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The remaining part of this most excellent Sermon, was plainly intended to correct, in detail, the highly vitiated morality of the Jews, in points of great and essential importance; to introduce, in its stead, such a purity and rectitude of morals as should extend to the whole condu&, internal as well as external; such as would render them, the worthy subjects of the Messiah's kingdom; such, in a word, as would make them to shine, like the great luminary, from which all light is borrowed, as lights in the world be productive of the best effects, in promoting the knowledge of God and his Son among the Nations of the Earth, and fit them for that final state of happiness, in a future world, which it was, the fixal object, of the establishment of his Kingdom upon Earth, to promote! This view of the general nature and design of our Lord's
the Mount, and particularly, of the Beatitudes and what immediately follows them; it may be presumed, , may be sufficient to excite the admiration of every person whose moral taste is not vitiated; of the wisdom which dictated it-sufficient to satisfy every ingenuous and impartial enquirer, that it contains every internal character, of its having a peculiar reference to the state of the Jews, at the time it was delivered, and to the prejudices and sentiments which then, universally, prevailed among them, concerning the nature of the Messiah's kingdom. Of no other people, but the Jewish Nation, could it, with such propriety, have been said, that they were the salt of the Earth and the light of the World. To no other people, but them, could the Beatitudes have so well been addressed, as the opposite principles had taken such full possession of their minds, as our Saviour well
are really exalted, far exalted above the general ideas and general practice “ of mankind ; that it proposes the fear and the love of God, as the leading *** principles of action, to which every other motive must be subordinate, " and by which every action ought to be controled. That these sacred
principles are not to confine their operations to occasional prayers; to a 4 temporary and transient influence in the church or the closet; but to “ regulate our conduct in active life, as constantly as in religious * retirement. This will seem to a worldly or depraved mind, enthusiastic; * but the true Philosopher, and the enlightened Statesman, know that the “ perpetual effort at improvement, the humble and self-distrusting “ watchfulness which those precepts of the Gospel require, most directly “ tend to promote the perfection of the individual and ihe happiness of 45 society." See Graves on Enthusiasm, pages, 305, 306.
knew, would be the chief hinderances of their receiving hin
the minds of the hearers, was such, as might naturally have been expected, from the use of a language, which must have appeared to them so new and extraordinary. The Evangelist has pointed this out, in a very impressive and striking manner; for he says, chap. vii. 28, 29. that when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were ASTONISHED at his doctrine ; for he taught them as one having authority, but not as the Scribes.
Having thus laid the foundation of his instructions .concerning the moral and religious design of the coming of the
Messiah, as far as the prejudices of the Jews, and the
and having endeavoured to rouse them to an attention to the
The viiith. and ixth. Chapters of St. Matthew, which immediately follow the Sermon upon the Mount, are chiefly employed in the relation of various miracles, which
Jesus wrought for the benefit of his countrymen, and more particularly, with a view to engage them to acknowledge him as the Messiah. This relation, the judicious Reader will observe, is closed with a remark of the Historian, viz. that Jesus went about all the Cities and Villages, teaching in their Synagogues, and preaching the Gospel, or good news of the kingdom, i. e. of THE KINGDOM OF THE MESSIAH, and healing every sickness, and every disease, among the people. While he was engaged in this important office, the Evangelist goes on to relate, that when Jesus saw the multitudes which followed him, he was moved with compassion towards them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Deeply affected with the deplorable condition of the great body of the people ; either from the neglect, or from the intolerable impositions of their Rulers, who, as appears from the course of the History, bound heavy burthens upon men's shoulders which they themselves would not
touch with one of their fingers ; the importance and difficulty of his undertaking, very naturally, upon this occasion, occurred to him, and he thus addressed his Disciples.v. 37. The Harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the Harvest, that he may send forth labourers into his Harvest.
In this connection, the sth. Chapter, with singular propriety, opens with an account of Jesus's investing the twelve Apostles, whose names are particularly mentioned, with power over unclean Spirits ; of healing all kinds of diseases, and more particularly, with his giving them a commission to announce to their countrymen, the approach of. the Messiah's kingdom.--V.1. And when he had called to him his. twelve Disciples, he gave them power over unclean Spirits ; to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease. And he commanded them saying; go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not ; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and as ye go, preach, saying ; THE KINGDOM OF Heaven is at hand. When our Lord here says, the kingdom of Heaven is at hand; it will readily occur to the attentive Reader, that it is, precisely, the same language which he made use of, when he began his Ministry. And, no one entertain a doubt of its relating to the same event, which he had there announced, as approaching, namely, to the coming of THE KINGDOM of the Messiah. Nor is it less evident that when, at the close of the preceding chapter, he is described, as going through every city and village preaching the Gospel, or good news of the kingdom ; he was performing the same office, which he had here, particularly, commissioned his Apostles to execute.
In giving his Disciples a commission of such great importance; it was evidently necessary, that Jesus should, at the same time, give them such directions, for the regulation of their conduct, as the nature of the service in which they were to be engaged, and the peculiar circumstances and exigences of the times, so urgently required. These directions are given from the 7th to the 16th verse ; and he then goes on to tell them, that such would be the difficulties of their employment, and the peculiar circumstances of the times, that it would require the utmost exertion of all their prudence and discretion to discharge the duties of their office with
success.---V. 16. Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. In the 17th and following verses, he informs them of the extreme difficulties and hardships which they would have to encounter, in the upright and faithful discharge of their duty.-But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they shall" scourge you in their Synagogues, and ye shall be brought before Governors and Kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how, or whai ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour, or rather, at that same time, what ye shall speak ; for it is not ye that speak, but the spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. Moreover, the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child; and children shall rise up against their parents, and they shall cause them to be put to death. And to shew, in the strongest manner possible, the extreme violence of the opposition which they must expect to meet with, in the faithful discharge of their duty; he, in the 22d verse, adds, ye shall be hated by all men, for my name's
Here the judicious and attentive Reader cannot fail to observe, to use the language of Mr. Richards, upon another occasion of a similar nature, that " he represents to them " that they were destined to the most heavy calamities, 66 which human nature can endure--not only to prisons, to “ stripes, and to death, but to the general hatred of " mankind." And he very properly adds,“ surely the “ spirit of truth and a certain prescience of the efficacy 66 of the divine assistance, with which he intended to support " them, could alone have prompted him to make such an “ unwelcome representation, at a moment when every
encouragement was required. An impostor, in commending
a pretended revelation to the zeal of his deluded followers, 66 would have endeavoured to fire their imaginations, by
*“ The full accomplishment of these things," says Dr. Lardner, " is
well known to Christians, from the Book of the Acts, and the Epistles " of the New Testament. The Apostles of Jesus met with great difficulties " in preaching the Gospel ; and the converts made by them were exposed “ to many sufferings. Peter and John, and all the Apostles were brought “ before the Jewish Council, and were imprisoned, and beaten, and “ farther threatened.” See Lardner's Antient Jewish and Heathen Testimonies, Vol. I. p. 52. 4th. Edit.
expatiating upon its final triumphs, and delineating, in " the brightest colours, scenes of permanent prosperity and
splendour; while the intermediate difficulties to which " its propagation might appear to be subject, would have « been, either entirely omitted, or represented in the weakest es and most general terms, as unworthy of the serious 66 consideration of sincere and able supporters.” See Richards's Bampton Lectures, p. 200.
These observations of Mr. Richards, as hath been observed, are applied to another occasion, viz. to the time when the crucifixion of Jesus approached, and his Disciples were upon the eve of being disheartened and perplexed by the apparent ruin of their hopes; but they seem, with at least equal force, to apply to his declarations to them, at this early period. And indeed it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible for a person, who does not fully enter into the sentiments and prejudices of the Disciples of Jesus, upon the subject of the coming of the Messiah, to imagine the extreme surprize and astonishment which this remarkable prediction, of the mighty sufferings which they would have to encounter, must necessarily have produced upon their minds ; for though they could not, perhaps, even upon their own principles, have expected to have been entirely exempted from all sufferings, in the full attainment of the great object of their ambition; yet it was not possible for them to have entertained any idea of such mighty opposition, at least, from their own countrymen, as to be delivered up to the great councils of their nation; to be scourged even in their Synagogues, and to be hated by all men for proclaiming tidings, which were equally grateful and expected, with an ardor, at least equal to their own, by the whole Jewish Nation.
Our Lord appears most evidently to have been fully sensible of the effect which his prediction, of such mighty opposition, from a quarter so entirely unexpected, must necessarily have had upon their minds. He therefore, with the most singular propriety, besides the general assurance which he had given them in the 19th and 20th verses, of assistance from above, as the exigencies of the times might require ; immediately proceeded to offer to their particular attention, such farther considerations of an encouraging nature, as might enable them, with becoming fortitude and