IX. The Righteousness of the Pharisees.

MATT. v. 20. “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteous-
ness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into
the kingdom of heaven.”

THE sermon on the Mount may be regarded as Jesus
Christ’s first formal public announcement of the nature and
object of His mission, and of the relation of His Gospel
both to the law of Moses and to the religious parties then
existing among the Jews. The text is the centre of this
unrivalled and unapproachable discourse.
The “kingdom of heaven” here, as elsewhere, in the
Gospels, designates that spiritual society which Jesus came
on earth to found.
When it is alleged that “righteousness” is essential to
entrance into this kingdom, we are not to suppose that
because of its possession a man merits admission into the
kingdom, but rather that righteousness is the one essential
characteristic of all connected with the kingdom. The
righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was at fault,
because they placed righteousness in what a man does
irrespective of what he is, and though practising many
things which might be call virtues, yet they did so from
mere outside considerations. The results which sprang
from this false principle, were :—
I. The divorce of religion from common life.
II. The overlaying of the spirit of God’s law by the
letter.
III. Ostentation in the performance of their so-called
religious duties, with its invariable accompaniment in the
uncharitable judgment of others.
This Pharisaism is a form of righteousness that is not
extinct among us.
The disgraces and defeats of the Church are owing in
most part to the Pharisees nominally connected with her.
Like the barnacles on a ship, which are not in it but on it,
they impede her progress and give occasion to the enemies
of God to blaspheme.
W. M. Taylor, D.D.

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