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FORTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY EVENING.
CHRIST TAKES A FINAL LEAVE OF THE TEMPLE.
M. We have seen, my dear Edward, how many miracles our Lord had performed, not only in Galilee, but also in Jerusalem; and how solemn the instruction which He had for three years been addressing, day after day, to the favoured inhabitants of the Holy Land ; and we have seen how for the most part they turned a deaf ear to His divine words. Yet some there were even among the chief rulers, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, of whom we shall hear by and by, who did in their hearts believe in Jesus, though for fear of the Pharisees they were afraid of openly confessing themselves His disciples. But the time of our Lord's ministry was drawing to a close; and His public teaching was ended with a warning, to the multitude and to His disciples, against the pernicious example of the Scribes and Pharisees. He told them that they must indeed attend to their teaching, so long as they should sit in Moses' seat, and continue to be the lawful instructors of the people; but on no account must they follow their example; for that was condemned even by their own teaching. "Do ye not after their works for they say and do not." In practice they were sadly wanting, though they made a great appearance of piety, and were proud of being looked up to as the leaders of religion to others, their spiritual guides, and as it were the authors of their spiritual life so easy is it to make a fair appearance in eyes of men. Yet with woes, with eight solemn
lamentations for these very persons, did He who searcheth the hearts close His public teaching.
The office of the Scribes made them the most responsible, and when abused, as it was with them, the most guilty, of all the Jews. They had as it were the keys of the kingdom of heaven, but it was only to keep the door shut, neither entering themselves, nor suffering others to go in. Here was one ground of lamentation; and cause for Christ to say, "Woe unto you." They made long prayers, it is true; but, at the very same time, they were guilty of the worst kind of cruelty; for they oppressed and treated unjustly the poor desolate widow, whom God makes His own peculiar care. For this our Saviour said again, "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites."
They were very zealous to make proselytes and converts to their own views; but it was only to make them worse even than themselves. For blind guides were they at the best, often perverting the commands of God, and making rules rather to encourage sin than to promote righteousness, particularly in the matter of oaths, which they taught the people not only to take, but even to break, without scruple. Again, in trifles they were particular, but in matters of real importance they had no scruples of conscience, straining as it were at a gnat, whilst they swallowed a camel. They made much of outward purity, whilst within they were full of injustice, extortion, and all excess of wickedness; or, as our Lord has put it, they made clean only the outside of the cup and of the platter, leaving the inner part, which is of the most consequence, full of impurity. Like a painted tomb, their religion was fair to look upon, but far
otherwise within; to crown the whole, the very crimes, which they condemned in their forefathers, were practised by themselves. Dead prophets, whom their fathers had slain, they honoured; whilst the living prophets they were no less ready to persecute.
For all these sins did our Lord pronounce woe after woe upon them: as the hypocritical guides of a deluded people, who at this very moment were encouraging Jerusalem to fill up the measure of her crimes, to the utter desolation both of the city and the magnificent temple, from which Jesus was now taking His final departure. Oh, that, in almost His last words, there should have been these awful declarations of the Divine vengeance! Those walls which had so often echoed with the sounds of mercy and loving invitation, can now give back no notes but those of mourning, lamentation, and woe.
E. I am sure it must have been very painful to our Lord to leave that beautiful temple thus, Mamma; very painful to Him, to have spoken there all those dreadful woes!
M. We may be sure that it was, my child; for He delights in mercy, not in punishment. Indeed His heart was so full of anguish at the miseries He foresaw, and of tender compassion towards the unhappy people, who were fast bringing down these miseries on their own heads, that He could not hide His feelings, which burst forth in a most touching expression of His pity and His grief-yes, it was at the moment when He was leaving the temple for ever, and looking down perhaps on the loved but rebellious city, that He uttered those affecting words, " O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! thou that killest the prophets, and
stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings; and ye would not! Behold your house is left unto you desolate! for I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth until ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." So deeply did our Saviour love His country! so affectionately, so tenderly did He mourn over its miseries! Remember, this my child; remember that Christ Himself has taught us to love our native land; to love it for our brethren and companions' sake; to love it because of the house of the Lord our God.
E. Oh, Mamma, I am so sorry to think that that beautiful temple was to be destroyed! I was so delighted with the accounts you gave me both of the first and second building of it: it quite grieves me to think that it should be thrown down.
M. How must every pious Jew then have grieved over it! How sad must the prospect have been to every one amongst them who loved his Temple, and his Temple's God! Some feelings of this kind seem to have been uppermost in the disciples' minds at this moment: for just as our Lord was leaving that holy place, one of them drew His attention to the splendour, size, and solidity of its several parts; saying, "Master, see what manner of stones, and what buildings are here!" or, as another Evangelist tells it, "How it is adorned with goodly stones and gifts!" The gifts of ages had been deposited there; the presents of kings and emperors, as well as the offerings of the Jews: and the Jewish historian Josephus tells us that there was hardly any thing more remarkable in this cele
brated temple, than the stupendous size of the stones of which it was composed. Immense blocks of the whitest marble were used in its structure, some of which were upwards of sixty-seven feet long, more than seven feet high, and nine broad. Well might the disciples call these "goodly stones;" for they must indeed have been wonderful and beautiful to look at. But, alas! neither their strength nor their beauty could save them. Our Lord did not recal, in consequence, the sentence which He had just pronounced against these walls; on the contrary, it only led him to repeat it in still plainer and stronger language. "As for these things which ye behold, the days will come in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, which shall not be thrown down." We have often noticed the temple before and dwelt upon the materials of which it was built, and the extreme beauty of its several parts: were it not so, I should stop here to describe minutely to you, in the best manner I could, the richness and magnificence of this glorious building. But you are well acquainted already both with the first and the second temple, and remember well the pains that were taken, not only by David and Solomon, but by the Jews again after the captivity, to render this house in some degree worthy of the purpose for which it was built.
E. Yes, Mamma, I remember it well; but the second house was nothing like the first, I think, in beauty?
M. Certainly not when it was first built; but Herod the Great, in order to please the Jews, pulled down almost entirely that building, which was in a very decayed state, and raised on the same spot a new