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tidings that even they were God's chosen ones, for

, whom was reserved “the oil of joy,” and “the garment of praise," " that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord.”

Those who were thus contrite in the sight of God would be meek towards men, but where would the meek be in the stirring times that were coming, when stout-hearted warriors might expect to be called on to advance to victory under the banner of the heavenchosen king ? Yet these are not pronounced blessed, the blessedness is reserved for the meek, to them the announcement of the coming kingdom is good tidings, since they are, as it is written, to inherit the earth (Ps. xxxvii. 11).

Those who truly repent of past sin will bring forth fruits meet for repentance, they will “ hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Isa. lv. I); these also are blessed, for the desire of their hearts shall be granted them.

Special blessings there were also for the merciful, for the pure in heart, and for the peacemakers, while those who had attained to such strength of righteousness as would admit of no compromise with sin, and who would therefore be likely to suffer persecution for its sake, were called on to rejoice as possessors of the kingdom, and worthy successors of the prophets.

Jesus warned his hearers that the righteousness practised by the most strict observers of the law fell far short of what was required in the new kingdom

He pointed out the imperfections of some of the commandments of the law : thus, it allowed men to return evil for evil ; but Jesus, it is presumable, finds a higher law than this in the Book of Proverbs (xx. 22; xxv. 21, 22), and he betters its instruction by insisting that men should not only refrain from retaliation, but should do so from love to the offenders, and should, from the same all-conquering love, earnestly seek to bless them. He taught his disciples that they would thus prove themselves the children of God, if they were animated by His spirit of love towards all, towards the evil and the good.

He was careful to explain that he was not speaking against the ancient law, but rather using it as a stepping-stone to a higher; where no higher could be discerned, the written law was still to be literally obeyed.

But all depended upon the motive, the spring of action. The ruling principle, the strongest desire of the heart, should be that God might reign therein. Whoever had this was truly in and of the kingdom ; he that had it not, however literally he obeyed the multitude of precepts of the Mosaic law, could not enter into the kingdom, his state of mind being clearly incompatible with citizenship therein. On the other hand, he who had such a desire, but yet was unwise enough to attack the law, or any part of it (say, as not being of divine origin, or as not being now binding), though he would still be in the kingdom, yet would be in the lowest rank; one, for instance, who,

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instead of spreading great principles or opposing gross wickedness, should denounce any one of the precepts of the law because he could discern in it nothing worthy of God-say, for example, that forbidding the seething of a kid in its mother's milk (Ex. xxxiv. 26). For such a course, even if successful, would produce but a small benefit, and most probably would create an antagonism which would require all one's energies to combat.

The sincere desire to do the will of God from the love of it was to govern all actions. Hypocrites, who affected righteousness, who indeed performed right actions, but not from such a motive, were of no account in God's sight, could expect no reward or recognition from him. Did they act religiously to win the applause of those who could only form a surface judgment ? Then, having this, they had all they had bargained for. The honours of the kingdom were not for these. Weighed in God's balances they are lighter than vanity.

It is clear, from the Hebrew writings, that the idea of God as the Father of men was not new to the Jews. He is the Father of all, being their Creator.* He is specially the Father of his peculiar people, his son Israel whom he called out of Egypt. In

In 4 Ezra (2 Esdras, though this book was probably not written till after the time of Jesus), we find Israel complaining thus to God of the heathen (vi. 58): “But we thy people, whom thou hast called thy firstborn, thy only

* Malachi ii. 10; Isa. lvi. 5; Ixiii. 16; lxiv. 8.

begotten, and thy fervent lover, are given into their hands."*

*

The righteous Jews were specially sons of God, as appears very plainly in the second chapter of the Book of Wisdom.

But with Jesus it was not occasional merely; it was habitual to speak of God as the Father. That is the dear familiar term that he almost always uses, and teaches his disciples to use, when they think of God, and when they pray to Him. To the question, What is God ? Jesus virtually returns this answer : He is the perfectly righteous Ruler of the Universe, and our Father.

Jesus teaches his disciples how to speak to their Father, and what to ask for. In the first place, they may come to him as their Father, without

any

mediator, “no priest or veil between.” What they should pray for is not the gratification of any whim or capricious desire, but that only which they know it is his will to give. The love of righteousness should sway the entire being ; there should be not only the desire of doing right, but the desire that right be done, everywhere and always. If such is the wish of the soul, she will express it to her Father in prayer. Hence the prime request is that God's kingdom may (soon) come, that his will may everywhere be done.

As Jesus believes that God in ancient days wrought

* A somewhat similar conjunction of terms, “firstborn, only-begotten son,” is also found in the “Psalms of Solomon,” and is there also applied to the sons of Israel. (See “The Jewish Messiah," by Professor Drummond, p. 288.)

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a miracle to give his people daily bread, he assumes that it is the will of God to give it still, and that therefore it is proper to pray for it.

Also, to be forgiven all past sin, and preserved from committing sin in future. And, in keeping with the command to "love thy neighbour as thyself," Jesus taught his hearers that in their prayers they should desire all the blessings prayed for, not for themselves only, but also for their neighbours.

The condition of God's forgiving their sins is not reliance on any atonement made by another, but their own sincere forgiveness of those who injure them. This they may even plead in their petitions to their Father in heaven.

Jesus may here only have followed his namesake, the son of Sirach, whom perhaps he believed to have written by divine inspiration. Forgive thy neighbour the hurt that he hath done unto thee, so shall thy sins also be forgiven when thou prayest” (Ecclus. xxviii. 2).

With regard to prayer for external things beyond what is necessary to preserve life, Jesus taught his followers that their whole desire should be for spiritual good, which alone was worthy to occupy their thoughts; hence all anxiety and care for food and raiment should be dismissed, still remembering that the Father knows the needs of all his children, and will provide accordingly, as he in fact does for even the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. Aim, with an eye singly fixed thereon, to fulfil all righteous

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