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is as inoffensive an expression as can well be used, toward one at whom we are displeased. And yet, whosoever shall use this, as our Lord assures us, “shall be in danger of the council;” rather, shall be obnoxious thereto: he shall be liable to a severer sentence from the Judge of all the earth. .
“But whosoever shall say, Thou Fool;"_Whosoever shall so give place to the Devil, as to break out into reviling, into designedly reproachful and contumelious language, “shall be obnoxious to hell-fire;" shall, in that instant, be liable to the highest condemnation. It should be observed, that our Lord describes all these as obnoxious to capital punishment. The first, to strangling, usually inflicted on those who were condemned in one of the inferior courts; the second, to stoning, which was frequently inflicted on those who were condemned by the great Council at Jerusalem; the third, to buruing alive, inflicted only on the highest offenders, in the “ Valley of the sons of Hinnom;" To Evywv, from which that word is evidently taken, which we translate Hell..
10. And whereas men naturally imagine, that God will excuse their defect in some duties, for their exactness in others; our Lord next takes care to cut off that vain, though common imagination. He shows, that it is impossible for any sinner to commute with God; who will not accept one duty for another, nor take a part of obedience for the whole. He warns us, that the performing our duty to God will not excuse us from our duty to our neighbour; that works of piety, as they are called, will be so far from commending us to God, if we are wanting in charity, that, on the contrary, that want of charity will make all those works an abomination to the Lord.'
“ Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee,”-on account of thy unkind behaviour toward him, of thy calling him, Raca, or Thou Fool; think not that thy gift will atone for thy anger; or that it will find any acceptance with God, so long as thy conscience is defiled with the guilt of unrepented sin. “Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother,” (at least do all that in thee lies toward being reconciled,) " and then come and offer thy gift.” (Ver. 23, 24.)
11. And let there be no delay in what so nearly concerneth thy soul. “Agree with thine adversary quickly;"-Ow; upon the spot; “whiles thou art in the way with him ;'
if it be possible, before he go out of thy sight;" lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge;" lest he appeal to God, the Judge of all; “and the Judge deliver thee to the officer;” to Satan, the executioner of the wrath of God; “and thou be cast into prison ;" into hell, there to be reserved to the judgment of the great day: “ Verily, I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no mcans come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” But this it is impossible for thee ever to do; seeing thou hast nothing to pay. Therefore, if thou art once in that prison, the smoke of thy torment must “ascend up for ever and ever.”
12. Meantime “ The meek shall inherit the earth.” Such is the foolishness of worldly wisdom! The wise of the world had warned them again and again, “That if they did not resent such treatment, if they would tamely suffer themselves to be thus abused, there would be no living for them upon earth; that they would never be able to procure the common necessaries of life, nor to keep even what they had ; that they could expect no peace, no quiet possession, no enjoyment of any thing.” Most true, suppose there were no God in the world; or, suppose he did not concern himself with the children of men : but “when God ariseth to judgment, and to help all the meck upon earth,” how doth he laugh all this Heathen wisdom to scorn, and turn the “fierceness of man to his praise!” He takes a peculiar care to provide them with all things needful for life and godliness; he secures to them the provision he hath made, in spite of the force, fraud, or malice of men; and what he secures he gives them richly to enjoy. It is sweet to them, be it little or much. As in patience they possess their souls, so they truly possess whatever God hath given them. They are always content, always pleased with what they have: it pleases them, because it pleases God: so that while their heart, their desire, their joy is in heaven, they may truly be said to “ inherit the earth.”
13. But there seems to be a yet farther meaning in these words, even that they shall have a more eminent part in “ the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness;” in that iuheritance, a general description of which (and the particulars we shall know hereafter) St. John hath giren in the 20th chapter of the Revelation : “And I saw an angel come down from heaven,-and he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, -and bound him a thousand years. And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and of them which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again, until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection : on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."
II. I. Our Lord has hitherto been more immediately employed in removing the Hinderances of true Religion : such is pride, the first, grand hinderance of all religion, which is taken away by poverty of spirit ; levity and thoughtlessness, which prevent any religion from taking root in the soul, till they are removed by holy mourning; such are anger, impatience, discontent, which are all healed by christian meekness. And when once these hinderances are removed, these evil diseases of the soul, which were continually raising false cravings therein, and filling it with sickly appetites, the native appetite of a beaven-born spirit returns; it hungers and thirsts after righteousness: and, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.”
2. Righteousness, as was observed before, is the image of God, the mind which was in Christ Jesus. It is every holy and heavenly temper in one; springing from, as well as terminating in, the love of God, as our Father and Redeemer, and the love of all men for his sake.
3. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after" this : In order fully to understand which expression, we should observe, first, that hunger and thirst are the strongest of all our bodily appetites. In like manner this hunger in the soul, this thirst after the image of God, is the strongest of all our spiritual appetites, when it is once awakened in the heart: yea, it swallows up all the rest in that one great desire,-to be renewed after the likeness of him that created us. We should, secondly, observe, That from the time we begin to hunger and thirst, those appetites do not cease, but are more and more craving and importunate, till we either eat and drink, or die. And even so, from the time that we begin to hunger and thirst after the whole mind which was in Christ, these spiritual appetites do not cease, but cry after their food with more and more importunity; por can they possibly cease, before they are satisfied, while there is any spiritual life remaining. We may, thirdly, observe, That huuger and thirst are satisfied with nothing but mcat and drink. If you would give to him.that is hungry all the world beside, all the elegance of apparel, all the trappings of state, all the treasure upon carth, yea, thousands of gold and silver; if you would pay him ever so much honour;-he regards it vot: all these things are then of no account with him. He would still say, These are not the things I want; give me food, or else I die. The very same is the case with every soul that truly hungers and thirsts after rightcousness. He can find no comfort in any thing but this: he can be satisfied with nothing else. Whatever you ofler besides, it is lightly esteemed: whether it be riches, or honour, or pleasure, he still says, This is not the thing which I want! Give me love, or else I die
4. And it is as impossible to satisfy such a soul, a soul that is athirst for God, the living God, with what the world accounts religion, as with what they account happiness. The religion of the world implies three things : (1,) the doing no harm, the abstaining from outward sin ; at least from such as is scandalous, as robbery, theft, common swearing, drunkenness : (2,) the doing good, the relieving the poor'; the being charitable, as it is called : (3, the using the means of grace; at least the going to Church and to the Lord's Supper. He, in whom these three marks are found, is termed by the world a religious man. But will this satisfy him who hungers after God? No: It is not food for his soul. He wants a religion of a nobler kind, a religion higher and deeper than this. He car no morc feed on this poor, shallow, formal thing, than he can“ fill his belly with the cast wind.” True, he is careful to abstain from the very appearance of evil; he is zealous of good works; he attends all the ordinances of God: but all this is not what he longs for. This is only the outside of that religion, which hc insatiably hungers after. The knowledge of God in Christ Jesus; “the life which is hid with Christ in God;" the being “ joined unto the Lord in one spirit;" the having “ fellowship with the Father and the Son ;” the "walking in the light as God is in the light;" the being “purified even as He is pure;"—this is the religion, the righteousness, he thirsts after: nor can he rest, till he thus rests in God.
5. “Blessed are they who [thus] hunger and thirst after rightcousness: for they shall be filled.” They shall be filled with the things which they long for; even with righteousness and true holiness. God shall satisfy thein with the blessings of his goodness, with the felicity of his chosen. He shall feed them with the bread of heaven, with the manna of his love. He shall give them to drink of his pleasures as out of the river, which he that drinketh of shall never thirst, only for more and more of the water of life. This thirst shall endure for ever.
“ The painful thirst, the fond desire,
Thy joyous presence shall remove:
A whole eternity of love."
6. Whosoever then thou art, to whom God hath given to “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” cry unto him that thou mayest never lose that inestimable gift,—that this divine appetite · may never cease. If many rebuke thec, and bid thce hold thy peace, regard them not; yea, cry so much the more, “ Jesus, Master, have mercy on me!” “Let me not live, but to be holy as thou art holy!” No more “ spend thy money for that which is not bread, nor thy labour for that which satisfieth not.” Canst thou hope to dig happiness out of the earth,—to find it in the things of the world ? O trample under foot all its pleasures, despise its honours, count its riches as dung and dross,-yea, and all the things which are beneath the sun," for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus,” for the entire renewal of thy soul in that image of God wherein it was originally created. Beware of quenching that blessed hunger and thirst, by what the world calls religion; a religion of form, of outside show, which leaves the heart as earthly and sensual as ever. Let nothing satisfy thec but the power of godliness, but a religion that is spirit and life; thy dwelling in God and God in thee; the being an inhabitant of eternity; the entering in by the blood of sprinkling within the vail,” and sitting “ in heavenly places with Christ Jesus."
III. 1. And the more they are filled with the life of God, the more tenderly will they be concerned for those who are still without God in the world, still dead in trespasses and sins. Nor shall this concern for others lose its reward. “Blessed · are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”