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The Pharisees had employed all their influence to dissuade the minds of the people from receiving Christ as the Messiah. He was of Nazareth: and they alleged that out of Nazareth cometh no prophet. He healed their sick: they murmured, be cause he healed them on the sabbath-day. He went into their companies, that he might teach and warn: they complained, "this man receiveth sinners and eateth with them." He wrought many miracles: they affirmed that he wrought them through the power of the evil spirit. Thus they refused the truth which might have made them free, and leagued with Satan to keep their countrymen his slaves.

Ye neither enter in yourselves nor suffer them that are entering to go in! This is indeed an awful condemnation, and may fall on others besides the scribes and Pharisees of old. There are many ways

of hindering the advancement of religion, both in the individual soul, and in the world at large. The sinner, who by persuasion or example leads others into wilful transgression; the scoffer, who makes a mock of those who live under the fear of God; the hypocrite, who talks of godliness and practises unrighteousness, and so brings reproach upon the faith which he professes;-all these are doubly guilty:they bring into danger, and perhaps they involve in ruin the souls of others together with their own.

And as on these is pronounced a sentence of heavy woe; so is there, on the other hand, a proportionate blessing prepared for them who either by word or good example promote the cause of truth and piety, and "commend it to every man's conscience." These

are the "wise, who shall shine as the brightness of the firmament: and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever."

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MATT. xxiii. 14—24.

14. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

Widows were especially protected by the law of Moses, which the Pharisees professed to honour. “Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child." 1 If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your children shall be fatherless, and your wives widows." Job therefore comforts himself with the reflection, that he had never "caused the widow's eye to fail." And Isaiah reckons it among the many grounds of accusation against the nation, that they "judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them."


9 3

So now it was among the sins of the Pharisees that they devoured widows' houses:

s Dan. xii. 3.

2 Job xxxi. 16. xxix. 13.

took advantage

1 Ex. xxii. 22.

3 Isa. i. 23, 17.

of their helpless condition, to deprive them of their remaining substance, whilst for a pretence they made long prayer assumed the appearance without the reality of piety, that they might better acquire the confidence of those whom they meant to pillage. Therefore they should receive greater condemnation. They added hypocrisy to injustice. God was in their mouths, but the world had possession of their hearts and these things are recorded against them for our warning. Prayer may be a profession; godliness a livelihood; and proselytism a zeal for party, and not for God.

15. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

16. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor !

17. Ye fools and blind for whether is greater the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?

18. And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.

He is bound by his oath, and must abide by it, when he swears by the gift that is laid upon the altar: whilst an oath by the altar itself may be violated with impunity. So that the treasury, in which the scribes and Pharisees were interested, was held to be more sacred than the temple or the altar which was dedicated to God. Such was the teaching of these blind guides, by which they deceived

the souls which they pretended to instruct, and made their proselytes to sin.

19. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?

20. Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.

21. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein.

22. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.

23. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

24. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. 5

A proverbial phrase, against those who are ostentatiously scrupulous in trifles, where there is no temptation to offend: and omit the weightier matters of the law, which require pains and self-denial. How true was this of the Pharisee, who prided himself that he paid the full demand of the treasury, even to his garden herbs, and did not perceive that he had neither humility nor charity! How true of those who would not "eat with unwashen hands," " whilst they were daily seeking opportunities to be

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Faith here is nothing else but a sincere simplicity which attempts nothing subtilely, maliciously, or through deceit : but seeks that plain dealing be mutually used amongst men, in all their dealings with each other."--Calvin in loco.

5 Strain a small insect out of your liquor.

6 Ch. xv. 20.

tray the innocent! How true of those, who "would not go into the judgment-hall, lest they should be defiled," whilst they were "suborning witnesses,' and using perjury, to bring about the death of Christ!' How true of those who would pay the thirty pieces of silver, to obtain their guilty end, yet would not put it into the treasury, because it was the price of blood! 8

Yet it is not for their exactness in observing the letter of the law that the Pharisees are blamed. These things ought ye to have done. The fault was, that they left undone the weightier matters of the law, here called judgment, mercy, and faith: and in St. Luke, "judgment, and the love of God."9 The fault was, that all they did, was done for appearance sake, and did not proceed from a converted heart was intended to procure the applause of sanctity, whilst they were really under the dominion of pride and worldliness.

Let the heart be brought to the fear and love of God, and every part of his law will be equally observed: let the principle be, to do what is pleasing in his sight, and no one of his commands will appear light or trifling. Judgment, i. e. justice, will be maintained in the smallest things, as well as in the greatest: mercy, i. e. charity, will not seek the praise of men, but of Him "who seeth in secret:" and faith, i. e. fidelity, will keep its promise though

7 John xviii. 28.

8 Ch. xxvii. 6.

Luke xi. 41. The love of God being the foundation of justice, faithfulness, and charity. For if a man see his brother have need, and acts uncharitably or unjustly towards him, "how dwelleth the love of God in him." 1 John iii. 17.

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