<< Matthew V, VI, VII: The Sermon on the Mount >>

DSC787_500_368 WE remember the beautiful shore where the Sea of Galilee and the plain of Gennesaret meet, where Capernaum stood, which was the Lord's home after leaving Nazareth, and where the fishermen lived whom the Lord called to be His disciples. From the southern corner of the green plain a valley opens up into the the hills, with steep rocky sides. Clouds of pigeons fly out, from its cliffs giving it the name of the "Pigeon Valley." Looking up the valley from the shore we see a mountain much higher than the rest. It has a broad top rising a little at either end, and is called the "Horns of Hattin." Hattin is a little town near by. The people living in the plain and sailing on the sea often looked up to this mountain above their home, and we think of it as the mountain into which the Lord led the disciples and the multitude, to speak to them the Blessings and Sermon on the Mount.

Come with me up through the valley and climb the steep slope. As we saw from below, the top is broad, rising higher at either end. In fact, there is a sort of natural wall all about enclosing a large level space in the mountain's top. From the highest points, what a wide, beautiful view! Meadows checkered with many-colored crops, and green hills crowned here and there by little towns; far in the north, overlooking all the rest, the snowy ridge of Hermon. Below us as we face the Sea of Galilee are lovely sweeps of meadow, reaching to the brink, beyond which we see the dark blue water in its deep basin, and fainter blue mountains on the eastern shore. At our feet the meadows are broken by the rugged gorge up which we came, and through this opening we see the head of the Sea of Galilee and the lovely plain of Gennesaret, in the old time so green and so full of busy life.

This mountain-top is a peaceful, sunny place up above the busy world.    It seems a fitting place for the Lord to lift the thoughts of the people to higher things; to help them to look down on their every-day life, and to teach them the heavenly motives from which Christian people ought to live. Perhaps it was in one of the higher tops   that   He   spent the   night   in   prayer, and   in   the   morning appointed the twelve apostles.    Then He came down to a level place, perhaps to this little plain between the mountain's "horns," and sitting here with them in this peaceful spot above the world, taught them the Blessings and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount.

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, saying,

Blessed are the poor in spirit:  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn:   for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek:  for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they,which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful:   for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart:   for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which arc persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
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 which were before you.— Matthew V. 1~12.

The   Lord  went on  to tell  the disciples  and  others  what power for good they would have in the world, if they  faithfully lived the heavenly truth which he was teaching them.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.---Matthew V. 13-16.

The Ten Commandments were still and are forever the laws of life, but the Lord showed that they must be kept in thought and feeling, as well as in act, if life is to be genuinely good.

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 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.

Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

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. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, 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 which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which 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?  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.---Matthew V. 17-48.

The Lord then spoke of giving alms, and of prayer, and of fasting, and showed that all of these to be pleasing to Him must be genuine and from the heart.

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are:for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.---Matthew VI. 1-18.

And now the Lord speaks of the good things of this world, and of heavenly treasure. We must not let the things which last but for a time, turn away our hearts from blessings which are forever. The Lord points to the birds and the flowers, and bids us to learn from them to trust His loving care.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!  No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?  Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?  Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?  And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?  Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. ----Matthew VI. 19-34.

We must judge ourselves before we can judge others; we must do to them as we would have them do to us. We must learn to do what is right, although there will be times for every one when it will be hard.

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?  Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?  Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.---Matthew VII. 1-14.

The  deeds, not the professions, show the real quality of every life. A man who keeps the Lord's sayings grows in character and gains a strength which no storm of trial or temptation can overthrow.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a 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 a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.---Matthew VII. 15-27.

The scribes and Pharisees in their teaching explained this word and that, and told what learned men had taught. It was different when the Lord spoke, for He spoke from His perfect wisdom, and from the experience of His own life.

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.---Matthew VII. 28, 29.

Author: William L. Worcester 1904

Spiritual Correspondences

      Mountain >> Interior, heavenly state

      Salt of the earth >> Conjunction of Truth and Good

      Salt binds water and oil >> Worship must be joined with good in life >> Truth of the Blessings must be put into practice in life

      Salt has lost its savor and is worthless >> When truth is separated from goodness

      Setting a city on a hill, and a lamp on a stand >> The principles that we profess must rest on the basis of a good life, then the world will see their goodness

      Jot and tittles [smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet, little points and horns on some of the letters] >> Every part of the Lord's Word is holy and Divine

      Till heaven and earth pass away >> The Lord's Word will stand forever >> Men and angels may go on learning forever, but can never exhaust the wisdom of the Lord's Word

      Angry without a cause >> Sternness and even severity, which may seem like anger, are sometimes right

      Duty to be reconciled with our brother before offering our gift to the Lord >> Love to one another and love to the Lord go together

      Agree with thine adversary quickly >> Now in this world is the time to overcome angry feelings  with the Lord's help

      Lest thou be cast into prison >> If we do not try to overcome anger now, it will fasten itself to us, and in the other world we shall not be able even to wish to be free from it

      Payment of the uttermost farthing >> Complete repentance of the unkindness

Spiritual Meaning

This summary of the Lord's teaching of the Divine law of life, we know as the Sermon on the Mount. It begins with pronouncing blessings upon the poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek, the hungering and thirsting, and all who are in heart in the ways of life taught by the Ten Commandments. John had taught the Commandments as the necessary preparation for the coming of the Lord. Such teaching had been forbidden and restrained. And now the Lord came teaching of the joy of the Divine love in such ways of life, as the ways of the life of God on earth. From the power of that love in Himself He taught, and restored forever the moral law as the Divine law of human life established forever by His own love for it.

The parallel between the Blessings and the Commandments is familiar, and will probably be plain to one who will study the interpretation of the two in the Book of Rites and Sacraments for the New Church. The remainder of the fifth chapter of Matthew contains upon the face of it an expansion of the same principles, offering many parallels to the " Book of the Covenant " in Deuteronomy, which is likewise an expansion of the Commandments in a somewhat varied order.

The sixth chapter contains teaching of another kind. Luke places this teaching in the third, the winter of the Lord's ministry, after He had left Galilee and sent forth the seventy, and was abiding in Peraea, before the last journey to Jerusalem. The fifth chapter has contained the principles of outward conduct, including those of the thought and affection which are the essential substance of the conduct. The sixth contains no new principles of conduct, but the conditions of the Divine blessing in the good life. It does not teach men to give alms. To do good and lend, hoping for nothing again, has already been taught. But it says : " When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth ; that thine alms may be in secret ; and thy Father Who seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." That is, if the satisfaction of reflecting upon the importance of what one does is the satisfaction sought in doing it, this he may have. But he has not the Lord except in doing it as the Lord's work, with no reflection at all upon self.

And so with prayer. If to appear well before men or the self-satisfaction of pious forms, be one's purpose, this he may have. But there is no communing with the Lord, and no answer from Him, except in the depths of one's heart, when one earnestly desires the Divine help, and the good of the Divine life according to the Divine laws. In fasting, again, or humbling the natural man, the self indulges or glorifies the natural man by parading its afflictions whereby their benefit to the spiritual man is lost. It is the gladness of the inner thought, in the hope of a purer life, freed from self even through affliction, that the Lord can comfort and bless.

The treasures of the heavenly life are distinctly presented as the only treasures to be sought. It is pointed out that when from a single-hearted love of good, one sees the truth, the whole life is guided wisely. But if a root of self guides the thought, it guides it into darkness. And the necessity is shown for choosing between the world and the Lord, that there may be no reserve in serving the Lord with all the soul and heart, with no secret reference to one's own advantage. And then the beautiful appeal is made to the fowls of the air and the lilies of the field, as illustrating the Heavenly Father's care, and showing how innocent and beautiful life is that is not distorted by man's self, but is lived naturally and simply from God as God's. This, then, should be the ideal to live from God as simply and naturally as they, with as absolute a trust as they; yet with the human knowledge and acknowledgment of the Divine which they have not.

And now the discourse turns toward the final judgment, and the relation of the soul to God. The reference to self which is natural to one's thought, is by nature disparaging to others. It loves to exalt and justify self, and therefore to see and exaggerate faults in others. It judges harshly ; it metes out hard measure. To cast out first one's own desire to justify self, surrendering wholly to the Spirit of the Lord, is to look upon others with kind eyes, to see clearly and helpfully, to prepare one's self for the judgment of mercy.

To give not that which is holy unto the dogs, nor to cast the pearls before swine, is a warning that holy truths and knowledge of salvation are not to be held in the service of the lusts of appropriating everything good to self; for these will destroy them, and destroy also the soul. These evil ways of the self are in strongest contrast to the Divine ways. To every one who sincerely asks Him for good, the Father gives it; every one who sincerely seeks the truth of good life, He causes to find it ; and to every one who desires to enter an interior, better state of life, He opens it.

Natural good even the evil will give to their own, much more will the Lord give spiritual good to His own not, as appears to the natural man, mere condemnatory truths to one who desires the enjoyment of good life, nor stinging discouragement to one who desires a knowledge of good life ; but things which he knows to be good, from Himself in heaven. To give to others what is good to Himself is the law of His life. That men should do the same is the whole lesson of the Scriptures which He has given them.

The destroying way of the self-life was broad and easy, and the Lord found very many pressing into it. The way of heaven seemed strait and narrow, not merely because it restrained the wandering desires, but because so few were seeking it.(H.H. 534)

Scribes and Pharisees were teaching as the good of the church that which was not good, solely that they might be honored and made rich. They were to be judged by their fruits. The wisdom of charity did not come from teachings of exclusive holiness, nor kindly helpfulness from the stinging of contemptuous thoughts. But as are the thoughts of the heart, so is the real quality of the life helpful and kindly if these be good, evil and hurtful if they be evil.

Then follows the warning that not mere knowledge of Him, nor teaching about Him, nor combating errors, nor even wonderful success in converting many (AE 624) really means life from the Lord. If these things be not from love for the Lord and love for souls, but with the inner thought upon self and the world, they are all of evil.

And the discourse closes with the parable of the wise man who built his house upon a rock the Rock being the Lord in his heart, and his house his life, which stands protected and safe under the wildest storms of temptation ; and of the foolish man who built his house upon the sand the sand being not the Lord, but knowledge about Him ; and the house the life based upon this but with no living hold of the Lord ; which gives way immediately, with the angry, destruction of all professions of faith, when it appears plainly that there is no advantage to self in them.

This is the Sermon. It begins with the blessings of a life according to the Commandments. It opens and expands the Commandments in their application to the affections as well as to the acts of conduct.

It shows the conditions of life from God in the conduct that there be in it no reflection upon self; that it be full of prayer for life from God ; that there be cheerful willingness in the humiliation of self; that the Lord and heaven be chosen as the ends of life; that the life be held freely and naturally as His, with absolute trust in Him.

It teaches of the mercy of the Heavenly Father's love, and of the charity with which men should regard one another; encourages perseverance in the way which at first seems strait and narrow ; and the bringing forth patiently the fruits of the Divine life. It builds the Christian life upon the Lord.

No other word could be added.

Not as the scribes, from learning, did the Lord teach these things; but from His life. He told simply of the life He loved, of the life He was. His words were the absolute truth of Divine human life. They were the truth, and the standard of truth. (Author: John Worchester, 1898. Matthew's Gospel.)

Pictures: James Tissot ----Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum

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