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from the vices forbidden by the commandments, they were not careful to practise the virtues implied; while they literally fasted, they did not take care, in reality, "to subdue the flesh to the spirit;" and thus, with every external appearance of sanctity, they were unholy; and, with every external claim to a pure religion, they were ignorant and blind..

“ But the people who walked in darkness were to see a great light; they who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them was the light to shine!." To the ignorant Gentiles arose spring from on high ? ;" to the blinded Jews appeared their Saviour Christ. The miracles which attended the birth of Jesus Christ; the sensation which, both in the Jewish and in the Gentile world, it occasioned, we have already, in our previous discourses, considered. But there is no greater miracle of all which he performed, there is nothing more astonishing in the course of all the wonders which attended

“ the day

· Isaiah ix. 2.

? Luke i. 78.

him, than the alterations which he suggested, and finally occasioned, in men's way of thinking ; than the improvement, in pure morality, which he effected.

That it was not until a considerable period had passed,—until our Saviour himself had been offered up,-until his apostles and disciples had died, or had suffered persecution in vindication of his doctrines, that these opinions began to make any progress in the world, history sufficiently declares to us; and our every day's experience tells us that we are still at a wide distance from the mark at which we are to aim, from the goal to which we are to direct our steps. But the foundation of all this was laid ; the corner stone of true religion and pure morality was placed, when our blessed Lord' pronounced his Sermon on the Mount. There are to be found opinions which, though at that time new to the world, have since stood the test of all enquiry; precepts so pure, so bright, so spiritual, as to receive the assent of every heart, the approbation of all deliberate judgment.

To this divine discourse of our Saviour, which is contained in the 5th, 6th, and 7th chapters of St. Matthew's Gospel, we will now direct your attention, and will endeavour to call your notice to such particulars as shall appear most needful to be understood, and such precepts as may seem most useful.

The first words which Jesus Christ uttered, when delivering this discourse, are no less than nine distinct blessings ; but on whom pronounced ? On the poor in spirit; on those that mourn; on the meek; on those who hunger and thirst after righteousness; on the merciful; on the pure in heart; on the peace-makers ; on those who are persecuted for righteousness sake; and on those who are reviled and persecuted for his sake. And the reason why these blessings are pronounced on the persons possessing these various virtues, is also stated. The poor in spirit, it is said, are to obtain the

kingdom of heaven; the meek, to inherit the earth; and all the several advantages contained in heaven and earth are to follow those who are filled with the dispositions here recommended. Now we cannot but believe that, when these sentiments were first expressed, they must have seemed very strange to the auditors, as directly opposed to most of their prepossessions and opinions; for even at the present day, however deliberately we may approve of them, and assent to them, our inclinations and our prejudices bend ano

“ There are," says one of our celebrated divines, when commenting on this portion of Scripture, “two opposite descriptions of character, under which mankind

may be generally classed. The one possesses vigour, firmness, resolution; is daring and active, quick in its sensibilities, jealous of its fame, eager in its attachments, inflexible in its purpose, violent in its resentments. The other, meek, yielding, complying, forgiving ; not prompt to act, but willing to suffer ; silent and gentle under rudeness and

ther way

insult, suing for reconciliation where others would demand satisfaction; giving way to the pushes of impudence; conceding and indulgent to the prejudices, the wrong-headedness, the intractability of those with whom it has to deal. The former of these characters is, and ever has been, the favourite of the world ; it is the character of great men.

There is an [apparent] dignity in it which universally commands respect. The latter is [in the eyes of the world] poor-spirited, tame and abject. Yet so it hath happened that, with the Founder of Christianity, this latter is the subject of his commendation, his precepts, his example, and that the former is so in no part of its composition !.” It is this spirit of religious meekness which our Saviour has inculcated in the passages before us, and to those influenced by which he has promised exceeding great rewards; and whether we consider him as a founder of a new religion, or a teacher of mo

1

Paley's Evidences, Part II. Chap. ii.

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