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On Chrift's Authority as a Teacher.
MATTHEW vii. 28, 29.
And it came to pass, when Jefus had ended thefe Sayings, the People were aftonished at his Doctrine. For he taught them as one having Authority, and not as the Scribes.
AVING in fome former Dif courfes offered feveral Obfervations concerning the Excellency of our Saviour's Teaching, I now come to confider that which giveth Weight to all the reft, and in which he was eminently fuperior to all others that ever appeared under the Character of Teachers, VOL. IV. B
viz. the Divine Authority with which he taught. This was fo remarkable, that the People could not help obferving the fignal Difference there was in this Refpect between him and the Scribes, who were Teachers of the greatest Reputation among them. It was especially after Jefus had finished his admirable Sermon on the Mount, that the People made this Reflec tion. They were aftonished at his Doctrine; at it's fuperior Purity and Excellency, fo far tranfcending any thing they had ever heard before; and they were also aftonished at the Authority and commanding Power with which he spoke. He taught them as one having Authority, and not as the Scribes. The Scribes were the principal authorized Teachers them. They had all among Authority which the chief Priests and Elders, the Heads of the Jewish Church and Nation, were able to give them. But the Authority Chrift claimed was of a far higher Kind. He did not found his Doctrine, as the Scribes were wont to do, upon the Authority of their ancient Doctors and great Mafters of Tradition. On the contrary, having fhewn in feveral Inftances what were their Gloffes in the Interpretation of the Law, he with grea Solemnity declared against their Decifions in feveral Matters of no small Importance; to which
he oppofed his own Determinations, în a Manner which plainly fhewed, that he taught as having an Authority fuperior to theirs, an Authority not derived merely from Men, but from above. Thus the People understood it, and this feems to be what they principally intended in faying, that He taught as one having Authority, and not as the Scribes; i. e. as one having an extraordinary Divine Authority and Commiffion, which was what the Scribes, who were not Prophets, nor had the Power of working Miracles, could not pretend to.
But it may alfo farther fignify, that he taught with a wonderful Gravity and Dignity, with a Power and Energy that struck and penetrated the Soul; whereas the Scribes taught in a cold, formal, lifeless Way, that made little Impreffion upon the Heart. That Character given of the Word of God, Heb. iv. 12, might well be applied to our Saviour's Teaching: The Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged Sword, piercing even to the Dividing afunder of Soul and Spirit, and of the Joints and Marrow, and is a Difcerner of the Thoughts and Intents of the Heart. And this particularly appeared in the great Effects his Preaching had even upon many of those that were called Publicans and Sinners, in bringing them to a fincere Repentance.
pentance. Another Thing here intended may be, that in his Teaching he was above being influenced by the Fear of Men, or Refpect of Perfons. What the Pharifees and Herodians faid to him, though with a Defign of infnaring him, was literally true: Mafter, we know that thou art true, and teacheft the Way of God in Truth, neither careft thou for any Man, for thou regardeft not the Perfon of Man. Matt. xxii. 16. So the People elsewhere obferve, that he fpake boldly, John vii. 26, with a noble Liberty and Confidence, as knowing his own Divine Dignity and Authority.
Accordingly, notwithstanding all the Prejudices conceived against him on the Account of the Meannefs of his Appearance, and the carnal Notions which then prevailed of the Meffiah and his Kingdom, notwithstanding the Oppofition made to him by the chief Priefts and Heads of the Jewish Nation, yet there were great Numbers that believed in him; and not only among the People, but even among the chief Rulers too, though they were deterred from openly profeffing it. John xii. 42. And though their Faith was for a While very much fhaken, and almost extinguifhed by his Crucifixion; yet, after his Refurrection, and the extraordinary Effufion of the Holy Ghoft, which helped to remove the Pre
judices arifing from his Sufferings and Death, the vaft and fudden Increase of the Converts to Chriftianity at Jerufalem was no doubt very much owing to their having been prepared for it by our Saviour's own admirable Inftructions and Miracles, during the Course of his perfonal Ministry.
This may fuffice to fhew what it is that is probably intended here, when the People fpeak of Chrift's Teaching with Authority, and not as the Scribes. But I fhall now treat the Subject in a larger Extent, and fhall more fully and diftinctly confider the Authority with which our Lord fpake, and thew that in this he is vaftly fuperior to all other Teachers.
First, He taught as a Prophet immediately fent and commiffioned by God; and on this Account must needs have an Authority much fuperior to that of any uninfpired human Teacher. For, let them be never so learned and knowing, never fo fincere and impartial Lovers of Truth, they are liable to Miftake; especially in Things that relate to the Divine Adminiftrations, the Laws and Counfels of God, the Rewards it will please him to confer, and the Punishments he will inflict, and his Acts of Grace and Favour, which depend upon the free Determinations of his all-comprehending Wisdom, and of which, B 3