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And seeing the multitudes; i.e. those spoken of in Matthew 4:25—the multitudes who were at that point of time following him. He went up. From the lower ground by the lake. Into a mountain; Revised Version, into the mountain (εἰς τὸ ὄρος); i.e. not any special mountain, but "the mountain nearest the place spoken of—the mountain near by" (Thayer); in contrast to any lower place, whether that was itself fairly high ground (as probably Luke 9:28) or the shore of the lake. The actual spot here referred to may have been far from, or, and more probably (Matthew 4:18), near to, the Lake of Gennesareth. It cannot now be identified. The traditional "Mount of Beatitudes" is Karn-Hattin, "a round, rocky hill", "a square-shaped hill with two tops", about five miles north-west of Tiberias. This tradition, dating only from the time of the Crusades, is accepted by Stanley, especially for the reasons that
(1) τὸ ὄρος is equivalent to "the mountain" as a distinct name, and this mountain alone, with the exception of Tabor which is too distant, stands separate from the uniform barrier of hills round the lake;
(2) "the platform at the top is evidently suitable for the collection of a multitude, and corresponds precisely to the 'level place' (τόπου πεδινοῦ, Luke 6:17) to which our Lord would 'come down,' as from one of its higher horns, to address the people." But these reasons seem insufficient. And when he was set; Revised Version, had sat down; as his custom was when preaching. His disciples; i.e. the twelve, and also those others out of whom they had, as it seems, just been chosen (Luke 6:12, Luke 6:20). The word is used of all those personal followers who, as still more distinctly indicated in the Fourth Gospel, attached themselves to him to learn of him, at least until the time of the crisis in John 6:66, when many withdrew (cf. also infra, Matthew 8:21, and for an example in the end of his ministry, Luke 19:37). In English we unavoidably miss some of the meaning of μαθητής, to our loss, as may be seen from the saying of Ignatius, 'Magn.,' § 10, Μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ γενόμενοι μάθωμεν κατὰ Χριστιανισμὸν ζῇν Came unto him (προσῆλθαν αὐτῷ). Came up to him, and, presumably, sat down in front of him to listen.
And he opened his mouth. Frequent in the Old Testament; e.g. Job 3:1. A Hebraism, indicating that the words spoken are not the utterance of chance, but of set will and purpose. In the Gospels (in this sense) only Matthew 13:35 (from Psalms 78:2, LXX.); also in Acts 8:35 (Philip); Acts 10:34 (Peter); Acts 18:14 (Paul); Revelation 13:6 (the beast); cf. 2 Corinthians 6:11, of perfect frankness of expression, and Ephesians 6:19, perhaps of courage in the utterance of the Divine message. And taught them. (ἐδίδασκεν αὐτοὺς). That which follows is represented, not as a proclamation, but as teaching, given to those who in some measure desired to follow and serve him. Some progress already made by the listeners, if only in a relation of respect and reverence, is implied in "teaching." The discourse was therefore spoken, not simply to the multitudes, a chance audience, but with primary and special reference to those who had already made some advance in relation to him. The multitudes, however, were standing by, and were amazed at the unique character of his teaching (cf. Matthew 7:28, Matthew 7:29; cf. also Luke 6:20 with Luke 7:1).
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT. The following may serve as a brief summary.
1. The ideal character of his disciples (Matthew 5:3-10), which must be allowed to appear (Matthew 5:11-16).
2. The relation that they ought to hold towards the religion of the day, of which the Law was the accepted standard (Matthew 5:17-6:18).
(1) The fundamental principle of this relation is found in the relation which Christ himself holds towards the Law (Matthew 5:17-20).
(2) Their relation further defined by illustrations taken from the religion of the day, as this is seen in—
(a) Cases deduced directly from the Law (Matthew 5:21-48).
(b) Cases not so deduced (Matthew 6:1-18).
3. General principles regarding—
(1) Their relation to wealth. They must remember that only the single eye receives the light (Matthew 6:19-31).
(2) Their relation to men. They must remember the dangers of differentiating others. They must treat them as they would themselves be treated (Matthew 7:1-12).
4. Epilogue (Matthew 7:13-27). A call to decision and independence of walk (Matthew 7:13-23). Assent is useless if it becomes not action (Matthew 7:24-27).
There is little doubt that the two accounts (here and Luke 6:1-49.) represent one and the same discourse, the main arguments for this belief being thus given by Ellicott: "That the beginning and end of the Sermon are nearly identical in both Gospels; that the precepts, as recited by St. Luke, are in the same general order as those in St. Matthew, and that they are often expressed in nearly the same words; and lastly, that each Evangelist specifies the same miracle, viz. the healing of the centurion's servant, as having taken place shortly after the Sermon, on our Lord's entry into Capernaum."
1. The ideal character of his disciples.
Blessed (μακάριοι); Vulgate, beati; hence "Beatitudes." The word describes "the poor in spirit," etc., not as recipients of blessing (εὐλογημένοι) from God, or even from men, but as possessors of "happiness" (cf. the Authorized Version of John 13:17, and frequently). It describes them in reference to their inherent state, not to the gifts or the rewards that they receive. It thus answers in thought to the common ירשׁ) of the Old Testament; e.g. 1 Kings 10:8; Psalms 1:1; Psalms 32:1; Psalms 84:5. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs, is the kingdom of heaven. The first Beatitude is the sum and substance of the whole sermon. Poverty of spirit stands in contrast to self sufficiency (Revelation 3:17) and as such is perhaps the quality which is most of all opposed to the Jewish temper in all ages (cf. Romans 2:17-20). For in this, as in much else, the Jewish nation is the type of the human race since the Fall. Observe that Psalms 84:3, Psalms 84:4 (οἱπτωχοί οἱπενθοῦντες, possibly also Psalms 84:5, vide infra) recall Isaiah 61:1, Isaiah 61:2. As recently in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:18, Luke 4:19), so also here, he bases the explanation of his work on the prophecy of that work in the Book of Isaiah. The poor (οἱπτωχοί). Πτωχός, in classical and philosophical usage, implies a lower degree of poverty than πένης (2 Corinthians 9:9 and LXX.). "The πένης may be so poor that he earns his bread by daily labour; but the πτωχός is so poor that he only obtains his living by begging The τένης has nothing superfluous, the πτωχός nothing at all" (Trench, 'Syn.,' § 36.). Hence Tertullian purposely altered Beati pauperes of the Old Latin to Beati mendici, and elsewhere ('De Idol.,' 12) rendered it by egeni. But in Hellenistic Greek, so far as the usage of the LXX. and the Hexapla goes, the distinction seems hardly to hold good. Hatch even infers—on, we think, very insufficient premisses—that these two words, with τακεινός and πραύς (but vide infra), designate the poor of an oppressed country, i.e. the peasantry, the fellahin of Palestine as a class, and he considers it probable that this special meaning underlies the use of the words in these verses. Whether this be the case or not, the addition of τῷ πνεύματι completely excludes the supposition that our Lord meant to refer to any merely external circumstances. In spirit; Matthew only (τῷ πνεύματι). Dative of sphere (cf. Mat 11:29; 1 Corinthians 7:34; 1 Corinthians 14:20; Romans 12:11). James 2:5 (τοὺς πτωχοὺς τῷ κόσμω) forms an apparent rather than a real contrast; for the dative there marks, not the sphere in which, but the object with reference to which, the poverty is felt ("the poor as to the world," Revised Version; Wiesinger in Huther), or possibly the object which is the standard of comparison, i.e. in the judgment of the world (Winer, § 31.4, a). Christ here affirms the blessedness of those who are in their spirit absolutely devoid of wealth. It cannot mean that they are this in God's opinion, for in God's opinion all are so. It means, therefore, that they are this in their own opinion. While many feel in themselves a wealth of soul-satisfaction, these do not, but realize their insufficiency. Christ says that they realize this "in (their) spirit;" for the spirit is that part of us which specially craves for satisfaction, and which is the means by which we lay hold of true satisfaction. The actual craving for spiritual wealth is not mentioned in this verse. It is implied, but direct mention of it comes partly in James 2:4, and especially in James 2:6. For theirs. Emphatic, as in all the Beatitudes (αὐτῶν αὐτοί,). Is. Not hereafter (Meyer), but even already. The kingdom of heaven. The poor in spirit already belong to and have a share in that realm of God which now is realized chiefly in relation to our spirit, but ultimately will be realized in relation to every element of our nature, and to all other persons, and to every part, animate and inanimate, of the whole world.
In some, especially "Western" authorities, Matthew 5:4, Matthew 5:5 are transposed (vide Westcott and Hort, 'Appendix'), possibly because the terms of Matthew 5:5 seemed to be more closely parallel to Matthew 5:3 (cf. Meyer, Weiss), and also those of Matthew 5:4 fitted excellently with Matthew 5:6. But far the greater balance of evidence is in favour of the usual order, which also, though not on the surface, is in the deepest connexion with the preceding and the following verses. They that mourn (cf. Isaiah 61:2). Our Lord does not define that which causes the mourning, but as the preceding and the following verses all refer to the religious or at least the ethical sphere, merely carnal and worldly mourning is excluded. The mourning referred to must, therefore, be produced by religious or moral causes. Mourners for the state of Israel, so far as they mourned not for its political but for its spiritual condition (cf. similar mourning in the Christian Church, 2 Corinthians 7:9,2 Corinthians 7:10), would be included (cf. Weiss, 'Life,' 2:142); but our Lord's primary thought must have been of mourning over one's personal state, not exactly, perhaps, over one's sins, but over the realized poverty in spirit just spoken of (cf. Weiss-Meyer). As the deepest poverty lies in the sphere of the spirit, so the deepest mourning lies there also. All other mourning is but partial and slight compared with this (Proverbs 18:14). For they shall be comforted. When? On having the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3); i.e. during this life in measure (cf. Luke 2:25), but fully only hereafter. The mourning over one's personal poverty in spirit is removed in proportion as Christ is received and appropriated; but during this life such appropriation can be only partial.
Blessed are the meek. In this Beatitude our Lord still quotes Old Testament expressions. The phrase, "shah inherit the earth," comes even in Isaiah 60:21, only two verses before Isaiah 61:1, Isaiah 61:2, to which he has already referred. In the present copies of the LXX. it is found also in Isaiah 61:7, but there it is evidently a corruption. It occurs also in Psalms 37:9, Psalms 37:11, Psalms 37:22, Psalms 37:29, Psalms 37:34; and since in the eleventh verse of the psalm it is directly said of the meek: "But the meek shall inherit the land (LXX., οἱδὲ πραεῖς κληρονομήσουσιν γῆν)," it is, doubtless, from this latter passage that our Lord borrows the phrase. The meaning attributed by our Lord to the word meek is not clear. The ordinary use of the words πραΰ́ς, πραΰ́της, in the New Testament refers solely to the relation of men to men, and this is the sense in which οἱπραεῖς is taken by most commentators here. But with this sense, taken barely and solely, there seems to be no satisfactory explanation of the position of the Beatitude. Psalms 37:3 and Psalms 37:4 refer to men in their relation to God; Psalms 37:6, to say the least, includes the relation of men to God; what has Psalms 37:5 to do here if it refers solely to the relation of men to men? It would have come very naturally either before or after Psalms 37:9 ("the peacemakers"); but why here? The reason, however, for the position of the Beatitude lies in the true conception of meekness. While the thought is here primarily that of meekness exhibited towards men (as is evident from the implied contrast in they shall inherit the earth), yet meekness towards men is closely connected with, and is the result of, meekness towards God. This is not exactly humility (ταπεινοφροσύνη, which, as regards God, is equivalent to a sense of creatureliness or dependence; cf. Trench, 'Syn.,' § 42.). Meekness is rather the attitude of the soul towards another when that other is in a state of activity towards it. It is the attitude of the disciple to the teacher when teaching; of the son to the father when exercising his paternal authority; of the servant to the master when giving him orders. It is therefore essentially as applicable to the relation of man to God as to that of man to man. It is for this reason that we find ונעהונעvery frequently used of man's relation to God, in fact, more often than of man's relation to man; and this common meaning of ונעmust be specially remembered here, where the phrase is taken directly from the Old Testament. Weiss ('Matthaus-ev.') objects to Tholuck adducing the evidence of the Hebrew words, on the ground that the Greek terms are used solely of the relation to man, and that this usage is kept to throughout the New Testament. But the latter statement is hardly true. For, not to mention Matthew 11:29, in which the reference is doubtful, James 1:21 certainly refers to the meekness shown towards God in receiving his word. "The Scriptural πραότης," says Trench, loc. cit.," is not in a man's outward behaviour only; nor yet in his relations to his fellow-men; as little in his mere natural disposition. Rather is it an inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God (Matthew 11:29; James 1:21). It is that temper of spirit in which we accept his dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting; and it is closely linked with the ταπεωοφροσύνη, and follows directly upon it (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:12; of. Zephaniah 3:12), because it is only the humble heart which is also the meek; and which, as such, does not fight against God, and more or less struggle and contend with him." Yet, as this meekness must be felt towards God not only in his direct dealings with the soul, but also in his indirect dealings (i.e. by secondary means and agents), it must also be exhibited towards men. Meekness towards God necessarily issues in meekness towards men. Our Lord's concise teaching seizes, therefore, on this furthest expression of meekness. Thus it is not meekness in the relation of man to man barely staled, of which Christ here speaks, but meekness in the relation of man to man, with its prior and presupposed fact of meekness in the relation of man to God. Shall inherit the earth. In the Psalm this is equivalent to the land of Palestine, and the psalmist means that, though the wicked may have temporary power, yet God's true servants shall really and finally have dominion in the land. But what is intended here? Probably our Lord's audience understood the phrase on his lips as a Messianic adaptation of the original meaning, and as therefore implying that those who manifested a meek reception of his will would obtain that full possession of the land of Palestine which was now denied to the Israelites through the conquest of the Romans. But to our Lord, and to the evangelist who, years after, recorded them, the meaning of the words must have been much fuller, corresponding, in fact, to the true meaning of the "kingdom of heaven," viz. that the meek shall inherit—shall receive, as their rightful possession from their Father, the whole earth; renewed, it may be (Isaiah 11:6-9; Isaiah 65:25; Revelation 21:1), but still the earth (Romans 8:21), with all the powers of nature therein implied. Of this the conquest of nature already gained through the civilization produced under Christianity is at once the promise and, though but in a small degree, the firstfruits.
They which do hunger and thirst. The application of the figure of eating and drinking to spiritual things (cf. Luke 22:30) is not infrequent in the Old Testament; e.g. Isaiah 55:1. Yet the thought here is not the actual participation, but the craving. The Benediction marks a distinct stage in our Lord's argument. He spoke first of the consciously poor in their spirit; next of those who mourned over their poverty; then of those who were ready to receive whatever teaching or chastisement might be given them; here of those who had an earnest longing for that right relation to God in which they were so lacking. This is the positive stage. Intense longing, such as can only be compared to that of a starving man for food, is sure of satisfaction. After righteousness (τὴν δικαιοσύνην). Observe:
(1) The accusative. In Greek writers πεινάω and διψάω are regularly followed by the genitive. Here by the accusative; for the desire is after the whole object, and not after a part of it (cf. Weiss; also Bishop Westcott, on Hebrews 6:4, Hebrews 6:5).
(2) The article. It idealizes. There is but one righteousness worthy of the name, and for this and all that it includes, both in standing before God and in relation to men, the soul longs. How it is to be obtained Christ does not here say. For they. Emphatic, as always (Isaiah 55:3, note). Shall be filled (χορτασθήσονται); vide Bishop Lightfoot on Philippians 4:12. Properly of animals being fed with fodder (χόρτος); cf. Revelation 19:21, "All the birds were filled (ἐχορτάσθησαν) with their flesh." At first only used of men depreciatingly, afterwards readily. Rare in the sense of moral and spiritual satisfaction (cf. Psalms 17:15). When shall they be filled? As in the case of Revelation 19:3, Revelation 19:4, now in part, fully hereafter. "St. Austin, wondering at the overflowing measure of God's Spirit in the Apostles' hearts, observes that the reason why they were so full of God was because they were so empty of his creatures. 'They were very full,' he says, 'because they were very empty'" (Anon., in Ford). That on earth, but in heaven with all the saints—
''Ever filled and ever seeking, what they have they still desire,
Hunger there shall fret them never, nor satiety shall tire,—
Still enjoying whilst aspiring, in their joy they still aspire."
Our Lord here turns more directly to the character of his followers in relation to men; and in the next three Beatitudes mentions particulars which might be suggested by the sixth, seventh, and ninth commandments. The merciful (οἱἐλεήμονες). The mercy referred to here is not so much the almost negative quality which the word usually suggests to us (not dealing harshly, not inflicting punishment when due, sparing an animal or a fellow-man some unnecessary labour), as active kindness to the destitute and to any who are in trouble. As compared with οἰκτίρμονες (Luke 6:36), it seems to lay more stress on the feeling of pity showing itself in action and not only existing in thought. To this statement of our Lord's, that they who show mercy to those in need shall themselves be the objects of mercy (i.e. from God) in their time of need, many parallels have been adduced, e.g., by Wetstein. Rabbi Gamaliel, as reported by Rabbi Judah, says, on Deuteronomy 13:18, "Every one that showeth mercy to others, they show mercy to him from heaven, and every one that showeth not mercy to others, they show him not mercy from heaven;" cf. also ' Test. XII. Patr.:' Zab., § 8, "In proportion as a man has compassion (σπλαγχνίζεται) on his neighbour, so has the Lord upon him;" and, probably with reference to this passage, Clem. Rom., § 13, ἐλεᾶτε ἵνα ἐλεηθῆτε. (For the converse, cf. James 2:13.) Calvin remarks, "Hoc etiam paradoxon cum humano judicio pugnat. Mundus reputat beatos, qui malorum alienorum securi quieti suae consulunt: Christus autem hic beatos dicit, qui non modo ferendis propriis malis parati sunt, sed aliena etiam in se suscipiunt, ut miseris succurrant."
The pure in heart. Our Lord naturally passes in thought from the sixth to the seventh commandment (cf. Matthew 5:21, Matthew 5:27), finding the basis of his phraseology in Psalms 24:3, Psalms 24:4, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?… He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart (LXX. ἀθῶος χερσὶν καὶ καθαρὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ) (cf. also Psalms 72:1). Καθαρός (besides speaking of mere physical cleanness, Psa 27:1-14 :59) specially refers to freedom from pollution, judged by God's standard of what pollution is, whether it be a matter of ceremonial enactment or of ethical relation (John 13:10, John 13:11; John 15:3); cf. Origen.'Hem. in Joh.,' 73:2 (Meyer), "Every sin soils the soul (Πᾶσα ἁμαρτία ῥύπον ἐντίθησι τῇ ψυχῇ)". In heart. The seat of the affections (Matthew 6:21; Matthew 22:37) and the understanding (Matthew 13:15), also the central spring of all human words and actions (Matthew 15:19); cf. καθαραα (1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:22), which implies something deeper than καθαραδησις (1 Timothy 3:9; 2 Timothy 1:3). Shall see God. Not in his courts (Psalms 24:1-10.) on Mount Moriah, but above; and in one complete vision fully grasped (ὄψονται). The thought of present spiritual sight of God, though, perhaps, hardly to be excluded (contrast Weiss, 'Matthausev.'), is at least swallowed up in the thought of the full and final revelation. Those who are pure in heart, and care not for such sights as lead men into sin, are unconsciously preparing themselves for the great spiritual sight—the beatific vision (Revelation 22:4; cf. 1 John 3:2). In Hebrews 12:14 holiness (ἁγιασμός) is an indispensable quality for such a vision of "the Lord."
The peacemakers (οἱεἰρηνοποιοί). More than "peaceable". This is the peaceable character consciously exerted outside itself. The same compound in the New Testament in Colossians 1:20 only: Εἰρηνοποιήσας διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ σταυροῦ αὐτοῦ (cf. Ephesians] Ephesians 2:14, Ephesians 2:15). Christians, in their measure, share in Christ's work, and, we may add, can attain it generally as he did, only by personal suffering. Observe that this Beatitude must have been specially distasteful to the warlike Galilaeans. Mishna, 'Ab.,' Colossians 1:13 (Taylor), "Hillel said, Be of the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace," hardly refers to peacemaking, but in Mishna, 'Peah,' Colossians 1:1, "These are the things whose fruit a man eats in this world, but which have their capital reward in the world to come: honouring one's father and mother, showing kindness, and bringing about peace between a man and his neighbour, but study of the Law is equivalent to them all." For they; αὐτοί, omitted by א, C, D, 13, 124, Latt., Peshito. Possibly it is an addition inserted from a desire to make this Beatitude harmonize with the others. But more probably it is genuine, and was omitted by accident, either by homoiot, of υἱοὶ (Meyer), or (better) because the scribe forgot the abbot in the emphatic υἱοὶ Θεοῦ, the form of the second clause being peculiar to this Beatitude. Shall be called; by God and angels and men. The children of God; Revised Version, sons of God; to show that the word used here is υἱοὶ, not τέκνα Christ's reference is, that is to say, not so much to the nature as to the privileges involved in sonship. The earthly privileges which peacemakers give up rather than disturb their peaceful relations with others, and in order that they may bring about peace between others, shall be much more than made up to them, and that with the approving verdict of all. They shall, with general approval, enter on the full privileges of their relation to God, who is "the God of peace" (Romans 15:33). Dr. Taylor ('Ab.,' 1.19) has an increasing note on "Peace" as a Talmudic name of God. For language similar to our Lord's, cf. Hosea 1:10 [LXX.], equivalent to Romans 9:26. Here, as often in this Gospel, there may be a tacit contradiction to the assumption that natural birth as Israelites involves the full blessings of sons of God; cf. 'Ab.,' 3.22 (Taylor).
Which are persecuted; which have been persecuted (Revised Version); οἱδεδιωγμένοι. "Those who are harassed, hunted, spoiled. The term is properly used of wild beasts pursued by hunters, or of an enemy or malefactor in flight" (Wetstein). Our Lord, by the use of the perfect, wishes to indicate
(1) the fact that they have endured persecution, and still stand firm; and probably
(2) the condition of temporal loss to which they have been reduced by such persecution.
They have "suffered the loss," possibly, "of all things," but they are "blessed." For righteouness'sake (ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης). No article (contrast Matthew 5:6), either as indicating that for even a part of righteousness persecution can be undergone, or, and more probably, simply dwelling on the cause of persecution without idealizing it. St. Peter also says, perhaps with a reference to our Lord's words, that they who suffer διὰ δικαιοσύνην are μακάριοι (1 Peter 3:14). For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The same promise that was given to "the poor in spirit" (Matthew 5:3) is here given to the persecuted for righteousness'sake. In the former case, poverty in the sphere of the spirit obtains the fullest possessions; here the same promise is given to temporal loss produced by faithfulness to the cause of righteousness. In Matthew 5:3 our Lord removed all occasion for intellectual and spiritual pride. Here he comforts for temporal and social losses (cf. especially 2 Corinthians 6:10; further see 2 Corinthians 6:3, note). Clement of Alexandria, 'Strom.,' 4.6
(1) confuses this and the preceding Beatitude;
(2) gives a curious reading of some who alter the Gospels: "Blessed are they who have been persecuted through righteousness (ὑπὸ τῆς δικαιοσύνης), for they shall be perfect; and blessed are they who have been persecuted for my sake, for they shall have a place where they shall not be persecuted" (cf. Westcott, 'Introd. Gospp.,' Appendix C).
Some critics (e.g. Godet, Weiss) think that Matthew 5:13-16 are no part of the original sermon, but only an interweaving of sayings which were originally spoken at other times. This is possible, but external evidence exists only in the case of Matthew 5:13 and Matthew 5:15 (for Matthew 5:14 and Matthew 5:16 are peculiar to Matthew); and even in the ease of these verses it is by no means clear (vide infra) that the occasions on which, according to the other Gospels, the sayings were uttered are the more original. Weiss's assertion ('Life,' 2.144), "The remarks in Matthew 5:13-16, bearing on the calling of discipleship,.., cannot belong to the sermon on the mount, carefully as they are there introduced, for the prophesied sufferings of his followers might have made them disloyal," is wholly gratuitous. In fact, the sufferings have been much more strongly spoken of in Matthew 5:11, Matthew 5:12.
The disciples are now addressed directly, and are urged to "walk worthily of the vocation wherewith they are called." The mention of those who have endured persecution leads our Lord to warn his disciples not to faint under persecution in any of its forms; they are but entering on the succession of the prophets; their work is that of purifying and preserving and of illuminating; they must therefore allow their character as disciples to appear, as appear it must if they arc true to their position. There is a purpose in this, namely, that men may see their actions, and glorify their Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 5:11, Matthew 5:12
Parallel passage: Luke 6:22, Luke 6:23.
As Matthew 5:10 spoke of the blessedness of those who had suffered persecution and had endured it, so this verse speaks of the blessedness of those who are suffering from it at the moment, whether it be in act or word. Whilst Christ still keeps up the form of the Beatitudes, he speaks now in the second person, this and the following terse thus forming the transition to his directly addressing those immediately before him. His present audience was not yet among οἱδεδιωγμένοι, but might already be enduring something of the reproach and suffering now referred to. Revile (ὀνειδίσωσιν); Revised Version, reproach; as also the Authorized Version in Luke 6:22. "Revile" in itself implies moral error in the person that reviles. Not so ὀνειδίζειν. Our Lord purposely uses a word which includes, not only mere abuse, but also stern, and occasionally loving, rebuke. Falsely, for my sake. The comma in both the Authorized (Scrivener) and the Revised Versions after "falsely" is opposed to that interpretation (Meyer) which-closely connects ψευδόμενοι with both καθ ὑμῶν and ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ. Ψευδόμενοι is really a modal definition of εἴπωσιν (Sevin, Weiss), and ἔνεκεν ἐμοῦ goes with the whole sentence "when men," etc. for my sake. In Luke 6:10 he had said ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης; here he directly speaks of himself. In Luke 6:1-49. the phrase is transitional, "for the Son of man's sake." In Matthew 4:19 he had claimed to be tile Source of power for service; here he claims to be the Object of devotion. His "Messianic consciousness" (Meyer) is, at even this early stage of his ministry, fully developed (cf. also Matthew 4:17, Matthew 4:22). It is possible that Hebrews 11:26 (vide Rendall, in loc.) and 1 Peter 4:14 refer to this expression.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad (χαίρετε καὶ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε). Our Lord uses no weaker expressions than those which describe the joy of the saints over the marriage of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7). The first word expresses joy as such, the second its effect in stirring the emotions; this thought St. Luke carries still further in σκιρτήσατε. (For joy felt under persecution, cf. Acts 5:41.) For great. The order of the Greek, ὅτι ὀ μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολύς, does not bear out the emphatic position assigned to "great" in the English Versions from Tyndale downwards (except Rheims), including Revised Version. Is your reward. The doctrine of recompense, which has so large a place in Jewish thought (for a not often-sire example, cf. 'Ab.,' 2.19, Taylor) comes also in Christ's teaching. In Matthew 20:1-16 reward is expressly divested of its merely legal side, and exhibited as ultimately dependent on the will of the great Householder. But here it is mentioned without reference to the difficulties involved in the conception. These difficulties centre round the thought of obligation from God to man. But it may be doubted whether these difficulties are not caused by too exclusively regarding the metaphor of contracting, instead of considering the fact indicated by the metaphor. In God's kingdom every action has a corresponding effect, and this effect is the more certain in proportion as the action is in the sphere of morality. The idea of "quantity" hardly enters into the relation of such cause and effect. It is a question of moral correspondence. But such effect may not unfitly be called by the metaphors "hire," "reward," because, on the one hand, it is the result of conditions of moral service, and, on the other, such terms imply a Personal Will at the back of the effect, as well as a will on the part of the human "servant." (For the subject in other connexions, cf. Weiss, 'Bibl. Theol.,' § 32; cf. also verse 46; Matthew 6:1, Matthew 6:2, Matthew 6:4, Matthew 6:5, Matthew 6:6.) In heaven. Our Lord says, "your reward is great," because the effect of your exercise of moral powers will be received in a sphere where the accidents of the surroundings will entirely correspond to moral influences. The effect of your present faithfulness, etc., will be seen in the reception Of powers of work and usefulness and enjoyment, beside which those possessed on earth will appear small. On earth the opportunities, etc., are but "few things;" hereafter they will be "many things" (Matthew 25:21). For. Not as giving a reason for the assurance of reward (apparently Meyer and Weiss), but for the command, "rejoice," and be exceeding glad, and perhaps also for the predicate "blessed." Rejoice if persecuted, for such persecutions prove you to be the true successors of the prophets, your predecessors in like faithfulness (cf. James 5:10). So. By reproach, e.g. Elijah (1 Kings 18:17), Amos (Amos 7:12, Amos 7:13); by persecution, e.g. Hanani (2 Chronicles 16:10), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 37:15); by saying all manner of evil, e.g. Amos (Amos 7:10), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 37:13), Daniel (Daniel 6:13). Which were before you. Added, surely, not as a mere temporal fact, but to indicate spiritual relationship (vide supra).
Ye are the salt, etc.. Weiss thinks that St. Luke gives it in its original context; that St. Matthew is right in interpreting it as of special reference to the disciples; and that St. Mark applies it the most freely. It may, indeed, be that its position here is only the result of the inspired guidance of the evangelist; but, on the whole, it seems more probable that so natural a figure was used more than once by our Lord, and that he really spoke these words in his sermon on the mount, as well as on the later occasion indicated by St. Luke. Ye; i.e. the μαθηταί of verse 1. Are, in fact (ἐστέ); therefore recognize the responsibility. The salt of the earth. It has been disputed whether allusion is here made to the preservative properties of salt or to the flavour it imparts; i.e. whether Christ is thinking of his disciples as preserving the world from decay, or as giving it a good flavour to the Divine taste. Surely a useless question; forgetful of the fact that spiritual realities are being dealt with, and that it is therefore impossible for the one effect to be really separated from the other. Our Lord is thinking of the moral tone which his disciples are to give to humanity. The connexion with verses 11, 12 is—Persecution must be borne unless you are to lose your moral tone, which is to be to the earth what salt is to its surroundings, preserving from corruption and fitting for (in your case Divine) appreciation. What χάρις is to be to the Christian λόγος (Colossians 4:6), that the Christian himself is to be to the world. If … have lost its savour (μωρανθῇ); so elsewhere in Luke 14:34 only. Salt that has lost its distinctive qualities is here said to lack its proper mind or sense. Salt without sharpness is like an ἄνθρωπος ἄλογος; for man is a ζῶον λογικόν. On the fact of salt losing its virtue, cf. Thomson, "It is a well-known fact that the salt of this country [i.e. Palestine] when in contact with the ground, or exposed to rain and sun, does become insipid and useless. From the manner in which it is gathered [vide infra], much earth and other impurities are necessarily collected with it. Not a little of it is so impure that it cannot be used at all; and such salt soon effloresces and turns to dust—not to fruitful soil, however. It is not only good for nothing itself, but it actually destroys all fertility wherever it is thrown.… No man will allow it to be thrown on to his field, and the only place for it is the street; and there it is cast, to be trodden under foot of men." It should be observed that the salt used in Palestine is not manufactured by boiling clean salt water, nor quarried from mines, but is obtained from marshes along the seashore, as in Cyprus, or from salt lakes in the interior, which dry up in summer, as the one in the desert north of Palmyra, and the great Lake of Jebbul, south-east of Aleppo. Further, rock-salt is found in abundance at the south end of the Dead Sea (cf. Thomson, loc. cit). Wherewith shall it be salted? i.e. not if you will not act as salt, wherewith shall the earth be salted? (apparently Luther and Erasmus); but what quality can take the place of moral tone to produce in you the same result? You are as salt. If you lose your distinctive qualities, where, can you find that which answers to them? It is thenceforth good for nothing. Our Lord here lays stress, not on want of fitness (εὔθετον, Luke), but on want of inherent power. "It is only useful for that purpose to which one applies what is absolutely useless" (Weiss-Meyer).
Matthew only. Ye are the light of the world. After speaking of the moral tone that the disciples were to give to the world, in contrast to sin in its corrupting power, Christ refers to them as enlightening, in contrast to sin as darkness and ignorance. Our Lord further naturally exchanges the term "the earth" (which from its strong materialism had suited the figure of the salt) for "the world"—a phrase which must, indeed, as regards the disciples, be limited to this earth, but as regards the light, need not be limited to less than the solar system. In other words, the simple reason why he exchanges "earth" for "world" is that they are respectively the best suited to the figure employed. Notice that Christ never applies the former figure, of salt, to himself; but the latter, of light, once or twice, especially John 8:12, where, since he is speaking of himself, and not of others, he adds the thought of life being connected with light, a city, etc.; literally, a city cannot be hid when set on a mountain. It seems at first slightly awkward to introduce the figure of a city between those of the sun and the lamp, both these having to do with light. The reason is that the city is not considered as such, but only as an object which can be teen, and which cannot (οὐ δύναται, emphatic) from its physical conditions avoid being seen. There is a true gradation in the thought of influence. The sun must be seen by all; the city, by the whole neighbourhood; the lamp, by the family. Our Lord comes from the general to the particular; from what is almost theory, at best a matter of hope and faith, to hard fact and practice. The influence you are to have—if it is to be for the whole world, as indeed it is, must be felt in the neighbourhood in which you live, and a fortiori in the immediate circle of your own home. Conjectures have been made whether any one city can reasonably be mentioned as being in sight, and so having suggested this image to our Lord. If the exact spot where he was then sitting were itself certain, such conjectures might be worth considering. But, in fact, so many "cities" in Palestine were set on hills that the inquiry seems vain. Safed, some twelve miles north-west of Capernaum, the view from which extends to Tiberias, has been accepted by many, but evidence is lacking for it having been a city at that time. Tabor, at the south-west of the lake, has also been thought of, and at all events seems to have been then a fortified town. The view from it is even more extensive than from Safed.
Neither do men light a candle, etc. The same illustration comes in Luke 8:16 (Mark 4:21), immediately after the parable of the sower, and again in Luke 11:33, immediately after the reference to the repentance of the men of Nineveh at the preaching of Jonah. All four passages have too much verbal similarity to admit of any of them being absolutely independent. Mark 4:21 has the greatest number of peculiarities. The two passages in Luke agree very closely with each other, but of the two, Luke 11:33 most resembles Matthew. The close agreement here with the context seems to point to this being an original position of the utterance. Of the other two contexts Luke 11:33, if we must choose, seems the more natural. Godet, however, says, "This passage has been placed in the sermon on the mount, like so many others, rather because of the association of ideas than from historical reminiscence" (similarly Weiss). Neither. The inherent position, so to speak, of Christ's disciples, as of a city set on a mountain, is not accidental. It answers to the purpose of their being disciples, as is explained further by the illustration of a lamp. A candle; Revised Version, a lamp (λύχνον); i.e. the flat, saucer-like Eastern lamp, in which sometimes the wick merely floats on the oil A bushel … a candlestick; Revised Version, the bushel … the stand (τὸν μόδιον … τὴν λυχνίαν). Probably rightly, for if the article had been generic]. and put it under, a [literally, 'the'] pillow, or under a [literally, the] bolster [on the sabbath in order to take the chill off it]," W.H. Lowe, 'Fragment of Pesachim,' 1879, p. 95; cf. also Driver on 1 Samuel 19:13) it would have been found also before λύχνον. "The description applies to the common houses of the people. In each there was one principal room, in which they ate and slept; the lampstand, with its single light, the flour-bin, and the bed, with a few seats, were all its furniture". A bushel (τὸν μόδιον). This is probably equivalent to the seah (so Peshito), which was "the ordinary measure for domestic purposes," and, as slated in the margins of the Authorized and the Revised Versions on Matthew 13:33, held "nearly a peck and a half" dry measure. The Latin modius, here used to render scab, itself held nearly a peck. In Luke 8:16 the vaguer term δκεῦος is used. "Bushel" is retained in the Revised Version probably because it can be used of the vessel apart from all thought of measure; cf. "The Sense represents the Sun no bigger than a Bushel". But on a candlestick; Revised Version, but on the stand (ἐπὶ τὴν λυχνίαν); Vulgate, from Old Latin, Neque accendunt lucernam et possunt cam sub modio sed super candelabrum. Candelabrum (cf. "chandelier") meant a stand for either candles or lamps; hence Wickliffe, translating from the Vulgate, could say, "Ne me[n] teendith not a lanterne a puttith it vndir a buyschel: but on a candilstik." We still use "candlestick" in the rarer sense when we speak of the seven-branched "candlestick" of the tabernacle, which was lighted by lamps, not candies (cf. Humphry, on Revised Version, in loc.). It giveth Light; Revised Version, it shineth (λάμπει). The Rheims alone of the older English versions renders" shine," thus showing that the same Greek word is used as in the next verse. The Vulgate (followed by Wickliffe and Rheims) renders it in the subjunctive, ut lucent, possibly originally a copyist's error from the luceat of Luke 8:16. If so, it was apparently made before the time of Tertullian ('De Prescript.,' § 26). The thought is stir primarily of the light itself being necessarily seen rather than of its benefiting others (φωτίζω, Luke 11:36; cf. John 1:9). To all. For in a room none can help noticing it, even though the lamp and the light itself be but small. The negative of this verse is given in Pseudo-Cyprian, 'De Aleat.,' 3., "Monet dominus et dicit: nolite contris tare Spiritum Sanctum, qui in vobis est, et nolite exstinguere lumen, quod in vobis efful sit".
Matthew only. Let your light so shine; even so let your light shine (Revised Version); οὕτως λαμψὰτω τὸ φῶς ὑμῶν. The Revised Version (cf. Rheims) does away with the misinterpretation suggested by the Authorized Version, "so that," for οὕτως refers solely to the method of shining spoken of in verse 15, "like a burning lamp upon its stand" (Meyer). Our Lord has here no thought of effort in shining, such as may improve the brightness of the light given, or of illuminating others, but of not concealing what light the disciples have. (For a similar οὕτως, cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24.) Yet remember, "A lamp for one is a lamp for a hundred" and "Adam was the lamp of the world" (Talm. Jeremiah, 'Sabb.,' 2.4—a play on Proverbs 20:27). Your light. Either genitive of apposition, the light which you are (Achelis), of. verse 14; or genitive of possession, the light of which you are the trusted possessors (Meyer, Weiss). The latter is preferable, as the disciples have, in verse 15, been compared to the lamp, i.e. the light-bearer. Before men (ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων). More than ἐνώπιον, "in presence of," for the position of the lamp "in front of" the people is what our Lord is here emphasizing (cf. John 12:37). That they may see your good works (ὑμῶν τὰ καλὰ ἔργα). Your. Three times in this verse. Our Lord lays stress on personal possession of light, personal action, personal relationship and origin. Good works; i.e. of your lives generally (Weiss-Meyer), not ministerially (Mever). "Noble works, works which by their generous and attractive character win the natural admiration of men" (Bishop Westcott, on Hebrews 10:24). And glorify. This is actually done in Matthew 9:8; Matthew 15:31. St. Peter's language (1 Peter 2:12) is probably due to a reminiscence of our Lord's words. Your Father which is in heaven. The Fatherhood of God is here predicated in a special sense of the disciples, in the same way as the Fatherhood of God is, in the Old Testament, always connected with his covenant relation to his people as a nation (cf. Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 3:4; Deuteronomy 32:6). Our Lord here is not thinking of the original relation of God to being and especially to humanity, in virtue of man's creation in the Divine image (ὁπατήρ), but of the relation into which the disciples have entered through the revelation of God in Christ; cf. further Bishop Westcott, on John 4:21 (Add. Note) and on 1 John 1:2 (Add. Note); also Weiss, 'Life,' 2:348. The phrase, which occurs here for the first time in St. Matthew (but cf. verse 9, note), henceforth occurs frequently, becoming of great importance for this Gospel (cf. verses 45, 48; Matthew 6:1, Matthew 6:9, etc.).
Having spoken of the ideal character of his disciples (Matthew 6:3-10), and of their need of allowing that character to appear (Matthew 6:11-16), our Lord turns to speak of the position that they should hold towards the religion of the day (Matthew 6:17 - Matthew 6:18), of which the Law was the accepted standard.
(1) With this aim he first states summarily and in nucleus the position that he himself holds towards the Law—a statement which was the more necessary as he had already (Matthew 5:11) claimed to be the object of his disciples' devotion.
Matthew only. Think not. Probably the tendency of his teaching was even already seen to be so different from that of the recognized authorities, that some had in consequence formed this opinion (νομίζω) of him which he now repudiates, and which was near akin to the basis of the charge formulated afterwards against St. Stephen (Acts 6:14). In both cases the tendency of the new teaching (Mark 1:27) to abolish temporary forms was perceived by at least those whose powers of perception were quickened through their opposition. That I am come; Revised Version, that I came (ὅτι ἦλθον). Our Lord, both here and in the next clause, lays stress on his coming as an historic fact. The primary reference is probably to his coming forth from private life (cf. John 1:31). Yet in his own mind there may have been a further allusion to his coming from above (cf. John 8:14; and further, Matthew 10:34). To destroy. The connexion between καταλῦσαι here and λύσῃ verse 19 (vide note) is lost in the English. The Law or the Prophets. The Phrase,'" the law and the prophets," is sometimes used as practically equivalent to the whole of the Old Testament (Matthew 7:12; John 1:45; Romans 3:21; cf. Matthew 11:13; Matthew 22:40; Acts 24:14),and our Lord means probably much the same here, the "or" distributing the καταλῦσαι (cf. Alford), and being used because of the negative. Such a distribution, however, though it could not have been expressed in an affirmative sentence, has for its background the consciousness of a difference in the nature of these two chief components of the Old Testament. Observe that the third part of the Hebrew Scriptures, "the (Holy) Writings"—of which 'Psalms' (Luke 24:44) form the most characteristic portion—is omitted in this summary reference to the Old Testament. The reason may be either that of the three parts it was used less than the other two as a basis for doctrine and for rule of life, or that it was practically included in the Prophets (Acts 2:30). The essential teaching of the Law may be distinguished from that of the Prophets by saying that, while the Law was the direct revelation of God's will as law for the people's daily life—personal, social, and national—the Prophets (including the historical books and the prophets proper) were rather the indirect revelation of his will for them under the fresh circumstances into which they came; this indirect revelation being seen more especially in God's providential guidance of the nation, and in his explanation of principles of worship, as well as in occasional predictions of the future. It is to his relation to the Prophets in this connexion, as an indirect revelation of God's will under changing circumstances (cf. Weiss) that our Lord here chiefly refers. For he is led to speak of his own relation to them from the bearing that this has on the conduct of his disciples. Many, however (e.g. Chrysostom), consider that he is thinking of his relation to them as containing predictions concerning himself. In answer to this it is not sufficient to say (Meyer, Weiss, Alford) that it was impossible that Messiah could be thought to abrogate the Prophets; for, in fact, to many Jews during his ministry (even if not at this early stage of it), and much more to Jews at the time when the evangelist recorded the words, our Lord must have seemed to contradict the predictions about himself as they were then understood. It is indeed true that the prima facie ground that existed for thinking that our Lord's teaching was opposed, not merely to the religion of the day as dependent on the Law and the Prophets, but also to the predictions of Messiah contained in them, is enough to give a certain plausibility to this interpretation. But that is all. The absence in the context of any hint that he refers to his relation to predictions as such quite forbids our accepting it. It was probably derived solely from a misinterpretation of "fulfil" (vide infra), no regard being paid to the train of thought by which our Lord was led to speak of the subject at all. Our Lord says that he is not come to "destroy" the Prophets as exponents of the will of God. I am not come to destroy; emphasizing his statement by repetition. But to fulfil. By establishing the absolute and final meaning of the Law and the Prophets. Christ came not to abrogate the Law or the Prophets, but to satisfy them—to bring about in his own Person, and ultimately in the persons of his followers, that righteousness of life which, however limited by the historical conditions under which the Divine oracles had been delivered, was the sum and substance of their teaching. The fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets "is the perfect development of their ideal reality out of the positive form, in which the same is historically apprehended and limited" (Meyer). Martensen puts the matter thus: "How can he say that not a tittle shall pass from the Law, since the development of the Church shows us that the ceremonial law, that the whole Mosaic dispensation, has been annihilated by the influences proceeding from Christ? We answer: He has fulfilled the Law, whilst he has released it from the temporary forms in which its eternal validity was confined; he has unfolded its spiritual essence, its inward perfection. Not even a tittle of the ceremonial law has passed away, if we regard the Mosaic Law as a whole; for the ideas which form its basis, as the distinction between the unclean and the clean, are confirmed by Christ, and contained in the law of holiness which he teaches men"; cf. verse 18, notes, "till heaven and earth pass," "till all be fulfilled."
Cf. Luke 16:17, "But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tittle of the Law to fail" (Revised Version). The words are so similar that the two evangelists probably record the same utterance, the difference in the form of the sentence pointing rather to an oral than a written common source. St. Luke places it in an attack on the Pharisees, who had scoffed at our Lord for his parable of the dishonest steward. Verily; ἀμήν (נם), literally, "established," "sure"). It has hardly been sufficiently noticed by commentators that the New Testament usage of the word "Amen" often slightly differs from that found in the Old Testament. "Amen" in the Old Testament always involves the personal acceptance of the statement to which it refers ("so be it"), whether this be a statement upon oath (Numbers 5:22, perhaps), or a statement of penalties incurred under certain circumstances (Numbers 5:22, probably; Deuteronomy 27:15-26; Nehemiah 5:13); or a statement expressing a pious hope uttered either by another (1 Kings 1:36; Jeremiah 28:6; Jeremiah 11:5 (?); of. Nehemiah 8:6; cf. also 1 Corinthians 14:16); or by one's self (Psalms 41:13). Hence the LXX. either leaves it untranslated or, with but one exception, translates it by γένοιτο. In Hellenistic Greek, however, it became often used as little more than a mere asseveration ("verily"). The earliest trace of this usage is found in Jeremiah 28:6, where the LXX. renders נם)by ἀληθῶς (Aquila much better πιστθήτω, though generally elsewhere πεπιστωμένως), and it is frequent in the New Testament, cf. especially Luke 9:27, λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ἀληθῶς, with parallels, ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν. Yet this usage of "Amen" in Hellenistic Greek does not seem to have ever spread into Hebrew or Aramaic. W. H. Lowe says, and apparently truly, "The Jews never used 'amēn in the sense of 'verily.' They say תמאב, be'emeth, 'in truth,' אתונמיה, hemānuthā, 'Faith!' or מנם), 'omnām, 'verily.'" If so, the fact is interesting, for it implies that, notwithstanding the usage of "Amen" in Greek, our Lord himself, as speaking Aramaic, probably did not use it in the mere sense of strong asseveration, but rather always with its connotation of his entire concurrence in the statement he was making. In his mouth, that is to say, it always emphasized the thought of his personal acceptance of the statement with its legitimate issue. Observe that it makes no difference (cf. Jeremiah 28:6) whether the "Amen" comes at the beginning or at the end of his utterance. N.B.—Ναί (Luke 11:51; cf. Matthew 23:36) may be taken as intermediate between ἀληθῶς and ἀμήν. Ἀληθῶς states a truth; ναί assents with the intellect; ἀμήν, in at least Hebrew and Aramaic usage, accepts it with all its consequences (cf 2 Corinthians 1:19, 2 Corinthians 1:20). Till heaven and earth pass; Revised Version, pass away (παρέλθῃ); and so in the next clause. The same almost archaic sense of "pass" recurs in Psalms 148:6, Authorized Version (Revised Version, "pass away"). Observe that our Lord does not say that the Law will then pass away. He says, not till then; i.e. he affirms, as in Luke 16:17, that it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the Law. For, in fact, as being constantly fulfilled in its ideal and therefore permanent character, it must necessarily remain in the new world; cf. 1 Peter 1:25 (the everlasting duration of the word of the Lord); 1 Corinthians 13:13 (love); 2 Peter 3:13 (righteousness); cf. Meyer. The belief in the permanence of the Law which the Jews had (vide references in Meyer, and especially Weber, 'Altsynag. Theol.,' §§ 5, 84) here finds its true satisfaction. "The least element of holiness which the Law contains has more reality and durability than the whole visible universe" (Godet on Luke). Comp. also Mark 13:31, "My words shall not pass away"—a claim only seen in its full three when put beside these words about the Law. One jot. The permanence of even every yod (y, j), though the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is not infrequently referred to by Jewish writers (cf. e.g. in Lightfoot, 'Hor. Hebr.;' Edersheim, 'Life,' 1.537). Observe:
(1) The mention of yod, evidently because of its small size, is one proof of the fact that the Hebrew characters in use in our Lord's time were much more similar to the usual form under which we know them (Quadrate schrift) than to the form found on the Moabite Stone (Phoenician), where the god is no smaller than other letters
We may, perhaps, see in our Lord's reference to yod and a "tittle" an indication that even already scrupulous care was taken of the text. The objection to this, derived from the non-literal quotations in the New Testament is due to a misunderstanding of Jewish methods of quotation. Or one tittle. So Wickliffe and Tyndale downwards; "apparently a diminutive of tit, small" (Aid. Wright, 'Bible WordBook'); κεραία, probably "a horn," then anything projecting like a horn. Used by the early Greek grammarians, like apex by the Latin, to designate:
(1) A little projection in a letter, especially the top, the apex; Nicander, "the top and bottom are each called κεραία" (κεραία λέγεται τὸ ἄκρον καὶ ἔσχατον; gloss, κεραία γράμματος ἄκρον); cf. Plutarch, "disputing about syllables and κεραιῶν (λογομαχεῖν περὶ συλλαβῶν καὶ κεραιῶν); " vide Wetstein.
(2) Accents. So Thayer's Grimm; cf. Sophocles' 'Lex.' s.v. κεραία, "Apex, a mark over a letter, as in 5 (Philon., 2:536. 27);" but Philo in this passage only refers to κεραίαν ἑκάστην, without defining it.
This double use of the Greek word forbids absolute certainty as to what our Lord was referring to, especially as the Hebrew word (צוק, literally, "thorn") of which κεραία is a translation has itself a double sense, viz.:
(1) The end of a letter, especially the "thorn-like''small upward stroke of yod. So most interpreters since Origen (in Wetstein), who says that the Hebrew letters caph (כ) and beth (ב) differ only by a short κεραία. They also quote the well-known Jewish examples (e.g. in Wetstein) of the effect of negligence in writing similar letters; e.g. if one writes resh (ר) for daleth (ד), "one" (Deuteronomy 6:4) becomes "another;" if heth (ח) for he (ה), "praise" (Psalms 150:1-6.) becomes "profane." It must be noticed that the extremities of such Hebrew letters as we possess, which were actually written in our Lord's time on earth, are much more "thorn" "horn"-like than those of our printed texts. I cannot, however, find צוק actually used in this sense of other letters than yod.
(2) Some distinguishing mark over a letter to indicate care in writing and reading it, or to remind readers of some interpretation or rule attached as a peg to it or to the word of which it forms a part. It was much later, indeed, that such marks became very elaborate, but it is probable that the rudiments of them were known in our Lord's time (for such מיצוק, cf. Weber, 'Altsynag. Theol.,' § 27, 2 a, and the article on Akiba in 'Dict. of Christian Biogr.'). If it be objected that our Lord could hardly refer to these marks of traditional explanation as of such permanence, the answer is that in so far as these expressed legitimate issues (vide infra, verse 21) of the Mosaic Law, he could place them on the same level as that Law itself. Till all; Revised Version, till all things; i.e. all things in the Law—all the requirements of the Law, in contrast to the one "jot" or "tittle" just mentioned. Till all be fulfilled; Revised Version, be accomplished (γένηται). The clause is probably epexegetical of "till heaven and earth pass away." Nothing in the Law shall pass away till heaven and earth pass away, when, with a new heaven and earth, all the contents of the Law will be completely realized (cf. Nosgen) so that even then nothing in the Law shall pass away (vide infra). On the contrary, every part of it, moral or ceremonial (Weiss), shall then, by being fully understood and obeyed in its true meaning, enter on its full and complete existence (γένητα).
Matthew only. As Christ honoured the Law (verse 17) so are his disciples to honour it. Whosoever therefore. Seeing that every part of the Law is of permanent value. In this verse our Lord once for all declares his opposition to antinomianism. Every one of the commands in the Law is, in its true and ideal meaning, still binding. Shall break (λύσῃ). Not merely in contrast to "do" (ποιήσῃ vide infra) in the sense of "transgress" (Fritzsche), but "abrogate" (cf. Bishop Westcott, on John 5:18, "Not the violation of the sanctity of the day in a special case, but the abrogation of the duty of observance;" cf. also Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18; 1 John 3:8). It expresses, indeed, a less complete abrogation than καταλῦσαι (verse 17), because, while speaking of himself, the Lord could use the strongest word possible, and that with reference to the whole Law or the Prophets; but here his expression is limited by the inability of any individual disciple to carry out an abrogation even of one command. One of these least commandments. Not necessarily such as the Pharisees reckoned least, in their enumeration of small and great, but such as our Lord himself symbolized by "jot" or "tittle;" those precepts which in reality are the least important (Meyer). Chrysostom strangely says that our Lord here refers, not to old laws, but to those which he was about to lay down; similarly Bengel thinks of verses 22-28, etc. While the Jews distinguished carefully between small and great precepts, they insisted on the importance of keeping even the smallest; cf. 'Ab.,' 4.5 (Taylor), "Hasten to a slight precept.., for the reward of precept is precept." And shall teach men so. Doing his best to abrogate it, not only in his own person by neglect or violation, but also for others by teaching them to disregard it. He shall be called the least. The Revised Version omits "he, .. the." He is not cast out of the kingdom, but his want of moral insight (did he consider it "breadth of thought"?) leads to his being called least in the kingdom. It is the converse of the parable in Luke 19:17, etc. There faithfulness in a very little (ἐλαχίστῳ) wins much; here disregard of a very little causes a person to be reckoned (Luke 19:9, note) as very little—the principle of judgment being that of Luke 16:10, "He that is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he that is unrighteous in avery little is unrighteous also in much." In the kingdom of heaven; i.e. probably in its full and final establishment. The doctrine of grades of blessedness and of punishment hereafter is clearly taught in Scripture (e.g. Luke 12:47, Luke 12:48). But whosoever shall do and teach them. Similarly the Revised Version; but rather supply "it," i.e. "that which is required in the smallest commandment'' (Meyer). The personal performance and conscious spreading of one of the least commandments will be found to involve so much that it gains for the person a high position. Do and teach. For many will perform a command without taking any conscious part in spreading it. The same; Revised Version, he (οὗτος). Why inserted here and not in the previous clause? Partly because of the awkwardness of inserting οὗτος there so soon after οὕτως; partly because our Lord wished to lay stress there on the recompense, here on the person ("he and no other") who receives recompense. On the thought, cf. 'Test. XII. Parr.' (Levi., § 13), "If he teach these things and practise them, he shall share the throne of the king, as also Joseph our brother." It is worth adding Tyndale's remark in his 'Exposition,' "Whosoever shall first fulfil them [these least commandments following] himself, and then teach other, and set all his study to the furtherance and maintaining of them, that doctor shall all they of the kingdom of heaven have in price, and follow him and seek him out, as doth an eagle her prey, and cleave to him as burrs."
Matthew only. The verse from "except" to the end is quoted verbally in Justin Martyr, as being in "the Memoirs." For I say. So far from you my disciples (verse 13) being right in despising any of the commands contained in the Law, they are all to be specially honoured by you; for your righteousness (i.e. the righteousness you show in observing them; there is no thought hero of the imputed righteousness of Christ) must far exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees; otherwise there is no entrance for you into the kingdom of heaven. But wherein lay the superiority of the righteousness which the disciples were to have? Did our Lord mean that his disciples were to painfully toil through the various enactments, ceremonial and other, of the Law as the scribes and Pharisees did, only with more serious and earnest purpose than they? That were in the ease of many scribes and Pharisees hardly possible. For notwithstanding our Lord's occasional denunciations, many of them were men of the severest earnestness and the deepest conscientiousness, e.g. Gamaliel and Saul of Tarsus. Our Lord must refer to the Law otherwise than as a system of enactments. His thought is similar to that of his words addressed to Nicodemus (John 3:5), where he says that change of heart evidenced by public profession (cf. Romans 10:10) is necessary for entrance into the kingdom of God (cf. also Matthew 18:8). So here; while the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, even when joined to earnestness of purpose, nevertheless consists in the observance of external rules, there is a higher principle in the Law, by observing which a higher righteousness can be attained. Christ points, that is to say, away from the Law as a system of external rules to the Law in its deeper meaning, affecting the relation of the heart to God (cf. further Weiss, 'Life,' 2:147). Shall exceed; rather, shall abound still more than. The statement is not merely comparative, but implies an abundance (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:10)even in the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. The Jewish spirit reckons up good actions as producing in many cases even a superfluity of righteousness. But the righteousness which Christ's disciples must have needs to be still more abundant. The righteousness; omitted in the Greek (Westcott and Herr) by condensation. The scribes and Pharisees. The most learned (scribes) and the most zealous (Pharisees) in the Law (cf. Nosgen) are here placed in one class (τῶν γραμματέων καὶ Φαρισαίων). Ye shall in no case; Revised Version, in no wise. "The emphatic negative οὐ μή is not elsewhere so rendered in the Authorized Version. The previous versions have in this place simply ye shall not,' following the Vulgate,. non intrabitis" (Humphry) Enter into the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matthew 18:3; Matthew 7:21). A much stronger statement than that of verse 19, though some would identify the two. There Christ was comparing one disciple with another; hero his disciples with non-disciples. "Such a relaxing for yourselves and others of the commandments will set you low in the true kingdom of obedience and holiness; but this of having a righteousness so utterly false and hollow as that of the scribes and Pharisees will not merely set you low, but will exclude you from that kingdom altogether (verse 20); for while that marks an impaired spiritual vision, this marks a vision utterly darkened and destroyed" (Trench, ' Sermon on the Mount').
(2) Their relation further defined.
(a) Our Lord is still concerned with the relation of himself and his followers to the religion of the day, of which the Old Testament (Matthew 5:17), and more especially the Law (Matthew 5:18), was the accepted standard. But after having spoken of the need of careful attention to (Matthew 5:17,Matthew 5:18), and observance of (Matthew 5:19), even the least commands of the Law, he goes on to point out the far-reaching character of these commands, whether they are such as we should call more (Matthew 5:21, Matthew 5:27, 81) or less (Matthew 5:33, Matthew 5:38, Matthew 5:43) impotent.
It is essential to notice that our Lord refers to these commands, not merely as statements contained in the Law, but as part of the religion of the day, and that he contrasts their true bearing on life and conduct with that false bearing on this which was commonly predicated of them. By this it is not meant that our Lord was only opposing such narrow glosses and interpretations as had arisen at various times during the centuries after the promulgation of the Law (for these were for the most part perfectly natural and legitimate developments of the earliest possible interpretations of it), still less that he was thinking only of the worst of the misrepresentations of its commands, comparatively recently made by the Pharisees; but that he was now going back, beyond this so far natural and normal development of the earliest interpretations, to the first principles underlying the revelation contained in the Law. While the Jews, not unnaturally, clung to the primary, but temporary, meaning of the Law as a revelation of God's will for them as a nation, our Lord was now about to expound its commands as a revelation of God's permanent will for them and all men as men. Our Lord was now, that is to say, wishing to do more than merely cut off the excrescences that, chiefly through the Pharisaic party, had grown up round the Law, but less than root up the Law itself. He rather cuts down the whole growth that had been, notwithstanding some mere excrescences, the right and proper outcome of the Law in its original environment, in order that, in fresh environment, which corresponded better to its nature, the Law might produce a growth still more right and proper.
The sixth commandment.
Matthew only; verses 25, 26 have parts common to Luke.
Ye have heard (ἠκούσατε, frequentative aorist). Our Lord does not say, "ye have read" (cf. Matthew 21:42), for he was not now speaking to the learned classes, but to a large audience many of whom were probably unable to read. "Ye have heard," i.e. from your teachers whose teaching claims to be the substance of the Law. So, probably, even in John 12:34, where the multitude say that they "have heard out of the Law that the Christ abideth for ever," which, since this is hardly expressed in so many words in the Old Testament, must mean that the instructions they have received on this subject truly represent the substance of its teaching. So here our Lord says, "You have heard from your teachers (cf. Romans 2:18) that the substance of the sixth commandment is so-and-so." It is thus quite intelligible that in some of these utterances there should be found added to (John 12:21, John 12:43) or intermingled with (John 12:33) the words of a passage of Scripture, other words which are either taken from Scripture, but from another place in it (perhaps John 12:33), or do not occur in Scripture at all, but merely help to form a compendious statement of a definite interpretation (here and John 12:43). It must remain doubtful whether our Lord himself formulated these statements of the popular teaching, or quoted them verbally as current. If the latter, as is perhaps more likely, there remains the at present still more insoluble question whether they were only oral or (cf. the case of the 'Didaehe') had already been committed to writing. That it was said by them of old time (ὅτι ἐῤῥέθη τοῖς ἀρχαίοις). By; Revised Version, to. Similarly John 12:33. Although "by" may be defended, "to" (Wickliffe and Tyndale downwards) is certainly right, because
(a) it is the common usage with a passive verb;
(b) it is the constant usage with ἐῤῥέθη in the New Testament (e.g. Romans 9:12, Romans 9:26);
(c) the parallelism with ἐγὼ δέ κ.τ.λ., is more exact;
(d) the popular teaching claimed to be, even in its strictest esoteric form of oral tradition, derived ultimately, not from the words of any human teachers, however primitive, but from the words of God spoken by him to them.
In the case before us our Lord accepts the popular teaching of the time as truly representing the Divine utterance in the giving of the Law, so far as that utterance was then intended to be understood. Them of old time. This can hardly be limited to "the original founders of the Jewish Commonwealth," to use Trench's curiously unbiblical expression ('Syn.,' § 67.). It probably includes all who lived a generation or more before our Lord's time (cf. Weiss). Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. The substance, according to the popular teaching, of the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17). This the current form of it (based partly on Leviticus 24:21; Numbers 35:1-34.; Deuteronomy 19:12) was that murder was not to be committed, and that if it was committed the murderer was to be brought up for trial. Shall be in danger of (ἔνοχος ἔσται); i.e. in legal danger—legally guilty of a charge which involves the judgment (cf. Matthew 26:66). The judgment; i.e. the local Sanhedrin (cf. Matthew 10:17), of apparently seven men in a smaller, twenty-three in a larger, town. This answers to "the congregation,'' or "the elders" of the town to which the murderer belonged, before whom he was to be tried (Numbers 35:12, Numbers 35:16, Numbers 35:24; Deuteronomy 19:12).
But I say unto you. "I" emphatic (as also in Matthew 5:28, Matthew 5:32, Matthew 5:34, Matthew 5:39, Matthew 5:44), in contrast to God, as God's utterance was then conditioned; i.e. in contrast to God's voice to and through Moses (cf. John 1:17; John 7:23; Hebrews 10:28, Hebrews 10:29). Christ claims for his words the same authority, and more than the same authority, as for those spoken once by God. The circumstances had altered; the message for τοῖς ἀρχαίοις was insufficient now. Christ brings his own Personality forward, and claims to give a more perfect and far-reaching statement of the sixth commandment than the current form of its teaching, notwithstanding the fact that this current form represented truly the original thought underlying its promulgation. In the following words our Lord speaks of three grades of auger, and, as answering to them, of three grades of punishment. The former will be examined under the several terms employed. Upon the latter it is necessary to make a few remarks here. They have been very variously understood.
(1) (a) "The judgment" means the judgment of God alone, for he alone can take cognizance of mere anger;
(b) "the council" means the judgment of the Sanhedrin, "a publick tryal;"
(c) "the Gehenna of fire" means the judgment of hell (Lightfoot, 'Hor. Hebr.,' in loc.).
(2) (a) "The judgment" means the local court;
(b) "the council" means the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem;
(c) "the Gehenna of fire" means hell (apparently Nosgen, and many other, especially Romish, expositors).
It will be noticed that both the above interpretations are inconsistent. They make our Lord pass from literal to figurative language in the same sentence. Besides, in the second it is inexplicable how mere anger could be brought under the cognizance of a human court. For these reasons it is probable that
(3) all three stages express metaphorically grades of Divine judgment under the form of the Jewish processes of law.
(a) "The judgment" primarily means the local court;
(b) "the council "primarily means the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem;
(c) "the Gehenna of fire" primarily means the Valley of Hinnom, where the last processes of judgment seem to have taken place (vide infra). Christ does not say that the sins spoken of render a man liable to any of these earthly processes of law; he says that they render him liable to processes of Divine law which are fittingly symbolized by these expressions.. Whosoever is angry; Revised Version, more precisely, every one who (πᾶς ὁὀργιζόμενος). This form of expression is specially frequent in 1 John, e.g. 1 John 3:3, where Bishop Westcott says, "In each case where this characteristic form of language occurs there is apparently a reference to some who had questioned the application of a general principle in particular cases," (For the thought of this clause, cf. 1 John 3:15.) With his brother. The term "brother" was applied in both Greek and Hebrew, by way of metaphor, to things that possessed merely such fellowship as arises from juxtaposition or from similarity of purpose (cf. of the cherubim, Exodus 25:20, "with their faces one to another," literally, "each (man) to his brother"). It is thus possible that here the thought is of any person with whom one is brought into temporary relation, quite apart from any question of a common source. Yet as this could have been represented by "neighbour" (cf. Matthew 19:19), it seems reasonable to see something more in "brother," and to view it with reference to its implied meaning, "fellowship of life based on identity of origin" (Cremer). To Jews as such the term would doubtless only suggest identity of origin nationally, i.e. a fellow-Jew (cf. especially Le Exodus 19:17 with Exodus 19:16, Exodus 19:17, Exodus 19:18; so even Malachi 2:10); but to Christians of the time when the Gospel was written rather identity of spiritual origin, i.e. a fellow-Christian. Probably when the expression fell from Christ's lips not one of those who heard him imagined that it could have any wider meaning than fellow-Jew or fellow-believer on Jesus, and probably most of them limited it to the former. In fact, Christ seems to have used it as a means whereby to lead up his hearers from the idea of a national to that of a spiritual relation (cf. verses 47, 48). We are therefore hardly warranted (far-reaching as the word on Christ's lips is) in seeing here any reference to the thought of the universal brotherhood of man, based on the fact of all being children of one common Father (cf. further Bishop Westcott, on 1 John 2:9). Without a cause. Omitted by the Revised Version; Revised Version margin, "many ancient authorities insert without cause." The εἰκῆ, though found in the Old Latin and Old Syriac, is certainly to be omitted, with R, B, and Vulgate, notwithstanding Dean Burgon; cf. especially Westcott and Hurt, 'App.' It is redundant, because the two following expressions show that the anger itself is unloving and hostile (cf. further Meyer). There is a holy anger, but that is with a brother's sin, not with the brother himself. Shall be in danger of the judgment; i.e. of God's wrath as symbolized by the lowest degree of Jewish trial (vide supra). And whosoever (ὅς δ ̓ ἄν). For in this case there was no need for the emphasizing inclusiveness of πᾶς.
(1) Augustine's explanation (in los.; vide Trench; cf. also 'In Joann. Evang.,' § 51.2; 'De Doctr. Christ.,' 2.11), which he got "a quodam Hebraeo," that Raca is in itself meaningless, and is only an interjection expressing indignation, as "Heu!" sorrow, or "Hem!" anger, or "Hosanna" (!) joy, will hardly commend itself to us to-day.
(2) Nor will Chrysostom's, p. 133), "As we in giving orders to a servant or to some one of mean rank, say, Go you; take you this message (ἄπελθε σὺ εἰπὲ τῷ δεῖνι σύ), so those who use the Syrian language used Raca, an equivalent to our you (σύ);'seem much better, whether we take him as considering it as meaningless, or as in some way confusing its ending with the Shemitic suffix for "thee" (ka).
(3) Ewald explains it by אעקר, "rascal" (vide Meyer); but
(4) it is more probably the Aramaic אקיר reka "empty;" cf. Hebrew plural rekim, "vain fellows," in Judges 9:4; Judges 11:3. St. James uses its equivalent (ὦ ἄνρθωπε κενέ, James 2:20) in solemn warning; but it was not infrequently used as a mere term of angry abuse (cf. Lightfoot, ' Hor. Hebr.,' in loc., and Levy, s.v.). Buxtorf, s.v., compares a favourite expression of Aben Ezra's, הום יקיר, "empty-heads," for those who raise senseless objections, etc.; but the simple expression in our text refers rather to moral deficiency thorn to deficiency of brain. The council (vide supra). But; Revised Version, and. The Authorized Version interpolates an emphasis on the climax. Thou fool (Μωρέ).
(1) This is probably the Greek word for "fool," equivalent to the Hebrew nabal (לבָןָ), which was often used in the Old Testament of the folly of wickedness (Psalms 14:1; cf. 1 Samuel 25:25). In this sense μωρός is used by our Lord himself (Matthew 23:17 ).
(2) It may be the transliteration (cf. נכשׁ, σκηνοῦν) of the Hebrew moreh (הרום), "rebel" (cf. Numbers 20:10). In favour of this is the parallelism of. language with Raca. The sense, too, is excellent, "Thou rebel against God!" It is almost equivalent to "Apostate!" But the absence of any evidence that the Jews used moreh as a term of abuse prevents our accepting this interpretation. Field ('Otium Norv.,' 3.) points out that if this interpretation were true, moreh would be "the only pure Hebrew word in the Greek Testament (ἀλληλουΐ́α, ἀμήν, and σαβαώθ, as being taken from the LXX., belong to a different class), all other foreign words being indisputably Aramaic, as raca, talitha kumi, maranatha, etc., which, as might have been expected, are retained by the authors of the Syriac versions without alteration. Not so μωrέ, for which both the Peschito and Philoxenian versions have lelo (see Peschito and Philoxenian word)… a plain proof that these learned Syrians look it for an exotic, and not like ῥακά, a native word." In either case. the term expresses the absolute godlessness of him who is so addressed. Of the two terms, Raca is more negative, implying the absence of all good, Μωρέ more positive, implying decided wickedness. Shall be in danger of; ἔνοχος ἔσται εἰς. The change from the usual dative to the unique construction with εἰς, indicated by the Revised Version margin, "Greek, unto or into," is doubtless because our Lord no longer refers to the tribunal at which the punishment is ordered, but to the punishment itself into which the condemned man comes (cf. Wirier, § 31:5). Hell fire; Revised Version, the hell of fire; Revised Version margin, "Greek, Gehenna of fire" (τῆν γέενναν τοῦ πυρός). Gehenna is properly "the Valley of Hinnom" (Joshua 18:16; Nehemiah 11:30), or "of the son of Hinnom" (Joshuaxv. 8; 16:18a; 2 Chronicles 28:3). It is probably the valley on the south-west of Jerusalem, called the Topheth, "the place of horror" (vide especially Payne Smith, on Jeremiah 7:31); and in it, presumably on the same place, were burnt, according to Jewish tradition (vide especially Kimchi, on Psalms 27:13), the carcases of animals and other offal. There is no direct evidence that the bodies of criminals (as is often stated) were burnt there. But it seems probable that it was in this place that death by "burning," whether it was the later method of "burning" by a red-hot wire, or the earlier (Mishna, 'Sanhedr.,' 7.2) of lighting faggots of wood round the condemned person, would be carried into effect. Thus both from the old associations of the valley, and from the then use made of it, the epithet "of fire" would be very naturally added. It seems probable that our Lord here referred primarily to "Gehenna" in this local sense (vide supra), but it is fair to notice that there is no other instance in the New Testament of this literal usage of the word. Elsewhere it is always in the metaphorical sense common in rabbinic writings of the place of final punishment which we usually call "hell."
Therefore. Seeing that the consequences of an angry spirit are so terrible. For there is no thought here of an unforgiving spirit spoiling the acceptance of the gift (vide infra). Our Lord is insisting that it is so important to lose no time in seeking reconciliation with a person whom one has injured, that even the very holiest action must be put off for it. If thou bring; Revised Version, if …. thou art offering; ἐὰν … προσφέρῃς (similarly, πρόσηερε, Matthew 5:24), the technical word coming some sixty times in Leviticus alone. Christ implies that the action has already begun. Thy gift; a general word for any sacrifice. To the altar. Since those to whom he spoke were still Jews, Christ illustrates his meaning by Jewish practices. A perverse literalism has found here a direct reference to the Eucharist. For reasonable adaptations (cf. even in ' Didache,' § 14.) of these two verses to this, see Waterland, 'Doctrine of the Eucharist,' ch. 13. § 4. And there rememberest, etc. For the spirit of recollection may well culminate with the culminating action. Lightfoot ('Hor. Hebr.') shows that even the Jews taught such a postponement of the sacrifice if theft was remembered. He therefore thinks that the stress is on "ought" (τι): "For that which the Jews restrained only to pecuniary damages, Christ extends to all offences against our brother." But he overlooks the fact that, while the Jewish precept had reference to a sin (or even the neglect of some ceremonial rule, of. Mishna, 'Pes.,' 3.7) vitiating the offering, there is no thought of this hero (vide supra). Thy brother (verse 22, note). Ought. So from Tyndale downwards. Revised Version, aught, here and apparently always, after the spelling now preferred as marking the difference from the verb.
First. Joined in the Authorized Version and Revised Version to "be reconciled,'' and rightly, since the point is not "the unavoidable, surprising, nay, repellent removal of one's self from the temple" (Meyer), but reconciliation. Be reconciled (διαλλάγηθι); here only in the New Testament. There seems to be no essential difference between this and καταλλάσσω (vide Thayer).
Matthew 5:25, Matthew 5:26
Parallel passage: Luke 12:58, Luke 12:59. The question of the relation of the two passages, as regards both language and original connexion, is exceedingly difficult. As to the former, the verbal differences seem to be such as would hardly have been made on purpose, and to be rather due to memory; yet the agreement is too minute to be the result of memory of a Gospel only oral. Perhaps memory of a document best satisfies the conditions. As to the original connexion of the verses, they, especially Luke 12:26, can hardly have been spoken twice. Most critics suppose that St. Luke gives them in their proper context; but if so, it is curious that two of his words, ὑπάγεις ἀπήλλαχθαι, seem to recall our preceding verse 24. One word might have been a mere coincidence, but hardly two. It is not likely that these words in verse 24 were derived from Luke, for this supposes a double process in St. Matthew's mind, rejecting them from verse 25 and placing them in verse 24. It is more natural also to regard the first clause of Luke 12:58, "As … him," as an expansion of the corresponding clause in our Luke 12:25 rather than this as a compression of that. This apparent reminiscence in Luke of what is given in our verses 24 and 25a points to the connexion of verses 24-26 in Matthew being original, and to it having been broken by Luke or by the framer of the source that he used.
A further stage in our Lord's warning. A man must not only seek reconciliation with the injured person (verse 23), and that in preference to fulfilling the holiest service (verse 24), but he must do so the more because of the danger of postponing reconciliation. It is noteworthy that our Lord in this verse does not define on whose side the cause of the quarrel lies.
Agree with. And that not with a merely formal reconciliation, but reconciliation based on a permanent kindly feeling towards him (ἴσθι εὐνοῶν). Professor Margoliouth suggests that this is a confirmation of what he thinks is the original text of Ecclesiasticus 18:20, "Before judgment beg off". Thine adversary. Primarily the injured brother (vide infra), Quickly. For such is not the tendency of the human heart. Whiles. Delay not in making reconciliation while you have opportunity. Thayer compares Song of Solomon 1:12. Thou art. On the indicative, cf. Winer, § 41. b, 3. 2, a, note. In the way with him; Revised Version, with the manuscripts, with him in the way. The right reading implies that the proximity of the persons may perhaps not last throughout "the way." "The way" is the road to the judge, as explained in -Luke. But being on the road to him is here not presented as a possibility (Luke), but as a certainty. For so, in fact, it is. Lest … the adversary (verse 26, note) deliver thee. Translating from the language of parable to that of fact, it is only if reconciliation has not been made, if the heart is still unforgiving and quarrelsome, that God the Judge will take notice of the offence. And the judge … to the officer (τῷ ὐπηρέτῃ); i.e. the officer whose duty it was to execute the judge's commands (cf. Lightfoot, 'Hor. Hebr.,' for illustrations). The expression here belongs to the figure; but in Matthew 13:41 similar duties are predicated of the angels. If the figure was derived from the synagogue, the officer would doubtless be the chazzan, of which, indeed, ὑπηρέτης is the technical rendering. And thou be cast (καισῃ). The future indicative (still dependent on "lest") brings out the reality of the danger (cf. Bishop Lightfoot, on Colossians 2:8).
Thou shalt by no means, etc. A solemn statement of the unrelenting character of justice. The Romanists hold that the verse implies
(1) that if payment can be made, release follows;
(2) and that payment can be made.
The first statement is probable; but as for the slightest hint of the second, it is wholly wanting. Christ affirms that non-reconciliation with a brother, if carried beyond that limit of time within which the quarrel can be made up, involves consequences in which the element of mercy will be entirely absent. The element of mercy can enter up to a certain point of time, but after that only justice. (On "pay," ἀποδῷς, see Matthew 6:4, note.) It will be observed that, in the above interpretation, ἀντίδικος has been consistently explained as a human adversary, for this seems to be the primary meaning here. But it should not be forgotten that, in the parallel passage in Luke, the reference is to God. Offences against man are there represented in their true character as offences against God, who is therefore depicted as the adversary in a lawsuit. That, from another point of view, be is also the Judge, matters not. Both conceptions of him are true, and can be kept quite distinct. It may be the case, indeed, that this reference of ἀντίδικος to God was present to St. Matthew's mind also when he recorded these words, and this would partly account for the terrible emphasis on verse 26, the pendant to verse 22. But even if the reference to God were present to St. Matthew's mind by way of application, it is not with him, as it is with St. Luke, tile primary. signification of the word. Farthing. The quadrans, the smallest Roman coin.
The seventh commandment. The verses occur in this form only here, but Matthew 5:29 and Matthew 5:30 are found in Matthew 18:8, Matthew 18:9, as illustrations of another subject (vide infra).
By them of old time. Omit, with the Revised Version (cf. Matthew 5:21, note). Thou shalt not (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18).
But I say (Matthew 5:22, note). The bare command forbidding an external action is insufficient. It must extend to the thought. Contrast Josephus ('Ant.,' 12.9. 1), "The purposing to do a thing, without actually doing it, is not worthy of punishment." Generally, however, the sinfulness of wrong thoughts must have been acknowledged (cf. Psalms 51:10, and the tenth commandment; cf. late examples in Schottgen). Hammond ('Pr. Cat.,' in Ford) says, "In the Law, the fastening of the eyes on an idol, considering the beauty of it, saith Maimonides, is forbidden (Le Matthew 19:4), and not only the worship of it" (vide Maimonides, 'Hilk. Ab. Zar.,' Matthew 2:2, by whom, however, the thought is, perhaps, rather condemned for what it leads to than per se; and similarly with Job 31:1; Proverbs 6:25). Whosoever; Revised Version, every one who (Matthew 5:22, note). Looketh … to lust after (πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαι). As πρὸς τό with the infinitive (e.g. Matthew 6:1), primarily denotes purpose; this may be equivalent to "looketh in order that he may lust, looketh to stimulate his lust" (cf. Meyer, Trench); but, as Weiss points out, this surely belongs to the refinement, not to the beginning of sin. Hence Nosgen suggests "looketh … lustfully" (cf. James 4:5). Probably this is one of those cases where, as Ellicott says on 1 Corinthians 9:18, πρὸς τό with the infinitive has "a shade of meaning that seems to lie between purpose and result, and even sometimes to approximate to the latter." At all events, it does not express, as εἰς τό would have expressed, the immediate purpose of the look (vide Ellicott, loc. cit.); of. Matthew 6:1. Her (αὐτήν, B, D, etc.); accusative with ἐπιθυμεῖν, here only in the New Testament. Perhaps the pronoun should be omitted, with א.
Matthew 5:29, Matthew 5:30
Also in Matthew 18:8, Matthew 18:9; the chief differences being
(1) that they are there adduced with reference to "offences" generally;
(2) that the foot is mentioned, as well as the eye and the hand. It seems not improbable that this saying was spoken twice.
The reason why our Lord did not mention the foot here may be either that that member is less immediately connected with sins of the flesh than the other two (cf. Wetstein, in loc., "Averte oculum a vultu illecebroso: arce manum ab impudicis contrectationibus"), or, as seems more probable, that the eye and the hand represent the two sets of faculties receptive and active, and together express man's whole nature. The insertion of the foot in Matthew 18:8, Matthew 18:9, only makes the illustration more definite. "The remark in Matthew 18:29 treats of what is to be done by the subjects of the kingdom when, in spite of themselves, evil desires are aroused" (Weiss, 'Life,' 2.149).
Right. Not in Matthew 18:1-35, and parallel passage. Inserted to enhance the preciousness of the members spoken of (cf. Zechariah 11:17; cf. verse 39). Offend thee; Authorized Version, do cause thee to offend; Revised Version, cause thee to stumble (σκανδαλίζει σε). Perhaps the verb originally referred to the stick of a trap (σκάνδαλον, a Hellenistic word, apparently equivalent to σκανδάληθρον) striking the person's foot, and so catching him in the trap; but when found in literature (almost solely in the New Testament) it has apparently lost all connotation of the trap, and only means causing a person to stumble (for an analysis of its use in the New Testament, vide especially Cremer, s.v.). Pluck it out, and cast it from thee. The second clause shows the purely figurative character of the sentence. Our Lord commands
(1) the removal of the means of "offence" out of the place of affection that it has long held;
(2) the putting it away so thoroughly, both by the manner of the act and the distance placed between the "offence" and the person, that restoration is almost impossible. In both verbs the aorist brings out the decisiveness of the action. For it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish. It is better to lose one faculty, one sphere of usefulness, one part of those things which normally make a person complete, than that the person himself should be lost. Notice the sixfold personal pronoun in this one verse; "Our Lord grounds his precept of the most rigid and decisive self-denial on the considerations of the truest self interest" (Alford). Should be cast. For to One thy whole person will become as abhorrent as the offending member ought in fact now to be to thee (βάλε βληθῇ).
Should be cast into hell; Revised Version, go into hell (εἰς γέενναν ἀπέλθῃ), both word and order laying stress, not on the action of the Judge, but on thy departure, either from things of time and sense, or from his presence (Matthew 25:46).
Matthew 5:31, Matthew 5:32
Here only. It hath been said (ἐῤῥέθη δέ). This is the only one of the six examples to which our Lord does not prefix "ye have heard," and inserts δέ. Hence Lightfoot ('Hor. Hebr.') writes, "This particle hath this emphasis in this place, that it whispers a silent objection, which is answered in the following verse," i.e. Christ had said even a sinful look is too much; the lawyers said, "But the Law allows divorce, and therefore a married man can after all obtain the woman he desires." But this is strained. The shorter expression is here sufficient, because of the close connexion of this subject with the preceding. Hence, Revised Version, better, it was said also. It is, by the by, curious that the translators of the Authorized Version should have altered the rendering of ἐῤῥέθη, which they had given rightly in Matthew 5:21, Matthew 5:27, and should have preferred the perfect here and in Matthew 5:33, Matthew 5:38, Matthew 5:43. Whosoever shall put away, etc. The substance of Deuteronomy 24:1, but leaving out all mention of cause for such putting away. This may be perhaps because our Lord is going to refer to this immediately, or because, in fact, the giving "a writing of divorcement" was now considered as alone of importance. Let him give her; Hebrew, into her hand; i.e. into her own possession (cf. Isaiah 1:1; Jeremiah 3:8). A writing of divorcement. See the translation of such a get in Lightfoot ('Hor. Hebr.').
(For full notes, cf. Matthew 19:9.) Parallel passages: Mark 10:12; Luke 16:18; apparently the context of Mark represents Matthew 19:1-8, and the context of Luke rather represents Matthew 5:18. Notice here:
(1) Matthew alone, in both places, gives the exception of fornication.
(2) St. Paul refers in 1 Corinthians 7:10, 1 Corinthians 7:11 to this saying of our Lord's.
(3) The laxity in this matter of the Hillel school of the Pharisees is well known.
Their theory, indeed, sounds good, viz. that there should be perfect unity in the marriage state; but starting from this premiss they affirmed that if in any single respect the unity was not attained, divorce might follow. For examples, see Lightfoot ('Hor. Hebr.'). Our Lord upholds the school of Shammai. It is said that shameful laxity in divorce still exists among Oriental Jews. Fornication. The reference is to sin after marriage. Contrast Deuteronomy 22:20, Deuteronomy 22:21, where the husband's action is not thought of as divorce. The more general word (πορνεία) is used, because it lays more stress on the physical character of the sin than μοιχεία would have laid. Causeth her to commit adultery; Revised Version, maketh her an adulteress, since the right reading, μοιχευθῆναι, connotes being sinned against rather than sinning (Received Text, μοιχᾶσθαι). (For the thought, cf. Romans 7:3.) And whosoever shall marry, etc. Bracketed by Westcott and Hort, as omitted by certain 'Western' authorities (especially D and Old Latin manuscripts). The clause closely resembles Luke 16:18. Her that is divorced; i.e. under these wrong conditions, as Revised Version, her when put away. even though αὐτήν is not expressed. This interpretation, notwithstanding Weiss's stigma of it as "ganz willkurlich," is surely only a plain deduction from the preceding clause. The fact that no such limitation is to be found in Luke 16:18 must not prejudice our judgment here.
Oaths. Matthew only; but cf. Matthew 23:1-39. Matthew 23:16-22.
By them of old time (Matthew 5:21, note). Thou shalt not forswear thyself (οὐκ ἐπιορκήσεις). These two words are the substance of Le Matthew 19:12, which itself (cf. Rashi, in loc.) includes a reference to the third commandment. To them our Lord joins but shalt perform, etc., which is the substance of Deuteronomy 23:23 (cf. Numbers 30:2). (On our Lord's utterance representing the current form of teaching about oaths, cf. Deuteronomy 23:21, note.) This current teaching was the logical deduction from the statements of the Law, and yet the Law had a higher aim.
Swear not at all (cf. James 5:12). Yet, as St. Augustine points out, St. Paul took oaths in his writings (2 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 11:31); and our Lord himself did not refuse to answer when put upon his oath (Matthew 26:63, Matthew 26:64). He, that is to say, and St. Paul after him, accepted the fact that there are times when a solemn oath must be taken. How, then, can we explain this absolute prohibition here? In that our Lord is not here thinking at all of formal and solemn oaths, but of oaths as the outcome of impatience and exaggeration. The thoughtlessness of fervent asseveration is often betrayed into an oath. Such an oath, or even any asseveration that passes in spirit beyond "yea, yea," "nay, nay," has its origin ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ; cf. Chaucer, "Sweryng sodeynly without avysement is eek a gret synne" ('Parson's Tale,' § 'De Ira'). Martensen, however, takes the prohibition of oaths as formally unconditional and total, in accordance with the highest ideal of what man will hereafter be and require, and he sees the limitation, which he allows is to be given to these words, in the present conditions of human society. We have an ideal duty towards God, but we have also a practical duty to those among whom we live, and the present state of human affairs permits and necessitates oaths. Hence it was that even Christ submitted to them. Neither by heaven, etc. Our Lord further defines what he means by an oath. It does not mean only an expression in which God's Name is mentioned, but any expression appealing to any object at all, whether this be supraterrestrial, terrestrial, national, or personal. Although God's Name is often omitted in such cases, from a feeling of reverence, its omission does not prevent the asseveration being an oath. Heaven; Revised Version, the heaven; for the thought is clearly not the immaterial transcendental heaven, the abode of bliss, but the physical heaven (cf. Matthew 6:26, Revised Version). Heaven … footstool. Adapted from Isaiah 66:1, where it forms part of the glorious declaration that no material temple can contain God, that "the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands" as St. Stephen paraphrases it (Acts 7:48). The great King is seated enthroned in the heaven, with his feet touching the earth.
Nor by Jerusalem. The Hebraistic ἐν is here exchanged for the less unclassical εἰς, the reason, perhaps, being that definite direction of one's thought towards Jerusalem was, as it seems, insisted upon by some. "Rabbi Judah saith, He that saith, By Jerusalem, saith nothing, unless with an intent purpose he shall vow towards Jerusalem" (Tosipht., 'Ned.,' 1., in Lightfoot,' Her Hebr.'). So Revised Version margin, toward. For it is the city, etc. (Psalms 48:2).
For thou canst not, etc. As each of the other objects included a reference to God, so does also thy head. For even that recalls to mind the power of God, since every hair of it bears the stamp of his handiwork.
Your communication. Similarly, the Authorized Version in Ephesians 4:29, in archaic usage for "talk." Yea, yea; Nay, nay. Christ permits as far as the repetition of the asseveration. The adoption here by a few authorities of the phrase in James 5:12 ("Let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay," τὸ ναὶ ναὶ κ.τ.λ..)is unsuitable; for here the question is not of truthfulness, but of fervency in asseveration. Whatsoever is more than these; "that which is over and above these" (Rheims). There is a superfluity (περισσόν) in more fervent asseverations, which has its origin ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῖ. Cometh of evil. So the Revised Version margin, "as in verse 39; 6:13.' Revised Version, is of the evil one (vide Matthew 6:13, note; and of. 1 John 3:12).
The two remaining examples of the current teaching of the Law are very closely connected together, and, in fact, our Lord's corrections of them are intermingled in Luke 6:27-36. Yet the subjects are really distinct. In the first (Luke 6:38-42) our Lord speaks of the reception of injuries, in the second (Luke 6:43-48) of the treatment of those who do them. Godet's remarks (in his summary of Luke 6:27-45) on the use made by St. Luke of these examples are especially instructive. "These last two antitheses, which terminate in Matthew in the lofty thought (verse 48) of man being elevated by love to the perfection of God, furnish Luke with the leading idea of the discourse as he presents it, namely, charity as the law of the new life."
The reception of injuries. The Law inculcated that the injured should obtain from those who did the wrong exact compensation. Our Lord inculcates giving up of all in-sistance upon one's rights as an injured person, and entire submission to injuries, even as far as proffering the opportunity for fresh wrongs.
An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. No short phrase could more accurately describe the spirit of the Mosaic legislation. Offences against individuals were to be punished by the injured individual receiving back, as it were, the exact compensation from him who had injured him. While this was originally observed literally, it was in Mishnic times (and probably in the time of our Lord) softened to payment of money (vide Lightfoot, 'Hor. Hebr.'). The phrase comes three times in the Pentateuch (Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21). Notice:
(1) The LXX. has the accusative in each case, although only in the first does a verb precede. Probably the expression had already become proverbial in Greek even before the translation of the LXX.
(2) The Hebrew of Deuteronomy 19:21 is slightly different from that of the other two passages, and as the preposition there used (ב) is not so necessarily rendered by ἀντί, that passage is perhaps the least likely of the three to have been in our Lord's mind now. It seems likely, however, that he was not thinking of any one of the three passages in particular. The words served him as a summary of the Law in this respect.
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee, etc. The first clause comes here only; the second is found also in Luke 6:29 (for the principle, of. 1 Corinthians 6:7). We may notice that, while our Lord most perfectly observed the spirit of this command, he did not slavishly follow the letter of it (cf. John 18:22, John 18:23). Nor did St. Paul (cf. Acts 16:35; Acts 22:25; Acts 23:1-35. Acts 23:3; Acts 25:9,Acts 25:10). We must remember that, while he clothes his teaching with the form of concrete examples, these are only parabolic representations of principles eternal in themselves, but in practice to be modified according to each separate occasion. "This offering of the other cheek may be done outwardly; but only inwardly can it be always right" (Trench, 'Sermon on the Mount'). We must further remember the distinction brought out here by Luther between what the Christian has to do as a Christian, and what he has to do as, perhaps an official, member of the state. The Lord leaves to the state its own jurisdiction (Matthew 22:21 : vide Meyer). That ye resist not; Revised Version, resist not, thus avoiding all possibility of the English reader taking the words as a statement of fact. Evil. So the Revised Version margin; but Revised Version, him that is evil (cf. Luke 6:37; Matthew 6:13, note). The masculine here, in the sense of the wicked man who does the wrong, is clearly preferable; Wickliffe, "a yuel man." (For a very careful defence of Chrysostom's opinion that even here τῷ πονηρῷ refers to the devil and not to man. see Chase, 'The Lord's Prayer in the Early Church'). Shall smite; Revised Version, smiteth, The right reading gives the more vivid present. Ῥαπίζω comes in the New Testament here and Matthew 26:67 only. It is properly used of a stroke with a rod. (For "smiting on the cheeks," of. the curious rendering of Hosea 11:4 in the LXX; of. also Isaiah 50:6.) Thee on thy right. Matthew only. Although it is more natural that the left cheek would be hit first (Meyer), the right is named, since it is in common parle, nee held to be the worthier (cf. verse 29). Cheek. Σιαγών, though properly jaw, is here equivalent to" cheek," as certainly in Song of Solomon 1:10; Song of Solomon 5:13. Turn. The action seen; Luke's "offer" regards the mental condition necessary for the action.
The parallel passage, Luke 6:29, gives the taking of the garments in the converse order. And if any man will sue thee; Revised Version, and if any man would go to law with thee. Notice that "will," "would" (τῷ θέλοντι), implies that the trial has not yet even begun. Do this even before it. And take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. Coat (χιτών), equivalent to tunic, "shirt-like under-garment" (Meyer). Cloke (ἱμάτιον), equivalent to over-cloak, "mantle-like over-garment, toga, which also served for a covering by night, and might not therefore be retained as a pledge over night (Exodus 22:26)' (Meyer). This is put second, as being the more valuable. In Luke, where there is no mention of the law-court, the thought seems to be merely of the violent removal of the garments, taking them as they came. Let him have (ἄφες αὐτῷ). More positive than Luke's "withhold not" (μὴ κωλύσῃς).
Matthew only. Shall compel thee to go; Revised Version margin, "Gr. impress" (ἀγγαρεύσει). From the Persian. Hatch shows that while the classical usage strictly refers to the Persian system or' mounted couriers (described in Herod., 8.98; Xen., 'Cyr.,' 8.6. 17), the post-classical usage refers to the later development of a system, not of postal service, but of the forced transport of military baggage. It thus indicates, not merely forced attendance, but forced carrying. Hence it is used in Matthew 27:32 and Mark 15:21 of Simon the Cyrenian, "who was pressed by the Roman soldiers who were escorting our Lord not merely to accompany them but also to carry a load." Thus here also the thought is doubtless that of being compelled to carry baggage. There may also be a reference, as Hatch suggests, to the oppressive conduct of the Roman soldiers (cf. Luke 3:14). (For the spirit of our Lord's saying, vide also 'Aboth,' 3.18 (Taylor), where the probable translation is, "Rabbi Ishmael said, Be pliant of disposition and yielding to impressment.") A mile; Revised Version, one mile; but see Matthew 8:19, note. A Roman mile of a thousand paces.
(Cf. Luke 6:30, Luke 6:34, Luke 6:35.) The connexion is as follows: Our Lord spoke first (Matthew 5:39) of entire submission to injuries; then (Matthew 5:40) of acceptance of loss of property; then (Matthew 5:41) of acceptance of a burden imposed; here of acceptance of a demand for pecuniary assistance. This, in its turn, forms an easy transition to the subject of Matthew 5:43, sqq. Give to him that asketh thee, etc. This verse has been often adduced by unbelievers to prove the incompatibility of our Lord's utterances with the conditions of modern society. Wrongly. Because our Lord is inculcating the proper spirit of Christian life, not giving rules to be literally carried out irrespective of circumstances. Hammond (vide Ford) points out that we have "a countermand" in 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 2 Thessalonians 3:10.
The treatment of those who injure us. (Cf. supra, Matthew 5:38.) Our Lord now turns from the reception of injuries to the treatment of those who injure us. We are not to injure them in return, nor merely to keep aloof from them, but to show them positive kindness. The Law, in the natural development of it current at the time, taught very differently.
.—Matthew only. Ye have heard (verse 21, note). Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. The first clause is found in Le Matthew 19:18, the second is the natural, and, from one point of view, legitimate, deduction from it. "The whole precept, as it stands, undoubtedly represents, and is a summary of, the sense of the Law" (Mozley, vide infra). The meaning of the words "neighbour" and "enemy" has been much discussed. In Leviticus, indeed, the meaning of "neighbour" is clear; it answers to "the children of thy people" in the preceding clause, i.e. it refers to members of the nation; all Israelites are termed "neighbours." The primary sense, therefore, of this whole precept is love to an Israelite, hatred to a non-Israelite (cf. Deuteronomy 25:17-19). As such, the precept was of value in cementing the unity of the nation and preventing greater exposure to the evils, moral and religious, found outside it. But as quoted by our Lord, it has evidently a more private reference. He treats the precept as referring to personal friends (those who act in a neighbourly way) and enemies, and even this is, in some respects, a legitimate summary of the teaching of the Law, in so far as it forms another side of the law of retaliation. In days when public justice was weak much had to be left to the action of the individual, and he who was wronged was bid satisfy justice by retaliating on his enemy. That, however, it was not the only teaching of the Law is evident from Exodus 23:1-33. Exodus 23:4 (cf. Job 31:29). But as regards both aspects of the precept the time had come for a change. The Jews only too gladly showed obedience to the second part of the precept, making themselves proverbial (cf. Tacitus, 'Hist.,' 5.5. 2; Juvenal, 'Sat.,' 14.103) for their more than incivility to Gentiles, and they seem to have also zealously carried it out towards their personal enemies (cf. Psalms 109:1-31.). On the whole subject, vide especially Mozley, who, however, hardly allows enough weight to passages like Exodus 23:4.
Parallel passage: Luke 6:27, Luke 6:28. But I say unto you, Love your enemies. Of all kinds, whether personal or opponents of you as Christians. Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you. Rightly omitted by the Revised Version as interpolated from Luke, (For the thought, cf. 1 Corinthians 4:12; Romans 12:14.) And pray. In fullest contrast to the continual ill-wishing of the enemy. "They who can pray for their enemies can accomplish the rest" (Weiss, 'Life,' 2.154). Thus to pray is to come very near to the spirit of Christ (cf. Luke 23:1-56. Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60). As a modern example: "Some persons had never had a particular place in my prayers, but for the injuries they have done to me" (Burkitt, ' Diary,' in Ford, on verse 5). For them that despitefully use you, and persecute you. The words, "that despitefully use you and," are to be omitted, with the Revised Version, as in effect interpolated from Luke.
Parallel passage: Luke 6:35, which is more full, but hardly so original in form. That ye may be the children (ὅπως γένησθε υἱοί); sons (Revised Version); cf. Luke 6:9, note. The meaning of the clause is not certain. It may be:
(1) Love to enemies is the means whereby you may become possessed of the full privileges involved in the nature of sons. These privileges are more than the mere participation in Messianic glory (Meyer), and are rather all the blessings present and future which belong to sonship.
(2) Love, in order that on each occasion you may become in fact (almost our "show yourselves") sons of your Father, sons corresponding in ethical conduct to your position already received. Your Father. Not "the Father" (cf. Luke 6:16, note). Which is in heaven: for ὅτι The privileges generally, or the resemblance on each occasion, can only be obtained by behaviour similar to his, namely, kind treatment of those who injure you; for this is what he himself shows. He maketh his sun to rise (ἀνατέλλει). If we may lay stress on the Greek, our Lord expresses the popular notion of the sun ascending. It must, however, be remembered that the word he himself probably used was חרז in hiph. (, Peshito), which contains no thought of motion, but rather of appearance. Sun … rain. The two great sources of maintenance. On the evil and on the good … on the just and on the unjust. The first pair connotes, as it seems, the extreme of evil (Matthew 6:13, note) and good, in each ease manifesting itself according to its opportunities; the second, the life and character as tried by the standard, especially the human standard, of just dealing. Notice how, by chiasm, the emphasis is laid on the ungodly alike at the beginning and at the end. Our Lord here brings out God's active love as seen in nature, nourishing and maintaining men, irrespective of the qualities of individuals and of their treatment of him and his laws. The thought is found elsewhere, e.g. in Seneca (vide Meyer), "Si deos imitaris, da et ingratis benelicia; ham et sceleratis sol oritur, et piratis patent maria".
Matthew 5:46, Matthew 5:47; parallel passage: Luke 6:32, Luke 6:33. For if, etc. The principle of the Law, reciprocity—love your neighbour and him only—is in reality no better than the principle adopted by those who are renegades to true religion (οἱτελῶναι), or by those who have no knowledge of it (οἱἐθνικοί). Such a principle brings with it no other corresponding effect (μισθός, Luke 6:12, note) than such as even these receive. You aim at more, the privileges belonging to the sons of God; therefore do more. What reward have ye? i.e. already entered in God's book of account (Winer, § 40:2, a). The publicans; Revised Version margin, "That is, collectors or renters of Roman taxes: and so elsewhere." To this short description little need be added. The Roman system of taxation was to put up the country, or certain productions of the country, at auction, and to "sell" them to any who would undertake to pay the greatest amount of revenue from them. This contract was in turn divided and subdivided, those who actually drew the money from the people being generally natives. It thus being the interest of every contractor and sub-contractor to squeeze as much as possible from those under him, the whole system was demoralizing to all engaged in it. In the case of Judaea it was especially so, as there was a strong feeling among religious Jews against the lawfulness of paying taxes to a Gentile ruler (cf. Matthew 22:17, note). It is no wonder, therefore, that we find the native collectors (even of districts where the money raised went to Antipas's treasury, Matthew 9:9, note) classed with "harlots" (Matthew 21:31), "sinners" (Matthew 9:11), the heathen (Luke 4:7; Matthew 18:17). Yet out of these one was chosen to be among the twelve, and to write that Gospel which specially describes the relation of Jesus of Nazareth to the religious expectations of the nation.
And if ye salute. It seems almost a bathos after "love." But it expresses love publicly showing itself by kindly greeting. Your brethren; with whom you have the fellow-feeling of common origin—in this case not national, but spiritual (cf. Matthew 5:22, note). What do you more than others? (τί περισσὸν ποιεῖτε); Tyndale," What singuler thynge doe ye?" Do not even the publicans? Revised Version, the Gentiles? with the manuscripts. "The form used (ἐθνικός) describes character rather than mere position" (Bishop Westcott, on 3 John 1:7); "hethen men" (Wickliffe). So; Revised Version, the same, with the manuscripts. Το, notwithstanding its occurrence in Matthew 5:46 and parallel passage, Luke 6:33, was altered to the commoner οὕτως ποιεῖν.
In Luke 6:36, "Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful," we have certainly a reminiscence of the same saying, and, almost as certainly, from the smoothing away of difficulties, a less original form of it. Be ye therefore perfect; Revised Version, ye therefore shall be perfect (ἔσεσθε οὖν ὑμεῖς τέλειοι). The form is based on Deuteronomy 18:13, τέλειος ἔσῃ. While the introduction of ὑμεῖς emphasizes the contrast between Christ's disciples and those who followed the usual deduction from the Law, the position of ἔσεσθε (reversing that of Deuteronomy) shows that still greater emphasis is placed on their "perfection" as something to be attained. Also, while in the parallel passage of Luke the stress is upon the change that must take place (γὶνεσθε)—unless, as is possible, it has the simple meaning "show yourselves" (cf. verse 45, note)—in Matthew the possibility or even the certainty of attaining it is definitely stated. You shall make this your aim, and shall attain to it. Therefore. A deduction from the principle laid down in verses 44-47. From the consideration of the example of your Father, and of the insufficiency of being like publicans and heathen. Perfect (τέλειοι). In the Gospels here and Matthew 19:21 only. The word denotes those who have attained the full development of innate powers, in contrast to those who are still in the undeveloped state—adults in contrast to children. Thus the thought here is—Ye shall be satisfied with, and shall attain to, no lower state than that of maturity. But what is it as to which they shall be mature? Surely not the whole Law as illustrated by all the examples since Matthew 19:21; for verses 31, 32 are excluded by the comparison with God immediately following. It must be the subject with which the sentence is closely connected, verses 44-47 (cf. Meyer); love to others even though they have done you wrong. In this respect, viz. love to others, you shall admit, says our Lord, no lower ideal than that of' maturity, even such maturity as is found in him who sends sun and rain on all alike. Some have seen in this a merely relative maturity, itself capable of further development; but the subject rather demands absolute and final maturity. This does not imply that man will ever have such fulness of love as the Father has, but that he will fully and completely attain to that measure of love to which he as a created being was intended to attain. It may, however, be in accordance with true exegesis to see, with Weiss, for such apparently is his meaning, also an indication of further teaching—the nature of the revelation made known by Christ. For whereas "the fundamental commandment" of the Old Testament, "Ye shall be holy; for I am holy" (Leviticus 11:44, Leviticus 11:45), was the more negative thought of God's exaltation above the impurity of created beings, our Lord now puts forth "the positive conception of the Divine perfection, whose nature is all-embracing, self-sacrificing love. And in place of the God, for ever separated from his polluted people by his holiness, to whom they can only render themselves worthy of approach through the most anxious abstinence from all impurity, and by means of the statutes for purification contained in the Law, there is on the ground of this new revelation the Father in heaven, who stoops to his children in love, and so operates that they must and can be like him" (Weiss, 'Life,' 2.156). The simple and straightforward meaning of the verse, however, is this—You shall take no lower standard in love to enemies than God shows to those who ill treat him, and you shall, in fact, attain to this standard. Upon this (for the limitation of the meaning to one point makes no real difference) there arises the question which has been of so much importance in all ages of the Church—What is the measure of attainment that is really possible for Christ's disciples upon earth? ought they not to expect to live perfect lives? But the text gives no warrant for such an assertion. No doubt it says that attainment to maturity—to perfection according to creaturely limits—is eventually possible. That is implied in ἔσεσθε (vide supra). But when this attainment can be made is not stated. Many will, indeed, affirm that, as our Lord is giving directions to his disciples concerning things in this life, the attainment also is affirmed to be possible in this life. But this by no means follows. Christ gives the command, and by the form of it implies that it shall be carried out to the full. But this is quite consistent with the conception of a gradually increasing development of love which, in fact will attain maturity, a state in which God's love has ever been; but not immediately and not before the final completion of all Christ's work in us. The words form, indeed, a promise as well as a command, but the absence of a statement of time forbids us to claim the verse as a warrant for asserting that the τελειότης referred to can be attained in this life. Trench ('Syr.,' § 22.) explains the passage by saying that the adjective is used the first time in a relative, and the second time in an absolute, sense. But this does not seem as probable as the interpretation given above, according to which the adjective is in both cases used absolutely. His following words, however, deserve careful attention. "The Christian shall be ' perfect,' yet not in the sense in which some of the sects preach the doctrine of perfection, who, so soon as their words are looked into, are found either to mean nothing which they could not have expressed by a word less liable to misunderstanding; or to mean something which no man in this life shall attain, and which he who affirms he has attained is deceiving himself, or others, or both." Even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect; Revised Version, as your heavenly Father is perfect; so the manuscripts. The epithet, ὁοὐράνιος, is wanting in Luke, but Matthew wishes to lay stress on their Father's character and methods being different from those of an earthly father. Observe again not "the Father" but your Father; nerving them to fulfil the summons to likeness to him (cf. verse 16).
The sermon on the mount. The first part of the sermon: the law of the kingdom of heaven.
I. THE BEATITUDES.
1. The first Beatitude.
(1) Blessedness. It is a deeper word than "happiness." Short-sighted and unwise, we call men happy when the world goes well with them, when they are cheerful, good-natured, loved by relations and friends. We do not always call them blessed. That word, we feel instinctively, implies more heavenly affections, a deeper, holier joy. Blessedness is inward and abiding; outward prosperity cannot give it, nor can adversity take it away. It is like the depths of the ocean: the surface is changeful; sometimes calm and waveless, sometimes tossed hither and thither by the restless winds; while far and deep below there is ever the same changeless rest, silence, and peace unbroken and eternal. This deep meaning was felt by the heathen writers. The simplest form of the Greek word (μάκαρ) was used in old Greek poetry first Of the gods—the blessed gods as opposed to mortal men—then of the dead who were supposed to dwell in "the islands of the blest" (compare the use of the German selig and the French feu, derived from felix). The collateral form μακάριος, sometimes used with the same higher reference, was not unfrequently degraded into a more worldly sense, the rich and the better educated; as people say "the better classes" now. The New Testament has rescued. the word from this mistaken application, and filled it with a high and holy meaning. The world is wrong. Good fortune is not blessedness; blessedness is the gift of God; what he gives cannot be taken away by the chances and changes of this mortal life. Blessedness is not an outward ornament of life; it is a man's own, for God has given it; it is in the heart, wrought into the inner being; it is holy, spiritual, heavenly. It is the character, the privilege of the children of the kingdom, for they must bear the image of their King: "As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly." He first exhibited the heavenly life upon earth; it had never been seen there before. The conception of that life is absolutely original; it had never entered into the thoughts of ancient poets or sages. It is altogether different from the portraitures of virtue drawn by the old heathen philosophers. The Lord Jesus is at once Example and Teacher. His life is the blessed life. He bids us learn of him; there, and there only, shall we find rest for our souls. This blessedness which is learned of Christ dieth not; it is the beginning of the blessedness of heaven. We must be blessed here to be blessed there; we must have the Beatitudes of the sermon first, then shall we have the Beatitude of the holy dead which die in the Lord.
(2) The poor in spirit are blessed. Not necessarily, or always the poor in worldly means; nor, again, the poor in the endowments of the soul, in intellect, strength of will, elevation of character. This was the scoff of the Emperor Julian the Apostate; but, blessed be God, not only many men of rank and wealth, but also many of great natural gifts and highly cultivated minds have learned of the Lord Jesus this first Beatitude. "With men this is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible." The seat of this evangelical poverty is the spirit. The spirit, when distinguished from the soul in the sacred writing, is that highest part of man's immaterial being, which was breathed into his nostrils by God; which enables him, alone of the animal creation, to feel after God, to form, more or less imperfectly, an idea of God; which is receptive of the Holy Spirit, and can, when illuminated by his gracious presence, abide in communion with God. The spirit of the true Christian is brought into an intimate relation with God. Such a one feels his own littleness, his own sinfulness, in the presence of the Almighty, the Most Holy. Led by the Spirit of God, he is brought near to Christ, and learns the grace of lowliness from him who, being in the form of God, made himself of no reputation, humbled himself, and became obedient unto death. Poverty of spirit comes first in the description of the blessed life. Lowliness is the beginning of holiness; we can make no real progress in the spiritual life without it. Christ was lowly in heart. He raised that word, which the world regarded as equivalent to mean or abject, to be the name of a high Christian grace. Those who would be near to him, great in the kingdom of heaven, must be like their King, unaffectedly humble. They must lay aside earthly ambitions, they must be willing to take the lowest place, they must learn the difficult lesson, "In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves;" for this is the fixed, immutable law of the kingdom of heaven, "Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased, and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."
(3) The reason. "Theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The kingdom of grace is theirs now, in their heart. In their lowliness they have by God's grace put down self from the throne of their heart, and Christ reigneth there alone. They submit themselves to him in deep humility and reverence. The heart that is emptied of self is filled with Christ. The kingdom of glory is theirs by hope, by the sure promise of God. They are sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of the heavenly inheritance. The kingdom of heaven is theirs; for the law of that kingdom is written in their hearts, marking them as citizens of the heavenly country, loyal subjects of the heavenly King.
2. The second Beatitude.
(1) "Blessed are they that mourn."
(a) It seems a paradox. Sorrow and joy are opposed to one another; but the Lord says that there is a sorrow which is blessed. Life is full of sorrows. There is more sorrow in the world than joy, more pain than pleasure. Outward sorrows are blessed if they are meekly borne, in patience and in trustful faith. When the sorrow is recognized as a chastisement, it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness; when the pain is taken as a cross, it lifts the suffering Christian nearer to him who died upon the cross, who giveth peace.
(b) But the connection seems to imply that the mourning of the text is spiritual mourning. The poverty of the first Beatitude is in the spirit; so must be the mourning of the second. Poverty in spirit leads to mourning—mourning for past sins and unworthiness, mourning for the slowness of our spiritual progress. He who is poor in spirit is in the kingdom of God and near to the King. He looks on him whom he has pierced, and mourns for him. He must mourn, in sympathy with the Saviour's sufferings, in sorrow for his own unworthiness of the Saviour's love, for his many sins against that great love, for his want of gratitude, for the coldness of his heart. The world runs heedlessly after pleasure, amusement. The Lord says, "Blessed are they that mourn." He himself was "a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." "Is it nothing to you," he seems to say, "all ye that pass by." Is there any sorrow like unto my sorrow?" Then we Christians, who live under the shadow of the cross, must learn the blessedness of mourning. "Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of." Blessed are they who mourn with that godly sorrow. It worketh repentance, that deep and holy change of heart, that change out of the image of the earthy into the image of the heavenly, which is not to be repented of, which none who by God's grace have passed through it can ever regret, though it was wrought out in much sorrow and mourning; for it is unto salvation—a present salvation, salvation from sin now; and a future salvation—everlasting life with God in heaven.
(2) The reason of their blessedness. "They shall be comforted." "They"—the word is emphatic. That comfort is not for all; it is for those who have mourned. "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;" but they must have wept, there muse have been tears. The mourning is spiritual, so is the comfort. Christ himself giveth comfort. He is the Christus Consolator; he was sent "to comfort all that mourn;" he was the Consolation of Israel for which the holy Simeon waited. "Come unto me," he saith, "all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." But there is "another Comforter," whom the Lord will send from the Father to abide for ever with his people—God the Holy Ghost. The first Christians walked in the comfort of the Holy Ghost (Acts 9:31); we pray that we may evermore rejoice in the same holy comfort, He comforts the hearts of his chosen, for he strengthens them with all might in the inner man. He fills them with peace and joy in believing; the fruit of his Divine indwelling is love, joy, peace. They shall be comforted who sorrow after a godly sort; now, by the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit; hereafter, by the unclouded vision of the glory of God.
3. The third Beatitude.
(1) "Blessed are the meek." What is meekness? According to Aristotle, the virtue which consists in the due regulation of the natural passion of anger is without a name; for meekness does not lie in the mean between the two opposite vices—it tends rather towards the defect. The meek man is not given to retaliate injuries, but rather to forgive; and it is a slavish thing, he says, for a man to take insult calmly. Such was the teaching of the Greek philosopher. The Lord Jesus says, "Blessed are the meek." His life, his teaching, changed for ever the position of the gentler virtues. He was meek and lowly in heart. Christian meekness is of great price in the sight of God. We see what meekness is when we look at the life of Christ. It is, first, a willingness to take wrong patiently (see 1 Peter 2:19-25), and, secondly, gentleness in dealing with others. A meek man will not think overmuch of himself, his claims, his position, his dignity; he will not allow his temper to be ruffled by slights and provocation; he will not expect to be always treated with respect and reverence; he will do his duty in the station where God has set him gently, lovingly, seeking not honour from men, ambitious only to be well pleasing unto God. True meekness is a grace, one of the fruits of the Spirit. Natural meekness may be no better than timidity, shyness, weakness of character, it may, as Aristotle says, imply a want of sensibility, of quick perception; it may be dull, weak, abject. But true meekness is a strong thing. It is found sometimes in men who were naturally the reverse of meek, like the holy apostle St. John. It comes from the working of the Holy Spirit, which gives strength and energy to the character, while it disciplines it into gentleness and patience. Christian meekness may outwardly resemble its natural counterfeit; inwardly it is very different. It implies strength of purpose, holy courage, sustained perseverance in self-control. We see it in the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. We see in him a most lofty fortitude joined with the most tender gentleness in dealing with penitent sinners, the most wonderful meekness in the midst of insult and outrage. Meekness is hard to learn; but it is a necessary lesson for us, for it was characteristic of the Master, and he declares it blessed.
(2) The reason. "They shall inherit the earth." It is a quotation from the thirty-seventh psalm; it sounds like the Old Testament. But the New Testament too presents here and there the "promise of the life that now is" (1 Timothy 4:8). The Epistle to the Ephesians re-echoes the Old Testament promise to those who honour father and mother; and the Lord himself promises a hundredfold more in this time to those who are ready to forsake earthly things for his love. The meek shall inherit the earth. The quiet strength of Christian meekness will win its way where violence fails. Gentleness is a power in the world; it exerts a strange influence over rougher natures; it often comes to the front and gains a high place among men. And when this is not the case, it has a joy of its own—a deep inner contentment, a holy restfulness which gives a sweetness to this present life on earth. Such are the tendencies of meekness—tendencies which have not always their full scope, do not realize their full blessedness amid the selfishness, the hardness, the violence of the world. But "we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." There shall meekness have its perfect work, and win its perfect blessedness.
4. The fourth Beatitude.
(1) "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness."
(a) Righteousness here is equivalent to holiness—personal, spiritual holiness, holiness of heart and life. It is the sum of all Christian graces. But we have no righteousness of our own: "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Christ is made unto us Righteousness: "This is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness." If only we are his, grafted once into the true Vine, abiding in him now, then his righteousness is ours, for he himself is ours. "My Beloved is mine, and I am his."
(b) We must hunger and thirst after this righteousness. The desire of the Christian heart is righteousness; not simply happiness hereafter, but righteousness now. All men wish for happiness, present and future. The true Christian wish is for righteousness first; happiness will follow. "The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever." It is righteousness that the Christian soul desireth. And that desire must be like hunger and thirst; not a faint hesitating wish, but a strong longing desire—a desire that cannot be satisfied till it has attained its object. Hunger and thirst imply a previous void, a want. The desire of righteousness implies a sense of sin and weakness. There is a felt want in the soul, a craving, an aching void—a longing like that of David expressed in the fifty-first psalm; not the fear of punishment, but a longing after a clean heart—after the Holy Spirit of God. To hunger and thirst after righteousness is to hunger and thirst after Christ. He is our Example here as always. His meat was to do the will of him that sent him, and to finish his work. He hungered for our souls, he thirsted for our salvation; and we must hunger and thirst after him, who is the Life of our souls, the true Bread that came down from heaven, whose flesh is meat indeed, whose blood is drink indeed, who alone can fill our restless craving hearts. "He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."
(2) The reason of their blessedness. "They shall be filled." For Christ desireth us; he longs to give himself to us, as he has given himself for us. "Behold," he says, "I stand at the door, and knock." He asks us only to open; he will enter in and sup with us, and we with him. We may hunger and thirst after many things, and never gain them; if we do gain them, they often become mere ashes in our mouth, vanity and vexation of spirit. But they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, after Christ, cannot fail to attain the object of that longing desire; for the word of Christ is pledged, "They shall be filled." And he hath all things who hath Christ. He needeth nothing more who hath chosen the good part, the one thing needful. "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness."
5. The fifth Beatitude.
(1) "Blessed are the merciful." "The Lord," St. James says (James 5:11), "is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." It was pity, tender pity for humanity in its sin, its darkness, its misery, its hopelessness, which moved the Eternal Son to take upon him our human nature. In that human nature he had shown the sweet self-forgetting tenderness of his Divine compassion, as he moved among the sick and suffering of Galilee. His disciples must follow the example of the Master; they must be pitiful. It is the principle, the inner affection of pity, which is commended here. The pity which is blessed is like the sacred pity of Christ. It is wide in its range, coextensive with human sin and suffering. The Lord pitied not only the afflicted and the poor, but also the proud Pharisee, the cold-hearted Sadducee—that Jerusalem, self-satisfied and unbelieving, that would not seek shelter beneath the wings of his mercy. Human sin as well as human suffering moves the Christian heart with pity. Indignation against sin must ever be mingled with pity for the sinner. The thoughtless sinner who lives in wealth and luxury is an object of the Christian's pity as well as the sick and helpless poor. This holy pity lies deep in the heart. It expresses itself in intercessory prayer, in gentle words and looks, and, when it is possible, in acts of mercy.
(2) The reason. "They shall obtain mercy." Mercy, in the well-known words of our great poet, is twice blessed; it blesses him that gives and him that takes. It is blessed in its own reflex action on the merciful soul, in the sweetness, the inner joy, which the exercise of mercy brings to the heart. But the Lord states another ground of its blessedness. The merciful shall obtain mercy. We all need the mercy of our God. What would the best of us be without his tender pity? We look back upon our past lives; we see a waste of sin, of hardness, of unloving ingratitude. God pitied us, God called us. We heard the voice of Jesus, "Come unto me." We came in awe, in contrition, in trembling hope; we found rest for our souls. He pitied us. We need that sacred pity still for our daily sins and shortcomings; and oh! we shall need it in the hour of death and in the day of judgment. It is pledged to the merciful: they shall obtain mercy; "they" (the word is emphatic):—they shall be pitied. Then the sense of our own sin and weakness, our own need of God's mercy, our hope of that mercy at the last, should quicken in our hearts the holy feelings of pity and sympathy with every form of distress and misery, and lead us to delight in deeds of mercy.
6. The sixth Beatitude.
(1) "Blessed are the pure in heart." The Pharisees thought much of legal purity, of the Levitical distinctions between the clean and the unclean. The Lord Jesus insists on purity of heart. The pure heart is the clean heart, clean from taint of every kind, from everything that defileth. To eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man, as the Pharisees thought it did; but evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies, these evil things, whether only conceived in thought, or carried out in deed, these defile the man. The pure heart is clear, bright, transparently sincere; it seeks not to deceive. It has no hidden motives, no selfish aims underlying a fair outside; its aim is to be, not to seem. Especially the pure heart is clean from those corrupting thoughts, those foul imaginations, those unholy deeds, which the name unclean, impure, seems especially to designate. This one kind of defilement gains such a terrible hold upon the imagination, it so entirely corrupts the whole heart and mind, it separates a soul from God so utterly, with such fearful rapidity, that it occurs first to our thoughts when we meditate on this Beatitude. The pure heart is clean, for in some measure even here it sees God. "The world sooth me no more," the Lord said, "but ye see me." It is that blessed vision, the vision of God, which keeps the heart of the Christian pure. For this purity is a Christian grace; it comes from the abiding presence of God the Holy Ghost, who purifies the heart in which he deigns to dwell. That presence cleanses, refines, illuminates; it shines through the dark places of the heart; it shows the plague-spots, and through confession, contrition, repentance, it cleanses them away. Then blessed are the pure and the purified; those who were once impure, unclean, but who, having confessed their sins, have found the truth of that most gracious promise, so full of sweetness to the penitent, "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Once they sat in darkness and the shadow of death, now they walk in the light; and if we walk in the blessed light of his presence, then "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin." It is cleansing us daily, hourly, if we are living in the faith of the cross, in the faith of the Son of God, "who loved me, and gave himself for me." How many souls, now at rest in the paradise of God, were once impure, unholy! But the constraining love of Christ drew them to himself; and they washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. There is a Fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness. It is open always. The impure, the sin-defiled, come daily. Not all of them, alas! but the penitent, the sorrowing—they wash, and are clean.
(2) The reason. "They shall see God." They see him now by faith. Purity of heart cleanses the mental vision; the pure in heart see mysteries of grace, mysteries of love and holiness which are hidden from the eyes of the unclean. He manifests himself to those who keep his Word. But the promise opens out a more glorious vision. "When he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." They who hope to see him as he is, in his glory, must purify themselves; they must take the Saviour's spotless purity as their high example. The pure in heart shall see the King in his beauty; they, and they only. He is of purer eyes than to behold evil. The impure cannot bear his all-seeing, heart-searching glance,
7. The seventh Beatitude.
(1) "Blessed are the peacemakers." God is the God of peace; the Messiah is the Prince of peace, his birth was welcomed with the angels' hymn, "Peace on earth." He is the great Peacemaker. He made peace through the blood of his cross. They that are his must follow his example. If they are truly his, they have his peace; it keepeth their hearts, it ruleth there. Those who have peace themselves are the best peacemakers. It is not an easy thing to be a peacemaker; it requires tact, wisdom, courage, love. There is so much party spirit of various kinds in every town or village, so much ill will, so much envy and jealousy, so many little feuds dividing men from men, that it is very hard to win the blessing of this seventh Beatitude. But it is one of the elements in the truly Christian character; we must practise it if we would be children of the kingdom.
(2) The reason.
(a) Peacemakers are happy in themselves. Which are the happiest—the cross-grained, the irritable, the conceited, always ready to take offence, perhaps even loving to stir up strife? or the gentle, the kindly, the affectionate, who love peace, who do all they can to make peace in their family, in their parish, among all their neighbours and friends; and that for Christ's sake, out of love for Christ, in humble imitation of Christ's example? "Blessed are the peacemakers."
(b) But especially blessed in this—that "they shall be called the children of God." They shall be called his children, because they imitate his only begotten Son; because they keep the first of all the commandments, and the second, which is like unto it; because they bring forth the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace. Only those who are led by the Spirit are, in the deepest and holiest sense, the sons of God.
8. The eighth Beatitude.
(1) "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness'sake." Christ prophesied that his followers should suffer persecution. It came to pass as he had said. We know how, since the days of Stephen the first martyr, valiant Christian men and noble women too have again and again endured for Christ's sake the prison and the torture, the sword, the fire, the lion. They are blessed; they were persecuted for righteousness'sake; theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The offence of the cross has not ceased; there is persecution still. It exists still in many households, schools, villages. The cold looks, the misrepresentations, the nicknames, the taunts, sometimes the ill-treatment of relations, fellow-servants, schoolfellows, fellow-workmen, are hard to bear. Holiness is not everywhere popular. The worldly feel it as a rebuke to themselves; they resent it; they sometimes persecute. And these modern forms of persecution are greater in extent, for they sometimes spread over a long period, and affect all the circumstances of life, and perhaps in some cases cause no less suffering than the acuter outbreaks in the old days of cruelty. "Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness'sake," and because they belong to Christ; "for my sake," the Lord says in verse 11. Such should rejoice. It is a high privilege to be counted worthy to suffer shame for his Name: great is their reward in heaven.
(2) The reason. "Theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The Beatitudes begin with the kingdom; they cud with the kingdom; they contain the law of the kingdom, they describe the character of its citizens. The children of the Beatitudes are the children of the kingdom. Only the poor in spirit can enter into it, and its highest places are reserved for those who have patiently suffered for Christ's sake, who have drunk of the cup that he drank of, and have been baptized with the baptism wherewith he was baptized.
II. THE DIGNITY OF THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM.
1. They are the salt of the earth. They have salt in themselves. The salt is the grace of God; but those who have that salt in themselves are, in God's great condescension, called the salt of the earth. Salt preserves from corruption. The grace of God preserves his saints. They preserve the earth in which they live. They check the progress of corruption. Their purifying influence spreads more or less through the mass, which would otherwise fester and decay. Their prayers avert the sore judgments of God; ten righteous men might have saved the wicked Sodom. They must take heed not to lose the heavenly salt themselves; without it their usefulness is gone. The profession of religion without the power of the Spirit is dead and worthless. If that is lost, nothing else can supply its place. Forms, words, outward show, cannot fill the place of the Spirit. A Church without the Spirit, a Christian without the Spirit, is like the Church of Sardis: "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead."
2. They are the light of the world.
(1) The Lord Christ is the Light of the world. They who abide in him, the true Light, are themselves light. His light, burning within them, shines forth in their looks, their words, their actions, and illuminates the world around. Each true Christian is a centre of light, as he walks in the light and reflects its brightness.
(2) The possession of that light makes them conspicuous, like a city set on a hill; they cannot be hid. "The fierce light that beats upon the throne" beats in a measure on all Christians, especially upon those who are set in the chief places of the Church. They are seen and known of all men. Their conduct is watched, narrowly scrutinized; their character in some sense is public property. Therefore
(3) they must not hide the light. Their sloth, and, still more, their selfishness and worldliness, bring discredit on the gospel and check its progress. They must let their light shine before men, not making a display of their religion, their alms, and their prayers, not priding themselves, not vaunting the presence of the heavenly light, but allowing it to shine, as shine it will, if not hidden. "Far as a little candle sheds its beams, so shines a good deed in a naughty world." The candle of the Lord shines in a Christian's life; it sheds its soft and holy radiance all around. Men see its beauty and brightness. It draws others into the circle of its light and warmth. But
(4) they must be careful not to seek their own glory. They may, they must sometimes, let men see their good works, but it must not be for the sake of human praise. The Christian's desire is to draw others, by the brightness of his example, to the true Light which gives him light. He desires that other men should glorify, not himself (he knows his sin and unworthiness), but his Father which is in heaven. He is strong who seeks only the glory of the Lord. His light will shine before men; not with the fitful gleams that are of the earth, but with the calm, steady, holy light which comes from heaven. Men will feel its warmth; they will recognize its truth, its reality. It shines with no uncertain, wavering glimmer. It will lead them to the Lord. 'Unreality betrays itself by word, look, tone. Real holiness makes itself felt; it is a power in the world. And herein is its depth, its strength: it seeks only the glory of the Lord, and that with steadfast, unwavering perseverance.
1. Blessedness is exceeding precious, deeper than all joys; it may be ours.
2. The blessed life is very lovely; all admire, few only imitate.
3. Live the Christ-like life; so shall you share the Christian blessedness.
4. Quench not the Spirit; stir up the gift of God; so shall the holy light shine far and wide, and men will glorify the Lord.
The second part of the sermon: the mount of the Beatitudes and Mount Sinai: the new Law and the old.
I. CHRIST THE FULFILLER OF THE LAW.
1. He came not to destroy. They must not misunderstand the purpose of his teaching. The Old Testament is not contrary to the New; both speak of Christ. The commandments are as binding now upon the Christian conscience as when they were first delivered amid the thunders of Mount Sinai. "We establish the Law," says the apostle of faith (Romans 3:31). "No Christian man is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral." The law of ceremonies and rites, indeed, is no longer binding (Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:16, etc.); but even those rites and ceremonies, though no longer in force, are full of deep meaning, and convey holy teaching to the Christian, for they speak, one and all, of Christ and his righteousness.
2. He came to fulfil. He fulfilled the righteousness of the Law. He exhibited it perfectly in his own most holy life. He fulfilled the types, the ritual teaching, the predictions of the prophets in his incarnation, in all the circumstances of his earthly life, his precious death and burial, his glorious resurrection and ascension. He fulfilled the doctrine of the Law, bringing out as he did the deep spiritual meaning of its teaching. "Christ is the End of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
3. The Old Testament in its spiritual meaning is of eternal obligation. All must be fulfilled, even the minutest detail. Both Testaments come from the same God. The Christian, while he loves the New Testament with all his heart, must not depreciate the Old. The whole Word of God is holy and just and good. The teacher who is taught of God will declare to his flock the whole counsel of God. He who wilfully shuts his eyes to any part, though it may seem to him small and insignificant, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. Yet he shall enter therein if he has been faithful according to his light; for he has taught the truth, though he has not had grace and wisdom to discern its mere delicate features.
II. RELATIONS BETWEEN THE NEW LAW AND THE OLD.
1. The Spirit and the letter; Christ and the Pharisees. Christians who neglect part of the Law of God shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but mere formalists shall not even enter therein. The righteousness of the Pharisees was outward, mechanical; the righteousness of Christianity is inward and spiritual. It includes obedience in things outward. These are the "least commandments" which a Christian may not dare to neglect or despise. But it is far wider in its range, far deeper in its power; its influence extends over the whole of human life in all its details and circumstances. It reaches deep into the heart, into its desires, motives, thoughts. Our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. They were students of the letter. They knew the Scriptures; their knowledge was most exact and minute; but it was outward only, knowledge of the letter. That knowledge is not to be despised; it is necessary, it is most interesting; but it is not enough. We must seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God to understand the spiritual meaning of his Word, to enter into it, to work it into our own heart and life. Again, the Pharisees "say and do not;" we must do. They did certain things, but they did them mechanically; we must work in faith and love. They thought to merit heaven by their works; we must recognize our utter unworthiness, and trust only in the merits of Christ. They sought the praise of men; we must seek only the praise which cometh from God.
2. The first instance. "Thou shalt not kill."
(1) The traditional interpretation confined the application of the commandment to the actual crime of murder. The Lord shows that it extends to sinful auger. "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer;" he is a murderer in heart and will. In the sight of him who searcheth the hearts, the evil thought wilfully harboured and brooded on, the wicked wish, the unjust, wrathful word, is as guilty as the wicked deed. "I say unto you;" the Lord speaks with authority. He gave the Law at first on Mount Sinai; he interprets it now on the mount of the Beatitudes. "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." "Blessed are the meek."
(2) Two illustrations follow.
(a) "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." We must not bring malice and hatred into the temple of the Lord; we cannot worship aright while we cherish wrath in our heart. For he is love, and the unloving cannot serve him acceptably. He will not accept the offerings of those who live in strife. Malice and envy rob the gift of all its value. Forgiveness of injuries, sorrow for our own offences, the humble petition for pardon from any whom we may have offended, is a sacrifice well pleasing unto God. Without this the costliest gift is but a mockery, worthless and unprofitable. Then "first be reconciled to thy brother, then come and offer thy gift." St. Chrysostom well remarks, "Let even my service be interrupted (the Lord says in his condescension) that love may abide, since reconciliation to thy brother is an acceptable sacrifice."
(b) We are all on our way to the judgment; we must appear before the Judge. Therefore we must seek forgiveness from those whom we have offended, and we must forgive those who have offended us while we are on our way during the journey of life. We pray, "Forgive, as we forgive." Lex orandi lex credendi. He doth not forgive the unforgiving, the unloving. For such there remaineth the prison. And can the uttermost farthing of the great debt be ever paid? Alas] we cannot pay the smallest fraction of it. By grace we are saved, and God's grace rests not upon the unloving; to such there is no promise of forgiveness.
3. The second instance. "Thou shalt not commit adultery." The traditional interpretation confined the commandment to the evil deed; the Lord extends it to the sinful thought. The unlawful desire, consented to and kept before the mind, is equally guilty with the unclean act. Our bodies are the members of Christ; to defile them is an outrage on the most holy Saviour. We are the temples of God the Holy Ghost; to bring unclean thoughts into that most sacred presence is a fearful sin, an awful sacrilege. Then strike at the beginnings of sin, the thought, the look; strike, and spare not. Such watchfulness may imply very strict and painful self-denial. Better to deny ourselves now than to be cast out at the last; better to pluck out the right eye, to cutoff the right hand, than to be condemned at the last. "Blessed are the pure in heart."
4. The third instance. Divorce. The popular school, that of Hillel, allowed divorce "for every cause" (Matthew 19:3); the Lord allows it only "for the cause of fornication." What God hath joined together let not man put asunder.
5. The fourth instance. The law of oaths. The Jews, it seems, thought lightly of oaths which did not contain the sacred Name of God; they used such oaths constantly and heedlessly. Our Lord classes all oaths together, for all ultimately imply an appeal to God, and, like St. James (James 5:12), forbids them all. But we must not "so expound one place of Scripture that it be repugnant to another," and passages like Hebrews 6:13-17 and Hebrews 7:21, where God is represented as swearing by himself; or Matthew 26:63, Matthew 26:64, where our Lord answers the adjuration of Caiaphas; or Revelation 10:6, where a mighty angel swears by him that liveth for ever and ever; or Romans 1:9; 1Co 15:31; 2 Corinthians 1:23; Galatians 1:20; and Philippians 1:8, in which St. Paul uses forms of solemn asseveration, prove that our Lord's prohibition applies only to rash, idle oaths, such as were common among the Jews ("Let your speech be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay"), not to those solemn occasions when an oath is required by the magistrate or by the law.
6. The fifth instance. The law of retaliation. "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." The words of the Law of Moses relate to punishments inflicted by a court of justice; the Jews probably understood them as permitting private revenge. Holy Scripture does not forbid the infliction of judicial punishment (comp. Romans 13:4). It forbids the revengeful temper, and it forbids private revenge altogether. Our Lord says, "Resist not evil." To insist upon the literal meaning of these words would be to apply the method of the Pharisees to the interpretation of the New Testament; a literal obedience under all circumstances would destroy the very framework of society, and let loose all that is evil in human nature. But the Lord is laying down general principles. Cases will often arise in which the application of those principles must be modified by other rules of Holy Scripture. A literal obedience is possible much more frequently and to a much wider extent than our selfish hearts are willing to admit. But a literal obedience is not always possible; it would not be always right; it would 'sometimes do harm rather than good. The Lord himself, the gentlest and the meekest, expostulated with those who struck him wrongfully (John 18:23). Neither when he bids us, "Give to him that asketh thee," are his words to be taken literally, as commanding indiscriminate almsgiving. He himself gave not to the people who sought him at Capernaum, because they had eaten of the loaves and were filled (John 6:26, John 6:27); St. Paul would not have us give to the idle (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We must understand our Lord's words as interpreted by his own example and by other parts of Holy Scripture. We must forgive injuries, we must resist not evil, we must give freely; but in all these things we must be guided by the wisdom which is from above. "Blessed are the merciful."
7. The sixth instance. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,'' was the commandment of the Law. The Pharisees had added a false and wicked gloss, "Thou shalt hate thine enemy" (comp. Exodus 23:4, Exodus 23:5; Proverbs 24:17; Proverbs 25:21). The Lord bids us, "Love your enemies." It is easy to love those who love us; such love is mere natural affection. Grace teaches a deeper, a more difficult lesson. The nearer we draw to God, the more we shall learn to imitate his all-embracing love. The Lord is loving unto every man. Rain and sunshine preach charity and love to all. We must learn of him. If any curse, we must bless; we must pray for those who use us despitefully. So shall we be the children of our heavenly Father, like him in our poor measure, complete in the range of our love, dear to him, loving and beloved. The commandment is difficult, but the blessing is very great. He who gave the commandment, who pronounced the blessing, can teach us to obey.
1. Search the Scriptures, all of them; not only the New Testament, but also the Old.
2. Be not content with the external knowledge of the Bible; seek that inner knowledge which only the Holy Ghost can teach.
3. Be gentle and loving, be reverent in word, hallow God's holy Name, hate all ungodly modes of speech.
4. Forgive as you hope for forgiveness; revenge belongeth unto God.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
The secret of happiness.
Jesus begins his first great sermon with the word "blessed." His whole mission is a benediction. It is his object to encourage and cheer, not to repress and humiliate.
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.
Five gates to happiness.
We have already looked at three gates to happiness. Let us now proceed to examine the five that still remain to us.
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.
Matthew 5:13, Matthew 5:14
Salt and light.
Christ regards his people as the salt of the earth and as the light of the world. In both characters they have a mission to others. The Church exists for the sake of the world. She has a large vocation; the whole earth is the field of her work, and there she is to labour not for her own ends, but to benefit mankind. How grievous is the perversion of those who exactly reverse the position of Christ, and behave as though the world only existed for the benefit of the Church!
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.
Matthew 5:17, Matthew 5:18
Christ's treatment of the Old Testament.
Here we see the attitude of our Lord towards the Old Testament. He did not come to destroy the ancient teaching, but to fulfil it. Christ's words show two positions—a negative and a positive.
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.
The righteousness of the kingdom.
Antinomianism is unchristian. If Christianity is to be found in the teachings of Christ, Christianity does not relax the moral Law. On the contrary, it elevates and strengthens that Law. We cannot make a greater mistake than to suppose that the grace of Christ means a certain easy treatment of men, any diminution of duty, any release from the obligations of right. It is not a pardon of the past with indifference as regards the future. It is forgiveness as a foundation and preparation for a new and better life. More is expected of the Christian than of the Jew, of the convert than of the sinner.
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, Romans 3:22). His demand is only that we will not frustrate the working of his grace in us.—W.F.A.
Plucking out the right eye.
The ideas of this verse are expressed in the strong language of Oriental imagery, and yet a moment's reflection will show us that the language is not a whir too strong, even if it is interpreted with strict literalness. If it came to a choice between plucking out an eye and death, every man who had courage enough to perform the hideous deed Would at once choose it as the less terrible alternative. Every day hospital patients submit to frightful operations to save their lives or to relieve intolerable sufferings. But if to the thought of death we add the picture of the doom of the lost, the motives for choosing the lesser evil are immeasurably strengthened. Therefore to one who really believes the alternatives set forth by our Lord to be his, there should not be a thought of hesitation. Doubt as to the future, the overmastering influence of the present, or weakness of will, may restrain a person from doing what is really for his self-interest; but these things will not make it the less desirable. The difficulty, then, is not as to the truth of our Lord's words, but as to the application of them.
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.
The difficulty with this, as with similar passages in the teachings of our Lord, is to see how to carry out the precept in the fulness of the intention of the great Teacher. Are we to take it quite literally? If so, Count Tolstoi is right, and we have not yet begun to be Christian. Are we to take it 'metaphorically,' or even as a hyperbolical expression? Then we shall be in great danger of watering it down to suit our own convenience. Plainly our Lord meant something very real. Moreover, this is no counsel of perfection for select saints. It is a general law of the kingdom of heaven; it is a precept of that exalted righteousness exceeding the righteousness of scribes and Pharisees which Christ absolutely requires of all his people. How, then, is it to be interpreted?
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 Matthew 5:5;
(2) in the light of his own behaviour under arrest; and
(3) in connection with the next precept.—W.F.A.
Loving one's enemy.
This is another instance of the way in which Christian righteousness is to exceed the righteousness of scribes and Pharisees. Let us consider the duty and the motives that urge it.
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.
HOMILIES BY P.C. BARKER
Matthew 5:1, Matthew 5:2
Teaching for the multitude.
We hold that the discourse to which these two verses in St. Matthew's Gospel are an introduction is one with that given in the sixth chapter of St. Luke's Gospel; and that although, judging from the closest context in both passages, it might at first be supposed that "these sayings of Jesus" were spoken to the lesser circle of his disciples exclusively, they were really spoken, if not from the very beginning, yet, as regards the large proportion of them, to the widest circle of his disciples, and even to "the multitudes" (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.
The blessedness that Christ pronounces.
Amid many ways in which the grand inheritance which Jesus designated by the word "blessedness" may be regarded, and its worth exhibited and its charm enhanced to our mental gaze, all too sluggish, we may now take the following course. This blessedness which Christ pronounces must be the more worthy of regard, in that—
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 Matthew 5:3-11, 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'".—B.
Poverty in spirit; and the clue to its blessedness.
It is to be remarked that every pronouncement of blessedness that here passes the lip of Jesus is accompanied by a "reason of the hope that is" in it. We shall, therefore, in each case notice
(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". 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.
The blessedness of the mourner.
"Blessed are they that mourn," etc. Perhaps this Beatitude may be counted as the one that most amazed ears and minds, which were not a little amazed by each one in turn. How little real cheerfulness possessed the heart of the people among whom Jesus lived! There was a maddened, frivolous excitement on the one hand; on the other, a tamed-down and habitual dispiritedness. The heritage of the nation at this time was the misery and sense of degradation that came of many of the grossest forms of bodily disease, of the heart of religion eaten out, and of an oppressed and down-trodden political condition. And both—the ever-memorable, ever-dear invitation, "Come to me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden," and this Beatitude, "Blessed are they that mourn"—betray and bespeak in utter harmony with one another the prevailing tone and genius of the saddened nation. Nay, unless what Jesus now pronounces can be thoroughly maintained and made good, so suited is the word to the most patent aspects of the people's heart, that it; might run the risk of seeming the refinement of a mocking flattery. But, whatever the people of the time thought and believed, or believed not, about this saying, nineteen centuries have fortified and still fortify its position. Even "the natural history" of the mourner, much more his spiritual history, passed in simplest review, will show that the saying of Jesus is not to take rank with the strained, unreal, arbitrary sayings of philosopher or quack, either optimist or pessimist, but is the saying of deep, abiding truth.
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
That human hearts can know,
To lay what we hold dearest,
Thus, thus the dust below."
Of this mourning, too, how truly it may be said, it is alike signally fruitless and fruitful—fruitless to reverse, or in the least to stay the unanswering and unanswerable will of God, but fruitful to bring heaven nearer! Of brother and child, of wife and sister, of friend and second self, once slipped from our touch, it only remains to be said, with dreadest conviction of the truth of it, "he" or "she shall not return to me." The most undoubting trust is demanded in the darkest conflict; the most unsuspecting love in the blankest heart. Clinging, unaltering attachment is wrapt in bleeding, writhing affection. But to no mourning has Jesus come more deliberately to assuage it, with none has he more touchingly sympathized, none in the days of his flesh which seemed more to stir him to his mightiest works. Yes, blessed is this mourner, for he is already "comforted," in that those he loves so well are, though vanished from his sight, where for the first time no mourning can affect them. No recall can disturb their secure bliss.
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,
Angels with wonder see.
Be thou astonished, O my soul!
He shed those tears for thee."
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.
The blessedness of the meek.
This Beatitude asks at the outset to be distinguished from the first, that speaks of the "poor in spirit." It is a quotation from the far-seeing, even if dim-seeing, gospel of the Old Testament (Psalms 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 hero 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.
The blessedness of those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.
"Blessed are they which do hunger … for they shall be filled." This Beatitude is, among all the others around it, as the spread banquet of religious meditation. It may have the just effect of surprising us, with a very unaccustomed hopefulness as to human nature. It challenges us to believe that there is left surviving still in us a germ and force of spiritual nature that 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 ARE 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.
The Beatitude of mercy.
"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." The line of cleavage that obtains so clearly in the tables of the ten commandments, between those of our duties that look direct to God and those which in their first action regard fellow-men, has not an exact parallel in the ever-welcome table of the Beatitudes. The distinction is probably in the nature of things not so apparent. Ten commandments readily admit a distinctness of classification which the expansive force of living and ever-growing qualities of soul do in part resolutely refuse. These act more freely and on their own account, and intermingle where they will and where they can. If such qualities and virtues at first seem to turn the face more Godward, in that very act none can fail to see how it is all the more laid upon them to be operative, and powerfully so, towards man; and 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 "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.
The Beatitude of the pure in heart.
"Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." If the foregoing Beatitude were one that turned its face principally to man, and looked as it were fixedly on him, yet with most undoubted aspect Godward, 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.
The Beatitude of the peacemakers.
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." This is the seventh in order of the Beatitudes. It is the first, however, which shows blessedness pronounced as alighting upon a person, not in the first instance for some personal quality, grace, or virtue, but for his works'sake in the interest of others, whether of the family, the world, or the Church. The distinction is manifest, but the difference is not very real. For any man to lay himself out to make peace between others, whether on larger or lesser scale; for any one to have the least likely success in doing so; for any one to have but the honest real desire to do so, postulates already his own disposition. For 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.
The Beatitude of persecution.
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness'sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This eighth Beatitude joins hands with the first in that part which may be called the "sanction" of the Beatitude, 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.
Matthew 5:11, Matthew 5:12
The Beatitude of suffering for the sake of Jesus.
"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." It cannot be denied that we have here before us a Beatitude, and one warm with life and comfort and love. It is, however, particularly addressed to the disciples present, face to face, with Jesus. As the foregoing Beatitude seemed to be in the mind of St. Peter (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, 1 Peter 2:19-23; 1 Peter 3:9,1 Peter 3:13, 1 Peter 3:14,1 Peter 3:16-18; 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.
The startling salutation.
The announcements of the Beatitudes were necessarily startling in their matter, even when considered as delivered simply generally, whether the world or any in it hear or forbear. They breathed a spirit and plainly laid down views with which those of the world were so utterly at variance. The estrangement was almost absolute, and amounted to the rigour of alienation. Notice, then, in these words—
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.
The veneration of Law and prophets.
The caution which Jesus Christ now addresses to his disciples was very probably owing to many things wont to be said, though not recorded, in the nature of hasty and often malevolent forecasts, of his likely tendency to innovations. How many things had been conjectured, and most vainly, respecting him "that should come "! And now that he 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.
The Christian type of a true fulfilling of the Law: Christ's first illustration.
Had the scribes and Pharisees not adulterated in many ways the Law, their righteousness would still have been the observing of the letter of commandments of the old covenant. The greatness of the moral step in advance now promulgated by Christ is measured by the fact that he sets as a necessity before his freshest recruits, that they should see better and do better than the masters and veterans of that old covenant. This is, as St. Chrysostom says, the fit illustration of the "superior power of grace." Observe, then, how—
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, 1 John 3:14, 1Jn 3:15; 1 John 4:20, 1 John 4:21; 1 John 5:1, 1 John 5:2). 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.
Christ's second and third illustration of the Christian type of a true fulfilling of the Law.
After the illustration based on the letter of the sixth commandment, Christ takes the letter of the seventh as the basis of further illustration. Both of these commandments lend themselves so well for the instruction of the individual in the matter of the wide difference between the outer commandment and the spirit of it, that whoever will may learn that difference, and, learning it, become a true learner—a learner in the school of Christ. In this illustration individual feeling, impulse, character, are so sensitively and so subtilly touched, that perhaps none could penetrate more effectually or have better opportunity of far-reaching and lasting lessons. Notice that Christ teaches how, to the true conception of God's Law, it is necessary to remember that—
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.
The true fulfilling of the Law: Christ's fourth illustration.
The consideration of this passage asks careful and fair understanding of the correct exposition of it (for which see also Exposition foregoing). Matthew 5:37 of itself, when strictly rendered, and the word "communication" replaced by "speech," or even "conversation,'' is sufficient to show that our Lord's pronouncements here do not refer either to solemn judicial occasions, or to those supremely solemn instances in which God is represented as "swearing by himself," or he himself is testified to or his first apostles, as using that sanction of asseveration called the oath. In like manner, due weight must be faithfully given to the four examples of the verbal swearing manifestly in vogue, and requiring particular denunciation. Whatever was the most unfavourable side of the oath, they had 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.
The Christian type of fulfilling of the Law: Christ's fifth illustration.
The precept or permission of the Law here instanced was not a precept or permission of revenge, but of equal justice. It was intended to operate, not to the encouragement, but to the discouragement, of revenge; and rather simply as the equitable admeasurer of just punishment and 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.
The perfect fulfilling of Law: Christ's sixth illustration.
This last illustration makes two advances upon even those foregoing. From the negative course, of not resisting evil, Christ proceeds to teach the high and moral principle of doing good for evil, positively and practically. Further, this illustration moves in that highest sphere where law merges in love. It finds its material in that law of love which comprehends the perfect fulfilling of law. The words of Chrysostom are well worth recording: "Note through what steps we have now ascended hither, and how Christ has set us here on the very pinnacle of virtue. The first step is, not to begin to do wrong to any; the second, that in avenging a wrong done to us we be content with retaliating equal; the third, to return nothing of what we have suffered; the fourth, to offer one's self to the endurance of evil; the fifth, to be ready to suffer even more evil than the oppressor desires to inflict; the sixth, not to hate him of whom we suffer such things; the seventh, to love him; the eighth, to do him good; the ninth, to pray for him. And because the command is great, the reward proposed is also great, namely, to be made like unto God." Consider in what is now enjoined by Christ.
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.
HOMILIES BY MARCUS DODS
Sermon on the mount: 1. The Beatitudes.
The subject of the sermon on the mount may be said to be the righteousness of the kingdom. To give all his hearers a clearer conception of this fundamental idea, our Lord speaks
(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 Matthew 5:13-16. 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.
Sermon on the mount: 2. Influence of Christians: salt and light.
Our Lord assured his disciples that very bad treatment in this life might only be the prelude to eternal happiness. He is in the position of a general who is launching his men on an enterprise which will try them to the utmost. So he not only affirms that they will be rewarded, but reminds them how much depends on them. If 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.
Sermon on the mount: 3. Exceeding righteousness.
A teacher who compels the public to look at an unfamiliar truth, the reformer who introduces a new style of goodness, will be misinterpreted just in proportion to the advance he makes upon former ideas. Our Lord renounced explicitly, and with warmth, the goodness of the Pharisees, and the cry was at once raised against him as a destroyer of the Law, a libertine, a companion or' loose people. He thus found himself called on publicly to repudiate the attitude towards the Law ascribed to him, and to explain with fulness, once for all, at the outset of his ministry, the righteousness he required and exhibited. "I am not come to destroy the Law and the prophets, but to fulfil." So far as regards his own character this explanation has long since become superfluous, but there is danger lest the very knowledge that there is full and free pardon for sin should breed in his followers a demoralizing sense of security. They need to be reminded that for them, too, Christ came not to destroy the 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.
HOMILIES BY J.A. MACDONALD
Matthew 5:1, Matthew 5:2
The preparation for a great sermon.
Christ magnified the Law, and honoured the sabbath. On the sabbath he wrought many of his miracles and uttered many of his parables. So, after spending the night in prayer, on the sabbath he delivered his sermon on the mount. The preparation for that discourse is the subject of the text. In order to a great sermon there should be—
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.
(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.
The triumphs of humility.
The originality of Christ is evinced in these first sentences of his discourse. "Nothing," says David Hume, "carries a man through the world like a true, genuine, natural impudence." Sturdy qualities are approved by men of the world, and quiet virtues are despised. Christ places these in the forefront, and associates with them benedictions in a manner which astonishes the poets, philosophers, and sages of antiquity. Let us—
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 Psalms 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, 2 Samuel 12:23). Who by prayer seek his guidance.
(2) Those who are slow to give offence (Titus 3:1, Titus 3:2). 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" (Psalms 106:32, Psalms 106:33).
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,
Be this the foremost, that my heart has bled!"
"It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting."
(4) Heaven will be a place of comfort. It will compensate for suffering (cf. Luke 16:25). "Glorified together" with Christ.
(5) Full of comfort is the assured hope of heaven (cf. 2Co 1:5-7; 2 Thessalonians 2:16, 2 Thessalonians 2:17).
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 Psalms 76:9). Look around. Who but the good rationally enjoys life here?
(2) They shall more fully inherit it in the millennium (see Psalms 37:10, Psalms 37:11). Those who die without inheriting will be raised to inherit. Abraham (cf. Matthew 22:31, Matthew 22:32; Hebrews 11:13-16). Daniel (see Daniel 12:2, Daniel 12:13). 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.
Matthew 5:6, Matthew 5:7
Righteousness and mercy.
The cry of humanity is after happiness. Men seek it in all manner of avenues. They are commonly mortified and disappointed. In the text we may learn—
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 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, Revelation 16:14).
(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, Matthew 6:15). 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. Psalms 10:3; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:10; Ephesians 5:3, Ephesians 5:5).
(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.
The vision of the pure.
Properly to understand this great subject it is necessary to consider—
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, 1Co 2:15; 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."
(2) These senses are generally recognized in Scripture. They are spiritual senses whose function is to discriminate in moral subjects.
(3) They are mentioned in detail. Thus: Feeling (Acts 17:27; Ephesians 4:19). Tasting (Psalms 34:8; Hebrews 6:4, Hebrews 6:5; 1 Peter 2:3). Smelling (Psalms 45:8; So Psalms 1:3; Matthew 16:23; 2 Corinthians 2:14). Hearing (Isaiah 50:4, Isaiah 50:5; John 10:3, John 10:4; 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. Matthew 2:14, Matthew 2:15). "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, Daniel 10:8; 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 grander. 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.
The order in which the text follows the blessing upon the pure suggests the doctrine of James concerning the "wisdom that is from above," which is "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.
The blessedness of persecution.
Between this subject and that presented in the verse preceding there is the relation of sequence.
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).
(2) The suffering of persecution is in the Christian vocation. We are predestinated to be thus conformed to the image of the Son of God (cf. Rom 8:18-39; 1 Thessalonians 3:3; 2 Timothy 3:12).
(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 Philippians 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.
It was not to the outside multitude, but to his own disciples, that Jesus addressed these words. To these, more immediately, the whole sermon was preached (see Matthew 5:1, Matthew 5:2). We have to consider Christians—
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. Le Matthew 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.
(1) There is no relish to meat comparable to salt (cf. Job 6:6; Ezra 4:14). Hence "salary."
(2) Christian influence is civilizing. Life where Christian influences are least felt is all but intolerable. Amongst the criminal classes. Amongst savage men.
(3) Christian influence is regenerating. Regeneration is the higher civilization.
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, Ezekiel 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 "Loges state" he appeared in light. When the Word was made flesh the glory was there, but veiled (see John 1:14).
(2) Christians, like planets, shine by reflection (cf. Ephesians 5:8; see also Philippians 2:15). The moon, which also shines by reflection, is the figure of the Church—the community of saints.
(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.
The gospel of the Law.
The Jews of our Lord's day expected that Messiah would dignify the Law and verify the prophets. In this they were correct, but they were utterly mistaken as to the manner in which these things were to take effect. The scribes and Pharisees, therefore, disputed the claims of Jesus to be the Christ because he reprobated the traditions of the elders, which they had strangely confounded with the Law; and because he did not establish a secular kingdom according to their misinterpretation of the prophets. Christ here vindicates himself against these errors. But—
I. HOW DID JESUS FULFIL THE LAW IN ITS ORDINANCES?
1. Has he not released us from these?
(1) In the letter, certainly. This is clearly the doctrine of Paul (see Ephesians 2:14, Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 9:10).
(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 רמן "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 Psalms 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"—שרף, 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, Philippians 3:6; 1 Timothy 1:13). Error as well as wilful sin stands in need of mercy.—J.A.M.
The stringency of the gospel Law.
"Ye have 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, Genesis 9:6). 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, Hebrews 3:6). "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.
(1) The spirit of the old Law was ever in it (Romans 7:7; Romans 13:9, Romans 13:10). But the traditions of the elders explained this away. Law is made void when its spirit is lost (Mark 7:13).
(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.
(3) The doom of the transgressor of the spirit of the Law is the fire of Gehenna (see Isaiah 30:33; Jeremiah 7:31, Jeremiah 7:32). The venom of sin lies in its spirit. The heart is the character.
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.
(1) Every one we have injured is an adversary to us before God (cf. Deuteronomy 24:14, Deuteronomy 24:15; James 5:4, James 5:5).
(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.
(2) The officer commits the criminal to the prison (see Matthew 25:41; Jud Matthew 1:6; Revelation 20:15).
(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.
In the preceding paragraph Jesus expounded the spirituality of the Law in ruling the passions; here he pursues the subject in respect to the appetites. The case of adultery is typical or representative of the series. Learn—
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 Psalms 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.
(3) The true sentinel will keep the gate of the citadel. So Job made a covenant with his eyes (Job 31:1). He will be vigilant in prayer (see Psalms 119:37).
(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, Matthew 19:8). 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 (verse 32; see also Psa 50:18; 1 Corinthians 7:10, 1 Corinthians 7:11).
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 Jud Job 1:22, 23).
3. Resolute dealing is needful here.
(1) The offending eye and hand must go. No matter how dear the "eye"—the idol. No matter how useful the "hand"—the acquisition (cf. Galatians 5:24; Colossians 3:5).
(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.
In the words before us our Lord brings out the very spirit of the third commandment. We have to distinguish—
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; Psalms 105:9; Luke 1:73; Hebrews 6:18, Hebrews 6:14).
(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, Jeremiah 4:2). 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 Le Matthew 5:1).
(2) This our Lord does not forbid. It is being sworn rather than swearing. Jesus submitted to adjuration (see Matthew 26:63, Matthew 26:64). 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. So "hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity" is explained by "nor sworn deceitfully" (Psalms 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, Ecclesiastes 5:5).
(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 Psalms 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 Psalms 46:4; Psalms 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 (Psalms 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.
Of this we have here two sorts, viz. the retaliation of 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 Matthew 5:1).
(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 23:1-35. Acts 23:2, Acts 23:3, Acts 23:17; Acts 25:10, Acts 25:11).
(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).
(4) This is the gospel method. It embodies the spirit of the Law (cf. Proverbs 20:22; Proverbs 29:25).
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).
(2) It must be taken patiently. Jesus, though the Judge of Israel, when smitten, did not smite again (cf. Micah 5:1; John 18:23).
(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 (Psalms 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.
Here is an attainable perfection, for it comes to us as a promise as well as a command. But what is it?
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 (Matthew 5:21-26).
(b) Adultery in the heart and eye (Matthew 5:27-32). Profanity in Pharisaic sophisms (Matthew 5:33-37).
(c) Revenge in resistance (Matthew 5:38-42).
(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, John 13:35). 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, John 13:35) new? It is not new in principle, for nature teaches it. It is distinctly taught in the Mosaic Law (see Le Matthew 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.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
The new Preacher.
"He opened his mouth, and taught them." Our Lord was both a Teacher and a Preacher. The teacher aims at instruction; he seeks to arouse the activity of his scholars' minds. The preacher aims at persuasion, and seeks to arouse into activity the moral nature. The teacher will prefer the interlocutory method; the preacher will prefer the lengthened and systematic address. The so-called sermon on the mount is the full outline, giving the chief points of a continuous address, whose subject is—"A new idea of righteousness." No doubt our Lord had previously spoken in the synagogues, and to small audiences in the houses, but then he would adopt the conversational style. Matthew leads us to think that the pressure of the people led our Lord to adopt the open-air preaching, which became a characteristic feature of his ministry. At once he was recognized as a new preacher, with a new 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.
The benediction of good character.
The word "blessed" is taken from 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.
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 1:1-31.).. 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.
The Divine reward of the spiritually minded.
St. Paul uses this word, "To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." But there is a polemical, controversial, doctrinal force in his use, which we are not just now needing. Dr. Bushnell has a very striking sermon on "The Efficiency of the Passive Virtues'; but that is not precisely our Lord's point here, though they are "passive virtues" which he commends. They who "hunger and thirst after righteousness" are they who have a strong sense of God, who estimate themselves in his light, and so discover that their one supreme need is 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.
The influence of sanctified characters.
The righteousness which Christ commends will exert in the world a most gracious moral influence. It will season, as the salt does; it will illuminate and quicken, as the light does. "Salt seasons things, causing things to taste savoury, which otherwise would be no way pleasant, or wholesome, or good for the body." "Our Lord applies to his disciples the stronger word "light," 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.
The missionary power of Christ's disciples.
"Ye are the light of the 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.
I. CHRIST THE LIGHT. It was a dark world indeed when the light rose and streamed forth from Bethlehem (see Matthew 4:16; Luke 2:32; John 1:4, John 1:5; 2 Corinthians 4:6).
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.
The true relations of the old and the new.
"I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." "As a Teacher, our Lord came to fill up what was lacking, to develop hints and germs of truth, to turn rules into principles." Phillips Brooks says, "When Jesus came into the world to establish the perfect religion, he found here an imperfect faith. How should he treat this partial, this imperfect faith, which was already on the ground? He might do either of two things. He might sweep it away, and begin entirely anew, or he might take this imperfect faith and fill it out to completeness. He might destroy or he might fulfil. With the most deliberate wisdom he chose one method and rejected the other." A distinction may be pointed out between man's idea of the relations of the old and the new, and God's idea.
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.
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.
The better types of righteousness.
"Shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees." How one righteousness can be thought of as 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.
Matthew 5:22, Matthew 5:23
The Christian idea of brotherhood.
Our Lord illustrated the application of the new Christian principles to various spheres and relations. Or to state more precisely his point, he showed how the regenerate character would put a new tone on all the life-associations. In a general way, the Christian light is to shine freely all abroad. In a particular way, the Christian influence is to affect a man's first sphere, the sphere of human relationships, represented by the term "brotherhood." From the Christian point of view, our human brother is our second self, and we are to "love our neighbour as ourself."
I. THE MAINTENANCE OF THE BROTHERHOOD IS ESSENTIAL TO PIETY. This is illustrated in Matthew 5:23, Matthew 5:24. 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.
Cherished evil feeling is sin before God.
It is not possible to deal, in a general audience, with the precise subject introduced in this text; but it is possible to treat it as illustrating the searching character of God's Law, which goes in behind all acts of sin, and recognizes the states of mind and feeling out of which acts of sin would surely come if opportunity offered. "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart." And yet we have to make a very precise distinction. It is not the evil that 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.
Plumptre suggests the proper way in which to treat these strong figures of speech. "The bold severity of the phrase excludes a literal interpretation. The seat of the evil lies in the will, not in the organ of sense or action, and the removal of the instrument might leave the inward taint unpurified. What is meant is, that any sense, when it ministers to sin, is an evil and not a good, the loss of which would be the truest gain." Pursuits and pleasures, innocent enough in themselves, may bring temptation and involve us in sin. There should be resolute dealing with them, so as to ensure that they are held in safe and wise bonds of self-restraint.
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.
The mildness of Mosaism.
"An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." This is supposed to represent the 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.
Our standard of perfection.
"Even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Though fittingly employed at the close of this chapter, the word "perfect" is more immediately connected with the last few verses. Dealing with that strange inference of the Pharisees, that because we are commanded to love our neighbours, we are therefore required to hate our enemies, Christ presents the true idea of love, the perfect conception of love. He demands such a love as can make what is opposite to it, as well as what is akin to it, its object. The apostles teach that perfection is the idea, the 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.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Matthew 5". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent