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be fully satisfied that these truths, so prominent in the epistles, have an implied existence, to say the least, in this sermon, which was delivered by our Lord at the commencement of his gracious mission to the sons of men. Its leading design is, doubtless, to dissipate the false notions, and correct the unhappy mistakes which prevailed among all nations, but particularly among the Jews, as to the nature of that religion which the expected Messiah should propagate in the world, and require of his followers. The consideration of such a practical subject cannot be thought unnecessary in this day of public profession and privilege. It is probable that the avowed friends of the gospel were never in greater danger of overlooking the religion of the heart, and the cultivation of an humble, meek, and merciful spirit, than in these times of general activity for the diffusion of the knowledge of the truth.
The words now selected for the foundation of a few introductory remarks, have an instructive connection with the facts related in the two preceding chapters. Inasmuch as the entrance on any office, associated either with the temple or the throne, under the law, was marked by anointing with oil, our Lord, previous to the commencement of his public ministry, received the holy influence of the divine spirit, of which the fragrant liquid used in the Jewish ceremony was a significant emblem. Because he should not appear to preach without commission, a divine attestation is borne to his character from heaven: "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased." And, as if it were necessary to make this great prophet "perfect through suffering," he is tempted of the devil before he begins to publish his messages of mercy and love. Having vanquished that adversary, the Saviour, in the prosecution of his benevolent enterprise, the historian informs us, "went about all Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, B 2
and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan."* It was the sight of these neglected and anxious multitudes, which awakened his compassion, and he embraced the favourable opportunity that was thus presented, to explain the fundamental principles on which his kingdom was to be erected. It is probable he did this, not only because they were immersed in error, but as a secondary reason, that they might know what to expect if they became his disciples. The former was tender mercy to their ignorance and mistake; the latter was due to their motives and intentions. They seem to have thought him some great and powerful prince, who had all the gifts of providence, and the honours of empires at his command. If such were their imaginations, they must have been wholly undeceived by the few first sentiments he uttered. "And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth and taught them, saying." I will proceed,
I. TO CONSIDER THE PARTICULARS OF THE TEXT; and then,
II. TO CLOSE WITH A FEW REFLECTIONS SUGGESTED BY THE WHOLE.
Matt. iv. 23-25.
I. I WILL BRIEFLY CONSIDER THE PARTICULARS CONTAINED IN THE WORDS OF MY TEXT.
The passage may be viewed as the preface of the Evangelist to the sermon itself, and it gives us a concise account of the motive by which the Saviour was induced,— the situation he chose,—and the audience to whom he delivered the discourse.
The spirit of prophecy, many centuries before "the star of Bethlehem was seen in the east," revealed the Messiah to the church, in the character of a shepherd, and a shepherd of no ordinary qualifications for tenderness and pity." He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather his lambs with his arms, and carry them in his bosom."* Under the influence of this compassion, he looked on the multitudes attracted to his feet by the report of his benevolence and grace. His works of mercy, and his proclamation of the truth, had raised the curiosity, and excited the gratitude, of numbers of the inhabitants of adjacent countries, who were now gathered around him. Seeing their eagerness to receive his instructions, and commiserating their neglected condition, who were as sheep without a shepherd, he was filled with the tenderest emotions, and immediately proceeded to a convenient place, where he could address unto them " 'the words by which they might be saved.”
"He went up into a mountain." It is not necessary to seek any mystery here. Because the law was delivered by Moses on a mount to the Israelites, it has been supposed that the Saviour chose to deliver the first practical principles of the gospel on a mount also, as a situation befitting the sublimity of its truths,--the divine majesty of the preacher, and likewise to make the commencement of the second dispensation correspond with the first. The sublime majesty, both of the preacher and of his doctrines,
* Isaiah xl. 11.
is readily admitted, but the co-incidence between the
• Hosea v. 1.
to give him no quarter, till his usurped dominion were finally overthrown.
"And when he was set, his disciples came unto him." Do you ask why he sat? Some reply, because it was the custom of the Jewish expositors and Scribes to deliver their oral instructions in that posture, while their hearers stood or sat before them in the form of a semicircle. But the circumstance of his seating himself, as soon as he reached the summit of the hill, seems rather to be designed as an intimation that he intended to address the people, and therefore they approached him. It is recorded of the young Messiah, that, when an auditor in the temple, he was found sitting among the doctors, and asking them questions. To the same practice our Lord refers, when he speaks of the Scribes and Pharisees loving to sit in Moses' seat. At Nazareth, also, in the synagogue, having read a portion of the prophet Isaiah, that pointed to himself, "he closed the book, and gave it again to the minister, and sat down." All these passages allude to the posture generally adopted on such occasions, when any serious discourses were delivered to the people; and, added to this, it may be remarked, as not improbable, that our Saviour chose this attitude for the sake of rest after his previous journeying.
It is said, "the disciples came unto him." By this expression we are not to suppose that the twelve or the seventy, whom he chose at the commencement of his public life, are to be exclusively intended. Some of these persons were not then called to be his disciples, although it is beyond a doubt but that many of them were among his hearers on this great occasion. The term includes both the scholars and followers of any teacher or master. We therefore read of the disciples of John, and of the Pharisees, who were men that followed their example, and embraced their doctrines. In this sense, likewise,