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MAT: T. V. 17. Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or tle
Prophets : I am not come to destroy, but to fulfl. Ver. 18. For verily I say unto you, till Heaven
and Earth pass, one jot or one tittle Mall in no
wife pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled. Ver. 19. Whosoever therefore shall break one of
these least Commandments, and hall teach Men $, be shall be called least in the Kingdom of
Heaven : But whosoever Mall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the Kingdom of
Heaven. Ver. 20. For I say unto you, that except your Righ
teousnefs shall exceed the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
The First Sermon on this Text.
E have heard, in the former Part
of this Sermon on the Mount, what W
Pains our Saviour took with these his Hearers and Disciples, to take
off their wrong Notions of the Kingdom of the Messiah, and their bad Difpositions of Mind for it. Those bad NoVol. II.
tions and Dispositions flowed from one fundamental Error, as I have formerly observed to
you, namely, that they expected the Kingdom i of the Messiah would be an Earthly and Tem
poral Kingdom; that it would flow in Wealth and fensual Pleasures, and gratify their carnal Appetites to the utmost, in enriching them with the Spoils, and satiating them with the Pleasures, attending a full Revenge and Conquest over their Enemies. : This wrong Notion of the Messiah's Kingdom gave their Minds a quite wrong Byass, and filled them with Disposītions to Covetousness, Ambition, Oppression, Luxury, Lust, Cruelty, and Revenge; all which they hoped to gratify to the utmost, from the Victories and Prosperity they expected in that new State of Things under the Messiah's Go
Our Saviour thought it necessary, in the first Place, to rectify all these Mistakes of their judgment, and wrong Dispositions of their Hearts and Minds, by teaching them the Necessity of a Spirit of Poverty, Penitence, Meekness, Justice, Mercifulness, Purity, Peaceable.ness, and Patience; and, in short, that it was a Religion and Discipline of the Cross; that it was an Institution of the strictest Virtue and Self-Denial, he was to teach the World ; and that he might fix it so much the deeper and stronger on these his first Disciples, he acquainted them that they were the Persons he intended to make Use of as Instruments, in setting off his Doctrine by their good Examples; and therefore that it was chiefly incumbent upon them to prepare themselves to be Patterns of Holiness and Virtue to others.
Having made this Beginning, by correcting in general their grofs Carnal Notions of his Kingdom, and thewing that it requires new Men and Manners; he proceeds now to another Step of the same Design, namely, to describe in the Particulars, what an Height and Perfection of Duty he required of all his Disciples and Followers; that is, of all Christians, beyond what they had ever learned before. And this he doth for their more clear Apprehension and Instruction, by instancing first in several Leflons which had been given them out of the Law; and the Interpretations that their Doctors had put upon them; and then superadding his own Improve.
But before he comes to the Particulars, he thought it necessary to remove one General Miftake, which it seems they were under in this Matter. Think not, says he, that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets
. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. The Words, chiefly by, the Glosses of Interpreters, are become full of Difficulty ; for Understanding the Scope and Meaning of them, it will be necessary that we enquire into these three Things:
1. What is meant here by the Law or the Prophets : Whether the whole Law of Moses, Moral, Ritual, and Judicial, or only the Moral Law?
II. Whether there was any such received Opinion, as that the Mefliah was to destroy the Law or the Prophets ?
III. In what Sense it is true, that he came not to destroy, but to fulfil them? B 2
I. First then, By the Law or the Prophets in this Place, as I apprehend, is meant the Moral Law; or that Body of Moral Duty delivered by Moses and the Prophets; without any Regard as yet to that which was called the Judicial or the Ceremonial Law. My Reasons are, 1. It is altogether the Moral Part of Duty, which our Saviour is a treating of in this whole Sermon on the Mount. 2. I cannot imagine any Reason why they should think he was come to destroy the Ceremonial or judicial Laws, he having exactly complied with them; and there appearing nothing as yet in his Doctrine or Example to make them entertain such a Suspicion : But I can easily conceive a very natural Reason, why they should think he would evacuate the Moral Law, as being inconsistent with that vast Liberty and Licentiousness they hoped to enjoy under the Messiah's Kingdom, according to the carnal Notions they had of it: which indeed were utterly inconsistent with the strict Duties of the Moral Law. And therefore after he had in the particular Beatitudes pronounced a Blessing to all the particular Dispositions of Mind which were directly opposite to their carnal Notions and Expectations, it was very natural for him in general to tell them, not to think that he would, either by his Doctrine or Practice, evacuate that noble Rule of Duties which was set them in the Moral Law; and that he was so far from evacuating it, that he intended, by his Doctrine and Example, to set it in a clearer Light, and to contrive that it should be better understood, and observed to greater Perfection than ever it had been I think this Expression of the Law,
with the Addition of the Prophets, will generally be found to mean this; and I do not know that any one Instance can be brought, that ever the Ceremonial or Judicial Laws are meant by it. I shall give you one Authority or two for my interpreting it in this Sense, Matt. vii. 12. Therefore all Things whatsoever ye would that Men should do to you, do ye even fo to them: for this is the Law and the Prophets. And Matt. xxii. 40. having spoken of the Love of God, which is the first and great Commandment; and of the Love of our Neighbour, which is the second like unto it; he adds, On these two Commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. There is indeed one Paffage, Luke xvi. 16. which seems to have another Aspect, the Law and the Prophets were until John; as if they had then ceased to be regarded or observed ; and if so, then he must have meant the Ritual Law; but that is not at all the Meaning. St Matthew in a parallel Place expresses it more clearly ; Matt. xi. 13. thus: All the Prophets and the Law prophesed until John; meaning, that John did more than prophesie, for he demonstrated and pointed out the Messiah.. So that still, as I said, I do not see but that this Expression, the Law and the Prophets, is always used to signify the Moral Law, with the Explications and Commentaries of the Prophets. And perhaps, if it were not too great a Digression, it might be shewed, by comparing the Scripture Style, that when the New Testament speaks of the Ceremonial Law as distinct from the other, instead of giving it the honourable Title of the Law or the Prophets, it commonly speaks much more diminutively of it ; calling it the Law of a carnal Commandment; B 3