« PreviousContinue »
stood as referring to heaven, the land of eternal felicity. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled : by the assistance of God's Spirit they shall obtain what they desire; and, in the practice of righteousness, shall be greatly blessed, as well as in the fulness of its future rewards. They who successfully resent the injuries which they meet with are not happy; but they who forgive them, and who, being of a humane beneficent disposition, do all the good in their power, especially to persons in distress.
Blessed are the merciful ; for they shall obtain mercy : when they are judged they shall find forgiveness. Nor is this all the merciful shall be recompensed with, even in this life: for, after many days, they shall find the bread which they have cast upon the waters of affliction returned to them ten-fold by God, who, in the course of his providence, will give them abundant prosperity. Besides, the delight which arises from making others happy, whether by rescuing them from want, or by restoring them to the paths of virtue, is the most ingenuous pleasure imaginable, it is godlike and divine.
Blessed are thc pure in heart ; for they shall see God. We reckon it a delightful thing to behold the light, to contemplate this beautiful theatre of the world, and to look on the sun, by whose beams all other things are seen. How much more delightful must it be to behold the Creator of the sun and of the world, in the unveiled beauties of his nature ! But the pure, having their hearts cleansed from those evil passions that cloud the mind, are favoured with peculiar manifestations of God here, and berea fter shall see him face to face, perhaps, by some new unknown faculty : and, in him, shall contemplate all truth and goodness, for truth and goodness subsist in him substantially : blessed privilege ! and, by that contemplation, shall be raised to high degrees of illumination, perfection, and happiness.
Blessed are the peace. makers ; for they shall be called the children of God. They shall be acknowledged by God as his children, and admitted by a participation of his happiness, an honour in which those who take pleasure in war, however eminent they may be for courage, shall certainly miss, though it be the aim of their ambition ; because they pursue it, not by the godlike disposition of diffusing happiness, but by spreading desolation and death among their fellows ; so that, having divested themselves of the nature of God, they have no title to be called the sons of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake ; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Fame, or the applause of the world, does not give solid contentment, by satisfying true ambition ; but to be reviled falsely in the ways of righteousness, and to share in affronts with God, is a dignity that yields infinitely greater joy, and is that by which the saints and prophets have been distinguished in all ages.
Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you, falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven : for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Thus spake the Son of God; and it may easily be believed, that the persons whom he thus described shall be blessed as he declared; for reason itself sheweth, that the poor in spirit, the mourners for sin, the meek, those who hunger after righteousness, the merciful, the pure, the peace-makers, the reviled and persecuted for righteousness' sake, and such like, are beloved of God. But they who are beloved of God must be supremely happy. None of the sensations of pleasure which now enter the human mind, properly speaking, are produced by the objects which occasion them, but by the power of God, who uses these objects only as instruments. Therefore, without mentioning the divine joys that arise from the possession of holy dispositions, if God can, by low and terrestrial objects, give such great and manifold delights as we now
possess, inay he not carry the joys of his favourites vastly higher, by objects infinitely mobler ; even such objects as we have reason to believe will subsist in heaven, the state which the wisdom of the Almighty has contrived, and his power formed, for the happiness of his friends and people.
Having thus described true happiness, Jesus addressed himself to his disciples in general, and explained their duty as teachers appointed to lead others in the road thither. For, as they were all eye-witnesses, they were all to become ministers of the word. Hence he compared them to salt, representing the efficacy of their good example, to season men's minds with a love of piety and virtue, which is the proper preservative of spiritual substances. Ye are the salt of the earth ; but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted ? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under-foot of men.
whose business it is to reform mankind; be wicked yourselves, ye cannot be reclaimed, but will be the most useless and contemptible of men.
In the next place, Jesus compared his disciples to the sun, representing the efficacy of their ministry, to fill the world with the gladsome light of truth; a thing as necessary in the moral world as light is in the natural. Ye are the light of the world. And thrat they might be excited to diligence in dispensing the salutary influences of their doctrine and example, he bade them call to mind, that a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid, or, that the conduct of persons in eminent stations is the object of general observation. He added, Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick : and it giveth light to all that are in the house. The knowledge of divine things is given you by inspiration, not to be concealed, but to be imparted to mankind around you. Therefore, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your father which is in heaven. Make
doctrine and example bright in the eyes of all who behold you, that they may honour God; first, by acting up to the precepts of the gospel strongly impressed on their understandings by your penetrating sermons, and powerfully recommended to their hearts by your exemplary lives ; next, by their returning thanks to God for sending such men to enlighten and' reform the world. But because his doctrine concerning happiness was contrary to that which the Jews were accustomed to hear, and which their teachers pretended to derive from the prophets, whose descriptions of the glory of Messiah's kingdom they understood in a literal sense, as well as from the law, whose rewards and punishments were all of a temporal kind; also, because he was about to give explications of the moral precepts of the law, very different from those which the Scribes and Pharisees commonly gave, but which his disciples, as instructors of mankind, were to inculcate; he ended this branch of his discourse, and introduced that which followed with declaring, that he was, by no means, come to destroy the law or the prophets, that is, the moral precepts contained in them. Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfit, to confirm ; so the word is used 1 Kings i. 14, marginal translation. Accordingly our Lord adds, For verily I say unto you, 'Iill heaven and earth pass, one jot ar one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. The precepts of the law were of two kinds, ceremonial and moral; the former Christ fulfilled by his sufferings, the latter he inculcated on his followers by his life and teaching.
There is nothing in the universe so stable as the eternal truths of morality ; the heavens may fall, and the whole frame of nature be unhinged, nay, every part of it may be dissolved: but the rules of righteousness shall remain immutable and immortal. Wherefore he ordered his disciples, on the severest penalties, both by their doctrine and example, to enforce the strict observation of all the moral precepts cogi
tained in the sacred writings, and that in their utmost extent. Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, teach men that their obligation is dissolved, shall be called (or, according to the idiom of the original languages, shall be ) the least in the kingdom of heaven : since the moral precepts of the law are eternal and immutable, whosoever weakens their obligation shall never enter into heaven. But whosoever shall do, and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven : whosoever shall himself carefully practise the moral precepts of the law and the prophets, and shall inculcate their universal obligation, shall be highly rewarded. For I say unto you, that except your righteousness, the righteousness which you practise yourselves, and enjoin upon others, shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, the Jewish doctors of the strictest sect, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven; for, like them, ye will be corrupters.' of others, and, consequently, monsters of the blackest kind. But because this was a. subject of great importance, he mentioned various particulars wherein theirs sboul excel the doctrine and practice of the Jewish teachers.
He began with doctrine, and spake concerning murder, adultery, divorce, perjury, resentment of ipjuries, and benevolence, shewing them what they were to believe and teach concerning these points. It seems, the doctors gave it as their opinion, that the law, “ Thou shalt not kill,” prohibited nothing but actual murder committed with a man's own hand ; and, therefore, if he hired another to kill him, or turned a wild beast upon him that slew him, according to them, it was not murder punishable by the law, though they acknowledged it might deserve the judgment of God.
The doctrine of his disciples was to be more sublime, exhibiting the intention and spirit of the law, which forbids not the outward act of murder only, but whatever may tempt or prompt a man to commit it ; for instance, our being angry with another, our affronting him, and judging evil concerning his spiritual state without good reason ; for the limitation added to the first member of the sentence must be understood throughout the whole. Ye have heard that it was said by them. of old time, Thou shalt not kill ; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment : But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment : by causeless anger he exposes himself to a degree of punishment in the life to come, which may fitly be represented by that which the judgment inflicts. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, without a cause,' shall be in danger of the council : he who derides and affronts his brother causelessly, is lia’le to a degree of punishment which may be represented by that which the council used to inflict. But whosoever shall say, thou fool, without a cause ; whosoever, judging uncharitably of his brother, shall call him a wicked wretch and an apostate, without cause, shall be in danger of hell-firc, i.e. by a common figure of speech,“ obnoxious to the fire of the valley of Hinnom,” obnoxious to a degree of punishment which may fitly be represented by that fire. But because men are very apt to fall into rash anger, and to express their anger by contemptuous speeches and abusive names, fancying that there is no sin in these things, or but little, and that compensation may casily be made for them by acts of devotion ; Jesus declared that atonement was not to be made for these offences by any offerings, how costly soever, and therefore prescribed immediate repentance and reparation as the only remedies of them. He insisted particularly on reparation, assuring us, that unless it be made, God will not accept the worship of such offenders
, being infinitely better pleased with repentance than with sacrifices, or external worship of any kind, how specious soever those duties may appear in the eye
Vain, therefore, is their presumption, whe_fancy they make amends for yet mere gross acts of injustice by acts of devotion. Therefore, il
of vulgar understandings.