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A certain man planted a vineyard
Let us be thankful that God has planted His vineyard among us. We are situated, not in any of the deserts, or wastes, or commons, of the world, but in the vineyard, in “a garden inclosed,” in the very garden of the Lord.
2. Let us inquire whether we be rendering to the Lord of the vineyard the fruit which He expects in its season.
3. Beware of resembling these wicked husbandmen in their conduct, lest you also resemble them in their doom. What reception, then, are you giving to God’s ministers, and especially to God’s beloved Son?
4. In the last place, see that you give to the Lord Jesus that place in your spiritual building which is His due. Let Him be both at its foundation and at its top. Let Him be both “the author and the finisher of your faith.” (J. Foote, M. A.)
God’s manifold mercy
Like the drops of a lustre, which reflect a rainbow of colours when the sun is glittering upon them, and each one, when turned in different ways, from its prismatic form shows all the varieties of colour, so the mercy of God is one and yet many, the same yet ever changing, a combination of all the beauties of love blended harmoniously together. You have only to look at mercy in that light, and that light, and that light, to see how rich, how manifold it is. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Fruitfulness the test of value
Years ago in Mentone they estimated the value of land by the number of olive-trees upon it. How many bearers of the precious oil were yielding their produce? That was the question which settled the value of the plot. Is not this the true way of estimating the importance of a Christian Church? Mere size is no criterion; wealth is even a more deceiving measure, and rank and education are no better. How many are bearing fruit unto the Lord in holy living, in devout intercession, in earnest efforts for soul winning, and in other methods by which fruit is brought forth unto the Lord? (Sword and Trowel.)
Nothing so cold as lead, yet nothing more scalding if molten; nothing more blunt than iron, and yet nothing so keen if sharpened; the air is soft and tender, yet out of it are engendered thunderings and lightnings; the sea is calm and smooth, but if tossed with tempests it is rough beyond measure. Thus it is that mercy abused turns to fury; God, as He is a God of mercies, so He is a God of judgment; and it is a fearful thing to fall into His punishing hands. He is loath to strike, but when He strikes, He strikes home. If His wrath be kindled, yea, but a little, woe be to all those on whom it lights; how much more when He is sore displeased with a people or person! (John Trapp.)
The Son rejected
Turning to the parable, notice--
I. THE OWNER’S CLAIM. His right and authority are complete. God presses His right to our love and service. Blessings are privileges, and privileges are obligations.
II. THE OWNER’S LOVING PATIENCE. There never was an earthly employer who showed such persistent kindness towards such persistent rebellion. The account of servants sent again and again, in spite of insults and death, is a faint picture of His forbearance towards Israel. Mercies, deliverances, revelations, pleadings, gather, a shining host, around all their history, as the angelic camp was close to Jacob on his journey. But all along the history stand the dark and bloodstained images of mercies despised and prophets slain. The tenderness of God in the old dispensation is wonderful; but in Christ it appears in a pathos of yearning.
III. THE REJECTION.
IV. THE JUDGMENT. It was just, necessary, complete, remediless.
V. THE FINAL EXALTATION OF THE SON. (Charles M. Southgate.)
The rejected Son
I. GOD’S INTEREST IN HIS VINEYARD. The great truths of the Old Testament are from the prophets rather than from the priests. The grand progress of truth has depended upon these fearless men. The age without its prophet has been stagnated. The priesthood is conservative; prophecy, progressive. The true prophet is always great; truth makes men great. Only by a clear understanding of the accumulating prophecies of the Old Testament can we appreciate the Divine care. In this lesson as to the care of God for His vineyard, Christ has marked the distinction between the functions of the prophets and Himself. They had spoken as servants; He as the Son. In such a comparison is seen the transcendent revelation of God in Christ. He was the heir. The interests of the Father were identical with His own. It was in such a comparison that Christ declared the infinite grace of God in the incarnation and its purpose.
II. THE IRREVERENCE OF MEN. The whole attitude of God toward His Church is that of an infinite condescension and pity.
1. The attitude of these men toward the truth. The greatest conflicts have been between the truth of God and the personal desires of men.
2. This antagonism is manifested in the treatment of those who are righteous. In one sense he who accepts a truth becomes its personation, and as a consequence must bear all the malignity of those who hate that same truth. Witness the treatment of the prophets in evidence. Because Micaiah uttered that which was displeasing to the government of Israel he was scourged and imprisoned. Because the prophet Jeremiah gave an unwelcome prophecy to his king, although it was the word of the Lord, he was thrown into a dungeon for his courage. No better fate awaited the prophet Isaiah than to be sawn asunder by order of the ruler of God’s chosen people. It was the high priest who obtained a decree for the expulsion of Amos from Jerusalem.
3. This antagonism to the prophets of the truth is only a lesser expression of a burning hatred toward God. The spirit of hatred to the prophets would result in the killing of the Son of God. Whether the truth or man or God stands in the way of this lust for power, the result is the same.
III. THE POWER OF THE PEOPLE. Repeatedly this truth is brought out in the life of Christ. “They sought to lay hold on Him, but feared the people.” In these few words we recognize the corrective of the terrible accusation against human nature. If such a history is the expression of what is universal, then we must discern the fact that the truth is more safe in the hands of the many than of the few.
IV. THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE OWNER OF THE VINEYARD. In the parallel account of this parable in Matthew, we read the question of Christ: “When the lord, therefore, of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?” In all history this same truth has been often witnessed. The rejecters of God are self-rejected from Him. The power that is not used for God is taken from us and given to those who will use it. There are two practical suggestions very intimately connected with this theme that we briefly notice. First: The greatest hindrance to Christ’s kingdom may come from those who are the highest in the administration of its affairs. Second: The stupidity of wickedness. These very men who robbed God were robbing themselves. By planning to possess the vineyard they lost it. By attempting to keep the owner away they cast themselves out. God controls His own kingdom and Church. “The stone which the builders rejected, is become the head of the corner: this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.” (D. O. Mears.)
Parable of the vineyard let to husbandmen
I. THE MATERIALS OF WHICH THE PARABLE IS COMPOSED are objects which were familiar in Palestine, or common in warm countries; a vineyard, a proprietor, and tenants.
II. Let us next attend to THE OBJECTS WHICH OUR SAVIOUR HAD IN VIEW IN DELIVERING THIS PARABLE; or, what is the same thing, inquire what are the important truths contained in it. The objects of our Saviour in this parable seem to be
1. To point out the singular advantages bestowed on the Jews as a nation.
2. Their conduct.
3. Their punishment.
4. The transference of their advantages to others
1. From this passage we may learn that we, as Christians, possess a portion of that kingdom which the Lord Jesus came to establish. For the Christians came in the place of the Jews. This kingdom consists in privileges, in blessings, in superior knowledge, and superior means of improvement. Of those privileges we have much cause to be grateful, but none whatever to be proud. For they were not given because we were better than other nations: but they were bestowed solely that we might cultivate and improve them, and become the blessed instruments of conveying them to others.
2. That if we cease to bring forth the fruit of holiness, the kingdom of God will also be taken from us. God has given us much, and therefore of us much will be required. (J. Thomson, D. D.)
The Herodians and Pharisees combined against Jesus
1. The combination of men of opposite sentiments, in a particular case, affords no proof that truth and justice are connected with their temporary union.
2. In the conduct of the scribes and Pharisees on this occasion we see the disgraceful artifices which malice leads men to employ.
3. From this passage we may observe the perfect knowledge which Jesus had of the characters, principles, and intentions of His enemies.
4. The wisdom of Jesus was also conspicuous on this occasion. Had He been a mere man, we should have said He was distinguished by presence of mind. Now His wisdom is strongly displayed here. He might have refused to answer the question of the Pharisees and Herodians, as the Pharisees had done to Him. Or He might have given some dark enigmatical reply which they could not have perverted. But, instead of doing so, He gave a plain decided answer, without fear or evasion.
5. The fearless regard to truth which the Lord Jesus displayed on this occasion deserves to be carefully noticed. He did not mean to decline answering the question, Whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. On the contrary, He instantly declared that it was lawful; and not only lawful, but obligatory, as they themselves had unwillingly confessed. For the allusion to the denarius struck them forcibly; and they went away admiring the person whom they had come to expose and overwhelm.
6. Lastly, we may observe the disposition which our Saviour always showed to direct the attention of His hearers to the duty which they owed to God. If, then, we are to render to God the things that are God’s, we must render everything to God; for everything we have belongs to Him--our capacities, our opportunities, our advantages, our blessings. (J. Thomson, D. D.)
It will grind him to powder
The madness of opposing Christ
“It is said that a hundred thousand birds fly against the lights of the lighthouses along the Atlantic coast of the United States, and are killed annually.” So says a slip cut from this morning’s newspaper. We need not be afraid in these excited times that captious cavillers will put out our hope. The dark wild birds of the ocean keep coming forth from the mysterious caverns; they seem to hate the glitter of the lenses. They continue to dash themselves upon the thick panes of glass in the windows. But they usually end by beating their wings to pieces on the unyielding crystal till they fall dead in the surf rolling below. (C. S.Robinson, D. D.)
The wreck of infidelity
Some years ago, a man and his wife were found living in a wretched broken-down house in a low part of London; and although the husband was down with illness, his only bed was a little straw, with a coarse dirty wrapper for a covering, and a brick for a pillow. An old chair and a saucepan appeared to be the only other furniture on the premises, while the wife in attendance was subject to fits, which made her for the time more like a wild animal than a woman. Though reduced to so wretched a condition, this man was really gifted and educated; and in days of health and strength he had worked with his pen for an infidel publisher. What, then, was the cause of his downfall? It so happened that the sufferer answered this question himself; for, casting his dull, leaden-looking eyes around the room after a visitor had entered, he remarked, “This is the wreck of infidelity!”
They watched Him
Christ was watched, and so are we
The chief priests and rulers of the Jews watched Jesus, but not to learn the way of salvation.
They watched Him with the evil eyes of malice and hatred, desiring to take hold of His words, to entangle Him in His talk, that they might accuse Him, and deliver Him up to die. He loved all men, yet He was hated and rejected of men; He went about doing good, yet they tried to do Him harm. The enemies of Christ are ever watching for our fall, eager to hear or to tell any evil thing about us, ready to cast the stone of slander against us. You know that the whitest robe first shows the stain, let us remember whose purity we wear if we have put on Christ. Let us strive “to walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” If we are tempted to say or do something which is equivocal, though the way of the world, let us pause and ask ourselves whether it will bring discredit on our faith, whether it will dishonour our Master. But there are others who watch us, and in a different manner. The Church in Paradise watches the Church on earth and prays for it. Our path of life is compassed by a great cloud of witnesses; the saints who have fought the battle and won the crown, they watch us. St. Paul, resting after his good fight, and his many perils, is watching to see how we are fighting against sin, the world, and the devil. St. Peter, restored to the side of Jesus, watches to see if any of us deny their Lord. St. Thomas, no longer doubtful, watches to see if our faith be strong. Holy Stephen watches us when the stones of insult and persecution assail us; the forty martyrs, who died for Jesus on the frozen pool at Sebaste, watch us when the world looks coldly on us, and many another who passed through fire and water watches us in our battle and the race that is set before us. Thus with the enemies of God watching for our fall, and the saints of God watching for our victory, let us watch ourselves, and let our cry be, “Hold Thou me up that my footsteps slip not.” (H. J.Wilmot-Buxton, M. A.)
Cowards are like cats
Cowards are like cats. Cats always take their prey by springing suddenly upon it from some concealed station, and, if they miss their aim in the first attack, rarely follow it up. They are all, accordingly, cowardly, sneaking animals, and never willingly face their enemy, unless brought to bay, or wounded, trusting always to their power of surprising their victims by the aid of their stealthy and noiseless movements. (Dallas, “Natural History of the Animal Kingdom.”)
Whose image and superscription hath it?--
The Divine image in the soul
1. The Divine image ought to be our highest glory.
2. Let the Divine image which we bear be a constant exhortation to serve God.
3. Never defile the Divine image by sin.
4. Endeavour to increase every day the beauty of the Divine image.
5. Respect the Divine image in your neighbour. (Bishop Ehrler.)
Man is God’s property
More than all visible things, we ourselves, with the faculties of body and soul, are God’s. Man is God’s image, God’s coin, and therefore belongs to God entirely.
I. ON WHAT IS THIS DIVINE OWNERSHIP FOUNDED?
1. On creation. Man is God’s property.
(1) As God’s creature. All that is created belongs to God, by whose omnipotence it was made.
(2) As God’s creature he bears the Divine image.
2. On redemption.
(1) The soul of the first man was a supernatural image of God, created in original justice and sanctity.
(2) In consequence of the first sin, the soul was deprived of sanctifying Romans 5:12).
(3) God had compassion on man, and found means (through the Incarnation) to restore His image in the human soul.
II. CONSEQUENCES RESULTING FROM THIS DIVINE OWNERSHIP.
1. We should render to God our soul.
(1) Our understanding.
(2) Our will.
(3) Our heart.
2. Our body and all its members. (Grimm.)
The medal made useful
One day, when Martin Luther was completely penniless, he was asked for money to aid an important Christian enterprise. He reflected a little, and recollected that he had a beautiful medal of Joachim, Elector of Brandenburg, which he very much prized. He went immediately to a drawer, opened it, and said: “What art thou doing there, Joachim? Dost thou not see how idle thou art? Come out and make thyself useful.” Then he took out the medal and contributed it to the object solicited for.
Render unto Caesar the things which he Caesar’s
Caesar’s due and God’s due
I. THAT KINGS AND PRINCES HAVE A CERTAIN RIGHT AND DUE PERTAINING TO THEM BY GOD’S APPOINTMENT, WHICH IT IS NOT LAWFUL FOR ANY MAN TO KEEP FROM THEM. This is plain here as if Christ had said: “It is of God, and not without the disposing and ordering of His Providence, that the Roman Emperor hath put in his foot among you, and is now your liege and sovereign: you yourselves have submitted to his government, and have in a manner subscribed unto that which God hath brought upon you; now, certainly, there is a right pertaining to him respectively to his place. This he must have, and it cannot be lawful for you, under any pretext, to take it from him.” So that this speech is a plain ground for this. But what is Caesar’s due?
1. Prayer for him (1 Timothy 2:1).
(1) That he may be endowed with all needful graces for his place.
(c) Temperance, i.e., sobriety and moderation in diet, in apparel, in delight, etc.
(d) Zeal and courage in God’s matters. This it is which will make kings prosper (1 Kings 2:2-3).
(2) That he may be delivered from all dangers to which he is subject in his place. Kings are in danger of two sorts of enemies.
(a) Enemies to their bodies and outward state. Traitors.
(b) Enemies to their souls. Flatterers.
2. Submission to him. By this I mean “an awful framing and composing of the whole man respectively to his authority.”
And now here, because I mention the whole man, and man consisteth of two parts; therefore I will declare, first, what is the submission of the inner man due to a king by the Word of God; and then, what is the submission of the outward man.
1. Touching the submission of the inner man, I account the substance of it to be this--“A reverent and dutiful estimation of him in regard of his place.” “Fear the Lord and the king,” said Solomon. As the “fearing of God” argueth an inward respectiveness to His Divine majesty, so the fearing of the king intends the like, the heart carrieth a kind of reverent awe unto him. And this is that honouring the king which St. Peter giveth charge 1 Peter 2:17). Honour is properly an inward act, and we honour a superior when our respect is to him according to his dignity. That this reverent estimation of a king, which I term the substance of inward submission, may be the better understood, we must consider touching it two things.
(1) The ground of it is a right understanding of the state and condition of a king’s place.
(a) Its eminence.
(b) Its usefulness.
(2) Now the companion of this reverent esteem of Caesar is a ready and willing disposition to perform to him and for him any service he may require.
2. I come now to speak of the outward submission, which is that which is for the testification and manifestation of the inward. An outward submissiveness without an inward awfulness were but hypocrisy; to pretend an inward respect without giving outward evidence thereof, were but mockery. This outward submission is either in word or in action. It includes--
(1) Conformity to the laws.
(2) Yielding of the person in time of war.
(3) Furnishing supplies.
II. THAT IT IS NOT LAWFUL FOR ANY MAN TO DEPRIVE ALMIGHTY GOD OF THAT WHICH IS HIS DUE. “You are careful,” saith our Saviour, “as it seemeth, to inquire touching Caesar’s right, as if you were so tender conscienced that you would not keep ought from him that were his. It becometh you to be, at the least, as careful for God; there is a right also due to Him, look you to it, that you give it Him.” Thus is the doctrine raised, God must have His due as well as the king his. Nay, He is to have it much more; “He is the King of kings, and Lord of lords. By Him it is that earthly kings do reign. He beareth rule over the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whosoever He will.” Let me begin by explaining what is here meant by the Lord’s due. The conscionable performance of any good duty is in some sense the Lord’s due, because the same is required by Him; and so even that which was spoken of before, by the name of Caesar’s due, is God’s due, because the law of God binds us to it. When we speak, therefore, of God’s due, we intend thereby that which is more properly and more immediately be, longing to Him. For example’s sake--in a house, whereof every room and corner is the master’s, yet that where he lieth himself is more particularly called his; so whereas all good services, even those which appertain to men, are the Lord’s, He being the commander of them, yet those are more precisely and specially termed His which belong to Him more directly. And of the dues of this sort we are now to treat; and these may justly be referred to two general heads. The first I may call His “prerogative,” the other His “worship.” Under God’s” prerogative” I comprehend two things.
1. “That the things which concern Him must have the pre-eminence.”
2. “That He must have absolute obedience in all things.” And now I come to the next part of His due, “His worship.” By His worship is understood that more direct and proper service which we do to God for the declaration of our duty to Him, of our dependence on Him, and of our acknowledgment both to expect and to receive all good and comfort from Him.
Here the particulars to be considered of, under this head of worship, are--
1. “That He must be worshipped.”
2. “That He must be so worshipped as Himself thinks good.” (S. Hieron.)
“Go with me to the concert this afternoon?” once asked a fashionable city salesman of a new assistant in the warehouse. “I cannot.” “Why?” “My time is not my own; it belongs to another.” “To whom?” “To the firm, by whom I have been instructed not to leave without permission.” The next Sabbath afternoon the same salesman said to this clerk, “Will you go to ride with us this evening?” “I cannot.” “Why?” “My time is not my own; it belongs to another.” “To whom?” “To Him who has said, ‘Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy.” Some years passed, and that clerk lay upon his bed of death. His honesty and fidelity had raised him to a creditable position in business and in society, and, ere his sickness, life lay fair before him. “Are you reconciled to your situation?” asked an attendant. “Yes, reconciled; I have endeavoured to do the work that God has allotted me, in His fear. He has directed me thus far; I am in His hands, and my time is not my own.” (W. Baxendale.)
Religion and politics
It is a common saying that religion has nothing to do with polities, and particularly there is a strong feeling current against all interference with politics by the ministers of religion. This notion rests on a basis which is partly wrong, partly right. To say that religion has nothing to do with politics is to assert that which is simply false. It were as wise to say that the atmosphere has nothing to do with the principles of architecture. Directly nothing, indirectly much. Some kinds of stone are so friable, that though they will last for centuries in a dry climate, they will crumble away in a few years in a damp one. There are some temperatures in which a form of a building is indispensable, which in another would be unbearable. The shape of doors, windows, apartments, all depend upon the air that is to be admitted or excluded. Nay, it is for the very sake of procuring a habitable atmosphere within certain limits that architecture exists at all. The atmospheric laws are distinct from the laws of architecture; but there is not an architectural question into which atmospheric considerations do not enter as conditions of the question. That which the air is to architecture, religion is to politics. It is the vital air of every question. Directly, it determines nothing--indirectly, it conditions every problem that can arise. The kingdoms of this world must become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. How--if His Spirit is not to mingle with political and social truths? (F. W. Robertson.)
No division of allegiance
Our Lord here recognizes no division of allegiance. He does not regard man as under two masters--as owing duty to Caesar and duty to God. Is there a trace in all His other teaching that He contemplated such a division? Did ever a word fall from Him to indicate that He looked upon some obligations as secular and others as sacred? No; God is set forth by Him always and everywhere as the sole Lord of man’s being and powers. Nothing man has can be Caesar’s in contradiction to that which is God’s. Christ claims all for the Sovereign Master. Body, soul, and spirit, riches, knowledge, influence, love--all belong to Him; there is but one empire, one service, one king; and life, with all its complexity of interest, is simple--simple as the Infinite God who has given it. Rightly understood, therefore, the great precepts of the text are in perfect accord with the doctrine of God’s sole and supreme lordship over every thought, and faculty, and possession of man. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” Why? Who enacts it? Who has the right to require it? The answer is “God.” It is a part of your religious obedience to be a loyal citizen. Within the sphere that belongs to him Caesar claims your service as the ordained representative and minister of God. Civil obedience is an ordinance of the Church; civil society is the creation of God Himself. It is He who, through the earthly ruler, demands your tribute. The result, the order, and the progress of society are His work; and thus the principle of all duty is ultimately one. The inclusion of the lower obedience in the higher has been well illustrated from the world of nature. The moon, we know, has its own relation to the earth; but both have a common relation to the sun. The moon’s orbit is included in the earth’s orbit, but the sun sways and balances both of them; and there is not a movement of the moon in obeying the inferior earthly attraction, which is not also an act of obedience to the superior spheres. And just so, God has bound up together our relation to “ the powers that be “ in this world, with our relation to Himself. He has set us under rulers and in societies as a kind of interior province of His mighty kingdom, but our loyalty as subjects and our duty as citizens are but a part of the one supreme duty which we owe to Him. (Canon Duckworth.)
Secular and religious duties not in conflict
I. Our secular and spiritual relations are coexistent and co-relative in fact.
II. The obligations which arise from each are to be recognized equitably, and the respective duties performed faithfully.
III. They ought not to be in conflict, but mutually helpful. Both are of God, and with Him are no discords.
IV. Application of the principle to--
1. Secular business, society, politics, etc.
2. Soul culture, worship, Christian work. (Anon.)
There were, therefore, seven brethren
The world to come
THAT THERE IS ANOTHER WORLD. Our Lord calls it that world. It is evidently opposed to “this world” (Luke 20:34); “the children of this world.” We know a little of this world. Oh that we knew it aright! Oh that we saw it with the eyes of faith! The world of which we speak is a world of light, and purity, and joy. There is “no night there” (Revelation 21:25). Hell is eternal darkness; heaven is eternal light. No ignorance, no errors, no mistakes; but the knowledge of God in Christ begun on earth is there completed; for we shall know even as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:12).
II. IT WILL BE A GREAT MATTER TO OBTAIN THAT WORLD. Notice our Saviour’s words, “they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world.” Oh, it will be a great matter to obtain that world I It will be a matter of amazing grace and favour. And oh, what a matter of infinite joy will it be!
III. SOME KIND OF WORTHINESS IS NECESSARY TO THE OBTAINING OF THAT WORLD. “They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world.” This worthiness includes merit and meetness; or, a title to glory, and a fitness for it. Both these are necessary. But where shall we look for merit? Not in man.
IV. THE RELATIONS OF THE PRESENT WORLD WILL NOT SUBSIST IN THE WORLD TO COME. Our Lord says, “They neither marry, nor are given in marriage.” This expression is not intended to disparage that kind of union; for marriage was ordained by God Himself, while yet our first parents retained their original innocence. But in heaven this relation will cease, because the purposes for which it was instituted will also cease. Nor shall the glorified need the aid of that domestic friendship and comfort which result from the married state, and which are well suited to our embodied condition; for even in paradise the Creator judged it was not “good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). But in heaven there will be no occasion for the lesser streams of happiness, when believers have arrived at the fountain. Oh, let us learn from hence to sit loose to all creature comforts.
V. IN THAT WORLD DEATH WILL BE FOR EVER ABOLISHED. This is a dying world.
VI. THE BLESSED INHABITANTS OF THAT WORLD SHALL BE LIKE THE ANGELS. “They are equal unto the angels.”
VII. THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY WILL PERFECT THE BLISS OF GOD’S PEOPLE. “They are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection; they shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead.” (G. Burder.)
Creatures on the brink of the grave should not forget it, nor refuse to look into it.
1. Be reminded that we have persons resembling the Sadducees in our own times. There are some who seek to subvert the leading truths of religion; and the method they pursue is very like that followed by the Sadducees of old. They rarely make the attack openly, like honest and generous assailants; but they start difficulties, and endeavour to involve the subjects of inquiry in inextricable perplexity.
2. Let us be suitably affected by the doctrines of immortality and the resurrection here taught.
3. Once more, let us improve this passage in reference to the endearing relations of life. We are here reminded that death is coming to break them all up, and that short is the time we are to sustain them. Far be it from us to regard them with indifference. Religion requires us to fulfil their duties with all affection and faithfulness. Yet, they are of very limited duration, and very little value, in comparison with eternity. (James Foote, M. A.)
The Sadducees silenced
I. GIVE SOME ACCOUNT OF THE SADDUCEES:--A small number of men of rank and affluence, who had shaken off such opinions and practices as they deemed a restraint upon their pleasures. They acknowledged the truth of the Pentateuch, but rejected the tradition of the elders. They also denied a future state, and believed that the soul dies with the body.
II. CONSIDER THE ARGUMENT OF THE SADDUCEES.
III. CONSIDER HOW JESUS CHRIST ACTED ON THIS OCCASION.
1. He removed the difficulty which had puzzled the Sadducees. They had not studied the Scriptures with sufficient attention, and a sincere desire of understanding their meaning. If they had done so, they could not have doubted of a future state. If, again, they had reflected on the power of God, they would have concluded that what might appear difficult or impossible to man, is possible and of easy accomplishment with God. He then explained the difficulty. It is to be observed, however, that He speaks only of the righteous. On this subject our Saviour reveals two important truths,--First, that the righteous never die; and, secondly, that they become like the angels.
2. Our Saviour, then, having removed the difficulty which had embarrassed the Sadducees, and having at the same time communicated new and important information concerning the world of spirits, next proceeded to prove from Scripture the certainty of a future state. He argued from a passage in the Book of Exodus, where God is represented as speaking from the burning bush to Moses, and saying, “ I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). It is here particularly to be observed, that the force of our Saviour’s argument rests upon the words, I am the God. Had the words been I was the God, the argument would be destroyed.
IV. ATTEND TO THE INFERENCES WHICH WE MAY JUSTLY DRAW FROM THIS SUBJECT.
1. A difficulty arising from our ignorance is not sufficient to disprove or weaken direct or positive evidence.
2. Although a future state is not clearly revealed in the Books of Moses, yet it is presupposed, for the passage here selected can be explained only on the assurance that there is such a state.
3. From our Saviour’s declaration here, we also obtain the important information, that the righteous, after their removal from this world by death, do not sink into a state of sleep or insensibility; for the passage which He quotes implies that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, after death, remained alive, and still continued to acknowledge and serve God; for all these things are included in what our Saviour says. Now, the inference we draw is, that what is true respecting the patriarchs we may safely extend to all good men, that they are all in a similar situation.
4. While informed by our Saviour, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, that immediately after death angels are employed to conduct the spirits of the righteous to paradise, we are also assured here by the same authority, that they shall be made like to the angels. When to these we add the passage quoted above, from the Epistle to the Hebrews, respecting the office of angels, it appears necessarily to follow that the righteous shall be elevated in rank and situation; for they shall associate with celestial beings, and consequently will receive all the benefits which can arise from society so pure and exalted. Nor can we help believing that while thus mingled with angels they will be engaged in similar duties and employments. (J. Thompson, D. D.)
The world to come
I. THAT THERE IS ANOTHER STATE OF BEING BESIDE AND BEYOND THE PRESENT STATE. None can deny the importance of the question, “If a man die, shall he live again?”
1. The traditions of universal belief. It is said that there is not, perhaps, a people on the face of the earth which does not hold the opinion, in some form or other, that there is a country beyond the grave, where the weary are at rest. Yet this universality of belief is no proof; it is but a mere presumption at best.
2. Certain transformations which take place in nature around us. Such as that of the butterfly from the grave of the chrysalis, and spring from the grave of winter. Such analogies, however, although appropriate as illustrations, are radically defective as proofs. The chrysalis only seemed dead; the plants and trees only seemed to have lost their vitality.
3. There is, again, the dignity of man. But while much may be said on one side of this question, not a little can be said on the other. “Talk as you will,” it has been said, “of the grandeur of man--why should it not be honour enough for him to have his seventy years’ life-rent of God’s universe?
4. It is by the gospel alone that life and immortality have been brought to light.
II. THAT THE FUTURE STATE IN MANY IMPORTANT PARTICULARS IS WIDELY DIFFERENT FROM THE PRESENT STATE. They differ--
1. In their constitution. “The children of this world marry, and arc given in marriage;” but there will be nothing of this kind in heaven. The institution of marriage is intended to accomplish two great objects.
(1) the propagation of mankind. But in that world the number of the redeemed family will be complete, and hence marrying and giving in marriage will be done away.
(2) Mutual help and sympathy.
2. In the blessedness enjoyed.
(1) Negative. “Neither can they die any more.”
(2) Positive. “They shall be equal unto the angels--in nature, immortality, purity, knowledge, happiness.” It is further added, that they will be “the children of God, being children of the resurrection.” To the blessing of adoption several gradations appertain. What is spoken of here is the highest. The apostle refers to it in those striking words, “Because the creature itself shall be delivered,” etc. (Romans 8:21-23).
III. THAT BEFORE THIS GLORIOUS STATE CAN BE ENTERED UPON, CERTAIN PRE-REQUISITES ARE INDISPENSABLY REQUIRED. None can attain the world but those which shall be accounted worthy. Two things may be here noticed.
1. Our guilty persons must be accepted. That can only be done through the Lord Jesus--winning Christ, and being found in Him, not having on our own righteousness.
2. Our sinful nature must be renewed. Worthiness and meetness are often used as synonymous terms. Thus we read in one place, “Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance”; in another, “Bring forth fruits meet for repentance.” So with the worthiness in the passage before us; it is to be understood as indicating meekness for the heavenly inheritance. Now, nothing that defileth can enter there. Holiness of heart and life is an essential qualification. The pure alone shall see God. (Expository Outlines.)
Mercy weaves the veil of secrecy over the future
Once, we have somewhere read, there was a gallant ship whose crew forgot their duties on board by the distant vision of their native hills. Many long years had passed over them since they had left their fatherland. As soon as one of their number caught, from the top mast, the first glance of his home-scenes, he raised a shout, “Yonder it is! yonder it is!” That shout shot like electricity through every heart on board, all sought to catch the same glance, some climbed the masts, others took the telescope, every eye was on it, and every heart went forth with the eye; every spirit was flooded with old memories and bounded with new hopes. All thoughts of the vessel on which they stood, and which was struggling with the billows, were gone; they were lost in the strange and strong excitement. The vessel might have sprung a leak, run on shore, or sunk to the bottom for ought they thought about her. The idea of home filled and stirred their natures; the thought of the land in which their fathers lived and perhaps their mothers slept; the land of their childhood, and the land of a thousand associations so swallowed up every other thought, that their present duties were utterly neglected. Somewhat thus, perhaps, it would be with us, were the particulars of the heavenly world made clear and palpable to our hearts. The veil of secrecy drawn over them is woven by the hand of mercy. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Reticence of the Bible in regard to heavenly happiness
Casper Hauser was shut up in a narrow, dimly-lighted chamber when a little child. He grew to manhood there. He never saw the earth or the sky. He knew nothing about flowers or stars, mountains or plains, forests or streams. If one had gone to him and tried to tell him of these things, of the life of men in city or country, of the occupations of men in shop or field, the effort would have been a failure. No words could have conveyed to him any idea of the world outside of his cell. And we are like him while shut up in these bodies. The spirit must go out of its clay house before it can begin to know anything definite about life in the spirit world. (Christian Age.)
Equal unto the angels
Equality with angels
Glorified saints are equal to the angels.
I. IN THEIR DIGNIFIED POSITION.
II. IN THEIR SUBLIME WORSHIP.
III. IN THEIR UNDECAYING STRENGTH (Psalms 103:20; Zechariah 12:8). Like angels, the dead in Christ shall henceforth excel in strength. Weariness and fatigue shall be for ever unknown.
IV. IN THEIR MINISTERING SERVICE (Hebrews 1:14).
V. IN LOVING OBEDIENCE. We read of angels that they “do His commandments, hearkening to the voice of His word.”
VI. IN THEIR EARNEST STUDY OF THE MYSTERY OF REDEEMING LOVE. Speaking of the Gospel and its priceless privileges and blessings, Peter says, “Which things the angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12).
VII. IN THE JOYFUL INTEREST WHICH THEY FEEL IN THE SALVATION OF SINNERS.
VIII. IN THEIR IMMORTAL YOUTH. Angels grow not old, as men on earth do. They wear no traces of age; revolving years tell not on them. (P. Morrison.)
Equality of men with angels
I. MEN ARE CAPABLE OF BEING MADE EQUAL TO THE ANGELS. That man is capable of equalling the angels in the duration of their existence, may be very easily shown. Originally he was, like them, immortal. But what man once possessed, he must still be capable of possessing. Equally easy is it to show that man is capable of being made equal to the angels in moral excellence. The moral excellence of creatures, whether human or angelic, consists in their conformity to the law of God. Originally he was perfectly holy; for God made man upright, in His own image, and this image consisted, as inspiration informs us, in righteousness and true holiness. Man is then capable of being made equal to the angels in mural excellence. Man is also capable of being raised to an intellectual equality with the angels, or being made equal to them in wisdom and knowledge. The image of God in whack he was created, included knowledge, as well as righteousness and true holiness. He was, as inspiration informs us, but little lower than the angels. But this small intellectual inferiority, on the part of man, may be satisfactorily accounted for, without supposing that his intellectual faculties are essentially inferior to those of angels, or that his mind is incapable of expanding to the full dimensions of angelic intelligence. It may be accounted for by difference of situation, and of advantages for intellectual improvement. Man was placed on the earth, which is God’s footstool. But angels were placed in heaven, which is His throne, His palace, and the peculiar habitation of His holiness and glory. They were thus enabled approach much nearer, than could earth-born man, to the great Father of lights; and their minds were, in consequence, illuminated with far more than a double portion of that Divine, all-disclosing radiance which diffuses itself around Him. If the mind of an infant can expand, during the lapse of a few years, to the dimensions of a Newton’s mind, notwithstanding all the unfavourable circumstances in which it is here placed, why may it not, during an eternal residence in heaven, with the omniscient, all-wise God for its teacher, expand so far as to embrace any finite circle whatever? Little, if any, less reason have we to believe that he is capable of being made equal to them in power. It has been often remarked that knowledge is power; and observation must convince every one that it is so. Man’s advances in knowledge have ever been accompanied by a proportionate increase of power. A knowledge of metals gave him power to subdue the earth. But we have already seen that man is capable of being made equal to the angels in knowledge. Again, man is capable of being raised to an equality with the angels in glory, honour, and felicity. The glory of a creature must consist principally in the intellectual and moral excellences with which he is endued; and we have already seen that in these respects man is capable of being made equal to the angels.
II. THAT IN THE FUTURE WORLD, GOOD MEN SHALL BE MADE EQUAL TO THEM IN EACH OF THESE PARTICULARS. The fact that men are capable of being made equal to the angels, goes far to prove the truth of this proposition. From the appearance of Moses and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration, it seems evident that they possessed power of various kinds, of which we are destitute. They had power to descend from the mansions of the blessed, and to return, and also, as it should seem, to render themselves visible or invisible, at their pleasure. Indeed it is certain, that in some respects at least, the powers of the righteous must be greatly increased, or they would be unable to sustain that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, and honour, and felicity, which is reserved for them in the future world. There is a dreadful counterpart to this truth, which, though not mentioned in our text, must be briefly noticed. Every argument, which proves that good men are capable of being made equal to the holy angels, may justly be considered as proving, with equal clearness, that wicked men are capable of equalling the fallen angels, who kept not their first estate. (E. Payson, D. D.)
In the resurrection saints are as angels
I. IN HEAVEN THE SAINTS ARE HOLY AS THE ANGELS ARE HOLY.
II. IN HEAVEN THE SAINTS, LIKE THE ANGELS, SHALL ENGAGE IN BECOMING ACTS AND EXERCISES.
1. I say acts and exercises, for while heaven is to be a place of rest, it is not to be a place of idleness. In heaven the saints are to be as angels, and angels, we know, are active in the service of God.
2. In particular, the saints, like the angels, engage in singing the praises of God.
3. Further, the saints, like the angels, are engaged in contemplating the works of God, and especially His wonders in providence and redemption.
4. Yet further, in heaven the saints, like the angels, are engaged in works of love. The angels, we have seen, are actively employed in the service of God. The whole method of the Divine procedure, so far as it comes under our view, seems to be carried on by a system of means or instruments. God fulfils His purposes by agents employed by Him who are blessed themselves and conveying blessings to others, who are happy and diffusing happiness. Even in inanimate creation on earth we find that nothing is useless; everything has a purpose to serve: the stone, the plant, the animal, every part of the plant and animal has a purpose to serve; it may be an end in itself, but it is also a means towards another end. The ear aids the eye, and the touch aids the ear and eye, and every member aids every other; it is good in itself, and is doing good to others. But these inanimate objects perform their work unknowingly, unconsciously. It is different with angels and the spirits of just men made perfect. They perform their allotted work knowing what they are doing, and blessed in the doing of it. Modern science shows us how much material agency can do. Take, as an example, the electric telegraph, which is every day carrying messages past your place. A methodical action is performed at one end of a wire, and in a few moments an intelligent communication is given at the other end, hundreds of miles away. It is a proof of the capacity of body. We know that our Lord’s body after His resurrection appeared and disappeared, and acted no one could tell how. But in the resurrection our bodies will be like His, spiritual and celestial. They will therefore be fit ministers to the perfected spirit--not, as here, hindrances at times, but always helps, and ready to fulfil the will of the spirit. (J. McCosh, D. D.)
The mortal and the immortal
Ours is a dying world, and immortality has no place upon this earth. That which is deathless is beyond these hills. Mortality is here; immortality is yonder! Mortality is below; immortality is above. “Neither can they die any more,” is the prediction of something future, not the announcement of anything either present or past. At every moment one of the sons of Adam passes from this life. And each swing of the pendulum is the death-warrant of some child of time. “Death,” “death,” is the sound of its dismal vibration. “Death,” “death,” it says, unceasingly, as it oscillates to and fro. The gate of death stands ever open, as if it had neither locks nor bars. The river of death flows sullenly past our dwellings, and continually we hear the splash and the cry of one, and another, and another, as they are flung into the rushing torrent, and carried down to the sea of eternity. If, then, we would get beyond death’s circle and shadow, we must look above. Death is here, but life is yonder! Corruption is here, incorruption is yonder. The fading is here, the blooming is yonder. Blessed words are these: “Neither can they die any more.” It is not simply, Neither shall they die any more, but neither can they die any more. Death, which is now a law, an inevitable necessity, shall then be an impossibilty. Blessed impossibility! Neither can they die any more! They are clothed with the immortality Of the Son of God; for as the Head is immortal, so shall the members be. Ah, this is victory over death! This is the triumph of life! It is more than resurrection; for it is resurrection, with the security that death can never again approach them throughout eternity. All things connected with that new resurrection-state shall be immortal, too. Their inheritance is unfading. Their city, the new Jerusalem, shall never crumble down. Their paradise is as much beyond the power of decay as it is beyond the reach of a second serpent-tempter. Their crowns are all imperishable; and the white raiment in which they shine shall never need cleansing or renewal. (H. Bonar, D. D.)
Moses showed at the bush
The living God of living men
I. GOD IS THE GOD OF ALL MEN, HOWEVER DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER THEY MAY BE. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to name three men so closely related to each other, and yet so conspicuously different from each other, as were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Abraham is of the grandest heroic type--heroic in thought, in action, and, above all, in that faith which is the inspiration both of the highest thinking and of the noblest forms of conduct. But what a falling off is there in Isaac! He hardly seems his father’s son. Quiet, thoughtful, a lover of ease and good fare, with no genius for action, his very wife chosen for him as if he were incompetent even to marry himself, unable to rule his own household, unable even to die--it would almost seem, when his time was come, that he fades out ofhistory years before he slips his mortal coil. Jacob, again, strikes one as unlike both his father and his grandfather. We think of him as timid, selfish, crafty, unscrupulous, with none of the innocence of Isaac, little or none of the splendid courage and generosity of Abraham. What I want you to mark, then, is the grace of God in calling Himself, as He did for more than a thousand years by the mouth of His servants the prophets, the God of each and all of these three men. Different as they were from each other, they are all dear to Him. He has room enough in His heart for them all. Rightly viewed, then, there is hope for us and for all men in this familiar phrase. If God is not ashamed to call Himself their God, may He not, will He not, be our God too, and train us as He trained them, till all that is weak and selfish and subtle in us is chastened out of us, and we recover the image in which He created us?
II. GOD OUR FATHER WILL NEVER LET HIS CHILDREN DIE. The text our Lord quoted was this: To Moses at the bush--between four and five hundred years, that is, after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were dead--Jehovah had said, “I am,”--not I was--“the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.” But how could He still be the God of these men if they had long been extinct? He is not the God of dead men, but of living men. The three patriarchs were very certainly not living in this world when God spoke to Moses. They must, therefore, have been living in some other world. Dead to men, they must have been alive unto God. Obviously, then, men do not all die when they die.
1. Because our Lord saw in God the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, He inferred that these men could not die; that even when they did die, they must have lived on unto God. And that after all is, I suppose, the argument or conviction on which we all really base our hope of immortality. “Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One? We shall not die.” The eternity of God implies the immortality of man.
2. But our Lord at least reminds us by His words of another ground for hope. Nature has many symbols which speak of a life capable of passing through death, a life which grows in volume, in power, in beauty, by its submission to death. Every spring we behold the annual miracle by which the natural world is renewed into a richer, lovelier life. Year by year it emerges from its wintry tomb into the fuller and more fruitful life of summer. We may not care to base any very weighty arguments on these delicate and evanescent yet continually-recurring symbols; but, nevertheless, they speak to our imagination and our hearts with a force and a winning persuasiveness beyond that of logic.
III. What is to hinder us from arguing that, if God is still their God, and they still live unto Him, then GOD MUST EVEN NOW BE CARRYING ON THE DISCIPLINE AND TRAINING WHICH HE COMMENCED UPON THEM HERE, and carrying it on to still larger and happier issues? If they live, and live unto God, must they not be moving into a closer fellowship with Him, rising to a more hearty adoption of His will, a fuller participation of His righteousness and love? No one of you will question the validity of such an argument as that, I think. You will all gladly admit that, since he still lives, Abraham must by this time be a far greater and nobler man than he was when he left the earth, and must be engaged in far nobler discoveries and enterprises.
Christ’s answer to the Sadducees
I. WE WILL CONSIDER IT AS AN ARGUMENT AD HOMINEM, AND SHEW THE FITNESS AND FORCE OF IT TO CONVINCE THOSE WITH WHOM OUR SAVIOUR DISPUTED.
1. We will consider what our Saviour intended directly and immediately to prove by this argument. And that was this, That there is another state after this life, wherein men shall be happy or miserable according as they have lived in this world. And this doth not only suppose the immortality of the soul, but forasmuch as the body is an essential part of man, doth, by consequence, infer the resurrection of the body; because, otherwise, the man would not be happy or miserable in another world.
2. The force of this argument, against those with whom our Saviour disputed, will further appear, if we consider the great veneration which the Jews in general had for the writings of Moses above any other books of the Old Testament, which they (especially the Sadducees) looked upon only as explications and comments upon the law of Moses; but they esteemed nothing as a necessary article of faith, which had not some foundation in the writings of Moses. And this seems to me to be the true reason why our Saviour chose to confute them out of Moses, rather than any other part of the Old Testament.
3. If we consider further the peculiar notion which the Jews had concerning the use of this phrase or expression, of God’s being any one’s God. And that was this” that God is nowhere in Scripture said to be any one’s God while he was alive. And, therefore, they tell us, that while Isaac lived, God is not called the God of Isaac, but the “fear of Isaac.” I will not warrant this observation to be good, because I certainly know it is not true. For God doth expressly call Himself “the God of Isaac,” while Isaac was yet Genesis 28:10): “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac.” It is sufficient to my purpose that this was a notion anciently current among the Jews. And therefore our Saviour’s argument from this expression must be so much the stronger against them: for if the souls of men be extinguished by death (as the Sadducees believed) what did it signify to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to have God called their God, after they were dead?
4. The great respect which the Jews had for these three fathers of their nation, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They, who had so superstitious a veneration for them, would easily believe anything of privilege to belong to them: so that our Saviour doth with great advantage instance in them, in favour of whom they would be inclined to extend the meaning of any promise to the utmost, and allow it to signify as much as the words could possibly bear. So that it is no wonder that the text tells us, that this argument put the Sadducees to silence. They durst not attempt a thing so odious, as to go about to take away anything of privilege from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
II. ENQUIRE WHETHER IT BE MORE THAN AN ARGUMENT AD HOMINEM. The following considerations would appear to indicate that our Lord really meant the matter to be regarded as settled fact.
1. If we consider that for God to be any one’s God doth signify some very extraordinary blessing and happiness to those persons of whom this is said. It is a big word for God to declare Himself to be any one’s God; and the least we can imagine to be meant by it, is that God will, in an extraordinary manner, employ His power and wisdom to do him good: that He will concern Himself more for the happiness of those whose God He declares Himself to be, than for others.
2. If we consider the eminent faith and obedience of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Abraham left his country in obedience to God, not knowing whither he was to go. And, which is one of the most unparalleled and strange instances of faith and obedience that can be almost imagined, he was willing to have sacrificed his only son at the command of God. Isaac and Jacob were also very good men, and devout worshippers of the true God, when almost the whole world was sunk into idolatry and all manner of impiety. Now what can we imagine, but that the good God did design some extraordinary reward to such faithful servants of His? especially if we consider, that He intended this gracious declaration of His concerning them, for a standing encouragement to all those who, in after ages, should follow the faith, and tread in the steps of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
3. If we consider the condition of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in this world. The Scripture tells us, that “they were pilgrims and strangers upon the earth,” had no fixed and settled habitation, but were forced to wander from one kingdom and country to another; that they were exposed to many hazards and difficulties, to great troubles and afflictions in this world; so that there was no such peculiar happiness befel them, in this life, above the common rate of men, as may seem to fill up the big words of this promise, that God would be their God.
4. Then, we will consider the general importance of this promise, abstracting from the particular persons specified and named in it, viz., Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and that is, that God will make a wide and plain difference between good and bad men; He will be so the God of good men as He is not of the wicked: and some time or other put every good man into a better and happier condition than any wicked man: so that the general importance of this promise is finally resolved into the equity and justice of the Divine Providence.
And now having, I hope, sufficiently cleared this matter, I shall make some improvement of this doctrine of a future state, and that to these three purposes.
1. To raise our minds above this world, and the enjoyments of this present life.
2. The consideration of another life should quicken our preparation for that blessed state which remains for us in the other world.
3. Let the consideration of that unspeakable reward which God hath promised to good men at the resurrection, encourage us to obedience and a holy life. We serve a great Prince who is able to promote us to honour; a most gracious Master who will not let the least service we do for Him pass unrewarded. This is the inference which the apostle makes from his large discourse of the doctrine of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:58). Nothing will make death more welcome to us, than a constant course of service and obedience to God. “Sleep (saith Solomon) is sweet to the labouring man”: so after a great diligence and industry in “ working out our own salvation,” and (as it is said of David) “serving our generation according to the will of God,” how pleasant will it be to fall asleep! And, as an useful and well-spent life will make our death to be sweet, so our resurrection to be glorious. (Archbishop Tillotson.)
Resurrection: an Easter-day Sermon
In the words of the text, the ground on which our Blessed Lord declares the resurrection of men to rest, is well worthy of our deepest attention. He does not say that because He Himself was ere long to be crucified and to rise again, therefore mankind should also rise. He goes down even deeper than this, to the very root of all hope and life for man; to that on which His own incarnation and death and resurrection rest; to the very foundation of being--even the nature of God Himself. Because God is God; the living and unchangeable God; because He has called us into existence, and made us what we are; because He has revealed Himself as our God; and taken us into covenant with Himself, therefore, man shall not--man cannot,-perish. But there is another most blessed and comforting truth taught us in the text; without which resurrection would cease to be a blessing, would lose all power to console and strengthen, would become a dark and dismal phantom. God is the God,--not of solitary and separate souls,--but the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob; the God of father and son and grandson; the God who has appointed and preserves the order of human society, upholds its relationships, and will not disappoint the pure and sweet affections which have been nurtured in them. Would Abraham be the same Abraham if there were no Isaac; Isaac, the same Isaac, if there were no Abraham and Jacob? Nay, if the dishonour of forgetfulness were, in the life beyond the grave, thrown on the human loves and affections which have been born on earth, would God be the same God? (J. N.Bennie, LL. B.)
How say they that Christ is David’s son?
David, Christ’s ancestor
“How say they that Christ is David’s son?” Reading David’s history, we might exclaim, “How, indeed!” Son of David, Son of God: is not this like son of sin, son of grace? But if in the ancestor sin abounded, in the descendant grace much more abounded; and wisdom will inquire whether there is any relation between the superabounding grace and the abounding sin. We may think of Christ as a spiritual David, and we may think of David as a natural Christ, in this way: we may suppose a nature like Christ’s, but without what we know He possessed--a governing, harmonizing spirit of holiness. Imagine that. Imagine one whose natural endowments resembled Christ’s, but without the presiding spirit of holiness; then, we say, you would have another variety of David’s life--one more distinguished by nobleness, but one marked and saddened with many an act of dishonour. On the other hand, if you suppose David to become perfectly spiritual, to have that presiding holiness which Christ had; amongst all the ancient saints, there would have been none so like the Lord Jesus Christ, though still less than He. And thus it is that we have in David the nature of Christ, but without the Divine harmonic regulation; and we have in Christ the nature of David, but not now with the fleshly irregularities, not sullied by blots, not made the shame as well as in part the glory of Israel, but utterly free from evil. Christ is, then, considered as David’s descendant, the inheritor of his sensibilities, which shine in our Lord with completest lustre. He is also the inheritor of his contests; and our Lord overcomes with unvaried and complete victory those temptations which assaulted His ancestor. And by being at once the possessor of his sensibilities and the inheritor of his contests, He becomes the expiation of his sins. You will often find in the history of families that troubles accumulate, and as it were ripen, until they are “laid upon” some one individual; that on this individual rests the burden of evil which has been slowly accumulating. Now, you may have a case in which it seems that the burden of evil so rests that the man is borne down, crushed, and destroyed; and here you say, through the wickedness of his House, this, the last descendant, is utterly shaken and ruined. But you may also have a successful fight; the burden is on the back, but the strength is in the man. This is at once the most burdened and most powerful individual sprung from the race. It is he who, grappling with the evil in its fullest strength, shall retrieve the fortunes of the family. There are historic cases which illustrate that principle. In every family history evil goes on worsening, or good goes on strengthening; and we may have instances of men borne down by the evil, and other instances of men oppressed very greatly and yet triumphing, and so retrieving honour and fortune. Now our Lord Jesus Christ was a spiritual David; He shares--possesses, indeed, to the full--David’s sensibilities; He engages in the moral contests in which David so often failed; and He becomes the expiation of David’s sins--that is to say, He utterly annuls that power of sin so manifest and hateful in David, and brings in a strength of holiness which, as gradually diffused in the breasts of men, shall cause the instrument that else would be discordant to be a harp of joy--shall refine from earthly alloys that sacred metal which, as God’s gold, he will work up into the ornaments and harps of heaven. (T. T. Lynch.)
Beware of the scribes
The sins of the scribes and Pharisees
The scribes were doctors of the law, who read and expounded the Scripture to the people.
They were possessed of the key of knowledge, and occupied the seat of Moses. The Pharisees were a kind of separatists among the Jews, as their name indeed denotes. When Jesus speaks to these men, He no longer wears His wonted aspect. His language is not that of compassion and tenderness, but of stern denunciation. It is important that Jesus should be presented to us under these two aspects, of forgiving mercy and of relentless wrath, in order to stimulate hope and to repress presumption. In the text Jesus proceeds to indicate the grounds of that woe He had denounced upon the scribes and Pharisees. He points out to the people the crimes with which they were chargeable, and the hypocrisy of their conduct. It is worthy of notice that He does not content Himself with speaking to the guilty parties alone. He unveils their character before the face of the world. They were deceiving the people by their pretences, and therefore the people must he warned against them. The same thing is true of all pretenders in religion. Truth and justice, and love for the souls of men, alike demand that such pretences should be made manifest. The first charge adduced against the scribes and Pharisees in the text is, that they shut up the kingdom of heaven against men--that they neither entered into it themselves, nor suffered those who were entering to go in. When the question is put, what methods did they take to accomplish this? the easiest and perhaps the most natural answer would be, that it was by their extraordinary strictness and outward purity. The mass of the people were regarded by them as little better than heathens. They abjured the society of such men; and one special ground of offence against Jesus was, that He did not imitate them in this respect. It might be readily presumed, then, that by such austerities as marked their outward conduct, they rendered religion altogether so repulsive as to deter the common people from inquiring into its claims, rather than to invite them to submit themselves to its authority. Thus, it may be supposed, they shut up the kingdom of heaven against men. It is notorious that such an accusation as this has been always preferred against the pure ministers of a pure religion. The duty of the minister is to declare the truth as he finds it in the Bible, and to act upon the directions he has there received. In thus preaching and acting, however, many may be shut out from the kingdom of heaven; it is not he who has dosed its gates against them, but God Himself. But the supposition is very far from being correct, that the Pharisees were accused of shutting the kingdom of heaven against men by the strictness and austerity to which they pretended. We shall discover the real grounds of the accusation by comparing the text with the parallel passage in the Gospel according to Luke. It is there said (Luke 11:52): “Woe unto you lawyers, for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye enter not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” The way, then, in which they shut the kingdom of heaven against themselves and others, was by taking away the key of knowledge. In order to this, let us endeavour to ascertain the precise position of the Pharisee, and the place which he assigned to the word of God. Let us observe how he used the key of knowledge, and by what precise instrumentality he shut up the kingdom of heaven against men. The Pharisees did not deny men the use of the Bible. They did not conceal the knowledge of its contents. The people heard it read from year to year in their synagogues. It was explained to them, and their attention solicited to its truths. How, then, could it be said that they had taken away the key of knowledge? The answer to the question is to be found in the fact, not that they withheld the word of God, but that they made the commandment of God of none effect by their tradition. They refused to acknowledge the fact that God is the only teacher and director of His Church. They added to His word instructions of their own. The Divine authority, if it is to be preserved at all, must stand apart from and be superior to all other authority. The claims of God are paramount, and so soon as they cease to be so, they cease to be Divine. In other words, God is no longer God--His worship is rendered vain--and His commandments become of none effect. Thus the key of knowledge is altogether taken away, and the kingdom of heaven is shut against men. The fact that the commandments of men occupied such a place at all vitiated their whole doctrine and worship, deprived men of the key of knowledge, and shut up the kingdom of heaven against them. Such a Church ceased to be a blessing, and had become a curse to the nation. It was a Church not to be reformed, but to be destroyed. It was rotten at the very heart, and nothing remained for it but woe. But the text is pregnant with instruction and admonition to all the professed disciples of Christ. It impresses upon us the doctrine that the kingdom of heaven is opened by knowledge. This is the key that unlocks the celestial gates. We cannot obtain an entrance to it in any other way. The lock will not yield to any other power. Not that all kinds of knowledge are equally available. This is life eternal, to know God and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent. To be ignorant of Christ is to be shut out o! heaven. To know Jesus Christ is to open up the kingdom of heaven. The highest gifts, the most shining acquirements, cannot bring us a footstep nearer heaven. Nothing else avails to open up the kingdom to men but the knowledge of Jesus Christ. From the text also we learn this doctrine, that the ministers of the Church have in a certain sense the power of shutting up the kingdom of heaven against men. They are set up as lights of the world. Their business is to instruct the ignorant. If they neglect the duties or pervert the designs of their office, how are men to acquire the knowledge of the truth? From the doctrines set forth in the text, let us lay to heart the following practical instructions:
1. Let us learn to read the Bible, and to listen to its truths, in the assurance that our eternal destiny depends upon the knowledge of them.
2. Let ministers also learn their proper vocation as porters to the kingdom of heaven, and let them beware of handling the Word of God deceitfully. Let us now proceed to examine the second charge which Jesus brings against the scribes and Pharisees. It is conveyed in these words “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers; therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.” The crime of the Pharisees was not one, but manifold, and Jesus, in faithfulness, accumulates His charges against them. Lest for a moment they should forget the heinous character of these charges, He recapitulates with each the coming doom which awaited them. This second sin which Jesus charges against the Pharisees is of a very aggravated kind. It is devouring the houses of widows. Not contented with making void the commandments of God, these men were guilty of the most hateful practices. Having usurped a treasonable authority in Divine things, their lives were characterized by acts of atrocious oppression and cruelty. Insinuating themselves into the confidence of the weak and the defenceless, they made their high religious profession a covert for the basest covetousness. They become robbers of the widow and the fatherless. Such wickedness of conduct might have been expected as the sure result of the corruptions they had introduced into the Divine worship. Purity of faith is the surest guardian of integrity of life. In the case of the Pharisees the wickedness was peculiarly hateful. The sin of which they were guilty was devouring houses, or, in other words, involving families in ruin, by appropriating and devouring the substance which belonged to them. But this sin was accompanied with a threefold aggravation. First, the houses they involved in ruin were the houses of widows. Secondly, their sin was yet farther aggravated by being committed under the pretext of religion. They committed robbery under the guise of piety. Thirdly, they made an extraordinary profession of religious zeal. They not only prayed with a view to the more easy perpetration of robbery, but their prayers were long. Widows were their easy dupes. Thus we are directed to one of the marks which indicate the mere pretender to godliness, and by which we shall be able to detect and expose the hypocrite. For the pretender in religion, having necessarily some selfish object in view, and not being animated by a love of the truth, may be expected to turn his profession to the best possible account. And whether for the purpose of gratifying his vanity, of acquiring power and influence, or of increasing wealth, he will always find his readiest instruments in silly and restless women. Hence, too readily, among despisers of religion, the reproach has been taken up against the true and living Church, that its most active promoters, and most zealous adherents, are women, and that the prayers of its members are only for a pretence. Surely it would be to infer rashly to conclude, that because the ministers or members of a Church were signalized by fervent and frequent prayer, and because devout and honourable women, not a few, were among its most zealous friends, such a Church was guilty of the Pharisaic crime, and justly lay under the reproach and the woe denounced in the text. Let us examine and see. No one can read the personal history of Jesus without perceiving how, in the days of His earthly ministry, He had among His most honoured and endeared disciples devout women not a few, whose rich gifts He did not despise, and whose devoted love He did not spurn. Who was it that blamed the expenditure of a very precious box of ointment? Is it, on the other hand, an unfailing mark of a hypocrite to make long prayers? Doubtless there have been many, in every age, who have assumed the form of godliness while denying its power, who have drawn near to God with the mouth, and honoured Him with the lips, while their hearts have been far from Him. But if hypocritical pretenders affect this devotion, is it not an evidence that prayer is the proper and true life Of the believer? Why should the Pharisee pretend to it, if the religious propriety of the thing itself were not felt and acknowledged? The hypocrite does not affect that which does not essentially belong to godliness. Jesus did not accuse the Pharisees, and pronounce a woe upon them, because they received the support of women, even of widows, nor because of the frequency or length of their prayers. Abstracted, however, from the peculiar circumstances and aggravations with which the sin was accompanied in the actual practice of the Pharisees, the thing condemned in the text is, prayer which is uttered only in pretence, and prayer which has a selfish and worldly end in view. Widows were the objects against whom the Pharisees put in practice their artful hypocrisy. But it is obvious that whosoever may be the objects of the deception, the essential character of the sin remains the same. Nor is the nature of the sin affected by the extent of the pretended devotion. The pretence is the thing blameworthy. It is true the sin becomes more heinous in proportion to the height of the profession, and the Pharisees are worthy of greater damnation, because they not only pretended to devotion, but to very high flights of it. Leaving out of view, however, such aggravating circumstances as these, that their prayer was long, and that the widows and the fatherless were their prey, we have the essential character of the sin set before us, as at least worthy of damnation, namely, making a profession of religion for the purpose of advancing worldly interests, and securing the ends of earthly ambition. The Pharisees of our day, then, who lie under the woe pronounced by Jesus, are--
1. Those ministers who enter upon and continue in their office for a piece of bread. The most pitiable being among all the afflicted sons of humanity is he who has assumed the holy office of the ministry for the sake of worldly ends and objects.
2. But the Pharisaic crime is by no means limited to ministers. Those people are guilty of it, in whatever position they are placed, who, for the sake of good repute, from fear of worldly loss, or from the desire of worldly gain--or who, actuated by any earthly or selfish motive whatever, make profession of a religion which they do not believe. We have yet to examine a third charge which Jesus brings against the scribes and Pharisees. He accompanies the recital of it with a denunciation of the same woe he had already twice invoked upon them. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” The apostles of deceit and falsehood have often manifested a zeal in the propagation of their principles which is fitted to minister a severe reproof to those who know and who believe the truth. This does not arise from the circumstance that the apostles of error are possessed of more energy and activity of mind than the friends of truth, but because they have frequently a more hearty interest in the advancement of their cause. Let there be an opening for worldly advancement, and the gratification of worldly ambition, and the way is crowded with rival and eager candidates. There is no remissness of effort among them. The conquests of early Christianity were rapid and wide, because its apostles had strong faith and untiring zeal. From what has been stated, it will be manifest that it is not the fact of making proselytes or converts against which the woe of Christ is denounced. This, on the contrary, is the great duty which He has laid upon all His disciples; and the illustrious reward He hath promised to the work is, that they who turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever. A church is doing nothing if it be not making proselytes. It is a dead trunk ready for the fire. They did not care to make their converts holier and better and happier men. They made them twofold more the children of hell than themselves. It was enough that they assumed the name and made the outward profession. It will be instructive to examine for a little the methods they adopted for preserving their influence, extending their power, and crushing the truth.
We will thus be able to understand more perfectly the grounds of the condemnation pronounced against them, and how their zeal should have produced such fruits.
1. In the ninth chapter of the Gospel according to John we find the record of a miraculous work of Jesus, in opening the eyes of a man who had been blind from his birth. The Pharisees became aware that such a miracle had been wrought, and with great propriety made immediate and diligent inquiry into the reality of the fact. The means, then, by which they sought to quench the truth--to induce a denial of the manifest power of God, and to retain the people as their proselytes and followers--were to bring against Jesus the accusation of breaking the law of the land. He who did so, they argued, must be a sinner--he could not come from God, and to follow him would be certain destruction.
2. Throughout the narratives of the evangelists there are scattered abundant evidences of another instrument of proselytizing employed by the Pharisees. It is the language of reviling and scorn. They ridiculed the poverty of the disciples. Doubtless by such reviling and mockery they might attain a certain measure of success.
3. Another instrument of the Pharisees for making and retaining proselytes, was misrepresentation and calumny. They watched the words of Jesus that they might have something to report to His disadvantage.
4. The Pharisees made converts by force. They took up the weapons of persecution and vigorously employed them. The charge as expressed, pronounces woe against them, because of their great zeal in making proselytes, and because of the lamentable results which followed upon their conversion. (W. Wilson.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Luke 20". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28