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membering the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, that whosoever shall break the very least of these commandments, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. That is to say, he shall be considered a most unworthy member of Christ's kingdom even here, and therefore, I need not add, can have no chance of being admitted into Christ's glorious and everlasting kingdom hereafter.
Now it is well worth our notice, that, when Jesus uttered this awful threat against any one who presumed to break any one of God's commandments, even in the least tittle, he was speaking of the very point, which St Paul speaks of in the text. He was speaking, as his great ambassador and messenger to the Gentiles, the apostle Paul, spoke afterward, of fulfilling the law. "Think not, (these are his words,) think not I am come to destroy the law. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. Whosoever therefore, (I pray you, mark this word, therefore,) shall break one of these least commandments, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. v. 1720.) As if he had said, "I am come to fulfill the -law of Moses: I am come to shew you the exceed
ing depth of God's commandments: I am come to shew you how much they require of every one, when they are taken in their full meaning. This is one great object of my coming. Therefore, if any person fancies I am come to bring men a license for sinning,-if any one conceives he may continue in sin, because I have brought grace and pardon into the world,-he quite mistakes the purpose of my coming. The Father sent me, not to abolish holiness, nor to diminish aught from it, but to set it upon a stronger foundation, and to give it its just limits; so that it shall embrace, not only the outward actions of men, but their very thoughts and wishes. I am come to fulfill the law, not to make it void. Nay, so far am I from intending to weaken it in any one point, or to take aught from it, that on the contrary I require a much more perfect service from my disciples than has hitherto been deemed necessary. The righteousness which you admire so much in the scribes and Pharisees, is not enough to satisfy me. Except your righteousness exceed theirs, you cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven."
It seems to follow from what has been said, that the fulfilling of the law spoken of in the text is keeping it in its fullest, its deepest, its most spiritual meaning. And what is that? What is the
full breadth and length and depth of the sixth
commandment, and of the eighth, and of the ninth?
seventh, and of the
How much do they
contain? So far as the sixth and seventh are concerned, the question need not trouble us: since our Saviour himself has pointed out how much these two commandments require from us, in order to their true fulfilment. And though he confined himself to the two commandments against murder and adultery, yet by observing the principles he laid down concerning them, and by applying the same principles to the commandments against theft, and false witness, and coveting, we shall have no difficulty in making out how these commandments also should be fulfilled.
To begin then with the sixth and seventh: our Saviour, after giving his disciples to understand that the narrow view which the scribes and Pharisees had been wont to take of their duty, in their shallow righteousness, must now be enlarged and widened, proceeds as follows: "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgement: but I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement; 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. 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.” (Matt. v. 21, 22, 27, 28.) Now, without entering into a detailed examination of these words, thus much is clear at first sight, that in them our Saviour extends the prohibition against murder from the hand to the heart, forbidding, not merely the act of murder, and therewith every kind of lesser violence against our neighbours persons, but also all reproachful and insolent language: nay, even the feeling of causeless anger is declared to be contrary to the commandment. In the same way he forbids us, not merely to commit adultery, or any other act of uncleanness, but even to look upon a woman with a wanton eye. In both cases he forbids, not merely the gross outward act of sin, but the very least approach to it, even in word or gesture, even in wish or thought.
It is easy to extend the same principle to the eighth and ninth commandments. It is easy to see that our Saviour, had he spoken of them, would have told us to keep our hands from picking, as well as from stealing. He would have forbidden, not only great thefts, but small thefts; not only
open robbery, but secret robbery, not only those greater frauds which human judges punish, but all that cheating, of whatsoever kind, which the laws of man cannot reach. All extortion, according to this rule, comes under the eighth commandment. So does the taking advantage of a neighbour's ignorance, or of his necessities, to drive a hard bargain with him. So do all those things which too many reckon fair,-such as cheating the king's revenue, smuggling and buying of smugglers, poaching, and buying of poachers:-all these are breaches of the eighth commandment. So too the neglecting to pay our debts, and even the running into debt beyond what we are quite sure of being able to pay, is a plain breach of the eighth commandment because, if I get goods from a tradesman, and do not pay him for them, I cheat and defraud him of his goods, just as much as if I carried them off by stealth.
The transition from stealing to lying, from theft to falsehood, is but too natural and easy. It is not difficult to perceive that our Saviour, had he spoken of the ninth commandment, would have given that too a like breadth and depth of meaning. He would doubtless have told us not to lie at all, but to speak truth in all sincerity every one to his neighbour. He would have taught us that not only false witnessing in a court of justice is