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God; and there are some other passages in which it is used in the same sense. Thus, Luke xxiii. 47, “ Now, when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, certainly this was a righteous man;” that is, he acknowledged Christ to be what he professed to be, or the Messiah. So, 1 Peter, xi. 12, “Having your conversation honest amongst the Gentiles; that, whereas they speak against you as evil-doers, they may, by your good works, glorify God, in the day of visitation;" or acknowledge the truth of the gospel.
17. Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfil.
Some have supposed that by the law here mentioned, Christ meant the ritual or ceremonial law: but I see no reason why the Jews should imagine that he intended to abolish this law; for he had strictly complied with it; and there was nothing yet, in his doctrine or example, that should lead to such a suspicion: but there is a very natural reason why they should think that he would set them free from the moral law; for, imagining that the Messiah's kingdom was of a temporal nature, and that he would lead them to victory and conquest, they expected to be allowed to indulge themselves in all kinds of licentiousness, and supposed that the observance of the ordinary duties of life would be dispensed with. (Having, therefore, in the preceding verses, pronounced a blessing upon those dispositions of mind which were directly opposite to their worldly notions, it was very natural for him to tell them, in general, that they must not expect that he would set them free from those duties which were enjoined by the precepts of the law, and expounded by the prophets; but, on the contrary, by his doctrine and example, make them better understood and more strictly observed than ever they were observed before. His meaning then may be thus expressed: “Think not that there is any such liberty or licentiousness in my kingdom, that, to gratify your expectations from it, I will dispense with any of the rules of morality
prescribed by Moses and explained by the prophets.---
am so far from any design of annulling them, that I intend to teach them more clearly and perfectly than ever they were taught before *.
18. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Christ is not here speaking of the general conflagration at the end of the world; but the phrase, “till heaven and earth pass away,” is a proverbial expression for any thing that appears impossible; for Luke says, (xvi. 17.) “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away
than one tittle of the law to fail,” That heaven and earth should pass away, or perish, seems, in the nature of things, impossible; equally impossible is it, that the smallest part of the law should perish, or be destroyed. When Christ employs the word verily, it is to introduce something of great moment, which he wishes to impress with particular force upon the minds of his hearers. In this light therefore are we to regard the sentiment contained in this passage, that the smallest precept of the moral law will always remain in force.
19. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, rather, “ shall break one of the least of these commandments,” and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven : but whosoever shall do and teach them, rather, “ teach them accordingly,” the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
* To fulfil, to supply defects and make complete, (Tranpwoai) Turner's Serm. xi. p. 324.
These commandments are those which immediately go before and what follow; namely, the beatitudes, in which he had delivered a compendium of the commandments; and the following words, which contain a more diffuse application of them. To be called the least, is the same thing as to be the least; and the meaning of the passage is, that whosoever does or teaches any thing contrary to these commands, shall be esteemed of little value when the heavenly kingdom is completed.
20. For I say unto you that, except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees consisted in scrupulous exactness about rites and ceremonies, the number of prayers, fasts, alms and tithes; while the praise of men was their sole motive to these practices, and they neglected the weightier matters of the law.
The same persons seem to be intended here by these two appellations; the same persons were Scribes by their office and Pharisees by their profession or sect. A Scribe was an expounder of the law of Moses and of the traditions of the elders: for this reason they are called lawyers, and said to sit in Moses' seat. The generality, if not all, of these Scribes, seem to have been of the Pharisaic sect. These Pharisaic Scribes, or, as they are commonly called, Scribes and Pharisees, were the bitterest enemies whom Jesus had; as we shall see in the course of this history; and it is against them that Christ employs such severe language. He now informs his disciples, that unless their moral conduct was superior to that of the Pharisees, or to what they taught, they could by no means be admitted into heaven.
1. Christ calls his disciples the salt of the earth, because they are qualified to preserve the world from corruption: but how little, frequently, does the conduct of those who rank themselves among Christians, correspond with this character! Instead of endeavouring to reform the world, by their counsel or example, they join in its vices; instead of holding out a pattern of virtue for others to imitate, they choose to follow the corrupt model which is given them. To do as the rest of the world does, is a maxim which has with many
all the force of a divine law: in obedience to it, they hastın to comply with the follies, often with the vices, of those around them; imagining that by this conformity to the world they derive to themselves no inconsiderable degree of consequence: but, in the estimation of God, such behaviour renders them worthless: they answer not the design of their pro- . fession, nor any other useful purpose, but are like the salt which has lost its savour, which is cast away, and trodden under foot of men, as of no value. If we wish to make ourselves of real consequence, let us study to avoid the manners of the world, and not to follow them; let us endeavour to season this corrupt mass by some portion of piety and goodness. This appellation was applied by Christ to persons in common life; and all men may deserve the name, however private their stations, if their conduct be unblameable, and their discourse, instead of being full of malice and slander, of deceit and flattery, of impurity and filthiness, be always with grace seasoned with salt, as the apostle has · recommended; if they seize every opportunity of inculcating wise and useful maxims.
2. Christians are declared to be the light of the world, as well as the salt of the earth. This is an honourable and useful office, which they hold in common with the Redeemer of mankind. Let them shew that, they deserve it, by furnishing their minds with religious knowledge, and sparing no pains to communicate it to others. Without knowledge, the light which is in them will be darkness; and without a free communication of it to their brethren, it will shine only to themselves. In maintaining this character, they must submit to some labour, and expect to be exposed to some inconvenience and danger from those who cannot bear the light; but neither indifference nor fear ought to prevent them from discharging a duty which the Great Father of Lights has imposed upon all his children, Whenever the circumstances of mankind are similar to those of the first Christians; whenever a great portion of the world is involved in superstition and ignorance, as I fear will be the case for many ages to come; God will expect those who are enlightened with true knowledge to act in the same manner. Has God furnished you with talents, or placed you in circumstances, which have enabled you to acquire, what appear to you, juster notions of religion than what are possessed by other men? Endeavour to communicate your superior knowledge to your brethren, by every fair method in your power, and at every season when you are likely to be heard, Say not, the work belongs to others; I have no call to engage in it; I leave it to those who are better qualified: Providence, which has given you more light, has, at the same time, given you a call to distribute it to all who are in darkness; if you keep it under a bushel, you inake an ungrateful return to the being from whom it was derived; you defeat the purpose for which it was bestowed, and adopt the maxim of that corrupt church which thinks it for the happiness of mankind to keep the world in ignorance.
3. We may learn, from the language of our Saviour upon this occasion, the great importance of the laws of morality. They are unchangeable and everlasting; it