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Pharisees, hypocrites: for ye make clean the outside of the cup and platter, “ dish;” but within they are full of extortion, “ of rapine,” and excess.
As the Pharisees were fond of washing, Jesus borrows a comparison from that subject, to expose the folly of their conduct. By being so extremely careful about their outward conduct, while they were secretly guilty of rapine, and every species of intemperance, they acted as absurdly, as the man who should wash the outside of the cup, but leave the inside full of filth. On this occasion our Lord mingles the parable and the application of it together: for it was the Pharisee only, and not the cup, that could be full of extortion and excess.
26. Thou blind Pharisee! Cleanse first that which is within the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
Christ still mingles together the parable and the application of it, in this verse as well as in the preceding. Cleansing the inside of the cup would not make clean the outside; but if men correct the evil dispositions of the heart, the conduct will be reformed of course. This is what Jesus exhorts them to do.
1. To employ religion as a cloak for wicked designs; to assume the appearance of fervent piety towards God, and warm zeal for the best interests of mankind, only with a view to gratify more effectually our own ambitious, selfish and interested purposes, is the
worst kind of hypocrisy. Of this kind of hypocrisy were the Scribes guilty; they made long prayers in public, not only to be seen of men, and to obtain a reputation for extraordinary piety and sanctity; but to gain the confidence and allure the beneficence, of the weak and superstitious. Such a conduct discovers a mind totally vitiated and corrupt, insensible to the fear and love of God, inured to fraud and treachery on the most solemn occasions: it is peculiarly hateful to God, because, under the show of respect for him, it is a real mockery and insult to his perfections: it is highly injurious to men, because it leads the unthinking part of mankind to conclude that all pretensions to religion are equally false, and that those who assume the appearance of devout Christians are only concealed hypocrites; thus prejudicing their minds against every attempt to cultivate true piety. But this abuse of religion has not been peculiar to the Jewish Scribes: there have been men in all ages, who have endeavoured to cover the most atrocious designs by a pretended zeal for the honour of God and the welfare of their brethren; who have engaged in designs for plundering and murdering their fellow-creatures, with the language of piety and benevolence upon their lips. Let us hold such characters in abhorrence, in whomsoever they appear, and keep at the remotest distance from their practices.
2. Let us learn, from what Christ has said upon the subject of swearing, to reverence an oath; not swearing r upon light occasions, upon every emotion of anger or
surprise, nor imagining that because we swear by heaven, by our faith, or by our souls, or by any other object, we shall escape the guilt of perjury. In all these cases, and others of a like kind, there is a secret reference to the power and knowledge of God, who alone can know men's hearts, and punish their insincerity.
When we have once laid ourselves under the obligation of an oath, let nothing induce us to violate it; neither the hope of gain, nor the fear of suffering. If artful and interested men should suggest to us refined distinctions, to reconcile our conscience to the violation of them, let us reject them with abhorrence; they are dangerous snares, which, if we fall into them, will destroy our peace, and ruin our souls. Let it be our ambition, to attain the character of that upright man, who, although he swear to his own hurt, still performeth his oath.
S. Let us pay our principal attention to the inward dispositions of the mind: they are the sources and springs whence outward actions proceed: if these be right, our conduct cannot long be improper; but if they be corrupt, we shall fall into all kinds of disorders: for out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemy: we ought also to remember that it is to the heart that God principally looks, and upon that chiefly grounds his approbation or censure. In vain is it, therefore, that by acts of devotion or charity we acquire a fair character among men, or obtain the best rewards of hypocrisy. A fair outward appearance will not recommend us to heaven, while the heart is fond of rapine and intemperance; but rather, expose us to greater punishment.
4. Let us learn to estimate duties according to their real worth. Outward ceremonies are duties only of secondary importance, which derive their value from the efficacy which they have in leading us to observe
the weightier matters of the law, justice, charity and · fidelity; in our attention to the one, therefore, let us be careful that we do not neglect or overlook the other. This would be to prefer the shadow to the substance; the means to the end. We see, from a variety of examples, besides those of the Scribes of old, and it ought to fill us with alarm for ourselves, that those who are strictly punctual in the one are scandalously negligent in regard to the other.
Matthew xxiii. 27. to the end. 27. Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites : for ye are like unto whited," whitened,” sepulchres, which, indeed, appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones and of all uncleanness.
The Jews whitened their sepulchres, in order to point them out to passengers, lest, by coming too near, they should be defiled, which would be the necessary consequence of approaching a dead body. To such places, which were fair without, but full of uncleanness within, does Christ compare the Pharisees.
28. Even so, ye also, outwardly, appear righteous unto men; but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
29. Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish, " adorn,” the sepulchres of the righteous.
30. And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them of the blood of the prophets.
31. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, rather, as so that ye bear witness of yourselves,” that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
32. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. · The four last verses may be considered as one sentence, relating to one subject. They may be thus pa
raphrased. Woe to you, Pharisaic Scribes: for you wish to appear to set a high value upon the prophets and other servants of God, whose monuments you ostentatiously repair; declaring that if you had lived in the times of your fathers, you would not have joined with them in putting such excellent persons to death: in saying that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets, there is no more truth than you will be willing to allow: for you are truly their sons, not so much by birth, as by disposition: for while you pretend to disapprove of the deeds of your fathers, you are meditating the same things which they did. You honour the dead, because they do not oppose you; but you thirst with insatiable malice after the blood of the living prophets, who are teaching the same doctrine which their predecessors taught, only more perfectly. Complete then, as you appear determined to do, what might remain deficient in the wickedness of your ancestors, that the wrath of God may come upon you to the uttermost.
33. Ye serpents, ye generation, “ye brood,” of vipers : how can ye escape the damnation, " the punishment,” of hell.
Since you possess all the malignity of the most venemous creatures, how is it possible for you to escape not only severe punishment in this life, but also the severer punishment of a future state?
34. Wherefore, i. e. that ye may bring all this to pass, behold I send unto you prophets and wise men and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city.
Christ here refers to his sending persons to preach