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1. From the occasion of this part of his discourse,-the abuse he was here reproving,—which was false swearing, and common swearing; the swearing before a magistrate being quite out of the question.—2. From the very words wherein he forms the general conclusion: “Let your communication," or discourse, “ be yea, yea; nay, nay.”—3. From his own cxample ; for he answered himself upon oath, when required by a magistrate. When the high priest said unto him, “ I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us, whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God;". Jesus immediately answered in the affirmative, “ Thou hast said;" (i. e. the truth;)“ nevertheless,” (or rather, moreover,).“I say unto you, hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven,” Matt. xxvi, 63, 64.-4. From the example of God, even the Father, who," willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath,” Heb. vi, 17.-5. From the example of St. Paul, who we think had the Spirit of God, and well understood the mind of his Master. “God is my witness,” saith he, to the Romans," that without ceasing, I make mention of you always in my prayers,” Rom. i, 9 : to the Corinthians, “ I call God to record upon my soul, that to spare you, I came not as yet unto Corinth," 2 Cor. i, 23 : and to the Philippians, “God is my record, how greatly I long after you, in the bowels of Jesus Christ,” Phil. i, 8. Hence it undeniably appears, that if the apostle knew the meaning of his Lord's words, they do not forbid swearing on weighty occasions, even to one another: how much less before a magistrate !--And, lastly, from that assertion of the great apostle, concerning solemn swearing in general: (which it is impossible he could have mentioned without any touch of blame, if his Lord had totally forbidden it:) “ Men verily swear by the greater : [by one greater than themselves :s and an oath for confirmation is to them the end of all strife,” Heb. vi, 16.
11. But the great lesson which our blessed Lord inculcates here, and which he illustrates by this example, is, that God is in all things, and that we are to see the Creator in the glass of every creature; that we should use and look upon nothing as separate from God, which 'ndeed is a kind of practical atheism; but with a true magnificence of thought, survey heaven and earth, and all that is therein, as contained by God in the hollow of his hand, who by his intimate presence holds them all in being, who pervades and actuates the whole created frame, and is, in a true sense, the soul of the universe.
II. 1. Thus far our Lord has been more directly employed in teaching the religion of the heart. He has shown what Christians are to be.
proceeds to show, what they are to do also ;-how inward holiness is to exert itself in our outward conversation. Blessed,” saith he,
are the peace makers : for they shall be called the children of God." 2. The peace
makers:" the word in the original is os Eignuoto101. It is well known that signun, in the sacred writings, implies all manner of good; every blessing that relates either to the soul or the body, to time or eternity. Accordingly when St. Paul, in the titles of his epistles, wishes grace and peace to the Romans or the Corinthians, it is as if he had said, “ As a fruit of the free, undeserved love and favour of God, unay you enjoy all blessings, spiritual and temporal; all the good things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
3. Hence we may easily learn, in how wide a sense the term peace makers is to be understood. In its literal meaning it implies, those lovers of God and man, who utterly detest and abhor all strife and debate, all variance and contention, and accordingly labour with all their might, either to prevent this fire of hell from being kindled, or, when it is kindled, from breaking out, or, when it is broke out, from spreading any farther. They endeavour to calm the stormy spirits of men, to quiet their turbulent passions, to soften the minds of contending perties, and, if possible, reconcile them to each other. They use all innocent arts, and employ all their strength, all the talents which God has given them, as well to preserve peace where it is, as to restore it where it is not. It the joy of their heart to promote, to confirm, to increase, mutual good will among men, but more especially among the children of God, however distinguished by things of smaller importance; that as they have all “one Lord, one faith,' as they are all “called in one hope of their calling," so they may all“ walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called ; with all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in-love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4. But, in the full extent of the word, a peace maker is one that, as he hath opportunity,“ doeth good unto all men;" one that, being filled with the love of God and of all mankind, cannot confine the expressions of it to his own family, or friends, or acquaintance, or party, or to those of his own opinions,-no, nor those who are partakers of like precious
but steps over all these narrow bounds, that he may do good to every man, that he may, some way or other, manifest his love to neighbours and strangers, friends and enemies. He doeth good to them all, as he hath opportunity, that is, on every possible occasion ; “redeeming the time,” in order thereto; buying up every opportunity, improving every hour, losing no moment wherein he may profit another. He does good, not of one particular kind, but good in general, in every possible way; employing herein all his talents of every kind, all his powers and faculties of body and soul, all his fortune, his interest, his reputation; desiring only, that when his Lord cometh, he may say, “Well done, good and faithful servant !"
5. He doeth good, to the uttermost of his power, even to the bodies of all men.
He rejoices to “deal his bread to the hungry,” and to cover the naked with a garment.” Is any a stranger ? He takes him in, and relieves him according to his necessities. Are any sick or in prison ? He visits them, and administers such help as they stand most in need of. And all this he does, not as unto man; but remembering him that hath said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
6. How much more does he rejoice, if he can do any good to the soul of any man! This power indeed belongeth unto God. It is he only that changes the heart, without which every other change is lighter than vanity. Nevertheless, it pleases him who worketh all in all, to help man chiefly by man; to convey his own power, and blessing, and love, through one man to another. Therefore, although it be certain that “the help which is done upon earth, God doeth it himself ;" yet has no man need, on this account, to stand idle in his vineyard. The peace maker cannot : he is ever labouring therein, and, as an
instrument in God's hand, preparing the ground for his Master's use, or sowing the seed of the kingdom, or watering what is already sown, if haply God may give the increase. According to the measure of grace which he has received, he uses all diligence, either to reprove
the gross sinner, to reclaim those who run on headlong in the broad way
of destruction; or “to give light to them that sit in darkness," and are ready to “perish for lack of knowledge;" or to “ support the weak, to lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees;" or to bring back and heal that which was lame and turned out of the way. Not is he less zealous to confirm those who are already striving to enter in at the strait gate; to strengthen those that stand, that they may with patience the race which is set before them;" to build up in their most holy faith those that know in whom they have believed; to exhort them to stir up the gift of God which is in them, that, daily growing in grace, an entrance may be ministered unto them abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
7. “Blessed” are they who are thus continually employed in the work of faith and the labour of love; “for they shall be called,” that is, shall be, (a common Hebraism,) " the children of God.” God shali continue unto them the spirit of adoption, yea, shall pour it more abundantly into their hearts. He shall bless them with all the blessings of his children. He shall acknowledge them as sons before angels and men ; and, if sons, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.”
III. 1. One would imagine such a person as has been above described, so full of genuine humility, so unaffectedly serious, so mild and gentle, 60 free from all selfish design, so devoted to God, and such an active lover of men, should be the darling of ma nd. But our Lord was better acquainted with human nature in its present state. He therefore closes the character of this man of God, with showing him the treatment he is to expect in the world. “Blessed,” saith he, are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
2. In order to understand this throughly, let us first inquire, Who are they that are persecuted ? And this we may easily learn from St. Paul : “ As of old, he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now,” Gal. iv, 29.
Yea,” saith the apostle," and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution,” 2 Tim. iii, 12. The same we are taught by St. John “ Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren," 1 John iii, 13, 14. As if he had said, the brethren, the Christians cannot be loved, but by them who have passed from death unto life. And most expressly, by our Lord : " If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you," John xv, 18, &c.
By all these scriptures it inanifestly appears who they are that are persecuted : namely, the righteous: he “ that is born of the Spirit;" “ all that will live godly in Christ Jesus ;" they that are "passed from
death unto life;" those who are “not of the world;" all those who are meek and lowly in heart, that mourn for God, that hunger after his likeness; all that love God and their neighbour, and therefore as they have opportunity do good unto all men.
3. If it be, secondly, inquired, Why they are persecuted? The answer is equally plain and obvious. It is for righteousness' sake :" because they are righteous: because they are born after the Spirit: because they “ will live godly in Christ Jesus :" because they are not of the world.” Whatever may be pretended, this is the real cause : be their infirmities more or less, still, if it were not for this, they would be borne with, and the world would love its own. They are persecuted, because they are poor in spirit; that is, say the world, "Poor spirited, mean, dastardly souls, good for nothing, not fit to live in the world :”—because they mourn ; "They are such dull, heavy, lumpish creatures, enough to sink any one's spirits that sees them! They are mere death heads; they kill innocent mirth, and spoil company wherever they come:" because they are meek; “Tame, passive fools, just fit to be trampled upon :"-because they hunger and thirst after righteousness; "a parcel of hot brained enthusiasts, gaping after they know not what, not content with rational religion, but running mad after raptures and inward feelings :"-because they are merciful, lovers of all, lovers of the evil and unthankful; “Encouraging all manner of wickedness; nay, tempting people to do mischief by impunity: and men who, it is to be feared, have their own religion still to seek : very loose in their principles :". because they are pure in heart; "Uncharitable creatures, that damn all the world, but those that are of their own sort! Blasphemous wretches, that pretend to make God a liar, to live without sin!"-Above all, because they are peace makers; because they take all opportunities of doing good to all men: this is the grand reason why they have been persecuted in all ages, and will be till the restitution of all things: “If they would but keep their religion to themselves it would be tolerable. But it is this spreading their errors, this infecting so many others, which is not to be endured. They do so much mischief in the world, that they ought to be tolerated no longer. It is true, the men do some things well enough; they relieve some of the poor. But this, too, is only done to gain the more to their party; and so, in effect, to do the more mischief !” Thus the men of the world sincerely think and speak. And the more the kingdom of God prevails, the more the peace makers are enabled to propagate lowliness, meekness, and all other divine tempers, the more mischief is done, in their account: consequently, the more are they enraged against the authors of this, and the more vehemently will they persecute them.
4. Let us, thirdly, inquire, Who are they that persecute them ? St. Paul answers, " He that is born after the filesh :" every one who is not “ born of the Spirit,” or at least desirous so to be; all that do not at least labour to " live godly in Christ Jesus ;" all that are not “passed from death unto life," and, consequently, cannot“ love the brethren;" “the world,” that is, according to our Saviour's account, "they who know not him that sent me;" they who know not God, even the loving, pardoning God, by the teaching of his own Spirit.
The reason is plain : the spirit which is in the world is directly opposite to the Spirit which is of God. It must therefore needs be, that
those who are of the world, will be opposite to those who are of God. There is the utmost contrariety between them, in all their opinions, their desires, designs, and tempers. And hitherto the leopard and the kid cannot lie down in peace together. The proud, because he is proud, cannot but persecute the lowly; the light and airy, those that mourn: and so in every other kind; the unlikeness of disposition (were there no other) being a perpetual ground of enmity. Therefore, were it only on this account, all the servants of the devil will persecute the children of God.
5. Should it be inquired, fourthly, How they will persecute them? It may be answered in general, Just in that manner and measure which the wise Disposer of all sees will be most for his glory; will tend most to his children's growth in grace, and the enlargement of his own kingdom. There is no one branch of God's government of the world which is more to be admired than this. His ear is never heavy to the threatenings of the persecutor, or the cry of the persecuted. His eye is ever open, and his hand stretched out to direct every the minutest circumstance. When the storm shall begin, how high it shall rise, which
way it shall point its course, when and how it shall end, are all determined by his unerring wisdom. The ungodly are only a sword of his; an instrument which he uses as it pleaseth him, and which itself, when the gracious ends of his providence are answered, is cast into the fire.
At some rare times, as when Christianity was planted first, and while it was taking root in the earth ; as also when the pure doctrine of Christ began to be planted again in our nation; God permitted the storm to rise high, and his children were called to resist unto blood. There was a peculiar reason why he suffered this with regard to the apostles, that their evidence might be the more unexceptionable. But from the annals of the church we learn another, and a far different reason, why he suffered the heavy persecutions which arose in the second and third centuries; namely, because the mystery of iniquity did so strongly work; because of the monstrous corruptions which even then reigned in the church: these God chastised, and at the same time strove to heal, by those severe but nécessary visitations.
Perhaps the same observation may be made, with regard to the grand persecution in our own land. God had dealt very graciously with our nation : he had poured out various blessings upon us : he had given us peace 'abroad and at home; and a king, wise and good beyond his years; and, above all, he had caused the pure light of his gospel to arise and shine among us. But what return did he find ? “He looked for righteousness, but behold a cry!”—a cry of oppression and wrong, of ambition and injustice, of malice, and fraud, and covetousness. Yea, the cry of those who even then expired in the flames, entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. It was then God arose to maintain his own cause, against those that held the truth in unrighteousness. Then he sold them into the hands of their persecutors, by a judgment mixed with mercy; an-affliction to punish, and yet a medicine to heal, the grievous backslidings of his people.
6. But it is seldom that God suffers the storm to rise so high as torture, or death, or bonds, or imprisonment. Whereas his children are frequently called to endure the lighter kinds of persecution; they