Page images

rest, his ancestor David himself, and to dispose of their future condition; we immediately see that he is unspeakably superior in dignity to any of the kings of Israel, not excepting the most illustrious of them, David and Solomon; so that David, foreseeing his glory, might well be induced to call him his Lord.

It is plain from this passage that the Jews expected that the Messiah would be a man: for had they conceived of him to be God, equal with the Father, or some super-angelic being, they would have found no difficulty in answering our Saviour's question. To ask why one who was a man should call him who was God, his Lord, would have been a question so plain, as hardly to deserve an answer.

46. And no man was able to answer him a word; neither durst

any that day forth ask him any more questions.

The questions which had been proposed to him by the Pharisees and the Sadducees, with a view to ensnare him or expose him, had served only to display his wisdom, and confound his adversaries: they were therefore afraid of engaging in any fresh attempts of this kind, lest they should bring upon themselves great. er disgrace.

man from


1. Let us carefully cultivate these two affections, upon which so much depends; which are the foundation upon which our obedience to all the laws of God must be erected; the love of God, and of our neighbour.

For the former, let us meditate frequently upon the transcendent excellencies of the Divine Being; his eternal and independent existence and universal presence; his great power, his supreme wisdom and boundless benevolence, his justice, faithfulness and truth. The union of these excellencies cannot fail to inspire us with a high reverence for him; and when we join to a meditation upon his perfections a recollection of the important benefits we have received, and are daily receiving from him, together with those which he intends to bestow upon us hereafter, such thoughts must warm our minds with gratitude and affection; convincing us not only that he is the most excellent of all beings, but that he is our greatest benefactor and best friend.

It is not, however, a slight and transient conviction of the divine excellencies, or of our obligations, that will produce that affection which is here required: it must be strong and powerful; deeply rooted in the mind, and overruling every other passion of the soul, whether it be the love of sensual pleasure, the love of gain or of worldly honour: God disdains to accept of any other than the first place in our hearts; nor is it possible that we should uniformly obey all his laws, if we permit him to have any superior or rival there. Let this induce us to cultivate this affection continually, and with the utmost care: if we succeed in our endeavours, and acquire that degree of love to God which is here recommended, as we shall certainly do if we persevere, it will abundantly reward us for all the anxiety and labour which it may cost, by the joy which it will communicate to the mind, and the happy fruits it will produce in our live

To induce us to love our brethren, we must recollect that they are all God's children, as well as we; and that therefore they ought to be the objects of our affection, as well as of his: that they possess many natural excellencies, and, even when most degraded and corrupted, bear much of his image; that they are capable of inconceivable improvement in knowledge and goodness, and that no inconsiderable number of them have already obtained a high degree of both; that to cherish affection for onr brethren, will be the source of unspeakable pleasure to ourselves, and of peace and harmony to the world; but that to foster the contrary passions, malice and hatred against our brethren, will involve ourselves, as well as them, in great trouble. In judging of the degree in which this affection ought to prevail in our breasts, let us ever keep in mind the standard which our Saviour has given us---that we are to love our neighbour, as ourselves: for if it be not sincere and ardent, like the affection we feel for ourselves, it will not enable us to discharge our duty to mankind, amongst such powerful temptations to the contrary.

Let these two affections, the love of God and the love of our brethren, be the objects of our ardent desire and daily pursuit: they are the two leading commandments, on which all the rest depend. The whole law is fulfilled in love.

2. Let us earnestly pray for the time when all the enemies of Christ shall be made his footstool.

He is already exalted to great power and honour at the right hand of God; but his triumph is not yet complete, nor his authority so extensive, as we are taught to believe that it will one day be. He has still many adversaries, who exist in great power: there are Jews, Deists, Mahometans and idolaters, who reject his laws, and openly deny his authority: there are Christian powers, which have assumed to themselves that which belongs to him, and which claim that obedience to their ordinances which is due only to his laws: there are many errors which destroy the beauty and defeat the efficacy of the gospel. Let us pray that these obstructions to the glory

of the Redeemer may be removed; that the gospel may be restored to its original purity; that infidels of every name may be induced to embrace it; that those who have usurped his authority may be compelled to resign it; that Christ may destroy the man of sin, with the spirit of his mouth and the brightness of his appearing; and that thus the whole world may be completely subject to his laws.

In praying for these honours for Christ, we are praying for ourselves, for the peace and prosperity of the world, for the improvement and happiness of the hu

man race.

Matthew xxiii. 1----12.

1. Then spake Jesus to the multitude and to his disciples,

2. Saying, The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.

That is, they are expounders of the law of Moses. This was not true of every individual of the sect of the Pharisees; they were not all of them expounders of the law; our Lord, therefore, must mean such Scribes as were Pharisees, or Pharisaic Scribes.

3. All, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do.

We have here a proof that general declarations which occur in the gospel are to be taken with certain limitations and exceptions, naturally suggested by the subject, or by the nature and propriety of things. For Christ cannot here mean to recommend obedience to all that the Scribes taught; having before said, Chap: xv. 3. that they made void the commandment of God by their traditions; nor can he intend that all their expositions of the law were to be received with implicit credit; since they were liable to fall into mistakes: but as many things in the law of Moses were obscure, and could not be understood without the knowledge of ancient languages and ancient history, he advises the people and his disciples, who were destitute of these advantages, to rely in general upon their explanations.

But do not ye after their works: for they say and do not.

The Scribes, although they expounded the precepts of the law in the most rigid manner, were very loose in regard to their own morals, as appears by their conduct towards Jesus, as well as from the account which he gives of them.

4. For they bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne; and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

The allusion here is to beasts of burden, which when men have loaded with a heavy weight, they apply their hand to it, to keep it steady, and prevent it from falling. Such is the humanity of men towards beasts; but no such compassion will the Scribes show to the people, whom they load with a strict interpretation of all the moral and ritual precepts of the law, without allowing those exceptions and limitations which reason and humanity require. This they did from an affected concern for the honour of the divine law; but their real motive was what Jesus mentions in the following


5. ,

But, rather, " and,all their works they do for to be seen of men.

If there be any appearance of virtue in their conduct, the excellence of it is destroyed by the motive whence it proceeds; which is not a desire to please God, but to obtain the applause of men. Instances of their de. sire of praise and distinction he now goes on to mention.

They make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments;

The phylacteries were slips of parchment, worn upon the forehead and upon the arms, containing sentences of the law of Moses: this practice the Jews were led into by interpreting literally what is said, Deut. vi. 8. " and thou shalt bind them,” meaning the precepts of the law, “ upon thine hand, and they shall be as front

« PreviousContinue »