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ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
The Jewish rulers, finding their late attempt to detect JESUS of a breach of the Mosaic law ineffectual, resolved to proceed with artifice and flattery; for this purpose they sent some of their emissaries, who pretended to desire his advice in a case of conscience. The question they put was of a very ensnaring nature; for if he had told them it was lawful to pay tribute to Cæsar, they would have pretended that he certainly could not be the MESSIAH, or he would have defended the liberties of his people: and, on the other hand, had he forbidden them to do it, they would immediately have accused him to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, as a seditious person; but our LORD knew their secret motives, and reproved them for their hypocrisy: he then desired to see the tribute-money, on which one of them produced a Roman Denarius (a silver piece, of the value of seven pence halfpenny of our money.) The Jews allowing this coin to be present among them, was a proof that they were in subjection to Cæsar; he therefore asked them, "Whose image and superscription it bore;" and on their answering Cæsar's, he directed them so to conduct themselves, that they might not defraud the emperor of what he could justly demand in a province of his dominions; nor on the other hand, under pretence of duty to Cæsar, violate any of the commands of GOD. This answer disarmed his adversaries, and they retired disappointed and disgraced.
Our LORD was next attacked by the Sadducees, another sect of the Jews: they put a question to him concerning the resurrection of the dead, with which they supposed they should effectually puzzle him; but instead of exposing himself to their ridicule, as they expected, JESUS told them that their disbelief of a resurrection
originated from their not understanding the Scriptures. It was indeed necessary for men in general in this world to marry, and GoD had appointed the law which they alluded to for the preservation of every tribe amongst the Jews; but this had no reference to a future world, where good people would be in very different circumstances, and marriage quite useless: there all who should partake of the resurrection of life would, together with the holy angels, compose a happy society of glorified spirits. If they required proofs that this life was not the whole of man's existence, he need only refer them to one text of Scripture, in which GoD, speaking to Moses out of the burning bush, calls himself the GOD of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; which implied, that the Patriarchs, though long dead, were at that time still existing; and if so, it might be inferred, that there was a future life prepared for all the faithful. For it was very erroneous to suppose, that the covenant which God made to be their everlasting friend and protector, was limited to the short period of human life; in which, so far from being more prosperous than other men, his chosen servants had frequently been exposed to the heaviest calamities.
This confutation of the Sadducees was very pleasing to the opposite sect of the Pharisees; and one of the Scribes amongst them, who was also a doctor of the law, imagined, that, though our LORD had baffled the Sadducees, he could propose such a question as JESUS would be unable to answer to the entire satisfaction of al. parties, for it had long been matter of dispute amongst the learned which was the greatest commandment; some contending for the law of circumcision, others for that of sacrifices, and some for that of the phylacteries*.
The Jews taking Exod. xiii. 9, 16, Deut. vi. 8, 11, 18, in a literal sense, wore little scrolls of parchment on which these passages D 5
LORD was prepared for every question, and answered the Scribe with such consummate wisdom, that he could not avoid acknowledging that JESUS certainly had decided it properly.
As this conference had excited the curiosity of all present, and the Pharisees were gathered together, our LORD in his turn put a question to them. They agreed in acknowledging, that the MESSIAHI was to be the Son of David, but were ignorant in respect to his divine nature; they therefore knew not what reply to make. The cxth Psalm was very obscure till CHRIST declared himself to be the Son of GoD as well as the Son of David: this explained the mystery at once; and no Christian, who believes his doctrine, will be at a loss to understand this passage, as it clearly points out that the LORD, or DIVINE WORD, would unite to himself the promised seed of David. This prediction of the royal Psalmist was very properly produced by our SAVIOUR at the time when his enemies were gathered together; for it intimated to them, that he should sit at the right hand of GOD, and behold all those who opposed him vanquished and overcome. Thus did CHRIST silence his adversaries, and put a stop to their invidious questions.
By our LORD's answer concerning the lawfulness of paying tribute to Cæsar, Christians are instructed, that it is their duty to pay what the laws of the country they live in require, towards the support of the government. They are also taught not to defraud GoD of his due. The tribute which the SUPREME BEING requires, is praise and adoration, a portion of our time, and a part of our worldly possessions for the relief of the poor and needy.
How comfortable to our hopes is our LORD's defence were written, which were called Phylacteries, and regarded as charms to keep them from danger.
of the doctrine of the resurrection! In what manner the soul exists in a state of separation from the body, is beyond our conception; therefore we are not told, neither does it concern us to know. It is sufficient for us to be assured, that all who are faithful to Gon, shall be equal with the angels in heaven. Let us, then, stedfastly reject the false arguments of unbelievers who deny this important article of faith; for we may depend on it, GoD has better things in store for those who truly serve him, than this transitory fluctuating state affords, even to the happiest among the children of men, and let us imprint on our minds the two great commandments of the Law, and regulate our lives accordingly: in order to this, we must enquire what is meant by them. "The love of GOD is a sentiment inculcated in the Scriptures alone, the heathens were only taught to fear their imaginary deities; but Christianity having given us an infinitely great, good, and holy GoD to worship, requires from us the purest and devoutest sentiments of affection towards him; and, with great justice, makes the love of our MAKER an indispensable requisite in religion, and the grand fundamental duty of a Christian*.”
"The love of GoD is not an enthusiastic warmth of imagination; it is not an imaginary zeal and mystical union with GOD, but a sincere desire of doing what is pleasing to him, and of promoting his honour and glory, by conforming our lives to his Divine Will." This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments†. But though it is proper to guard the mind against overstrained pietism, it is equally necessary to avoid the opposite extreme of a cold and cautious indifference; for
* See Bishop Porteus's Sermons, from whence the above explana tion of the love of God is chiefly extracted; also Bishop Newton's Dissertation on this subject.
+ 1 John, v. 3,
an inward affection must accompany our outward obedience. We are commanded not merely to love GOD, but to love him with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and we must obey him in the same manner; that is, with zeal, with alacrity, with vigour, with perseverance, with the united force of all our faculties and powers. The love of GoD, then we may understand, consists of devoutness of heart, as well as purity of life. It is a reverential admiration of God's perfections in general, and such a grateful sense of his infinite goodness in particular, as render the contemplation and the worship of him delightful to us; and produce in us a constant desire and endeavour to please him in every part of our moral or religious conduct. It is only a purer degree of that very same affection, which we frequently entertain for some of the most worthy of the human species. If we know what it is to love a good parent, to honour a good king, to esteem a faithful friend, to be grateful to a benefactor, we must combine these sentiments, and improve them to the most exalted degree our nature is capable of, without enthusiasm,' and they will produce the kind of affection which men ought to have for their CREATOR; "for he is, in the strictest sense of the words, our parent, protector, governor, friend, and benefactor, all in one."
"It is true, indeed, there is one difference, our earthly friends are seen, our heavenly one is unseen; but we know, that God is every where present; that he is not far from any one of us: in him we live, and move, and have our being. Though we see him not, yet his kindness and bounty to us we see and feel every moment of our lives. Let us, therefore, love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; obey his precepts, adore his perfections; and, as far as human infirmity will allow, endeavour