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perishing in their crimes, and will ere long be themselves the objects of everlasting shame and contempt. May none of us ever indulge such a temper, or ever rest in an empty profession ; lest, being like the figtree before us, which had leaves, but no fruit, the curse of Christ should be pronounced upon us, which would immediately wither us amidst all our verdure ! Let us remember that this was intended as one of those significant actions by which the holy messengers of God frequently intimated approaching judgments. Happy would it have been if some, instead of searching out objections against it, had seriously considered its design, and the sad aspect with which it looks on those who; like them, receive the grace of God in vain.
Christ visits the temple again ; and, after a repeated effort to reform
the continued abuses there, discourses with the people so as further exasperates the priests. MARK xi. 15—19. · John xii. 44, &c.
rusalem ; and Jesus entering into the temple, as he had done the day before, observing that the traders were seated there again*, began to drive out them that bought and sold in the limits of the
temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the 16 seats of them that sold doves. And he permitted not that any one 17 should carry any vessel through the courts of the temple. And he
taught the evil of such practices, saying to them, Is it not written, My Father's house shall be called an house of prayer, not for the Jews only but for all nations ? But you have made it a den of robbers, by profaning the place in which the Gentiles are to worship God, by unlawful gain.
JOHN xii. 44-50 44 And Jesus cried with a loud voice to the multitude now gathered
about him, He that believes in me, believes not in me alone, but 45 in him that sent me. And he that sees me by a lively faith, does 46 in effect see him that sent me. I am come a light into the world,
that every one who believes in me, might not abide in darkness. 47 And if any one hear my words and will not believe, I do not now
condemn him ; for I am not come at present to condemen the world, 48 but to save the world. He that rejects me, and does not receive my
words, has one that judges him : the word that I have spoken, even 49 that very word shall judge him in the last day.
For I have not spoken of myself, but the Father who sent me, he gave me command50 ment what I should say, and what I shall yet speak. And I know
that his commandment is eternal life; therefore whatever I say, I
speak just as the Father has given me in charge. * The author was of opinion, that this was the third time that our Lord performed this action of clearing the temple, because it is here intimated that he did it on his return from Bethany the next day after the shoutings of the children. But others consider this as the same story with that related by Maithew and Luke, § 147, and the chjection might easily be answered.
MARK xi. 18 And the scribes and chief priests heard of what Jesus had done
and taught ; and were so much offended that they diligently sought
how they might destroy him ; for they dreaded him, because all, 19. the people were struck at bis doctrine. And when the evening was come he went out of the city.
REFLECTIONS. How hard is it to purge a carnal heart, and disentangle it from the snares of a deceitful world ! No sooner were these traders driven from the temple, but they return to it again ; and are as busy the next day in the pursuit of their unlawful gain as they had been before. And thus how often are convictions stifled by the love of this world ! And if the voice of conscience, or the word of God, may interrupt us for a while in our unlawful courses, yet where it may affect our world, ly interest, how ready are we to return to them again, and with what difficulty are we brought so far to lay aside our earthly projects, as not to take them with us into the house of God! Purge us, O Lord, from every irregular desire; pursue and perfect thine own work; and incline our hearts unto thy testimonies, and not unto covetousness.
Mest important is that proclamation which our Lord made in the temple, and is still making to us in his word; believing in him, we believe in the Father ; and seeing him, we see the Father. Let us be ready therefore to receive him out of regard to his divine authority, as well as with a view to our own happiness.; for without him we can have no access unto the Father, nor can we ever see him as a reconciled God.—The sacred light which he diffuses around him is not intended merely to amuse our eyes with pleasing speculations, but to animate our hearts with holy affections, and to guide our feet into the way of peace. If we desire therefore to escape an abode in eternal darkness, and to see light everlasting, let us faithfully follow him : otherwise we are condemned already, and that word which he spake will become to us.a savour of death unto death, and will judge usin the last solemn and dreadful day, when it shall sentence those who would not be saved by it.
Let us now make that word the rule of our life, which shall then be the rule of our judgment. We may most comfortably, venture our eternal all on the exact veracity, of it. Christ has perfectly fulfilled the commission he received from his Father, as one that was faithful to him that appointed him ; and stands so completely approved in his sight, that our only hope is that we also may be accepted in him, and find mercy
for his sake.
The disciples observe that the fig-tree was withered away, Jesus confounds the sanhedrim, who questioned his authority, and reproves them by the parable of the complaisant but disobediant son. MATT. xxi. 20-32. MARK xi. 20, &c. xii. 1. LUKE XX. 1-9.
returned to Jerusalem on the third day of the weck in which he suffered. And in the morning, as they were passing by, when the disciples saw the fig-tree dried up from the roots, they wondered, saying, How soon is the fig-tree withered away! And Peter recollecting what had passed, said to him, Rabbi, behold the fig-tree which thou cursedst is withered away ! And Jesus answering says unto them, Have faith in God; for I assuredly say unto you, That if you have faith, and do not doubt, you shall not only do such miracles as this of the fig-tree ; but also whosoever shall say to this mountain, Be thou removed into the sea, and shall not doubt in his mind, but believe that what he says shall come to pass, it shall be done*.' And for this reason, to encourage you boldly to act as God shall direct and instigate you, I say unto you, Whatsoever things you shall desire, and ask in prayer, to confirm your doctrine, believe that you shall receive them and you shall have them.
But let your prayers be offered in love as well as in faith;; and when you stand praying, forgive, if you have any matter of complaint against any, that your
Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive your brethren, and even your enemies, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.
And they came again to Jerusalem; and when he was come into the temple, it came to pass thatt, as he was walking there, while he taught the people and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes, and the elders of the people, came upon him in a body, and spake to him with high displeasure, at his taking upon him to referm the temple, saying, Tell us by what authority thou dost these things, and who he is that gave thee this authority to do them? And Jesus said to them'in reply, I will also ask you one question ; and if you answer mell, I will likewise tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from whence was it? from heaven, or ofmen ? Answer me this. And they reasoned among themselves saying, If we shall say, From heaven, he will r ask us, Why therefore did ye not believe him ? But if we shall say, Of men, we fear all the populace will stone us, for they are all persuaded that John was really a prophet. And therefore they answered Jesus by saying, We cannot tell whence it was. And Jesus replied and said unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things. And he began to speak unto them and to the people by parables.
* MARK, “ And shall be to him just as he says." D.
LUKE, “ On one of those days." The author omits this clause, because Mark has fixed the date of this fact; and he apprizes the reader that for equally just reasons he has elsewhere omitted a few others.
MATT.“ One thing, which if ye tell me.”
But what think ye [of the following case ?) There was a man who had tow sons; and coming to the first, he said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. And he answered and said, I will not; but afterwards he repented and went. And he came to the second, and said in the same manner. And he answered and said, Sir, I am going; yet he went not. Which of the two did the will of his Father? They say unto him, The first. Upon this Jesus says to them, verily I say unto you, That the publicans and common prostitutes lead you the way into the kingdom of God, but with all your pretences to sanctily you will not follow them. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and you believed him not ; but the publicans and harlots believed him : and you, when you saw it, did not afterwards repent, so as to believe him. And therefore your condition will another day be worse than theirs.
REFLECTIONS. How little do the most specious pretences of piety signify if they are not animated by the heart, and confirmed by the life! How vain are all the complimental forms of religion when addressed to that God who penetrates all the secrets of the soul, and can have complacency in nothing but real solid goodness! Yet how many are there, who are free of their promises both to God and man, but always fail when the time of performance comes ! And how many, with these unhappy rulers in Israel, go on to pride themselves in a kind of external nearness to God, and perhaps in a boasted commisson from him, who are themselves so far from his kingdom, that even publicans and harlots, who did not pretend to any religion, are more like to be brought into it than they, as being more open to a conviction of their sin and danger, and so more ready to embrace an offered Saviour ! Let us dread the guilt of receiving the grace of God in vain, lest by rejecting the calls of the gospel, and abusing the privilges we enjoy, our hearts be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, so as to perish in impenitence and unbelief.
In vain do we, like these Pharisees, inquire into the evidences of Christ's authority, if we are not heartily resolved to submit to it. Yet with such cavillers and hypocrites must his ministers expect to meet. May they learn, by the example of their great Master, to answer them with the meekness of wisdom, and to join the sagacity of the serpent with the gentleness and innocence of the dove !
The promises which are made to a miraculous faith in prayer, are not indeed our immediate concern; but we may truly infer from them some encouragement in favour of the prayer of faith, on whatever account, and in whatever circumstances it be offered. At least we may infer the necessity of forgiving injuries, if we desire that our petitions should be received with favour. Let us remember it ; and labour to approach the throne of a forgiving God, with hearts not only clear of every malignant passion, but full of that cordial and universal benevolence which may engage us to pray for all men, and particularly for those who have least deserved our kindness, and seem least disposed to requite it.
The parable of the vineyard let out to unfaithful husbandmen. Mart.
xxi. 33, &c. MARK xii. 1-12. LUKE XX. 9—19.
ND Jesus said, Hear another parable : There was a certain mas
ter of a family who planted a vineyard, and made a hedge round it, and digged a place for a wine press in it*; and built a tower for the accommodation and defence of the labourers; and let it out to husbandmen, and took a journey for a long time into a distant country:And at the season when the time of the fruit approached, he sent his servants to the husbandmen that he might receive from [them] the fruit of the vineyard. And the husbandmen seized his servants, and beat one, and sent him empty away, and slew another, and stoned another. And he sent again other servants to them, more than the first ; but they did the same unto them; and they threw stones at him who was the chief, and wounded him in the head and sent him away empty and shamefully treated.--And again the third time, he sent another principal servant ; and him also they wounded. And they even cast him out and killed him. And in like manner they assaulted many others, beating some and killing some.
Then the lord of the vineyard said, What shall I further do to reclaim ihem? I will send my Son. Having yet therefore one son, his well beloved, he sent him also last of all to them, saying, Perhaps they will reverence my son when they see hiin. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they reasoned among themselves saying, This is the heir; come let us kill him and seize on his inheritance, that it may be ours. And they seized him; and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When therefore the lord of the vineyard cometh, what will he do to those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wretches, and will let out the vineyard to other husbandmen, who shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus added, You have answered right ; he shall indeed come and desa troy these husbandmen, and give the vineyard to others. For this reason I say unto you, That the kingdom of God, which you have thus ungratefully abused, shall be taken away from you, and given to a nation which shall bring forth the fruits thereof. And when they heard it they said, God forbid. And Jesus looked upon them, and said unto them, What is this then that is written? (Psalm cxviii. 22, 23.) Did you never read this fiassage in the scriptures ? « The stone which the 6 buiiders refused, the same is become the head-stone of the corner: 6 this is the Lord's doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes.” And therefore let me plainly tell you, That whosçever shall fall upon this stone, or stumble at me and my doctrine, while I am here on earth, shail te broken ; but on whomsoever it shall fall, when raised up to so glorious an <minence, it shall grind him to powder. And when the chief priests, and the Scribes and Pharisees had heard his parables, they ia
* MARK.“ A vat for the wine."
t Wretchedily. "D, Every leader will see the propriety of substituting the common translation). Vol. I.