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James M. Mathes, ed.
Works of Elder B. W. Stone (1859)

C H A P T E R   V I I.


      IT has been, and yet is a question, whether this discourse was addressed to the multitudes or to the apostles alone. It is of little importance to us to know the true solution of this question--for if addressed to the disciples alone, yet through them, these truths were to be communicated to the world to the end of time. To them did Jesus give instruction, which they as his apostles were commissioned to teach to all nations--"teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." These truths we may safely believe are addressed to the world, if not immediately by the Lord himself, yet immediately by his apostles, and successors.

      In the first verses of the chapter, the Lord gives a view of that religion, which he was about to introduce into the world, and the character of those who alone should be acknowledged as his people, and should inherit eternal life. In verse 3d, he says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." There are three classes of poor mentioned in the Scriptures--the poor, or such as are destitute of the good things of this life; such was Lazarus. There are others, who are rich in the good things of this life; as the Laodiceans (Rev. 3d); they were rich and increased with goods, yet poor and naked. Another class, which forms the character of Heaven's favorites, [222] is the poor in spirit. The two former classes include the mass of mankind; the last comprehends the few, comparatively few of the human family. This is the character I shall endeavor to portray.

      1. He is well convinced of his own natural poverty of Divine things, as holiness, righteousness, and peace; he is convinced of his spiritual weakness to withstand evil and to do good--and of his ignorance of God, and Divine glories, in the midst of Gospel light. This sense of his poverty leads him to prayer; for, says Solomon, The poor uses entreaty. How eloquent poverty makes a man! how earnestly, how humbly does he beseech the rich for aid! how perseveringly does he plead. So the elect of God humbly and earnestly cry unto him day and night, and perseveringly pray to their heavenly Father for constant supplies. They always feel their poverty, and that all help must come from God alone; therefore in him alone they trust.

      Seeing their poverty, they are humbled in heart or spirit in the sight of God and man. What am I that thou art mindful of me, and thus in boundless mercy visitest me! He sinks in the dust as infinitely unworthy of such favors, adores the hand from which they flow, and pants for praise to his name. This is the nearest approach to God and heaven on earth--this is only enjoyed by the poor in spirit. He is also humbled in the sight of men, especially in the sight of living Christians, not knowing the heart-imperfections of such Christians, and well acquainted with their own, like the eminent apostle, he thinks himself "less than the least of all saints," and "esteems others better than himself." He feels no disposition for pre-eminence in the Church, nor to lord it over his brethren. Had this temper prevailed in the Church, that [223] emulation for Peter's chair, and to be called Rabbi, that domineering spirit among the bishops, that thirst for parties, and strife for party establishment would never have been known; nor will the Church ever be converted to unity again, till each member becomes poor in spirit.

      The poor in spirit is also humble in the sight of a wicked world. Oh, says he, who has made me to differ from them? God only in his matchless grace. By nature I am as vile as they. To God and the Lamb be everlasting praise!

      The reward to this person, next claim's our attention. "For theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Such persons as these are to constitute the kingdom of heaven which Jesus had come to set up, and none but such can enter there. How different this from all other kingdoms then existing, and from those which had preceded! as different as light and darkness! Such a kingdom must ultimately banish all discord, strife and war on the earth. Well may we pray, thy kingdom come! We have seen its rise, but its completion is reserved for the future, when Christ shall personally reign on earth a thousand years, and forever and ever. Oh, says the humble soul--the poor in spirit, this overwhelms my mind. How can a polluted worm enter such blessed company? How can I behold my God and Saviour, after having offended so often against the truth. "I blush now at my conduct when my vision of God and his Son is so indistinct; how can I stand before his insufferable glory? The lowest seat in his everlasting kingdom is too good for me. Blessed are the poor in spirit--blessed in time and eternity. Such are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.--Matt. xviii: 1. [224]

      Verse 4. "Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted." We are not to suppose that the mourning here intended is that which the worldly-minded and ungodly experience from the disasters, pains, afflictions and losses which befall them in life. Were this the case, all would be comforted; for these are the lot of a fallen world, from which none are exempt. The mourners in the text mean:

      1. Those who heartily mourn for iniquity. They remember their sins, and mourn and blush before God, with determined purpose to cease to do evil in future, and learn to do well. Though they have received the forgiveness of God, yet the remembrance of sin remains, and doubtless will remain to eternity with them. This will excite their thanks and praise forever, for redeeming grace and love.

      2. They also mourn because of imperfections in heart--that they come so far short of the glory of God, and of their duty, and that their heart is so divided between God and the world. Oh, to love God with all my heart! Oh, to be perfect, even as he is perfect!--to be holy as he is holy! These are the aspirations of their heart.

      3. They mourn over the desolations of Zion. Their want of brotherly love, their contentions, their disunion, are the cause of mourning to their pious souls. They plainly see that the great evidence to convince and to convert the world is cut off; that is the brotherly love and union of Christians. For the want of this, they see with pain, the millions of the human family crowding the way of death and ruin. Well may they mourn, and weep, for so did their Lord when in the flesh. Yet, says Jesus, "Blessed are they; for they shall be comforted." The comforts afforded [225] them by their Lord in time, will more than compensate for their mourning here; but the comforts to be afforded in his everlasting kingdom will cause sorrow and sighing, pain and death, and sin forever to flee away--never more to be felt nor feared again. Happy mourners! You shall be comforted. Faithful is he that hath promised, who also will do it. You may yet live to see partyism--a limb of Antichrist--and Antichrist himself, wounded to death, and expiring in unpitied groans. You may yet live to see Christians united, and filling the heavens with hallelujahs of praise. You may yet live to see the poor Gentile nations flocking to the Lord, as clouds of pigeons to their roosts, drawn thither by the glory of Zion restored. Amen.

      Verse 5. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." There are some men unrenewed, yet are naturally disposed to meekness; but this is not the character blessed of the Lord. Meekness is mildness--a readiness to forgive, and is not easily provoked. A lovely character, truly. "They shall inherit the earth." This shall be their reward. This earth and all things in it are the Son's--all things are given to him by the Father. Though he is heir of all things, yet while in the world he had no possession--not where to lay his head. The wicked world claimed and possessed all. With infinite ease he could have gained his right; but he deferred, and he yet defers to establish and possess his just claim. The meek are joint heirs with Christ, of all things, but the time of possession is yet future. Without a doubt, in my mind, that time will be at the second appearing of the Lord, when all things shall be restored--made new. The earth and heaven or atmosphere, after their [226] dissolution by fire shall be renewed, and made fit for the habitation of immortal saints. Then shall the meek inherit the earth--then shall the prophesy of Daniel be fulfilled (vii: 27), "The kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the most high." This new heaven and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness, may be the meek's blest abode forever. Wherever Jesus lives and reigns, there is heaven.

      Verse 6. "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."

      To love God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves, with a correspondent walk, is righteousness. This none will deny. That which is born after the flesh, is flesh, and hungers and thirsts for carnal food and drink; and that which is born of the Spirit, is Spirit, and hungers and thirsts for spiritual food and drink. Flesh, or the unrenewed man, can not hunger after righteousness, but as a sick man may hunger and thirst for nauseating physic to save him from death. A man may, from no higher motive, hunger and thirst after righteousness, not because he has a longing desire and taste for it, but because he must have it, or be damned forever. So a man may mourn and be in bitterness for sin, not because he in heart hates it, but because it exposes him to hell.

      To hunger and thirst after righteousness, is the very breath of the new creature--the creature created anew in Christ Jesus. Nothing so desirable to him--he therefore denies himself, takes up his cross daily, and follows Jesus in order to be holy. The reward promised to such is, "they shall be filled." They shall be fully satisfied. They feed upon the spiritual meat and drink afforded them by their Lord every day, and on [227] some favored hours are feasted to satiety; but the fulfillment of the promise will not be realized until the Lord comes to distribute his gracious rewards to his saints. Then, and to all eternity, they shall be filled with Heaven's choicest blessings.


      Verse 7. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."

      God, our heavenly Father, is proposed as an example of mercy for our imitation. "Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father who is in heaven is also merciful"--Luke vi: 36. His mercy is shown in his kindness to the unthankful, and to the evil, as well as the good; he causes his sun to shine, and the rain to fall on them all for their comfort. Like him, the merciful man is kind; he loves his enemies, and does them good, and lends, hoping for nothing. His mercy inclines him to visit the widow and fatherless in their afflictions, and to relieve their wants--to clothe the naked--to feed the hungry--to give drink to the thirsty, and to visit the sick and the prisoners. These merciful acts the Lord considers as done to himself, and therefore will welcome such to the joys of Heaven. They shall then obtain mercy in unmeasurable fullness. But should we see our fellow-creature hungry, starving, naked, and should in kind words say, We pity you--be fed, be clothed, be comfortable, and from him withhold our hand of relief, how dwelleth the love of God in that man?

      We may boast of raptures, ecstacies, transports, and angelic feelings--but pure and undefiled religion consists in works of mercy, as visiting the widow and fatherless, and relieving their distresses, and those of [228] suffering humanity, and even of brute creation. "The merciful man spareth his brute." The merciful man, like his Lord, pities and weeps over the millions of mankind sitting in darkness, and in the valley of the shadow of death. He is willing to assist those with his goods and money, who are willing to go to the benighted nations and people with the word of light and life. Such merciful men shall obtain mercy in this world a hundred fold, and in the world to come eternal life.

      Verse 8. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

      Purity of heart is in opposition to hypocrisy. Hypocrites are like whited sepulchres, which appear beautiful without, but inwardly are rottenness, and dead men's bones. The pure in heart has always a good and beautiful exterior, as well as inward purity. His words, his thoughts, his acts, are all pure--all proceeding from a pure fountain within. To please his God and to do good to his fellow-creatures, are the great ends of his life. He prays not to be seen of men, so as to receive praise from them for his piety; he distributes of his substance to the poor, or for benevolent purposes, not to gain the applause of men for his liberality; he exhorts and preaches not to please men, but God, not to get glory of men, but of God. Honesty and purity direct all his ways. Happy men! their reward is great, for they shall see God. This privilege can not be granted to any mortal man; the immortal can only behold him, and live eternally under his smiles. Then we shall see him as he is, face to face, and not through the veil of mortal flesh. The word to see frequently means to enjoy. In this sense [229] the pure in heart enjoy their God on earth, through faith, and are as happy as mortality can bear.

      Verse 9. "Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God."

      Righteousness, peace and joy, is the kingdom of God in heaven and on earth. Righteousness is the parent of peace (Isaiah xxxii: 17), and without it peace can not exist. "There is no peace to the wicked, saith my God." Righteousness and peace beget joy, without which joy would be unknown in the universe. The children of peace are the children of the kingdom--the children of God. Sin deranged the kingdom of God on earth, and righteousness, peace and joy fled from the human heart destined originally to be their eternal throne. God's nature moved him to restore what he had not taken away--Satan and sin did the mischief. But God determined to save his poor lost creatures by his Son; and in that person where this salvation is effected, it is said that righteousness and peace have kissed each other, like old friends, who had been expelled from their home, but had now in gladness and triumph returned. Ps. 85. God himself is the great peace-maker between heaven and earth. The very ministry of Christ was that of reconciliation--to make peace. The apostles exercised the same ministry of peace-making--all that preach among us make the same profession. But, alas! how different is the result--discord and strife. They shall lose the reward, having not the character of the children of peace. But the children of God--all his children--are the children of peace. They have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ--they have the peace of God ruling in them, and this [230] leads them to live in peace with all men, and to cause them to make peace among all as far as their influence extends, and to labor to put down wrath, strife and division in the world.

      Verse 10. "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake."

      Verse 12. "Rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."

      Here is one blessing that the generality of professors are not careful to obtain. The sects all think they are reviled and persecuted by others, and that all this is done falsely, and for Christ's sake--for righteousness' sake. Do they all rejoice, and are all exceedingly glad because they are thus used? Nay. Do they not rather return reviling for reviling, and persecution for persecution? Thus they lose the reward, and disgrace their profession, and cause that worthy name by which they are called to be blasphemed by the unbelieving world.

      Is it not strange that these holy characters described as the members of Christ's kingdom should be reviled and persecuted, and this done too by the professors and ministers of righteousness? The professors of the true religion persecuted the old prophets to death because they told them the truth, and reproved their wickedness. The professors of the true religion hated, reviled and persecuted the Son of God and his apostles to death for the same reasons; and this has been the lot of all true Christians in every age. "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."

      Nothing more plainly marks the depravity of the [231] human heart than persecution for righteousness' sake, yet nothing is more common in every age, from Cain down to our day. It shows human nature to be the same from the time that sin entered into the world--opposed to righteousness, and consequently to the God of righteousness, to the Son of righteousness, to the kingdom of righteousness, and to all that bear the righteous image of God. Sin, and those under the reign of sin would not suffer a righteous, holy being to exist in the universe, if they had the power. This is evident in the cross of Christ, especially against the express image of God, his own innocent Son, sin and its vassals vented their strongest hatred and opposition in crucifying him. All persecution in word or deed for righteousness' sake arises from the same source.

      I have long observed that where true religion more brightly shone, there persecution more furiously raged. This is a trite remark, and it is equally true that persecution sleeps where religion is languid and dead. Persecution in a word (and the world is full of it at this time) is no evidence of righteousness in those who are persecuted. If so, all the sects, the Mormons not excepted, are all righteous, for they all persecute one another, not for righteousness' sake, not falsely, but from the low principles of selfishness, and the love of power. Oh, when shall righteousness run down our streets as a mighty flood, and bear away all sin and pollution? When shall it cover the earth as the waters do the channels of the great deep? Hasten it, Lord, in every land!

      I have thus briefly portrayed the character of the righteous and of the wicked. I shall next proceed to show the purposes which the Lord designs the righteous to accomplish on earth. [232]


      Matt. v: 17, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets, I am not come to destroy but to fulfill."

      The law and the prophets were, and yet are witnesses for Christ and his Gospel, and will be to the end of the world. Myriads by their testimony have been led to Christ and obtained salvation; and myriads more by the same testimony will it is hoped, enjoy the same blessing. Had our Lord destroyed the law, and the prophets he would have destroyed their testimony. They however, will be destroyed hereafter, when there shall be no more need of their testimony. That time is not far ahead--when heaven and earth shall pass away. This will take place at the coming of the Lord, and then will the law and prophets forever cease--be destroyed, there being no more need of them.

      Yet it must be admitted that whatever Christ did on earth was designed to be done. But it is written, that he blotted out the hand-writing of ordinances, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross. Paul in Rom. vii, represents the law as a husband, and Israel as a wife bound to it as long as it (the law) lived--till the law died, they could not legally be married to another (to Christ). They could not be under two husbands, or two covenants at the same time. While Christ lived he and all Israel were under the law. But when he died, the law died with him. By the body of Christ we are dead to the law--that law being dead wherein we were held, that we might be married to another, even Christ. This law was not the ceremonial part only, but also that part written [233] on the two tables of stone, the ten commandments, as is plain from verse 7. We are further informed that the old covenant or law was done away, II. Cor. iii: 10, "For if that which was done away was glorious, much more that (the Gospel) which remaineth is glorious." In Heb. Paul speaking of the old covenant succeeded by the new says, "Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." He continually represents Christians as not under the law, but under grace--Rom. vi: 14, etc. It is a doctrine of the orthodox for centuries, that Christians are not under the law, as a covenant, but as a rule of life they are under it. Paul made not even this exception, "Ye are not under the law." This law of Moses written on tables of stone, in substance, Christ taught his followers, and this is now the law of Christ, written on the heart, and in the mind of every Christian. "Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments and teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven." He must be indeed a poor Christian that lives in disobedience to the least commands.

      But Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets. How he did it, is plain from Luke xxiv: 44, 47. And he said unto them, "These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and of the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning me." And he said unto them, "Thus it is written, and thus it behoveth Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day." In the law, prophets and Psalms, the events of the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus were typified and predicted. When these events took place, the types and prophecies were fulfilled. The law yet [234] remains unfulfilled in two particulars--the high priest's coming out of the holiest of all, and the dismissing of the scape-goat.

      By the blood of the goat, which was the Lord's by lot, the high priest of the law, having sprinkled with it the veil of the sanctuary, was permitted to enter into the Holiest of all to commune with God, and receive gifts for Israel. After this was accomplished he returned out of the sanctuary among the people. Then he dismissed or sent away the scape-goat, bearing on him the sins of the people into the wilderness, where they should be seen no more. Now this is typical of our Great High Priest, who by his own blood entered into the Holiest of all, having by his resurrection and entrance into heaven consecrated a new and living way, in which his people should follow him there after their resurrection. But this glorious High Priest has never yet returned out of heaven to earth according to promise. He will come, and then, and not till then, the antitype of the scape-goat, shall bear away all the iniquities of his people--their mortality, their pains, diseases, sicknesses and death, never, never to return, or afflict one of his saints again. They are now robed in glory with honor, and immortality, and enjoy eternal life together with their Lord, for they shall forever be with him. Till this period the law shall not be destroyed; but then its end comes, all being fulfilled.

      Verse 20. "For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."

      The Scribes and Pharisees were reckoned the most holy class of people among the Jews. Yet they taught [235] for doctrine the commandments of men, and nullified the law by their traditions. They therefore could not enter into the kingdom of heaven. A righteousness is now proposed without the law, without which none can be saved or enter heaven. This righteousness is called the righteousness of God, or the righteousness which God requires of us--it is faith, repentance, conversion, obedience. Through these we obtain salvation and the Holy Spirit of promise, by which we are prepared for the kingdom of heaven. This righteousness is far beyond that of the Scribes and Pharisees, as the glory of the Gospel is beyond that of the law--or rather as true holiness is beyond a spurious righteousness.


      I proceed to show the purposes God designs to be accomplished by his saints on earth.

      Verse 13. "Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it (the earth) be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men."

      The earth, or the world of mankind, inclines to moral corruption and death, and unless checked and preserved by some potent remedy, must sink into the depths of wickedness, and into utter ruin. In infinite mercy, the Lord pitied the dying world, and provided the remedy for their cure, which is here, by a figure, called the salt, by which his people are represented. Now, it is well known that salt applied to flesh will preserve it from putrefaction and dissolution for ages. Christians are designed to be to the world what salt is to flesh, to preserve and save them from sin and ruin. This means has God ordained to effect his purpose of saving sinners. Christians, such as are described in [236] the preceding verses, effect two important things: One is, by their holy, heavenly walk and conversation they check the progress of moral corruption and wickedness in the world--the wicked are awed from their evil practices by the example of piety and truth, before their eyes. Had it not been for Lot and a few of his family, Sodom would have been ripe for destruction long before; and were it not for a few saints on earth at this very time, we should, like Sodom, be utterly destroyed. But when Lot's piety and admonitions could no longer prevail against their growing corruptions, he was called out of the city, and instant ruin overwhelmed the Sodomites. Such will be the lot of the wicked world, unless the remedy be speedily applied. The second purpose of Heaven to be effected by his saints on earth, is, that they be actively engaged to purge out the moral corruption of the world; not barely to check the progress of vice and wickedness outwardly, but to labor to purify their inward parts from corruption itself.

      This we know is God's work, but the saints are ordained the instruments by which he will do it. The earth must be salted by the instrumentality of Christians, or it is lost--lost forever. And does no blame attach to the Christians--the professed salt of the earth? Lift up your eyes, and see death mowing down its thousands every day, and casting them into the yawning gulf of bell. Mournful sight! If this was rightly viewed, would Christians spend their time in vain disputing about notions? No: they would lay aside all such trifling, and rush together, and through fire and water, go to save their perishing fellow-creatures; they would sacrifice their dearest earthly interests to accomplish this benevolent object. [237]

      But if the salt has lost its savor, can it ever be restored? No: it is past recovery; and how then can the earth be salted? Who is to keep it from utter ruin? Salt is of no use without application; but if it lose its saltness, it is thenceforth good for nothing--thenceforth forever good for nothing! Does not the Christian world appear to be fast advancing to this dangerous crisis?

      What a powerful remedy to the corrupted world was this salt in the primitive age of Christianity! It was efficaciously in one day applied to three thousand, from various parts of the world, who also became the salt to season others. The nations soon experienced its Divine efficacy, and millions in a few years were salted and saved from sin, and preserved unto eternal life. The salt of the earth--where is it? Echo responds, where is it? Has it lost its savor? Is the light in us become darkness! Oh, how great is that darkness! Where are the bowels of Jesus Christ for a ruined world? Where are the agonizing, longing souls after sinners? Where are the mourners in Zion? Where are the tears whose fountain is the heart, bursting in streams from the eyes of Christians for the desolations of the world? Where are the sacrifices made for their recovery? Alas! where?--Since the apostacy, and the wine of Babylon, which has made the world drunk, an awful change has taken place. Those gloomy days are not yet closed--crime and wickedness in every form increase with the increase of years. I sometimes fear that the world is ripe for destruction, and has advanced beyond the power of heaven's remedy to preserve it from ruin--such were the Antediluvians, and such were the Sodomites. To me it appears plain, that the present worldly, spiritless, [238] and divided race of Christians can never effect their salvation, unless they return to him from whom they have revolted, and with fervent, ceaseless prayer and fasting seek his face, and rest not till they receive the Holy Spirit of promise. Then will Zion's light break forth; then shall we be prepared to answer God's purpose respecting us.

      Verse 14 expresses the same Divine purpose in another figure--"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a bill can not be hid."

      Verse 15. "Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light to all that are in the house."

      Verse 16. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

      Christ was sent to be the light of the world in darkness. He communicated this light to his people, and through them designed to enlighten the world. They are, therefore, called the light of the world. They are to be as a city set upon a hill that can not be hid. This is the Church of God--as visible as a city on a hill that can not be hid. An invisible church can not, therefore, be the Church of God; for it is hid--it is useless to the world. In prophesy it is declared, that in the latter days his Church should be set upon a mountain towering above all others--that the nations would see it, and its glory, and should flow unto it, as numerous as pigeons to their roosts. So are Christians to shine that others may see their good works, and glorify their Father in heaven. Observe the expression, their good works--the light is to be manifested by good works, and these works are to be visible. Light unproductive of good works is darkness; like [239] salt that has lost its savor. The saints are represented as a lighted candle, to give light to all in the house. If this candle be not lighted, or when lighted be put under a bushel, all in the house are in darkness--it is of no use. So if Christians do not shine in the world, mankind are involved in darkness--they see not their danger-or if they see it, they see no way of escape; nor any inducements to flee from the wrath to come--they must die without God, and hope in the world.

      If these things are true (and who believing the Bible, will deny?), into what an awful state, has the Christian world fallen? Millions dying around them, and their light extinguished--dying for the want of that light, which it is their duty to exhibit. What an awful reckoning day is advancing! Who shall be able to stand, and say, Lord, I have done as thou hast commanded? Christians, awake, and trim your lamps; behold the Bridegroom cometh!

      I have now stated in plain language the purposes God designs to effect by Christians--every one is included, without exception. Oh, my brethren, what are you doing? I ask again, what are we doing? Are we gathering souls to Christ by exhibiting the truth in our godly walk, as well as by proclaiming it with the tongue or pen? or are we scattering and driving them from him by our ungodly and worldly lives--by our wranglings and divisions--our debates and strifes? Look at the situation of the Pagan nations: it pleads in tears, and groans, and death, that we send to them the Word of Life, and deliver them from darkness and death. With outstretched hands, they turn their wishful eyes to us for help, and shall they be disregarded? No: let us fly to their relief. Who will go for us? We wish none to go, but such [240] as are full of the Holy Spirit, and feel the worth of souls, and earnestly desire their salvation. We want none to go, and travel far in order to write their travels, to get money by the sale of their books. Who is willing to retrench their extravagances to aid a competent missionary? Who will part with the Lord's money in their hands for the salvation of souls?


      Matt. v: 38. "Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."

      The law of Moses admitted of, yea, enjoined strict retaliation on its subjects; the reverse of which our great law-giver, Jesus Christ, enjoins on his subjects with equal strictness. "But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil." The word evil is an adjective, and doubtless agrees with person understood--resist not an evil or injurious person. If he smite thee on thy right cheek, retaliate not by smiting him also; rather meekly offer the other cheek. By doing thus you may overcome the injurious person, and bring him to submission to the truth. Christ himself set the example. When he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered (more than a stroke on the cheek), he neither retaliated, nor even threatened the injurious, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously. If this precept of Jesus be binding on one of his followers, it is binding on all, and his example sanctions the obligation. "Surely these people will learn war no more,"--neither the art nor the practice of it. If genuine Christianity were to overspread the [241] earth, wars would cease, and the world would be bound together in the bonds of peace. This is Christ's kingdom--the kingdom of peace. A nation professing Christianity, yet teaching, learning and practicing the arts of war, can not be of the kingdom of Christ, nor do they live in obedience to the laws of Christ--the government is anti-Christian, and must reap the fruits of their infidelity at some future day.

      But what shall be said of the nation which seeks to injure another, and in fact makes a trade of it--yet professing Christianity? The answer is easy. They are leagued with the powers of darkness, and shall share of their pains.

      So far has the Christian world fallen from Christianity, and so long lost sight of it, that its professed advocates have in many instances amalgamated with paganism, and pushed Christianity into the background. War, so contrary to the kingdom of peace, is taught as a science at military academies, and that, too, at the expense of the nation. Legislators condemn dueling, and impose severe penalties; and yet these same legislators will justify the same principle on a larger scale--a war between two nations. Their principle is to resist the injurious, but our Legislator says, resist not the injurious. Whom shall we obey, God or man?

      Verse 40. "And if any man sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also." This man who sues you is an injurious person. If he takes away your coat, resist not the injurious--rather let him take thy cloak also. Show what a low estimate you place on worldly possession; that your treasure is above. This course may save your enemy. The same principle is continued. [242]

      Verse 41. "And whosoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him twain," rather than resist the injurious person.

      Verse 42. "Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away."

      These precepts are in as plain language as can be expressed. I pretend not to make them plainer. This will, or should, satisfy those who say the Scriptures mean what they say, and say what they mean. They are certainly against avarice, selfishness, and unkindness, and plainly express the contrary. We must make God our example. If we admit one exception to the rules laid down, we may admit others for a similar reason, and know not where to stop; one may explain them away, and act, as is generally done, as if such a law was not in existence, and yet profess the Bible to be the sole rule of our practice.

      Verses 43, 44. "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you."

      The rule of conduct by which the ancients were regulated, was to love their neighbor and hate their enemy. It is necessary to inquire with one of old, "And who is my neighbors?" Jesus gave the inquirer a practical definition in the Samaritan, doing good to an unknown man in great distress, who had been abandoned by the priest and the Levite of his own nation. The Jews were mortal enemies to the Samaritans; yet this Samaritan showed mercy to a Jew in great distress, whom he well knew was his [243] enemy. He was the neighbor, and not the enemy. They are set in contrast. An enemy is described in the next verse, as one that curses you, hates you, and despitefully uses and persecutes you. A neighbor is described as one that loves, blesses, and does good to them that curse and hate him, and prays for them who despitefully use and persecute him. This definition of a neighbor is the same as that given above in the case of the Samaritan. How lovely, how divine is the portrait! If all who confess Jesus were of this character, what a body of light and glory would shine upon the world! They--the world--would have to shut their eyes against the light, or yield to its power, and become neighbors too! This character, drawn in miniature, is the very character of the Father of the universe, and manifested in his Son, and in providence to the fallen world. Christians are thus enjoined to act toward their enemies--to all mankind--for the purpose stated in the next.

      Verse 45. "That ye may be the children of your father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust."

      Now, who are the children of our heavenly Father? Those who labor to be and to do like him--those who are neighbors in heart and practice. None else will be acknowledged by the Saviour of sinners--none else will be admitted into Heaven. Such a society on earth would resemble Heaven itself. "In such society as this my weary soul would rest." Such society as this can only profit the world, and without it the world will be lost. The wrangling of the carnal bands of nominal Christians in hostile array against each other, [244] spending their strength in vain disputing about opinions--do they profit the world? Are they not rather a stumbling-block to them? Keep your heavenly father always before your eyes as your pattern. This you will do by keeping in constant view Jesus--the image, the express image of his person--for in seeing him you see the Father--the mercy, grace and love of the Father flowing from the lips, the hands, the eyes and wounds of Jesus for a rebel world. Such a compassionate, tender spirit should we possess, and such love in deed and in truth, should we exhibit to the world, not only to our neighbors, or those that love us, but also to our enemies that hate us.

      Verse 46. "For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the Publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the Publicans so?"

      By cultivating and cherishing such a spirit as recommended above, and by such conduct toward our enemies, is the plain line drawn by the Divine hand between the Christian and the world--it is, in fact, the discrimination between them. If the present generation of professed Christians were judged by the infallible judge according to these rules, who could stand?

      Verse 48. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect."

      Oh, let us labor after this perfection! Let the preachers set the example to their flocks, that they may present them spotless and blameless to their Lord. Their reward shall be great, not in this world's goods, but in heaven. They that go forth weeping, [245] bearing precious seed, shall doubtless return again, bearing their sheaves with them. O Christians, be diligent to make your calling and election sure. Look up, help is at hand, your redemption draweth nigh. [246]

[WEBWS 222-246]

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James M. Mathes, ed.
Works of Elder B. W. Stone (1859)

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