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vessel to the brim, which was before but upon their true principles, and exhibited partially filled; and the completion of a in so strong a light of simple, searching picture previously sketched. This idea truth, and so sanctioned by promises and fully accords with what follows; for our threatenings, that he may most emphatiLord first, in the most solemn manner, cally be said to have perfected the moral asserts the continued obligation of the law, as it appears in the prophets also, moral law, by declaring that “whosoever and thus to have presented to us a reveshould break one of these least command. lation of “the will of God,” as to “ ments, and should teach men so, should sanctification,” more complete than was be called least in the kingdom of hea- ever before given to mankind. He does ven;" that is, be rejected from it; which not formally re-enact the ancient law, but could only be spoken of the moral law; he lays down its perpetual obligation ; he for as to the rites and ceremonies of the teaches us to go more deeply into its Jewish law, his inspired apostles ulti- meaning as a law, not merely for the mately taught their followers to disregard regulation of the conduct, but the governthem entirely. Secondly, he proceeds to ment of the heart. Both on this occasion, give a more spiritual and extensive mean- and at various times through the course ing to many of the moral precepts, than of his ministry, he added also many parwe find explicitly contained in any part of ticular precepts. It is of the same law of the Old Testament; and thereby showed which our Lord speaks, and with evident that all the precepts of the law, even reference to his words in this passage, those which he does not specify, were to that the apostle Paul says, “Do we then be understood as controlling the inward make void the law through faith? God thoughts and desires of the heart; and forbid ; yea, we establish the law,” (Rom. thus he perfected or filled up the revela- iii. 31,) where he changes the term to comtion of the moral law; and by this act he plete or perfect, for that of “ to establish,” placed himself on an equality with the because it was the province, not of the original Lawgiver. By the prophets we servant but of the master, who was in are also to understand, not those writings fact the Lawgiver himself, to complete of the prophets which contained predic- what was lacking in the former revelations of future events, and especially of tions of the law of God to man, by the future Christ, though most evidently authorized exposition, and by additions accomplished in and by him ; but those standing upon the same right of the PRECEPTIVE parts of their writings, in speaker to command, and the same obliwhich the moral law was enforced, and gation of the hearer to obey. This view other injunctions of a moral kind founded of our Lord's meaning renders quite irreupon or suggested by it. That our Lord levant much criticism, which has been does not confine his expositions strictly to expended upon the text when it is underthe law of the ten commandments is stood to comprehend the ceremonial law, plain, from his selecting other points out to which our Lord indeed makes no alluof the juridical institutions of the Jews, sion in the discourse which follows, and (such, however, as have a manifest moral therefore cannot be supposed to have character and influence,) and either ex- had any reference to it here. Dr. Marsh's plaining or enlarging their sense, or else attempt to prove that our Lord did not restraining them from misapplication. abolish even the Levitical law of Moses, Such are those respecting divorce, swear- or the outward forms of the Jewish reliing, and judicial retaliation. As to seve- gion, but left them to take their course, ral other moral topics on which he dwells, as not worthy his attention; whatever such as almsgiving, ostentatious praying, merit it may have, it has nothing to do covetousness, &c., they are also fre- with the text before us, which respects quently adverted to in the reproofs and not the law of ceremonies, and affords exhortations of the prophets ; and these therefore no illustration of it. There is, are placed by our Lord so manifestly indeed, an important sense in which
18 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.
19 k Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least
Christ fulfilled the ceremonial law; that Hebrew ', jod, the smallest of their is, its types, in his own person; for in his alphabet. The “tittle,” kepala, was with passion he realized them as fully as he the Hebrews the slight mark at the accomplished the prophecies. Still this is angle of some of their letters, distinguishnot the point to which the text has ing them from others similar in form, as respect; for by fulfilling the law of figures from ; 7 from 7; and so the meaning and shadows, he dissolved its obligation is, that not the smallest part of the law for ever; whereas, by fulfilling in the should be abolished; for the Jews, as sense of perfecting or completing the moral Lightfoot remarks, use jod, their smallest law, he established it for ever.
letter, to express a short precept of their Verse 18. For verily I say unto you, &:c. law. -Aunu is most frequently used in a PRECA- Till all be fulfilled.-Ews av Tavta Yevntai, TIVE sense, as at the end of prayers, and till all things be done, or accomplished. then it signifies so let it be ; and is there. Till the law, through the grace of the fore rendered yevoito, fiat, by the LXX. In gospel, has effected its original purpose, introducing a discourse, as here, and on
to subject men to the dominion of God. many other occasions, by our Lord, who That it is the end of the gospel, and a often repeats it, it is solemnly AFFIRMA- glorious display of its grace, to restore TIVE of the truth and importance of what the dominion of the law over renewed follows, and has the sense of the Greek minds, cannot be doubted by any who annIws, the word used by St. Luke, and
enter truly into the meaning of the words of our rerily. An idle opinion has of St. Paul, “ For what the law could not obtained among a few commentators, that do, in that it was weak through the flesh, the word amen, as employed by our Lord, God sending his own Son in the likeness has somewhat of the nature of an oath ;
of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned to which they appear to have been led by sin in the flesh: that the RIGHTEOUSNESS observing it stated in Jewish writings,
OF THE LAW MIGHT BE FULFILLED IN U'S, that he that says amen to an oath is who walk not after the flesh, but after the equally bound with him that more for
Spirit.” (Rom. viii. 3, 4.) Thus, the inally makes it, and by the use of this
authority of the law, and willing and word takes the oath upon himself. How- entire obedience to it, are established over ever casuistry might determine that ques.
the fully regenerated on earth; and still tion, is another consideration; but amen
more perfectly shall its holy rules, and would, in that case, be used in its preca- their absolute obedience, be established tive sense, and not as a mere affirmative, for ever in heaven, among the glorified which is the case whenever it is employed redeemed; whilst the same authority by our Lord, as introductory to any of shall be manifested in the punishment of his sayings; and to make him affirm them the obstinately disobedient over whom its in the form of an oath, is as uncritical as awful majesty, and the eternally binding it is repulsive.
character of its penalty, DEATH, shali be Till heaven and earth pass.—This is a established for ever. This DOUBLE fulfilproverbial expression to signify, through ment or completion of the ends of law, is all time ; to the end of the world.
mentioned in the succeding verses. One jot or one tittle.-One iwta, cota, a Verse 19. Whosoever, therefore, shall Greek letter, which
to the break one of these least commandments, 8c
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.
-One of the least of these commandments might expect our Lord, in his perfect prewould have been a clearer rendering. science of the future, to set up a barrier Whosoever shall break any commandment against it. Into his church on earth such of God, great or small, that is, wilfully, persons have unquestionably often “enand presuming that Christianity has set tered;" but our Lord declares that into him free from the obligation to obey the his heavenly kingdom they shall not enter. moral law, which is adopted by Christ as Those also who think that there is in the the law of his dispensation, and as it is words a reference to the violation of the explained and enforced by him. And shall precepts of the law by the Pharisees, unteach men so, under whatever pretence of der the influence of their corrupt tradiexalting Christ and his righteousness tions, appear to be in error. They are antinomian teachers may contemn the misled by the notion of Lightfoot, that law, and deny its obligation upon Chris- reference is made in “every line” of this tians as a rule of holiness. He shall be called sermon to the perversions of the Jews; least in the kingdom of heaven. He shall which is not true as to every part of the be deemed unworthy to be ranked among discourse, though it holds good in some. the subjects of my kingdom. Those Were this theory to be applied throughout, commentators (and they are not a few) it would but darken, and not illustrate, who take “ the kingdom of heaven” here this divine discourse. With respect to to mean the Christian church, understand the Pharisees, it is, indeed, indubitable, the phrase, “ to be least in that kingdom," that, with great reverence and zeal for the in the sense of not being esteemed in it. law, that law was frequently violated by This is the view of Campbell, who fol. them; they made it void by their tralows many others. But what, then, we ditions ;” and what Maimonides says, was may ask, does our Lord mean when, in probably applicable in our Lord's time, the very next verse, he declares that ex- “ that the Sanhedrim held, that it had cept our righteousness shall even exceed power, for the time present, to make void that of the Scribes and Pharisees, we shall an affirmative command, and to transgress in no case enter into the kingdom of hea- a negative one, in order to turn many to ven? The visible church on earth cannot, their religion; or that, in order to pretherefore, be intended ; and we must refer vent many of the Israelites from stumbling the words to a future state into which at other things, they might do whatever that kingdom which Christ set up on earth present circumstances rendered necesextends. To be “the least in the king- sary.” Thus, he adds, " The former wise dom of heaven,” is only a softened form
men say, A man may profane one Sabbath of expressing a strong truth, which yet, in order to keep many Sabbaths.” They when rightly conceived, only serves to therefore acted on the principle of doing heighten the impression. So it was un- evil that good might come ; which has derstood by Chrysostom; and this sense been the dishonest source of great moral is necessarily attached to it by verse 20. corruption in churches. Much more Beside this, our Lord is evidently address- might be added in illustration of this, as ing himself to his disciples, and speaking to the Jews; and it indeed proves, that a of those who, under that character, would detestable and delusive method of dealing contend that their Master came to annul, with matters of conscience very generally or render indifferent, the moral law,-a prevailed among their leading sects, which heresy which has been, in fact, so fre- was afterwards copied by the teachers of quent and so fatal in the church, that one corrupt Christian churches, and was espe
20 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.
cially perfected by the order of Jesuits in ful, if they did not express themselves in the church of Rome. This “ deceivable- overt acts, even though this were prevented ness of unrighteousness” is inseparable by mere circumstances, and not by confrom a systematised superstition ; and to science and self-denial Several proofs of all such cases the monitory and reproving this have been collected from their writwords of the text may be justly applied. ings; of which Kimshi's comment upon By all persons of this description some of Psalm lxvi. 18, may be given as a pregthe commandments of God, at least, are nant instance The words of David are, violated; and the very principle which “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the leads that prevents a spiritual and real Lord will not hear me ;” that is, says this observance of the others. Such violators unblushing interpreter, “ He will not of the law cannot, therefore, “ enter the impute it to me for sin ; for God does not kingdom of heaven,” that is, they cannot look upon an evil thought as sin, unless be saved; for although the rhetorical it be conceived against God and religion;" figure, uelwois, is used, shall be called meaning, unless it be either blasphemous LEAST in the kingdom of heaven," yet the or idolatrous ; for these only were explain import is, that they shall be found cepted. It was to this lax view of the obli. so little, so lightly esteemed,” though gation of the law, no doubt, that our in their own imagination great saints, so Lord alludes, when he charges the Phari. contemptible and base, as to be wholly sees with making clean “ the outside" of excluded when Christ “ shall come to be the vessel only our Judge.” Still, however, the direct This part of the discourse, therefore, and primary reference of the text is to the forms an appropriate introduction to that antinomian heresy, those persons being spiritual exposition of the intent and oblicertainly intended, as the scope of the gation of the divine law which follows. passage shows, who receive Christ under The Scribes.-For an account of the the notion that he came to annul the obli- sects of the Pharisees and Sadducees see gation of the moral law upon his disciples, note on chap. iii. 7. The Scribes were and teach this fatal notion.
either civil or ecclesiastical. The former Verse 20. Except your righteousness were keepers of registers, genealogies, and shall exceed, 8:c.—Here the Pharisees are muster-rolls, copyists of various writings, brought in for the sake of illustration. and were remarkable for fine writing. So far are Christ's disciples from being They were of various degrees of rank, allowed to break any commandment, just as amanuenses, secretaries, and registhough accounted the least, their righte- trars are among us.
The Scribes who ousness is to exceed even that of the Pha
were employed merely in civil offices, and risees, who were the advocates of the who used the art of writing as a profesperpetual obligation of the law, though sion, do not appear to be mentioned in on wrong principles, and greatly extended the New Testament. The ecclesiastical its sirictness. It is to exceed or to abound Scribes are supposed at first to bave been more than theirs in UNIVERSALITY: they chiefly employed as copiers of the law and violated some of the commands; we are to the other sacred books, on which great keep them all. And it is to exceed theirs pains and care were bestowed. Afterwards in depth, having its root in a renewed they became instructers of the people in heart, and controlling the very thoughts: the written law, and public readers of it. for the Pharisees did not extend the law During our Saviour's ministry they were of God to the thoughts; so that with them looked up to as the most qualified exevil desires and purposes were not sin- pounders both of the law and the pro.
21 q 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 : 22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his • Or, to them.
1 Exod. xx. 13; Deut. v. 17.
phets, and were of great influence and casuists in the Jewish church, who sepaauthority among the Jews. Scribes,” rated morals from their principles, to “ doctors of the law,” and “ lawyers," adopt and teach such interpretations as were only different names for the same quite destroyed the obligations of internal persons. They were public teachers, and holiness. Our Lord, therefore, at one and had disciples, and were, for the most part, the same time, refutes their misleading of the sect of the Pharisees. See note on doctrines, maintains the original spirituchap. ii. 4.
ality of the decalogue, gives to his explicit Ye shall in no case enter, &c.—“ In no exposition of it the force of the original case," ou un, an emphatic negative, sig- law, by a formal enunciation of its meannifying, not at all, not by any means. See ing, and branches it out into more partinote on verse 19.
cular precepts; so that by this means, as Verse 21. Ye have heard that it was said. above stated, he fulfilled or completed it. -Some of our principal commentators By them of old time.-Rather, to them think that Christ did not here intend to of old time, according to the Fathers and give a more spiritual and extensive expo- the ancient versions; that is, to the Israel. sition of the law of Moses, but only to ites, who received the law from Sinai ; correct those false glosses which, on the cppeon being always joined to a dative authority of their traditions, the Scribes
case, Rom. ix. 12; Gal. iii. 16, &c. So and Pharisees had put upon these pre- also the Greek Fathers understood the cepts. But if our Lord had principally passage. referred to such traditions, he would Shall be in danger of the judgment.scarcely have used the phrase, “ of old Liable to the punishment which the law time,” because, at the farthest, such tra- inflicts upon murder. Our Lord joins the ditions could only have sprung up subse- prohibition of the crime of murder in the quently to the close of the order of pro- moral law, with its penalty in their juriphets, who, whilst they continued, were dical law, which also was delivered “to the inspired and acknowledged expositors them of old time.” of the law. These two views are not, Verse 22. But I say unto you. Here our however, in opposition to each other. Lord expressly assumes the character of a The law was always understood spiritually lawgiver, not as a delegated servant, but by spiritual men; and allusions to its
as having an original inherent authority to office to regulate the whole heart, as well command; "but I say,” &c. This, sureas the conduct, often appear in the Psalms ly, is not the style of a mere man, and and the writings of the prophets; but, can only be justified on the ground of his till our Lord entered upon his office as the true and proper divinity, of which, indeed, great Teacher of the law, the import of it is a powerful proof. Thus, though in those of its precepts which forbade certain this discourse, as St. Basil observes, outward acts, considered as equally pro- “ God with MAN delivered not his law hibitory of the evil principles and affec- amidst the terrors of Sinai, the sound of tions which tend to produce them, was a trumpet, and circling fire; but mildly never so expressly, and with such author- and gently, as possessing the same nature ity, laid down as the law of heaven. It as those to whom he delivered it ;” yet, was the absence of this express manner of amidst all this lowliness, the concealed stating the import of these commands majesty breaks forth ; and this manner of which gave occasion to those wretched speaking, so different from that of human