Page images

is the Father of lights, and giver of every good and perfect gift. 6 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers, by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?" However some may be distinguished by virtue or knowledge above the rest of mankind, let us remember that all men are brethren; members of the same family, upon a footing of equality with regard to each other, without any authority to dictate to or to rule over the rest. Let Christian instructors ever keep in mind, that the way to rise into esteem with God and with wise men, is not by clothing them. selves in a venerable or splendid garb, or by assuming high sounding titles, but by studying the interests of mankind, and stooping to the lowest services for their benefit. - It was thus the Captain of their salvation acquired immortal glory; and if his followers attain the like honours, it must be by the like means: those who seek to rise in any other way only ensure their own disgrace.

Matthew xxiii, 13---26.

13. But woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer them that are entering to go in.

Christ now turns from the multitude and his disci. ples, to whom he had been before speaking, to address himself to his inveterate enemies, the Pharisaic scribes, who now surrounded him, only watching for an opportunity to destroy him. He calls them hypocrites, because they said, and did not; because they pretended to much piety and virtue, while they were enemies to both: he accuses them of shutting up the kingdom of heaven, because they gave such interpretations of the prophecies relating to the Messiah, and instilled into

the minds of men such prejudices against Jesus, as prevented them from becoming his disciples; and so, from becoming subjects of that kingdom which he was about to establish.

14. Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer; therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation, " greater punishment."

You make great pretensions to devotion; but it is only to gain the esteem and confidence of the weak and sup. erstitious, that they may be induced to reward your piety, by giving to you freely of their substance. Your long prayers are a cloak to your avarice, which you are willing to gratify at the expence even of widows; from whom, if you had any humanity, ye would accept of no gratuity. Your pretences to piety, therefore, which serve to enhance your character among men, shall only expose you to severer vengeance from God, when he visits the Jews for their sins.

15. Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: for ye compass sea and land, to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

It would be better translated, “a child of hell, more deceitful than yourselves;” referring to the double, hypocritical character of the Pharisees *.

A proselyte was one, who, being born among the Gentiles, by submitting to the rite of circumcision bound himself to obey the law of Moses. To obtain such a proselyte, the Scribes were willing to undertake

* See Schleusner's Lexicon, on the word A172005.

. 13----26. journies by land or voyages by sea, or to submit to any other labour that might be necessary; but their object was not to make men virtuous and pious, by communicating to them the knowledge of true religion; but to increase their own consequence, by adding to the number of their adherents: for so eager were they to instil into him their own principles, that they made him more deceitful and hypocritical than themselves. “Child of hell,” is a Hebrew phrase, and signifies one deserving of hell: in the same manner, as “son of death,” is one who is condemned to die; and “a son of stripes," one who deserves to be beaten*.

16. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor, “ he is bound.

The gold of the temple signifies the treasure of the temple, or the money that was brought thither, as an offering to God. This money the Scribes wished to have considered as peculiarly sacred, because they derived benefit from it; and therefore declared an oath by the gold of the temple to be more binding than any other: under pretext, indeed, of a zeal for God, in whose house it was placed; but, in reality, to gratify their own avarice.

17. Ye fools and blind; blind and foolish men:for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the

gold ?

What rendered the treasure of the temple sacred was its being appropriated to the use of the temple-service: it was, therefore, a gross absurdity to say that it was more sacred, than that from whence it derived its sacredness.

* i Sam, xx. 31. 2 Sam. xii. 5. Deut. xxv. 2.

18. And whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty; rather, he is bound.

You have laid down another absurd doctrine in regard to oaths; and from the same corrupt motive: for you say that if a man swear by the altar, his oath is not binding; but that if he swear by the gift which is presented upon the altar, he is bound to perform his oath; hereby making the gift more sacred than the altar, because ye derive profit from it.

19. Ye blind and foolish men! Which is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift ?

20. Whoso, therefore, shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon; .

21. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein;

22. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.

The children of Israel were required to swear by the name of God or Jehovah; Deut. vi. 13. X. 20. and every Jew considered himself as bound to the performance of such an oath; but where they swore by the heavens, by the temple or by the altar, they considered themselves as at liberty to fulfil their engagements, or not, as they might think proper. Christ, in these verses, shows that there was no foundation for such a distinction: for as no one, in swearing by these things, could be so stupid as to appeal to inanimate objects as


witnesses of his thoughts, and the avengers of perjury, but must have a secret reference to the Supreme Being; he declares that these oaths were as sacred, as those in which the name of God was mentioned.

23. Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: for ye pay tythe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, " justice," mercy and faith, “faithfulness:these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

The tythe was a provision made by the law of Moses for the support of the Levites, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow, Deut. xxvi. 12. and was there. - fore intended to proceed from the produce of the field, and not from garden herbs. The Pharisees, however, were so scrupulously exact in observing the injunctions of the law, that they tythed all small herbs. Luke xi. 42. Jesus does not condemn them for this; but for neglecting the essential duties of religion, justice, charity and fidelity, while they were thus exact in matters of no consequence.

24. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, rather, strain out a gnat," and swallow a camel.

This was a proverbial expression, founded upon the custom which prevailed in eastern countries, of passing their wine and other liquor through a strainer, in order to clear it from flies, which, in those hot countries, might fall into it. Our Lord applies it to the Scribes, because they appeared to be anxious to avoid the smallest faults, yet indulged themselves in gross violations of the most important laws of morality, in private.

25. Woe unto you, Scribes and

« PreviousContinue »