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EXPOSITORY NOTES ON SCRIPTURE LESSONS.
APRIL 5TH.-A SABBATH WITH JESUS.
For Repetition.-Luke vi. 10-12. Reading Lesson.-Luke vi. 1-19. First. CHRIST's teaching reSPECTING THE SABBATH.
The two Sabbath days mentioned in the lesson were probably some weeks apart. Jesus was censured again and again because his acts on that day set at nought the received interpretations of the divine law respecting the Sabbath. The conduct of the cavillers in this matter shows that people, themselves unmindful of divine precept, readily blame others for supposed faults, Matt. vii. 3-5.
Two things are brought out by Christ's teaching as to the Sabbath :
1. That mere ceremonial observances were of little worth. He would not have the external in religion disregarded. His teaching is comparative, as in Matt. ix. 13; xxiii. 23. Attention to external things, or ceremonies merely, becomes offensive to God, since it implies an idea of Him as if He were pleased with what is nothing more than external.
We may put on devout looks, and affect a devout demeanour on the Sabbath day; but if the heart is not devout, all will be unmeaning and hypocritical. Do not neglect the external in religion; but do not be satisfied with the external only, Isa. i. 11--15; xxix. 13, 14.
2. That the Sabbath was under his control, ver. 5. This was an assertion of a prerogative which could not pertain to a mere man; and it was an intimation that the law of the Sabbath was about to be modified in some important particular. The Sabbath was a significant institution-a sign of the relation of the Israelites to God, Ezek. xx. 12. It has, however, another and a different relation in Christianity. It commemorates the rising of Christ from the grave, and has, therefore, been changed under New Testament authority from the seventh to the first day of the week.
And two classes of work are mentioned by the Saviour as proper and laudable on the Sabbath day.
One comprises all that is really necessary. We must, however, be satisfied concerning what we do, that it is really necessary.
This limit, however, indicates that the Sabbath should be kept free from unnecessary works-mere matters of convenience, gratification, or pleasure.
The other class of works comprises what benevolence and doing good to others may require. We are to do good at any time, and
certainly our Sabbaths are not to be shut out from works of this kind. Christ did good on the Sabbath days-teaching the ignorant, relieving the wretched, and healing the sick.
The sum of the teaching of Christ respecting the Sabbath, is, that it is to be a day of exemption from ordinary toil; that it is to be specially devoted to His service, and thinking of His great work; and that it is to be well spent in efforts to do good to those around us. Our Sabbaths are very valuable days. Rightly employ the Sabbath. To waste, or improperly to spend the Sabbath, is to lay ourselves open to temptation and evil.
Secondly. CHRIST'S OWN WAY OF Spending the SABBATH.
The lesson shows us how the Saviour spent two of his Sabbaths; and there are other intimations of a similar kind in other parts of the evangelical history.
One thing is observable, ver. 6. Christ went to the synagogues, Luke iv. 16. These were the places of worship, in which the people assembled to offer their united worship, the Scriptures were read and expounded, and where prayers were offered.
Christ would put honour upon public worship. It is the most important engagement that can occupy us on the Sabbath; and God has often made it a means of blessing.
It is also observable that Jesus employed his Sabbaths in teaching, ver. 6. We may be sure he taught the great truths and duties of religion. He taught all who were willing to learn. Though any day is appropriate for such teaching, the Sabbath is especially so, since the mind is then free from distracting worldly cares.
The malevolent watched the Saviour with characteristic ill feeling. And in the lesson they seem soon to have found the occasion they wanted. Christ would do good, and did not shrink from calling their attention to what he did, ver. 8-10
Observe in this history, the omniscience, ver. 8, the omnipotence, ver. 10, and the wisdom of the Saviour, ver. 9.
A Sabbath with Jesus, therefore, surrounds us with his instructions, presents to us his own example of public devotion, and shows us how his benevolence found opportunities of doing good. Imitate Christ's regard to public worship. Never put a bad construction on kind acts. Do good always, but especially on the Lord's day.
APRIL 12TH.-CHRIST'S FOLLOWERS DESCRIBED.
For Repetition.-Matt. v. 8-10.
Reading Lesson.-Matt. v. 1-20.
Christ mentions, in ver. 3-12, several classes of character and circumstances under which they who serve him are pronounced happy.
Some, as those in ver. 11, 12, belonged specially to times when Christians have been exposed to ill treatment and persecution on account of their religion; but the greater number of these descriptions apply at all times.
The question whether we are the happy disciples of Christ, is of greater importance to us than any other question. We should. therefore seek to understand, correctly and well, of whom the
The first class are THE POOR IN Spirit, ver. 3.
This expression cannot mean those who are not well off in the world, as if spiritual blessings always came on the poor; nor does the expression mean the poor-spirited and the cowardly. Many such persons are miserable enough.
The poor in spirit are the humble-such as have been brought to take lowly views of themselves. Those who repent before God, and regard themselves, but for the salvation which divine mercy provides, as helpless and undone. Examples :-The publican, Luke xviii. 13, 14; and the Psalmist, Psa. lxxxvi. 1; cix. 22; neither of them being poor as to the things of the world.
The second class are THOSE THAT MOURN.
Certainly not those whose circumstances in the world are afflictive and sorrowful. Many of these are far from happy in the sense Christ intended, 2 Cor. vii 10.
They are those who grieve over their own sins, and over the sins of others, Ezek. ix. 4; Psa. cxix. 158; and those who weep in sympathy with the sorrowful, Rom. xii. 15.
Such mourners shall be comforted. See an illustration, Rev. vii. 13-17.
The third class are THE MEEK.
Such as are not fretful, discontented, resentful in suffering; but quiet, resigned, cheerful. They are the patient in suffering which comes directly from God, and in that which man may occasion. Examples and illustrations of this meekness may be found in Lam. iii. 26-29; Micah vi. 9; vii. 9.
The meek are to inherit the earth, or the land; an expression, which, to a Jew, would convey an idea of large and varied blessing. The meek usually triumph where the passionate fail; but they shall possess the inheritance of which Canaan was but the figure.
The fourth class are those who HUNGER AND THIRST AFTER
Those who vehemently desire the righteousness which Christ grants, and, by his grace, produces in the heart of believers in him.
EXPOSITORY NOTES ON SCRIPTURE LESSONS.
They are such as, not like the great bulk of the Jewish people, desire a temporal salvation, but a spiritual salvation; who pant for deliverance from guilt and depravity, and from their sad results.
A fifth class are THE MERCIFUL.
Those who are compassionate, and seek to help any who are in need. Such as are like God, delighting in mercy, Micah vii. 18. Illustrations, Acts xx. 35; Luke x. 30-37.
This mercifulness must not, however, be restricted to caring for bodily wants and woes. The soul has deeper wants and heavier woes; and those who care for such wants and woes are blessed. God grants them mercy, chap. vi. 14; xviii. 32, 33; Eph. iv. 32;
Col. iii. 13.
The sixth class are the PURe in heart.
Those who have been spiritually purified by believing the truth, relying on the great atonement, and being renewed in their minds by the Holy Ghost, Eph. v. 2; Heb. ix. 13, 14.
They shall see God. They shall see by faith God's glory, which will fill them with love and joy; they shall become like God; they shall dwell with God, Psa. xvii. 15.
The seventh class are THE PEACEMAKERS.
There is contention enough in the world. The peacemakers are those who shun contention themselves, Heb. xii. 14; and who leave no proper effort untried by which to bring strife to an end.
Such persons, influenced by love to God and truth, in their efforts to make peace, shall be called or acknowledged the children of God. They resemble Him. He will at last own them as his children.
The remaining verses of this discriminating and beautiful description of character, refer to what, though God makes them happy, may befall those of whom Christ had spoken. The verses are looked upon by some commentators as a kind of appendix to the preceding beatitudes, as if the Saviour would prepare his disciples for troubles from those about them. The happiness of which he had spoken does not pertain to this world and to things temporal, but to the better world on high, in prospect of which Christ's disciples may well be glad.
The Saviour goes on to intimate, ver. 13, that all who love Christ are to be useful in the world-like salt, preserving it from putrefaction-like light shining in darkness, ver. 14—16.
He adds also that his teaching would extend and confirm the requirements of the law. Those who say they are his, must have a different righteousness from the formal, outside righteousness with
which many of his day were satisfied, and which many taught, ver. 17-20.
PRACTICAL.-1. Are you such persons as Christ speaks of as happy. 2. Pray to God, by His Spirit and grace, to make you so. 3. If any of you are so, do not mind ridicule or persecution. 4. Thank God; rejoice in His grace; and look forward with hope.
APRIL 19TH.-PRAYER AND ITS PATTERN.
For Repetition.-Matt. vi. 5, 6. Reading Lesson.-Matt. vi. 1-18. The general teaching in this section of Christ's sermon brings out three things which should distinguish religious acts, especially prayers.
First. OSTENTATION MUST BE AVOIDED.
The duties adverted to are chiefly three-almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. All were religious exercises then practised. It is supposed that Christ's followers would also practise them.
But when attended to, these duties are never to be made a means of self-laudation; nor are we to seek praise of men for them. This was sought by many in our Lord's days, and successfully; but what real good did it do? Pride was gratified, and love of display. Men said, how devout! how holy! how earnest those people are in their religious duties! ver. 2; but God looked at them very differently, 1 Sam. xvi. 7.
Christ does not mean that we are to act as if we were ashamed to be seen to be religious.
The late Mr. James, of Birmingham, speaks of himself as having been so ashamed of praying before companions, when he first left home, as to have neglected to pray night and morning, because he slept with a fellow-apprentice; and so his early and home religious impressions almost wore off. Many have been in like circumstances.
This is not what the Saviour means; but that we are not to pray or do other religious acts before others, for the sake of gaining applause. What good will such applause do us? And if we gain it at the expense of sincerity, humility, and God-fearing simplicity, we sacrifice what is of utmost value.
Secondly. SINCERITY MUST BE CULTIVATED.
Christ does not use the term sincerity, but his whole illustration supposes it. If alms be given, let them be given as an expression of pity and benevolence which the heart cherishes. In like manner, prayer must come from the heart. So if we fast, and are sorrowful over evils in either ourselves or others, our grief should be deep and hearty. We should never profess or do in religion what our