Page images
PDF
EPUB

to which his authority extended; to the latter, that the rights of God were to be strictly preserved to him, even in those instances where they might happen to interfere with the claims of civil

governors. 22. When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

They were surprised that he should perceive their design, and that he should have so much wisdom, as to avoid the snare which they had laid for him; they went away, therefore, chagrined and ashamed.

23. The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him,

24. Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.

This law we have in Deut. xxv. 5. The design of the law was to prevent the inheritance from going out of the family, by the widow of the deceased marrying a stranger. It was also a custom which prevailed among the patriarchs before the giving of the law: hence the Sadducees took occasion to object to the doctrine of the resurrection, which was taught by our Lord, and thought he would find it as difficult to answer their objection, as the Pharisees had. What they mention is not, probably, what really happened, but a case supposed

25. Now there were with us seven brethren; and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and having no issue, left his wife unto his brother.

26. Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh.

27. And last of all the woman died.

28. Therefore in the resurrection, whose wife shall she be of the seven ? for they all had her.

The Pharisees, believing the doctrine of a resurrection, rather from tradition than any express authority of Scripture, had formed very gross conceptions concerning the future state of good men, and supposed it to be more like a Mahometan paradise, in which we are to enjoy all kinds of sensual pleasure, than that state of refined delight which the gospel teaches us to expect. To them, therefore, this objection of the Sadducees appeared unanswerable: for if the ties of marriage were binding in heaven, as well as upon earth, the same woman would have seven husbands.

29. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err,

not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.

They discovered ignorance of the Scriptures, in denying a resurrection from the dead; because, as he proves immediately, the Scriptures contain evidence of that doctrine; and ignorance of the power of God; because they imagined it impossible for him to restore to life a body once resolved into the dust of the ground; or at least to give it any frame or constitution materially different from that which it now possesses.

30. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels of God in heaven.

The marriage relation will no longer be suitable to the state of men, after the resurrection: for they will cease to be flesh and blood, as they now are; which, we are told, cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; nor will any of the human race die any more, so as to make an addition to them by procreation necessary; but they will be immortal, like the angels of God.

31. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying,

32. I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead þut of the living

To prove a resurrection of the dead, Jesus refers them to the language of God to Moses at the bush, Exod. iii. 6. where he calls himself the God of Abraham, of Isaac and Jacob: for he would not have called himself the God of these patriarchs, if they had perished, and were never to be restored to life again: his denominating himself their God was, therefore, a security to them that they should rise from the grave. In this argument our Lord evidently goes upon the supposition that there is no intermediate state between death and the resurrection, in which the soul exists separately from the body: for if there were such a state, God might be said to have verified the truth of his declaration, by preserving the souls of good men in it alive and happy, without any resurrection of the body; and therefore his argument would have no force with a Sadducee to prove a resurrection.

33. And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.

They were surprised to find him discover an argument for the certainty of a resurrection of the dead, in a passage of Scripture in which they never observed it before. There are intimations of this doctrine in other books of the Old Testament, besides what we have here; but this is referred to by our Lord, as being in one of the books of Moses, which alone the Sadducees are said to have admitted as authentic; or, at least, to which they paid a much greater respect, than to those of the other sacred writers.

REFLECTIONS.

1. In the conduct of the Pharisces and Herodians towards Jesus we have an example of what mean arts malicious men will stoop to use, in order to ruin or injure the object of their malice. They came to him with professions of the greatest respect, with high encomiums upon the excellence of his instructions, and upon the fearless integrity with which they were delivered; thus professing things totally opposite to the real sentiments of their hearts, in order that, being induced by these praises to express his opinion without reserve upon a political question, they might have an opportunity of accusing him of what would be deemed a political crime. Base and hypocritical men! who could thus assume the form of virtue and friendship, in order more effectually to deceive and ruin.

But such methods of ensnaring the innocent are not con fined to the Pharisees of old. Would to God there were no other country than Judæa, in which the same arts are employed for the same wicked purpose: where men endeavour, by flattery or insult, to allure or provoke their brethren to use language, which may afford ground of accusation and punishment! Such men have no reason to boast of their practices; they are following the example of the Pharisees and hypocrites, of the enemies of Jesus and of all goodness.

2. From the character here given of Jesus, and from his conduct upon the present occasion, we may learn in what manner a public teacher of the gospel ought to

His enemies say of him that he delivered the truth freely, without regarding the person of men;

act.

without regarding the manner in which it might be received; neither courting the favour of the great, nor seeking to avoid their displeasure. In this description they give him a just character, and such as is worthy the imitation of all those who are called to instruct mankind in their duty. They must not deny or conceal what they apprehend to be important principles, from the fear of personal danger. It is their duty to declare the truth with freedom and boldness, without considering whether it may please or offend those who hear it; whether it may promote or obstruct their temporal interest. Yet with this boldness caution

may

be mixed; nor is there any reason for unnecessarily exposing ourselves to danger: for our Lord, although he does not deny the truth on the present occasion, but delivers a decision which would please neither party, and might offend both; yet expresses himself in such cautious language, as would not afford his adversaries an opportunity of injuring him: thus uniting the prudence of the serpent with the innocence of the dove.

3. Let us attend to the exhortation which our Lord here gives to the Jews; to render to Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, and to God the things which are God's.

The authority of the civil magistrate is founded upon the ground of public utility: he is invested with such a degree of power, as the majority of the community approves, for preserving the peace and promoting the happiness of society: to refuse obedience to him, therefore, in the exercise of this authority, or to deny him that support which is necessary for fulfilling the purposes of his office, by artful evasion or open violence, is to oppose the general welfare, to withstand the purposes of heaven, which are always directed to the general good, and to commit no small crime. We ought, therefore, to obey him, not only for wrath, but for conscience-sake. If, however, he exceed the bounds to which he is limited by the office with which he is invested; if he apply to his own use, or to any foreign purpose, that power which is given him for the public weltáre, there the obligation to obedience and

« PreviousContinue »