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SERMON ON THE MOUNT.
ST. MATTHEW, V. 1—3.
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
TOWARDS the end of the last chapter, we read that our SAVIOUR, while He healed the bodily diseases of the people, preached to them the gospel of the kingdom. From this and the following chapters we may learn the manner in which He preached it.
In the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount, He delivers many short but important sayings, sayings characteristic of His Gospel, sayings calculated to strike through their novelty, and their contrariety to the common maxims of his hearers. "And He opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." This would be a complete contradiction to the prevailing opinions of his hearers. It is the common sentiment that they are the most blest, who think the most favourably of themselves, and are the most fully persuaded that they are highly thought of by others.
Self-complacency is the great source of human felicity. The mind of the man of this world dwells with pleasure on the thoughts of his own talents, of his own exertions, of his own attainments, his own wealth, his own influence. He also delights himself with the idea of his own moral excellence. He easily persuades himself, and he rejoices in the persuasion, that his dealings are just; his integrity, strict; his feelings, kind; his charity, large; his conduct, irreproachable; and his heart, excellent. His very religion also becomes a source of self-complacency. He pleases himself with thinking how regular are his prayers; and how punctual his attendance on divine service: how complete, in short, is the performance of his duty both to GoD and to man. Thus he is rich in his own eyes, in reference both to his natural endowments, his moral qualities, and even his religious observances.
The religion of CHRIST stands directly opposed to the turn of mind which has been described. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Man has no title to that complacency which is so natural to him. Has he endowments of body and mind? These were bountifully given to him by GoD: and GoD, therefore, should have all the glory. Does he reply, "I have improved my natural talents by my own diligence."—" But on what motive have you been thus diligent? Your very diligence has been your sin, if it have proceeded from an ambitious, worldly, covetous, or selfish principle. Let it, however, be admitted, that your diligence has arisen from the right motive, namely, that of pure love to God and to your fellowcreatures let it be admitted, that you have been a true Christian yet, even in this case, your goodness has been imperfect;—you have done less than you ought to have done; after all, you are an unprofitable servant.' And moreover the little, which you have done aright, has been performed through the help of God's free grace working in you, so that there is no ground for self-complacency." The truth is, that man is a poor, dependent, weak, and sinful crea
ture; and that he stands indebted to the divine goodness and mercy for every thing which he either has or hopes for. He cannot prove the justice of that praise which he assumes; and the knowledge of this his weak and fallen state, is a fundamental point in religion. A man must be emptied of himself, in order that he may be filled with the blessings of the Gospel. He must become poor in spirit, in order that he may become rich in faith and a partaker of the kingdom of heaven. Blessed therefore is the man who thinks meanly of himself, and highly of his Maker and Redeemer. Blessed is the man who walks humbly with his GOD, and is also humble towards his fellow-creatures. Blessed is the man who both feels and manifests this poverty of spirit. This temper may not exalt him in the eye of the world; but it is the temper befitting his conditionit is a temper honourable to GoD, and truly beneficial to his fellow-creatures. It is the temper which CHRIST has pronounced to be characteristic of the Christian.
ST. MATTHEW, V. 4.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
"BLESSED," says the world, "are the joyful and the gay. Blessed are the rich, the prosperous, and the healthy. Blessed are they who cast away care; who laugh, and drink, and sing; who are vexed by no earthly calamities, on the one hand; and by no qualms of conscience, on the other; who dread no devil; who fear no hell; who feel no awful forebodings of a judgment to come; but having
passed merrily through life, slip easily out of it, without much horror in their minds, and without even a dying groan." Such are the world's happy men; such is their blessedness. How many songs have been written in praise of the life which we have described, and have been sung with a chorus of joy by many a large company! But blessed, says our SAVIOUR, are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Our SAVIOUR thus warns us against the common joy of the world; for it is a joy which shall terminate in sorrow: whereas this is a sorrow which shall as assuredly end in joy. "Blessed are they that mourn.” This may be interpreted, first, as referring to the afflictions which many pious men endure; while the gay and the thoughtless seem to be free from them. "They come into no trouble," said the Psalmist, "like other folk; neither are they plagued like other men: their eyes stand out with fatness. They have more than heart could wish :" while he says of himself," All the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning."
Many parts of Scripture speak of the afflictions of the righteous; as for instance-" Whom the LORD loveth he chasteneth; and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth:" and again, "Many are the troubles of the righteous, but the LORD delivereth him cut of them all." The truth is, that affliction and trouble are the means by which God very frequently brings the sinner to himself: while worldly hap piness and prosperity are often the portion of those who possess the most hardened hearts. How many Christians can bear witness to the truth of this saying of CHrist. They were once as gay and unconcerned, as their most thoughtless friends are now. They joined in the midnight feast and revelry; and they praised the god of laughter and the god of wine. But while proceeding in this course, they were overtaken by some calamity, by sickness, poverty, or some bitter disappointment; and the affliction, which seemed at first to be the deathblow to their hopes, subdued in them
the love of this world; and became the beginning of a new life of faith and hope and joy and satisfaction in GOD. They exchanged, therefore, a turbulent and heedless joy, which would have soon ended in sorrow, for a sorrow which has led to permanent and real joy.
But secondly, the mourning spoken of in this passage may be understood as referring to that sorrow, on account of sin, which the Christian has felt, especially on his first repentance; and which he continues to feel, in the daily exercise of the same grace. The sorrow of which we before spoke often ends in joy; this always does: for this is that godly sorrow mentioned by St. Paul, which “worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of." Repentance is the foundatien of all true comfort in religion. And repentance is accompanied with many a distressing thought, perhaps by many a tear, certainly by many a sorrowful remembrance of past negligences and sins; but such sorrow is soon turned into joy; therefore "blessed are they who thus mourn, for they shall be comforted."
Let us not, then, complain of religion as gloomy; though we should see some pious persons severely afflicted and often much cast down. They are cast down perhaps only for a time. They may be suffering under a deep sense of their own unworthiness, and as yet but imperfectly acquainted with the grace of their Redeemer. A Mary weeping at the feet of Jesus, and even a Lazarus lying at the gate full of sores, are happier than a Dives clothed with purple and fine linen, and faring sumptuously every day. One in his lifetime receives his good things; and the other, his evil things; but soon the one shall be comforted; and the other, tormented. "Blessed" then (as our Saviour is represented to say in another gospel)" are ye that hunger now, for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now, for ye shall laugh. But woe unto you who are rich, for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you who laugh now, for ye shall mourn and weep."* The
* St. Luke, vi. 21, 25.