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Hunger and thirst, by a common figure of speech, are employed to express any ardent desire. The Jews were hungering and thirsting for an exemption from servitude to the Romans; and nothing could satiate their appetites but victory over their enemies. But our Lord pointed out a nobler object for their ambition. “ Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” That is, blessed are they who earnestly desire the highest moral and religious qualities, and the approbation of their Maker ; for they shall be established in the enjoyment of divine love. This beatitude seems to be more fully explained in a subsequent part of this discourse. (See chap. vi. 33.)
66 Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness," that is, the righteousness which he required to be possessed by all who would become subjects of that spiritual kingdom which Christ came
to establish, "and all these things," says Jesus, “shall be added unto
Mercy, or compassion, consists in a disposition to alleviate the miseries of mankind.
Amongst the Jews, it signified the pardon of injuries, and alms-giving ; but they confined their charity to those of their own nation. In opposition to this narrowness of mind, our Lord declares, “ Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.'
He also reproves their unsocial selfishness, under the parable of the good Sarnaritan; and enjoins his followers to “be merciful, even as their heavenly Father is merciful."
The Jewish teachers maintained, that impure thoughts and desires were not sinful, unless they produced evil actions. In opposition to this opinion, our divine Teacher declares, “ Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” On other occasions he frequently reproved the Pharisees for exhibiting a fair external appearance, while destitute of internal purity. He compares them to whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but within are full of dead men's bones, and all manner of uncleanness. This comparison of our Lord appears peculiarly happy, when we recollect, that it was the custom of the Eastern nations to whitewash
their sepulchres; and we may suppose that, at this time, the sepulchres about Jerusalem were newly white-washed, as the Passover was at hand. With a particular allusion to the hypocrisy of the scribes and pharisees, our Saviour pronounces a blessing upon the pure in heart; and teaches us, that no external actions, however plausible to men, who can judge only from appearances, can avail us before the omniscient Deity, the Searcher of hearts.
In order to exhibit the entire contrariety between the spirit of Christianity and a revengeful temper, and that desire of conquest which excite mankind to engage in destructive wars, our Lord pronounced a blessing upon peace-makers, " for they,” said he “shall be called the children of God.”
They bear the image, and copy the example, of their heavenly Father, who is styled “the God of peace." The glorious title of children of God shall not be bestowed upon those who distinguish themselves under the banner of a victorious leader, but upon those who love peace themselves, and study to promote it in others
Our divine Instructer next pronounced a blessing upon those who are "persecuted for righteousnes' sake.” Thus he taught the Jews, that instead of obtaining a conquering Messiah, and having their ambition gratified by wealth and honour, an adherence to his cause would expose his followers to violent persecutions. Those, however, who suffer for the gospel should esteem themselves happy in enduring affliction, for they shall be rewarded with eternal felicity in heaven.
After our Lord had described to his hearers the dispositions which would prepare them for becoming subjects of the Messiah's kinga dom, he proceeds to awaken the attention, particularly of his disciples, to the responsibleness and importance of their situation, “ Ye are," says he “the salt of the earth ; but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted; it is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” Our Saviour's supposition of the salt having lost its savour, is thus illustrated by Mr. Maundrell, who informs us, that, " in the valley of salt, near Gebal, and about four miles
from Aleppo, there is a small precipice, occasioned by the continual taking away of the salt.
“ In this,” says he, “I broke a small piece of it, which, though the part that was exposed to the rain, sun, and air, had the sparks and particles of salt, yet it had perfectly lost its savour. The innermost, which had been connected to the rock, retained its savour, as I found by proof."
“ Ye are,” says our divine Instructer to his disciples, “ the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid." The above named author tells us, that “there is a city, called Japhet, supposed to be the ancient Bethulia, which, standing on an high hill, might easily be seen from the mountain on which Christ delivered this discourse, to which he here probably alluded.
When our Lord calls his disciples the light of the world, he exhorts them, to “ let their light so shine before men, that they, seeing their good works, may glorify their Father who is in heaven." The meaning of our divine Teacher appears to be, that as God makes use of the sun to enlighten the naturay