Page images
PDF
EPUB

and will at all times be looked upon with complacet, cy and delight by the God of purity. Now, said he, do you Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup or platter ; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without, made that which is within also ? but rather give alms of such things as ye have; and behold, all things are clean unto you.

Such was the language of the Son of God, but the proud self-conceited Pharisees would not hear; however clear and convincing, however mild and persuasive, the reasonings of our great Redeemer were, the inveterate prejudices and rooted unbelief of these men, prevented

these excellent discourses from having their proper effect. Our blessed Saviour therefore treated them with more severity, and denounced against them the most heavy woes for their hypocrisy, which was manifest in their scrupulous exactness in the performance of the minutest part of the ceremonial observances, contained in their traditions, while they were most scandalously careless and negligent in the weightier matters of the law : Woe unto you, Pharisees ! said he, for ye tithe mint and rue, and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment, and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Woe unto you, Pharisees ! for ye love the uttermost seats in the synagogues, and greeting in the markets. Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.

Though this discourse was principally assigned to affect the Scribes and Pharisees, a certain lawyer, who sat at the table, thinking that this rebuke affected persons of his profession, was very much offended; but our great Redeemer, who regarded not the persons nor professions of men, plainly told him what was his real character: Woe unto you also, ye lawyers, said he, for.

îje lade men with burdens grievous to be borné, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.

The blessed Jesus also blamed the conduct of the Scribes and Pharisees, for building the sepulchres of the prophets, whom their fathers had murdered; because they did not erect these edifices so much out of respect to the memory of the deceased worthies, as to exhibit the utmost ostentation of piety, and make themselves admired for their noble sentiments; while, by their constant line of conduct, they gave reason to conclude, that they secretly entertained the same hatred to reproof, and unconquerable obstinacy and perverseness, which excited their fathers to the most unreasonable and cruel of their actions: · Woe unto you,' said he, 'for ye build the sepulchre of the prophets, and your

fathers killed them. Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: that the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation ; from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily, I say unto you, it shall be required of this generation.' As our Redeemer well knew that this hardened and unbelieving generation, would spill the blood of the Son of God, and of consequence be guilty of the blackest, and most impious and horrid martyrdom, which could be committed: he might justly represent them, as the most black, horrid, and hateful race of murderers, as guilty in themselves, as much to be abhorred, and equally deserving peculiar and distinguished vengeance, as if they had shed all the inno cent blood which ever had been spilt in the world. Our great Redeemer, after pronouncing these woesty

PP

turned his discourse against the lawyers, and condemned them for filling the minds of the people with wrong notions, arising from forced interpretations of the scriptures; by which means the minds of the people were prejudiced against the gospel, and prevented from teceiving the truth: Woe unto you lawyers! said he, for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye enter not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered:

However just and reasonable these discourses were, the severity, of the rebukes contained in them, was highly provoking to those Scribes and Pharisees; they were conscious of being guilty of the crimes laid to their charge, but their pride could not bear the thoughts of being sunk in the opinion of the people, who heard these remarks; their minds were agitated with conflicting passions, but pride and envy urged them to the most base and despicable actions; their rising resentment studied revenge, and they were so mean as to urge our exalted Redeemer to discourse on various subjects, with no other view than to ensnare him, and by that means render him obnoxious, either to the Roman government, or to the common people amongst the Jews, the evangelist informs us, that, as he said these things unto them, the Scribes and Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things, laying in wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.

Our great Redeemer baded all their attempts, and leaving the house of the Pharisee, he went amongst the multitude, which was waiting at the door; so great were the numbers, and so hard did they press to get near the exalted person of our Saviour, that they trod one upon another. The first discourse he held with the multitude, after he had left the Pharisee's house, was to warn them against the pernicious poison of the Pharisee's example, who appcared in disguise, and pre

tended to be the most strict in the observance of the law, the most simple in their manners, and pure and spotless in their conversation, when, at the same time, they were privately guilty of the most gross and scandalous vices; our Lord, therefore, exhorted the multitude to be very careful not to do any thing which would not bear the light, but let the whole of their behaviour be honest, open, and upright; for the time would come, when all secrets would be revealed, and all the works of darkness brought to light: Beware ye,' said he, "of the leaven of the Pharisecs, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, which shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore, whatever ye have spoken in darknesss, shall be heard in the light, and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets, shall be proclaimed upon the house tops.'

Our Redeemer proceeded to observe, that an open, honest course of conduct, above hypocrisy, and disdaining all disguise, would enable them to put their trust in their Maker; while the contrary conduct tended to fill the mind with that fear of man, which is so projudicial to the welfare of the soul: he therefore exhorted them, not to fear the malice or power of any of the sons of men; these can extend no further than the death of the body, but cannot touch the immortal soul, which may bid defiance to the impotent rage of the gloomy tyrant, and never tremble at the fury of the oppressor: such weak and feeble creatures as men, are not to be feared, but the wrath of thie eternal God ought rather to be dreaded; he is able, after he hath destroyed the body, to confine the soul in eternal torments. How happy are the persons who are under his holy protection: all things are in his power, nothing can escape his notice, nor any thing happen without his permission: And I say unto you, my friends, said our great Redeemer, be not afraid of them that kill the bo; sly, and after that, have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whoin ye shall fear: fear him, which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast inte helli yea, I say nnto you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore; ye are of more va, lue than many sparrows.

The blessed Jesus thought fit to add, that the fear of man would be a snare to great numbers, and preç vent them from confessing the truth; but whoever were overcome by this prevailing principle, and were ashamed to acknowledge our Saviour, would be finally rejected at the awful day, when he would sit in judgment, and own and reward all his faithful followers: and whoever were induced to speak evil of the Spirit of God, the grand agent in carrying on the Messiah's kingdom in the hearts of men, our Redeemer informed them, should be punished with peculiar and distinguished vengeance, by a justly provoked, sin avenging God: Also I say unto you, said he, whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven.

Having shewn the necessity of boldly confessing him before men, he proceeded to encourage his disciples with the promise of immediate assistance, when they were brought before princes, and the great men of the earth; which divine assistance would deliver them from all embarrassment, respecting what they should answer, when they were examined concerning their faith: And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and prwers, take ye no thought how, or what ye shall answer, or what ye shall say; for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour, what ye ought to say

While the blessed Jesus was delivering these ex. bortations to his Şisciples, a person amongst the sur

« PreviousContinue »