THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT THE CHARTER OF THE NEW LAW
Jesus begins by declaring that the basis of justice is ever the same. Tomorrow, as yesterday, it will rest upon the sum of the moral precepts that fill the Old Testament. There is no question here of Mosaic ceremonialism.8 Transitory and symbolical, merely, that ceremonialism must have an end. "Do not think," says Jesus, "that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am come not to destroy, but to fulfill. Amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled." Founded in the very essence of things, the moral law has its final motive in God. For it is but an emanation, a ray of the eternal law, as imperishable as God Himself. Hence Jesus suppresses nothing. His mission is to explain it, to put it more clearly before men by positive precepts, to make its spirit felt by disengaging it from the ridiculous superfluities with which the Rabbis have overladen it. As needless and as profitless as were the additions of the Rabbis, so essential and so sacred for all the faithful shall be the development that Jesus gives forth. New rays of eternal truth turned upon man's eyes are to modify the horizon of our life. The Rabbis have given a mechanical interpretation to the law; Jesus comes to spiritualise it, and, though it will be essentially the same as before, the moral rule of mankind will be henceforth more visibly like the eternal rule that guides God Himself. Therefore, the precepts He will promulgate9 are of the highest importance; they will divide the future from the past, Christian from Jew.
"He, therefore," continues Jesus, "that shall break one of these least commandments and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven." Man regenerated and called to join his life more closely to that of God, has not the right to decline such an honor. At all events, the more faithful he is in following the lofty way of perfection proposed to him, the more worthy does he prove himself of his Master and of the esteem of the friends of God.
"For I tell you, unless your justice abound more than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." The justice of the Pharisees is wanting in internal truth; it is odiously false. These hypocritical formalists have killed conscience by exaggerating the importance of legal observances. Against them, once for all, the spirit must be made to prevail over the letter. Therefore, what is to be added to the moral theology of ancient Israel becomes obligatory for all those who desire to be members of the new Church. If they do not observe it, they do not belong to that Church. Let every one open his ears and strengthen his heart. Here follow the conditions of justice or Christian holiness.
"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.10 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,11 shall be in danger of the Council. And whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the fire of the valley of the sons of Hinnom."12
Even though there was, in reality, a perceptible gradation in the three kinds of punishment to which Jesus here alluded,13 it is not clear that there is a corresponding gravity in the three faults mentioned. To say raca, or fool, to one's fellow, to be enraged against him, do not constitute a very evident difference of guilt. We must take the Master's thought as a whole. Wishing to have us understand how reprehensible the sentiment of hatred is, He gives to His language a certain exaggeration, which common sense reduces to its due proportions. Evidently He does not mean to say that the one who insults merits a more terrible punishment than the assassin; the anger that insults is not more intense than that which kills. No, His object being to put forth as important that which Judaism regarded as unimportant, He emphasizes His thought and says: "According to you, the murderer alone merits punishment; according to Me, the man, too, who hates and is angry, will meet with a punishment more terrible than that of earthly tribunals; for he merits eternal fire." Thus the new law regulates and embraces in its purview not only the acts of man, but his thoughts; not the work of the hands alone, but the secret sentiments of the heart. Whether anger remains silent in the depths of the soul, or breaks forth upon our lips, Jesus severely condemns it and likens it to homicide; both proceed from one source, hatred of our fellow.
These sentiments of bitterness toward our brothers, with which Judaism scarcely seems to have occupied itself, are so blameworthy before God that by entertaining them one becomes unworthy of heaven's regard. "If, therefore," the Master goes on, "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." God is honored more by the sacrifice of our pride, of our illwill, of our hatred, than by that of our victories or of our treasures.
Besides, it is not by Him alone that we are commanded to make a prompt reconciliation with our offended brother; our human interests, too, make it our duty. It is of far greater advantage for us to express our regrets and our good dispositions towards him whom we have wounded than to await his claims in justice. We shall gain nothing by a trial, since we are guilty. We have injured him; we are, therefore, his debtor. If we do not make immediate reparation to him, the judge will do so himself and will throw us into prison, which is a figure of eternal damnation. "Be at agreement with thy adversary betimes, whilst thou art in the way with him, lest, perhaps, the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Amen, I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence till thou repay the last farthing." From the supernatural standpoint upon which, above all, Jesus wishes to insist, the truth of these considerations is particularly striking. The man who refuses to be reconciled with his brother, while both are on the road of life, ought to be in fear lest death should cast him at the feet of the supreme Judge, and oblige him to expiate by pains long enduring, perhaps eternal, the wrongs he could so easily have righted during life. This new law is, indeed, severe, but how exalted is its morality!
Passing from the fifth commandment to the sixth, Jesus continues the parallel between the legislation of yesterday and that of tomorrow. "Ye have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery.14 But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart." For to accept the evil suggestion of the flesh, to entertain it, to follow it as far as one can, without the external act, when this latter is impossible, is to commit the crime in the depth of one's soul. Before God the evil is already committed; it matters little that it is not so before men. The heart, therefore, must not be trusted to itself; its desires must be closely watched. "And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee; for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish rather than thy whole body be cast into hell. And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off and cast it from thee; for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish rather than that the whole body go into hell." The remedy prescribed is, therefore, as violent as the evil; to break the tenderest bonds, to part from that which has become a portion of one's self, to forbid the eye to look in order to save the heart from yielding, to cut off a member to preserve the body, this is the duty of the children of the new kingdom, the sole means of escaping the eternal payment of justice.
"And it hath been said: Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except for the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery; and he that shall marry her that is put away committeth adultery." All the grounds for divorce recognized by Moses, which the school of Hillel multiplied at pleasure, as we shall see later, are totally suppressed in the New Law. And rightly so. Marriage has created indissoluble bonds between the man and the woman. Though Moses seemed to have tolerated a relaxation of these ties, the evangelical law restores them in all their strength. Except in the case of unfaithfulness, the man has no right to put away his wife. If he repudiates her, he is responsible for the sins that she may commit, whether by a life of misconduct or by taking another husband, with whom she would certainly be guilty of adultery. The deceived husband has the right to expel her who has dishonored him from his marriage bed, without a care as to what may become of her; he cannot be responsible for misconduct of which he himself has been the first victim and which has compromised the very essence of marriage, the union of two in one flesh. But may he take another spouse? Of this Jesus says nothing here. He will answer this question later on. Nevertheless, by refusing the adulteress the right to marry again, He wishes not only to punish her for her crime, but also to inform her that a bond exists even after her unfaithfulness; and this bond is upon the liberty of the innocent as well as upon that of the guilty.15
"Again, ye have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not forswear thyself; but thou shalt perform thy oaths to the Lord.16 But I say to you, not to swear at all, neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king; neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black; but let your speech be yea, yea, nay, nay; and that which is over and above these is of evil."
Such, indeed, is the ideal of the new society that, for each of her members, the deep sentiment of his union with God must be the sole guarantee of the truth of what he says. What need to evoke the name and the presence of God when one knows himself to be perpetually under His eye and in His friendship?
Although, in spite of the Savior's sublime teaching, the evil of the world and the insufficiency of our trust have again authorized the use of the oath in certain circumstances when it is well to remind man of the watchful severity of Providence, it is none the less true that the Christian Church is the more worthy of her Founder when she proves the religious vitality of all her children by showing herself capable of so sublime a counsel. The oath is in itself a consequence of sin. It is demanded because of the inherent malice of our fallen nature, which makes men distrust one another. And we offer to take it because we are conscious, either of the distrust of others or of our own weakness. When the Apostle calls upon God to bear witness to the, truth of his words, when God Himself, speaking to man, seems to take solemn oaths, it is simply the better to dispel all doubt in a suspicious and deceitful heart. Such precautions are, in themselves, superfluous. That the law of Christian simplicity and sincerity might be fully practicable, it were essential that all men should be equally good and virtuous, those who listen as well as those who speak. This is the ideal of social life in the Kingdom of God; but it is doubtful if this ideal will ever be realized upon earth.
Continuing the exposition of His sublime teachings, Jesus rises higher yet, perhaps, in the sphere of that perfection wherein He desires to establish our life; so high, indeed, that one wonders if it be possible to follow Him there. Yet we must not forget that a man can be a just man without always attaining the ideal proposed, and that we can derive consolation for not being perfect, from the knowledge that we are at least virtuous.
"Ye have heard that it hath been said: An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth;17 but I say to you, not to resist evil; but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other, and if a man will contend with thee in judgment and take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him. And whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two; give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away." Accepted literally, this law of charity would be hopeless and even dangerous. To practice it without regard to circumstances and without discernment would be to encourage evil to its greatest extent. By promulgating it in exaggerated terms thoroughly in accordance with Oriental tastes, the Savior wished only to demonstrate to us how patient, how heroic, how superhuman is the kindness, the gentleness, the selfdenial that should characterize His true disciples. Thus He Himself instead of turning the left cheek to the servant who had struck Him on the right, merely said: "If I have spoken evil, give testimony of the evil; but if well, why strikest thou Me?" But into these words He put just what He demanded by His precept: mildness, affability, resignation, that must give the blush to the wicked for their violence and recall them to better feelings.
"Ye have heard that it hath been said: Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy."18 The enemy was he who did not practice the Jewish religion.19 "But I say to you: Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you; that ye may be the children of your Father, Who is in heaven, Who maketh His sun to rise upon the good and the bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust.20 For if ye love them that love you, what reward shall ye have? Do not even the publicans this? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more? Do not also the heathens this? Be ye, therefore, perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect." What divine novelty in these teachings! There is not a religious soul in all these nineteen centuries from whom they have not drawn a cry of admiration. How great and beautiful human nature is when it rises to the practice of such amazing perfection! And how true that the heroes of Christian charity are the living, earthly representatives of the God of goodness! History is there to tell it, and the veneration of the people to prove it.
Such, then, is the foundation on which Christian justice shall rest. But it can reach the ideal which Christ has drawn only by putting on the threefold character of modesty, sincerity, and prudence, which will heighten its merit and make it beloved of all.
"Take heed," says the Master, "that ye do not your justice before men, to be seen by them; otherwise ye shall not have a reward of your Father, Who is in heaven." This maxim implies no contradiction of what has been recommended above; it does not forbid the faithful to let their light shine before the world. For they ought to do everything to edify their neighbor and to increase God's glory, but nothing to augment their own personal importance; otherwise they would only waste their time, and, having gained their recompense in the praises of the world, they would have nothing to hope for in requital from heaven. From this principle the Savior derives the following conclusions: "Therefore, when thou dost an almsdeed, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored of men. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward." The image which Jesus employs here is an exact portrayal of the vanity of the man who gives alms ostentatiously, Before he puts it in the poor man's hand, he makes it shine in the eyes of all; when he lets it fall into the collector's plate, he makes it resound; when he sends it to him who asks it, he wishes the voice of the public to proclaim his deed abroad. Our age, with its subscription lists, partly reproduces this ridiculous perversity.
"When thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth, that thy alms may be in secret, and thy Father, Who seeth in secret, will repay thee."21 The just man finds holy consolation in the knowledge that though he must conceal from others and from himself the good works he does, there is one eye which they cannot escape, the eye of God. God reserves for Himself the right of rewarding that which He forbids to be made manifest to others. Such a debtor abundantly supplies for all the rest.
"And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men: Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward." Not to God do they pretend to speak, but to men; they do not pray to heaven, but they parade themselves before the world; wherefore they have wasted their time.
"But thou, when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and, having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret, and thy Father, who seeth in secret, will repay thee." The cry of the faithful, uttered in the recollection of the soul before God alone, ascends to heaven the more readily for its freedom from thoughts of earth, and reaches the Father's heart the more surely when no strange noise lessens its eloquent ardour.
"And when ye pray, speak not much, as the heathens do.22 For they think that in their much speaking, they may be heard. Be ye not, therefore, like to them, for your Father knoweth what is needful for you before ye ask Him." In the belief of the Gentiles the gods were not perpetually present among men, nor cognizant of their various needs. Man had to call upon them, to inform them, to propitiate them by means of endless arguments. The only true God is ever with us, beholds our misery and awaits only our hearts' movement to shower down upon us His blessings. Hence, with Him, long discourses are needless. He requires but a simple prayer, the natural unworded supplication uttered by our heart. Prayer is a thing of feeling rather than of words, as Jesus will tell us later on;23 and in this sense, we may say, that often the more one talks, the less he prays.
"And when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward." It has always been the custom in the East never to appear at table without having carefully bathed and without having perfumed the head. Whoever appears in public with sad face, disordered hair, beard unkempt, and sprinkled with ashes, thus "disfiguring his face," as the Gospel text has it, thereby makes manifest that he has not yet taken his repast; and if the hour of day is advanced, all conclude that he is observing a rigorous fast. This external show of austerity and of penitential life always succeeds in arousing public admiration. But to mortify one's self with this end in view is most foolish and detestable vanity. After men have praised and paid their homage to this extraordinary asceticism, the hypocrite is only the more filled with himself, and his whole reward lies in this vainglory that he has bought at the price of his fasting. A truly great soul could find no nourishment in so little. "But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face, that thou appear not to men to fast, but to thy Father, Who is in secret; and thy Father, Who seeth in secret, will repay thee."
From the consideration that our good works must be discreetly hidden even at the risk of seeming less religious than we are, the Savior naturally24 passes on to the advice that we must refrain from judging our neighbor; for, if our neighbor, in obedience to the Master's precept, conceals the state of religious perfection in which he lives, we are the more frequently in danger of misjudging him. Here begins the series of lessons on Christian wisdom, which constitutes the third part of the discourse, and is the practical rule of life for those who seek to establish themselves firm and fast in the kingdom.
First of all, to exceeding and great humility the true followers of Christ must unite a charity even greater. "Judge not, that ye may not be judged,"25 says Jesus. "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." There is a great consolation for him who can say: I have been indulgent with others; they will be the same with me, if not on earth, surely in heaven. Therefore, if instead of turning our wisdom to the study and criticism of our neighbor's life, we would carefully survey and amend our own, we should prove ourselves most wise. "And why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye? Or how sayest thou to thy brother; Let me cast the mote out of thine eye; and behold, a beam is in thy own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thy own eye, and then thou shalt see to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." For it is detestable hypocrisy to assume the appearance of inexorable justice, of an ardent zeal against sin, by pursuing the slightest faults in others, when one's self is given up to all the vices. It ill becomes the proud censor whom egotism, avarice, luxury, or anger has blinded, to impart moral teachings to those who are better than he.
Yet the good and the bad are not to be treated indiscriminately. To treat all men with equal confidence would not be the part of wisdom. The Apostle, in particular, before he intrusts the truths of the Gospel to his hearers, must know to whom he speaks. In this sense he is authorized to judge. From the evidence and according to his judgment, he shall speak or be silent. "Give not that which is holy to dogs; neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest perhaps they trample them under their feet, and, turning upon you, they rend you." Nothing is worse than to attempt to initiate into heroic virtues, or to teach the maxims of perfection to the vile souls that are all devoted to the gross satisfaction of the senses. They are irritated by the precious stones which they took first for the common grain they feed on, and when they see their error, they trample them beneath their feet. Their deception is transformed into fury, and they to whom you sought to do good, because they seemed well disposed, turn upon you and bite you with the pretext that you have deceived them.
The great law of charity, which, excluding neither prudence nor justice, inclines nevertheless to inexhaustible indulgence, is to crown these admirable precepts. It is embodied in this aphorism: "All things, therefore, whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them." This rule is sure and perfectly intelligible to all "For this is the law and the prophets."
No doubt it is not easy to break with a past of egotism and pride, to hurry on bravely to this road of sacrifice and humility. To hate, to curse, to envy, to calumniate, was natural for ancient mankind; and the change for renewed human nature will cost dear. Yet it must be done. "Enter ye in at the narrow gate," Jesus exclaims, "for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate and how straitened the way that leadeth unto life; and few there are that find it." There can be no illusion for him who desires to become a disciple of Jesus. The road He marks out is a steep, narrow, painful path, and the gate of the city where Christian life flourishes is difficult of approach. But he who penetrates there, enters into the kingdom of the higher life and into the realms of eternal happiness.
If any man teach another doctrine and promise other things he is an impostor and must be distrusted. "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and an evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, nor can an evil tree bring forth good fruit." Doctrines shape life. By multiplying their teachings, the Pharisees and all ritualistic Judaism produced nothing that attracted. We have only to look at their works; they are detestable. Hence it would be folly to listen to them. We could produce only what they themselves produce. "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down and shall be cast into the fire." This is the sanction. "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith to Me: Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that doth the will of My Father, Who is in Heaven, he shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." The new religion is not simply one of exterior forms, of invocations and of homage done to its Founder; even faith, if it be alone, is insufficient. Works are required. To act is as necessary as to believe, and to enter heaven each man must show that he has done the one and the other.
"Every one, therefore," Jesus adds, as conclusion to His magnificent discourse, "that heareth these My words, and doth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock." Works strengthen faith, and practice is frequently a first means of producing belief. Therefore, he whose mind and conduct are in keeping with the Master's teachings may be at peace. Thanks to his prudence, neither the trials of life nor even those of death can overturn the solid edifice of his justice and of his piety. Beyond the grave he shall stand with all his works, and he shall be happy for the wisdom he had in knowing that nothing is solid if actions are not there to sustain convictions.
"And every one that heareth these My words, and doth them not, shall be like a foolish man that built his house upon the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall thereof." We frequently see believers astonish the world by their faith; they prophesy, and accomplish miracles; like an imposing edifice, their public life commands the admiration of all; but we know not the secret of their inmost life, which is far from being in unison with their faith. The foundations which should have been of firm rock do not exist. As long as no crisis occurs, every one is ignorant of the insufficiency of the work; but when the decisive moment has come, the whole tumbles down, and of the proud palace there remains naught but ruins. Jesus leaves His hearers while this impression of eternal woe reserved for the imprudent is still upon them. They seem to hear the tumbling of this edifice among the faroff echoes of eternity.
The multitudes were filled with admiration for these instructions uttered with an authority, a clearness, a loftiness not to be found among the Jewish doctors. It was evident that the new Master held nothing in common with them.
8 This observation, absolutely well founded, is in our opinion the best solution of the difficulty raised concerning the words of Jesus that follow. If we admit that by the law He means the Mosaic observances, we shall find it difficult to explain His manner of treating the ablutions, and the external purifications, and the question of the Sabbath. Who will venture to say that in practice Jesus has not suppressed even one iota of the legal formalism? To be sure, many think that He meant to maintain Mosaism and all its prescriptions during His life. They declare that He could not do otherwise without being imprudent and that, in default of this, He would not have been understood even by His friends. Finally, it is said, His words on this subject are categorical. Yes, and so much so, indeed, that if we accept them without restriction, Mosaism, with its complex system of laws, would have to survive heaven and earth, which is not case. As a matter of fact, we see that St. Paul understood them quite differently, and, at the proper time, he leads the Apostles and the Church to understand them as he does.
9 By giving this Meaning to the demonstrative toutvn the succession of ideas in Our Lord's discourse is made much more natural.
10 This judgment is that of the Ancients who sat at the gates of each city to dispense justice, even in capital causes, as is remarked in Deut. xvii, 2, 5, 8. It is not known for certain whether these judges numbered twenty-three, as some claim, or only seven, as Josephus (Antiq., iv, 8, 14) seems to say.
11 The word Raca is a term of contempt, derived from the Hebrew raqaq, to spit upon, and means a despicable man, as St. Chrysostom and Theodoret point out; or better still, according to St. Jerome, from the SyroChaldaic reiqah, to be empty, without brains. Yet it is remarkable that in the Talmudic phrases, where this word is found, it appears to be rather an oath than an insult. Thus, Tanchum, fol. 18, col. 7: "Raca," says a Jew to a Pagan, who invites him to partake of pork, "de bestiis etiam mundis vos non comedendum." And elsewhere a princess unduly illtreated by her husband exclaims: "Raca, ego sum filia regis."
12 The word Geenna is nothing else than the Hebrew name GhêHinnom, or Ghêbene Hinnom, "the Valley of Hinnom." or "the sons of Hinnom," given to the valley which extends along the southern side of Jerusalem and toward the west, and in which faithless Israel had given itself up to the worship of Moloch. (IV Kings xvi, 3.) On the return from the captivity, this place of hateful memories was looked upon with aversion and became a sort of dumpingground, where fire was kept to consume rubbish. This was a figure of hell, which was also called Gehenna.
13 There were three kinds of punishments among the Jews, the sword, stoning to death, and fire. The first was applied by the tribunal of each city, the second by the Sanhedrim, the third by public indignation.
14 Exod. xx, 14.
15 These words of the Master are improperly construed as a recognition of the man's right to take another wife when he has repudiated the one who deceived him. No such meaning can be discovered in the Gospel text when studied impartially.
16 Jesus has in mind here several passages of the law: Levit. xix, 12; Numbers xxx, 3; Deut. xxiii, 2224.
17 Exod. xxi, 24, and elsewhere. Such had been the wisdom of the greatest lawgivers of antiquity; and since it regulates acts not of private, but of public justice, Jesus no more means to declare it absolutely wrong than, shortly before, He deemed the oath absolutely criminal. He simply proposes His ideal of charity to heroic souls who will be brave enough to realise it in the various circumstances of ordinary life.
18 Levit. xix, 18. The Hebrew word here translated "neighbour" seems to mean in general every man. The Septuagint translates it by ekastos. In reality, the law did not command men to hate their enemies, but we may say that by its severe prescriptions against all who were not children of Israel, it prompted to that hatred.
19 Vide St. Luke x, 27, etc.; Josephus, Antiq. Jud., xi, 6, 5. Tacitus, Annal., v. 4, 5, says "Adversus alios omnes hostile odium." Citations from the Talmud sustain this appreciation: Midr. Teh., fol. 26, 4: "Noli gentilibus benevolentiam aut misericordiam exhibere." Lightfoot, in Matth. v, 43, and in Luc. ix, 60, has collected a series of topical texts: "Nationes mundi canibus assimilantur Populi terrarum non vivunt."
20 This thought is found in Seneca also (de Benef., iv, 26): "Si deos imitaris, da et ingratis beneficia, nam et sceleratis sol oritur, et piratis patent maria."
21 Cicero (Tuscul., ii, 26), had the merit of saying something similar "Mihi quidem laudibiliora videntur omnia quæ sine venditatione et sine populo teste fiunt, nullum theatrum conscientia majus est."
22 In Terence (Heauton., v, 1, 6), a husband says to his wife: "Ohe, jam desine deos, uxor, gratulando obtundere. Illos tuo ex ingenio judicas ut nihil credas intelligere, nisi idem dictum est centies."
23 Although the Lord's Prayer has been inserted here (St. Matt. vi, 9,), St. Luke (xi, 14) named the occasion of its pronouncement too positively for us not to follow his information. The Master, according to him, was not before the multitude, but before a limited audience, and He had just prayed when the disciples asked of Him a form of prayer.
24 The teachings that St. Matthew has put between ch. vi, 19, and ch. vii, 1, seem in our opinion to be distributed better in St. Luke, and we shall find them again later on.
25 This refers to private life where charity should play the leading part. In public life, justice reserves the right to punish officially all crimes; otherwise social organisation would be impossible.
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