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9 Blessed are the peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of God.
The peace-makers are those who zealously strive to prevent contention, and strife, and war. Who use their influence to reconcile opposing parties, and to prevent lawsuits, and hostilities, in families and neighbourhoods. Every man may do something of this kind; and no man is more like God than he who does it. And it should be taken in hand in the beginning. The beginning of strife,' says Solomon, is like the letting out of water.' An ounce of prevention,' says the English proverb,' is worth a pound of cure.' 'Children of God.' Those who resemble God, or who manifest a spirit like his. He is the Author of peace, Cor. xiv. 33; and all those who endeavour to promote peace are like him, and are worthy to be called his children.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
6 Persecuted.' To persecute means to vex, afflict, or oppress on account of religion. They persecute others who injure their names, reputation, property, or endanger or take their life, on account of their religious opinions. For righteousness' sake.' Because they are righteous. We are not to seek persecution. We are not to provoke it by violating the laws of civil society, or by modes of speech unnecessarily offensive to others. But if, in the honest effort to be christians, and to live the life of christians, others persecute and revile us, we are to consider this as a blessing, 2 Tim. iii. 12. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' They have evidence that they are christians, and shall be brought to heaven.
11 Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
'Revile you.' Reproach you; call you by evil and contemptuous names; ridicule you because you are christians. Thus they said of Jesus, that he was a Samaritan and had a devil; that he was mad. But, being reviled, he reviled not again, 1 Pet. i. 23; and thus being reviled, we should bless, 1 Cor. iv. 12; and thus, though the contempt of the world is not in itself desirable, yet it is blessed to tread in the footsteps of Jesus, to imitate his example, and even to suffer for his sake, Phil. i. 29. All manner of evil-falsely.' An emphasis should be laid on the word falsely in this passage. It is not blessed to have evil spoken of us if we deserve it; but if we deserve it not, then we should not consider it as a calamity, 1 Pet. iii. 13-18. For my sake.' Because you are attached to me; because you are christians. If, in the faithful endeavour to be christians, we are reviled, as our
Master was, then we are to take it with patience, and to remember that thousands before us have been treated in like manner.When thus reviled, or persecuted, we are to be meek, patient, humble; not angry; not reviling again; but endeavouring to do good to our persecutors and slanderers, 2 Tim. ii. 24, 25. In this way many have been convinced of the power and excellence of that religion which they were persecuting and reviling.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
'Rejoice,' &c. The reward of such suffering is great; hence many of the early christians literally rejoiced, and leaped for joy, at the prospect of death for the sake of Jesus. Nothing but the consciousness of innocence, and the presence of God, could have borne them up in the midst of these trials. 'The prophets,' &c. The holy men who came to predict future events, and who were the religious teachers of the Jews. For an account of their persecutions, see the 11th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
13 Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
'Ye are the salt of the earth.' Salt renders food pleasant and palatable, and preserves from putrefaction. So christians, by their lives and instructions, are to keep the world from entire moral corruption. By bringing down, by their prayers, the blessing of God, they save the world from universal vice and crime.
Salt have lost his savour.' That is, if it have become insipid, tasteless, or have lost its preserving properties. In eastern countries the salt used was impure, mingled with vegetable and earthy substances; so that it might lose the whole of its saltness, and a considerable quantity remain. This was good for nothing except that it was used, as it is said, to place in paths, or walks, as we use gravel.
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
'The light of the world.' The term light is often applied to religious teachers. See Matt. iv. 16. Luke ii. 32. John 1. 4; viii. 12. Isa. xlix. 6. It is pre-eminently applied to Jesus, because he is in the moral world, what the sun is in the natural world. The apostles, and christian ministers, and all christians, are lights of the world, because they, by their instructions and examples, show what God requires, what is the condition of man, what is the way of duty, peace, and happiness-the way that
leads to heaven. A city that is set on a hill,' &c. Many of the cities of Judea were placed on the summits or sides of mountains, and could be seen from afar. Perhaps Jesus pointed to such a city, and told his disciples that they were like it. They were seen from afar. Their actions could not be hid. The eyes of the world were upon them. They must be seen; and as this was the case, they ought to be holy, harmless, and undefiled.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
'Neither do men light a candle,' &c. When men light a candle, they do not conceal the light, but place it where it may be of use. So it is with religion. It is given that we may benefit others. It is not to be concealed, but suffered to show itself, and to shed light on a surrounding wicked world. 'A bushel.' measure, containing about a peck. Here it denotes any thing that might conceal the light.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
'Let your light so shine,' &c. Let your holy life, your pure conversation, and your faithful instruction, be every where seen and known. That they may see your good works." It is not right to do a thing merely to be seen by others, for this is pride and ostentation; but we are to do it, that, being seen, God may be honoured. 'Glorify your Father.' Praise or honour God, be led to worship him. That seeing in your lives the excellence of religion, the power and purity of the gospel, they may be won to be christians also, and give praise and glory to God for his mercy to a lost world.
We learn here, 1. That religion, if it exist, cannot be concealed. 2. That where it is not manifest in the life, it does not exist. 3. That professors of religion, who live like other men, give evidence that they have never been renewed. 4. That to attempt to conceal or hide our christian knowledge or experience is to betray our trust, and injure the cause of piety, and render our lives useless. And, 5. That good actions will be seen, and will lead men to honour God. If we have no other way of doing good, if we are poor and unlearned, and unknown, yet we may do good by our lives. No sincere and humble christian lives in vain.
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
'Think not that I am come,' &c. Our Saviour was just entering on his work. It was important for him to state what he came to do. By his setting up to be a teacher in opposition to the
3cribes and pharisees, some might charge him with an intention of destroying their law, and abolishing the customs of the nation. He therefore told them that he did not come for that end, but really to fulfil' or accomplish what was in the law and the prophets. To destroy. To abrogate; to deny their obligation; to set men free from the obligation to obey them. 'The law. The five books of Moses, called the law. See note on Luke xxiv. 44. The prophets.' The books which the prophets wrote. These two divisions comprehend the Old Testament, and Jesus says that he came not to do away or destroy the authority of the Old Testament. But to fulfil.' To complete the design; to fill up what was predicted, to accomplish what was intended in them. The word 'fulfil,' also means sometimes to teach or inculcate, Col. i. 25. The law of Moses directed many sacrifices and rites which were designed to shadow forth the Messiah, Heb. ix. These were fulfilled when he came and offered himself a sacrifice to God; a sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they. The prophets contained many predictions respecting his coming and death. These were all to be fulfilled and fully accomplished by his miracles, and his sufferings.
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Verily. Truly, certainly. A word of strong affirmation. 'Till heaven and earth pass.' It is the same as saying, every thing else may change, the very earth and heaven may pass away and be destroyed, but the law of God shall not be destroyed till its whole design shall be accomplished. One jot.' The word 'jot' is the name of the Hebrew letter I, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet. 'One tittle.' The Hebrew letters were written with small points or apices, which serve to distinguish one letter from another. To change a small point of one letter might vary the meaning of a word, and destroy the sense. Hence the Jews were exceedingly cautious in writing these letters. The expression, 6 one jot or tittle,' became proverbial, and means that the smallest part of the law shall not be destroyed.
The laws of the Jews are divided into moral, ceremonial, and judicial. The moral laws are such as grow out of the nature of things, which cannot, therefore, be changed, such as the duty of loving God and his creatures. These cannot be abolished, as it can never be made right to hate God, or to hate our fellow-men. Of this kind are the ten commandments; and these our Saviour has neither abolished nor superseded. The ceremonial laws are such as are appointed to certain states of society, or to regulate the religious rites and ceremonies of a people. These can be changed when circumstances are changed, and yet the moral law be untouched. That law, requiring love and obedience to God,
and love to men, could not be changed, and Christ did not attempt it, Matt. xix. 16-19; xxii. 37-39. Rom. xiii. 9. The judicial law regulated the courts of justice of the Jews. When the form of the Jewish polity was changed, this was of course no longer binding. The ceremonial law was fulfilled by the coming of Christ; the shadow was lost in the substance, and ceased to be binding. The moral law was confirmed and unchanged.
19 Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
'Shall break. Shall disobey. These least commandments Christ teaches that in his kingdom those who taught that any laws of God might be violated with impunity, should be called 'least;' while they should be held in high regard who observed all the laws of God without distinction. Shall be called least.' That is, shall be least. See ver. 9. The pharisees divided the law into greater and lesser precepts. They made no small part of it void by their traditions and divisions, Matt. xxiii. 23; xv. 3-9. Jesus says that in his kingdom all this vain division and tradition should cease. Such divisions and distinctions should be a small matter. He that attempted it should be the least of all. Shall be called great.' He who teaches that all the moral law of God is binding, and that all of it should be obeyed, without attempting to describe any part as unimportant, shall be a teacher worthy of his office, shall teach the truth, and shall be called great. We learn hence, that all the commands of God should be preached, in their proper place, by christian ministers; that they who pretend that there are any laws of God so small that they need not obey them, are unworthy of his kingdom; and that true piety has respect to all the commandments of God, and keeps them, Psa. cxix. 6.
20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
'Your righteousness.' Your holiness, your views of the nature of righteousness, and your conduct and lives. Unless you are more holy than they are, you cannot be saved. 'Shall exceed.' Shall excel or abound more. This righteousness was external, and was not real holiness. The righteousness of true christians is seated in the heart, and is therefore genuine. 'The righteousness of the scribes and pharisees.' See note on ch. iii. 7. Their righteousness consisted in outward observances of the