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Here our :>aviour begins to enter upon nis prophetic office, ana by preaching to make known the will of God to mankind; and observe, the doctrine which he preached is the same that John the Baptist did preach, namely, the doctrine of repentance, Repent ye: and the argument is the same also, for the kingdom ofhearcen is at hand: that is, now is the so much expected time of the appearing of the promised Messiah. Learn hence, That the doctrine of Christ and his ambassadors is alike, and the same in substance: they both teach the doctrine of repentance to a lost world, as most suitable to the time and dispensation of the gospel.
18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 19 And he saith unto them, Foliox me, and I will make you fishers of men. 20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. 21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son ofZebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets: and he called them. 22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.
Our blessed Saviour, as he was the great prophet of his church, had power and authority to appoint teachers under him; and accordingly here he begins to call his apostles to that great work; and in his call we have several particulars very observable: as, 1. The meanness of the persons whom he calls, illiterate fishermen; not a Paul, that had long studied at the feet of Gamaliel, is first called; but Peter, who was a stranger to eloquence and human learning. Hereby our Saviour took effectual care that his gospel should be known to be the power of God, and not the wisdom and device of man; and that the instrument should not carry away the
Elory of the work. Observe, 2. How our aviour calls his apostles by couples, two and two, Peter and Andrew, James and John; to let us understand, that the work of the ministry requires the concurrence of all hands that are called to it; all the ministers of God should put their hands, join their hearts, and set their shoulders, as one
man, to this great work; and all little enough to carry it on with advantage and success. Observe, 3. The work which they were called to, from being fishermen to being fishers of men. They catched fish before with the labour of their hands; they shall catch men now with the labour of their tongues. Observe, 4. Our Saviour's command; first to follow him, before they are sent out by him: Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. We must be Christ's disciples before we are his ministers; his followers before his ambassadors. We must learn Christ before we preach him; otherwise we may fish for a livelihood, for honour and applause, but not for souls: if we be not first inclosed ourselves in the net of the gospel, we can have but small hopes of bringing in others. Observe, 5. The promise which Christ gives the apostles for their encouragement: 1. To qualify them, I will make you fishers. 2. To succeed them, I will make you fishers of men. Faithfulness and care, diligence and endeavour, is our part: but the blessing and success is Christ's. "Our labour is only in the cast, Christ's power is wholly in the draught. Some fish cleave to the rocks, others play upon the sands, and more wallow in the mud; and we shall labour all our days and catch nothing, if Christ doth not bring our fish to the net, and inclose them in it, as well as assist us in the throwing of it."—Bp. Hall. Observe, 6. The apostles' ready compliance with our Saviour's call, Straightway they followed him. Whom Christ calls, he calls persuasively and effectually; whom he calls, he draws, and works them to a willing compliance with their duty. Lastly observe, Upon their call to the ministry they leave off their trade, they forsake their ship and their nets, and be close to their ministerial employment. Teaching us, that the ministers of the gospel should wholly give themselves to their work, and not encumber themselves with secular affairs: nothing but an indispensable necessity in providing for a family can excuse a minister's entangling himself with worldly business.
23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
Our Saviour having called Peter, James, Andrew, and John, to be disciples in order to their being apostles to preach the gospel, in the foregoing verses; this verse acquaints us how he went himself along with them in the work: he did not send them forth as his curates to labour, and lie at home himself upon his couch at ease. What shall we say to those lazy fishermen who can set others to the drag, and care only to feed themselves with the fish, not willing to wet their hands with the net? Our blessed Saviour, when he sent forth his apostles, went along with them, and laboured himself as much as any of them.
24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.
Observe here, 1. That although our Saviour's doctrine needed no confirmation beyond his own authority, yet he was graciously pleased to exert the power of his godhead in working miracles for the establishment of our faith. Observe, 2. That the miracles which Christ wrought were not judicial, but beneficial to mankind, Moses' miracles were as great judgments as wonders; but Christ's miracles were salubrious and healing, full of goodness and compassion, and very advantageous to the world: he dispossessed devils, healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. O blessed Saviour! thy life in all-instances was a life of universal serviceableness and beneficialness to all mankind.
25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapods, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan.
Observe here, Ho w affecting our Saviour's ministry was at first: multitudes throng after him; they come from all parts to attend upon his ministry, when he first began to preach among them. His ministers find it thus also; at their first coming amongst a people, their labours are most acceptable, and they do most good: our people's affections are then warmest, and our own zeal perhaps is then greatest. Happy is that minister that improves all
opportunities and advantages for the good of souls: "for he that winneth souls is wise."
This chapter and the two next following coniain Christ's famous sermon upon the mount, which comprehends the sum and substance both of the Old and New Testament. Our Saviour begius this his sermon with a declaration who are blessed: including an exhortation to duty, and annexes a reward to the performance of that duty. By this sermon the christian world will be judged in the last day; and by the particulars of it we must either stand or fall.
A ND seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain; and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Observe here, 1. The preacher; he, that is, Christ, the great Prophet and Teacher of his church. Observe, 2. The place where he preached, upon a mountain; probably for convenience to himself, and advantage to his auditors; though some will have a mystery in it; that as the law at first was given on a mountain, so Christ would now explain it upon a mountain; or to show the sublimity of his doctrine and precepts. Observe, 3. The posture in which he preached, sitting: When he was set, he taught, according to the custom of the Jewish doctors who sat, to show their authority. Observe, 4. The sermon itself, which begins with beatitudes and blessings, and is accompanied with promises of reward. Not as the law was aehvered on Mount Sinai, with threatenings and thunder, with fire and earthquake, but in a still and soft voice. Our Lord's lips are full of grace, they drop as the honey-comb. Blessings and promises are our encouragements to obedience.
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Observe here, 1. It is not said, blessed are the poor in estate, but blessed are the poor in spirit: 'tis not-a poverty of purse and possession, but a poverty of spirit, that entitles us to the blessing. 2. 'Tis not said, blessed are the spiritually poor, but, blessed arc the poor in spirit: he that is destitute of the grace and spirit of Christ, that has no sense of his spiritual wants, lie is spiritually poor, but he is not poor in spirit. Farther, 3. Tis not said, blessed are the poor-spirited, but, the poor in spirit. Such as act below and beneath themselves as men and as christains, these are poor-spirited men; but these are not poor in spirit. 4 'Tis not said, blessed are they that make themselves poor, by leaving their estates and callings, and turning beg
firs, as some do among the Papists; but, lessed are they whom the gospel makes poor, by giving them a sight of their spiritual wants and necessities, and directing them to Christ, that they may be made rich. In sum, not those that are poor in estate, or those whom the world has made poor in possession, but those whom the gospel lias made poor in spirit, that is, the truly humble, lowly spirits, have a right and title to the kingdom of heaven. Now humility is called poverty of spirit, because it is the effect and fruit of God's Spirit.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Observe here, 1. That mourning for sin is a gospel-duty: the law allows no place for repentance, though we seek it carefully with tears. Observe, 2. The time and season for this duty. Blessed are they that now mourn. Sorrow for sin is physic on earth, but 'tis food in hell. Repentance is here a grace, but there a punishment . 3. As mourning goes before comfort, so comfort shall follow after mourning. Our godly sorrow for our own and others' sins, shall end in everlasting joy and comfort.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Observe here, 1. The grace and duty recommended, meekness. 2. The wages and reward belonging to that grace and duty, the inheritance of the earth. Meekness either respects God, or our neighbour. As it respects God, so it implies rlexibleness to his commanding will, and submissiveness to his providential pleasure. As it respects our neighbour, it consists in forgiving injuries, bearing reproaches, and recompensing good for evil. The reward and blessing ensured to this grace and duty is, the inheritance of the earth, where heaven is not excluded, but included j yet the earth is mentioned, to show that men should be no losers by their meekness, as to their outward estates; for Almighty God will make good to them whatever they lose for peace sake. O happy temper of mind, tliat at once secures heaven and earth to boot! Blessed are tie meek :for they shall inherit the earth in this life, and heaven in the next.
6 Blessed are they which do hun
ger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Observe, 1. The character of the persons whom Christ pronounces blessed; such as hunger and thirst a fter righteousness. 2. Wherein their blessedness doth consist: They shall be filled. By righteousness we are to understand, 1. A righteousness of justification; the righteousness of the Mediator imputed to us, by which we stand righteous in God's sight, being freed from condemnation. 2. A righteousness of sanctification, wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, enabling us to act righteously. By the former, there is a relative change in our condition; by the latter, a real change in our constitution. 1. Learn, That all and only such as do spiritually hunger and thirst after Christ and his righteousness, are in a happy and blessed condition. 2. That to hunger and thirst after holiness is to apprehend the worth of it, to be sensible of the want of it, to be desirous of it, and restless in endeavours after it, as men usually do that are pinched with hunger. Dr. Hammond's Prac. Catcch.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Here our blessed Redeemer recommends to us a compassionate regard towards the miseries of others, and that both in soul and body, name and estate; to be forward to pity and pardon, to relieve and help, to give and forgive. And as an encouragement, he adds, that as we deal with others, God will deal with us; our charity towards men shall be crowned with mercy from God, and that in abundance too; for our rivulet of charity we shall partake of an ocean of mercy: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Learn, That the merciful man is a blessed man, and therefore blessed because he shall obtain mercy, when he most wants it, and most desires it. Mercy, not wages.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Note here, 1. The duty required and called for, purity of heart and life; the first expressed, the other included; for a clean heart will be accompanied with a clean life. Where there is a principle of grace within, there will be the acting of grace without. Note, 2. The incentive to this duty; the pure in heart, and holy in life, shall see and enjoy God; the infinitely pure and perfectly holy God. They shall see him spiritually arid mediately in this life, gloriously and immediately in the life to come.
9 Blessed are the peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Observe, 1. The connection between peace and purity: purity of heart and peaeeableness of life accompany one another. There is no inward purity where there is not an endeavour after outward peace. 2. The duty exhorted to, namely, to love peace, and to labour after peace; to love it ourselves, and promote it amongst others; to be not only peaceable, but peace-makers. Note, 4. The title of honour that is here put upon such as are of this peaceable and peace-making temper: they shall be called the children of God; that is, they shall be reputed and esteemed God's children, for their likeness to him who is the God of peace. And they shall be dignified and honoured with the privileges of God's children; namely, grace here, and glory hereafter.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute yrm, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Note here, 1. That all the disciples and followers of Christ, live they never so holily and inoffensively in the world, yet must they expect suffering and persecution. 2. That the keenest and sharpest edge of persecution is usually turned against the ministers of Christ, and falls heaviest on the prophets of God. 3. That such sufferings and persecutions as will afford a man solid comfort, and entitle him to real blessedness, must be endured and undergone for righteousness' sake. 4. That it is the will and command of Christ, that those which suffer for him, and for righteousness' sake, should not only be meek and patient, but joyous and cheerful; Rejoice, and be exceeding glad. 5. That such a patient and cheerful suffering of persecution for Christ in this life, shall certainly be rewarded with the glory and blessedness of
the life that is to come. Great is your reward, Cfc.
13 Ye arc the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is henceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Our Saviour compares christians in general, and his ministers in particular, unto salt, for a double reason, First, Because it is the nature of salt to preserve things from corruption and putrefaction, and to render them savoury and pleasant. Thus are the ministers of the gospel to labour and endeavour, by the purity of their doctrine, to sweeten putrefying sinners, that they may become savoury unto God and man; and may be kept from being fly-blown with errors and false doctrine. Secondly, Because salt has a piercing power in it, which subdues the whole lump, and turns it into its own nature: such a piercing power is there in the ministry of the word, that it subdues the whole man to the obedience of itself. As if Christ had said, "Ye are to be preachers and patterns to the world; ye are appointed by your pure doctrine, and good conversation, to purge the world from that corruption in which it lies; but if you lose either soundness of doctrine, or the savour of a good conversation, you will be wholly useless, as to these great ends, and must expect to ie cast off by me, as unsavoury salt is cast to the dunghill."
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16" Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Observe here* 1. Our Saviour's doctrine. 2. The inference which he draws from it, by way of application. The doctrine delivered is this, That christians in general, and the ministers of the gospel in particular, are the light of the world. But how i Not originally, but derivatively; not efficiently, but iustrumentally. Christ himself is the light of the world by way of original; his ministers are lights by way of derivation and participation from him. Farther, Christ teaches them the end why he communicated light unto them, namely, to enlighten, direct, and quicken others; even as the sun in the firmament, and a candle in the house, diffuses and disperses its light to all that are within the reach of it; so should all christians, and particularly Christ's ministers, by the light of life and doctrine, direct people in their way towards heaven. Observe, 2. The inference which our Saviour draws from the foregoing doctrine, ye are the light of the world; therefore let your light so shine before men. Where note, 1. That our good works must shine, but not blaze; all vain-glory and ostentation must be avoided in the good works we do. 2. Although we must abound in good works, that men may see them, yet not to be seen of men. 3. That he glorifying of God, and doing good to mankind, must be the great end we propound in all the good works which we perform.
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
Our Saviour here informs his followers, That he had no design to abrogate any part of the moral law, or to loose mankind from the least measure of their duty, either towards God or man, but that he came to fulfil it. 1. By yielding a personal obedience to it . 2. By giving a fuller and stricter interpretation of it, than the Pharisees were wont to give; for they taught that the law did only reach the outward man, and restrain outward actions. As if Christ had said, "Though I preach a more special doctrine than is contained even in the letter of the moral law, yet think not that I came to destroy or dissolve the obligation of that law, for I came to fulfil the types and predictions of the prophets, and to give you the full sense and spiritual import of the moral law."
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Another reason is here given by our Saviour why he had no intention to abrogate or abolish the law; and that is drawn from the duration and perpetuity, the unchangeableness and immutahility, of the law: sooner shall heaven and earth be abolished, than the authority and obligation of the moral law be dissolved. Learn,
1. That the law of God is an eternal and unchangeable rule of life and manners, and is to stand in force as long as the world stands, and the frame of heaven and earth endures. Learn, 2. That christianity is not contrary to the laws by which mankind had formerly been obliged. Christ commands nothing that the natural or moral law had forhidden, and forhids nothing that they had commanded, but has perfected the law,and set it higher than any of the most studied doctors did think themselves formerly obliged by it. To suppose that Christ has added to the moral precepts of the first tablets to suppose that he has added to perfection; for that required the Jew to love God with all his heart, soul, and strength; which is the same that Christ requireth of us christians here. Nor has Christ added to the duties of the second table, since that requires us to love our neighbour as ourselves, which St. Paul tells us, Rom. xiii. 9. is the fulfilling of the law.
19 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.
To evidence yet farther that the moral law is a perfect rule of life, our Saviour tells his disciples, that if any of them did, either by their doctrine or practice, make void any one of the least of God's commands, either by allowing themselves in the omission of any known duty, or in the commission of any known sin, they should never enter into the kingdom of God. Learn, That such a professor of christianity as allows himself in the least voluntary transgression, either of omission or commission, and encourages others by his example to do the like, is certainly in a state of damnation.
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.
Observe here, 1. A glorious prize or reward set before the christian as attainable, namely, The kingdom of heaven. Observe,
2. The means required in order to our obtaining this prize, and laying hold of this reward; we must be holy and righteous persons; heaven is the reward of riehteous