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And this was the general effect of his he did not suffer for a first offence. Nor was preaching. Publicans and sinners thronged he simply a thief. The history of those times to hear him, received his doctrine, and found abounds with the mischiefs committed by pubrest for their souls. As this discrimination lic robbers, who used to join in considerable gave a general offence, he took occasion to bands, for rapine and murder, and commit deliver the parable of the prodigal, (Luke xv. the greatest excesses. In all likelihood, the 11;) in the former part of which he gives a malefactors crucified with Jesus were of this most endearing view of the grace of God, in sort, accomplices and equals in guilt; and pardoning and accepting the most undeserv- therefore judged to die together, receiving ing. He afterwards, in the close, shows the (as appears by the criminal's own confession pride, stubbornness, and enmity of the self- on the cross) the just reward of their deeds.* righteous Pharisees, under the character of Here was indeed a fair occasion to show the the elder brother.* While his language and sovereignty and triumph of grace, contrasted deportment discovered the disobedience and with the most desperate pitch of obdurate malice of his heart, he pretended that he had wickedness. To show, on the one hand, that never broke his father's commands. The self- the compassion and the power of Christ were condemned sinner, when he first receives not diminished when his sufferings were at hope of pardon, experiences a joy and peace the height, and he seemed abandoned to his in believing. This is represented by the enemies; and, on the other, the insufficiency feast and fatted calf. But the religious order- of any means to change a sinner's heart, ly brother had never received so much as a without the powerful efficacy of divine grace. kid: he had found no true comfort in all his The one malefactor, brought at length to forinal round of duties; and therefore was deserved punishment, far from repenting of exceedingly angry that the prodigal should his crimes, regardless of his immediate apat once obtain those marks of favour which pearance before God, thought it some relaxabe, who had remained with his father, had al- tion of his torments, to join with the barbarous ways been a stranger to.
multitude in reviling Jesus, who hung upon But the capital exemplification of this, and a cross by his side. He was not ignorant that indeed of every doctrine of the gospel, is con- Jesus was put to death for professing himself tained in the account given of the thief upon the Messiah ; but he upbraided him with his the cross, (Luke xxiii
. 39–42;) a passage character, and treated him as an impostor. which has perhaps been more mistaken and in this man we see the progress, wages, and misrepresented by commentators, than any effects of sin. His wickedness brought him other in the New Testament. The grace of to a terrible end, and sealed him up under a God has shone so bright in this instance, that fatal hardness of heart; so that he died desit has dazzled the eyes even of good men. perate, though Jesus Christ was crucified be They have attempted to palliate the offender's fore his eyes. But his companion was imcrime, or at least to suppose that this was the pressed by what he saw; his heart relented; first fault of the kind he had committed; that he observed the patience of the divine sufperhaps he had been surprised into it, and ferer; he heard him pray for his murderers; might, in other respects, have been of a he felt himself miserable, and feared the God fairer character. They conjecture, that this with whom he had to do. In this distress he was the first time he had heard of Jesus; and received faith to apply to Jesus; and his that there was not only some sort of merit prayer was granted, and exceeded. He who in his faith and confession under these cir- sent the fair-spoken ruler away sorrowful, cumstances, but that the death of Jesus hap- answered the first desire of a malefactor at pily coinciding with his own, afforded him the point of death: “ Today shalt thou be an advantage peculiar to himself; and that, with me in paradise.” This certainly was therefore, this was an exempt case, and not an instance of free distinguishing grace. to be drawn into a precedent to after times. Here was salvation bestowed upon one of the
If it was my professed design to comment vilest sinners, through faith in Jesus, without upon this malefactor's case, I should consider previous works, or a possibility of performing it in a different light. The nature of his pun- any. And as such, it is recorded for the enishment, which was seldom inflicted but on those who were judged the most atrocious Barabbas's gang. They had made an insurrection, com
* It seems probable, from history, that these were or criminals, makes it more than probable that mitted murder, and were, with their ringleader, con
victed and condemned. He, in dishonour to Jesus, was
spared, whilst these, bis accomplices, were executed with * It may be objected to this interpretation, That the him. fates speaks to the elder brother in terms of compla. | Compare Matt. xxvii. 39. How can it be expected cence: "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I that no more than a constant repetition of Christ's
But this is not the only place where our death should be an invincible means of changing the Lord addresses the Pharisees in their own style, accord: heart, wben the actual sight of his sufferings was attending to the opinion they conceived of themselves. Thus ed with so little effect! Sin must be felt as the disease (Matt. viii. 12.) he says, “ The children of the kingdom and ruin of the soul, and the sufferings of Jesus acshall be cast out into outer darkness.-He does not knowledged as the only possible reinedy, before we can mean those who were truly the children of the kingdom, truly sympathize with him, and say, “I am crucifiod but those who pretended to be so.
with Christ." VOL. II.
bave is thine.
encouragement of all who see themselves cious in all that truly believe; and nothing destitute of righteousness and strength, and less than this faith is sufficient to give any that, like the thief on the cross, they have man a right to the name of a Christian. no refuge or hope, but in the free mercy of 6. The final cause or great ends of the God through Christ.
gospel, respecting man, are holiness and 5. The medium by which the gospel be- happiness (Matt. i. 21 ; xxv. 34; John xvii. comes the power of God unto salvation, is 24;) the complete restoration of the soul to faith. By faith we do not mean a bare as- the favour and image of God, or eternal life s'nt, founded upon testimony and rational begun here, to be consummated in glory. evidence, that the facts recorded in the New What has been already said renders it need Testament are true. A faith of this sort ex- less to enlarge upon this head; nor shall we perience proves to be consistent with a wick- concern ourselves here to vindicate the doced life; whereas the gospel-faith purifies the trine we have laid down from the charge of heart, and overcomes the world. Neither do licentiousness: because it is our professed we mean a confidence of the forgiveness of design, in the progress of this work, to prove, sin, impressed upon the mind in a sudden from the history of the church, not only that and instantaneous manner. Faith is indeed these principles, when rightly understool, founded upon the strongest evidence, and will infallibly produce obedience and submis may often be confirmed by ineffable mani- sion to the whole will of God, but that these festations from the fountain of light and only can do it. Wherever and whenever comfort; but the discriminating property of the doctrines of free grace and justification true faith is, “a reliance upon Jesus Christ for by faith have prevailed in the Christian all the ends and purposes for which the gospel church; and according to the degree of reveals him;" such as the pardon of sin, clearness with which they have been enpeace of conscience, strength for obedience, forced, the practical duties of christianity and eternal life. It is wrought by the opera- have flourished in the same proportion. tion of the Holy Spirit, and presupposes a Wherever they have declined, or been temknowledge of him, and of ourselves; of our pered with the reasonings and expedients of indigence, and his fulness; our unworthi- men, either from a well meant, though mis ness, and his merits; our weakness, and his taken fear, lest they should be abused, or power. The true believer builds upon the from a desire to accommodate the gospel, person and word of Christ (Matt. vii. 24; and render it more palatable to the depraved xvi. 18) as the foundation of his hope. He taste of the world, the consequence has al enters by him as the only door (John x. 9) ways been, an equal declension in practice. to the knowledge, communion, and love of So long as the gospel of Christ is maintainGod: he feeds upon him by faith in his ed without adulteration, it is found sufficient heart, with thanksgiving, as the bread of for every valuable purpose; but when the life (John vi. 54–57 ;) he embraces his righ- wisdom of man is permitted to add to the teousness as the wedding-garment (Matt. perfect work of God, a wide door is opened xxii. 11; Rom. xiii. 14) whereby alone he for innumerable mischiefs:—the divine comexpects admission to the marriage-feast of mands are made void, new inventions are heaven: he derives all his strength and continually taking place, zeal is diverted comfort from his influence, as the branch into a wrong channel, and the greatest stress from the root (John xv. 4, 5:) he entrusts laid upon things either unnecessary or unhimself to his care, as the wise and good warrantable. Hence perpetual occasion is shepherd of his soul, John x. 14. Sensible given for strife, debates, and divisions, till at of his own ignorance, defects, and his many length the spirit of christianity is forgot, and enemies, he receives Christ as his teacher, the power of godliness lost, amidst fierce priest, and king (John vi. 68;) obeys his contentions for the form. preceptor, confides in his mediation, expects To sum up this inquiry in a few words: and enjoys his powerful protection. In a the gospel is a wise and gracious dispensaword, he renounces all confidence in the flesh tion, equally suited to the necessities of man, (Phil. iii. 3,) and rejoices in Christ Jesus as and to the perfections of God: it proclaims his Saviour; and thus he attains to worship relief to the miserable, and excludes none God in spirit and in truth, is supported but those who exclude themselves: it conthrough all the conflicts and trials of life, vinces a sinner, that he is unworthy of the possesses a stable peace in the midst of a smallest mercy, at the same time that is changing world, goes on from strength to gives him a confidence to expect the greatstrength, and is at length made more than est; it cuts off all pretence of glorying in conqueror, through him that has loved him. the flesh, but it enables a guilty sinner to This is the life of faith. The degree and ex- glory in God: to them that have no might ercise of it is various in different persons, it increases strength; it gives eyes to the and in the same person at different times, as blind, and feet to the lame; subdues the en. has been already hinted; but the principle mity of the heart; shows the nature of sin, kaf is universa!, permanent, and clica-'the spirituality and cauction of the law, with
the fullest evidence; and, by exhibiting | Satan; he was branded as an impostor, madJesus, as made of God, wisdom, righteous- man, and demoniac; he was made the sport ness, sanctification, and redemption, to all of servants and soldiers; and, at length, who believe, it makes obedience practicable, publicly executed with every possible cireasy, and delightful. The constraining love cumstance of ignominy and torture, as a of Christ engages the heart, and every fa- malefactor of the worst sort. culty in his service. His example illustrates What could be the cause and motives of and recommends his precepts; his presence such injurious treatment? This is the subinspires courage and activity under every ject of our present inquiry. It might indeed pressure; and the prospect of the glory to be answered very briefly, as it has been, by be revealed is a continual source of joy and ascribing it to the peculiar wickedness and peace, which passeth the understanding of perverseness of the Jews. There is not a the natural man. Thus the gospel filleth the fallacy more frequent or pleasing to the hungry with good things; but it sendeth the minds of men, than, while they act contrary rich and self-sufficient empty away, and to present duty, to please themselves with leaves the impenitent and believing in a imagining how well they would have bestate of aggravated guilt and condemnation. haved in another situation, or a different
age. They think it a mark of virtue to condemn the wickedness of former times, not
aware that they themselves are governed by CHAPTER III.
the same spirit. Thus these very Jews
spoke highly of the persons of the prophets, Concerning the true grounds of the opposi- while they rejected their testimony, and
tion our Lord met with in the course of blamed their forefathers for shedding inno his ministry: and the objections and cerit blood, at the time they were thirsting artifices his enemies employed to preju- for the blood of Jesus, Matt. xxiii. 29, 30. dice the people against him, and prevent It is equally easy at present to condemn the the receplion of his doctrine.
treachery of Judas, the cowardice of Pilate,
the blindness of the people, and the malice If our knowledge of the history of Jesus of the priests, who were all personally conwas confined to the excellence of his cha- cerned in the death of Christ. It is easy to racter, and the diffusive goodness that shone think, that if we had seen his works, and forth in all his actions, we should hardly con- heard his words, we would not have joined ceive it possible, that any people could be with the multitude in crying, Crucify him; so lost to gratitude and humanity as to op- though, it is to be feared, many who thus pose him. He went about doing good: he fatter themselves have little less enmity raised the dead, healed every disease, and against his person and doctrine than his relieved the distresses of all who applied to actual murderers. On this account, I shall him, without any difference of cases, cha- give a detail of the true reasons why Christ racters, or parties, as the sun, with a rich was opposed in the flesh, and of the measures and unwearied profusion, fills every eye employed against him, in order to show, that with his light. Wisdom flowed from his lips, the same grounds of opposition are deeply and his whole conduct was perfect and in-rooted in the fallen human nature; and how culpable. How natural is it to expect, that probable it is, that if he was to appear again a person so amiable and benevolent, so blame in the same obscure manner, in any country less and exemplary, should have been uni- now called by his name, he would meet with versally revered.*
little better treatment, unless when the conBut we find in fact it was far otherwise. stitution and laws of a civil government Instead of the honours he justly deserved, the might interpose to prevent it. returns he met with were reproach, persecu But it may be proper, in the first place, tion, and death. The wonders of his power briefly to delineate the characters of the sects and goodness were maliciously ascribed to or parties mentioned by the evangelista,
whose leaders, jointly and separately, both The Heathen moralists have supposed that there is from common and distinct motives, opposed something so amiable in virtue, thai could it be visible, it would necessarily attract the love and admiration of our Saviour's ministry, and cavilled at his all beholders. This sentiment has been generally ad. doctrine. These were the Pharisees, Sad.. mired; and we need not wonder, since it flatters the pride of man without thwarting his passions. In the
ducees, and Herodians.t Lord Jesus this great desideratum was vouchsafed ; vir. The Pharisees, including the Scribes (who fee and goodness were pleased to become visible, were were chiefly of this sect,) were professedly manifest in the flesh. But did the experiment answer to the ideas of the philosophers ? Alas! to the reproach the guardians of the law, and public teachers with the utmost contempt. They loved darkness, and ration by the cominon people, for the ausof mankind. Jews and Gentiles conspired to treat liim of the people. They were held in high venetherefore could not bear the light. They had more com. presion and affection for the most infamous malefactor; therefore, when the alternative was proposed to them, they released Barabbas, a robber and a murderer, and See Matt. xxjii; Mark vii. 13; and Luke xviii, nailed Jesus and virtue to tin cross.
terity of their deportment, the frequency of tn the ground at once. From this, however, their devotions, and their exactness in the we may learn their characteristic; they less essential parts of the law. They ob- were the cautious reasoners of those times, served the traditions of the elders, were still who valued themselves on examining every adding to them; and the consequence was thing closely, refusing to be influenced by (as it will always be in such a case,) that the plausible sounds of antiquity and authey were so pleased with their own inven- thority. tions, as to prefer them to the positive com The Herodians (Matt. xxii. 16; Mark iii. mands of God; and their studious punc-6) were those who endeavoured to ingratiate tuality in trifles, withdrew their regard themselves with Herod. It is most probable from the most important duties. Their spe- that they received their name and distinccious show of piety was a fair outside, under tion, not so much from any peculiar sentiwhich the grossest abominations were con- ments, as from attempting to accommodate cealed and indulged. They were full of their religion to the circumstances of the pride, and a high conceit of their own good times. The Pharisees, boasting of their ness: they fasted and prayed to be seen and privileges as the children of Abraham, could esteemed of men; they expected reverence hardly brook a foreign yoke; but the Heroand homage from all, and challenged the dians, from motives of interest, were advohighest titles of respect, to be saluted as cates for Herod and the Roman power. Thus doctors and masters, and to be honoured they were opposite to the Pharisees in politiwith the principal seats in all assemblies. cal matters, as the Sadducees were in points Many of them made their solemn exterior a of doctrine; and therefore the question concloak for extortion and oppression; and the cerning tribute was proposed to our Lord rest, if not hypocrites in the very worst jointly by the Pharisees and Herodians, the sense, yet deceived both themselves, and former designing to render him obnoxious to others, by a form of godliness, when they the people, if he allowed of tribute, the latter were in effect enslaved by their passions, to accuse him to the government, if he reand lived according to the corrupt rule of fused it. their own imaginations.
From what has been said, it is evident the The Sadducees, their antagonists and ri- leading principles of these sects were not vals, were equally, though differently, remote peculiar to themselves. They may rather from the true knowledge and worship of be considered universally as specimens of God. They not only rejected the tradition the different appearances a religious profesof the elders, but a great part of the scrip- sion assumes where the heart is not divinely tures likewise; and admitted only the five enlightened and converted to the love of the books of Moses as of divine authority. From truth. In all such persons, however high the this circumstance, together with the dif- pretence of religion may be carried, it canficulty (Matt. xxii. 23) they proposed to our not proceed from a nobler principle, or aim Lord, and the answers he gave them, it at a nobler object than self. These disposiappears, that they were persons, who, pro- tions have appeared in every age and form fessing in general terms to acknowledge a of the christian church, and are always acrevelation from God, yet made their own tive to oppose the self-denying doctrines of prejudices and mistakes, under the dignified the gospel upon different pretences. The name of reason, the standard to determine man, w fond of his fancied attainment what books should be received as authentic, and scrupulous exactness in externals, desand in what sense they should be under- pises all who will not conform to his rules, stood. The doctrine of a resurrection did and challenges peculiar respect on account not accord with their notions; therefore they of his superior goodness, is a proud Pharirejected it (Acts xxiii. 8,) together* with see. His zeal is dark, envious, and bitter; those parts of scripture which asserted it his obedience partial and self-willed; and most expressly. Their question concerning while he boasts of the knowledge of God, the seven brethren seems to have been a his heart rises with enmity at the grace of trite objection, which they had often made, the gospel, which he boldly charges with and which had never been answered to satis- opening a door to licentiousness. The mofaction till our Lord resolved it. But the dern Sadducee (like those of old) admits of whole difficulty was founded upon false prin- j a revelation, but then, full of his own wisciples; and when these were removed, all fell dom and importance, he arraigns even the
revelation he seems to allow at the bar of * That the Sadducees received only the law of Moses,
his narrow judgment; and as the sublime is the general opinion ; though I do not say that it has doctrines of truth pass under his review, he been either indubitably proved, or universally held. affixes without hesitation, the epithets of That they put their own sense upon the scriptures absurd, inconsistent, and blasphemous to receive, is manifest, froin their asserting that there is whatever thwarts his pride, prejudice, and contradicts not one or a few texts, but the whole strain ignorance, and those parts of scripture which and tenor both of the law and the prophets.
cannot be warped to speak his sense, he dis
cards from his canon as interpolated and Again, they were exceedingly offended supposititious. The Herodian is the man, with the high character he assumed as the however denominated or dignified, who is Son of God, and the Messiah. On this acgoverned by interest, as the others by pride, count, they condemned him to die for blasand vainly endeavours to reconcile the in- phemy. They expected a Messiah indeed, compatible services of God and the world, who they professed was spoken of in the Christ and Belial. He avoids the excesses scriptures; but they understood not what the of religious parties, speaks in term of mo- scriptures had revealed, either concerning deration, and is not unwilling to be account- his divine nature or his voluntary humiliaed the pattern and friend of sobriety and tion, that he was to be the Son and Lord of religion. He stands fair with all who would David, yet a man of sorrows and acquainted be religious upon cheap terms, and fair in his with grief. They denied his divinity, and own esteem, having numbers and authority themselves unwittingly fulfilled the propheon his side. Thus he almost persuades him- cies that spoke of his sufferings; affording, self he has carried his point, and that it is by their conduct, a memorable proof how not so impossible to serve two masters as fatally persons may mistake the sense of the our Lord's words seem to import; but the word of God, while they profess highly to preaching of the pure gospel, which enforces esteem it. the one thing needful, and will admit of no What farther increased their contempt of compliances with worldly interests, inter- his claims, and contributed to harden their feres with his plan, and incurs his resent- hearts more implacably against him, was the mnent likewise, though, perhaps, he will obscurity and poverty of his state. While show his displeasure by more refined and they were governed by worldly wisdom, and specious methods than the clamorous rage sought not the teaching of God's Spirit, they of hot bigotry has patience to wait for. could not but suppose an utter repugnance
We now proceed.—The first great cause between the meanness of his condition and why Jesus was rejected by those to whom he the honours he vindicated to himself. They appealed, may be deduced from the tenor of expected a Messiah to come in pomp and his doctrine, a summary of which has been power, to deliver them from the Roman yoke. given in the former chapter. It offended the For a person truly divine, who made himself pride of the Pharisees, was repugnant to the equal with God, to be encompassed with wise infidelity of the Sadducees, and con- poverty and distress, seemed such profane demned the pliant temper of the Herodians. contradiction, as might justify every mark The doctrines of free grace, faith, and spi- of indignity they could offer him. And this ritual obedience were diametrically opposite difficulty must equally affect every unento their inclinations. They must have parted lightened mind. İf man had been left to dewith all they admired and loved if they had vise in what manner the Lord of the universe complied with him; but this is a sacrifice too would probably descend to dwell awhile with great for any to make who had not deeply poor mortals in a visible form, they would felt and known their need of a Saviour. undoubtedly have imagined such a scene, if These, on the contrary, were the whole, who their thoughts could have reached it, as is saw no want of a physician, and therefore described by the prophets on other occasions: treated his offers with contempt.
the heavens bowing, the earth shaking, the Besides, their dislike to his doctrine was mountains ready to start from their places, increased by his manner of enforcing it. He and all nature labouring to do homage to her spoke with authority, and sharply rebuked the Creator. Or, if he came in a milder way, bypocrisy, ignorance, ambition, and avarice they would at least have contrived an assemof those persons who were accounted the blage of all that we conceive magnificentwise and the good, who sat in Moses's chair, a pomp and splendour surpassing all the and had hitherto been heard and obeyed with world ever saw. Expecting nations crowding reverence. But Jesus exposed their true to welcome his arrival, and thrones of gold, characters: he spoke of them as blind guides; and palaces of ivory, would have been judged he compared them to painted sepulchres,* too mean to accommodate so glorious a guest. and cautioned the people against them, as But the Lord's thoughts and ways are difdangerous deceivers, Matth. xxiii. 27. It is ferent from man's. The beloved Son of God, no wonder, therefore, that on this account by whom all things were made, was born in they hated him with a perfect hatred. a stable, and grew up in an obscure and mean
condition. He came to suffer and to die for • Nothing is more loathsome to our senses than a
sin, to sanctify poverty and affliction to his Corse in the state of putrefaction, or a more striking people, to set a perfect example of patience contrast to the outside of a sumptuous ornamented and submission; therefore he made himself monument. Perhaps the visible creation does not afford of no reputation, but took upon him the forin true character of hypocrisy, and how hateful it appears and offices of a servant. This was the apiniquity, and before whom all things are naked and I ble in the judgment of blinded mortals, that in the sight of God, who is of purer eyes than to be hold pointment of divine wisdom; but so incredi