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1. In the conduct of the Pharisees towards Christ and John the Baptist, we may see that men who dislike the truth are never at a loss for reasons for rejecting it, and that they have often recourse to the most absurd and inconsistent principles, for this purpose.---Having nothing to object to the doctrines taught, they find fault with the preachers: they pretend to dislike John, because his manners were austere, and Jesus, for a totally opposite reason, because his manners were the reverse of those of his predecessor, frce and popular: but the real ground of their dislike to both was that pure and strict morality which they practised them. selves, and inculcated upon others. The teachers of religion may learn hence the folly of accommodating their manners to the corrupt taste of the age in which they live, with the hope of gaining a greater degree of attention to their instructions. The persons whom they address will still find something to plead for disregarding them, either in the substance of what they preach, in their manner of teaching, or their mode of life: instead of studying, therefore, to please men by their conduct, whom after all it is impossible to satisfy, let them pursue that course of life which, in their own conscience, they shall esteem to be right. In this manner, without intending it, they will most effectually secure the approbation of the wise and good: for wisdom is justified of her children. They must not, however, be surprised, if they are charged by some with unnecessary strictness, or scandalous licentiousness: the best characters have not escaped such censures.
2. Let us all joyfully accept of this gracious invitation, made to us by Christ, to come to him. You cannot go to a kinder or an abler master: his prccepts are reasonable and just; there is nothing in them of Pharisaical superstition, or monkish severity; they are what your own consciences must approve; they are adapted to the wants of the human mind, and calculated to promote your interest, honour and comfort.---There is no one so well qualified to instruct you as he; all things are delivered to him of the Father; he is fully acquainted with the purposes and counsels of the Almighty, respecting the salvation of the human race; and he is authorised by him to communicate them to the world. If you trust to your own reason, to heathen philosophers, or to Jewish Rabbies, their information will be erroneous or defective; but in him you have an infallible guide. Renounce then the tyranny of your passions, and the authority of custom; renounce the name of every human master, and place yourself at the feet of this divine teacher. Take the history of his life into your hands; carefully meditate upon the invaluable truths which it contains, and form your opinions and practice by the rule which he has laid down for you. To this the Saviour invites you, in the mild language of benevolence and friendship; but he has likewise more alarining motives with which to address you. For,
3. If you refuse to listen to his invitations, you must expect severe punishment. Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida, the cities in which were performed most of his mighty works, were esteemed more hardened than the most corrupt cities of the heathens, than such as were abandonedly wicked to a proverb, than Tyre and Sidon, than Sodom and Gomorrah; and were punished for their impenitence with severer calainities, in proportion to their greater guilt. In their sufferings you may read the measure of your own doom, if you persist in rejecting the yoke of Christ: for his inighty works, although not performed before your eyes, are · yet communicated to you by a history every way credible: you are well acquainted with his character, and have before you the whole of the Christian scheme, which was delivered only partially to many of the auditors of Christ. If, with all these advantages, you
refuse to come to Christ, to learn your duty of him, it is no ordinary doom which awaits you. The punishment of the most profligate heathen will be light, when compared with yours: you have resisted stronger motives to repentance, and sinned against greater light; you have therefore deserved greater punishment. To-day then, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Matthew xii. 1----13. 1. At that time Jesus went, on the sabbath-day, through the corn; and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of the corn, and to eat.
2. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath-day.
The law of Moses allowed of plucking the ears of corn in a neighbour's field, to satisfy hunger; although not of putting in the sickle; it was not to this, therefore, that the Pharisees objected, but to doing it on the sabbath-day. This action their superstitious notions led them to exaggerate into a kind of reaping, which was prohibited on the sabbath: it appeared to them inconsistent likewise with another law, which forbad them to dress meat, or provide food, on that day.
3. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungered, and they that were with him?
4. How he entered into the house of God, i. e. the tabernacle: for the temple was not at this time erected; and did eat the shew bread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them that were with him; but only for the priests ?
Christ here draws an argument in favour of the conduct of his disciples from the example of David, in a case exactly similar to theirs: for being destitute of food, during his flight from Saul, he applied to Abime.
offer him, except the loaves which had been presented before God, he accepted of them for himself and distributed them among his companions. This action was irregular, and contrary to the letter of the law, which enjoined that twelve loaves of bread should be placed on a table in the tabernacle, every sabbath-day, which, after remaining there a week, were to be removed, and eaten by the priests, but by no other persons. David, therefore, transgressed the law upon this occasion: but his conduct was justified by the necessity of the case. As the Pharisees allowed this with respect to him, they ought to admit it likewise in regard to the disciples, who were placed in circumstances of similar necessity; or, if they condemned the conduct of the disciples of Christ, while they approved of that of David, it appeared that they were influenced by unreasonable prejudices.
5. Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath-days, the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless ?
The priests in the temple slew the victims for sacrifice on the sabbath, and performed other actions which might be considered as servile employments, and
which were the business of common days: yet this was dermed no profanation of the day, because it was necessary for the worship of God: upon the same principles the action of the disciples in rubbing cars of corn to procure food for themselves, while tlies were('mploved in the important office of instructing the people, ought not to be considered as a violation of the sabbathi.
6. But I say unto you, that in this place is one greater, or, rather, « something greater," than the temple.
In this Christ has been generally supposed to refer to liimself, and to intimate that as he was so superior to the temple, he bad authority to dispense, in particular circumstances, with the law relating to the sabbath: but it appears more probable that he alludes to the useful employment in which he and his disciples were engaged, when compared with the services of the temple; as if lie had said; “the things which take place here, and in which I employ my disciples, are greater and more necessary than those which pass in the temple, and therefore better fitted to be performed on the sabbath day. The healing of humani maladies, and the instruction of sinners, which so constantly employ then that they have not time to provide food for the sabbath, on other days, are in reality more excellent than all the ceremonial worship of the law."---This is the second argument which our Lord uses to justify the conduct of his followers: he now has recourse to a third.
7. But if ve had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, or, rather, I love mercy better than a sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
This passage is taken from Hosea, and has been quoted by Christ once already, when its meaning was