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M. My dear boy, the error of the Pharisees did not consist in being "zealous of good works;" for that is the great mark of Christ's peculiar people, who love His appearing, and look to it continually. Far different, you know, was the Pharisee: his works were really evil, under an outward appearance of holiness: we have lately had a long list of their works, which were all evil; and yet miserable as they were, we know how they prided themselves in them. But when Christ shall return to judge the world, though He will graciously reward His faithful servants, and member their services done out of love and gratitude to Him.
E. I suppose you mean in visiting the sick, comforting the prisoner, clothing the naked, and feeding the hungry, like the righteous, Mamma, in that beautiful passage, which ends the 25th of Matthew.
M. I do, my child; but though the Lord Jesus will remember all these things, and consider them just as if they had been done to Himself; yet so far will the faithful servants be from priding themselves upon them, that they will have forgotten them, as our Lord teaches us, altogether; thinking them utterly unworthy of their Lord's acceptance; as at the most, few; at the best, imperfect. So that when the King shall say unto them, "I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat ; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me; then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed
thee?" They have forgotten their works; but Jesus remembers them. "Not unto us," is the language of their hearts; "not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise for thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred and tongue, and people and nation." Blessed company! Who would not be there? How different were they from those who never fed the hungry, nor clothed the naked, nor visited the sick, nor comforted the prisoner, but thought of nothing but their own pleasures and interests; giving no proofs of their faith or their love!
Oh! how different! "These shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal." Who would not try to lead the life of the righteous, that his last end may be like his? to be remembered by the merciful Saviour in the great day, when of His own free goodness He will so gloriously reward the labours of love done to the least of His distressed followers in His name. For the poor and the miserable are deputed, as it were, by Him to receive at our hands these tokens of our gratitude to the Son of God; these proofs that we are trying, through faith in His name, to imitate His heavenly example.
We have now considered, though very briefly, the whole of the 25th chapter of St. Matthew; and it has given us some important and interesting subjects of conversation. Next Sunday we shall return to our blessed Lord's own history, and follow Him in some of the solemn scenes which closed His Ministry on earth.
See Matt. xxiv. 23—xxv. 46. Mark xiii. 21-37.
FIFTY-SECOND SUNDAY EVENING.
THE LAST SUPPER.
E. Dear Mamma, your account of our Lord's prophecies interested me very much; but I am very anxious to hear what our Saviour did after He left the temple. M. Our blessed Lord had come up to Jerusalem to keep the passover. Being born under the law of Moses, He walked in all the statutes and ordinances of the law blameless. On this ground alone our Lord would have kept the passover: but there was something in that sacred feast, which made Him particularly desirous now to partake of it with His disciples. Perhaps you can tell me what the Old Testament tells us about the passover, and why it was so called.
E. I recollect that this feast was appointed in remembrance of the night, in which the angel of the Lord 'passed over' the houses of the Israelites, when He slew the Egyptians: those Israelites, I mean, whose doors were sprinkled with the blood of the lamb.
M. And I need not remind you that that lamb was a type or figure of "The Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world:" whose precious blood was shed to save us from everlasting destruction. St. John the Baptist had spoken thus of Christ when He first began to preach on the banks of the river Jordan; and now His prophetic words were about to be accomplished. The true passover was about to be slain; and the Son of Man was to be "brought as a lamb to the slaughter." The type was to give way to the reality—the shadow to the substance; and it is a wonderful circumstance,
Edward, that our Saviour should have been taken from the celebration of the one to the accomplishment of the other; that the offering up of himself, once for all, as the true Paschal Lamb, should have been made at the very time, when the law directed the typical Lamb to be slain! Surely this fact points out Christ Jesus to us as the great sacrifice for sin. It is wonderful too to think that, in the whole of this awful transaction, the persecutors of Christ, the Chief Priests and Scribes who plotted His death, the disciple who betrayed Him, the multitude who called for His execution, seemed only to be following, and indeed did follow, the free bent of their own corrupt inclinations. So mysterious are the ways of Providence! So deep and unsearchable the wisdom and knowledge of God; who overrules, to His own great and glorious purposes, all the wickedness and waywardness even of those very men, who are the most bent against His will !
E. I suppose then that the malice of the Jews, with the violence of the people, and even the covetousness of Judas, which you have often told me of, were all helping in reality to bring about the prophecy?
M. Yes; all hastening on the redemption of a lost world by the blood of Christ. Yet nothing could be further from their own thoughts. The object of each was simply to carry some private purpose of their own. You know how long the Pharisees had been observing Him with envy; how long they had sought even to destroy Him and now we find them assembled together solemnly to consider how best to accomplish their wicked purpose. It was then that Judas Iscariot came and offered, if they would give him money, to betray His Master to them at some favourable moment, when
He should be alone with His disciples, so that there could be no disturbance or resistance of the people.
E. How dreadful to think, that Judas must at last have been staying with our blessed Lord, merely for the sake of giving Him up to those fierce bad men ! But go on, Mamma.
M. The end of our Lord's labours of love was thus approaching near; that awful end! The day of unleavened bread was coming when the passover must be killed. It was now Thursday in Passion week; and on the day following the Paschal lamb must be offered up. But besides the killing of the lamb, which was done publicly by the priest, there were other observances customary on this occasion among the Jews. As the religious day began, with them, from the sunset of the evening before, they considered that the beginning of the sacred feast; so that, although the passover was not to be killed until the Friday, the sacred day began from sunset on Thursday and the Jews, especially those who could not come up to Jerusalem, used to keep a feast or supper in remembrance of the passover, but without the sacrifice. They did eat the passover, though they did not kill the Paschal lamb; for that sacrifice could not take place before the appointed time. Now it was in this way that our Lord kept the passover with His disciples. He partook of the commemorative supper with which the feast began. His time was at hand, the time of the great sacrifice; and as this was to be the very time when the passover must be killed, it was impossible that our Lord could observe the latter.
E. No, He could not do it; for He was to fulfil that in His own person, Mamma.