Fifth Sunday After Pentecost The Gospel Matt.5.v.20 Sunday Meditation: A Plaine Path-way To Heaven Thomas Hill 1634
GOSPEL Matt. 5:20-24
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: "Unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to them of old: 'Thou shalt not kill.' And whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath anything against thee; Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift."
The Philosopher sayth that contrary things set together,show themselves the better what they are: wherefore because Christ here in the Gospel speaketh of two contraries, to wit the false and counterfeit Justice of the Pharisees, and the true Justice which he requireth of us now under the new law; I will describe the justice of the Pharisees, that we may see the justice of Christ the more plainly thereby.
Immediately before this Gospel, Christ had said to his disciples,Let your light soshne before men,that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven; And again,I came not to break but to fulfill the law: The Scribes, and the Pharisees being accounted of the people more religious then the rest, gave themselves to this doctrine of Christ more precisely, and otherwise then he meant.
Christ meant, we should do our good works principally for the love & honor of God,and not desire to have them seen of men to glorify ourselves thereby,but to glorify God, and that others might do the like; but they did all their works,as Christ said of them, publicly to purchase glory to themselves and to their own private ends, they made clean the outside of the dish or platter, but the inside they left foul.
They Tithed mint and rew, and such small things very precisely and scrupulously,but for the greater Tithes they made no scruple to detain; they would strain at a gnat, as the Proverb is, and swallow a Camel; in a word, they were such as hunted altogether for the praise and applause of the people, being secretly men of ill life, and corrupt doctrine, to serve their own ends, of pride,riches, and ambition; and these were they that were most apt to carp at Christ, for every little trifle, to keep him under, that they might bare all the sway: They would carp at the disciples, for not washing their hands before meat,at their rubbing a little corn out of the ears between their hands upon the Sabbath day,to eat, as they traveled upon the way,being hungry, caviling at them as if they had broken the Sabbath day with servile labor in rubbing the corn out of the ears; at Christ, for curing the sick upon the Sabbath day, for conversing with publicans and sinners for their conversion,and the like niceties of their own hatching,as though they were the only pure guides of the people,putting the whole Sum of their religion,in outward shows of piety and purity: and these men by their outward carriage, for their own ends and interest, not seeking the things of God, but themselves,and their own,did so insinuate themselves into the favor of the people,as Josephus a man of their own Sect and nation testifieth,and made their faction so strong,that if they opposed against Princes, or the high Bishops,whether their cause were right or wrong, they would take part with them:and what do I speak of Princes and high Bishops, and bring Josephus for a witness? we all know , they were so prevalent,and potent with the people of the Jews,that they brought them to prefer a murderer even before Christ, and to cry out with one voice, to have him crucified,whom of themselves they honored as a holy Prophet, & would have made him their king.
Of these kind of people it was that Christ admonished us, that are Catholics,if any amongst us are like unto them, ( as no doubt there are too many) that we beware carefully, we be not transported,& carried away with their outward shows, to beware not only of the leaven of their hypocrisy in life,but also in doctrine serving thereunto (the pharisees being culpable in both) telling us here, that is to say, all manner of virtue and honesty in general (for so the Philosopher sayth,Justice is to be taken) do exceed that of the pharisees, we cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven.