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heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven : For so persecuted they the prophets which were
Ye are the salt of the earth : but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted ? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world: A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel : but on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
What abundant reason have we to bless God that this large and edifying discourse of our blessed Redeemer is thus particularly recorded by the sacred historian. Let every one that hath ears to hear attend to it; for surely never man spake as our Lord here doth. Let us fix our souls in a posture of humble attention, that we may receive the law from his mouth.
He opened it with blessings, repeated and most important blessings. But on whom are they pronounced ? and whom are we taught to think the happiest of mankind ? The meek and the humble, the penitent and the merciful, the peaceful and the pure, those that hunger and thirst after righteousness, those that labour, but faint not under persecution! Blessed Jesus ! how different are thy maxims from those of the children of this world! They call the proud happy, and admire the gay, the rich, the powerful and the victorious. But let a vain world take its gaudy trifles, and dress up the foolish creatures that pursue them. May our souls share in that happiness which the Son of God came to recommend and to procure! May we obtain mercy of the Lord; may we be owned as his children; may we see his face; and may we inherit his kingdom! With these enjoyments, and these hopes, we will cheerfully welcome the lowest or the most painful circumstances.
Let us awaken and stir up our souls to the cultivation of those amiable virtues which are here recommended to our pursuit; this humility and meekness, this penitent sense of sin, this ardent desire after righteousness, this compassion and purity, this peacefulness and fortitude of soul, and, in a word, this universal goodness, which becomes us, as we sustain the character of the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Is not there reason to lament it, that we answer the character no more? Is there not reason to cry out, with a good man in former times,‘ Blessed Jesus ! either these are not thy words, or we are not Christians !' Oh, season our hearts more effectually with thy grace ! Pour forth that Divine oil on our lamps ! Then shall the flame brighten ; then shall the ancient honours of thy religion be revived ; and multitudes be awakened and animated by the lustre of it to glorify our Father in heaven. Amen.
Matthew V. 17-26. THINK not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: But whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Ye have heard, that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill: and whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee : Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him: lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily, I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
Let us seriously consider and often recollect the purposes of Christ's appearance: he came not to destroy the law and the prophets, or to dissolve men's obligation to observe them: but rather to enforce as well as to fulfil them. How fatally shall we pervert the purposes of his coming, if we regard him as the minister of sin? How ungratefully shall we abuse the merciful constitution of his gospel should we take encouragement from thence to violate his law ? Dangerous as well as ungrateful abuse indeed! For God's eye will be watchful over its honours, and his hand exerted to maintain them; so that heaven and earth shall pass away before it shall fail of its accomplishment in being either obeyed or avenged on the impenitent sinner. May it be our constant care to keep it ourselves, and to teach others to observe it! May we teach it by our lives as well as our lips; and let our daily conversation demonstrate how practicable and how amiable its precepts are! So shall we be great in the kingdom of heaven, in the pursuit of which we may give full scope to the noblest ambition of which human nature is capable.
Let our hearts own and feel the spiritual sense of God's law, that we may rise to a more sincere and more extensive righteousness than that of the Scribes and Pharisees. May we delight in it after the inward man, and learn to regulate our thoughts and our passions, as well as our external behaviour, by it!
Especially let us avoid all the malignant and ill-natured passions, all thoughts of rash and immoderate anger, all words of contumely and reproach. If we would maintain commua nion with the God of love, let love govern in our hearts; and when we come to present our devotions to him, let us lift up holy hands without wrath, as well as without doubting (I Tim. ii. 8,) so may we promise ourselves a gracious welcome; so shall we carry away the most valuable blessings !
But are none of us strangers to this blessed state? Are none of us obnoxious to the Divine displeasure ? If we are so, with what a holy solicitude of soul should we labour, to
make up the controversy and come to an agreement, while we are yet in the way with this awful adversary! lest we be immediately hurried before the tribunal of the righteous Judge of all the world, and be delivered into the hands of justice, to be reserved in everlasting chains beyond the possibility of redemption.
Lord, we were all the debtors, and, in one sense, the prisoners of thy justice; and of ourselves we are most incapable, not only of paying the uttermost farthing, but even of discharging the least part of the debt! We bless thee for that generous Surety who has undertaken and discharged it for us: and by the price of whose atoning blood we are delivered from the chains of darkness, and are translated into the glorious liberty of thy children.
Matthew v. 27–48. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
Again ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths. But I say unto you, Swear not at all ; neither by heaven, for it is God's throne: nor by the earth, for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea, Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these, cometh of evil.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others ? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Alas! how may we blush to call God our Father, while we resemble him so little ! And what reason is there, on a survey of these directions of our Lord, to acknowledge our deficiencies and our faults ! Let us review the many advantages we enjoy, as Christians, and the engagements we are under in the particular circumstances in which Divine Providence has placed us; and blush to think that we do so little more than others, perhaps in many instances falling short even of the virtues of heathens.
Let us particularly be instructed by these lessons of our Divine Master to recompense good for evil : lessons which come with peculiar grace from his mouth, as he was himself