THE LORD'S SERMON ON THE MOUNT
Our Lord's sermon on the mount, recorded in Matt v, vi vii, does not afford the least shade of example or authority by one single word for universal invitations or of duty faith, for the dead in sin of themselves to believe unto eternal life, nor to have the things and blessings of eternal life, nor to do the spiritual acts of the quickened and born again into newness of life by the Holy Spirit; although many things therein have been and are so taken and misapplied. These three chapters were all delivered in one discourse, and the whole was properly an ordination and ministerial sermon, delivered by our Lord to his apostles and ministerial disciples, and was peculiarly for them, although the people heard and were astonished at his doctrine, chap vii 28.
'And seeing the multitudes he went up into a mountain; and when he was set his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth and taught them, chap v 1,2; and 'he taught them as one having authority,' chap vii 29. And he declared them to be in the faith though little, chap vi 30, - that God was their Father, who would give them the good things they asked, chap vii 11, that they were the salt of the earth, and were to be careful by a godly sober life and conduct, and by faithfulness, firmness, and honesty in the truth, to preserve the savant of their public ministry from any just suspicion or reproach, chap v 13, - that they were the light of the world, and were to be careful, Tabour, and aim so to let their light shine, as the ministers of truth, true godliness, and of the living and true God, that men seeing their good works, might glorify God their Father which is in heaven, verse 14-16.
These things could not possibly in truth apply to the multitudes, but to the believing and ministerial disciples of our Lord; and the whole sermon was to them, in solemn charge of their ministry and ministerial life. For there is not the least shadow of a variation of the address through the whole sermon, as to any different class of people from the apostles; and it is to them also as the children of God all the way through, varying only from the plural to the singular, and from the singular to the plural personal pronoun: and in the whole sermon God is sixteen times called their Father; in chap v three times, in chap vi twelve times, and in chap vii once: and which is a mode of expression our Lord never once on any occasion used to the unbelieving, or indefinitely to his believing disciples. And he taught them to distinguish characters as to who were the blest, and who should outstand every storm and flood to eternal life; and so by reflection to shew the character and lot of the contrary, - he taught them to distinguish between the law that came of old time by Moses, and the gospel of his commission, - how to pray as well as to preach, - to have their eye always single in the truth as to principle and motive, - not to seek the praise and applause of men, but the favour and approbation of God in all they did, - to aim to set that example in all the departments of their lives that should be worthy of imitation, - to be very cautious against a spirit of self-righteousness in regard to a mote in a brother's eye, - to beware of false prophets, or public men, who would come to them in sheep's clothing for their sanction, and by them to be considered the ministers of God, - to Judge of every tree by its fruit, - and for themselves always to enter in at the strait gate, and to strive to do so, Luke xiii 24, in all their ministrations of the truth and public labors; whatever errors or popular opinions they might have to oppose, and however offensively, narrow, bigoted, and strait, they may be considered in so doing. And he encouraged them not to fear wants, foes, or persecutions, saying, 'Ye are of more value than the fowls of the air, whom your heavenly Father does not fail to feed, and consequently, will be sure much more to feed and take care of you;' and that, 'Blessed are ye 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 that were before you.'
If every professed minister of the gospel had this most instructive, solemn, and ever-blessed charge, vitally laid on his heart by the power of the Holy Ghost, a vast number, from various ways would preach very differently to what they do now; the light of truth would be clear from their lips, and the salt of their ministry would have some little savour; and had it been always so beside much else, we should hear nothing of its being the duty of the natural man to believe unto eternal salvation, and to possess himself of that faith that is alone the free grace gift of God and fruit of the Spirit; nor should we hear anything of universal invitations or exhortations to eternal life; even as now, not one word of the kind is any-where to be found, from our Lord's, or from his apostles' address to the world dead in sin.