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magnanimity, to bear the troubles to which, he had just told them, they should be exposed, in the faithful execution of the duties of their office.
The first consolatory consideration which our Lord offered to the attention of his Disciples was, what could not, in such circumstances, but have had a considerable eftect upon their minds, namely, that by perseverance in the faithful discharge of their duty, they would not fail ultimately of success.v. 22. He that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved. The object which the Disciples had principally in view, in: joining our Lord, and in accepting a commissiun from him, most undoubtedly was, the coming of the Messiah ; and they could not have understood his déclaration, that by enduring to the end of their troubles, they should be ved, in any oi her sense, than that, notwithstanding the opposition which they should meet with, they should obtain the great object of their wishes. At the same time, it is not improbable, our Lord had a farther and a more noble view, in these words, viz. that by a faithful discharge of their duty, their final salvation would likewise be secured. But, even in the former sense, his language plainly conveyed to them this very important intimation, that they must not expect the attainment of the great object of their wishes, without diligently, and faithfully, performing the duties which the nature of the service, in which they were engaged, might require ; whatever difficulties they might meet with, in the execution of that service.
Another consoling consideration, of great importance, in the trying circumstances, in which they would, sometimes, find themselves was, that in very pressing exigencies, it would be lawful, and even necessary, to save themselves from the dangers to which they might be exposed,, by flying from them.- V. 23. When they persecute you in this City, flee ye to, another. They were not, unnecessarily, to expose
themselves to danger; nor, when they were unavoidably exposed to it, were they to neglect all honourable means of escaping from them. *
But neither of these considerations would, of themselves, have been sufficient to have animated the Disciples of Jesus to endure the troubles which he had taught them to expect, without having their minds particularly directed to a given period of time, when they should have their hopes of the attainment of the great object of ail their expectations realized ; when the kingdom of Heaven, or of the Messiah, should no longer be at hand, but actually come. Our Lord appears to have been thoroughly sensible of the necessity of a declaration to this purpose ; for he not only tells them that they should ultimately be successful in their expectation of the coming of the Messiah, and that, in the mean time, it would be lawful, and even expedient, in cases of imminent danger, to flee from one City to another ; but he immediately added, and that in the most pointed and explicit, but at the same time, in the most cautious terms, that they should not have gone over the Cities of Israel till the Son of Man, the Messiah, came. He did not, it must be carefully observed, say that he himself was the Messiah ; but only that the Son of Man, The MESSIAH, would come, before they had, fully completed their commission of going over the Cities of Israel. V. 23. When they persecute you, in this City, flee to another ; for verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the Cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come ; till
* How extremely remote was this direction from what would have been given by one who was under the influence of Enthusiasm ? Enthusiasts are commonly observed to court, instead of flying from persecution !
be fully satisfied that your expectations of his coming, as the Messiah, be fully accomplished. * Such an assurance as this, to men whose views were, at that period, so strongly and invariably directed towards the expectation of a Messiah to come, was absolutely and indispensably necessary; and it is, in the highest degree probable, that it it had not been given, they must, upon their own principles, and indeed, upon the common principles of human nature, have forsaken him, notwithstanding the high regard which they may be supposed to have entertained, for the peculiar excellence of his personal character ; for without such an assurance, they would have wanted the most
* The form of the expression with which this assurance is introduced, is not unworthy of notice ; Verily I say unto you; for it is never used but upon occasions, when Jesus wished what he said to be strongly impressed upon his hearers ; and this was more particularly the case when he spoke of his coming : thus, Matt. xvi. 28. Verily
YOU, there be some standing here, who shall not taste of death till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. See also Mark; ix. 1. And, tantamount to this, is the expression of St. Luke, in the parallel passage.--Ch. ix. 27. A TRUTH, there be some standing here, who shall not taste of death till they see the kingdom of God.
I TELL YOU OF as not
essential, and to them, the most powerful motive, for facing the dangers which Jesus, upon this occasion, had so forcibly presented to their minds.
It is not easy to imagine that the Disciples of Jesus could, in such circumstances as have been described, have entertained any other idea, of his coming, here mentioned, than of the coming of the Messiah, or of the Kingdom, which he had announced to be at hand; for to that coming, it is evident, beyond all reasonable dispute, their whole attention was originally directed. With a belief that Jesus might possibly be the Messiah, they had joined him, and they lent a willing and anxious attention to his instructions upon that head, in the hope that he would give them such information as they wanted: and the very circumstance of their having been invested with a commission to annouce its approach, naturally led them to understand the coming of the Son of Man, in the sense of the coming of the Messiah. As ye go, preach, saying, THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND.
And here, in the 23d verse, he tells them, most evidently, for their encouragement to perseverance in the faithful discharge of their duty, in the midst of uncommon difficulties, that they should not have gone over the Cities of Israel, till the Son of Man, the Messiah, came.
What can deserve the name of demonstration of the true meaning of a Writer, if this does not—or how can any other sense be possibly put upon the expression—the coming of the Son of Man, and more especially, in this connexion, than the coming of the Messiah, without violating all the rules of good writing, and rendering it impossible to ascertain what his real meaning was? If Jesus had meant, by this phrase, as has been contended, the second and glorious coming of the Son of Man in the clouds, to judge all Mankind, at the last day; it would at that period, at least, have been utterly impossible for the Disciples to have understood him. And, what is still more striking and is particularly worthy of observation is, that if they can be supposed to have so understood him, they must have, immediately, and without hesitation have forsaken him, as an impostor ; answering their expectations; for they then, most incontestably, entertained ideas which were, totally incompatible, with such an event. Nor is it easy to imagine how any one claiming the chara£ter of the Messiah, should have had, the
most distant conception of such an event taking place, in his own time, any more than his followers; much less that, in a series of arguments manifestly intended for their encouragement, under peculiar difficulties, he would have mnade use of one which, from the very nature of it, must either have been wholly unintelligible to them ; or must have had a direct tendency to discourage all their expectations of his being the Messiah.
To these arguments, which our Lord made use of, to support his Disciples, under the gloomy prospect which he had so pointedly set before them ; he added another, which if not, in their estimation, of equal force with the preceding ones, was, at least, admirably adapted to reconcile them to the difficulties of their situation, however hard they might appear to them ; for in the 24th verse, he tells them, in terms which are sufficiently significant and expressive, that he himself had the prospect of encountering, at least equal, if not superior difficulties, to any to which they might be exposed. The. Disciple is not above his Master, nor the Servant above bis Lord: it is enough for the Disciple that he be as his Master, and the Servant as his Lord. If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, much more is it to be expected that they will call those of his houshold, by the same opprobrious names.
Nor must it be omitted, that besides the intimation of Jesus, that no troubles would await them, but such as he himself would have to undergo; he turns their attention, with the most striking propriety, to the great object which, at all times, ought to direct their actions and the whole of their conduct; viz. the fear of God, on whose favor or displeasure, their happiness or misery, both here and hereafter, would ultimately depend.-v. 26. Fear them not therefore ; for there is nothing covered which shall not be revealed, and bid, which shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in the light ; and what ye hear in the ear, or in private, that speak ye upon the house tops: And fear not them who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul ; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell.
* The Evangelist Matthew, towards the close of the preceding Chapter, states it as a fact, that they had so denominated our Lord.Ch. ix. 34. He casteth out Devils through Beelzebub the Prince of the Devils.
What a powerful and engaging consideration was this, to the active and faithful discharge of the duties of their commission ? The powers of language, or even of imagination, cannot well conceive a greater! And, that it might have the fullest effect upon
their minds, he farther reminded them, for their still greater encouragement, in the performance of it, that they were under the immediate inspection of the all-seeing eye of God; without whose knowledge, or permission, the most inconsiderable events could not happen.-v. 29. Are not two Sparrows sold for å farthing, and one, even of them, trifling as they may, in human estimation appear, shall not fall to the ground, without the knowledge or permission of your Father : ard to enforce, with yet greater effect, this important duetrine upon their minds, he moreover told them that the very hairs of their head were all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, je are of more value than many Sparrow's : i. e, as Dr. Clarke has very judiciously paraphrased it, “ be not 46 therefore afraid what man can do unto you—ye are of
'much more worth than the other creature's upon earth. * And if nothing can happen, even to the meanest of those * creatures, without the providence and Direction of God, 66 how much less to you?”*
The two verses, immediately following, appear very significantly to be declarative of Jesus being the Messiah, though expressed in the language of caution ; and they seem to have had, a peculiar propriety in them, as they regarded the Apostles, in the situation in which they then were jamas they very strongly intimated, the confidence which he had, in the integrity of his own character, and consequently, as they had a tendency to increase their reverence for him and their belief that he might be the Messiah. They likewise led them to consider the design of his mission, as having a peculiar reference to future state, and the importance of their adhering to him with fidelity, whatever inight be the obloquy or reproach to which such an adherence might expose them. verses 32, 33. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father who is in Heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in Heaven!
See Dr. Clarke's Paraphrase in loc,