONTRIBUTION AND OFFERING TOWARDS ITS ACCOMPLISHMENT, WHICH MAY BE BROUGHT TO HIM BY THE WAY. The little miniature productions and pictures and homes and social scenes of "peace," in the places where yesterday all the reverse were found-the two lifelong enemies at one - the sadder strife of two fellow-disciples, who had fought under one banner, quenched like lovers' quarrels, - these are but trifles by the way, drops in the bucket, bloodless skirmishes in comparison of the conflict raging on the world's wider battle-field. But they are significant of the greater. The" peace" means an earnest of the larger victory; the love, and prayer, and pains, and pleading, perhaps, which have been blessed to bring it, have all been copied from the biography of the great Exemplar; and over these peacemakers, for their hearts desire, for their endeavour of faith, for the loving copy, which with some success, not despised because it is the day of small things only, they have achieved, the word of blessedness is breathed, and to them is given the name of "the children of God." - B.
first pure, then peaceable" (James 3:17). Christ is himself that Wisdom. Those in vital union with him are pure towards God, peaceable towards men.
I. THE CHRISTIAN SURVEYS A WORLD IN STRIFE.
1. Every man's nature is convulsed.
(1) Irregular imaginations disorder the passions. For good or evil, the passions are moved by the fancy. It should be especially guarded.
(2) Insurgent passion dethrones reason. The passions are then in anarchy.
(3) The anarchy of the soul is propagated into the life. Under passion, as in drunkenness, men will commit crimes, which, when Reason recovers her seat, fill them with horror and shame.
(4) What a scene of turbulence is presented in the aggregate mind of unregenerate humanity!
2. Society writhes in contentions.
(1) A community of convulsed natures. Selfishness and waywardness will be prolific in jealousies and envies, in knaveries and vituperations, in resentments and violences.
(2) Hence a political economy which cannot regenerate must be based upon the counterbalancing of vices. The peace so produced is artificial and imperfect. The effort to produce it often begets new strifes.
(3) The selfishness and ambition of nations provoke fierce wars. The arts of civilization are pressed into this barbaric service.
(4) What voices arise from the battle-fields of the world!
3. Heaven and earth are in antagonism.
(1) Men are in rebellion against God. Some openly - the infidel, the libertine. Some covertly - the hypocrite, the ungodly. Passive resistance.
(2) God is angry against men. Hence the anger of the elements. His retributions come in blights, pestilences, famines, wars, and in deaths in various frightful forms.
(3) This contest does not cease in death. The rebel carries his nature with him into the spiritual world. There he meets the God of judgment. There he encounters the "wrath to come."
II. HE ENDEAVOURS TO COMPOSE THE STRIFE.
1. By an example of peaceableness.
(1) The disposition of the Christian is peace-loving. He is considerate. He is longsuffering. He is forgiving.
(2) His conversation is peaceable. He is conciliatory and yielding. He will sacrifice himself - anything but truth and righteousness.
(3) Peace. doing is included in the idea of peacemaking. A doer of peace is one whose actions are good and useful. The Hebrew greeting, "Peace be unto thee," expressed the desire to promote welfare in general
2. By mediatory exertions.
(1) While others, as incendiaries, blow up the tires of discord and contention, the peacemaker finds the greatest pleasure in allaying animosities, quenching the flames of malignity, and promoting unity and concord among men.
(2) The work of the peacemaker requires courage. For he has to take blows from both sides.
3. By seeking the salvation of souls. In this the root of the mischief is reached.
(1) Thereby the strife with Heaven is ended. It is the reconciliation of the sinner to God.
(2) Thereby the civil war in the soul is ended. It is the reconciliation of the conscience and the will. It is the reconciliation of the reason and the passions.
(3) Thereby the conflict between man and his fellow is ended. It is the reconciliation of human interests.
III. HE REAPS A BLESSED REWARD.
1. He is recognized as the child of God.
(1) For he partakes of the nature of his Father. The God of the Bible is "the God of peace." Contrast with Mars. All the greater forces of nature are peaceful. There is rattle in the thunderstorm; but the force of that storm is not comparable to the silent power of the light, which covers the earth with verdure. How noiselessly do the worlds perform their stupendous revolutions! The earth rotates on its axis without friction at the rate of a thousand miles an hour. Her wings make no noise by which she is carried through space at the rate of a thousand miles a minute.
(2) He partakes of the nature of the Son. The Prince of Peace. How silently, without observation, does the kingdom of Christ come to the soul! In his millennial kingdom "his rest shall be glorious."
(3) He partakes of the nature of the Spirit. "The Spirit of peace. Bringing peace, he is the Comforter.
2. He inherits his Father's love.
(1) This idea is included in the blessedness of the peacemaker. The Father will love the child that bears his image. The Son of his love is the express Image of his substance.
(2) Love implies solicitude. What resources are behind that solicitude! For guidance. For support. For defence. - J.A.M.
i.e. its promise, or the authoritative assurance attached to it. It also may be looked upon as closing the number of the general Beatitudes; for we find that the only remaining one, the ninth, turns from the use of the third person to a gracious personal address to those who were the listening company: "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you" etc. On the other hand, it is possible that the explanation of this lies in the juxtaposition of these two Beatitudes, making one by antithesis, as suggested by the stricter rendering of the Revised Version, e.g., "Blessed are they who have suffered persecution: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed (in like manner) are ye when... Rejoice... for great is your reward in heaven." Under any view, this present Beatitude may well be held to have been itself to a large degree a reminiscence. Persecution for righteousness' sake could be no absolute novelty for the time of the promulgating of Christ's religion, for the great Captain himself or for his apostles and first servants. None the less true, however, was it that a fresh force of goodness, and the greatest force that could be, must avail to stir up direr opposition on the part of the powers of darkness. The Beatitude stands like a repromulgation of one great law of suffering, with its attendant "great reward." And it had its special call at the time. Notice -
I. THE BOLD FORMULATING OF THIS GREAT HUMAN PRESENT FACT, VIZ. THAT RIGHTEOUSNESS SHALL DRAW UPON ITSELF THE WORLD'S PERSECUTION. The thing has of a truth been known; but it has been partly disguised, partly accounted for, by merely side issues, and as far as possible has been minimized, e.g. by methods (analogies to which are now not. unfamiliar to us) such as this, that "it must be confessed there were faults on both sides;" or this, that the right side was not perfect; or this, that it was a shade too uncompromising, or unnecessarily trenchant and thereby gratuitously provocative; with much else. In all such instances the end has not sanctified the means, even though the end was as genuinely as it gave itself out to be, the desire to shield the fair fame of the right, which it might antecedently have been supposed could not get its votaries into harm's way. All these cobwebs and this shallow sophistry the unconcealing voice of the utterer of this Beatitude blows away. This world is not yet the habitat of righteousness. Righteousness is not yet so at home in it that all men are its friends, or anything like all, or anything like the majority. Envy, jealousy, dislike of standing reproof in the shape of that condemning contrast, which stands stationary as a statue, if silent as a statue, as well as such hatreds as come of the more active witnesses and zeal of righteousness - all these are sworn foes to it and its devout followers. "In the world ye shall have tribulation." "What glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye take it patiently? but if, when ye do well and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God." The untoward fact has got its footing in the world and made its place here, and Righteousness does not on that account hide her face or lower her flag. She accepts it all as another task to do, another war to wage, another usurpation to overthrow. But there shall be no disguise about facts, nor shall the sufferer be left without help of promise, without fair consolation. Christ asks none to join his ranks ignorant of his claim, or without cautioning them to count the cost.
II. THE EQUALLY UNQUALIFIED CONDITIONING OF THE BEATITUDE THAT PROFFERS THE ANSWER TO THAT DISASTROUS FACT. The Beatitude is definitely for those who, through their fidelity to righteousness, become the objects of persecution. The scope of the Beatitude would be easily enlarged to the degree of latitudinarianism. It should easily become vague, and its value dissipated in a dubious comprehensiveness; or it might be made to put its most royal stamp on what should least deserve it. The two leading and determining words of the Beatitude are easily susceptible of being wrested from their just application. Righteousness must not be claimed to be a synonym with mere rightness, or what each and any individual may assert to be such by the so-called light of his "own conscience." It is, in point of fact, this very latitude that has been persecution's charter, and the plea for an incredible amount of cruelty and outpouring of blood, which still cries from the ground to Heaven! Righteousness must mean fidelity to moral right or law, or, as we might now more pronouncedly word it, to revealed spiritual law, and to the Revealer of it. It may be quite true that there is other very real rightness, very praiseworthy adherence to it, and very cruel persecution, incurred by and on account of that adherence. Only this is not what is here spoken off Uncovenanted blessing shall alight on this, or blessings covenanted on other promises. Note also that the Beatitude did not in its day mean something more exclusive than already was; on the contrary, while something more clearly defined indeed, its grand point of view was so high that it was vastly larger and more comprehending. The Beatitude is for this very reason most catholic, because its promise is to the citizens of the kingdom ever on the growth, the kingdom in which "dwelleth righteousness." Note also the caution necessary respecting the application of the word "persecution." It must not count in those occasions of suffering due to a variety of very mingled cause, which have really been largely the result of individual fault - perhaps as much so as of the animus of persecution and the persecutor. In corresponding manner, the work of great reformers has sometimes been grievously tarnished by the personal faults of the reformers. The clear significance of the closing verses of the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews guides us well in the discrimination required here.
CONCLUSION. Dwell again (as under first Beatitude) upon what lies in and under the pronouncement, "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." By such suffering men are, so to say, made baptized members of that kingdom. Because they are humbly in sympathy with it, they may throw themselves back upon all the sympathy it has to offer, and most effectually to give to them. And they are entitled to remember and to prize the faithful saying, "If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him." And this is indeed the very essence and glory of all "kingdom." - B.
I. VIRTUE PROVOKES THE RESENTMENT OF WICKEDNESS.
1. This is exemplified in Christ.
(1) He was the incarnation of perfect virtue. Innocent without fault. The Truth itself. And he came to bless.
(2) But how was he received by the wicked? They could not endure the rebukes of his purity. They were maddened by the rebukes of his goodness. Their mortified pride stirred their passions. They murdered him.
(3) Yet he made peace in his death. Peace with God by vicarious sacrifice. Thus a way of mercy was opened for his murderers through his blood. Peace with men, subduing them by the Spirit of his love.
(4) This is our pattern.
2. It is exemplified in the Church.
(1) When it first appeared in the family of Adam. Cain slew Abel. Wherefore? "Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous" (1 John 3:12).
(2) When it appeared in the family of Abraham. Ishmael, born after the flesh, persecuted Isaac, born after the Spirit (Galatians 4:29).
(3) As it appears in the family of Jesus. The history of Abel is an allegory. So is that of Isaac. Persecution against the Christian Church was first organized by the Jewish antichrist. It was continued by the pagan Roman tyranny. Then appeared under Papal, Mohammedan, and infidel forms.
3. It is exemplified in every saint.
(1) Our Lord taught his disciples to expect persecution. The text is his first clear intimation. Afterwards speaking of his yoke (Matthew 11:29). Then of his cross (Matthew 16:24). Finally of himself (John 15:18).
(3) It comes in various forms. The reviling tongue, insulting to the face. The persecuting hand. The evil speech uttered in your absence where you cannot contradict it.
(4) Why do we not suffer more? Do we so coquette with the world that we can scarcely be distinguished from it? "The world will love its own." Do we faithfully witness for Christ? In the workshop. In the railway car. In the highway.
II. SUFFERING THUS ENTAILED SHOULD OCCASION JOY.
1. Because associated with the noblest sympathies.
(1) It is "for righteousness' sake." Because of the hatred of our enemies to righteousness. By the Divine permission, because the temptation strengthens righteousness in the faithful (cf. Romans 5:3; James 1:2). Suffering for righteousness' sake should occasion joy for the opposite reason to that which should cause the felon grief and shame. To rejoice in adversity is the highest proof of Christian patience.
(2) It is for Christ's sake. "For my sake." Love to a Person. Not simply to righteousness, but to its perfect impersonation. What a blessed honour to be counted worthy to suffer in his cause, and for him! The Lord dwells in us; and the virtues which provoke the resentment of wickedness are his. So are we persecuted for his sake; and he is persecuted in us.
(3) Joy is not only a Christian feeling; it is Christian duty (Philippians 4:4).
2. Because associated with the best company.
(1) With the prophets. "So persecuted they the prophets which were before you." Witness those of Ahab's reign. Jeremiah. Daniel. They suffered for the testimony of Jesus (see Acts 7:52).
(2) With the apostles. These were immediately addressed by our Lord as those who were to have the honour of suffering with the prophets. "Which were before you." The apostles were in a grand succession. But the words of Christ are not limited to them.
(3) With the martyrs. Truly a "noble army."
(4) Above all, with Christ. He was the greatest of the prophets. The grandest Apostle. The most illustrious Martyr. Infinitely more. There is even something vicarious in Christian suffering (cf. Philippians 1:29; Corinthians 1:24).
3. Because associated with a great reward.
(1) There is the present blessedness of suffering in the best of causes. "Blessed are ye." We rejoice that righteousness is so dear to us that we are willing to suffer for its sake. And that we are counted worthy to suffer in the best company.
(2) "Theirs is the kingdom[ of heaven." Here: in the principles of righteousness and the consequent favour of God, which are the very elements of heaven. Hereafter: the perfecting of this spiritual bliss.
(3) The greatness of the reward here promised to those whose principles bear the test of persecution suggests the different degrees of reward in the heavenly state. Fellowship with prophets and apostles in glory. Fellowship with Christ. "If we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." - J.A.M.
1 Peter 3:14), so his words, as written in the same Epistle (1 Peter 4:14), seem the very reminiscence of this ninth and closing Beatitude, which his ears had heard more than thirty years before. Notice how, by this kind, direct appeal, Christ betokens his forethought for those on whom should fall the first severity of trial, temptation, and suffering "for his sake." Notice -
I. THE THREE FORMS OF TRIAL PREDICTED FOR THE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST. They are, reproach or railing; persecution; and "falsely saying every evil thing about them," i.e. all kind of slanderous abuse. Even so in all these respects "Christ suffered for us in the flesh." The parallel suggestions in the second, third, and fourth chapters of the First Epistle of St. Peter are frequent (1 Peter 2:12, 19-23; 1 Peter 3:9, 13, 14, 16-18; 1 Peter 4:12-19). They are great types of the wounds the world inflicts. They are very liable to be successful assailers of our peace and of our principles, of our temper and of our steadfast endurance. To be forewarned, in order to be forearmed, was never a wiser precaution to take, nor a more gracious one to give. As St. James says," If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body;" so in most manifest harmony must it be true, that if any man can silently, patiently, forgivingly stand against and withstand the sort of darts described above, he has not in vain learned of the Lord Jesus, whether of his word or his deed - that one perfect Man!
II. THE FIRST RECORDED USE ON THE PART OF JESUS CHRIST OF THAT SUPREME CLAIM OF HIS, WITH ALL ITS SPLENDID SIGNIFICANCE, "FOR MY SAKE." Note:
1. How sovereign this claim is!
2. How the more remarkable from the known "lowliness and meekness" of Jesus Christ!
3. How deeply imbued it is with faith in the force and fidelity of affection - what a condescending bond as between Jesus Christ and any man! And, once more:
4. How wonderfully it has shown itself equal to all whatsoever that it has been called to bear or to do! Granted that love is a strong principle in human nature, the mightiest of its forces, yet what surpassing strength, continuance, inseparableness have through Christ been made all its own, for all its service of him and for all his requirement of it! So still the gift from him has exceeded infinitely all the gift to him, though he speaks of those that are "reproached, persecuted falsely, evil spoken of, for his sake."
III. THE ENERGY OF JOY WHICH THE CASE JUSTIFIES AND WHICH CHRIST ENCOURAGES. How few things to be had on earth, or even to be begun on earth, do warrant such energy of joy; and how utterly averse the verdict of the world from this of Jesus Christ! But the grounds of this joy are real, and they look far, far on; they command a prospect bounded by no earthly horizon. And the bright joy and succeeding gladness will do much to revive the soul, vexed, humbled, worn by the evil speech of the world. This contrast and the effect of it can hardly have been undesigned, in the merciful calculation of the Lord and Master of souls. Nor undesigned the combination of the joy, of "the glorious company of the apostles" with "the goodly fellowship of the prophets." For is not this the inspiriting outcome of the last sentence, "For so persecuted they the prophets, which were before you"? "Their reward great in heaven" had already been ascertained. And apostles now in their earliest training, putting on of the armour, and young fresh aspirations, emulate their historic renown, their everlasting reward. - B.
I. THE SALT.
1. Its function. The salt is to preserve that on which it is sprinkled from corrupting.
(1) The world is in danger of sinking into corruption. Society is threatened with disintegration by the mutual opposition of conflicting classes. Domestic life is corroded by immorality and intemperance. "Naturalism" defiles art. Frivolous amusements tend to become unwholesome. Therefore a preserving and purifying agent is needed.
(2) The world is worth preserving. Otherwise why salt it? Christ does not desire the destruction of civilization, but its preservation. Christianity is not nihilism. Politics, commerce, art, literature, are all worth keeping from corruption.
2. Its action. Salt is antiseptic. The Church is expected to be of the same character; not merely to be pure, but to purify. This is not confined to definite crusades against evil. The mere presence of good men and women in the world tends to keep it sound and healthy, by the silent influence of example. The old heathen world was rotting in vice when the Christians appeared and infused a new life of purity into society. We cannot calculate the advantage to the whole world of the presence in it to-day of pure-minded, earnest, unselfish, good men and women. A few such, like a little salt, have an immense influence in preserving a great mass of society.
3. Its failure. The salt may lose its savour. It may not have become corrupt. Yet as a negative thing it is then useless, and only fit to be cast away as so much dust. If the grace of God, if the spirit of' Christ, if the Divine life, vanish from the Church, the corporation may still exist, but its mission will have ceased. For the sake of the world the spiritual vigour of the Church must be preserved. It will not do to be too conciliatory to society. The Church is salt, not sugar.
1. Its nature. Light banishes night. It reveals our danger, shows our path, cheers our hearts, and refreshes our health. All these things are expected of Christian influence on the world.
2. Its position. A city on a hill; a lamp on its stand. Christians are not to be ashamed of their confession. It is the duty of the Church to be prominent, not for her own sake - for her own prestige - but to spread light on others.
3. Its radiance. The light streams out by means of good works. The world cares little for our words, but it has a sharp eye for our works. We want a new gospel for the present age, one written on the lives of Christians, that the world may see the reality of what we preach.
4. Its object, The glory of God. If this last point had not been added, it might have seemed as though the self-glorification were allowable. But our works are not to our own credit, because, if they are good, all the goodness in them comes from the grace of God. Therefore we glorify God in bearing fruit, by so living that his life shines out through our conduct. - W.F.A.
I. THE ASSISTANCE THEY OFFER TO THE DISCIPLES TOWARDS REALIZING THEIR OWN RELATION IN PARTICULAR TO THESE BEATITUDES. If they are to be, in truth, disciples of Christ, it is necessary that they at least get a firm grip upon the principles underlying the Beatitudes. And it is a great assistance to this - how many significant analogies we know! - to have their own position, i.e. that awaiting them, placed so as to confront them at once. Great theoretic surprises are often converted most beneficently into startling personal and practical surprises. The theoretic surprise would end in nothing but vague dissipation of mind; the personal surprise startles into thought, duty, enterprise. And of such nature surely were these two descriptions of themselves addressed so unexpectedly to the disciples, viz. "Ye are the salt of the earth... ye are the light of the world." The value of the bracing effect of them cannot be overestimated.
II. THE ASSISTANCE THEY GAVE TO THE DISCIPLES TOWARDS COMPREHENDING THEIR OWN CALL. Of oral lessons, these must have been among the first; and in the nature of energizing, refreshing salutations to minds and lives that had never dreamed of what was in store for either the one or the other. Now must have dated the birth within them of some more adequate sense of the dread responsibility of that call. This awakening was not by the path of despairing, overawing, crushing convictions, but by the very contrary:
(1) by the challenge of great truths;
(2) by the incitements of grace, peace, honour, dignity, so soon as once they. took the true idea of dignity, what it is;
(3) the almost unfailing stirrings of consciousness of great, active work before them. How could they sleep, how could thought be dead, how heart or hand be slow, after the voice of such a salutation had gained entrance to their power to hear?
III. THE CROWNING ASSISTANCE THEY GAVE IN THE TWO FIGURES THEY USE. They are such very strong figures. They can't fall on listless ears. They can't fail of making their due impression. They well utter out their unambiguous significance to those disciples. They are of world-wide interpretation - "salt for and of the earth, light for heaven and the whole procession of things created. The absolute plainness and boldness of these figures enhance immensely their likely usefulness, and go no little way to disarm them of one possible danger, viz. the danger, had they been more covert in their manner, of feeding self-importance, self-assertion, and vanity in those newly called disciples. St. Augustine well says, Not he that suffers persecution is trodden underfoot of men, but he who through fear of persecution falls away."
IV. THE DISTINCT REFERENCE TO THE CARDINAL FACT THAT GOD WAS TO BE GLORIFIED IN ALL. The "light" of these men is to be the light of those who are "light in the Lord." Their light is to shine; it is not to be hidden; it is not to be obscure. Their light is to be the light and lustre that assuredly belong to "good works." These "good works" are to be now "seen of men," and in one certain sense they are to be done. so that and in order that men may see them; but the end is to rest not there, and the glory is not to be reflected back on the disciples. The end is that "men may glorify" the Father, of whom the grace and power and light come that make "good works," and who himself is "all Light," and the "Giver of all light." - B.
you faint, what hope is there for the world? He speaks of their relation to the world under two figures - salt and light.
I. Salt was often used as a symbol of anything, like itself, pungent. Wit was so called, and in Christian times a gracious tone in conversation; in each case because of their power of redeeming from insipidity. But salt is used to preserve from corruption; and though the figure which represents society as tending to rot and dissolve is a strong one, any one who knows the facts knows how thoroughly appropriate it was. Nor can it be said to be inapplicable to society or family life now, though Christianity has acted so far like salt that corruption is not so flagrantly obtrusive. But the point chiefly emphasized is that they were the salt. They were not to expect to get good so much as to do good. It is their calling to counterwork the corruption that is in the world. All those things that tend to the lowering of spiritual life are the objects on which they are to act, and if instead of this they yield to them, it is because the salt has lost its savour. If the very persons who are appointed and equipped to carry with them a health-giving influence are themselves prostrated by the evil infection, if disinfectants carry disease-germs, what shall avail us? "If the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing," says our Lord, "but to be cast out, and trodden under foot of men." This also is a strong, severe figure. Plainly we are intended to infer that nothing is more contemptible than a Christian who does nothing to stay corruption. He is a soldier who wears the uniform of his regiment, but leaves the fighting to others; a physician who declines to visit the sick. It is of the very essence of the Christian that he makes some impression on the world. The terms of Christ's call are, "I have chosen you, and placed you, that you might bring forth fruit." Observe that this figure applies especially to beginnings of evil, and to our treatment of the young. Salt can prevent corruption; it cannot cure it. Consider to what the smallest germ of sin in a child may grow; to what extent our life may become corrupt if we neglect to keep the salt of Christian principle.
II. Another danger threatens the disciples of Christ. While some will give up Christian principle altogether when they find how seriously it brings them into antagonism with the world, others will try to hide it. They will continue Christians, but secretly. It is this timorous evasion of opportunities of confessing Christ that he aims at in the figure, "Ye are the light of the world." In this figure several things are implied, as:
(1) that Christians are set for the illuminating of the world;
(2) that what illuminates must itself be visible;
(3) that it is as natural to genuine Christian principle to become visible as it is for light to shine.
1. Christians are set for the illuminating of the world. Our Lord kindled the few men who accepted him as the Light of the world, and they in turn kindled others. He has trusted himself with his followers. He has left it to us to maintain the knowledge of him on the earth, and to hand on the light which all men need. Christians were not to retire and hide themselves, satisfied if they could keep their own souls alive. They were to enter into all the innocent relationships and engagements of life, and so use them as to show their light. All our connections with the world are candlesticks, from which the light may advantageously shine. Persecution itself is one. "Truth, like a torch, the more it's shook it shines." The parental relation is another candlestick. Natural talent may set a man on such an eminence that his light is shed over the land; but all men have some stand from which they can shine, if it is in them to shine. Not the candlestick makes so much difference as the light you put in it. Does any say, "How can I shine - a dull, torpid mass?" Yet not so torpid probably as never to try to influence your fellows in some way. And the dullest body may be a good reflector of light shed. on it. The Christian's is not a self-kindled light.
2. The lesson more directly taught is, that whatever illuminates must itself be visible. If your conduct is to teach a better way to men, your conduct must be seen. Therefore are works here emphasized. Men cannot see your fine ideas, your noble purposes, your holy aspirations. Your thoughts about Christ, your faith in him, your tenderness of heart towards him, are as the oil in the lighthouse lamp. If no light is shown, shipwrecks will not be prevented. So it will not avail to prevent moral wrecks that you have felt anxious, devised ways of aiding, if you have done nothing. The man who is content to save his own soul, and is afraid to interfere with the wickedness around him, is not even saving his own soul. To the light hid under a bushel, or under a bed, one of two things will happen - it will either go out altogether, choked for want of air, or it will burn through its covering and find surprising expression for itself. For:
3. It is of the essence of Christian character to shine, to become visible. There is a kind of Christianity which burns high or low according to the company it is in. But the fact that it can be thus artificially manipulated, like a gas-jet, shows it is an artificial, and not a genuine, Christianity. If you are a Christian you have a law which covers your whole life, and a new spirit within you. Can a man have new fresh blood in his veins and that not show itself"? Just as little can a man have the joy of Christ's love and the reviving energy of his Spirit in his heart, and these not be seen in his demeanour. This witnessing for Christ is not an optional matter. "The good tree will show the good fruit. It cannot go on bearing the old bad fruit out of modesty or a pretended shrinking from ostentation; it must reveal the righteousness of God within by the righteousness of God without, else it is a mockery." The practical object our Lord has in view is declared in the words, "Let your light thus shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." How does this agree with the injunction to hide your good works - not to let your right hand know what your left hand does? In this way. We are to avoid the two extremes of ostentation and timorous shrinking in our conduct; to abandon all affectation, all false delicacy, all pretended modesty and real fear, and live out with simplicity and fearlessness the Christian principle we know and accept. Observe that when our Lord specifies "good works" he does not exclude good words. Often it is a good work to speak the word wanted. And though it is often one of the most difficult of duties, it is certain that we are guilty if we neglect this mode of confessing Christ before men. To be backward in this is a sign that our own light is burning low. - D.
I. AS THE SALT OF THE EARTH.
1. God's instruments for its purification.
(1) Salt is a symbol of purity. It is opposed to leaven, which, by its fermenting properties, hastens corruption; and is a symbol of impurity (cf. Leviticus 2:13; 1 Corinthians 5:8). Christians are distinguished as "saints."
(2) Christians are purifiers. By holy example. [By zealous efforts. By fervent prayers.
2. They impart relish to life.
(2) Christian influence is civilizing. Life where Christian influences are least felt is all but intolerable. Amongst the criminal classes. Amongst savage men.
3. They preserve the world from destruction.
(1) Salt has the property of preserving animal substance from decomposition. The people of the covenant are the people of the salt (see Numbers 18:19).
(2) Sin is disintegrating. It destroyed the world in the deluge of water. It will provoke the deluge of fire. It is the destruction of nations.
(3) The respite of the wicked is in the prayer of the righteous. For ten righteous' sake God would have spared Sodom (see also Ezekiel 14:14, 20).
4. In preserving they are preserved.
(1) Salt may lose its savour. Maundrell, in describing the Valley of Salt, says, "I broke a piece of that part which was exposed to the rain, sun, and air. Though it had the sparks and particles of salt, yet it had perfectly lost its savour. The inner part which was connected to the rock retained its savour, as I found by proof" ('Travels,' 5th edit., last page). So may the Christian lose his true life by yielding to evil influences (see Hebrews 6:4-6).
(2) Salt without savour is useless as the timber of the vine. "Good for nothing." Obstruction to good by giving, false views of religion.
(3) Fit subjects for contempt. "Cast out," viz. from the Church. If not from the visible, certainly from the spiritual. Trampled.
(4) Let loiterers be admonished.
II. AS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.
1. They shine through union with Christ.
(1) Christ is the true "Light of the world" (see John 8:12). Light was the first creation and emblem of the Word. In his "Logos state" he appeared in light. When the Word was made flesh the glory was there, but veiled (see John 1:14).
(3) The Church enlightens the moral night of the world.
2. They shine in union with the Church.
(1) This is suggested in the similes. The city on the hill probably alludes to Jerusalem, an emblem of the Church. The candlestick is a like simile (Revelation 1:20).
(2) The light of Christian profession is most influential there. "Cannot be hid." Shines for the benefit of "all that are in the house" The family. The Church. The world.
(3) Eccentric religionists are here rebuked.
3. They shine in good works.
(1) Righteous works. Justice in judgment. Justice in dealings.
(2) Beneficent works. For the bodies of men. For the souls of men. Kindness to inferior animals.
(3) Consistent works. The eye of the world is keen to discern inconsistencies in professors of religion. Nobody notices the mud on the back of a sweep; but an ink-spot on a lady's muslin is matter for animadversion.
4. They shine in noble motives.
(1) Not for self-glorification. "Works" are to be seen, not self. They are to be "seen," not heard.
(2) For the glory of the Father in heaven. Unostentatious goodness is fit matter for praise to God (see Galatians 1:24). It is a motive for piety. Beautiful examples are powerful influences.
5. They live in their shining.
(1) The light under a bushel will go out. The contained oxygen will be soon consumed. On the lamp-stand it will live.
(2) Bushels will conceal and extinguish the light of life. Apathy: foolish virgins. Cowardice: Peter and the maid. Worldliness. Covetousness. Vanity. - J.A.M.
i.e. essential light, rather than any which signifies merely a light-bearer. They are not only to reflect or transmit this light, but to become themselves "lights." The believer is not a mere reflector, in himself dead and dark, receiving and emitting rays; he is a new seat and centre of spiritual life." As Christ was pleased to use the two figures of the "salt" and the "light" as illustrative of sanctified character, we may consider the suggestions which the two figures have in common.
I. BOTH "SALT" AND "LIGHT" ARE SILENTLY WORKING FORCES. Neither makes any noise. The one works away at the arresting of corrupting processes, the other works away at the quickening and invigorating of life, but neither seeks to draw any attention to itself, or has any open boasting to make. And the silent forces are usually the mightiest. This is an essential peculiarity of Christian character. It has no voice. It cannot brag. It works, it exerts its influence, but it says nothing about it. Illustrate the power of Florence Nightingale in the Crimean hospitals, or of Mrs. Fry in the English prisons. Truly wonderful is the sanctifying power of silent goodness.
II. BOTH "SALT" AND "LIGHT" ARE INTERIOR-WORKING FORCES. This is, at first sight, more evidently true of "salt" than of "light." You must put salt into things, and hide it in them. But the light cannot do its full work until it can get inside things. Its surface-work is its least work. It is warmth in things. It is quickening in things. And so the influences of Christian character work within men, in thought, and motive, and feeling, and resolve. The good have their spheres of influence in the souls of their fellows. They feel a power they may not confess they feel.
III. BOTH "SALT" AND "LIGHT" ARE PERSISTENTLY WORKING FORCES. They keep on as long as there is sphere for their activity. This is the most important element of power in established Christian character. - R.T.
world. Christ's disciples are light-bearers rather than light. Christ is, properly speaking, the Light; and Christ's disciples carry that light, in what they are, and what they do, and what they say.
1. Light reveals darkness. Illustrate effect of opening a window in a foul, dark dungeon. We use the expression, "I saw myself a sinner." The gospel light makes so impressive heathen darkness. Illustrate by heathen customs: Malagasy sprinkling the people; Chinese paper-money sent to the dead.
2. Light quickens any life there may be in the darkness. Illustrate by poem, "The ivy in a dungeon grew," etc. There are some germs of truth, even in dark heathen systems, and these the light of Christ is sure to quicken.
II. THE WORLD THE SPHERE. A. whole world lies in the darkness. A whole world is grasped in the Divine love. But we still need to learn the lesson of the descending sheet that was taught to St. Peter. Notice how unlimited the sphere of the natural light is. It is impartial; it is universal. It visits poor and rich. It tints alike the flowers of the palace garden and of the garret window in the dingy city street. As day shines over city, village, plain, and hill, over land and over sea, so would Christ, the Day, shine over all the world, bringing life and hope and salvation everywhere.
III. MEN THE LIGHT-BEARERS. Easterns did not use tables and chairs. They sat upon the floor; and therefore tall lamp-stands were required, in order that the light might be diffused over all the room. So God would have us be his atmosphere to carry his sunbeam; his candlestick, his lamp-stand, to lift up his light, so that all men might be brought unto him. There has been great difficulty in the way of securing the division of the electric light. But Christ, the Light, can be so divided that each of us can carry forth, and hold up, its full blaze. As lamp-stands, we can hold Christ the Light up, by
(1) Christly living;
(2) by loving commendations;
(3) by active efforts; and
(4) by the sympathy that strengthens all other light-bearers. - R.T.
I. THE OLD TESTAMENT HAS A PLACE IN THE CHRISTIAN ECONOMY. The grounds on which this is established are worthy of consideration.
1. Its origin. The Old Testament was inspired by God. It records his words spoken to Moses and the prophets. Words of God are not to be lightly set aside, however ancient they may be.
2. Its truth. Although it is only a preliminary revelation, it.is not the less a real revelation. The truth it contains is partial, and represents an early stage in the development of Divine ideas among men; yet all truth has an eternal element in it which we may discover when we strip off the husk of its temporary form.
3. Its moral character. The Old Testament is a grand testimony to righteousness. We can never dispense with the Ten Commandments. The stern protests of the prophets against national sin stand good to-day as the utterances of an undying conscience.
4. Its spiritual life. It is difficult for a Christian to get beyond the devotional spirit of the Psalms. Private piety is revealed in the Old Testament so as to be the example and stimulus for all ages.
II. THE OLD TESTAMENT IS NOT A SUFFICIENT REVELATION. It was defective by omission. It could not contain all truth, because when it was written the Jews were not capable of receiving all truth. Its limitations are those of an early stage of revelation. These are not reasons for condemning and repudiating the book. The child is not to be blamed because he is not a man. The adult man cannot afford to neglect the child even on his own account, for the child is a prophet from whom much may be learnt. Still, it cannot be denied that he lacks the man's larger wisdom and more enduring strength. The law of righteousness is not sufficient for us. It cannot create goodness. Its directions are formal and external. The deeper, more spiritual righteousness can only be realized when the Law is written on the heart, and this is done, as Jeremiah predicted, only under the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:33).
III. CHRIST FILLS UP THE DEFICIENCIES OF THE OLD TESTAMENT REVELATION. In this sense he fulfils it. He does not only fulfil prophecy by doing what is therein predicted, but he makes the whole revelation of God perfect by filling up the lacunae that appear in the Old Testament.
1. By leading from the letter to the spirit. The Law is not perfected till its inner meaning is discovered and its living spirit brought forth.
2. By exhibiting in life what the Old Testament reveals in word. The Law had never been perfectly kept till Christ came. Then he was absolutely faithful to it, and thus he satisfied its claims.
3. By giving men power to keep the Law. Not in the letter, which is superfluous, but in the spirit, which is essential.
4. By including the inferior older revelation in his new and most perfect revelation. The acorn disappears that the oak may be seen; but it is not destroyed, it is only developed, and its glorification is accomplished by the larger growth which abolishes its own peculiar form and structure. - W.F.A.
had come, those who yielded but a hesitating and grudging assent to his Messiahship, in that very proportion were prepared to prejudice his character and work now by overdoing it, and anon by literally misrepresenting it and its genius. But even if considerations of this kind might be supposed not to have weight with Christ sufficient to dictate the present tenor of his discourse, there were deeper reasons for it, and those in harmony with the kind consideration he ever had for the thoughts which were transpiring in the minds of disciples "willing" enough, but "weak." Undoubtedly he had already just startled them with the unwonted character of "blessedness" he advocated and pronounced - "blessedness" not of the Law, and scarcely even of the prophets. It had been the lot of both of these to deal chiefly with the sterner aspects of righteousness. And the line of illustrations he was about now most trenchantly to pursue might naturally, to surprised and superficial thought, seem very like to a superseding and a setting at nought of the venerated ancient Law and old prophets. Hence the caution. In this caution, originally addressed to these men, we find perpetual value. Notice -
I. THE MOST COMFORTING ASSURANCE THAT GOD'S GOVERNMENT AND CONDUCT OF THE AFFAIRS OF THE WORLD DOES NOT CHANGE, EXCEPT BY GROWTH, BY DEVELOPMENT; OR BY THE "FILLING OUT" OF ALL THAT WHICH PERHAPS FIRST APPEARED IN SEED, OR IN EMBRYO, OR IN MERE SKETCH AND OUTLINE RESPECTIVELY.
II. THE STRONG ENCOURAGEMENT TO US TO HONOUR "THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS" (AND WHATSOEVER IN MODERN DAYS CORRESPONDS MORE OR LESS FULLY WITH THEM), IN WHAT MAY SEEM SOMETIMES UTTERLY OBSCURE, OR SOMETIMES OF VERY SMALL SIGNIFICANCE. TO what marvellous issues did points in "the Law" that seemed, perhaps, merest ceremonial, superfluous ritual, develop! To what amazing issues did brief enigmatic sentences in "the prophets," which had all the sound of paradox, develop in the grand life of Jesus, in his surpassing works, and in the stupendous portents and facts of his cross, his grave, and his ascension into heaven! The "least of the commandments," whether found in one shape, in Law, or in another, in prophet, is owed our best obedience, and amply rewards it.
III. THE GREAT HONOUR PLACED ON WHAT MAY PERHAPS BE THE OFFERING OF BUT HUMBLE PRACTICE, AND YET HUMBLER TEACHING. Put the same thing in other words, viz. these - the honour attaching to the practice of very retired and obscure lives, the teaching of very humble lips. Doing may be said to be at any time the best part of "teaching." But the honour set on "teaching," as well as "doing," guards against such cases as that of Nicodemus. And it guards against remissness generally, and against that remissness which goes to the extent of hiding one's light under a bushel.
IV. THE METHOD, IN THE PRESENT INSTANCE, OF CHRIST'S TEACHING, VIZ. BY THE DIRECTEST FORCE OF COMPARISON. The allusion to the scribes and Pharisees and their defective righteousness speaks very plainly its own meaning. We may admit that this method was not at all an unknown one with our Lord, while we may be ready to feel confident that it was not a chosen one, and was an unwelcome one. It cannot necessarily authorize our imitation of it, except under the strictest limitations. But now it was the method of that one Being who only and who always is perfectly qualified, perfectly safe to use it aright. The "righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees" was not only condemnable as being one far more of letter than of spirit; it was of letter added to and miserably adulterated by their own traditions, and had nothing whatsoever of life-giving spirit in it. Nothing could so hopelessly shut out men from "the kingdom of heaven" on earth, i.e. from the Church, of which Christ was sketching the doctrine and discipline at this very time, previous to laying the firm foundations of it afterwards by his sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension. The scribes and Pharisees and all their posterity shut themselves out. They did not "enter in" themselves, and as far as possible prevented others. - B.
Law, but to give it higher and richer fulfilment. The importance our Lord attached to this explanation is marked by the abundance of detail with which he illustrates it. He recognized that the mere enouncement of a principle carries little weight to the ordinary mind. He therefore carries his principle all round practical life, and shows how it touches it at every part. Note a few particulars which are liable to misapprehension. Quite recently the subject of lending money on interest has been brought before the public, and from the letter of the teaching here, the case has been made out against it. But we must distinguish between those whose necessities compel them to seek loans, and those who do so for their own commercial convenience. In the one case to require interest is a cruelty; in the other it is only a justifiable business transaction to take our share of the profit we helped others to secure. Again, our Lord's prohibition of oaths has been taken in the letter by a large and highly respectable body of men. But it is to be borne in mind that so inveterate is the habit of falsehood among Orientals that nothing is believed unless it is attested with an oath. It is to this habit our Lord alludes. The habit of profane swearing among our uneducated classes arises mainly from a desire to give force to their conversation without sufficient knowledge of their mother tongue to make themselves intelligently emphatic. It betrays a consciousness, too, on the swearer's part that he is not to be believed on his bare word. All exaggeration in speech brings speedy retribution, for men learn to discount what we say. Simplicity of language lies very near truth in mind and heart. It is not a mere lesson in style, but in the deepest morality, when our Lord bids us cut off superlatives, and all loud, boisterous, exaggerated expressions, assuring us that whatever more than "Yea, yea; nay, nay," we indulge in, cometh of evil. Again, the critics of Christianity are fond of pointing to those precepts which enjoin non-resistance to evil, and asking why we do not keep them. And certainly nothing is more demoralizing than to do homage to one code of morals while we are practising another. And the earnest, simple-minded man, who seeks to lay on Christ's words the eternal foundations of character and conduct, will be apt to accept the gospel rule "crude, naked, entire as it is set down." He will see that here, if anywhere, lies the secret and power of religion, and that it is not for him to pick and choose, but to follow the example of Christ, even in that which is most peculiar and most difficult. And the man who tries thus literally to carry out its words will have the inward peace and the power among men which are the unfailing reward of integrity of heart, even though he may come to learn that there is a better way of fulfilling them; though he comes to see that even when precepts cannot be fulfilled in the letter, they may have an eminently serviceable function in pointing out the spirit we should cultivate. Our Lord himself, when smitten in a court professing to be of justice, protested against the indignity, and did not turn the other cheek. And there are cases where justice demands the punishment of the offender. What we must bear in mind is that the object of Christ's teaching was to introduce a higher morality than that of nature, and that what he demands is the complete repression of vindictive feeling. But he only understands these sayings of our Lord who does his own best to live into their spirit. The man who does so will not find it difficult to discriminate between those cases in which literal fulfilment is demanded and those in which he is to adopt the spirit and intention of the Master. These strongly worded precepts have served to turn men's minds strongly to the more peculiar parts of Christ's teaching, and have brought the spirit of them home to men's minds in a way that a prosaic code of instructions could not have done. Two characteristics of the righteousness required are prominent - it is an exceeding righteousness; and it is a righteousness springing out of love. Our Lord compares the righteousness he requires with that of the best-conducted class in the community, and affirms that, so far from destroying the Law, he demands a surpassing righteousness. There are two kinds of goodness Christians must surpass - the goodness of nature, and the goodness of external legal piety. The goodness of nature is often difficult to compete with. Some men seem so born as to leave grace little to do, and we feel that if the second birth make of us as much as the first birth has made of them, we should count ourselves renewed indeed. But we are not to be content with merely rivalling such men. Our Lord asks, "What do ye more?" While we welcome every evidence that a germ of good is left in human nature, surviving even in some instances the stifling influence of vice, we should be at the same time prepared to show that the noblest natural character can be outdone by the least in the kingdom of heaven. With each of us remains a perpetual responsibility in this matter - the responsibility of wiping out the stain on the name of Christian, and of vindicating the reality of Christ's grace. "The regularities of constitutional goodness," the decencies that society requires, the affections which nature prompts, - these are the perfections, not of God, but of the publican. The man of the world asks no reward for exercising all these. If you do no more than this, where is your exceeding righteousness? Finally, your righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisee. The Pharisees had the pretty common ambition of being counted the religious men of their time. But they were not mere formalists; they were moral men, immensely zealous in their religion. What was lacking in them was a genuine root of goodness, which must at all times produce good fruit. There was wanting love. Their acts were good, but they themselves were evil. No amount of keeping a law can ever make a man good; it can only make him a Pharisee. Our Lord says, "Love, and do as you please. Be yourselves good, be like your Father in heaven; 'for except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter the kingdom of heaven.'" - D.
I. HOW DID JESUS FULFIL THE LAW IN ITS ORDINANCES?
1. Has he not released us from these?
(2) There is an end, then, to the obligation to offer animal sacrifices, to perform Levitical lustrations, to observe the ceremonial sabbaths, to submit to circumcision.
(3) Jesus did not formally abolish these, but left them to dissolve of themselves. The synagogue became gradually converted into the Christian church. The sabbath of the seventh day became merged in that of the first. Gentiles coming into the Church led to altered views respecting circumcision, meats, and purifications. Secondary things are regulated by great principles. Luther struck at the root of all the errors of the apostasy by preaching justification by faith.
2. He has released us by fuelling them.
(1) He is the End of the Law. He stands forth as the all-comprehensive Sacrifice of the Law. As the one great High Priest. His baptism of the Spirit is the one great purification.
(2) The ordinances of the Law, though now no longer followed, are read in their fuller meaning. The face of Moses shines again in the glory of the gospel.
(3) The ordinances now fulfil the very end for which they were given. The Law was never intended to be against the promise. The perversity of men made it so. It was instituted to be a "schoolmaster to bring us to Christ." It serves that end better now than formerly.
II. HOW DID JESUS FULFIL THE LAW IN ITS MORALS?
1. By personal obedience to its requirements.
(1) In assuming our nature he was made under the Law (Galatians 4:4). Innocent in his birth as Adam was in his creation.
(2) He fulfilled all righteousness. That even of the dispensation of John (see Matthew 3:15).
(3) He became obedient unto death. To the end of his trial. Vicariously. Therein he magnified the severity of the righteousness of the Law.
2. By vindicating it in his teaching
(1) The word נמר "to fulfil," among the rabbins, also signifies to teach. Does not Paul use the word to fulfil in the sense of to teach in Colossians 1:25?
(2) In his teaching Jesus vindicated the Law from the glosses of the elders. To the "jot and tittle" he maintained the integrity of the inspired Word against the traditions which would make it void. He required perfect obedience to the least commandment in order to admission into the expected "kingdom."
(3) He asserted the Law even to the motives of the heart. This was against the elders who held that the thoughts of the heart were not sinful. So Kimchi, on Psalm 66:18, contradicts the very letter thus: "He will not impute it to me for sin; for God does not look upon an evil thought as sin, unless against God or religion."
(4) He declared that the evil of sin does not terminate in the act. It is entailed by transmission. It spreads by example. Who breaks the Law" teaches" others to break it. The sinner also advocates sin. He attempts to extenuate its enormity.
(5) Jesus magnified the Law by showing its universality. The interest of the Gentiles in it was nothing new (see Genesis 12:3). It was, however, for ages overlooked. Gentile believers and Jewish saints are declared to be fellow-heirs.
3. By enabling his servants to fulfil it.
(1) They are justified in his blood. Freed from the curse of the Law through his vicarious suffering.
(2) They are regenerated by his Spirit. Brought into sympathy with its holy precepts.
(3) He puts his Holy Spirit within them. By this blessed Helper they "walk in his statutes and keep his judgments, and do them' (see Ezekiel 36:25-27).
III. HOW DID JESUS FULFIL THE PROPHETS?
1. The prophets were expositions of the Law.
(1) They brought out its spirit.
(2) Their predictions were but amplifications of the Law-types. So the Law is said to prophesy with the prophets (see Matthew 11:13).
(3) Jesus is the greatest of the prophets. He not only verified by fulfilment in himself many of their predictions, but enlarged upon the rest. His promises, threatenings, miracles, and parables were all prophecies. He, more than all his predecessors, opened the spirituality of the Law.
2. Jesus vindicated the prophets from the scribes.
(1) The traditional theory of Messiah's kingdom was that it should be ostensible and secular. The Jews, therefore, hoped not only to be delivered from the Romans, but to rule the Gentile world with a rod of iron.
(2) This theory was a libel upon the prophets. It would encourage in the Jews the bad passions of pride, resentment, and cruelty. It would bring the Gentiles under oppression inconsistent with the prophetic anticipation of universal happiness.
(3) Jesus made the kingdom spiritual and invisible; and its glory righteousness and mercy.
3. Jesus vindicated the prophets from the Pharisees.
(1) He refused their righteousness. "Pharisee" - פרש, separate, "not as others." Pride. They "cleansed the outside." The righteousness of the kingdom is "truth in the inward parts."
(2) He refused their beneficence. They were scrupulous in paying the tithes. They loved the praise of men. The beneficence of the kingdom seeks praise of God.
(3) He refused their piety. They went up to pray, but there was no prayer in it. "1 thank thee," etc. They fasted on Mondays and Thursdays with disfigured faces. The piety of the kingdom is rational and manly.
(4) Sincerity is no substitute for truth. Many Pharisees are hypocrites. All were not so. Saul of Tarsus was sincere as a Pharisee (see Acts 23:1; Philippians 3:5, 6; 1 Timothy 1:13). Error as well as wilful sin stands in need of mercy. - J.A.M.
I. MAN'S OLD MAY BE REPLACED. He does not build a new house as a development of the old one; he takes the old one down and puts the new in its place. And this is illustrative of man's methods in all his spheres of education and science and religion. Man reforms by destroying. The iconoclast begins our better days. The scientific teacher first destroys the theories of his predecessors. For man there is a constant succession of something like absolute new beginnings, because there is no guaranteed truth in man's old. (It will be seen that, though this is a large and general truth, it must be taken with some careful qualifications. We should only go so far as to say, "Man's old may be removed and replaced.")
II. GOD'S OLD MUST BE FULFILLED. It can never be destroyed, because it is a step in a series, a piece of a plan, a process in a growth. It is not only true for the time, it is true for all time, but getting expression in adaptation to a particular time. Illustrate by the fruit fulfilling the seed. The seed remains in the fruit, finding there its developed form, or its fitlfilment. Show that it is not precise to say that our Lord's new teaching replaced Mosaism, or even absorbed Mosaism. It developed it, realized it, fulfilled it, fruited it. Christianity is the spirituality of the Mosaism liberated from the chrysalis of formal commands, and set free to show itself as the beautiful winged thing that it is. God's new is always his glorified old. - R.T.
I. IN WHAT RESPECTS THE CHRISTIAN RIGHTEOUSNESS IS TO BE SUPERIOR TO THAT OF THE SCRIBES AND THE PHARISEES. Israel was most famous for the holiness of her religion and the righteousness of her Law; the scribes were the trained teachers of the Law, skilled in making the most of it; the Pharisees were the professed examples of highest obedience to the Law. Yet Christ expects his disciples not only to be better than publicans and sinners; there is no hope for them unless their righteousness surpasses that of the official teachers and the professed saints of Judaism. Consider in what respects this is looked for.
1. In reality. The revered teachers and examples of Israel, as a class, were not good men at all. The teachers did not walk in the strict path they pointed out to others; the examples were but theatrical pretenders. Christ called them "hypocrites." But Christ is true and real. He expects a genuine righteousness. He will not endure the mockery of a character that professes what it does not perform.
2. In depth. The righteousness of Judaism, even when genuine, was too external. It consisted too much in deeds of the hands, too little in thoughts of the heart. But Christ looks for inward righteousness - the pure heart. He forbids hate as murder, and lust as adultery.
3. In positiveness. The Law dealt largely with negatives. Its refrain was, "Thou shalt not." The righteousness of later Judaism was chiefly a matter of restraints. This is always the case in a stiffened, formal system. But Christ expects a positive goodness, a spirit of living energy in religion - love and its outflowing activity of service.
II. WHY THE CHRISTIAN RIGHTEOUSNESS IS TO BE OF THIS HIGH CHARACTER. It may seem that Christ is binding a heavy yoke on the shoulders of his disciples. Is this consistent with his gracious promises and gospel invitations? Consider the reasons for such a requirement.
1. The blessedness of righteousness. This was clearly set forth in the Beatitudes. If it is good for a man to be righteous, it is no hardship that Christ should require a lofty standard; for this means a higher joy.
2. The obligations of light. Christ was a Light revealing a fuller righteousness, teaching it in his words, illustrating it by his conduct. It is reasonable that he should expect more from those who enjoy the privilege of his light than from those who have not received it. We may forgive in the night a stumbling which is unpardonable in broad daylight. Christians are expected to be better than heathens, better even than Jews, because they know more of God's will and how to fulfil it.
3. The encouragements of grace. The Law cannot secure righteousness; the gospel can do this. Christ brings to us a God-made righteousness, and he gives us the power to be all that he expects of us (Romans 3:21, 22). His demand is only that we will not frustrate the working of his grace in us. - W.F.A.
exceeding another does not at once appear. We may apprehend it, if we duly consider this distinction. Heart-righteousness must, in every age, be the same thing; but practical righteousness, finding expression in conduct and relations, does go by an ascending scale, and does vary in different ages and nations.
I. A RIGHTEOUSNESS MAY BE ESTIMATED BY THE SPACE IT COVERS. A ritual religion, such as formal Mosaism was, covers a precise and limited area. Its righteousness could be clearly defined. It bore relation to the prescribed acts of homage and worship; and even if it concerned itself with man's private life and relations, its sphere was only conduct; it consisted in formal obedience to specified rules. This is illustrated in the confidence of righteousness expressed by the young rich ruler, when he said, "All these have I kept from my youth up." The space his righteousness covered was very limited. Within its limits Mosaic righteousness stiffened until it became a mere ceremonialism, which could be kept up along with personal indulgence, and immorality. Men could honour God with their acts, and disgrace him by their lives. And then the Jehovah-prophets were sent, to awaken a moral life, and reveal the true sphere of righteousness. Still, a righteousness may be estimated according to the limits of its sphere. The Christ-righteousness demands the entire life and relations. Right every day and everywhere.
II. A RIGHTEOUSNESS MAY BE ESTIMATED BY THE DEPTH TO WHICH IT GOES. "They that worship the Father must worship him in spirit and in truth." In this line set, in strong contrast, the righteousness of a characteristic Pharisee and the righteousness of a characteristic Christian. Granted that both are equally diligent in worship and outward obedience, what do we find if we go below the surface? Cain and Abel were alike "righteous" in bringing their thank-offering; but what a difference down deep, in motive and feeling! David and Solomon were both "righteous" in attending to Jehovah's temple; but what a difference down deep, in motive and feeling! Christ's righteousness is the highest type; it begins within and flows through all the life and relations. - R.T.
I. CHRIST TRACES TO ITS REAL GERM AND ORIGIN THE FOUL, OVERT CRIME OF MURDER. That is to say, it is:
1. Personal anger, i.e. anger with a person, that person necessarily a creature of God, and therefore one's own brother. Anger with sin, anger with a man's offence, and the mischief he and it may have done, and anger in the sense of self-defensive and instinctive momentary resentment, are not herein condemned.
2. Anger permitted to express itself in the shape of utter contempt for the person. Illustrate by comparison of contempt, disdain, mockery, and all this family, with sorrow, grief, pity, compassion.
3. Anger assuming energetic activity, neither suppressed and dying in its own ashes, nor (however mournful this) kept within the limits of a parched, arid atmosphere, where for less worthy reasons it nevertheless will extinguish itself; but finding fresh fuel and disastrous incentive in the shape of passion and passion's vocabulary.
II. CHRIST DIGNIFIES INFINITELY THE CONCORD OF BROTHERS ON EARTH BY LETTING US KNOW THAT HEAVEN TAKES SPECIAL NOTE RESPECTING IT, AND MAKES IT ITS OWN CAUSE. The gift to God cannot be laid on the altar, so that it shall be accepted, while upon that other altar, the altar of the offerer's heart, false fire burns. It cannot escape notice that the loved and beloved disciple's heart received this saying and treasured it to old age, and gave a most exemplary version of it, in its spirit, in his Epistle (1 John 2:9-11; 1 John 3:11, 14, 15; 1 John 4:20, 21; 1 John 5:1, 2). How far, far away even the Christian elements and tributaries of human society and brotherhood are still from apprehending and practising what is here taught!
III. CHRIST GIVES US THE SUREST GUIDE TO MORAL REFORM, ONCE SEEN AND ACKNOWLEDGED; IT IS FOUND IN PROMPTNESS. The most merciless adversary a man ever had, whether only most exacting as regards debts due to him, or revengeful as well as exacting, is not to compare for mercilessness and exactingness with that adversary which each and any man has within himself, and which consists of his own worse self! That worse and lower self is our worst adversary. He equivocates, he extenuates, he procrastinates; he is grievously self-indulgent, slow to awake from sleep or sloth, self-partial to a proverb, and blind to all his own higher self's higher interest. Once let a just thought, a glimmering ray of light, a genuine conviction of duty, or an admonition from without, really heard, be his, and this is his hope, his safety, the earnest of his regeneration, that he "agree quickly." - B.
heard, etc. The people generally were acquainted with the Law chiefly through the teaching of the scribes; but the scribes so mixed the traditions of the elders with the Word of inspiration, that it was needful that the Source of inspiration should speak again. "I say unto you."
I. HERE CHRIST OPENS THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE LAW.
1. He does not release us from the letter.
(1) The precept against murder was "of old time." It originated in the judgment of God upon the first murderer. It took more definite shape as one of the Noachian precepts (Genesis 9:5, 6). It reappeared as the sixth commandment in the Decalogue (Exodus 20:13).
(2) This Law has never been repealed. For suppose, as some contend, that the Decalogue was repealed along with the Levitical ordinances, it would still bind as a patriarchal institution. The reason of its enactment as a Noachian precept still holds, viz. "For in the image of God made he man."
(3) Anyhow, it is here reimposed by the Lawgiver himself (cf. Isaiah 2:3; Luke 24:47; James 2:8-13). Moses the "servant" yields to Christ the "Son" (Hebrews 3:5, 6). "I say unto you" significantly contrasts with the impersonal "It was said." We are "under the Law to Christ."
2. He enjoins the Law is its spirit.
(2) Anger is murder in the heart. The angry heart is as much in danger of the judgment of God as the murderous hand is of the municipal court (cf. 1 John 3:15). The murderer in the heart is a malignant anger.
(3) There is a generous anger of grief. This is a holy passion. It is a passion against sin. Our Lord himself felt it (Mark 3:5).
(4) There is a murder in the tongue. The "raca" is the expression of a malignant heart. Such was the bitter sarcasm of Michal (see 2 Samuel 6:20). So likewise is the angry condemnation of the expression, "Thou fool!"
3. He arms the Law with formidable sanctions.
(1) Here is no weakening of the ancient sanctions. The "judgment," or senate of twenty-three persons, is referred to, whose death-punishment was by the towel and sword. The "council," the Sanhedrin, or national court of seventy-two judges, is also referred to, whose death-punishment was by the still more shocking mode of stoning.
(2) But here is mention also of the "much sorer punishment." Neither the municipal nor the national court of Israel could deal with the murderer in the heart. Yet is there a judgment and a council before which this criminal shall stand.
II. BUT HIS SYSTEM AFFORDS SPACE FOR REPENTANCE.
1. There is the altar for the gift.
(1) The allusion here is to the altar of the ceremonial Law. Such an altar was that upon which the first family offered their gifts (cf. Genesis 4:3-5; Hebrews 11:4). Such that upon which the Israelite presented his offerings.
(2) Upon the great altar of Calvary God's great Gift, his Son, was offered for us. This was to the end that we may offer the same great Gift to God by faith. This is the best we can possibly offer. It is evermore acceptable.
(3) But with this infinite burnt offering and sin sacrifice we must also offer ourselves (see Romans 12:1). Personal sacrifice includes personal possessions and resources.
2. The offerer must be repentant.
(1) Reconciled to his injured brother. Injured through the murderous temper. Through the murderous speech. Reconciled by confession of the fault. By seeking his forgiveness.
(2) Reconciled to those who have injured him. God, in commanding us to love our enemies, forbids our hating even with cause for hatred. Resentful feeling must be banished.
(3) "Leave there thy gift." Do not expect mercy from God until the reconciliation with men be sought. Leave it there as a pledge. The delay necessary to the reconciliation must not become the occasion for relinquishing the suit. Leave it there, sacred as it is, for the necessity of reconciliation is urgent.
(4) "Then come," etc. Come with confidence. Christ will be accepted for your justification. You will be accepted for Christ's sake, in adoption.
III. HE WARNS THE SINNER AGAINST PROCRASTINATION.
1. By the uncertainty of life. "Agree with thine adversary quickly," for life is uncertain.
2. By the transiency of opportunity.
(1) The great opportunity is passing away. "Whilst thou art in the way with him," viz. to the judgment or council, for the plaintiff apprehended the defendant.
(2) So are the minor opportunities of incident transient.
3. By the certainty of judgment.
(2) The implacable heart is before God an adversary to him that nourishes it.
(3) The adversary brings the sinner to the bar. Our Judge surveys motives. He weighs evidence truly. His justice cannot be evaded.
4. By the severity of retribution.
(1) The judge delivers the culprit to the officer. As holy angels are the convoy to the spirits of the just, so are fallen angels the officers of doom to the condemned.
(3) The punishment is crushing. The endurance of Gehenna fire until the uttermost farthing is paid. When can a bankrupt pay all? "It' we pay no share of our debt of obedience here, while in the way of probation, how can we do so when our evils are confirmed by continual impenitence, and the life of them is become the very principle of our existence?" (Bruce). - J.A.M.
I. THE MAINTENANCE OF THE BROTHERHOOD IS ESSENTIAL TO PIETY. This is illustrated in vers. 23, 24. Worship cannot be acceptable to God, when offered by men who are out of brotherly relations. The offering to God is not acceptable as offering, but as the expression of the man, the declaration of his mind and heart, which God accepts in the offering. He must put his mind and heart right towards his brother, or God will never accept it as right towards him. The unforgiving never worship God aright. "If we love not our brother whom we have seen, how can we love God whom we have not seen ;" "He who loveth God should love his brother also."
II. THE MAINTENANCE OF THE BROTHERHOOD RESTS WITH THE CHRISTIAN. That is Christ's point. It is his mission to culture and ennoble his disciples by putting them under the pressure of serious responsibilities. And this is one of them. However aggravating our brother may be, we, as Christians, are bound to keep up the brotherhood. . It there are yieldings to be done, we must do them. The Christian can never excuse himself by saying, "My brother will not be reconciled to me." He must be; and the Christian must not rest until he is. The burden of right relations rests on him.
III. THE MAINTENANCE OF THE BROTHERHOOD MAY INVOLVE SELF-RESTRAINTS AND DISABILITIES. This is one of the great spheres of Christian self-denial and self-sacrifice. Every true Christian will be willing to suffer rather than break the brotherhood. - R.T.
I. NOT ONLY BEFORE ALL AND EVERY ACTION OF SIN HE MAKES COUNT OF THE THOUGHT-SEED THAT GREW TO IT, AND NOT ONLY BEHIND ALL AND EVERY ACTION OF SIN HE MAKES COUNT OF MOTIVE, AND THE THOUGHT THAT WORKS AS MOTIVE THERETO, BUT ALSO THAT WITHOUT ANY ACTION WHATSOEVER, HE TAKES MOST SURE ACCOUNT OF THOUGHT, AS ITSELF MATTER AND SUBJECT OF SIN, WITH ITS QUALITIES AND ATTRIBUTES.
II. THE BODILY SENSE THAT MAY BE THE INLET, THE AWAKENER, AND FEEDER TO THOUGHT AND HEART, OF SIN OR OCCASION OF SIN, MUST BE DENIED, CLOSED, AND DESTROYED, RATHER THAN LEFT TO BE AN "OFFENCE" TO THE KEEPING OF THE LAW. THIS IS TO HONOUR GOD'S LAW.
III. THE BODILY POWER WHICH MAY HAVE THE SKILL AND CUNNING, AND ALL THAT MAY BE THE BEST TALENT OF THE PERSON GATHERED INTO IT, MUST IN LIKE MANNER BE DENIED, SUPPRESSED, DESTROYED, IF ANY PERVERSE BIAS POSSESSING IT MAKE IT PROVE AN "OFFENCE." THE SOVEREIGN VOICE OF THE COMMANDMENT IS THEN AGAINST IT.
IV. THE COURSE WHICH FAILS OF HONOURING THE LAW OF GOD TO ITS TRUE INTENTION, IS ONLY TOO SURE TO BETRAY ITS OWN FAULTINESS, IN INVOLVING MANIFOLD OTHER VIOLATION OF IT, AND THIS, TOO, ON THE PART OF OTHERS AS OF THE WRONG-DOER HIMSELF. - B.
I. THAT THE LAW IS KEPT OR BROKEN IN THE HEART.
1. Acts are good or evil as expressions of the heart.
(1) This was the reverse of the teaching of the elders. Especially so in the school of Hillel. Hence the Pharisees took the technical observance of the letter to be the fulfilling of the Law (see Luke 18:11).
(2) But an act apart from the will would be automatic and mechanical. It would cease to be moral (see Matthew 15:19).
(3) The spirit, therefore, is the essence of the Law. So David (see Psalm 66:18). The ordinances respecting ceremonial uncleanness and their washings and bathings were designed to teach this.
2. The senses are the instruments of the heart.
(1) The eye is an inlet to its wickedness. The appetite of Potiphar's wife was stirred by the comeliness of Joseph (see Genesis 39:6). Samson was overcome by the vision of Delilah (Judges 16:1; see also 2 Samuel 11:2).
(2) The eye is an outlet to its wickedness. Bad men look that they may lust. They lust in the look where further satisfaction cannot be attained. "Eyes full of adultery," etc. (2 Peter 2:14). Were time, place, and opportunity in their favour, the look would ripen into the deed.
(4) What applies to the eyes applies also to the other senses. There is adultery in unclean discourse. In wanton dalliances. In immodest dressing. "Jezebel painted her face and tired her head," etc. (2 Kings 9:30). Sex is the spirit of the modern dance. "Men sin; but devils tempt to sin" (Henry).
3. The Pharisee, ignoring the spirit, transgresses the letter of the Law.
(1) The original law of marriage admitted of divorce for the one offence of infidelity to the specific marriage covenant (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:3-8). Other causes there might be to justify separation, but not divorce.
(2) Moses permitted divorce under other conditions (Deuteronomy 24:1). But this permission was hateful to God (see Malachi 2:16). It was suffered by Moses because of the hardness of the people's hearts (Matthew 19:7, 8). Between laws of command and laws of permission there is an important distinction.
(3) Taking advantage of the concession, divorces became common on account of dislikes and caprices. Rabbi Akiba said, "If any man saw a woman handsomer than his own wife, he might put his wife away; because it is said in the Law, If she find not favour in his eyes. Josephus, not being pleased with his wife's manners, put her away."
(4) Our Lord showed how this conduct operated against the Law. It made an adulteress of the divorced wife; for it treated her as though she had been such. It exposed her to the temptation to commit adultery. Bound by the law of her husband during his natural life, even did she marry another she would be an adulteress (see Romans 7:1-8). By parity of reasoning, whoever married her would be an adulterer. The proper husband is responsible as the cause of all these consequences (ver. 32; see also Psalm 50:18; 1 Corinthians 7:10, 11).
II. THAT THE HEART MUST BE PURIFIED AT ANY COST.
1. Because the unclean heart is fit only for perdition.
(1) It can have no place in heaven. It would be there a monstrosity in the midst of symmetry. It would mar the harmony of purity, it would be out of sympathy with saints and angels. It would be an intolerable offence to the holy God.
(2) Gehenna is prepared for the devil and his agents. A man goes to "his own place." His hell is in his heart.
(3) In Gehenna there are also torments for the body. "Both soul and body." The body will be tormented in every part. The "eye." The "hand." The "whole body."
2. Terror is the argument for the brutish.
(1) Fine sentiments have little influence with the lustful. The debauchee flings overboard all such when he tramples upon the sanctities of wife, family, home, and Church. Upon the principle that the garotter will respect the cat.
(2) To the adulterer, therefore, our Lord preaches damnation. The true minister will follow this example. He can only keep a clean conscience by declaring the whole counsel of God (see Jude 1:22, 23).
3. Resolute dealing is needful here.
(2) Men, under surgical advice, will part with a limb or an organ to save life. So the sinner who hazards his soul for his idol must sacrifice his idol to save his soul.
(3) To neglect the mortifying of a single member may prove the destruction of all the members. When one member sins, all the members sin with it and suffer the penalty. Better one perish in repentance than all perish in Gehenna.
(4) Those duties which are most unpleasant are often most "profitable." God requires nothing from us that will not be to our advantage. - J.A.M.
comes into our heart which Christ declares to be sin; it is the evil that is cherished in our heart. In the cherishing lies the sin, because that cherishing is as truly the act of the will, the act of the personality, as any overt act of transgression could be.
I. TEMPTATION IS NOT SIN. Illustrate by the threefold temptation of our Lord. To have those thoughts suggested to his mind was in no sense sin. We may say, he could not help their coming. They were presented from without. Bodily passion may present to us temptation; the presence of others may become force of temptation; circumstances may prove temptations; evil spirits may suggest temptations; but we must see clearly that temptation is outside our true selves. "Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust;" something he has, not something he is. An old divine quaintly says, "If Satan comes up to my door, I cannot help it; if he lifts the latch and walks in, I cannot help it. But if I offer him a chair, and begin with him a parley, I put myself altogether in the wrong."
II. SIN DEPENDS ON MAN'S WAY OF DEALING WITH THE TEMPTATION. It bears no relations to a man's will until the man exercises his will upon it. And that will may refuse a parley or may admit a parley. That will may reject the temptation or may cherish the temptation. Sin comes with the cherishing. The possibilities of man's dealing with temptation are shown to us in the threefold triumph won by the Lord Jesus Christ over temptation when in the wilderness. - R.T.
I. AN INNOCENT THING MAY BECOME A CAUSE OF STUMBLING. Christ does not require us to maim ourselves as an act of penance, or on any ascetic grounds. The eye is given to see with, and the hand to work with. Both are from God, and both are innocent in themselves. The body is not an evil thing, but it is meant to be the servant of the soul; as such it is an instrument "fearfully and wonderfully made." We do not honour God by dishonouring the body which he has bestowed upon us. But the body may become the tool of the tempter. It may be corrupted and perverted so as to be worse than the slave of sin, so as to be itself a perpetual temptation. Not only the body, but other things that belong to us, and are sent for our good, may become stumbling-blocks - e.g, wealth, power, friendship.
II. A STUMBLING-BLOCK IN THE WAY OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE MUST BE CAST ASIDE AT ANY COST. The question turns on Our estimate of the great end of life. To frustrate that in deference to any present pleasure, or to escape from any present trouble, is to commit a great mistake. We are not now concerned with some slight inconvenience in the future. The thought is of complete shipwreck, of being thrown into perdition on account of the hindrance which it is very unpleasant for us to remove. So serious a danger does not admit of any consideration for the present annoyance involved in escaping it. The engineer will tunnel through mountains, blow up huge rocks, and bridge wide chasms to carry his line to its destination. Shall any hindrance be permitted to block the Christian's course to eternal life? As a matter of fact, self-mutilation is not the right method of avoiding temptation. If it were the sole method, it would be prudent to resort to it. But, as God has provided other ways, only a wild delusion will resort to this. Moreover, if lust is in the heart, it will not be destroyed by plucking out the eye. If hatred reigns within the enraged man, he is essentially a murderer, even after he has cut off the hand with which he was about to commit his awful crime. Still, whatever is most near to us and hinders our Christian life, must go - any friendship, though dear as the apple of the eye; any occupation, though profitable as the right hand. - W.F.A.
I. SELF-DISCIPLINE MAY TAKE EXTRAVAGANT FORMS. It does whenever the body is regarded as in itself an evil thing. Then the supreme work of life seems to be the humiliation of the body, and the silencing of its demands. This extravagance is illustrated by the hermits; by such action as that of St. Simeon Stylites; by the orders of monks and nuns; by the self-mortification of wearing hair-shirts or sharp crosses next the skin; or submitting to prolonged fasting, etc. It is said that the holy Henry Martyn yielded to this extravagance, and tried to mortify the flesh by walking about with stones in his shoes. The abuse of a thing should never prevent our making a right and good use of it. (See also the self-discipline system of Buddhists.)
II. SELF-DISCIPLINE SHOULD TAKE REASONABLE FORMS. There is quite room enough for stern, strong dealing within wise limitations. A man is not required to ruin his health by his self-discipline; because the soul needs a sound and healthy body through which to gain its full expression. It may be shown that Christian self-discipline should
(1) keep within reasonable spheres;
(2) use reasonable methods; and
(3) seek to attain only reasonable results.
Men form an unnatural conception of the Christian requirement, and think to attain eminent piety. This leads them into extravagances. If we had worthy conceptions of what piety is, its attainment - without adding any idea of eminent - would seem the all-sufficing effort of a life. - R.T.
this. And they had the least of what was legitimate. They covered equivocation, promoted familiarity with what under any circumstances should be reserved for solemn occasion, and nourished the deeper distrust between man and man. Excepting, therefore, from condemnation what we have every reason to believe that Christ did not mean to include in condemnation, we have his most express discouragement of all frequent, ordinary, idle use of forms of swearing - nay, of all use of swearing, except such as specially safeguarded, is therein, and, other things being equal, to be regarded as authorized. We have the opportunity of a divinely suggested glimpse into the moral ethics of Christianity, and are invited to note of all swearing, that while it proceeds on the very showing, when between men, that it adds inducement to the faithful performance of the promise, and confidence to the calm trust of the person to whom the promise is made, in these very things it carries the reminder of its own discredit. And the way is paved for Christ's more excellent version. Notice -
I. SIMPLE ASSEVERATION OR DENIAL THE RULE OF CHRISTIAN LANGUAGE.
II. SIMPLE ASSEVERATION OR DENIAL THE BEST HONOUR TO THE CHARACTER OF THE LIP THAT SPEAKS.
III. SIMPLE ASSEVERATION OR DENIAL THE BEST CREDIT TO THE TRUSTFULNESS OF THE PERSON WHO HEARS.
IV. WHAT IS MORE THAN SIMPLE ASSEVERATION OR DENIAL MEANS "EVIL" IN THE ONE PARTY, OR IN THE OTHER, OR IN BOTH. IT PROCEEDS ON THE VERY SUSPICION OF EVIL PRESENT. - B.
I. THE SWEARING THAT IS NOT FORBIDDEN. This is of two kinds, viz. religious and civil - spiritual and judicial.
1. Spiritual swearing.
(1) The Persons of the blessed Trinity are bound by a conditional oath to redeem and save mankind. This is the covenant of God, in which he swears by himself because he can swear by no greater (see Genesis 22:16; Psalm 105:9; Luke 1:73; Hebrews 6:18, 14).
(2) We have to eater into God's covenant in order to be saved. Swearing to God is, therefore, of the very essence of religion.
(3) Hence this most solemn swearing is positively enjoined: "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God" - thy covenant God - "and shall swear by his Name" (see Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20; Jeremiah 4:1, 2). This is in effect, "Thou shall engage thyself in his covenant to have no God beside him." It implies that we bind ourselves to worship and serve him only. It means also that we take him for a Witness to all our actions.
(4) Christ came not to destroy this Law, but to bind it more closely up by the cords of love. Hence, referring to these gospel times, God says, "I have sworn by myself; the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear" (see Isaiah 45:23; Isaiah 65:16).
2. Judicial swearing.
(1) Swearing in this sense was prescribed in the Law. The "oath of the Lord" was imposed (see Exodus 22:11; Numbers 5:19). It does not appear that Hebrew witnesses were in the first instance sworn, but in matters of important testimony they might be adjured (see Leviticus 5:1).
(2) This our Lord does not forbid. It is being sworn rather than swearing. Jesus submitted to adjuration (see Matthew 26:63, 64). In Christian courts of law "an oath for confirmation" remains "the end of all strife" (Hebrews 6:16).
II. THE SWEARING FORBIDDEN IS THE PROFANE.
1. False swearing is emphatically such.
(1) It is dreadful impiety towards God. It is taking the Name of God in vain. ]PGBR> So "hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity is explained by nor sworn deceitfully (Psalm 24:4). When God is called in as a Witness, as he is when vows are made to men, as well as when they are made expressly to God, these must be performed unto the Lord" (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:4, 5). (2) It is injustice to man. Few men will perjure themselves before a court but for dishonest design. In cursing evils are imprecated. In broken vows the imprecation returns upon the head of the swearer. 2. -Promissory vows are especially to be avoided. (1) These are the oaths that may be "performed" particularized here. (2) Such oaths trifle with contingencies. The affirmation of a fact, with whatever solemnity, is comparatively simple, for truth is immutable. A promise pledging the future may fail through strength of temptation, through pressure of unlooked-for claims, through forgetfulness, through surprise. 3. Habitual swearing is profane. (1) This is an habitual breaking of the third commandment. The irreverent use of the Divine Names breeds a contempt of God which is fearful irreligion. (2) This sin, from its gratuitousness, is the more devilish. Being wanton it has no excuse. It is the unmistakable sign of a graceless heart. (3) "The Lord will not hold him guiltless." He will have to answer for this immediately to God. III. EQUIVOCAL SWEARING IS PROFANE. 1. The elders disputed this. (1) They admitted that it is incumbent upon men to "perform unto the Lord their oaths." But they interpreted that only to be an oath in which the Name of the Lord was mentioned. (2) Thus Philo forbids men to swear by the Supreme Cause; but directs them, if necessary, to call to record the earth, sun, or heavens. So Maimonides, "If any man swear by heaven or by earth, yet this is not an oath." In 'Elle Schemoth Rabba' (sect. 44), "As heaven and earth shall pass away, so an oath taken by them shall pass away." This is a sample. (3) Hence the distinction which the Pharisees made between serious and slighter oaths. Kindred to this is the distinction between "mortal" and "venial" sins. The simplicity of truth knows no such differences. "He that committeth Sin is of the devil." 2. Our Lord insists upon it. (1) He teaches that swearing "by heaven" is virtually swearing by God. For heaven is God's throne. It would be no heaven but for his presence. Swearing by heaven is staking a man's hope of heaven. (2) He teaches that swearing' by the earth is virtually swearing by God. For it is his footstool, under his eye, subject to his providential rule (see Psalm 24:1). His "footstool," viz. at which his mercy is supplicated. Swearing by the earth is staking a man's hope of mercy. (3) He teaches that swearing by Jerusalem is virtually swearing by God. For that which made Jerusalem to the Jew a matter of appeal was its sacredness as the place of the temple and Shechinah. It was "the city of the great King" (see Psalm 46:4; Psalm 48:2). The swearer here staked his interest in the kingdom of Messiah. (4) Swearing by the head, or "by the life of the head," as the rabbins phrased it, is still swearing by God. For so little power has a man over his head that he cannot change the colour of a hair. God's property in a man's head is infinitely more than the man's. God is in truth the Life and the Lifter-up of the head (Psalm 3:3). (5) The principle underlying all this is that men should see God in everything. That the creature cannot be separate from the Creator. Therefore that calling any creature to witness is virtually calling God. All equivocal swearing is consequently profane. "The knave who kisses his nail instead of the book, thinking to release his false testimony from the crime of perjury, fearfully deceives his soul." IV. TRUTH IS PERFECT IN SIMPLICITY. 1. Christ therefore requires it in speech. (1) Let it be yea or nay - simple affirmative, simple negative. And if greater solemnity be required, then let the yea or nay be emphatic. Emphasis was given in repetition by the Hebrews. Our Lord's emphasis was "Verily, verily." (2) But the yea must be yea. There must be no equivocation. There.must be no deception. Even Homer says, "He whose words agree not with his private thoughts is as detestable to me as the gates of hell" ('I1.,' 9:312). (3) Truth is best pledged in simplicity. A true man's word is his bond. A true man loves truth for its own sake. To require more than a word from such a man would be an insult to his honour. His self-respect will shrink from adding anything to his declaration. 2. lie attributes to evil what is added to simplicity. (1) It comes from the evil in the nature of man. Oaths have their origin in man's propensity to deceive. They are encouraged by vanity. They tend to a contempt for sacred things. A common swearer is an habitual perjurer. He that swears will lie. He that lies will steal. (2) It comes from the evil one. Satan is the father of lies. He is the father of liars - of perjurers- of profane swearers of every order. - J.A.M.
(2) It is injustice to man. Few men will perjure themselves before a court but for dishonest design. In cursing evils are imprecated. In broken vows the imprecation returns upon the head of the swearer.
2. -Promissory vows are especially to be avoided.
(1) These are the oaths that may be "performed" particularized here.
(2) Such oaths trifle with contingencies. The affirmation of a fact, with whatever solemnity, is comparatively simple, for truth is immutable. A promise pledging the future may fail through strength of temptation, through pressure of unlooked-for claims, through forgetfulness, through surprise.
3. Habitual swearing is profane.
(1) This is an habitual breaking of the third commandment. The irreverent use of the Divine Names breeds a contempt of God which is fearful irreligion.
(2) This sin, from its gratuitousness, is the more devilish. Being wanton it has no excuse. It is the unmistakable sign of a graceless heart.
(3) "The Lord will not hold him guiltless." He will have to answer for this immediately to God.
III. EQUIVOCAL SWEARING IS PROFANE.
1. The elders disputed this.
(1) They admitted that it is incumbent upon men to "perform unto the Lord their oaths." But they interpreted that only to be an oath in which the Name of the Lord was mentioned.
(2) Thus Philo forbids men to swear by the Supreme Cause; but directs them, if necessary, to call to record the earth, sun, or heavens. So Maimonides, "If any man swear by heaven or by earth, yet this is not an oath." In 'Elle Schemoth Rabba' (sect. 44), "As heaven and earth shall pass away, so an oath taken by them shall pass away." This is a sample.
(3) Hence the distinction which the Pharisees made between serious and slighter oaths. Kindred to this is the distinction between "mortal" and "venial" sins. The simplicity of truth knows no such differences. "He that committeth Sin is of the devil."
2. Our Lord insists upon it.
(1) He teaches that swearing "by heaven" is virtually swearing by God. For heaven is God's throne. It would be no heaven but for his presence. Swearing by heaven is staking a man's hope of heaven.
(2) He teaches that swearing' by the earth is virtually swearing by God. For it is his footstool, under his eye, subject to his providential rule (see Psalm 24:1). His "footstool," viz. at which his mercy is supplicated. Swearing by the earth is staking a man's hope of mercy.
(3) He teaches that swearing by Jerusalem is virtually swearing by God. For that which made Jerusalem to the Jew a matter of appeal was its sacredness as the place of the temple and Shechinah. It was "the city of the great King" (see Psalm 46:4; Psalm 48:2). The swearer here staked his interest in the kingdom of Messiah.
(4) Swearing by the head, or "by the life of the head," as the rabbins phrased it, is still swearing by God. For so little power has a man over his head that he cannot change the colour of a hair. God's property in a man's head is infinitely more than the man's. God is in truth the Life and the Lifter-up of the head (Psalm 3:3).
(5) The principle underlying all this is that men should see God in everything. That the creature cannot be separate from the Creator. Therefore that calling any creature to witness is virtually calling God. All equivocal swearing is consequently profane. "The knave who kisses his nail instead of the book, thinking to release his false testimony from the crime of perjury, fearfully deceives his soul."
IV. TRUTH IS PERFECT IN SIMPLICITY.
1. Christ therefore requires it in speech.
(1) Let it be yea or nay - simple affirmative, simple negative. And if greater solemnity be required, then let the yea or nay be emphatic. Emphasis was given in repetition by the Hebrews. Our Lord's emphasis was "Verily, verily."
(2) But the yea must be yea. There must be no equivocation. There.must be no deception. Even Homer says, "He whose words agree not with his private thoughts is as detestable to me as the gates of hell" ('I1.,' 9:312).
(3) Truth is best pledged in simplicity. A true man's word is his bond. A true man loves truth for its own sake. To require more than a word from such a man would be an insult to his honour. His self-respect will shrink from adding anything to his declaration.
2. lie attributes to evil what is added to simplicity.
(1) It comes from the evil in the nature of man. Oaths have their origin in man's propensity to deceive. They are encouraged by vanity. They tend to a contempt for sacred things. A common swearer is an habitual perjurer. He that swears will lie. He that lies will steal.
(2) It comes from the evil one. Satan is the father of lies. He is the father of liars - of perjurers- of profane swearers of every order. - J.A.M.
I. THIS IS A LAW OF UNIVERSAL CHRISTIAN CONDUCT. Christ was not a Solon, drawing up a code of state laws. His precept was not made in any legislative assembly. He spoke to men who lived under the irresistible yoke of stern, just Roman government. But his words had no influence with that government. Thus, no doubt, they were primarily for private conduct. They did not concern the question of a state's duty in defending its coast from the invader, or protecting its citizens by police supervision from outrage. But attempts have been made to confine the obligations of our Lord's words to the individual relations which he was contemplating when he uttered them. The Sermon on the Mount, we are told, is for private Christian guidance only; it is not intended to regulate governments. Surely that is a dangerous narrowing of its functions. So long as the state is not Christian, Christian principles cannot be looked for in legislation; but as soon as the gospel has Christianized the state, Christian principles must appear in public policy. This was apparent in the criminal legislation of Constantine, the first Christian emperor of the Roman empire. It is a grossly unchristian thing for men in a free, self-governing country to think that motives of greed or revenge that are not permissible between man and man are allowable between nation and nation.
II. THIS LAW IS NOT INCONSISTENT WITH ORDER AND JUSTICE. To see that it is not, we must observe its exact application.
1. It does not concern our defence of others; it only touches our defence of our own rights. The government is bound to protect those committed to its charge, but it is not bound to avenge an affront offered to itself. The policeman is required to guard the victim of a brutal assault from violence, but he is not bound to avenge insults and wrongs directed against himself.
2. The reference to the "lex talionis evidently shows that the thought is of revenge. Still, all resistance of evil seems to be forbidden. It is certainly difficult to see. how the principle is to be applied in all cases.
3. Nevertheless, we have sadly failed to carry out even its intelligible and more obvious demands. Patience and calm endurance of wrong are not Anglo-Saxon characteristics, but they are Christian. Interpret Christ's precept
(1) in the light of ver. 5;
(2) in the light of his own behaviour under arrest; and
(3) in connection with the next precept. - W.F.A.
restraint of the more natural instinct of revenge. Christ, however, thus early forewarns his disciples of what his eye saw so clearly, his knowledge knew so well, that in this vicarious scene and state not so much even as even-banded justice was to be had, and that it was so dangerous to the seeker himself to seek it, that he had better, with a voluntary genuineness and a genuine voluntariness, sacrifice it. Christ teaches, therefore, here -
I. THAT THE HIGHER MORAL PERCEPTION OF THE TIME AND OF HIS DISCIPLE SHOULD BE PREPARED TO RECOGNIZE THE FACT THAT THE CONDITIONS OF THIS WORLD ARE NOT THOSE OF EXACT AND EVEN JUSTICE.
II. THAT THE DISASTROUS INNER CONSEQUENCES OF PUTTING ONE'S SELF INTO PERSONAL ANTAGONISM WITH ANOTHER ARE SUCH AS TO COUNSEL THE HIGH DUTY OF FOREGOING EVEN THE DEMAND FOR SUCH JUSTICE, AND OF NOT RESISTING THE EVIL PERSON.
III. THAT CORRESPONDING BENEFICENT CONSEQUENCES, FINDING A WAY TO WORK IN OTHERS AND IN THE WORLD, SHALL COUNSEL THE SAME COURSE.
IV. THAT THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO FORCE IS A WILLING SURRENDER OF THE PRESENT HOUR'S JUSTICE, AND PRESENT HOUR'S APPARENT SELF-INTEREST.
V. THAT THE CROWN AND PERFECTION OF THE CHRISTIAN DISPOSITION IS TO MEET "IN THE WAY" THE APPEAL OF THOSE WHO WOULD ASK, AND GIVE TO THEM; OF THOSE WHO WOULD BORROW, AND LEND TO THEM. THOUGH ALL APPREHENSION OF FORCE BE REMOVED FAR AWAY, THE CHRISTIAN HEART WILL NOT REBOUND TO THE DEMAND OF ITS RIGHTS, BUT WILL FEEL COMPASSION, SHOW COMPASSION, AND GIVE. - B.
kind and that of kindness. These are not necessarily inconsistent. For Christ came not to destroy but to fulfil the Law. Properly understood, "Eye for eye and tooth for tooth" is the co-relative of "Do unto others as you would they should do unto you." We propose to view the lea talionis -
I. AS A DIRECTION TO THE MAGISTRATE.
1. The spirit of its teaching to him is to minister judgment in equity.
(1) The law of retaliation was a question for the magistrate. Private vengeance has no sacred approbation (see Deuteronomy 19:16-21; Romans 13:4). The scribes conceded to private revenge what the Law permitted to the magistrate as a civil penalty; but this was an evil perversion.
(2) It would be an outrage upon equity were a magistrate to give the sentence of death for the destruction of an eye. Or, on the contrary, were he to assign a trifling exaction for a serious crime. The magistrate must not refuse justice to the poor; or favour the strong against the weak (cf. Luke 18:3).
2. The doctrine of Christ strengthens his hands.
(1) The prohibitions of our Lord have reference to private resentments. They do not interfere with magisterial functions. The sermon on the mount was addressed to the disciples (see ver. 1).
(2) The scribes, however, had interfered with them in sanctioning private revenges. And these revenges were often carried far beyond the limits of equity.
(3) In absolutely forbidding private revenges Jesus restored the magistrate to the Law. In this he fulfilled the Law.
II. AS A PERMISSION TO THE INJURED.
1. The Law did not impose retaliation.
(1) It simply made it competent to one who had suffered to exact from the person who caused his injury a corresponding or equivalent suffering. Except in cases of life and death, he might commute the exaction of "an eye for an eye" for a money satisfaction (Exodus 21:23-25). Or the sufferer might decline to prosecute. The Law was strictly permissive.
(2) Hence it is evident that the precepts of Jesus do not destroy the Law. The spirit of the Law is not in favour of revenge. It is rather intended to limit and check it.
2. The rule of Christ is against the spirit of revenge.
(1) "That ye resist not evil." In this Christ does not say that we may not avoid evil. He himself went from Judaea into Galilee to avoid the resentment of the Pharisees (John 4:1-3). He instructed his disciples when persecution should arise against them in one city to pass on to another (Matthew 10:23).
(2) He does not say that we may not even resist it simply for our own security or for the security of others, within certain limitations (cf. John 18:23; Acts 16:37; Acts 22:25; Acts 23:2, 3, 17; Acts 25:10, 11).
(3) The law of retaliation must be made consistent with the law of love. This is best secured by forgiveness. To prosecute a knave or a rowdy for his moral benefit might consist with love; but the motive might be misunderstood (cf. Matthew 26:52; Romans 12:17; 1 Corinthians 6:7; Galatians 5:22).
III. AS A MORAL TO THE WORLD.
1. The end of Law is the public good.
(1) Licentiousness must be restrained or society must dissolve. Retaliation is sanctioned to restrain it. So for public reasons, without any feeling of resentment, a Christian might prosecute a knave or a rowdy.
(2) Retaliation is sanctioned, moreover, to convey moral lessons to the conscience of the transgressor. In this view a Christian might prosecute an offender with benevolent intention.
2. The public good is also the design of the gospel.
(1) It wins victory by patience. Conquering the resistance of a foe by the restraint of a stronger arm does not vanquish his spirit of resistance. The peaceful victory turns the foe into a friend.
(2) It wins victory in patience. The patient sufferer has vanquished all the devils of pride, selfishness, and cruelty in his soul
IV. AS AN INSTRUCTION TO THE CHRISTIAN.
1. When he suffers bodily injury.
(1) This class of injury is represented in the case of the blow upon the cheek. Here is affront as well as injury (cf 2 Corinthians 11:20).
(3) Submission, in rare eases of excessive brutality, may expose us to a repetition of the injury. If so, still bear it. "Turn the other cheek."
(4) Generally the first forgiveness will prevent the second blow (Proverbs 25:22). Note: It is the return blow that makes the quarrel.
2. When he suffers wrongs to property.
(1) This class of injuries is represented in the case of the coat. We may forfeit property through suits at law instituted by knaves who make no conscience of forgery and perjury (see Ecclesiastes 3:16; Ecclesiastes 5:8).
(2) Suffer wrong rather than go to law. If the sufferance should lead to further greater loss - the loss of the cloke in addition to the coat - suffer it still. The cost of both may be less than the cost of litigation. The loss of both is less than the loss of the spirit of meekness.
3. When he suffers outrages upon liberty.
(1) This class of injuries is represented in the case of the compulsion to go a mile. This also should be taken patiently. Go "twain" rather than contend.
(2) History teaches that our liberties have been won by sufferings rather than by resistance. This is the very principle of the cross of Christ, by which we are liberated from the slavery of sin. So in the interests of liberty is the cross of patient self-denial to be taken up.
4. Moreover, our beneficence must be active.
(1) We must be free to give. The request of the poor should be taken as an opportunity for the duty of almsgiving. We may see the hand of God in the hand of the poor. Who would refuse God?
(2) We must be free to lend. Thereby we may relieve a present exigency. We should not "turn away" from or shun the poor whom we know to be needing our help.
(3) But beneficence must be with discretion (Psalm 112:5), else the idle and worthless may carry away what should have been reserved for the worthy. All must be consistent with the claims of creditors, of family, and of the household of faith. - J.A.M.
severity of Mosaism. But its proper estimate depends on the contrast in which it is set. Contrast it with Christ's doctrines of self-denial in order to serve others, and of non-resistance of evil, and it seems severe. But contrast it with the previous, and the widely prevailing doctrines of early days, and its mildness will at once come to view. Illustrate that the primary idea of man is - kill the man who does you any wrong. It is the sign of good order, wise government, worthier estimate of life, and a milder tone, when money payments, and restoration of equivalents, take the place of the revengeful demand for life. The tendency of civilization to require a more moderate, restrained, and reformative dealing with wrong-doers, may be observed in all ages; and it should be applied to the Mosaic civilization, as a distinct advance on the social systems of that day. But it should be borne in mind that our Lord is dealing with the private offences of disciples, and not with public offences against law. The expression of the regenerate character in the ordinary associations of life is his theme. And he is dealing, not with the Mosaic lex talionis, but with the common and vulgar idea of revenging offences, which sought to gain support by making an undesigned application of the Mosaic Law. Christian disciples must not avenge themselves.
I. OBSERVE THE, CIRCUMSCRIBED AREA OF THIS RULE. It is safe when officially applied in a court of justice. The wrong-doer can reasonably be made to replace his wrong. It is unsafe when applied, under personal feeling, in private life. Then it may be but an expression of revenge; and revenge is altogether unworthy of the Christian. The mildness of Mosaism is shown in its making revenge to become official action.
II. OBSERVE THE FIGURATIVE CHARACTER OF THIS RULE. There is no satisfaction for a noble person in making an enemy suffer exactly as he made him suffer. The terms are figures for the reasonable demand of restoration of the mischief done. - R.T.
I. THE DUTY.
1. Positive. This carries us beyond patience under insult and nonresistance to injury. The previous passage insisted on those duties only. It was negative in character, forbidding a wrong course of conduct; therefore obedience to it would be purely passive. Now we come to a positive and active duty - to love and aid.
2. Helpful. Love is a subjective sentiment, but it cannot confine itself to the breast of the person who cherishes it. It must flow out in deeds of kindness. Here is the key to the precept in the previous paragraph. By itself it seems to be impossible to carry out so extraordinary a rule; or, if it were put in practice, it looks as though it might be quite subversive of society. But it must be followed by the conduct now recommended. Bare non-resistance will not be successful. It will only end in the extinction of right and the triumph of aggressive evil. But non-resistance, sustained by active love to our enemies, will assume a very different character. Love is a more powerful weapon than the sword. We are to "overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21); to conquer our enemy by destroying his enmity, while we prove ourselves his friends.
3. Prayerful. Love is not sufficient to meet the hard heart of enmity. Only the gracious influences of the Spirit of God can do it. Therefore we are to pray for these. If we are wrongfully used, we may overcome our enemies by seeking for God to turn their hearts while we show them brotherly kindness.
II. ITS REASONABLENESS. This duty is so contrary to the ways of the world that it seems to be quite unnatural and unreasonable. But Christ shows that he has good grounds for demanding it of us.
1. The example of our Father in heaven. God is not only kind to the good. First, he shows infinite patience and forbearance. Then he goes beyond these passive excellences and manifests active beneficence in sending sunshine and rain to all sorts and conditions of men. Thus he is impartial in his kindness. He does not regulate his favours by our deserts. The very constitution and course of nature reveal this large, indiscriminate beneficence of God. Yet God maintains order in the universe, and ultimately effects the triumph of the right. Therefore kindness to enemies is not unnatural; it is the very method of nature. It is not unreasonable; it accords with God's wise way of governing the universe.
2. The obligations of Christianity. The law of resentment represents a low stage of moral development. If religious people follow this law, they are no better than the irreligious - "the publicans;" if Christians follow it, they are no better than the heathen - "the Gentiles;" i.e. Christian love as such only appears when we begin to love those whom we should not love if we were not following Christ. We prove our religion, not in those good things in which we agree with the irreligious, but in those by means of which we surpass them. Meanwhile no lower standard can be allowed to the Christian; he must aim at nothing less than the Divine example of perfection. - W.F.A.
I. THE PRINCIPLE IN ITSELF.
1. How frankly it addresses itself to the facts of human life!
2. How undisguisedly it acknowledges the damage of human nature!
3. How irresistibly it persuades of the not irredeemably lost original! It is as though tidings of it, and a reviving message from it, not seen for so long a time.
II. THE TYPE DISCARDED. The dead level of most ordinary human practice is all that can be said of it.
III. THE TYPE ADOPTED. It is the highest conceivable, and at the same time not discouraging in its tendency on that account, but most suggestive of gracious comfort for us, and of earnest effort on our part. It makes us children of "our Father who is in heaven." It looks like his perfectness, and leads onward and upward ever toward it. - B.
I. IT CANNOT BE THE ABSOLUTE PERFECTION OF GOD.
1. There is an infinite difference between God and man in their being.
(1) Man is originated. He had a beginning. His immortality had a starting-point. God's eternity had none.
(2) Man lives a moment at a time. His immortality is an interminable succession of points. God lives an eternity at a time. "His being no succession knows."
2. There is an infinite difference in their presence.
(1) The presence of man is limited. He occupies a few cubic feet of space. The presence of God is universal.
(2) The presence of man is localized. If he would be elsewhere he must vacate his present place. God is perfectly present everywhere. When we say he is in heaven, we mean that he is there in every perfection of his nature. When we say he is here, we mean precisely the same. So in respect to every conceivable point in immensity. In the infinitude of these conceivable points he is simultaneously perfectly present.
3. There is an infinite difference in their power.
(1) The power of man is limited. Circumscribed by the laws of God in nature. Circumscribed by the force of conflicting wills. The power of God is an irresistible will.
(2) The power of man is formative. He can mould, he can combine, he can disjoin. He cannot create. He cannot destroy, God can create. He can reverse the act of creation.
4. There is an infinite difference in their holiness.
(1) The holiness of God is necessary. It is simply the natural harmony of all his perfections. This harmony is the standard of holiness. Man has no natural holiness. His sinfulness is the discord of perverted attributes. His holiness is of grace, derived, dependent.
(2) So might we proceed with all the attributes of God and man, so far as the former are made known to us, and the conclusion must be evermore that for man to become absolutely perfect as God is quite out of the question.
II. IF THE PERFECTION BE NOT ABSOLUTE, THEN IT MUST BE RELATIVE. As God is perfect in his relations to us, so must we be perfect in our corresponding relations to him.
1. Our Father is perfect in his relation to us as Creator.
(1) How admirably are we fenced with bones, arranged as levers, curiously fitted into sockets and hinges! How surprising is our muscular structure, our nervous system, our organs of sense! How noble are our intellectual endowments! How wonderful are our affections, appetites, and passions!
(2) As creatures do we render fully to God the homage of these powers? Has he our undivided hearts? Has he the best services of our brains? Has he the vigour of our nerve and muscle?
2. Our Father is perfect in his relation to its as King.
(1) His providence in nature is beneficent. "His sun," "his rain." All creatures are his. "He maketh his sun to shine;" "He sendeth his rain." The forces of nature act under his control. His Word lets us into the secrets of his providence.
(2) As subjects are we correspondingly perfect in relation to him? Do we see him as the First Cause, ever active behind all second causes? Do we never neglect to seek him in the revelations of his Word? Do we loyally serve him in the conduct of our lives?
3. Our Father is perfect in his relation to us as Saviour.
(1) He pitied us in our fall. "He maketh his sun to shine on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. He stooped to lift us up. He comforts us with his favour. He cheers us with hopes of heaven.
(2) Have we repented of our sin? Accepted his mercy? Are we full of gratitude? Full of loving-kindness to our fellows? Full of the spirit of sacrifice?
III. THE PERFECTION ENJOINED IS CHRISTIAN.
1. This is set forth in the term your Father.
(1) Sehlom, in the Old Testament, do we find God spoken of under this endearing title. It is his most constant title in the New.
(2) There is a reason of fitness in this. The spirit of the Law was not that of a son, but of a servant. It was the spirit of bondage to fear." The Law was given amid the roar of flame, the hissing of storms, the rattle and crash of thunder, the clang of the trumpet, and the shaking of the very earth.
(3) The gospel changes all this (see Galatians 4:1-7).
2. The standard of Christian perfection is higher.
(1) Superior relations bring loftier claims. Hence the gospel law is broader and deeper, more comprehensive, more spiritual.
(2) It shows:
(a) Murder in the heart and lip (vers. 21-26).
(b) Adultery in the heart and eye (vers. 27-32). Profanity in Pharisaic sophisms (vers. 33-37).
(c) Revenge in resistance (vers. 38-42).
(d) Heathenism in conventional Judaism (text).
3. Love is the badge of Christian discipleship.
(1) Discipleships in general have their distinguishing marks. Hindu spots and strings. Monkish tonsure. Opinions.
(2) So the Christian (see John 13:34, 35). The end of the commandment is love. Love is the means to the end.
(3) But in what sense is this commandment (John 13:34, 35) new? It is not new in principle, for nature teaches it. It is distinctly taught in the Mosaic Law (see Leviticus 19:18). It is new in its measure. Moses says we are to love our neighbour as ourselves. Jesus says we are to love our brother better than ourselves. So he loved us (cf. Philippians 2:17; Colossians 1:24; 1 John 3:16). - J.A.M.
aim, to be kept in the soul of the Christian, there to work as a perpetual inspiration to the seeking of perfection in the life and conduct. St. Paul presents the distinction between full-grown men and little children. The full-grown men are the perfect; they have reached the fulness, the standard, of Christian manhood. A man "perfect" is one who has attained his moral end, the standard according to which he was made; one in whom every Christian grace has reached its ripeness and maturity.
I. CHRISTIANITY PRESENTS A PERFECT STANDARD OF HUMANITY. Christ is the realized thought of God, when he designed the being man. The Christ is to be so set before men, that they may get from his story the idea of a perfect human being. We may be able to form an idea of perfect virtue, perfect duty, perfect purity. What we wholly fail to conceive is a perfect man. That must be shown us, revealed to us. And when we see him, behold he is "God manifest in the flesh." For, after all, God himself is the standard perfection; and it is only because we see him in Christ that we are satisfied with Christ.
II. THE CHRISTIAN STANDARD OF THE PERFECT IS THE NOBLEST INSPIRATION TO MAN. To be like God is the sublimest human possibility. We know what being like God means when we look on Christ. He has at once revealed our distance from the "perfect;" for we are not like him. He inspires us to seek after the perfect; for we may be "made like unto him in all things." - R.T.