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appears, and is
weep for them that weep not for themselves, for the sinners against their own souls. They mourn for the weakness and unfaithfulness of those
in some measure, saved from their sins. “ Who is weak, and they are not weak ? Who is offended and they burn not ?" They are grieved for the dishonour continually done to the majesty of heaven and earth. At all times they have an awful sense of this, which brings. a deep seriousness upon their spirits; a seriousness which is not a little increased, since the eyes of their understanding were opened, by their continually seeing the vast ocean of eternity, without a bottom or a shore, which has already swallowed up millions of millions of men, and is gaping to devour them that yet remain. They see here the house of God eternal in the heavens; there, hell and destruction without a covering; and thence feel the importance of every moment, which just
for ever! 7. But all this wisdom of God is foolishness with the world. The whole affair of mourning and poverty of spirit is with them stupidity and dulness. Nay, it is well if they pass so favourable a judgment upon it; if they do not vote it to be mere moping and melancholy, if not downright lunacy and distraction. And it is no wonder at all, that this judgment should be passed by those who know not God. Suppose, as two persons were walking together, one should suddenly stop, and with the strongest signs of fear and amazement, cry out, “On what a precipice do we stand! See, we are on the point of being dashed in pieces ! Another step, and we shall fall into that huge abyss! Stop! I will not go on for all the world !”—when the other, who seemed to himself at least equally sharp sighted, looked forward and saw nothing of all this; what would he think of his companion, but that he was beside himself; that his head was out of order; that much religion (if he was not guilty of much learning) had certainly made him mad.
8. But let not the children of God, "the mourners in Sion,” be moved by any of these things. Ye, whose eyes are enlightened, be not troubled by those who walk on still in darkness. Ye do not walk on in a vain shadow: God and eternity are real things. Heaven and hell are in very deed open before you; and ye are on the edge of the great gulf. It has already swallowed up more than words 'can express, nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues; and still yawns to devour, whether they see it or no, the giddy, miserable children of men. Oh
aloud! Spare not! Lift up your voice to him who grasps both time and eternity, both for yourselves and your brethren, that ye may be counted worthy to escape the destruction that cometh as a whirlwind ! That ye may be brought safe through all the waves and storms, into the haven where you would be! Weep for yourselves, till he wipes away the tears from your eyes. And even then, weep for the miseries that come upon the earth, till the Lord of all shall put a period to misery and sin, shall wipe away the tears from all faces, and the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea."
SERMON XXII.-Upon our Lord's Sermon on the Mount.
« Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: fior they shall be filled. “ Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy,” Matt. v, 5-7.
1. WHEN “the winter is past," when “the time of singing is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in the land;" when he that comforts the mourners is now returned, " that he may abide with them for ever;" when, at the brightness of his presence, the clouds disperse, the dark clouds of doubt and uncertainty, the storms of fear flee away, the waves of sorrow subside, and their spirit again rejoiceth in God their Saviour; then is it that this word is eminently fulfilled; then those whom he hath comforted can bear witness, “ Blessed,” or happy, meek, for they shall inherit the earth.'
2. But who are the meek ? Not those who grieve at nothing, because they know nothing; who are not discomposed at the evils that occur, because they discern not evil from good. Not those who are sheltered from the shocks of life by a stupid insensibility; who have, either by nature or art, the virtue of stocks and stones, and resent nothing, because they feel nothing. Brute philosophers are wholly unconcerned in this matter. Apathy is as far from meekness as from humanity. So that one would not easily conceive how any Christians of the purer ages, espe cially any of the fathers of the church, could confound these, and mistake one of the foulest errors of heathenism for a branch of true Christianity
3. Nor does Christian meekness imply, the being without zeal for God, any more than it does ignorance or insensibility. No; it keeps clear of every extreme, whether in excess or defect. It does not destroy but balance the affections, which the God of nature never designed should be rooted out by grace, but only brought and kept under due regulations. It poises the mind aright. It holds an even scale, with regard to anger, and sorrow, and fear; reserving the mean in every circumstance of life, and not declining either to the right hand or the left.
4. Meekness therefore seems properly to relate to ourselves : but it may be referred either to God or our neighbour. When this due composure of mind has reference to God, it is usually termed resignation ; a calm acquiescence in whatsoever is his will concerning us, even though it may not be pleasing to nature ; saying continually, “ It is the Lord ; let him do what seemeth him good.” When we consider it more strictly with regard to ourselves, we style it patience or contentedness. When it is exerted towards other men, then it is mildness to the good, and gentleness to the evil.
5. They who are truly meek, can clearly discern what is evil; and they can also suffer it. They are sensible of every thing of this kind, but still meekness holds the reins. They are exceeding " zealous for the Lord of Hosts ;" but their zeal is always guided by knowledge, and tempered, in every thought, and word, and work, with the love of man as well as the love of God. They do not desire to extinguish any of the passions which God has for wise ends implanted in their nature; but they have the mastery of all: they hold them all in subjection, and employ them only in subservience to those ends. And thus even the harsher and more unpleasing passions are applicable to the noblest purposes; even hatred, and anger, and fear, when engaged against sin and regulated by faith and love, are as walls and bulwarks to the soul, so that the wicked one cannot approach to hurt it.
6. It is evident this divine temper is not only to abide but to increase in us day by day. Occasions of exercising, and thereby increasing it, will never be wanting while we remain upon earth “ We have need of patience, that after we have done (and suffered] the will of God, we may receive the promise.” We have need of resignation, that we may in all circumstances say, "Not as I will, but as thou wilt.” And we have need of “gentleness towards all men;" but especially towards the evil and unthankful: otherwise we shall be overcome of evil, instead of overcoming evil with good.
7. Nor does meekness restrain only the outward act, as the scribes and Pharisees taught of old, and the miserable teachers who are not taught of God will not fail to do in all ages. Our Lord guards against this, and shows the true extent of it in the following words: “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,” ver. 21, &c:
But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment : and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council : but whosoever shall
say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." 8. Our Lord here ranks under the head of murder, even that anger which goes no farther than the heart; which does not show itself by any outward unkindness, no, not so much as a passionate word. “Whosoever is angry with his brother," with any man living, seeing we are all brethren ; whosoever feels any unkindness in his heart, any temper contrary to love; whosoever is angry without a cause, without a sufficient cause, or farther than that cause requires, “ shall be in danger of the judgment;" svoXOS ESTAI; shall, in that moment, be obnoxious to the righteous judgment of God.
But would not one be inclined to prefer the reading of those copies which omit the word fixn, without a cause? Is it not entirely superfluous ? For if anger at persons be a temper contrary to love, how can there be a cause, a sufficient cause for it,-any that will justify it in the sight of God? Anger at sin we allow. In this sense,
angry and yet we sin not. In this sense our Lord himself is once recorded to have been angry. “He looked round about upon them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts." He was grieved at the sinners, and
angry at the sin. And this is undoubtedly right before God.
9. “And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca ;"-Whosoever shall give way to anger, so as to utter any contemptuous word. It is observed by commentators, that raca is a Syriac word, which properly signifies, empty, vain, foolish; so that it is as inoffensive an expression as can well be used towards 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 reproach
ful 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 burning alive, inflicted only om the highest offenders, in the “valley of the sons of Hinnom”-In Evw 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 aught against thee,”- -on account of thy unkind behaviour towards 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 towards 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;"—now ; 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 means 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 meek 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 inheritance, a general description of which (and the particulars we shall know hereafter) St. John hath given 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. 1. 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 heaven 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; nor can they possibly cease,