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The audience was extraordinary; consisting of vast numbers who had seen his various miraculous cures, by a word's speaking, of the sick and diseased, the proof of his divine mission, and had attended to his heavenly preaching. For the historian acquaints us immediately before, that "Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with demons, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. And there followed him great multitudes of people, from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan."
Retiring, therefore, to a place apart from noise and disturbance, he sat down upon an eminence, and addressed himself to them with great solemnity, and a dignity becoming one invested with such high authority from God; "Blessed are the poor in spirit," and so on. He thus begins with laying before them the
dispositions necessary to become his disciples, and to qualify them for an immortal existence which he came to reveal; adapted at the same time to the particular case, and calculated to obviate and remove the prejudices of his hearers, who expected worldly greatness and prosperity under their Messiah. For his discourses were not sublime speculations concerning the deity, or curious detached moral essays, but what immediately applied to the condition and hearts of those about him.
He first, then, apprizes them of the necessity and happiness of a mind sitting loose to the things of this world, and satisfied with little-"Happy are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God!" not dissipated by its gay and pleasurable scenes, but serious and thoughtful, becoming the uncertainty and importance of the present state. He recommended meekness and gentleness to men who were prone to be contentious and impetuous, yet not to be without an ardent zeal and thirst after virtue and holiness.
They were to be merciful, as they themselves expected mercy at the hands of God; and, if they looked hereafter to enjoy his faP 2
vourable countenance and presence, to keep from all vicious irregular desires and appure petites.
They were never to have recourse to methods of violence, either in propagating his religion, or in freeing themselves from the dangers and sufferings it might bring upon them, but to look for their justification and reward in a future world; being strictly careful all along of their own private demeanour and good example; for that all, in their respective places and situations, were to be the salt of the earth, and lights of a dark and ignorant world.
In vindicating the moral law of God, dictated to Moses, from their false comments and abuses of it, and in exhibiting the still higher demands he made from his followers, he delivers the most sublime rules of social virtue and of the purest morality.
He cautions his hearers, and his true disciples in all times, against seeking the praise of men in their virtuous and religious actions, as what would tarnish all their merit, and exclude them from the divine approbation. And he teaches them in what form to pray acceptably
to God; mentioning the heavenly Father as the only object of prayer and worship, and thereby excluding himself and all other persons. Indeed, one wonders how any, with their Bibles in their hands, can ever think that there is any person but one, God the Father of all, to whom their prayers are to be made.
As the great snare of mankind, and bar to their proficiency in virtue and the needful qualifications for heaven, would arise then, and at all times, from an immoderate love of the world, he is most earnest with them to avoid it; and endeavours, by a variety of lively and convincing arguments, to free them from all solicitude for the morrow, and lead them to an entire cheerful reliance on divine Providence, at all times and under all events.
He enjoins them to abstain from censuring and condemning others, and to be candid in making allowance for their feelings, but severe towards themselves.
Drawing towards the end of his discourse, he inculcates upon them, that all pretences to the being his disciples, and belonging to him, would fail them at the great day of account, without solid virtue, and doing the will of the heavenly
heavenly Father, as he had taught it them. Nay, should they be favoured with privileges above others, and divine powers of preaching and propagating the truth with effect throughout the world; though they might by these contribute to save others, they would be lost themselves if they lived in any known iniquity, and did not suitably improve their superior advantages.
He then confirms this weighty sentiment, and finishes the whole with the beautiful and apt comparison of the text; which would leave the stronger impression on the minds of the multitudes around him, if,—as his manner was, and, as hath been conjectured, having before him in sight houses standing securely on high ground, and others in ruins in the valleys on sandy foundations,-he pointed out the former to them, and bid them attend and consider, that he that not only heard and received, but retained and lived according to, his heavenly instructions, was the wise man who builds his house upon a rock, which nothing can shake. And, in the wide ravage and ruin of other houses before them in ill-chosen situations, he pointed out to them the fatal presumption