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ON OUR LORD's SERMON ON THE MOUNT.
MATTHEW v. 8-12.
“ Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God. “ Blessed are the peace-makers; for they shall be called
the children of God. “ Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness'
sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “ Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute
you, and shall say all manner of evil against you
falsely for my sake. “ Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward
in heaven : for so persecuted they the Prophets which were before you.”
1. HOW excellent things are spoken of the love of our neighbour! It is “ the fulfilling of the law, the end of the commandment.” Without this, all we have, all we do, all we suffer, is of no value in the sight of God. But it is that love of our neighbour which springs from the love of God: otherwise itself is nothing worth. It behoves us, therefore, to examine well upon what foundation our love of our neighbour stands : whether it is really built upon the love of God: whether we do love him because he first loved us: whether we are pure in heart. For this is the foundation which shall never be moved. 66 Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.”
2. “ The pure in heart” are they, whose hearts God hath “ purified even as he is pure ;". who are purified through faith in the blood of Jesus, from every unholy affection : who being “ cleansed from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfect holiness in the (loying) fear of God.” They are, through the power of his grace, purified from pride, by the deepest poverty of spirit; from anger, from every unkind or turbulent passion, by meekness and gentleness; from every desire but to please and enjoy God, to know and love him more and more, by that hunger and thirst after righteousness, which now engrosses their whole soul; so that now they love the Lord their God, with all their heart, and with all their soul, and mind, and strength.
3. But how little has this purity of heart been regarded, by the false teachers of all ages! They have taught men barely, to abstain from all such outward impurities, as God hath forbidden by name. But they did not strike at the heart; and by not guarding against, they in effect countenanced inward corruptions.
A remarkable instance of this, our Lord has given us, in the following words : “ Ye have heard, that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery,” ver. 27. And in explaining this, those blind leaders of the blind, only insisted on men's abstaining from the outward act. “ But I say unto you, whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart,” ver. 28. For God requireth truth in the inward parts. He searcheth the heart and trieth the reins. And if thou incline unto iniquity with thy heart, the Lord will not hear thee.
4. And God admits no excuse for retaining any thing, which is an occasion of impurity. Therefore “ if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell,” ver. 29. If a person as dear to thee as thy right eye, be an occasion of thy thus offending God, a mean of exciting unholy desires in thy soul; delay not, forcibly separate from them. “ And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee : for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell,” ver. 30. If any who seem as necessary to thee as thy right hand, be an occasion of sin, of impure desire ; even though it were never to go beyond the heart, never to break out in word or action : constrain thyself to an entire and final parting : cut them off at a stroke: give them up to God. Any loss, whether of pleasure, or substance, or friends, is preferable to the loss of thy soul.
Two steps only it may not be improper to take, before such an absolute and final separation. First, Try whether the unclean spirit may not be driven out by fasting and prayer, and by carefully abstaining from every action, and word, and look, which thou hast found to be an occasion of evil. Secondly, If thou art not by this mean delivered, ask counsel of him that watcheth over thy soul, or at least, of some who have experience in the ways of God, touching the time and manner of that separation. But confer not with flesh and blood, lest thou be “ given up to a strong delusion to believe a lie.”
5. Nor may marriage itself, holy and honourable as it is, be used, as a pretence for giving a loose to our desires. Indeed, “ It hath been said, whosoever will put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement.' And then all was well; though he alleged no cause, but that he did not like her; or liked another better. unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication," (that is, adultery; the word Topvela signifying unchastity in general, either in the mar. ried or unmarried state) “causeth her to commit adultery," if she marry again ; and whosoever shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery,” ver. 31, 32.
All polygamy is clearly forbidden in these words, wherein our Lord expressly declares, That for any woman who has a busband alive, to niarry again is adultery. By parity of Reason, it is adultery for any man to marry again, so
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long as he has a wife alive. Yea, although they were die vorced : unless that divorce had been for the cause of adul. tery. In that only case there is no scripture which forbids the innocent person to marry again.
6. Such is the purity of heart which God requires, and works on those who believe on the Son of his Love. And blessed are they who are thus pure in heart, for they shall see God. He will “ manifest himself unto them," not only « as he doth not unto the world," but as he doth not always to his own children. He will bless them with the clearest communications of his Spirit, the most intimate “ fellowship with the Father and with the Son." He will cause his presence to go continually before them, and the light of his countenance to shine upon them. It is the ceaseless prayer of their heart, “ I beseech thee, shew me thy glory :” and they have the petition they ask of him. They now see him by faith, (the veil of flesh being made, as it were, transparent) even in these his lowest works, in all that surrounds them, in all that God has created and made. They see him in the height above, and in the depth beneath ; they see him filling all in all.
The pure in heart see all things full of God. They see him in the firmament of heaven, in the moon, walking in brightness, in the sun, when he rejoices as a giant to run his course. They see him “ making the clouds his chariots, and walking upon the wings of the wind.” They see him “preparing rain for the earth, and blessing the increase of it: giving grass for the cattle, and green herb for the use of man.” They see the Creator of all, wisely governing all, and “ upholding all things by the word of his power. “ O Lord ! our Governor! How excellent is thy name in all the world!"
7. In all his providences relating to themselves, to their souls or bodies, the pure in heart do more particularly see God. They see his hand ever over them for good ; giving them all things in weight and measure, numbering the hairs of their head, making a hedge round about them, and all that they have, and disposing all the circumstances
of their life, according to the depth of his wisdom and mercy.
8. But in a more especial manner they see God in bis ordinances. Whether they appear in the great congregation, to “ pay him the honour due unto his name, and worship him in the beauty of holiness ;” or “enter into their closets” and there pour out their souls before their ~ Father which is in secret :” whether they search the Oracles of God, or hear the Ambassadors of Christ proclaiming glad tidings of salvation; or by eating of that bread, and drinking of that cup, “shew forth his death till he come” in the clouds of heaven : in all these his appointed ways, they find such a near approach as cannot be expressed. They see him, as it were, face to face, and “ talk with him, as a man talketh with his friend ;” a fit preparation for those mansions above, wherein they shall see him as he is.
9. But how far were they from seeing God, who having heard, " that it had been said by them of old time, (ver. 33,) Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but sbalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths :" interpreted it thus, Thou shalt not for. swear thyself, when thou swearest by the Lord Jehovah. Thou “ shalt perform unto the Lord [these] thine oaths." But as to other oaths, he regardeth them not.
So the Pharisees taught. They not only allowed all manner of swearing in common conversation : but accounted even forswearing a little thing, so they had not sworn by the peculiar name of God.
But our Lord here absolutely forbids all common swearing, as well as all false swearing : and shews the heinousness of both, by the same awful consideration, That every creature is God's, and he is every where present, in all, and
" I say unto you, Swear not at all : neither by heaven, for it is God's throne,” ver. 34. And therefore this is the same as to swear by him, who sitteth upon the circle of the heavens : “ Nor by the earth : for it is his footstool ;" ver. 35: and he is as intimately present in earth as heaven: