Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. GOD'S LOVING PROVISION FOR THE SPIRITUAL INTERESTS OF HIS PEOPLE INVOLVED CORRESPONDING OBLIGATION.
II. INSTEAD OF SERVING GOD, THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS OF ISRAEL SOUGHT THEIR OWN ADVANTAGE.
III. SELFISHNESS AND UNBELIEF LED TO THE REJECTION OF THE PROPHETS, AND EVEN OF THE SON OF GOD HIMSELF.
IV. SUCH CONDUCT ENTAILS A JUDGMENT, WHICH, ALTHOUGH DELAYED, IS NEVERTHELESS SURE AND TERRIBLE.
V. THE LOVING PURPOSE OF GOD, ALTHOUGH HINDERED BY SUCH MEANS, WILL HE ULTIMATELY AND GLORIOUSLY FULFILLED. - M.
I. A GRACIOUS EXAMPLE OF THE DIVINE GOODNESS AND PATIENCE. It was a direct dealing with Israel, but it was an indirect dealing with all men. The comment is found in the historic development of the history of Israel.
II. A PAINFUL INSTANCE OF HUMAN UNFAITHFULNESS. This, as in all instances of a want of fidelity to important trusts, was sadly disastrous. But not only to them to whom the trust was committed, for all men expiate the sins of every unfaithful one. The condition of society is lowered; good fruits are blighted and cannot be gathered; pains and penalties are incurred which fall heavily upon all. Had every man been faithful to his trust, what a paradise this hard earth would have presented! But the world walks on a lower plane for every unholy life passed upon it. Had that vineyard brought forth its due fruits, all nations would have been made partakers. Of the few small patches which bore, the world has the fruit in those holy records which are as the salt of the earth. But how much of the corn and the oil and the wine is wanting! On this account is presented -
III. A SAD ILLUSTRATION OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENT. Israel is deposed. The sacred trust is withdrawn. The vineyard is in other hands. The unfaithful husbandmen, as such, are destroyed. Alas for Israel! Her crown is in the dust, her harps upon the willows. She does not with her voice sing the pleasant songs of Zion. She is not the great spiritual power in the earth for which she was designed. Her calling and election she did not make sure. True, for the fathers' sakes she remains a testimony in the earth. But it is as a broken-off branch. The world gains nothing by Israel's rejection. The Gentiles are wise to weep and mourn on her behalf; and, knowing that "God is able to graft them in again, they are wise to pray earnestly for their recovery. "The receiving of them" would be "life from the dead." So let every Gentile believer pitifully behold the nation sitting in the dust, having become the uncircumcision in the spirit: and at this time, alas! "separate from Christ" and really "alienated from the commonwealth of" the true "Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope." Nor can it be otherwise till they who now are "far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ." - G.
I. FAITHLESS TO GOD; UNJUST TO MEN. If men do not know God, neither can they know those who are sent of him. The Pharisees were set against Jesus because he was the only living presentment of their own neglected duties to God.
II. VIOLENCE FALLACIOUS TO THOSE WHO EMPLOY IT. The wicked husbandmen Blindly slay the emissary. It is of no avail. The Erinys, the fury, the avenging spirit of the dead man, will come back. The violence against Jesus brought about the removal of his murderers from their place.
III. ABUSE OF GOOD MEANS ITS LOSS. "The vineyard given to others." So do great inheritances melt away from their possessors; and the industrious servant comes to the seat of the dissipated lord. The very intelligence that is misused decays; and the loss of influence means loss of moral life.
IV. THE SCALES OF DIVINE AND OF HUMAN ESTIMATION OFTEN DIFFER. A lesson often suggested by Christ. "Men are not what they seem." In science, in literature, in politics, the greatest men often rise up, untrained in the schools, to confute the conventional judgment of the time about education. So in religion. It is difficult to realize that the Savior was once scoffed at as a rustic, illiterate teacher from Nazareth. Yet so it was. There is a profound wonder in the turns of human life; and so long as we have eyes for the hand and working of God, miracles in the truest sense will never cease. - J.
I. THE LORD'S VINEYARD. A vineyard is often used in Scripture as an object of comparison. The heart is probably represented under this pleasing and beautiful image in the Song of Solomon, where it is written, "My mot
I. A TRAP LAID FOR CHRIST.
1. By whom? Ultimately and originally by the Pharisees, the leaders of ultra-Judaism and advocates of a restored theocracy and national independence. But that this view, having its root at first in profound spirituality of aim and motive, had been subsidized by baser considerations, is only too evident. Their hatred for Christ on the present occasion led them to throw away all scruples they might have felt, and to assume a disingenuous position of inquiry. But they could do this the more effectively in concert with others, with whom, although somewhat disagreeing on the solution to be accepted of the theory of national independence, they yet agreed upon the general question itself. The Herodians were a recent party, attached to the fortunes and politics of the Herods, and accepting their rule as a satisfactory compromise of the difficulty arising from the theocratic views of the Jews and the actual supremacy of the Roman empire. They are supposed to have originated with the Pharisees, with whom they still retained general relations, and with whom they for the most part co-operated. Menahem the Essene, who was a Pharisee, being captivated, it is said, by the predicted ascendency of the house of Herod, attached himself to Herod the Great, and brought over many of his co-religionists. They believed that in the monarchy of Herod the national aspirations of the Jews were reasonably met, and at the same time the demands of Rome, whose creature he was. They were as a party, as might be expected, less scrupulous than the original Pharisees. The latter imagined, as many like them have done since, that by suborning others to do a dishonorable action they avoided the disgrace of it themselves.
2. In what did the snare consist? In an attempt to get Christ to commit himself to the tenets of one or other of the political parties of the day. This was not with the view of strengthening the influence of either, but simply to compromise him, according to his answer, either with the Roman government on the one hand, or with the national party of Judaism on the other.
3. How was it halted? With flattery: yet flattery which unwillingly witnessed to the "openness" and uprightness of Christ's character, his Divine impartiality, his fearless truthfulness.
II. THE TRAP EVADED. The simplicity of Christ, upon which they had calculated for the success of their scheme, was the very cause of its failure. "Wise as serpents, but harmless as doves," is a principle which has its root in the nature of the Divine life. The inquiry is answered:
1. By an appeal to matter of fact. "Show me a penny," etc. The existence of such a coin (the denarius, which was the standard silver coin of the Romans, value about eightpence or ninepence), with its "image and superscription," proved beyond question the subject condition of Palestine. The actual situation being, therefore, what it was, and, so far as they could do anything, irreversible, it was not right for them to ignore it. If the privileges attending it were freely made use of, the duties involved should also be discharged.
2. By enunciating a dealer and wider principle than they recognized. As things were, the practice of their own religion was freely permitted to the Jews, toleration being a principle of imperial policy. There was, therefore, no really spiritual difficulty involved. The political nostrums of Pharisee and Herodian alike were, therefore, party cries and nothing more. They were thus convicted of unreality, of hypocrisy, or acting a part. It was not religion they cared for, but their own personal or party ends. Yet at the same time, for such as then or at any future time might have their religious scruples affected by political conditions, Christ laid down a general principle of action. When human government is not opposed to Divine, submission may be conscientiously made to both. Only where they differ is there any room for doubt; but even such a doubt will be satisfactorily dealt with by beginning from the Divine side of obligation. This principle, which stands good for all times, is essentially a spiritual one. Under all circumstances, therefore, the duty of the Christian, or conscientious religionist, is shown to be fundamentally a moral one. Actually existent authority imposes obligations which have to be recognized in the spirit of submission and piety, when not conflicting with Divine prerogatives. Christianity has only indirectly a bearing on politics; its direct and immediate concern is with morals. - M.
I. THAT CHRIST BEARS HIS TESTIMONY TO THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE CLAIMS OF EARTHLY AUTHORITY. The Christian need be under no apprehension of following this principle out to its extremest limits. For if the earthly government be oppressive and unjust, he knows full well that the King of kings has his own methods of deposing; for he believes that "he putteth down one and setteth up another." He has learned to submit even to oppression for conscience' sake. But these questions respect the extreme, the occasional, the exceptional conditions of political life. Fidelity to the constituted head of authority would, according to Christian principles, secure the divinely appointed Head.
II. CHRIST UTTERS HIS EVER-REITERATED DEMAND FOR FIDELITY TO THE INALIENABLE CLAIMS OF GOD. "Render unto God the things that are God's." Is anything not God's? If in truth all is first rendered to him in an honest consecration to his will, then may that which he ordains for the neighbor be given to the neighbor; that which is for the poor to the poor; or that for the family, or for self even, so given; and therefore that which is for "the king, as supreme," to the king may be rendered.
III. LET THE MAN' HIMSELF, WHO TRULY IS GOD'S, BE RENDERED UNTO GOD. One has beautifully taught thus: "That which bears Caesar's image is, as belonging to Caesar, to be given to him; but that which has God's image belongs to God." Had Israel been faithful to "render" themselves "to God" they would not in those late days have been given up to the Romans, as in earlier days fidelity to God would have kept back the armies of Nebuchadnezzar. The great principle to guide nations and individuals alike is truly to be the Lord's. Then, when he is the God of the nation, all other service and all other obligations fall into their proper order and degree of importance. And he who serves his God in humility will serve his king in fidelity. He who is obedient to the Lord's claims will know how to render the claims of masters, and lords, and rulers, and sovereigns. Not more truly is the Law one," Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," and "Thou shalt love thy neighbor," than is "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." - G.
I. DISHONEST SUBTLETY MATCHED BY CLEARSIGHTED WISDOM. We must be, if possible, "wise as serpents," but, above all, honest in purpose. It is the false tongue that stammers, and the fox-like cunning that entraps itself.
II. VERBAL TRUTH MAY CONCEAL HEART FALSEHOOD. They spoke most truly to Jesus about himself, and yet most untruly. So of all words designed to flatter and deceive. There may be a divorce between the tongue and the heart.
III. CONDENSED ARGUMENT. In the use he made of the coin, Jesus suggested a whole train of argument. The coin with its image was a symbol of earthly rule. The kingdom of Jesus is ideal, and independent of the forms of this world (John 18:36). The loyalty of the Christian to the kingdom which is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, teaches him how to act in relation to worldly governments. But Christianity is not to be confounded with politics. "No earthly governments can prevent the spiritual service of God. That should not be rendered to them which is due to God only" (Godwin). - J.
I. A SNARE LAID. This tribute money (κῆνσος)was the poll or capitation tax payable to the Roman Government, from the time Judaea became subject to the Roman power. Judas of Galilee headed a revolt against this tax, but perished with his followers. If our Lord allowed the lawfulness of paying tribute to Caesar, it would have compromised him with the Jewish nationalists, who would not have been slow to charge him with contempt of the Law of Moses for the words of Deuteronomy 17:15, "Thou mayest not set a stranger over thee," were explained by them as forbidding the payment of tribute to a foreign power. If he acknowledged the unlawfulness of such payment, he came into direct collision with the Roman authorities. In the one case, he offended the Judaean patriots and his own Gaiilean followers; in the other, he incensed the Herodian royalists who acquiesced in Roman rule. On the one side, it was treachery to national and patriotic aspirations and Messianic prospects; on the other, it was treason against the Roman Caesar and Pilate his governor. Such was the snare laid for him; such was the trap they set in order to catch him. Thus they thought to entangle him, rather, ensnare (παγιδεύσωσιν) him, in his talk, as a fowler ensnares a bird.
II. THE SUBTLETY WITH WHICH THE SNARE IS LAID.
1. They put the question in such a categorical form as seemed to them to necessitate a simple "yea" or "nay; "thus, "Is it lawful to give tribute, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give?" The double question is to emphasize their earnestness, and to invite a prompt reply, affirmative or negative; though the first question may refer to the lawfulness of the payment, and the second to its expediency or advisability.
2. The motive which actuated them to interrogate our Lord so peremptorily was most sinister and insidious. The evangelists, viewing their conduct from different standpoints, characterize it differently. This difference, which we discover by comparing the parallel passages, is most instructive. Their conduct in propounding this ensnaring interrogatory was wickedness according to the first evangelist; it was craftiness (πανουργίαν), according to the third; while, according to the second, it was hypocrisy (ὑπόκρισιν). Their question had a close connection with and combined all these three elements; it was conceived in wickedness, cradled in craftiness, and cloaked by hypocrisy. Thus the interrogators acted as spies, or "liers in wait" (ἐγκαθέτους), as St. Luke calls them, while they feigned themselves just men. Our Lord tore off their mask, exposing them in their true colors, and addressing them in their real character, when, according to St. Matthew, he says, "Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?"
3. The object they had in view was to embroil the Savior with the royalists, and so compass his destruction. For this purpose it is plain they desired a negative answer, as appears suggested by the words, "Thou regardest not the person of men," implying such fearlessness as would enable him to reject foreign authority as inconsistent with acknowledging God as their King. Their ulterior object, as stated by St. Luke, was "that they might take hold of his speech, so as to deliver him up to the power and to the authority of the governor;" in other words, to deliver him to the Roman power, rule, or magistracy (ἀρχῇ), and to the lawful authority or jurisdiction (ἐξουσία) of Pilate, the Roman procurator.
4. Necessity brings together strange companions. The Pharisees were as mean as they were unprincipled, and as untruthful as they were unprincipled and mean. They proved their want of principle by the unnatural coalition which they formed with the Herodians - the patriots so called who opposed foreign dominion with the elastic politicians who owned the Roman power; the foes with the friends of Caesar; sticklers for the Law with the supporters of an authority deemed inimical to the Law. Their meanness was manifest in the fulsome flattery with which they addressed our Lord; while in their base untruthfulness they pretended to approach him with a quasi-case of conscience, though in reality they were carrying out the counsel for his destruction.
III. THE SAVIOUR'S REPLY. Had he replied in the affirmative, he would have forfeited his popularity; had he answered in the negative, he would have forfeited his life. The latter was the consummation wished for by the members of this unholy alliance of superstition with political expediency. To give vividness to the transaction, our Lord ordered the production of a Roman penny, or denarius, a small silver coin of the value of sevenpence halfpenny, or eightpence halfpenny at most. On that coin was an image, the head of the then reigning sovereign, Tiberius, while round it ran the usual superscription or inscription, consisting of the name and titles of the emperor. Our Lord, as if in surprise, asks, half in irony and half in indignation, what all this meant, and whose it was? Their unavoidable answer was, "Caesar's;" and this very answer broke the snare, and the bird escaped out of the net of the fowler. Then said our Lord - Give back (ἀπόδοτε) to Caesar what belongs to him; pay back to Caesar what you acknowledge to be his. The coinage proves the king, the currency affords evidence of his property; while, on the other hand, you render to God the things that are his.
IV. IMPORTANT PRINCIPLE. This principle, so important and far-reaching, though plain enough in its general bearing, has been differently understood. Some have regarded the two parts of the answer as entirely distinct, as though belonging to different spheres, or placed on different planes, and so incapable of clashing or even coming in contact; as though he said, "Pay your taxes, and perform your religious duties, but keep the two things apart." More usually they are understood as two separate departments of human duty, coexisting and compatible; or as standing to each other in the relation of the part to the whole. According to the second of these three views, the payment of civil dues and the observance of religious duties stand side by side together, and as equally obligatory: that is, render to Caesar, as civil ruler, the obedience that belongs to him, and to God, as spiritual Sovereign, the homage of the soul stamped with the Divine image, and therefore his due; or, in a more literal and narrow sense, according to some, pay the civil taxes to the government of Caesar, and the didrachma, or temple-tribute, for the support of the sanctuary and service of God. We understand it in the larger sense of obedience to our earthly sovereign and duty to our heavenly King, as co-ordinate and coexistent, perfectly compatible but not competitive; or, according to the third view, the former may be regarded as part of the latter. This great principle, properly understood and acted on, would have prevented many an unseemly collision of Church and State, and many a sinful encroachment of one on the domain of the other. It would have prevented the papal power from trampling the crown of kings in the dust, as in the reign of John, and it would have prevented, on the other hand, the persecution of the Church by the State, as in the days of the Puritans. Our Lord intimated by his reply, that so long as the Jews were allowed to worship God according to his own appointment, and enjoyed the protection of the Roman power therein, they were under obligations to contribute to the taxes that supported that power. But these obligations to civil government were not to suspend, or set aside, or in any way interfere with the higher and holier obligations which they owed to God. Duty to God must be the regulating principle of duty to civil rulers; the latter is then part of, or rather part and parcel with, the former. Thus our Lord clearly indicated the respective provinces of civil rulers and of religious teachers - the relative positions of secular authority and spiritual power. Thus he solved the problem of two kings and two kingdoms in one realm; thus he taught obedience to civil governors in temporal things, while in spiritual their duty to God was paramount. No doubt many nice points may present themselves, and many delicate questions may arise in practically carrying out the principle stated; but we are not without light from other parts of Scripture to guide us in the application of this principle, even in cases of greatest difficulty. - J.J.G.
I. CHRIST WILL HAVE ACCOUNT OF THE SMALLEST THINGS. The denarius was a small coin in common use. The spirit of Christ, sun-like, discovers even the "motes." In all things there is duty. Christ's attitude to the Law not only general but particular. "Not one jot or tittle" was to pass away unfulfilled because of the influence of Christianity. "Ye are my disciples, if ye do whatsoever I have commanded you." We shall have to give account of smallest things at last - idle words, false shame, "the cup of cold water," etc. The parable of the pounds has for its moral, "He that is faithful in that which is least," etc. There is no slurring over of little things because of a general disposition and amiable intention.
II. SMALL THINGS OFTEN REPRESENT GREAT PRINCIPLES, AND BECOME THE VEHICLES OF GREAT DUTIES. Coins are often of value, apart from their intrinsic worth, in witnessing to conquests, political influences, the progress of civilization, etc.; and numismatists have made many important contributions to history through their testimony. In this case the witness was even more pregnant and precious. It proved what actually existed, and represented the claim of earthly powers. The duty to God was shown thereby to be something quite distinct, and the general relation of the human and the Divine in human obligations was thereby permanently settled and set forth. It is equally so in regard to other things. "A straw will show which way the wind blows, or the water flows." Illustrated in such instances as the Massacre of St. Bartholomew; watchwords and flag of truce in time of war; the potty dealings of common life; the "minor moralities" of the Christian, etc.
III. WE ARE ENCOURAGED AND COMMANDED TO BRING SMALL THINGS TO CHRIST Do not say he has no interest in them. See how he looks at that widow with her two mites. Hear how he calls the little children. We need a more thorough Christianity, and if we follow this rule of bringing our daily concerns, our griefs, our moral difficulties, our sins, to the throne of grace, we shall become "Israelites indeed, in whom is no guile." He will interpret the minutest uncertainty or perplexity, and show us the great in the little. Erasmus Darwin wrote (April 13, 1789): "I have just heard that there are muzzles or gags made at Birmingham for the slaves in our islands. If this be true, and such an instrument could be exhibited by a speaker in the House of Commons, it might have a great effect. Could not one of their long whips or wire-tails be also procured and exhibited? But an instrument of torture of our own manufacture would have a greater effect, I dare say" ('Life,' p. 46). - M.
I. THE CASE STATED. An extreme one; and probably a locus classicus in the works of the rabbins. It was supposed to be a reductio ad absurdum of all theories of resurrection or immortality. "In the resurrection" is used apparently in a pregnant sense, as including the judgment, when all questions would be decided, and the conditions of the future state settled. The case as stated referred only to legal and external conditions, questions of sentiment or spiritual attachment being ignored. The only case in Scripture of Christ coming into direct collision with the Sadducees. That the questioners were not maliciously disposed in presenting these difficulties may be inferred from the manner in which they are answered: not indignantly, or with an epithet expressing moral condemnation; but in a straightforward, matter-of-fact way, although censure is also expressed - a kind of censure peculiarly distasteful to such men, who generally pretend to grit originality and critical acumen. They are accused of ignorance and spiritual inexperience.
II. How CHRIST DISPOSED OF IT.
1. By reference to the possibilities of Divine power. "In the resurrection state there will not be a repetition, pure and simple, of present conditions; there will be advance of inward and outward development. Love will continue; but in the case of the holy it will be sublimed. 'The power of God' is adequate, not only to the re-formative, but also to the transformative changes that may be requisite; and his wisdom will see to it that they be in harmony with the perfectibility of individual personality and the general procession of the ages. Even on earth there are loftier loves than those that are merely marital" (Morison). "They neither marry, nor are given in marriage." "His words teach absolutely the absence from the resurrection life of the definite relations on which marriage rests in this, and they suggest an answer to the yearning questions which rise up in our minds as we ponder the things behind the veil... The old relations may subsist under new conditions. Things that are incompatible here may there be found to coexist. The saintly wife of two saintly husbands may love both with an angelic, and therefore a pure and unimpaired, affection. The contrast between our Lord's teaching and the sensual paradise of Mahomet, or Swedenberg's dream of the marriage state perpetuated under its earthly conditions, is so obvious as hardly to call for notice" (Plumptre). "The present life is but a partial revelation of the Divine power. All the relations of earthly families do not continue in heaven" (Godwin)."
2. By interpretation of Scripture. Not the letter of Scripture is appealed to, but the underlying truth involved in the statement of Scripture, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. The copula connecting the first clause of the quotation is not in the original, so that no argument can be founded upon it. Professor Plumptre's explanation - The principle implied in the reasoning is, that the union of the Divine Name with that of a man, as in "I am the God of Abraham,' involved a relation existing, not in the past only, but when the words were uttered. They meant something more than "I am the God whom Abraham worshipped in the past" - is, therefore, manifestly inadequate. That of Dr. Morison is more explicit and profound: "It amounted to this: If there was at all a patriarchal dispensation, embracing a Messianic, or redemptive scheme, and thus involving a Divinely commissioned Messiah or Redeemer, who was to be in due time incarnated, then there must be a life to come. But there was such a dispensation, if it be the case that God became ' the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,' in any distinctive sense whatever. And then, moreover, as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob took personal advantage of the Messianic covenant into which God entered with them, they 'live' They have 'life,' 'everlasting life,' in the intense acceptation of the term" (in loc.). Cf. Hebrews 11:13, 14, 16. A more direct proof might have been obtained in other portions of the Old Testament, but the skill of this argument lay in the reference to a book received by the Sadducees, and in the unexpected interpretation of familiar words. Thus their liberalism and narrowness were rebuked, and the popular longing of the Jews confirmed. The line of evidence led by Christ not only meets the objection to resurrection, but includes the proof of that of which resurrection is only a portion, viz. immortality. If such depth of meaning lay in the words of an old pre-Christian revelation, what may not the gospel itself unfold, when spiritually interpretated in the light of new conditions and experiences
(1) The fact of the resurrection; and
(2) the conditions of the resurrection life.
I. The first clear teaching is, THE DEAD LIVE. "That the dead are raised even Moses showed;" so little had these sons of Moses understood his words. And now Jesus shows it more clearly, and points to the life as an immortal life: "Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection." True, this is affirmed of them "that are accounted worthy to attain to that world, and the resurrection from the dead." But that "the dead" - that is, all the dead - "are raised Moses showed, as touching the dead that they are raised." Oh, precious words! Thanks be to God, life does not end in a tomb I Abraham and Isaac and Jacob live; yea, "all live unto him," if unto us they die. Jesus points to the source of all error on this as on so many subjects: "Ye know not the Scriptures, nor the power of God." On these two hang all the true faith of men. No one can read "the Scriptures" and deny the resurrection. In Jesus' view the old Scriptures sufficiently affirmed the great truth. And he who in these days would defend himself against the assaults of unbelief must sit at the feet of Jesus. No one can doubt his belief in the resurrection. "And why is it judged incredible?" All difficulties vanish in presence of "the power of God." If the question of the "foolish one" be urged, "How? - How are the dead raised?" the only answer faith should vouchsafe is, "The power of God." And if the further demand is pressed, but "with what manner of body do they come?" it must still be replied, "God giveth it a body." Let the true believer stand by the Word of God. The resurrection rests not for its certainty on a foundation of human ratiocination or scientific deduction, neither is it by them to be overturned. The one impregnable wall of defense for this most precious article of human faith and this most precious condition of human life is in the combined words, "The Scriptures: the power of God."
II. As to the CONDITION OF THE RESURRECTION LIFE. We wait to know this. One only truth is enough to carry with us, an earnest of all - "as angels in heaven." The truths are almost antiphonal: "Neither can they die any more; as angels in heaven." - G.
I. DIFFICULTIES OF RELIEF ARE OFTEN IDLE LUXURIES OF THE MIND. One cannot suppose that these men were really troubled by such a question as they raised. It was sheer idleness, bred of useless school life. And so with many theoretical questions pretended to be of serious importance: pressing into what is inaccessible and kept in reserve by God. They are "solved by walking." Act - act rightly here and now, and the question will solve itself, or cease to interest.
II. DISINGENUOUS REASONING FALLS INTO STUPIDITY. What else but childish is this confusion of earthly relations with the spiritual kingdom? Marriage, birth, and death are time-changes; belong to the idea of earth and time, not to eternity. And the least instructed mind feels that this is so. There are enough mysteries in the present life to engage our attention without prying into those beyond.
III. THE RAY OF TRUTH. The one great historic Word, the basis of the national consciousness, sheds its sufficient light upon the question. God does not claim dead objects for his own. Souls that he calls his, "do of his own dear life partake," and "never will he them forsake." It was a mystical interpretation of the ancient Word; and often there are times when we may take refuge in the mystical interpretation, and feel that it is the deepest and the best. "Those who are now dead to men still live in God." - J.
I. IMPORTANCE OF THE QUESTION. Though the question propounded in this section was proposed for a captious purpose, and in order to entangle, yet, divested of its technicalities, it is a most important one. There is no subject more closely connected with the immortal hopes of man than that to which the above section refers. The doctrine of the resurrection is implied, or directly inculcated, in several passages of the Old Testament. In the New, in which life and immortality are so clearly brought to light, we find many plain statements in regard to it. The whole subject is discussed at large, and fully elaborated in that magnificent chapter, the fifteenth of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, while our Lord, in the Scripture under consideration, puts the argument pithily and pointedly in reply to a question from the Sadducees.
II. AN ASSUMPTION. In clearing away the rubbish, with which they overlaid the difficulty whereby they thought to ensnare him, the Savior charges them with ignoring the mighty power of God, who quickeneth the dead and calleth the things which be not as though they were. He taxes them with resting their reasoning on an unwarrantable assumption, to the effect that the condition of life in heaven would be the same as here on earth, while, on the contrary, the occupants of that spirit-world are as the angels of God. Having, moreover, affirmed their ignorance of those Scriptures which they themselves acknowledged, he proceeds to the proof of the doctrine impugned.
III. IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL. By his quotation from the third chapter of Exodus, he establishes the immortality of the soul. God is the God of the living, for the relationship thus indicated is connected with the bestowal of benefits and blessings, while the dead are beyond the reach of these: but the passage quoted affirms God to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; therefore these patriarchal men, whose earthly tabernacles, long dissolved, had mouldered and mingled with kindred dust, still lived in some sense and state and place. Their souls lived in God's sight and in God's presence and to God's praise. The-immortality of the soul is thus a clear enough conclusion, but the proof is not so plain with regard to the resurrection of the body; and yet this is the very point in dispute. It is a well-known fact that several of the heathen philosophers who believed in the immortality of the soul, seem never to have dreamt of the resurrection of the body. How, then does our Lord's plain proof of the former doctrine serve-the purpose of establishing the latter? This is the difficulty of the passage. The following considerations will resolve it: -
IV. GROUND OF SADDUCEES' DENIAL OF THE RESURRECTION. The chief reason of the Sadducees denying the resurrection of the body was their disbelief in the immortality of the soul. They repudiated the last-named doctrine, and on this very ground rejected the former. They said the soul does not exist apart from, or after, the dissolution of the body. "They gainsay the duration of the soul" is the testimony of Josephus to their opinion on this point. From this they inferred that there is no likelihood of, nor need for, the body to be raised up, as, according to this erroneous opinion of theirs, there was no soul to reanimate, or reinhabit, or be reunited therewith. Our Lord meets inference with inference. Having proved, as we have seen, the immortality of the soul, he thus prepares the way for the corollary, that the body would be raised from the dust of death, and that soul and body would be then and for ever reunited. They insisted on the extinction of the soul at the death of the body, or its non-existence as distinct from that body, and so wished it to be inferred therefrom that the body would not be raised, and no reunion ever take place. The Savior proves the distinct and undying existence of the soul, and leaves the Sadducees to infer the resurrection of the body and its reunion with that soul from which death had for a time separated it. In this way he opposed the inferential part of his argument to the inferential part of their doctrine, inasmuch as they did not, it would seem, employ expanded argument or developed reasoning. Having demolished the main pillar of their system, he left the frail fabric erected thereon to fall of itself. Our Lord's reasoning, though concise, was nevertheless conclusive.
V. CONFIRMATION. This view of the subject derives some confirmation from a custom of the ancient Egyptians. They embalmed the bodies of their dead, and so preserved them for centuries. Their object, as is with strong probability supposed, was that the mummy corpse might be prepared for the reception of the returning soul, and for reoccupancy by that former inhabitant, if such were their belief; it was doubtless a ray of light derived from revelation, but distorted as usual in such cases. While they anticipated the glorious fact of a reunion of soul and body, they added thereto the fancy that the same body, unaltered and unimproved, would be its receptacle. Revelation, however, confirms the one, but corrects the other; for these vile bodies shall be raised spiritual bodies, and fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body.
VI. OTHER EXPLANATIONS. Some, we are aware, understand by resurrection in this passage merely a renewal of life, restricting that life to the soul. In this way they remove to some extent the difficulty involved in the reasoning, but destroy at the same time the proper meaning of the word, as might easily be shown from other Scriptures. Paul, for example, speaks of the resurrection in the ordinary and usual sense when he asks," How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?" Besides, it is to be observed that, in our Lord's quotation, God is not called the God of the souls of the patriarchs, but of their compound being, consisting of both soul and body. The reference to marriage in the verses preceding also points to the resurrection of the body as well as to the life of the soul Life is thus implied in relation to both the constituent parts of man - present life for the soul, future life for the body. Others there are who, understanding the argument to relate exclusively to those who die the death of the righteous, elucidate it in this manner. The Scripture cited by our Lord, in which God declares himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, involves the Father-ship of God and the sonship of believers, as appears from such Scripture statements as "I will be to him a God, and he shall be to me a son;" also, "I will be to you a Father, and ye shall be to me sons and daughters." Again, our adoption as children of God includes the redemption of the body, and consequent recovery from the power of the grave, as may be gathered from Romans 8:23, "We wait for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body." Now, though this explanation plausible, yet it appears too restricted, and not quite in harmony with our Lord's own words in John 5:28, 29, "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."
VII. Practical Observations.
1. A few practical thoughts connect themselves with this subject. We learn hence the value of an accurate acquaintance with the Scriptures of the Old as well as of the New Testament. Our Lord refuted his adversaries as he repelled Satan, by an appeal to the Law and to the testimony. He took every opportunity of putting honor on, and claiming respect for, the Divine Word. It is our safeguard against error. His quotation is from a portion of that Pentateuch which has in recent times been the object of repeated and insidious attacks.
2. We see how our Master meets his opponents on their own chosen ground, and reasons with them after their own favourite mode. They put their objections inferentially; our Lord, who always adapted his discourse, whether sermon, or parable, or argument, to his audience, adopts the selfsame method. The Sadducees believed, at least, the five books of Moses; he quotes from an early portion of those books. He denounced their error with mildness, and demonstrated it from the very Scriptures to the authority of which they themselves deferred. He took the ground from under their feet by hard arguments, not by hard words. Persuasiveness, not abusiveness, characterizes his reasoning.
8. Let us seek grace that we may appreciate as we ought the comfort of this doctrine. Our very dust is dear to God. The visible sky above us may pass away, but no particle of this dust shall perish. Let us realize the duty of seeking a part in the resurrection of the just. Let the doctrine have a practical effect upon our hves. With this prospect in view, "what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness"?
"Those bodies that corrupted fall
I. PRINCIPAL CAUSES OF RELIGIOUS ERROR.
1. Ignorance of Holy Scripture.
(1) Unaided human nature is prone to error. Bather might it be said that of itself human nature cannot possibly know the truth. We have but to remember the idola of which philosophy warns us, to perceive how much there is in the circumstances and very constitution of the human mind to interfere with the attainment of intellectual truth. Difficulties of this nature, however, may be practically overcome by diligence, candour, and careful study; and the phenomena of the senses will yield up the secret of their working to the educated thinker. But there are things beyond sense concerning which the methods of intellectual research can give us no information. The agnosticism of science concerning these things is therefore, as a whole, to be accepted as real. Were it not that there are moral as well as purely intellectual and constitutional causes for this ignorance, no fault need be found with it. But any view of mental error which omitted consideration of the fact of human depravity could not be considered adequate. The natural mind "loves darkness rather than light."
(2) Scripture is intended to correct human error. "The entrance of thy words giveth light" (Psalm 119:130). They reveal the existence, works, character, and purpose of God. By so doing they solve the mysteries attaching to human life and duty. They are the Word of God, anticipating and transcending the findings of the world's experience. This is done, not only by communicating what is above sensible perception, but by affording a discipline to the spiritual nature. "For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). "Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work" (2 Timothy in. 16). "Ye search the Scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me" (John 5:39).
2. Lack of spiritual experience. "Nor the power of God." This ignorance may consist partly in ignorance of the facts of the Divine history of mankind as recorded in Scripture; but it is chiefly due to absence of personal, experimental consciousness of God in the spiritual nature. It is the "darkness of the heart" which exaggerates and intensifies the effects of general ignorance. "The power of God" works its miracles in the inward as well as the outward life; in conversion, sanctification, communion, and providential grace.
II. IN WHOM THESE MAY EXIST. The Sadducees were, according to the standards of their day, educated men. With the letter of the books of Moses they were familiar (ver. 26); and they were most careful to preserve them from addition or intermixture.
1. Highly educated men may err in Divine things. "Thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding, and didst reveal them unto babes" (Matthew 11:25). Secular culture has not furnished an atom of the transcendental knowledge upon which religion is based; the Bible is not its product, nor can it be interpreted by it. Yet is not literature, art, or science to be discarded as a secondary aid to the interpretation of Scripture. If God does not require our knowledge, neither does he, as it has been finely said, require our ignorance.
2. There are many who know the letter of God's Word without knowing its spirit. Religious training may bestow an acquaintance with Scriptural history and doctrine and the chief outlines of moral duty, but it cannot ensure the inward knowledge of the heart. The interpretation of Scripture is only possible to those who are spiritually enlightened. Knowing the Bible externally may actually prove a hindrance to an inward knowledge of it, if it be made too much of, or imagined sufficient in itself. Superficial acquaintance with Biblical literature, doctrine, etc., "puffeth up;" and it requires the sternest and most frequent assaults ere its true character is exposed to itself.
III. HOW THEY ARE TO BE REMOVED.
1. The teaching of Christ; awakening a sense of inward need and repentance, and revealing the correspondence of the Word of God to the expanding and maturing spiritual consciousness.
2. The gift of the Holy Spirit; which takes of the things of God and reveals them to us. "Things which eye saw not, and ear heard not, and which entered not into the heart of man, whatsoever things God prepared for them that love him. But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:9). Not least of the enlightening influence of the Holy Ghost is due to the purification of the heart. - M.
I. True RELIGIOUS INQUIRY IS ENCOURAGED BY CANDOUR AND SPIRITUAL INSIGHT ON THE PART OF RELIGIOUS TEACHERS. Matthew tells us that the Pharisees came together top the same place." when they saw the disscomfiture of the Sadducees; and "then one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying." Mark introduces him as one of the scribes. In the one Gospel the motive and encouragement are represented as experienced by the Pharisaic party in general; in the other they are represented as individually felt and acted upon. There were, therefore, elements of earnestness and spirituality amongst the Pharisees, and these were called forth by our Saviours teaching. They were now in a more favorable attitude for receiving the truth than they had ever been before. As to the idea expressed by "tempting," it need not be understood in a sinister sense, but generally as proving, testing, etc. Our Lord did not crush the spirit of inquiry, but courted it. They felt that there was more in him than they could explain, and that his knowledge of Scripture was spiritual and profound, and therefore they wished to discover what he could possibly have to tell them that was not already taught by Moses or his prophetic exponents. He had all but converted his enemies and critics into his disciples. He had infected them with his own spirit of religious earnestness. Of this mood the "lawyer" was the mouthpiece. He pushes inquiry to its highest point, and desires to know the chief duties of religion.
II. THE BEST MODE OF ANSWERING SUCH INQUIRY IS THAT WHICH PRESENTS THE SPIRIT AND SUBSTANCE OF DUTY, OR TRUE RELIGION IN ITS UNITY AND UNIVERSALITY. "Deuteronomy 6:4. This is not given as a part of the Law of Moses, but as the principle of all service. Leviticus 19:18 contains a similar principle for all social duties" (Godwin). Passing over all matters of mere ceremonial, and questions of less or more, he lays hold of the spirit of the Law and presents it to his inquirer. It is out of the very heart of the hook of ceremonies (Leviticus) that the duty to neighbors is extracted. He declares "the three unities of religion:
(1) the one God;
(2) the one faith;
(3) the one commandment" (Lunge);
and compels the agreement and admiration of his questioner. "Note also the real reverence shown in the form of address, 'Master,' i.e. 'Teacher, Rabbi.' He recognized the speaker as one of his own order" (Plumptre). All religion is summed up by him in a "great commandment," viz. the love of God, and that is shown in its earthward aspect to involve loving our neighbor as ourselves. That true religion is not ceremonial but spiritual is thus demonstrated; and in quoting the highest utterances of the prophets, the scribe but endorses and restates the same doctrine. Teacher and inquirer are therefore theoretically one. But more is needed; and towards the attainment of this the stimulus is given, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. This meant that -
III. SUCH INQUIRY CAN ONLY BE SATISFIED AND CROWNED BY ACTING UPON ITS HIGHEST SPIRITUAL CONVICTIONS. The words are significant as showing the unity of our Lord's teaching. Now, as when he spoke the sermon on the mount, the righteousness which fulfils the Law is the condition of the entrance into the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:19, 20). Even the recognition of that righteousness as consisting in the fulfillment of the two commandments that were exceeding broad, brought a man as to the very threshold of the kingdom. It is instructive to compare our Lord's different method of dealing, in Luke 10:25-37, with one who had the same theoretical knowledge, but who obviously, consciously or unconsciously, minimized the force of the commandments by his narrowing definitions" (Plumptre). "The kingdom of heaven is, for the moment, pictorially represented as localized, like the ordinary kingdoms of the world. The scribe, walking in the way of conscientious inquiry, and thus making religious pilgrimage, had nearly reached its borderland. He was bordering on the great reality of true religion, subjection of spirit to the sovereign will of God" (Morison). This state can only be attained to by conversion, the identification of the sinner through faith with the righteousness of the Savior, and the indwelling of the Spirit of God. It is thus scientific conviction becomes moral, and we are able to carry into effect what we know to be true and right. - M.
I. THE SIMPLICITY OF THE CHRISTIAN TEACHING. One word embodies it - the word "love." To this Christ gave the utmost prominence and the most beautiful illustration. This simple rule engages the devotion of the central energy of the entire life. It describes the first effort of feeble infancy and the ripest experience of the mature Christian age. It is at once the point from which all pure and active obedience takes its departure, and it is the end towards which all spiritual growth and culture tends. It is the alpha and the omega of the Christian spirit. To love, to love God first and supremely, and in that love to love the neighbor, is so complete a dedication of the entire inner man to the service of the Most High, that all commands requiring the details of that service are anticipated. From these branches hang all the rich, ripe clusters of fruitful obedience.
II. THE ELEVATING TENDENCY OF THAT TEACHING, WHICH SETS FORTH THE LOVE OF THE INFINITE EXCELLENCE AS THE HIGHEST AND MOST OBLIGATORY OF ALL ITS REQUIREMENTS. That holy system of spiritual morality first called Mosaism, or Judaism, and now called Christianity, is for ever raised to the highest pitch of excellence and worthiness by making this its central, its almost solitary, command. All that is good in morals, all that is pure in aspiration, all that is beneficent in action, flows from this fountain. Theperpetual aim to reach to the most entire love of the most exalted Object of human thought must insensibly raise the moral and spiritual character of every one who is controlled by so worthy an endeavor. It ensures the recognition of the soul's subjection to the authority of God; it makes the Divine excellences objects of ceaseless contemplation; it subordinates all the aims and activities of life to the holiest purposes; and, while withdrawing the life from the degradations of low and unworthy motives and pursuits, it regulates the whole by an ever-present, powerful, and satisfying principle of life, at the same time preserving the simplicity and moral cohesion - the unity - of the character. Never was a holier law uttered; never were the feet of men directed to a purer, safer path; never was a firmer, truer basis laid on which to found a kingdom of truth, of peace, and of well-being.
III. THE PRACTICAL CHARACTER OF THE CHRISTIAN TEACHING - "Thou shalt love thy neighbor." To present rules for the government of every hour and the regulation of every transaction of life would be far less effective than to seize upon a principle like this, which underlies all conduct. It may be entrusted with the guidance of the life in the absence of controlling regulations and minute details of obligatory observance. It leaves the spirit free to act according to its own generous impulses or prudent caution. Such a rule prevents the necessity for "Thou shalt not steal;" "Thou shalt not kill." Love embraces all virtues; it fulfils all righteousness. The regulating principle, "as thyself," points to the due estimate of one's own life; such a love for it as would prevent its exposure to evil, and such a discernment of the true interests of life, and the common participation in those interests, as would lead to right adjustment of the relative claims of self and the apparently conflicting claims of others. Truly, "there is none other commandment greater than these." This, indeed, is "much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." And he who has come to appreciate the truth and beauty of this is "not far from the kingdom of God;" while be who keeps this commandment already dwells within the security and shares the blessedness of that kingdom. - G.
I. THE LEADING IDEA FOR THE INTELLIGENCE. The unity of God, his personality, his supreme lovableness. "All love is lost save upon God alone."
II. The leading maxim for the will. To love one's neighbor as one's self. Kant said, trying to translate the gospel into his own dialect, "Act so that the maxim of thy will may be the principle of an universal legislation."
III. The moral surpasses the ritual in religion. Surpasses it by including it with itself. Nothing can be offered to God dearer than a just and a loving life. Love, in fact, is the measure of life's worth. And he who believes and acts upon these principles is recognized by Christ as being a Christian. - J.
I. PUERILITIES OF THE PHARISEES. The Pharisees busied themselves about the letter of the Law, but had little practical acquaintance with its true spirit. The Jews generally divided the commandments of the Law into the preceptive and prohibitory - the "Do" and the "Do not;" nor was there anything amiss in this. But the Pharisees, we are told, counted the affirmative precepts, and found them as many as the members of the body; they counted the negative, and reckoned them equal in number to the days of the year, viz. three hundred and sixty-five; they then added them together, and found that the total made up the exact number of letters in the Decalogue. They also divided the commandments into great and small - the more important and the less important, or the heavy and the light; those of greater weight being such commandments as related to the sabbath, circumcision, sacrifice, fringes, and phylacteries. They did not stop with puerilities of this sort, but descended to trifling minutiae, which we have neither time nor wish to record. Some of their distinctions were of a more mischievous kind, such as preferring the ceremonial to the moral Law, the oral to the written Law, and the trifles of the scribes to the teachings of the prophets. They also taught that obedience to certain commandments atoned for the neglect of others; in some measure like persons in much more recent times, who
"Compound for sins they are inclined II. THE WHOLE DUTY OF MAN. Our Lord rebuked by his answer those miserable trivialities of the Pharisees, who seemed disposed to bring him into conflict with one or other of the contending parties, headed respectively by Hillel and Shammai. The subject of the question was one about which the schools of these great Jewish schoolmen differed. If he decided in favor of the one, he necessarily offended and lost in reputation as a public religious Teacher with the other; or perhaps they hoped to bring him into contradiction with an answer to the same question which he had sanctioned with his approval. Our Lord shoved aside their rabbinical quibbles, and passed by their hair-splittings and contendings about such petty trifles, to the neglect at once of the spirit and the really weightier matters of the Law. And as "whosoever shall keep the whole Law, and stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all," our Lord, instead of singling out or specifying any particular commandment of the Law, states two comprehensive precepts which embrace the whole Law; and not only so - he not only reduces the ten commandments of the Decalogue to these two precepts, but underlying these two precepts is one single principle into which they are both capable of being resolved. He thus simplifies the statement of moral duty into a single principle, and that principle itself expressed in the one word "love;" for "love is the fulfilling of the Law." III. THE SUPREMACY OF LOVE. It has been conjectured that our Lord, when quoting in reply the passage from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, one of the four Scriptures usually inscribed on the parchment slips of the tephillin, or phylacteries, and called Shema, "Hear," from beginning with this word, pointed to the lawyer's tephillin. This would add to the pictorial or graphic nature of the reply; but nothing could be added to the beauty of the words quoted. He cites the preface, teaching the unity of God in opposition to polytheism, and then proclaims the love of God as the source, and love to man as similar and only second thereto. But whence comes this love? Not by nature, for by nature we are "hateful, and hating one another;" only, therefore, by the new birth, when we partake of a new nature; for "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things having passed away, and all things having become new." Once we love him who first loved us, we are in the proper position for loving our Father in heaven and our fellow-man on earth. The manifestation of this love to man is doing to others as we wish others to do to us, and this exercise of the so-called, and properly so-called, golden rule, is loving our fellow-man as a brother, and son of the same heavenly Father; while our love to that Father is supreme, influencing the affections of the heart, the faculties of the mind, the spiritual powers of the soul or life, and employing the whole strength of all and each of these. God is worthy of all this - worthy of our best affections, worthy of our earliest and strongest love. The practice of this principle would make this earth a paradise, restoring it to all the freshness and happiness of its first and early dawn; rather, would it make a heaven upon earth. - J.J.G.
II. THE WHOLE DUTY OF MAN. Our Lord rebuked by his answer those miserable trivialities of the Pharisees, who seemed disposed to bring him into conflict with one or other of the contending parties, headed respectively by Hillel and Shammai. The subject of the question was one about which the schools of these great Jewish schoolmen differed. If he decided in favor of the one, he necessarily offended and lost in reputation as a public religious Teacher with the other; or perhaps they hoped to bring him into contradiction with an answer to the same question which he had sanctioned with his approval. Our Lord shoved aside their rabbinical quibbles, and passed by their hair-splittings and contendings about such petty trifles, to the neglect at once of the spirit and the really weightier matters of the Law. And as "whosoever shall keep the whole Law, and stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all," our Lord, instead of singling out or specifying any particular commandment of the Law, states two comprehensive precepts which embrace the whole Law; and not only so - he not only reduces the ten commandments of the Decalogue to these two precepts, but underlying these two precepts is one single principle into which they are both capable of being resolved. He thus simplifies the statement of moral duty into a single principle, and that principle itself expressed in the one word "love;" for "love is the fulfilling of the Law."
III. THE SUPREMACY OF LOVE. It has been conjectured that our Lord, when quoting in reply the passage from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, one of the four Scriptures usually inscribed on the parchment slips of the tephillin, or phylacteries, and called Shema, "Hear," from beginning with this word, pointed to the lawyer's tephillin. This would add to the pictorial or graphic nature of the reply; but nothing could be added to the beauty of the words quoted. He cites the preface, teaching the unity of God in opposition to polytheism, and then proclaims the love of God as the source, and love to man as similar and only second thereto. But whence comes this love? Not by nature, for by nature we are "hateful, and hating one another;" only, therefore, by the new birth, when we partake of a new nature; for "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things having passed away, and all things having become new." Once we love him who first loved us, we are in the proper position for loving our Father in heaven and our fellow-man on earth. The manifestation of this love to man is doing to others as we wish others to do to us, and this exercise of the so-called, and properly so-called, golden rule, is loving our fellow-man as a brother, and son of the same heavenly Father; while our love to that Father is supreme, influencing the affections of the heart, the faculties of the mind, the spiritual powers of the soul or life, and employing the whole strength of all and each of these. God is worthy of all this - worthy of our best affections, worthy of our earliest and strongest love. The practice of this principle would make this earth a paradise, restoring it to all the freshness and happiness of its first and early dawn; rather, would it make a heaven upon earth. - J.J.G.
I. THE HIGHEST INTERPRETATION OF HUMAN DUTY APPROACHES THE GOSPEL, BUT FALLS SHORT OF IT.
II. THE CONDITIONS OF ENTRANCE INTO CHRIST'S KINGDOM ARE MORAL, AND NOT MERELY INTELLECTUAL. Faith; obedience; love. The heart, or central being.
III. NO MAN OUGHT TO BE SATISFIED WITH MERELY BEING "NOT FAR" FROM THE KINGDOM.
1. To stop there is to stultify our highest spiritual instincts and tendencies.
2. To stop there is to fail of salvation.
3. To stop there is to aggravate our misery and sin. - M.
I. UNSPIRITUAL INTERPRETERS OF SCRIPTURE ARE INVOLVED IN INCONSISTENCY AND SELF-CONTRADICTION,
1. In the present instance they proved to be so with respect to the most important truths. It is only the spiritual mind that can harmonize the apparent discrepancies of revelation (1 Corinthians 2:14; cf. Hebrews 5:12, seq.).
2. This results in their cure loss and injury (1 Peter 3:16). They failed to recognize the Messiah when he did come, because of their false conceptions of what he was.
II. THE GLORY OF THE MESSIAH IS SEEK FROM PROPHETIC SCRIPTURE TO BE MORE THAN ROYAL -TO BE, IN FACT, DIVINE. The hundred and tenth psalm is rightly called "a psalm of David." Merely to apply it to David is to destroy its Messianic character. "The psalm is not only quoted by our Lord as Messianic in the passages already referred to (viz. this and Matthew 22:41-46); it is more frequently cited by the New Testament writers than any other single portion of the ancient Scriptures. (Comp., besides these passages in the Gospels, Acts 2:34, 35; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 5:6; Hebrews 7:17, 21; Hebrews 10:13.) In later Jewish writings, in the Talmud and the rabbis, nearly every verse of the psalm is quoted as referring to the Messiah" (Perowne). The majority of ancient Jewish intereters apply the psalm to the Messiah (Strauss, 'Leben Jesu,' 2:6, 79). If, then, it is David's own composition, and is Messianic, the language used with respect to the Royal One who is to come is only to be explained as involving divinity: "Jehovah said to my Lord."
III. IN APPLYING THE PSALM TO HIMSELF, CHRIST SUGGESTED THE TRUE SOLUTION OF THE APPARENT CONTRADICTION. The psalm is deliberately and by implication adopted by Christ. He testifies to the Divine inspiration of its author. His own person and work are the key to its meaning. As he was Son of David on the human side, so was he David's Lord by virtue of his Divine Sonship. - M.
I. David's prophetic spirit. "He was moved by the spirit of truth when he foretold that his son would rule over all, and when he owned him as Lord." The psalm had originally another bearing. But as all true poesy "smacks of something greater than it seems," and has deeper meanings than meet the eye, so did the words of the psalmist reach forth into remoter times and higher relations.
II. Christ's identification. "He declared that he was the Son of David, and that his priesthood and kingdom were universal and everlasting." - J.
I. QUESTION OF OUR LORD IN TURN. Our Lord had by this time been asked, and had triumphantly answered, the most perplexing, difficult, and delicate questions that the ingenuity of man could devise. His adversaries had been signally confuted, and covered with shame. These questions were five in all One concerned his authority; another was political, about the tribute money; the third was doctrinal, about the resurrection; the fourth speculative, about the greatest commandment; and the fifth disciplinary, about the adulteress. By his more than masterly reply to the first, he defeated the Sanhedrim: by his reply to the second, he surprised and silenced the Pharisees and Herodians; by his answer to the third, he confuted, if he did not convince, the sceptical Sadducees; by his reply to the fourth, he satisfied the Pharisaic scribe, learned in the Law; by his answer to the fifth, he settled, if not to the satisfaction of scribes and Pharisees, at least to their shame, the question of discipline. It is now time that, having passed this ordeal, he should retaliate.
II. OBJECT OF HIS COUNTER-QUESTION. Our Lord's design was not so much to show them their ignorance, and overwhelm them with confusion, as to instruct them with respect to the true character and person of the Christ. Their low views were to be elevated, their carnal notions were to be spiritualized, their blind eyes were to be enlightened. Their idea of the person of Messiah was that he would be just a man like themselves; of his position, that he would be a powerful temporal king; and of his reign, that it would extend over a great earthly kingdom. By his question he let light in upon their dark minds in reference to all these subjects. With the Scriptures in their hands, and all their trifling about the minute things concerning the letter, they had no right spiritual apprehension of their long-desired and much-respected Messiah. His question proves to them that Messiah was not only human, but Divine; not only David's Son, but David's Lord; that before his exaltation he must suffer humiliation. They expected a triumphant Messiah, but were not prepared for his lowly condition as a sufferer; they overleaped the cross, expecting all at once and from the first the crown. Crucifixion before glorification was what they could not understand; a spiritual kingdom of righteousness and peace and joy they would not understand, "their wish being fat to their thoughts."
III. PRACTICAL USE OF THE QUESTION. "What think ye of Christ?" was his ques as recorded by St. Matthew. We repeat to ourselves and others the same que: - What think we - "What think ye of Christ?" What think ye of his life - that less life, that surprising life, that life which believer and unbeliever alike so admire, and even rival each other in lauding and extolling? What think ye of events of that life - its purity and yet its suffering, its power and yet its sorrows? What think ye of his death - so wonderful in many ways, so singular in all its asp and so efficacious in all respects? What think ye of his resurrection? Are ye risen with him, to seek the things above? Do ye look to him as the firstfruits of a glorious harvest? and are ye seeking a part in the resurrection of the just? What think ye of his ascension? Are ye satisfied that he has ascended up on high, leading captl captive, and having received gifts, even for rebellious men? And have ye shared in t gifts? What think ye of his intercession? Do ye feel that he is interceding for and are ye glad - right glad - of having an Advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ the righteous? By your answers to such questions ye may judge your state, entertain, we trust, "good hope through grace." - J.J.G.
I. THE PERSONS THUS AFFECTED The reference of the words common people misunderstood Literally the expression is, "the great multitude" It was in temple, and must have comprehended all classes, especially the middle and upper; the very lowest being but sparsely represented. It was also nationally homogeneous - Jewish.
II. REASONS FOR THEIR BEING SO. Not on account of eloquence, or So-called popularity" of address. That the highest qualities were exhibited "goes without saying." The full splendour and majesty of Messianic teaching were exhibited. The Man himself was more, and felt to be more, than his words. Two circumstances lent a passing interest to his teaching: he exposed and defeated the religious pretenders of the day, Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers, whose true character the people's instinct felt had been revealed; and he appealed to the national religious spirit, in setting forth the true doctrine of the Messiah.
III. THE MORAL VALUE OF THIS RECEPTION OF CHRIST.
1. It showed that the deepest instincts of humanity are on the side of religion and Divine truth.
2. But it did not involve discipleship. Admiration, intellectual assent, even some wonder at what was truly Divine; but no moral conviction. There are many to whom the gospel is a thing gladly heard, but soon dismissed from the thoughts. It is in obedience and faith that the "glad tidings" are practically and permanently experienced by the human heart. - M.
I. THE SEEMING GOOD OFTEN THRIVE AND ARE HONORED. Insight into character is rare; men are judged by the outside, and are taken largely at their own valuation.
II. Pretension ever hides emptiness, and often guilt. Fixed for ever for our repugnance, hatred, and contempt is the character of the religious pretender in the Gospel. Men need to be warned that there is more danger to the soul in pretending to a piety we have not got, than in merely having none at all. - J.
(1) their ambitious
(2) against their avaricious greed, and
(3) against their hypocrisy.
We need daily to pray for preservation from all these. - J. J.G.
I. CHRIST'S OBSERVATION OF RELIGIOUS GIVING. He "sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury." This has been felt to be typical of his eternal attitude: he still sits "over against the treasury" of his Church.
1. It was deliberate. He did it as one who had purposed to do it; and he was not in any hurry. The position was chosen, and was well suited to carry out his intention.
2. It was careful and discriminating. The different classes of people were noted - rich and poor, ostentatious and retiring, mean and generous. He beheld how the people cast in.
3. It was comprehensive. No individual seems to have escaped his attention. Even the poor widow is observed.
4. It was his last act ere quitting the temple for ever.
II. HIS KNOWLEDGE OF ITS MOTIVES AND CIRCUMSTANCES.
1. How penetrating! The outward actions and bearing of the donors would doubtless reveal to his eye, who "knew what was in man," their real characters. Now he looks directly upon our secret thoughts and feelings, and is acquainted with all the conditions of mind and heart through which we pass. Be knows the history of the gift, as well as its actual bestowal.
2. How complete! The domestic circumstances of the widow were well known to him. No tax-surveyor could have reckoned the income of the people more accurately.
3. How minute! The exact nature and number of the widow's coins are noted.
III. His judgment AS TO ITS WORTH. His attitude now, as on the day when "he looked round about upon all things," was authoritative and judicial He sat as one who had a right to be there. It is from a supreme elevation of moral sentiment that he looks, for already clearly visible to his spirit is his own great gift - of himself.
1. Given from a spiritual point of view. Not the objective amount, but the motives and feelings of the givers. The spirit of sacrifice, the religious enthusiasm of each, is measured and declared.
2. The standard indicated is not how much is given, but from how much it is given. They all cast in "of their abundance." What they gave was, therefore, a mere superfluity. Their comforts were not decreased, their luxuries still abounded. The need - the absolute poverty - of the widow rendered her gift a sacrifice, and a heroic act of faith. It was prophetic of the Divine charities that were to be awakened in the breasts of regenerate men, when his own great sacrifice should have borne its fruit. The Macedonian Churches (and many a one since) gave not only to their power, but beyond it, their deep poverty abounding to the fiches of their liberality (2 Corinthians 8:1, 2). "Now, many would have been ready to censure this poor widow, and to think she did ill. Why should she give to others when she had little enough for herself?... It is so rare a thing to find any that would not blame this widow, that we cannot expect to find any that will imitate her! And yet our Savior commends her, and therefore we are sure that she did very well and wisely" (Matthew Henry). - M.
I. THE GENTLENESS OF CHRIST. For the last time our Lord had appeared in the temple as a public Teacher. Before crowds of people he had once more strongly denounced the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. They were convicted by their own consciences, and incapable of reply, so "they answered not a word;" but, in their desperation and malignity, they resolved the more speedily to put him to death. Be knew it perfectly welt. Yet, after speaking as the righteous Rebuker of sin, he gladly turns aside to discover and commend a hidden act of goodness. Indeed, he seemed eager to see something which would redeem his Father's house from the wickedness which dishonored it. Hence "he sat over against the treasury," and watched tilt he saw one worshipper whose sacrifice he could rejoice over - that of a poor widow, who cast in all the living that she had. That act of hers came to him like a streak of sunshine through the clouds. How tenderly and patiently does he still watch for any glimmer of faith and love in human hearts!
II. THE SERENITY OF CHRIST. His calmness was like the blue of the heavens, unruffled and unchanged by storms that stir the lower atmosphere. An ordinary man, after uttering a rebuke which enraged his foes to madness, would put himself out of reach. He would not linger in their stronghold, which was full of perils to him. But in patience Jesus Christ possessed his soul. He knew his hour had not yet come. He would not hasten away. It might be that some of his hearers would repent, and come to him, confessing and forsaking their sins. So, while many passed him whose beetling brows were black with hatred, he in the court of the women quietly sat and waited. Such serenity was habitual with him. When there was haste and agony and terror in Bethany, Jesus abode throe days in the same place where he was. When the warning came, "Depart hence, for Herod will kill thee," he calmly continued his works of mercy. When the armed band followed him into Gethsemane, he confronted them with a calmness that paralyzed them. When he conquered death and rose from the grave, there was no sign of haste - the linen clothes were laid orderly, and the napkin was folded in a place by itself. Too often our hearts are perturbed. We are fussy, anxious, fretful; but. if we will but receive it, this is his legacy: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
III. THE CONDESCENSION OF CHRIST. Our Lord was full of great thoughts, not only respecting this world, but that other world from which he came, with its vivid realities and awful mysteries. He looked on to the future of the work he had begun, and which in a few days would be consummated on the cross - a work which would, not only stir Jerusalem, but shake the Roman empire, and go onward through distant ages with growing force, till all nations would call him blessed. Yet here he was, watching a few Jewish worshippers go into their temple; and he notices each one. He sees even this poor widow, whom others brush past with haste or contempt. He knows her struggle and sacrifice and single-heartedness, as she brings that tiny offering, with a blush of shame that it is so little, and secretly lets it fall into the treasury of her God. His condescension is still displayed to the meanest and the humblest worshippers, and broken words, paltry gifts, and feeble efforts will not be without his notice and recompense. May he see, in all Christian assemblies, not the outward formalism which he must rebuke, but prayer and praise, gift and work, which loyal hearts are offering to the Lord their God! - A.R.
1. By the claims of our Lord upon us.
2. By the necessities of our neighbor.
3. By the measure of our sympathy with him and them.
I. IF THE CLAIMS OF OUR LORD guide us, what limit shall we put upon our "gifts"? To him we owe more than our all. To him we are indebted for life and breath, and all things; for the bright light of the morn and the cooling shades of eventide; for reason and affection and friendship. The good and perfect gifts of righteousness, of holy hope, of calm faith, of heavenly love, come down from him. All that is beauteous and bright in life; all that raises us from degradation and need. Ah! the sands on the sea-shore are as little likely to be numbered as the gifts of the Lord's bounty, which lay us under tribute from sheer thankfulness to him.
II. But our NEIGHBOUR'S NEED presents little less impressive claims upon us. How multiplied! How various! How imperative! Christian charity needs little labor to find out the suitable channels of its activity. How greatly has that charity grown and multiplied since the Lord cast the first handful of seed into the warm heart of man! Many ages have been characterized by large gifts for the comfort, the physical need, the spiritual help of man. This present age is not a whir behind the chief in the largeness and variety of its gifts and efforts. To the Lord be praise!
III. But the true spring of all charity and the true quality of it is to be found in a PERFECT UNITY OF INTEREST WITH MEN, AND A PERFECT SYMPATHY WITH THE LORD. True charity is the outflow of the love of God and love of man. It is one of the highest reaches of wisdom to discern the perfect community of interest which every man has with every other. This the Lord saw: this, alas! is but little seen by us. He who can once become possessed of the belief that he has no true and permanent interest which is not identical with the highest interests of his race, has taken the first step towards the attainment of a pure, a boundless, a Divine charity. And he who would sustain this lofty sentiment must learn to see that all he has he holds by the will and for the good pleasure of the Lord on high. He will learn that concerning himself his utmost wisdom is, with St. Bernard, to say, "Lord, I have but two mites, a body a soul; I give them both to thee." - G.
I. THE MOTIVE MAKES THE ACTION SPIRITUAL. It is mechanical, conventional, without relation to the spiritual sphere, otherwise.
II. LOVE MAGNIFIES THE VALUE OF THE SMALLEST GIFT. The flower to the sick person, the penny in the plate, may be worth much. The condition of the world would be indictable without the multitude of such little deeds.
III. THE TRUE STANDARD OF WORTH IN LIFE SHOULD BE CLEARLY KEPT IN MIND. We confuse mere giving and doing with that which springs from love too much. Let us not despise little thugs: seeds of love which become great in their result of blessing. - J.
I. THE VALUE INDICATED. A mite (λεπτόν) was something very small; our word to represent it being from minute, through the French mite. The value of the two was three-fourth of an English farthing. But it was her all, and showed her singular self-denial. Accordingly, our Lord measured the merit of her liberality not by the amount she gave, but by the self-denial which the gift involved.
II. CHRIST SEES ALL THINGS. He saw this poor widow - what she gave and why gave. He sees all we do and all we think, for he knows what is in man. He sees us restrain the evil that we do, overrule it, and punish it; he sees us to approve of the go we do, encourage in the present time and recompense it in the time to come.
III. TRUE STANDARD OF LIBERALITY. Christ on this occasion did not overlook large gifts of the rich; but they could spare these out of their abundance, without stinting themselves or really pitying the poor. He fixed attention on the widow's mite, for it her all; and so she could ill spare it, and could only be considered as giving it from sympathy with and compassion on the poor. Three things are to be taken into account in our estimate of Christian liberality:
(1) the motive of giving - it must be the glory of God and the good of man;
(2) the manner of giving - not by constraint, but of ready mind, and so God loves the cheerful giver; and
(3) the measure, which should just in proportion as God has prospered us. - J.J.G.
I. THAT GOD'S PEOPLE ARE EXPECTED TO BE GIVERS. Many have a singular objection to insistence upon that. They willingly listen to words of solace; they rejoice in descriptions of heaven; they are not reluctant to hear the errors of their theological antagonists exposed and rebuked: but the duty of Christian giving is scarcely so popular with them However. "It is enough for the servant that he be as his Master;" and we find that he who taught in the temple also "beheld how the people cast money into the treasury." That treasury was a Divine institution. In spite of abuses, it was for many generations a witness of what God expects; as a recognition of his claims, and of the claims of others, on the part of rich and poor. If God is our Creator and Preserver, if every day we live and every power we have is his gift, we must honor him "with our substance, and with the first-fruits of all our increase." If he has redeemed us by his Son, if "we are not our own, but bought with a price," any sacrifice we make in gift or work should be a source of joy. If we be members of one brotherhood, we are bound to have the same care one for another. We are to do this, not in the way which is easiest to ourselves, most accordant with our tastes, or most likely to bring us credit; but as those who are seeking to become like him, who is kind to the unthankful and to the unworthy.
II. THAT SOME KINDS OF GIVING ARE OF HIGHER WORTH THAN OTHERS. Our Lord did not blame or despise the gifts which the rich made when they cast in much. They were doing what was right. Whether their offerings went to support the temple, or as a substitute for sacrifices, or for distribution to the poor, they were given towards what was regarded as the work of God. But there was nothing in the offering of the rich which called for the special praise bestowed on the widow.
1. It is to be observed here that Christ commended what most people would blame. You would probably argue thus: "Two mites were of little importance to the treasury, but of great importance to her. If she had given one and kept the ether, she would have showed not only piety, but good sense. As it was her gift was insignificant, and at the same time it was rash and needless." Yet, in the eyes of our Lord, the gift was right; and it was commended for this very reason - that she had cast in all the living that she had. We cannot but be reminded here of an incident in the house of Simon. When Mary broke the alabaster box, and poured the spikenard on her Savior's head, the disciples said that it was a foolish impulse - that if sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor, it would have been of real utility; now a waste of the ointment had been made. In reply, Jesus taught them that nothing given to God was wasted; that the aroma of such an offering went beyond the world of sense. On both occasions our Lord commended what others blamed.
2. Further, the reason for his commendation was not what many would expect. It was not the value of the gift; for two mites was a smaller sum than we could give if we tried to find our smallest coin. Nor was it the object to which the money was given which Christ approved. He knew how much there was of what was false under the glitter of the ceremonial worship of the temple. He had just rebuked the very men who would manipulate these funds. He looked on to the day when the temple would perish, and a nobler Church would arise on its ruins. Hence, in commending the widow's gift, which supported this ritual, he condemned those who withhold their help till an organization is exactly what they wish - who refuse to support what does not accord precisely with their tastes and views. Those who habitually do this crush in their hearts the germ from which gift and sacrifice spring.
3. The widow's gift was approved because it was the offering of a simple heart, full of love to God. She wished to show gratitude, and to give a deliberate expression of her confidence in God; and therefore she gave up her living, and threw herself on him who feeds the birds, and never forgets his children.
4. Most of all the gift was valued because it represented self-sacrifice. They gave of their abundance she gave all her living; in other words, herself. Too often we lose the highest blessedness because we do not cross the border-line which lies between self-indulgence and Christ-likeness. When we begin to feel that some service is a burden, and demands a strain, we give it up to some one else to whom the effort would be less! Let us seek the spirit of the poor widow, who knew that God could do without her gift, but felt that her love could not be satisfied without her sacrifice.
III. THAT OUR LORD QUIETLY WATCHES OUR GIFTS AND SERVICES. We may put into the treasury wealth, talents, prayers, tears, etc. None are unnoticed by him. And he looks in order to approve, not to condemn. His disciples might have said, "She is imprudent to give her all; she is priest-ridden; she is supporting a formal worship which is a barrier to the kingdom of Christ." But the Lord looked beneath the surface. He saw the pious intention, the pure purpose, and out of all the chaff on that threshing-floor he found one grain of purity and reality, and rejoiced over it as one finding great spoil.
IV. THAT OUR LORD APPROVES ALL THAT IS DONE IN A RIGHT SPIRIT. He did not praise her to her face, nor in her hearing. When the delicate flower of devotion is taken in the hot hand of popular applause, it withers; but, left in the cool shadow of secrecy, it lives. Hence the widow heard no flattery or approval, though she went home with inward satisfaction because she had done what she could. It is a pleasure to make a sacrifice for one we love. The young girl gives up her money, her position, her future, herself, to the man she loves, and rejoices in doing it. The father will not begrudge it when he looks at his children's faces, though for their sakes he goes off in a shabby coat to his daily duty. Love longs for sacrifice, and glories in making it. Now, it is a sacrifice so inspired which our God approves and commends. In the day when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, when nothing will be overlooked, services which the doer had forgotten, which the Church thought trivial and the world laughs to scorn, will be recompensed, and even "a cup of cold water, given in the name of a disciple, will not lose its reward" - A.R.