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ness, a reward conferred only upon righteous persons. Observe, 3. Here is the special qualification of that righteousness expressed which will entitle us to heaven and salvation: it must be a righteousness which exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and that these three ways: 1. In its principle and motive; love to God, and obedience to his command; not the applause and commendation of men. 2. In its aim and end. The pharisees made themselves, their own credit and esteem, their worldly gain and interest, their ultimate end; and not God's glory their supreme aim. 3. In the manner of performance; the Pharisees' duty wanted that purity and spirituality which the law of God required. They had respect only to the outward action, without any regard to the inward intention, and to that purity of heart which God required. Quest. In what things are we to exceed the scribes and Pharisees? Answ. In sincerity, or by being that within which we seem to be without. In simplicity, or having holy ends in our religious actions. In humility, or having low and humble thoughts of ourselves and our best performances. In charity, or having compassion on all distressed persons. In universality of obedience to all com
mands. Learn, That holiness of heart, and
righteousness of life, which God's law requires of us, is absolutely and indispensably necessary to salvation.
21 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 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.
Here our blessed Saviour begins to expound the spiritual sense and meaning of the law, and to vindicate it from the corrupt glosses of the Pharisees; where observe, Christ doth not deliver a new law, but expounds the old; doth not enjoin new duties, but enforces the old ones. The ław of God was always perfect, requiring the sons of men to love God with all their hearts, and their neighbour as themselves. In this exposition of the law, Christ begins
with the sixth commandment, Thou shalt not kill: where he shows, that besides the actual taking away of life, a person may violate that command; 1. By rash anger. 2. By disgraceful and reviling words. Thence learn, That every evil motion of our hearts consented to against our neighbour, all unjust anger towards him, all terms of contempt put upon him, are forbidden by the law of God, no less than the gross act of murder itself. Learn, 2. That wrath and anger without just cause hath its degrees; and accordingly to the degrees of the sin will the degrees of punishment be proportioned in the next world. Learn, 3. That self-murder is here forbidden, and in no case lawful, man having no more power over his own life than over another's: though life be never so miserable and painful, yet must we wait God's time for our dismission and release.
23 Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. 25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him ; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
For preventing the sin of rash anger, which in our Saviour's account is a degree of murder, he exhorts all his disciples and followers to brotherly agreement, and to
seek mutual reconciliation with each other.
Agree with thine adversary, that is, thy offended or offending brother; agree with him, as becomes a man; quickly, as becomes a christian; implying, that it is a necessary duty for every christian to seek reconciliation sincerely and speedily with such as have offended him, or have been offended by him. Observe, 2. The argument or motive with which Christ enforces his exhortation to brotherly reconciliation, drawn from the peril and danger of the neglect; and this is twofold: The first respects our present duties and services, when we wait upon God at his altar, and attend
upon him in holy offices. None of our performances will find acceptance with God, if there be found malice and hatred, anger and ill-will, against our brother. Learn, that no sacrifice we can offer will be acceptable to God, so long as we ourselves are implacable to men. A second danger respects us, when we appear before God in judgment; then God will be our Adversary, Christ our Judge, Satan our accuser, hell our tormentor; If now from the heart we do not every one forgive our brother his trespasses. Lord! how heinous then is this sin of inveterate anger, hatred, and malice, in our hearts, against any person! No gifts, though never so costly, no devotions, though never so specious, will prevail with God to pass it by, whilst we live: and if we die with hearts full of this rancour and bitterness, we can never expect to be encircled in the arms of Him who is all love, all mercy, all goodness and compassion: no reconciliation with God without an hearty good-will to all men. Nay farther, the text here speaks of a prison, which is the dreadful dungeon of hell, into which the implacable and unreconciled person must be cast, and lie for ever without mixture of pity and it is not men's scoffing at it that will secure them against the horror of it.
Our Saviour next proceeds to explain the seventh commandment, which forbids adultery; by which the Pharisees understood only the gross act of uncleanness, and carnal lying with a woman. But, says our Saviour, Whosoever secretly in his heart desires such a thing, and casts his eyes upon a woman in order to such an act, entertaining only a thought of it with pleasure and delight, he is an adulterer in God's account. Learn, That such is the purity and spirituality of the law of God, that it condemns speculative wantonness, no less than practical uncleanness; and forbids not only the outward action, but the secret purpose and intention, and first out-goings of the soul after unlawful objects.
29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from
thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Our Saviour had condemned ocular
adultery in the foregoing verse, or the adultery of the eye; He that looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her in his heart. Whence note, That the eye is an inlet to sin, especially the sin of uncleanness: lust enters the heart at the window of the eye. Now in these verses Christ prescribes a remedy for the cure of this eye-malady: If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: which is not to be understood literally, as if Christ commanded any man to maim his bodily members; but spiritually, to mortify the lusts of the flesh, and the lusts of the eye, which otherwise would prove a dangerous snare to the soul, Learn, 1. That sin may be avoided: it is our duty to avoid whatsoever leads to it, or may be an occasion of it; if we find the view of an ensnaring object will inflame us, we must, though not put out our eye, yet make a covenant with our eye that we will not look upon it. Note, 2. That the best course we can take to be kept from the outward acts of sin, is to mortify our inward affection and love to sin. This is to kill it in the root; and if once our inward affections be mortified, our bodily members may be spared and preserved; for they will no longer be weapons of sin, but instruments of righteousness unto holiness.
31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32 But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced, committeth adultery.
Our blessed Saviour still proceeds in vindicating and clearing the seventh commandment from the corrupt glosses of the Pharisees. Almighty God had tolerated the Jews, in case of uncleanness, to put
away their wives by a bill of divorce, Deut. xxiv. 1. Hereupon the Pharisees maintained it lawful to put away the wife upon every slight occasion. This abuse Christ corrects; and shows that divorce, except in case of adultery, is a certain breach of the seventh commandment. Learn, 1. That so indissoluble is the marriagecovenant betwixt two persons, that nothing but adultery, which violates the bands of marriage, can dissolve or disannulit. Learn, 2. When persons are unjustly put away, it is unlawful for them to marry to any other, or for others knowingly to marry to them.
33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all: neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black:
The next commandment which our Saviour expounds and vindicates, is the third, which requires a reverent use of God's name. Now the Pharisees taught that perjury was the only breach of this commandment; and that swearing was nothing, if they did not forswear themselves; and that persons were only obliged to swear by the name of God in public courts of justice, but in their ordinary and common discourse they might swear by any of the creatures. Now, in opposition to these wicked principles and practices, Christ says, Swear not at all: that is, 1. Swear not profanely in your ordinary discourse. 2. Swear not unduly by any of the creatures; for that is to ascribe a deity to them. 3. Swear not lightly upon any trifling or frivolous occasion; for oaths upon small occasions are great sins. So that an oath is not here forbidden by our Saviour, but restrained. For though light and needless, common and ordinary swearing, be a very great sin, yet to take an oath upon a solemn occasion, when lawfully called thereunto, is a christian and necessary duty. Christ by this prohibition doth not forbid all swearing as a thing absolutely evil; nor doth he forbid all assertory or promissory oaths in matters testimonial, when imposed
by the magistrate; for Christ himself, when adjured by the high-priest, did answer upon oath. But he forbids all voluntary oaths in common conversation, and in our ordinary discourse; because an oath is an act of religious worship: therefore to trifle with it is an horrid provocation.
37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these, cometh of evil.
and remedy for shunning the occasion and Here our Lord prescribes a proper mean danger of rash swearing; and that is, by using and accustoming ourselves in conversation to a true simplicity and constant plainness of speech; either affirming or denying, according to the nature of the thing; letting oaths alone till we are called strife between man and man. Learn, That to them upon great occasions, for ending the great end of speech being to communicate the sense of our minds to each other, we ought to use such plainness and simplicity in speaking, that we may believe one another without oaths, or more solemn and religious asseverations.
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Our Saviour here vindicates the sixth commandment, which obliges us to do no wrong to the body of our neighbour. God had given a law to the public magistrate, to require an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, when a person was wronged: hereupon the Pharisees taught, That a private person, wronged by another, might exact satisfaction from him to the same degree in which he had been wronged by him; if he had lost an eye by another, he might revenge it, by taking away the eye of another. But, says Christ, I say unto you, resist not evil; that is, seek not private revenge, but leave the avenging of injuries to God and the magistrates; and in trivial matters not to appeal at all, and, when forced, not for revenge sake: teaching us, That christians ought rather to suffer a
double wrong, than to seek a private revenge. Christianity obliges us to bear many injuries patiently, rather than to revenge one privately. Religion indeed doth not bid us invite injuries, but it teaches us to bid them welcome: we are not to return evil for evil, but are rather to endure a greater evil than to revenge a less.
42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away.
Our Saviour here presses the law of charity upon his disciples: this is two-fold; a charity in giving to them that beg, and a charity in lending to them that desire to borrow. Christianity obliges all those who have ability, to abound in works of charity of all sorts and kinds whatsoever. He that is truly charitable, doth not only give, but lends; yea, sometimes lends, looking for nothing again. It is not enough to act charity of one sort, but we must be ready to act it in every kind, and to the highest degree that our circumstances and abilities will admit. Giving is a God-like thing, he is the Giver of every good and perfect gift; he gives before we ask and we must imitate God in giving; namely, by giving what we give cheerfully, sincerely, discreetly, proportionally, universally, in obedience to God's command, and with an eye at his glory. And there is sometimes as great charity in lending as there is in giving; many a poor family, by our lending them a small matter, may raise themselves into a condition to live comfortably and honestly in the world.
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy: 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you:
Another corrupt gloss which the Pharisees had put upon the law of God, our Saviour here takes notice of the law said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, Lev. xix. 18. This they interpreted to relate only to their own countrymen, the Jews; concluding, that they might hate all the uncircumcised nations, as enemies. But, saith our Saviour, I require you to love all men; for if enemies must not be shut out of your love, none must. Love your enemies;
here the inward affection is required. Bless them that curse you; there outward civility and affability is required. Do good to them that hate you; here real acts of kindness and charity are commanded to be done by us to our bitterest and most malicious enemies. Pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you; that can be, calumny and cruelty; yet are these are the highest expressions of enmity we commanded to pray for those that touch us in these two tenderest points, our reputation and our life. Learn, That christianity obliges us to bear a sincere affection towards our most malicious enemies; to be ready upon all occasions to do good unto them, and pray for them.
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
To encourage us to the foregoing duty of loving our enemies, our Saviour propounds the example of God himself to our imitation, That ye may be the children of your Father; that is, that you may be known to be the children of your Father which is in heaven, by your likeness to him, and imitation of him. Note, 1. That the best evidence we can have of our divine
sonship, is our conformity to the divine nature, especially in those excellent properties of goodness and forgiveness. Note, 2. That God doth good to them that are continually doing evil unto him. Rain and sun, fat and sweet, gold and silver, are such good things as their hearts and houses are filled with, who are altogether empty of grace and goodness.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
Yet farther to encourage us to the duty of loving our enemies, Christ assures his disciples that he expects more from them than from others; more than common humanity and civil courtesy towards friends: for even heathens by the light of nature were taught to love those that love them: but he expected that christianity should teach them better, and lead them farther, even to love their enemies, and to bless them that curse them. Note, Love for love is
Justice; love for no love is favour and kindness: but love for hatred and enmity is divine goodness; a Christ-like temper, which will render us illustrious on earth, and glorious in heaven. But Lord! how do men confine their love to little sects and parties! and from thence comes that bitterness of spirit of one party towards another; and oh how hard is it to find a christian of a true catholic love and temper !
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
That is, Aim at perfection in all christian virtues and divine graces, but particularly in this of love; in imitation of your heavenly Father, who is the perfect Pattern of all desirable goodness, and adorable perfections. To be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, is indeed impossible, as to equality, but not as to imitation. The word rendered here perfect, by St. Matthew, is elsewhere, by St. Luke, rendered merciful, Luke vi. 36. implying, That charity is the perfection of a christian's graces; he that is made perfect in love, is perfect in all divine graces, in the account of God. Learn, 1. That there is no standing still in religion, but he that will be saved must press on towards perfection. Learn, 2. That no less than perfect and complete perfection in grace, and particularly in the grace and love of charity, is and ought to be the aim of every christian in this life,
and shall be his attainment in the next.
This chapter is a continuation of our Saviour's incomparable sermon upon the mount, in which he cautions his disciples against the hypocrisy and vain-glory of the Pharisees, both in their almsgiving and prayers; the former in the first four verses of this chapter, which speak thus:
TAKE heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them otherwise have no reward ye of your Father which is in heaven. 2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 3. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth ; 4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Fa
ther, which seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly.
Observe here, 1. The duty directed to, alms-giving after a right manner; Do not your alms before men: some copies read it, Do not your righteousness before men ; because alms-giving is a considerable part of that righteousness and justice which we owe unto our neighbour; he that is uncharitable, is unjust: acts of charity are acts of justice and equity. It also intimates to us, That the matter of our alms should be goods righteously gotten to give alms of what is gotten unjustly, is robbery, and not righteousness. Observe, 2. Our Saviour's cautionary direction in giving alms, Take heed that you do them not to be seen of men. It is one thing to do our alms that men may see them, and another thing to do them that we may be seen of
that God may be glorified: but not to be We ought to do alms before men, seen of men, that ourselves may be applauded. Observe, 3. The particular sin which our Saviour warns his disciples against in giving their alms, namely, ostentation and vain-glory, which the Pharisees were notoriously guilty of; sounding a trumpet, to call people about them when they gave their alms. Thence learn, That the doing any good work, especially any work of charity and mercy, vain-gloriously, and not with an eye to God's glory, will certainly miss of the reward of well-doing in another world. Observe, 4. The advice given by our Saviour for the prevention of this sin and danger; and that is, to do our alms as secretly as we can; Let not thy right hand know what thy left hand doeth; that is, conceal it from thy nearest relations, and, if possible, from thyself. Note thence, That the secrecy of our charity is one good evidence of its sincerity. Hence the Egyptians made the emblem of charity to be a blind boy reaching out honey to a bee that had lost her wings.
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and, when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in