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tion, which is, your improvement in piety and virtue. It is only thus that the church can be your guide to a blissful immortality. Consider the duties you owe to one another. You are to be fellow helpers in working out your salvation ; and in order to this, you must maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. O be careful that you do not hinder one another by unholy tempers, by foolish discourse, or by unbecoming deportment. Manifest that charity and purity which are the distinguishing characteristics of christianity, that you may answer the gracious intentions of God in your association, and become his honoured instruments in bringing the world into the fold of Christ. If
you trifle in religion, and become loose in your morals, you will stumble the weak, grieve the strong, and open the mouths of the profane in blasphemies. Cultivate purity in your own souls, and love to the brotherhood; and Christ, who “ loved the church, and gave himself for it,” will present you to himself at the last day, “ A glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.”
“ Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in." (Matt. xxiii. 13.)
The pharisees derived their name from the word pharis, " to separate,” because they separated from others under a pretence of superior sanctity. The period when they were first formed into a sect is unknown; but it appears from Josephus, that they were become a numerous and powerful body in the time of John Hyrcanus, about one hundred and eight years before the Christian era.
They maintained that God gave to Moses, on mount Sinai, a double law; the one written, the other oral :
the latter being, in their opinion, an exposition of the former. They pretended that Moses repeated the oral law to Joshua, that Joshua delivered it to the elders, the elders to the prophets, and the prophets to the wise men of the great synagogue, from whom successively it descended to after ages. Judah Haccodhesh committed these traditions to writing about one hundred and fifty years after Christ, and called the book the Mishna, or the Second Law.
It has been generally supposed that the pharisees, though very corrupt in principle, were remarkably moral in practice. But this is a contradiction; a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit: and it is a fact, that their lives were as depraved as their hearts. They did not even teach* a pure morality. The traditions of the elders, which the pharisees strictly attended to, and preached up with uncommon zeal, were subversive of the moral law. "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men. Ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. Making the word of God of none effect, through your tradition which yė have delivered.” Our Lord has given a striking instance of this, upon a subject of the utmost importance. “Moses said, Honour thy father and thy .mother: and, Whosoever curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me, he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do aught for his father or his mother.” (Mark vii. 1-13.) Dr. Doddridge's paraphrase is a good explanation of this tradition. “But what you teach is contradictory to this divine command; and an ungrateful child may justify himself in the neglect of it, in consequence of your tradition : for you assert [that] any one may say
* The scribes were the preaching clergy among the Jews, and for the most part were of the sect of the pharisees; hence, in the gospels, they are generally associated together.
to his father or mother, [let that be] Corban, that is to say, let it be reckoned as a devoted thing, or be considered as a gift dedicated to the altar, by which thou mightest otherwise receive advantage from me; and he shall then be free from the command, and not be under any obligation to honour and relieve his father and his mother. And in this manner, out of regard to such a rash and impious vow, you not only suppose he may innocently omit this evident duty of natural as well as revealed religion, but will no more permit him to do anything for the relief even of his father or his mother.” Dr. Campbell observes, “ The words, · Be it corban,' or devoted, involve an imprecation against himself, if he shall ever bestow anything to relieve the necessities of his parents : as if he should say to them, ' May I incur all the infamy of sacrilege and perjury, if ever ye get a farthing from me;' than which we can hardly conceive anything spoken by a son to his parents more contemptuous, more unnatural, more barbarous, and consequently more justly termed cacologia, 'opprobrious language.'
" Thus if a youth, in a fit of passion with his parents, vowed, “Whatever of my property might be useful to you, is corban," the pharisees immediately absolved him from all obligation to support them, and from the curse of reviling them; but nothing could release him from the obligation of this tradition; for should he afterwards repent, or should his parents be on the point of perishing through want, they“ suffered him no more to do aught for his father or his mother.”
The treasury, which was the depository of things devoted, was under the management of the chief men among the pharisees; and this explains their strict attention to this tradition. But the worst of it is, this was not a solitary instance of awful corruption in their doctrine ; for it is added, “ And many such like things do ye.”
There is perhaps no part of the word of God, which has been more generally misunderstood, than Matthew xxiii. 2,3: “The scribes and the pharisees sit in Moses's seat; all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe,
that observe and do ; but do ye not after their works, for they say, and do not.” Hence it is inferred, that our Lord acknowledged their authority as teachers, and seriously desired the people to follow their doctrine. Had they taught a pure morality, this interpretation would appear specious; but we have seen that they preached the traditions of the elders to the subversion of the law; and instructed children how to curse and abandon their aged parents with impunity, and many such like things. In fact, in immediate connexion with the passage under consideration, our Lord has pointed out several errors in their doctrine, and the pernicious influence of these errors upon the minds and conduct of their followers. 1. They held the mere humanity of the Messiah. (Chap. xxii. 41 — 46.) 2. They shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, and woulu neither go in themselves, nor suffer even those that were entering to go in. (Chap. xxiii. 13.) 3. They made their proselytes twofold more the children of hell than themselves. (Ver. 15.) 4. They instructed the people how to curse and swear with impunity. (Ver. 11 -22.) 5. They taught that the true ministers of Christ were not fit to live, and accordingly murdered them. (Ver. 34, 35.) Now, could our Lord seriously desire the people to put themselves under the instructions of men who would teach them to disbelieve the doctrine of his Godhead? who would hinder them from entering the kingdom of heaven, by making them children of hell ? and who would instruct them to curse, swear, and murder?
The truth of the matter appears to be this: the people had a very high opinion of the pharisees, and cried them up as learned and wise men, who must know the law, and consequently well qualified to teach it. They admitted, indeed, that they were not very pure in their manners, but they had the old apology ready: “We must do as they say, and not as they do.' Very well, says our Lord, since you admit the authority of the scribes and pharisees to sit in the chair of Moses, and expound the law,“ Whatsoever they bid you observe,
that observe and do;" the consequence will be, they will “bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, of traditionary rites and ceremonies, “And lay them upon your shoulders ;” and while you are groaning under the load, instead of extolling them as excellent ministers, you will censure them as hard task-masters, and will know how to prize my ministry, which will set you at liberty from this yoke of bondage. (Matt. xi. 28 — 30.) He then proceeds to expose their hypocrisy, pride, and ignorance, in the strongest colours. Consider our Lord, then, as speaking ironically, and every difficulty vanishes. There is an instance of the most cutting irony addressed to the pharisees, in verse 32, of the same chapter: “Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.” See also another in Mark vii. 9 : “ Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” Those, therefore, who lived up to the doctrine of the pharisees, would be essentially defective in point of moral virtue. It is of them and their deluded followers that our Lord observes,“ They be blind, leaders of the blind; and if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” (Matt. xv. 14.)
As the pharisees did not preach morality, so neither did they practise it. Our Lord charged them with having "omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith;” or, as Dr. Campbell renders it, “Justice, humanity, and fidelity." They must, therefore, have been dishonest, cruel, and treacherous. John the Baptist was startled when they applied to him for baptism, and exclaimed, “O generation of vipers ! who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come ?” He insisted upon a reformation of manners : forth therefore fruits meet for repentance,” or, according to the marginal reading, “Fruits answerable to amendment of life."
It is singular enough, when such is the scriptural view of the moral system and character of the pharisees, that Christians in general should suppose them to have been strictly virtuous in their lives, and that nothing was wanting to make them truly religious, but a