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consolations, strong consolations as we need. And these in a high degree usually follow hard conflicts patiently and stoutly sustained. Our Lord had a cordial draught both before and after this conflict : before, in the last verse of chap. ii., he was confirmed in the very point he was assaulted in; This is my beloved Son. And as he was confirmed before, so was he comforted after; The angels came and ministered to him. Oh! the sweet issue our Lord gives to many a sad battle of weak Christians, wherein they possibly thought once, that all was lost, and that they should never hold out, and come through it! But never think so: we shall come through all, and the day shall be ours.
Ver. 12. Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee.] We need not fear. God uses men, but needs them not: when they are restrained or removed, he can provide more. When John is shut up, Jesus comes forth.
Ver. 13. And leaving Nazareth.] Not being honoured in his own country. So, commonness of things makes them cheap and low with us, how excellent soever. This disease of lightness and novelty so natural to us, we have need to watch against
Ver. 14–16. That it might be fulfilled, &c.] Now the prophecy is raised to its higher sense. The relief which the prophet speaks of, in relation to a temporal sense, was but a shadow. This is light indeed, Jesus coming into their coasts ; the Sun of righteousness arising. Oh, how pitiful is the condition of those nations that still are in darkness, destitute of his light ! How should we pity them ! But how much more pitiable their condition, who, in the midst of this light, are still in darkness ; it shining in their land, but not in their hearts ! These still are under the shadow of death. Oh! fear and tremble, you that in the clear Gospel light, are sitting still in your natural darkness of mind and hardness of heart, and still loving that darkness, and refusing this Divine light. Oh ! let it in, that you may live, and not pass from darkness to darkness,
from inward darkness to utter darkness, where is nothing but weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
Ver. 17. From that time Jesus began to preach.] So gave he forth light by preaching, shewing the way of salvation. And He was eminently the light,-He, that very way of salvation. He, the Prince and Saviour exalted to give repentance, and remission of sins, and the kingdom, yet, humbles himself to be the Herald, to proclaim his own gift and pardon. And in humbling himself to this work of preaching, he hath highly exalted it. Shall ever that be accounted low, and fit only for mean persons, which the Lord of Glory made his calling and work in the world?
And to say, Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.] This was said before to be the sermon of his Forerunner; not only the same sense, but the very same words. He who needed to borrow from none, but gives all to all, yet disdains not to preach this over after John Baptist. There is certainly a pride and vanity in the minds of men, in that extreme affecting still either to speak or hear new things. Oh, were you called together often, and this said as from God, Repent ye, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand, and found obedient, now one heart yielding, and then another, though it might seem poor to vain heads, yet Oh, what excellent preaching were it! God's voice more regarded and owned, would make that sweet which we often despise.
Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Oh, sweet invitation, the offer of a pardon to a repenting sinner ; but how much more that of a kingdom! He might say, Repent, for the prison of Hell is at hand, if ye do not; but rather he this way draws, by the happiness and glory attending our return.
Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. And at hand to you, if ye repent, to be yours; grace and all the rich promises of it, and, within a while, full glory. And no more ado; it is at hand. Let go your hold of the one, and straight catch hold of the other; it is at hand. But who believes this? If we do, what madness is it not to accept it !
The chapter hath, first, our Saviour's preparation to his public calling ; secondly, His begun administration of it in all the three parts, preaching of the Gospel, calling disciples, and working miracles.
Ver. 18. And Jesus walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren.] Here we have the calling of two pairs of brethren, both of the same calling, fishers, to a higher calling of the same name, fishers still, but, of men : that is the excellency and dignity of it. Not now to follow out the resemblance, there is . much art in this divine fishing of human souls, both in casting the net in public preaching, and angling in private converse.
Ver. 19. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.] This was as Elijah's touch to Elisha, What have I done to thee? Did our hearts once hear his voice, net would not entangle us; nor cables bind us; no friends, nor parents, nor business would hold us : we should break from all, yea, if it might be otherwise, would run from all, to follow Him.
Ver. 23. And Jesus went about all Galilee.] Here observe his Divine power and goodness shining forth in the miraculous cure of all diseases. But these bodily cures were but preludes of the main work; but signs hung out to shew where the Physician of souls dwelt. And whatsoever be thy spiritual maladies, though never so many and so desperate, yet come. Never any came to him and went away uncured.
Ver. 1.-12. And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain.
And when he was sat, his disciples came unto him. Ver 2. And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are
the poor, &c.
Others may grow stale, but this sermon never so often read over, is always new. Oh, how full of Divine doctrine! How
plain, and yet how high and excellent, delighting the soul as a bright day, clear light all along! We need not strain for the clearness of it upon that word, He opened his mouth; for every word here spoken, speaks for itself; carries, as light does, its own evidence. He begins with that great point which all are concerned in, and all naturally someway desirous to know, the doctrine of blessedness, in short aphorisms; and the rest of his discourse follows out the same argument, directing the way to happiness in those graces, purity, meekness, mercy, &c. For although all grace is radically one, and he that hath one, hath all, yet, they are thus specified; 1st. For the weakness of our apprehensions, which take not full views so easily, they are spelled out to us, but is only so, that taking them the easier severally, as letters of one word, we may set them together again, as all being one blessedness. 2ndly. Though every true Christian hath all graces, yet all are not alike eminent in all. We may confidently say, that there is no one who equally excels in every grace, but in several persons, several particular graces do most act and evidence themselves, shooting up above the rest; yea, in one and the same person, one grace will, at some times, be more evident and sensible than at others. 3dly. They are thus parcelled out to us, that we may apply ourselves the more particularly sometimes to the study of one, sometimes to the study of another, the neglect whereof is a great cause of our great deficiency in them all. We hear them and like them, may be, and think, these are good, but we do not set to the attainment of them: we applaud, and leave them there ; approve all, and neglect all. If at any time we have any desires after them, they are general and confused: we grasp at all, and catch nothing.
This I would recommend, to be more particular in our purposes; sometimes to set ourselves to some one grace, not secluding nor turning away the rest, for that cannot be, but yet, more particularly plying that one, were it humility, poverty of spirit, meekness, or any other; and for some time to make that one our main task, were it for some weeks or months
together, and examine every day's practice in that particularly. But like unsettled students among many books, we rove and reel, and make offers at every grace, and still lag behind, and make no considerable purchase nor progression in any.
Now, for blessedness, what is the common voice, at least, of men's minds and practices, though they speak it not out ? Blessed are the rich, the honourable, the well-landed or wellbefriended, and they that can grow great enough in the world. But if we believe this Teacher, it is not these; no such matter. But if blessedness be in things spiritual and inward, then men would imagine readily of those things which sound highest, that have some grandeur, and somewhat heroic in them,-in great knowledge of faculty, and zeal for high services, or in raptures, and ecstasies, and singular divine experiences. But here is nothing of these neither, but the meanest, most despised things ; yea, those that (some of them) seem to sound as miserable and sad: The poor in spirit—they that mourn—the meek, &c. Oh! sweet, lowly graces, poverty of spirit, meekness, that grow low, and are of dark hue, as the violets, but of a fragrant smell; as one says, chief in garlands : these are prime in the garlands of a Christian. Oh! study these; seek to have them growing within you. Suffering remarkable martyrdom may seem to have some lustre in it; but how take. you it, to be reviled, and scoffed at, and hated, and taunted, by Christians in name, because thou desirest to be one indeed ?
Each of these beatitudes, for all the low sound at first, ends high, and makes good the title. Blessed are the poor in spirit ; ay, they are the only rich, beirs to a kingdom, and such a kingdom : theirs is the kingdom of God. Lofty, vain minds are truly base. By poverty in spirit, is meant, I conceive, not only a sense of spiritual want, (though commonly it is so taken,) but, more comprehensively, a lowly frame of heart, not swelled either with desires, or delight, or conceit, of any worldly advantage, or self-excellency, either outward or inward. Thus may a man be, amidst very many such advantages and riches, poor, and that is, his blessing. Yet here is connoted, I con