“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set,, his disciples came unto him. And he opened his mouth, and taught them saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they than mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”—Matthew v.1-12.
One enjoys a sermon all the better for knowing some of the preacher. It is natural that, like John in Patmos, we should turn to see the voice which spake with us. Turn hither then, and learn that the Christ of God is the Preacher of the Sermon on the mount. He who delivered the Beatitudes was not only the Prince of preachers, but he was beyond all others qualified to discourse upon the subject which he had chosen. Jesus the Saviour was best able to answer the question, “Who are the saved?” Being himself the ever-blessed Son of God, and the channel of blessings, he was best able to inform us who are indeed the blessed of the Father. As Judge, it will be his office to divide the blessed from the accursed at the last, and therefore it is most meet that in gospel majesty he should declare the principle of that judgment, that all men may be forewarned.
Do not fall into the mistake of supposing that the opening verses of the Sermon on the mount set forth how we are to be saved, or you may cause your soul to stumble. You will find the fullest light upon that matter in other parts of our Lord’s teaching, but here he discourses upon the question, “Who are the saved?” or, “What are the marks and evidences of a work of grace in the soul?” Who should know the saved so well as the Saviour does? The shepherd best discerns his own sheep, and the Lord himself alone knoweth infallibly there that are his. We may regard the marks of the blessed ones here given as being the sure witness of truth, for they are given by him who cannot err, who cannot be deceived, and who, so their Redeemer, knows his own. The Beatitudes derive much of their weight from the wisdom and glory of him who pronounced them; and, therefore, at the outset your attention is called thereto. Lange says that “man is the mouth of creation, and Jesus is the mouth of humanity;” but we prefer, in this place, to think of Jesus am the mouth of Deity, and to receive his every word as girt with infinite power.
The occasion of this sermon is noteworthy; it was delivered when our Lord is described as “seeing the multitudes.” He waited until the congregation around him had reached its largest size, an was most impressed with his miracles, and then be took the tide at its flood, as every wise man should. The sight of a, vast concourse of people ought always to move us to pity, for it represents a mass of ignorance, sorrow, sin, and necessity, far too great for us to estimate. The Saviour looked upon the people with an omniscient eye, which saw all their sad condition; he saw the multitudes in an emphatic sense, and his soul was stirred within him at the sight. His was not the transient tear of Xerxes when he thought on the death of his armed myriads, but it was practical sympathy with the host of mankind. No one cared for them, they were like sheep without a shepherd, or like shocks of wheat ready to shale out for want of harvest-men to gather them in. Jesus therefore hastened to the rescue. He noticed, no doubt, with pleasure, the eagerness of the crowd to hear, and this drew him on to speak. A writer quoted in the “Catena Aurea” has well said, “Every man in his own trade or profession rejoices when he sees an opportunity of exercising it; the carpenter, if he sees a goodly tree, desires to have it felled, that be may employ his skill on it; and even so the preacher, when he sees a great congregation, his heart rejoices, and he is glad of the occasion to teach.” If men become negligent of hearing, and our audience dwindles down to a handful, it will be a great distress to us if we have to remember that, when the many were anxious to hear, we were not diligent to preach to them. He who will not reap when the fields am white unto the harvest, will have only himself to blame if in other seasons he is unable to fill his arm with sheaves. Opportunities should be promptly used whenever the Lord puts them in our way. It is good fishing where there are plenty of fish, and when the birds flock around the fowler it is time for to spread his nets.
Continued in next week’s edition.