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lets between thine eyes.” It was usual for the Jews in general to wear them; but the scribes made them larger than common, in order that they might be more conspicuous, or contain a greater number of sentences from the law. What are here called the borders of their garments were the fringes or tufts of twisted thread, which the children of Israel were ordered to make on the corners of their garments; probably, with no other view, than that of distinguishing them from other nations, and reminding them of their peculiar relation to God. See Numb. xv. 37---40. where God says unto Moses; “Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments, throughout their generations; and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: and it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them.” These fringes the Scribes made very long; and hence it is that they are described, as loving to go in long clothing, and in long robes *. Their design in this was to render their observance of the law the more conspicuous.
6. And love the uppermost rooms, “ the first places,” at feasts, and the chief seats, “ the first seats,” in the synagogue.
Whatever conferred honour and distinction the Scribes were eager to secure to themselves, and were therefore fond of the first seats at all public places.
7. And greetings, “ salutations,” in the markets, or, “ in the streets.”
They love to be addressed by some respectful appellation, such as that which follows; Our father, master, teacher, which should point out the estimation in which they were holden.
And to be called of men Rabbi, Rabbi.
* Mark xii. 38. Luke xx. 46.
This word which signifies my master, or my teacher, was at first used by scholars to their instructors, but came afterwards to be applied to all those who distinguished themselves by their knowledge, and particularly, to those who were at the head of new schemes and sects in divinity. This title the Scribes were fond of receiving, as a testimony of their learning and consequence. For the opinions of those who were thus called were held in great respect, and regarded almost as infallible. There seems no propriety in the repetition of the word Rabbi in this verse; and we find it omitted in some ancient manuscripts, and in all the ancient translations; which makes it probable that it is added by mistake*
8. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your master, “your teacher,” even Christ.
Do not affect to be called teacher: for that title properly belongs to me, who am the source of all the supernatural knowledge you possess, and communicate to others.
And all ye are brethren. These words are omitted here, and placed at the end of the next verse, in twenty different manuscripts of this gospel; and it is evident that they have a much greater connection with the language there used, than with what is here said: for men are brethren, not because they are the disciples of one master, but because they are the children of one Father.
9. And call no man your father upon the earth.
This was another title which the Jewish Scribes were fond of assuming, to intimate that their disciples were as much indebted to them for the formation of their minds, as children are to their parents for their existence; and that therefore they were entitled to peculiar
Griesbach in loc.
deference and respect: but Christ prohibits his disciples from assuming this title, for a reason which he immediately assigns.
For one is your Father which is in heaven; and all ye are brethren.
For you are ultimately indebted to God for all the knowledge and wisdom which you possess; to him, therefore, you ought to ascribe the honour, and not to men, who are only his instruments in conveying it.---He is justly stiled the Father of lights; but this title cannot be given to any man, without encroaching upon his prerogative. There is a sense, however, in which the term father may be innocently used; as when Paul says to the Corinthians; “Ye have not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.”
10. Neither be ye called masters, rather, “guides."
This was a third title which the Scribes assumed, in consequence of their being employed in expounding the Scriptures.
For one is your guide, even Christ. Jesus has here been endeavouring to correct the folly of the people, in ascribing to their teachers and instructors titles and characters which belonged only to God and himself; and to check the vanity of his disciples, who, after the example of the Scribes, might be disposed to claim them; by showing that they owe all their religious knowledge to God and himself, and that, with regard to each other, they are all upon a footing of equality, like brethren of one family: he next proceeds to show what kind of greatness was within their reach.
11. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant,
He that wishes to be greatest among you must attain it not by assuming pompous titles, as the Scribes do;
but by stooping to perform the meanest offices of kindness and charity for his brethren.
And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased ; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
He that assumes names aud titles that do not belong to him shall be degraded in the opinion of God and of wise men; and he that performs the lowest offices for the good of mankind shall rise high in the divine fa
1. How despicable and odious is the character of these Scribes, as here exhibited! They knew their duty, yet neglected to perform it: they recommended one thing by their instructions, and practised the contrary in their conduct; thus furnishing matter to condemn themselves from their own lips. If there was any appearance of goodness in their actions, those actions proceeded from a mean desire of applause; they were performed that they might be seen of men; yet these men, despicable and odious as their characters were, claimed and expected as much respect, as if they had been possessed of the highest worth. They looked for the first places at public
entertainments, and the most flattering appellations and titles from all their acquaintance; thus showing effrontery in wickedness. We are thankful that Christ has represented them in their true colours, and exposed them to the hatred they so justly merit: we are ready to hope that he has hereby effectually guarded his disciples against discovering any thing of a like temper. But, 2.
It is a melancholy yet just reflection, that this warning has been given to little purpose, since these Jewish scribes have been but too closely imitated by the Scribes of the Christian church; so that the one have been almost an exact copy of the other. The teachers of religion, from the times of Christ to the present, have in general been fond of pre-eminence and power; they have, like their predecessors, loved to appear in long robes, and to assume a garb which should impress upon men an extraordinary opinion of their dignity or sanctity. With the same view they have clothed themiselves with the most honourable titles, calling themselves Reverend and Right Reverend, Doctors and Fathers, and every other name which is esteemed venerable among men.
Such artificial means of securing respect were not unsuitable to the characters of Jewish Scribes or Popish priests, who had nothing else to recommend them; but they are utterly unworthy of the simplicity to which Protestants lay claim. These distinctions of names and dress, which the teachers of religion have affected, may appear to some persons too trifling to deserve the notice of the Saviour; yet, as originating in vanity, and having a pernicious influence upon the tempers of mankind, they merited his censure: for the natural tendency of them is to fill one class of men with pride and arrogance, and another class with superstitious reverence; to lead them to attend to show and external appearance, and to neglect the qualities of the mind and the virtues of the heart.
3. As the means of avoiding these errors, let us attend to our Lord's cautions:-let us not claim to ourselves, or give to others, names and titles which can only be applied with propriety to the Supreme Being. Let us call no man father upon earth, in regard to religious opinions: let us submit to no human authority in these matters; for men are all fallible and liable to ert; but regulate our faith and conduct by the language of God alone, who cannot be in the wrong.
While we are grateful to men for the benefits we derive from their instructions, let us not forget that our ultimate acknowledgments are due to the Supreme Being, who