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The 'gospel for the Sixth Sunday after
St. Matthew v. 20 27.
Jesus said to his Discif Us, Except war Righteousnessflrdfl exceed the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye fall in no cafe enter into the -Kingdom of Heaven. Te have heard that'it was said by them of old, Thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the Judgment;, hut'I say unto you, &c.
THIS'Gospel for the^Day contains another Part of Christ's Sermon on the Mount, wherein he vindicates the Law from all false Glosses, and refines it into a more pure and perfect Rule of Lise and Manners. He'had'before told his Disciples, that became not to destroy the 'Law, but to fulfil it, ver. 17. He freed them indeed , 'from Jrhe Rkes and Ceremonies, but not from the Rules ami.Precepts of .Æso/w'sLaw. Instead of loosening the Obligation, he expected a stricter Obedience and Conformity to it. And, because the Scribes and Pharisees had corrupted the Law -by- fal se Glosses, and their Lives by. false and glozing Pretences,' he endeavours here to reform and regulate both; 'beginning with this Caution,
'Except your Righteousness stiall exceed the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no cafe enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, The Scribes and Pharisees were the great Doctors and Rabbies among the Jews j the one being the Name of an Office,' and the other of a Sect, and both eminent Teachers and Expounders of the Law: which they had done so falfly and corruptly, that our Saviour found it necessary to expound it over again, to rescue it from their evil Interpretations, and to bring it up to its just height sBjid *perfection, as may be seen in the following part of : the Chapter.
The Corruptions and felse 'Constructions they made of the Law, were such as these: they taught* (1.) That if .''Men kept to the Letter of the Law, which they call'd jujti cud legem, it was sufficient, tfro they minded not the trae Intent and spiritual Meaning of it. (2.) Is they polish'd . the outward Garb, and appear'd righteous before Men, it .matter'd not how false and unjust they were within. (3.) If 'Men abstain'd from the open, grosser Acts of Sin, they need not trouble themselves about the .more secret Motives and Occasions of it. (4.) If Men perform'd the external Act* of Religion, 'twas needless to concern themselves about the Principle, End, or Manner of performing them.
These, and foch other like these, were the Doctrines of the Scribes and Pharisees, which they taught others, and practis'd themselves; by which they made void the Law of 'God, and rendred the Commandments of none effect by their Traditions.
This was the Righteousness rof the Scribes and Pharisees^ which had many Flaws and Imperfections in it; for it was merely external, partial, and hypocritical ; it dwelt only in the Face and outward Appearance, without any Truth cr. Reality at all within. 'It consisted in flight Observances, and uncommanded Austerities,im& was attended with Arrogance, Pride, and an insolent Contempt of others. They abstains from some Sins, which they could well enough dispense with, and allow'd themselves in others more crying and enormous. They perform'd some Duties, that suited well enough with their Humour and Interest, and neglected others of greater weight and necessity, paying Tythe of Mint, Annise, and Cummin, and at the lame time omitting the weightier matters of the Law. In a word, their Religion was founded on bad Principles, carry'd on by Ibad Means, and directed to bad Ends ., for their Acts of Piety and Mercy were all done for Vanity and Ostentation, 'and in all things they consulted more the Praise of Men, .than the Glory of God.
Now our Saviour tells us, that our Righteousness must exceed this Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, or else We shall never enter into the Kingdom of Grace here, or of Glory hereafter. But wherein must our Righteousness ex* -€eedtheirs? Why,
lsty In the Truth and Sincerity of it: for God loveth Truth in the inner parts , he looketh not as Man looketh, to the outward Appearance, but beholds the Heart, and receives or rejects us by the Truth or Falshood of . that.
zdly, In the Extent and Integrity of it: it must reach to all God's Commandments, not picking and chufing as the Pharisees did, who made the keeping of one Law to compound for the breach of another; but we must pay an uniform and univerfal Obedience to all God's Precepts, being all stamp'd with the fame Authority, and having the fame Equity and Reward: and then shall we not. be afoamed, • when we have respeii to all his Commandments.
idly, Our Righteousness must exceed theirs in the Lowliness and Humility of it •, disclaiming all its Worth, and arrogating nothing as due to it. The Pharisees trusted to their own Righteousness, and claim'd the Reward from the Merit of their own Works; but we are to account ours as filthy Rags, and to desire to be found only in the Robes of Christ's Righteousness: when we have done all, we are to reckon our selves but unprofitable Servants, and trust only to Christ's Merits for our Justification. Again, the Pharisees boasted of their own Righteousness, that they were better than other Men, looking upon themselves as the only Favourites of Heaven, and tdespising 0thers as only Men of th^'Earth: whereas we are to be lowly in Heart and Mind, esteeming others better than our selves and then shall we rise highest in God's Opinion, when we are lowest in our own.
Lastly, Our Righteousness must exceed theirs in the Purity of its End and Intention: they only courted the Honour and Applause of Men in all that they did, and so had all their Reward from them ^ but we are to direct all our Aims and Intentions to the Glory of God, and that will best tend to and promote our own.
Thus we fee wherein we are to exceed the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, together with the Penalty of falling short of it. Now to help us herein, our Saviour detects their Corruption of several Laws by their Traditions, and directs to the true Meaning and just Extent of them.
The third Commandment they perverted by two false Glosses: the one, that the forbidding of taking God's Name in vain, prohibited only the swearing by the awful Name of God, but permitted them in lesser matters to swear by his Creatures, as by the Heavens, by the Earth, . , by by Jerusalem, by the Altar, the Temple, their Head, and the like; all which they taught had no Guilt in them, and signify'd nothing: the other was, that the Law against Swearing prohibited only Forswearing or false Swearing, and that too in matters of great moment, but extended not to things of lesser consequence, and so let them loose to all vain and idle Swearing: both which our Saviour condemns, by faying, Swear not at all, ver: 33,34.
The fifth Commandment they evacuated by a Gift call'd Corban, of which they gave a double Interpretation j the one signifying an Oath against relieving of Parents, which they that had taken were (as they taught) excus'd thereby from relieving them j the other was interpreting Corb.-m of a Gift consecrated unto God, signifying, that if they had consecrated their Substance unto God, or to his Temple, they were excus'd from relieving their Parents out of it, being already devoted to God's Service, and so may more profitable to them than otherwise: both these ways they made the Law of God of no effect by their Traditions, Mat. 15.
Next, our Saviour vindicates the sixth Commandment from the wrong Interpretations of. the Scribes and Pharisees, in the following words of this Day's Gospel: Te have heard (siith he) that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kitt, and whosoever lhatt kill, shall be• in danger of the Judgment. Where by them of old time we are to understand Moses and the Prophets, as we read, Exod. 20. & jDtut; 5. where this Precept against killing is extant. This the Scribes and Pharisees restrain'd only to actual Murder, or shedding .of Blood; and so Maiming, Wounding, and other Acts of Violence that came short of Murder, with all the Occasions leading thereunto, went free: and the Danger of the Judgment, or Punishments annex'd to it, they taught were incur'd by none, but such as actually took away the Life of another, and imbru'd his Hands in his Blood.
But I fay unto you (faith Christ) that whosoever is angry with his Brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the Judgment: and whosoever shall fay unto his Brother, Racha, Jhall be in danger of the Council \ but whosoever pall fay, Thou Fool, /hall be in danger of HeJl-fife. Where he enlarges the Sense of this Law, and she,ws it to extend to all rain Anger, Hatred, and reproachful Speeches, which lead to Murder, and often occasion Slaughter and Bloodshed.
Now here we may observe the three disferent Degrees of the Sins leading to Murder, together with the three disferent Degrees of the Punishments aflign'd to them. The three Degrees of the Sins, or Occasions of Murder, are causeless Anger, opprobrious Words, by calling Men Racha, and Thou Fool. The three Degrees of the Punishments aflign'd to them, are the Danger of the Judgment* the Danger of the Connelly and the Danger of Hell-fire. Al l which will require a little Explication.
(i.) As for causeless Anger, that is, when Men are mov'd to Pafllon for no cause at all, or on a very flight occasion, which is as good as none ', this often happens to fiery and halty Spirits, which are inflam'd for Trifles, and break out into Rage upon little or no Provocation. A sudden Disgust, a jealous Surmise, a hasty Word shall make some Persons fly out into an absurd, violent, and unaccountable Passion, and catch fire at such small sparks, as are better quench'd than kindled ^ that is, at such light matters, as a wife Man would rather pass by than resent.
Again, Anger is causeless, when tho there may be some cause, yet the Paflion runs higher than the Cause can warrant; when it grows immoderate, and transports beyond the Bounds of Reason and Religion. Certainly all Angel tfiat exceeds the Merits of the Cause, is so far to be justly reckon'd causeless; in which case, as the Passion offers some violence to Nature, so does it often occasion some external Violence and Mischief, as may be seen in the Converfation of furious Persons.
Once more, Anger is causeless, when it lasts longer than the cause continues, when it refuses to be appeas'd or reconcile, and retainsTeoret Grudges and Animosities-, which frequently turns to Hatred, Malice, and Desires of Revenge. For which reason the Wise-man tells us, that Anger resteth in the Bosom of Fools, where it is apt to boil np.and break out in malicious and murderous Designs: and therefore the Apostle wills us not to fin in our Anger, by keeping it too long, nor to suffer the Sun to go Jown upon our Wrath; for that is to give place to the Devil, who is ever ready to carry such passionateMen into all manner of mischief: for this reason it is, that our Saviour here condemns all causeless Anger, an Occasion of Killing tnd Murder.
Now the Punishment here aflign'd to it, is to be in da-nrT of the Judgment: / fay unto you-, he that is angry with