View Matthew 5 in the note window.
1: And seeing the multitudes - At some distance, as they were
coming to him from every quarter. He went up into the mountain
- Which was near: where there was room for them all. His
disciples - not only his twelve disciples, but all who desired to
learn of him.
2: And he opened his mouth - A phrase which always denotes a set
and solemn discourse; and taught them - To bless men; to make
men happy, was the great business for which our Lord came into
the world. And accordingly he here pronounces eight blessings
together, annexing them to so many steps in Christianity. Knowing
that happiness is our common aim, and that an innate instinct
continually urges us to the pursuit of it, he in the kindest
manner applies to that instinct, and directs it to its proper
Though all men desire, yet few attain, happiness, because they
seek it where it is not to be found. Our Lord therefore begins
his Divine institution, which is the complete art of happiness,
by laying down before all that have ears to hear, the true and
only true method of acquiring it.
Observe the benevolent condescension of our Lord. He seems, as
it were, to lay aside his supreme authority as our legislator,
that he may the better act the part of: our friend and Saviour.
Instead of using the lofty style, in positive commands, he, in a
more gentle and engaging way, insinuates his will and our duty,
by pronouncing those happy who comply with it.
3: Happy are the poor - In the following discourse there is,
The poor in spirit - They who are unfeignedly penitent, they who
are truly convinced of sin; who see and feel the state they
are in by nature, being deeply sensible of their sinfulness,
guiltiness, helplessness. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven
- The present inward kingdom: righteousness, and peace, and joy
in the Holy Ghost, as well as the eternal kingdom, if they
endure to the end. (Lu 6:20).
- A sweet invitation to true holiness and happiness, ver. 3 - 12.(Mt 5:3-12).
- A persuasive to impart it to others, ver. 13 - 16.(Mt 5:13-16).
- A description of true Christian holiness, ver. 17; chap.vii,12,(Mt 5:17,7:12).
(in which it is easy to observe, the latter part exactly answers
- The conclusion: giving a sure mark of the true way, warning
against false prophets, exhorting to follow after holiness.
4: They that mourn - Either for their own sins, or for other men's,
and are steadily and habitually serious. They shall be comforted
- More solidly and deeply even in this world, and eternally in heaven.
5: Happy are the meek - They that hold all their passions and
affections evenly balanced. They shall inherit the earth - They
shall have all things really necessary for life and godliness.
They shall enjoy whatever portion God hath given them here,
and shall hereafter possess the new earth, wherein dwelleth
6: They that hunger and thirst after righteousness - After the
holiness here described. They shall be satisfied with it.
7: The merciful - The tender - hearted: they who love all men as
themselves: They shall obtain mercy - Whatever mercy therefore we
desire from God, the same let us show to our brethren. He will
repay us a thousand fold, the love we bear to any for his sake.
8: The pure in heart - The sanctified: they who love God with all
their hearts. They shall see God - In all things here; hereafter
9: The peace makers - They that out of love to God and man do all
possible good to all men. Peace in the Scripture sense implies
all blessings temporal and eternal. They shall be called the
children of God - Shall be acknowledged such by God and man. One
would imagine a person of this amiable temper and behaviour
would be the darling of mankind. But our Lord well knew it would
not be so, as long as Satan was the prince of this world. He
therefore warns them before of the treatment all were to expect,
who were determined thus to tread in his steps, by immediately
subjoining, Happy are they who are persecuted for righteousness'
Through this whole discourse we cannot but observe the most
exact method which can possibly be conceived. Every paragraph,
every sentence, is closely connected both with that which
precedes, and that which follows it. And is not this the pattern
for every Christian preacher? If any then are able to follow it
without any premeditation, well: if not, let them not dare to
preach without it. No rhapsody, no incoherency, whether the
things spoken be true or false, comes of the Spirit of Christ.
10: For righteousness' sake - That is, because they have, or follow
after, the righteousness here described. He that is truly a
righteous man, he that mourns, and he that is pure in heart,
yea, all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer
persecution,(2Ti 3:12). The world will always say, Away with such fellows
from the earth. They are made to reprove our thoughts. They are
grievous to us even to behold. Their lives are not like other
men's; their ways are of another fashion.
11: Revile - When present: say all evil - When you are absent.
12: Your reward - Even over and above the happiness that naturally
and directly results from holiness.
13: Ye - Not the apostles, not ministers only; but all ye who are
thus holy, are the salt of the earth - Are to season others.(Mk 9:50,Lu 14:34).
14: Ye are the light of the world - If ye are thus holy, you can
no more be hid than the sun in the firmament: no more than a
city on a mountain - Probably pointing to that on the brow of the
15: Nay, the very design of God in giving you this light was,
that it might shine. (Mk 4:21,Lu 8:16,11:33).
16: That they may see - and glorify - That is, that seeing your good
works, they may be moved to love and serve God likewise.
17: Think not - Do not imagine, fear, hope, that I am come - Like
your teachers, to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not
come to destroy - The moral law, but to fulfil - To establish,
illustrate, and explain its highest meaning, both by my life and
18: Till all things shall be effected - Which it either requires
or foretells. For the law has its effect, when the rewards are
given, and the punishments annexed to it inflicted, as well as
when its precepts are obeyed. (Lu 16:17,21:33).
19: One of the least - So accounted by men; and shall teach - Either
by word or example; shall be the least - That is, shall have no
20: The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees - Described in
the sequel of this discourse.
21: Ye have heard - From the scribes reciting the law; Thou shalt
do no murder - And they interpreted this, as all the other
commandments, barely of the outward act. The judgement - The Jews
had in every city a court of twenty - three men, who could sentence
a criminal to be strangled. But the sanhedrim only (the great
council which sat at Jerusalem, consisting of seventy - two men,)
could sentence to the more terrible death of stoning. That was
called the judgment, this the council.(Ex 20:13).
22: But I say unto you - Which of the prophets ever spake thus?
Their language is, Thus saith the Lord. Who hath authority to
use this language, but the one lawgiver, who is able to save and
to destroy. Whosoever is angry with his brother - Some copies add,
without a cause - But this is utterly foreign to the whole scope
and tenor of our Lord's discourse. If he had only forbidden the
being angry without a cause, there was no manner of need of that
solemn declaration, I say unto you; for the scribes and Pharisees
themselves said as much as this. Even they taught, men ought not
to be angry without a cause. So that this righteousness does not
exceed theirs. But Christ teaches, that we ought not, for any
cause, to be so angry as to call any man Raca, or fool. We ought
not, for any cause, to be angry at the person of the sinner, but
at his sins only. Happy world, were this plain and necessary
distinction thoroughly understood, remembered, practised! Raca
means, a silly man, a trifler. Whosoever shall say, Thou fool
- Shall revile, or seriously reproach any man. Our Lord specified
three degrees of murder, each liable to a sorer punishment than
the other: not indeed from men, but from God. Hell fire - In the
valley of Hinnom (whence the word in the original is taken) the
children were used to be burnt alive to Moloch. It was afterward
made a receptacle for the filth of the city, where continual
fires were kept to consume it. And it is probable, if any
criminals were burnt alive, it was in this accursed and horrible
place. Therefore both as to its former and latter state, it was
a fit emblem of hell. It must here signify a degree of future
punishment, as much more dreadful than those incurred in the
two former cases, as burning alive is more dreadful than either
strangling or stoning.
23: Thy brother hath aught against thee - On any of the preceding
accounts: for any unkind thought or word: any that did not
spring from love.
24: Leaving thy gift, go - For neither thy gift nor thy prayer
will atone for thy want of love: but this will make them both
an abomination before God.
25: Agree with thine adversary - With any against whom thou hast
thus offended: while thou art in the way - Instantly, on the spot;
before you part. Lest the adversary deliver thee to the judge
- Lest he commit his cause to God. (Lu 12:58).
26: Till thou hast paid the last farthing - That is, for ever,
since thou canst never do this.
What has been hitherto said refers to meekness: what follows,
to purity of heart.
27: Thou shalt not commit adultery - And this, as well as the
sixth commandment, the scribes and Pharisees interpreted barely
of the outward act. (Ex 20:14).
29-30: If a person as dear as a right eye, or as useful as a
right hand, cause thee thus to offend, though but in heart.
Perhaps here may be an instance of a kind of transposition
which is frequently found in the sacred writings: so that the
29th verse may refer to 27, 28; and the 30th to ver. 21, 22.(Mt 5:21,22,27-30,)
As if he had said, Part with any thing, however dear to you, or
otherwise useful, if you cannot avoid sin while you keep it.
Even cut off your right hand, if you are of so passionate a
temper, that you cannot otherwise be restrained from hurting
your brother. Pull out your eyes, if you can no otherwise be
restrained from lusting after women.(Mt 18:8,Mk 9:43).
31: Let him give her a writing of divorce - Which the scribes and
Pharisees allowed men to do on any trifling occasion.(De 24:1,Mt 19:7,Mk 10:2,Lu 16:18).
32: Causeth her to commit adultery - If she marry again.
33: Our Lord here refers to the promise made to the pure in heart
of seeing God in all things, and points out a false doctrine of
the scribes, which arose from their not thus seeing God.
What he forbids is, the swearing at all,
both of which the scribes and Pharisees taught to be perfectly
innocent. (Ex 20:7).
- by any creature,
- in our ordinary conversation:
36: For thou canst not make one hair white or black - Whereby it
appears, that this also is not thine but God's.
37: Let your conversation be yea, yea; nay, nay - That is, in your
common discourse, barely affirm or deny.
38: Ye have heard - Our Lord proceeds to enforce such meekness and
love on those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake (which
he pursues to the end of the chapter) as were utterly unknown to
the scribes and Pharisees. It hath been said - In the law, as a
direction to judges, in ease of violent and barbarous assaults.
An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth - And this has been
interpreted, as encouraging bitter and rigorous revenge.(De 19:21).
39: But I say unto you, that ye resist not the evil man - Thus; the
Greek word translated resist signifies standing in battle array,
striving for victory. If a man smite thee on the right cheek
- Return not evil for evil: yea, turn to him the other - Rather than
40-41: Where the damage is not great, choose rather to suffer
it, though possibly it may on that account be repeated, than to
demand an eye for an eye, to enter into a rigorous prosecution
of the offender. The meaning of the whole passage seems to be,
rather than return evil for evil, when the wrong is purely
personal, submit to one bodily wrong after another, give up one
part of your goods after another, submit to one instance of
compulsion after another. That the words are not literally to
be understood, appears from the behaviour of our Lord himself,(Joh 18:22,23).
42: Thus much for your behaviour toward the violent. As for
those who use milder methods, Give to him that asketh thee
- Give and lend to any so far, (but no further, for God never
contradicts himself) as is consistent with thy engagements to
thy creditors, thy family, and the household of faith.(Lu 6:30).
43: Thou shalt love thy neighbour; And hate thy enemy - God spoke
the former part; the scribes added the latter.(Le 19:18).
44: Bless them that curse you - Speak all the good you can to
and of them, who speak all evil to and of you. Repay love in
thought, word, and deed, to those who hate you, and show it
both in word and deed. (Lu 6:27,35).
45: That ye may be the children - That is, that ye may continue
and appear such before men and angels. For he maketh his sun
to rise - He gives them such blessings as they will receive at
his hands. Spiritual blessings they will not receive.
46: The publicans - were officers of the revenue, farmers, or
receivers of the public money: men employed by the Romans to
gather the taxes and customs, which they exacted of the nations
they had conquered. These were generally odious for their
extortion and oppression, and were reckoned by the Jews as the
very scum of the earth.
47: And if ye salute your friends only - Our Lord probably glances
at those prejudices, which different sects had against each
other, and intimates, that he would not have his followers imbibe
that narrow spirit. Would to God this had been more attended to
among the unhappy divisions and subdivisions, into which his
Church has been crumbled! And that we might at least advance so
far, as cordially to embrace our brethren in Christ, of whatever
party or denomination they are!
48: Therefore ye shall be perfect; as your Father who is in
heaven is perfect - So the original runs, referring to all that
holiness which is described in the foregoing verses, which our
Lord in the beginning of the chapter recommends as happiness,
and in the close of it as perfection.
And how wise and gracious is this, to sum up, and, as it were,
seal all his commandments with a promise! Even the proper promise
of the Gospel! That he will put those laws in our minds, and
write them in our hearts! He well knew how ready our unbelief
would be to cry out, this is impossible! And therefore stakes
upon it all the power, truth, and faithfulness of him to whom
all things are possible.