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"figures for the time then present." They had been estab lished in order to prefigure CHRIST; and to supply some divine information of the doctrines, which He and his apostles were more fully to reveal. CHRIST on this account ought to be considered as having come to fulfil the law and the prophets, not to overthrow them. He fulfilled that which was said by the prophets,-by accomplishing their prophecies concerning Himself. He fulfilled that which was said by Moses,-by accomplishing the types and ceremonies which Moses had enjoined. He also fulfilled the law of Moses, by being himself perfectly obedient to that law: and He fulfilled it, by requiring from His disciples obedience to all the moral parts of it; an obedience indeed, far stricter than that which was paid to it by the Pharisees. "Verily I say unto you," said CHRIST, "till Heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." How does CHRIST do honour to the law by these words. Woe be to those, who, though they may profess to honour it, do not honour it by their obedience. Some have fancied, that to speak contemptuously of the Law, is a sign of their proficiency in the Gospel. "Since the Gospel," say they, "is the Gospel of Grace, there is no necessity to be obedient to the Law; for the Law cannot justify us." It is true, that our obedience is imperfect; and, since it is imperfect, cannot save us. We must be justified by CHRIST alone through faith. But this doctrine of justification by faith does not diminish the necessity of
obedience. Let us reflect on the nature of the Law; it commands love to GoD and love to man; and can any man doubt whether it be a duty to love GoD and his fellowcreatures? He who violates the Law, even in the least point, and teaches others to despise it, is said by CHRIST to be "the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever
shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Doubtless, the meaning of this expression is, that CHRIST will estimate the character of the members of His Church by the degree of their obeThis is our SAVIOUR'S mode of judging. May it be ours also. He who fails the most in obedience to the law, is accounted by CHRIST the least of His disciples; and he, who rises highest in obedience, shall also rise highest in the kingdom of GOD.
ST. MATTHEW, V. 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 Scribes were the expounders of the Jewish law; and the Pharisees were reputed the strictest sect among the Jews. Both the Scribes and Pharisees were held in high reputation by the people. This saying of CHRIST, therefore, would exceedingly surprise His hearers. Must we then be stricter, they would say, than the strictest sect of the Jews?—more religious than our very teachers in religion? Our SAVIOUR, nevertheless, ought not to be considered severe, on account of this expression. The case was this: The Scribes and Pharisees were corrupt, both in doctrine and practice: they were "blind leaders of the blind." Nothing, therefore, could be more essential to the success of the Gospel than the exposure of their error and wickedness. How prejudicial, indeed, to the cause of true religion has the corruption of priests ever been! The stream in that case is polluted at the fountain; and if there
should be a disposition in the people to admire a false and hypocritical priesthood, as was the case in the days of CHRIST, and again, at the period of the Reformation, the strongest measures may be necessary, in order to expose the existing danger, and to introduce the light of true religion.
Let us now proceed to consider in what respects the righteousness of the followers of CHRIST was to exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.
And, first, it was to exceed, inasmuch as the righteousness of the followers of CHRIST was to be inward and real; while that of the Scribes and Pharisees was merely in appearance. The sanctity of the Pharisee was an altogether external and affected sanctity. He loved to clothe himself in a long robe; and to receive frequent greetings in the market place; and to be called, Rabbi. He made in the very streets long prayers; gave alms in the most public manner; and thus endeavoured to attract the veneration of the people. He did all to be seen of men.
It may be material here to remark, that, in these days, vanity will not show itself in the same manner. Devotion is not in the same credit now, as in the days of the Pharisees. Men are sometimes tempted in our age to lay claim to less religion than they really possess, rather than to pretend that they have more. The love of estimation led the Pharisee to say long prayers. Let us beware, lest our love of estimation should ever lead us to neglect saying our prayers, through the fear of some fellow-creature who may be present. We may be guilty of the same sin with the Pharisee; and yet act in a different, and even a contrary,
The vanity of the Pharisee, was his sin. Beware, then, of vanity. Act not, as he did, from mere regard to character. Be not honest, only from a regard to character. Be not sober, only from a regard to character. Be not chaste, only from a regard to character. If reputation be the spring of all your morality, then your morality is just as superficial, as was the religion of the Pharisees.
Again, the righteousness of Christians must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, inasmuch as it must be universal, and not partial. The Pharisees discharged some duties, and overlooked others. They performed the smaller, and omitted the greater. They paid tithes on mint, cummin, and anise; but they neglected the weighter matters of the law-judgment, mercy, and truth; they strained at a gnat, and swallowed a camel. Let us beware of selecting certain parts of duty which are easy, and of slighting others; and especially of being very scrupulous in small things, and yet far from conscientious in great. Let us endeavour to fulfil every duty; for "he, that keepeth the whole law, and yet offendeth in one point, is guilty of all; for the same GOD who hath said, thou shalt not commit adultery, hath said also thou shalt not steal:-Now therefore, if thou commit not adultery, yet if thou steal, thou art become a transgressor of the law."
Lastly, our righteousness must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, inasmuch as they carried no virtue to its proper height. They fell short of true goodness. It was the habit of the Scribe to lower the meaning of Scripture, to explain down the law of GOD, to devise exceptions to it, to make abatements from it. The Scripture had no force or strength, no strictness of meaning, no heart-searching quality, when interpreted by these teachers. Let us be fearful of all lax expositions of the word of GOD,—of all worldly ways of understanding it. The Scribes "took away the key of knowledge ;" and the Scripture being perverted by the priests, neither true religion, nor true morality, prevailed among the people. The particular nature of those erroneous interpretations of Scripture, which the Pharisees introduced. is in some degree explained by CHRIST in the passage which we shall have next to consider.
ST. MATTHEW, V. 21-26.
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.
But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that
thy brother hath aught against thee;
Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way: first be reconciled
to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
We have here an example of the manner in which our SAVIOUR explained the precept of the law of Moses. “Thou shalt not kill," was one precept of it. The Scribes and Pharisees interpreted this, as forbidding only the direct act of murder: and thought it sufficient to bring the men who had committed this crime before one of their courts Such was their interpretation of this law; "Whosoever shall kill," said they, "shall be in danger of the judgment. CHRIST, however, considered, that the sin of murder proceeded from anger in the heart; and He, therefore, interprets the prohibition of murder, as a prohibition of anger also. He likewise explains this law, as forbidding every degree of hatred which is without a cause: in doing which He uses some expressions, of which the meaning was then probably familiar to the Jews, though now become a little obscure; we mean the expressions of " Raca,” and “Thou fool." He alsc intimates, that in whatever degree mon