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" 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.”
The exposition of whole chapters and books of Sacred Scripture, within the last century, has become less common in the devotional exercises of the sanctuary. In the western churches of our land, of the congregational order, they form, with few exceptions, no part of the regular ministrations of the pulpit. This is a circumstance to be regretted; for, however fastidious hearers may dislike such a salutary mode of instruction, it has been found, when rightly performed and seriously attended, eminently conducive to the preservation of the truth and the detection of error.
The divine spirit has also frequently employed it, both for “the edifying of the body of Christ,” and the conversion of the wicked.
Encouraged, therefore, by the hope that the adoption of such a method may prove beneficial, both to
the congregation assembling in this place, and to myself as the minister, I have formed the intention of expounding, in a course of sermons, on the morning of the Sabbath, the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of Saint Matthew. These three chapters include the whole of our Lord's discourse on the mount in Galilee, and contain the introductory principles of the Christian religion. You will not, however, misunderstand me when I affirm, that I do not expect to find the sacrificial and atoning death of our Lord Jesus Christ directly stated in this beautiful portion of the sacred writings. It did not accord with the Saviour's design to proclaim this fact in so many words, especially at this early period of his ministerial course. There were many things to be taught as preliminary lessons, necessary to the state of the minds of the people, before they would be prepared to receive a truth so great and mysterious. And the same may be remarked, with few exceptions, of all the other discourses and observations recorded of our Lord. Nor was it the special object of the biographers of the Redeemer, to demonstrate this leading article of the Christian faith. All they had to state, was a faithful account of his birth, manner of life, sayings, and miracles; together with the circumstances of his death, and the facts of his resurrection and ascension, waiting for the promised mission of the Holy Spirit “ to testify of him.” And this, even the most hardened sceptic himself must allow the Evangelists to have faithfully done.
Now, bearing this remark in mind, we perceive that it would be quite sufficient for our purpose, in the maintenance of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity as revealed in the epistles, and perfectly consistent with the doctrine of redemption through the blood of Christ, as therein stated, that these chapters contain nothing contrary to such truths. I persuade myself, however, that before I reach the end of the exposition of their contents, I shall