Page images
PDF
EPUB

9 Blessed are the peacemakers : for they shall be called the children of God.

comes

more

also acts by which we are said to see God; to allay strifes, reconcile enmities, prevent and rightly to understand the gospel wars and tumults, and to preserve society Christ, and so to love the truth which it in harmony and charity. There is in this reveals, and habitually and affectionately a tacit reproof of the factious and quarrel. to meditate upon it, is called “beholding some spirit of the Jews, and also of that with unveiled face the glory of the Lord.” eagerness to be led to war, in order to In all these respects the pure in heart obtain the supremacy over other nations see God on earth ; and the more fully under the banners of their expected miliand habitually so, as their purity be- tary Messiah, which was so much in

perfect. The promise, dulged by their greatest zealots. Now, however, chiefly respects a future life. however, the true Messiah speaks to them To see God as he manifests himself to

in his own appropriate character, as the the glorified spirits of the redeemed in Prince of Peace, and declares that only heaven, has from the beginning been the the lovers and makers of peace are recrowning hope of good men, and formed garded as the children of God, and there. their noblest conception of future felicity fore the subjects of his kingdom : anoand glory.

Thus Job, “In my flesh ther indication to them of its purely spishall I see God;” and of the man that ritual nature; a character which it must

walketh righteously and speaketh up- retain to the end of time, unless the rightly,” Isaiah says, “Thine eyes shall essential principles of Christianity are to SEE THE king in his beauty.” Concurring be changed; a subject which ought to be with these views, and with special refer- well considered by those among ourselves, ence to these very words of our Saviour, who indulge the Jewish dream of a visible St. John has the following glowing pas- and political reign of Christ. The reign sage :-“ Beloved, now are we the sons of of Christ is internal; it governs the hearts God, and it doth not yet appear what of men, and by them shall govern the we shall be : but we know, that when he world in tranquillity, when all or the shall appear, we shall be like him ; for we majority of our race shall have become shall SEE HIM AS HE IS. And every man subject, in their principles and affections, that hath this hope in him purifieth him- to its influence. So far as it now extends, self, even as he is pure.” Those who its effect is to produce a pacific temper, would confine the purity of heart spoken and to har nize the otherwise jarring of in this verse to purity of intention, elements of human society. We see this would not greatly err, if they extended the exemplified in pious families, and in those notion as far as Bernard, who defines religious societies which retain most of purity of intention to consist“ in direct- their primitive simple-heartedness, and ing all our actions to the honour of God, most respect the rule of Christ, “ to love the good of our neighbour, and the pre- one another.” These are delightful porservation of a good conscience.” But traits, though in miniature, of the ultimate how vast, how complete a change in effect of the religion of peace and charity man's moral nature does all this neces- upon larger cominunities, and finally upon sarily suppose ! a change only to be nations. accomplished by the great power of God, For they shall be called the children of

working in us that which is well-pleas- God.—To be called the children of God ing in his sight, that we may be perfect may be regarded as a Hebraism for to be in every good work to do his will.” the children of God; or the sense is, they

Verse 9. Blessed are the peacemakers.- shall be emphatically entitled the chilThis is equivalent to OL TOLOUVTES TNV eipnunu, dren of God,” who is “the God of peace." persons who, being themselves of a pacific Thus St. Paul : “ Be ye therefore foldisposition, exert themselves as to others lowers of God as dear chilDREN, and

66

10 • Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake : for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

e 1 Peter iii. 14.

walk in love." Eph. v. 1, 2. All the other vices, the mortification of which children of God are lovers and promoters is required by true Christianity. Hence of peace; and those who are of a con- hatred of the truth itself naturally transtrary disposition have no right to invest fers itself to those who advocate it, and themselves with that high title, or to con- disturb the carnal security of others by a sider themselves as a part of the family faithful and zealous exhibition of its reof God.

proving light. If any one thinks that the Verse 10. Blessed are they which are case is much changed in the present day, persecuted for righteousness' sake.—The let him enforce upon all he meets with Pharisees and others looked for applause the spiritual nature and obligations of on account of their “ righteousness;” and Christianity, and he will not fail to disthey acquired it in proportion to the cover that still “ the carnal mind is enopinion entertained of their sanctity. The mity against God.” The word rendered righteousness of Christ's disciples was to persecute, as Grotius well observes, is of expose them to obloquy and to persecu- forcible and extensive meaning. The tion ; yet the one was external and hypo- Latin, persequi, does not express its force, critical, the other real and universal. He which is rather to be taken in the sense only that perfectly knew the human heart of rexare, exagitare. We are not, therecould predict, and that in an age when fore, with Beza, to confine it to the forenevery appearance of extraordinary piety sic sense, as persequi judicio ; for it has commanded a deeply respectful deference, not only been at the tribunals of tyrants that in the case of his disciples the high- that Christians have suffered persecution, est religious attainments should render but in the various forms of private maligthem the more odious, and expose them nity, and tumultuous popular commotion. to every form of insult and cruelty which It may also be remarked, that the most malignant ingenuity could invent. The violent persecutors have been found true reason was, that their righteousness among superstitious and fanatical men, “exceeded the righteousness of the Scribes who have themselves made great pretenand Pharisees;” exceeded it as the result sions to some kind of sanctity. Antiochus of penitence, humility, trust in God, and Epiphanes was a fanatical idolater ; the the renunciation of all the secret evils of Jewish Scribes and Pharisees pursued our the heart ; and exceeded it in its uniform Lord and his disciples with unrelenting and universal practical character. It was

bitterness ;

“ trusted in themselves that therefore a standing reproof of that righ- they were righteous.” Several of the teousness which consisted chiefly in

Roman emperors who distinguished themformality and hypocrisy. And as the selves most against the primitive church very charity of the gospel bound those were blind in their attachment to the who received it to endeavour to remove popular religion ; and Popery and Mahothe delusions of those who trusted in “ the metanism would have been less cruel had form of godliness, but denied its power," they been less superstitious and selfit was felt to be intrusive, troublesome, righteous. and provoking to bad and deceived men. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.These are the causes which have ever Good men, in seasons of persecution, often made the religion of Christ, when fully enter most deeply into the experience of explained and earnestly enforced, the ob. Christianity. It is only by maintaining the ject of the hatred of the world. The reli- vigour of these graces, that they can maingion of the superstitious and self-righteous tain the ground on which they are exposed consists with pride, worldliness, and many to attacks so constant and rude; and their

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you 'falsely, for my

sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your

reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were

before you.

13 q Ye are the salt of the earth : 8 but if the salt have lost his 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.

f 1 Peter iv. 14. * Greek, lying. g Mark ix. 50; Luke xiv. 34.

immediate reward is a more intimate fel. This is undoubtedly spoken of the true lowship with God, and richer internal disciples of Christ. Salt furnishes metaconsolations. As our afflictions abound phor, both to profane and sacred writers, our consolations abound.” In this sense to express the qualities and effects of wisthe kingdom of heaven may be truly said dom, truth, and goodness. The particular to be theirs, who are persecuted for property of this mineral which is bere rerighteousness' sake;" though our Lord ferred to is its resistance to putrefaction. ultimately refers, as in the twelfth verse, In the midst of that which is corrupt it to the rewards of another life. Among the preserves its own purity; and it diffuses crowns of heaven the martyr's crown is its own influence through the mass of the most glorious. Hence the strong several substances, and communicates to exhortation,“ Rejoice, and be exceeding them its own incorruptibility. Thus the glad; for great is your reward in heaven.” character and the public influence of true

For so persecuted they the prophets, 8c. Christians are each forcibly represented. -If gap be taken in its most common im- The earth signifies, not the land of Judea, port as a causative conjunction, then the as in verse 5, but the whole world. This reason for this joy of the persecuted dis- is made evident by what follows, which is ciples of Christ, as drawn from the case of but the same idea placed under another the prophets, is, that as those venerable aspect : “ Ye are the light of the world," persons, notwithstanding their persecu- referring to the sun, which gives light to tions, were then enjoying the high rewards all nations. Christianity, exemplified, of heaven, the disciples were assured that maintained, and diffused by the disciples the same felicities and honours would as of Christ, was designed for the illuminacertainly follow their sufferings for the tion and salvation of all mankind. Thus

But if gap be taken as a our Lord, even at this early period, taught particle of affirmation, then the intention that the benefits of his mission were not of Christ was to remove all surprise from to be confined to the Jews only; a subthe minds of men that the teachers of his ject, however, which was not as yet fully religion should be hated and injured solely apprehended by his hearers, though in on that account. The answer to this tacit perfect accordance with the prophecies of objection, therefore, is, As the holy pro- their own scriptures. phets were persecuted by bad men, so But if the sult have lost his savour.-We bad men will always be disposed to hate have no indigenous salt of this descripand persecute my holy and zealous disci- tion; but the salt of Judea was the rock ples. The former sense is, I think, to be or fossil salt, or else that left by the preferred.

evaporation of salt lakes on the borders Verse 13. Ye are the salt of the earth.– of the Dead Sea. Both these kinds of

same cause.

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15 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.

h Mark iv. 21 ; Luke viii. 16; xi. 33. • The word in the original signifieth, a measure containing about a pint less thun a peck.

salt were apt to lose their pungency. The expression, “ wherewith shall it be Maundrell in his travels broke off a piece salted,” appears not to have been rightly of salt from a rock, and found that exter understood by those interpreters who nally, through exposure to the atmosphere, think that it imports that the savour of it had become tasteless; but the inner grace can never be regained, and that part, where it had been joined to the rock, therefore the case of hopeless apostates retained its savour. Schoetgen has shown is represented under this figure. It was that considerable quantities of salt were rather the intention of our Lord to impress used in sacrifice, and that when any part his disciples with the sin and danger of of it had been found tasteless, it was thrown being useless to mankind, through the upon the floor of the court of the temple. neglect of personal and influential piety. This, however, better explains a similar “Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the passage in Mark ix. 49,50:“Every sacrifice salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall shall be salted with fire. Salt is good,” it," that is, the earth,be salted ?" or &c., where the use of salt in the sacrifices purified. To be useless, is, in fact, to be is expressly referred to. Here the general injurious; and he who neglects bis own qualities of good salt to preserve and to salvation is a hinderance to many others. communicate its own incorruptibility are

Thus is his guilt aggravated. Μωραινω those referred to; and whether in the answers to the Hebrew word son, which temple, or in domestic use, if any por signifies both unsavouriness and a fool ; tion of salt was found to have lost its that is, a man destitute of both wisdom saltness, it would, as a matter of course, and goodness. be thrown away, and so be trampled under Verses 14, 15. Ye are the light of the foot. The savourless salt represents world, &c.--In these verses we have three those who have lost the vital influence of metaphors, which, equally with the for piety. Neither does their conversation mer, are intended to impress the disciples savour of the things of God; nor do their of Christ with their duty to the world in conduct and spirit exert a sanctifying general. They are all public, not merely influence upon

others. Their profession private characters; they are to communimay remain; the doctrines of Christ may cate, as well as to receive ; and to consistill generally be held; all the external der themselves bound, by their very prosigns of piety may be exhibited by them; fession, to extend as far as possible the but the spirit, the pungency, is gone. light and influence of their religion ; they The dry and sapless branch, and the taste. are therefore called, “the light of the less and unsavoury salt, are their proper world,” in allusion to the sun ; "a city emblems. And as the salt which had lost set upon a hill ;” and are further comits savour was rejected from those nobler pared to the house-lamp, which was uses for which it had become unfit, and lighted in the evening, in every family in cast upon the ground to be trodden under the common apartment. Perhaps there is foot, so the disowning of unfaithful dis- here a reference to the threefold duty obciples by Christ, and their degradation ligatory upon every true Christian, as a and punishment, are thus strongly repre- public character, to the world, to his sented for the admonition of the careless. country, and to his family. The sun gives

16 Let your light so shine before men, 'that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

17 G Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets : I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

i i Peter ii. 12.

light to all the nations of the earth; and your light shine.” As no one putteth a lamp upon every Christian the obligation lies, under a bushel, modov, a measure, to hide its according to his ability, to promote by light, so let your light shine before men his prayers, his exertions, and his libe- that they may see your good works,—both ralities, the extension of the kingdom of the truth, of which you are to be the Christ throughout the whole earth. The teachers and advocates, and all those city set upon the hill alluded to, might holy works which become this truth, and be Jerusalem ; for, whether this sermon commend it. was delivered in sight of the metropolis And glorify your Father, &c.—To gloor not, we see from the constant refer- rify God here does not merely signify to ences made in the Psalms to its lofty give praise to him, but along with that to situation, that this was always an associa- confess the truth and divine origin of a tion in the mind of a Jew when he spoke religion teaching such truths, and raising of Jerusalem. It was the city whose men to so high characters of holiness, and foundation was in the holy mountains.” under these views and impressions to As the tribes were in the habit of going embrace it. up to the great festivals, the lofty situa- Verse 17. Think not that I am come to tion of Jerusalem, seen at great distances, destroy the law, 8c.—On this declaration would become matter of familiar remark. so many great theological consequences Josephus describes the distant view, depend, that it is highly important for us crowned with its magnificent temple, and rightly to understand its import. The the rays of the sun reflected from its word rendered to destroy, signifies, primamarble towers, as peculiarly striking. rily, to loose, to dissolve ; and, when So conspicuous ought the church of applied to a law, means to abrogate or Christ to be in every nation in which it is annul. “The law” is used in two leading planted ; and so prominent in all its holy senses in the New Testament; for the institutions, for the noblest of all patriotic whole Mosaic institute, and for the moral purposes, the maintenance of the author. law, by way of eminence, the law whose ity and influence of religion among all substance is found in the ten commands orders of the state. The family LAMP, “written and engraven on stones,” and placed upon its stand, and giving light to enforced in the writings of the prophets. the family, seems to indicate the duty of The context so clearly confines our Lord's domestic piety and zeal. Their houses meaning to this moral law, that, had it were illuminated all night long by lamps not been for the occurrence of the word placed upon a large stand, or, as Trampwoai, to fulfil, in this passage, one of translation calls it, a candlestick,” fixed the senses of which is to accomplish, no in the ground; from which the smaller one probably would have extended our lamps were lighted, which were to be Lord's meaning to the ceremonial law, used in the other apartments. Such is and to the prophecies in their strict sense the office of the head of every Christian as predictions; both of which were truly family, “ to give light to all that are in fulfilled in him ; the former, by supplying the house,” by his instructions and ex- the antitype to the type ; the latter, by ample.

accomplishment. This word, however, Verse 16. Let your light so shine, &c.— also signifies, to perfect or complete. The This would be better rendered, “So let Greek Fathers explain it by filling up a

our

ܙܙ

« PreviousContinue »