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24

“But woe to you who are rich,

for you have received your consolation.

25

“Woe to you who are full now,

for you will be hungry.

“Woe to you who are laughing now,

for you will mourn and weep.

26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

Love for Enemies

27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,


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Blessings and Woes.

20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.   21 Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.   22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.   23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.   24 But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.   25 Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.   26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.

Here begins a practical discourse of Christ, which is continued to the end of the chapter, most of which is found in the sermon upon the mount, Matt. v. and vii.. Some think that this was preached at some other time and place, and there are other instances of Christ's preaching the same things, or to the same purport, at different times; but it is probable that this is only the evangelist's abridgment of that sermon, and perhaps that in Matthew too is but an abridgment; the beginning and the conclusion are much the same; and the story of the cure of the centurion's servant follows presently upon it, both there and here, but it is not material. In these verses, we have,

I. Blessings pronounced upon suffering saints, as happy people, though the world pities them (v. 20): He lifted up his eyes upon his disciples, not only the twelve, but the whole company of them (v. 17), and directed his discourse to them; for, when he had healed the sick in the plain, he went up again to the mountain, to preach. There he sat, as one having authority; thither they come to him (Matt. v. 1), and to them he directed his discourse, to them he applied it, and taught them to apply it to themselves. When he had laid it down for a truth, Blessed are the poor in spirit, he added, Blessed are ye poor. All believers, that take the precepts of the gospel to themselves, and live by them may take the promises of the gospel to themselves and live upon them. And the application, as it is here, seems especially designed to encourage the disciples, with reference to the hardships and difficulties they were likely to meet with, in following Christ.

1. "You are poor, you have left all to follow me, are content to live upon alms with me, are never to expect any worldly preferment in my service. You must work hard, and fare hard, as poor people do; but you are blessed in your poverty, it shall be no prejudice at all to your happiness; nay, you are blessed for it, all your losses shall be abundantly made up to you, for yours is the kingdom of God, all the comforts and graces of his kingdom here and all the glories and joys of his kingdom hereafter; yours it shall be, nay, yours it is." Christ's poor are rich in faith, Jam. ii. 5.

2. "You hunger now (v. 21), you are not fed to the full as others are, you often rise hungry, your commons are so short; or you are so intent upon your work that you have not time to eat bread, you are glad of a few ears of corn for a meal's meat; thus you hunger now in this world, but in the other world you shall be filled, shall hunger no more, nor thirst any more."

3. "You weep now, are often in tears, tears of repentance, tears of sympathy; you are of them that mourn in Zion. But blessed are you; your present sorrows are no prejudices to your future joy, but preparatories for it: You shall laugh. You have triumphs in reserve; you are but sowing in tears, and shall shortly reap in joy," Ps. cxxvi. 5, 6. They that now sorrow after a godly sort are treasuring up comforts for themselves, or, rather, God is treasuring up comforts for them; and the day is coming when their mouth shall be filled with laughing and their lips with rejoicing, Job viii. 21.

4. "You now undergo the world's ill will. You must expect all the base treatment that a spiteful world can give you for Christ's sake, because you serve him and his interests; you must expect that wicked men will hate you, because your doctrine and life convict and condemn them; and those that have church-power in their hands will separate you, will force you to separate yourselves, and then excommunicate you for so doing, and lay you under the most ignominious censures. They will pronounce anathemas against you, as scandalous and incorrigible offenders. They will do this with all possible gravity and solemnity, and pomp and pageantry of appeals to Heaven, to make the world believe, and almost you yourselves too, that it is ratified in heaven. Thus will they endeavour to make you odious to others and a terror to yourselves." This is supposed to be the proper notion of aphorisosin hymasthey shall cast you out of their synagogues. "And they that have not this power will not fail to show their malice, to the utmost of their power; for they will reproach you, will charge you with the blackest crimes, which you are perfectly innocent of, will fasten upon you the blackest characters, which you do not deserve; they will cast out your name as evil, your name as Christians, as apostles; they will do all they can to render these names odious." This is the application of the eighth beatitude, Matt. v. 10-12.

"Such usage as this seems hard; but blessed are you when you are so used. It is so far from depriving you of your happiness that it will greatly add to it. It is an honour to you, as it is to a brave hero to be employed in the wars, in the service of his prince; and therefore rejoice you in that day, and leap for joy, v. 23. Do not only bear it, but triumph in it. For," (1.) "You are hereby highly dignified in the kingdom of grace, for you are treated as the prophets were before you, and therefore not only need not be ashamed of it, but may justly rejoice in it, for it will be an evidence for you that you walk in the same spirit, and in the same steps, are engaged in the same cause, and employed in the same service, with them." (2.) "You will for this be abundantly recompensed in the kingdom of glory; not only your services for Christ, but your sufferings will come into the account: Your reward is great in heaven. Venture upon your sufferings, in a full belief that the glory of heaven will abundantly countervail all these hardships; so that, though you may be losers for Christ, you shall not be losers by him in the end."

II. Woes denounced against prospering sinners as miserable people, though the world envies them. These we had not in Matthew. It should seem, the best exposition of these woes, compared with the foregoing blessings, is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus had the blessedness of those that are poor, and hunger, and weep, now, for in Abraham's bosom all the promises made to them who did so were made good to him; but the rich man had the woes that follow here, as he had the character of those on whom these woes are entailed.

1. Here is a woe to them that are rich, that is, that trust in riches, that have abundance of this world's wealth, and, instead of serving God with it, serve their lusts with it; woe to them, for they have received their consolation, that which they placed their happiness in, and were willing to take up with for a portion, v. 24. They in their life-time received their good things, which, in their account, were the best things, and all the good things they are ever likely to receive from God. "You that are rich are in temptation to set your hearts upon a smiling world, and to say, Soul, take thine ease in the embraces of it, This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell; and then woe unto you." (1.) It is the folly of carnal worldlings that they make the things of this world their consolation, which were intended only for their convenience. They please themselves with them, pride themselves in them, and make them their heaven upon earth; and to them the consolations of God are small, and of no account. (2.) It is their misery that they are put off with them as their consolation. Let them know it, to their terror, when they are parted from these things, there is an end of all their comfort, a final end of it, and nothing remains to them but everlasting misery and torment.

2. Here is a woe to them that are full (v. 25), that are fed to the full, and have more than heart could wish (Ps. lxxiii. 7), that have their bellies filled with the hid treasures of this world (Ps. xvii. 14), that, when they have abundance of these, are full, and think they have enough, they need no more, they desire no more, Rev. iii. 17. Now ye are full, now ye are rich, 1 Cor. iv. 8. They are full of themselves, without God and Christ. Woe to such, for they shall hunger, they shall shortly be stripped and emptied of all the things they are so proud of; and, when they shall have left behind them in the world all those things which are their fulness, they shall carry away with them such appetites and desires as the world they remove to will afford them no gratifications of; for all the delights of sense, which they are now so full of, will in hell be denied, and in heaven superseded.

3. Here is a woe to them that laugh now, that have always a disposition to be merry, and always something to make merry with; that know no other joy than that which is carnal and sensual, and know no other use of this world's good than purely to indulge that carnal sensual joy that banishes sorrow, even godly sorrow, from their minds, and are always entertaining themselves with the laughter of the fool. Woe unto such, for it is but now, for a little time, that they laugh; they shall mourn and weep shortly, shall mourn and weep eternally, in a world where there is nothing but weeping and wailing, endless, easeless, and remediless sorrow.

4. Here is a woe to them whom all men speak well of, that is, who make it their great and only care to gain the praise and applause of men, who value themselves upon that more than upon the favour of God and his acceptance (v. 26): "Woe unto you; that is, it would be a bad sign that you were not faithful to your trust, and to the souls of men, if you preached so as that nobody would be disgusted; for your business is to tell people of their faults, and, if you do that as you ought, you will get that ill will which never speaks well. The false prophets indeed, that flattered your father in their wicked ways, that prophesied smooth things to them, were caressed and spoken well of; and, if you be in like manner cried up, you will be justly suspected to deal deceitfully as they did." We should desire to have the approbation of those that are wise and good, and not be indifferent to what people say of us; but, as we should despise the reproaches, so we should also despise the praises, of the fools in Israel.

Exhortations to Justice and Mercy.

27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,   28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.   29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.   30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.   31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.   32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.   33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.   34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.   35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.   36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

These verses agree with Matt. v. 38, to the end of that chapter: I say unto you that hear (v. 27), to all you that hear, and not to disciples only, for these are lessons of universal concern. He that has an ear, let him hear. Those that diligently hearken to Christ shall find he has something to say to them well worth their hearing. Now the lessons Christ here teacheth us are,

I. That we must render to all their due, and be honest and just in all our dealings (v. 31): As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise; for this is loving your neighbour as yourselves. What we should expect, in reason, to be done to us, either in justice or charity, by others, if they were in our condition and we in theirs, that, as the matter stands, we must do to them. We must put our souls into their souls' stead, and then pity and succour them, as we should desire and justly expect to be ourselves pitied and succoured.

II. That we must be free in giving to them that need (v. 30): "Give to every man that asketh of thee, to every one that is a proper object of charity, that wants necessaries, which thou hast wherewithal to supply out of thy superfluities. Give to those that are not able to help themselves, to those that have not relations in a capacity to help them." Christ would have his disciples ready to distribute, and willing to communicate, to their power in ordinary cases, and beyond their power in extraordinary.

III. That we must be generous in forgiving those that have been any way injurious to us.

1. We must not be extreme in demanding our right, when it is denied us: "Him that taketh away thy cloak, either forcibly or fraudulently, forbid him not by any violent means to take thy coat also, v. 29. Let him have that too, rather than fight for it. And (v. 30) of him that taketh thy goods" (so Dr. Hammond thinks it should be read), "that borrows them, or that takes them up from thee upon trust, of such do not exact them; if Providence have made such insolvent, do not take the advantage of the law against them, but rather lose it than take them by the throat, Matt. xviii. 28. If a man run away in thy debt, and take away thy goods with him, do not perplex thyself, nor be incensed against him."

2. We must not be rigorous in revenging a wrong when it is done us: "Unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek, instead of bringing an action against him, or sending for a writ for him, or bringing him before a justice, offer also the other;" that is, "pass it by, though thereby thou shouldest be in danger of bringing upon thyself another like in dignity, which is commonly pretended in excuse of taking the advantage of the law in such a case. If any one smite thee on the cheek, rather than give another blow to him, be ready to receive another from him;" that is, "leave it to God to plead thy cause, and do thou sit down silent under the affront." When we do thus, God will smite our enemies, as far as they are his, upon the cheek bone, so as to break the teeth of the ungodly (Ps. iii. 7); for he hath said, Vengeance is mine, and he will make it appear that it is so when we leave it to him to take vengeance.

3. Nay, we must do good to them that do evil to us. This is that which our Saviour, in these verses, chiefly designs to teach us, as a law peculiar to his religion, and a branch of the perfection of it.

(1.) We must be kind to those from whom we have received injuries. We must not only love our enemies, and bear a good will to them, but we must do good to them, be as ready to do any good office to them as to any other person, if their case call for it, and it be in the power of our hands to do it. We must study to make it appear, by positive acts, if there be an opportunity for them, that we bear them no malice, nor see revenge. Do they curse us, speak ill of us, and wish ill to us? Do they despitefully use us, in word or deed? Do they endeavour to make us contemptible or odious? Let us bless them, and pray for them, speak well of them, the best we can, wish well to them, especially to their souls, and be intercessors with God for them. This is repeated, v. 35: love your enemies, and do them good. To recommend this difficult duty to us, it is represented as a generous thing, and an attainment few arrive at. To love those that love us has nothing uncommon in it, nothing peculiar to Christ's disciples, for sinners will love those that love them. There is nothing self-denying in that; it is but following nature, even in its corrupt state, and puts no force at all upon it (v. 32): it is no thanks to us to love those that say and do just as we would have them. "And (v. 33) if you do good to them that do good to you, and return their kindnesses, it is from a common principle of custom, honour, and gratitude; and therefore what thanks have you? What credit are you to the name of Christ, or what reputation do you bring to it? for sinners also, that know nothing of Christ and his doctrine, do even the same. But it becomes you to do something more excellent and eminent, herein to out-do your neighbours, to do that which sinners will not do, and which no principle of theirs can pretend to reach to: you must render good for evil;" not that any thanks are due to us, but then we are to our God for a name and a praise and he will have the thanks.

(2.) We must be kind to those from whom we expect no manner of advantage (v. 35): Lend, hoping for nothing again. It is meant of the rich lending to the poor a little money for their necessity, to buy daily bread for themselves and their families, or to keep them out of prison. In such a case, we must lend, with a resolution not to demand interest for what we lend, as we may most justly from those that borrow money to make purchases withal, or to trade with. But that is not all; we must lend though we have reason to suspect that what we lend we lose, lend to those who are so poor that it is not probable they will be able to pay us again. This precept will be best illustrated by that law of Moses (Deut. xv. 7-10), which obliges them to lend to a poor brother as much as he needed, though the year of release was at hand. Here are two motives to this generous charity.

[1.] It will redound to our profit; for our reward shall be great, v. 35. What is given, or laid out, or lent and lost on earth, from a true principle of charity, will be made up to us in the other world, unspeakably to our advantage. "You shall not only be repaid, but rewarded, greatly rewarded; it will be said to you, Come, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom."

[2.] It will redound to our honour; for herein we shall resemble God in his goodness, which is the greatest glory: "Ye shall be the children of the Highest, shall be owned by him as his children, being like him." It is the glory of God that he is kind to the unthankful and to the evil, bestows the gifts of common providence even upon the worst of men, who are every day provoking him, and rebelling against him, and using those very gifts to his dishonour. Hence he infers (v. 36), Be merciful, as your Father is merciful; this explains Matt. v. 48, "Be perfect, as our Father is perfect. Imitate your Father in those things that are his brightest perfections." Those that are merciful as God is merciful, even to the evil and the unthankful, are perfect as God is perfect; so he is pleased graciously to accept it, though infinitely falling short. Charity is called the bond of perfectness, Col. iii. 14. This should strongly engage us to be merciful to our brethren, even such as have been injurious to us, not only that God is so to others, but that he is so to us, though we have been, and are, evil and unthankful; it is of his mercies that we are not consumed.




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