Imágenes de página
[ocr errors]

best know the time, gives not the account of his own being call d 'till a considerable time after this sermon was deliver'd.

2. That the necessary and particular instructions which concern'd the Apostles as fuch, viz. as preachers and publishers of this doctrine *, are deliverd in another place. So that what was utter'd in this discourse upon the mountain, concern’d the twelve (those of them who were present) rather as Disciples than Apostles.

3. The matter or argument of it, as a collection or body of certain precepts for the ordering of a religious life, can with no manner of reafou be apply'd peculiarly to his Apostles, but must be of equal concern to all his followers, to the whole Christian Church. And,

4. At the close of this sermon it is expresly said, the people, oi "Oxdol, the multitudes were astonish'd at his doctrine. So that the number must be greater than those twelve. The only observation I shall draw from this enquiry, and the conclusion form’d upon it, is, that the following precepts belong nog to the Apostles and their succesors, the Bishops and Clergy of the Church, in a particular and distinguishing manner, but in general to the whole body of Christians; to all who were, or are, or ever thall be admitted into Christ's Religion, and expect lalvation by him. I proceed now,

III. To consider the sermon it self, with regard to two general observations which ought to bę made upon it.

The first is, that Christ was herein the author of a new law. He improv'd the moral law, delịver'd by God and Mofès to the Jews, to a much greater height and severity of duty than it was

[blocks in formation]

thought to extend to, or really did extend, before, I do not say he absolutely laid a new foundation ; for that he admitted those ancient elements and principles of morality, is plain, by his insisting in this discourse (either directly, or by oblique reference) upon the several articles of it, as laid down in the old Jewish law. But the additions he made, and his improvements of them, are such as the Jews had never learn'd, their doctors never taught before, For this reason our Saviour tells his followers, * that except their righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, they should in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Their Scribes were the publick expounders of the law; the Pharisees, not only the feverest feet among them in their pretences to piety and purity of manners, and the most rigid observers of the law, but doctors also who undertook to instruct others in it, and were always forward speakers upon that occasion; and yet the highest and the stričteft sense they either practis’d, or understood, or taught it in, fell very short of the measures of improvement which Christ by divine authority refind and rais'd it to. Accordingly, in the 17th verse of this fifth chapter of St. Matthew, he says of himself, Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil: viz. to perfeet and compleat it.

For by law there we are not to understand the ceremonial, (for that he came indeed to put an end to, so soon as he should have first fulfill'd it, by the great expiatory sacrifice of himself, which was the substance mystically pointed at in all those legal services :) but the moral law, which he fulfill'd, by filling up those lines and measures of perfection which were not (or at least were undiscover'd) in the foriner literal obligation. 'Tis true, this has enlarg’d our duty in many particulars, more than nature or than Moses told us of; but that's the excellence of the Christian Religion. And 'tis highly reasonable that we should be call’d up by it to an higher pitch of virtue, and a train of duties greater than before, because the rewards propos'd, the promises of life and falvation made to the observers of it (which were but imperfectly and obscurely hinted to the Jews, and scarcely thought of by the Gentiles, except by some few, and that with great uncertainty,) are reveald, by the same Gospel, in the fullest and clearest light. The helps and alistances also to perform what is requir’d of us, are proportionably greater than were given before, and therefore the Gospel is calļd * the administration of the spirit; the grace and influence of the holy Spirit of God being more abundantly pour'd out upon the Disciples of Chrift, than ever they were upon those of Moses. And because such mighty encouragements and assistances are given, it is no wonder that our work and business is encreas'd, and that it exceeds the natural abilities and strength of men. It may

* Matth. v. 20.

It may be objected, perhaps, that Christ has affirm'd of his own institution, + that it is a light and easy burden; and

l that St. John hath taught us, his commandments are not grievous. But it may be answer'd, that as the ceremonial law, to which the Jews were subject, was apparently troublesome and uneasy, a yoke which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear; it was very proper to recommend the Christian Law to them under the contrary character of eafiness, which certainly belongs to it in comparison with the other, because he erected this new superstructure upon old foundations, bcating out only such propositions as were before indeed

2 Cor. ii. 8.

| Matth. xi. 30.

fr John v. 3. .

[ocr errors]

in the mass and substance; or at least making up for what he added by the more powerful effusions of his grace and spirit to assist us.

If it be objected, that Christianity, as to the practical or moral part of it, is therefore no new institution, because, as we observ'd just now, it is very much built upon the old foundation of Moses and the Prophets, and there wanted not many excellent persons in the ancient Jewish Church, who in the light of that dispensation only could see beyond the letter of their law, and shew'd by their practice they understood it in a severer sense; it is not hard to reply, : That this may be resolv'd into particular revclations and aslistances from God, to draw those nearer to himself whom he found dispos’d to come: And - these illuminations were not unfrequent amongst the zealots and prophets, who were oftentimes acted by the Spirit of God, and exceeded the common measures of fanctity and religion; but the particulars might nevertheless not be then enjoin'd so positively, as in this discourse of our Saviour's; for surely had they been design'd a part of the Jewish law, as well as of the Christian, they would have been more clearly and punctually inserted in the body of the precepts, by which that Church was to be govern'd. These eminent examples therefore are instances out of the common road, and influenc'd by a special illumination; tho? living under the law they were inspir’d with an higher principle, enjoy'd'a foretaste of the spiritual beauties of the Gospel, going beyond the bounds of common practice and obligation, aim'd at a more perfect picty and virtue than what the religion of their country taught them, and were a law to themselves where the Mofaical law was carnal and imperfect. So that my observation is still conclusive, that the doctrine of Christ was a new inftitution. And the uses we are to make of this are two,



1. That we should pay a suitable reverence to it. * If he that despised Moses law died without mercy, of how much forer punishment suppose ye fall be be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

2. That we should suit our lives and conversations to it. Is the Christian law and improvement beyond all former systems of morality, a new injunction from above, with a much larger compass of precepts, and much greater certainty of rewards ? and shall we Christians content our selves with the ceremonial holiness and imperfect morals of a few, or the obscure awkard virtues of an Heathen? Our conversations surely ought to be improv’d, in proportion to the doctrine we profess. Our rightcousness ought to exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees; to be more sincere, and inward, and universal, as the law we are under is more refined, and spiritual, and extensive. But I proceed to the second general observation upon this sermon in the mount; and that is,

That it seems to be a different sermon from that recorded by St. Luke in the sixth chapter of his Gospel. Some interpreters, it's true, are of another opinion, and take them both to be the same, because there are many particulars of both in the same words and order ; both directed to his Disciples, and not to the promiscuous multitude ; and it might be thought strange that St. Luke, who was a studious collector of all the remarkable passages in our Saviour's life and preaching, should omit an instance so material as this discourse upon the mountain. But this last is no argument, because it's certain he has omitted a great and noble variety of discourses, and of very great importance, recorded

Heb. X. 28, 29.


« AnteriorContinuar »