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31 May, 2014

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on The Sermon of The Mount Part 3

Now as to the merciful. 1. They are blessed; so it was said in the Old Testament; Blessed is he that considers the poor, Ps. 41:1. Herein they resemble God, whose goodness is his glory; in being merciful as he is merciful, we are, in our measure, perfect as he is perfect. It is an evidence of love to God; it will be a satisfaction to ourselves, to be any way instrumental for the benefit of others. One of the purest and most refined delights in this world, is that of doing good. In this wordBlessed are the merciful, is included that saying of Christ, which otherwise we find not in the gospels, It is more blessed to give than to receive, Acts 20:35. 2. They shall obtain mercy; mercy with men, when they need it; he that watereth, shall be watered also himself (we know not how soon we may stand in need of kindness, and therefore should be kind); but especially mercy with God, for with the merciful he will show himself merciful, Ps. 18:25. The most merciful and charitable cannot pretend to merit, but must fly to mercy. The merciful shall find with God sparing mercy (ch6:14), supplying mercy (Prov. 19:17), sustaining mercy (Ps. 41:2), mercy in that day (2 Tim. 1:18); may, they shall inherit the kingdom prepared for them (ch. 25:34, 35); whereas they shall have judgment without mercy (which can be nothing short of hell-fire) who have shown no mercy.

VI. The pure in heart are happy (v. 8); Blessed are the poor in heart, for they shall see God. This is the most comprehensive of all the beatitudes; here holiness and happiness ar fully described and put together.

1. Here is the most comprehensive character of the blessed: they are pure in heart. Note, True religion consists in heart-purity. Those who are inwardly pure, show themselves to be under the power of pure and undefiled religion. True Christianity lies in the heart, in the purity of heart; the washing of that from wickedness, Jer. 4:14. We must lift up to God, not only clean hands, but a pure heart, Ps. 24:4, 5; 1 Tim. 1:5. The heart must be pure, in opposition to mixture—an honest heart that aims well; and pure, in opposition to pollution and defilement; as wine unmixed, as water unmuddied. The heart must be kept pure from fleshly lusts, all unchaste thoughts and desires; and from worldly lusts; covetousness is called filthy lucre; from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, all that which come out of the heart, and defiles the man. The heart must be purified by faith, and entire for God; must be presented and preserved a chaste virgin to Christ. Create in me such a clean heart, O God!

2. Here is the most comprehensive comfort of the blessed; They shall see God. Note, (1.) It is the perfection of the soul's happiness to see God; seeing him, as we may by faith in our present state, is a heaven upon earth; and seeing him as we shall in the future state, in the heaven of heaven. To see him as he is, face to face, and no longer through a glass darkly; to see him as ours, and to see him and enjoy him; to see him and be like him, and be satisfied with that likeness (Ps. 17:15); and to see him for ever, and never lose the sight of him; this is heaven's happiness. (2.) The happiness of seeing God is promised to those, and those only, who are pure in heart. None but the pure are capable of seeing God, nor would it be a felicity to the impure. What pleasure could an unsanctified soul take in the vision of a holy God? As he cannot endure to look upon their iniquity, so they cannot endure to look upon his purity; nor shall any unclean thing enter into the new Jerusalem; but all that are pure in heart, all that are truly sanctified, have desires wrought in them, which nothing but the sight of God will sanctify; and divine grace will not leave those desires unsatisfied.

VII. The peace-makers are happy, v. 9. The wisdom that is from above is first pure, and then peaceable; the blessed ones are pure toward God, and peaceable toward men; for with reference to both, conscience must be kept void of offence. The peace-makers are those who have, 1. A peaceable disposition: as, to make a lie, is to be given and addicted to lying, so, to make peace, is to have a strong and hearty affection to peace. I am for peace, Ps. 120:7. It is to love, and desire, and delight in peace; to be put in it as in our element, and to study to be quiet. 2. A peaceable conversation; industriously, as far as we can, to preserve the peace that it be not broken, and to recover it when it is broken; to hearken to proposals of peace ourselves, and to be ready to make them to others; where distance is among brethren and neighbours, to do all we can to accommodate it, and to be repairers of the breaches. The making of peace is sometimes a thankless office, and it is the lot of him who parts a fray, to have blows on both sides; yet it is a good office, and we must be forward to it. Some think that this is intended especially as a lesson for ministers, who should do all they can to reconcile those who are at variance, and to promote Christian love among those under their charge.

Now, (1.) Such persons are blessed; for they have the satisfaction of enjoying themselves, by keeping the peace, and of being truly serviceable to others, by disposing them to peace. They are working together with Christ, who came into the world to slay all enmities, and to proclaim peace on earth. (2.) They shall be called the children of God; it will be an evidence to themselves that they are so; God will own them as such, and herein they will resemble him. He is the God of peace; the Son of God is the Prince of peace; the Spirit of adoption is a Spirit of peace. Since God has declared himself reconcilable to us all, he will not own those for his children who are implacable in their enmity to one another; for if the peacemakers are blessed, woe to the peace-breakers! Now by this it appears, that Christ never intended to have his religion propagated by fire and sword, or penal laws, or to acknowledge bigotry, or intemperate zeal, as the mark of his disciples. The children of this world love to fish in troubled waters, but the children of God are the peace-makers, the quiet in the land.

VIII. Those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, are happy. This is the greatest paradox of all, and peculiar to Christianity; and therefore it is put last, and more largely insisted upon than any of the rest, v. 10–12. This beatitude, like Pharaoh's dream, is doubled, because hardly credited, and yet the thing is certain; and in the latter part there is change of the person, "Blessed are yeye my disciples, and immediate followers. This is that which you, who excel in virtue, are more immediately concerned in; for you must reckon upon hardships and troubles more than other men.'' Observe here,

1. The case of suffering saints described; and it is a hard case, and a very piteous one.
(1.) They are persecuted, hunted, pursued, run down, as noxious beasts are, that are sought for to be destroyed; as if a Christian did caput gerere lupinum—bear a wolf's head, as an outlaw is said to do—any one that finds him may slay him; they are abandoned as the offscouring of all things; fined, imprisoned, banished, stripped of their estates, excluded from all places of profit and trust, scourged, racked, tortured, always delivered to death, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter. This has been the effect of the enmity of the serpent's seed against the holy seed, ever since the time of righteous Abel. It was so in Old-Testament times, as we find, Heb. 11:35, etc. Christ has told us that it would much more be so with the Christian church, and we are not to think it strange, 1 Jn. 3:13. He has left us an example.

(2.) The are reviled, and have all manner of evil said against them falsely. Nicknames, and names of reproach, are fastened upon them, upon particular persons, and upon the generation of the righteous in the gross, to render them odious; sometimes to make them formidable, that they may be powerfully assailed; things are laid to their charge that they knew not, Ps. 35:11; Jer. 20:18; Acts 17:6, 7. Those who have had no power in their hands to do them any other mischief, could yet do this; and those who have had power to persecute, had found it necessary to do this too, to justify themselves in their barbarous usage of them; they could not have baited them, if they had not dressed them in bear-skins; nor have given them the worst of treatment, if they had not first represented them as the worst of men. They will revile you, and persecute you. Note, Reviling the saints is persecuting them, and will be found so shortly, when hard speeches must be accounted for (Jude 15), and cruel mockings, Heb. 11:36. They will say all manner of evil of you falsely; sometimes before the seat of judgment, as witnesses; sometimes in the seat of the scornful, with hypocritical mockers at feasts; they are the song of the drunkards; sometimes to face their faces, as Shimei cursed David; sometimes behind their backs, as the enemies of Jeremiah did. Note, There is no evil so black and horrid, which, at one time or other, has not been said, falsely, of Christ's disciples and followers.

(3.) All this is for righteousness' sake (v. 10); for my sake, v. 11. If for righteousness' sake, then for Christ's sake, for he is nearly interested in the work of righteousness. Enemies to righteousness are enemies to Christ. This precludes those from the blessedness who suffer justly, and are evil spoken of truly for their real crimes; let such be ashamed and confounded, it is part of their punishment; it is not the suffering, but the cause, that makes the martyr. Those suffer for righteousness' sake, who suffer because they will not sin against their consciences, and who suffer for doing that which is good. Whatever pretence persecutors have, it is the power of godliness that they have an enmity to; it is really Christ and his righteousness that are maligned, hated, and persecuted; For thy sake I have borne reproach, Ps. 69:9; Rom. 8:36.

2. The comforts of suffering saints laid down.
(1.) They are blessed; for they now, in their life-time, receive their evil things (Lu. 16:25), and receive them upon a good account. They are blessed; for it is an honour to them (Acts 5:41); it is an opportunity of glorifying Christ, of doing good, and of experiencing special comforts and visits of grace and tokens of his presence, 2 Co. 1:5; Dan. 3:25; Rom. 8:29.

(2.) They shall be recompensed; Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. They have at present a sure title to it, and sweet foretastes of it; and shall ere long be in possession of it. Though there be nothing in those sufferings than can, in strictness, merit of God (for the sins of the best deserve the worst), yet this is here promised as a reward (v. 12); Great is your reward in heaven: so great, as far to transcend the service. It is in heaven, future, and out of sight; but well secured, out of the reach of chance, fraud, and violence. Note, God will provide that those who lose for him, though it be life itself, shall not lose by him in the end. Heaven, at last, will be an abundant recompence for all the difficulties we meet with in our way. This is that which has borne up the suffering saints in all ages—this joy set before them.

(3.) "So persecuted they the prophets that were before you, v. 12. They were before you in excellency, above what you are yet arrived at; they were before you in time, that they might be examples to you of suffering affliction and of patience, James 5:10. They were in like manner persecuted and abused; and can you expect to go to heaven in a way by yourself? Was not Isaiah mocked for his line upon line? Elisha for his bald head? Were not all the prophets thus treated? Therefore marvel not at it as a strange thing, murmur not at it as a hard thing; it is a comfort to see the way of suffering a beaten road, and an honour to follow such leaders. That grace which was sufficient for them, to carry them through their sufferings, shall not be deficient to you. Those who are your enemies are the seed and successors of them who of old mocked the messengers of the Lord,'' 2 Chr. 36:16; ch23:31; Acts 7:52.