« PreviousContinue »
life. For this is the law and the prophets. This is the voice both of the law and the prophets; it is the sum and substance of the moral precepts contained in them. Having thus spoken, he exhorted them, in a humble dependence on the assistance of the Spirit, to strive to enter in at the strait gate, that is, vigorously to attempt the work of religion, how difficult soever it may appear. 13. Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. 14. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. As if he had said, vice, it is true, though nearly alied to destruction, is adorned with many false beauties, promises much, and has numberless votaries; whilst an austere and mortified course of life, though the safest, looks stern and invites but few, Nevertheless, in your choice of the way to happiness, you are to consider, not how much pleasure it is attended with, but how certainly it will bring you to your desired end; neither are you to regard the numbers, but the manners of them you would accompany.
But because the difficulties of religion are oftentimes greatly increased by false teachers, who, under pretence of conducting men in the road to happiness, lead the simple astray, our Lord cautioned his disciples to beware of them, and proposed marks to know them by. 15. Beware of false prophets, which come in sheeps clothing; but inwardly they are ravening wolves, 16. Ye shall know them by their fruits. False teachers will come to you with a mortified air, pale countenances, emaciated bodies, and mean clothing. They will pray loud and long, bestow largely on the poor, and seem earnest to give the people right instruction; in a word, they will assume the most specious appearances of humility, piety, and innocence. So disfigured and so disguised, you may be apt to take them for sheep, persons very innocent and useful; while in reality they are ravening though concealed wolves, whose intention is to tear the flock in pieces, that they may gorge themselves with their carcases. But ye shall know them by the nature and tendency of their doctrine, and by the more secret actions of their lives, better than
Erasmus's reflection on the strait gate is lively." How strait, says, he is the gate, how narrow the way that leadeth to life! In the way nothing is to he found that flatters the flesh, but many things opposite to it, poverty, fasting, watching, injuries, chastity, sobriety. And as for the gate, it receives none that are swollen with the glory of this life; none that are elated and lengthened out with pride; none that are distended with luxury; it does not admit those that are laden with the fardels of riches, nor those that drag along with them the other implements of the world. None can pass through it but naked men, wha are stripped of all worldly lusts, and who having put off their bodies, are, as it were, emaciated into spirits, which is the reason that it is sought after by so few." Paraph. in locum.
by those showy qualities, whose value depends entirely on the right application of them. Accordingly, if you look more narrowly at this sort of teachers, you shall discern them to be wolves: for you will find them to be immensely proud, revengeful, covetous, pleasers of themselves; sometimes also addicted to their belly, and always at the conclusion much more employed in doing their own work than God's.-Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17. Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, in hewn down and cast into the fire. 20. Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them. Remember to judge of teachers by the nature and tendency of their doctrine, rather than by the more public actions of their lives-for even some of those whom I have commissioned to teach, and enabled to work miracles, shall, by the wickedness of their lives, fall under condemnation. 21. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? We preached by virtue of power and authority from thee, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works. Bad men on some occasions have, in the wisdom of Providence, been commissioned by God to signify his pleasure, and have been furnished with powers to prove their mission, witness Judas Iscariot, who was admitted into the college of apostles by our Lord himself. Prophesying, ejection of devils, and other miracles are mentioned, to shew that no gift, endowment, or accomplishment whatsoever, without faith and holiness, will avail to our acceptance with God; a caution very proper in those days, when the gifts of the Spirit were to be bestowed in such plenty on them who made profession of Christianity.-He added, 23. And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from me ye that work iniquity. Though I called you to be my servants, and you professed yourselves such, I never knew you to be such, nor approved of you. I knew indeed that you were the slaves of other masters, mammon, your own belly, and ambition; wherefore, as your lives have been contrary both to my precepts and to your own profession, be gone: I will have nothing to do with you. That this is the true meaning of the expression, I never knew you, will appear, if the import of the appellation, Lord, Lord, wherewith these wicked men addressed the judge is attended to. For in this connection, it is as if they had said, Master, dost thou not know thine own servants? Did not we preach by thy authority, and by thy power foretel future events, and cast out devils, and work many miracles?
Because Jesus had now spoken a great deal, he concluded his discourse with the parable of the houses built on different foundations. 24. Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doth them, I will liken him unto a wise man which built his house upon a rock. 25. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. 26. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man which built his house upon the sand: 27. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it. In calm serene weather any edifice will stand, but it is the wintery blasts that try the strength of a structure. The wise man, foreseeing these, provides against them by building his house upon a rock, where it stands immoveable in the midst of hurricanes, But the fool, not thinking of winter, is so charmed with the beauty of a particular situation, that, without considering, he builds his house there, even though it be a hillock of loose sand. The winter comes, heavy showers of rain fall, an impetuous torrent from a neighbouring mountain rushes by, and saps the foundations of his building. The storms beat upon it, the house shakes, it totters, it falls with a terrible noise, and makes the whole circumjacent plain to resound. He who hears my precepts, and puts them in practice, may be compared to the wise man that built his house upon a rock. He provides for himself a place of shelter and accommodation that will subsist in the wreck of the world. On the other hand, he who hears my precepts and does them not, may be compared to the fool who built his house upon the sand. The edifice which he has reared for his future accommodation, being built upon a bad foundation, will quickly fall. By this parable, therefore, our Lord has taught us, that the bare knowledge of true religion, or the simple hearing of the divinest lessons of morality that ever were delivered by men, nay,, the belief of these instructions, if possible, without the practice of them, is of no importance at all. It is the doing of the precepts of religion alone, which can establish a man so stedfastly, that he shall neither be shaken with the temptations, afflictions, and persecutions of the present life, nor by the terrors of the future. Whereas, whosoever heareth and doth them not, will be overwhelmed and oppressed by the storms of both worlds; oppressed in this life and utterly overwhelmed in that which is to come.-28. And it came to pass when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine. 29. For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. The words of Christ made a wonderful impression on the minds of his auditors, who never had heard the like before. They began to relish the holy sweetness of
truth and were astonished at the freedom and boldness with which he spake. For he taught them as one having authority immediately from God, and consequently did not teach them as the scribes, whose lectures for the most part were absolutely trifling; being drawn from tradition, or from the comments of other doctors, which these ignorant and corrupt teachers substituted in the place of scripture, reason, and truth *.
• Most of the things contained in this admirable discourse were delivered by our Lord oftener than once, for they were of such importance as easily to admit of frequent repetition. The sermon therefore which Luke has related, chap. vi. § 38. although much the same with this in the matter of it, may very well have been different in point of time. The commentators indeed are generally of another opinion; swayed, I suppose, by the similiarity of the discourses, and of the incidents attending them. And because in Matthew's account of this sermon, there are several admonitions directed to the disciples as teachers, Chemnitius affirms that Luke, in delivering it after the election of the twelve, has preserved the true order of time. Yet his argument is not conclusive, for, since most of the first converts were afterwards to preach the gospel, in a discourse addressed to all, many might be considered as teachers, and exhorted accordingly, see § 88. Farther, although throughout the gospels we meet with almost all the precepts contained in this sermon, we are not from this to infer that there was no such discourse ever pronounced by Christ, but that it is a collection made by Matthew of the doctrines and precepts which he taught in the course of his ministry, as some learned men have affirmed. The reflection with which the evangelist concludes his account of this sermon proves, I think, that the whole was delivered at once. 28. And it came to pass when Jesus bad ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine; for be taught them as one baving authority, and not as the Scribes. The people present were astonished at his manner of teaching, because it was different from that of the Scribes. This without doubt implies, that he preached the whole of the foregoing sermon in the hearing of the people.
XXVII. Jesus, having come down from the mountain, cleanses a leper in his way to Capernaum. Mat. viii. 1,--4. See § 30.
WHEN Our Lord had ended his sermon, he came down from the mountain, attended by the multitude. In his way to Capernaum, he was met by a leper, who expressed an high opinion of his power, and modestly asked to be cured.-1. When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. 2. And behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. Leprosy being the most nauseous of all the distempers incident to the human body, and the most infectious, the bare sight of a leper could not fail to raise a loathing in those who looked on him. Nevertheless, Jesus with great benignity drew near and touched the man, and instead of being polluted by touching him, cleansed the leper with his touch, and sent him away very joyful by reason of his cure, which rendered him agreeable to himself, and gave him access again to the society of men. 3. And Jesus put forth his
hand and touched him, saying, I will, be thou clean; and imme diately his leprosy was cleansed. Christ's working this miracle," shewed that he was not displeased with the faith which the leper expressed; and that the latter did not exceed in the acknowledgment which he had made of his power. If THOU WILTU? thou canst make me clean. I will, be thou clean. The evangelist tells us, that Jesus forbade the man to speak of the miracle." 4. And Jesus saith unto him, * See thou tell no man, but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses.
Ver. 4. See thou tell no man] It is remarkable that in many instances our Lord was at the greatest pains to conceal his miracles. Perhaps he did not intend that he should be universally believed on during his own life time. He was indeed to fulfil the whole prophetical characters of the Messiah, that when the time appointed for erecting his kingdom came, the foundation on which it was to rest might want nothing of the strength and solidity that was necessary to support so great a fabric as the faith of the world. But all those prophe tical characters of the Messiah, Jesus fulfilled and appropriated to himself, wher in his own life time he proved his mission from God by miracles, communicated the knowledge of divine things to a competent number of disciples, in order to their propagating it through the world; and in the conclusion, by his sufferings and death not only confirmed his doctrine, but made atonement for the sins of men.
The wisdom of this plan was worthy of its author.-For had our Lord during his ministry proposed to convert great numbers of the Jews, he might no doubt have done it with as much success as after his ascension. But then the consequences would have been inconvenient in two respects. 1. Had the Jews become universally Christ's followers, they would have endeavoured to make him a king, by which means one main end of his coming must have been defeated, his dying as an atonement for sin, and the Christian religion have been deprived of the evidence which it derives from the greatest of all his miracles, his resurrection from the dead. 2. This general good reception given to Jesus by his countrymen, might have made the Gentiles reject him, supposing it was a contrivance to support the sinking credit of the nation. On the other hand, if it shall be said that our Lord could not have convinced more than he did, though he had attempted it, this consequence at least must have followed from the attempt-Herod in Galilee, or the governor in Judea, provoked at him for affecting popularity, would have cut him off. Or though they had despised him, and let him alone, the haughty priests would certainly have destroyed him before his time. We are warranted to say this, by what happened toward the conclusion of his ministry, when he went into Judea, taught in the temple, and wrought his miracles publicly before the world. They pursued him so hotly, that though he was innocent of every crime, they constrained the governor to condemn him, and execute upon him the punishment of the vilest malefactor. But as it was neces sary that Jesus should perform many miracles for the confirmation of his mission, and preach many sermons in order to prepare his disciples for their futnre work, he was obliged, at least in the beginning of his ministry, to keep himself as private as the nature of his work would admit, And this I suppose was one of the reasons that induced him to spend so large a share of his public life in Galilee, and the other countries around the lake, as has been remarked above, $ 25.
But farther, our Lord kept himself private, that he might not be too much incommoded by the crowds. For though he used every prudent method to prevent it, he was often hurried to such a degree, that he bad