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therefore God withheld from them any further communication of knowledge, and judicially closed their ears against the report of the Gospel. Therefore speak I to them in parables, because they seeing see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand ; and in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes
have they closed, lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them?.'
It was owing to this desertion on the part of God, that the Jewish hearers of our Lord exhibit in the sacred history so awful a specimen of the native scepticism of the human heart, and of the proud and unteachable spirit of man, when unenlightened by divine grace. Even Nicodemus, the most candid of them, and sincerely desirous of knowing what was truth, was not entirely exempt from the prejudice of his countrymen, of which an instance occurs in his incredulity respecting the doctrine of the new birth. The burthens derived from tradition with which their religious worship was encumbered,—their mistaken notions respecting the Messiah's kingdom and person }, -the low and unworthy interpretations which they put on the figurative language of their own scriptures,-all had their origin in want of spirituality, and prove the justice of our Lord's charge, that they were earthly in their conceptions and natures.
2 Matt. xiii. 13-15.
3. It may be sufficient to hint briefly at a few of those misconceptions, of which traces may be perceived in Scripture. The Jews believed from Dan. vii. 13, 14, that Christ would descend visibly from heaven, and destroy the Roman power,
an idea alluded to Matt. xvi. 1. Mark, viii. 11. Rom. X. 6, 1 Cor. i. 22. They believed from Dan. ii. 44, that Christ would abide with them for ever, John, xii. 34. Luke, xxiv. 21. Rom. x. 7.-from Is. lx. 3, that the Gentiles would be enlightened with the knowledge of the true God by the Jews converting them to Judaism, which is confuted by St. Paul, Gal. iii. 16.- from Jer. xxxi. 35, that all Israel should have their part in the world to come, Luke, xiii. 22.from Gen. xlix. 10, 11, and Is. xxi. 12, that Israel should be saved, and the other nations of the world destroyed by the Messiah, refuted John, iii. 17.-- from a misapplication of Is. Ixv. 13, that they should live with the Messiah in the garden of Eden. The Jews also maintained that Elias would come in his own person.
Hence our Lord
with reference to the inveteracy of this prejudice, · If ye ceive it, this is Elias which was for to come. More imme
Not unfrequently, indeed, the perverseness of their misapprehensions would appear to savour of puerile simplicity, rather than of mere ignorance. When Christ enforced the necessity of eating his flesh, and drinking his blood, they understood him to speak in a literal sense of his natural body, and asked, How can this man give us his flesh to eat 4? When he taught them that one of the privileges of his disciples consisted in spiritual freedom from sin, they conceived he meant freedom from civil servitude, and retorted upon him that Abraham's seed were never in bondage to any man5. When he declared, that those who kept his sayings should never see death, they accused him of madness for promising his followers exemption from the common lot of mankind, and interpreted his words to imply a temporal privilege which not even their federal father, the head of their nation, had been suffered to enjoy . When he spoke of withdrawing himself to a place whither they would not be able to follow him, however much their approaching miseries might tend to make them desire it, their minds were so engrossed with this present world, that they scornfully inquired, whether he meant to kill himself, because he said, 'whither I go ye cannot come?' Well might our Saviour be moved with compassion for the people, because they fainted and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd, while the very masters in Israel knew not the Lord's anointed, and cast the spirit of his doctrines behind them.
diately with reference to our Lord himself, they believed that he should be born at Bethlehem, and be concealed till Elias should come to anoint him, or at least that his parentage should be unknown, John, vii. 27.—that he should immediately accomplish peace on earth, Luke, xii. 49–51.--that he could not be a man, John, v. 18. x. 33. 1 John, v. 5. Mark, xiv. 61.-that he should not be in a mean condition, but should have a temporal kingdom. Mark, xv. 31.-that he should not be born of a woman in the helpless state of an infant, John, vii. 27.—that he should not be subject to the miseries incidental to man,--and, on the other hand, that he should be a mere man of the stock and lineage of David, and not the Son of God, refuted by our Lord himself, Luke, xxi. 41. Such is a sample of the absurdities and contradictions into which those fell who were left through their own perverseness to a strong delusion that they should believe a lie.
But it may be objected, that though the Jews at large exhibited so much blindness, yet the more immediate followers and disciples of Jesus received his instructions in so different a manner, that an especial blessing is pronounced on them for the superior intelligence and heavenly-mindedness which they displayed. “Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear 8.
Yet if the apostles rise in our estimation when brought into comparison with the rebellious and stiff-necked people, who believed none of the truths of the Gospel, how little will their highest attainments bear to be contrasted with him to whom the Spirit was not given by mea
8 Matt. xiii. 16.