Page images

ciples of John, as well as all others, against yielding to pre judice, and refusing the evidence he gave. Exceptions might be, and were taken against our Saviour, on account of his original, his parents, his native place. "We know this man whence he is, but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is." "Can there any good thing come out of Naza reth." The meanness of his condition might offend, for he had not where to lay his head. His miracles-they were said to be wrought by evil powers. His conversation that was with publicans and sinners. The great did not support him. And every zealot for the law objected to his religion, because it claimed to be of far higher value, and more universal benefit, than that of Moses. On all these and many other grounds, would the Jews object to Jesus; for on all these subjects were their prejudices opposed. Therefore, says our Saviour, "Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me,” or, "Happy is he, who shall not stumble at me.'


Matth. xi. 7-9.† "And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea I say unto you, and more than a prophet.” The preaching of John attracted great multitudes into the wilderness; and many who had followed him were perhaps now present. Our Saviour tells them that they were not, when following, and hearing the preaching of John, engaged in any trifling pursuit; they did not go to see the shaking of reeds, or the wavering of human intentions; the character of John did not vary; nor did they find one whom luxury and riches had enervated and debased; but it was a prophet whom they sought, one greater than a prophet. John's supe+ Luke vii. 24-26.

* Wakefield.

riority to other prophets appeared in the miraculous circumstances of his birth, in his having himself been the object of prophecy, in the greater clearness and decision of his predic tions, and the nobleness of their object, in the character of his exhortations to penitence and change of life, but particularly and principally in the high office which he held as the precursor of Christ.

Matth. xi. 10. "For this is he of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee." This prophecy is in Malachi iii. 1. But it there differs from the quotation, it being," Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me." This diversity has given rise to an argument for the doctrine of the Trinity. Oleariust thus argues from these passages." The way (777) is his who comes. He whose way it is, says in this place," in Malachi," that he will send a messenger before himself to prepare his way; and thus he who comes, and he who sends is the same. That he who sends is n', the great God, is acknowledged; for it is in his name that the prophet expressly speaks. And if therefore it can be proved that Christ is he who comes, it is de, monstrable from this passage, that Christ is Jehovah, the supreme God, since he who comes and he who sends are the same, and it is manifest that he who sends is called Jehovali in this place?-In the passage of Matthew, he who sends is distinguished from him before whose face the messenger is sent, but nevertheless so that they are the same. For since the Father and Son are the same, both the Father and Son can send at the same time, and whom the Son sends before his face, him the Father sends also." Wonderful support of a wonderful proposition!-The difficulty which arises from the prophecy not being quoted literally, may be removed by supposing with Grotius, that the words are somewhat altered, ↑ Wolfius in Matth.

*Luke vii. 27.

without the meaning being affected. The way of God and the way of Christ, the coming of God and the coming of Christ, are figuratively the same. The teaching of Christ was the teaching of God; the miracles of Christ were performed by the immediate power of God; the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Christ are the same.

Notwithstanding Christ had spoken thus highly of the character of John, and also said, "Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist;" yet he adds, "Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."* This be understood in several ways. may “John may here be compared with the immediate disciples of Christ, and first ministers of his word; and even the least of these, after the passion and resurrection of Christ, and the mission of the Holy Spirit, might be said to be greater than John, inasmuch as their knowledge of Christ was more complete." Or he may be compared "with those who at present live under the Christian economy, who are greater than John, because they who have known Christ crucified, and again restored to life, enjoy greater light than he." There are some also, as Epiphanius, Chrysostom, Euthymius, and Witsius,‡ who apply the word μixporepos to Christ himself, so as that the meaning of the passage may be understood to be,' He who is now in a state of humiliation, and as it were of degradation, who is less in age, and posterior in ministry; or he who is thought by his Jewish enemies to be least in the kingdom of God, is superior to John, and greater than he who is approved by them.' I will also mention the opinion of Photius,§ that this was a question, meaning thus; Shall the least in the kingdom of heaven be greater than John whom I have so highly commended?" I


* Matth. xi. 11.-Luke vii. 28.

Wolfius in Matth.

+ Wolfius in Luc.

Suiceri Thesaurus, art. Bari Tom. i. coll. 666, 667.

am not prepared to make any remarks upon the phrase, kingdom of heaven, nor is it here necessary. The passage may without such criticism be understood; and may in short mean, not a superiority to John, in dignity of office, or impor tance of commission, but in privileges and knowledge-a superiority arising from understanding better the truths of Christianity, and the more full possession of its glorious hopes.

After this high praise of the Baptist, it is added, " And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him."* Wakefield thus renders this passage," And all the people, and the tax-gatherers, thankfully received the kindness of God, and listened to John, and were baptized of his baptism; but the Pharisees, and the teachers of the law, rejected this intention of God towards them, not receiving John's baptism." The passage is thus made a continuation of Christ's speech. It has however been understood as containing the words of the evangelist, and thus explained; 'Those who had listened to John's preaching, and had been baptized by him, being gratified at what Christ said of him, and understanding the greatness of his character, thanked God, that they were thus certified, that they had done right; while those who had not been baptized opposed the will of God to their own injury.'t Grotius however, with most modern expositors, considers the passage as spoken by our Saviour, and interprets it thus, "The publicans and vulgar people celebrated with their warmest praises and thanks, this distinguished goodness of God, who, contented with their penitence had determined, mercifully to forgive all their former sins, and had manifested his purpose as well by John, as by him who had been announced by John."-"On the contrary, this same thing was condemned † See Poole's Synopsis.

* Luke vii. 29, 30.

by those who esteemed themselves more wise and holy than others, relying on their ritual observances, and specious, actions." They rejected the council of God toward them. Griesbach has removed from the text the words beginning the next verse, "And the Lord said," which words rather implied that the discourse had been discontinued; and thus obviated the only objection to considering the passage as having been spoken by our Saviour.


Matthew proceeds, as if in confirmation of John's great"And from the days of John the Baptist, until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."* "And these words also," says Lightfoot," make for the praise of John. That he was a very eminent prophet, and of no ordinary mission or authority, these things evince; that from his preaching the kingdom of Heaven took its begining, and it was so crowded into by infinite multitudes, as if they would take, and sieze upon the kingdom by violence. The divine warmth of the people in betaking themselves thither by such numberless crowds, and with so exceeding a zeal, sufficiently argued the divine worth both of the teacher and of his doctrine." But this interpretation is not admitted by all. There is a total disagreement among expositors both with regard to the meaning of Bialeral, suffereth violence, and of Biasa, the violent. Some understand the former word as does Lightfoot. Others interpret it as meaning, The kingdom of Heaven has been powerfully operative, or rather, has been preached with great force. Others have supposed that the enemies of the gospel, and their attempts to destroy the rising religion, are here alluded to. But this latter is not a natural interpretation. With regard to Biasa, the violent, “ I," says Wetstein "understand by Biasa, the publicans and soldiers, (see Luke iii. 12-14.) who

*Matth. xi. 12. also Luke xvi. 16.

† Hebrew and Talmud. Exercit. upon St. Matthew.

« PreviousContinue »