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We have in this Chapter, and the two which follow, our Lord's sermon on the Mount. A great variety of beauties is contained in it..
We have a beautiful view of our dear LORD opening his commission as the Great Prophet of his church and people. The law had been given from the Mount, therefore JESUS will here also deliver his Gospel. But there were bounds set, when the law was given, which the people were not to pass. Not so with JESUS and his Gospel. JESUS saith, Come ye near unto me and' hear ye this. I pray the Reader to turn to the sweet scripture, Isaiah 48:16-17 . Oh! how blessed must it have been to have sat at JESUS' feet on this occasion, and to have heard the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth? Let the poor man learn how sweetly his LORD hath consecrated places for the manifestation of himself. JESUS preached on the mountain; from a ship; in the fields; everywhere and every place is sacred which the LORD makes holy. Moses found Christ first at the Bush. Exodus 3:2 . And Jacob, ages before, at Bethel, Genesis 28:10-22 . And why may not the Reader of this Poor Man's Commentary have gracious manifestations of the Lord JESUS at his labor, in his work, at home, or abroad; in the house of God, or in his own house. John 14:23 ; Isaiah 2:3-5 ; Micah 4:1-2 ; Hebrews 1:1 .
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
We have here the opening of our LORD'S Sermon, and, a most blessed sermon it is. Let the Reader observe how JESUS opens it in pronouncing blessings. JESUS himself is the great comprehensive blessing of all blessings, and the blessedness of his people. It is worthy remark that the Old Testament ended, yea in the very last word of it, with the LORD'S threatenings of a Curse. Malachi 4:6 . The first word of CHRIST'S Gospel is Blessing. CHRIST himself is the WORD, the Uncreated Word, and the Blessing. John 1:1 . How truly delightful is it to look at the Old Testament through the New, and to view the Law by the Gospel.
If the Reader looks attentively to this opening of our LORD'S sermon, be will find no less than eight distinct characters JESUS speaks of as blessed; namely, poor in spirit; they that mourn; the meek; they who hunger and thirst after righteousness; the merciful; the pure in heart; the peace-makers; and the persecuted (and falsely reviled) for righteousness' sake. Now the question instantly ariseth; where are these characters to be found? Not in themselves it must be immediately confessed; for when the LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that would understand and seek after God, we are told from the Word of God, that the result of that enquiry was, that there was none that did good, no not one. Psalms 14:1-3 ; Romans 3:10 , etc. Hence therefore when the Lord came himself from heaven, and came, as he himself saith, to seek and save that which was lost, could JESUS mean, in coming, not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance, that his should find such characters as he hath here declared to be blessed. Oh! how plain, how very plain is it, that the persons here spoken of are the redeemed given by the FATHER, made blessed in the righteousness of the SON, and regenerated and sanctified by the HOLY GHOST. Reader! If we read the precious words of JESUS in this true gospel sense, we shall, under divine teaching; discover that all such as are here spoken of, are blessed in JESUS indeed. The first feature of character the Lord takes notice of them is, that they are poor in spirit, not poor in pocket; for outward circumstances, either in poverty or riches, have nothing to do with inward grace. Many that are poor in worldly things, are rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom. And many it is to be feared, by what we behold in the world, are poor in this life, and will be poor to all eternity in the life to come, But the poor in spirit, means poor in soul concerns. They know, through the Lord's teaching, their spiritual poverty, their lost, their undone estate before GOD. They are conscious they owe ten thousand talents, and have nothing to pay. Ruined in Adam, they view their lost estate, and are convinced that there can be no salvation but in CHRIST. Such JESUS declares to be blessed, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. They were chosen in CHRIST, and are thus training for the everlasting enjoyment of CHRIST, to all eternity.
The Lord next describes them (for they are all one and the same persons, all that he hath here declared to be blessed:) as mourners. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. And this mark of grace follows the former. The eye of the soul is no sooner opened to see his state of poverty and wretchedness before Cod, but the heart melts at the view of it. Sin; in-dwelling, in-bred sin, opens a constant spring of sorrow. Like Paul they cry out, Oh! wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death? And never, until JESUS is opened to their view, in all the glories of his person, blood, and righteousness: yea, until by the HOLY GHOST, CHRIST is brought personally home, and applied to the heart, and formed in the heart the hope of glory, can any comfort be found. And even to the close of life, the conscious sense of the remains of in-dwelling corruption, tends, under grace, to keep open an unceasing spring of our repentance towards Cod, while the soul is supported in the assured interest in CHRIST; by which, Christ. is more and more endeared to the heart, to be more in love with him, and more out of love with themselves, until grace is finished in everlasting glory. It is such holy mourners, the Lord Jesus said, shall be comforted. All the persons of the GODHEAD do now comfort them: the word of GOD is their comfort: ordinances are their comfort: the promises are their comfort: all the discoveries of pardoning love, grace, mercy, refreshments, manifestations of divine love, providences; all and every tendency of the Lord towards them are full of comfort: and, at length, when they come to drop the body in the grave, they will be indeed comforted, for they will be introduced unto the general assembly of the first-born, and dwell forever in the joy of their Lord, Isaiah 61:1 ; James 2:5 .
In like manner, the whole of the features of character, which follow, if construed with an eye to the whole tenor of CHRIST'S gospel, plainly shew forth whom the Lord JESUS had in view. Blessed are the meek: not the meekness of suppressed anger induced by the tight constraints of philosophy; but the meekness induced by the fruits of the Spirit of Cod. Had CHRIST meant the mere moral virtue of meekness, such as it is called of the Stoic; who so much esteemed as the Romans and the Lacedemonians of old? But yet they perished in their heathenism and sins. The meekness the SON of God pronounced blessed, is the meekness inwrought in the soul, by the gracious influence of GOD the HOLY GHOST. It is learnt of JESUS. Matthew 11:29 . It is wholly from Jesus. John 15:4-5 . And it is his regenerated members of whom he saith, the LORD will beautify the meek with salvation. Psalms 149:4 . This meekness of the LORD'S own creating in the soul is of great price. 1 Peter 4:3 .
So again, the blessedness pronounced on them who hunger and thirst after righteousness. It were a weakness of judgment indeed, to suppose, that the righteousness such souls most earnestly desire, is the righteousness of mere moral honesty and justice between man and man in life. These things the laws among men enforce, and the Scribes and Pharisees of our LORD'S days, prided themselves upon them. Surely no one who reads his Bible can for a moment, if he thinks rightly, suppose that the SON of God came upon earth to preach what even unenlightened heathens had always insisted upon. This would be indeed to run back to the law of Moses, instead of preaching the Gospel of Christ. But the righteousness the SON of GOD had in view, when declaring these souls blessed which hungered and thirsted for it, was his own complete righteousness, which alone can justify a poor sinner in the sight of GOD. So that in the hungering for it, the soul gave evident proofs that he had no righteousness of his own to appear in before God, and therefore earnestly longed to be clothed with CHRIST'S robe of righteousness, and garment of salvation. And graciously the Lord JESUS here declares all such shall not hunger in vain. He who excites the hunger in the soul, is He who also satisfieth it. And hence the promises and the performance. Psalms 132:9-16 ; Isaiah 61:10-11; Isaiah 61:10-11 .
I must not trespass in my Poor Man's Commentary, to explain to the full on gospel principles the whole of the characters which the LORD JESUS hath here drawn, but were it not for enlarging, I might otherwise show how beautiful a correspondence they all bear to each other. Blessed are the merciful. Not merely kindness to the bodies of men, no nor to the souls of men only. These are the fruits and effects of the mercifulness the LORD JESUS speaks of; and not the thing itself. But the mercifulness JESUS pronounceth blessed, is that mercy of soul inwrought by the regenerating influence of the HOLY GHOST, and from an union with CHRIST, the mercy of mercies. And from this source within, this union and communion with CHRIST, all the gracious acts will flow forth in mercy to others, and which the blessed souls themselves are receiving from their glorious merciful Head.
Blessed are the pure in heart; made so by regenerating grace; for by nature the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Jeremiah 17:9 . Hence the LORD promiseth his people to take away the heart of stone, and give them an heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:25-26 . The people that are blessed are those whose hearts the Lord hath changed, who are indeed holy and pure in the cleansing and justifying purity and holiness of the LORD, their righteousness; but who feel conscious of the remains of indwelling corruption under which they groan. They see God in CHRIST in all the blessedness of salvation here in the life that now is, and they shall See him in the complete enjoyment of him in the life of glory that is to come.
The peace-makers are said to be blessed. But of whom doth CHRIST speak? Not simply peace-makers between man and man in the strifes of the world, for there is no peace saith my GOD to the wicked. Neither can it mean a man making his own peace with God, for that is impossible. CHRIST is the alone peace-maker, in making our peace in the blood of his cross. But the peace-makers here said to be blessed, shalt be called the children of GOD. They are proved to be so by adoption and grace. And that peace of GOD which ruleth in their hearts, will manifest itself in acts of peace among them which make peace.
And the blessedness to those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, and reviled falsely for CHRIST'S sake, very plainly refer not to the mere act of persecution or reviling, but when those acts of cruelty are shewn to the followers of the Lord Jesus on his account, and for their attachment to him. Then, and then only, is it said by the LORD to be blessed.
I have studied as much brevity as possible in my illustration of those characters, that I might not unnecessarily swell the pages of the Poor Man's Commentary. But I hope enough hath been said in proof that our LORD'S expressions are wholly to be considered on Gospel principles, and that the blessedness he pronounceth is the privilege of his redeemed in him.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Well may the LORD'S people rejoice, convinced of their interest in him. Luke 10:20 ; Philippians 3:3 . But with respect to the reward the LORD speaks of, let not the Reader for a moment overlook the cause. It is all of grace, not of debt. All on CHRIST'S account, not their own. Ephesians 2:8-9 ; Romans 11:6 . And blessed is the example of the Prophets in this particular. Hebrews 11:33 to the end. James 5:10-11 . The figures of salt and light are very expressive. CHRIST is the salt of the covenant. Leviticus 2:13 ; Numbers 18:19 with Mark 9:49 . CHRIST is the light of the world. John 4:0 . And hence by so much as there is of CHRIST in his redeemed, by so much salt and light is there in the world. And well is it for the world that CHRIST'S seed are in the earth. For without this salt the whole otherwise would be in a state of putrefaction; and without this light the whole would be in a state of darkness. Oh! the blessedness of such a state of the church. Such honor have all his Saints! Philippians 2:15
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
In this passage, we meet with the word Amen, or Verily, for the first time, and therefore, once for all, I beg to observe upon it, that it is of the highest import when used by CHRIST. It is indeed one of his precious names. JESUS therefore, in the use of it, puts his name to what he delivers. See Isaiah 65:16 ; Revelation 3:14 . I must refer the Reader, for the sake of shortness, to my Poor Man's Concordance for the full explanation of it; he will find it under the article Amen in that little work.
Reader! do not fail to remark what the Lord Jesus here saith of the law, for most blessed it is to behold him as our law-surety, and our law-fulfiller. For as such he becomes the Lord our Righteousness, and is the end, of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth. Romans 10:4 .
No doubt the Reader would wish to have a clear apprehension of the words Raca and Fool. The most acceptable service on these verses I can offer, will be to explain them. Raca, was a word used by the Jews to imply the utmost abhorrence, as if a man was spit upon, which was a mark of the greatest contempt among that people. For a man to call another Raca, was to call him a graceless wretch. But the word Fool, in the sense here intended, was, if possible, worse; for it implied one predestinated to everlasting misery; meaning a child of hell. Mt 23-28; Jude 1:25 . Nothing can be. more proper than to have a just conception of those terms, and of the sense in which our Lord meant them. The word fool, when meaning a person dull or slow of understanding, totally differs from the word fool as here referred to by CHRIST. The LORD himself called his disciples fools in this sense, for their dullness of apprehension. Luke 24:25 . And both Paul and James, his Apostles, did the same upon similar occasions. 1 Corinthians 15:36 ; Galatians 3:1 ; James 2:20 . But the folly which implies a state of reprobation, is totally different from this weakness of the mind. Isaiah speaks of it, Isaiah 27:11 . For it is a people of no understanding, meaning, to whom no grace is given. Not children of the kingdom, but the children of the wicked one; therefore he that made them, (saith the Prophet) will not have mercy upon them, and he that formed them will skew them no favour. In this sense, for any man to decide upon another, and say, thou fool! thou child of hell! is to endanger his Own state before God. The Lord Jesus, who knows the heart, and knows them that are his, might truly, as he did, tell some in his day, that they were of the generation of vipers, and who could not escape the damnation of hell. But none but the Great Searcher of Hearts can be qualified or authorized to do so. And it should seem that Moses incurred the displeasure of the Lord, for calling the Load's people Rebels, (which is a similar word to that of fool in this place,) at the waters of Meribah. Numbers 20:10 . beg 'to refer the Reader to my Poor-Man's Concordance, under the words Rebel and Rebels.
CHRIST is our New Testament Altar, neither have we any other. It is painful to hear men call the communion table Altar, a name which belongs only to JESUS. But seen in this point of view, when drawing nigh at any time to JESUS, and recollecting some offence given to our brother, how truly doth this correspond to the union and harmony subsisting between CHRIST and his members, to come to Him as the Head, and to bring with us by faith, the whole body in our arms to the Lord. John 17:21 ; 1 Corinthians 12:25-27 . For the members are to have the same care one for another, as one member of the body hath for its fellow member.
These are sweet verses if referred to that lawsuit we all have, by reason of sin and transgression, with Gob. An adversary doth, not always mean the evil spirit. It is indeed one of his names. 1 Peter 5:8 . But the LORD saith I will be an adversary to thine adversaries: Exodus 23:22 . And the Lord is represented as an adversary to his People in the day of their sorrow. Lamentations 2:4 . In this sense JEHOVAH hath a controversy and a lawsuit with his people by reason of sin, and the Loan JESUS recommends his church in these verses, to make up the breach quickly while we are in the way, that is, JESUS himself is the way, and the only way of reconciliation. Reader! what a refreshing thought! Christ is our peace. Micah 5:5 . God Was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. 2 Corinthians 5:19 . And now there is no condemnation to them that are in CHRIST JEWS. Romans 8:1 . Bet to those who live and die in the natural enmity of their mind, CHRIST becomes the judge, to whom the ungodly are delivered. John 5:22 . Angels are the officers of judgment. Matthew 13:41-42 . And the prison is explained to us in the. Scriptures as Hell, where they will he cast and remain forever. 2 Peter 2:4 ; Revelation 20:15 .
Reader! do not fail to observe the spiritual nature of the law of GOD. It is not limited to actions, but includes thoughts. The heart is the forge where all actions are worked. And whether they be brought forth into actual deeds or not, in the eye of the LORD the. intention is the same. Surely the whole earth is at once brought in guilty before God. It is the grossest mistake in the world for any man to take shelter from guilt, in a supposed exemption from this or that particular sin. The heart sin, the nature sin, the mother sin, it is this which gives birth to all. And that it doth not break out in all men alike, is not from any difference in nature, . for all are the same, but from certain restraints, particularly the restraints of grace. Read what the LORD said to Abimelech on this subject, which may serve to explain the cause to every man. Genesis 20:6 .
The law made a provision for the putting away a wife in cases of adultery, Deuteronomy 24:1 etc. But the LORD Jesus saith that this was permitted only in consequence of the hardness of their hearts; for from the beginning of the creation of God it was not so. Mark 10:0 ; Mark 10:5-7 , etc. And what a sweet thought is it to the souls of GOD'S people married to Jesus, that notwithstanding all their adultery and spiritual fornication, our gracious Husband never put his wife away. See those blessed Scriptures in confirmation. Isaiah 54:5 , etc.. Jeremiah 3:1 ; Hosea 2:19-20 , And though the LORD in several scriptures speaks of the justice of the deed, Jeremiah 3:8 ; Hosea 2:2 . yet the LORD demands where is the bill of divorce, and to which of his creditors did he sell her. Isaiah 1:1 . So that there never was a divorce, for the LORD God of Israel saith, that he hateth putting away. Malachi 2:11-16 ; Hosea 2:7 .
What a beautiful train of thoughts arise from those words of Jesus. Not only the prohibition of the Load to what is so highly unsuitable and offensive in oaths and the like, but the injunction to a simple confirmation of the Yea and Nay among the followers of Him whose name is Amen.
Who can read the justice and equity of that strict law, which enjoins an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, without having his mind directed to the contemplation of CHRIST as our surety. In hint this law was literally fulfilled, when he who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Oh! how blessed so to contemplate CHRIST. 2 Corinthians 5:21 .
Was there ever such a refinement of the most perfect law of the LORD as is here drawn? And where shall we look for the fulfilment of it but in the Lord JESUS himself? He indeed, and He only, observed it in the fullest extent of it. And therefore the close of the chapter is express to the purpose with an eye to him. Be ye perfect; that is, in the perfection of JESUS, for there is no other way of finding perfection but in him. What men talk of respecting sincerity for perfection, is a fancy formed nowhere but in their own brain. But as the members of the body partake in all that belongs to the head, so the members of CHRIST'S body are considered perfect in him. And when JESUS saith be ye perfect, he wills what he commands; his biddings are enablings. Be ye perfect in me. Hence the answer by the Prophet; Surely in the Lord have I righteousness and strength: Or as the apostle renders it, perfect in CHRIST JESUS. Isaiah 45:24-25 ; Colossians 1:28 ; 1 Corinthians 1:30 .
HAIL! thou Almighty Prophet of thy people, blessed LORD JESUS! We praise thee for thy gracious proclamation in the Mount. Oh! grant thy people to be poor in spirit, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom. Holy mourners we shall be when the Load hath convinced us of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. And Oh! for that meekness in JESUS, that hungering and thirsting for JESUS and his righteousness, as those who are conscious that they have neither in themselves, and seek all in the LORD. Defer not, O our God, to induce all those graces of thy Spirit in the hearts of all thy redeemed, that mercy they may learn from thee, purity of heart find in thee, and as children of God, may walk in peace and love, as CHRIST also hath loved us, and given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to GOD for a sweet smelling savor. And to all the persecutions and revilings of life, be looking stedfastly to JESUS, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despised the shame, and is set down on the right hand of the Majesty on high I And grant dearest LORD, while learning under the influences of thy Holy Spirit, to mortify the deeds of the body that we may live. Oh! for grace to be living out of ourselves upon thee and thy fulness, and never to lose sight for a moment that thou art in our stead and law-room all that is here enjoined, and hast both magnified the law and made it honorable, and fulfilled the whole for us and our salvation. Yea! blessed JESUS! thou art the LORD our righteousness, and all thy people are righteous in thee. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Matthew 5". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29