Gospel Words: the Sermon on the Mount as a Whole

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As the different parts of our Lord's wondrous instructions have been before us from time to time, though not in the orderly form, it seems not without interest to survey it comprehensively. Also it is well to take note of the striking difference between the task assigned to the First Gospel as compared with the Third. In the latter we have various portions dealing with the persons or things to which the instruction applies; whereas the former presents all in an unbroken fullness. Hence if we had not Luke's Gospel, we should not have known the interruptions, which in fact did occur, on the occasions for drawing out the teaching applicable.
It is known that many excellent persons have tried to make out, for the clearing up of what enemies treat as discrepancies, that our Lord repeated the same or very similar instruction under different circumstances. Assuredly on the one hand no one would affirm that the same truth may not have been often reiterated in the course of His service here below. But on the other there is no proper ground for doubting that the Spirit of God has in a remarkable and deeply interesting way presented the same teaching in a differing connection and with distinguishable shades, according to the divine design of the books which incorporate it. Thus there is no need to conceive a new rehearsal, in order to reconcile (as it is called) the writings, or to vindicate the credit of the writers. It is on the contrary the wisdom of God in which the Holy Spirit acted when He thus directed the so called Evangelists. For we must not assume that Matthew and Luke entered fully into His reasons for so inspiring them. What is certain is that they were so led of Him as to give us the truth of God, the more perfectly to fulfill His purpose in each.
Take, as the first instance in fact, the account of Luke 6:12-4912And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. 13And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; 14Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, 15Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon called Zelotes, 16And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor. 17And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; 18And they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed. 19And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all. 20And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. 21Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. 22Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. 23Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets. 24But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. 25Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. 26Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. 27But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, 28Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. 29And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. 30Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. 31And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. 32For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 33And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. 34And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. 36Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. 37Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. 39And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? 40The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. 41And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 42Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye. 43For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 44For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. 45A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. 46And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? 47Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like: 48He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. 49But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great. (Luke 6:12‑49), and compare it with the chapters of Matthew; as also Luke 11:1-131And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. 2And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. 3Give us day by day our daily bread. 4And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. 5And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; 6For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? 7And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. 8I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. 9And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 10For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 11If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? 12Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:1‑13). and 33-36. Quite aware that pious men have argued from "the plain " in Luke 6:1717And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; (Luke 6:17), opposed to the " mountain " in Matt. 5:11And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: (Matthew 5:1), one is constrained from the clear evidence of both to reject such a solution of the difficulty felt as to the identity of the discourse at the same place and time. For Luke's language does not mean " a plain," but rather a level place or plateau on the mountain, up to which the Lord went to pray all night, before calling the chosen twelve, and then coming down with them, so far as to meet a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of the people out of all Judea and Jerusalem. It was clearly the same discourse; but the Spirit acted, not as a mere reporter (which is not the manner of inspiration) but as an infallible editor, as it were, for the distinctive design of each Gospel.
Hence we may observe that Matthew does not relate here the apostolic institution, as Luke does at this time and place, like Mark, who omits the sermon as being occupied with His work rather than His words. Matthew was led to reserve that call as its fitting place to the mission to Israel in his chap. 10. which corresponds with the beginning of Luke's chap. 9. Ignorance or error is out of the question for the Evangelists, but too true of those who carp at what they do not understand. The first striking distinction in the discourse is, that in the briefer sketch Luke was given the address personal, " ye," not the abstract " the " as in Matthew before the final benediction of verse 11; while Matthew was led to reserve his far fuller woes till chapter 23 which was a later time.
The Kingdom has no such place in Luke as in Matthew. It is those that gather to Christ and follow Him truly who are blessed; and thus for man as he is, outside and despising Him. The contrast of what Messiah authoritatively said with what was said to the ancients is peculiar to Matthew. Luke gives fully the great and new morality of loving our enemies, being merciful as our Father also is, not judging or condemning, but remitting according to the divine pattern; as Matthew gives the pointed teaching on practical righteousness in acts and words, prayer and fasting, as directed against hypocrisy; and the prayer for disciples comes in here in his chap. 6:9-13. In Luke it is not only reserved for a moral connection with heeding the word as the appropriate exercise of life according to God, but we learn too that it was the Lord's answer to a disciple's request. To record this in Luke's Gospel was as suitable, as to leave it out in Matthew's who presents the Lord in all meekness but full of authority, without taking notice of any such human circumstances.
But not to see that these ways of the inspiring Spirit are perfect for the adequate revealing of Christ's various grace and glory, and in no less admirable adaptation to man's condition and wants-to conceive that they are blemishes of human infirmity, is indeed to be dim-sighted if not blind. Such are those who, if they do not altogether deny God's word, " Just hint a fault and hesitate dislike; Willing to wound, but yet afraid to strike." But if we are to be kept in these difficult and dangerous times, if we are not to be carried away by superstition or by skepticism, we need uncompromising adherence to scripture and dependence on His guidance who inspired every word from God but through man, and to be now characteristically (I do not say absolutely) able to say, as could not be of old, " we know," as we read in the Epistles of Paul and John particularly, not said of themselves only but of Christians their brethren, who have God's Spirit dwelling in them.
As to the sermon, it is instruction in the righteousness proper to all that enter the Kingdom of the heavens. Those born of the Spirit alone can meet the state of soul blessed in the Lord's eyes. It is not a requirement as on Sinai, but Christ's description of such as suit the Kingdom. Not a word of grace to sinners is uttered. It is not the gospel of God's grace to the lost, but His words for His disciples; and personal obedience is the rock at its close. To misrepresent this is mere error; and it is evangelical men who find most difficulty. Others no doubt are wholly wrong; but we must not confound it with redemption or saving grace.
Chapter 5 is not only a sketch of what the blessed ones are, but with the authority of Law and Prophets fulfilled, not weakened, the higher conduct suited to the Kingdom, in contrast with what God of old forbore with, now that the Father's name is revealed, and relationship with Him.
Chapter 6 speaks of the inner life or ways as seen of the Father, distinct from the world, and its cares apt otherwise to be absorbing.
Chapter 7 shows their due attitude to others, saints or sinners, with counting on God encouraged, and avoidance of false prophets (no matter what their gifts), and practical submission to Christ's words.
Now, my reader, if you have not judged yourself as lost and found by grace, salvation in Christ and His work, how can you face the Sermon on the Mount? It is far more to be dreaded by you than the Ten Words of Sinai with all the terrific sights and sounds which accompanied them. Jesus invites and urges you to come to Him, and even assures that " him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." Have you ever so come? Come now. Delay here is most dangerous.