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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
Matthew 5

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-48

CHAPTER 17

SALT

“Ye are the salt of the earth; if the salt may become vitiated, in what shall it be salted? It is yet good for nothing, except having been cast out, to be trodden under foot by the people.” The salt in the ocean preserves it from putrefaction and stagnation. Consequently the ocean is the great conservator of atmospheric purity. Hence sea voyages always improve the health. These Commentaries in that respect have been a blessing to me, giving me eleven thousand miles plowing through oceans and seas. If the salt were not in the ocean, its waters would stagnate, generate malaria, which the winds would carry throughout all the continents and islands, rendering the atmosphere so pestilential as to be uninhabitable by man and beast; thus ultimating in the depopulation of the globe, and the destruction of all the air-breathing animals, turning the world into a boneyard. Hence the tremendous force of our Savior's metaphor, involving the conclusion that if all the Christians were out of the world, the human race would be hopeless, as the inmates of hell, not ignoring the possibility of salvation, but the probability. This illustrates the necessity for the destruction of the antediluvians, as God knew they would never repent, but get worse indefinitely, as every stream falls in its onward flow. I’ve seen this vitiated salt in the vicinity of the Dead Sea. It is an utter and hopeless deadener of the soil, and an incorrigible preventive of all production. We do not want it in the “washes,” as we desire that they shall accumulate soil and become productive. As Jesus here well says, it is fit for nothing but to make walks, for the convenience of people who want to keep out of the mud. O what an appalling truth! The Christian religion is the salt which God uses to save the world. The Holy Ghost is the savor. Therefore when religion is without the Spirit, consisting only of the dead form, it is fit for nothing on earth except to make walks for the convenience of the multitudes traveling down to hell.

LIGHT

“Ye are the light of the world. A city located on a mountain can not be hidden; neither do they light a candle, and place it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before the people, that they may see your beautiful works, and glorify your Father who is in the heavens.” In the Old World, nearly all the cities are built away up on the mountains. The dispersion of the population throughout the country, every man living on his own farm, is peculiar to America, as we see almost nothing of it in the great East, the people as a rule living in cities and villages, and going away into the country to till the soil. We see no wooden houses in the Old World, except thatched huts of the peasantry, which is not at all common, as they more generally use mud, stone, or live in caves. As the stone on the mountains is the most available building material, cities are built on the mountains, the valleys and plains being devoted to agriculture. I am here reminded of the great castles built on all the lofty mountains in Europe and Asia during the Dark Ages, that memorable period of a thousand years, Satan's millennium, during which not one man in a thousand could read or write. As life and liberty were only held by the stern arbitrament of the sword, and there was no civil government on earth competent to protect its citizens, therefore the people erected these formidable castles on all the mountain summits, whither they could fly for refuge, and protect themselves from marauding bands and invading armies. These castles beautifully illustrate the impossibility of hiding a city located on a mountain; whether on sea or land, we see them a great way off. Therefore the light of a true Christian can not be hidden from men or devils. Our Savior's warning here against putting our light under a bushel, and His admonition to us to put it in a conspicuous place, where nothing will obstruct the emission of its hallowed rays in all directions, and their utmost availability in the expulsion of the black darkness with which Satan has enveloped this poor fallen world, are exceedingly pertinent to those holiness people who spend their time in little isolated bands, working hard, with no material to work on, wasting their ammunition on one another when they do not need it.

The bands are all right, but they should work in the Churches, on the streets, or preach from house to house, utilizing the light which God has given them to expel the darkness in which Satan has wrapped his millions while he is leading them to hell. For the sake of the dying millions for whom Jesus bled, when you hold your little band meeting, and wait before the Lord till he fills you with the Spirit, be sure you go out and let your light shine on the people who sit in darkness. For this reason you may glorify God by retaining your membership in a dead, worldly Church, as there you have a precious opportunity to “let your light shine, in order that they may see your beautiful works, and glorify your Father who is in the heavens.” The adjective “beautiful,” here qualifying “works,” means the beauty of holiness. O the power this beautiful holiness wields no tongue can tell! When the Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites had all united against Judea, King Jehoshaphat went out with his army, not to fight, but to “sing the beauty of holiness.” Meanwhile a hundred thousand voices rang out the “beauty of holiness;” God utterly defeated their enemies, so they fled from the field, leaving the earth burdened with rich spoils. Both in 1895 and 1899, when I was there, I visited the Vale of Berachah — i.e., the Valley of Blessing — where Jehoshaphat assembled all Israel in a three-days' Hallelujah Convention, that they might bless the Lord for his great deliverance.

LAW

“Do not think that I come to destroy the law or the prophets; I come not to destroy, but to fulfill. For truly I say unto you, That till heaven and earth may pass away, one iota or one point can in no wise pass from the law until all may be fulfilled. Whosoever may break one of the least of these commandments, and teach the people so, shall be called least in the kingdom of the heavens; but whosoever may do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens.” This is very plain and explicit. The climax of all the commandments is perfect love; i.e., “Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy soul, mind, and strength, and love thy neighbor as thyself.” Hence, when you experience and verify perfect love, you fulfill the whole law:

“Love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:10)

A terribly wicked delusion is frequently propagated from the pulpit, ignoring the law, and telling the people that as we are not under the law dispensation, we do not have to keep the law, thus loosening the obligations of the popular conscience, which every preacher should endeavor to his utmost to tighten up. While it is true that we are not under the law dispensation, we should remember the words of Jesus, that He came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. Hence, the province of the gospel is to fulfill the law, and the man that doesn't do it is out of harmony with the gospel dispensation. The bloody rites and sacrifices all typified Christ, and received their fulfillment when He bled and died, and normally evanesced. In a similar manner the Decalogue, and all other commandments given to man, must be verified in our experiences and lives. There is some terribly pestilential preaching along this line. Lord help us to be true to the words of Jesus! O what a withering woe He has pronounced on those who break even the least of the commandments and so teach the people! “The same shall be called least in the kingdom” i.e., they shall not be at all recognized as citizens of our Lord's kingdom; while a most inspiring blessing is here pronounced on all who do and teach these commandments: “The same shall be called great in the kingdom” i.e., they shall not only have a place in the kingdom, but as members of the bridehood, shall be promoted to extraordinary honors and emoluments.

RIGHTEOUSNESS

“For I say unto you, That unless your righteousness may superabound that of the scribes and Pharisees, you can not enter into the kingdom of the heavens.” The scribes were the pastors of the popular Churches, and the Pharisees the influential members and officers. So you see plainly that our Savior preaches a standard of salvation which throws the popular religion, with its members and preachers, into total eclipse. “But the Churches are better now than then?” On this statement it certainly would be very risky for us to depend. Doubtless some of them were better and others worse. It is certainly very unsafe for us to discount, or in any way evade, the force of our Savior's statement. The safe plan is to take it as He gave it. In that case, you see positively that unless your religion goes ahead of the popular Churches, including pulpits and pews, you are without hope. This reminds us of that remarkable affirmation, “The saved are few.” Instead of taking the preachers and Church members for our paragon as to holy living, we should take Jesus Himself, whose biography we fortunately have transmitted to us by four inspired evangelists, who are now playing on their golden harps. Instead of taking their experiences as our paragon, we should take the infallible Word of God: “You must be born from above;” “Without holiness no one shall see the Lord.”

RIGHTEOUS RETRIBUTION

“You have heard that it was said to the ancients, Thou shalt not murder, and whosoever may murder shall be subject to the judgment. But I say unto you, That every one who is angry with his brother shall be subject to the judgment; and whosoever may say to his brother, You scoundrel, shall be subject to the Sanhedrin; and whosoever may say, Thou fool, shall be subject unto a hell of fire.” In every village there was a committee of three to seven appointed to investigate and enforce the law against criminals, while the graver offenses were referred to the Sanhedrin, the council of seventy elders. Our Lord here refers to these institutions of judicial administration by way of illustrating similar and infinitely graver adjudications in the kingdom of God, adding also that most terrible and dreadful of all retributive judgments, which consigned offenders to hell-fire. Now this word raka, E.V., which means “scoundrel,” and “fool,” which is moros i.e., a natural fool, simpleton, or idiot — and not aphron, used in reference to our Savior and Paul saying, “Thou fool,” “O, ye fools,” which has a spiritual signification, meaning fools for the want of that spiritual illumination which is freely given to all who will receive it appreciatively. Consequently, if you are an aphron i.e., a fool because you reject the light which the Holy Spirit alone can shed on your intellect you alone are responsible for your folly; but moros, which means a natural simpleton, is utterly irresponsible, and consequently becomes a term, like scoundrel, fraught with debasement and reproach. Now why are you in that case, not only in danger of condemnation and the reprobation of the heavenly Sanhedrin, but even exposed to hell-fire, if you apply these epithets to your brother or sister? The solution is easy. The very use of these opprobrious epithets prove demonstratively the indulgence of evil tempers, which, if not sanctified away, will plunge you into hell-fire. The phrase “hell-fire,” here occurring, is gehennan tou puros. This phrase among the Jews originated from the Valley of Hinnom, southwest of Jerusalem, which is a deep gorge, down at the foot of Mt. Zion. From the time of Solomon, Moloch, the Ammonitish god, was worshipped in that valley. His image, in the shape of a man with the head of an ox, his arms reaching up to receive the infants they placed in them for sacrifices, was hollow, and heated by an internal fire, so that the children laid in his arms would be burned to death. The Bible alludes to this appalling idolatry, stating that they caused their children to pass through the fires of Moloch. He was regarded as an evil demon, whose anger was to be appeased by placing these infants in his fiery arms. When Josiah became king, under the happy tuition of the holy prophetess Huldah, he wrought a radical purification from idolatry throughout all the land. So he destroyed the shrine and broke up the worship of Moloch in the Valley of Hinnom, commanding the offal and the dead animals of the city to be thrown into it, which they burned, thus keeping perpetual fires in that valley. In this way it became the symbol of the eternal fires which consume the wicked in the world of despair. Here our Savior refers to the judgment, Sanhedrin, and the perpetual fires in the Valley of Hinnom, all of which were familiar and forcible to His Jewish audience, in order to elucidate the corresponding adjudications and retributions awaiting all the people who indulge in evil and angry tempers. O what a warning, and what an incentive to us all to get sanctified wholly, having all of these angry tempers, which lead us to offer insults to our fellow-travelers in this probationary pilgrimage, expurgated away!

CHAPTER 18

CONFESSION

“If therefore you may bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that thy brother has something against you, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then having come, offer thy gift.” This is the missing keystone from the fallen arches of so many Christian characters — some little thing between you and your neighbor, which stands like a mountain between You and God, towering high as heaven, reaching down deep as hell, and projecting its Briarean arms around the world. It can only be taken away by an honest confession. A young lady was in deep agony at the altar. A worker asked her if she had not something that she ought to confess. Rising, she goes to the rear of the audience, throws her arms around her young comrade, and said, with gushing tears, “O Lizzie, please forgive me for everything I have done or said about you!” That moment her face brightens, and she shouts aloud. Lizzie is struck with deep conviction, and rushes to the altar to seek the blessing her companion has so recently found. Will you not cut the work short in righteousness by confessing to everybody, and thus getting every obstruction out of the way, so God can pour on you showers of blessing? Whole Churches thus get stranded, pulpit and pew all blockaded, and no access to a throne of grace. Satan has bagged them solidly, and is dragging them into hell.

RECONCILIATION

“Be thou reconciled with thy adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with him, lest the adversary may deliver thee to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and thou mayest be cast into prison. Truly, I say unto thee, That thou canst not go out from thence until thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” The symbolism of this paragraph is plain, clear, and forcible, illustrating human destiny by a judicial transaction. Adversary means an opposer, who is endeavoring to resist a trend and turn it the other way. This world is going pell-mell, helter-skelter, down to hell. Jesus came into the world six thousand years ago, in ample time, and with abundant resources, ready to save all who will let Him. Hence He is the Opposer of humanity, rushing headlong to perdition. While in probationary life, you are “in the way with Him.” So lose not a moment in your expedition to be reconciled to Him, lest “the adversary may deliver thee to the judge.” Now, who is the judge? We have already learned that the Son of God will judge the world. He is now bringing into availability all of His omnipotent grace to save you. If you will not let Him, you must quickly stand condemned at His tribunal, dumbfounded, and confessing judgment against yourself, because the very Judge on the bench actually died to save you, and you would not let Him. Thus the Mediatonal Christ is your Adversary, actually blockading hell with His crucified body in order to keep you out. While the Judge in this Scripture is the Judicial Christ to whom the Mediatorial Christ delivers you in case of non-reconciliation, now who is the officer? Satan is the officer of hell. What is the prison? The bottomless pit. So if you will not have the Mediatorial Christ, you must stand before the Judge of quick and dead, who can only turn you over to the devil, with whom you have staid till the last opportunity of escape has fled away. The devil is the officer of hell, and has no other place to put you. Hence, the Pandemonium is your inevitable doom. Will you not hasten to be reconciled, while you are in the way with Him? What about paying the uttermost farthing? The simple truth is, you have nothing to pay with, neither in this world nor in the world to come. Therefore it is utterly impossible for you ever to satisfy the Divine law, which requires a holy heart, as you have already rejected the last opportunity to receive the sanctifying work of Christ.

ADULTERY

“You have heard that it was said, Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say unto you, That every one looking on a woman, in order to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart. If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members may perish, and not that thy whole body may be cast into hell. If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members may perish, and not that thy whole body may depart into hell.” “Man looks on the outside, but God looketh on the heart.” The immortal spirit, dwelling in the body, is the man himself, and not the body. God sees our spirit through and through, reading every thought of the heart, diagnosing every emotion of the soul. Hence, the inward thought and volition really constitute the act, and not the outward verification through the body. This exegesis of adultery, locating it in the heart, independently of all physical reciprocation, gives light on the entire problem of sin, as the same is true of murder, theft, and every item of the black catalogue. “Offend” here is scandalizo, from scandalon, “a stumbling-block.” Here you are traveling to heaven, and are sure to get there if you don’t fall, and you can never fall unless you stumble. “Right eye” and “right hand” emblematize all things which we count dear and valuable, and symbolize the unequivocal conclusion that we are to permit nothing conceivable or inconceivable to deflect us from the narrow way. The stumbling precedes the fall. You may fall instantly when you stumble. If you stumble much, you are certain to fall. Hence, the true policy is simply to take away every stumbling-block, and thus clear the road for heaven. This is your only safe economy. Anything else exposes you to an awful risk. When Sister Glide, of Sacramento, California, whose husband is a millionaire, was seeking sanctification, and saw the Salvation Army women running round in their plain, cheap costume, visiting the poor, the sick, and the fallen, distributing tracts and holiness literature, her heart turned away with contempt. Fortunately, grace prevailed. She put on a plain dress and coarse shoes, and put out, loaded with tracts and holiness literature, running into the hovels of poverty, dens of iniquity, and sinks of debauchery; down on her knees, on the dirty floors, praying, and with tearful eyes exhorting them to flee the wrath to come, and at the same time cheering their hearts with temporal benefactions, till God flooded her soul with a sunburst of glory, which has been shining and shouting ever since. Thus she beat the devil at his own game. Dear soul, as I shall meet you at the judgment-bar, I beg you never to leave a handle anywhere for the devil to get hold of. If you do not want to fall and plunge into hell, clear the way of all stumbling-blocks at every cost.

DIVORCEMENT

“But it was said, Whosoever may send away his wife, let him give her a divorcement. But I say unto you, That every man sending away his wife, except for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and if any one may marry her who has been sent away, he committeth adultery.” A very sad mistake, in the E.V. in this thirty-second verse, has led the popular mind to stray, as, you see from my translation, the prohibition from marrying the divorced woman is not in this passage nor any other. The case here is plain and simple, and very pertinent to those Jews who so frequently sent away their wives for no justifiable cause. Apoleluminen, translated in E.V. “her that is divorced,” is the perfect passive participle, from the verb apoluo, which simply means “send away.” Consequently, instead of “her that is divorced,” the correct reading is, “her that has been sent away;” i.e., this woman who has not been divorced, but simply driven away from home by her husband. The reason why the man marrying her commits adultery is, because she is a married woman, the wife of the man who drove her away from home. Apotasion, the word for divorce, just means apostasy. Now you know that the apostate from the kingdom of God has become a poor, lost sinner, as he was before he was converted. Hence, you see that as apostasy nullifies and reverses the work of grace in the heart, so the divorce, when legally given (not by State law, but the law of God, which permits it only for the cause of fornication), radically rescinds the matrimonial alliance, returning the parties to the ranks of celibacy whence they came, and thus conferring on them marriageable privileges again. So if this “castoff” woman were Scripturally divorced from her cruel husband, she would have a right to marry again, and the man would have a right to marry her “only in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39.) Divorcement is a Divine provision for the benefit of the innocent party, and, as a normal consequence, liberating the guilty also. We see here that fornication is the only justifiable cause for a divorce. This follows as a logical sequence from the very nature of matrimony, which unifies the wedded; since this violation of the matrimonial covenant, in its very nature, destroys the unity, the formal divorce merely ratifying the matrimonial dissolution, which has already taken place, and thus protecting injured innocence. It is really deplorable to see the Bible ignored by the State authorities on all sides, granting divorces for a diversity of causes other than the Scriptural one.

What shall be done in case of the innumerable unlawful marriages? Shall they all separate? We fear that in many such cases the last error would be worse than the first. These matters should all be diligently turned over to God, who will in every case give light and grace to qualify you to choose the less of two evils. Moses granted divorces for a vast diversity of causes, on that principle of choosing the less of two evils, one of which being inevitable. As this was out of harmony with Christian perfection, the standard of the gospel dispensation, our Savior repudiated it, coming back to first principles, which recognize husband and wife as “one flesh,” which unity is only destroyed by adultery.

PERJURY & PROFANITY

“You have heard that it was said to the ancients, Thou shalt not swear falsely, but shall perform unto the Lord thine oaths. But I say unto You, Swear not at all: neither by heaven, because it is the throne of God; nor by the earth, because it is the footstool of His feet; nor by Jerusalem, because it is the City of the Great King; nor swear by the head, because thou art not able to make one hair turn white or black. But let your speech be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; but whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one;” i.e., the devil, as tou ponerou, the concrete, actually means the devil himself — “evil,” E.V., the abstract, being entirely too weak. There is a close affinity between false swearing and profanity, as they really resolve themselves mutually, the one into the other. The profane man is constantly swearing falsely, while the perjurer is black with profanity. This rigid prohibition of swearing has no reference to legal oaths, administered by magistrates and other persons in authority, as we see, in Matthew 26:63, our Savior Himself responded to Caiaphas when he administered to Him the legal oath. Also, Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:27), administers the same legal oath to the saints at Thessalonica, “I swear you, in the name of the Lord, that this letter shall be read to all the brethren.” Hence, when we see Jesus and Paul — the former responding when under legal oath, and the latter administering it to the saints — we can not conclude that it is included in these strong prohibitions. Moreover, the specifications show up and authenticate the conclusion that He is simply abnegating and condemning all sorts of profane oaths: from the specifications, we see that the prohibition excludes the use of bywords and all sorts of insignificant slang, condemning them as coming from the evil one — i.e., the devil. God requires purity of speech, as well as heart, our language being the invariable exponent of the soul. Hence, you can decipher the contents of the heart by the utterances of the lips. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.”

RETALIATION

“You have heard that it has been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, Resist not evil; but whosoever smiteth thee on the right cheek, turn to him also the other; and to him wishing to prosecute thee at law and take away thy coat, give to him the cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him asking thee, and turn not away from him wishing to borrow from thee.” The great utility of the law is conviction, which is primary in every work of grace, all professions proving spurious without genuine conviction. Consequently the stern rigor of the Mosaic law requires a full requital of every injury inflicted. While this is true, it is simply a matter of just retribution, perfectly free from all the carnal complexity of retaliation, characteristic of worldly people, having nothing in it after the similitude of revenge; but still the Divine vengeance is close on the track of every transgressor, as God says, “Vengeance is Mine, and I will repay.” While the law says, “Pay me what thou owest me,” the gospel says, “I freely forgive thee all.” The law says, “You owe me your coat, and I must have it;” the gospel says, “Here, take my coat and my cloak also” — as the Jews wore two garments, the inner and the outer. The law says, “You owe me one-mile’s journey;” the gospel says, “All right; here I give you two.” Hence, you see the gospel economy, not only satisfies the law in the administration of justice in every case, but goes infinitely beyond, and overcomes evil with good.

CHRISTIAN PERFECTION

“You have heard that it is said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy.” (Leviticus 19:19.)

The latter clause of this passage, “Thou shalt hate thine enemy,” appears only in the gloss of the Rabbis; however, it follows as a logical sequence from the organization of the Jews as a theocratic people, secluded from the world and looking upon all Gentiles as enemies — a state of things eminently qualified to develop jealousy and animosity toward all other nations. “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you; in order that you may be the sons of your Father who is in heaven, because He makes His sun to rise upon the wicked and the good, and sends rain upon the just and the unjust.” If we are going up to live with God in heaven through all eternity, we must get like Him before we leave this world, otherwise disharmony would mar the glory of the celestial universe. The rain and the sunshine are the greatest temporal blessings, which God bestows indiscriminately on the righteous and the wicked. Hence we must become like Him, doing good to our enemies and friends indiscriminately. “For if you love them that love you, what reward have you? Do not even the publicans the same? And if you salute your brethren only, what do ye more? Do not even the publicans the same? Therefore ye shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Luke 6:33 : “If you do good to those doing good, what grace is there to you? for the sinners do the same. If you borrow from those from whom you hope to receive, what grace is there to you? for sinners lend to sinners, in order that they may receive an equivalent. Moreover, love your enemies:do good and lend, hoping nothing in return, and your reward shall be great, and you shall be the sons of the Highest; because He is good to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father is merciful.” We see from these deliverances of our Savior that we are to do good indiscriminately, without any reference to temporal remuneration, aggrandizement, or emolument; i.e., we are to loan, simply actuated by the love of God and humanity, without any reference to the probability of reciprocation. In that case, we are living in anticipation of our reward in heaven, which is infinitely better and greater than any reciprocation of favor possible in this world. Our Savior is a plain Preacher, and transcendently practical. Now He climaxes this beautiful paragraph on the Divine love, which the Holy Ghost has poured out in our hearts (Romans 5:5), reaching out indiscriminately to the good and the bad, doing good and not evil, from the simple fact that sanctifying grace has taken out the latter, leaving the former to reign without a rival, — by the summary commandment, “Ye shall be perfect, as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” Just as He has Divine perfection and the angels angelic perfection, so must we have Christian perfection, if we are going up to live with them in heaven. All this is homogeneous, showing up the fact, as illustrated above, by this Divine love bestowed indiscriminately on all sides — illustrated by the unutterable benigaity of our Heavenly Father. Special force here in the imperative “shall,” peculiar to the Decalogue, giving Christian perfection the full force of the Ten Commandments, leaving no loop-hole through which to evade the issue, and no defalcation; but it is rigidly applicable to every one: “Ye shall be perfect.”


Verse 6

JOHN’S INFLUENCE

Matthew 5:6, & Mark 1:5. “Then there went out unto him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the regions round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.” Six millions of people are included in these countries. O the wonderful power and magnetism of John’s preaching! He actually emptied the cities and populated the desert with thronging millions. From dewy morn till dusky eve, the rich on camels, the middle classes on donkeys, and the poor trudging on foot, literally crowd the way, off into the desert wild and drear, carrying their food and bedding, that they may spend a fortnight in the grandest camp-meeting that the world has seen in four thousand years. Water is very scarce in the “wilderness [desert] of Judea.” Traveling through it four times, I saw none but the Brook Cherith. I have heard of it, however, in other localities of that desert. Doubtless the scarcity of water to supply the multitudes and the animals they rode, as well as for baptismal demands, induced John to go away to the Jordan, only a dozen miles from this desert. The Jordan rises in great Mt. Hermon, ten thousand feet high, capped with a world of snows, all through the long summer incessantly melting, and keeping the river abundantly supplied with plenty of water for all purposes. Behold John, standing on the beautiful, spreading plain of the Jordan, surrounded by an audience of fifty thousand people, listening spellbound to his thunder peals, while the lightning of conviction is flashing from the skies, electrifying all hearts, with the gushing tears of a soul-crushing repentance. Moses was a great baptist, baptizing all the people at the tabernacle door upon the ratification of the Sinaitic Covenant. (Hebrews 9:10-12.) Judaism, with its vast and operose ritual, the Messianic hemisphere, offering millions of slain victims, typifying the atonement of Christ, while the spiritual was equally operose, emblematizing the work of the Holy Ghost by the innumerable watery ablutions for the purification from all sorts of ceremonial uncleanness. Hence the Johannic dispensation must be characterized by ceremonial purifications. At the present time, the Oriental religions gather by thousands upon the very spot where John baptized the Savior, the priest dipping the cross three times in the name of the Three Persons of the Trinity, they all simultaneously plunge themselves under the rolling wave of the holy Jordan three times; not doing this for baptism as the initiatory rite into the Church-this they have already received — but as a holy ablution to sanctify them, as they all believe the baptism of the Savior sanctified the Jordan. As John had neither the time nor the physical ability to handle his converts, they either plunged themselves under the rolling tide, or John, after the manner of the Jewish priest (and he was one), dipping the hyssop in the water, sprinkled the multitudes, somewhat as a Catholic priest nowadays sprinkles his audiences. The Jordan has plenty of water, and there is plenty in all parts of the earth. Be sure you satisfy your conscience as to this duty.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Matthew 5:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/matthew-5.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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