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Introduction.

§ 148. (1.) Place and Circumstances of the Delivery of the Sermon, (2.) Its Subject-matter, viz.: the Kingdom of God as the Aim of the Old Dispensation; (3.) The Two Editions, viz.: Matthew’s and Luke’s; (4.) Its Pervading Rebuke of Carnal Conceptions of the Messiahship.

(1.)

In the course of the summer, as Jesus was returning from one of his extensive preaching-tours in Galilee, multitudes followed him, attracted by his words and works. Toward evening they came near Capernaum and a few of the company hastened thither in advance, while the greater number remained, in order to enter the city in company with the Master. The multitude stopped at the foot of a mountain near the town; but Jesus, seeking solitude, went higher up the ascent. The next morning he took his place upon the declivity of the mountain, and, drawing his twelve disciples into a narrower circle about him,386386   If Luke, vi., 13, is intended to recite the choosing of the Apostles, it is clear that it is done only incidentally, and not in chronological connexion. Luke does not say that the discourse was specially directed to the Apostles, nor is there a trace of internal evidence to that effect. The discourses of Christ that were specially intended to teach the Apostles the duties of their calling have a very different tone. delivered the discourse. It was intended for all such as felt drawn to follow him; to teach them what they had to expect, and what would be expected of them, in becoming his disciples; and to expose the false representations that had been made upon both these points.

(2.)

The connected system of truths unfolded in the discourse was intended to exhibit to the people the kingdom of God as the aim of the Old Dispensation; as the consummation for which that dispensation prepared the way. The Sermon on the Mount, therefore, forms the point of transition from the Law to the Gospel; Christianity is exhibited in it as Judaism spiritualized and transfigured. The idea of the kingdom of God is the prominent one; the person of the Theocratic king is subordinate thereto. The discourse is made up of many sententious 224passages, calculated, separately, to impress the memory of the hearers, and remain as fruitful germs in their hearts; but, on the other hand, bound together as parts of an organic whole. This was admirably adapted to preserve the discourse, in its essential features, uncorrupted in transmission.

(3.)

Accordingly, we find the two editions (Matt., v., vi., vii.; and Luke, vi., 20-29), each giving the body of the discourse, with beginning, middle, and end; although they certainly originated in different traditions and from different hearers.

Comparing the two copies, we find Matthew’s to be more full, as well as more accurate in the details; it also gives obvious indications of its Hebrew origin. But the original document of Matthew passed through the hands of the Greek editor, who has inserted other expressions of Christ allied to those in the organic connexion of the discourse, but spoken on other occasions. Assuming that what is common to Matthew and Luke forms the body of the sermon, we have a standard for deciding what passages do, and what do not, belong to it as a connected whole.

(4.)

There runs through the whole discourse, implied where it is not directly expressed, a rebuke of the carnal tendency of the Jewish mind, as displayed in its notions of the Messianic kingdom, and of the requisites for participating therein; the latter, indeed, depending entirely upon the former. It was most important to convince men that meetness for the kingdom depended not upon alliance to the Jewish stem, but upon alliance of the heart to God. Their mode of thinking had to be modified accordingly. A direct attack upon the usual conceptions of the nature and manifestation of the kingdom would have been repelled by those who were unprepared for it; but to show what dispositions of heart it required, was to strike at the root of error. In his mode of expression, indeed, Christ adhered to the Jewish forms (e.g., in stating the beatitudes); but his words were carefully adapted and varied, so as to guard against sensuous interpretations. The truth was clearly to be seen through the veil.


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