« הקודםהמשך »
can we find in any thing he ever spoke, either to the multitudes, or to his disciples. Has any one of the Apostles, or other inspired writers, left such an instruction upon record ? No such thing. No assertion of this kind is to be found in all the Oracles of God. Who then are the men who are so much wiser thali God ?-wise so far aborc that is written ?
6. Perhaps they will say, “ That the reason of the thing requires such a restriction to be made.” If it does, it must be on one of these two accounts ; Because, without such a restriction, the discourse would cither be apparently absurd, or would contradict some other scripture. But this is not the case. It will plainly appear, when we come to examine the several particulars, that there is no absurdity at all in applying all which our Lord hath here delivered to all mankind. Neither will it iufer any contradiction to any thing else he has delivered, nor to any other scripture whatever. Nay, it will farther appear, thai cither all the parts of this discourse are to be applied to men in general, or po part; seeing they are all connected together, all joined as the stones in an arch, of which you cannot take one allal, without destroying the whole fabric.
7. We may, lastly, observe, How our Lord teaches here. And surely, as at all times, so particularly at this, he speaks ss as never man spake.” Not as the holy men of old; although iley also spoke “ as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Vot as Peter, or James, or John, or Paul: they were indeed vise master-vuilders in his Church; but still in this, in the degrees of heavenly wisdom, the servant is not as his Lord. No, nor eren als himself at any other time, or on any other occasion. It does not appear, that it was erer his design, at any other time or place, to lay down at once the whole plan of his Religion ; to give us a full prospect of Christianity; to describe at large the nature of that Holiness, without which no man shall sce the Lord. Particular branches of this he has indeed sicscribed, on a thousand different occasions; but never, besides Tiere, vid begirl, of set purpose, a general view of the whole, May, we have nothing else of this kind in all the Bible; unless w!le should except that short sketch of Holiness, delivered by God in those Ten Words or Commandments to Moses, on Mount Sinai. Bet ereu hiere how wide a difference is there between one and the other? “Even that which was made glorious bad no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory 70. Caceitesh." 1 Cor. ii. 10.)
8. Above all, with what amazing Love does the Son of God here reveal his Father's will to man! He does not bring us again “to the mount that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest.” He does not speak as when he“ thundered out of heaven;" when the Highest “gave his thunder, hail-stones, and coals of fire.” He now addresses us with his still, small voice,-“Blessed,” or happy, “are the poor in spirit.” Happy are the mourners; the meek; those that hunger after righteousness; the merciful; the pure in heart : happy in the end and in the way; happy in this life, and in life everlasting! As if he had said, Who is he that lusteth to live, and would fain see good days ? Behold, I show you the thing which your soul longeth for! See the way you have so long sought in vain ; the way of pleasantness; the path to calm, joyous peace, to heaven below and heaven above!
9. At the same time with what Authority does he teach! Well might they say, “Not as the Scribes.” Observe the manner, (but it .cannot be expressed in words,) the air, with which he speaks ! Not as Moses, the servant of God; not as Abraham, his friend ; not as any of the Prophets ; nor as any of the sons of men. It is something more than human; more than can agree to any created being! It speaks the Creator of all! A God, a God appears! Yea, O 22N, the Being of beings, Jehovah, the Self-existent, the Supreme, the God who is over all, blessed for ever!
10. This divine Discourse, delivered in the most excellent method, every subsequent part illustrating those that precede, is commonly, and not improperly, divided into Three principal branches : the First, contained in the Fifth,-the Second in the Sixth,—and the Third, in the Seventh Chapter. In the First, the Sum of all true Religion is laid down in Eight Particulars, which are explained and guarded against the false glosses of man, in the following parts of the Fifth Chapter. In the Second are Rules for that right Intention, which we are to preserve in all our outward actions; unmixed with worldly desires, or anxious cares for even the necessaries of life. In the Third, are Cautions against the main Hinderances of Religion, closed with an Application of the whole.
I. 1. Our Lord, First, lays down the Sum of all true Religion in Eight Particulars, which he explains, and guards against the false glosses of men, to the end of the fifth chapter. · Some have supposed that he designed, in these, to point out the several stages of the christian course; the steps which a Christian successively takes in his journey to the promised land ;-others, that all the particulars here set down, belong at all times to every Christian. And why may we not allow both the one and the other ? What inconsistency is there between them? It is undoubtedly true, that both poverty of spirit, and every other temper which is here mentioned, are ai all times found, in a greater or less degree, in every rcal Christian. And it is equally true, that real Christianity always begins in poverty of spirit, and goes on in the order here set down, till the “man of God is made perfect." We begin at the lowest of these gifts of God; yet so as not to relinquish this, when we are called of God to come up bigher : but " whereunto we have already attained, we hold fast," while we press on to What is yet before, to the highest blessings of God in Christ Jesus.
2. The foundation of all is Poverty of Spirit: llere, therefore, our Lord begins : “ Blessed," saith he, “are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
It may not improbably be supposed, that our Lord looked on those who were round about him, and, observing that not many rich were there, but rather the poor of the world, took occasion from thence to make a transition from temporal to spiritual things. “Blessed,” saith he, (or happy,—so the word should be rendered, both in this and the following verses,) “ are the poor in spirit.” He does not say, they that are poor, as to outward circumstances,--it being not impossible, that some of these may be as far from happiness as a monarch upon his throne; but “the poor in spirit;” tliey who, whatever their outward circumstances are, have that disposition of heart, which is the first step to all real, substantial happiness, either in this world, or that which is to come.
3. Some have judged, That by the poor in spirit here, are meant those who love poverty; those who are free from covetousness, from the love of money; who fear, rather than desire riches. Perhaps they have been induced so to judge, by wholly confining their thoughts to the very term; or by considering that weighty observation of St. Paul, that “the love of money is the root of all evil.” And licnce many have wholly divested themselves, not only of riches, but of all worldly goods. Hence also the vows of voluntary poverty sceni to have arisen in the Romish Church; it being supposed, that so eminent a degree of this fundamental grace must be a large step toward the “ kingdom of heaven.”
But these do not seem to have observed, first, That the expression of St. Paul must be understood with some restriction; otherwise it is not true; for the love of money is not the root, the sole root, of all evil. There are a thousand other roots of evil in the world, as sad experience daily shows. His meaning can only be, it is the root of very many evils ; perbaps of more than any single vice besides.—Secondly, that this sense of the expression,“ poor in spirit,” will by no means suit our Lord's present design, which is to lay a general foundation whereon the whole fabric of Christianity may be built; a design which would in no wise be answered by guarding against one particular vice: so that, if even this were supposed to be one part of his meaning, it could not possibly be the whole.—Thirdly, that it cannot be supposed to be any part of his meaning, unless we charge him with manifest tautology: seeing, if “ poverty of spirit” were only freedom from covetousness, from the love of money, or the desire of riches, it would coincide with what he afterwards mentions, it would be only a branch of purity of heart.
4. Who then are “ The poor in spirit ? ” Without question, the humble; they who know themselves; who are convinced of sin; those to whom God hath given that first repentance, which is previous to faith in Christ.
One of these can no longer say, “ I am rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing;” as now knowing, that he is “ wretched, and poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked.” He is convinced that he is spiritually poor indeed; having no spiritual good abiding in him. “In me,” saith he, “ dwelleth no good thing,” but whatsoever is evil and abominable. He has a deep sense of the loathsome leprosy of Sin, which he brought with him from his mother's womb, which overspreads his whole soul, and totally corrupts every power and faculty thereof. He sees more and more of the evil tempers which spring from that evil root; the pride and haughtiness of spirit, the constant bias to think of himself more highly than he ought to think ; the vanity, the thirst after the esteem or honour that cometh from men; the hatred or envy, the jealousy or revenge, the anger, malice, or bitterness; the inbred enmity both against God and man, which appears in ten thousand shapes; the love of the world, the self-will, the foolish and hurtful desires, which cleave to his inmost soul. He is Coolincions, huilcheeply le bas offended by his tongue; if not liv profaut', immodest, untrue, or unhind words, yet by discourse which was 110t “ good to the use of edifying,” not “ meet to minister grace to the hearers," whichi, consequently, was all corrupt in God's account, and crierous to his Holy Spirit. Ilis evil works are now likewise ever in his siglit: if he tells them, “ they are more than he is able to express.” He may as well think to number the drops of rain, the sands of the sea, or thic days of eternity.
5. His Guilt is now also before his face: he knows the punishmeut he has deserved, were it only on account of his carnal mind, the entire, universal corruption of bis nature; how much more, on account of all his evil desires and thoughts, of all his sinful words and actious! He cannot doubt for a moment, but the least of these deserves the damnation of hell, -" the worm that dieth not, and the fire that never shall be quenched.” Above all, the guilt of “ not believing on the name of the only-begotten Son of God," lies beavy upon him. How, saith be, shall I escape, who “neglect so great salvation!” “ He that believeth not is condemned already,” and “the wrath of God abideth on him."
6. But what shall he give in exchange for his soul, which is forscited to the just rengcance of God? “Wherewithal shall he come before the Lord?” How shall be pay Him that he oweth? Were he from this moment to perform the most perfect obcdience to every command of God, this would make no amends for a single sin, for any one act of past disobedience; seeing he owes God all the servicc he is able to perform, from this monient to all eternity: could he pay this, it would make no manner of awends for what he ought to have done before. He sees himself therefore utterly helpless with regard to atoning for his past sins; utterly unable to make any amends to God, to pay any rausom for his own soul.
But if God would forgive liim all that is past, on this one condition, that he should sin no more; that for the time to come he should entirely and constantly obey all his commands ; he wel voils that this would profit him nothing, being a condilion he could never perform. He knows and feels, that he is not able to obey, even the outward commands of God; seeing tbene cannot be obeyed, wbile his bicart remains in its natural sintuluess and corruption; inasmuch as an evil tree cannot trims fortlı good fruit. But he cannot clause a sinful hicart : 1:1 Clovis impossibile : so that he is lluily at a loss cren