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The Life of Christ

The Principles of Heaven

 

Volume 17

 

This volume is based on:-

Matthew 5:1-48.

It is recommended that you read these verses before you read the book.

 

You may freely copy this book as you desire.

The language of the Scripture quotes has been modernised for easier understanding.


 

The Sermon on the Mount

c. 29AD

Christ seldom gathered His disciples alone to receive His words. He did not choose for His audience those only who knew the way of life.


It was His work to reach the multitudes who were in ignorance and error. He gave His lessons of truth where they could reach the darkened understanding. He Himself was the Truth, standing with hands ever outstretched to bless, and in words of warning, entreaty, and encouragement, seeking to uplift all who would come to Him.

Therefore the Sermon on the Mount, though given especially to the disciples, was spoken in the hearing of the multitude. After the ordination of the apostles, Jesus went with them to the seaside. Here in the early morning the people had begun to assemble. Besides the usual crowds from the Galilean towns, there were people from Judea, and even from Jerusalem itself; from Perea, from Decapolis, from Idumea, away to the south of Judea; and from Tyre and Sidon, the Phoenician cities on the shore of the Mediterranean.

"When they had heard what great things He did," they "came to hear Him, and to be healed of their diseases:... there went virtue out of Him, and healed them all." Mark 3:8; Luke 6:17-19.

The narrow beach did not afford even standing room within reach of His voice for all who desired to hear Him, and Jesus led the way back to the mountainside. Reaching a level space that offered a pleasant gathering place for the vast assembly, He seated Himself on the grass, and the disciples and the multitude followed His example.

Another mountain

More than fourteen centuries before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the children of Israel gathered in the fair valley of Shechem, and from the mountains on either side the voices of the priests were heard proclaiming the blessings and the curses — "a blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God:... and a curse, if you will not obey." Deuteronomy 11:27, 28. And thus the mountain from which the words of benediction were spoken came to be known as the mount of blessing.

But it was not upon Gerizim that the words were spoken which have come as a benediction to a sinning and sorrowing world. Israel fell short of the high ideal which had been set before her. Another Joshua must guide His people to the true rest of faith. No longer is Gerizim known as the mount of the Beatitudes, but that unnamed mountain beside the Lake of Gennesaret, where Jesus spoke the words of blessing to His disciples and the multitude.

An expectation

The disciples' place was always next to Jesus. The people constantly pressed upon Him, yet the disciples understood that they were not to be crowded away from His presence. They sat close beside Him, that they might not lose a word of His instruction. They were attentive listeners, eager to understand the truths they were to make known to all lands and all ages.

With a feeling that something more than usual might be expected, they now pressed about their Master. They believed that the kingdom was soon to be established, and from the events of the morning they gathered assurance that some announcement concerning it was about to be made. A feeling of expectancy pervaded the multitude also, and eager faces gave evidence of the deep interest.

But as the people sat upon the green hillside, awaiting the words of the divine Teacher, their hearts were filled with thoughts of future glory. There were scribes and Pharisees who looked forward to the day when they should have dominion over the hated Romans, and possess the riches and splendour of the world's great empire. The poor peasants and fishermen hoped to hear the assurance that their wretched hovels, the scanty food, the life of toil, and fear of want were to be exchanged for mansions of plenty and days of ease. In place of the one coarse garment which was their covering by day, and their blanket at night, they hoped that Christ would give them the rich and costly robes of their conquerors. All hearts thrilled with the proud hope that Israel was soon to be honoured before the nations as the chosen of the Lord, and Jerusalem exalted as the head of a universal kingdom.

A wrong idea

When the Saviour began His ministry, the popular conception of the Messiah and His work was such as wholly unfitted the people to receive Him. The spirit of true devotion had been lost in tradition and ceremonialism, and the prophecies were interpreted at the dictate of proud, world-loving hearts. The Jews looked for the coming One, not as a Saviour from sin, but as a great prince who should bring all nations under the supremacy of the Lion of the tribe of Judah. In vain had John the Baptist, with the heart-searching power of the ancient/ prophets, called them to repentance. In vain had he, beside the Jordan, pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world. God was seeking to direct their minds to Isaiah's prophecy of the suffering Saviour, but they would not hear.

Passed over

Had the teachers and leaders in Israel yielded to His transforming grace, Jesus would have made them His ambassadors among men. In Judea first the coming of the kingdom had been proclaimed, and the call to repentance had been given. In the act of driving out the desecrators from the temple at Jerusalem, Jesus had announced Himself as the Messiah - the One who should cleanse the soul from the defilement of sin and make His people a holy temple to the Lord.

But the Jewish leaders would not humble themselves to receive the lowly Teacher from Nazareth. At His second visit to Jerusalem He was arraigned before the Sanhedrin, and fear of the people alone prevented these dignitaries from trying to take His life. Then it was that, leaving Judea, He entered upon His ministry in Galilee.

It was time to speak

His work there had continued some months before the Sermon on the Mount was given. The message He had proclaimed throughout the land, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17), had arrested the attention of all classes, and had still further fanned the flame of their ambitious hopes. The fame of the new Teacher had spread beyond the limits of Palestine, and, notwithstanding the attitude of the hierarchy, the feeling was widespread that this might be the hoped-for Deliverer. Great multitudes thronged the steps of Jesus, and the popular enthusiasm ran high.

But Christ disappointed their hope of worldly greatness. In the Sermon on the Mount He sought to undo the ideas that had been brought about by false education, and to give His hearers a right conception of His kingdom and of His own character. Yet He did not make a direct attack on the errors of the people. Although He saw the misery of the world on account of sin, He did not present before them a vivid description of their wretchedness. He simply taught them of something infinitely better than they had known.

Without combating their ideas of the kingdom of God, He told them the conditions of entrance to it, leaving them to draw their own conclusions as to its nature. The truths He taught are no less important to us than to the multitude that followed Him.

We no less than they need to learn the foundation principles of the kingdom of God.

Humility the base

Christ's first words to the people on the mount were words of blessing. They were His greeting, not only to those who believe, but to the whole human family.

"He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:2,3.

As something strange and new, these words fell upon the ears of the wondering multitude. Such teaching was contrary to all they had ever heard from priest or rabbi. They saw in it nothing to flatter their pride or to feed their ambitious hopes. But there was about this new Teacher a power that held them spellbound. The sweetness of divine love flowed from His very presence as the fragrance from a flower. His words fell like "rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth." Psalm 72:6.

All felt instinctively that here was One who read the secrets of the soul, yet who came near to them with tender compassion. Their hearts opened to Him, and, as they listened, the Holy Spirit unfolded to them something of the meaning of that lesson which humanity in all ages so needs to learn.

Feel a need

In the days of Christ the religious leaders of the people felt that they were rich in spiritual treasure. The prayer of the Pharisee, "God, I thank You, that I am not as the rest of men" (Luke 18:11, R.V.), expressed the feeling of his class and, to a great degree, of the whole nation.

But in the throng that surrounded Jesus there were some who had a sense of their spiritual poverty.

When in the miraculous draft of fishes the divine power of Christ was revealed, Peter fell at the Saviour's feet, exclaiming, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8); so in the multitude gathered upon the mount there were souls who, in the presence of His purity, felt that they were "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Revelation 3:17); and they longed for "the grace of God that brings salvation" (Titus 2:11).

In these souls, Christ's words of greeting awakened hope; they saw that their lives were under the blessing of God.

Jesus had presented the cup of blessing to those who felt that they were "rich, and increased with goods" (Revelation 3:17), and had need of nothing, and they had turned with scorn from the gracious gift. He who feels whole, who thinks that he is reasonably good, and is contented with his condition, does not seek to become a partaker of the grace and righteousness of Christ. Pride feels no need, and so it closes the heart against Christ and the infinite blessings He came to give. There is no room for Jesus in the heart of such a person. Those who are rich and honourable in their own eyes do not ask in faith, and receive the blessing of God. They feel that they are full, therefore they go away empty.

Those who know that they cannot possibly save themselves, or of themselves do any righteous action, are the ones who appreciate the help that Christ can bestow. They are the poor in spirit, whom He declares to be blessed.

The same for all

Happy are they, He said, who recognise their spiritual poverty, and feel their need of redemption. The gospel is to be preached to the poor. Not to the spiritually proud, those who claim to be rich and in need of nothing is it revealed, but to those who are humble and contrite. One fountain only has been opened for sin, a fountain for the poor in spirit.

The proud heart strives to earn salvation; but both our title to heaven and our fitness for it are found in the righteousness of Christ.

The Lord can do nothing toward the recovery of sinners until, convinced of their own weakness, and stripped of all self-sufficiency, they yield themselves to the control of God. Then they can receive the gift that God is waiting to bestow. From the soul that feels their need, nothing is withheld. He or she has unrestricted access to Him in whom all fullness dwells. "For thus says the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." Isaiah 57:15.

True mourning

"Blessed [happy] are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." By these words Christ does not teach that selfish mourning has power to remove the guilt of sin. He gives no sanction to pretence or to voluntary humility. The mourning of which He speaks does not consist in melancholy and lamentation. While we sorrow on account of sin, we are to rejoice in the precious privilege of being children of God.

We often sorrow because our evil deeds bring unpleasant consequences to ourselves; but this is not repentance. Real sorrow for sin is the result of the working of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit reveals the ingratitude of the heart that has slighted and grieved the Saviour, and brings us in contrition to the foot of the cross.

By every sin Jesus is wounded afresh; and as we look upon Him whom we have pierced, we mourn for the sins that have brought anguish upon Him. Such mourning will lead to the giving up of sin. The worldling may pronounce this sorrow a weakness; but it is the strength which binds the penitent to the Infinite One with links that cannot be broken.

It shows that the angels of God are bringing back to the soul the graces that were lost through hardness of heart and transgression. The tears of the penitent are only the raindrops that precede the sunshine of holiness. This sorrow heralds a joy which will be a living fountain in the soul. "Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the Lord your God;" "and I will not cause Mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, says the Lord." Jeremiah 3:13,12.

"Unto them that mourn in Zion," He has appointed to give "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." Isaiah 61:3.

Trial and tribulation

But for those also who do mourn in trial and sorrow there is comfort. The bitterness of grief and humiliation is better than the indulgences of sin. Through affliction God is able to reveal to us the plague spots in our characters, that by His grace we may overcome our faults. Unknown chapters in regard to ourselves are opened to us, and the test comes, whether we will accept the reproof and the counsel of God.

When brought into trial, we are not to fret and complain. We should not rebel, or worry ourselves out of the hand of Christ. We are to humble our soul before God. The ways of the Lord are obscure to those who desire to see things in a light pleasing to themselves; they appear dark and joyless to our human nature, but God's ways are ways of mercy and the end is salvation.

Elijah did not know what he was doing when in the desert he said that he had had enough of life, and prayed that he might die. 1 Kings 19:4.
The Lord in His mercy did not take him at his word. There was yet a great work for Elijah to do; and when his work was done, he was not to perish in discouragement and solitude in the wilderness. Not for him the descent into the dust of death, but the ascent in glory, with the convoy of celestial chariots, to the throne on high. 2 Kings 2:11-12.

God's word for the sorrowing is, "I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts to him and to his mourners." Isaiah 57:18.

"I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow." Jeremiah 31:13.

Self-control

"Blessed are the meek." The difficulties we have to encounter may be very much lessened by that meekness which hides itself in Christ. If we possess the humility of our Master, we shall rise above the slights, the rebuffs, the annoyances, to which we are daily exposed, and they will cease to cast a gloom over our spirit.

The highest evidence of nobility in a Christian is self-control.

Those Christians who under abuse or cruelty fail to maintain a calm and trustful spirit rob God of His right to reveal in them His own perfection of character. Lowliness of heart is the strength that gives victory to the followers of Christ; it is the token of their connection with the courts above.

"Though the Lord be high, yet has He respect to the lowly." Psalm 138:6. Those who reveal the meek and lowly spirit of Christ are tenderly regarded by God. They may be looked upon with scorn by the world, but they are of great value in His sight.

Not only the wise, the great, the beneficent, will gain a passport to the heavenly courts; not only the busy worker, full of zeal and restless activity, no; the poor in spirit, who crave the presence of an abiding Christ, the humble in heart, whose highest ambition is to do God's will, - these will gain an abundant entrance. They will be among that number who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. "Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sits on the throne shall dwell among them." Revelation 7:15.

A line of advance

Throughout the Beatitudes there is an advancing line of Christian experience.

Those who have felt their need of Christ, those who have mourned because of sin and have sat with Christ in the school of affliction, will learn meekness from the divine Teacher.

Patience and gentleness under wrong were not characteristics prized by the heathen or by the Jews. The statement made under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that Moses was the meekest man upon the earth, would not have been regarded by the people of his time as a commendation; it would rather have excited pity or contempt. Numbers 12:3. But Jesus places meekness among the first qualifications for His kingdom. In His own life and character the divine beauty of this precious grace is revealed.

Jesus, the brightness of the Father's glory, thought "it not a thing to be grasped to be on an equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant." Philippians 2:6, 7, R.V., margin.

Through all the lowly experiences of life He consented to pass, walking among the children of men, not as a king, to demand homage, but as one whose mission it was to serve others. There was in His manner no taint of bigotry, no cold severity. The world's Redeemer had a greater than angelic nature, yet united with His divine majesty were meekness and humility that attracted all to Himself.

Jesus emptied Himself, and in all that He did, self did not appear. He subordinated all things to the will of His Father. When His mission on earth was about to close, He could say, "I have glorified You on the earth: I have finished the work which You gave Me to do." John 17:4.

And He bids us, "Learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart", and, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself" (Matthew 11:29; 16:24). We should let self be dethroned and no longer hold on to the supremacy of our ego.

A desperate need

"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." Matthew 5:6. Righteousness is holiness, likeness to God, and "God is love." (1 John 4:16).

It is conformity to the law of God, for "all Your commandments are righteousness" (Psalm 119:172), and "love is the fulfilling of the law" (Romans 13:10). Righteousness is love, and love is the light and the life of God. The righteousness of God is embodied in Christ.

We receive righteousness by receiving Him.

Not by painful struggles or wearisome toil, not by gift or sacrifice, is righteousness obtained; but it is freely given to every soul who hungers and thirsts to receive it.

"Ho, every one that thirsts, come you to the waters, and he that has no money; come you, buy, and eat,... without money and without price." Isaiah 55:1.

"Their righteousness is of Me, says the Lord," and, "This is His name whereby He shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness." Isaiah 54: 17; Jeremiah 23:6.

No human agent can supply that which will satisfy the hunger and thirst of the soul. But Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." Revelation 3:20.

"I am the bread of life: he that comes to Me shall never hunger; and he that believes on Me shall never thirst." John 6:35.

Spiritual food

As we need food to sustain our physical strength, so do we need Christ, the Bread from heaven, to sustain spiritual life and impart strength to work the works of God. As the body is continually receiving the nourishment that sustains life and vigour, so the soul must be constantly communing with Christ, submitting to Him and depending wholly upon Him.

As the weary traveller seeks the spring in the desert and, finding it, quenches his burning thirst, so will the Christian thirst for and obtain the pure water of life, of which Christ is the fountain.

As we discern the perfection of our Saviour's character we shall desire to become wholly transformed and renewed in the image of His purity. The more we know of God, the higher will be our ideal of character and the more earnest our longing to reflect His likeness. A divine element combines with the human when the soul reaches out after God and the longing heart can say, "My soul, wait you only upon God; for my expectation is from Him." Psalm 62:5.

The sense of need

If you have a sense of need in your soul, if you hunger and thirst after righteousness, this is an evidence that Christ has wrought upon your heart, in order that He may be sought to do for you, through the endowment of the Holy Spirit, those things which it is impossible for you to do for yourself. We need not seek to quench our thirst at shallow streams; for the great fountain is just above us, of whose abundant waters we may freely drink, if we will rise a little higher in the pathway of faith.

The sense of unworthiness will lead our heart to hunger and thirst for righteousness, and this desire will not be disappointed. Those who make room in their hearts for Jesus will realise His love. All who long to bear the likeness of the character of God shall be satisfied. The Holy Spirit never leaves unassisted the soul who is looking to Jesus. He takes of the things of Christ and shows them to him. If the eye is kept fixed on Christ, the work of the Spirit ceases not until the soul is conformed to His image. The pure element of love will expand the soul, giving it a capacity for higher attainments, for increased knowledge of heavenly things, so that it will not rest short of the fullness.

Giving mercy

The merciful shall find mercy, and the pure in heart shall see God. Every impure thought defiles the soul, impairs the moral sense, and tends to obliterate the impressions of the Holy Spirit. It dims the spiritual vision, so that men cannot behold God.

The Lord may and does forgive the repenting sinner; but though forgiven, the soul is marred. All impurity of speech or of thought must be shunned by the one who would have clear discernment of spiritual truth.

But the words of Christ cover more than freedom from sensual impurity, more than freedom from that ceremonial defilement which the Jews so rigorously shunned. Selfishness prevents us from beholding God. The self-seeking spirit judges of God as altogether such a one as itself. Until we have renounced this, we cannot understand Him who is love. Only the unselfish heart, the humble and trustful spirit, shall see God as "merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth." Exodus 34:6.

Blessed are the peacemakers

The peace of Christ is born of truth. It is harmony with God. The world is at enmity with the law of God; sinners are at enmity with their Maker; and as a result they are at enmity with one another. But the psalmist declares, "Great peace have they which love Your law: and nothing shall offend them." Psalm 119:165.

Men cannot manufacture peace. Human plans for the purification and uplifting of individuals or of society will fail of producing peace, because they do not reach the heart. The only power that can create or perpetuate true peace is the grace of Christ. When this is implanted in the heart,
it will cast out the evil passions that cause strife and dissension. "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree;" and life's desert "shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose." Isaiah 55:13; 35:1.

Christ is "the Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6), and it is His mission to restore to earth and heaven the peace that sin has broken. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 5:1. Whoever consents to renounce sin and open his or her heart to the love of Christ, becomes a partaker of this heavenly peace.

There is no other ground of peace than this.

The grace of Christ received into the heart, subdues enmity; it allays strife and fills the soul with love. Those who are at peace with God and their fellow men cannot be made miserable. Envy will not be in their hearts; evil surmisings will find no room there; hatred cannot exist.
The heart that is in harmony with God is a partaker of the peace of heaven and will diffuse its blessed influence on all around. The spirit of peace will rest like dew upon hearts weary and troubled with worldly strife.

Christ's followers are sent to the world with the message of peace. Whoever, by the quiet, unconscious influence of a holy life, shall reveal the love of Christ; whoever, by word or deed, shall lead another to renounce sin and yield his heart to God, is a peacemaker.

Children of God

And "blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." The spirit of peace is evidence of their connection with heaven. The sweet savour of Christ surrounds them. The fragrance of their lives, the loveliness of their characters, reveal to the world the fact that they are children of God. Men take knowledge of them that they have been with Jesus. "Everyone that loves is born of God." "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His;" but "as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." 1 John 4:7; Romans 8:9, 14.

"And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarries not for man, nor waits for the sons of men." Micah 5:7.

So different

The multitudes were amazed at this teaching, which was so at variance with the precepts and example of the Pharisees. The people had come to think that happiness consisted in the possession of the things of this world, and that fame and the honour of men were much to be coveted. It was very pleasing to be called "Rabbi," and to be extolled as wise and religious, having their virtues paraded before the public. This was regarded as the crown of happiness.

But in the presence of that vast throng, Jesus declared that earthly gain and honour were all the reward such persons would ever receive.

He spoke with certainty, and a convincing power attended His words. The people were silenced, and a feeling of fear crept over them.

They looked at one another doubtfully. Who of them would be saved if this Man's teachings were true? Many were convicted that this remarkable Teacher was actuated by the Spirit of God, and that the sentiments He uttered were divine.

The duty of Christians

After explaining what constitutes true happiness, and how it may be obtained, Jesus more definitely pointed out the duty of His disciples, as teachers chosen of God to lead others into the path of righteousness and eternal life. He knew that they would often suffer from dis-appointment and discouragement, that they would meet with decided opposition, that they would be insulted, and their testimony rejected.

Well He knew that in the fulfilment of their mission, the humble men who listened so attentively to His words were to bear slander, torture, imprisonment, and death, and so He continued His words of encouragement.

Persecution

"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."

The world loves sin, and hates righteousness, and this was the cause of its hostility to Jesus. All who refuse His infinite love will find Christianity a disturbing element. The light of Christ sweeps away the darkness that covers their sins, and the need of reform is made manifest.

While those who yield to the influence of the Holy Spirit begin war with themselves, those who cling to sin war against the truth and its representatives. Thus strife is created, and Christ's followers are accused as troublers of the people. 1 Kings 18:17. But it is fellowship with God that brings them the world's enmity. They are bearing the reproach of Christ. They are treading the path that has been trodden by the noblest of the earth. Not with sorrow, but with rejoicing, should they meet persecution.

Each fiery trial is God's agent for their refining. Each is fitting them for their work as co-labourers with Him. Each conflict has its place in the great battle for righteousness, and each will add to the joy of their final triumph.

Having this in view, the test of their faith and patience will be cheerfully accepted rather than dreaded and avoided. Anxious to fulfil their obligation to the world, fixing their desire upon the approval of God, His servants are to fulfil every duty, irrespective of the fear or the favour of men.

The salt of the earth

Do not withdraw yourselves from the world in order to escape persecution. You are to abide among men, that the savour of the divine love may be as salt to preserve the world from corruption. Hearts that respond to the influence of the Holy Spirit are the channels through which God's blessing flows. Were those who serve God removed from the earth, and His Spirit withdrawn from among men, this world would be left to desolation and destruction, the fruit of Satan's dominion. Though the wicked know it not, they owe even the blessings of this life to the presence, in the world, of God's people whom they despise and oppress. But if Christians are such in name only, they are like the salt that has lost its savour. They have no influence for good in the world. Through their misrepresentation of God they are worse than unbelievers.

Salt is valued for its preservative properties; and when God calls His children salt, He would teach them that His purpose in making them the subjects of His grace is that they may become agents in saving others.

The object of God in choosing a people before all the world was not only that He might adopt them as His sons and daughters, but that through them the world might receive the grace that brings salvation. Titus 2:11.

When the Lord chose Abraham, it was not simply to be the special friend of God, but to be a medium of the peculiar privileges the Lord desired to bestow upon the nations.

Jesus, in that last prayer with His disciples before His crucifixion, said, "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." John 17:19. In like manner Christians who are purified through the truth will possess saving qualities that preserve the world from utter moral corruption.

Salt must be mingled with the substance to which it is added; it must penetrate and infuse in order to preserve. So it is through personal contact and association that sinners are reached by the saving power of the gospel. They are not saved in masses, but as individuals. Personal influence is a power. We must come close to those whom we desire to benefit.

The power of the salt

The savour of the salt represents the vital power of the Christian - the love of Jesus in the heart, the righteousness of Christ pervading the life. The love of Christ is diffusive and aggressive. If it is dwelling in us, it will flow out to others. We shall come close to them till their hearts are warmed by our unselfish interest and love. The sincere believers diffuse vital energy, which is penetrating and imparts new moral power to the souls for whom they labour. It is not the power of the man himself, but the power of the Holy Spirit that does the transforming work.

The light of the world

The Jews thought to confine the benefits of salvation to their own nation; but Christ showed them that salvation is like the sunshine.
It belongs to the whole world. The religion of the Bible is not to be confined between the covers of a book, nor within the walls of a church. It is not to be brought out occasionally for our own benefit, and then to be carefully laid aside again. It is to sanctify the daily life, to manifest itself in every business transaction and in all our social relations.

True character is not shaped from without, and put on; it radiates from within. If we wish to direct others in the path of righteousness, the principles of righteousness must be enshrined in our own hearts. Our profession of faith may proclaim the theory of religion, but it is our practical piety that holds forth the word of truth.

The consistent life, the holy conversation, the unswerving integrity, the active, benevolent spirit, the godly example, - these are the mediums through which light is conveyed to the world.

Reflected light

Humanity has in itself no light. Apart from Christ we are like an unlit candle, like the moon when her face is turned away from the sun;
we have not a single ray of brightness to shed into the darkness of the world. But when we turn toward the Sun of Righteousness, when we come in touch with Christ, the whole soul is aglow with the brightness of the divine presence.

Christ's followers are to be more than a light in the midst of the church. They are the light of the world. Jesus says to all who have named His name, You have given yourselves to Me, and I have given you to the world as My representatives. As the Father had sent Him into the world, so, He declares, "have I also sent them into the world." John 17:18.

As Christ is the channel for the revelation of the Father, so we are to be the channel for the revelation of Christ. While our Saviour is the great source of illumination, forget not, O Christian, that He is revealed through humanity.

God's blessings are bestowed through human instrumentality. Christ Himself came to the world as the Son of man. Humanity, united to the divine nature, must touch humanity. The church of Christ, every individual disciple of the Master, is heaven's appointed channel for the revelation of God to men. Angels of glory wait to communicate through you heaven's light and power to souls that are ready to perish. Shall the human agent fail of accomplishing his or her appointed work? Oh, then to that degree is the world robbed of the promised influence of the Holy Spirit!

But Jesus did not bid the disciples, "Strive to make your light shine;" He said, "Let it shine." If Christ is dwelling in the heart, it is impossible to conceal the light of His presence. If those who profess to be followers of Christ are not the light of the world, it is because the vital power has left them; if they have no light to give, it is because they have no connection with the Source of light.

It is thus that God's purpose in calling His people, from Abraham on the plains of Mesopotamia to us in this age, is to reach its fulfilment. He says, "I will bless you,... and you shall be a blessing." Genesis 12:2. The words of Christ through the gospel prophet, which are but re-echoed in the Sermon on the Mount, are for us in this last generation: "Arise, shine; for your light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you." Isaiah 60:1.

If upon your spirit the glory of the Lord is risen, if you have beheld His beauty who is "the chief among ten thousand" and the One "altogether lovely," if your soul has become radiant in the presence of His glory, to you is this word from the Master sent. Have you stood with Christ on the mount of transfiguration? Down in the plain there are souls enslaved by Satan; they are waiting for the word of faith and prayer to set them free. See Matthew 17.

The Ten Commandments

Jesus had not dwelt on the specifications of the law, but He did not leave His hearers to conclude that He had come to set aside its requirements. He knew that spies stood ready to seize upon every word that might be wrested to serve their purpose. He knew the prejudice that existed in the minds of many of His hearers, and He said nothing to unsettle their faith in the religion and institutions that had been committed to them through Moses.

Christ Himself had given both the moral and the ceremonial law. He did not come to destroy confidence in His own instruction. It was because of His great reverence for the law and the prophets that He sought to break through the wall of traditional requirements which hemmed in the Jews. While He set aside their false interpretations of the law, He carefully guarded His disciples against yielding up the vital truths committed to the Hebrews.

The Pharisees prided themselves on their obedience to the law; yet they knew so little of its principles through everyday practice that to them the Saviour's words sounded like heresy. As He swept away the rubbish under which the truth had been buried, they thought He was sweeping away the truth itself. They whispered to one another that He was making light of the law.

He read their thoughts, and answered them, saying, - "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil."

Here Jesus refuted the charge of the Pharisees. His mission to the world was to vindicate the sacred claims of that law which they charged Him with breaking. If the law of God could have been changed or done away with, then Christ need not have suffered the consequences of our transgression.

He came to explain the relation of the law to us, and to illustrate its precepts by His own life of obedience.

The law of love

God has given us His holy precepts, because He loves mankind. To shield us from the results of transgression, He reveals the principles of righteousness. The law is an expression of the thought of God; when received in Christ, it becomes our thought. It lifts us above the power of natural desires and tendencies, above temptations that lead to sin. God desires us to be happy, and He gave us the precepts of the law that in obeying them we might have joy. When at Jesus' birth the angels sang, —

"Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14),

they were declaring the principles of the law which He had come to magnify and make honourable.

The purpose of the Law

When the law was proclaimed from Sinai, God made known to men the holiness of His character, that by contrast they might see the sinfulness of their own. The law was given to convict them of sin, and reveal their need of a Saviour. It would do this as its principles were applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit.

This work it is still to do.

In the life of Christ the principles of the law are made plain; and as the Holy Spirit of God touches the heart, as the light of Christ reveals to men their need of His cleansing blood and His justifying righteousness, the law is still an agent in bringing us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.

"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." Psalm 19:7.

"Till heaven and earth pass," said Jesus, "one jot or one tittle [these are small punctuation marks] shall in nowise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." The sun shining in the heavens, the solid earth upon which you dwell, are God's witnesses that His law is changeless and eternal. Though they may pass away, the divine precepts shall endure. "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail." Luke 16:17. The system of types that pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God was to be abolished at His death; but the precepts of the Ten Commandments are as unchangeable as the throne of God.

Law breakers

Since "the law of the Lord is perfect," every variation from it must be evil. Those who disobey the commandments of God, and teach others to do so, are condemned by Christ.

The Saviour's life of obedience maintained the claims of the law; it proved that the law could be kept in humanity, and showed the excellence of character that obedience would develop. All who obey as He did are likewise declaring that the law is "holy, and just, and good." Romans 7:12. On the other hand, all who break God's commandments are sustaining Satan's claim that the law is unjust, and cannot be obeyed. Thus they second the deceptions of the great adversary, and cast dishonour upon God. They are the children of the wicked one, who was the first rebel against God's law. To admit them into heaven would again bring in the elements of discord and rebellion, and imperil the well-being of the universe.

No one who wilfully disregards one principle of the law shall enter the kingdom of heaven.

The rabbis counted their righteousness a passport to heaven; but Jesus declared it to be insufficient and unworthy. External ceremonies and a theoretical knowledge of truth constituted Pharisaical righteousness. The rabbis claimed to be holy through their own efforts in keeping the law; but their works had divorced righteousness from religion. While they were punctilious in ritual observances, their lives were immoral and debased. Their so-called righteousness could never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The greatest deception of the human mind in Christ's day was that a mere agreement with the truth constitutes righteousness. In all human experience a theoretical knowledge of the truth has been proved to be insufficient for the saving of the soul. It does not bring forth the fruits of righteousness. A jealous regard for what is termed theological truth often accompanies a hatred of genuine truth as made manifest in life.

The darkest chapters of history are burdened with the record of crimes committed by bigoted religionists. The Pharisees claimed to be children of Abraham, and boasted of their possession of the oracles of God; yet these advantages did not preserve them from selfishness, malignity, greed for gain, and the basest hypocrisy. They thought themselves the greatest religionists of the world, but their so-called orthodoxy led them to crucify the Lord of glory.

The same danger still exists.

Many take it for granted that they are Christians, simply because they subscribe to certain theological beliefs. But they have not brought the truth into practical life. They have not believed and loved it, therefore they have not received the power and grace that come through sanctification of the truth. Any one may profess faith in the truth; but if it does not make them sincere, kind, patient, forbearing, heavenly-minded, it is a curse to its possessors, and through their influence it is a curse to the world.

The righteousness which Christ taught is conformity of heart and life to the revealed will of God. Sinful beings can become righteous only as they have faith in God and maintain a vital connection with Him. Then true godliness will elevate the thoughts and ennoble the life. Then the external forms of religion accord with the Christian's internal purity. Then the ceremonies required in the service of God are not meaningless rites, like those of the hypocritical Pharisees.

The principles of love

Jesus then took up the commandments separately, and explained the depth and breadth of their requirement. Instead of removing one jot of their force, He showed how far-reaching their principles are, and exposed the fatal mistake of the Jews in their outward show of obedience.
He declared that by the evil thought or the lustful look the law of God is transgressed. One who becomes a party to the least injustice is breaking the law and degrading his own moral nature. Murder first exists in the mind. He or she who gives hatred a place in his or her heart is setting their feet in the path of the murderer, and their offerings are abhorrent to God.

The Jews cultivated a spirit of retaliation. In their hatred of the Romans they gave utterance to hard denunciations, and pleased the wicked one by showing his attributes. Thus they were training themselves to do the terrible deeds to which he led them on. In the religious life of the Pharisees there was nothing to recommend piety to the Gentiles. Jesus bade them not to deceive themselves with the thought that they could in heart rise up against their oppressors, and cherish the longing to avenge their wrongs.

Righteous indignation

It is true there is an indignation that is justifiable, even in the followers of Christ. When they see that God is dishonoured, and His service brought into disrepute, when they see the innocent oppressed, a righteous indignation stirs the soul. Such anger, born of sensitive morals, is not a sin. But those who at any supposed provocation feel at liberty to indulge anger or resentment are opening the heart to Satan.

Bitterness and animosity must be banished from the soul if we would be in harmony with heaven.

The Saviour goes farther than this. He says, "If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you; leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." Many are zealous in religious services, while between them and their brethren are unhappy differences which they might reconcile. God requires them to do all in their power to restore harmony. Until they do this, He cannot accept their services. The Christian's duty in this matter is clearly pointed out.

God pours His blessings upon all. "He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." He is "kind to the unthankful and to the evil." Luke 6:35. He bids us to be like Him. "Bless them that curse you," said Jesus; "do good to them that hate you,... that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven." These are the principles of the law, and they are the wellsprings of life.

God's ideal for His children is higher than the highest human thought can reach. "Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Matthew 5:48.

This command is a promise.

The plan of redemption contemplates our complete recovery from the power of Satan. Christ always separates the contrite soul from sin. He came to destroy the works of the devil, and He has made provision that the Holy Spirit shall be imparted to every repentant soul, to keep them from sinning.

The tempter's agency is not to be accounted an excuse for one wrong act. Satan is jubilant when he hears the professed followers of Christ making excuses for their deformity of character. It is these excuses that lead to sin. There is no excuse for sinning. A holy temper, a Christlike life, is accessible to every repenting, believing child of God.

The ideal of Christian character is Christlikeness.

As the Son of man was perfect in His life, so His followers are to be perfect in their life. Jesus was in all things made like to His brethren.
He became flesh, even as we are. He was hungry and thirsty and weary. He was sustained by food and refreshed by sleep. He shared the lot of man; yet He was the blameless Son of God.

He was God in the flesh.

His character is to be ours.

The Lord says of those who believe in Him, "I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." 2 Corinthians 6:16.

Christ is the ladder that Jacob saw, the base resting on the earth, and the topmost round reaching to the gate of heaven, to the very threshold of glory. Genesis 28:12-13. If that ladder had failed by a single step of reaching the earth, we should have been lost. But Christ reaches us where we are. He took our nature and overcame, that we through taking His nature might overcome. Made "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Romans 8:3), He lived a sinless life.

Now, by His divinity He lays hold upon the throne of heaven, while by His humanity He reaches us. He bids us by faith in Him attain to the glory of the character of God. Therefore are we to be perfect, even as our "Father which is in heaven is perfect."

Practical Christianity

Jesus had shown in what righteousness consists, and had pointed to God as its source. Now He turned to practical duties.

In almsgiving, in prayer, in fasting, He said, let nothing be done to attract attention or win praise to self. Give in sincerity, for the benefit of the suffering poor. In prayer, let the soul commune with God. In fasting, go not with the head bowed down, and heart filled with thoughts of self. The heart of the Pharisee is a barren and profitless soil, in which no seeds of divine life can flourish.

It is the one who yields self most unreservedly to God that will render Him the most acceptable service. For through fellowship with God men and women become workers together with Him in presenting His character in humanity.

The service rendered in sincerity of heart has great recompense. "Your Father which sees in secret Himself shall reward you openly."
By the life we live through the grace of Christ the character is formed. The original loveliness begins to be restored to the soul. The attributes of the character of Christ are imparted, and the image of the Divine begins to shine forth.

The faces of men and women who walk and work with God express the peace of heaven. They are surrounded with the atmosphere of heaven.
For these souls the kingdom of God has begun. They have Christ's joy, the joy of being a blessing to humanity. They have the honour of being accepted for the Master's use; they are trusted to do His work in His name.

"No man can serve two masters." We cannot serve God with a divided heart. Bible religion is not one influence among many others; its influence is to be supreme, pervading and controlling every other. It is not to be like a dash of colour brushed here and there upon the canvas, but it is to pervade the whole life, as if the canvas were dipped into the colour, until every thread of the fabric were dyed a deep, unfading hue.

Single-minded

"If therefore your eye be single, your whole body shall be full of light. But if your eye be evil, your whole body shall be full of darkness."

Purity and steadfastness of purpose are the conditions of receiving light from God. Whoever desires to know the truth must be willing to accept all that it reveals. He or she can make no compromise with error. To be wavering and half-hearted in allegiance to truth is to choose the darkness of error and satanic delusion.

Worldly policy and the undeviating principles of righteousness do not blend into each other imperceptibly, like the colours of the rainbow. Between the two a broad, clear line is drawn by the eternal God. The likeness of Christ stands out as distinct from that of Satan as midday in contrast with midnight. And only those who live the life of Christ are His co-workers.

If one sin is cherished in the soul, or one wrong practice retained in the life, the whole being is contaminated. The person becomes an instrument of unrighteousness.

All who have chosen God's service are to rest in His care. Christ pointed to the birds flying in the heavens, to the flowers of the field, and bade His hearers consider these objects of God's creation. "Are not you of much more value than they?" He said. Matthew 6:26, R. V. The measure of divine attention bestowed on any object is proportionate to its rank in the scale of being. The little brown sparrow is watched over by Providence. The flowers of the field, the grass that carpets the earth, share the notice and care of our heavenly Father. The great Master Artist has taken thought for the lilies, making them so beautiful that they outshine the glory of Solomon.

How much more does He care for mankind, who are the image and glory of God. He longs to see His children reveal a character after His similitude. As the sunbeam imparts to the flowers their varied and delicate tints, so does God impart to the soul the beauty of His own character.

All who choose Christ's kingdom of love and righteousness and peace, making its interest paramount to all other, are linked to the world above, and every blessing needed for this life is theirs. In the book of God's providence, the volume of life, we are each given a page.
That page contains every particular of our history; even the hairs of our head are numbered. God's children are never absent from His mind.

As much as we can handle

"Be not therefore anxious for the morrow." Matthew 6:34, R. V. We are to follow Christ day by day. God does not bestow help for tomorrow. He does not give His children all the directions for their life journey at once, lest they should become confused. He tells them just as much as they can remember and perform. The strength and wisdom imparted are for the present emergency. "If any of you lack wisdom," - for today, - "let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not; and it shall be given him." James 1:5.

Judge not

Do not think yourself better than other folk, and set yourself up as their judge. Since you cannot discern motive, you are incapable of judging another. In criticising them, you are passing sentence upon yourself; for you show that you are a participant with Satan, the accuser of the brethren. The Lord says, "Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves." 2 Corinthians 13:5. This is our work.
"If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." 1 Corinthians 11:31.

The good tree will produce good fruit. If the fruit is unpalatable and worthless, the tree is evil, or bad.

So the fruit borne in our life [our actions] testifies to us as to the condition of our heart and the excellence of our character. Good works can never purchase salvation, but they are an evidence of the faith that acts by love and purifies the soul. And though the eternal reward is not bestowed because of our merit, yet it will be in proportion to the work that has been done through the grace of Christ.

Thus Christ set forth the principles of His kingdom, and showed them to be the great rule of life.

The conclusion

To impress the lesson He added an illustration. It is not enough, He says, for you to hear My words. By obedience you must make them the foundation of your character. Self is but shifting sand. If you build upon human theories and inventions, your house will fall. By the winds of temptation, the tempests of trial, it will be swept away. But these principles that I have given will endure. Receive Me; build on My words.

"Everyone therefore which hears these words of Mine, and does them, shall be likened to a wise man, which built his house upon the rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon the rock." Matthew 7:24, 25, R.V.

"Whoever... shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven." That is, he shall have no place therein. For whoever wilfully breaks one commandment, does not, in spirit and truth, keep any of them.

"Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." James 2:10.

It is not the greatness of the act of disobedience that constitutes sin, but the fact of variance from God's expressed will in the least particular; for this shows that there is still communion between the soul and sin.

The heart is divided in its service. There is a virtual denial of God, a rebellion against the laws of His government.

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