The sermon on the mount. The first part of the sermon: the law of the kingdom of heaven.
I. THE BEATITUDES .
1 . The first Beatitude.
2 . The second Beatitude.
(a) It seems a paradox. Sorrow and joy are opposed to one another; but the Lord says that there is a sorrow which is blessed. Life is full of sorrows. There is more sorrow in the world than joy, more pain than pleasure. Outward sorrows are blessed if they are meekly borne, in patience and in trustful faith. When the sorrow is recognized as a chastisement, it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness; when the pain is taken as a cross, it lifts the suffering Christian nearer to him who died upon the cross, who giveth peace.
(b) But the connection seems to imply that the mourning of the text is spiritual mourning. The poverty of the first Beatitude is in the spirit; so must be the mourning of the second. Poverty in spirit leads to mourning—mourning for past sins and unworthiness, mourning for the slowness of our spiritual progress. He who is poor in spirit is in the kingdom of God and near to the King. He looks on him whom he has pierced, and mourns for him. He must mourn, in sympathy with the Saviour's sufferings, in sorrow for his own unworthiness of the Saviour's love, for his many sins against that great love, for his want of gratitude, for the coldness of his heart. The world runs heedlessly after pleasure, amusement. The Lord says, "Blessed are they that mourn." He himself was "a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." "Is it nothing to you," he seems to say, "all ye that pass by." Is there any sorrow like unto my sorrow?" Then we Christians, who live under the shadow of the cross, must learn the blessedness of mourning. "Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of." Blessed are they who mourn with that godly sorrow. It worketh repentance, that deep and holy change of heart, that change out of the image of the earthy into the image of the heavenly, which is not to be repented of, which none who by God's grace have passed through it can ever regret, though it was wrought out in much sorrow and mourning; for it is unto salvation—a present salvation, salvation from sin now; and a future salvation—everlasting life with God in heaven.
3 . The third Beatitude.
4 . The fourth Beatitude.
(a) Righteousness here is equivalent to holiness—personal, spiritual holiness, holiness of heart and life. It is the sum of all Christian graces. But we have no righteousness of our own: "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Christ is made unto us Righteousness: "This is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness." If only we are his, grafted once into the true Vine, abiding in him now, then his righteousness is ours, for he himself is ours. "My Beloved is mine, and I am his."
(b) We must hunger and thirst after this righteousness. The desire of the Christian heart is righteousness; not simply happiness hereafter, but righteousness now. All men wish for happiness, present and future. The true Christian wish is for righteousness first; happiness will follow. "The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever." It is righteousness that the Christian soul desireth. And that desire must be like hunger and thirst; not a faint hesitating wish, but a strong longing desire—a desire that cannot be satisfied till it has attained its object. Hunger and thirst imply a previous void, a want. The desire of righteousness implies a sense of sin and weakness. There is a felt want in the soul, a craving, an aching void—a longing like that of David expressed in the fifty-first psalm; not the fear of punishment, but a longing after a clean heart—after the Holy Spirit of God. To hunger and thirst after righteousness is to hunger and thirst after Christ. He is our Example here as always. His meat was to do the will of him that sent him, and to finish his work. He hungered for our souls, he thirsted for our salvation; and we must hunger and thirst after him, who is the Life of our souls, the true Bread that came down from heaven, whose flesh is meat indeed, whose blood is drink indeed, who alone can fill our restless craving hearts. "He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."
5 . The fifth Beatitude.
6 . The sixth Beatitude.
7 . The seventh Beatitude.
(a) Peacemakers are happy in themselves. Which are the happiest—the cross-grained, the irritable, the conceited, always ready to take offence, perhaps even loving to stir up strife? or the gentle, the kindly, the affectionate, who love peace, who do all they can to make peace in their family, in their parish, among all their neighbours and friends; and that for Christ's sake, out of love for Christ, in humble imitation of Christ's example? "Blessed are the peacemakers."
(b) But especially blessed in this—that "they shall be called the children of God." They shall be called his children, because they imitate his only begotten Son; because they keep the first of all the commandments, and the second, which is like unto it; because they bring forth the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace. Only those who are led by the Spirit are, in the deepest and holiest sense, the sons of God.
8 . The eighth Beatitude.
II. THE DIGNITY OF THE CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM .
1 . They are the salt of the earth. They have salt in themselves. The salt is the grace of God; but those who have that salt in themselves are, in God's great condescension, called the salt of the earth. Salt preserves from corruption. The grace of God preserves his saints. They preserve the earth in which they live. They check the progress of corruption. Their purifying influence spreads more or less through the mass, which would otherwise fester and decay. Their prayers avert the sore judgments of God; ten righteous men might have saved the wicked Sodom. They must take heed not to lose the heavenly salt themselves; without it their usefulness is gone. The profession of religion without the power of the Spirit is dead and worthless. If that is lost, nothing else can supply its place. Forms, words, outward show, cannot fill the place of the Spirit. A Church without the Spirit, a Christian without the Spirit, is like the Church of Sardis: "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead."
2 . They are the light of the world.
1 . Blessedness is exceeding precious, deeper than all joys; it may be ours.
2 . The blessed life is very lovely; all admire, few only imitate.
3 . Live the Christ-like life; so shall you share the Christian blessedness.
4 . Quench not the Spirit; stir up the gift of God; so shall the holy light shine far and wide, and men will glorify the Lord.
Teaching for the multitude.
We hold that the discourse to which these two verses in St. Matthew's Gospel are an introduction is one with that given in the sixth chapter of St. Luke's Gospel; and that although, judging from the closest context in both passages, it might at first be supposed that "these sayings of Jesus" were spoken to the lesser circle of his disciples exclusively, they were really spoken, if not from the very beginning, yet, as regards the large proportion of them, to the widest circle of his disciples, and even to "the multitudes" ( Matthew 7:28 ; Luke 7:1 ). The second Passover of our Lord was now past; and this discourse was not as near the beginning of his public life as its apparent early place in St. Matthew's Gospel would ordinarily lead one to infer. To remember., its later place is to vindicate more clearly its seasonableness to the minds of the disciples and people, and its usefulness as another higher standard in the "teaching" of the world. In these two preliminary and introductory verses we may notice as, at all events, suggestions that lie on the surface, the following things.
I. IN THE BORN TEACHER OF MORALS , AND ESPECIALLY RELIGION , THE SIGHT OF " THE MULTITUDES " IN ITSELF A PROMPT AND STRONG IMPULSE . Trace the fact historically, that it is the moral gaze on "the people" that is the spring of this impulse; and that otherwise the ages have rather hedged up knowledge to the few; and that the world's greater teachers have been prone and glad to avert their teaching- thought when the multitudes have been thrust before their eye by any accident.
II. A TYPICAL INSTANCE OF A MORAL IMPULSE ; PROMPT AND VERY STRONG , IT DOES NOT PAUSE AT THOUGHT , NOR EXHAUST ITSELF IN FEELING : IT IS PRACTICAL . Point out the illustration of this that is spoken in Christ's pursuit of method , and in his use of intermediate agents and in his measured calmness herein. But through and after all there is a sure outcome of action and something practical.
III. THE MOUNTAIN - PLATFORM A MORAL VANTAGE - GROUND . For it secured at the same time some apparently very various results and ends, each very desirable.
1 . It cannot be denied that it fairly challenges the observation of earth and heaven.
2 . But it does at the same time win much retirement from the noise of earth, and shall foster thought and high feeling rather than distract them.
3 . It speaks the large sweep and outlook of moral and religious truth.
4 . And at the same time the large room and welcome that the truth offers to all who will receive it. One may imagine at this point, in a literal sense, the position of Jesus himself, with all that his eye overlooked and surveyed each moment, and moral analogies will rise not slowly in the wake of the literal facts.
IV. A TYPICAL INSTANCE OF THE TRUE TRADITION , OF HEAVENLY WISDOM , HEAVENLY TEACHING , AND THE GREAT MASTER 'S OWN WORK , INTO THE CHARGE OF MEN .
1 . The work of Christ is to be carried on by the living instrumentality of living men, imperfect as they are sure to be, and far removed from the goodness, grace, power, and wisdom of the Master.
2 . These men must be in real character disciples.
3 . They must be progressing learners as well.
4 . It must be of the things they themselves in very truth have learned of the great Teacher that they are to tell others. They must not only be, for instance, hearers , but must be of the taught , the successfully and humbly taught.
V. THE FINAL SUMMONS TO AN UNTAUGHT , LISTLESS WORLD TO GIVE EAR AND LISTEN . Jesus "opened his mouth and taught."
1 . What an authoritative summons!
2 . What an encouraging summons!
3 . What a rewarding and comforting summons!—B.
The preparation for a great sermon.
Christ magnified the Law, and honoured the sabbath. On the sabbath he wrought many of his miracles and uttered many of his parables. So, after spending the night in prayer, on the sabbath he delivered his sermon on the mount. The preparation for that discourse is the subject of the text. In order to a great sermon there should be—
I. A SUITABLE PLACE .
1 . Noble edifices have been raised by the piety of men.
2 . Here was a cathedral worthy of the occasion.
II. A SUITABLE CONGREGATION .
1 . Here were multitudes.
2 . Multitudes with whom Jesus sympathized. "Seeing the multitudes," etc.
3 . Ever-increasing multitudes.
4 . Jesus teaches the world through his Churches.
(1) "His disciples came unto him, and he opened his mouth and taught them. " The disciples formed an inner circle. In the morning of this day, after the night of prayer, he had chosen from the large number of his disciples his twelve apostles.
III. A SUITABLE PREACHER .
1 . The sermon presupposes the preacher.
2 . Christ was an incomparable Preacher.
3 . He claim , all attention.
Let us learn from the lips of Jesus. Search his Word. Invoke his Spirit.—J.A.M.
And seeing the multitudes ; i.e. those spoken of in Matthew 4:25 —the multitudes who were at that point of time following him. He went up . From the lower ground by the lake. Into a mountain ; Revised Version, into the mountain ( εἰς τὸ ὄρος ); i.e. not any special mountain, but "the mountain nearest the place spoken of—the mountain near by" (Thayer); in contrast to any lower place, whether that was itself fairly high ground (as probably Luke 9:28 ) or the shore of the lake. The actual spot here referred to may have been far from, or, and more probably ( Matthew 4:18 ), near to, the Lake of Gennesareth. It cannot now be identified. The traditional "Mount of Beatitudes" is Karn-Hattin , "a round, rocky hill", "a square-shaped hill with two tops", about five miles north-west of Tiberias. This tradition, dating only from the time of the Crusades, is accepted by Stanley, especially for the reasons that