Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

sense, yet deceived both themselves and others by a form of godliness, when they were, in effect, enslaved by their passions, and lived according to the corrupt rule of their own imaginations.

*

The Sadducees, their antagonists and rivals, were equally, though differently, remote from the true knowledge and worship of God. They not only rejected the tradition of the elders, but a great part of the Scriptures likewise, and admitted only the five books of Moses as of divine authority. From this circumstance, together with the difficulty they proposed to our Lord, and the answer he gave them; it appears that they were persons who, professing, in general terms, to acknowledge a revelation from God, yet made their own prejudices and mistakes, under the dignified name of reason, the standard to determine what books should be received as authentic, and in what sense they should be understood. The doctrine of a resurrection did not accord with their notions; therefore they rejected it, together with those parts of Scripture which asserted it most expressly. Their question concerning the seven brethren, seems to have been a trite objection, which they had often made, and which had never been answered to satisfaction, till our Lord resolved it. But the whole difficulty was founded upon false principles, and when these were removed, all fell to the ground at once. From this, however, we

* Matt. xxii. 23.; Acts, xxiii. 8.

+ That the Sadducees received only the law of Moses, is the general opinion; though I do not say that it has been either indubitably proved, or universally held. That they put their own sense upon the Scriptures (whether in whole or in part) which they did profess to receive, is manifest, from their asserting, that there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit; a tenet which contradicts not one or a few texts, but the whole strain and tenour both of the law and the prophets.

}

may learn their characteristic. They were the cautious reasoners of those times, who valued themselves on examining every thing closely, refusing to be influenced by the plausible sounds of antiquity and authority. The Herodians

were those who endeavoured to ingratiate themselves with Herod. It is most probable that they received their name and distinction, not so much from any peculiar sentiments, as from attempting to accommodate their religion to the circumstances of the times. The Pharisees, boasting of their privileges as the children of Abraham, could hardly brook a foreign yoke; but the Herodians, from motives of interest, were advocates for Herod and the Roman power. Thus they were opposite to the Pharisees in political matters, as the Sadducees were in points of doctrine. And therefore the question concerning tribute, was proposed to our Lord jointly by the Pharisees and Herodians: the former designing to render him obnoxious to the people, if he allowed of tribute; the latter to accuse him to the government, if he refused it.

[ocr errors]

From what has been said, it is evident the leading principles of these sects were not peculiar to themselves. They may rather be considered universally, as specimens of the different appearances a religious profession assumes, where the heart is not divinely enlightened and converted to the love of the truth. In all such persons, however high the pretence of religion may be carried, it cannot proceed from a nobler principle, or aim at a nobler object than self. These dispositions have appeared in every age and form of the Christian church, and are always active to oppose the self

Matt. xxii, 16.; Mark, iii. 6.

denying doctrines of the Gospel upon different pretences. The man who, fond of his fancied attainments and scrupulous exactness in externals, despises all who will not conform to his rules, and challenges peculiar respect on account of his superior goodness, is a proud Pharisee. His zeal is dark, envious, and bitter; his obedience partial and self-willed; and, while he boasts of the knowledge of God, his heart rises with enmity at the grace of the Gospel, which he boldly charges with opening a door to licentiousness. The modern Sadducee (like those of old) admits of a revelation, but then, full of his own wisdom and importance, he arraigns even the revelation he seems to allow at the bar of his narrow judgment; and as the sublime doctrines of truth pass under his review, he affixes, without hesitation, the epithets of absurd, inconsistent, and blasphemous, to whatever thwarts his pride, prejudice, and ignorance. And those parts of Scripture which cannot be warped to speak his sense, he discards from his canon as interpolated and supposititious. The Herodian is the man, however denominated or dignified, who is governed by interest, as the others by pride, and vainly endeavours to reconcile the incompatible services of God and the world, Christ and Belial. He avoids the excesses of religious parties, speaks in terms of moderation, and is not unwilling to be accounted the patron and friend of sobriety and religion. He stands fair with all who would be religious upon cheap terms, and fair in his own esteem, having numbers and authority on his side. Thus he almost persuades himself he has carried his point, and that it is not so impossible to serve two masters, as our Lord's words seem to import. But the preaching of the pure Gospel, which enforces the one thing needful, and will admit of no

compliances with worldly interests, interferes with his plans, and incurs his resentment likewise ; though, perhaps, he will shew his displeasure, by more refined and specious methods than the clamorous rage of hot bigotry has patience to wait for.

We now proceed. The first great cause why Jesus was rejected by those to whom he appealed, may be deduced from the tenour of his doctrine, a summary of which has been given in the former chapter. It offended the pride of the Pharisees, was repugnant to the wise infidelity of the Sadducees, and condemned the pliant temper of the Herodians. The doctrines of free grace, faith, and spiritual obedience, were diametrically opposite to their inclinations. They must have parted with all they admired and loved if they had complied with him; but this is a sacrifice too great for any to make, who had not deeply felt and known their need of a Saviour. These, on the contrary, were the whole, who saw no want of a physician, and therefore treated his offers with contempt.

Besides, their dislike to his doctrine was increased by his manner of enforcing it. He spoke with authority, and sharply rebuked the hypocrisy, ignorance, ambition, and avarice of those persons who were accounted the wise and the good, who sat in Moses's chair, and had hitherto been heard and obeyed with reverence. But Jesus exposed their true characters; he spoke of them as blind guides; he* compared them to "painted sepul

* Matt. xxiii. 27. Nothing is more loathsome to our senses than a corpse in a state of putrefaction, or a more striking contrast to the outside of a sumptuous ornamented monument. Perhaps the visible creation does not afford any other image that would so strongly express the true character of hypocrisy, and how hateful it appears in the sight of God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and before whom all things are naked and open.

L

chres," and cautioned the people against them as dangerous deceivers. It is no wonder, therefore, that on this account they hated him with a perfect hatred.

Again: They were exceedingly offended with the high character he assumed as the Son of God, and the Messiah. On this account they condemned him to die for blasphemy. They expected a Messiah indeed, who, they professed, was spoken of in the Scripture; but they understood not what the Scriptures had revealed, either concerning his divine nature, or his voluntary humiliation; that he was to be the son and lord of David, yet "a man "of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." They denied his divinity; and themselves unwittingly fulfilled the prophecies that spoke of his sufferings: affording by their conduct a memorable proof how fatally persons may mistake the sense of the word of God, while they profess highly to esteem it.

What farther increased their contempt of his claims, and contributed to harden their hearts more implacably against him, was the obscurity and poverty of his state. While they were governed by worldly wisdom, and sought not the teaching of God's Spirit, they could not but suppose an utter repugnance between the meanness of his condition, and the honours he vindicated to himself. They expected a Messiah to come in pomp and power, to deliver them from the Roman yoke. For a person truly divine, who made himself equal with God, to be encompassed with poverty and distress, seemed such profane contradiction as might justify every mark of indignity they could offer him. And this difficulty must equally affect every unenlightened mind. If man had been left to devise in what manner the Lord of the universe would probably descend to dwell a while with poor mor

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »