The Gospels

(Volume 5 of the Numerical Bible: The Fifth Pentateuch of the Bible)

F. W. Grant.

Division 2. (Matt. 3 ― 7.)

The Announcement of the Kingdom.

The King having thus been set before us, the second division of the Gospel presents to us now the Kingdom as announced by the herald of it, and then by the King, heaven opening now more wondrously than at His birth, to proclaim Him as the object of its delight, the Son of the Father, and to anoint Him publicly as the "Christ" of God.

There are three subdivisions here: the first of which shows us the King once more identified, as now coming forward, after thirty years' interval of silence, to take up His public work, and put forth His claim to the Kingdom, already declared to be at hand."

The second gives us the King's own testimony to the Kingdom, with the signs accompanying this ― the broad seal of heaven set to that testimony in the sight of all men.

The third is the unveiling of the Kingdom in its inner spirit and holiness, as declared by the King Himself, in what is commonly known as "the Sermon on the Mount." This manifestly completes the announcement. In all this part we find distinctly the Lord as "the Minister of the circumcision for the truth of God to confirm the promises made unto the fathers" (Rom. 15:8). The Kingdom as yet declared is in its Jewish and Old Testament form, Israel not having yet rejected Him with whom the fulfilment of all the promises is bound up. It is only after it is clearly seen that they will do this that, in the thirteenth chapter we have the parenthetic form of the Kingdom announced, in the meantime of His rejection by His people; now taking therefore its Gentile or rather its universal, New Testament form. But it must not be imagined, on this account, that our own interest in these chapters will be diminished. Not only is the whole range of Christ's interests our own as Christians, but also we shall find that there are principles all through most fully applying to us, and not infrequently that their relation to Israel really intensifies their force in relation to ourselves. But our first consideration must be what is in truth their strict meaning and application; and we need not fear that the truth when we have found it can possibly be less fruitful and profitable than what is not this. It would be disloyalty to God to believe it.

Subdivision 1. (Matt. 3 — 4:11.)

The King once more identified.

1. At the beginning ― as we are now ― of the New Testament, it is natural to turn to consider the relation of the Old Testament to it; and this is pressed upon us in an especial manner by the Old Testament apparition which meets us at the threshold of the New in the person of John the Baptist. That he should go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elias, is declared of him by his father Zacharias; and Christ Himself says of him, "If ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come." It is not necessary to discuss here his exact relation to Malachi's closing prophecy. It is at least plain that he reproduced in his character and preaching the typical prophet whom even in his garb he very much resembled; and his call to repentance is only giving voice to what the law and the prophets united to proclaim.

It is divinely significant that the long interval of about four centuries should intervene between the two portions of God's inspired Word ― His twofold testimony to man; and it is equally significant that the general character of the last prophecy should be that of lament over the utter failure of the people, their history closing at the same time, as if there were no use in any longer giving record of their doings. This is in fact the final account of man as man, the genealogies of Chronicles also ending, and the New Testament having only one genealogy, as it has practically only the history of One, the Second Man in contrast with the first, and (thank God) He the last Adam of a new creation.

The ages up to Christ were ages of probation, the law itself being the typical form of this, and giving character to the whole canon of the Old Testament; but even the Gentiles, left in general, as it might seem, outside of positive direct dealings of God with them, only furnish in this way more perfectly their own contribution to the history of utter ruin. And the verdict of the ages as to these both is given us in Scripture itself in such a way as yet to cover both classes of mankind with this double condemnation.

The law tested man ― the Jew ― as to righteousness: and the verdict of the law as to those under it is (as the apostle declares) that there is none righteous, no, not one (Rom. 3:10, 19). But the book of Job takes up also the best man of the Gentile world, and outside of law, to make him acknowledge as to himself the self-same condition (Job 42:6).

Again, the Gentile was left to his own wisdom ― so dearly bought ― to find out by searching as to God. But, says the apostle, "when the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe" (1 Cor. 1:21). And yet again, the book of Ecclesiastes shows us a Jew ― the wisest man on earth ― setting himself upon the same quest, to find by wisdom as to God's ways with man, only in his turn to be utterly baffled (Ecc. 8:16-17).

In either case, God's coming in is man's only hope; in either case, men are lost utterly: every mode of trial, every assistance that can be given them, short of a salvation all of God, only the more confirms this.

The chosen people of God are the signal example of this. After having been in their deliverance from Egypt, and in the early part of their wilderness-journey, signal examples of the grace of God, they choose a legal covenant in self-confidence to their ruin. Their after-history is only that of the successive stages of their descent into it; until in their removal to Babylon the brand of their apostasy is put upon them. And though a remnant returns at the end of the seventy years predicted, the nation is owned no more as the people of God. Our Lord's own picture of them is but that of a "fig-tree planted in the vineyard," not of the vine restored. (See Isa. 5.) And to this, too, with its plentiful leaves of profession, He comes seeking the fruit which should have accompanied them, and finds none.

The causes leading to this are as patent as they are instructive. The remnant returning from the Babylonian captivity find God with them as a remnant, and as far as they have faith to count upon Him; but there is no general return of heart to God even in these, and still less in the nation at large, nor could there be hope or profit in putting them back where they had been before, to follow once more the course that had led them to ruin. No, the only hope is in that ruin itself laid to heart, that it may produce in them that distrust of self in which they shall lay hold of God and find blessing.

Accordingly as a people they are not restored. The decree of Lo-ammi is not revoked (Hosea 1:9): the covenant is not renewed. They return under Gentile dominion, to build up again their temple and city; but they cannot bring back again what they have lost ― that glorious Presence with them which was the distinctive feature of their national pre-eminence. The glory of God, which. Ezekiel had seen definitely leave its place among them (Ezek. 11:22-23), never returned; there was no ark of the covenant, and as a consequence no propitiatory mercy-seat to receive on the day of atonement the peace-making blood; there was no Urim and Thummim, the habitual means of consulting with God (Ezra 2:63). While He could speak with them by a prophet, and did, this was an exceptional thing, and itself a sign of changed relationship.

Soon even the prophet's voice closed, and closed in words of sadness and rebuke. They were left with the long story of their past against them, all their hopes now concentrated in the Christ that was to come.

The only hope that ever was! the failure of all else would work indeed for blessing, if it only shut them up to that. The law with its condemnation, the types with their spiritual enigmas inviting solution, the prophecies with their clearer light, all alike pointed them forward to but One. Could they now fail to hear the Voice that spake to them? Would they not humbly, gladly accept the grace that was now held out to them?

Alas, it was in this interval that Pharisaism arose under the guise of patriotism and a zeal, all too late, for the Word which they had slighted. It took up fanatically the covenant under the condemnation of which they lay ― not heeding, not accepting the condemnation. It took up the law to fence it in by fresh prohibitions from the possibility of a breach, but thus turned it into a mere and grievous yoke of ordinances, without life, which they could not deal with, and so ignored. Above all, it built them up in a self-righteousness which made them inaccessible to the grace of Christ, while ignorant and because of their ignorance of the righteousness of God which would have led them to repentance. They became thus the "ninety and nine just persons who needed no repentance," and who could therefore ask indignantly and decidedly," Which of the Pharisees have believed on Him?"

To a nation of legalists thus it was that John the Baptist came. He came as the true voice of the law and the prophets, the spirit of the Old Testament incarnate in him. He came with the sound of his Master's feet behind him, and the announcement that at last the Kingdom of heaven was at hand. But the years that had passed had brought no recovery, and the promise had to come with a voice of warning in it. Crying in the wilderness, and not in the cities of the land, ― there where Jehovah still remembered there had been shown the kindness of her youth, the love of her espousals, when Israel was holiness to the Lord, and the first-fruits of her increase (Jer. 2:2-3), and whither again He will have to allure her, in order that He may speak comfortably to her (Hosea 2:14). There the cry of "Repent" was in its place.

It was the cry Isaiah had predicted, the voice of the herald before Jehovah Himself, urging them to prepare His way by taking their true place before Him, making His paths straight, as righteousness required. For he was "come in the way of righteousness," as the Lord afterwards testified of him, and could only "mourn" for a condition of things without God, and from which he must needs stand apart. Apart he is therefore, in the most uncompromising manner. While the son of a priest, he exercises no priestly functions. We never even find him at Jerusalem. His clothing even speaks of the desert, being of camel's hair, and with a leathern girdle about his loins. His food is locusts and wild honey. He acts in thorough consistency with the word to Jeremiah, "Let them return unto thee, but return not thou to them" (Jer. 15:19).

His baptism confirms his preaching. He baptizes unto repentance, and in Jordan, the river of death: baptizes thus unto death; as it is also, according to the apostle (Rom. 6:3-4), with Christian baptism. But here we have to distinguish: Christian baptism is to Christ's death, for Christ has come and has died; but this is not true of John's baptism. His disciples simply take the place for themselves, "confessing their sins," of which death was the just due: as it is indeed, the stamp upon a fallen creature, as well as the penalty denounced by the law. In the history of the past, the waters of Jordan had been dried up, to give Israel entrance into the land which God had given them. Now that history is traced back to Jordan itself, but this is dried up no longer: they do not pass through it, they are buried in it; their victory, then obtained, has after all ended in shameful defeat.

Here, then, we see the repentance that John preaches: not a vain promise of reform, not the reform itself, but what is primary and antecedent to all this, the taking true ground before God as hopeless and undone, with such a man as Job even, who, if the best man of his day, and so pronounced by God, found his place here in self-abhorrence.

Were repentance the same as reformation, or "doing better," as is more vaguely said, we might well despair, if the best man on earth had yet to repent in this sense. On the other hand, it is not hard to realize how the very perfection, comparatively, of his life and ways might hinder the apprehension of the evil in him, till he had measured himself fairly in the presence of God. This is his own account of it, as is evident. He had found in such light, deeper than his outward life, a self from which he turned in shame and loathing. Repentance was, in him, not doing in any shape, but turning from all that he had done and been, to cast himself upon mere mercy. And this mercy in God met him there and then with full deliverance and lifting up out of all his sorrows.

Thus, then, was the way of the Lord to be prepared into His Kingdom. As Isaiah states it ― though the quotation is to be found in Luke, not here, the mountain was to be leveled, the valley filled, pride abased and lowliness exalted, grace in God realized as needed alike by all, sufficient for any. So would He have His way.

John preached, and his word was with power to break through the hollow crust of things and bring men to reality. This man with his strange garment and rough fare, was at all events real. Multitudes from all the country round about poured out to listen to him, and submitted to his baptism. The conditions of it were within easy reach: every convicted sinner had in this his title.

2. But we soon find the opposition of the heart to God revealing itself, even under apparent conformity to such humbling requirements, and John emphasizes therefore the division that would be made among men when the King should come. For now, among the multitude, whether merely to be in the fashion, or else moved by a power to which they would not wholly yield themselves, many Pharisees and Sadducees came to his baptism. They were the religious leaders of the people, though far enough apart from one another, types of the two directions in which men turn away from God. As the Pharisee was the legalist and formalist, so the Sadducee was the rationalist and semi-infidel of his day. Apart as they were from one another, they could yet show their essential oneness by the way in which they could combine against the followers of the Lord; and John treats them as one, essentially. "O brood of vipers," he exclaims, "who has shown you that ye should flee from the coming wrath?" He could not credit them with having felt the sting of such an incentive. They must prove, then, the reality of it ― must bring forth fruit worthy of repentance. And here self-judgment would show itself first of all, in giving up the false and futile pretensions which they based upon their descent from Abraham, for all the promises to him God could fulfil to a seed raised up to him from what might be to them as it were from the very stones.

These pretensions were indeed enormous. "The common notion of the time," says Edersheim, was that "the vials of wrath were to be poured out only on the Gentiles, while they, as Abraham's children, were sure of escape ― in the words of the Talmud, that the 'night' (Isa. 21:12) was 'only to the nations of the world, but the morning to Israel.' For no principle was more fully established in the popular conviction, than that all Israel had part in the world to come, and this specifically because of their connection with Abraham. This appears not only from the New Testament, from Philo and Josephus, but from many Rabbinic passages. 'The merits of the fathers' is one of the commonest phrases in the mouths of the Rabbis. Abraham was represented as sitting at the gate of Gehenna, to deliver any Israelites who might have been otherwise consigned to its terrors. In fact, by their descent from Abraham, all the children of Israel were nobles, infinitely higher than any proselytes. 'What,' exclaims the Talmud, 'shall the born Israelite stand upon the earth, and the proselyte be in heaven?' In fact, the ships on the sea were preserved through the merit of Abraham; the rain descended on account of it. For his sake alone had Moses been allowed to ascend into heaven, and to receive the law; for his sake the sin of the golden calf had been forgiven; his righteousness had on many occasions been the support of Israel's cause; Daniel had been heard for the sake of Abraham; nay, his merit availed even for the wicked. In its extravagance the Midrash thus apostrophizes Abraham: 'If thy children were even (morally) dead bodies, without blood vessels or bones, thy merits would avail for them.'"

So thoroughly had Israel missed the lesson which in Abraham himself God had kept constantly before their eyes, that he was a man justified by faith, and that the circumcision of which they boasted was, in fact but the sign of righteousness by faith (Rom. 4:2-5, 11). Alas, natural birth, mere outward participation with the people of God, or ceremonial engrafting among them, ― it is possible for men even yet, and under a very different dispensation, to attribute to such things an extraordinary importance. For the Jew, it is plain that John's language assailed his most cherished hopes. It was possible, then, that all upon which he had built should fail him, and God could bring in, in his stead, those who had no natural claim, or birth-relationship at all! To us who enjoy, in fact, a place so given, this is simple; for the Jew it would be an overwhelming thought. It did indeed show that the axe was being laid at the root of the trees. All depended upon the fruit that manifested the tree. If the fruit was bad, what matter though it should be of the finest stock?

The sinner, as such, wherever he was, was under the wrath of God. If once the limit of forbearance were reached, the tree cut down was destined for the fire. Very simple truth indeed; but no man loves it. Because he does not love it, he will invent every possible way of escape; or rather, hide from his own eyes that from which there is none. How terrible is the power of self-deceit in all of us; and how great need for the plainest possible speaking, where this is the case! For, thank God, there is a way of escape ― not indeed from the need of repentance, but by its means. For repentance is only the backside of faith: he who turns his back on himself finds grace from the One to whom he turns, ― who has thus become visible to him.

All John's aim therefore is to bring men to repentance. For this he baptizes "with water:" laying stress upon the "water," expressly to free them from the idea that there was anything in this, apart from the significance which it had as a baptism to repentance. Water is only water ― can only produce a material effect, and not a spiritual. Nor does God ordain it to a magical use, perverting the nature of what He has created. On the contrary, He takes up what is in itself, and manifestly, nothing, in order that men should not lose sight of the spiritual meaning by what might seem to have some inherent virtues. Baptism, with John as with Paul, is simple burial of the dead, not life, not resurrection, but the contrary of this: the confession of need, of sin and death, that Another may be seen and known and trusted in.

He turns therefore now to speak of that Other and His baptism, and to put himself in the lowliest attitude at the feet of the One of whom he is but the herald, and unworthy even to bear His sandals ― to perform the office of the meanest slave: a strong testimony from one to whom all the nation seemed looking at this time; but what John announces Him as to do speaks more strongly yet: for what must He be who baptizes with the Holy Spirit? No doubt, the Jews were far from having any proper intelligence with regard to the Holy Spirit; yet they knew it was a divine influence that was here spoken of. We ought to have clear knowledge; and yet of few things, perhaps, in Christianity has there been more misunderstanding than of the baptism of the Spirit. Indeed, the very thing with which John contrasts it here, the baptism of water, has been and is by many, nay, by the large number of professing Christians, confounded with it; and as a necessary consequence it has been degraded to mere unreality, subjected to man's will, made to inflate the pride of a pretentious ecclesiasticism, and to deceive the credulous victims of superstition to their ruin. While, on the other hand, many who have truer knowledge of spiritual things yet reduce the baptism of the Spirit to a temporary, oft-repeated influence, whose significance is in reverse proportion to its ready repetition.

It is evident that our Lord is but applying the words here, when He says to the disciples after His resurrection: John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence" (Acts 1:5). Here is the same contrast of water with Spirit, yet the same term, "baptism," applied to each; while the Spirit on the day of Pentecost when these words were fulfilled, did not connect itself with water, nor were those to whom they were spoken baptized with water at that time at all. It is certain, also, that these disciples were born again before Pentecost, and that this baptism, therefore, was not their new birth. Scripture, if we pay the least real heed to it, easily delivers us thus from such strange delusions.

On the other hand, clearly at Pentecost the Christian Church began, and this is the "Church which is Christ's body" (Eph. 1:22-23); while, in exact agreement with this we are told (1 Cor. 12:13), that "by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." Thus the baptism of the Spirit is not that by which men are new-born, but that by which those already new-born become members of the body of Christ. It is not the beginning of the Spirit's work in souls, but a further, and yet in an important sense an initial work.

It does not follow, however, from the way in which Christianity has fulfilled this prophecy of John, that he knew anything of the Church as the body of Christ. It is certain that this was a revelation of later date, and necessarily hidden from him (Eph. 3:3-6). It is certain, because Scripture declares it (1 Peter 1:10-12), that prophets might be led of the Spirit to utter what was quite beyond their own intelligence. But more than this, it does not follow, because Christianity has fulfilled this in a certain way, that there may not be another fulfilment of it, Israelitish and not Christian, in those days to which the Baptist seems to point on, when Israel will be God's threshing-floor and finally purged, according to the Lord's own prophecy at an after-time. There does not seem, at least, any reason why the outpouring of the Spirit upon Israel and the nations in millennial times, of which Joel and others plainly speak, should not be called a "baptism," as initiating for them that state of blessing which will then be theirs. Such double accomplishments of prophecy are by no means rare.

It agrees with this thought that John puts alongside of this baptism of the Spirit the baptism of fire; which finds its explanation in what directly follows: "He shall burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Many would point us rather to the "cloven tongues like as of fire," on the day of Pentecost, ― a thought natural enough if Christianity were the complete fulfilment of what is here, and such an idea has become fully attached to the expression, a "baptism of fire." But the tongues of fire convey a different idea ― that of a word that shall act upon others, while that of baptism is of something into which the subjects of it are themselves introduced. These things may have easy connection, but they are not the same. Moreover the going forth of the gospel among men of divers tongues does not seem at all in the line of the Baptist's message here, which is an exhortation to Israel in view of the coming Kingdom and their unpreparedness for it. There would be alternate consequences, according as they repented and received, or else rejected, the coming King: they would either be separated to God by the action of the Spirit of God, or separated to judgment, if they rejected Him.

He had just been speaking of the burning of the fruitless tree; he goes on now to speak of the coming of the King under the figure of one who winnows wheat in his threshing-floor. He fans away the chaff to get the wheat, which alone he values; and this is exactly what is necessary for the blessing of Israel, who are to be blessed upon earth. For this the wicked must be severed from among the just, as we find in one of the parables of the Kingdom afterwards (Matt. 13:49): the earth must be freed from the destroyers of it. The saints of the present time are, on the other hand, taken to heaven; and for their blessing no such judgment of the earth is needed.

We see that the Baptist goes on to a judgment which is even yet future, and says nothing about the present delay of it in the Lord's long-suffering. This is quite in the manner of Old Testament prophecy, as in that of Isaiah which the Saviour quoted and appealed to in the synagogue at Nazareth. There He quotes "the Spirit of the Lord is upon Me," and as far as "to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." There He stops, though the sentence goes on without a break to "the day of judgment of our God" (Luke 4:19; Isa. 61:1-2); just as in John's words also, in connection with the blessing and restoration of Israel, which in Isaiah are then described in glowing terms.

We find this as a principle all the way through the Old Testament. Christianity, with all belonging to it, is a "mystery hid in God," ― abundantly spoken of in types and figures throughout, but of course needing the light of the New Testament for its discovery. Even John is not given to see behind the veil, although being brought face to face with Christ, he is "much more than a prophet" of the Old Testament.

But John is not at his highest in any of the so-called "synoptic" gospels. It is John the Evangelist who records for us his fullest utterances. In Matthew the herald of the Kingdom has nearly completed his testimony, and is about to pass away. But before doing so he is privileged to baptize the One whose coming he anticipates and welcomes with such fullness of delight; and we are now to stand with him in the presence of the KING.

3. The third section gives us now therefore, in brief but all important words, the manifestation and anointing of the King, who is also, as we have seen, even in that character the Saviour. He now comes forth from His private into His public life, to take up the wondrous work for which He alone is competent. Although not historically so, yet in its significance here, the mission of the Baptist ends where Christ begins His public ministry.

"Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him." There is definite purpose and meaning then, in this baptism; and yet, from what we have seen of its character as John proclaims it, it is the last thing that we should have imagined possible for the Lord, to be baptized of John. John himself thinks so: he is startled, even to refusing it: "but John forbad Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?" In fact there has been the widest misunderstanding among Christians of this act ever since; and we need to look at it earnestly and reverently, in order (if it may be) to find the track where so many have gone astray. We shall not need, however, to discuss the conflicting views that have been taken. It will be more profitable to enquire directly for ourselves what Scripture may give us with regard to it. There is, it is true, no direct explanation; the Lord's words in reply to John, "Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness," require themselves to be set in the light of related facts, before, as it seems, we shall be able to apprehend them. Let us start with some of the plainest of these, and see what light they may throw upon the matter.

It is clear that this baptism of Christ by John lies at the entrance of His public ministry. Before this, with the exception of the notices of His birth, and the one incident of His youth which Luke recalls, the silence of the Gospels with regard to His life up to this time, when He is about thirty years of age, is absolute and profound. So strange has it seemed that this should be, that, as is well-known, the gap has been sought to be filled by apocryphal statements, in which miraculous deeds, as unlike the soberness of Scripture as possible, and as far removed from the character of the "signs" which bore testimony to His divine nature, fill the pages with transparent falsehood. They only have their use in showing us what our Gospels would have been, had they been left merely to human wisdom to provide for us. We have not really a scrap of this apocryphal work which is otherwise worth preserving. The denial of all this invention of the miraculous is found where the turning of water into wine at Cana of Galilee is stated to be the "beginning of miracles" which He did, and which showed forth His glory (John 2:11). And the silence of Scripture otherwise as to all these years of His life regarding which there were, of course, so many witnesses ready to utter all they knew, and so many eager, as we should be, to take it in ― this silence can only be accounted for by a Hand controlling, and a divine design.

When He comes forth, it is to be proclaimed by John as "the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29); and in such a view of Him we shall find the speech of this mysterious silence. The passover lamb was to be "taken" on the tenth day of the first month, and "kept up" until the fourteenth day before being sacrificed. Yet the whole year was changed evidently in view of this, which was in fact the primal deliverance upon which the after-deliverance from Egypt was really based. Why then these unnoticed ten days?

Notice, that we are in the midst of the typical shadows of the Old Testament and, according to the symbolic language which these types speak throughout, the number ten is the number of responsibility, as derived from those ten commandments which are its perfect measure according to the law. The lamb was, as we know, to be without blemish ― and this means as to the true Lamb a spiritual state. Putting these things together, it is plain that they have connected meaning, and that the ten days of silence, yet of responsibility, answer in fact to the thirty years of silence ― a three times ten ― in which He was living for Himself His individual life before the eye of God, after this to come forward and be approved of Him as "without blemish and without spot." In fact, He is then so approved, the Father's voice giving testimony publicly to Him as His beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased.

The typical "four days" of public testing ― the meaning again given by the numeral ― were still to come before the actual sacrifice should take place. He is immediately led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, for the express purpose of being "tempted by the devil." And His life afterwards, how different is it from that quiet life at Nazareth in which He had been so long in communion with His own thoughts and with God! This was the fulfilment of His own individual responsibility, having its divine necessity in order that He should be able to give Himself for others, yet on that very account private, and not public. Miracles, as we see at once, would have been quite out of place here. For Himself He never used them, as He had come down to the common lot of men, and was for Himself far beyond need of them. Only God could be the competent witness of such a life, and He it is who must give witness, as He does.

It is plain that if it is as the unblemished Lamb He is presenting Himself here, the Lord's baptism by John at once becomes unmistakable in its significance. In the Gospel of Mark He speaks of His baptism,* with evident reference to His sufferings (Mark 10:38). Christian baptism is also spoken of as "baptism unto death," and in it we are "baptized unto His death" (Rom. 6:3-4). With this John's baptism in Jordan ― the river of death ― is in full agreement. The words, "so it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness," receive also in this way their simplest interpretation. For those who were "confessing their sins" in such a manner, the first step in righteousness of which they were capable was to take openly their place in death, as that which was their due. This is alone the principle according to which He can unite the other recipients of John's baptism, so different as they were, with Himself: for, for Him also, who having no sins of His own, was yet there for the sins of others, the place of death which it prefigured was no less the requirement of righteousness: the blessed Substitute for sinners had of necessity to take the sinners, place.

{*In the common version, also in the present one (Matt. 20:22), but all editors agree that it is an interpolation.}

Thus all is clear throughout, while as the King we have already seen that the Lord acts as the Representative of His people, who is to save His people from their sins. No Kingdom, such as prophecy had pointed out, apart from this. No possibility could there be of men being "His people," apart from it. Men are sinners, and a holy God cannot for a moment ignore this. When Israel came of old into relationship with Him, it could be only by the blood of the lamb: redemption could not be by power only, but (and first of all) by blood. He, therefore, who is to be King of God's Kingdom cannot without preliminary take the throne. He must suffer that He may be glorified: He must come to the throne by the way of the Cross.

And so, when the throne is taken, the effect of this and the character it manifests abide. "He shall be a priest upon his throne" (Zech. 6:13). He still stands before God for the people over whom He reigns; and while He is the true Melchizedek, "king of righteousness," He is also the true King of Salem, "King of peace." In Him "righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Ps. 85:10). For His throne, like the mercy-seat of old, is blood-sprinkled. and the cherubim of judgment gaze upon it from between their covering wings, and are at rest.

Here, therefore, the Lord enters not yet upon His Kingship. He is anointed, but not crowned. It is priesthood that must first act and prepare the way. Thus, rising up out of the water, the Spirit of God descends upon Him as a dove: He becomes not simply in title but in fact, the Christ, the "Anointed." As Aaron of old had by himself received the typical anointing without blood, in order to his exercising the priesthood, so is He now declared fit for and consecrated to His sacrificial work, Priest and Sacrifice as He is in one. His perfection is as needful to the one as to the other. The white linen garments of the day of atonement, and not the robes of glory and beauty, are those in which alone the sacrifice is offered that enters the sanctuary, and in which he enters it to sprinkle the blood before God. It is what He Himself was that prevailed, in the day of unequaled agony, when Aaron's Antitype offered up to God the only acceptable offering, and was accepted in that glorious "obedience unto death," by which "the many" for whom He stood "are constituted righteous" (Rom. 5:19).

What the Father's voice proclaimed the Spirit seals (John 6:27). He comes to rest where there is a heart ― at last, a human heart ― in perfect sympathy with His own, to give Him lodgment. Thus, appearing as a dove, He manifests exactly the character of Him upon whom He comes. The dove was one of the sacrificial birds ― the symbol of Christ, therefore, in the very attitude in which we find Him here; and all is still in perfection and divine harmony. Father, Son, and Spirit are indeed for the first time openly manifested together in the work of redemption, while it is Christ, in the perfection of manhood reconstituted, and in Him brought nigh to God, to which Father and Spirit witness.

The dove, or pigeon, ― and the two were almost one, ― was in fact the only bird explicitly named for sacrifice. As the "bird of heaven" it has, undoubtedly, its first significance. Heaven itself provides the offering by which heaven is to be appeased and opened over man. The Second Man is from heaven" (1 Cor. 15:47). He who has sinned, as all mere men have, cannot by that fact provide the unblemished offering that will alone avail. It is God, therefore, who Himself provides it and in this way manifests Himself in unspeakable goodness to win man's heart to Himself. This is the divine power of the gospel in reconciliation. He who requires has fulfilled the requirement. He who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity has yet devised the wondrous means whereby His banished should be restored to Him. Not only so, but for this restoration the bird of heaven shows us God become man ― no temporary condescension, but eternal love made known for eternity, eternally to be enjoyed.

Christ is divine love come down, and the dove is the bird of love and sorrow united. The love explains the sorrow: the sorrow the depth of the love. What a world to welcome the Son of God! and what a welcome the world gave Him! "A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief! and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him: He was despised, and we esteemed Him not."

But Scripture is more definite than this as to the dove, for it points us to "its wings covered with silver, and its feathers with yellow gold." (Ps. 68:13.) And here the reference will be plain to those that are acquainted with the symbolism. "Silver" gets its significance from the money of atonement, and its meaning is well illustrated in passages familiar to us. The wings are silver, for it is in redemption that the activity of divine love has been displayed; while in the feathers is the gleam of gold, the display of divine glory. This is how nature witnesses to Christ.

The Father proclaims the Son. The apostle tells us that "no man taketh this honor unto himself" ― that of the high priesthood ― "but He that was called of God, even as Aaron. So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made a High-priest, but He that said unto Him, "Thou art my Son" (Heb. 5:4-5). This, then, was the Lord's induction into His office, as having the relationship which is acknowledged here. Yet it is not as the Only-begotten Son, or in His Deity that He is addressed; for, in that case, it could not be added, as in Hebrews, "today have I begotten Thee." Nor could His divine glory be the foundation of a priesthood which, of necessity, is human. It must be, therefore, as born into the world by the power of the Holy Ghost, as the angel says to Mary, "therefore that Holy Thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." Here he is Son of God in His human nature, ― Man, but a unique Man. And the connection of this with His priesthood is not hard to trace. True Man He is, without taint of the fall ― the Son of God, as coming (like Adam, but another Adam) fresh from the inspiration of God. Thus He begins another creation, though out of the ruins of the old. In this way He is the Representative Head of a new race of men, standing for them before God, with God, the true Mediator-Priest of the new humanity.

No wonder that heaven opens to own and induct into His place this glorious Person! "Therefore doth my Father love Me," He says elsewhere, "because I lay down my life that I might take it again." And here, where He is, as it were, pledging Himself to that death for men, the Father's voice breaks out in all its fullness of joy in Him: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."

Let us notice before we pass on, how in the meat-offering view of His Person the distinction between His birth of the Spirit and His anointing is kept before us. (See notes on Lev. 2.) In the first general view of Christ as given in it, the anointing of the Spirit is what is emphasized, because it is the seal set upon Him, ― the Father's approbation. In the meat-offering bakers in the oven (the sufferings from the mere fact of what the world was, without open persecution) both things are represented but apart; and here the "wafers anointed with oil" show fuller, readier exposure to it after His public coming forward. In that upon the pan (the open persecution) it is the Man born and anointed that brings forth the world's enmity. His public testimony fanning the necessary opposition to Him into flame.

In the meat-offering of the priest on the day of his anointing (Lev. 6:19-23, see notes) we have, distinctly and necessarily, what He was as presented to God at the very time to which we have reached in the Gospel. Here, therefore, it is prepared with oil, but not anointed. And it all goes up to God as a sweet savor, man having no part in it. It is Christ in the period of His life which closes with His baptism, the years lived to God in retirement, of the sweet savor of which to God He Himself gives testimony.

4. The fourth section follows the third here, as the story of the wilderness in the book of Numbers follows the priestly anointing in the book of Leviticus. The Israelites had forty years of trial in the wilderness, and all through showed how little they had learned the lessons they were placed there to learn. The Lord is there forty days, and tested to the full, approving Himself ever perfect, and beyond the need of learning, ― Master and not disciple.

He has fulfilled, as we have seen, in the thirty years of His private life at Nazareth, His own responsibility as Man before God. He has now come forth from that retirement to take His public place as Mediator for others. He has been accepted as perfectly pleasing to the Father, the unblemished Lamb of sacrifice, as well as the Priest, able to offer for the sins of men. To this office He is consecrated by the descent of the Spirit upon Him, and is now fully the Christ, the Anointed, openly declared to be this.

He is now to be tested as to His ability for the path upon which He has entered. The book of Job shows us Satan allowed of God for this purpose to be the sifter of God's wheat ― the "accuser of the brethren." He who is to be the First-born among these pleads for Himself no exemption from this trial. He is expressly led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil: designated thus according to the meaning of the term as "the false accuser."

But God has pronounced: is not that enough? Alas, with sin has come in distrust of God Himself: He also is upon trial; and Satan's reasoning in Job's case almost openly takes that ground. God pronounces as to Job, and he takes exception to it. "Hast Thou not made a hedge about him, and about his house?" he says; and that means to say, "This sentence is not given upon proper trial." And God in His very mercy to man, who to his undoing has accepted Satan's malignity as truth, does not retreat behind His privilege. If He is, and must be, sovereign in His doing, so that "none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?" yet will He suffer question, and let all be brought into the fullest light. Job's hedge is taken away, and Satan is allowed large limits within which to deal with him, ― the end being, of course, blessing to the sufferer and full vindication of God's perfect ways.

And here now is His own Beloved, and there is no remnant of a hedge about the person of the Christ of God; nor will He use the power that is in His hand against the adversary. In conflict between good and evil, power cannot decide: the good must manifest itself as that, and stand by its own virtue against all odds. The glorious Wrestler is stripped, therefore, for the wrestling. Son of God though He be, He comes into the poverty of the creature, the conditions of humanity, and these in their utmost straitness. Man in Adam in his original perfection had been tempted in a garden specially prepared and furnished for him. But one thing was denied him, and in the denial was contained a blessing, among the chief of all the blessings there. Real want there was none, and need was in such sort ministered to as to be itself, in every way, the occasion of new delight. The weakness of the creature was owned, but tenderly provided for, so as to witness to the tender arms of love that were about him: he had but to shrink into them to be in perfect safety, beyond all possible reach of harm.

But not so sheltered, not so provided for, is the new Adam, the Son of man. The garden is gone; in its stead is the wilderness; nor is there nurture for Him now from nature's barren breast. For forty days He fasts, and then with the hunger of that forty days upon Him, the tempter comes. It marks the contrast between Him and other men that, whereas a Moses or Elias fasted to meet God, He fasts to meet the devil.

There are three forms of the temptation: though, with the first broken we see that victory is gained over them all. Yet for our instruction it is that we are permitted to have all before us, that we may realise the points in which the subtlety perfected by ages of experience finds man to be above all accessible, and learn how Satan is to be resisted still. We shall do well to consider them closely, therefore, and with the closest application to ourselves. The battle-field here may seem to be a narrow one; the points of attack few; the weapons employed against the enemy a scanty armory: but here lies one of the excellences of Scripture, that its principles, while simple, have in them all the depths of divine wisdom, and far-reaching application to the most diverse needs.

(1) And when the tempter came unto Him, he said, If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread."

Satan would thus act upon Him by the conviction of what He was, and make Him assert Himself, in circumstances which were so unsuited to what He was. The Son of God, the Beloved of the Father, at the extreme point of starvation in a desert! But then this was surely in His own power to set right: He needed not circumstances to be adjusted to Him, who was able so easily to adjust them to Himself. The power surely was His, the need real, the hunger sinless: why, then; should He not put forth His power, and make the stones of the ground minister to His necessities? So simple and plausible is the suggestion, so well it seems to recognize the truth of what He was, so natural is it with us to minister with what power we have to our own requirements, that to any of us naturally, it might seem to be no evil suggestion at all, ― no temptation. But it was such; and the Lord's answer will show us, better than any reasoning of our own; why it was such.

It has been noticed by all, ― it could hardly escape notice, ― that the Lord answers ever by the word of God. This is the sword of the Spirit, the only weapon we have with which to encounter the adversary; but it is striking, and speaks powerfully to us, to find the Lord who could surely have answered from His own mind, using always, and with distinct reference to it as such, the written Word. We see that He takes absolutely the same ground as ourselves, answers as man; is subject, as we are, to the authority of God. And this the passage which He quotes fully proves, ― going, indeed, beyond it: "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."

This is from Deuteronomy (Deut. 8:3), the book that sums up the lessons of the wilderness, for those who had been through the wilderness. And the passage shows that the dealings of God with His people had been directly designed to teach them this: "And He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know, that He might make thee to know that man liveth not by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live." How important, ― how supremely important, therefore, is this principle!

Man lives by the word of God, ― in obedience to it. The true life of man is nourished and sustained alone by this. Bread will not sustain it: the life of obedience is that which alone is life. In this way we see that though, because of inherent sin everywhere, the legal covenant had no life in it, yet there is another sense wherein "which, if a man do he shall even live in them" is to be understood. There is really a path of life, though grace alone can put us in it or maintain us there. Eternal life and disobedience are in fact opposites. The gospel does not alter this: grace fully affirms it: "Sin shall not have dominion over you, because ye are not under law, but under grace."

All this is in the passage quoted by the Lord; but in His application of it we are made to go further than naturally we should carry it. What principle of disobedience, we might ask, could be contained in the simple suggestion to use power that He really had, to minister to need that was as really His also, and in which, therefore, there could be no evil?

Notice, then; that it is as man He speaks: it is of man these things are written. Son of God He was ― adoringly we own it; it is this that makes the path we are thinking of so wonderful an one; but it is not in the open glory of the Godhead that He is come to walk upon earth, but to learn obedience in humiliation, ― nay, by the things that He suffers. He is come as man to work out redemption for men; and for this to learn all that is proper to man, apart from sin. Thus He cannot put forth divine power to save Himself out of this condition. What He can use freely for others, for Himself He cannot use. It is He of whom it is written in the volume of the book," Lo, I come to do Thy will O God … I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart." Thus He is here simply subject, and subject in satisfaction and delight, to the will of Another. He has, for His whole course on earth, no other motive. Need may press, appetite may crave: He feels this as other men; did He not feel it, the glory of His humiliation would be dimmed. But while He feels it, it is no motive to Him: there is but one motive ― the will of God. To make Himself a motive would destroy that perfection; come to do that will, and nothing else.

This is the spirit in which He goes forth to service: the close of it on earth, closing with the deepest humiliation and dreadest shadow of all, affords so beautiful an example of this principle, (even while at first sight it might seem at conflict with it), that one cannot forbear to speak of it here. One of the physical distresses of the agony of the cross is the great thirst produced by it. Almost the last words of the Lord there had reference to this, and gave it expression. His words, "I thirst" are answered by the sponge filled with vinegar, of which He tasted: and they were such as naturally to call forth such an answer. Was this, then; really any seeking of relief in His extremity, even from the hands that had nailed Him there? No: we are carefully guarded from such a thought. There was one Scripture, we are told, that remained to be fulfilled; and of this it was, in all the agony of that hour, that He was thinking: "Jesus, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst." This leads to what had been predicted: "in my thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink." Thus the glorious obedience shines here without a cloud upon it, nay, in surpassing lustre. "Lo, I come to do Thy will" is the principle of His life.

But here we are made to realize the wondrous privilege that is ours, ― the solemn responsibility that lies upon us. For we are "sanctified unto the obedience of Christ," and "He has left us an example that we should follow in His steps" (1 Peter 1:2; 1 Peter 2:21). This principle of His life must be, then; the principle of our lives. If with Him the governing motive was to do the will of God, ― if He rejected every motive that could be urged from His own necessities ― how simple is it that, for us also, the will of God must be our motive for action; apart from this there is no right motive possible.

What a world then, is this, in which the mass of men around us have no thought of God, no knowledge of His will, no desire to know it, ― men with whom life is little else than the instinctive animal life; disturbed, more or less, by conscience, that is, by the apprehension of God! And as to Christians themselves, how easily are they persuaded, that, with certain exceptions at important crises of their lives, the simple rule of right and wrong ― often determined by custom of some kind, rather than the word of God ― is sufficient to indicate for them the will of God; their own wills being thus left free within a variously limited area!

The law in fact drew such a circle round man; and in mercy, as a sheepfold is the limit for the sheep. A class of actions is defined as evil, and forbidden; within these limits one may please oneself. Nor could law do other than this: for it the rigidity of a fixed code is necessary. But Christ came into the sheepfold to make His sheep hear His voice, and to lead them out: free, but where freedom would be safe as well as blessed, following the living guidance of the Shepherd Himself (John 10). The rule is at the same time stricter and freer. And the reality transcends the figure, even as the Good Shepherd Himself transcends every other shepherd. To a love like His, united to a wisdom absolutely perfect, no detail of our lives can be unimportant, as (in the connection of these throughout, and of one life with another, none can be insignificant. Could it be imagined that any were so, yet which of us is competent to discern this, in any instance? "Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth" is but the utterance of the common experience. Who, then; that has learned to distrust himself at all, but must welcome deliverance from such an uncertainty, and find it joy to be guided at all times by a higher wisdom?

Nothing makes this appear severe, nothing difficult, except the love of our own way, and the unbelief which, having given up confidence in God, first sent man out from the bountiful garden, to toil and strive for himself in the world outside. But the divine love which has purchased us here, and given us Bethlehem for our "house of bread," should suffice to heal that insane suspicion, and close up the fountain of self-will within us. "He who spared not His own Son; but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not, with Him also, freely gives us all things?" The path ordained for us has, no doubt, its roughness, and the cloud hangs over it; but He makes the cloud. His tabernacle, and just in the very night it brightens into manifest glory. All differences are in the interests of the journey itself, as was said of Israel, that they might "go by, day and by night." The record of experience adds to this the assurance, they go from strength to strength."

No wonder! if "by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God doth man live." What a sustenance of the true life within us to be thus, day by day, receiving the messages of His will, guided by that wondrous Voice, learning continually more the tenderness of His love for us: "He wakeneth morning by morning; He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learner" (Isa. 50:4). This is the utterance prophetically of the Lord Himself: how blessed to be able to make it our own, and thus to have the fulfilment of those words: "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way in which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye."

So then the first temptation is met and conquered; and with this, in fact, is conquered every after-one; for he who, walking with God, waits upon God, what shall ensnare him? what enemy shall prevail against him? It is plain that Satan has been hinting again here the lie with which of old he seduced the woman. And that, as in her case "the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye and the pride of life" came in through the door so opened, they were now effectually shut out. Satan might repeat and vary his efforts; but to one cleaving fast to God, God will be a shield against which every shaft shall be broken to pieces. How great, then; the importance for us of such a lesson!

(2) But if we are to listen for the word of God, and our lives are to be shaped by it, we are called next to guard against the misuse of the Word itself. This is Satan's next attempt: "Then the devil taketh Him into the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down: for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee; and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest haply Thou dash Thy foot against a stone."

How careful should we be as to quotations from Scripture! how little in fact we often are! Scripture twisted but a little awry, the authority of God is put upon a lie, and our very faith in it may betray us to the enemy.

How important, too, in this view of it, becomes the complete verbal inspiration of Scripture. If only the thought meant to be conveyed is guaranteed to us, but the wording left to the choice of imperfect wisdom, then (unless words mean nothing) we can never settle what the thought precisely is. If the words are possibly faulty, who can assure me of the exact truth hid under this faulty expression?

Satan does but leave out two or three words of the original: "to keep Thee in all Thy ways" (Ps. 91: The "ways" of Him who in the same psalm says of Jehovah, "In Him will I trust" will be God's ways, and He will wait upon God for the fulfilment of His word, and not impatiently grasp at it before the time. This is evidently Satan's effort now; and since the Lord will not move without the word of God, here is now the word to lead Him in that path of the miraculous which He has just refused. The psalm surely refers to Messiah: would it not be simply becoming confidence in God, boldly to claim and act on it?

The place was favorable for such a venture. The miracle would be right before the eyes of the many worshipers ― of a people always seeking after signs, and who, having shown themselves ready to go after impostors, would be brought now to the feet of the true Messiah. The word could not fail: was it not for Him to answer the desire of the people, stop with the right hand of power the confusion and misrule, and fulfil the glowing pictures which the prophets had drawn; and take the Kingdom already proclaimed to be at hand by one whose call of God he had Himself acknowledged?

This seems to be the line and power of the temptation here. It appeals to Jesus as the Messiah, as the former one had done to Him as Man. It takes advantage of the Lord's answer given to that, and would with devilish cunning turn that victory into a defeat. How would He refuse to take His predestined place, when the word of God itself beckoned Him into it?

But the "ways" of the blessed "Author and Finisher of faith" lie elsewhere than in this direction. Of these Satan has not dared to remind Him. He has come into the wilderness from Jordan; from the place of death, to which He had freely stooped as what "righteousness" required from the Representative of His people, and has been consecrated as the Priest to offer the needed sacrifice. Power could be found for men only in the path of humiliation; and out of this He could not raise Himself, nor put forth a hand to lay hold of that which must come to Him from God alone, vindicated and glorified. He would not be slow to put forth power, when this was accomplished, and in this alone all blessing lay. He that believed could not anticipate this: we see that it is the Lord's first answer which has essentially answered all, and which reveals the secret of victory over all temptation. He has come to do the will of God and not His own. In Him patience will have its perfect work, and thus He will be perfect and entire, living by His word, suffering only, putting forth no hand in His own behalf. Anything else would really be to tempt God," ― to question as they questioned at Massah (Deut. 6:16), where in their need He seemed not to come forward. They "tempted," tried Him by His providences, found Him to come short. This question still connects in this way with the first temptation; but Israel had no power in themselves to fall back upon as He had: would He use it? Nay, when God had pledged Himself to Him in His word, would He not put it to the proof, let it be seen openly that God was with Him? Nay, He will not; nor take the short road, as if God's way were too long.

This is to tempt Him then: to try Him by our thoughts, ― alas, by our impatience, that cannot wait for His due time, nor take the path of humiliation He prescribes; that will in self-will reach out its hand and take, as Christ would not. He to whom all power belonged moved on as if in weakness, leaving it for God to vindicate and appear for Him, as and where and when He would.

(3) In the third temptation Satan shifts his ground completely. He is seeking the same thing of course; and shows himself more openly than he has done before; but he could not say, "If Thou be the Son of God, fall down and worship me!" He suddenly seems to realize so the truth of His humanity, that he will adventure fully upon it. If this be indeed One who is Son of man; shut off as it were from the claims and conditions of Deity; ― if He has come in; in the very weakness of manhood itself to work the work committed to Him, then he will boldly test Him as mere man. All the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, can they have no attraction for this poor Nazarene? It is a desperate game indeed, and to us cannot but seem like the mere raving of insanity to propose to Christ to do homage to him for their possession! But, however it may seem to be no longer temptation; but a mere awful insult to the divine glory veiled in humanity before him, it does not seem to be given us as this. The Lord answers it, as He does the rest, from Scripture, though with an indignation which He has not shown before. Satan has disclosed himself, and can be called by his name and bidden to be off. Yet the whole reads as if he had as much confidence in this attack as in the other. The change of address, no longer "If Thou be the Son of God," with the boldness of his proposition; seems to say that he has now discovered and accepts the fact that his conflict is with One who, whatever He may be more than this, had indeed come to meet him as man only. And man ― what had he not proved as to him? From Adam in the beauty of his Maker's handiwork, through the many generations since ― he had not encountered yet a second man.

And he, the prince of this world, had he not wrested from man the sovereignty of earth, the inheritance for which God had destined him, God not interfering? might it not seem to him as if evil were stronger than good, as he realized the 4,000 years of his triumph, the generations of men that had conspired to lift him to his throne, ― surely, an easy thing to do him homage!

In result, he has disclosed himself and is defeated. He has met, at last, the second Man. It is truly so: there is no display of deity, no outburst of divine judgment or of power he is answered, still and always by the Word its sufficiency as a divine weapon is seen all through: how great an encouragement for us in the irrepressible conflict which we all have to maintain. Through all He is the perfect example of faith, the Man Christ Jesus. We hear throughout the One who in the 16th psalm declares as the principle of His life: "the Lord is the measure of my portion and of my cup: … I have set the Lord always before me because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved."

The devil leaves Him now and angels come and minister to Him.

Subdivision 2. (Matt. 4:12-25.)

The King's own Testimony.

The manifestation of the Lord's fitness for His work is now complete. From opposite sides He is declared, what even the demons henceforth own Him to be, the Holy One of God. He can now go forth to His appointed work and we have here a brief notice of His preaching, after the close of John's public testimony. What we have in this place is not yet any detail, but the fact of the announcement of the Kingdom by the King Himself, the place of its announcement, the association with Himself of others to carry on the work; and the signs which accompany it. Each of these things has its importance, and Matthew groups his facts for the purpose of giving a history of the testimony now given to Israel, in its fullness and sufficiency, though rejected by them, the testimony of John being already rejected when that of Christ begins.

1. We have first the place of its proclamation, Galilee being in general in this Gospel the sphere of the Lord's labors, from Capernaum as a centre, which was now indeed, according to its name, the "village of consolation," as the place of His residence and the scene of many of His mighty works. That it was chosen in divine wisdom to be this, one cannot doubt, and the prophet Isaiah had marked it out in this way long before, as Matthew reminds us. Galilee, as "the land of Zebulon and Naphtali" on the one hand, and now "Galilee of the Gentiles" on the other, spoke plainly of the ruin into which the people of God had sunk. Zebulon; the dweller in relationship, as he should have been, had long fulfilled Jacob's prophecy, and "dwelling at the haven of the sea" had become the type of Israel as a whole, giving up its "dwelling alone" to mingle in adulterous commerce with the nations. Now it was but "the way of the sea," as if swallowed up in its waters while Naphtali, the struggler, sat, struggling no more, in darkness which was indeed the "shadow of death." But the Saviour of sinners is not hindered thus, and there in the darkness was the very place for light to spring up. And now there had come to Zebulon a Dweller, in whom God Himself could dwell with man; and to Naphtali more than a struggler, a glorious Conqueror, the woman's Seed.

Here in outcast Galilee, the light could shine more freely than in Jerusalem, with its legal pretension and its hollowness at heart. Light, its own immediate evidence for all that have eyes to see! The Personal Word, the "Brightness of the Father's glory" before men's eyes! Earth had never before a revelation such as this.

2. The Lord takes up John's word as to the coming Kingdom. The full truth, when it comes, unites in itself all preceding partial utterances. Along with this comes the call of disciples: and Peter and Andrew, James and John; answer His call to be fishers of men, with prompt obedience. It is an obvious and common remark that the Lord chooses neither men of position; wealth, or learning. The qualifications He requires are first of all spiritual, and He who sends them out means to be with them in their work. Nay, the first of all qualifications is to be dependent upon Himself. But He calls, ― calls now, as ever He did and has given over to none His claim to do this. He is Lord and Master and Guide in all His people's service.

That His call requires prompt, unhesitating obedience, He emphasizes Himself elsewhere. How great a thing is promptness, when once we are assured of the Lord's will. There is then nothing else to be considered, while moral hesitancy may so cloud this assurance as to make obedience then impracticable. Not alone in this, with how many would the present darkness of their way be clearly intelligible, if they would face honestly their past history. And that history must, after all, be faced one day.

3. The gospel preached by our Lord had "signs" accompanying it. This is one of the common Scripture words (though not used in this place,) for what we call "miracles." Such a word is used in Scripture also, but it emphasizes the "wonder" element only, and is of infrequent occurrence in the gospels. Important was even the power to produce wonder, as a bell to gather an audience, but the words chosen rather for these divine works speak of that in them which was to make its impress on the conscience and the heart. As "signs" they evidenced. themselves as "powers" ― acts of power ― which in their character revealed God. The Kingdom of heaven which the Old Testament prepared men to expect was, in fact, an interference of divine power on behalf of men which would free the earth from the burdens sin had imposed and the curse brought in by it. Miracles, therefore, formed an essential part in the "Kingdom and glory," and are thus called by the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews "the powers of the world to come" (Heb. 6:5). Most suitably, therefore, did they accompany the message that the Kingdom of heaven was at hand.

Yet John, its proclaimer, had done no miracle. His simple call to repentance required none. He saw and announced the Kingdom, but was not to introduce it. He embodied the spirit and emphasized the testimony of the old dispensation, which itself pointed beyond itself for the completion which would of necessity set it aside. He was the judicial summing up of the past, but in near view of the predicted future; and men needed only to have conscience called into activity to confirm to them the truth of what he said. They needed not and were not called to have faith in John; but to judge their own condition; and thus be ready for the coming King.

But now here was the King, ― the One to whom the world was to be subject, the whole realm of nature submissive to His hand. Here miracles were the natural sign, then; of His Presence; to Him what man would call supernatural was natural: not to have manifested it would have discredited His claim. True and needful testimony it was to Him, when "all manner of disease and all manner of infirmity" yielded to His power, showing Him thus to be Master of the whole condition of things into which He had come. All the consequences of sill had found their remedy: to earth the long-lost paradise might be restored. Sin itself, therefore, as presently was to be proclaimed and certified, had found in Him its conqueror also. And, not passively content with receiving all who came, this grace in Him went forth with ceaseless activity to find its objects. God's heart was pouring itself out in such a way as if to preclude all possibility of resistance. Who could refuse such ministry to need so manifest, in which man's very flesh cried out for the living God: and how could then; his heart be silent?

In fact great multitudes flocked after Him from all the country round: from Galilee itself; from Decapolis, Rome's ten colonial cities; from Jerusalem also, valuing itself for privileges which, misused, were bringing ruin upon all connected with it. Could, then; these various grades of a common humanity, one in the sad inheritance of the fall, which yet had so strangely divided them, find now in one Saviour-King their restorer to one another and to themselves? So it surely seemed as if it would be. "He made and baptized more disciples than John" was said of Him in the early days of His ministry. "The world is gone after Him," said His enemies at a later time. But history has been slow in fulfilling such a promise. Prophecy, on the other hand, has declared that so it shall be, though under different conditions from the present. And this is the one hope for the world which, in the beggary of all other hopes, shall at last find fulfilment.

Subdivision 3. (Matt. 5 — 7.)

The Kingdom in its Inner Spirit and Holiness.

We shall be called back to these thronging multitudes again; to learn in detail their various needs and the way in which God had provided for them. But first the inspired history bids us listen to the Lord's own statement of what His Kingdom is; not in the form it should take, but in its inner spirit. The Old Testament prophets had already announced the form it would, and will yet, assume, when the "promises" still belonging to Paul's "kindred according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:3-4) shall be fulfilled. Introduced by a coming in glory which every eye shall see, the Kingdom of that day will be_ established in power that shall smite down all opposition as with a rod of iron (Ps. 2:9). The law will then go forth from Zion; and the word of the Lord once more from Jerusalem, then to be the place of His special manifestation upon the earth, men coming up from all parts of it to worship Him (Isa. 2; Micah 4; Zech. 14:5-21).

The whole picture is, in many of its features, so unlike that into which Christianity has introduced us, ― is, in fact, such apparent retrogression when seen as coming after this, that many find it impossible to understand it except as a figure; but as such no one will find it possible to understand it really. It is not Christianity certainly; it is not the heaven in which our portion is; it is a future ― and still not final ― state of the earth. It is a last dispensation before the eternal state begins, ― a dispensation of sight, rather than of faith and yet in many ways lower in character than that which faith now enjoys. "Blessed" in a higher sense, truly, "are they that have not seen and yet have believed." Yet, in perfect accordance with this, the glory is then manifest and visible, as now it is not. And once more, and beyond all in the past, Jerusalem will be the candlestick for the light, where all may see it. Granting the apostle's interpretation to be the true one, and that to "Israel in the flesh" the promises belong, ― and the prophets themselves unmistakably show this, ― no other reading of Scripture is possible at all than the simple and literal one.

When John the Baptist proclaimed the Kingdom as at hand, he had before him no vision of Christianity, but just what the prophets of old had announced. And when the Lord takes up, with more emphasis and fuller demonstration, the Baptist's message, He is still speaking of the same thing. But Israel rejected Him through whom alone those promises could be fulfilled to them: "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." Thus, as Daniel had predicted, "Messiah" was "cut off, and had nothing" (Dan. 9:26, margin). As far as Israel's blessing was concerned, the fair vision vanished. The world too, and not Israel merely, understood not the day of its visitation: "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not." Thus the predicted blessing of the earth also is delayed, and only after nineteen centuries are the streaks of dawn beginning to be seen on the horizon.

Yet the Kingdom has come: the Baptist was not mistaken; the signs given could not deceive. Yes, it has come, and more than that which it promised has been brought in for faith. Yet it has come in a different way. Grace repelled will still triumph over hindrances; its flood will rise but higher to overtop the barriers which would hem it in. And out of the world which has taken Satan for its prince, and rejected and crucified the Son of God, God has been all this time taking out for Himself a heavenly people ― a people to share with Christ rejection upon the earth, yet to share with Him also His reign over it, and to have with Himself a place of nearer, dearer intimacy than even this might imply ― "members of His body," partners soon of His throne, where He is, for eternity to be with Him.

These things we shall find the Lord beginning to unfold to His disciples, as soon as it is clearly seen that Israel will have none of Him; and here, where He speaks of "things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world" (Matt. 13:35), we shall have no difficulty in finding that which is our own ― a fullness of blessing that Israel's portion does indeed figure, but only figure. This ― the nation's as such ― is earthly: ours is heavenly. There is to be a "new earth" also "wherein dwelleth righteousness," and with which Israel's seed and name are permanently connected (Isa. 66:22), as on the other hand, a "heavenly city" for God's pilgrims of today.

In the "sermon on the mount" we have, then; the principles of the Kingdom of heaven; with very plain reference to the millennial earth. It is the earth that the meek are to inherit, though there is a "reward in heaven" also, at which we shall have to look in its place (vers. 5, 12). The first statement is from Psalm 37, the application of which will be perfectly evident to all who consider it. Jerusalem also is spoken of, not in its desolate, disowned condition, but as "the city of the great King" (ver. 35), and we shall see further indications of this nature, as we take up the study of what is before us here.

Yet let it not be thought that this takes from us the application to ourselves, which Christians seek in it. The fuller revelation only completes the partial one; the higher blessing but transcends the lower. Through all dispensations God is the same God; and we are "blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Of many things we can only argue, indeed, a more perfect ― or at least a fuller application to ourselves than to them. To take from Israel what is hers is only to diminish her and not enrich ourselves; nay, what has been called in this way the spiritualizing of the promises has led most surely and emphatically to the carnalizing of the Church.

1. The "sermon on the mount" is the manifestation, then, of the Kingdom in its inner spirit and holiness, ― still, of course, as a Kingdom to come, and not actually come. There are seven parts (the number of perfection); and the first (vers. 1-16) fittingly consists of "beatitudes," blessings pronounced by the King Himself upon the heirs thereof: first, in view of their personal character (1-9); then as sufferers in the midst of a world hostile to them (10-12); lastly, in face of that hostility, they are set in it as ministers of a blessing to be fully realized, when the long expected Kingdom at last is come (13-16).

The old covenant also had its blessings, but which, conditioned upon legal obedience, proved only the hopelessness of blessing under it so that the very "song" of the lawgiver is a witness against the people, and his blessing of the tribes has to look for its fulfilment in times beyond the law; in fact, in the very times of the Kingdom which the Lord here announces. How suited that the Minister of the new covenant should begin with blessing ― blessing still upon obedience (for in the nature of things there can be no other) but now with a positiveness and assurance which imply the grace which that covenant, with its glorious "I wills" so royally expresses. (Heb. 8:8-12.) For those under it there is no Mount Ebal, no curse or woe at all. The sweet authority of divine love constrains and restrains together. Christ is King of a Kingdom like which there is no other, where the "engrafted word" is law, but a "law of liberty," and every individual conscience is His throne.

(1) There are seven blessings pronounced on character, and (as in most sevens elsewhere throughout the Word) the first four are distinguished from the last three by being connected with what is more negative and external ― related here to position in the world while the last three give us more specific divine lineaments which are found in all the children of God, as partakers of the divine nature. The first four show us the heart set upon a blessing which is not yet come, ― upon the Kingdom of heaven itself: governed, therefore, by the unseen, and finding itself in the midst of all that is its moral opposite in the world around. It is an empty, barren scene, and the soul is conscious of poverty and distress and moral failure only in the midst of it. The last three give us the positive energy and activity of good amid the unceasing conflict of evil with it.* But we must look at them more particularly in their order and connection with one another, all which has its importance spiritually and for us.

{*I give the meaning of these numerically here, it being difficult to do this with sufficient conciseness and intelligibility in the margin as usual.
(a) the Kingdom itself controlling, though unseen: ―
1 the barrenness of things here;
2 mourning is here love's judgment of the ruin.
3 meekness, the fruit of realizing one's possessions assured by God.
4 the complete failure of the world's system felt.
(b) the more positive Christ-like features: ―
1 mercy, only righteousness with such as we are; (see notes).
2 purity (separation from evil);
3 peace-making, ― recovering energy.}

First, and therefore of first importance here we have "Blessed are the poor in spirit." This is in contrast with mere external poverty, and yet like it in its own sphere. When the heart is set upon things to come, present things of necessity lose proportionately their value. There is absence of mind," as we call it, ― the heart on the unseen. And this is characteristic of faith ever, which is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." Yet this poverty of spirit is only the negative side of faith, the emptying and not the filling. Still there is power in it, as deliverance from a world in which men are walking in a vain show, and disquiet themselves in vain. The soul's bonds are cut: it can move, it can make progress. To such an one God's word becomes a necessity, as the one link with the invisible. And such a seeking has its welcome and assurance from the Lord Himself: ― "theirs is the Kingdom of heaven."

How much more, not less forceful for us should this be, than for those to whom the Lord is directly speaking, or even for the people who will stand upon the threshold of the Kingdom in days soon to come. True, the earth's crisis will be upon it, and Israel's travail-time of intense anguish, out of which, as in a day, a nation will be born to God. But we have the revelation of a brighter inheritance, higher as heaven is above the earth, the meeting-place of the redeemed of the present and the past, the dwelling-place of God and the Lamb. Had we divine affections proportionate to the revelation made to us how little would mere circumstances here have power over the formation of a character like this! Granting that Satan's tactics for us have changed, and that, instead of funeral pyres for martyrs, there are now only premiums in abundance for unfaithfulness to Christ ― a condition of things formed by compromise between the Church and the world, ― should this have power to dim the eyes of faith? What would it be to say this, but to own it right and reasonable that Satan should gain his object?

Christ in the world at least must be poor in it. It was the place, without any question; of His poverty. If then; He be the example for us, how much does this imply? If He, too, gone out of the world, be the object for our hearts, where will our hearts be?

The second blessing is that of those who mourn; and here I do not think that it is a question of personal sin. Christ was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," and necessarily, as the Son of God in a world astray from Him. "For the zeal of Thy house hath eaten Me up," He says, "and the reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon Me" (Ps. 69:9). His tears fell over Jerusalem. The Cross He bore for men was fullest witness to the intensity of His anguish upon their account, while justifying the holiness of God in all He suffered for them. The mourning that He blesses here is, we may be sure, like His own, love's judgment of the ruin that is everywhere around: little need to dwell upon the causes for mourning in the world, such as we know it. Its open sores are revealed enough day by day, in a time when the most hidden things are revealed as a matter of course before the public gaze, as having unquestioned right to know everything. And yet, after all, the mass of evil is too great even to be so gauged and realized. What must have been the opposition of it to Him whose eye saw through it all, and whose heart had none of the callousness with which we can throw off, or the weakness which makes us faint under, so great a burden.

But "they shall be comforted." There is a rest of God to come, a rest into which we shall enter; a sabbath-rest, where rest shall not only be allowed but sanctified. How sweet the thought of a rest of God, where He shall rest ― rest, as alone He can do, "in His love." And this shall be.

Approached from this direction, the next point is soon reached, the character of the meek. Amid the lusts and strife of earth, if like others you have your portion to seek, you must strive as they do. If you have nothing here to live for but God's will, you can afford to be quiet. Be sure for yourself of a Father's love and care always over you, ― infinite love and wisdom concerning itself with all your path, and such realization will of necessity subdue all rashness of self-assertion; and make you careful only to give God His way, to cease from the folly of your own. Here too the Lord leads his people, "Learn of Me," He says, "for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls." There is the present blessing of it, and how great it is! ― "rest to your souls:" rest from all restlessness; quiet in the knowledge that God is God; what an inestimable joy is this!

When the "meek shall inherit the earth" will be, of course, still the time of the Kingdom to which we are here continually looking forward. It will be a wonderful thing in this world, whose history has been one long strife of ambition; and whose heroes have been so often made such by the hecatombs of the slain; to have the inheritance at last belong to the meek! The promise for an earthly people as it is, we shall still enjoy it, and in a better way. "Heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ," we shall reign with Him over the earth. We have no need, therefore, to covet Israel's promises, and should not be enriched by them in the least. Here the Lord is quoting, as has been said, from Psalm 37, and the reference is obvious. It shows of whom these blessings primarily speak; and "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance."

There is yet one special form of sorrow to be noted, and it is one that men are feeling intensely today; not that there is more of it than in the past ages, or at least not that there is necessarily more. Rather, perhaps, because all these questions press more for solution as the day of settlement nears and the harvest of the earth approaches ripeness. "Judgment shall" yet "return to righteousness," long divorced as they have been; but it is not yet so. Still the cry because of oppression goes up into the ear of God, and He is quiet, and men think He regards not. And because they think so, they are rising up today to take things into their own hands, and settle them after their own fashion. Yet they can never be so settled: where are the righteous that are fit to rule? Are the few that have shown their unfitness other than fair samples of the many who have not had a chance to try? And if they could get one perfectly righteous, would they submit rejoicingly to him? What says the Cross as to that? The One they need has come and been rejected. "We have no King but Caesar" was the cry then; and it has been answered by the long reign of Caesar. Would they choose otherwise today? Caesar may not be in the fashion: they enjoy too well the scramble for the spoils of office. Try experiments in politics they may, and dethrone Caesar; but Christ will never get His own until God makes His enemies as a foot-stool for His feet.

But "blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness" righteousness; not merely to get their own necks out of the collar: there is no particular moral character about that. But craving for righteousness shall at last be satisfied. The coming of the Lord alone can accomplish this. There is One who can be safely trusted ― only One: He, one who had power in His hand once, on earth, and used it, but never for Himself. Personal interests He had indeed, and wrought for them ― a joy on account of which He endured the cross, despising the shame: the cross, even He could not despise. He too, blessed be God, shall be satisfied: "He shall see fruit of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied." Amen.

The last three blessings upon character, to which we now come, relate to that in which the children of God manifest most distinctly their divine origin. In mercy, in purity, in peace-making, the character of God Himself is manifested as Light and Love. It is directly said of the peace-makers that they "shall be called the sons of God" ― recognized in their relation to Him; and here assuredly is the great office Christ Himself assumed. In the first epistle of John, where the possession of eternal life by the possessors of Christianity is in question, similar things are given as the signs of it. There it is, indeed, that we have the statements, "God is light" and "God is love:" and consequently, "he that doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother." The two things must be found in the same person; as in God they belong together. Love is not truly love that is not holy; holiness is not that, if separated from love.

These seven beatitudes are in like manner one sevenfold blessing. Blessing cannot dwell with cursing; nor the child of light be the child of darkness also. Such cross-checks as to reality are of the greatest possible importance for practical use. In a world of shams there is nothing but needs testing: and with the flesh still in us there is abundant room for self-deception. Saddest of all it is, that even Christians may not be unwilling to be a little blinded; with this additional necessity, of course, that they cannot dictate the limit of this: the enemy to whom they capitulate will be bound by no terms.

It will be thought strange, no doubt, to put down "mercy" under the head of "righteousness" rather than of love; yet this is what I believe its numerical place enforces. Of course, it is not to be doubted that love is shown in it; but that results from what we have just been saying, that one moral attribute, just so far as it is that, will be penetrated, as it were, by other elements. You cannot absolutely separate one part of moral character from another: each is dependent and will not stand alone. Granting that, however, it will still be thought that mercy is more the fruit of love than of righteousness, and that it is artificial to characterize it in this way. Let us turn, then; to Scripture itself to see if it has any help for us.

Now we shall find such in this very "sermon on the mount," and only in the third section of it (Matt. 6:1-2). In our common version you find there, "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them;" but the R.V. rightly substitutes there "righteousness" for alms. It will be seen when we come to speak of it, that the character formed by the realization of the presence of God is described for us in three different ways, ― manward, Godward, self-ward. In each case His examples are different, possibly, from what we might have expected. Manward, He specifies "alms" as righteousness; prayer, as characteristic Godward-fasting, selfward. The truth and wisdom of this we surely cannot doubt, when we realize who is the Speaker here; but here, then; as I have claimed to be the case in the beatitudes, mercy is given as a form of righteousness: for undoubtedly alms-giving has the character of mercy.

The parable of the unmerciful servant in this same gospel will throw light upon all this (Matt. 18:23-34). He demands but his due from his fellow-servant, and so might not seem unrighteous; but there is more than this that must come into account. "O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: shouldest not thou also have had mercy on thy fellow-servant, even as I had mercy on thee?"

Mercy was with him clearly but righteousness; and so it is with us ever, being what we are, and God being to us what He ever is. Notice distinctly how this is brought out in the recompense. The mercy that the merciful shall find will be, as elsewhere with the enjoyment of these blessings, in the coming Kingdom, and we might expect perhaps something more than this; but all the reward there is mercy, and it is well and needful to be reminded of it. So the apostle, after speaking of the self-forgetting love of Onesiphorus, who had refreshed and ministered to him in his bonds at Rome, prays, "The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day" (2 Tim. 1:18). At our best, as at our worst, it is to grace that we are debtors. Grace crowns, even as grace saves.

And now we have clearly the character of God as Light. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God," If we remember that the eyes are in the heart (Eph. 1:18, R.V.), the connection is most obvious. Indeed this must be the qualification for seeing anything that is worth seeing. When Christ, the image of God, was in the world, the world knew not its Maker. And why? Not because there was not abundant evidence. He Himself declared the reason in that pregnant question which admitted but of one answer: "How can ye believe who receive honor one of another, but seek not the honor that cometh from God only?" The reason for lack of faith is always a moral one: the pure in heart alone can see God.

The Pharisee may cleanse the outside with most religious care and see nothing, ― or see indeed the very opposite of the truth; but the soul brought by its very misery to self-judgment, with its back on the world and self, shall see the glorious Vision which lies over against these, unseen by their votaries. And oh, for the bliss that lies beyond this! for the possibilities of vision beyond all that any one yet has made his own! for such is the unrealized wealth of our possession even here. To us the sanctuary is completely open; the veil is rent from top to bottom; and Christ is entered in, to give us entrance. Yet we imitate so much the unbelief of those who in days past besought God to put distance when He was drawing nigh, and to put a creature of His, though it were a Moses, abidingly between themselves and Him.

The last beatitude, "Blessed are the peace-makers," recognizes the strife and unrest that have come in, while it shows the energy of divine grace which has come to restore and bring back out of it. As the final blessing we see in it the result of what has gone before. There is in it the consciousness of a Voice which has spoken peace with power to still the disorder and reach down to the very root of it. How wonderful to know that that which is the basis of true peace is that in which we see also evil in its worst, but overpowered, made subject, transformed into glorious good. The world's worst crime, the bitter growth of its many centuries of hostility to God, its awful act of allegiance to the prince that it had chosen; has been the Cross. But just its worst is that which, in the triumph of good over it, gives absolute peace. The worst that man could do has but disclosed the infinite good in God; nay, He has met the full power of the enemy in all the weakness of a Son of man. Goodness, with no power but what is inherent in it, has defeated evil with all its accumulated strength. "Out of the eater has come forth meat, and out of the strong, sweetness."

Henceforth, to despair of good is to despair of God. He has made peace by the blood of His cross. How blessed now are the feet of those who are but the messengers of the gospel of peace! who go forth with the trumpet of jubilee to proclaim the fruits of the day of atonement for the Israel of God! the feeblest may recount the praises of that weakness which has defeated the strong, and out of weakness brings forth strength everlasting.

Blessed, then; are the peacemakers! God is Himself that. They, then; shall be called the sons of God. Henceforth, whatever the roughness of the road, their feet are "shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace:" shoes that, like those of Israel of old, never wear out. Well may they be the publishers of this grace to others.

(2) The blessings connected with character are now followed by two which are divine encouragement to those suffering from the consequent opposition of the world. For the world is in opposition to God, as the Cross has once for all proved, and so to those who resemble Him or remind it of Him. This opposition may be indeed disguised in many ways, and so that those who exhibit it may be unconscious of what they are doing ― unconscious even (such is the deceitfulness of the heart) that they are of such a spirit. For few indeed will own to themselves a condition so terrible as this. Hence have come in the false gods which have been invented to satisfy the religious principle in man, and yet allow him to follow his lusts and passions without check, or even with the approbation of a misguided conscience. And hence, even under the form of Christianity, people can picture a God after their own heart, and serve him with quite unconscious heathenism.

The persecution of which the Lord speaks here is of two kinds ― for righteousness and for His sake. In the first case it is for character, but it is to be noticed that it is represented as less violent and radical than the latter is. Correspondingly, the blessing pronounced is in the latter case greater.

With righteous conduct there may not be linked the open testimony which brings out opposition; and, if it be without personal claim on the beholder, it may even be admired, or at least approved, by him. It is another thing when it does make this claim; when the honesty of a servant, for example, interferes with his employer's profit. Then he may have to suffer; and this is so common a case that it calls for little remark.

When suffering is for Christ's sake, it is because suffering for Christ presses His claim upon the conscience, and it is felt, however little admitted, that one has to do with Him. As often said, a man who smiles at a Mohammedan may curse a Christian; and he who will quietly enough, discuss the Koran, grows hot and angry in disputing against Scripture. Truth carries with it its own evidence sufficiently to make this difference; which is, therefore, but unwitting homage paid by those who mean nothing of this. Christ turns from the mere abstract they" in the former case, to speak, as it were, directly into the hearts of these sufferers: "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you, falsely, for My sake." With this comes the fuller recompense: "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."

This "reward in heaven," addressed (as few realize it to have been) to Jewish saints, whose portion as such would be earthly, (and so the Lord has before applied the language of the 37th psalm,) and in immediate anticipation of the Kingdom being set up on earth, ― is really stranger than it looks to those who contemplate it merely from a Christian standpoint. Our portion is rightly recognized as being in heaven; and it is so much the accustomed thing to think of all saints as dying and going there, that we have largely lost sight of the meek inheriting the earth, or else injuriously misapply it. For it is certainly not the rule with the meek now, and in seeking to make it such they would lose their character.

But the Lord, with all Israel's blessings in His hand, and offering Himself to them as Messiah to bring them in for them, naturally speaks according to the Scripture which has in view the time when He will be received and they will be blessed under Him upon earth. According to this view, it is the reward in heaven which becomes more exceptional and difficult to understand.

But these blessings ― millennial as we call them ― being then lost to them through unbelief, belong, in their primary sense, to the future yet; ― to a remnant brought to God in a time of trial such as has never yet been known; and who will have to pass through it to enjoy their promises. Of these many will be persecuted even to death, and thus lose what we may call their proper portion. But they will thus receive, in the goodness of God, a higher blessing. Deprived of an earthly, they will enter into a heavenly inheritance, and so are seen in the book of Revelation (Rev. 20:4-6) as a special company of martyrs, added to the saints of the first resurrection (the saints of Christian and previous times) who will be already on their thrones.

But besides this, and apart from martyrdom (of which the Lord does not here directly speak), there will be also a preserved remnant, who, passing through the trial of this time, will have a special link with heaven; such as all will not possess (Rev. 14:3-4).*

{*For this, upon which it is not the place here to dwell, I may refer to my "Revelation of Christ" pp. 159-162; 208-212.}

For us there is, of course, no difficulty in an application; which is as true for us as if there were no others who had concern in it. The prophets, of whom our Lord speaks in this connection; dealt with men by the word of God which was given them to communicate, and themselves suffered, not merely as righteous, but as men of God. Yet as to the professing people of God even it could be said, "Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute?"

The apostle Peter speaks similarly of these two causes of persecution (1 Peter 3:14; 1 Peter 4:14), and with corresponding emphasis of blessing for those "reproached for the name of Christ." With him it is present, however: "the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you;" but who can measure what is implied in this?

(3) Such treatment at the world's hand involves also in itself a place of privilege and responsibility from God, which is two-fold, answering to this two-fold rejection. First, "ye are the salt of the earth." Salt is that which resists corruption; there being in it also a special diffusibility, which makes it a suited image of active and aggressive power. Mere passivity is, in fact, inconsistent with righteousness itself; even what we call "passive resistance" is more than this. There is the government of moral principle, in obedience to which the whole man braces himself up, if but to endure. Example also becomes precept, and that of the most convincing kind: words may be merely words, and light as the breath that forms them. The willing sufferer is so truly the witness, that the old word for witness has come to belong to him. The "martyr" is preeminently the "witness."

But this leads on to the second thing, which is just a place of testimony: "Ye are the light of the world: a city which is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under the bushel, but on a stand; and it giveth light to all that are in the house. "So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

From it being said, "let men see your good works," people often imagine that these are the light itself, and thus make the two things we are considering practically one. Indeed they are made for one another: separate them, and there is at once a fatal deficiency in each. What testimony to Christ can there be, if there be not the life giving evidence? But again, what evidence in the life if the lips are silent as to Christ? Nay, this may be construed so as to make the life of no consequence: ―
"For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight:
He can't be wrong, whose life is in the right."

But it is truth which sanctifies: and the life cannot be right that is not governed by it. And this is still the most serious effort of the enemy where Scripture is sought to be maintained: "For Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light," says the apostle; "therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed into the ministers of righteousness: whose end shall be according to their works" (2 Cor. 11:14-15). Here these ministers of righteousness press the life, to deny the truth; and as no more successful argument can be found than the evil lives of professors of it, so (next to this and in the same line with it) the good deeds of those who are without or who deny the truth, is Satan's wisest one.

Thus it needs the light to shine upon the good works, that they may be seen as such, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Apart from this, they may glorify humanity, or glorify any lie under the sun. Christ is He with whom in the full reality of it, "light is come into the world," and if "men love darkness rather than light," it is, as He Himself says, "because their deeds are evil" (John 3:19). We must not be afraid to say this after Him. There are some, thank God, who are profoundly conscious that in His light alone they have seen light, and that there is no light for the world but only in Him. Thus if any are to be in any sense a light of the world, there is but one way of it ― by reflecting Him. Let us remember, then; the responsibility we have, of bold confession of Him. It is not even righteous to hide from men in need what He has done for them. No: the lamp is not for the bushel, ― but for the lampstand: it is not for ourselves that we are made light: the world has right to it, and can produce that right under the broad seal of Christ's commission.

One may perhaps object: "But my good works! Alas, that is just my difficulty. With all my inconsistency, I fear that it would more dishonor Christ than honor Him, for me to confess Him." One can understand such language; one can even respect the motive, and yet it involves an essential mistake. We are never called to show our good works, or even to be conscious of them. The Lord's lesson as to alms-giving perfectly illustrates the rule as to all such things, which is "let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth." He is not here, we may be sure, teaching a contradictory principle. He takes for granted that there will be good works indeed: true faith in Him will surely have its fruit; but faith is the very opposite of self-occupation; and certainly of self-satisfaction.

If it be Christ that occupies us, the apprehension of His perfection will give us true self-judgment: it will be as impossible to be careless of evil, as it will to be self-pretentious. We shall "boast in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3). This will make the confession of Him both sweet and safe. We shall let our light shine before men; and, poor as we shall ever be in our own account, there will be fruit seen in us which shall glorify our Father. This joy in Christ itself will be the best evidence to commend Him to others.

2. We have now a new and very distinct section of the "sermon on the mount," in which the Lord takes the place of One greater than Moses, confirming, expounding, and bringing out the spirituality of the law, while He at the same time supplements and perfects it; not hesitating to put His own words in a place of higher authority than that of those spoken "to them of old time." For the law made nothing perfect" (Heb. 7:19), and what Moses had to concede on account of the hardness of their hearts (Matt. 19:8) could now, in the light which had come with Christ into the world, no longer be permitted.

There are fittingly seven subsections here, ending with the enjoining of this very perfection as required of the children of the perfect Father in heaven; who were to manifest as that their Father's character. The higher the place accorded, the higher the standard necessarily. But there are many questions which the whole subject raises, and which we must take up seriously and consider patiently in the order of their suggestion.

(1) First of all, the authority of the law is affirmed, and in the fullest way; but we have to consider in what sense it is affirmed, for it is here that many and grave mistakes are made.

"The law and the prophets" was the recognized phrase for the Old Testament as a whole, the Scriptures of a dispensation already past, but which had not passed themselves with the dispensation. Thus in the Gospel of Luke He says again (Luke 16:16): "The law and the prophets were until John; since that time the Kingdom of God is preached." Thus it could be said that they were passed, and that they were not passed. They were passed as the sole and governing truth: that was now come, or at least was at hand, for which they had been preparing the way; and necessarily this must be now the higher truth, but which must by the very fact bear witness to and establish what has gone before it. No truth can pass away. The more complete that is, to which we have arrived, the more surely must it embrace and set in their place all lower and partial truths which have anticipated and led on to it.

Thus then Christ came not to destroy the law and the prophets. He came to fulfil, or rather complete, ― fill them out. What would the Old Testament be without the New? Very much like a finger, pointing into vacuity!

It is plain that the Lord is not here speaking simply of the ten commandments, though these have their place, and a foremost place, in His thoughts, as is manifest by what follows. But the law, in its use in Scripture, is by no means confined to this, and the addition of the "prophets" shows that it must be taken in its widest significance.

The "fulfilment" could not be therefore simply by His obedience to the law, though He was fully obedient, but implies the bringing in something additional, as plainly even the mere fulfilment of the prophets must be by the addition of something to the prophecy.

But He goes on now to affirm with His emphatic "verily," that "not one jot or one tittle, ― not the smallest letter, nor the projection of a letter k ― "shall pass from the law till all come to pass." This, though translated in our own version "be fulfilled," is a different word from that just used; and such coming to pass could not refer to the keeping of commandments. The ten commandments could not be spoken of as something which had to come to pass. But this experience would naturally have to do with the law in its larger significance, which must even, one would say, include the prophets also; and thus the phrase "until heaven and earth pass" would be the real equivalent of all things being fulfilled. For beyond this the Old Testament gives us only the promise of "new heavens and a new earth," about which it says little or nothing (Isa. 65:17; Isa. 66:22).

{*Which in several Hebrew letters is the only distinction between them: as between the "r" and the "d," the "h" and the "ch," etc.}

Every jot and tittle of the Old Testament remains then never to pass away through the ages of time. It is all confirmed as divine, and therefore stable; but which, of course, does not mean that types and shadows were not to give way to the substance when it should come, or that the "new covenant" would not replace the old: for this would be a contradiction of the Old Testament itself which affirms it. No; the law abides in all its details; and therefore in all the limits it imposes on itself, and for all the purposes for which it was given, and for no other. This is simple enough, surely, to understand; and yet it is not understood by those, for instance, who would from words like these impose the yoke of the law upon the necks of Christians. For this it is not enough to tell us that the law abides. It is none the less necessary, as the apostle says, that "a man use it lawfully." And he adds to this, in illustration, that "the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient" (1 Tim. 1:8-10).

But the Lord's next words, for many, show without any doubt the perpetual and universal obligation of the law. For here He speaks plainly about doing or not doing, teaching or not teaching, even one of the least of its commandments, and of the recompense or retribution following for this. But while this is certain; it is no less clear that it is to Jews ― to men under law ― that He is addressing Himself. Christianity is not come, nor the Kingdom of heaven, nor is the former even announced as yet. The Lord is simply making a special application of the principle He has declared, to the case of those before Him; whether this is to be in fact wider is not to be inferred from this particular case.

When we do come to Christianity we find, especially in the epistles to the Romans and Galatians, the relation of the law to the saints of the present dispensation carefully argued out. And here two things are emphasized for us. First, that the "righteousness of the law" is "fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:4). There is not, there cannot be, any giving up of what is righteous ― of what is according to the character of God Himself. The Christian standard cannot be lower, at is in fact higher than the legal one, in the same proportion as the Christian position is higher than the Jewish, and as the power communicated in Christianity transcends any that was known in Judaism. The Christian position is in Christ before God. The Christian standard is therefore to walk as Christ walked. The Christian power is that of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. As the greater includes the less, so the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in Christian righteousness.

But, secondly, this does not mean that we are under the law. We are dead to it, that we might be married to Christ, says the apostle, that we might bring forth fruit unto God (Rom. 7:4). It is not that the law is dead,* but we are; and thus it is carefully guarded from the least possible conflict with what the Lord has here said.

{*See margin, and R.V.}

It is not the place here to discuss this doctrine, but the simple statement of it should be enough. It is not the possible meaning of a few texts but the whole doctrine of the apostle, fully argued out, that denies that the Christian is under the law; and to say that it is merely the ceremonial part that is in question; is simply impossible for any one who will read his argument with any care. Is it the ceremonial law that says, "Thou shalt not covet" (Rom. 7:7)? Is "the good that I would I do not" (ver. 19) ceremonial? It is impossible to say this.

The Lord, here in Matthew, is speaking to Jews, to those confessedly under the law, and in view of the coming Kingdom, which (because of their rejection of the King) has yet not come for them, and which, when it does come, will bring in a different condition of things from. Christianity, as indeed the sermon on the mount itself assures us. This we shall have to look at in a little while.

(2) But now the Lord proceeds to develop the righteousness that He requires, in contrast with that of scribes and Pharisees, those zealots for the external. The second table of the law is here pressed, rather than the first: evidently because on this side man is most accessible, ― his conscience is most easily roused. Men can invent all sorts of coverings to hide from themselves their state Godward; but if this be tested by their conduct toward men, made in His image, it is not so possible to conceal from oneself the truth. Corruption and violence were of old the characteristics of a world which had reached the limit of divine long-suffering (Gen. 6:11-13). The Lord takes therefore the sixth and seventh commandments of the law ― the second and third of the second table ― to illustrate the righteousness which He proclaims, expanding and spiritualizing what was said to them of old time, so as to make it a new moral revelation to those that hear Him. Moses, commandments become thus, as it were, His own, who is shown as One greater than Moses, ― the Prophet of the new dispensation.

The "judgment," the "council" (or Sanhedrin), and the "hell (Gehenna) of fire" are three grades of penalty, as is evident; but in the Kingdom of heaven all under one authority. "Thou shalt not kill" stood as the sixth commandment of the law. God had long before declared that "whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." The executive law in Israel could go no further than this. It could not deal with the state of the heart but with the outward act only. But the law as expressed on the tables of stone applied not merely to the outward act, and their appending in the way they did the executive to the moral law, inferred that the two were equal in what they covered; as they were not. The state of the heart was thus left out of view in the estimate of accountability toward God, and the practical bearing of the law was nullified for the many.

But now, the kingdom of heaven was drawing nigh, in which another estimate of things would be made and acted on. Anger in the heart, where causeless, and the railing charges which men so lightly bring against one another, would be all crimes against an authority which had at its command not mere physical penalties, limited by the temporal life, but the awful Gehenna of fire ― hell itself. It is not meant that under this divine government no mercy would be shown: that is not the point, nor what the words express. But such things would be within the range of jurisdiction; and man would be made to realize that there a God who judgeth the hearts, and by whom actions are weighed.

But this cuts deep: it is meant to do so, and to rouse the conscience of the hearers to the impossibility of any mere human righteousness in the presence of God. That of scribes and Pharisees would never do for Him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and who cannot look upon sin. Their whole method was a false one. They valued apparently God's altar, loading it, Cain-like, with gifts defiled by the hands that offered them. The Lord warns them that they must be reconciled to their justly offended brethren; before presuming to bring such offerings: and while the application here is evidently to Israel, the principle as manifestly applies to every one of us today. A sinner coming as such to God is not at all in question: for he can only come as what he is, and has the explicit assurance that he will be received. The Pharisees said truly of the Lord, though they meant it as a reproach, "This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them;" and the Lord answered, justifying His ways as the Physician of sin-sick souls. Abel, too, bringing his sacrifice to God, obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying." ― not of his works nor of his character, but ― "of his gifts" (Heb. 11:4). How impossible otherwise to have any assurance at all! for as to how much could we never set ourselves right with brethren! Blessed be God, it was for our sins that Jesus died; and our sins are the best of titles to a Saviour of sinners.

But while God would never turn away a sinner thus seeking Him, or delay-even for a moment the reception of such an one, this is not to hinder any possible restitution to those we may have injured, but the very contrary. For now we come under the rule before us, and as saints are to lift up holy hands; but for a saint this is absolutely necessary for communion. And how many suffer sadly in their souls because of an unjudged condition in this respect! For such the Lord's words here have the gravest importance.

Those to whom they were addressed, however, were Jews, in no wise taking the place of sinners, nor yet truly saints, but legalists: going on with the law, in which they boasted, and not realizing that Moses, in whom they trusted, was necessarily their greatest adversary (John 5:45). Judgment must be the end, if they did not in the meanwhile reconcile themselves to him by the offering of which already the law had spoken; and which the glorious speaker Himself was to provide. This He does not, however, go on to in this place. He is convicting them of a need without the consciousness of which all revelation of God's way of grace would be impossible to be understood. The judgment reached, they would in no wise come out from it until they had paid the uttermost farthing.

Hopeless then was their confidence in the law. But the Lord had not done with it for the purpose of conviction; and of clearing it from the mistakes and perversions of the scribes. He goes over, therefore, from the sixth to the seventh commandment, to show once more that out of the heart the positive transgression comes, and that what was in the heart to do was in fact done as to the guilt of it. Opportunity might be lacking, which altered nothing: the sin was in the heart.

And He urges that if the right eye or hand cause men to stumble, it were better to cut them off and go on maimed through life, than to preserve these and go with a whole body into hell. Better sacrifice what might seem most necessary than give oneself up to the sure penalty of sin. Clearly no asceticism or self mutilation is intended by such an injunction; but men excuse on the plea of necessity what they find to be a constant provocative of sin. God's law admits no pretext of the kind.

(3) In connection with this commandment, the Lord takes up also the law of marriage, to refuse the laxity which even Moses had had to bear with, and still more the license of the rabbins. Moses on account of the hardness of their hearts had only been able to modify somewhat the existing custom of divorce. The "writing" which he had "commanded" was in the interests of social order, not of license, which the prevailing school of Hillel favored in the most shameless manner. The Lord, peremptorily and on His own authority, restricts the allowance of it to that one ground which plainly destroys the very idea of marriage; and declares the putting away of one's wife for any other cause, to be making her commit adultery by another marriage. Also he who marries one so divorced is committing adultery.

The Lord's words cannot surely be less binding upon Christians of the present day; Christianity cannot be content with a lower morality than He enforces here, not as a national or ecclesiastical regulation; but just as morality. What was adultery then to Him must ever be adultery; and no human law can alter this in the slightest degree. Let the Lord's people look to it, in a day when men are doing their own wills with continually more audacity.

(4) He proceeds now to another matter, in which again what was tolerated under the law is now forbidden in the new morality which He is enforcing. "Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths," plainly speaks of vowing. There had been great abuse of it, as Israel's history makes manifest: men not hesitating to vow recklessly to God at the dictate of their pride and passion and self-will, to find themselves then entangled by what seemed now their duty. Careless profanity had come in at the heels of this, and God's name been profaned by light appeals to it on every occasion; modified by conscience or the lack of it, by every kind of circumlocution and indirect expression of what they dared not openly give utterance to.

The Lord sweeps into His prohibition all these evasions of the third commandment, putting them into the same category, with that which was once permitted. Man's utter weakness, so fully and simply demonstrated by his inability even to change the color of a hair, is made (at least in part) the basis of the prohibition. God might swear, for He could accomplish, and knew, too, all the consequences of that to which He pledged Himself. Beautifully we find Him doing it when seeking to assure the soul of His creature, so ready to doubt the perfect faithfulness even of his God. "Wherefore God, willing to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things" — His word being really as certain as His oath, but not so to man ― "wherein it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us" (Heb. 6:13-18).

We then on our part should be far from what is so suited to His strength, so ill-suited to His feeble creatures. The legal covenant had, however, in its essential features the character of an oath; and the last chapter of Leviticus contemplates typically their failure under it, in contrast with the One who did not fail (see notes). The law, therefore, until man was fully proved by it, could not forbid the vow, while it is anachronism, and worse, that it should be imported into Christianity, and that we should hear of covenant-vows, the baptismal vow, etc., so contrary to the simplicity of Christ's institutions for us, and to the grace which we know to be alone our strength. The vow is wholly passed, away, but to make room for Christ's strength to rest upon us, our very infirmities to be gloried in on this account (2 Cor. 12:9-10). God's oath is sworn to us, that His abundant grace shall be our sufficiency.

(5) The Lord now takes up the necessary principle of law, to contrast it with that non-resistance of evil which He enjoins upon His disciples. The righteousness of the law of course remains righteousness, but it does not require of any that they should exact for personal wrongs. There is no supposition of the abrogation of law or of its penalties. The government of the world is not in question, but the path of disciples in it. Where they are bound by the law, they are bound, and have no privileges. They are bound, too, to sustain it in its general working, as ordained of God for good. Within these limits there is still abundant room for such practice as is here enjoined. We may still turn the left cheek to him that smites the right, or let the man that sues us have the cloak as well as the coat which he has fraudulently gained: for that is clearly within our rights. If the cause were that of another, we should have no right of this kind, nor to aid men generally in escape from justice or in slighting it. The Lord could never lay down a general rule that His people should allow lawlessness, or identify themselves with indifference to the rights of others. He speaks only of what is personal to oneself, ― "smite thee," "sue thee," "compel thee:" and here the law itself would recognize one's liberty.

His disciples are not only to yield, but to show readiness, at least, to do more. They are not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome it with good. They are under a higher than any earthly government, which will take abundant care of them, and are freed from the need of advocating their own cause, or taking arms in their own defense. And they are partakers of such royal bounty that they are to be themselves bountiful. "Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away."

All this needs wisdom in following out, that it may answer its end: ― that God may be honored in it, and men be blessed. It must not be allowed to degenerate into a moral laxity which may counterfeit it, but will then be its opposite. True love alone will find its way here, but will certainly find it, ― clear-sighted, as all true love is. To this, therefore, the Lord now goes on.

(6) Men understand, at least, that they ought to love their neighbor: but their qualifications narrow even their idea of such a duty, while they have invented a duty of hate, which no law-giver perhaps would dare inscribe upon his tables, but to which there is given nevertheless a too ready and practical obedience. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy" is what he would justify to his conscience, as he approves it in his heart. But the law has no other word than "neighbor" here, as it has no other duty than to love him; and the Lord specifically puts even our enemies into this class. "But I say unto you, Love your enemies;" not even do them good merely, though that might seem much, but "love them." Hard work, indeed, and impossible, save in the light of a greater love: for every day that the sun shines or the rain falls upon this evil world which has turned away from God, such love is demonstrated, leading men to repentance. God blesses those who curse Him, does good to those that hate Him, ― sets us the sweetest and most wonderful example of infinite compassion; which He who was Speaker here has filled out to the full, by taking His place among those despitefully used and persecuted, and pouring out not only His heart, but His heart's blood for His persecutors. Thus that which might seem impossible even with God, is in God become Man made actual.

When the Lord spoke, this last word had not yet been uttered; but He was there who was to utter it, the Son of the Father, and opening to men the way into divine relationship, which He encourages His disciples to apprehend and realize in a way unknown till now. "That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven" implies acceptance of this wondrous place in such a way as to let it be manifest in the character displayed. And how responsible are they to whom such grace is given! To live in it is to acquire power to fill it out.

(7) They must not, then; with this high place accept the moral code that would suit even those typical sinners, the publicans or tax-gatherers ― those instruments of Roman greed and oppression. For these even were capable of returning love for love. For those whose Father is in heaven; nothing can be permitted as the standard but perfection ― His own moral perfection. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" is supreme, flawless perfection. And nothing else would do as a standard. The moment we admit evil into this, the evil has become part of the standard, and God is made to go with what He hates.

We must, however, distinguish between having perfection before us, ― condemning ourselves for whatever is not that, and honestly pressing after it ― and the self-flattery that can assert "we have attained it." It is in fact because perfection is before us that we cannot say so. Will any one indeed venture to assert that he is morally perfect as God is? The highest pretension must surely shrink a little from making such a claim. Yet here is the pattern: we are to be "imitators of God as dear children" (Eph. 5:1, Gk), aspiring after that which will always be beyond us, and which as being so, will always work in us self-abasement and humiliation, instead of self-complacency.

This, then, is to be the aim: and while it is owned that we fall short, let us remember that the very falling short implies an aim: if we do not aim, we cannot fall short. If we aim at something lower, the standard is given up: we are then doing our own will, and not God's.

Let us remember also that there are two kinds of perfection; which it is important to distinguish from one another: perfection in degree, something that cannot be exceeded, and perfection as wholeness, entireness. We say of a wheel, it is perfect, because it has all its parts; while, as to its workmanship, it may be very imperfect. Now, the child of God may be feeble, and is; but as a "partaker of the divine nature" he should not be maimed. In God, love and light belong together: no one of these, apart from the other, could represent His nature. Love without righteousness could not be divine love. Righteousness without love, would not be divine righteousness. So love, too, just to those who love us, may be, as the Lord tells us, only a publican's love, but not God's: it is not a feeble likeness, but a distortion. Where the new nature is, there the moral character of God is found, ― infantile, perhaps, as to development, and yet in it the Father's image shines. "Love," then, "your enemies," says the Lord, "that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven."

This closes the second part of the sermon on the mount with the seal of divine perfection. In it the greater Prophet than Moses speaks, with a brighter glory in His face than Moses, face could show.

3. The third section occupies the first eighteen verses of the sixth chapter. It has upon it plainly the seal of a third section; as bringing us into the sanctuary, and teaching us to realize the Father's presence and act as before Him.

The first verse furnishes the principle, which is then illustrated, amplified and enforced, in three different applications. The text is: "Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven." The word is allowed to be "righteousness" here, as in the Revised Version, and not "alms," as in the common one. In the following verses "alms" is right.

This is then illustrated in three different applications, manward, Godward and selfward, ― alms-giving, prayer and fasting. Each of these is, of course, but an illustration of the principle; but the illustration is in each case chosen in divine wisdom, and must therefore have special suitability.

(1) Alms-giving is chosen to express what is "righteousness" toward men. So it is distinctly called, and indeed was by the Rabbins also. Thus we can see how the Lord, in reproving a righteousness done before men, naturally takes this up as a most showy form of it, and which indeed was lauded in the most extravagant terms by the senseless formalists of the day.* He speaks of men sounding a trumpet before them, in the synagogues and in the streets, when they gave them: language which is perhaps only symbolical of the way in which they blazoned abroad their acts of charity, but for which also they might assign the most plausible reasons. In fact, among all people, at all times, alms-giving is a charity which readily enough has been accepted at its fullest value. While it can be practised with so little personal sacrifice, it yet ministers to need so various and so palpable, ― it has so much the form of benevolence, that it seems like cynicism to question if the spirit be there; it is in itself so right, and puts one so plainly in the company, at least, of those who do right: all this makes it of priceless value, therefore, to those who seek the praise of men. They can in no way, perhaps, so readily attain their object: but then, alas, "they have their reward:" it is all they will possess for ever.

{*Edersheim quotes a specimen as all-sufficient: "He that says, 'I give this sela as alms, that my sons may live, and that I may merit the world to come,' behold, this is the perfectly righteous."}

But, on the other side, alms-giving, as here classed by the Lord Himself as a form of righteousness, is a significant witness to us that mercy is not something supererogatory, but the ministry of love is itself a debt ― a due. A man who withholds from another what he can give him for his need is not even righteous; and this removes also the thought of merit from the mercy shown. Only in a world of habitual unrighteousness could the thought of the fulfilment of duty associate with it any thought of merit. "To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin," says the apostle (James 4:17). And the Lord bids us on the other hand, "When ye shall have done all things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done" ― not we have not done ― "that which was our duty to do" (Luke 17:10). And with the comparative righteousness which is all that is ours at best, ― a righteousness that still leaves us inners, ― how impossible should be the claim of merit! But to love, with all that this implies, is mere commanded duty; yea, to love one's neighbor as oneself is the injunction of the law. While the Christian standard rises higher still in its law of self-sacrifice, and all the marvelous enforcement of this in the example of Him who has given us life through His death. For those who have known this, there is no possible margin of devotedness outside of that duty which His love has endeared.

Alms-giving shrinks in this way into a small thing indeed; while this diminution of it cannot make it less imperative. All this, then; that our Lord addresses to a Jewish audience, our Christianity only emphasizes for us in every particular. We are of all men ― to all men ― the witnesses of grace. Debtors to it, absolutely, ourselves, we are debtors to show it to others.

And as to the secrecy of alms-giving, alas, how have Christians forgotten such words in their displayed charities, justifying the display as letting their light shine! The contrast is too manifest here to need enlargement.

(2) The second illustration of the need of being before God is furnished by what is itself a duty Godward. Prayer is the expression of creature-need and dependence. It is utterly inconsistent with any thought of pride and self-satisfaction. Yet, alas, we can unite these incompatible things together: think of the utter and awful contradiction in terms, of praying to God, in order to be seen of men! "As the hypocrites do," says the Lord; and yet, is it not a hypocrisy which creeps often into public prayers, where those who pray cannot, after all, be so characterised? Are not those who lead the prayers of others especially liable to act, in some measure, in this way? the consciousness of being before others influencing them often in the matter and style of their petitions! How much shorter, how much simpler, how different in various ways, might many of our prayers be, if we were alone before God, instead of in the prayer-meeting!

What records would not our chambers ― our secret hours ― afford, of our true state in respect of conscious dependence on and seeking after God, if we were perfectly faithful to ourselves in these respects! In secret prayer it is that our souls above all lay hold of God, and faith roots itself in His omnipotence. That prayer with us is to be characteristically in secret is here quite unmistakable. And this will of itself very much exclude the vain repetitions against which our Lord warns His hearers, and which Christianity has by no means banished from our midst. If there be little need to explain or apply, the warning still needs serious attention on the part of Christians.

Our Lord follows this with that divine model for prayer, which for fullness combined with perfect directness and simplicity, so manifestly fulfils the conditions indicated. More than this, the order and proportion of the petitions are (with all else) perfect, and claim our earnest attention. They betoken a condition of heart which, where it is found, must ensure answer, ― the state of one over whom God's will is supreme; for whom He is first and last, beginning and end. To realize such a condition would make us realize the meaning of those words of the Lord, "Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done to you." Clearness of apprehension would go with it, and confidence of success: "the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16).

A perfect model of prayer this is and must be: whether designed for a form, and especially whether intended for Christians, is another matter. The differences in Luke (11:2-4), now recognized in the Revised Version; would of course be the simplest argument against the first. Apart from this, the gift of the Spirit to Christians, for those who realize what is the characteristic feature of the present dispensation (John 16:7; Rom. 8:26-27), and who is distinctly named as the Intercessor within us according to God, would still more hinder such from interpreting it as a form to be used by Christians now. That it is not in the Lord's Name is evident upon the face of it, and confirmed (if it need confirmation) by His words to His disciples afterward: "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My Name" (John 16:24); and this is a difference which cannot be remedied by supplying an omission where there is none, and making that really imperfect which is perfect. This very perfection, if we consider the state of the disciples at the time it was given them, would suggest once more its not being intended for Christians in the Christian state.

One is more concerned, however, to point out the actual perfection of the prayer, than to dwell upon such distinctions, ― even though they have to do with differences vital to Christianity; but here is not the place for their examination. Let us consider now briefly the petitions in it, and what they imply.

The whole prayer is an address to God as Father: "Our Father who art in heaven." What underlies this title given to God is in fact a relationship never before made known in its true character, between Him and the true disciples of this blessed Teacher. "I have declared unto them Thy Name," He says elsewhere, "and will declare it, that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:26). This name of "Father" is something wholly different from those Old Testament titles, which have declared as the "Almighty" His power, or as "the Most High" His supremacy, or as "Jehovah" His enduring immutability. "Father" declares what His heart is toward us, while it gives us title to enjoy the love implied. The character of the tie is such as gives claim and confidence, ― a claim He cannot deny. How great an encouragement to the prayer of faith!

No doubt, there had been long before anticipations of what is here conveyed. At the very birth of the nation God had announced, "Israel is my son; even my first-born" (Ex. 4:22). And this, which had been repeated in the law, and made the foundation of preceptive argument ― "Ye are the children of Jehovah your God" (Deut. 14:1), ― might seem in itself to justify Israelites such as were these disciples who had gathered round the Lord, in taking the place He gives them here. But in fact this, in the national ruin that had intervened, had passed away. Israel was now Lo-ammi, "not my people," though with a promise for the future, of a restoration not yet fulfilled, whereby they should be called "the sons of the living God" (Hosea 1:9-10). They could not comfort themselves with assurances thus forbidden to them, nor with a legal covenant to which God's faithfulness on His part could but make them partakers of a curse, rather than a blessing.

God is, however, the God of grace and of resurrection. He does not, indeed, patch an old garment with new cloth. He does not even merely restore what has failed and gone. But He can replace it with that which is better; and so much better, that the old and removed blessing shall be but the shadow of that which replaces it. Both together thus witness, if on the one hand to the failure of man, on the other to the changeless goodness and grace in God.

The old relationship to the Unchangeable had after all changed. The "children of Jehovah" were now as a nation outcast from Him. That tie, stable as it might look, had not the elements of endurance in it. As we look back upon it from the standpoint of the new revelation, it is simple to understand that Israel's sonship was not the result of new birth, as now it is for those in Christian relation. An Israelite was not necessarily, because that, a true believer in that God who had drawn nigh to him. A Jew was, as the apostle says (Gal. 2:15), a "Jew by nature;" but that nature was not a new nature. The child of law, as he afterwards shows by the type of Hagar and Ishmael (Gal. 4:22-31), was but "born after the flesh," and showed the nature of the "wild man," as Ishmael did (Gen. 16:12). Thus there was no real nearness to God or fellowship with Him necessarily implied in sonship of this kind. Adoption there was in it, but not regeneration. Consequently it never secured from eternal judgment, nor even from day to day, except as obedience lasted or God's pity spared.

But the Father of whom Christ now spoke to His own; was not the Father of the nation in such a manner. Only the pure in heart should see Him; only the peacemakers be called His children. Even before this, though we do not find it in this Gospel, He had taught Nicodemus the absolute necessity of new birth, and that, while that which was born of the flesh was only "flesh," that which was born of the Spirit ― a divine Person ― was "spirit," ― divine in nature (John 3:6). Here, it is plain, is the foundation of relationship to God, a real new yet divine life communicated, which is therefore "eternal life." For eternal life is not that simply which, when it begins, abides and has no ending. It is that which, though in us it begins, in itself never did. Receiving this, we are not merely adopted sons; we are that, truly; but none the less are we born into the family of God, and partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), children of God indeed.

How far all this had been entered into by the disciples as yet, is another question. That it was what was in the Lord's mind we know, and what He was leading them into, ― what therefore underlies the teaching of the prayer. This Father in heaven; known for what He is, becomes thus rooted in the affections, supreme in the heart that has learned the cry of children. Of this, at least, the prayer is the expression. The first petition is one that shows how jealous for this Name revealed to it is the soul that has truly entered into the revelation: "Father, hallowed be Thy Name." May no thought come in to profane this wondrous intimacy now existing; may grace not be abused to license; may all thy people worship with unshod feet in this place of nearness. Such surely will be the first cry of the heart that has felt ― and in proportion as it has felt ― the ecstatic joy of God so made known to us.

But the world knows not this joy, and the abounding evil in it is but the shadow upon hearts and lives that have turned away from the light of God. Hence the next cry necessarily is, "Thy Kingdom come! Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!"

This, if true prayer, must be the outcome of a heart that is itself obedient. And what an absorbing desire this should be to us! The misery and moral ruin and dishonor to God on every side may well force from us such a prayer as this. Where is there another like it for the magnitude of that which is embodied in it? God, as it were, everywhere set in His place, every thing finding its relation to Him as the planets to their central sun; here is universal blessedness beyond which we can conceive no greater: all peace, happiness, goodness, are implied in it. And this is the practical power and glory of faith that it sets us where, from a full heart, such a prayer can well; that it enthrones God of its own free choice upon that absolute throne which alone His throne can be; that it realizes His will to be only the expression of His glorious nature, ― in which every divine attribute blends and harmonizes.

For this Kingdom of the Father we must look beyond all dispensations to the sabbath of God's own rest. To confound it with the millennium would be an entire mistake, and necessarily lower its character terribly. The millennium, with all its blessedness, is but a step toward this glorious consummation. It is earth's "regeneration" (Matt. 19:28); but after which, as in our own case, (not in it,) must come the eradication of evil and the change to eternal conditions. The millennium ends in an outbreak of evil, the most defiant that the world has ever seen (Rev. 20:7-10). The judgment that follows reaches to the very frame-work of material things, and the earth and its heavens ― the "firmament" of the second day (Gen. 1) ― pass away in fire, to make way for that new heaven and earth in which righteousness shall dwell. Then; with all evil subdued and all things made anew, the Son of God, having brought about the very condition for which He teaches His disciples here to pray, will give up His separate human Kingdom to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24-28) and the Kingdom of the Father here contemplated will at last have come.

Important it is not to confound the temporary with the eternal, the divine outcome with any intermediate step. Such confusion is no less mischievous for the heart than for the mind; for only where God rests should our hearts find rest. But for us it is true that the Kingdom of the Father will have come even before the millennium, when; caught up at the coming of the Lord to be ever with Him, the Father's house receives us into its "many mansions." And thus it is that in the parables of the Kingdom, (in the Gospel we are now considering,) when the present form of it is closed by the appearing of the King, it is said, "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun, in the Kingdom of their Father" (Matt. 13:43). To this even then we shall have come.

With this petition for the coming of the Father's Kingdom, the first half of the prayer ends: the petitions following are of a different character. But what happiness would it not be for us, if the glory of God were thus, and as taught of the Spirit, the first desire of the heart, the first thing to utter itself, therefore, in our prayers!

But the remainder of the petitions are, as just said, personal; and here all is characterized by the most perfect moderation. A sense of dependence, of failure, and of frailty, manifests itself conspicuously in them; while the needs felt are realized as those of others of the same family of faith, who are associated, therefore, in all the petitions. The prayer is, indeed, a family prayer throughout; the expression of a common interest from which no one withdraws himself to walk alone. How well we should be cared for, indeed, if all were thus remembered by all, and the family tie united all the family.

It is not straining the request for daily bread, to make it comprehend also a spiritual application. With the Lord it would be simply impossible, while remembering the need of the body, to forget the immensely greater need of the soul. In both ways also the supply must be continual. The manna must be fresh every morning, and freshly gathered as the morning comes: hoarded, it breeds worms and stinks. There is no release from a dependence, which makes us sensible only of the love which constantly ministers, and keeps us near to the gracious Hand of Omnipotence. It is only treating us as children who are at home with the Father, not to provide for independence or absence from Him. We are not to renew the prodigal's experience, after being brought back from the far-off country; and it is not stint but love that deals thus with us.

The petition following needs more care to apprehend it, and Christians have lost much here by not realizing the fuller grace that has now come in for us, so far beyond what these disciples, though so near the Lord, could know. The great sacrifice was not yet offered, and the precious fruits of it could not yet be understood. The place of acceptance in the Beloved ― identification with Him who has represented us before God in His atoning death, and now represents us in unending life ― was yet among the things which could not be communicated. But with this, as quickened together with Him, is necessarily joined the forgiveness of all trespasses (Col. 2:13). "By one offering He hath perfected for ever those that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14).

Now it is certainly true that with this the prayer before us is in no wise in contradiction. The Lord could not mean to teach His disciples here that sins were only remitted from time to time, in answer to prayer about them. Yet those ignorant of the settled acceptance which the gospel teaches have used it, and continually use it, in this very way. On the other hand some would press, on account of such implication, the impossibility of the intelligent use, by the Christian; of such a petition. Both views are wrong, the prayer itself being perfectly in keeping ― how could it be otherwise? ― with the fullest revelation of divine grace. The simple fact that it is to the Father removes every difficulty. It is thus a Father's forgiveness that is besought by those who distinctly take the place of relationship. As between God and His creatures, the precious blood of Christ perfects forever those who, in faith, have taken shelter under it; but that only brings such under a Father's government who," without respect of persons, judgeth according to every man's work" (1 Peter 1:17), and who cannot but take notice of the conduct of His children, just because they are that, and of His love to them as that. Loss of communion; with chastening for restoration, are consequences of these trespasses; and the conditions implied in the petition itself, and emphasized by the Lord just afterward, show the holy character of this government. We must forgive, if we are to be forgiven. With an unforgiving spirit toward others we cannot enjoy communion with Him whose nature is love, and who must have His image reproduced in us.

This seen, there is no contradiction to the grace of Christianity. And yet it is true that in it we have nowhere any exhortation to prayer to the Father for what is here besought. It is Christ Himself rather who is declared to be our "Advocate with the Father" (1 John. 2:1); and the same blessed Person offers Himself for the cleansing of our feet from the defilements of the way, that we may have part with Him (John 13:8). But all this awaited expression necessarily till the crowning work was done; and as to the last the Lord's own words are: "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know afterwards" (ver. 7). That we are not exhorted to prayer of this kind may well be due to the danger of such confusion of different things as we know to have been made here; while it could not be urged that such prayer intelligently used is in any wise inconsistent with Christian position.

Again; the sense of frailty comes out in the closing petition not to be led into temptation; but delivered from the evil. It is not in opposition to this that James bids us "count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations" (James 1:2). The first is the expression of that self-distrust which is the fruit of self-knowledge. Who that knows himself but must realize this? and fear, therefore, what the hour of trial may manifest as to his weakness? But then this is just the spirit in which, if it be the will of God to bring him into circumstances of this kind, he will cleave to the only Source of strength and find it. In the trial he needs the consoling assurance of God's hand over it and working through it; and if he has come into it, not in self-confidence but in the path with Him, every element of it will work for good to him: it may well be a time of truest joy. Patience will be that which will work experience, and experience hope; and, patience having its perfect work, he will be "perfect and entire, needing nothing."

It would seem to be rightly here "deliver us from the evil," rather than "from the evil one," though either rendering is possible; but the larger view includes the narrower, and is therefore more suitable. The evil one is a most real and powerful enemy; but the evil in ourselves is still more to be dreaded, as only through this can he gain advantage over us. In this most concise prayer, the fullest meaning is the best.

It is characteristic of the law that, with all its forms, no form of prayer was ever prescribed to the people. When the disciples ask for one, as we are told they did (Luke 11:1), they refer to John the Baptist as having taught his disciples, and not to Moses. The people of God, as conscious of their need, had always expressed it, and of course the Old Testament is full of examples of this: but all the more striking is it that the law did not prescribe anything of the kind. It was God's schoolmaster to teach man his weakness, but then it did this by claiming from him strength.

(3) In fasting the Lord touches that inward mortification which expresses the realization of what man is in the sight of God: in one's own sight, therefore, in proportion as we have attained to oneness of mind with Him. In the mount with God neither Moses nor Elijah ate or drank. "If then ye be risen with Christ," says the apostle, ― "mortify your members which are upon the earth" (Col. 3:1, 5). Fasting is treating them as if they did not exist, ― not ministering to self: an unnatural condition which implies fallen nature; you can do nothing with it, but leave it out. The apostle speaks of this as the true characteristic of the children of God (Rom. 8:13-14): "if ye through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live; for as many as are led of the Spirit of God they are sons of God." It is as self-realization before God, that fasting comes here in its numerical place.

In fact, in Israel, with the Pharisaic externalism which characterized the nation; fasting was abused to its very opposite. It was made to accredit self, instead of discrediting it. It brought it into prominence, instead of setting it aside. And it has always been a feature, not merely in asceticism (which the Lord is plainly not rebuking here), but in formalism also. He extinguishes this by making it a thing to be before the Father and not before men: before the eyes of Him who sees in secret. As to the practice of it, He does not really decide anything; and as to its place in Christianity, we must inquire about that elsewhere. That the true life is one that is to be lived before God is the main point upon which He is here insisting.

Section 4. (Matt. 6:19-34.)

The way amid the temptation of the world.

4. We pass now out of the sanctuary into the world, but carrying with us the sanctuary still, as Israel did in their journey through the wilderness. The way is thus not merely marked out morally for us, but we are empowered also for it; and we need this, for, wilderness as it is, the trials of the way are real ones, and if they are not in the way of allurement, the allurements of Egypt are felt through them, as we see with Israel. "The leeks, and the onions and the garlic" ― earthy enough and never much above the earth, ― displace (for they only compete with by displacing) the "bread from heaven;" and it is to Egypt that the heart turns back.

(1) Here we have the remedy for it all: a word which, if it could be spoken to a Jewish remnant in view of millennial blessing, is so fully and transparently our own as Christians that the natural thing is to take it as if it had no other application. Yet, for those who are to inherit the earth, in the day to which all this looks forward, there will be abundant need to lay up their treasures in heaven, in the care of Him who is coming to give reward to His saints, and while the earth is yet vibrating with shocks of upheaval, such as the Old and New Testaments combine to assure us will be, and which God will use also to make the frightened hind to calve (Ps. 29:9, see notes) ― the nation of Israel thus to be born spiritually, as in one day (Isa. 66:8).

From this, however, without losing sight of it, we may turn to consider our Lord's words in the way most profitable to ourselves; and here, as I have said, all is transparent. Heaven is where we belong; the earth is simply what we are traveling through. Our need and our privilege are one ― to have our treasures there where nothing decays or corrupts, and where nothing can deprive us of them. Not only shall we then not lose the treasures, but the heart too will rest in undisturbed security, outside all alarms, and our feet will not be endangered by a loss of balance.

Let us note well that the Lord says, "where your treasure is, there your heart will be." He does not say, "ought to be," but "will." We are not allowed to escape with the easy assurance that what we are diligently accumulating our hearts are not engaged with. Why, then, accumulate it? We should say of a man who was heaping up sticks and straws and rubbish, that he was a maniac. But to him, nevertheless, the worthless pile is valuable; and that you can argue most surely from the fact of the accumulation. Who would not change worthless paper into good security? and this we are privileged to do; while treasure in heaven will keep the heart there, and draw the feet on to where the heart is.

And this alone gives a single eye: there is no confusion, no distraction of vision; no unsteadiness therefore, or uncertainty. The eye is the lamp of the body; not the light, but what holds and fixes the light. The light comes from elsewhere: the organ of perception does not create the light, but receives it. The light for us is in the Word alone: it is this that judges and makes plain; but there must be spiritual reception and, for this, capacity of reception, which the Lord indicates here, as it is stated by the apostle (Eph. 1:18, R.V.) to be in the heart and its condition. With the heart set on things above, the eye is single and clear: God is before it, and in His light we see light. Then the whole body becomes full of light:* the hands and feet have plenty of it for work and walk. On the contrary, if the eye be evil, the very light may blind one; and when the word of God becomes this, how great may the resulting darkness become.

{*Not "luminous," as it has been strangely taken: for this is never the effect of the eye receiving light.}

(2) Separate interests distract thus and divide the heart. God and mammon ― that is, the treasures of earth personified and viewed as an idol, ― each claim the man in ways entirely incompatible with one another. Such service, if attempted, can only be a form on one side. One master will be despised, if not hated. "He who will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God;" he who cleaves to God will despise all the world can offer. Yet how many are seeking to unite things that cannot be united! the result being only a halting inconsistency of life in which the Christian side is necessarily that which suffers eclipse.

(3) But are there not, in going through the world, necessities which demand one's attention; from which one cannot escape, and which tend to such distraction as this, even when the heart would gladly be free? Yes, surely; but there is a remedy also, which is an effectual one, ― a sanctuary-refuge which faith finds ever open: it is the apprehension of a Father's care, of which His creatures preach incessantly. The birds of heaven are fed, and we are of more value: the life, indeed, of too great value to make it a question of the food by which it is sustained; or the body, of what it may be clothed with.

(4) The human impotence that we feel has its own instruction. All one's anxiety cannot add a cubit to the stature; and how much there is in this way for which we are absolutely dependent on the will of another! why not, then, leave all things to Him to whom we have to leave so much, and who clothes the perishing lilies of the field with a glory greater than Solomon's? The weakness of a man's faith is the only really sorrowful weakness, after all.

(5) And here, the Lord appeals to us, whether those who know God are to find His presence with them count for anything or not. The Gentiles, away from God, seek after these things as His people do; but we have a Father in heaven who knows our need. We have but to set the heart on His things, and let Him take the burden of ours. Seeking first His Kingdom and righteousness, all these things shall be added to us.

(6) Finally, He gives us a limit for care, which by itself would very much exclude it. How much of the burden that we carry belongs really to the morrow, ― a burden not yet legitimately ours: for who can really tell what shall be on the morrow? Each day will have its own sufficient evil ― not too much, for a careful hand has apportioned it: but by borrowing trouble not yet come, we not only necessarily make the burden of the day too heavy, but we cannot reckon upon divine grace for that which is not come, and bear it thus so far without assistance. Nay, we have lost Him from our thoughts in all this calculation of the unknown future which is in His hands. How often has love in the most undreamed of way, disappointed all our fears!

In all this it is not taking thought for the morrow that is forbidden us, but taking care, (in the full sense of care). The word used has been claimed in these different senses by different interpreters; but it certainly is derived from one* which suggests "division," and so "distraction" of heart; and this is completely in accordance with the warning about singleness of eye and divided service. Moreover, James, where he is speaking explicitly of the boasting of those who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain," corrects such a speech in this manner, that "ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that" (James 4:13, 15). He blames only the confident assurance of the speech, and not all "taking thought for the morrow." This, in fact, should be evident: the whole current of our lives would be changed by the contrary supposition, which those who make it have immediately and seriously to modify.

{*Merimnao from merizo.}

Section 5. (Matt. 7:1-14.)

Lessons of divine government.

5. (1) The fifth section gives us lessons of divine government, the first of which is to remember that we are subjects under it, and not rulers, ― so that we must keep off the judgment-seat. To put ourselves there is already a sign that personal feelings or interests are moving us; if it were otherwise ― if God were aright before us ― should we forget that He Himself was Lord in His own Kingdom? If personal interests are moving us, then we are in the worst possible condition to be judges, as is evident; for we are then judges in our own case: a thing that no law would permit, no sane mind tolerate.

But then we must understand what it is, this judgment which the Lord forbids. And here two things should be clear to us: first, that we are to judge of things, ― of the evil and the good in either principles or acts presented to us. Here we have what touches ourselves: it is necessary that we should have our "senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb. 5:14). It is true that we are to be "wise concerning that which is good and simple concerning evil" (Rom. 16:19); and this word "simple" (literally, pure, unmixed"*) is a warning as to the defiling nature of evil, which if realized will forbid unnecessary occupation with it, as the contrast with "wise" would lead us to understand. Yet we must know it so far as to know it to be evil, or we have no safeguard against it. Judgment, therefore, as to whatever lies in our path, is absolutely necessary for us; and the character of the world and the state of Christians both warn us to be watchful.

{* Akeraioi, which in Matt. 10:16 and Phil. 2:15 is translated "harmless," and which Bengel gives as "sine cornu" (Gk, form alpha (prtv.) and keraia,) "hornless." The general derivation, however, and which commends itself here, is from alpha and kerannumi, to "mix," "unmixed."}

We are obliged then to judge of things as we meet them, ― are responsible to the Lord, and in our own behalf, to do so; but more, we are obliged, and by the same authority, to judge persons also: "by their fruits ye shall know them," ― twice repeated here (vers. 16, 20) ― is our direct warrant to do so: "do not ye judge them that are within?" asks the apostle (1 Cor. 5:12); we do and we must do it: it is, of course, not this, therefore, that the Lord is forbidding here.

The example that is given shows what is intended: to judge of things and of persons in the way of duty is to be obedient and to serve; to judge of what is not before us for judgment ― to volunteer in it, or to pronounce as to motives and springs of action, to assume knowledge of that which is not open to us, ― this is to take authority, not be subject to it, and indeed to assume what only belongs to the Judge of all, and is an intrusion, therefore, on His office.

This may be mere censoriousness; or passion; prejudice, self-interest may be at work with us: in any case, there is a beam in the eye, which effectually prevents a true and righteous judgment. The assumption is shown in the utterance, whether the mote in a brother's eye exists or not; and such a spirit awakes an adverse spirit: the harshness is paid back in harshness; the measure we mete to others is measured to ourselves. The language used shows that, while this is permitted in divine government, it is not the sentence of the divine Judge. In the parallel passage in Luke (6:38) this is plainly stated, "good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over shall men* give into your bosom."

{*The word "men" is not actually expressed: it is "shall they give."{

You reap what you sow, and taste the quality of what you have been sowing; and this may be even mercy in result; for nothing is more likely to awaken in us the sense of what it is we have been doing, and of the omniscient Eye, that has been, unregarded, watching all. Thus God's mercy and His holiness are found together.

(2) The revolt from harsh judgment is apt to carry us into the opposite extreme of laxity, against which the Lord now proceeds to guard us. Dogs and swine are the very images which Peter uses in his epistle to represent those who manifest their still unrenewed nature after apparent conversion: the "dog" by "turning to his own vomit again, the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire" (2 Peter 2:22). Was he not thinking of the words of his Master here?

Christendom has in fact done shamelessly what the Lord here forbids, and has proved the truth of His words in consequence. Baptism and the Lord's Supper, perverted from their original meaning and application, have been used above all to give the grossest evils tolerance in the house of God, and to make Babylon the great "a cage of every unclean and hateful bird." They have thus been trampled under foot by the profane, and Christianity been rent and mangled fearfully, as all the centuries bear witness. The "judgment of charity" is continually invoked to take darkness to be light, and credit the most barren profession with what it dares not even claim for itself. But the false judgment of laxity has here its woe upon it, as much as the false judgment of censoriousness: upon that which puts good for evil, and that which puts evil for good alike. If grace is the spring of holiness, holiness is, by this very fact, the test of grace.

(3) And now the heart of God is declared as the ready and bounteous Giver, whose fullness cannot be exhausted, whose word to His people ever is, "Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it." There is no limit except the limit that little faith may put, or the guard on God's side (which is not limit) that the gift be good. And the Lord double clasps His exhortations with assurances that every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." What a door is, in fact, opened for us here, and what possibility of blessing is here unfolded! How rich may we all be, if we only will be! and what free leave we have to covet the best things! And yet the apostle's words could find application in the fresh early days in which they were written: "Ye have not, because ye ask not; ye ask and have not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts!" (James 4:2-3). Think of such an answer to the royal invitation here! what must man's heart be, that can answer so?

The appeal is backed with persuasive argument derived from affection subsisting even in earthly relationships. If we call God Father, do we expect to find Him less than such a title implies, even among men? Is not this, in fact, however real, only a feeble suggestion of what God is as Father? It necessarily would be, even if men were unfallen; but "if ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children; how much more" ― there, indeed, is a calculation for faith to make ― "how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good gifts to them that ask Him?"

(4) The connection of the practical admonition following with this is surely of the same sort as that of what follows the prayer He has given to His disciples to one of the petitions in that prayer. If you realize this bounty of God, of which He has been speaking, you will practise bountifulness; the measure of your conduct to them will not be their actual conduct to you, but what you yourself would have desired it to be. Largeness of mind will be the result of living in the enjoyment of the King's bounty; and then; conversely, the practical conduct so inspired will react upon yourself, and help you to realize the conditions of successful prayer. A character thus formed will enable one to feel more the character of Him to whom we thus draw nigh. We understand Him as we arc assimilated to Him; and faith strengthens itself thus by that which it has itself developed.

But, moreover, "this is the law and the prophets." The new dispensation falls into the same line, as has been already said, with all that has been before it. The same God has been all through aiming at the same results; and while with each step of progress the means used may vary, the end is continually kept in sight and steadily approaches. The righteousness which the law had in view grace has brought in, and yet law and grace are contrasts.

(5) This section closes with a solemn exhortation to "enter in through the strait gate," as the only way leading to life, and alas, found by few. The many would then (and still will) enter by another and wide gate, and throng a broad way, but a way leading to destruction and not to life. The words are figurative, of course, and the Lord does not further explain them here in any direct way. He leaves them as He does many other things, to awaken thought. There have, in fact, been very different thoughts about them: not, as to what they refer, in the mention of a gate and of a way, for the Lord speaks plainly of the way to life and the way to destruction; and these things are plain enough; but the gate, the way, are not themselves explained. We have but the description, — a "strait" gate and a "narrow" way, with few travelers, set in opposition to a "wide" gate, and a "broad" way, and many crowding them. We are left to ask what is this straitness, and what does it imply? Hard terms and difficult to comply with, with an uncertainty, on this account, of perseverance to the end? Surely not; although many have so taken it. The Lord once uses the first of these expressions in the Gospel of Luke, where He is answering one of those questions with which we so often perplex ourselves: "then said one unto Him, Lord, are there few that be saved?" which the Lord answers with a home-thrust at the questioner himself, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate," to which He adds also that "many would seek to enter in and would not be able" (Luke 13:24). But He bases this upon something else than the straitness of the gate: the difficulty, or rather, the impossibility of entrance is only found "when once the Master of the house is risen up and has shut to the door;" it was a shut gate that was to be dreaded, not a strait one. Thus the exhortation: be urgent to enter in while there is time.

Here in Matthew, there is no exhortation to strive, but simply to enter in there, and by no other gate. "Few there be that find it:" the mass go by a different road. It is not here the door being shut, but men mistaking which it is: the broad way of destruction being taken for God's narrow way of life.

This makes the picture of that broad way exceedingly solemn. Many have, no doubt, the thought of its representing the way of vice and open irreligion as opposed to the way of holiness; but closer consideration will convince us that it is not so. For no one expects, however careless he may be about it, the way of sin to lead heavenward. Whereas the Lord plainly intimates this to be what the writer of Proverbs speaks of ― "a way that seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 14:12). The question is of finding the way of life. Hence the solemn warning to beware of false prophets which follows thereupon, men who would lead those listening to them upon the broad way of death.

"Few there be that find it." The great company of heavenward wayfarers, as they would consider themselves, are thronging another road, congratulating themselves upon the number and respectability of their companions. As they said in the days in which these words were uttered: "Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed on Him? but this people who know not the law, are cursed."

It is plain that the Lord affirmed Himself to be the door and the way. "I am the door of the sheep: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved" (John 10:9). Again; "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6). Again; if they asked about the works that they should do, He answered: "This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent" (John 6:29). Thus, if there are not two ways to life, (and He says there are not,) then the narrow way is Christ Himself. If the "gate" and the "door" are not different, it is still Christ who is represented by the gate. And then men miss the way of life, not because the terms are hard or He so unapproachable, but because men; glorifying themselves as good moralists, refuse the gracious Saviour of sinners, and seek out other ways. "They being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God; for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Rom. 10:3-4).

The gate is "strait," because here is indeed an absolute condition: "no man cometh unto the Father but by Me." Self-righteousness must come down; Christ must be the absolute and complete Saviour, which He alone can be: too strict conditions for multitudes to submit to. The crowds do not yet "come to Him that they may have life" (John 5:40). Yet grace itself can make no other terms, and we shall find, as we pass on here but a little way, that these are in fact the terms which exclude many of those who even call Him Lord, but who have never known Him.

6. There follows now a warning about false prophets, which is in very plain connection with that about the different roads which men were taking to reach a common end. This is intensified by the fact that, wherever the true Voice speaks, there will come the false voice after it, its mocking echo; like Jannes and Jambres opposing by imitation, putting on the dress of the sheep, but as a lure, over the evil heart within. The fruit would manifest them, but we must remember that this is not necessarily immoral conduct, in which the sheep's clothing would no longer remain, but rather their doctrines tested by experience, as when men looking for grapes find nothing but at most the mockery of these.* Satan; when coming in as an angel of light, does not send out open evil-doers to commend his doctrines, while on the other hand an evil life may dishonor the preacher of substantial truth. But a true and needy soul, testing for itself the fruit of what is spoken, will assuredly find that the truth has its own witness to the heart and conscience, such as nothing but the truth can have. Here, above all, the Lord's words apply, that a good tree cannot bring forth bad fruit.

{*"Akanthai, or akantha, is the general name for all kinds of thorns, of which the most common bears small black berries not unlike grapes, while the flower of the triboloi may be compared with the fig." (Quoted in Lange's Commentary.)}

Section 7. (Matt. 7:21-29).

The complete disciple.

7. (1) We have now pressed what the complete disciple is in contrast with the mere barren professor, and the man who does not in fact build upon the rock. The time surely comes when the reality under all appearances will be made evident, and nothing will stand but what is real. Empty profession will not do: the saying, "Lord, Lord," is not necessarily subjection to Him. Prophesying, casting out demons, doing miracles, are no decisive proofs of true discipleship. For this there must be living acquaintance with Himself, that true knowledge without which, after all, the life will be lawless.

(2) The second illustration exhibits the true dependence of the soul on Him where He is known; in contrast with the false dependences which betray men to their ruin. In both cases we have pictured the builder of a house ― the place of his affections and his rest, but above all, as it is viewed here, his shelter and refuge from the storm. Now for the stability of a house the foundation is the matter of first moment. If the foundation is not firm, no matter how solidly the house is built: it will go with the foundation. Christ and His words are here the rock that abides; all else, whatever be its nature, is but sand. He who puts His sayings livingly into practice shall build a house that will endure the storm. None else and nothing else will: while the fair weather lasts it is quite possible that this last may look better than the rock-set one, and the man who trusts it enjoy a passing triumph. Too soon! and when the storm shall come, too late to remedy it.

(3) No wonder that the multitudes were astonished; no wonder that they found this teaching different from the strange conceits, the externalism and traditionalism of the scribes. It was a Voice from another sphere than that of earth, and the strange authority that was in it suited it yet how well! Nothing else could have suited it: any other tone would have been the renunciation of His whole mission. This claim of authority demanded the miracles that accompanied it; and yet, on the other hand, rested itself not even upon these, but above all on the manifest holiness and love and truth which commanded mind, heart, conscience into His presence, compelling the whole man to reverence; where, at least, the man remained to recognize and answer such a claim.