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Blessed is he who has been taught to think habitually of Christ as the Son of God become the son of man, for him and for his salvation. Such an one, in all the circumstances and changes of the present world, has a support unknown to others. His thoughts instinctively turn towards the Saviour, in sorrow, or in joy, in fear, or in hope; in the hours of his weakness or his energy. Christ mitigates the sorrow, allays the fear, strengthens the weakness. The joy is in his favour; the hope is through his mercy : the energy is in the power of his might. If the mind contemplates this earthly life, it takes, as it were, a new colour from the fact that Jesus dwelt here, in form and fashion as a man. If the thoughts rise towards the world above, there again Christ meets him, "set down at the right hand of God," waiting for the overthrow of his enemies: and no less watching over the interests of his people; dear to him, and to the Father also, "because they have loved the Son, and believed that he came out from God." If the conscience reverts, as it often should revert, to sins repented of and forsaken, there is the blessed consolation that "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin." Or if the man grieves, as he should grieve, over present infirmities and short comings, he still rejoices to think of Christ as knowing our frame, and "in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, as able to succour them that are tempted. If he looks onward to the valley of the shadow of death, which some time or other must be passed through, Christ is there, with his "rod
2 Ps. cx. 2.
* 1 John i. 7.
3 John xvi. 27.
5 Heb. ii. 18.
and staff to comfort." 6 Or if he looks beyond to the judgment which is to follow, Christ will be seated there as judge: and has pledged his sacred word that those who confess him before men, he also will confess before his Father and the holy angels. 7
So full of encouragement, of comfort, of joy, are the thoughts of Christ which Scripture teaches us to entertain: when the prayer of St. Paul for his Ephesian disciples is accomplished in us, and "Christ dwells in the heart by faith; and being strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man, we are able to comprehend what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fulness of God." 8
CONDEMNATION OF THE SCRIBES AND
MATT. xxiii. 1-13.
1. Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2. Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses'
3. All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
• Ps. xxiii. 4.
7 Ch. x. 32.
Eph. iii. 16-20.
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.
As the scribes and the Pharisees were the great adversaries of the gospel, it was needful for our Lord to point out their errors, and show how little weight was due to their authority. Such is the purport of the discourse contained in this chapter; from which we learn how heavy an account is laid up against all whose situation and office make them leaders and teachers, and who betray the duty which they are bound faithfully to discharge.
Something, indeed, was committed to the scribes and Pharisees, which they could not corrupt; they sat in Moses' seat: the words of his law, which was the law of God, were read in the synagogue every sabbath day: these were not changed by the mouth which uttered them; and these, therefore, the people were to observe and do. And this is the great blessing of a revealed word; and of a public worship, in which the revealed word makes a chief part. The people are enabled to "prove all things, and hold fast that which is good.'
Still, where the accredited teacher is unfaithful, the path of duty here commanded is very difficult : observe their words, but do not ye after their works. Those who say, and do not, who act contrary to their teaching, fearfully endanger the souls of others. When it is as St. Paul states-" Thou which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that
1 See Acts xv. 21. "Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogue every sabbath day."
preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law, dishonourest thou God?" when things are thus, it can hardly happen but that "the name of God should be blasphemed " through the transgression of those who ought to glorify Him, and shine as lights in the world.
5. But all their works they do for to be seen of men : they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
6. And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
7. And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. S
8. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren.
9. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father which is in heaven.
10. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
11. But he that is greatest among you shall be your ser
12. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
2 Phylacteries were sentences of Scripture, written on slips of parchment, which the Jews bound upon their foreheads and their sleeves, making a literal interpretation of Exodus xiii. 9. "It shall be to thee for a sign upon thy hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes." They had also been commanded to make a "fringe in the borders of their garments," that they might "look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them." Numb. xv. 59. Those who pretended to superior sanctity, made these fringes and phylacteries of unusual breadth.
3 Properly master or teacher: a title of dignity, and solemnly conferred as giving authority.
What is here objected against the Pharisees, shows where the principle of their corruption lay. They did their works to be seen of men. Whereas "it is a very small thing to be judged of man, or of man's judgment." Our business is, to approve ourselves to God. They made a show of sanctity, without real holiness pretending to honour God's word while they transgressed it. Our business is, to write his commandments "upon the table of the heart." They desired superiority and pre-eminence: the uppermost seats, and greetings of respect. Christians are taught to cherish very different feelings, "in honour preferring one another." He that is greatest among them, will be the humblest. So he will be most like his divine Master, who, for his sake, "humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
The recollection of the great rule, One is your Master, even Christ, will keep all in the right place. Ministers will not seek the honour which
cometh from men. Neither will the people be so blindly led by their authority, as to follow their errors, if in anything they depart from the simplicity of Scripture. They will "honour all men:" and especially him who is the minister of God to them for good but let them still remember, one is their Father, which is in heaven.
13. But 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.
4 1 Cor. iv. 3.