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support ceases: for there a regard to the general good does not require obedience. The business of the civil magistrate is confined to civil concerns; the regulation of religious practice and belief belongs to a higher power: if, therefore, he take upon him to determine, even by sanction of the authority of the community, what men shall believe in religion; when or how, they shall worship God; and in doing this enjoin things which conscience does not approve, or God has no where required; here submission to him would be treason against heaven; it would be to deny to God the things which are God's, and to give to men the things which do not belong to them. If any blame us for this opposition, let us answer, in the words of the apostle, “whether we ought to obey men, rather than God, judge ye.”
4. Let us be thankful to God for giving us, in the gospel of Christ, such clear evidence of a resurrection from the dead; for not leaving us to collect this important doctrine from the uncertain testimony of tradition, or from hints scattered throughout the Old Testament, which, after all, must be acknowledged to be few and obscure. We have clear and repeated declarations of this most momentous truth from the mouth of Jesus, who was fully acquainted with the divine counsels, and was commissioned by God to reveal his will to the world. He plainly tells us that whoso believeth in him, though he were dead, yet shall he live again; and that all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the son of man, and come forth. The meaning of these promises is illustrated, and their truth confirmed, by the resurrection and ascension of Jesus himself. Let us, therefore, join with the apostle Peter in his memorable act of thanksgiving upon this subject. “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, of his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and which fadeth not away, reserved in the heavens."
Matthew xxii. 34. to the end.
34. But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together, rather," for the same purpose;" i. e. that of making trial of him.
There was a constant spirit of rivalship between these two sects; so that the Pharisees, hearing that the Sadducees were disgraced, resolved to try whether they could not acquire more credit than their adversaries, by proposing to him difficult questions.
35. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, “ a teacher of the law,” asked him a question, tempting him, “ trying him," and saying,
The person who is here called a lawyer is in Mark xii. 28. said to be a scribe; so that scribes and lawyers signified the same persons; those who made it their profession to study and expound the law of Moses and the traditions of the elders: they were all, or most of them, of the sect of the Pharisees.
36. Master, which is the great commandment in the law ? This was a question much debated among
them: some maintaining that the greatest commandment of the law was that which related to the sacrifices; others, the law of circumcision; and others, that which enjoined the observance of the sabbath; although they might have learnt from their prophets, that the performance of outward ceremonies was of little value in the divine estimation, in comparison with the laws of justice, mercy and piety.
37. Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
The meaning of these words is not that we are not to think of, or love any thing, besides God: for that would be inconsistent with the condition of men in the world; but that we are to bestow upon him our chief affection, and to love him better than any other object *.
This precept is found in Deut. vi. 5. it is there preceded by a solemn declaration of the divine unity: “ Hear, Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” Were there two Gods, of equal perfection, it would be impossible to comply with this precept: for each would have an equal claim to our affection.
38. This is the first and great commandment.
This precept is superior in importance to every other: for whoever complies with it will perform the most excellent of all duties, and cherish in his breast a principle, which will lead him to the performance of every other. God has a stronger claim to our affection, than any other being; and if we love him with supreme regard, it will lead us to obey his will, not in one instance only, but in all.
39. And the second is like unto it. The second is a great command likewise; like unto the first in importance, although inferior to it. This is the only resemblance which our Lord has in view, a resemblance in point of importance, and not a resemblance between the virtues which the two commandments enjoin, piety and charity.
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
* Several different phrases are here used, not to convey different ideas, but to express more strongly the same thing.
Thou shalt love him sincerely and unfeignedly, as every one loves himself; not equally, in point of strength of affection. The question of the lawyer, or rather of the Pharisees, to him, respecting the first commandment, had no reference to the second; yet Jesus takes this occasion to mention it; probably, because the Pharisees were deficient in the love of their neighbour, as appeared by their repeated attempts to kill our Lord.
40. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
All the institutions of the law and injunctions of the prophets are established upon these two commands, of loving God and our neighbour; so that he who obeys them will be disposed to obey every other precept: it is hence, therefore, that they derive their importance.
41. While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,
The Pharisees having proposed several difficult questions to Jesus, in order to display their own knowledge, and to ensnare or expose him, he now proposes a difticulty to them, which, if they were not able to remove it, would bring disgrace upon them in the eyes of the people, and check their forwardness for the future.
42. Saying, What think ye of Christ ? Whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David.
That is, a descendent of David, as they inferred from Is. xi. 1. where it is said; "and there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." That this prophecy refers to the Messiah is evident from the subsequent part of it.
43. He saith unto them, How then doth David, in spirit, rather, “ by the Spirit,” call him Lord, saying,
44. The Lord said unto my Lord,
Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.
This quotation is taken from Ps. cx. 1. which is calied a psalm of David; whence it appears that it was composed by him, or at least was supposed to be so; nor would our Lord have quoted it as his, unless it had been acknowledged by the Jews to have been written by him. In this psalm David, by the assistance of the Spirit of God, appears to be favoured with a prospect of the future Messiah; in the same manner as Abraham saw Christ's day; and to hear the language which God, the great Lord of all, addresses to him; desiring him to sit at his right hand, in the place of chief honour, until he should bring all enemies to his feet; or make them his footstool, i. e. reduce them to a state of the lowest subjection.
As David on this, as well as other occasions, spoke by the direction of the Spirit of God, (See 2 Sam. xxii. 2.) his language was a prophecy of the future kingdom and glory of the Messiah. But what our Saviour principally intended was to point out to the Jews the very honourable appellation which he gives him;
45. If David then call him Lord, how is he his son ?
The Pharisees expected that the Christ would be a temporal prince, who would possess great power and splendour; but they had no conception that his superiority to David could be so great, as to entitle him to the appellation of his Lord: they were not, therefore, able to answer this question: but what perplexed them occasions no difficulty to us: for when we consider the extraordinary communications of power and knowledge which were made to the son of David, while in the world; the authority to which he is exalted, since his death, being made head over all things to the church, and appointed governor of a kingdom, which is to know no limits but the boundaries of the world, and entrusted with authority to raise the dead, and, among the