The Sermon on the Mount A Practical Exposition
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
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FIRST EDITION December, 1896.
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SECOND EDITION (1/-) June, 1910.
Reprinted October, 1911.
THIRD EDITION (2/6) March, 1912.
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
A PRACTICAL EXPOSITION
BY CHARLES GORE, D.D., D.C.L., LL.D.
BISHOP OF OXFORD
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, W.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
PREFACE TO THE REISSUE OF 1910
IN reissuing this little book in a new form I wish, by way of preface, to say a few words upon the passages (pp. 72‒78 and Appendix III., p. 227) in which I deal with the question of divorce in the Christian Church. I am not prepared to alter the conclusions there drawn, so far as they were drawn from the first Gospel, upon which alone I was commenting. But I should wish to express a different opinion on the relation of the statements about divorce in the first Gospel to those given us by St. Mark and St. Luke.
The course of recent criticism seems to make it fairly certain that we must regard the Gospels of St. Mark and St. Luke as giving us our Lord’s teaching on this subject in its original form. They are as follows:
St. Mark x. 11, 12: “And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her: and if she herself shall put away her husband, and marry another, she committeth adultery.”
St. Luke xvi. 18: “Every one that putteth away his wife and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth one that is put away from a husband committeth adultery.”
Cp. 1 Cor. vii. 10, 11: “But unto the married I give charge, yea not I, but the Lord, That the wife depart not from her husband (but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband); and that the husband leave not his wife.”
Our Lord in these passages is represented as recognizing remarriage after divorce in no case at all. He treats marriage as strictly indissoluble. The astonishment of the disciples as expressed even in the first Gospel (St. Matt. xix. 10: “If the case of the man is so with his wife, it is not expedient to marry”) seems to require this teaching to make it intelligible. It would not be intelligible if our Lord were only reasserting the stricter of two views about divorce already current among the Jews.1 On the other hand, it is certain that the passages in the first Gospel upon which I have commented in the text of this book do admit an exception to the indissolubility of marriage in favour at least of the innocent husband in the case of his wife’s adultery. I must adhere to all that is said in this book in support of this conclusion; but I now find myself constrained to believe that the exception as recorded in St. Matthew, though it is an integral part of our present Gospel, represents a serious modification of our Lord’s teaching, due probably to Jewish tradition within the Church. The Jewish Christians seem to have introduced a gloss into their record of our Lord’s teaching, believing, no doubt, that they were rightly interpreting His mind; and the gloss is represented in our first Gospel. The fact that the Christian Church has accepted the first Gospel, and stamped it with the fullest authority, accounts for the teaching of the Church on the indissolubility of the marriage tie having been in certain times and places uncertain. We cannot to-day equitably ignore the appeal to the first Gospel, even though we do not believe it to represent on this point the original teaching of our Lord. My practical conclusions therefore are not different from those set out in this book, except that I should now be still more decisive than formerly in resisting any proposal to introduce any exception into the existing law of the Church in England.
For the substance of this note—so far as it concerns the Gospels—I would refer to Dr. Plummer’s Exegetical Commentary on St. Matthew (Elliot Stock) and Allen’s International Critical Commentary on St. Matthew (T. & T. Clark), on Matt. v. 31 ff. and xix. 3 ff. Also to Dr. Salmon’s Human Element in the Gospels (Murray, 1907), p. 391, and to a work of Professor Tyson’s entitled The Teaching of our Lord as to the Indissolubility of Marriage (University Press of Sewanee, Tennessee, 1909).
There is no plant in the spiritual garden of the Church of England which at the present moment needs more diligent watering and tending than the practical, devotional study of Holy Scripture. The extent to which spiritual sloth, or reaction against Protestant individualism, or the excuse of critical difficulties is allowed to minister to the neglect of this most necessary practice, is greatly to be deplored. It is surprising in how few parts of the Bible critical difficulties, be they what they may, need be any bar to its practical use.
The present exposition is, I trust, based upon a careful study of the original text, but it is, as presented, intended simply to assist ordinary people to meditate on the Sermon on the Mount in the Revised Version, and to apply its teaching to their own lives. If it proves useful, I hope, as occasion offers, to follow it up with other similar expositions of St. Paul’s epistles to the Romans and Ephesians, and the epistles of St. John.
My original intention was to publish some lectures given in Westminster Abbey on the Sermon on the Mount