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Those who are nearest in
greatness to an earthly king, sit on his right hand and his left. The mind of the mother of these apostles had not yet been raised to things above, or taught to expect a spiritual kingdom. And we cannot wonder at the distinction which she desired for her two sons. “ After all these things do the Gentiles seek.” Only let not those, who profess to “seek first the kingdom of God," show the same eagerness for worldly things as if they expected no other portion.
To the demand then made upon him, our Lord replies :
22. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. 1
23. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism thut I am baptized with : but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.
Our Lord first gave them an intimation, that the honour they sought could not be easily attained, and could only be reached by patiently enduring whatever they might be called to suffer in the cause of his religion.
In early times, each guest at an entertainment, or member of a family, had a portion assigned him, a mess or a cup of his own. See Gen. xliii. 34. Hence the figurative expression– Ye shall drink of my cup: ye shall taste of that dispensation which is assigned to me.
Probably the two disciples did not fully comprehend his meaning. They would perceive, however, what it implied. They must be prepared to expect dangers and endure hardships. This they had been accustomed to hear. And they answer, We are able. We are ready to encounter all difficulties.
Our Lord's reply indicates an exact foreknor. ledge of what should happen. Ye shall indeed drink of my cup : ye shall indeed be called, as my ciples, to taste of the same cup of suffering which ! have engaged to drink : and ye shall be baptizet with the baptism that I am baptized with; ye be plunged in earthly sorrow of the same nature & mine : for “the disciple is not greater than bis lord.”
A prediction which was surely fulfilled. For of these two brothers, James was the firs among the apostles whom we read of as slain "fe: righteousness sake;" ? and John was imprisoned a advanced age,
and, like his blessed Master was made “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” 3 This he, who knew all things, now foretold
. though in dark words which could not be immediately understood. “ Now I tell you before it com to pass, that when it is come to pass, ye may beliet: that I am he.” What follows, takes us by surprise.
To sit my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to gir but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepare of my Father. The matter in our Lord's mind, a
Acts xii. 1, 2.
* See Revel. i. 9.
he spoke, was, no doubt, his heavenly kingdom. It might not be in the apostles' mind, but it was in his mind. And how are we to explain his meaning, when he says, It is not mine to give? To whom then should we go ? Especially when he has elsewhere asserted : “The Father judgeth no man, but hath delivered all judgment to the Son." things are delivered unto me of my father.” “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there ye may be also.” All these sentences prove, that, in one sense, the kingdom of heaven is our Lord's giving, and only his giving. How then do they agree with the clause, which says, it shall only be given to them for whom it is prepared of the Father? A little consideration will explain.
It has pleased God, in the gospel covenant, to promise eternal life to such as shall possess a certain character, or answer a certain description. He does not assign it to particular persons, but to a particular description of persons. Not to this or that individual, but to every individual on whom that character is found.
He knows, indeed, who they are, whom he “has decreed to deliver from curse and damnation, and to bring by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour.” But all that he reveals, or enables us to know of them, is their character. They “are called by his Spirit working in due season ; they through grace obey the calling ; they are made like the image of his Son; they walk religiously in good works; and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity." And
4 See Articles of Religion, xvii.
beyond these; to others than these; not of this class ;-it is not in the power even of our Lord to give an entrance into his kingdom. The request was, that he should dispose of it differently : that he should assign it to persons, without respect of character. Grant to these my two sons, that they may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. Just as in the world situations of trust are sometimes bestowed, not because the individuals are fit for them, but because they desire them. And this unjust request draws forth the memorable reply : It is not mine to give, but to them for whom it is prepared of my Father." Not from want of authority in him, “who is over all, God blessed for ever:” but for want of fitness in the
person. In the same sense as we say, It is impossible for God to be false to his word: in that sense it is impossible for Christ himself to give his kingdom to others than those for whom God has prepared it.
It cannot, therefore, be designed for any who do not believe in him by whom it was purchased, and through whom it is bestowed.
First, because “ eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ :” " No man cometh unto the Father, but by him.”
Secondly, because these alone direct their lives, discipline their hearts, and order their conversation, according to the rules of his kingdom. They “receive him,” not only as the “author of eternal
“So the sentence would be rendered more clearly, and more exactly with the original, omitting the words with which our translators have filled up the sentence; Ma, is equivalent to é pn, except.
life,” but as the author of a law in which they should walk towards it. This is a very peculiar path ; very unlike that which we should follow of our own accord ; very unlike that in which those are travelling, who have not the kingdom of God before their eyes. He in whom they are trusting, and to whom they have surrendered themselves, gradually prepares them for the state to which they look forward : withdraws them from the works of the flesh, and brings forth in them the fruits of the Spirit.
It would be contrary to the nature of things, it would be contrary to the perfect righteousness of God, if his kingdom were granted to others. There must be some agreement between the kingdom, and the characters belonging to it. To take a sinful creature, with lusts unconquered, with temper unbroken, with pride unsubdued, with a heart never bent before God in the prostration of self-abasement, or raised towards him in the aspiration of piety and love ; to place such an one in the
presence of God and his angels, and bid him dwell in the realms of holiness; this would be contrary to all our reasonable notions of what is right and suitable. Our own understanding teaches us, (O may we never be condemned by the acknowledgment!) that they must be “pure in heart,” who are admitted to "see God;" they must be “meek,” who “inherit the land ” where all is peace: they must be “merciful,” who obtain mercy. They must hunger and thirst after righteousness,” who are to inhabit “ a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” These