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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Matthew 5

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-16

CRITICAL NOTES

GENERAL REMARKS ON THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

The aim and contents of the "Sermon."—No mere sermon is this, only distinguished from others of its class by its reach and sweep and power; it stands alone as the grand charter of the commonwealth of heaven; or, to keep the simple title the Evangelist himself suggests (Mat ), it is "the gospel (or good news) of the kingdom." To understand it aright we must keep this in mind, avoiding the easy method of treating it as a mere series of lessons on different subjects, and endeavouring to grasp the unity of thought and purpose which binds its different parts into one grand whole. It may help us to do this if we first ask ourselves what questions would naturally arise in the minds of the more thoughtful of the people, when they heard the announcement, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." It was evidently to such persons the Lord addressed Himself.… In their minds they would, in all probability, be revolving such questions as these:

1. "What is this kingdom, what advantages does it offer, and who are the people that belong to it?"

2. "What is required of those that belong to it? What are its laws and obligations?" And if these two questions were answered satisfactorily, a third would naturally follow.

3. "How may those who desire to share its privileges and assume its obligations become citizens of it?" These, accordingly, are the three great questions dealt with in succession (J. M. Gibson, D.D.).

The originality of the Sermon.—We are not careful to deny, we are eager to admit, that many even of the most admirable sayings in the Sermon on the Mount had been anticipated by heathen moralists and poets (S. Cox, D.D.). To affirm that Christ was not in the world, nor in the thoughts of men, until He took flesh and dwelt among us, is no more to honour Him than it is to affirm that, when He came into the world, He showed Himself to be no wiser than the men whose thoughts He had previously guided and inspired.… His teaching, we may be sure, will not be new in the sense of having no connection with the truths He had already taught by them; but it will be new in this sense, that it will perfect that which in them was imperfect; that it will gather up their scattered thoughts, free them from the errors with which they had blended them, and harmonise, develop, and complete them (S. Cox, D D.).

Is the Sermon on the Mount evangelical?—You have heard, as I have, that there is no "Cross" in this Sermon on the Mount; that we are at the foot of Sinai listening to Moses, and not at Calvary "beholding the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world." Let us not be deceived. You might as well say there is no sun in a coal-pit or a geyser because you do not see his form there. Your British coalfields are as truly the-children of the sun as is the ray of light that last fell upon our eyes, and the high-pitched morality of this sermon is as really the offspring of the death and resurrection of Christ as the first pulse-beat of joy on the reception of the forgiveness of sins. Will you say that the writer of Todhunter's Trigonometry is unfamiliar with the first four rules of arithmetic because he assumes instead of stating and proving them? No more should we conclude that salvation by the sacrifice of the Son of God for men is absent from the Sermon on the Mount, because it is not expressly stated and argued as it is in the third of the Romans. There is not a benediction that does not take us to Calvary. There is not a warning that may not urge us to Christ. There is not a mountain elevation of holiness that will not force from us the cry, "Lord, help me, or I perish." The Sermon is full of the great principles we have to preach, and those principles are all embodied in the Speaker Himself. Teaching Him we teach the principles of this Sermon, and it is of little use teaching the ideas of this Sermon without also teaching Him (J. Clifford, D.D.). The Lord Jesus did not give the world His best wine in this cup, marvellous and precious though it be. The best thing in the Gospels is the gospel itself—that manifestation of the righteousness and love of God in the person, the life, and the death of His Son by which He wins our love and makes us righteous (S. Cox, D.D.).

The relation between the Sermon on the Mount as reported by St. Matthew and the account of it in St. Luke 6—Commentators are divided in opinion as to whether or not these are two versions of the same discourse. Augustine suggests a solution of the difficulty by saying that the two discourses are entirely distinct, though delivered on the same occasion—that reported by St. Matthew, on the mountain to the disciples; that of St. Luke, delivered on the plain just below to the multitude. Dean Vaughan concurs in this view, and says: "Men have doubted whether the discourse in St. Matthew is to be regarded as an ampler account of that which is reported by St. Luke. The general scope and purport is the same. Yet, as St. Matthew says expressly that Jesus spake ‘sitting on the mountain,' and St. Luke says that He spake ‘standing on the plain,' it seems not very unnatural to suppose that the one (that given by St. Matthew) was a discourse delivered, as it were, to the inner circle of His disciples, apart from the crowd outside; the other (preserved by St. Luke), a briefer and more popular rehearsal of the chief topics of the former, addressed, immediately afterwards, in descending the hill, to the promiscuous multitude." Lange also favours this view. Carr (Cambridge Bible for Schools) states the arguments in favour of the identity of the "Sermon on the Mount" with the "Sermon on the Plain," thus:

1. The beginning and end are identical as well as much of the intervening matter.

2. The portions omitted—a comparison between the old and the new legislation—are such as would be less adapted for St. Luke's readers than for St. Matthew's.

3. The "mount" and the "plain" are not necessarily distinct localities. The plain is more accurately translated "a level place," a platform on the high land.

4. The place in the order of events differs in St. Luke, but it is probable that here as well as elsewhere St. Matthew does not observe the order of time.

Mat . He went up into a mountain.—Perhaps for the purpose of selecting His audience. The idle and indifferent would stay down on the plain (Gibson). The mountain was probably that known at this day as the Kurn Hattin, or "Horns of Hattin." It is an upland rather than a mountain, rising to about a thousand feet above the level of the sea, and distinctly marked out from the neighbouring eminences by the two humps, or horns, which rise some sixty feet above and crown the summit. Between these "horns" there is a wide stretch of grass, a natural amphitheatre, in which a great multitude might easily gather within hearing of a single voice (Cox). Set.—This the custom of the Jewish doctors when they taught in their schools and synagogues. Disciples.—It is evident that at that period Jesus had already made a separation between His disciples and the people (Lange).

THE BEATITUDES.—So called from the opening word "beati" (blessed) in the Vulgate. Their number.—Though eight in number, there are here but seven distinct features of character. The eighth one—the "persecuted for righteousness sake"—denotes merely the possession of the seven preceding features, on account of which it is that they are persecuted (2Ti ). Accordingly, instead of any distinct promise to this class, we have merely a repetition of the first promise. This has been noticed by several critics, who, by the sevenfold character thus set forth, have rightly observed that a complete character is meant to be depicted, and by the sevenfold blessedness attached to it, a perfect blessedness is intended (D. Brown, D.D.). Their purpose.—This Sermon on the Mount seems to be particularly levelled against the common indispositions of heart and errors of life, which they were guilty of who looked for the kingdom of the Messiah; for in it our Saviour acquaints the people and His disciples who are the blessed persons who shall be admitted to that kingdom, namely, not the covetous and ambitious, but the poor in spirit; not the luxurious and licentious, but the serious, penitent mourners; not the fierce and haughty, but the meek and lowly; not they who gaped after, and hoped to possess themselves of, their neighbours' estates by unjust conquest, but they who studied an exact honesty and uprightness in all their dealings; not the cruel and hard-hearted, but the merciful and charitable; not the lewd and unclean, but the pure in heart; not the fighting and contentious, but the quiet and peaceable; not the persecutors, but the persecuted for Christ's sake and their duty. So that all the beatitudes are the setting up of so many quite contrary dispositions of mind to those they were prepossessed with, and only more particular instances of the general doctrine, that they were to repent because the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of the Messiah, was at hand (J. Blair, M.A.).

Mat . Blessed.—Of the two words which our translators render "blessed," the one here used ( μακάριοι) points men to what is inward, and so might be rendered "happy" in a lofty sense; while the other ( εὐλογημένοι) denotes rather what comes to us from without (as Mat 25:34). But the distinction is not always nicely carried out (Brown). Poor in spirit.—In this and in the fourth beatitude there appears at first sight to be a real difference between St. Matthew and St. Luke, beyond what can be explained by mere verbal variety with substantial argument. Dean Mansel, in the Speaker's Commentary, suggests as the true explanation that St. Luke records these beatitudes as they were actually spoken by our Lord, while St. Matthew (one of the twelve to whom it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven) reports them in such a manner as to give their full meaning, rather than their figurative expression. The one gives the words, the other the mind of Christ.

Mat . Righteousness.—A normal disposition or mode of action which takes the will of God as its supreme norm (Wendt).

Mat . Obtain.—Not "merit."

Mat . Be exceeding glad.—Spring upward in joyful hope toward your reward in heaven (Stier).

Mat . Salt—It is suggested by the Rev. T. H. Darlow, M.A. (Expositor, Fourth Series, VIII. 239) that it was the familiar trade of fish curing which prompted, or at least pointed, our Lord's references to salt. Professor G. A. Smith says, "The pickled fish of Galilee were known throughout the Roman world." We can understand in this connection why our Lord speaks of refuse salt in such a wholesale fashion, "Cast out and trodden under foot of men." Lost his savour.—This realisable, at least, when we occupy a point of observation that is simply popular. Dr. W. M. Thomson says, "I have often seen just such salt, and the identical disposition of it that our Lord has mentioned" (see Land and Book, pp. 381, 382).

Mat . A city that is set on an hill.—Assuming the Sermon on the Mount to have been preached from one of the hills of Galilee near the "Horns of Hattin," our Lord may have looked or pointed at Safed, two thousand six hundred and fifty feet above the sea, commanding one of the grandest panoramic views in Palestine (Plumptre).

Mat . A bushel, the bushel (R.V.), i.e. the common measure found in every Jewish house. Candle … candlestick, lamp … lampstand (R.V.). The lamp in a Jewish house was not set on a table, but on a tall pedestal or stand, sometimes made with a sliding shaft (Carr).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mat

A singular benediction.—There is something of a "State" character about this "Sermon on the Mount." Leaving the plain for the "mountain" (R.V.), He "sat down" and "opened His mouth." Great "multitudes" (Mat ; Mat 4:25; Mat 5:1) had been attracted to His teaching. Some among them had already professed themselves His "disciples." It was right that they should know—and that others with them should know—the exact character of His teaching. This, accordingly, He now proceeds, in this most deliberate manner, to give them; beginning here with the cardinal question of what those who became His disciples must look for and expect, and setting before them in that connection a gracious assurance in the first place; a faithful warning in the second place; complete re-assurance in the last.

I. A gracious assurance.—All those who followed Him might expect to be "blessed." That is how He begins. That word "blessed" is the first word that falls from His lips. Whatever other distinctions there might be about His disciples in other respects, there would be none on this point. Some among them would have this blessing, some would have that. All would have much. Nine times over, in emphatic succession, does he assure them of this (Mat ). Also, afterwards, and because of this, He bids all of them to be glad (Mat 5:12, beginning). Such is, as it were, the "dominant note" of this opening strain. Such is the thought which those who followed Him were to take in first and in full. As one of those who heard Him then, afterwards said (1Pe 3:9), as though in remembrance of this, they were "called to inherit a blessing." As the Saviour Himself afterwards said both to this disciple and to others as well (Mat 16:17; Mat 13:16), so also at this time, which is the solemn opening of all, He thus loudly proclaims, Blessed is the man that "followeth" Me!

II. A faithful warning.—Deeply true and thoroughly reliable as was this assurance, it was not one which would appear such at first in the judgment of many. In the judgment of most? This would be so, on the one hand, on account of that which would be expected by Christ from those who were His. He would expect them to be "poor in spirit" (Mat ); to be men "mourning" for sin (Mat 5:4); to be persons hungering and thirsting for "righteousness" (Mat 5:6); and "meek" and "merciful" (Mat 5:5; Mat 5:7); and heart-lovers of purity (Mat 5:8); and men not contentious for anything except for that which causes contention to end (Mat 5:9; 1Th 4:11, margin, R.V.). In other words, He expects from them that—and He shows that He does so most effectually by simply treating it as taken for granted—which, in the judgment of most, would not be to gain advantage but throw it away. Who ever heard before of such men as these being "blessed"? Also men would judge this, on the other hand, because of what His disciples are taught here that they must expect from the world. As the Saviour most distinctly warns them here, they must expect its resentment. They must expect to be reviled and ill-treated and persecuted. So it had always been in the past with men of this stamp. So it would be even worse in the future. How then were such men to be blessed? Men thus doubly cursed in the judgment of men? Men missing thus all that is good? Men incurring thus all that is bad? It is a most serious question; but it is not evaded by Jesus. Those who would be His disciples must face it in full! Must face it in full from the very beginning!

III. A complete re-assurance.—The Saviour conveys this to His disciples in two different ways. He does so, first, by a reference to the nature of their hopes. The losses He has warned them of are all such as to bring about in the end a far larger proportion of gain in the exactly opposite direction. The "poor in spirit" are to be "kings." Those who "mourn" for sin to be "comforted" doubly (see Isa ). Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness to be filled indeed (Isa 55:1-3; Joh 6:35, etc.). Those who as "meek" seem to have no portion on earth, to "inherit" it all. And all those, in a word, who for Christ's sake thus lose something for a time in this world to gain infinitely more in consequence, and that for ever, partly in this world, and still more in the next (cf. Rom 8:17-18; 2Co 4:17; Luk 18:29-30; 1Ti 4:8, etc.). The Saviour re-assures His disciples, next, by a reference to the nature of their calling. To be thus "persecuted" is to belong to all the "sons of God" in the past (Mat 5:12). To be thus "peacemakers" is to be acknowledged as such (Mat 5:9). More than that, to be as these are, is to be like God Himself is in the world; to preserve it, as "salt" does (Mat 5:13); to instruct it, as "light" does (Mat 5:14-15); to convert it, in short, and so to teach it to glorify God in its turn (Mat 5:16). Nothing is better than this! Nothing is to be more dreaded than to fail in this—to "lose" this "savour"—to "quench" this "light." Of all blessings there is none surpassing this of thus "glorifying" God before men. Happy those of whom this shall be found true at the last (2Th 1:10). "Blessed" indeed—twice "blessed"—thrice "blessed" are such!

In all this, note—

1. The reliability of this teaching.—Evidently we have here the whole of the case. All the evil as well as all the good. There is no "reserve" here—no ex parte statement, no special pleading, no holding back. The worst is before us as well as the best. All the more precious therefore—all the surer—that best (cf. Joh ).

2. The depth of this teaching.—Distinguishing appearance from reality, embracing the future as well as the present, seeing the "light" that is "sown for the righteous" even in the darkness which now conceals it (cf. Gen ; Psa 97:11).

3. The sum of this teaching.—"Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever."

HOMILIES ON THE VERSES

Mat . The Sermon on the Mount.—

I. The Preacher.—Jesus Christ. The best of preachers.

1. An intelligent preacher.—He had the Spirit without measure (Joh ), and knew how to speak a word in due season—when to humble, when to comfort.

2. A powerful preacher.—He could set men's sins before them and show them their very hearts (Joh ) That is the best glass, not which is most richly set with pearl, but which shows the truest face. Christ was a preacher to the conscience. What is said of Luther is more truly applicable to Christ, He spake as if He had been within a man.

3. A successful preacher (Joh ; Joh 12:42).

4. A lawful preacher.—As He had His unction from His Father, so His mission (Joh ).

II. The pulpit where Christ preached. A mountain. The law was first given on the mount; and here Christ expounds it on the mount.

III. The occasion of Christ's ascending the mount. "Seeing the multitudes." The people thronged to hear Christ, and He would not dismiss the congregation without a sermon. From whence observe, that Christ's ministers according to Christ's pattern must embrace every opportunity of doing good to souls.

IV. The sermon.—Christ doth not begin His Sermon on the Mount, as the law was delivered on the mount, with commands and threatenings, but with promises and blessings.—Thos. Watson.

Mat . The beatitudes tests.—They are like a dash of cold water on the fiery, impure enthusiasms which were eager for a kingdom of gross delights and vulgar conquest. And, no doubt, Jesus intended them to act like Gideon's tests, and to sift out those whose appetite for carnal good was uppermost.—A. Maclaren, D.D.

The beatitudes.—In one of Goethe's tales he tells of a wonderful silver lamp, which, when placed in a fisherman's hut, changed the hut and all within it to silver. The object of Christ's beatitudes, when admitted to a human heart, is to change it into moral beauty, transforming its selfishness, hardness, cruelty, and inhumanity to love, gentleness, kindness, sweetness, ministry. These words of Christ are really transcripts of heaven's laws. These are the qualities that belong to heavenly inhabitants. All life there is lowly, meek, merciful, hungry for more of God, pure-hearted.—Christian World Pulpit.

Mat . The poor in spirit.—The Sermon on the Mount sums up the Saviour's teaching, the beatitudes sum up the Sermon. Here we have evidently the keynote of the whole series. All the classes successively named might be included in the description "poor in spirit." So that, if the beatitudes sum up the Sermon, this first beatitude presents us with the sum and essence of the rest.

I. Those blessed.—"The poor in spirit." The strangest of all paradoxes! If the benediction stopped at the word "poor," and meant only the indigent, it would have been more intelligible. For we see the perils of wealth. We can discern in the roughness of earthly discomfort an influence waking better longings and raising looks for help from heaven. But poverty in the soul is a kind of indigence which seems to have no redeeming feature, and all wise men shrink from it. Christ speaks from the consciousness of bringing infinite wealth within reach of the souls of men, and, from His point of view, those were most blessed who had most room within them for the heavenly wealth He brought. As what is glorious has no glory in the presence of a glory that excelleth, so what is rich has no preciousness if it prevents our gaining something richer still. This is most solemn as well as most comforting. For it warns us in our contentment as much as it cheers us in our despair.

II. Their blessing.—"The kingdom of heaven." Every blessing of relationship and grace. Christ's demand is only need. Grace, like air, fills every vacuum of the heart.—Richard Glover.

The poor in spirit.—All poverty is not blessed.

I. I shall use a four-fold distinction.

1. I distinguish between poor in estate and poor in spirit.

2. Between spiritually poor and poor in spirit.—He who is without grace is spiritually poor, but he is not poor in spirit (Rev ).

3. Between poor-spirited and poor in spirit.—They are said to be poor-spirited who have mean, base spirits.

4. Between poor in an evangelical sense and in a Romish sense.—By poor in spirit the Papists understand those who, renouncing their estates, vow a voluntary poverty, living retiredly in their monasteries. By the poor in spirit we are to understand those who are brought to the sense of their sins, and, seeing no goodness in themselves, despair in themselves and sue wholly to the mercy of God in Christ.

II. I shall propound several questions.

1. Why doth Christ here begin with poverty of spirit?—To show that poverty of spirit is the very basis and foundation of all the other graces that follow. When the heart becomes a valley, and lies low by poverty of spirit, then the springs of holy mourning run there. A man must first be sensible of want before he can hunger and thirst after righteousness.

2. What is the difference between poverty of spirit and humility?—They differ as cause and effect. He that is sensible of his own vacuity and indigence, with the violet hangs down his head in humility.

3. What is the difference between poverty of spirit and self-denial?—In some things they agree, in some things they differ. The self-denier parts with the world for Christ, the poor in spirit parts with himself for Christ, i.e. his own righteousness.

III. I shall establish a doctrine, that Christians must be poor in spirit.—

1. Till we are poor in spirit we are not capable of receiving grace.

2. Till we are poor in spirit Christ is never precious.

3. Till we are poor in spirit we cannot go to heaven. The great cable cannot go through the eye of the needle; but let it be untwisted and made into small threads, and then it may. Poverty of spirit untwists the great cable, and now an entrance shall be made unto him richly into the everlasting kingdom. How shall I know that I am poor in spirit? He that is poor in spirit

(1) is weaned from himself;

(2) is a Christ admirer;

(3) is ever complaining of his spiritual estate;

(4) is lowly in heart;

(5) is much in prayer. A poor man is ever begging;

(6) is content to take Christ upon His own terms;

(7) is an exalter of free grace.—Thos. Watson.

Mat . The good news.—

I. The first words of the Lord on this occasion were "Blessed are the poor in spirit," etc. The man who does not house self has room to be his real self—God's eternal idea of him. How should there be in him one thought of ruling or commanding or surpassing! He can imagine no bliss, no good in being greater than someone else. He is unable to wish himself other than he is, except more what God made him for, which is indeed the highest willing of the will of God. His brother's well-being is essential to his bliss. The thought of standing higher in the favour of God than his brother would make him miserable. He would lift every brother to the embrace of the Father. Blessed are the poor in spirit; for they are of the same spirit as God.

II. The kingdom of heaven is theirs.—G. Macdonald, LL.D.

Mat . The heirs of the kingdom.—Long ago the philosophers warned unheeding crowds that the secret of happiness consists in what a man is rather than in what he has. Cicero has left in many an eloquent page the lesson that he who would taste bliss must cultivate virtue. Seneca, the tutor of Nero, wrote the memorable sentence, "The happy man is he to whom nothing is good and nothing evil but a good and a bad disposition, who finds true pleasure in the contempt of pleasures, to whom virtue is the only good and vice the only evil." But neither Cicero nor Seneca could instruct men how to change the bad disposition into the good. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ solves the problem by the master-key of human faith laying hold upon divine love. Yet, as if to warn us that apart from Him real happiness has no existence, see how Christ's conceptions of blessedness clash with the common maxims of the world.

I. The objects of this beatitude.—

1. The abrupter form in which Luke quotes the beatitude—"Blessed are ye poor"—is proof that our Saviour had in view, first of all, those who are literally poor. Did He then mean that poverty, as such—the poverty which abridges pleasures, hinders usefulness, limits generosity, multiplies cares, and exposes to temptation—is in reality a blessed state? Poor men will find it difficult to believe this, and when they remember that poverty is threatened as a divine judgment upon idleness and upon ill-chosen society, their hesitation will seem justified. Yet the condition of the poor man is, perhaps, more blessed than that of his wealthy neighbour. This view seems to be gradually developed as we advance through the Bible. In the writings of Moses poverty is regarded as constituting a claim to pity; but that conception is greatly modified in the prophets. And when we reach the Incarnation we find the Son of God selecting the condition of a poor man as that in which He, at least, could most effectively do His appointed work. The pious are not always poor, however; nor are the poor always pious.

2. While, therefore, there is reason for affirming that poverty is not without its recompense of blessing, it is obvious that some additional factor or factors remain to be considered; and here the remembrance that these beatitudes contemplate character rather than condition, directs us to Matthew's version, "Blessed are the poor in spirit.

II. The reward of the poor in spirit.—"Theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

1. In relation to gospel blessings the statement is historically true. Not only did Jesus turn from the rulers of Israel to the poor populace, but also He pointed to this very fact as evidence that He was the promised King of Righteousness (ch. Mat ).

2. Much more, we perceive a Divine blessing upon the poor in spirit (Isa ).

III. Why the poor in spirit are rewarded.—

1. Surely that we may cease from a desire to lay up treasures upon earth.

2. Surely, also, that we may learn to mortify our members which are upon the earth, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.

3. Surely, again, that we may have faith in Divine providence, confidence in Divine bounty, and contentment with Divine arrangements—the very graces which poverty exercises.

4. If any wonder that the poor in spirit should be heirs of the kingdom of heaven, let them remember that God loves humility, and that they whose self-abasement is most profound, are but imitators at a long distance of the Son of God.—W. J. Woods, B.A.

Christ and "the survival of the fittest."—As we look back over the measureless ages, beyond the beginning of human history, beyond the first mute period of primitive man, beyond the beginning even of animal life, to the first appearance of the first blade of vegetation upon the earth, or further even still—when we look back over this to us practically infinite series, we see one broad stream of tendency continually asserting itself. There is a struggle for existence; the weakest perishes, the strongest and fittest survives. So comprehensive is this law that it seems a pardonable exaggeration to suppose that no other law existed beside it; so fixed and rooted that it extends not only to man, but to animals; not only to animals, but to vegetation, if it stops even there. We see this one constant inevitable law—so broad in its grasp upon space, so immense in its reach over time—and then we see a figure as of a simple Galilean peasant, surrounded by a number of peasants and fishermen like Himself. He opens His mouth to speak to them; and His first utterance is, as it were, to fling down defiance to this seemingly omnipotent principle, to meet it with a flat contradiction, to revoke its decision, and to pronounce a solemn blessing on the one character of all others that it had not pronounced blessed: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Surely there is a Divine audacity here!—W. Sanday, D.D.

Poverty of spirit.—Dean Plumptre, in his delicious Life of Bishop Ken, writes that he rejoiced to find that text woven into his linen and engraved on his plate:—"Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not."

Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.—The poor in spirit, vacant of self, waiting for God, conscious of a poverty that only the Divine indwelling can change into wealth, feeling, like the wondrous beggar in Martensen's Meister Eckhart, that they "would sooner be in hell and have God, than in heaven and not have Him," are already citizens; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.—A. M. Fairbairn, D.D.

Mat . Mourning.—

I. An assertion.—That mourners are blessed persons. There is a twofold mourning which is far from making one blessed.

1. A carnal mourning, when we lament outward losses.

2. A diabolical mourning.

(1) When a man mourns that he cannot satisfy his impure lust (2Sa ; 1Ki 21:4),

(2) When men are sorry for the good which they have done (Exo ). There are two objects of spiritual mourning:

1. Sin.—

(1) Our own sin. Its guilt. Its pollution. There is a five-fold mourning which is false and spurious: (a) A despairing kind of mourning, like that of Judas. (b) A hypocritical mourning, (c) A forced mourning, when tears are pumped out by God's judgments. (d) An extrinsical mourning (Mat ). (e) A vain, fruitless mourning. What is the right gospel mourning? (a) It is spontaneous and free. (b) Mourning for sin rather than suffering, (c) It sends the soul to God. (d) Mourning for sin in particular, (e) Gospel tears must drop from the eye of faith. (f) Gospel mourning is joined with self-loathing. (g) Must be purifying. We must so weep for sin as to weep out sin. (h) Must be joined with hatred of sin. (i) In some cases is joined with restitution. (k) Must be a speedy mourning. (l) Constant.

(2) The sin of others.

2. Misery.—Including the afflictions of the church. Special seasons of mourning.

(1) When there are tokens of God's wrath breaking forth in the nation.

(2) Before performing the solemn duties of God's worship, as fasting or receiving the Lord's Supper.

(3) After scandalous relapses.

II. A Reason.—"They shall be comforted." Observe:

1. Mourning goes before comfort, as the lancing of a wound precedes the cure.

2. God keeps His best wine till last.

3. Gospel tears are not lost; they are seeds of comfort. Reason why the mourner shall be comforted. Because the mourning has this as its end and the mourner is the fittest person for comfort. The comforts two-fold:—

1. Comforts here.—The Spirit comforts mediately, by the promises; or immediately, by a more direct act presenting God to the soul as reconciled. These comforts are

(1) real,

(2) sanctifying,

(3) humbling,

(4) unmixed,

(5) sweet,

(6) satisfying,

(7) glorious, (1Pe ),

(8) infinitely transporting and ravishing,

(9) powerful (Heb ),

(10) heart-quieting,

(11) abiding (Joh ). God's mourners sometimes want comfort,

(1) through mistake; they go to their tears when they should go to Christ's blood; or they slacken the strings of duty;

(2) through discontent and peevishness;

(3) through not applying the promises;

(4) through too much earthly-mindedness;

(5) through falling asleep in security.

2. Comforts hereafter.—The greatness of these celestial comforts is most fitly in Scripture expressed by the joy of a feast (Rev ).—Thomas Watson.

The mourners blessed.—

I. What is meant by them that mourn.—In general, I take it to be something that guards us against that frolicsome, jovial, carnal mirth, of which the people expected a large share in the kingdom of the Messiah. And with this view it will take in several very considerable Christian virtues, as to which their wrong notions of Christ's kingdom gave their minds a very bad disposition and temper. I shall name the chief of them.

1. Sobriety and temperance.—He who is endowed with these virtues is prepared for the hardest fare and the meanest entertainment he can meet with in this world. As luxury effeminates a soldier and unfits him for the laborious part of his office, so it is in the spiritual warfare; pleasure effeminates a soldier of Christ, whereas a steady preparation of mind for bearing the cross, hardens and confirms him in his duty.

2. Contrition and penitence, by which I understand not any transient act of sorrow, but such a deep repentance as leaves lasting impressions and makes us put on the habit of mourners. There are many things contribute towards the begetting and keeping up of this serious penitent temper.

(1) The consideration of past sins.

(2) A sense of unmortified corruptions.

(3) Imperfect graces.

(4) The sins of others.

(5) A sense of God's judgments, either threatened or impending, or executed.

3. A distaste of the world and a longing for heaven.

II. Consider how blessed they are from the comforts they shall reap both here and hereafter.—This mourning or penitential sorrow is like ground well prepared, ready manured and watered, fit to receive the seeds and to bring forth the fruits of all Christian virtues, which bring in a rich harvest of comfort and felicity. If the fruits of this temper are so great in this life, what will they be in heaven?

III. Draw some inferences from the doctrine of this beatitude.—

1. The folly of those who place their happiness in an affluence of everything that may gratify their luxury.

2. That we should endeavour to be always deeply affected with a godly sorrow in regard of our past sins and follies, and a holy fear of falling into the like again.

3. The sweetness and easiness of Christ's yoke, the hardest of whose service (i.e. repentance) is attended with so much inward peace and satisfaction.—James Blair, M.A.

Mourners comforted.—

I. The mourning which is here specified.

1. Negatively.—

(1) It is not the mourning of a melancholy disposition, that continually murmurs, whines, and rebels.

(2) It is not a sorrow that springs from afflictions, disappointments, bereavements, destitution, adversity, etc.

(3) It is not a mourning in view merely of the consequences of sin.

(4) It is not therefore an affected penitence. "I am the chief of sinners," said the cardinal to the confessor. "It is true," said the monk. "I have been guilty of every kind of sin," sighed the cardinal. "It is a solemn fact, my son," said the monk. "I have indulged in pride, ambition, malice, and revenge," pursued his Eminence. The confessor assented without one word of pity or doubt. "Why, you fool!" at last said the exasperated cardinal, "you don't imagine I mean all this to the letter?" "Ho! ho!" said the monk, "so you have been a liar too, have you?" Many profess to be under deep conviction, and cry aloud that they are sinners, but when it comes to the point, will not own that they have broken one of the commandments.

2. Affirmatively.—

(1) It is a sorrow for sin. "Real repentance consists in the heart being broken for sin and from sin." The old divines used to describe it as consisting of attrition and contrition. Attrition is when a rock is broken by the springing of a mine. Contrition is when an iceberg floating southward is gradually melted by the warmth of the Gulf Stream and the sun. The first comes by the law, which reveals to us our sin; the second comes by the gospel, which discloses to us the loving mercy of God.

(2) It is sorrow on account of the sins we see around us (Jer ),—the sins of the world; inconsistency of the church.

(3) It is a sympathising sorrow for others' afflictions and distresses.

II. The comfort which is here promised.—Self-love, pride, and covetousness have their tears, but God wipes away only those of humility and repentance. "Out of the saltest waters God can brew the sweetest liquor." "The bee gathers the best honey from the bitterest herbs." "The darkest hour is nearest the dawn."

1. The Saviour's promise is already realised in this life.—God is to them "the God of consolation" (Rom ). "When God comforts," says Chrysostom, "then, though sorrows come upon thee by thousands, like snowflakes, thou wilt surmount them all."

2. The Saviour's promise is destined to have its complete fulfilment in the life to come.—"Holy mourning," says St. Basil, "is the seed out of which the flower of eternal joy doth grow."—J. Harries.

Sorrow the pledge of joy.—

I. Grief, sorrow, pain of heart, mourning is no partition-wall between man and God.—The Lord congratulates them that mourn. There is no evil in sorrow. True, it is not an essential good, a good in itself, like love; but it will mingle with any good thing, and is even so allied to good that it will open the door of the heart for any good. The gladsome child runs farther a field; the wounded child turns to go home. The weeper sits down close to the gate; the Lord of life draws nigh to him from within. God loves not sorrow, yet rejoices to see a man sorrowful, for in his sorrow man leaves his heavenward door on the latch, and God can enter to help him. So good a medicine is sorrow, so powerful to slay the moths that infest and devour the human heart, that the Lord is glad to see a man weep. Grief is an ill-favoured thing, but she is Love's own child, and her mother loves her.

II. The promise to them that mourn.—Is not the kingdom of heaven, but that their mourning shall be ended, that they shall be comforted. To mourn is not to fight with evil; it is only to miss that which is good. It is not an essential heavenward condition, like poorness of spirit or meekness. Mourning is a canker-bitten blossom on the rose-tree of love. Is there any mourning worthy the name that has not love for its root? Men mourn because they love. The Greek word here used means those that mourn for the dead. It is not in the New Testament employed exclusively in this sense, neither do I imagine it stands here for such only; there are griefs than death sorer far, and harder far to comfort—harder even for God Himself, with whom all things are possible; but it may give pleasure to know that the promise of comfort to those that mourn may specially apply to those that mourn because their loved have gone out of their sight, and beyond the reach of their cry.—Geo. Macdonald, LL.D.

Mat . The blessedness of the meek.

I. Describe the virtue here recommended.—

1. The first and chief ingredient in this meekness is an inward calmness and tranquillity of mind.

2. This shows itself in an outward, affable, courteous, kind, and friendly behaviour to men.

3. The meek man is slow to anger.

4. He is prudent and moderate in his passion, tempering it with a spirit of calmness and moderation.

5. He lets go his anger as soon as he can in reason, at least he suffers it not to settle into a fixed hatred or lasting resentment, but is ready to embrace all overtures of reconciliation.

6. Meekness is always joined with humility, resignation, contentment, cheerfulness, courtesy, gratitude, moderation, peaceableness, kindness, patience, forgiveness of injuries, charity, and all other social and good-natured virtues. With most of these it is so connected in the Scriptures that I do not know whether they ought not to enter into the definition of it.

II. Consider the blessing annexed to the meek.—The words are a quotation from Psa , where, no doubt, David understood it of this earth of ours, or of the land of Canaan. It is not promised that the meek shall have great affluence (see Luk 12:15). If we look into that part of the psalm from whence this quotation is brought, these three—protection, a competency, and contentment—appear plainly to have been signified by the promise (Psa 37:9-11). The like temporal promises we have in the New Testament (1Ti 4:8; Mat 6:33). It may seem strange that, supposing this to be true of good men in general, such a promise should be here annexed to the virtue of meekness, a virtue which of all others seems to expose a man the most to oppression and injuries of all sorts. But consider:

1. That our blessed Lord might choose to instance the meek for this very reason, because he is more exposed to injuries, and seemingly more naked and defenceless than others (see Psa ). I take this promise in my text to be a particular declaration that God will take the humble, meek man under His protection, and that the less he goes about either to hurt others, or to avenge himself, God will so much the more defend him.

2. Though the meek man, if we consider him as standing alone, seems to be very much overmatched by the proud and fierce oppressor; yet if we will consider him as he is commonly fenced and guarded with the countenance and protection of laws and government, and with the friendship and love of his neighbours, and the general good opinion of all men, we shall find the meek man is not so much overmatched as at first sight he would seem to be.

(1) He is so peaceable and good-conditioned, that he seldom has any quarrels or controversies with his neighbours.

(2) He is so good a subject, and so obedient to government, that he will live quietly and peaceably under it if he can; and therefore he is in less danger than other men of being engaged in factions, rebellions, and insurrections, which destroy men's estates and peace.

(3) He is more like to have the great blessing of peace at home in his own family than other angry and ill-conditioned men; and this makes husbands and wives, children and servants, love their homes, and mind their business with pleasure and delight.

(4) He has commonly many friends, and but few enemies; and his friends are generally of the best, and his enemies of the worst sort of men.

(5) Being in his temper well disposed to be a good subject, he has generally the protection of laws, and favour of government.

(6) If such a man, who has been kind and good to all, should happen to meet with crosses and losses in the world, he will be sure to find more pity, countenance, and relief, in his adversity, than other men, who never were good themselves, nor good to their neighbours in their prosperity.

(7) Whatever portion the meek man has of the good things of this life, be it great or small, he enjoys it with a quiet, contented mind, and God's blessing (1Ti ).—Jas. Blair, M.A.

The meek.—In some arrangements of the Sermon on the Mount this is the second beatitude, and that order has been preferred by such expositors as Augustine and the late Archbishop Trench. Poverty of spirit, which is humility toward God, is held to pair with meekness, which is humility toward man, and the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven in the one saying is regarded as matching the inheritance of the earth in the other. If, however, we view the first three beatitudes as a group explaining the sequences of early Christian experience, the usual order must be preferred; for, so understood, "they form," as Dr. Dykes finely says, "the trilogy of gospel humiliation—the descending steps—low, lower, lowest—by which the soul is converted." When the light of God's Spirit shining within a man's conscience convicts him of sin, the first effect is to show him how bankrupt he is of all goodness; in the light of that discovery he becomes "poor in spirit." Next, he is made to perceive how the same sin which has stripped and left him naked has been a grievous wrong done to his Father in heaven; in the shame of this perception he becomes "a mourner." Next, the sense of his unworthiness forbids him to walk haughtily amongst his fellow-men; in cleansing fire his vanity is consumed, and "out of the ashes of self-love and on the grave of pride" springs forth the fair sweet flower of meekness—a grace the poets have forgot to praise, a virtue the world little understands, but a disposition which conquers and will conquer all the earth!

I. The disposition.—"Blessed are the meek."

1. Meekness is not weakness.—Mr. William Cullen Bryant, describing the languor of October light, writes, in a charming poem—

Suns grow meek and the meek suns grow brief.

He evidently means that suns grow weak and the weak suns grow brief, and that confusion of mightiness with weakness is much too common.

2. The elements of a meek disposition are entire submission to God, courtesy to men, forbearance to evil-doers, and loyalty to principle.

II. The special blessing which rewards this disposition.—"They shall inherit the earth."

1. This promises a future possession of the earth.—By many the sentence is regarded as a quotation from Psa , where David is speaking of the land of Canaan—an acknowledged type of heaven. So understood, the promise means that the meek will be rewarded in the world to come.

2. It promises also a present possession of the earth.—Godliness has the promise of the life that now is (Mar ). Of all men upon earth the meek have the best capacity for enjoying its blessings. Violence and ill-temper, impatience and unkindness, may snatch the sceptre for a season; but no gains of that kind carry with them ability to enjoy God's earth.—W. J. Woods, B.A.

The unappreciated beatitude.—The meek are few; so few that we hardly understand the meaning of the name. It has come to suggest feebleness of spirit, the passive character that accepts instead of conquering fate, the apologetic existence, grateful for sufferance and void of high ambitions. As to the old Greeks, so to the modern Christian, lowliness of mind is apt to wear the aspect of infirmity. Our heathen forefathers on this island, according to the Roman historian, found a reason for insurrection in the argument that "men got nothing by meekness, but an increase of their burdens." And that old heathen strain seems in our blood still. It is not difficult to understand this imperfect appreciation. The days of outward persecution are ended, and with them the great stage for the display of heroic meekness. Yet, we never can get into any circumstances where any Christian grace is a superfluity.

I. Those blessed.—The meekness here blessed of Christ is:

1. The lowliness of the spiritual.

2. Patience under injury.

3. The meekness of the benefactor (1Co ).

II. Their blessing.—"They shall inherit the earth." If Jesus had said "heaven" His word would have sounded less strange. For in their action there is much that betokens meetness for the inheritance of the saints. But when He says "they shall inherit the earth," His word surprises us. For they seem quite unfitted to gain or keep any earthly heritage. They will not condescend to take part in the strife; they sacrifice their rights; permit themselves to be ill-used; seem to be at everybody's mercy, and bound "to go to the wall." Yet, in the fullest sense of the word, they do "inherit the earth."

1. More than all other classes they enjoy whatever God sends them.

2. They possess more of the earth than others.—Fighting is not a thing that pays. Sharp men cut their own fingers. The meek prosper because their calmness gives judgment, their content gives safety, their fairness attracts confidence. All men like to deal with men they can trust. Character helps, it does not hurt, business. Besides, God is on their side, whispering wisdom, blessing their going out and coming in; and God's favour tells, whatever men may think of it.

3. The meek are rewarded by a sovereignty that none else can reach.—They are calm advisers to whom men listen. "The man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth," and what an empire over the souls of men he has wielded in the last three thousand years. Within four centuries of the obscure birth of the church of Jesus, she is found wielding the powers of the Roman empire. Her meekness has been the church's might in far-off heathen lands and on our own shores as well. Wear thy crown of thorns and on a painless brow thou shalt wear many crowns.—Richard Glover.

Inheriting the earth.—

I. The meek are those that do not assert themselves, do not defend themselves, never dream of avenging themselves, or of returning aught but good for evil. They do not imagine it their business to take care of themselves. The meek man may, indeed, take much thought, but it will not be for himself. He never builds an exclusive wall, shuts any honest neighbour out. He will not always serve the wish, but always the good of his neighbour. His service must be true service. Self shall be no umpire in affair of his. His nature lies open to the Father of men, and to every good impulse is, as it were, empty.

II. In meekness only are we the inheritors of the earth.—

1. Meekness only makes the spiritual retina pure to receive God's things as they are, mingling with them neither imperfection nor impurity of its own.

2. To inherit the earth is to grow ever more alive to the presence in it and in all its parts, of Him who is the life of men.

3. Which is more the possessor of the world—he who has a thousand houses, or he who, without one house to call his own, has ten in which his knock at the door would rouse instant jubilation? Which is the richer, the man who, his large money spent, would have no refuge; or he for whose necessity a hundred would sacrifice comfort? Which of the two possessed the earth, King Agrippa or tent-maker Paul? Which is a real possessor of a book, the man who has its original and every following edition, and shows, to many an admiring and envying visitor, now this, now that, in binding characteristic, with possessor-pride; yea, from secret shrine is able to draw forth and display the author's manuscript, with the very shapes in which his thoughts came forth to the light of day, or the man who cherishes one little, hollow-backed, coverless, untitled, bethumbed copy, which he takes with him in his solitary walks and broods over in his silent chamber, always finding in it some beauty or excellence or aid he had not found before, which is to him in truth as a live companion?—Geo. Macdonald, LL.D.

True ownership.—How little is the man able to make his own who would ravish all! The man who, by the exclusion of others from the space he calls his, would grasp any portion of the earth as his own, befools himself in the attempt. The real owner of his demesne is that pedlar passing his gate, with a Divine soul receiving the sweetness which not all the greed of the so-counted possessor can keep within his walls; it overflows the cuplip of the coping, to give itself to the footfarer. The motions aerial, the sounds, the odours of those imprisoned spaces, are the earnest of a possession, for which is ever growing his power of possessing. In no wise will such inheritance interfere with the claim of the man who calls them his. Each possessor has them his, as much as each in his own way is capable of possessing them.—Geo. Macdonald, LL.D.

Mat . Hungering and thirsting after righteousness.—

I. Righteousness.—It is a very great word in Scripture, having two meanings.

1. It means conformity to God's law as opposed to sin, which is lawlessness.

2. But when we turn to the gospel we find that God justifies the ungodly who believe in Jesus. There is evidently a new view of righteousness.

II. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness.—This is a very strong expression. It is no uncommon thing to say, "Oh, I am so hungry, I am so thirsty"; how few of us know what the words really mean! This comparison of hungering and thirsting is a very severe touchstone or test of character. Now, suppose that we try to take to pieces this great idea of righteousness, what does it mean? In the ordinary details of daily life towards others, for example, it means, briefly, truthfulness, sincerity in speech and conduct, evenhanded justice, unbiassed by any thought of our self-interest; kindness, not only as a superfluous overflow of goodness, but as a part of justice, because God has made it our duty to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. "Love is the fulfilling of the law." It includes spotless honour, considerate thoughtfulness, courtesy, gentleness, the mind of Christ. What does it mean towards God? It means supreme, heartfelt love, unswerving, prompt obedience, absolute trust, unquestioning, invariable preference of His will, His service, His glory, to any desire or apparent interest of my own. And this does not exhaust the list, but taking it so far, no one can say that there is anything superfluous, anything exaggerated, in any of these details. Can we honestly say, "That is myself as I would be, as I would fain be, as I strive to be, and pray to be: that is myself as I ought to be: I long, nay, I hunger and thirst to be righteous as He is righteous?" Now, surely, it is not possible to have this noble ambition—what our Saviour here calls this hungering and thirsting—and this high idea of character and conduct, without having a true humbling sense of our own defects, our own want. Hunger and thirst are not only healthy appetites, which bring enjoyment and satisfaction when they are met, but they are torments, tortures, if they are not satisfied.

III. But in proportion to the keenness of the spiritual appetite is the joy of satisfaction.—None taste the joy of salvation like those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and, therefore, here comes the blessing. How are they to be filled? When are they to be filled? He who spoke this blessing and promise is alone able to answer and to fulfil. He who believes is already delivered from condemnation, and shall be delivered from the power of sin. He is already perfectly justified. He shall be perfectly sanctified.—E. R. Conder, D.D.

Soul hunger.—The universal connection between demand and supply. "Righteousness," a generic word for all spiritual blessings. To crave intensely after these is blessed. Because—

I. The supply begins as soon as the demand.

II. The supply continues as long as the demand.

III. The supply is in proportion to the demand.

IV. The supply is of the same nature as the demand.

V. The supply satisfies, never satiates.—The more we receive, the more we crave. Blessed hunger! Blessed thirst!—J. S. Swan.

Hunger after righteousness.—The Saviour employs "righteousness" in its old Bible sense, as meaning all that is beautiful in loving-kindness, all that is stately in holiness, all that is gracious in honour.

I. Those blessed.—The perfecting of our character is the supreme good. It is the state of our soul, not of our circumstances, that chiefly determines our bliss. This righteousness is our only safety.

II. Their blessing.—"Filled." This is the strangest part of this strange greeting; for it promises satisfaction in a matter in which satisfaction seems impossible. Consider what hungerers after righteousness really find which fills and satisfies them.

1.They find a grace of God, assisting repentance, consecration, and every duty.

2. In the pursuit of righteousness, the soul can realise a larger growth than in any other direction.

3. What grace begins and growth develops, heaven will perfect.—Richard Glover.

Moral hunger.—Man is the centre of longings; the animal part for food, the intellectual part for knowledge and truth, the moral part for God and righteousness. As the primeval law of gravitation pierces all depths, and makes all matter bound together by an unconscious relationship, tend to the centre, even so our moral nature is obedient to one law of motion, the centre of gravity—God.

I. Man's moral hunger.—The natural man may hunger for that which brings him gain, such as wealth, ease, and honour. The raven held a banquet amid the putrefactions of death. Raven-like, unregenerated man seeks to allay his appetites by feeding on the perishable and corrupt. But the Christian's hunger and his deepest and intensest want is righteousness.

1. This spiritual hunger is a sign of life.

2. This spiritual hunger is the condition of refreshment.

3. This spiritual hunger is wholesome. "After righteousness."

II. God's gracious supply.—The blessings bestowed by God are not given in doses or in small measures. God does not give His supplies merely once and afterwards let His saints want; His supply is boundless. But let us learn here:

1. That the supply continues only as the demand is made.

2. That the supply is in proportion to our desire.

3. God's supply is infinite, inexhaustible, and free for the asking.—J. Harries.

The blessing of the hungry.—

I. Righteousness is set forth not as something the lack of which will entail suffering and loss, but as a thing which can satisfy the cravings of the soul. Christ does not say, "Blessed are those who follow after or practice righteousness"; He is not simply proclaiming the happiness of virtuous conduct; He has done that elsewhere in other beatitudes: "Blessed are they which hear the Word of God, and keep it. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." It is a state of heart, an attitude of soul that He is blessing here—the mood of increasing aspiration after goodness. And He takes the most familiar of physical cravings to illustrate that desire. The peculiarity of the hunger and thirst which He blesses is that they must remain hunger and thirst always. He does not say, "Blessed are they who have hungered and thirsted," but "Blessed are they who are still hungering and thirsting." Is there any other craving on which our Lord has uttered His benediction? I know of none. Christianity gave precedence to the pursuit of righteousness over every other ambition and desire. More than this, it did not offer to man a mere vague sentimental shadow of excellence; it gave to the world an incarnation of it. It set before them no other standard than the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. The gospel has put its veto upon stationary religion. "The measure of our desire for good," says Archbishop Magee, "is the measure of our religious life." But, may we not also remind ourselves that this hunger and thirst is not a selfish thing; it cannot be that, or Christ could not have blessed it. The sure token that we have the love of it in our hearts is the burning desire to see it triumphant in the hearts of others.

II. The promised reward.—"They shall be filled." Christ cannot mean that the sacred craving shall be appeased in the sense that all aspirations shall come to an end, and the longing which is so blessed shall never be felt again. Satiety is not to be the outcome of man's holiest endeavours: the extinction of his craving for righteousness for himself and the world would be the worst calamity that could befall him. And yet, paradoxical as Christ's promise is, who can say that He does not fulfil it? Those who are foremost in the craving for good, find it most. The promise reaches beyond the present. Its true fulfilment belongs to the hereafter.—Canon Duckworth.

The reward of righteousness.—That men may be drawn to taste and see and understand, the Lord associates reward with righteousness. The Lord would have men love righteousness, but how are they to love it without being acquainted with it? How are they to go on loving it without a growing knowledge of it? To draw them toward it that they may begin to know it, and to encourage them when assailed by the disappointments that accompany endeavour, He tells them simply a truth concerning it—that in the doing of it there is great reward. Let no one start with dismay at the idea of a reward of righteousness, saying virtue is its own reward. Is not virtue, then, a reward? Is any other imaginable reward worth mentioning beside it? True, the man may, after this mode or that, mistake the reward promised; not the less must he have it, or perish. Who will count himself deceived by overfulfilment? Would a parent be deceiving his child in saying, "My boy, you will have a great reward if you learn Greek," foreseeing his son's delight in Homer and Plato—now but a valueless waste in his eyes? When his reward comes, will the youth feel aggrieved that it is Greek, and not bank notes?—Geo. Macdonald, LL.D.

Filled with righteousness.—To be filled with righteousness will be to forget even righteousness itself in the bliss of being righteous, that is, a child of God. The thought of righteousness will vanish in the fact of righteousness. When a creature is just what he is meant to be, what only he is fit to be; when, therefore, he is truly himself, he never thinks what he is. He is that thing; why think about it? It is no longer outside of him that he should contemplate or desire it.—Ibid.

Mat . Mercifulness.—These verses, like the stairs of Solomon's temple, cause our ascent to the Holy of holies. We are now mounting up a step higher. "Blessed are the merciful," etc.

I. The merciful man is a blessed man.—A curse hangs over the head of the unmerciful man (Psa ). But the blessings of the Almighty do crown and encompass the merciful man (2Sa 22:26; Psa 37:26; Psa 41:1).

1. What is meant by mercifulness?—It is a melting disposition, whereby we lay to heart the miseries of others, and are ready on all occasions to be instrumental for their good.

(1) Love and mercy differ somewhat. Love is like a friend that visits them that are well. Mercy is like a physician that visits only them that are sick.

(2) Mercy riseth higher than nature; it proceeds from a work of grace in the heart.

2. The several kinds of mercy.—Mercy is a fountain that runs in five streams.

(1) We must be merciful to the souls of others—(a) In pitying them. "If I weep," saith Austin, "for that body from which the soul is departed, how should I weep for that soul from which God is departed." (b) In advising and exhorting them. (c) In reproving refractory sinners. There is a cruel mercy, when we see men go on in sin, and we let them alone; and there is a merciful cruelty when we are sharp against men's sins, and will not let them go to hell quietly. (d) In praying for others.

(2).We must be merciful to the names of others. The ground of unmercifulness to names is: (a) Pride. It cannot endure to be out-shined. (b) Envy. Envy, consulting with the devil, lays a train and fetches fire from hell to blow up the good name of another. We may be unmerciful to the names of others (a) By misreporting them (Exo ). (b) By receiving and repeating a slander (Lev 19:16). (c) By diminishing from their just worth and dignity—making more of their infirmities and less of their virtues (Jas 4:11). Unmerciful men know how to boil a quart to a pint. (d) By refraining from vindicating them when we know them to be calumniated. (e) By bearing false witness against them.

(3) We must be merciful to the estates of others. If a man be thy debtor, and Providence hath frowned upon him, that he hath not wherewithal to pay, do not crush him when he is sinking.

(4) We must be merciful to the offences of others (Pro ; Act 7:60). Bishop Cranmer was of a merciful disposition; if any who had wronged him came to desire a courtesy of him he would do all that lay in his power for him, insomuch that it grew to a proverb, Do Cranmer an injury, and he will be your friend as long as he lives.

(5) We must be merciful to the wants of others. This the text chiefly intends. There should be (a) A judicious consideration (Psa ). Consider: (i.) That it might have been your own case, (ii.) How sad a condition poverty is. (iii.) That the wise God has suffered an inequality in the world because He would have mercy exercised. (iv.) How quickly the balance of poverty may turn (Rth 1:21.) (b) A tender commiseration (Isa 58:10; Mat 15:32). (c) A liberal contribution (Deu 15:8; Jas 2:15-16).

II. The merciful man shall be rewarded.

1. In this life.—He shall be blessed

(1) In his person (Psa ).

(2) In his name (Psa ).

(3) In his estate (Pro ).

(4) In his posterity (Psa ).

(5) In his negotiations (Deu ).

(6) With long life (Psa ).

2. In the life to come.—Remember, whatever alms you distribute

(1) You shall have good security (Pro ; Ecc 11:1; Luk 6:38).

(2) You shall be paid with overplus. The interest comes to infinitely more than the principal.—Thomas Watson.

The merciful.—

I. The source of Christian mercy.

1. Christian mercy must be carefully distinguished from natural tenderness of heart.—We should justly deem ourselves almost inhuman if the spectacle of distress were not grievous.

2. Christian mercy is that state of heart which is created by experience of the mercy of God.—Now the mercy of God differs from mere tenderness in two respects; unlike natural sensibility, which is an unreasoning impulse, it is actuated by principle; and unlike leniency, which is often vicious, it is always just.

II. The operation of Christian mercy.—

1. Negatively, Christian mercy implies a forgiving disposition.

2. In its positive manifestions Christian mercy operates in a wide field.—

(1) "A merciful man is merciful to his beast."

(2) Yet kindness to animals is the merest beginning of Christian mercy. To man much more than beasts its kindness extends.

III. The reward of Christian mercy.—

1. A merciful man has the joy of dispensing blessing. He dwells among his neighbours like God's sunlight.

2. A merciful man has his supreme reward in receiving blessing. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." They shall obtain mercy from men because they have spent themselves for others. Moreover, God blesses the merciful man.

3. In acquiring a habit of mercifulness a man gains likeness to the Holiest!—W. J. Woods, B.A.

The merciful.—The first flower that grows on the tree of a righteous life is the grace of mercy.

I. A Godlike quality.—The word mercy among the Jews signified two things, the pardon of injuries and almsgiving. The word in Latin is very expressive, misericordia, composed of two words miseria, misery, and cor, heart; meaning a heart touched and pained at the misery of another, a tender heart. There is implied, therefore:

1. An object in distress.—Distress arising from a suffering body, an anxious mind, and a guilty conscience.

2. A disposition of the heart.—The merciful enter into the miseries of their fellow-creatures.

3. A practical purpose.—It is not a mere sentimental tenderness; it is not a mere pity over the world in misery, nor merely a lively emotion at distress: but it is a practical love which energises the faculties, stirs every limb, and grasps every opportunity to serve humanity.

4. A universal duty.—"Merciful," not to any nation, party, sect, or church, but to all, irrespective of creed or colour.

II. A reciprocal reward.—Mercy is not purchased at the price of mercy. That is, we cannot plead the exercise of mercy to others as giving us any claim upon so undeserved a blessing, but we remove out of the way an insuperable barrier to the obtaining of God's mercy by being merciful.—J. Harries.

The merciful obtaining mercy.—Mercy cannot get in when mercy goes not out. The outgoing makes way for the incoming. God takes the part of humanity against the man. The man must treat men as he would have God treat him (Mat ; Mat 25:40). But the demand for mercy is far from being for the sake only of the man who needs his neighbour's mercy; it is greatly more for the sake of the man who must show the mercy. It is a small thing to a man whether or not his neighbour be merciful to him; it is life or death to him whether or not he be merciful to his neighbour. The greatest mercy that can be shown to man is to make him merciful; therefore, if he will not be merciful, the mercy of God must compel him thereto. The reward of the merciful is that by their mercy they are rendered capable of receiving the mercy of God—yea, God Himself, who is Mercy.—Geo. Macdonald, LL.D.

Mat . Heart purity.—

I. Heart purity.

1. Its nature.—It is a sacred, refined thing, standing diametrically opposite to whatsoever defileth. We must distinguish:

(1) There is a primitive purity, which is in God originally and essentially as light in the sun.

(2) A created purity. Thus holiness is in the angels and was once in Adam.

(3) An evangelical purity. A face may be said to be fair which hath some freckles in it. Where there is a study of purity, and a loathing ourselves for our impurity, this is to be pure in heart. Civility is not purity; nor is profession. Purity consists in, (a) rectitude of mind, a prizing holiness in the judgment, (b) conformity of will, an embracing of of holiness in the affections.

2. Its subject.—The heart. Purity of heart is the main thing in religion; there can be no purity of life without it.

3. Its reasons.—

(1) It is called for in Scripture (1Pe ).

(2) We are filthy and cursed before purity is wrought in us.

(3) None but the pure in heart are interested in the covenant of grace (Eze ).

(4) Purity is the end of our election (Eph ; Rom 8:29.)

(5) Purity is the end of our redemption (Tit ; 1Pe 1:18-19).

(6) If the heart be not pure we differ nothing from a pharisaical purity (Mat ).

(7) The heart is the chief seat of God's residence (Isa ).

(8) If the heart be holy all is holy.

4. Its signs.—

(1) A sincere heart is a pure heart.

(2) A pure heart breathes after purity.

(3) A pure heart abhors all sin.

(4) Avoids the appearance of evil.

(5) Performs holy duties in a holy manner.

(6) A pure heart will have a pure life. The clock hath not only its motion within, but the finger moves without upon the dial.

(7) A pure heart is so in love with purity that nothing can draw him off from it.

5. Its necessity.—It is necessary:

(1) In respect of ourselves. He who had the leprosy whatsoever he touched was unclean. A foul hand defiles the purest water; an impure heart defiles prayers, sacraments, etc.

(2) In respect of God. The holy God and the sinner cannot dwell together.

(3) In regard of the angels. What should unholy hearts do among those pure angelical spirits?

(4) In regard of the saints glorified.

(5) In regard of heaven.

6. Its means.—

(1) Often look into the Word of God (Joh ; Joh 17:17).

(2) Go to the bath (Zec ).

(3) Get faith (Act ).

(4) Breathe after the Spirit. "The Holy Spirit." Compared to fire, wind, water.

(5) Take heed of familiar converse and intercourse with the wicked.

(6) Walk with them that are pure.

(7) Wait at the posts of wisdom's doors. Reverence the Word preached.

(8) Pray for heart Purity.

II. The great incentive to heart purity.—"They shall see God."

1. In this life, i.e. spiritually, by the eye of faith (Heb ).

2. In the life to come. This will be the heaven of heaven; the diamond in the ring. This sight of God in glory is partly intellectual and partly corporeal, i.e.d. we shall with bodily eyes behold Jesus Christ, through whom the glory of God, His wisdom, holiness, mercy, shall shine forth to the soul. Put a back of steel to the glass, and you may see a face in it; so the human nature of Christ is, as it were, a back of steel, through which we may see the glory of God.—Thomas Watson.

Purity of heart.—Purity of heart stands in direct opposition to external affectations.

I. The quality extolled.—Purity. The word includes—

1. Absence of the corrupt.

2. The presence of the pure.

II. The seat of purity.—"In heart." The heart here is set forth as the centre of our spiritual being; that inward part of man which comprehends the mind and soul with all their faculties, affections, motives, inclinations, and purposes; "out of it are the issues of life." Hence, according to the nature and character of the fountain will be the character of the stream. The heart may be compared to a reservoir which supplies a large town with its hundreds of streets and thousands of houses. The water is conveyed by some thousands of pipes. If the water be pure in the reservoir it will be conveyed in its purity through the pipes to the inhabitants; but if turbid there, it will be impure at its destination. The heart is the reservoir from which life flows. The mouth, hands, feet, looks, actions, etc., are the pipes. If the heart is pure, purity will be manifested in life.

III. The great favour attendant on purity of heart.—"Shall see God." Your best and bosom friends are not always seen by the natural eye. You see them best in their kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. Learn here:

1. That purity is the only condition of true spiritual insight.

2. That purity is the only true condition of fellowship with God.

3. Purity of heart is the only way to true happiness and to heaven.—J. Harries.

The strength of purity.—

I. Blessed are the pure in heart.—By that limitation our Lord no doubt designed to exclude from His benediction those whose purity was the miserable purity of the scribes and Pharisees. But surely He meant also to distinguish the secret purity of the soul from the outward purity of act. There is impurity of act, there is impurity of speech; and if a man be guiltless of these he escapes the censure of the strictest moralist. Yet such innocence is not enough to satisfy the rule of Christ, whose words, according to His wont, penetrate to the hidden springs of character and conduct.

II. What is the meaning of the blessing promised to the pure in heart.—that they shall see God?—I do not take it to refer to any reward that shall be bestowed after death. It is true that those who attain to eternal life will dwell in the presence of God. They will see the invisible God, in a sense inscrutable to us, but plainly different from any sense in which a man can be said to see God now. But, so interpreted, the blessing would lose some of its peculiar appropriateness to the virtue to which it is attached; and such an interpretation will be incongruous with the other beatitudes. Let us ask, then, who are they who in this life see God? Now and then, sometimes in our reading, sometimes, thank God, in real life, we meet with men and women who are justly called saintly. Now, if you have any appreciation of the beauty of these rare natures, you cannot but recognise that such men may justly be said to see God, and to see Him, not now and then, but constantly. This is a metaphor, indeed, but a simple one. The beatific vision that comes to common men at rare intervals of spiritual exaltation is with these an abiding presence. There is only one perfect character, and the men I have tried to describe have, no doubt, faults, if you choose to look for them. But there is one sin which it is impossible to imagine in such a nature. We are certain that the imagination of such a man is never tainted by an impure thought. At the other extremity of the range of human character there are men whose lives are utterly godless. These men never see God. That such blindness is the result of sin is evident. But of what sin especially? I am not speaking at random when I declare the belief that no sin produces this state of mind so often as the sin of impurity—whether impurity of act and word, or the habit of sensual imagination. History abounds in proof of this, and especially the history of literature. By some mysterious law of our nature, impurity has a more universal effect on the soul than any other vice. It lowers the tone, it corrupts the whole tissue, of character. From this pollution arise the mists that obscure the Sun of Righteousness like a November fog.—C. A. Vince, M.A.

The vision of God.—In the middle ages, and sometimes since, men who desired earnestly to see the vision of God strove to attain it by asceticism—that is, by a sort of forced, mechanical purity. The mechanism, we believe, failed, for it was not appointed of God, but was a clumsy contrivance of men. Yet the attempt showed a recognition, however perverse, of the truth which Christ puts here so beautifully and simply. The same truth inspired the chivalrous legend of the Holy Grail. Many brave and worthy knights addressed themselves to the quest of the Sangreal, yearning to see the vision of the chalice that brimmed red with the very blood of God Incarnate, and to win the mysterious blessings which that vision brought. But to none was it given to accomplish the quest save to the pure in heart. The knight who could sing,

"My strength is as the strength of ten

Because my heart is pure"—

he it was who was sanctified and consoled by the mystic vision.—Ibid.

Purity of heart.—

I. Its nature.

1. A pure heart is one that is simple.—A substance is called pure when it is without admixture, when it is one thing, and not two or more. Pure gold is gold without alloy. Purity of heart means that single eye to the glory of God which aims, whether at home or abroad, to be well-pleasing unto Him, works heartily as unto the Lord and not unto men, and craves no other recognition than the promised recompense from the Lord's own hand.

2. A pure heart is one that is clean.—We call wine pure when it is without admixture, but water, when it is free from pollution; i.e.d. a thing may be pure in the sense of being unadulterated without being so in the sense of cleanness. In like manner a man's devotion to God may be quite simple in its aims yet be far from blameless. In truth, when we remind ourselves that heart purity must include cleanness as well as simplicity, we are brought to a very sorry view of human nature.

II. Its attainment.—

1. Is not possible to our own unaided strength.

2. Yet the Lord Jesus Christ can give a pure heart even to the chief of sinners.

III. Its blessedness.

1. They that are pure in heart attain a holy faculty.—In Oriental language the highest felicity of a subject was to see the king's face, and so in the court of heaven the blessedness of the pure in heart is to see God. That is a sight no impenitent man craves. Believer, you see God in all His works. You see God behind the various forms of suffering humanity, in every needy child that craves support and every piteous invalid that inspires compassion. You see God in your domestic relations, in the father keeping the household and the husband cherishing the wife. You see God in providential events. You see God in the means of grace. Above all, you see God in Jesus Christ, the revelation of the Father.

2. They that are pure in heart shall enjoy the beatific vision.—W. J. Woods, B.A.

Mat . The peacemakers.—

I. Those blessed.—If there is need of any grace in fullest exercise, it is of the grace of peacemaking. Peace is not a single advantage, one amongst many comforts, but it is the element in which all blessings thrive. There is no waste of energies like that which takes place in discord. There is nothing that wears men like strife. Nothing chills their hearts like it. There is no trouble like its suspense. It is the nurse of anger, unfairness, outrage, of pride, revenge, injustice. Much in each one of us tends to produce discord, and much tends to augment discord between others. But there are some too saintly, too self-forgetful, to do anything but deplore this waste, and labour to prevent its increase. Blessed are:—

1. Those who do all in their power to prevent peace being broken.—There are such, not perhaps endued with the weight of character necessary to compose a quarrel, but still full of the ardent affections that are very potent in preventing quarrels arising.

2. Those who compose the strifes which disturb their fellows.

3. The statesmen who seek to maintain peace between the nations of the earth.

4. Those who labour, and labour successfully, to make peace between man and God.

II. Their blessing.—They shall be specially owned by God, as full of His own life and Spirit; as the Divinest souls on earth; as thus likest to God in heart, in feeling. They are sons of God. There is no greater proof of our sonship to God than brotherhood to man. The true children of God are all marked on the brow, and the love that maketh peace is their divine stamp. The great God is ceaselessly playing the peacemaker. And peacemakers being children of God, the promise proves that they will be owned as such. There are strange endorsements that come to gracious lives even now. Their words carry strange weight, as if oracles of God. And yet there is something more than this. In "that day" the peacemakers, more than penitents, higher than servants, shall be owned as sons, with the richest, most endeared, and delightful of all welcomes, as sons of God, heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ, fittest of all souls for His highest heavenly work and service.—Richard Glover.

The peacemakers and their privilege.—

I. The description of the virtue itself.—As to the virtue of peacemaking, in it our Lord meets with another of the wrong dispositions of mind His hearers were prepossessed with concerning the kingdom of the Messiah; for they fancied it would be a fierce and warlike kingdom. In these words our Saviour acquaints them that it was men of quiet and peaceable principles and practices, and studious to advance the same among others, who were the fittest subjects of that heavenly kingdom. The whole duty of peacemaking is reduced to this—to consider and put in practice such methods of peacemaking as are lawful in themselves, and suited to that station which we hold in the world.

II. The meaning of being called the children of God.—

1. What is meant by being the children of God? In Scripture they are figuratively denominated the children of any person, who resemble that person in his qualities, good or bad; thus the children of Abraham are they who imitate the faith of Abraham; children of Belial are wicked men, who take after a wicked person. In this sense a child of God is one who imitates God (see Luk ). Another notion of it is they who are beloved of God (Luk 20:36).

2. What is it to be called the children of God? This may denote

(1) the honourable esteem such persons meet with among good men in this world;

(2) the favourable approbation of God himself, with the rewards of grace here, and glory hereafter.

III. How this virtue entitles us to such a promise.

1. This temper makes us resemble God.—Martial men we call the sons of Mars; voluptuous men the sons of Venus; learned men the sons of Apollo; so peaceable men the sons of God. One of the titles God takes to Himself is the God of Peace; Christ is called the Prince of Peace; and therefore peacemakers are the sons of this God. Again, as one great part of God's work is to reconcile us to Himself, so another part of it is to reconcile us to one another.

2. Peaceableness and peacemaking dispose us for the reception of those graces which are the peculiar characters of the children of God here, and for that eternal happiness which is prepared for them in heaven (see e.g. Psa ).

3. The inheritance due to God's children is promised to the peaceable (Psa ).—Among the things which exclude from the kingdom of heaven are hatred, variance, emulations, etc. (Gal 5:20).—Jas. Blair, M.A.

The peacemaker.—John Dickinson, Esq., of Birmingham, was often called, by way of distinction, "the peacemaker"; and such was his anxiety to keep the bonds of peace from being broken, such was his solicitude to heal the breach when made, that he would stoop to any act but that of meanness, make any sacrifice but that of principle, and endure any mode of treatment, not excepting even insult and reproach. From the high estimate in which his character was held, he was often called upon to act as umpire in cases of arbitration; and it was but rarely, if ever, that the equity of his decisions was impeached. On one occasion, two men were disputing in a public-house about the result of an arbitration, when a third said, "Had John Dickinson anything to do with it?" "Yes," was the reply. "Then all is right, I am sure;" and in this opinion the whole party concurred, and the disputation ceased.—Biblical Museum.

Mat . The persecuted.—The last crowns the series of the beatitudes. From poverty to crucifixion, the Saviour's life unfolded, exhibiting all the graces, activities, and experiences here commended. He expects that the new life which begins in the hearts of the disciples in poverty of spirit will grow till it reaches that vigour of holiness, mercy, and usefulness which finds a cross and has power to bear it.

I. Those blessed.—A little thought will show how constant must be the antagonism of the world to sanctity, for observe:—

1. Every saint of God is a "disturber of Israel."—He is an embodied conscience. His character is a law of God brought nigh to men. His purity reproves, his honour shames men. The gravity of his purpose and his aims seems to light up the solemnities of the unseen world.

2. Every saint of God offends the pride as well as disturbs the peace of men.—It is no small hatred that envious evil feels to goodness. "Away with Him," etc.

3. True saintliness will always be an aggressive thing. Where it is such its activities arouse enmity.—"I came not to send peace," etc. The Christian has to be the reformer in a world of vested interests. "This our craft is in danger." There is but little persecution experienced by the church of God to-day. Why? Partly, no doubt, because the Saviour's authority pervades society, and the evils which we oppose are feebler, more apologetic and less dominant than in other days. But has lukewarmness not something to do with our comfort?

4. There are those faithful ones who, in matters of philanthropy or social or civil good, plead for causes with which they deem the well-being of men is bound up, but for causes which are unpopular.

II. Their blessing.—

1. Theirs is the kingdom in actual blessed participation of its grace and comforts.—By their persecution all powers of the soul are strengthened, and faith makes sure of its ground. Solitude strengthens them to stand alone. Nothing compels men to prove all things so much as the contradiction of those around them. "Methinks they strew roses at my feet," said one James Bainam, as the faggots were lighted beneath him. As Argyle laid his head upon the block his physician found his pulse full and calm as in his usual health. The persecuted for righteousness have habitually reached a consolation, a strength, a rapture, which showed that theirs was in very deed the kingdom of heaven.

2. This bliss is enhanced by the blessed influence they exert: they rank with the prophets when they share their fate.—The glory of the prophets was their usefulness.

3. Great is their reward in heaven.—We are children of immortality, and the main question of our life is what that immortality is going to prove. For all goodness there is reward, but for the persecuted there is "great reward." Their large souls expand above, and for highest rulership and divinest joys find ample fitness within them.—Richard Glover.

Suffering for the truth's sake.—

I. We cannot be servants of the truth and of righteousness—in other words, we cannot be the servants of Jesus—without suffering.—This ending of the beatitudes looks like a paradox. How does it come to pass that men of broken heart, full of meekness and forbearance, can provoke the enmity of their fellows? There is an absolute contrariety between such as are poor in spirit and all that surround them. The world proceeds on directly opposite principles. Its delight is in haughty opulence and proud self-contentment, and here we have humility and self-renouncement. If a man is raised up who fully realises this holy ideal, a man who really shows what love is, by laying down his life for his brethren, a man answering in every respect to the first beatitudes, it will be impossible to reproach and persecute him enough. Such a Man appeared, and He called Himself "the Man of sorrows." The Son of man suffered, not only because of the sacred oracles which predicted His death, but also, and especially, because of the natural antipathy existing between the world and God, between darkness and light. You are witnesses for Christ; you must declare the divine message in season and out of season; and if, in doing this, you make men feel its urgent character, you are sure to meet, first with disdain, then with hatred, and lastly with persecution.

II. Suffering is a source of happiness.—"Happy are ye, when men," etc.

1. It is a happiness to suffer for a noble cause.

2. The fact that suffering for truth brings with it its own reward is also a reason for real joy, as it ensures the triumph of our cause.—It is a noble and powerful evidence in favour of truth that it is loved to such a degree. If the children of darkness cast you out in their rage, the children of light, who are seeking it with a sincere heart, come to you, attracted by the strength of your convictions.

3. "Your reward is great in heaven."—The cross leads to glory. "Our bonds," we read in the Acts of the Martyrs, "are the jewels of our holy betrothal to Christ, and our crown blooms on the thorns which lacerate our brows. When the winter is past, and the storm is over, the flowers will appear."

4. This triumph of truth in heaven is not enough. It must have its glorious revenge on the very theatre of its humiliations and conflicts.—The world must see how mistaken it was in rejecting it, and one day it will be forced to exclaim, "O Galilean, Thou has overcome!" The last word of history must belong to God, otherwise God would not be God.—E. De Pressensé, D.D.

Sufferers for righteousness.—

1. The eighth beatitude has a corrective function, guarding against misuse of the previous sayings. Thus Chrysostom remarks, "This follows the beatitude upon the peacemakers, lest we should imagine peace at any price to be a blessing," and we may add, it warns us not to allow our humility to degenerate into servility, nor our meekness into sinful compliance. In a word, it requires strength as well as gentleness, and that principles be maintained in spite of persecution.

2. It has a distinct peculiarity, inasmuch as the seven preceding words were blessings upon character, whereas this affirms the blessedness of a condition in which that character is exercised.

3. Very surprising is this last of the beatitudes. On the top of the sevenfold delineation of character which has marched as to the music of blessings, down through the valleys of poverty, mourning, and meekness, and up across the highlands of right desire, and mercy, and purity, and peacemaking—this intimation that the heirs of the kingdom shall nevertheless be persecuted, reads like an anti-climax.

I. The subjects of the beatitude.—

1. The Apostles and early disciples of Jesus are first intended.—"Blessed are ye." The change of pronoun shows the earnestness of the Speaker in affirming a difficult doctrine, marks also an additional directness of appeal, but especially indicates a particular application of the matter in hand to the persons actually addressed.

2. What was foretold of Apostles in particular is in some measure true of all the heirs of the kingdom.—If we look at the analysis of persecution which our blessed Lord gives in the passage under review, it is notable that actual brute-force persecution is neither the first nor the last item, but that these are "reproach" and "evil-speaking," both cruelties of the tongue. To be stung to death by insects is probably worse than to be felled by the leaping tiger.

II. The conditions of the beatitude.—The persecution must be unmerited.—Certain of the early Christians denounced themselves to the heathen magistrates that they might win the crown of martyrdom; but that was suicide; not receiving the crown, but snatching it. In like manner there are foolish people to-day who obtrude their religious notions upon their neighbours with an offensive manner which may earn them persecution, but not a part in Christ's blessing.

III. The benefits of the beatitude.—

1. In this life they who are persecuted for Christ's sake are blessed.—The Scriptures are never ashamed to encourage righteous men with hopes of reward.

2. In the life to come "great is their reward in heaven."—The phrase is plainly used to intimate a high degree even of celestial bliss.—W. J. Woods, B.A.

Mat . Persecution.—

I. The condition of the godly in this life.—They are persecuted. It is a saying of Ambrose, there is no Abel but hath his Cain. Put the cross in your creed.

1. What is meant by persecution?—To vex and molest, sometimes to prosecute another, to arraign him at the bar, and to pursue him to death.

2. The several kinds of persecution.—Twofold,

(1) of the hand;

(2) of the tongue. There have been many punished for clipping of coin; of how much sorer punishment shall they be thought worthy who clip the names of God's people to make them weigh lighter.

3. Why there must be persecutions.—

(1) In regard to God; (a) his decree (1Th ). (b) His design. (i.) Trial. Persecution is the touch-stone of sincerity. (ii.) Purity. The cross is physic, it purgeth out pride, impatience, love of the world, etc.

(2). In regard of the enemies of the church (Gen ). Vultures have an antipathy against sweet smells, so in the wicked there is an antipathy against the people of God; they hate the sweet perfumes of their graces.

4. The chief persecutions are raised against ministers (Mat ; Jas 5:10; Act 9:15-16; 2Ti 4:6).

5. What that persecution is which makes a man blessed.—Not that

(1) when we pull a cross upon ourselves;

(2) when we suffer for our offences (1Pe );

(3) when we suffer to keep up a faction. We are blessed in suffering persecution;

(1) when we suffer in a good cause;

(2) when we suffer with a good conscience;

(3) when we have a good call (Mat );

(4) when we have good ends in our suffering, viz. that we may glorify God, set a seal to the truth, show our love to Christ. The primitive Christians did burn more in love than in fire;

(5) when we suffer as Christians (1Pe ).

II. Their reward after this life.—Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The cross is a golden ladder by which we climb up to heaven.—Thos. Watson.

Mat . For Christ's sake.—Just as when you look at any object through coloured glasses, the colour of the object seems to have changed to the colour of the glass; in the same manner any disagreeable duty, when looked at through Christ, in the light of His marvellous love to us, will have changed its hue, so that we can thereafter contemplate it with pleasure and joy.—S. Macnaughton, M.A.

Mat . Rejoicing under persecution.—

I. A comfortable direction when we suffer for Christ or duty. "Rejoice," etc. There is no sort of people contribute more to bring up a bad report on religion, than those uneasy, melancholy, discontented persons, who are always fretting and repining at every thing. They are like the evil spies whom Joshua sent to view the land of Canaan.

1. The nature and importance of this duty of rejoicing when we suffer for Christ.—The mirth of the world is commonly a vain, foolish, and unreasonable thing, as being either a suppression of thought, under pretence of laying aside all care, or as occasioned by some temporary felicity and success in acquiring a large share of the things of this world. But the rejoicing of the text is a much more solid and serious thing.

(1) The principal act of this rejoicing, and which is the foundation of all the rest, is a prevalent love to God, which disposes us to a conformity to His blessed will in all things, and rejoices in everything that may fit us for the enjoyment of Him be it ever so afflicting and grievous at present.

(2) Another act of this duty of rejoicing, when we are reviled and persecuted for Christ's sake, is the great duty of self-resignation (Mat ).

(3) Patience under troubles.

(4) Contentment.

(5) A lively hope of good things to come in a future state.

(6) From all these results a permanency of joy (Psa ; Psa 112:6-7).

(7) A sedate courage not to be conquered by all the most formidable things in nature (Rom ).

2. The grounds of the duty.—

(1) It is a point of honour thus cheerfully to suffer for Christ (Act ; Act 9:16; Php 1:29).

(2) It will be honoured by God with the highest honours in heaven.

(3) It is the greatest service which can be done for the church, whether for propagating the faith among infidels or for confirming true believers.

(4) It fits us to set about every duty with courage and alacrity.

(5) It is a good mark of the right way to heaven and happiness.

3. The ways and means to facilitate the practice of it.—

(1) A lively faith in Christ (Joh ; 1Pe 1:5).

(2) Keeping a good conscience (2Co ).

(3) A faithful discharge of great and difficult duties (Jas ; Act 5:41; Heb 10:34).

(4) A confirmed sincerity or Christian perfection (2Co ; Psa 97:11).

(5) Promoting the work and service of God.

(6) A new prospect of the joys of heaven (Rom ; 2Ti 4:8).

II. The reasons of the direction.—

1. The greatness of the reward in heaven.

2. The honourable rank which joyous suffering for Christ gives on earth, viz. the company of the prophets.—Jas. Blair, M.A.

Slander.—I am getting rather proud, for I see that my character is more and more defamed.—Luther.

The persecuted prophets.—

I. It is matter of comfort and joy to be found in the same way with good men that have gone before us, and to meet with the same treatment that they met with from the world.

II. The prophets, notwithstanding all their extraordinary qualifications, were reviled, calumniated, and persecuted in their days, for doing their duty.

III. The circumstances of the prophets and those of our Lord's disciples were similar.—

1. The prophets had to do with the same perverse people as the Christians had to treat with.

2. The business of the prophets was much the same with that of the Christians. The prophets had an immediate commission and unction from God to go and reform that sinful people, the Jews, and prepare them for the reception of the Messiah. Christ's disciples had the like unction and commission to prepare people to believe in the Messiah already come. The old prophets had to contend with idolatry and false prophets among the Jews. Christians had idolatry to encounter all the world over, together with the scribes and Pharisees among the Jews. The old prophets boldly reproved vice in all ranks of men. And so our Saviour's disciples were brought before magistrates and kings for His sake, and with wonderful freedom and boldness told them their duty. The old prophets denounced God's judgments against an impenitent people in their days, and so did our Saviour and His disciples denounce God's heavy judgments, more particularly in the destruction of Jerusalem.

3. The obstacles the prophets met with were the very same with those of the Christians. And, therefore, it was but reasonable to conclude their treatment would be much the same. The men in power, both in church and state, were possessed with a spirit of pride and covetousness, ease and luxury, which was an utter enemy to all reformation, and to all thoughts and notions of a spiritual kingdom. This was not only a worldly, but a bloody spirit, employing the utmost carnal force to withstand the truth. They had, both of them, to do with the most inveterate prejudices and prepossessions of education, temper, and worldly interest, against the truth, backed with force, power, and authority; and they were both of them destitute of any other means to promote the truth, except the power and demonstration of the Spirit. So that it might well be expected the same attempts upon the same sort of people would have the same effects—namely, to raise a great storm of persecution against the reformers.

IV. Inferences with relation to our duty may be drawn both from the good examples of the courage and patience of the persecuted prophets, and from the bad examples of the persecuting world.—

1. Let us learn an honesty, courage, and steadfastness in doing our duty.

2. The patience of the prophets under the cross is an example well worthy of our imitation.

3. Though they were persecuted in their own time, yet all men became quickly sensible of the unjust ill-usage they had, and therefore blessed and honoured their memories.—Jas. Blair, M.A.

Mat . The metaphor of salt.—The point of the illustration rests on the power of salt, coarse or fine, to preserve animal tissues from decay. This substance was taken by the ancients as an emblem of wit and piquant wisdom; but our Lord gave it a larger and deeper meaning. He had described in the beatitudes the features and elements of that character which should be formed by His disciples, and would make them useful to other men. If we may speak of it as of a tree, its root is in the soil of meekness and humility, watered by godly sorrow. Its strong stem is the desire of righteousness, and its fruits are mercifulness, purity of heart, and the love of peace. The Master warned His disciples that possession of such a character would not gain for them the world's favour. On the contrary, it would provoke persecution and reproach. But such as had this salt in themselves could never be without a beneficial influence on the society around them. Wherever they might dwell, they would be the salt of the land. The Latin church, in its materialistic fashion, employs actual salt in the baptismal service. The priest puts it into the mouth of the person, adult or infant, who is baptised. It is an unauthorised ceremony; but it is a sort of traditional witness to the obligation lying on all Christians to have in themselves that which salt might symbolise. Our Lord requires that all who follow Him shall have that style of character which savours of the kingdom of heaven, and so exert a morally antiseptic influence on others. Noah, as a just man, was salt in the old world, but he was not enough to save mankind, when "all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth." Lot was as salt among the dwellers in Sodom, when, "in seeing and hearing, he vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds;" but it was more than he could do to stay that terrible corruption. Ten righteous men might have saved the city, but not one. The Lord Jesus, purposing to effect a vast and permanent moral change, not only in the land of Judæa, but in the corrupt Gentile world, set Himself to provide a sufficient quantity of salt. A candid view of the influence of Christianity on that wicked world into which Apostles and Evangelists pushed their way, and in which the primitive churches were planted, must lead anyone to the conclusion that a species of moral "salt" was then applied to a society otherwise hastening to decay; and it is important to remember that this influence was exerted not by the diffusion of a literature, or by the performance of prodigies, or by the hand of authority, but simply by the individual and social life of men and women—a few of high degree, but far more in humble station, and not a few of them slaves—who had some new element of wisdom and goodness in their minds and hearts—who, in fact, had salt in themselves.—D. Fraser, D.D.

Christians as salt.—To be salt of the land is to be in the highest sense useful to our fellow-men.

I. Usefulness is a duty.—It is the end which the Lord has in view in calling us to be His disciples. He teaches us that we may teach others; blesses us that we may bless others. This method may be traced through all history.

II. The great secret of usefulness is goodness.

III. The faculty for usefulness may decay.—Our Saviour warned the disciples against losing the savour of salt. Those who heard Him could be at no loss to understand the phrase. They were aware that the salt of Syria, when long exposed to sun and air and rain, became quite insipid. Various travellers have reported on this in modern times. And such spoilt salt is good for nothing. It must not be thrown on land, for it would blight its fertility. Nothing can be done with it but to lay it as a sort of rough gravel on the roads, where it is trodden under foot. So useless are those Christians who lose the savour of goodness and wisdom from on high, having a form of godliness without the power.—Ibid.

The citizens of the kingdom as salt of the earth.—It is said that "salt and sunlight" are the two great essentials which keep the world alive and pure. So spiritually, in the text, Christ sets forth His disciples as "salt," exercising an influence for good on the world.

I. The disciples' peculiar character. "Salt."—There is implied:

1. A sad fact, a corrupted condition.

2. A moral antidote.

3. The efficiency of the means used. This influence is exerted:

(1) In conserving the good. Salt is antiseptic. It preserves flesh and some kind of fruit from being destroyed by corruption and decay. In the sacrifices of the Jewish law no leaven could be used and no honey, because both were liable to speedy fermentation and corruption, and could not, therefore, be fitting offerings to the God of purity and holiness. But in all the meat-offerings—as in the sacred incense—salt was used; first, to preserve the flesh offered on the altar from taint; secondly, to symbolise the enduring character of the covenant of mercy. History tells us that the disciples of Christ were the salt of the Roman Empire during the evil days of its decline, and preserved Christianity as a moral force in society. The heroes of the Reformation were the salt of England and Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and saved the churches from a moral wreck. England, Wales, and Scotland are to-day the homes of the free, champions of the slave, leaders in the van of progress, civilisation, and evangelisation, because of the noble, faithful, and heroic saints in the past.

(2) In counteracting the evil. Christian people exercise a counteracting influence against the moral corruption of society, the world's selfish pleasures, its degraded lust, its trickeries, and its mad revelries, and they save humanity from careless recklessness, curse, and ruin.

II. The Master's solemn warning.—"If the salt have lost," etc. Jesus Christ here implies:—

1. A possible false position.—He is alluding to those who are Christians and disciples in name only—the backslider, the lukewarm, and many who hold an outward profession, but have no life or power.

2. A possible deterioration.—A Christian may lose his "first love" and his relish for Divine things. Christ declares—

3. A woeful consequence.—"It is good for nothing," etc.—J. Harries.

The salt losing its savour.—

I. A supposition—that the salt may lose its savour. There are two things here insinuated, if not foretold, by our Saviour, which deserve serious consideration.

1. That private Christians may, by negligence and abuse of their talents, lose all right sense of religion and virtue.

2. That the Christian church in general should in time be exceedingly corrupted, that that wonderful virtue it had to awaken and reform the world, should be lost, and Christianity thereby become very contemptible.—

II. The fatal consequences of this unsavouriness.—

1. To Christians themselves. "Wherewith shall it be seasoned?"

2. To the world. They are then of no manner of use, but deservedly expose themselves to the utmost contempt. "It is thenceforth good for nothing," etc.—James Blair, M.A.

Scatter it.—Every farmer will tell you that seed-corn is of no value until it is planted, and his heap of fertilisers is of no use until it is scattered over the soil. Jesus Christ tells his disciples that they are the salt of the earth, but everything depends upon its being put into the right place. A barrel of salt set in the corner of a butcher's stall is of no more use than a barrel of sawdust; it must be brought into contact with every inch of the meat in order to prevent decomposition. Spiritual salt is of little value to the community as long as it is barrelled up in a church, however orthodox may be the brand stamped on it. The salt must be scattered so as to touch and to season those who are tending to moral corruption. How tenderly did the Lord Jesus Christ put Himself in contact with the diseased and the depraved! The Book of the Acts of the Apostles is the narrative of unbarrelling and scattering the salt in communities infected with heathenism. The secret of the success of the Salvation Army is just this; they do not barrel up the salt; they scatter it where the stench of depravity is the worst.—T. L. Cuyler, D.D.

Mat .The citizens of the kingdom as the light of the world.—

I. The interesting metaphor employed.—"Light" is a special type of the Deity. "God is light"—signifying that God is the source of purity, beauty, joy, and glory. In the strictest sense, Christ Himself is "the Light of the world." Christ's satellites—by whom, in virtue of their recipient relations to Him, they hold forth the Christly light—reflect it, and shed it on men. As the moon or stars reflect the light of the sun, so the followers of Christ reflect His light; teaching us:

1. That the Christian's light is derived.

2. The Christian is a light-reflector.—The Christian life reflects the great Exemplar and Saviour of the world. Christ shines through His people.

3. The Christian is a light-diffuser.

II. The moral obligation enforced.—"Let your light," etc. The words imply that effort is necessary to develop the proper influence of the Christian character. Either from want of moral courage, or want of fidelity to truth and profession, or spiritual indifference, we may hide our light under a bushel.

1. Shine.—That which does not shine is not light.

2. Shine brightly.—"So shine." The light of some of the stars is not large in volume, yet very bright. It is not the largeness of our endowments we have to consider, but the transparent lustre of our life. There should be nothing in us to hinder the light. In Christian perfection or character that shines brightly there must be seven prismatic colours—all the beatitudes—which compose the pure ray of Christly light.

3. Shine conspicuously.—"A city that is set on a hill," etc.

4. Shine constantly—Fitful Christians do very little good. It is not the blazing comet or the wandering star that guides the mariner; but the fixed star.

5. Shine usefully.—"Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel." We do not light a candle in open day or in twilight, and then put it out when it is dark, though in religion this kind of thing is frequently done, in the presence of the world.

III. The supreme end designed.—"That they may see your good works, and glorify," etc.

1. That the chief end of the Christian life is to glorify God.—There are some painters whose favourite works are portraits of themselves. There are many writings whose central figures are the authors. Here God, not self, is the emphatic end of all our actions.

2. That such a noble end in our life is manifested by "good works."

3. That such good works seen in Christian people are calculated to induce others to glorify God.—J. Harries.

Mat .Christians the light of the world.—

I. In what respect Christians are compared to the light.

1. In what respect men are said to be in darkness.—In respect of the darkness

(1) of ignorance;

(2) of error;

(3) of unbelief;

(4) of inconsideration;

(5) of vice.

2. In what way Christians ought to be instrumental in bringing men out of this darkness.—

(1) By teaching.

(2) By controversy where sufficient skill and knowledge are possessed.

(3) By testimony (Mar ; Joh 4:29).

(4) By exhortation.

(5) By reproof (Lev ; Gal 6:1).

(6) There is one way more universal than any of the rest, and perhaps more directly here meant, i.e. the light of good example.

II. What is implied by this addition "of the world?"—

1. That the bounds of the church were to be enlarged, that the Gentiles were to be called in to be partakers of the glorious light of the gospel.

2. That those very persons who were now our Saviour's auditors, should have the honour to propagate the gospel all the world over.

3. That they must be much more eminent and exemplary, to become lights of the world, than the Jews, who were only lights of that particular country of Judæa; as a great room requires a greater illumination, to enlighten it, than a smaller one.—Jas. Blair, M.A.

The analogies of light.—

I. Christian life, like the light, is active.—Light, like heat and sound, is not a substance, but a mere motion. The waves of light are very small, but their motion is inconceivably rapid. The vitality of religion is maintained by effort.

II. Christian life, like the light, is pure.—Water and fire are often used as representions of things pure and holy. Water cleanses and fire purifies. But water becomes less pure itself by washing, and fire, while it purifies one metal, contaminates other objects, by evaporating the impurities, or by making them combine with other bases at a high temperature. Water comes into contact with filth, dissolves it and carries it to a locality that was pure. Fire attacks the scene of corruption, turns all to vapour and noxious gases, which become injurious to life all around. But look at light! It comes beautiful and pure from the sun. It enters some scene of corruption, and mingles with decay and death; and then it passes on in its glorious pathway, having brightened and blessed every object in its way. It goes, however, as it came, absolutely pure. Real Christian life is not injured by contact with sin. The history of Christian enterprise shows that the holiest men are those who, for the sake of Christ, have often come in contact with most unholy scenes.

III. Christian life, like the light, is life-giving.—Plants grow towards the light. While the light fosters and feeds the growing vegetation, it only acts as an instrument in the hands of God. The Christian church is destined, instrumentally, to convert the world.

IV. Christian life, like the light, is silent in its mode of operations.—The sun rises, and without a whisper or sound, chases the darkness away. The noise of a growing forest would not destroy an infant's sleep. Thus, God carries on His work of grace.

V. Christian life, like the light, has various forms.—Light has colours and an immense variety of shades, and yet is every shade of colour truly "light." It is the fault of some men that they will not recognise as religion anything which does not shape itself according to the form which religion has taken in themselves.—Evan Lewis, B.A., F.R.G.S., F.E.S.

Christianity: domestic and public. I. The figure of the house-lamp suggests domestic Christianity.—Home religion! Is there anything more needed? It is a mere mockery of this to have a house full of vanity and discord, with a daily routine of family prayer.

II. The city on a hill, where it catches the strong sunshine, is seen far and wide over the plains; and this suggests the collective testimony of Christians. The church may be invisible as respects the secret of its life, power, and endurance in God; but it should be visible in its influence on society and its benevolent activities, "a city that cannot be hid."—D. Fraser, D.D.

The city on the hill.—I. The city is the church (Psa ).

II. The mountain whereupon the city stands is Christ (Dan ).

III. The citizens of this city are the saints (Eph ).

IV. The towers of this city were the prophets who were most eminent in the church.

V. The gates of this city were the Apostles, by whose ministry men were brought into the church.

VI. The walls of this city are the ministers of the Word, and the Apostles' successors, who are as ramparts to defend the church against the assaults of sin, superstition and error.—Richard Ward.

Church responsibility.—Sometimes you notice on the corner of the street a fine edifice springing up. You are told it is a new church coming into being. Once a pastor was asked, as he stood unrecognised upon the walls, "When will this building be completed?" He easily gave the time. "Will the congregation be in debt?" continued the stranger. "Oh yes, awfully," answered the thoughtful man; "sometimes it frightens me to think of it!" Then came the question, "Why did you begin when you had not the money?" Then the minister of God answered, "Oh, we have money enough; we shall have no such debt as that; but think, think how much a church like this is going to owe the community and the world! How they will look to us for man's love and God's grace!"—C. S. Robinson, D.D.

Mat . The light to be seen.—The candle is not to be put under the bushel, but on a candlestick.

I. Not under the bushel of the letter merely, or of officialism, or of our limited understanding, or of our narrow sympathies, but:

II. On the candlestick of a sound confession, of ecclesiastical order, of spiritual liberty, and of a Christian life.—J. P. Lange, D.D.

Lighted lamps.—Every one of us should have a lamp, or rather be a lamp, to shine out into the darkness of the world.… Now there are four things necessary to a lamp's giving light properly. It must be:—

I. Lighted.—Lighted by another; cannot light itself, any more than it can make itself. Only God can light us. Teachers can polish the vessel.

II. Set.—Not under a bushel; prominent place. Sheltered, or may be blown out. Set, so as to shine for useful purpose.

III. Fed.—Continually, day by day. With proper oil. In proper way. Only God has the oil of grace to keep the light burning.

IV. Trimmed.—Cutting off what would hinder the brightness of the flame. Careful trimming and constant feeding needful to bright shining.—J. Edmond, D.D.

Mat . On doing good.—If it be true that "charity begins at home," I am quite sure it is still more true that any kingdom of God for which we are earnestly caring will begin in our own hearts, in a practical holiness which will cost us more self-denial than the seemingly zealous efforts men put forth, as they say, to save the souls of others.

I. In seeking our own improvement or growth in holiness, it is not merely our own personal advantage that we pursue.—We are seeking that which will ensure our doing good to others; the unconscious influence of a good man's life being wider in its scope and more certain in its results, than studied efforts directly to benefit mankind.

II. He who attains to the greatest amount of personal holiness or excellence, invariably and inevitably does the most good in the world.—We sometimes think that they are the most useful men who give away most, and who perform most seemingly generous acts; but it is a far nobler gift to the world when we subdue in ourselves some passions or vices that would corrupt mankind, and when we cultivate some Christian virtues that shed light on our human path. He who lives an unselfish life does more to banish selfishness from the world than he who proclaims all his life against it. It is one fault of our age that we make the hope of the world's regeneration depend so much on loud talking and so little on holy living.

1. We learn this lesson from the history of the past. Who are the men who have moved the heart of the world?

2. The teachings of Christ lead us to the same conclusion. He teaches that if we are godly ourselves the kingdom of God will certainly come with power.

3. Our experience of life shows us how much more influence we may exert by our actions than by our speech. "Example is better than precept." A fact is always mightier than an assertion. Moreover, the power of a man's speech depends on its sincerity; and life, revealing character, is the test of sincerity.—S. Edger, B.A.

Good Works.—A good work is only that which is done:

1. By a child of God.

2. In obedience to God his Father's command.

3. For the good of men.

4. For the glory of God.—David Dickson.

The light must shine.—A Christian mother told me once, with eyes full of bitter tears, that she had had a reproof the day before from her son, a young man for whom she had prayed and agonized during many long years, apparently in vain, which had almost broken her heart. She said, "You know, Mrs. Smith, how I have wanted to have my son and my husband converted, and how I have worked and prayed for it. Well, lately we have had some great anxieties in our family life, and I confess I was very much cast down, and did get cross over it, and go about groaning and sighing, and looking and acting as if I was miserable. Yesterday, as I was sitting at my work with the tears dropping from my eyes, and looking the picture of woe, my son said to me, ‘Mother, you have been wanting father and me to be Christians for a good many years, and have wondered why we did not yield. I will tell you why. It is because you show us in your life such an unhappy picture of Christianity that it has never looked in the least attractive to us. In this trouble, for instance, just look how much better father and I bear it than you do, and we make no professions of having a Saviour to help us. If your religion doesn't amount to anything more than the thing you live out before us, you cannot wonder that we do not care to have that sort of religion.'"—Mrs. H. W. Smith.


Verses 17-20

CRITICAL NOTES

GENERAL REMARKS ON THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

The aim and contents of the "Sermon."—No mere sermon is this, only distinguished from others of its class by its reach and sweep and power; it stands alone as the grand charter of the commonwealth of heaven; or, to keep the simple title the Evangelist himself suggests (Mat ), it is "the gospel (or good news) of the kingdom." To understand it aright we must keep this in mind, avoiding the easy method of treating it as a mere series of lessons on different subjects, and endeavouring to grasp the unity of thought and purpose which binds its different parts into one grand whole. It may help us to do this if we first ask ourselves what questions would naturally arise in the minds of the more thoughtful of the people, when they heard the announcement, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." It was evidently to such persons the Lord addressed Himself.… In their minds they would, in all probability, be revolving such questions as these:

1. "What is this kingdom, what advantages does it offer, and who are the people that belong to it?"

2. "What is required of those that belong to it? What are its laws and obligations?" And if these two questions were answered satisfactorily, a third would naturally follow.

3. "How may those who desire to share its privileges and assume its obligations become citizens of it?" These, accordingly, are the three great questions dealt with in succession (J. M. Gibson, D.D.).

The originality of the Sermon.—We are not careful to deny, we are eager to admit, that many even of the most admirable sayings in the Sermon on the Mount had been anticipated by heathen moralists and poets (S. Cox, D.D.). To affirm that Christ was not in the world, nor in the thoughts of men, until He took flesh and dwelt among us, is no more to honour Him than it is to affirm that, when He came into the world, He showed Himself to be no wiser than the men whose thoughts He had previously guided and inspired.… His teaching, we may be sure, will not be new in the sense of having no connection with the truths He had already taught by them; but it will be new in this sense, that it will perfect that which in them was imperfect; that it will gather up their scattered thoughts, free them from the errors with which they had blended them, and harmonise, develop, and complete them (S. Cox, D D.).

Is the Sermon on the Mount evangelical?—You have heard, as I have, that there is no "Cross" in this Sermon on the Mount; that we are at the foot of Sinai listening to Moses, and not at Calvary "beholding the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world." Let us not be deceived. You might as well say there is no sun in a coal-pit or a geyser because you do not see his form there. Your British coalfields are as truly the-children of the sun as is the ray of light that last fell upon our eyes, and the high-pitched morality of this sermon is as really the offspring of the death and resurrection of Christ as the first pulse-beat of joy on the reception of the forgiveness of sins. Will you say that the writer of Todhunter's Trigonometry is unfamiliar with the first four rules of arithmetic because he assumes instead of stating and proving them? No more should we conclude that salvation by the sacrifice of the Son of God for men is absent from the Sermon on the Mount, because it is not expressly stated and argued as it is in the third of the Romans. There is not a benediction that does not take us to Calvary. There is not a warning that may not urge us to Christ. There is not a mountain elevation of holiness that will not force from us the cry, "Lord, help me, or I perish." The Sermon is full of the great principles we have to preach, and those principles are all embodied in the Speaker Himself. Teaching Him we teach the principles of this Sermon, and it is of little use teaching the ideas of this Sermon without also teaching Him (J. Clifford, D.D.). The Lord Jesus did not give the world His best wine in this cup, marvellous and precious though it be. The best thing in the Gospels is the gospel itself—that manifestation of the righteousness and love of God in the person, the life, and the death of His Son by which He wins our love and makes us righteous (S. Cox, D.D.).

The relation between the Sermon on the Mount as reported by St. Matthew and the account of it in St. Luke 6—Commentators are divided in opinion as to whether or not these are two versions of the same discourse. Augustine suggests a solution of the difficulty by saying that the two discourses are entirely distinct, though delivered on the same occasion—that reported by St. Matthew, on the mountain to the disciples; that of St. Luke, delivered on the plain just below to the multitude. Dean Vaughan concurs in this view, and says: "Men have doubted whether the discourse in St. Matthew is to be regarded as an ampler account of that which is reported by St. Luke. The general scope and purport is the same. Yet, as St. Matthew says expressly that Jesus spake ‘sitting on the mountain,' and St. Luke says that He spake ‘standing on the plain,' it seems not very unnatural to suppose that the one (that given by St. Matthew) was a discourse delivered, as it were, to the inner circle of His disciples, apart from the crowd outside; the other (preserved by St. Luke), a briefer and more popular rehearsal of the chief topics of the former, addressed, immediately afterwards, in descending the hill, to the promiscuous multitude." Lange also favours this view. Carr (Cambridge Bible for Schools) states the arguments in favour of the identity of the "Sermon on the Mount" with the "Sermon on the Plain," thus:

1. The beginning and end are identical as well as much of the intervening matter.

2. The portions omitted—a comparison between the old and the new legislation—are such as would be less adapted for St. Luke's readers than for St. Matthew's.

3. The "mount" and the "plain" are not necessarily distinct localities. The plain is more accurately translated "a level place," a platform on the high land.

4. The place in the order of events differs in St. Luke, but it is probable that here as well as elsewhere St. Matthew does not observe the order of time.

Mat .—A fresh line of thought begins here and extends to the conclusion of the chapter. Its purport is to tighten the bands of morality upon the consciences of our Saviour's followers (Morison).

Mat . Jot.—The smallest of the Hebrew letters. Tittle.—One of those little strokes by which alone some of the Hebrew letters are distinguished from others like them (Brown).

Mat . Least.—As the thing spoken of is not the practical breaking, or disobeying, of the law, but annulling or enervating its obligations by a vicious system of interpretation, and teaching others to do the same; so the thing threatened is not exclusion from heaven, and still less the lowest place in it, but a degraded and contemptuous position in the present stage of the kingdom of God (ibid.).

Mat . Scribes and Pharisees.—The frequent combination of the two words (thirteen times in the first three Gospels) implies that for the most part the scribes were of the school of the Pharisees, just as the "chief priests" were, for the most part, of that of the Sadducees (Act 5:17). The New Testament use of the word differs from the Old. There the scribe is simply the man who writes, the secretary or registrar of the king's edicts and official documents (2Sa 8:17; 2Sa 20:25; 2Ki 18:18). After the return from Babylon, as in the case of Ezra (Ezr 7:6; Ezr 7:12), it was used first of the transcribers and editors of the sacred books, and then, by a natural transition, of their interpreters; and this is the dominant sense of the word in the New Testament (Plumptre).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mat

A definite aim.—To many who heard them—perhaps to most who heard them at first—the opening words of the Sermon on the Mount must have had a well-nigh revolutionary sound. How different from the thunders of Sinai their proclamation of blessings! How strange the persons declared to be blessed! How all but unheard of the character of those blessings! Was everything, then, to be new? Were the old lines to be entirely obliterated? Were all previous teachers to be superseded by this? To such "thoughts" as these—as so often afterwards—the Saviour seems, next, to reply. His hearers are "not" to "think" thus for a moment (Mat ). Alike the general character of His mission, and the special character of those older dispensations, and the special character of that which He is about to introduce, forbid such ideas.

I. The general character of His mission.—Notwithstanding what He had said, it was quite a mistake to look upon this as a mission to "destroy." He came not to "destroy" but to "fulfil"; not to condemn, but to save (Joh ); not to pull down, but to build up; not to diminish, but to enlarge; not to obliterate, but to restore. All the names that had been given Him signified this. He was to be a Redeemer (Isa 49:26), a Saviour (Mat 1:21), a Healer (Mal 4:2), a Rebuilder (Act 15:16), a Shepherd (Joh 10:11, etc.), a Hope (Jer 14:8), a "Restorer" of paths to dwell in (Isa 58:12). If there were, therefore, to be things of a contrary kind—if there were to be destruction and supercession—He was not the person to do them. Those after Him, indeed, might have to behold (Joh 4:21), those after Him might have to proclaim (Act 15:10; Gal 5:3), a good deal in that way. It was not for Him, with His mission, to bring it about. Rather, it was for Him, by His personal teaching, to fortify and enlarge that which previous teachers had taught.

II. The special nature of those older dispensations.—For what were those things in effect? What, if we think of them as we ought? They were declarations, in their day, of God's will; they were words which came from His mouth (Joh ; 2Sa 23:2); and they were meant to do what He wished (Isa 55:11). And to what, therefore, being such, were those "economies" like? They were like those created marvels which we see all around us—whether in "heaven" above, or on "earth" beneath (Mat 5:18). For what are these also, if we think of it, but so many expressions of His will? (Gen 1:3; Gen 1:6, etc.; Psa 33:9). And why are these also, on the other hand, but to fulfil what He wills? (Gen 1:14-18; Psa 148:8). And how is it, therefore, that we may argue legitimately, as well of those as of these? Because the heavens are thus the results of God's will, and intended also (in their way) to accomplish His will, we see them "continuing" till they do so (Psa 119:89; Psa 119:91). So, also, because "the law and the prophets," in a different sphere, were the same, they also shall in like manner "abide" until their work be fulfilled. Not "a jot or tittle" of what is necessary to this can in any way "pass." Even, therefore, if Christ had come as a destroyer, He would not have destroyed these.

III. The special character of the dispensation which He had come to set up.—In the last two verses of this passage this is mentioned three times in succession. Three times over we are told in them what is to be the rule of His "kingdom." The rule of His kingdom towards those who shall even in part set those old commandments aside, whether in deed or in word. "The same" shall be regarded as only "least" heirs, in that kingdom (Mat ). Even if the Saviour does not proceed to extremities against such, there shall be no room for supposing that He looks upon them with favour (Mat 5:19). The rule towards those who shall not desire, in any way, to set these commandments aside, whether in word or in deed. The same shall be called correspondingly "great" in the kingdom of heaven (Mat 5:19). The more this is true of them, the more fit for it He will pronounce them to be. "Double honour" (1Ti 5:17) will willingly be rendered to such. The rule of His kingdom, in the last place, towards those unhappy ones who virtually set these commandments wholly aside. They shall be regarded as not even belonging to that kingdom at all. It is true there were some, at that time, and those in very high places also, who were doing as much (Mar 7:6-13). None the less shall the rule He speaks of be true about them; and about all those also, who, though they listen to Him, are not on a higher level than they (Mat 5:20). So far is He, in short, from Himself wishing to destroy those ancient commandments that He will not connive at this being attempted on the part of any one else!

In conclusion, what striking combinations are visible here:—

1. Of severity and goodness.—The utterly false are altogether outside. The unwillingly weak have an inner—though not innermost—place.

2. Of the minute and the comprehensive.—The "jots and tittles" on the one hand, "heaven and earth" on the other.

3. Of deference and demand.—What respect is here paid to His predecessors! What superiority is claimed over them! To "fulfil" and surpass their words is what His words are to do! Great are they amongst men! Still greater Himself!

HOMILIES ON THE VERSES

Mat . The unity and perpetuity of the moral law.—God's law is like Himself—inflexible, unchangeable, and eternal. Observe:—

I. The organic unity of the moral law.—"Think not that I am come to destroy the law." It is here suggested:

1. That the law is one.—It is a complete thing; it is a unity. You cannot take any part away without injuring the rest; you cannot relax one part without dislocating the other. As the ocean is one—a unity so made up of seas, and bays, and gulfs, and straits, that if you cast a stone into any portion, the disturbance is felt at its farthest shores—so with the law, if you touch any part, you disturb the whole. Again, the law is like the body—an organic whole, so that if you injure a limb you affect the whole system. Hence we gather that:—

2. The Bible is one.—That is, the Old and New Testaments constitute but one system of Divine truth. The law and the gospel are not separate or opposing forces. The Bible is a single and perfect body; not one member added, but the whole developed. There is a homogeneous process of revelation, communication, and verbal expression in the two divisions of the inspired volume.

3. The purpose is one.—One of God's revelations cannot contradict or do away with the other.

II. The infallible authority of the moral law.—Delivered by the Most High Himself; written by His finger on tables of stone; placed in the ark of the covenant; bespeaking essential distinction; and occupying a position of glory and supremacy altogether unique. Therefore we consider the law:—

1. Royal.—God is the Author of it.

2. Supreme.—It cannot be improved; it cannot be annulled.

3. Certain.—It is raised above all doubts in its declaration, and verifies itself in its promises and its threatenings.

4. Final.—From its commands there is no appeal.

III. The Divine perfectness of the moral law.—The word "fulfil" does not imply imperfection, but rather implies to embody in the living form, Christ, the principles of the law; to unfold and interpret and to enshrine the same in the affection and character of men. The moral law in principle is incapable of improvement. "The law of the Lord is perfect." It legislates for all our relations to God and the conditions of our being.

1. It is a perfect transcript of the Divine mind.

2. It is a perfect organ for Divine good.—Its meaning is the well-being of the creature, and it is altogether directed to promote his happiness.

3. It is perfectly sound throughout.—Agrees with reason and conscience.

IV. The important duty enforced respecting the law.—"Whosoever therefore shall break, etc." There are three classes here referred to by the great Teacher.

1. "The least."—Meaning those who are loose or lax in relation to the authority and obligation of the moral law and Christian doctrine, and who urge their own loose or lax views on others in things moral; they may be saved if otherwise consistent, but only "as by fire" (1Co ).

2. "The great."—They who earnestly contend for the faith and live it.

3. "The scribes and Pharisees" seem excluded. For want of spiritual sympathy and sincerity, they are shut out of the kingdom.—J. Harries.

Mat . Christ a great encourager of good morals.—

1. He has much better cleared up the spiritual meaning of the law, whereas the Jews commonly understood it only in an external, carnal sense.

2. He has likewise cautioned us against all the causes, occasions, and inlets of sin, than which nothing could have been a greater bar against it; laying restraints on the eyes and ears, and hands, and tongue, and all our members.

3. He has more clearly proposed the benefit, as well as duty of repentance, accepting of repentance instead of innocence; which is a mighty encouragement to come off from a sinful course.

4. He has called us more off from the ceremonials of religion, and taught us to bend all our strength to the substantial's of it.

5. There were a great many things permitted to the Jews, because of the hardness of their hearts, which kept them very low in goodness and virtue.

6. The doctrine of our Saviour is better suited to work on our hopes and fears than the law of Moses was, having added much better sanctions of rewards and punishments.

7. There is a much larger measure of grace and of the assistance of God's Holy Spirit promised and exhibited under the gospel than there was under the law.

8. The gospel furnishes us with a much more perfect pattern of all duty, in the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, than any they had under the law.—Jas. Blair, M.A.

The significance of our Lord's teaching.—The Pharisaic type of conformity to law was accepted without challenge as the ideal of righteousness; but one of the very first impressions created by Jesus was the impression that He was the enemy of such righteousness. Renouncing as He explicitly, emphatically, and with the utmost warmth renounced, the goodness of the Pharisees, the cry was at once raised against Him that He was destroying the law, and was Himself a libertine, and a companion of loose people. And perceiving that even in honest and unprejudiced minds, this impression was gaining ground, He feels Himself called upon publicly to repudiate the attitude towards the law which was ascribed to Him, and to explain elaborately what the righteousness which He required and exhibited really was, and how it was related to the law. And it is as one who speaks to the uppermost thought in the mind of His hearers that He says, "Think not that I am come," etc. The word πληρῶσαι or πληροῦν means to fill up. It is used of filling to the brim a vessel empty or half-full. And hence it means to complete, to perfect. There are two senses in which a law may be completed or fulfilled.

1. By being obeyed. Thus Paul in Rom .

2. By being issued in a more complete and adequate form. In which of these senses does our Lord use the word πληρῶσαι? Hardly in the former sense, because He immediately goes on to illustrate His meaning, and His attitude to the law by citing a number of instances in which the precepts of the old law are to be replaced by precepts of His own. Besides, had practical keeping of the law been meant by πληρῶσαι, then its proper opposite would have been not καταλῦσαι but, as Wendt points out, παραβαίνειν. The word καταλῦσαι means a good deal more than practical disobedience of a law; it means to deprive it of authority and destroy it as a law. And the proper opposite of this is not the practical observance of a law, but something more, the issuing of it with authority.

Luther, then, was on the right track when he said that πληρῶσαι here means "to show the real kernel and true significance of the law, that men might learn what it is, and what it requires." Or, rather, it may be said that it means the issuing of the law in its ideal form. It is thus that our Lord fulfils the law; He keeps and He teaches it in a form that no longer needs amendment, revisal, improvement, as the Old Testament law did, but in a form that cannot be improved, that is perfect, full. That this was our Lord's meaning is apparent from the abundant instances He proceeds to cite, in which the old law was to be henceforth known in a higher and more perfect form.—Prof. M. Dods, D.D. See entire article in Expositor, Fourth Series, .

Mat . The authority of the law.—It is as much treason to coin a penny as a twenty shilling piece, because the authority of law is as much violated in the one as in the other. There is the same rotundity in the little ball or bullet as in a great one. The authority of God is as truly despised in the breach of the least commandments, as some are called, as in the breach of the greatest, as others are called.—Christian World Pulpit.

Mat . The sin of the Pharisees.

I. The good traits in the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.—

1. The Pharisees were orthodox.

2. They were eminently respectable.

3. They were eminently religious.

II. Why the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees fell short and where.—

1. Their religious life, as well as their private life, was marked by a pride fatal to true spirituality. They were proud of their sect, and they were proud of their own personal character.

2. Closely allied to this vital defect was the sin of selfishness. Phariseeism as a system would never have produced the true missionary spirit. The Pharisee wished for the prosperity of his own sect and the triumph of Israel over her oppressors and enemies, but never sought an outpouring of the Divine blessing upon all nations.

3. Equally allied with this defect was the fatal vice of formalism.

III. The principles by carrying out which we shall be able to attain a righteousness exceeding theirs, and so exceeding theirs as to merit the kingdom of heaven. Many are placing their dependence as much upon a past incident in their spiritual life, which they rightly term "conversion" as the Pharisees did upon having Abraham to their father.

1. Having uttered this warning against resting content with the blessing of regeneration, we must emphasise that change as the first essential of a true righteousness which shall exceed the formal religion of the scribes and Pharisees.

2. Another great principle is, that if any man will follow Christ, he must daily take up his cross.—H. S. Lunn, M.D.

Pharisaical and Chsristian righteousness.—

I. The defects of this Pharisaical righteousness.—The faults and the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees are to be distinguished. By their righteousness, I mean the rule of duties which they set. Their faults, like other men's, might be personal transgressions of good rules; and we have nothing to do with them in this place.

1. The scribes and Pharisees in their interpretations of the law, contented themselves with the external part of duty, without minding the spiritual sense.

2. Their righteousness consisted in a strictness concerning the ceremonials and circumstantials of religion, with a neglect of the greater and more substantial duties.

3. They showed a zeal for traditions, which they observed with an equal veneration with the precepts of Almighty God; nay, sometimes gave them the preference.

4. When pinched between duty and interest, they stocked themselves with evasions and distinctions, whereby they satisfied their consciences in several things, wherein they would have been bound by the law (Mat ).

5. They showed a zeal for all those duties and customs which made a great show of devotion and mortification to the world.

6. They valued themselves exceedingly upon their external privileges as being descended from Abraham, as if they had been the only elect people of God, and all the rest of the world castaways.

II. What further degrees of perfection our Saviour requires of His disciples.—

1. Evangelical righteousness chiefly regards the inner man and goes about all duty with a pure eye to God.

2. It lays no great stress on ceremonials, though it uses them for decency and order, but reserves its zeal for more substantial matters.

3. It delights in the study of the Holy Scriptures; the good Christian forms his practice by that model.

4. It neither seeks for, nor admits of, any evasions or subterfuges to avoid duty.

5. It is well guarded by moderation and humility against the effects of blind zeal.

6. The good Christian believes God to be no respecter of persons, and so works out his salvation with fear and trembling.

III. The penalty upon which this higher degree of duty is enjoined.—Viz., exclusion from the kingdom of heaven.

IV. The equity of this sentence.—

1. The great corruption of the Jewish doctors in our Saviour's days, requiring a great deal of reformation.

2. The greater advantages of Christianity beyond the Jewish religion, making it very reasonable that higher degrees of righteousness should be required of us than of them.

V. Practical inferences.—

1. We come nearest to the spirit of our Master, Christ, when by our life and doctrine we are the greatest promoters of Christian morals.

(1) Of all notions in religion, beware of those which undermine Christian practice.

(2) Good morality is good Christianity.

(3) Good moral preaching is good Christian preaching.

(4) A good moral life is one of the truest characteristics of a good Christian.

2. Let us look with a jealous eye on ourselves and examine ourselves very narrowly, to make sure that our righteousness is such as exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees.

3. Our Saviour's precepts are not mere "counsels of perfection." Let us, as a thing of infinite consequence, set about the study of this gospel righteousness, as we expect to avoid hell and enter the kingdom of heaven.—Jas. Blair, M.A.

The excelling righteousness.—What is righteousness, and how can it be attained? were the great questions which the systems of the Rabbis pressed most urgently on the attention of the people in the time of our Lord. No teacher could gain attention who did not deal with them. Indeed, the religious questioning of all ages and of all lands comes to the same thing. Jesus Christ in this Sermon has taken righteousness for His great theme and has shown us clearly:—

I. What it is in itself.—Righteousness consists:—

1. In principle within.—It does not consist in rites, and creeds, and ceremonies without, but it is the inward condition of the heart.

2. In likeness to God.—From Mat to Mat 5:16 Christ shows what virtues righteousness inculcates and demands, which may be summed up in one word—holiness. Jesus Christ is the Model.

3. In moral meetness for "glory, honour, and immortality." Observe:—

II. How it is to be attained.—

1. Historically. Of Abel it is said that he found out the secret (Heb ). Noah became "heir of the righteousness" which is by faith. Abraham by his unquestioning obedience to the will of God had his faith counted for righteousness. The prophets teach, "Wash you, make you clean," etc. And our Lord in this Sermon therefore recalls the spiritual conception of the righteousness of the kingdom of God.

2. Evangelically.—True righteousness begins

(1) In repentance.

(2) Attained by a living and loving faith in Christ—"The righteousness which is of faith."

(3) Result: joy, and peace, and love. Observe:—

III. Wherein does Christian righteousness excel that of the scribes and Pharisees?—In order to understand rightly what was the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and how far that is to be exceeded by the righteousness of Christians, we need to consider:

1. Who these scribes and Pharisees were.—The scribes were the learned theorists. The Pharisees were the religious professors.

2. What was their religion?—

(1) It was speculative.

(2) Negative. Free from scandalous sins, though the heart was full of corruption.

(3) Outwardly scrupulous, but inwardly mean. They were mere machines, polished pillars, etc.

3. How Christian righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees.—

(1) In its source. The heart.

(2) In its nature. Christ is our righteousness, not self.

(3) In its motive. Not "to be seen of men" that men may glorify us, but that they, "seeing our good works, may glorify our Father."

(4) In its quality. Spiritual, not earthly.

(5) In its end. Love to God is the beginning and ending of the service, worship, and life. The scribes and Pharisees are representative men of two classes of formalists: 1st, of those who are mere theorists in their treatment of the Word of God. Their religion is technical. 2nd, of those whose religion consists in mere ceremony, dead formality, and sham; an elaborate system of mimicry, artificiality, and egotism; stereotyped routine.—J. Harries.


Verses 21-37

CRITICAL NOTES

GENERAL REMARKS ON THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

The aim and contents of the "Sermon."—No mere sermon is this, only distinguished from others of its class by its reach and sweep and power; it stands alone as the grand charter of the commonwealth of heaven; or, to keep the simple title the Evangelist himself suggests (Mat ), it is "the gospel (or good news) of the kingdom." To understand it aright we must keep this in mind, avoiding the easy method of treating it as a mere series of lessons on different subjects, and endeavouring to grasp the unity of thought and purpose which binds its different parts into one grand whole. It may help us to do this if we first ask ourselves what questions would naturally arise in the minds of the more thoughtful of the people, when they heard the announcement, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." It was evidently to such persons the Lord addressed Himself.… In their minds they would, in all probability, be revolving such questions as these:

1. "What is this kingdom, what advantages does it offer, and who are the people that belong to it?"

2. "What is required of those that belong to it? What are its laws and obligations?" And if these two questions were answered satisfactorily, a third would naturally follow.

3. "How may those who desire to share its privileges and assume its obligations become citizens of it?" These, accordingly, are the three great questions dealt with in succession (J. M. Gibson, D.D.).

The originality of the Sermon.—We are not careful to deny, we are eager to admit, that many even of the most admirable sayings in the Sermon on the Mount had been anticipated by heathen moralists and poets (S. Cox, D.D.). To affirm that Christ was not in the world, nor in the thoughts of men, until He took flesh and dwelt among us, is no more to honour Him than it is to affirm that, when He came into the world, He showed Himself to be no wiser than the men whose thoughts He had previously guided and inspired.… His teaching, we may be sure, will not be new in the sense of having no connection with the truths He had already taught by them; but it will be new in this sense, that it will perfect that which in them was imperfect; that it will gather up their scattered thoughts, free them from the errors with which they had blended them, and harmonise, develop, and complete them (S. Cox, D D.).

Is the Sermon on the Mount evangelical?—You have heard, as I have, that there is no "Cross" in this Sermon on the Mount; that we are at the foot of Sinai listening to Moses, and not at Calvary "beholding the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world." Let us not be deceived. You might as well say there is no sun in a coal-pit or a geyser because you do not see his form there. Your British coalfields are as truly the-children of the sun as is the ray of light that last fell upon our eyes, and the high-pitched morality of this sermon is as really the offspring of the death and resurrection of Christ as the first pulse-beat of joy on the reception of the forgiveness of sins. Will you say that the writer of Todhunter's Trigonometry is unfamiliar with the first four rules of arithmetic because he assumes instead of stating and proving them? No more should we conclude that salvation by the sacrifice of the Son of God for men is absent from the Sermon on the Mount, because it is not expressly stated and argued as it is in the third of the Romans. There is not a benediction that does not take us to Calvary. There is not a warning that may not urge us to Christ. There is not a mountain elevation of holiness that will not force from us the cry, "Lord, help me, or I perish." The Sermon is full of the great principles we have to preach, and those principles are all embodied in the Speaker Himself. Teaching Him we teach the principles of this Sermon, and it is of little use teaching the ideas of this Sermon without also teaching Him (J. Clifford, D.D.). The Lord Jesus did not give the world His best wine in this cup, marvellous and precious though it be. The best thing in the Gospels is the gospel itself—that manifestation of the righteousness and love of God in the person, the life, and the death of His Son by which He wins our love and makes us righteous (S. Cox, D.D.).

The relation between the Sermon on the Mount as reported by St. Matthew and the account of it in St. Luke 6—Commentators are divided in opinion as to whether or not these are two versions of the same discourse. Augustine suggests a solution of the difficulty by saying that the two discourses are entirely distinct, though delivered on the same occasion—that reported by St. Matthew, on the mountain to the disciples; that of St. Luke, delivered on the plain just below to the multitude. Dean Vaughan concurs in this view, and says: "Men have doubted whether the discourse in St. Matthew is to be regarded as an ampler account of that which is reported by St. Luke. The general scope and purport is the same. Yet, as St. Matthew says expressly that Jesus spake ‘sitting on the mountain,' and St. Luke says that He spake ‘standing on the plain,' it seems not very unnatural to suppose that the one (that given by St. Matthew) was a discourse delivered, as it were, to the inner circle of His disciples, apart from the crowd outside; the other (preserved by St. Luke), a briefer and more popular rehearsal of the chief topics of the former, addressed, immediately afterwards, in descending the hill, to the promiscuous multitude." Lange also favours this view. Carr (Cambridge Bible for Schools) states the arguments in favour of the identity of the "Sermon on the Mount" with the "Sermon on the Plain," thus:

1. The beginning and end are identical as well as much of the intervening matter.

2. The portions omitted—a comparison between the old and the new legislation—are such as would be less adapted for St. Luke's readers than for St. Matthew's.

3. The "mount" and the "plain" are not necessarily distinct localities. The plain is more accurately translated "a level place," a platform on the high land.

4. The place in the order of events differs in St. Luke, but it is probable that here as well as elsewhere St. Matthew does not observe the order of time.

Mat . Ye have heard.—It is as if the Saviour were referring to some specific discourse, which some Rabbi or other had recently been delivering to the people; and perhaps as a polemic against the doctrines and influence of Jesus. We need not doubt that there would be many such discussional discourses. And while the native majesty of our Lord would not suffer Him to descend into petty controversies, it is likely enough that several parts of the Sermon on the Mount owe their peculiar shaping to the peculiar nature of the representations made by his Rabbinical opponents (Morison). Whosoever shall kill, etc.—The fact that these words are not found in the Old Testament confirms the view that our Lord is speaking of the traditional comments on the law, and not of the law itself (Plumptre). In danger.—The phrase had a somewhat more technical sense in A.D. 1611 than it has now, and meant "legally liable to" (ibid.). The judgment.—That of the local courts of Deu 16:18. They had the power of capital punishment, though the special form of death by stoning was reserved for the Sanhedrin or Council (ibid.).

Mat . Without a cause.—Omitted in R. V. However we decide as to the text, we must restrict our interpretation to "causeless anger" (Brown). Raca = "thou good-for nothing" (Wendt). Thou fool = "thou godless one" (ibid.). The distinction between raca and thou fool is lost, and naturally, for they belong to that class of words, the meaning of which depends entirely on the usage of the day. There is, however, clearly a climax.

1. Feeling of anger without words.

2. Anger venting itself in words.

3. Insulting anger (Carr). Judgment … council … hell-fire.—There seems to be an incongruity in passing literally from the human events described by the "judgment" and the "council" to the divine sentence of the "Gehenna of fire." The most natural interpretation seems to be to suppose that three degrees of human punishment are used to denote, by analogy, three corresponding degrees of the Divine sentence hereafter. The judgment, the council, the Gehenna of fire, will thus figuratively represent three degrees of the Divine vengeance against sin, corresponding to three degrees of temporal punishment under the Jewish law; death by the sword inflicted by the minor courts, death by stoning inflicted by the Sanhedrin, and finally, death with the body cast into the valley of Hinnom to be burned. It is not certain that this last punishment was ever actually inflicted under the Jewish law; it may be mentioned as an extreme case beyond the legal punishments, though, in one case, at least, as Tholuck observes, death by fire was ordained (see Lev ), though no place of punishment is specified (cf. 1Ma 3:5) (Mansel).

Mat . Agree with thine adversary.—The Saviour here shifts His scene a little. He seizes, representatively, on such a specific manifestation of malevolence as leads the injured party to become an adversary, i.e. a prosecutor in a law-suit, who is determined to recover damages (Morison). The passion of which you have not repented, the wrong for which you have not atoned, will meet you as an adversary at the bar of God (Tholuck).

Mat . Farthing.—The Greek word is derived from the Latin quadrans, the fourth part of the Roman as, a small copper or bronze coin which had become common in Palestine. The "farthing" of Mat 10:29 is a different word, and was applied to the tenth part of the drachma (Plumptre).

Mat . To lust after her.—With the intent to do so, as the same expression is used in Mat 6:1; or, with the full consent of his will, to feed thereby his unholy desires (Brown).

Mat . Whosoever shall put away, etc.—The quotation is given as the popular Rabbinic explanation of Deu 24:1, which, as our Lord teaches in Mat 19:8, was given on account of the hardness of men's hearts, to prevent yet greater evils. The stricter party of Shammai held that the "uncleanness" meant simply unchastity before or after marriage. The followers of Hillel held, on the other hand, that anything that made the company of the wife distasteful was a sufficient ground for repudiation (Plumptre).

Mat . Forswear thyself.—These are not the precise words of Exo 20:7, but they express all that it was currently understood to condemn, namely, false swearing (Lev 19:12, etc.). This is plain from what follows (Brown).

Mat . Swear not at all.—Viz. in the following ways (Morison).

Mat . Yea, yea; nay, nay. Let your affirmation and negation be in accordance with fact (Grotius).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mat

Root and branch.—The Saviour's purpose here seems to be that of explaining what He has just before said. He has described His mission as being that of "fulfilling" God's "law" (Mat ). Amongst the ways in which He was to do this—to do this in connection with the "moral" part of that law—was the way of bringing it home. On what principles were its various precepts founded? How far, in consequence of this, do its various requirements extend? These are the questions which He here sets Himself to answer so far as they bear on three commandments out of the "Ten"—three commandments which seem selected as samples of all.

I. The sixth commandment is the first "old-time" saying (Mat ) which is dealt with in this way. Its actual language, as quoted here, is brief and simple enough. "Thou shalt not kill." In dealing with this (Mat 5:21-26) our Saviour points us first, as we intimated just now, to its root. What is the root of the wicked action which this commandment forbids? It is to be found in the indulgence of the spirit of hate. If there were no hate, no desire to hurt, there would be no such endeavour, of course. It is with this root, therefore—this murder-germ—that the Saviour begins. He bids us understand that it is with this spirit of hate—this anger "without cause" (Mat 5:22)—that this commandment begins. In forbidding the action it forbids thereby its source. That is the first point to be noted. But that is not all. What we are to note next, is, that it forbids also all that follows from this. All that follows from indulgence in such a spirit, whatever its shape—all words of contempt even—all that is meant to degrade (Mat 5:22). All that follows from this, also, no matter what else in other directions we may think we have to rely on for acceptance with God. Not even the "worship" of our "gifts" on God's own "altar" is acceptable to Him if we come in this spirit of hate (Mat 5:23-24, etc.; cf., in part, Gen 4:1-10). Not only so, it never can be acceptable so long as this enmity lasts. For what is it that such unrepented enmity does in effect? It turns your brother, as before God, into your "adversary at law"; and it is an indirect appeal to Him, therefore, to deal with you only as your merits deserve—a "process at law" which can only end in your irreversible death (Mat 5:25-26; also Psa 130:3; Psa 143:2; Rom 6:23). Understand, therefore, not only how far, but also how peremptorily, this commandment extends. The spirit of hate, indulged in, is the spirit of death!

II. The seventh commandment is next expounded, in like manner, by Christ. Here, also, the "old saying" was simple enough in its letter. But it was just as profound, also, and just as far-reaching—so the Saviour shows—in its spirit. For here, also, on the one hand, the commandment, in forbidding the action, forbids also the inward desire which gives it birth, as it were (Mat , cf. Jas 1:14-15). And here, also, on the other hand, it necessarily forbids also all those resulting evil indulgences and habits which so often become to men in consequence almost part of themselves. And it bids the sinner (which is more) wholly to part with them, even where that is the case; and warns him solemnly, also, that the only other alternative is that of destroying himself (Mat 5:29-30, Eph 5:3-6). All this that "old saying" taught in the "germ." Further, on the important question of the dissolution of marriage (which is another branch of this subject) it did the same thing. The "old saying," on this point, also, had been of a very definite kind. If you do dissolve this contract you must do so with as much formality as you entered on it at first (Mat 5:31). That restriction contained in it the seed of another. You must not dissolve it even in that way unless it has been dissolved in another way first (Mat 5:32). That is the "spirit," and, therefore, those the results, of that "letter" of old.

III. The third commandment—possibly as being, unlike the previous two, a part of the First Table—is then taken up. To "take God's name in vain" (Exo ) is to invite His witness to that which is false. To forbid this, therefore (Mat 5:33), is to forbid, as before, that which lies at its root, viz. in this case, thinking lightly of God. And, therefore, as before, to forbid all that which branches therefrom—all language inconsistent with a proper recollection of the wide supremacy of His rule, whether in "heaven" above, or "earth" beneath, or in the midst of His church (Mat 5:34-35), or with a proper sense of our utter inability to alter or modify the most insignificant part of our frames (Mat 5:36). What it rather enjoins on us is a scrupulous anxiety to avoid any approach to these sins. Never call upon God as a witness unless in those cases in which you have His permission to do so. Even to wish this without adequate cause is of the nature of sin (Mat 5:37). So, of this commandment also, does the Saviour explain both its depth and its reach!

Declarations of this kind lend double value:—

1. To the mercy of the gospel.—When the Saviour undertakes to forgive sin, He is not speaking in the dark. He knows what He is doing, what sin is, what it involves, what it leads to, all that it means. Knowing the worst, He yet blots it all out.

2. To the offers of the gospel.—"Wilt thou be made whole?" This He says to those whose extremity is known to Him to the full (cf. Joh ).

HOMILIES ON THE VERSES

Mat . Spiritual exposition of sixth commandment.—The keynote of the portion (Mat 5:20-26) is contained in Mat 5:20, and the meaning of that verse is set forth in six examples—murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, retaliation, love and hatred. Consider the Christian law concerning murder:—

I. In the letter.—Sixth commandment. We boast of progress, and of the march of civilisation. Our progress in material civilisation is indeed marvellous; but so long as the columns of our newspapers abound with reports of the most wilful and cold-blooded murders we have cause for "shame and confusion of face" rather than for vainglory.

II. In the spirit.—He who is "angry with his brother without a cause" commits murder in his heart. Anger is declared to be a work of the flesh (Gal ); but it is often excused as an infirmity, rather than bewailed as a sin.

III. In the punishment.—The three degrees of punishment specified according to the degrees of guilt.

IV. In the application.—Our Lord being "a minister of the circumcision," and the Jewish ritual being not yet abrogated, the language of the Mosaic ceremonial ("gift" and "altar") is naturally employed. A pious Jew is supposed to be on his way to the temple, intending to offer to God on the altar his gift, eucharistic or sacrificial. Before reaching the altar, he recollects that his brother has some cause of offence against him—not that he has one against his brother, which is generally all we think of. Our Lord counsels him to "leave," etc. To offer sacrifice or worship, before reconciliation has been effected, is but to mock the Searcher of hearts (Psa ; Eph 4:26).—F. F. Goe, M.A.

Mat . Inward hatred.—I. The evil of this sort of anger.—

1. In our Saviour's interpretation it is the first step towards the sin of murder.

2. It clouds the judgment with such thick fumes of passion that it is not capable of discerning truth from falsehood, or right from wrong, and gives a strong bias to the affections.

3. There is no passion more inconsistent with society and good government.

4. This anger is directly opposed to the love of our neighbours in general.

II. The means for preventing and removing it.—

1. Let us avoid a weak, peevish, waspish disposition.

2. Let us consider this world as a place full of trouble.

3. Let us accustom ourselves to overlook the immediate instruments of our troubles, and take them all as from the hands of God.

4. Let us avoid, as much as possible, all the usual causes or occasions of anger.

5. Let us consider how much self-denial is a principal duty of the Christian religion, and what noble promises are made to it.—Jas. Blair, M.A.

Mat . Slight affronting words.—To guard us against all disrespect and slight, or even incivility to our neighbour, there are a few things I would offer to your consideration.

I. That this slight and disrespect towards our neighbour proceeds commonly from bad causes; such as:

1. A pride and haughtiness in ourselves, and a conceitedness as to our own opinions and ways.

2. At least, a want of due consideration of our neighbour's case; perhaps that which we are offended at in him is owing to the uneasiness of his circumstances; the pains and diseases of his body; the fatigue of business; the stiffness of his natural temper; or some little mistake or oversight such as are very incident to all mankind.

3. Or it is owing to our own hasty and impatient temper, which could not bear with the least provocation or contradiction.

II. Disrespect to our neighbour is attended with very bad consequences and effects.—There is no man so dull but he can apprehend the least disrespect put upon him. Disrespectful words begin to alienate our neighbour's affection from us, as persons that are unjust to him, etc.

III. All slight and disrepect towards our neighbour is exceedingly inconsistent with the laws of Christianity, which require a spirit of love, charity, humility, meekness, and patience; that we should honour all men; that we should curb our tongues, and govern our passions; that we should be courteous and condescending, and become all things to all men, that by all means we may gain some.

IV. Consider the good consequences of the contrary virtue.—I mean, true love and respect to our neighbour, manifested by all expressions of Christian friendship and civility; how it smooths men's tempers, calms their passions, disposes them for receiving any good impressions we would make upon them; how it contributes to keep up peace and good neighbourhood, and a spirit of love and friendship among men, than which there is nothing more necessary towards the happiness of the world.—Ibid.

Degrees of punishment in the other world—

I. What foundation there is for this doctrine from the text.—

1. From the whole scope and purport of this Sermon on the Mount it is evident our Saviour is not instructing magistrates, but private Christians; He is not prescribing laws of human policy, but directing the conscience, His kingdom not being of this world.

2. Our Saviour never took upon Him either to inflict or to prescribe human penalties; but thought fit to leave the governments of the world in the full possession of their jurisdiction; and therefore it is no way probable that He is here prescribing the penalties of human courts of judicature.

3. It is plain from the sins here described, they are such as fall not under the cognisance of human laws, the first of them being inward anger, which, till it breaks out into some outward words or actions, cannot be the subject of any rule, but of Him who alone is the Searcher of hearts. The punishments, then, here assigned must all relate to the other world. And if so, there being here several degrees of punishments assigned, it follows plainly that there are several degrees of punishments in the world to come.

II. Some other Scripture proofs of the same doctrine.—Psa ; Pro 24:12; Mat 16:27; Luk 12:47-48; Mat 11:22; Mat 11:24.

III. What ground there is in the nature and reason of the thing for this doctrine.—

1. All wicked people are not wicked in the same degree.

2. Of those who go to the same degree and pitch of wickedness, the sin is not equal in them all. In some, perhaps, it is only a sin of ignorance, and the error of their education; in others, it is studied perverseness and wickedness. Some have been captains and ringleaders in vice, others have been but followers and accessories, etc.

IV. Inferences.—This doctrine may serve—

1. To vindicate the justice of God.

2. To deter even wicked men from several high degrees of wickedness.

3. To put us upon a trial of our own state.—Ibid.

Mat . Worship and reconciliation.—This passage may be understood as combining two lessons.

I. The most sacred of all occupations should not be an impediment to the duty of reconciliation.

II. The gift will not be acceptable to God while offered in enmity against a brother.—On this precept is founded the rule of the church requiring adversaries to be reconciled before partaking of the Holy Communion.—Dean Mansel.

Mat . Agreeing with one's adversary.—

I. The duty enjoined.—

1. We are not to abandon the adversary's company if it may be allowed us.

2. We are to leave no means untried with him that may tend to reconciliation. There should be

(1) Inward love;

(2) Outward expressions of courtesy and civility;

(3) Receding from our strict right for peace's sake;

(4) Acts of beneficence and friendship;

(5) Prayer to God for him.

II. The evil consequences attending the neglect or delay of this duty.—There are three sorts of evil consequences to be considered.

1. The evil consequences in this world of letting differences run on so far as to come to the extremity of the law.

2. The other evil consequences in this world likewise, of other quarrels beside lawsuits, which, by a parity of reason, fall under the consideration of this advice of agreeing with the adversary (Jas ).

3. The evil consequences in the great day of judgment of neglecting or delaying to make our peace with our adversary.—Jas. Blair, M.A.

Mat . (With Mar 2:10). Sin and forgiveness.—To the Christian doctrine of forgiveness men have offered a twofold objection—the objection of levity, and the objection of reason.

1. The first declares that sin is a mere trifle, if it is even as much as that, and that forgiveness is a simple process which can be magically and swiftly set at work.

2. To accept the objection of reason means despair. Reason says, "There can be no such thing as forgiveness of sins." Science utterly slays the doctrine. All the forgiveness in the world is incapable of blotting out a man's past. In nature there is no such doctrine, neither can there be in religion. Nature exacts her tribute to the full, and she says to us, "You shall not come out thence until you have paid the uttermost farthing." Reason, however, under the guidance of God, will reach a much higher conclusion than the reason which is its own guide—a conclusion which is honourable and pacific and true to law.

I. The universal law of God is, "whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap."—Every violation of the moral law is followed by penalty. The Christian doctrine of forgiveness does not repeal that law. Whatever forgiveness does for a man, it does not sweep away from his life the consequences of past misdeeds. God forgave David's great sin, but David had also to pay the bitter price of his wickedness, and the ages have been acquainted with the story.

II. What under such circumstances, can a man do?—There is at least a choice of two courses.

1. The first is to pay your own debt as best you can. This pseudo-courageousness has a fascination for some minds, but will you think what it really means? If you have a true conception of the extent of your liability, you will not so glibly talk about "paying like a man."

2. The second course open to you is that in which God comes to us and makes us an offer by which the debt may be paid with honour to the law and with perfect deliverance to the sinner. This offer is known as the doctrine of forgiveness. Be careful to observe that the doctrine of forgiveness is a matter entirely of revelation. What then is forgiveness? It is the first medicine administered to us by the Great Physician with a view to our complete restoration to spiritual health.—F. C. Spurr.

Mat . The mastery of the body.—The two voices are again heard; the first "by them of old time," the second that (apart from divinity) of a dogmatist—solemn, impressive, in His individuality. "But, I say," etc. There is no division of responsibility, all rests upon that " ἐγώ!"

1. All human impulses are to be held in perfect mastery.

2. There is a judgment upon the heart as well as upon the outer life.

3. When the bodily appetites and the spiritual nature come into collision, let the body suffer, not the soul. A whole body (a body wholly gratified) or a maimed soul—which?

4. There are bodily temptations as well as mental temptations. The mind has advantages in the probationary state which the body has not; death has yet to pass upon the body; the body is not to be wholly purified or transformed until the resurrection; the mind, on the contrary (except so far as modified by the body), may be "set on things above."

5. Christ, in this paragraph, shows the bearing of His specific truths on the body and bodily relations:

(1) Personal mastery.

(2) Personal mastery may require the severest measures.

(3) Personal mastery required in the maintenance of the conjugal bond.—J. Parker, D.D.

Mat . Mental uncleanness.—

1. Begin at the root as our Saviour here advises, and restrain all mental impurities.

2. Carefully avoid all occasions of this sin, e.g. bad books, impure plays, lewd company, etc.

3. Keep the body under by labour and temperance.

4. Avoid idleness, and be prudent as to recreations.

5. When temptations are presented, do not argue or parley with them, do not lie still and muse upon them, but flee from them.

6. Keep yourselves in the love of God and contemplate the things of eternity.

7. Another remedy of lust prescribed by God Almighty is suitable marriage.—Jas. Blair, M.A.

Mat . Plucking out the eye and cutting off the hand.—

I. The supposition.—That the best members of the body, particularly the right eye and right hand, may lead us into very dangerous sins.

II. The duty of mortifying these members. This implies:

1. A serious and firm resolution of restraining the members and imagination from unlawful objects.

2. An avoiding all the occasions of sin.

3. The continual use of all those means whereby sin may be entirely subdued in us.

III. The danger of suffering our members to continue the instruments of sin.—Ibid.

Abandoning darling sins.—

I. The possibility of conquering darling sins.—If this were not possible God would never require it of us, and that under pain of damnation.

II. The difficulty and the causes of it.—

1. To make a darling sin, we must suppose a great propensity of corrupt nature, and to rectify nature is very difficult.

2. This propensity must be supposed to be confirmed by a vicious course or habit, and so to have become customary (Jer ).

III. Some advices to facilitate this matter.—

1. Let us be fully persuaded of the necessity of parting with our beloved sins, under pain of our eternal and final destruction.

2. Let us believe that the longer we indulge in vicious practices, so much the harder it will be to get rid of them.

3. Let us firmly believe that there is no impossibility in overcoming our most favourite sins.

4. Our chief care must be to apply ourselves diligently to the use of all the means of grace.

5. We must not be discouraged if we obtain not the victory at first.—Ibid.

Mat . The Christian doctrine concerning divorces.—

I. Explication.—Our Saviour was not here treating of the impediments of marriage from the beginning, but only of the dissolution of lawful marriages; particularly He is here correcting the too great liberty the Jewish husbands took to put away their wives for slight causes. He seems to have determined as much in this case as was fit in prudence, viz. that the liberty of divorce for any lighter cause than the marriage infidelity should be prohibited; but that even in that case it should not be commanded, but left to the greater or lesser aggravation of the crime, from the various circumstances of it; and the consideration of the consequences of severity or indulgence, to himself, and his wife and children, and the world abroad. I speak cautiously on this difficult subject, because, as far as I can perceive, there never was, nor is any positive command for divorce.

II. Vindication.—

1. To some it may seem very hard that for no other fault but that of adultery, a man can put away his wife. There are many other things which make the married state very uneasy, and if some men had their will they would have it as easy a thing to put away a wife as to turn out a boarder. But:

(1) The great ends of marriage could never be attained, if marriage were to be dissolved upon every slight account. Consider what those ends are, and whether they are generally attainable any other way than by making marriage a mutual contract for life. (a) As to the procreation and education of children; could that be so well minded, if their mothers were to be turned off at pleasure, and they left to the care of any strange woman, who would look upon them as so many encumbrances upon the estate, and so many rivals of her own children? (b) As to the being a remedy of lust, which is another good end for the institution of matrimony; if marriage were an uncertain loose thing, subject to be dissolved upon every humour and caprice of the parties, and new wives as frequently brought in, this would be no confinement of lust at all; but loose men would change their wives as frequently as they do their mistresses, and marriage would be only a cloak for whoredom, under a more specious name. (c) If we consider married persons, as they are mutual helps to one another in managing a common estate for the benefit of themselves and their children, there is nothing can so well qualify them to answer that end as the being linked together by an inseparable bond, which joins their two interests in one. But now, upon a supposition of these frequent dissolutions of marriage, each party would have a different interest to carry on; the woman upon the prospect of parting, nay upon the bare supposition of the probability, or even possibility of it, would think it but prudence to provide for that time, and to feather her nest, by pilfering and purloining from her husband's estate, as much as she could, while they are together. (d) Marriage was instituted for the mutual love and comfort of the parties, that such a sacred friendship might ease and sweeten the several troubles and uneasinesses of life. Now, its being a perpetual lasting bond of amity, contributes very much to this; they know now if they have any differences, their best way is to make them up.

(2) This discrediting and making light of marriage would be attended by other very great inconveniences. Particularly the weaker sex, after having left father and mother, after having been deprived of their portion and their honour, must be turned off to strive with solitude and discontent all the rest of their life.

2. As to the permitting of divorce in case of the breach of the marriage covenant; as in all covenants, when one of the parties breaks the fundamental articles, the other is absolved if he pleases, so it is very fit that it should be in this great marriage-covenant, especially considering what an intolerable hardship it would put on the innocent party to be obliged to love and trust one that betrays him, to maintain and provide for an adulterous brood, and to have his right made away to strangers.

III. Inferences.—

1. Our Saviour not only acts the part of a good interpreter of the law, but sometimes makes use of the authority of a legislator too.

2. We may observe how sacred and inviolable He would have the state of marriage to be. He makes it a covenant for life. Teaching

(1) With what deliberation, prudence, and circumspection we should enter into that lasting state.

(2) With what sweetness and friendliness of temper we ought to behave ourselves so as to make the journey of life pleasant, both to ourselves, and to this our inseparable companion.

(3) Since our Saviour has left such a blot on that sort of uncleanness committed by married persons, that on account thereof he permits the dissolution of the marriage, let this deter us from all approaches to those sins. Let husbands and wives beware of everything that may in the least create any dryness or alienation of affection from one another. Let them beware of those pretended friends, who bring oil to inflame, instead of water to quench, the fire of strife and contention, when it is kindled between them. Let every approach of criminal address, so soon as it is perceived, be rejected with abhorrence.—Jas. Blair, M.A.

Mat . The evil consequences of parting man and wife.—

I. A general lesson.—That whosoever commits any sin is answerable not only for the necessary, but for all the probable consequences of that sin.

II. A particular lesson.—That those quarrels of man and wife which are attended with parting, have very terrible consequences.

1. The dishonour and disgrace of it is apt to throw the wife into despair, that she does not care what becomes of her; and is consequently tempted to lay aside that guard she had formerly upon her honour.

2. The excess of injury is, perhaps, greater than any ordinary patience can bear.

3. The great want to which such an abandoned state exposes poor women, and the helplessness of their circumstances, often drives them upon ill courses.—Ibid.

Mat . Oaths.—In these words our Saviour gives another instance wherein the righteousness of Christians must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.

I. What was good in the opinion of the Jewish doctors concerning the third commandment. They condemned perjury (Mat ).

II. Wherein our Saviour finds it defective.—

1. In that they thought nothing else was prohibited in the third commandment, but the sin of perjury.

2. That they allowed of oaths by creatures, of which four are here mentioned, heaven, and earth, Jerusalem, and their head.

3. That they reckoned such oaths as were not by the name of God, not binding: whereas, though they were not in God's name, yet they had so near a relation to Him, as having the formality of a promise upon oath, that on that account they ought to have been observed.

4. That they had brought in a practice of swearing in conversation, and so made way for rash, idle, customary oaths.

III. What further improvements He makes on this subject.—

1. He condemns all rash, customary swearing in conversation.

2. He disallows all swearing by the creatures.

3. He asserts the obligation of such oaths, as to men, though defective in point of duty to God.

4. He recommends such a veracity, honesty, and sincerity in speech, that we may be trusted upon our bare word, without an oath.—Ibid.

Mat . The great sin of perjury.—

I. Describe wherein perjury consists.—It is either swearing to a false thing at present; or afterwards, a voluntary breach of a lawful promise upon oath. Divines agree that the chief properties of an oath are those three mentioned by the prophet Jeremiah (ch. Mat ), Thou shalt swear the Lord liveth in truth, judgment, and righteousness. The first condition "truth," excludes not only all lying, but all trick, deceit, or equivocation. The second condition is "judgment"; it is not sufficient that what we swear be true, it must be a thing of weight and importance. The third condition is "righteousness"; it must be a just thing in itself. Perjury is, in general, the calling of God to be witness to a lie. This is done:

1. When we assert upon oath a thing to be true, which we know to be false.

2. When we assert upon oath a thing to be true, of the truth of which we are not fully assured. And this, though the thing should happen to be true.

3. When we declare upon oath such a thing to be our judgment, which really is not so.

4. When, in giving our testimony as to any matter of fact, we wilfully suppress some material part of the truth, and aggravate other parts of it, or endeavour so to disguise and change our account of facts, as that the judges and juries may not have a right notion of the matter in question.

5. They that promise upon oath what they do not intend to perform are, ipso facto, guilty of perjury, because they call God to witness a false thing, where the intention of their minds does not concur with the words and meaning of their oath.

6. They are likewise guilty of perjury, who, though they promise with a sincere intention to perform, do afterwards, of their own accord, fall off; when the thing they promised is both lawful and in their power to perform.

7. They are guilty of perjury, who make use of tricks and equivocations, and put forced senses on the words of an oath, or look for evasions, contrary to the plain and genuine sense of the words.

II. What it is that leads and tempts men to perjury.—Bribery, rashness, partiality, self-interest.

III. The heinousness of the sin of perjury.—

1. It is a great proof of a profane, atheistical mind.

2. It is highly injurious to mankind; for an oath being of so universal use among men, in transacting matters of the highest consequence, whosoever goes about to make it vile and cheap does what in him lies to destroy the highest bonds of faith and truth among men.

3. As no sin has a worse influence on all parts of our duty, whether to God or man, so there is no sin more expressly forbidden, or more grievously threatened in the law of God. It is observed that idolatry and perjury are the only two sins to which an express threatening is annexed in the Decalogue.

IV. What absolves us from perjury, though we cannot always perform our oaths.—

1. They who are under the command of a lawful superior, cannot execute an oath or a vow in anything to which his consent is required, if he expressly dissents from it. See Numbers 30. All our oaths and vows must be understood to be meant with this limitation, "as far as it is in my power."

2. When the matter of the thing fails about which the oath was given, then the oath itself is no longer binding. A soldier that takes the military oath, when peace is made and he comes to be disbanded, he is likewise free from that oath.

3. When we give our oath to another and promise him something for his benefit, if he pleases to forgive that obligation in whole or in part, no doubt we are then absolved from our oath or such part of it, provided no harm be done to any other.

4. If the oath we take to another be, either expressly or in its own nature, conditional, that is, with a proviso that something be done of his part; then, upon his failing as to his part of the condition, we are likewise absolved from ours. But it is otherwise where both parties absolutely promise one another, and not conditionally, for there the failing of one, doth not absolve the other.

5. Whatever we promise, even upon oath, must be understood with a proviso that it be both possible and lawful for us, and that no unforeseen thing happen which may make our observing our oath an evil, or uncomely, dishonest action.—Jas. Blair, M.A.

Rash and superfluous oaths.—Though the words of the third commandment signify principally, thou shalt not swear falsely, they signify likewise, thou shalt not swear vainly or unnecessarily. So that all rash, trifling, superfluous oaths are forbidden as well as false ones.

I. The consideration of God should deter us from the common use of oaths; for He is not a common witness to be called in upon all trivial occasions.

II. The sacredness of oaths should deter us from making them cheap and common; for as in human judicatures for small matters there are inferior courts, and it is not allowed that the superior courts be troubled, except in cases of moment or difficulty, so God hath set such an honour upon an oath, which is an appeal to Himself, that it must be a matter of great consequence in which this last resort is allowed.

III. A due regard to our own dignity and reputation should make us abstain from unnecessary oaths; for he who has strictly kept up his honour and reputation will be believed upon his word without an oath.—Ibid.

Mat . Simplicity and veracity in conversation.—I. A precept.—"Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay." I take this to be a prohibition of:

1. A multiplicity of words.

2. A designed doubleness or equivocation in them.

3. Vain compliments and flattery.

4. Oaths and imprecations. And on the contrary, an injunction that our words be few, plain, sincere, and modest.

II. The reason of this precept.—"For whatsoever," etc.

1. If we exceed the plainness and veracity of speech, this flows from some bad priciple or other.

2. Whenever our discourse exceeds the due bounds is simplicity and modesty, we are immediately to take the alarm, as beginning then to be under the temptation of the devil; and to what intemperance of language he may carry us, nobody can tell.—Ibid.

Mat .Christ's teaching on oaths.—In order to avoid any conclusions drawn from this precept of Jesus, which are out of harmony alike with the general view of Jesus, elsewhere expressed in regard to the true righteousness, and with His own practice, we must fix our attention upon the purpose He had in view in thus prohibiting swearing. That purpose is plainly shown from the line of thought running throughout the discourse on righteousness. It was the inculcation of a righteousness having its root in the heart, and therefore requiring to be unconditionally observed in the simplest outward acts. An oath and solemn affirmation which a man may employ before his fellow-men, since, in their inability to read his inward truthfulness, they cannot put full confidence in his word if it be not solemnly asserted, are quite different in their nature and inward motive from the oath and protestation with which a man accompanies his word, because he would not feel absolutely pledged to truth and faithfulness by his simple word and promise. From the whole tenor of His teaching in regard to the righteousness of the kingdom of God, there is no reason to conclude that the members of the kingdom were forbidden the use of such confirmatory forms of speech towards others, or an appeal to God as witness to the truth of their words. Perhaps we cannot refer to the fact that Jesus Himself, at His trial before the high priest, answered by oath (according to the adjuration of the high priest), the question whether He were the Messiah, since, according to the original account in Mark (Mar 14:61), the high priest did not put his question in the form of an adjuration. Still, we can point to the fact that Jesus, according to the testimony of all our sources, frequently strengthened His statements by the addition of "verily," in order to awaken a closer attention in His hearers, and greater trust in His word (e.g. Mat 5:18; Mar 3:28; Mar 8:12; Mar 9:1; Joh 3:3; Joh 5:19; Joh 5:24, etc.). When we consider the matter, it is certainly true in a certain sense that the absolute prohibition of oaths can only find its full realisation in the perfected kingdom of God, where the disciples have no longer dealings with men who mistrust them, and whom they must themselves mistrust. But, to my mind, we cannot say that Jesus consciously made this prohibition only for the future ideal state of the perfected kingdom, or only for His disciples in their intercourse with one another. For He addressed His precept to the then present hearers of His discourse, and that in regard to their speech in general, and not merely to their speech among other members of the kingdom. We must, however, bear in mind that principle which is so often to be observed in the discourses of Jesus, of aiming at the greatest clearness in the shortest compass. According to this principle, in order to make the meaning and scope of a rule as plain as possible, He abstracted from all the circumstances of ordinary life which tended in any way to obscure that meaning and scope, yet without really setting up an exception to the rule. According to the tenor of the discourse, the point intended here is to substitute, for the earlier command to be faithful and true in regard to oaths, the higher command to be true and faithful in regard to the smallest word. The prohibition of oaths and all confirmatory additions to the simple statement, is in this connection only meant to apply to the use of oaths and other protestations, as expressing the reservation that one is not pledged to truth and faithfulness by the simple and ordinary form of speech. Jesus sought with the greatest clearness to forbid, universally and unconditionally, such protestations made with this reservation, and so far as they arose out of a deceitful spirit.—H. H. Wendt, D.D


Verses 38-48

CRITICAL NOTES

GENERAL REMARKS ON THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

The aim and contents of the "Sermon."—No mere sermon is this, only distinguished from others of its class by its reach and sweep and power; it stands alone as the grand charter of the commonwealth of heaven; or, to keep the simple title the Evangelist himself suggests (Mat ), it is "the gospel (or good news) of the kingdom." To understand it aright we must keep this in mind, avoiding the easy method of treating it as a mere series of lessons on different subjects, and endeavouring to grasp the unity of thought and purpose which binds its different parts into one grand whole. It may help us to do this if we first ask ourselves what questions would naturally arise in the minds of the more thoughtful of the people, when they heard the announcement, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." It was evidently to such persons the Lord addressed Himself.… In their minds they would, in all probability, be revolving such questions as these:

1. "What is this kingdom, what advantages does it offer, and who are the people that belong to it?"

2. "What is required of those that belong to it? What are its laws and obligations?" And if these two questions were answered satisfactorily, a third would naturally follow.

3. "How may those who desire to share its privileges and assume its obligations become citizens of it?" These, accordingly, are the three great questions dealt with in succession (J. M. Gibson, D.D.).

The originality of the Sermon.—We are not careful to deny, we are eager to admit, that many even of the most admirable sayings in the Sermon on the Mount had been anticipated by heathen moralists and poets (S. Cox, D.D.). To affirm that Christ was not in the world, nor in the thoughts of men, until He took flesh and dwelt among us, is no more to honour Him than it is to affirm that, when He came into the world, He showed Himself to be no wiser than the men whose thoughts He had previously guided and inspired.… His teaching, we may be sure, will not be new in the sense of having no connection with the truths He had already taught by them; but it will be new in this sense, that it will perfect that which in them was imperfect; that it will gather up their scattered thoughts, free them from the errors with which they had blended them, and harmonise, develop, and complete them (S. Cox, D D.).

Is the Sermon on the Mount evangelical?—You have heard, as I have, that there is no "Cross" in this Sermon on the Mount; that we are at the foot of Sinai listening to Moses, and not at Calvary "beholding the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world." Let us not be deceived. You might as well say there is no sun in a coal-pit or a geyser because you do not see his form there. Your British coalfields are as truly the-children of the sun as is the ray of light that last fell upon our eyes, and the high-pitched morality of this sermon is as really the offspring of the death and resurrection of Christ as the first pulse-beat of joy on the reception of the forgiveness of sins. Will you say that the writer of Todhunter's Trigonometry is unfamiliar with the first four rules of arithmetic because he assumes instead of stating and proving them? No more should we conclude that salvation by the sacrifice of the Son of God for men is absent from the Sermon on the Mount, because it is not expressly stated and argued as it is in the third of the Romans. There is not a benediction that does not take us to Calvary. There is not a warning that may not urge us to Christ. There is not a mountain elevation of holiness that will not force from us the cry, "Lord, help me, or I perish." The Sermon is full of the great principles we have to preach, and those principles are all embodied in the Speaker Himself. Teaching Him we teach the principles of this Sermon, and it is of little use teaching the ideas of this Sermon without also teaching Him (J. Clifford, D.D.). The Lord Jesus did not give the world His best wine in this cup, marvellous and precious though it be. The best thing in the Gospels is the gospel itself—that manifestation of the righteousness and love of God in the person, the life, and the death of His Son by which He wins our love and makes us righteous (S. Cox, D.D.).

The relation between the Sermon on the Mount as reported by St. Matthew and the account of it in St. Luke 6—Commentators are divided in opinion as to whether or not these are two versions of the same discourse. Augustine suggests a solution of the difficulty by saying that the two discourses are entirely distinct, though delivered on the same occasion—that reported by St. Matthew, on the mountain to the disciples; that of St. Luke, delivered on the plain just below to the multitude. Dean Vaughan concurs in this view, and says: "Men have doubted whether the discourse in St. Matthew is to be regarded as an ampler account of that which is reported by St. Luke. The general scope and purport is the same. Yet, as St. Matthew says expressly that Jesus spake ‘sitting on the mountain,' and St. Luke says that He spake ‘standing on the plain,' it seems not very unnatural to suppose that the one (that given by St. Matthew) was a discourse delivered, as it were, to the inner circle of His disciples, apart from the crowd outside; the other (preserved by St. Luke), a briefer and more popular rehearsal of the chief topics of the former, addressed, immediately afterwards, in descending the hill, to the promiscuous multitude." Lange also favours this view. Carr (Cambridge Bible for Schools) states the arguments in favour of the identity of the "Sermon on the Mount" with the "Sermon on the Plain," thus:

1. The beginning and end are identical as well as much of the intervening matter.

2. The portions omitted—a comparison between the old and the new legislation—are such as would be less adapted for St. Luke's readers than for St. Matthew's.

3. The "mount" and the "plain" are not necessarily distinct localities. The plain is more accurately translated "a level place," a platform on the high land.

4. The place in the order of events differs in St. Luke, but it is probable that here as well as elsewhere St. Matthew does not observe the order of time.

Mat . An eye for an eye, etc.—(See Exo 21:24). The scribes drew a false inference from the letter of the law. As a legal remedy the lex talionis was probably the best possible in a rude state of society (Carr). The aim of the law, as Jerome remarks, was not to sacrifice a second eye, but to save both. When a man in a passion understands that he is liable to lose an eye if he take one, he is likely, in the great majority of cases, to be so far controlled as to save both (Morison).

Mat . Coat.—The inner garment. Cloke.—The outer and more costly garment. Not allowed to be retained over night as a pledge from the poor, because used for a bed-covering (Exo 22:26-27). "Be ready to give up even that which by law cannot be taken" (Mansel).

Mat . Mile.—The influence of Rome is shown by the use of the Latin word (slightly altered) for the mille passuum, the thousand paces which made up a Roman mile—about one hundred and forty-two yards short of an English statute mile (Plumptre).

Mat . Love thy neighbour (Lev 19:18). Hate thine enemy.—Lightfoot quotes some of the cursed maxims inculcated by those traditionists regarding the proper treatment of all Gentiles. No wonder that the Romans charged the Jews with hatred of the human race (Brown).

Mat . Publicans.—The Roman name publicani, which our translators have employed in this and other places, properly denoted, not the collectors, but the farmers, of the customs; wealthy men of the equestrian order, who paid a rent to the State for the public revenues, and collected them for their own profit. The proper name for the actual collectors was portitores. These latter were sometimes freedmen or slaves, sometimes natives of the province in which the tax was collected (Mansel). The same?—Christianity is more than humanity (M. Henry).

Mat . Salute.—The prominence of salutation in the social life of the East gives a special vividness to this precept. To utter the formal "Peace be with you," to follow that up by manifold compliments and wishes, was to recognise those whom men saluted as friends and brothers (Plumptre). Publicans.—Gentiles (R.V.).

Mat . Be … perfect.—Ye therefore shall be perfect (R.V.). The future for the imperative, as in the Decalogue: "Thou shalt not kill" (Webster and Wilkinson).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mat

Counsels of perfection.—The subject discussed here is at once general and restricted. It is general because, instead of taking up individual commandments, as in Mat , it rather deals with the whole question of the second table of the law. It is restricted because it takes up nothing beside. The duty of man towards his neighbour! All that, and only that, is spoken of here. This one subject seems treated here in two different ways. On the one hand, we find more demanded in our Saviour's teaching about the matter in hand; on the other hand we find more imparted, than ever before.

I. More demanded.—More demanded, in the first place, as to the way of dealing with wrong. The natural tendency of men, on this point, is to return evil for evil; and to return it, so to speak, with interest, too. Natural justice, where wrong has been done, approves of its being returned. Natural anger goes further, and wishes it returned in excess. "I gave him more than I got;" so we wish, naturally, to be able to say. But the law of old stepped in here, and said emphatically that that was too much. "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" (Mat ). So far, but no farther, it allowed men to say; and, in so allowing, it placed, of course, a certain amount of restriction—of clear restriction and definite, also, if not very close—upon the wishes of men. What the teaching of Christ does here is both to take up and extend this idea. Instead of saying only when evil has been done us, that we are not to return it in excess; instead of saying even in such a case, that we are not to pay back as much; it teaches us rather, in the plainest language, not to return any at all. "Resist not evil;" resent not injuries; almost reward them, in fact (Mat 5:39-41). Do not even turn aside from the man (whoever he is) to whom you can do any good (Mat 5:42). On the other side, we find more demanded also in the way of dealing with good. On this point also, the attitude of human nature, where wholly untaught, is of a most unsatisfactory kind. It has been said, and is true, of certain wild beasts, that they regard every other wild beast of the same kind as a natural foe; and always, therefore, in catching sight of such, begin preparations for war. There is something not wholly unlike this in the wholly natural man. He naturally mistrusts, and therefore dislikes, and therefore "bristles" against whatever is similar to himself. Therefore it was that the law of old—God's earlier message—began at this point. It teaches us not to hate, but to love those with whom we are brought into contact. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour" (Mat 5:43) and think well of him until he has proved himself the reverse. Thou shalt love thy neighbour and return his kindness if he shows kindness to thee. On this advance—for such we see it is—Christ advances still mora "Thou shalt love" all those, He teaches, whoever they are, with whom thou dost come into contact. Thou shalt love them even when they prove themselves no true "neighbours" to thee; "blessing" them always, and "doing them good," and "praying" for their welfare; even as though, all the time, they were not in fact doing the very opposite about thee. So clear is it on this side, as on the other, that Christ asks us to "advance." Let that half-emptied cup of bitterness be by you emptied entirely. Let that half-filled cup of kindness be by you filled to the brim. Yea, over it also!

II. More imparted.—If there was an advance in demanding, there is advance in this too. An advance in regard to the amount of light vouchsafed in this case. The mission of Christ was not the first step in the revelation of God to mankind. It was rather the third. That precious but dim revelation made to the Gentiles (Mat R. V.), by means of God's works (Rom 1:20; Psa 19:1-3) may be looked on as the first. That fuller but still only limited declaration of the nature of God contained in those "sayings" of "old"—those messages and ordinances of Moses and the prophets—to which the Saviour has referred in this chapter so often, may be considered the second. That still fuller—but still not exhaustive—setting forth of God's character and attributes which the Saviour Himself had come to exhibit, is the third (see Joh 1:17-18; 2Pe 1:19). Of this the Saviour Himself afterwards said, that it was greater than any before (Mat 13:17). To this, as being such, in this Sermon on the Mount, He is pointing all through. According to Him in fact—according therefore to truth—according to all also that we have quoted just now—His teaching conveyed both far fuller light and far clearer light than before. The Gentiles, in a word, had walked in the twilight; Israel, in that of the morning; Christ brought that of the noon. An advance, also, in regard to the nature of its light. What the Saviour taught was of a more gracious character than any before. The book of nature is a lesson to all about God as our King. His exceeding "glory"—His "power and Godhead"—are the things it sets forth. The "book of the law" was a lesson to Israel about God as a lawgiver. His awful justice, His stainless holiness, are the chief things it enforces (Lev 11:44, etc.). The teaching of Christ is especially a manifestation of Almighty God as our Father (Mat 5:45; Mat 5:48; Mat 6:1; Mat 6:4; Mat 6:6; Mat 6:8-9; Mat 6:15, etc.; also especially Joh 14:6-9). Evidently, therefore, the special light which it gives us is that which is most important to us. Most important to us, on the one hand, as being the works of His hands; and because what it shows us is, that, besides being such, we are the special objects of His care. We are not only, as it were, part of the furniture—we are the "children"—of the house. Most important to us, on the other, as being children who have forfeited their right to that name. Here is that which is proclaimed to us by the very coming of "Christ." This is what God signifies to us by sending us His own Son—viz. that He is able and willing to restore us to our former standing as sons (Joh 1:12). A light this, therefore, which, being the Light of Love, is the most precious of all.

We see, therefore, on the whole, the perfect reasonableness of the demands made in this passage. They are "counsels of perfection," it is undoubtedly true. But they are counsels, also, which befit the atmosphere in which they are found. We expect the literal Israel to be nearer God than the Gentiles. We expect the spiritual Israel to be still nearer than they. Fuller light, clearer guidance, greater strength, more powerful motives ought to excel, if anything does. Those who are privileged to know such a Father ought on every ground to be like Him. What is the object of a perfect example except that, as it were, of giving birth to similar copies? Copies as "perfect" themselves as the material they are made of permits them to be. Do we not see, also, the perfect harmony of these demands with those going before? For do we not see, if we may so express ourselves, that they are such as grow cut of those? The restrictions of Moses prepare naturally for the closer restrictions of Jesus. The first ascent brings us to the foot of the second. Something in the same way, in earlier times, Joshua had completed what Moses had begun. Something so, also, out of the tabernacle the temple had grown. It is true, in this latter case, that the "curtains" of the one had become the stones of the other; and that some things which were comparatively small in the one were larger in the other. But it is equally true that this only displayed their harmony in almost every other respect. The same glorious idea, the same God, shone the more visibly in them both!

HOMILIES ON THE VERSES.

Mat . Retaliation.—

I. The doctrine of the scribes and Pharisees.—

1. Though Moses is very express that it was the judges and magistrates who were to inflict this punishment of retaliation, they allowed the injured parties either to avenge themselves or to sell off the punishment by accepting a pecuniary mulct, or some other reward and compensation, to the great discouragement of public justice.

2. They allowed of retaliation for the smallest injury, leaving no room for the virtue of patience.

3. They took no care to teach with what spirit this reparation was to be sought, not distinguishing between a just defence or reparation and a spirit of revenge.

II. Our Saviour's teaching.—

1. That we are to abstain from all private revenge, let the affront and injury be ever so great; there are public persons whose office it is to be the avengers of wrong, and these are to be applied to if we will needs right ourselves.

2. Our Saviour teaches the way of patience and forgiveness.

3. He obviates an objection, which is very natural to be started—namely, that this way of patience will expose us to be abused and affronted still more and more, when men know they can do it unpunished. Mat . I take the meaning of these expressions to be that we should rather venture receiving a second injury than revenge the first. The words are not to be interpreted literally, the turning of the cheek being a proverbial phrase for exposing oneself to an injury and patiently bearing it. Lam 3:30 means, he patiently beareth injuries and affronts. Our Saviour and St. Paul did not turn the other cheek when they were smitten. That we had better venture the suffering a second injury than revenge the first will appear if we consider:

1. That the evil of suffering is not to be compared with the evil of sin.

2. That not revenging pacifies the wrath of the adversary, whereas retaliating perpetuates strife.—Jas. Blair, M.A.

Mat . Principle or rule?—It is said that many years ago an eminent minister of the gospel, who had been a great athlete in his youth, on returning to his native town soon after he had been ordained, encountered in the High Street an old companion whom he had often fought and thrashed in his godless days. "So you've turned Christian, they tell me, Charley?" said the man. "Yes," replied the minister. "Well, then, you know the Book says, If you're struck on one cheek you're to turn the other. Take that!" and with that hit him a stinging blow. "There, then," replied the minister quietly, turning the other side of his face toward him. The man was brute enough to strike him heavily again. Whereupon the minister said, "And there my commission ends," pulled off his coat, and gave his antagonist a severe thrashing, which, no doubt, he richly deserved. But did the minister keep the command of Christ? He obeyed the letter of the rule; but did he not violate the principle, the spirit, of it? Hear [another] story and judge. It is told of a celebrated officer in the army that, as he stood leaning over a wall in the barrack-yard, one of his military servants, mistaking him for a comrade, came softly up behind him and suddenly struck him a hard blow. When the officer looked round, his servant, covered with confusion, stammered out, "I beg your pardon, sir; I thought it was George." His master gently replied, "And if it were George, why strike so hard?" Which, now, of these two really obeyed the command of Christ? The minister who made a rule of it and kept to the letter of the rule, or the officer who made a principle of it and, acting on the spirit of it, neglected the letter?—S. Cox. D.D.

Mat . The historical allusion.—The word that is translated "shall compel to go" is of Persian origin, and has reference to a postal arrangement that was much admired by the Greek historians. On the great lines of road stations were established where horses and riders were kept for the purpose of carrying forward the royal mails, on the principle of relays. The carriers were empowered in cases of emergency to press into their service any available persons, or beasts of burden, or other means of transport. The same kind of postal arrangement was adopted by the later Greeks and by the Romans, and has descended, in fuller development, to our own time, and is now interlacing the whole civilized world. The power of empressment that constituted part of the original system is what is referred to in the word which is employed by our Lord. It would sometimes be exceedingly annoying to private individuals; and, no doubt, petty private tyrants would, in their own petty dominions or demesnes, put in operation the same principle when they had some express to forward on their own account. The empressment of such individuals and their officials would be apt to be vexatious. But, says Jesus, do more in such circumstances than is asked of thee; of course, provided it would be of avail to the carrier, and consistent with other and perhaps more imperious or important obligations. Let there be no stint in your efforts to help others, even when your help is ungraciously asked.—J. Morison, D.D.

Christ and Epictetus.—It is interesting to note a like illustration of the temper that yields to compulsion of this kind, rather than struggle or resist, in the teaching of the Stoic Epictetus—"Should there be a forced service, and a soldier should lay hold on thee, let him work his will; do not resist or murmur (Diss., IV. i. 79).—E. H. Plumptre, D.D.

Mat . Doing good for evil.—I. It is the duty of Christians to do good for evil.—This is to be gathered chiefly from the connection and purport of this discourse.

II. If our adversary is in want we ought to bestow our bounty upon him, as upon other objects of charity and beneficence.

III. If he is not in such want as to need our bounty by way of charity, yet if he wants our help out of any straits and difficulties, by lending, or any other favour and courtesy, we ought readily to afford it, and not show ourselves hard-hearted, difficult, or morose. Exhortation:—

1. From the example of Almighty God (Mat ).

2. The efficacy of this method towards the reconciling of an adversary.

3. This kind treating of an adversary in his want or distress is reconcileable with the customs and maxims of the more generous sort of combatants in the world.

4. This is one of the best signs of the good temper of our own souls.

5. We have the greatest assurance that all actions of that nature shall be amply rewarded; and the contrary uncharitableness punished (Mat ).

6. It will be found that the contrary practices proceed always from some base principle, such as pride, frowardness, cruelty, jealousy, cowardice, ingratitude, moroseness, and the want of generosity.—Jas. Blair, M.A.

Mat . The love of enemies.—

I. To say that this precept is romantic and unpractical is to condemn the gospel of Christ.—The Incarnation and coming into the world of our blessed Lord had the object of making us now, here, at once, better men, women, and children. Our Lord does not teach us that we are to like our enemies, but to love them.

II. Our blessed Lord perfectly fulfilled His own law of loving enemies.—Love is a tree known by its fruits; and these are justice, truth, purity, mercy, patience, liberality, honour, meekness, sympathy. The first step in love, to friend or enemy, is respect.

III. Our blessed Lord here, as everywhere, is our Pattern.

IV. The test of love is not mere fondness or fancy, but the trouble you are willing to take and the sacrifice you are prepared to make for the person loved. Instead of the precept, "Love your enemies," being a mere lovely theory, it is to the last degree practical, because the principle which underlies the whole matter is simply this—and it admits of very wide application indeed—wherever a person finds himself in a position in any way whatever antagonistic to that of another, then there arises at once a special call and reminder to be just, patient, scrupulously fair, to do as one would be done by; for who can fail to see that, when something draws towards one and not towards another, the two are judged by totally different standards? A weak leniency, a caricature of charity, sees nothing wrong in one, while in another faults are magnified and perhaps nothing is right.—H. Percy Smith, M.A.

Loving enemies.—I remember as a boy sitting by the fireside of a little country inn, up near Dead River in Maine, and hearing some men discuss the Sermon on the Mount. Rough fellows they were; and one of them, scoffing at Christianity, said, "Thou shalt love thine enemy—nonsense! It is not in human nature." He was right. It is not in human nature; qut it was in Christ's nature, and it is in the Divine nature. And it is in the Divine nature to impart it through Christ to those who claim it.—L. Abbott, D.D.

Subduing enemies.—It is recorded of a Chinese emperor that, on being apprised of his enemies having raised an insurrection in a distant province, he said to his officers, "Come, follow me, and we shall quickly destroy them." He marched forward, and the rebels submitted upon his approach. All now thought he would take the most signal revenge, but were surprised to see the captives treated with mildness and humanity. "How!" cried the first minister, "is this the manner in which your promise is fulfilled? Your royal word was given that your enemies should be destroyed, and behold, you have pardoned them all, and even caressed some of them." "I promised," replied the emperor, with a generous air, "to destroy my enemies. I have fulfilled my word; for see, they are enemies no longer. I have made friends of them."—Tools for Teachers.

Kindness to enemies.—A good man is kinder to his enemy than bad men are to their friends.—Bishop Hall.

Mat . Christ's law ignored.—"Either these sayings are not Christ's, or we are not Christians," was the exclamation of a great man after reading these words.—R. W. Dale, LL.D.

Mat .What do ye more than others?—

I. Disciples have to do more than others.—

1. Maintain the Christian life.

2. Extend the cause of Christ.

II. They are able to do more than others.—

1. They are in alliance with God.

2. They have more light and knowledge.

3. They have more moral power.

III. More is expected of them than of others.—

1. By their Saviour.

2. By the world.

3. By their own consciences.—J. C. Gray.

Mat . Christian perfection.—The text sums up that portion of the Sermon on the Mount in which Christ has so lucidly developed the Christian ideal of character. Our Lord sets before us the only absolutely perfect and holy Being as the ultimate standard of character in the kingdom of God. We have in the text:—

I. A comprehensive command.—"Be ye therefore perfect." Note:

1. The meaning of the attainment.—

(1) In general the word "perfect" signifies completeness in all its parts. The babe is a perfect human being, even though only in germ or not full grown, when its parts or limbs are complete. Creation was perfect or complete in all its adjustments when God pronounced it "very good," though its high purpose had not been attained in the activity of providence and grace.

(2) In particular. Complete in those elements of goodness which form character, and which are found in the full-orbed goodness of our heavenly Father—not in degree, but in kind.

2. The nature of the attainment.—It is important that we should distinguish between a perfection which is absolute, and therefore unattainable by us, and a relative or evangelical perfection. Hence observe

(1) Negatively.—It helps us immensely to find out what a thing is if we have found its negative. (a) It is not the perfection of God. The perfection of God is absolute. (b) It is not the perfection of angels. The angels have never left their first estate. Their faculties and understanding have never been impaired and perverted. (c) It is not Adamic perfection. (d) It is not the perfection of knowledge. There are not any of us free from ignorance. (e) It is not freedom from error. None infallible but God. (f) It is not freedom from temptation. (g) It is not freedom from infirmities—bodily infirmities and mental eccentricities, such as weakness of body, dulness of understanding, and incoherence of thought.

(2) Affirmatively.—The word "perfect" signifies in the New Testament completion in Christian character; a desire to please God in all things; and a sincere compliance with all the Divine precepts.

II. A high standard.—"Even as your Father which is in heaven." Perfect as God is perfect? We say, Impossible! But for our encouragement let us look into these words closely and remember:—

1. That a high standard is necessary in everything great to attain real success.—Painting, architecture, music, etc.

2. That a high standard is necessary in order to lift our thoughts above the earthly standards.—Boys at school are bidden to look at their copies.

3. That a high standard is necessary to meet the boundless desires of our spiritual being.—Our nature is kindred with that of God. Man is satisfied only in being like God.

III. A possible attainment.—That there is an evangelical or Christian perfection which is possible may be proved:

1. Because we are commanded to be perfect.—Text; Gen ; 2Co 13:11. God never commands what is impossible.

2. Because prayer is offered in the New Testament for certain persons that they may be perfect (1Th ; Col 4:12; 2Co 13:9).

3. Because the means to attain the blessing are sufficient.—We have a perfect rule—God's Word—to teach us how to get it; a perfect Redeemer, in whom there is fulness of grace, whose blood is enough to cleanse the vilest; a perfect Pattern to copy.

4. Because it is the will of God that we should be perfect.—It is God's ultimate purpose in all that He has done and is doing for us.—J. Harries.

The Christian aim and motive.—

I. The Christian aim—Perfection.

II. The Christian motive.—Because it is right and Godlike to be perfect.—F. W. Robertson, M.A.

The purpose of Christianity.—Here is Christ's idea of His holy religion. This is what it is to do for us: It is to make us like God. What is our idea of religion? Very much, one might almost say everything, depends upon the answer.—M. G. Pearse.

The perfection of love.—It is in a small degree that we can share God's wisdom; in a still smaller degree His power. These attributes of His nature must always be over and around us, rather than within us. But of His love it is said, "God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." It is as much ours as our home—nay, as much ours as our heart.—John Ker, D.D.

Perfection—Divine and human.—God's is the only absolute perfection; man's is relative, contained in the high destiny which bids him ever struggle towards the Infinite which he yet can never reach. There is no perfection so incomplete as the one which admits of no increase; that is the perfection of death, not of life.—A. M. Fairbairn, D.D.

Difficult yet practicable.—When Dr. Horace Bushnell originated the idea of a public park in Hartford, Connecticut, there were some who feared that the appropriation it called for would not be voted. It was suggested that it would be wiser to ask for half the amount. He replied, "No; sometimes a project is made practicable by being made difficult."—J. H. Twitchell.

A sign of perfection.—There is no greater sign of your own perfection than when you find yourself all love and compassion toward them that are very weak and defective.—Wm. Law.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Matthew 5:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/matthew-5.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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