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In the first place it is subdivided into three parts. Its middle part on prayer is again divided into three parts and this middle part is preceded by a pair of stanza as strophe and antistrophe to each other as well as followed by a pair of stanzas as strophe and antistrophe to each other.
The fourth main division on the accumulation of wealth and its motive is divided into three parts, the third part of which being marked by a refrain three times used. “ Do not be anxious."
The fifth main division is divided into three parts, the third part of it being occupied by a remarkably fine and perhaps the most forcible illustration of Hebrew Parallelism to be found in the whole of the New Testament.
The sixth main division on the gate of life and how to enter it is divided into three parts, the last of these parts being concluded by a strophe and an antistrophe on the man who built his house on the rock and he who built his house on the sand, as striking and as pure an example of the higher parallelism of stanzas as we find any. where.
5:4. “ Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Jesus was the “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” By his very coming to earth, sorrow and grief have been blessed. His touch has changed the face of that which before his time was looked upon as nothing but a deserved punishment and a rightly inflicted penalty.
Since Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus, since he mourned over Jerusalem and bore the anguish of Gethsemane, we have learned to see in all sorrow but a stage on the way to higher joy. Yes, he did indeed come to “comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil
of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” God will wipe away all tears from off all faces.
5:5. “ Blessed are the meek.”
The influence of the meek and self controlled is in the long run greater than that of the impulsive and passionate. Their serenity helps them to find the greatest amount of true joy in all conditions of life. To them, the earth is not a stage of self assertion and the graspings of desire, but an “inheritance" they have received from their Father.
“ Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness."
The cravings of bodily hunger become here a parable of the higher yearning after righteousness. The thirsting after God, like the hart desiring the water-brooks, is certain in the end to gain its full fruition.
Desires after earthly things, every form of physical longing, are either frustrated or end in satiety and weariness. Spiritual aspirations alone, have the sure and steadfast prophesy of fulfilment in them. Such, alone, shall be filled with a fullness not to be repented of.
“ Blessed are the merciful ! ” Those who are pitiful toward their fellow men become, because of that very fact, more truly the object of God's compassion. And on the other hand no motive to mercy so constrains us to be merciful so much as the feeling that we ourselves have need of it and have found it.
“Though justice be thy plea, consider this
“ Blessed are the pure in heart." The purity here referred to means more than the absence of one particular form of sensual sin. It excludes every element of baseness. It excludes impurity of hate or greed of gain as well as that of the lust of the flesh. It means more. It is more than a simple negative virtue. It is most positive in its influence on character.
Purity of heart brings with it the power to see, as we can in no other way see, the beauty of nature about us, and the moral order of the world in the light its Creator and Redeemer meant us to see it.
By the inward light made bright by this same purity of heart the teaching and the life of Christ can be seen and appreciated as it is otherwise impossible to do.
5:9. “Blessed are the peacemakers."
Be truly peacemakers. Always have a word of reconciliation and peace to sweeten the bitterness our brothers shall charge against us or against others.
Seek to sweeten evil reports. Strive to prevent enmities, indifferences, coldnesses. Do your best to reconcile those at variance one with another.
This is to do the will of God. This is to show our. selves the children of our Father who is in heaven.
“ Blessed are those who are persecuted for rightcousness sake!”
This beatitude rightly follows on the last and is in a way the completion of it.
We should never be tempted to surrender righteousness for peace. We should never compromise the truth for the sake of peace. We must never fail to contend nobly for the faith because of a desire for peace.
The Prince of Peace himself came not to send peace
but a sword. The wisdom which is from above is “first pure" and then “ peaceable.” All they that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution.
5:11. “ Blessed are you when men shall revile you !”
As the prophets of old were persecuted because they set forth and maintained the righteousness of God, so the disciples of Christ must be reviled and persecuted because they proclaim Christ as the incarnation of the righteous and holy God, because they proclaim the good news of his redemption, and assert the judgment of his holy will against all sin and iniquity.
5:12. “Great is your reward in heaven."
The reward here spoken of, is a reward for those who suffer for righteousness' sake, not for those who are simply calculating on a future compensation.
The Kingdom of Heaven is equally promised in nine beatitudes, but in each under a different name in accord with it.
To the poor it is a kingdom. To the meek, often dispossessed here below, it is a land of great price. To those who mourn, it is an ineffable consolation. To those wronged in judgment, it is an eternal satisfaction. To the pure in heart, it is the vision of God. To the peacemaker, it is to be called the children of God. To the persecuted it is another kingdom.
“ Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works.”
The motive to publicity here put forth is the direct opposite of the temper which led the Pharisees to their ostentatious prayers and almsgiving. They did it to be seen of men. They did it to win men's praise.
We are here taught to let our light shine, not for any such shallow reason, but that we may win men, not to ourselves, but to God.
The man that does his best to prevent his left hand from knowing what his right hand is doing, that is the man who most effectually causes men through seeing his good works to glorify his Father in heaven. For do what he will, such a man cannot keep other men from seeing his good works. These will come to the knowledge of his fellows at last; and from the very fact of their coming in such a way it will cause men to glorify their Father who is in heaven. See also notes on 6:1-3.
5:17. “ Do not think I have come to destroy the law.”
Christ has fulfilled in his person all the righteousness of the old law. He has fulfilled all its types. He is the reality of which the manna, the passover, the burnt offering, and the sin offering, were but feeble figures.
He has fulfilled the prophets in that he has fulfilled all that was written of him by Moses and all that followed after.
He has fulfilled the law in a higher sense than that just referred to. He has fulfilled it in that He has perfected it. He gave to the old commandments a depth and breadth and height before altogether unknown. He showed men how they were meant for, not the eternal alone, but the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Yes, the old law and the prophets have not been destroyed. A new life has rather been infused into them. The spirit of life that was in Christ has passed into them.
The meaning of the old Jewish Passover has been transferred to Christ our Passover sacrificed for us. Let us, therefore, keep the feast, not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the new leaven of sincerity and truth.