Page images

that he went into the house of one of the chief Phari. sees to eat bread, on the Sabbath-day;" it appears from verse 3, that besides the host, there were present many “ lawyers and Pharisees.” This mode of life was the very opposite of that of John; yet, the Jews were still dissatisfied, and said, “Behold, a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners," or Gentiles. When John came abstinent, solitary, self-mortifying, they brand him as a madman; when Jesus came social, cheerful, accessible, they charge him with gluttony. How just and apposite, then, is that comparison which likens them to the children in the market - place, who were dissatisfied with the minstrelsy of their chosen companions, whether the airs were of a joyous or a sombre character! 1

Verses 20–22: “ Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you.” The word which is here translated “woe,” would be better translated " alas." 66 Woe unto thee!” is threat of vengeance; “ Alas for thee!” is an exclamation of pity and regret. It is evident that the latter was the feeling which pervaded the breast of the compassionating Jesus, when he uttered these sentences. Chorazin and Bethsaida were both small towns situate on the western coast of the sea of Galilee, or lake of Gennesareth, and not far from Capernaum, which was the usual residence of the Messias. Their inhabitants had, consequently, many opportunities of hearing his discourses and witnessing his miracles. The more numerous their facilities for believing that he was the Christ, the greater, of course, was the guilt of their infidelity. Tyre and Sidon were two celebrated cities and sea-ports of Phenicia, lying on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea; they were both celebrated for the beauty of their buildings, the opulence of their citizens, and the wealth of their merchants; but they were equally notorious for their gross idolatry and profligacy. They were threatened with a signal destruction by the prophet Ezekiel; which was effected by the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar. The Master asserts, that, notwithstanding their pride and polytheism, had he performed as many miracles among them as he did in Chorazin and Bethsaida, they would have “repented in sackcloth and ashes.” In the East Indies, at the present day, the native Hindûs, when they renounce secular employments and become religious mendicants, clothe themselves with a coarse cloth covered with ashes; this custom probably prevailed throughout all the East at the time of the Saviour's ministry.

“ And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell.” The phrase, "exalted unto heaven," is a Hebrew metaphor, expressive of the utmost prosperity, and of enjoyment of the greatest privileges. Well might this epithet be applied to Capernaum, for it was the fixed abode of the Saviour of the world, the place where most of his discourses were delivered, and most of his mighty works performed. It is threatened with being “ brought down to hell.” The word “hell,” here used, conveys now an improper idea to the English reader, though it did not do so when our Translation was made. The original word means “ a very deep place;" such was also the primitive signification of the word “ hell” in our own language; it formerly meant a hole, or deep place. As, to be “exalted unto heaven," in the former clause of the sentence, is to be understood not literally, but metaphorically, as intimating the prosperous state of Capernaum; so, the correlative, to be “ cast down to hell," must also be interpreted, not literally but metaphorically, as intimating the state of adversity to which that city should shortly be reduced. It is further to be remarked, that it is temporal judgments of which the Master is speaking. It was a temporal judgment which befel Tyre and Sidon, when they were conquered by Nebuchadnezzar; and it was a temporal judgment which befel Sodom, when it was destroyed by fire from heaven. The phrase “ day of judgment” is no objection to this statement; for the day of judgment to any places or persons, is the day in which the threatened judgment of the Deity is executed upon them. As the punishments of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom, were visited


them in this world, so the punishments foretold by Jesus concerning Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, which are compared to them, were also inAlicted in this world. In the wars between the Romans and the Jews, these places were so effectually destroyed by the army of Titus, that not a vestige of them now remains.

Verses 25, 26: “ At that time, Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight." Dr. Campbell, of Aberdeen, in his Translation of the Gospels, renders the beginning of this prayer_“I adore thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth." For this deviation from the public version, he gives the following reasons, in his note on the passage:-“ The word sometimes denotes to confess sins, sometimes to acknowledge favours, and sometimes to adore or celebrate. It is in the last of these senses I understand the word here. The nature of the sentiment makes this probable. But the reason assigned, verse 26, removes all doubt. “Yes, Father, because such is thy pleasure. • Every thing in which I discover thy will, I receive, not with acquiescence only, but with veneration.””

Verse 27: “ All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him." Some divines infer, from this passage, that it requires Omniscience to know the Father, and that, as Jesus knew him, he was Omniscient. They further conclude, that as none but the Father knew Jesus, his nature is as inscrutable as that of Jehovah. An easy and satisfactory exposition of the text can be afforded, without having recourse to such extraordinary hypotheses. Jesus was speaking of the knowledge of the will and counsels of the Father for the redemption of mankind, which were hidden from the “ wise and prudent” in their own conceit, and revealed to those who were comparatively s babes” in this world's philosophy. Still continuing to speak of this kind of

knowledge, he says, that “no one knoweth the Son but the Father.” At that period, as has been often remarked during the course of this Exposition, not even the chosen disciples of Christ had a just conception of the nature and objects of his mission. No one but God knew the purposes for which Jesus was sent into the world, or the means by which these purposes were to be ac

accomplished. But, if no one except the Father knew the real nature of Christ's office and mission (which was undoubtedly the case at that period), then no one but the Son could know the Father--no one but he could know the all-merciful plans of the Father, contemplated in the Gospel dispensation. Now, all Christians possess both the kinds of knowledge here mentioned; we know the Son, i. e. we know the nature of his office and his mission; we know the Father, i. e, we know what he contrived for our salvation; and we have this knowledge because we possess the Christian Revelation in its completeness. This is a simple and natural interpretation of the language of the passage, suggested from the scope of the context, and in accordance with the customary phraseology of Holy Writ.

Verses 28–30: “ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy,


burden is light.” The Jews were heavy laden, by the numerous and cumberous ceremonials of the Mosaic Ritual. They had their different sacrifices, their different offerings, their many fasts, their frequent purifications, their numerous feasts and festivals, their new moons and Sabbaths. These rites were rendered still more insupportable by the additions made by the Scribes and Pharisees, for the purpose of making themselves more devout-looking in the estimation of the populace. This practice of theirs was afterwards expressly noticed and censured by the Master; for he tells them, that

they bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers." Jesus offers to his countrymen emancipation from this thraldom. He invites them to be adherents of a religion in which there

Take my



is no superfluity of rites or ceremonies; to connect themselves with a system of truth and a mode of worsbip which are spiritual, requiring not postures of the body, but affections of the heart; not purifications of the hands, but cleansing of the inward parts; not burnt-offerings of bulls or rams or he-goats, or oblations of wine or rivers of oil, but the sacrifice of a pure and loving heart. We, who have never been subjected to the bondage of forms, can have no adequate conception of the liberty thus proclaimed; but a Jew, who was constantly fatigued with the external observances of the Levitical law, and constantly alarmed lest he should have neglected some minute particulars, would feel the importance and graciousness of the invitation, “ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

CHAPTER XII. Verses 1, 2: “ At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath-day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath-day. Here is to be witnessed an example of the common conduct of persons who wish to be esteemed holier than their neighbours. The rubbing of corn between the hands to rid it of the chaff, was such a violation of the day of rest as offended the pious scruples of the Pharisees-- of those wbo devoured widows' houses, who fasted twice in the week, and paid tithe of anise and mint and cummin, while they neglected the weightier matters of the law. Such is the customary behaviour of hypocrites: not having their hearts stored with love to God and love to man, finding themselves deficient in true piety and genuine morality, they become exceedingly anxious about the littleness of forms and the triviality of ceremonies. The Jews, in general, paid a superstitious reverence to the Sabbath; which they carried to such an excess, that, in their wars with the Romans, they refused even to defend their property, their lives, or their liberty on that day. Of course, when the idolators discovered this, they postponed their attacks till the Sabbath, when they were sure of cheap victories over an unresisting enemy,

« PreviousContinue »