By C.H. Spurgeon
The place from which these blessings were delivered is next worthy of notice: “Seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain.” Whether or no the chosen element was that which is now known as the Horns of Hattim, is not a point which it falls in our way to contest; that he ascended an elevation is enough for our purpose. Of course, this would be mainly because of the accommodation which the open hill-side would afford to the people, and the readiness with which, upon some jutting crag, the preacher might sit down, and be both heard and seen; but we believe the chosen place of meeting had also its instruction. Exalted doctrine might well be symbolized by an ascent to the mount; at any rate, let every minister feel that he should ascend in spirit when he is about to descant upon the lofty themes of the gospel. A doctrine which could not be hid, and which would produce a Church comparable to a city set on a hill, fitly began to be proclaimed from a conspicuous place. A crypt or cavern would have been out of all character for a message which is to be published upon the housetops, and preached to every creature under heaven.
Beside, mountains have always been associated with distinct eras in history of the people of God; mount Sinai is sacred to the law, and mount Zion symbolical of the Church. Calvary was also in due time to be connected with redemption, and the mount of Olives with the ascension of our risen Lord. It was meet, therefore, that the opening of the Redeemer’s ministry should be connected with a mount such as “the hill of the Beatitudes.” Twas from that mountain that God proclaimed the law, it is on a mountain that Jesus expounds it. Thank God, it was not a mount around which bounds had to be placed; it was not the mount which burned with fire, from which Israel retired in fear. It was, doubtless, a mount all carpeted with grass, and dainty with fair flowers, upon whose side the olive and fig flourished in abundance, save where the rocks pushed upward through the sod, and early invited their Lord to honour them by making them his them his pulpit and throne. May I not add that Jesus was in deep sympathy with nature, and therefore delighted in an audience-chamber whose floor was grass, and whose roof was the blue sky? The open space was in keeping with his large heart, the breezes were akin to his free spirit, and the world around was full of symbols and parables, in accord with the truths he taught. Better than long-drawn aisle, or tier on tier of crowded gallery, was that grand hill-side setting-place. Would God we oftener heard sermons amid soul-inspiring scenery! Surely preacher and hearer would be equally benefited by the change from the house made with hands to the God-made temple of nature.
There was instruction in the posture of the preacher: “When he was set,” he commenced to speak. We do not think that either weariness or length of the discourse suggested sitting down. He frequently stood when he preached at considerable length. We incline to the belief that, when he became a pleader with the sons of men, he stood with uplifted hands, eloquent from head to foot, entreating, beseeching, and exhorting, with every member of his body, as well as every faculty of his mind; but now that he was, as it were, a Judge award the blessings of the kingdom, or a King on his throne, separating his true subject from aliens and foreigners, he sat down. As an authoritative Teacher, he officially occupied the chair of doctrine, and spake ex cathedra, as men say as a Solomon acting as the master of assemblies, or a Daniel come to judgment. He sat as a refiner, and his word was as a fire. His posture is not accounted for by the fact that it was the Oriental custom for the teacher to sit and the pupil to stand, for our Lord was something more that a didactic teacher, be was a Preacher, a Prophet, a Pleader, and consequently he adopted other attitudes when fulfilling those offices; but on this occasion, he sat in his place as Rabbi of the Church, the authoritative Legislator of the kingdom of heaven, the Monarch in the midst of his people. Come hither, then, and listen to the King in Jeshurun, the Divine Lawgiver, delivering not the ten commands, but the seven, or, if you will, the nine Beatitudes of his blessed kingdom.
It is then added, to indicate the style of his delivery, that “he opened his mouth,” and certain cavilers of shallow wit have said, “How could he teach without opening his mouth?” to which the reply is that he very frequently taught, and taught much, without saying a word, since his whole life was teaching, and his miracles said deeds of love were the lessons of a master instructor. It is not superfluous to say that “be opened his mouth, and taught them,” for be had taught them often when his mouth was closed. Besides that, teachers are to be frequently met with who seldom open their mouths; they hiss the everlasting gospel through their teeth, or mumble it within their mouths, as if they had never been commanded to “cry aloud, and spare not.” Jesus Christ spoke like a man in earnest; he enunciated clearly, and spake loudly. He lifted up his voice like a trumpet, and published salvation far and wide, like a man who had something to say which he desired his audience to hear and feel. Oh, that the very manner and voice of those who preach the gospel were such as to bespeak their zeal for God and their love for souls! So should it be, but so it is not in all cases. When a man grows terribly in earnest while speaking, his mouth appears to be enlarged in sympathy with his heart: this characteristic has been observed in vehement political orators, and the messengers of God should blush if no such impeachment can be laid at their door.