Page images
PDF
EPUB

porary space from the corruption that is in the world, was clearly shown, in the perfect union that prevailed on the realities of religion. Party disputes were forgotten or laid down, and the homage of every heart was rendered to the simplicity that is in Christ. The Spirit of God the Father, and sympathy with man, the brother, appeared to be the religion of the soul, when freed from the artificials, which over all Christendom prostrate the power which it was the purpose of God's only begotten Son to establish by the Gospel.

TESTIMONIAL TO The Rev. Robert E. B. MACLELLAN.“ At the termination of his engageinent as Minister of St. Mark's Chapel, Edinburgh, on the 15th of May, a number of Mr. Maclellan's friends presented him with the sum of One Hundred Guineas, as a tribute of their admiration of his talents, esteem for his character, and attachment to his person."

SETTLEMENTS AND RemovalS OF MINISTERS. Rev. F. Bishop, from Cheltenham to Warrington. Rev. L. Lewis, from Shepton-Mallet to Cheltenham. Rev. J. Owen, from Crediton to Shepton-Mallet.

THE

CHRISTIAN PIONEER.

No. 179.

JULY, 1841.

Vol. XV.

A BRIEF EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW.

(Continued from p. 278.)

CHAPTER XV. VERSES 1, 2: “ Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.” Both the word "tradition," and the thing expressed by that word, have exerted great sway over the minds of men, not only in the Jewish but in the Christian church. Among the Jews, tradition signified the oral, as contradistinguished from the written law. The written law contained the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses; the oral law was comprised in the traditions of the elders,” that is, doctrines and precepts which had descended from Moses to that generation without being committed to writing. The Jews pretend that when God gave Moses the written law from the top of Sinai, he also imparted to him the oral law, by which the other was to be interpreted. They say, that when Moses died, he delivered this oral law to Joshua, and Joshua to the elders that succeeded him; they to the prophets, from whom at length it came to Rabbi Juda Hakkedesh, who committed it to writing, in a book called the Mishna. This Mishna, or published collection of the “Traditions of the Elders,” was held in such estimation by the Jews, that they preferred it even to the Revelation of God. One of their common sayings on this subject, was,—“ The words of the Scribes are lovely beyond the words of the Law; for the words of the Law are weighty and light, but the words of the Scribes are all weighty." Here is a plain and plainly told preference of their human teachers to the inspired instructions of Jehovah, communicated by his chosen prophets and messengers. Well, then, did Jesus upbraid them with “making the word of God of none effect through their traditions.” How much of this unholy exaltation of human authority above the Bible, is to be found in the present day in almost all Christian churches ! When those belonging to the "sect every where spoken against,” profess to take the New Testament as their only guide and Jesus as their only teacher, the charge made against their ministers, is, not “ Why do not your people search the Scriptures?" but “Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? why do they transgress the decrees of the Convocation of London? why do they transgress the decrees of the Assembly of Westminster? why do they transgress the decrees of the Council of Trent?” When, however, we see frail human beings, men whose breath is in their nostrils, attempting to mend the perfect work of God; putting a finishing stroke to Divine Revelation; framing Creeds, and Articles, and Confessions, by which alone the Bible is to be interpreted; following after Athanasius and Calvin, Arminius and Knox; it is difficult to avoid supposing they are of opinion with the ancient Jews, who said, “The words of the Scribes are lovely beyond the words of the Law !”

The violation of tradition, which the scribes and Pharisees charged upon the disciples of Jesus, was, “that they wash not their hands when they eat bread." These persons, whose religion was all external, whose devotion consisted not in purity of heart but in cleanness of body, placed great stress on this particular observance. They esteemed eating with unwashed bands to be a crime of no ordinary magnitude; they regarded the persons who were guilty of it as no better than heathens, and absolutely excommunicated them from their synagogues. How absurd in themselves are all such corporeal observances; and how frequently do they usurp, in many minds, the place which ought to be occupied by the weightier matters of the law! Great, indeed, must have been both the hypocrisy and the malice of those, who, when they could discover nothing else in the faith or practice of Jesus and his disciples worthy of reprehension, grounded a charge of impiety on a dusty palm! The reply of Jesus to this indictment, displays consummate wisdom.

Verses 3-6: “ But he answered and said unto them,

Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother:, and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me, and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition."

The scribes and Pharisees had charged the disciples of our Master with transgressing the traditions of the elders; Jesus brings a much more serious charge against them, that of transgressing the commandments of God, and of being led thereto by the strength of their attachment to those same highly valued traditions. This charge he proceeds to prove.

6 God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and thy mother." By “honouring" their parents, the Jews understood, not only treating them with general respect, obedience, and affection, but also contributing to their support. This is obviously included in the command; for no matter what marks of reverence, what expressions of attachment we bestow upon them, if we see them hungry and feed them not, or naked and clothe them not, or in want of any of the necessaries and comforts of life which we can impart--we cannot be said, with any propriety of language, to “honour our father and our mother." It was thus a command of God, that children should contribute to the support of their parents. But the scribes had discovered a mode of cancelling this obligation; for they said, “ Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me,

* he shall be free.To use the expression concerning anything, “ It is a gift," or, Be it a gift, was equivalent to devoting it to the service of God, or to the treasury of the temple. After this devotion, it was considered unlawful to use the thing so devoted, in any other manner or for any

other

purpose. * Thus,"

say the Jewish Rabbis, “if a man say, Let all the wine that I shall taste be devoted; and if, notwithstanding, he was afterwards induced to drink wine, he became both sacrilegious and perjured;" sacrilegious, because the wine was no sooner tasted by him than it

*

became sacred, or dedicated to God for the service of the temple; and perjured, because that proceeding was tantamount to a vow against the use of wine, which vow he had now violated or forsworn. The meaning of the text is now apparent. By saying to his parents, “ It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me,” a man said, in other words, “I have devoted to God every portion of my goods which might have contributed to your support.” After this, according to the doctrine of the Pharisees, he was bound not to clothe or maintain his father or mother; for, if he did, as in the case already cited, he was guilty of sacrilege and perjury. He had devoted to the service of God all that portion of his substance which would, in other cases, have been appropriated to the maintenance of his parents: if now he made such an appropriation of it, he acted sacrilegiously, he applied to secular purposes that which had become sacred. He had vowed it should go to the temple treasury; if he now gave it to his parents, he broke his vow or oath, and was a perjurer. Thus, by obeying the traditions of the elders, any ungrateful child could relieve himself from the obligation of “honouring his father and mother," by the bestowal of food and raiment. How pertinent, then, the question of Jesus, " Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” Here was a plain, express injunction of the Deity, obligatory on persons of every church, and age, and nation, yet the Hebrew Scribes had made it of none effect, by preferring before it the inventions of their ancestors. From the whole of this argument, it may be safely concluded, that instead of piety it is impiety, to devote to so-called religious purposes that property which ought to be expended in relieving the wants of our parents, our children, or our poor relations; that it is our first duty to see that they be provided for, and our second, if we have anything to spare, to expend it in the propagation of the Gospel, and the promotion of morality.

We are often astonished at the dulness of comprehension exhibited by the disciples of Jesus; though it is valuable as showing, that as they neither appreciated the character nor the morality of the new Teacher, they were incapable themselves of inventing such a character

« PreviousContinue »