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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Matthew 23

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-7

Matthew 23:1-7

The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.

Christ’s reproaches of Pharisees

There must be some just, reasonable, and great cause of our Lord’s indignation, and this we find was an accumulation of great wickedness in these men, which received aggravations

The particulars for which our Saviour taxes them, were principally these:

1. Their great pride. Under the title of Rabbi they affected a greater authority than is compatible to men.

2. Their wretched covetousness, which showed itself in the instances of devouring widows’ houses, of esteeming the gifts and the gold above the altar and the temple.

3. Their abominable hypocrisy, shown in “teaching others to do what they themselves would not do;” in serving a carnal interest by a religious carriage. It might have been supposed that Christ’s disciples had been out of danger of these evils, that they would not have come near the place where their Pilot had set a sea-mark. But whoso takes a view of the Christian Church, as Erasmus hath represented it, he’ll say, that Pharisaism then lived and reigned as much as ever. (Hezekiah Burton.)

Origin of Pharisaism

There was a great religious revival among the Jews after their return from the captivity, which continued for a considerable time; and which, after they had rebuilt the temple, sent them back to the law with a sincere desire to honour God by keeping its commands. So long as the life remained, the obedience was the real outcome of an inward principle; but when the life died out, then the obedience became only a fossil, and was soon covered over with corruption, until it became what we see it to have been in the days of the Saviour upon earth. The same danger attends on every spiritual movement. A real devotion to Christ stimulates to reverent attention to the forms of worship, and so long as that is simply an expression of loyalty to Him, all is well; but by and by all thought of Him drops out, and then only the ritual remains, becoming the idol of the heart, and so the life departs. Thus what was a voice full of sincerity in one generation, is often only an empty echo in that which follows. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Evil ministers better in speech than works

If ministers do well, it is their own gain; if they say well, it is thine. Take thou what thine own is, and let alone what is another man’s. Sylla and King Richard III. commanded others, under great penalties, to be virtuous and modest, when themselves walked the clean contrary way. A deformed painter may draw a goodly picture; a stinking breath sounds a mighty blast; and he that hath but a bad voice may show cunning in descant. A blind man may bear a torch in a dark night, and a harp wake music to others, which itself is not sensible of. Posts set for directions of passengers by the highway side do point out the way which themselves go not; and sign-posts tell the traveller there is wholesome diet or warm lodging within, when themselves remain in the storms without. Lewd preachers are like spire-steeples, or high pinnacles, which point up to heaven, but press down to the centre. (J. Trapp.)

Ministerial inconsistency

They had tongues which spake by the talent, but their hands scarce wrought by the ounce; like that ridiculous actor at Smyrna, who, pronouncing, O coelum, O heaven, pointed with his finger toward the ground: so these Pharisees had the heaven commonly at their tongues’ end, but the earth continually at their fingers’ end. In a certain battle against the Turks, there was a bishop who thus encouraged the army: “Play the men, fellow-soldiers, to-day: and I dare promise you, that if ye die fighting, ye shall sup to-night with God in heaven.” Now after the battle was begun, the bishop withdrew himself; and when some of the soldiers inquired among themselves what was become of the bishop, and why he would not take a supper with them that night in heaven, others answered, “This is fasting-day with him, and therefore he will eat no supper, no, not in heaven!” (J. Trapp.)

Selfish religious pride

Thirty miles north-east of Sholapoor, at Toolazapoor, is the great temple of the goddess Bhowani, and twice in the year the place is thronged by men and women of every grade, who come to pay their vows and sacrifices to the idol. Besides this, at every full moon long trains of pilgrims may be seen flocking thither; and such is the faith of the people in the healing powers of the goddess, that the sick are resorting there constantly in the vain hope of some relief. The temple at Punderpoor is still more renowned. Not to speak of the myriads who go there at the great festivals, persons make a pilgrimage thither every month from a distance of fifty or a hundred miles; and the practice is kept up for many years. One man, who had apparently come from a distance, the writer saw near Barsee, making the journey by prostrations, measuring his length upon the ground. It was under the burning sun of noonday; and, hardly able to proceed, he seemed the very picture of despair. But a case still more remarkable was that of a man performing the journey by rolling himself upon the ground. We came up with him two miles east of Wairag, and asked him where he was going, and why he was thus torturing himself. He at first did not seem to hear; but at length stopping, he lay exhausted upon the ground, and answered in a faint voice that he was going to Punderpoor. After some further questions, as the writer remonstrated with him upon the folly of such a course, he raised his head from the ground, and half reclining, said that he had come so far already he could not desist now. He stated that his village was near Chandrapoor, 450 miles to the east from there, that he had spent fifteen months on the way thus far, and that it was forty miles more, and he wished to complete the pilgrimage. He was accustomed to go about a mile each day. He would then note the place where he had stopped, and walking back to the nearest village, would remain until the next day, receiving his food from the villagers. Then he would return, and from the place left the previous day would begin his toilsome pilgrimage. If he came to a river that could not be passed in this manner, he would go back a distance equal to this space, and roll over the ground a second time. He had for clothing only a coarse cloth bound tightly about his loins, and another about his head; and thus, almost naked, over roads extremely rough and stony, exposed to heat and cold, sometimes drenched with rain or covered with mud-for a year and three months this poor man had been rolling himself along towards the shrine of Vithoba. Yet it was not a sense of sin or a desire for pardon that induced him to undertake this painful journey. But it was evident, upon further conversation, that he was urged on by no higher motive than a selfish pride. He sought a reputation for holiness. (Bombay Times.)

Worthless ceremonies

When corn runs into straw and chaff, those who feed on it may well be thin and lean; but when it runs into ears and kernel, thou mayest expect such as eat of it to be fat and well-favoured. When religion runs into formalities and ceremonies, her followers can never be thriving spiritually. They may starve, for all the gaudy flowers wherewith several dishes on her table are decked and set forth. (Swinnock.)

Deceptive, religious obedience

The shops in the square of San Marco were all religiously closed, for the day was a high festival. We were much disappointed, for it was our last day, and we desired to take away with us some souvenirs of lovely Venice; but our regret soon vanished, for on looking at the shop we meant to patronise, we readily discovered signs of traffic within. We stepped to the side door, and found when one or two other customers had been served, that we might purchase to our heart’s content, saint or no saint. After this fashion too many keep the laws of God to the eye, but violate them in the heart. The shutters are up as if the man no more dealt with sin and Satan; but a brisk commerce is going on behind the scenes. From such deceit may the Spirit of Truth preserve us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Best places at feasts

When Hanway was in Persia, a certain governor rose from his seat and left the room, because Hanway had inadvertently taken his seat higher than he, though at the opposite side of the table,

Pope and councils not infallible

There is no external supreme, infallible judge in the Church of God, to whom all Christians are obliged to submit their faith and consciences in all matters of religion. Argument

I. This authority which they pretend to is a greater authority than the apostles themselves did ever claim or exercise in the Church of God, as plainly appears from 2 Corinthians 1:24 -”Not that we have dominion over your faith.” This was very agreeable to the nature and person of Christ. Argument

II. Such an authority as they pretend to is contrary to that command of the trial of doctrines which is laid upon all Christians; for if there be an infallible judge to whom I ought to submit my falth and conscience in all matters of religion, what need I try doctrines?

1. Christians have ability to try things with.

2. They have a rule to try things by.

3. Christians have a promise of discovery upon trial. Argument III., against the supremacy and the infallible authority of the pope, is taken from the danger of following false guides. People may sin in following their guides and teachers. Argument IV., and last, against this doctrine is, from the want of a Divine appointment and promise. Inference

II. Forasmuch as there is no person upon earth that can infallibly guide you to salvation, it concerns you to have the greater care of your own salvation.

1. Study the Holy Scriptures.

2. Pray fervently for the guidance of God’s Spirit.

3. If you would discern and hold fast the truth, love and practise it. (M. Pool.)

A proud title the sign of usurped authority

But, indeed, there was a deeper and worse design than this in it; they did not only aim at splendid and glorious titles, but they did usurp authority and dominion over the consciences of the people, whereof this was but a sign: as amongst us the flag is a sign of the dominion of the seas, so.this title was an indication and sign of that authority which they usurped over the people. (M. Pool.)


Verses 1-39

Verses 8-12

Matthew 23:8-12

But be not ye called Rabbi.

Christians are brethren

The late Rev. Wm. Jay, in a sermon at Surrey Chapel, said “Some time ago a countryman observed to me, ‘I was exceedingly alarmed this morning, sir. I was going down in a lonely place, and I thought I saw a strange monster. It seemed in motion, but I could not make out its form. I didn’t like to turn back, but my heart beat, and the more I looked the more I was afraid. But, as we came nearer each other, I saw it was a man, and who do you think it was?’ ‘I know not.’ ‘Oh, it was my brother John!’ ‘Ah,’ said I to myself, as he added that it was early in the morning, and very foggy, ‘how often do we thus mistake our Christian brethren!’”

Christian brethren not to be treated as enemies

During the Peninsular war, an officer of artillery had just served a gun with admirable precision against a body of men posted in a wood to his left. When the Commander-in-Chief rode up, after turning his glass for a moment in the direction of the shot, he said, in his cool way, “Well aimed, captain; but no more; they are our own 99th.” This sad blunder has been repeated too often in the armies of Jesus. The great guns of the Church, which might have battered down the citadels of Satan, have been misdirected against Christian brethren!

A bond of union

A Hindoo and a New Zealander met upon the deck of a missionary ship. They had been converted from their heathenism, and were brothers in Christ, but they could not speak to each other. They pointed to their Bibles, shook hands, smiled in each other’s faces, but that was all. At last a happy thought occurred to the Hindoo. With sudden joy he exclaimed, “Hallelujah!” The New Zealander, in delight, cried out, “Amena!” Those two words, not found in their own heathen tongues, were to them the beginning of “one language and one speech.”

Recognition of Christian brotherhood

It was on a sacramental Sabbath, and at the close of the service, Dr. Cumming invited Christ’s followers to remain and partake of the emblems of His atoning love. As we changed our seat to take our place among the communicants, we found ourselves in the pew of the Duke of Sutherland. The only two persons in the pew, besides our republican self, were the beautiful Duchess (then apparently about five-and-thirty years of age) and a poor, coarsely-clad woman, who had strayed in there from her seat in the gallery. On seeing the name of the titled owner of the pew upon the psalm-book, the poor woman looked disconcerted, as if she was “in the wrong box.” But when the sacramental bread was passed, the Duchess very courteously took the plate and handed it to her neighbour with such delicate graciousness that the “puir body” was made to feel quite at ease immediately. It was a striking illustration of the unity of Christ’s household, in which the rich and the poor, the lofty and the lowly, meet together and feel that Jesus is the Saviour of them all. When the service ended I said to myself, “Now, which of these two women has had the most serious obstacle to contend with in taking up the cross for Christ? That poor labouring woman probably lives in some back alley, and thanks God for her daily meal of potatoes and salt. Her worldly temptations are few; her sources of enjoyment are few; and perhaps her chief comfort in life is found in her Bible, her prayers, her communion with Christ, and her hope of heaven. The Duchess dwells amid the splendours of Stafford House, with everything to attract her toward this world, and very little to remind her of eternity. She has troops of friends, and luxury tends to self-indulgence. The atmosphere of high life is unfavourable usually to godliness. Gold is often a hardener of the heart. So I decided that it required more grace to make the lady of rank a humbleminded, devoted disciple than it did to make the poor woman at her side a Christian. Was I not right? Remember the dear Master said, “How hard it is for them that have riches to enter into the kingdom of God.” (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

Christ the true Master

I. Human masters may transmit their words; Christ alone can impart His Spirit.

II. Human masters may teach the elements; Christ alone can conduct to the goal.

III. Human masters may establish schools; Christ alone can found a church. (J. P. Lange, D. D.)

Christ’s right to leadership

I. He Himself, by Himself, teaches us, and leads us by the way of virtue to heavenly glory. All others teach as they have been first taught by Him.

II. All others only teach in words that sound in the outward ears, like a tinkling cymbal; but Christ makes known their meaning inwardly to the mind.

III. All others only show what the law commands and what God requires; but Christ gives grace to the will, that we, when we hear the things which ought to be done, may indeed constantly fulfil the same. (Lapide.)

The true Master

“I am my own master,” cried a young man, proudly, when a friend tried to dissuade him from an enterprize he had on hand, “I am my own master.” “Did you ever consider what a responsible post that is?” asked his friend. “Responsible! what do you mean?” “A master must lay out the work which he wants done, and see that it is done right. He should try to secure the best ends by the best means. He must keep on the look-out against obstacles and accidents, and watch that everything goes straight, else he must fail. To be master of yourself, you have your conscience to keep clear, your heart to cultivate, your temper to govern, your will to direct, and your judgment to instruct. You are master over many servants, and, if you don’t master them, they will master you.” “That is so,” said the young man. “Now I could undertake no such thing,” continued his friend; “ I should fail if I did. Saul wanted to be his own master, and failed. Herod failed. Judas failed. No man is fit to be his own master. ‘One is your Master, even Christ.’ I work under His direction.”

Calling no man master

I. Christians have a Master and a Father.

II. Christians have but one Master, but one Father.

III. There is no man upon earth that is the Christian’s father or master.

IV. God is the Christian’s only Father, Jesus Christ their only Master. (Hezekiah Burton.)

A truth about religion

Religion, like water, will not rise higher than the spring; if it derives its origin from this earth only, it will not rise and raise us up with it to heaven. (Hezekiah Burton.)

Call no man father

The reasons for this caution are evident.

1. When the gospel began to be preached, men who were convinced of its truth, and inclined to receive it, were often in danger of incurring the displeasure of their nearest relations and dearest friends, of father and mother, as also of the rulers in Church and State.

2. The Jews at that time were accustomed to pay a blind and slavish deference to their spiritual fathers, their doctors, and wise men, and to prefer their authority even to that of their prophets and of their own sacred books.

3. Our Saviour foresaw that the same corruption would enter into His Church, and the same slavish obedience to the traditions and doctrines of men; that fathers, and monks, and councils, and synods, and prelates, and popes would at last so engross all power, both spiritual and temporal, and abuse it to such an enormous degree, that scarcely the shadow of Christianity would remain in the Christian Church. (J. Jortin.)

What we may learn from earth masters

The points may be reduced to three.

1. A belief in God, in opposition to atheism.

2. Moral duties, in opposition to vice and debauchery.

3. Christianity, in opposition to infidelity. (J. Jortin.)

God our Father

As God is our Father, a willing compliance and a cheerful obedience are due to Him. God is a Father to us in every sense of the word, bestowing upon us more than we could hope or expect, forgiving us our offences, ruling us with lenity, making allowances for human infirmities, temptations, surprises, mistakes, and errors, for everything that can claim compassion, and is not deliberate and stubborn. We should imitate and resemble Him. We should place our trust and confidence in Him. If God be the Father of all beings, they are all, in some way, related to us. (J. Jortin.)

God the Father of His people

I. He is the Author of their spiritual being, gives life, and imparts His own nature.

II. God supplies all the need of His children. They are dependent, etc.

III. He provides them with a suitable home and habitation-Himself, His Church, His heaven.

IV. He secures the instruction of His children by His works, His word. He has appointed for them teachers.

V. He guards and protects His children.

VI. He gives them a glorious and everlasting portion. Reverence and fear Him; live and delight in Him; follow and obey Him, etc. (J. Burns, LL. D.)

Virtue only commands esteem

It is virtue that puts an esteem upon men, it makes their countenances lovely, their words to be remembered; it casts a perfume on all that men do or say; gives every word or action a rich scent. This will make our so much distasted habits and gestures that they shall not be contemned or derided, but reverenced and honoured. (Hezekiah Burton.)

Authority means service, not proud dominion

Excellent and admirable was the speech of Xunus, Emperor of China, to his son Tunis, who, according to the relation of Martinius, lived 2258 years before the birth of Christ. “Take,” said he, when he was dying, “this sceptre, due to your virtue and merits; remember that you are the father of your people, that you are to deal with them as with your children; that the people are not born to serve you, but that you are born and designed to serve them; and that a king is alone raised up above all the rest that he might alone be able to serve all. (C. Buckley.)

Peril of high things

Do you see, so we have it in Herodotus, how God strikes the taller animals with His thunder, and causes them to disappear; while the small ones are not at all affected by it? Do you see how the loftiest houses and the highest trees are in a like manner thunder-stricken. (C. Buckley.)

Jesus Christ to the brethren

I. A prohibition.

1. Against a proud, ambitious spirit-“Be not ye called Rabbi.”

2. Against a servile spirit” And call no man your father upon earth.”

II. A revelation.

1. As to Christ. He was their Master.

2. As to the unseen God. He is our Father in heaven.

III. An ideal-“All ye are brethren.” (A. Scott.)


Verses 13-15

Matthew 23:13-15

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.

The sins of the scribes and Pharisees

I. That they shut up the kingdom of heaven against men. “Neither suffer ye them that are entering in.”

1. They did this by their extraordinary strictness and outward purity. By such austerities they made religion repulsive. This accusation has often been preferred against the pure ministers of a pure religion. Compare this text with the parallel passage in Luke 11:52. They shut the kingdom of heaven against themselves and others by taking away the key of knowledge. The same sin is committed by any church that imposes the traditions of men in that province in which only the commandment of God is of authority. The kingdom of heaven is opened by knowledge. It is important to recognize this. Ministers of the Church have in a certain sense the power of shutting up the kingdom of heaven against men.

2. The second charge against the scribes and Pharisees. They devoured the houses of widows. They were robbers of the defenceless. Those who lie under this woe are:

3. The third charge against the scribes and Pharisees-“Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte.” 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 believe the truth. It is not the fact of making proselytes against which the woe is directed; this is the duty of the Church. But they did not care to make their councils holier.

In the description of the scribes and Pharisees in this chapter we have a full-length portrait of the hypocrite

I. They shut up the kingdom of heaven against others (verse 13).

II. They committed the grossest iniquity under a cloak of religion (verse 14).

III. They showed great zeal in making proselytes, yet did it only for gain, and made them more wicked (verse 15).

IV. They taught false doctrine, artful contrivances to destroy the force of oaths, and shut out the Creator from their view (verses 16-22).

V. They were superstitious (verse 23).

VI. They were openly hypocritical (verses 25-28).

VII. They professed great veneration for the memory of the pious dead, while at the same time they were conscious that they really approved the conduct of those who killed them (verses 29-31). Never, perhaps, was there a combination of more wicked feelings and hypocritical actions than among them; and never was there more profound knowledge of the human heart and more faithfulness than in Him who tore off the mask, and showed them what they were. (A. Barnes, D. D.)

The woes

I. Spiritual ambition; petitioners changed into beggars. The long prayers of the hypocrites, and the long sentence of judgment.

II. Those who shut the kingdom of heaven.

III. Proselytism. Soul-winners and soul-ruiners.

IV. The work of man up, the work of God down; the inward nothing, the outward everything. The true oath always by the living and true God. The blindest ignorance connected with a conceit of keenest insight into the laws of the kingdom of God.

V. Legality in little things; lawlessness in great.

VI. The outside and the inside of the cup and the platter, or the feast of the religious and moral hypocrite.

1. In the outward form, consecrated or adorned.

2. In the inner character, abominable and reprobate.

VII. The whited sepulchres: like pleasant abodes outwardly; caves of bones, diffusing death, within-spiritual death, in the guise of spiritual bloom.

VIII. The murderers of the prophets. To persecute Christ in His saints is to persecute Christ himself. (J. P. Lange, D. D.)

Folly of hypocrisy

If the devil ever laughs, it must be at hypocrites; they are the greatest dupes he has. They serve him better than any others, and receive no wages; nay, what is still more extraordinary, they submit to greater mortifications to go to hell, than the sincerest Christian to go to heaven. (Colton.)


Verses 16-22

Matthew 23:16-22

Whosoever shall swear by the Temple, it is nothing.

Thoughtless profanity

Are there any before me who are accustomed to use God’s name as an expletive, and to bandy it as a byword? Who employ it in all kinds of conversation, and throw it about in every place? Perhaps in their hearts they consider this an accomplishment! think it manly and brave to swear! Let me say, then, that profaneness is a brutal vice. He who indulges in it is no gentleman. I care not what his stamp ,nay be in society. I care not what clothes be wears, or what culture he boasts. Despite all his refinement, the light and habitual taking of God’s name betrays a coarse nature and a brutal will. Nay, he tacitly admits that it is ungentlemanly, for he restrains his oaths in the presence of ladies; and he who fears not to rush into the chancery of heaven and swear by the Majesty there, is decently observant in the drawing-room and the parlour. (E. H. Chopin, D. D.)

Ostentatious profanity

If there are hypocrites in religion, there are also, strange as it may appear, hypocrites in impiety-men who make an ostentation of more irreligion than they possess. An ostentation of this nature, the most irrational in the records of human folly, seems to lie at the root of profane swearing. (R. Hall.)

Unreasonable oaths

He that sweareth by any person, or thing, doth two things.

1. He attributeth to the thing, or person, by which he sweareth, a knowledge of the heart and the secret intention.

2. He calleth upon the person, or thing, by which he sweareth, to be his judge, or to take a revenge upon him, in case lie doth not believe in his heart what he affirmeth or denieth with his words to be true or false; otherwise an oath is no security at all. From whence appeareth that it is unreasonable for any to swear by any other than God, who alone can have a knowledge of the truth and security of the heart; and that he who sweareth by any creature committeth idolatry in his heart, and indeed blasphemeth playing Divine homage to a creature, and attributing to the creature what belongs only to the Creator. (M. Pool.)

The altar

The one altar which sanctifieth the gift is the person and merit of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I. Jesus Christ is the antitype of this brazen altar (Exodus 27:1-21.).

1. The altar typifies our Lord if we consider the use of it. To sanctify that which was put upon it, and to sustain it while the fire was consuming it. Our Lord lifts up our gifts towards heaven.

2. The place of the altar. You saw it the moment you entered the door of the tabernacle. The most prominent thought of the soul is Jesus as Mediator.

3. The form of the altar. It was foursquare; stability and endurance.

4. The materials of which the altar was made. Shittim wood, overlaid with brass; the former represents the incorruptible human character of Jesus: the latter the endurance of Christ.

II. A question or two.

1. Have you always taken care to keep to the one spiritual altar?

2. Are there not some among you who have been offering to God without an altar at all? You have not respect to the Mediator in your life, and prayers, and acts.

3. Whether we have not often forgotten to attach the importance to the altar which we should have done. We must plead the merit of Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 23-24

Matthew 23:23-24

And have omitted the weightier matters of the law.

Sins of omission

1. The very earliest cause of nearly all sin lies in omitting something which we ought to have done. Perhaps you left your room without prayer.

2. That sins of omission in God’s sight are of larger magnitude than sins of commission.

3. They will form the basis of judgment at the last day-“Ye gave Me no meat.”

4. Why is any man lost that is lost, but because he omitted God’s way of escape?

5. Sins of omission are characteristically sins of the Christian dispensation. Its laws are positive. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The great duties of religion

Define these weightier matters of the law.

1. One virtue originating immediately in primitive law is more important than another, an obligation to perform which is founded only on some particular circumstances.

2. Virtues anterior to particulars subsist after those circumstances.

3. A virtue that hath a great object is more than those which have small objects.

4. Every virtue connected with other virtues, and drawing after it many more, is greater than any single or detached virtue.

5. A virtue that constitutes the end, to which all religion conducts us, is more important than other virtues, which at most are only means to lead to the end. (J. Saurin)

Small duties of religion

Obligation to little duties may be urged, because

The superlative importance of the moral duties of religion

I. Moral duties, the weightier matters of the law, the love of God, justice, mercy, and fidelity, are more excellent in their own nature, and ought always to be preferred to all ritual and positive institutions, whenever they come into competition with them.

II. Notwithstanding the intrinsic and superior excellence of moral duties, yet those rites and external institutions which are of Divine appointment ought to be religiously observed, and it is really criminal in the sight of God to despise and neglect them. (W. Leechman.)

Sins of omission

The last words that Archbishop Usher was heard to express, were, “Lord, forgive my sins; especially my sins of omission.”

Fidelity in little duties no excuse for neglect of great

The tithing of cummin must not be neglected; but take heed thou dost not neglect the weightiest things of the Law-judgment, mercy, and faith; making your preciseness in the less a blind for your horrible wickedness in the greater. (W. Gurnall.)

All sin traced to an omission

It scarcely admits of a question, but that every sin which was ever committed upon the earth, is traceable, in the first instance, to a sin of omission. At a certain point of the genealogy of that sin, there was something of which it is not too much to say that if it had been done that sin would have been cut short. And the very earliest cause of that sin (whether you are able to discover a root or not) lay, not in anything we did, or said, or thought, but in that which we might have done, and did not do; or, might have said, and did not say; or, might have thought, and did not think. Every sin lies in a chain, and the first link is fastened to another link. For instance, that first sin committed after the Fall-Cain’s fratricide-was the result of anger; that anger was the result of jealousy; that jealousy was the result of an unaccepted sacrifice; that unaccepted sacrifice was the result of the absence of faith; and that absence of faith was the result of an inattentive ear, or a heart which had grown silent towards God … As you uncoil a sin, you have been surprised to find what a compound thing that is which, at first sight, appeared single. You have gone on, finding the germ of one sin in the seed of another sin, till you could scarcely pursue the process because it stretched so far; but, if you went far enough, you found at last that some neglect was the beginning of it all. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Sins of omission the most heinous

By which are we most pained-the omissions, or the commissions, of life? Say you have two persons whom you love. I will suppose a father with two sons. The one often offends him by direct and open disobedience; and your heart is made to ache, again and again, by his frequent and flagrant transgressions of your law. The other does nothing which is outwardly and palpably bad. His life is moral, and his course correct. But he shows no sign whatsoever of any personal regard for you. You long to catch some indication of affection; but there is none. Day after day you have watched for it; but still there is none! You are plainly indifferent to him. He does not injure you. But in no thought, or word, or deed, does he ever show you that he has you in his heart, to care for you and love you. Now, which of those two sons will pain you most? The disobedient, or the cold one? The one who often transgresses, or the one who never loves? The one who commits, or the one who omits? Is there a doubt that, however much the committee may the more injure himself, or society, the omitter most wounds the parent’s heart? And is it not so with the great Father of us all? (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Omission the sin of the lost

Why is any man lost who is lost? Is it because he did certain things which brought down upon him the righteous retribution of eternal punishment? No; but because, having broken God’s commandments, he omitted to use God’s way of escape-to go to Christ, to believe the promises, to accept pardon, to realize truth: therefore he is lost; and the cause of the final condemnation of every sinner in hell is a sin of omission. The gospel precept-unlike the law-is direct and absolute, not negative: “Thou shalt love God, and thy neighbour.” And therefore the transgression must consist in an omission. It is only by not loving, that you can be brought in guilty, under the code of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Religious duties great and small to be combined

Turning to the house-old, we may see how the principle here stated holds good. Public religious services must not be made the substitute for home duties; and, again, home duties must not be pleaded as an apology for the neglect of public ordinances. Arrangements ought to be made for rightly engaging in both. The instructing of other people’s children must not be allowed to keep us from giving needed attention to the godly upbringing of our own. And, again, the training of our own families should not be made a plea for exemption from all effort for the spiritual welfare of those of others. A workman meeting a friend on the street in Edinburgh, one Monday morning, said to him, “Why were you not at church last night? our minister preached an excellent sermon on home religion. Why were you not there to hear it?” “Because,” was the answer, “I was at home doing it.” That was a good answer, for the service was an extra one, and the man had been at church twice before. So he was right, with the third, to give his home duties the preference. But then, on the other hand, the “at home doing it” is not all, and it should be so provided for as not to take away from proper attendance on regular ordinances, otherwise the result will be that after a while religion will not be much cared for either in the church or in the home. A tardy student coming late into the class was asked by his professor to account for his want of punctuality; and replied that he had delayed for purposes of private devotion. But his teacher very properly reproved him by saying, “You had no right to be at your prayers, when you ought to have been here; it is your duty to make such arrangements that the one shall not interfere with the other.” So in regard to the conflicting claims of the household and the church upon you. Make arrangements for giving due attention to both, and do not sacrifice the one on the shrine of the other. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

These things done, and others not left undone

A clear conception of the real nature of Phariseeism is all that is needed to vindicate the severity of this denunciation.

1. The error of the Pharisees was not superficial, but fundamental. Their religion was not simply defective, but positively false.

2. Such radically erroneous notions concerning religion, lulled the Pharisees into absolute self-security.

3. Still further we may account for the severity of these denunciations from the fact that the Saviour foresaw that Phariseeism would in after ages become the greatest hindrance to the progress of His cause in the world. There is a constant tendency to retain the form after the life has departed.

I. That the commands of god are of different degrees of importance. There are matters of more weight than others among the Divine precepts. The heart that reverences God will seek to obey all, but each in its own order. In morals as in doctrine there are things essential and non-essential. The weightiest of all God’s commands have respect to judgment, mercy, faith. The inner is more important than the outward life; out of the heart are the issues of life, and therefore should have the greatest attention. So the great things and the smaller will follow in their train.

II. That attention to the matters of less importance will not compensate for the neglect of those which are of essential moment. Punctilious title-paying will not condone lack of humble faith in God.

III. That when the heart is right with God through faith in Jesus Christ, both the weightier matters and those of less importance will be properly attended to. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

The gnat and the camel

I. Inward qualities count for more than outward observances.

II. That a just sense of proportion is essential to a welt-regulated Christian mind. It is no infrequent thing to find a person who seems to be very religious curiously deficient in the sense of proportion. He cannot quite see what is great or what is small. If he be disposed to obstinacy or bigotry, he simply regards all that is plain to him as great; and all his tenets and regulations as equally great. If he be merely small-minded, by natural affinity he fastens keenly on small points. These are of the proper size for him; and he takes them to be quite large. Or if he be of a self-regarding mind, considering religion simply with reference to his own safety, he lays all the stress on the truths which are near himself, and has but a faint appreciation of those which are much more vast but more remote. (D. Fraser, D. D.)

Cummin

“That we meet so often,” says Sir Thomas Brown, “with cummin seeds in many parts of Scripture, in reference unto Judaea, a seed so abominable at present to our palates and nostrils, will not seem strange unto any who consider the frequent use thereof among the ancients, not only in medical, but in dietetical use and practice; for their dishes were filled therewith; and their noblest festival preparations in Apicius, were not without it; and even in the polenta and parched corn, the old diet of the Romans, unto every measure they mixed a small proportion of linseed and cummin seed. And so cummin is justly set down among things of vulgar and common use. (C. Bulkley.)

Tithe of mint

The Pharisee, in his minute scrupulosity, made a point of gathering the tenth sprig of every garden herb, and presenting it to the priest. (Dean Plumptre.)

Straining out a gnat

The expression may be more precisely rendered, “strain out a gnat,” and then there may be a reference intended to the custom that prevailed, among the more strict and accurate Jews, of straining their wine and other drinks, lest they should inadvertently swallow a gnat, or some other unclean insect: supposing that thereby they would transgress (Leviticus 11:20; Leviticus 11:23; Leviticus 11:41-42). A traveller in North Africa, where Eastern customs are very jealously retained, reports noticing that a Moorish soldier who accompanied him, when he drank, always unfolded the end of his turban, and placed it over the mouth of his bota, drinking through the muslin to strain out the gnats, whose larvae swarm in the water of that country. (Trench.)


Verses 25-28

Matthew 23:25-28

For ye make clean the outside of the cup.

Moral ablution

By this allusion to the cup and platter the Saviour taught that it is necessary to cleanse the heart first, that the external conduct might be pure.

I. Why must we cleanse ourselves from sin?

1. Because it renders us injurious to our fellow-men.

2. Because it hinders prayer.

3. Because it renders us offensive to God.

4. Because it is destructive to ourselves.

II. How may we cleanse ourselves from sin?

1. Not by merely desiring to be cleansed.

2. Not by external reformations.

3. Not by scrupulous attention to religious ordinances.

4. Not by mere repentance.

5. But by faith in the only cleansing element-the precious blood of Jesus.

III. When may we cleanse ourselves from sin? Now!

1. Delay increases the difficulty.

2. The present the only time of which we are sure.

3. God’s commands brook no delay, etc. (A. Tucker.)

Hypocrisy contradictory

Hypocrites are like pictures on canvas, they show fairest at farthest. A hypocrite’s profession is in folio, but his sincerity is so abridged that it is contained in decimo-sexto, nothing in the world to speak of. A hypocrite is like the Sicilian Etna, flaming at the mouth when it hath snow at the foot. Their mouths talk hotly, but their feet walk coldly. The nightingale hath a sweet voice, but a lean carcase; a voice, and nothing else but a voice: and so have all hypocrites. (Adams.)

Hypocrisy deceptive

As a thick wood that giveth great shadow doth delight the eyes of the beholders greatly with the variety of flourishing trees and pleasant plants, so that it seemeth to be ordained only for pleasure’s sake, and yet within is full of poisonous serpents, ravening wolves, and other wild beasts; even so a hypocrite, when outwardly he seemeth holy and to be well furnished with all sorts of virtues, doth please well the eyes of his beholders; but within him there lurketh pride, envy, covetousness, and all manner of wickedness, like wild and cruel beasts wandering in the wood of his heart. (Cawdray.)

Whited sepulchres:-Appearances not always to be trusted

Hypocrites seem as glow-worms, to have both light and heat; but touch them and they have neither. The Egyptian temples were beautiful on the outside, when within ye should find nothing but some serpent or crocodile. Apothecaries’ boxes oft have goodly titles when yet they hold not one dram of any good drug. A certain stranger coming on embassage unto the senators of Rome, and colouring his hoary hair and pale cheeks with vermilion hue, a grave senator espying the deceit stood up and said, “What sincerity are we to expect from this man’s hands, whose locks, and looks, and lips, do lie?” Think the same of-all painted hypocrites. These we may compare(as Lucian doth his Grecians) to a fair gilt bossed book; look within it, and there is the tragedy of Thyestes; or perhaps Arrius’ Thalya; the name of a muse, the matter heresy; or Conradus Vorstius’ book-monster that hath De Deo in the front, but atheism and blasphemy in the text. (J. Trapp.)

False appearances

If yon go into a churchyard some snowy day, when the snow has been falling thick enough to cover every monument and tombstone, how beautiful and white does everything appear! But remove the snow, dig down beneath, and you find rottenness and putrefaction-dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. How like that churchyard on such a day is the mere professor-fair outside, sinful, unholy within! The grass grows green upon the sides of a mountain that holds a volcano in its bowels. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Emblem of hypocrisy

A very capital painter in London exhibited a piece representing a friar habited in his canonicals. View the painting at a distance, and you would think the friar to be in a praying attitude. His hands are clasped together, and held horizontally to his breast; his eyes meekly demissed like those of the publican in the gospel, and the good man appears to be quite absorbed in humble adoration and devout recollection. But take a nearer survey, and the deception vanishes. The book which seemed to be before him is discovered to be a punch-bowl into which the rascal is all the while, in reality, only squeezing a lemon. How lively a representation of a hypocrite! (G. S. Bowes.)

There is a spice of hypocrisy in us all. (S. Rutherford.)

The hypocrite-the man that stole the livery of heaven to serve the devil in. (R. Pollok.)

The hypocrite takes a partial Christ

The hypocrite maps out the road to Zion, knows it well, has sounded with plummet the depths of the promises, can talk about them. But he has accepted a two-parts Christ; there is perhaps a little pet sin, snugly tucked up in a warm corner of his heart, that he is unwilling to part with. Christ is his Priest, his Prophet, but he will not have Him as his King.

Hypocrisy sometimes difficult to discover

Formality frequently takes its dwelling near the chambers of integrity, and so assumes its name; the soul not suspecting that hell should make so near an approach to heaven. A rotten post, though covered with gold, is more fit to be burned in the fire than for the building of a fabric. The dial of our faces does not infallibly show the time of day in our hearts; the humblest looks may enamel the former, while unbounded pride covers the latter. Unclean spirits may inhabit the chamber when they look not out at the window. (Archbishop Secker.)

Posthumous testimony to the great and good

I. A serious charge.

1. A too late recognition of goodness which, when living, was ignored or persecuted.

2. A pretended veneration of the characters of the pious dead.

3. In truth a signalizing of their own goodness.

II. A false defence.

1. Their character belied their profession-persecutors of Jesus would hardly have been defenders of Isaiah, etc.

2. Betrayed great ignorance of their own character.

III. A solemn verdict.

1. Pronounced guilty of the righteous blood shed by their party.

2. Hypocrites for pretending a veneration for departed worth while they persecuted living goodness.

Tombs

Tombs are the clothes of the dead: a grave is but a plain suit, and a rich monument is one embroidered. Tombs ought, in some sort, to be proportioned, not to the wealth, but deserts of the party interred. Yet may we see some rich man of mean worth loaden under a tomb big enough for a prince to bear. There were officers appointed in the Grecian games who always, by public authority, did pluck down the statues erected to the victors if they exceeded the true symmetry and proportion of their bodies. The shortest, plainest, and truest epitaphs are the best. Mr. Camden, in his “Remains,” presents us with examples of great men who had little epitaphs. And when once I asked a witty gentleman what epitaph was fitted to be written on Mr. Camden’s tomb, “Let it be,” said he, “Camden’s Remains.” I say also, “the plainest; “ for except the sense lie above ground, few will trouble themselves to dig for it. Lastly, it must be “true;” not, as in some monuments where the red veins in the marble may seem to blush at the falsehoods written on it. He was a witty man that first taught a stone to speak; but he was a wicked man that taught it first to lie. (N. Rogers.)

God searches the heart

Momus, the heathen god of ridicule, complained that Jupiter had not made a window in the human breast, so that it might be seen what was passing within. To an omniscient God no window is needed, every thought, and wish, and intention being perfectly discerned.

Garnished tombs

The tombs of saints in Egypt are held in great veneration. They are covered with a circular building in the form of a cupola, and are regularly whitewashed, repaired, rebuilt, and decorated, as was the case with the Jews. In the larger tombs lamps are kept constantly burning, as amongst the Romanists, and no Christian is allowed to enter. At Pera the tablets are all upright, and surmounted with turbans, tarbooshes, or flowers. The dignity of the person in the grave is displayed by the kind of turban at the top of the stone. Most were of white marble, and many richly gilt and ornamented. They are about the size of our railway mile-posts, and are as thick on the ground as nine-pins. The flowers denote females. Some are painted green, these were descendants of Mahomet. (Gadsby.)

Whitened sepulchres

In the plains of Sahrai-Sirwan Rawlinson noticed many whitewashed obelisks placed on any elevations which occurred conveniently, some rising to the height of fifteen feet, a modern example of “whitened sepulchres.” The custom of “garnishing the sepulchres” prevails more or less throughout Persia.

Outward purification must begin within

I. It is a characteristic of fallen men that they are apt to content themselves with cleansing the outside. They are at greater pains to seem pure than to be pure.

II. Though outward purity is desirable, and even measurably praiseworthy, yet, if it be not the fruit of a purified heart, it is unreliable and comparatively valueless. For the welfare of this life it is better that one should be winning than repulsive, moral than immoral. It is better to have a washed outside than to have both outside and inside filthy. If outside only it is unreliable; has no inherent permanency.

III. A cleansed heart is a sure producer of genuine and permanent purity of life. Learn:

1. That God estimates character by the state of the heart.

2. That man has a corrupt heart, and is therefore loathsome in God’s sight.

3. That to have God’s favour man must be cleansed, and that to be effectual it must begin in his heart.

4. That there is such a thing as being effectually cleansed and rendered acceptable to the Holy One. (T. Williston.)

Deception deceived

So it ever comes to pass that we are punished for deceiving others by being ourselves deceived. Our success secures our delusion. When an act which is properly an indication of some good motive is repeatedly performed in the sight of those who cannot see the heart, they take for granted the motive and give us the credit of it-provided only the act be of the class which it is the fashion of the day and place to applaud as religious. We are assumed to be what, at first, we know we are not. But in time this knowledge fades away; we accept as the independently formed judgment of others that which really rested upon our own successful deception; we come to consider our conduct as in itself sufficient proof of the motive which is universally assumed to be its source. We move in a circle of hypocrisy, and it becomes difficult to decide whether we are the authors or the victims of the delusion. We are, in fact, both. (J. C. Coghlan, D. D.)


Verse 29

Matthew 23:29; Matthew 23:33; Matthew 23:36

How can ye escape the damnation of hell?
-

The difficulty of escaping the damnation of hell

I. What your situation actually is.

1. You are even now under sentence of condemnation.

2. You need to be awakened, no man will escape a danger he does not perceive.

3. In order to escape final condemnation you must pursue religion with perseverance.

II. The obstacles.

1. The effect of sin is to make men blind to their own sins.

2. The sinner often seeks deliverance in a way in which it cannot be obtained.

3. The unbelieving heart will not submit to God until its opposition be removed.

4. The fascinating power of worldly objects.

5. Then you say the difficulties are so great that you have not courage to make the attempt to escape. (E. Payson, D. D.)

Pretence vain

To pretend holiness when there is none is a vain thing. What were the foolish virgins better for their blazing lamps when they wanted oil? What is the lamp of profession without the oil of saving grace? What comfort will a show of holiness yield at last? Will painted gold enrich? Painted wine refresh him that is thirsty? Will painted holiness be a cordial at the hour of death? A pretence of sanctification is not to be rested in. Many ships have had the name of Hope, the Safeguard, the Triumph, yet have been cast away upon the rocks; so many who have had the name of saintship have been cast into hell. (T. Watson.)

Suspension and infliction of judgments

1. It is not right that God should punish one generation for the sins of another.

2. It is just that God should punish all generations for their own sins.

3. God might if He pleased pass by the sins of all generations; He might punish them hereafter, not here.

4. It is right that God should punish one generation and not another. He has always acted as a Sovereign in sparing or punishing particular generations. God delayed to destroy the Egyptians.

5. When God does spare one generation and punish another He always has some good reason for both sparing and punishing.

6. The sins of one generation may be a good reason why God should punish the sins of another.

7. It is criminal and foolish for one generation to imitate the sins of a former.

8. It is well for the present generation to discountenance open vices prevailing.

9. Sinners always are the troublers of the world. (N. Emmons, D. D.)


Verse 33

Matthew 23:29; Matthew 23:33; Matthew 23:36

How can ye escape the damnation of hell?
-

The difficulty of escaping the damnation of hell

I. What your situation actually is.

1. You are even now under sentence of condemnation.

2. You need to be awakened, no man will escape a danger he does not perceive.

3. In order to escape final condemnation you must pursue religion with perseverance.

II. The obstacles.

1. The effect of sin is to make men blind to their own sins.

2. The sinner often seeks deliverance in a way in which it cannot be obtained.

3. The unbelieving heart will not submit to God until its opposition be removed.

4. The fascinating power of worldly objects.

5. Then you say the difficulties are so great that you have not courage to make the attempt to escape. (E. Payson, D. D.)

Pretence vain

To pretend holiness when there is none is a vain thing. What were the foolish virgins better for their blazing lamps when they wanted oil? What is the lamp of profession without the oil of saving grace? What comfort will a show of holiness yield at last? Will painted gold enrich? Painted wine refresh him that is thirsty? Will painted holiness be a cordial at the hour of death? A pretence of sanctification is not to be rested in. Many ships have had the name of Hope, the Safeguard, the Triumph, yet have been cast away upon the rocks; so many who have had the name of saintship have been cast into hell. (T. Watson.)

Suspension and infliction of judgments

1. It is not right that God should punish one generation for the sins of another.

2. It is just that God should punish all generations for their own sins.

3. God might if He pleased pass by the sins of all generations; He might punish them hereafter, not here.

4. It is right that God should punish one generation and not another. He has always acted as a Sovereign in sparing or punishing particular generations. God delayed to destroy the Egyptians.

5. When God does spare one generation and punish another He always has some good reason for both sparing and punishing.

6. The sins of one generation may be a good reason why God should punish the sins of another.

7. It is criminal and foolish for one generation to imitate the sins of a former.

8. It is well for the present generation to discountenance open vices prevailing.

9. Sinners always are the troublers of the world. (N. Emmons, D. D.)


Verse 36

Matthew 23:29; Matthew 23:33; Matthew 23:36

How can ye escape the damnation of hell?
-

The difficulty of escaping the damnation of hell

I. What your situation actually is.

1. You are even now under sentence of condemnation.

2. You need to be awakened, no man will escape a danger he does not perceive.

3. In order to escape final condemnation you must pursue religion with perseverance.

II. The obstacles.

1. The effect of sin is to make men blind to their own sins.

2. The sinner often seeks deliverance in a way in which it cannot be obtained.

3. The unbelieving heart will not submit to God until its opposition be removed.

4. The fascinating power of worldly objects.

5. Then you say the difficulties are so great that you have not courage to make the attempt to escape. (E. Payson, D. D.)

Pretence vain

To pretend holiness when there is none is a vain thing. What were the foolish virgins better for their blazing lamps when they wanted oil? What is the lamp of profession without the oil of saving grace? What comfort will a show of holiness yield at last? Will painted gold enrich? Painted wine refresh him that is thirsty? Will painted holiness be a cordial at the hour of death? A pretence of sanctification is not to be rested in. Many ships have had the name of Hope, the Safeguard, the Triumph, yet have been cast away upon the rocks; so many who have had the name of saintship have been cast into hell. (T. Watson.)

Suspension and infliction of judgments

1. It is not right that God should punish one generation for the sins of another.

2. It is just that God should punish all generations for their own sins.

3. God might if He pleased pass by the sins of all generations; He might punish them hereafter, not here.

4. It is right that God should punish one generation and not another. He has always acted as a Sovereign in sparing or punishing particular generations. God delayed to destroy the Egyptians.

5. When God does spare one generation and punish another He always has some good reason for both sparing and punishing.

6. The sins of one generation may be a good reason why God should punish the sins of another.

7. It is criminal and foolish for one generation to imitate the sins of a former.

8. It is well for the present generation to discountenance open vices prevailing.

9. Sinners always are the troublers of the world. (N. Emmons, D. D.)


Verses 37-39

Matthew 23:37-39

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets.

The invitation refused

Consider some of the different modes in which the rejection of God’s call has been made. Far, all do not reject Him alike.

I. Some will even rise up and say, “I Do not consider that i have ever yet been called.”

1. Those who wish they could believe they had been called, but cannot think such good news true.

2. Those who are waiting for a louder, more irresistible call, saying, “Why does not God, if He would indeed save me, make some great interposition on my behalf?” Alas for the guilty unbelief of the one, and the awful, blasphemous presumption of the other!

II. Those who, although conscious of having been called, yet treat the matter with indifference. These are “men at ease in Zion”; familiarized with stifled convictions; of secular habit of mind; to whom invisible things carry no reality in daily life. Three classes of them depicted in Luke 14:18-20.

III. Those who recognize the importance of the Divine call, but who put off the acceptance of it. Satan decoys them by enticing pictures of their own future. They live in fancies of their own coming holiness, thinking that to-morrow’s goodness will make up for to-day’s worldliness. Oh the sin l As if they could command the sovereign working of the Holy Ghost! As if-having refused Him their attention now-they may recall Him when they please.

IV. Those who, at the time, receive,” welcome, reciprocate the love of God; and then, when the excitement of the moment is past, their feelings evaporate, and nothing remains. Their religion never becomes a principle.

V. Those who listen to the heavenly call, draw nigh, taste the heavenly gift; and then the old, carnal nature asserts its sway, and they draw back again. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

God’s continual calls

Oh that “how often”! Do not let it be a mere impassioned exclamation. Make it what it is, a distinct, definite question put to you this day-“how often?” And what arithmetic can write the answer? I never yet visited a man upon a sick-bed-I never talked with a single person in any of those moments which unlock the breast, and set it free to speak its secrets-that I did not receive this confession: “I have been greatly conscious all my life of the inward striving, and the oft-repeated calls of God in my soul.” Sometimes, doubtless, those calls fall louder and deeper upon the spiritual ear than they fall at other times. They lie thickest, I believe, in early life. There are states of mind we can scarcely say how, and there are providential scenes we can scarcely say why, which give an intensity to those many voices, when a verse of Scripture will sometimes roll its meaning like thunder, or when a whisper of the soul will carry an accent tenfold with it. But the call is not confined to those specialities. There is a “finger of a man’s hand” which is always waking the strings of thought. It is when we lie down; it is when we rise up; it is when we sit in the house; it is when we are walking by the way. We can see it on the little face of early childhood, before the date when our utmost memories reach; we can trace it in ourselves back to the utmost dawn of rising reason. Perhaps not a room in which we have ever laid down to sleep; perhaps not a church into which we have ever entered, even with careless foot; perhaps not a sin which we ever deliberately went and did; perhaps not an incident for weal or woe that lies on the chequered path of life, but there was something there which swelled that “how often?” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Why the Divine invitation is refused

Of all the refusals of God’s grace, the real secret is the same. They may cover themselves with various pretexts-just as persons, having made up their mind to decline an invitation, begin to look out for some convenient excuse-but the cause is one. It is not in any outward circumstances; it is not in any particular temperament; it is not in the want of power; it is not in the straitenings of Divine grace: but the Saviour points to it at once with His omniscient mind-“ye would not.” It is the absence of the will; it is the want of that setting of the mind to God’s mind; that conformity of the affections to God’s promises; that appreciation of unseen things; that spiritual sense, which is the essence and the beginning of a new life. Therefore they cannot come. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Compassion of Jesus towards the guilty

Scripture is full of the sublime and pathetic. It opens to us the very heart of the Redeemer. Observe here-

I. The cruelty and wickedness of the Jews. They paid no regard to the character and Divine commission of God s prophets.

1. An act of great injustice and ingratitude.

2. An act of rebellion against God.

II. Christ’s tenderness and care. The hen an affectionate creature to her young. When justice pursues, Satan assaults, and hosts of enemies compass us round about; if we can but get under the shadow of Christ’s wings we are safe, and, being safe, may be content. The wings of Christ are so large, they are sufficient to cover the whole Church. They are also strong and impenetrable, and ever stretched out to screen us from danger.

III. Christ’s earnestness and importunity. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem.” “How often.”

IV. Stubbornness and perverseness of those so tenderly regarded. “Ye would not.” Not a want of power, but of will.

1. None continue the slaves of Satan and sin but with their own consent.

2. Every man may be saved if he wilt.

3. Divine influence necessary to overcome the sinner’s enmity. (B. Beddome, M. A.)

Relationship between the Lord and His people

I have been raising chickens this year, and have devoted a part of my pear-orchard to the chicken-coops; and I have been accustomed to go out mornings and evenings to see that the boy took care of the chickens. I think I have now about ten or fiften broods. The old hen, when watching them, would cluck; and it was to them a warning of danger, I suppose. They understand it to mean that they are to come in. I could not understand that language; but these little things that had never been to school understood instantly just what she said. She gave her whole self to them; and their instinct was to run under her; and when there to lift themselves close up to her body, and get their warmth from her. I have watched them as they did this again and again. What an idea of the intimate and endearing relationship between the soul and the Lord Jesus Christ is conveyed in that figure. (H. W. Beecher.)

Christ the refuge for the destitute

I remember some few years ago meeting a young woman at a mission, who said that for two years she had been trying to make herself feel her sins, and could not. This was to her a great grief. I had been preaching on the words of Christ in this verse; so I said to her, “Suppose a little chick were half frozen in a barn-yard, and could scarcely feel itself alive from numbness, what would be the best thing for it to do? Would it not be to flee at once to the warmth of the hen’s wing?” I think she saw her mistake. I think she learnt that those who would learn more of their sin, and who desire a more contrite spirit, can find it nowhere so surely and fully as in nearness to Jesus, trusting only in His grace, and finding their shelter beneath His merciful wings. (G. Everard, M. A.)

Willingness to save

I. The manifestation of God to Israel which this verse brings before us.

1. God’s sovereignty of Israel. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem.” Why should Jerusalem be singled out from all other nations. He had a right to select the depositaries of His truth.

2. God’s grace in the messages which He sent to this people. “Them which are sent unto thee.”

3. God’s mercy manifested in His dealings towards them.

4. God’s love.

5. God’s unchangeableness-“How often.”

6. God’s justice” Behold your house is left unto you desolate.”

7. God’s faithulness in the final issue of His dealings with Israel.

II. The special instruction to ourselves. Learn what we have to do with the purposes, messages, salvation of God. Like Christ, Christians should desire and seek the salvation of men. (W. Cadman, M. A.)

Of God’s free grace and man’s free will

In this invective two things are to be considered, the rebellion of Jerusalem, in verse 37; the punishment of this sin, verse 38. Touching the rebellion itself, three things are set down-

(a) The vileness of man’s nature, and our violent proneness to sin.

(b) To exercise ourselves in the duties of goodness, meekness, peace to all men.

(c) Not to oppose ourselves against the ministers of God. (W. Perkins.)

God’s gracious dealings with sinners

I. God has desired to gather you to Himself. Have you not had gathering mercies, invitations, appeals, providences, seasons?

II. But you have often rejected the overtures of Divine mercy. Your unwillingness is the result of your ignorance of your real state, unbelief, love of the world, dislike to Christ’s terms.

III. The obstinate rejection of the Divine mercy must involve the sinner in irreparable ruin. Application: In order to salvation your will must harmonize with the will of God. The entire responsibility is with you. (J. Burns, LL. D.)

Privilege and duty

I. Jerusalem’s privileges. The natural advantages of Jerusalem were very great. Typical of higher spiritual privileges-the goodly fellowship of the prophets; the extraordinary ministrations of special men, raised up and qualified by God, and sent to warn people from their sins, and to bid them repent and live; the personal ministry of the Son of God. The mind involuntarily turns to the privileges of England, and of London.

II. Jerusalem’s sins. Ingratitude and cruelty. Illustrates the lengths which those will go in sin who cherish affection for forbidden sins, and who harden their hearts against Divine things.

III. Jerusalem’s doom. Warn against hardness of heart and contempt of the word and doctrine. (J. J. Sargent.)

I. Men, while they are in a state of nature, are exposed to imminent danger. As transgressors of the law of God they are liable to its penalty. They overlook this danger, but it is real, and it is terrific.

II. Our Lord Jesus Christ offers Himself as a shelter against this danger. If He had been a mere man He could not have been the Saviour.

III. He fulfils this function with condescending tenderness.

IV. He delivers His people by the substitution of His own life for theirs.

V. The immediate result of application to Him is safety.

VI. Men are responsible in the matter of their own salvation. (President Davies.)

Judgment in tears

Such is the affecting apostrophe in which our Lord’s faithful denunciations of “Woe, woe!” terminate. Like the thunder-cloud, which, having discharged its bolt at the earth, weeps itself away-exhausts itself in a healing shower, which closes the rent it had made-so His pity commiserates, and pours itself forth over those whom, in the same breath, He had felt Himself called to rebuke. (Dr. J. Harris)

Christ’s protection rejected

As much as to say, as the parent bird, when she sees some bird of prey hovering over her helpless young, gives them the signal, which nature teaches them to understand, and spreads her wings to protect them, resolved to become a prey herself rather than her tender brood; or, as she shelters them from the rain and cold, and cherishes them under her friendly feathers,-so, says the compassionate Redeemer, so, O Jerusalem! I see thy children, like heedless chickens, in the most imminent danger; I see the judgments of God hovering over them; I see the Roman eagle ready to seize them as its prey; I see storms of vengeance ready to fall upon them; and how often have I invited them to fly to me for shelter, and gave them the signal of their danger I how often have I spread the wings of My protection to cover them, and keep them warm and safe as in My bosom! but, O lamentable I O astonishing I ye would not! I was willing, but ye would not! The silly chickens, taught by nature, understand the signal of approaching danger, and immediately fly for shelter; but ye, more silly and presumptuous, would not regard My warnings; would not believe your danger, nor fly to Me for protection, though often-oh, how often-warned and invited! (President Davies.)

O Jerusalem

I. What it is Christ proposed to confer upon his people. Christ not only willing but tenderly anxious to confer the various privileges of light and grace.

1. When our Saviour declares He would have collected them, He means He would bless them with all the privileges common to that Church, of which He was the head, and which He came to construct.

2. The moral state of the people when our Saviour stated His willingness to receive them to Himself. The readiness of Christ to receive any class of sinners. The haughty Pharisee. The infidel Sadducee. They had rejected the ministry of Christ. Divine love goes out towards these.

3. Their danger.

II. The declaration of Christ respecting the means employed for our salvation-“I would have gathered you.”

1. Tenderness.

2. Long-suffering.

3. A time will come when He will leave us to our sins if we continue to spurn Him from us. (J. Dixon, D. D.)

Christ’s pity for the sinner

The reasons of this special sympathy.

I. Christ as our Redeemer knows the dreadfulness of sin, and therefore pities those to whom it clings.

II. He pities the sinner, knowing all that is involved in his final doom.

III. Christ is the exponent of God’s infinite love to man.

IV. There is a ground for this compassion of Christ, growing out of His knowledge of the completeness of His salvation and the security of those who accept it.

V. The Saviour’s compassion is founded upon His knowledge of what the gospel cost Him to achieve. But if Christ’s power is boundless and His pity so great, why does He not interfere to save us anyhow? God deals with man as a free agent.

1. The loss of the soul is self-caused.

2. How great the sin of refusing the gospel. (B. F. Palmer, D. D,)

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 23:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/matthew-23.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, December 7th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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