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The GOSPEL for the Sixth Sunday after
Trinity. St. Matthew y. 20-27. Jefus faid to his Disciples, Except your righteousness Jball exceed the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye Jhall in no case enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Te have heard that eit was faid by them of old, Thou sbalt not kill, and whofoever sball kill joill be in danger of the Judgment; but I say unto you, &c.
HIS Gospel for the Day contains another Part of
cates the Law from all false Glosses, and refines it into a more pure and perfect Rule of Life and Manners. He had before told his Disciples, that he came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it, ver. 17. He freed them indeed
from the Rites and Ceremonies, but not from the Rules and Pręcepts of Moses's Law. Instead of loosening the Obligation, he expected a stricter Obedience and Conformity to it. And because the Scribes and Pharisees had corrupted the Law, by: false Glosses, and their Lives by false and glozing Pretences, he endeavours here to reform and regulate both; beginning with this Caution,
'Except your Righteousness Mall exceed the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye Mall in no case enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, The Scribes and Pharisees were the great Doctors and Rabbies among the Jews; the one being the Name of an Office, and the other of a Sect, and both eminent Teachers and Expounders of the Law: which they had done fo fallly and corruptly, that our Saviour found it necessary to expound it over again, to rescue it from their evil Interpretations, and to bring it up to its just height
and perfection, as may be seen in the following part of the Chapter
The Corruptions and false Constructions they made of the Law, were such as these : they taught, (1.) That if Men kept to the Letter of the Law, which they callid jufti cad legem, it was sufficient, tho they minded not the true Intent and spiritual Meaning of it. (2.) If they polish'd the outward Garb, and appear'd righteous before Men, it matter'd not how falfe and unjuft they were within. (3.) If Men abstain'd from the open groffer Acts of Sin, they need not trouble themselves about the more fecret Motives and Occasions of it. (4.) If Men perform'd the external Ads of Religion, 'twas needless to concern themselves about the Principle, End, or Manner of performing them.
Thefe, and fuch other like ithese, were the Doctrines of the Scribes and Pharisees, which they taught others, and practis'd themselves; by which they made void the Law of God, and rendred the Commandments of none effect by their Traditions.
This was the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, which had niany Flaws and Imperfe&tions in it ; for it was merely external, partial, and hypocritical ; it dwelt only in the Face and outward Appearance, without any Truth or Reality at all within. It consisted in Night Observances, and unconinianded Aufterities, and was attended with Arrogance, Pride, and an insolent Contempt of others. They abstaind froni fome Sins, which they could well enough dispense with, and allow'd themselves in others more crying and enormous. They perform’d fone Duties, that suited well enough with their Humour and Interest, and neg:lected others of greater weight and necessity; paying Tythe of Mint, Annise, and Cuminin, and at the same tinie omitting the weightier matters of the Law. In a word, their Religion was founded on bad Principles, carry'd on by bad Means, and directed to bad Ends for their Acts of Piety and Mercy were all done for Vanity and Oftentation, and in all things they consulted more the Praise of Meng than the Glory of God,
Now our Saviour tells us, that our Righteousness must exceed this Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, or else
we shall never enter into the Kingdom of Grace here, or of Glory hereafter. But wherein must our Righteousness exceed theirs? Why,
ift, In the Truth and Sincerity of it: for God loverb Truth in the inner parts; he looketh not as Man looketh, to the outward Appearance, but beholds the Heart, and receives or rejets us by the Truth or Falfhood of that.
2dly, In the Extent and Integrity of it: it must reach : to all God's Commandments, not picking and chusing as the Pharisees did, who made the keeping of one Law to compound for the breach of another ; but we must pay an uniform and universal Obedience to all God's Precepts, being all stamp'd with the fame Authority, and having the fame Equity and Reward: and then mall we not be amamed, when we have respect to all his Commandments.
3dly, Our Righteousness must exceed theirs in the Lowliness and Humility of it ; disclaiming all its Worth, and arrogating nothing as due to it. The Pharisees trusted to their own Righteousness, and claim'd the Reward from the Merit of their own Works; but we are to account ours as filthy Rags, and to desire to be found only in the Robes of Christ's Righteousness : when we have done all, we are to reckon our felves but unprofitable Servants, and trust only to Christ's Merits for our Justification. Again, the Pharisees boasted of their own Righteousness, that they were better than other Men, looking upon themfelves as the only Favourites of Heaven, and despising others as only Men of the Earth : whereas we are to be lowly in Heart and Mind, esteeming others better than our selves; and then shall we rise highest in God's Opinion, when we are lowest in our own.
Lastly, Oar Righteousness must exceed theirs in the Purity of its End and Intention : they only courted the Honour and Applause of Men in all that they did, and so bad all their Reward from them; but we are to direct all our Aims and Intentions to the Glory of God, and that will best tend to and promote our own.
Thus we fee wherein we are to exceed the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, together with the Penalty of falling short of it. Now to help us herein, our Saviour detects their Corruption of several Laws by their Traditions, and directs to the true Meaning and just Extent of them.
The third Commandment they perverted by two false Glosses: the one, that the forbidding of taking God's Name in vain, prohibited only the swearing by the awful Name of God, but permitted them in lesser matters to swear by his Creatures, as by the Heavens, by the Earth,
by Ferusalem, by the Altar, the Temple, their Head, and the like, all which they taught had no Guilt in them, and signify'd nothing : the other was, that the Law against Swearing prohibited only Forfwearing or false Swearing, and that too in matters of great moment, but extended not to things of teffer confequence, and so let them loole to all vain and idle Swearing : both which our Saviour condemnd, by saying, Smear not at all, ver: 33,34.
The fifth Commandment they evacuated by a Gift callid Corban, of which they gave a double Interpretation; the one fignifying an Oath against relieving of Parents, which they that had taken were (as they taught) excus'd thereby from relieving them ; the other was interpreting Corb.in of a Gift consecrated unto God, fignifying, that if they had confecrated their Substance unto God, or to his Temple, they were excus'd from relieving their Parents out of it, being already devoted to God's Service, and so may be more profitable to them than otherwise : both thele ways they made the Law of God of no effect by their Traditions, Mat. 15.
Next, our Saviour vindicates the sixth Commandment from the wrong Interpretations of the Scribes and Pharifees, in the following words of this Day's Gospel : Ye have heard (faith he) that it was said by them of old time, Thou Jalt net kill, and whosoever all kill, Mall be in danger of the Judgment. Where by them of old time we are to underitand Moses and the Prophets, as we read, Exod. 20. & Deut: 5. where this Precept against killing is extant. This the Scribes and Pharisees restrain'd only to actual Murder, or shedding of Blood; and fo Maiming, Wounding, and other Acts of Violence that came fhort of Murder, with all the Occasions leading thereunto, went free : and the Danger of the Judgment, or Punishments annex'd to it, they taught were incur'd by none, but such as actually took away the Life of another, and inbru'd his Hands in his Blood.
But I say unto you (faith Christ) that whosocuer is angry with his Brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the Judgment : and whosoevert fall say unto his Brother, Racha, Mall be in danger of the Council; but whosoever jball say, Thou Fool, sall be in danger of Hell-fire. Where he enlarges the Sense of this Law, and she ws it to extend to all raih Anger, Hatred, and reproacł ıful Speeches, which lead to Murder, and often occalion Slaughter and Bloodshed. VoIIy. Part 2
Now here we may observe the three different Degrees of the Sins leading to Murder, together with the three different Degrees of the Punithments aflign'd to them. The three Degrees of the Sins, or Occasions of Murder, are cæuseless Anger, opprobrious Words, by calling Men Racha, and Thou Fool. The three Degrees of the Punishments aflign’d to them, are the Danger of the Fudgment, the Danger of the Council, and the Danger of Hell-fire. AU which will require a little Explication.
(1.) As for caufeless Anger, that is, when Men are mov'd to l'assion for no cause at all, or on a very slight occasion, which is as good as none; this often happens to fiery and hafty Spirits, which are inflam'd for Trifles, and break out into Rage upon little or no Provocation. A sudden Dif gult, a jealous Surmise, a hasty Word fhall make some Perfons fy out into an absurd, violent, and unaccountable Pasfion, and catch fire at such small sparks, as are better quench'd than kindled; that is, at such light matters, as a wife Man would rather pass by than resent.
Again, Anger is caufeless, when tho there may be fonie caule, yet the Passion runs higher than the Cause can warrant; when it grows inimoderate, and transports beyond the Bounds of Reason and Religion. Certainly all Anges that exceeds the Merits of the Cause, is so far to be justly reckond causeless; in which cafe, as the Pasion offers fone violence to Nature, so does it often occasion fome external Violence and Mischief, as may be seen in the Conversation of furious Persons.
Once more, Anger is causeless, when it lasts longer than the cause continues, when it refufes to be appeas'd or reconcil'd, and retain's secret Grudges and Animolities; which frequently turns to Hatred, Malice, and Desires of Revenge. For which reafon the Wise-man tells us, that Anger resteth in the Bosom of Fools, where it is apt to boil up, and break out in malicious and murderous Designs : and therefore the Apostle wills us not to fin in our Anger, by keeping it too long, nor to fuffer the Sun to go down upon our Wrath; for that is to give place to the Decil, who is ever ready to carry such paflionate Men into all manner of mischief : for this reason it is, that our Saviour here condemns all causeless Anger, as an Occasion of Killing and Marder.
Now the Punishment here aflign'd to it, is to be in danger of the judgment: I say unto you, he that is angry with