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SECTION I.-CHARACTER AND HAPPINESS OF BELIEVERS UNDER THE GOSPEL DISPENSATION.
MAT. V. 1-5.
THE Evangelists appear to agree in the statement, that Jesus commenced His public ministry, not in Judea, where John preached, and where He himself was baptised, but in Galilee; and yet, although in the first instance His ministrations were confined to that remote district of Palestine, His fame was speedily diffused throughout all Syria, and multitudes from every quarter of the country, and even from the neighbouring nations, flocked to hear His wonderful words, and to witness His wonderful works. How varied must have been the motives which actuated
the motley mass that on these occasions composed the audience which Jesus addressed! and how must the heart of Him who searcheth Jerusalem as with candles, have been saddened, as He beheld the thoughts, and feelings, and affections of each individual in the crowd before Him.
V. 1. "And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain; and when he was set, his disciples came unto Him." To a reflective Christian mind, there is something deeply solemn in the sight of a multitude assembled to hear the message of eternal life. Men and women of all classes, of all ages, of all characters, are crowded together in one dense mass. Their object seems to be one, but their motives, their feelings, their end, are widely different. To some, but, O, how few! the truth will prove the savour of life unto life; while to many, alas, how many! it will prove the savour of death unto death. We may reflect upon the possibility of this: Jesus knows the reality. He sees the multitudes as no other on earth can see them. He searches each heart, and, as they crowd to hear Him, unconscious of His matchless glory, He knows the events of the past history of every individual before Him; He witnesses their present spiritual state in the sight of a holy Jehovah; and He is minutely acquainted with their future destiny.
When Jesus saw the multitudes "He went up into
a mountain,” with no other view, probably, than that the multitudes might the more easily and comfortably hear him. We are not informed on what precise mountain the Redeemer spoke this wonderful sermon, and the only approach to certainty which we can make in speaking on the subject, is to refer it to some mountain or hill on the coast of the sea of Galilee.
On this mountain or hill, we are informed Jesus sat, this being the usual position of Jewish teachers when engaged in instructing the people, who generally stood in the form of a half circle before them. Accordingly, when "Jesus was set, his disciples came unto him," plainly perceiving from the attitude which he assumed, that he was about to address the multitudes. By the word "disciples" here, we must understand, not the twelve apostles, who had not yet been chosen, but all who had hitherto listened to his instructions, and been led by the grace of God to embrace His doctrines. They came to Him, anxiously desiring to learn the way of God more perfectly.
V. 2. "And He opened His mouth and taught them." This expression is evidently borrowed from the Hebrew. Thus, in Ps. lxxviii. 2, we find David saying, "I will open my mouth in parables." And the Evangelist in using it here, seems to refer to the solemnity, the pointedness, and impressiveness of the speaker's manner. "He spake as one having autho