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and be counted truly Great in the Christian Church, howsoever low they may be in the World; and accordingly rewarded with an high Degree of Glory and Felicity in Heaven. This was the Employment of Christ himself and his Apostles here upon Earth ; this is the Employment which brings most Glory to God, and the greatest Benefit to Men, and therefore it is fit that in that just Retribution, and in that due Estimate of all Mens Actions, it should be rewarded in a distinguishing Manner.
From all this we see how we may arrive at true Honour and Greatness, even by the plain Way of being good our selves, and teaching as many others as we can to be such. This Way we see, is not confined to any particular Rank of Men; but lies open to every one's Industry. Here we need not fear, what is usual as to the Honours of this World, that when one has taken the Pains, another will run away with the Honour and the Reward; and therefore we have all Encouragement to go on chearfully, every one of us, in our several Stations, in observing God's holy Laws our selves, and in instructing, inducing, perswading, and encouraging as many others as possibly we can, to fear God and keep his Commandments; which of all other Labours and Studies will turn to the best Account, both to us and them; thro' the Merits and Mediation of our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; To whom, &c.
S E R
SE R M O N VI.
MATT. V. 20. For I say unto you, that except your Righteousness
, Mall exceed the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees
, ye shall in no café enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Sixth Sermon on this Text. EFORE we enter upon the Explication of
these Words, there is one Thing I would observe concerning the Method and Connexion of them. Our Lord had said at the seventeenth Verse, That he was not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets, but winpãool, that is, to finis or perfect them. Now in Pursuance of these two Heads of his designed Discourse, he begins first at the eighteenth and nineteenth Verses, to shew how clear he was from any Design of Destroying or Abrogating the Law; meaning still the Moral Law with the Explication of the Prophets, by afserting the Perpetuity of it, 'till Heaven and Earth pass away; and that the Measures by which Men shall be judged in the great Day, Ihall be taken from their Diligence or Negligence in observing the Law themselves, and teaching the same to others. So much for his not diffolving the Law; now in the Words I have read, he proceeds to
the other Branch of his proposed Method; namely, to the Perfecting or Finishing the Law, or Rule of Moral Duties; upon which he insists a great deal longer ; for all the rest of this Sermon on the Mount belongs to this; besides several other Precepts scattered all over the Gospels. For it is a true Observation of them all, that none of them tends to the Abrogating, but all of them to the Perfecting of the Moral Law. In the Words I have read, our Saviour enters upon this Subject, by comparing the Degrees of Duty to be performed by his Disciples, with what was taught and practised by the Scribes and Pharisees, who were reckoned the learnedeft and strictest Interpreters of the Law among the Jews ; asserting that if his Disciples do not outstrip the other, they shall have no Share in his Kingdom ; that is, he will not look upon them as Genuine Members of his Church Militant upon Earth, or of the Church Triumphant in Heaven. For I say unto you, that except your Righteousness shall exceed the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees
, ye fall in no case enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
For understanding which Affertion, it will be necessary to explain, 1. What is meant here by Rigbteousness
. 2. Why the Scribes and Pharisees are brought into this Comparison. 3. What is meant by entring into the Kingdom of Heaven.
I. First, We are to enquire what is here meant by the Word Righteousness
. Some there are who place the Comparison here between the legal Performances of the Scribes and Pharisees, and Christ's imputed Righteousness ; but I think the first View of the Context may quickly convince us, that it is Righteousness in a Moral Sense our
Saviour here means. For the Point he is proving is, that he was not come to destroy the Moral Law, but to finish and perfect it. Now what Sort of Proof would it be of this Doctrine, to tell us, that we shall be pardoned by virtue of our Faith in Christ, for the Sake of whose All-fufficient Merits our weak and imperfect Duties shall be accepted. Mistake me not, as if I were speaking against the Truth of this Doctrine, for I believe it is the true Account of the Justification of a Sinner. I know too that in St Paul's Epistles it is called the Righteousness of God, or the Righteousness of Faith. But in this place, the Purport of our Saviour's Discourse will by no means admit this Sense; it being very plain that he is here asserting in himself and his Disciples, a superior Regard to the Moral Law, and the Duties therein enjoined, beyond what any the strictest Sect among the Jews had ; and accordingly he immediately goes on to prove it in the particular Duties of the Moral Law. By Righteousness then is here meant Moral Righteousness ; as if he had said, Except ye my Hearers interpret and observe the Moral Law in a more perfect manner than the Scribes and Pharisees do, ye shall have no Share in the Kingdom of the Messiah.
II. We are to enquire why the Scribes and Pharisees are brought into this Comparison. I move this Question on Purpose, because I perceive some Commentators (and therefore more probably some Readers and Hearers) are apt to think it is with a Design to lessen and disparage them, as indeed our Saviour does fufficiently expose them elsewhere ; and therefore in enlarging ūpon, and in asserting the Truth of this Com
parison, they make a Collection of all the Faults they can pick up any where mentioned in the Scriptures, of these Men. But whatever just Occasion there may be to expose them elsewhere, I am of Opinion, if we consider the Context, and the Force of our Saviour's Argument, they are mentioned here rather on an Honourable, than a Dishonourable Account. q. d. I say unto you my Hearers and Disciples, Except ye interpret and observe the Moral Law, in a more perfect Manner than it is interpreted by the learnedest and strictest Interpreters among the Jews, the Scribes and Pharisees, ye are no Way fit to make Disciples of the Messiah. I say, the Scribes and Pharisees are brought in here as the learnedest and strictest Interpreters of the Law, that were among the Jews, and not as Hypocrites, proud, cruel, and covetous, as in some other Passages of the Gospel, And therefore in speaking to this Comparison between the Scribes and Pharisees, and our Saviour's Disciples, I should not think that I kept to the Point, should I muster up all their Personal Vices ; for here they are only to be considered under the Character of Doctors and Interpreters of the Law; and accordingly to that alone I intend to restrain what I say of them from the Words.
III. We are to enquire here what is to be meant by entring into the Kingdom of Heaven. This Expression is sometimes taken in fo wide a Sense, as to take in all professed Christians; but very often too it is limited to the Genuine True Members, who, upon a due Enquiry, shall be found fincere, and adjudged their Portion in Heaven. It is in this latter Sense it is here to be understood;