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the world, not to condemn the world," not to destroy the nations, as you Jews suppose,“ but that through him the world might be saved."
Such was the transcendent wisdom of the Saviour, from the very commencement of his mission. Before the wisdom of this youthful teacher, learning and age and experience were overborne and subdued, and Nicodemus must have retired convinced no less by his discourses than his miracles, that he was a teacher come from God.
Soon after this conversation, Jesus returned into Galilee, and passing through Samaria, held that remarkable discourse with the woman of Samaria at the well of Jacob, which I have noticed in a former lecture. On his arrival at Nazareth, his previous residence, he attempted to preach in the synagogue where he had been accustomed to worship. The people listened to the first part of his discourse with pleasure and admiration, though, according to a strong propensity of human nature, they were disposed to sneer at him as the son of a carpenter. At the first hint however, of the doctrine that the new dispensation was not to be a national religion, but to be extended to Gentile as well as Jew, they became violently enraged. They might have been led to suspect that he was not altogether sound in the national faith of a Messiah who was to destroy the heathen, from his manner of quoting that striking passage of Isaiah: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach glad tidings to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bound, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord;”—here he stopped. The rest of the sentence is, “and the day of vengeance of our God.” Had he quoted the rest of this passage without explanation, as applicable to himself, they would have understood him to sanction their expectation that he was to destroy and not to save the other nations of the earth, and cried out perhaps, Hosanna to the son of David. But not only did he pass over this most important part of their Messianic traditions, so comforting to them under their present political oppression, but he went on to intimate that the heathen were not only to be spared, but to be admitted into the kingdom of the Messiah. “I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, but unto none of them was Elias sent save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the days of Eliseus the prophet, and none of them was cleansed saving Naaman the Syrian." This was too much. A Messiah who could tolerate, or look favorably upon the heathen, was not to be endured. “And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he, passing through the midst of them, went his way, and came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days."
The fame of his miracles and his doctrines went on to increase, till the synagogues became too small to contain the crowds who resorted to hear him. He began therefore, to teach them in the open air. Once he preached to them from a ship, while they stood on the shore; once from a rising ground, that his voice might be the better heard by so vast a multitude. His discourse on this occasion is denominated from the place where it was delivered, the Sermon on the Mount. Let us examine its contents, and mark the wonderful wisdom which it displays, wrapping up eternal truths in language precisely adapted to present circumstances; so that the Jew, when he heard it, was cured of his errors, and the Christian to all time finds himself edified, as if it had been addressed to him alone. In that vast multitude, which was assembled from all parts of Judea, there were, it is probable, men of all the different sentiments which were cherished by the Jewish people at that period, uniting in but one common sentiment, that the Messiah should be a temporal deliverer, should cleanse Jerusalem and the Holy Land of the Roman
standards which were perched on every tower, and redeem the people of God from the degrading tribute they were yearly compelled to pay. They were ready to take up arms in the holy cause of patriotism and religion. They wanted but the signal of his hand to take up their line of march to the city of David, and there they supposed that he would stand highest in the new monarchy, whose sword had drank most freely of the blood of the slain. They collected about him with hearts bursting with national pride and ambition. What must have been their astonishment and disappointment when the first sentence fell from his lips, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom of God, which you have been so long expecting, is not an empire of war and conquest, nor is it that of the Jews, to be exercised over foreign nations. It belongs to the humble, the quiet, the contented. It does not come as a cure for outward misfortunes, for political evils, for the relief of proud hearts rankling under oppression, but it speaks comfort to those who are bowed down under the sorrows of life: “ Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” You expect the Messiah to vindicate the weak against the strong, to repel injury, to revenge insult,—that he will set up his empire with the sword and defend it by the sword. “But I say unto you, blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” The gentle
are those who are to flourish in the days of the Messiah. They shall delight themselves in the abundance of You come to me expecting a sign from heaven, to be fed with manna from the skies, as your fathers were in the desert. I can promise you nothing of the kind. The blessings of my kingdom belong to those only who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. You expect under the Messiah a reign of bitterness and vengeance, that he will rule with a rod of iron, and dash his enemies in pieces like a potter's vessel. But I come to pronounce blessings on the merciful, for I assure them that they shall find mercy from their eternal Judge. You, who observe the laws of Moses, submit to innumerable ceremonial ablutions, and therefore imagine yourselves pure and prepared for the kingdom of God. I assure you that no such purification will be of any avail in that kingdom; “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The remedies which you propose for mortal ills are essentially defective. You imagine that they can be cured by violence and resentment, that evil may be remedied by evil, instead of being overcome with good. But I say unto you, “Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God." They shall share the blessings of the new dispensation, not who are vindictive and resentful, but “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for