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in the habit of attending at those places constantly, and of speaking to the people, Luke iv. 15-22; Acts xiii. 14, 15.
The synagogues were built in imitation of thé temple, with a centre building, supported by pillars, and a court surrounding it. See note Matt. xxi. 12. In the centre building, or chapel, was a place prepared for the reading of the law, or a prophet." The law was kept in a chest, or ark, near to the pulpit. The uppermost seats, Matt. xxiii. 6, were those nearest to the pulpit. The people sat round, facing the pulpit. When the law was read, the officiating person rose; when it was expounded, he was seated, Matt. v. 1; xiii. l. The gospel of the kingdom.' The good news respecting the kingdom which he was about to set up; or the good news respecting the coming of the Messiah, and the nature of his kingdom. ' All manner of sickness, All kinds of sickness.
24 And his fame went throughout all Syria : and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy: and he healed them.
24. Syria was the general name for the country lying between the Euphrates on the east, the Mediterranean on the west, mount Taurus on the north, and Arabia on the south. Those possessed with devils. Persons under the influence of evil spirits, who had complete possession of the faculties; and produced many symptoms of disease not unlike melancholy, and madness, and epilepsy. Christ and the apostles spoke to them, and of them, as such; they addressed them, and managed them precisely as if they were so possessed, leaving their hearers to infer beyond a doubt that such was their real opinion. They spake, conversed, asked questions, gave answers, and expressed their knowledge of Christ, and their fear of him, Matt. viii. 28. Luke viii. 27. They are represented as going out of the persons possessed, and entering the bodies of others, Matt. viii. 32. Jesus threatened them, commanded them to be silent, to depart, and not to return, Mark i. 25; v. 8; ix. 25. This could not be said of diseases. Nor is there any absurdity in the opinion that those persons were really under the influence of devils. It is no more absurd to suppose that an angel, or many angels, should have fallen and become wicked, than that so many men should. . It afforded an opportunity for Christ to show his power over the enemies of himself and of man, and thus to evince himself qualified to meet every enemy of the race, and triumphantly to redeem his people. He came to destroy the power of Satan, Acts xxvi. 18. Rom. xvi. 20. . Those that were lunatic. This name is given to the disease from the Latin name of the moon. (Luna.) li has the same origin in Greek. It was given, because it was formerly imagined that
it was affected by the increase or decrease of the moon. It is mentioned only in this place, and in Matt. xvii. 15. It was probably the falling sickness, or the epilepsy, the same as the disease mentioned Mark ix. 18–20. Luke ix. 39, 40. • And those that had the palsy. Several infirmities were included under this general name of palsy, in the New Testament. 1. The apoplexy, or paralytic shock, affecting the whole body. 2. The hemiplegy, affecting only one side of the body; the most frequent form of the disease. 3. The paraplegy, affecting all the system below the neck. 4. The catalepsy. This is caused by a contraction of the muscles in the whole or a part of the body, and is very dangerous. The effects are very violent and fatal. For instance, is, when a person is struck, he happens to have his hand extended, he is unable to draw it back; if not extended, he is unable to stretch it out. It appears diminished in size, and dried up in appearance. Hence it was called the withered hand, Matt. xii. 10—13. 5. The cramp. This, in eastern countries, is a fearful malady, and by no means unfrequent. It originates from chills in the night. The limbs, when seized with it, remain unmovable, and the person afflicted with it resembles one undergoing a torture. This was probably, the disease of the servant of the centurion, Matt. viii. 6. Luke vii. 2. Death follow's from this disease in a few days. And he healed them. This was done evidently by a miraculous power. A miracle is an effect produced by Divine power above, or opposed to, what are regular effects of the laws of nature. It is not a violation of the laws of nature, but is a suspension of their usual operation, for some important purpose. For instance, the regular effect of death is that The body returns to corruption. This effect is produced by the appointed laws of nature; or, in other words, God usually produces this effect. When he suspends that regular effect, and gives life to a dead body for some important purpose, it is a miracle. Such an effect is clearly the result of Divine power. No other being but God can do it. When, therefore, Christ and the apostles exerted this power, it was clear evidence that God approved of their doctrines; that he had commissioned them; and that they were authorized to declare his will. He would not give this atiestation to a false doctrine. Most or all of these diseases were incurable. When Christ cured them by a word, it was the clearest of all proofs that he was sent from heaven. This is one of the strong arguments for christianity.
25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan.
25. Decapolis was the name of a region of country in the bounds of the half tribe of Manasseh, on the east of Jordan, It was so called because it included ten cities, the meaning of the word Decapolis in Greek.
CHAPTER V. 1 AND seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him.
1. “Seeing the multitudes.'. The great numbers that came to attend on his ministry. It is commonly called the sermon on the mount. It is not improbable that it was repeated, in substance, on different occasions, and to different people. See note, Luke vi. 17–20. Went up into a mountain. It was more convenient to address the multitude from an eminence, than on the same level with them. And when he was set.' This was the common mode of teaching among the Jews. • His disciples came.' The word disciples means learners, those who are taught. Here it is put for those who attended on the ministry of Jesus, and does not imply that they were all christians. See John vi. 66.
2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
3. ^ Blessed are the poor in spirit.' The word ' blessed' means happy. Poor in spirit.' To be poor in spirit, is to have a humble opinion of ourselves; to be sensible that we are sinners, and have no righteousness of our own; to be willing to be saved only by the rich grace and mercy of God; to be willing to be where God places us, to bear what he lays on us, to go where he bids us, and to die when he commands; to be willing to be in his hands, and to feel that we deserve no favour from him. It is opposed to pride, and vanity, and ambition. Such are happy : 1. Because there is more real enjoyment in thinking of ourselves as we are, than in being filled with pride, and vanity, and vexation. 2. Because such Jesus chooses to bless, and on them he confers his favours here. 3. Because theirs will be the kingdom of heaven hereafter.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
4. Blessed are they that mourn. Those who mourn over sin are blessed. The gospel only can give true comfort to those in affliction, Isa. Ixi. 1-3. Other sources of consolation may blunt the sensibilities of the mind; may produce a sullen and reluctant submission to what we cannot help; but they do not point to the true source of comfort. In the God of mercy only; in the
Saviour; in the peace that flows from the hope of a better world; there, and there only is comfort, 2 Cor. iii. 17, 18; v.1. Those who mourn thus shall be comforied. So those who grieve over sin ; who sorrow that they have committed it, and that they have offended God, shall find comfort in the gospel. Through the merciful Saviour those sins may be forgiven; and in him the weary and heavy-laden soul shall find peace, Matt. xi. 28—30); and the presence of the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, shall sustain us here, John xiv. 26, 27, and all 'tea s shall be wiped away in heaven, Rev. xxi. 4.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
5. “The meek.' Meekness is the patient reception of injuries with a belief that God will vindicate us. “Vengeance is his; he will repay,' Rom. xii. 19. It little becomes us to take his place, and to do what he has a right to do, and what he has promised to do. Meekness produces peace. He that is constantly ruffled, that suffers every little insult or injury to throw him off his guard, and raise a storm of passion within, is at the mercy of every mortal that chooses to disturb him. He is like the troubled sea that cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. "They shall inherit the earth. This might have been translated the Jand.' The Jews were in the constant habit of using the Old Testament, where this promise perpetually occurs, and ihey used it to denote any great blessing, perhaps as the sum of all blessings, Psa. xxxvii. 22. Isa. Ix. 21. Our Saviour used it in this sense. They also considered the land of Canaan as a type of heaven, and of the blessings under the Messiah. To inherit the land became, therefore, an expression denoting those blessings. When our Saviour promises it here, he means that the meek shall be received into his kingdom, and partake of its blessings here, and of the glories of the heavenly Canaan hereafter. The value of meekness, even in regard to worldly property and success in life, is often exhibited in ihe scriptures, Prov. xxii. 24, 25; xv. l; xxv. 8, 15. It is also seen in common life that a meek, patient, mild man is the most happy. An impatient and quarrelsome man raises up enemies; olten loses property in lawsuits; spends his time in disputes, rather than in sober, honest industry; and is harassed, vexed, and unsuccessful in all that he does. See I Tim. iv. 8; vi. 3-6.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
6. Hunger and thirst, here, are expressire of strong desire. No wants are so keen, none so imperiously demand supply, as these. They occur daily; and when long continued, nothing is more distressing. An ardent desire for any thing is ofter represented in the scriptures by hunger and thirst, Psa. xlii. 1, 2; Ixiii. 1, 2. A desire for the blessings of pardon and peace; a deep sense of sin, and want, and wretchedness, is also represented by thirsting, Isa. lv. 1, 2. So those that, in like manner, are perishing for want of righteousness, that feel that they are lost sinners, and strongly desire to be holy, shall be filled. Never was there a desire to be holy, which God was not willing to gratity. See Isa. lv. 1. John iv. 14; vi. 35; vii. 37, 38. Psa. xvii. 15.
7 Blessed are the merciful : for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the merciful.' That is, those who are so affected by the sufferings of others, as to be disposed to alleviate them. This is given as an evidence of piety, and it is said that they who show mercy to others, shall obtain it. The same sentiment is found in Matt. x. 42. See also Matt. xxv. 34-40. It should be done to glorify God; that is, in obedience to his commandments, with a desire that he should be honoured; and feeling that we are benefiting one of his creatures. Then he will regard it as done to him, and will reward us, Ps. xviii, 25, 26.
We cannot imitate God more than in showing mercy. He proclaimed himself gracious and long-suffering, Exod. xxxiv. 6. To us, guilty sinners, exposed to eternal woe, he has shown his mercy by giving his Son to die for us; by expressing his willingness to pardon and save us; and by sending his Spirit to renew and sanctify the heart. Each day of our life, each hour, and each moment, we partake of his undeserved mercy. All the blessings we enjoy are proofs of his mercy. If we, also, show mercy to the poor, the wretched, the guilty, it shows that we are like God. We have his spirit, and shall not lose our reward. And we have abundant opportunity to do it. Our world is full of guilt, and of woes, which we may help to relieve; and every day of our lives we have opportunity, by helping the poor and wretched, and by forgiving those who injure us, to show that we are like God. See note on chap. vi. 14, 15.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Those whose minds and principles are pure.
Who seek not only to have the external actions correct, but who desire to be holy in heart, and who are so. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart. They shall see God. This is spoken of as a peculiar favour. So also in Rev. xxii. 4. To see the face of one, or to be in his presence, were, among the Jews, terms expressive of great favour, Prov. xxii. 29. 2 Kings xxv. 19. So here, to see God, means to be his friends and favourites, and to dwell with him in his kingdom.