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1 What were the weightier matters of the law which the Pharisees omitted? Answer, judgment, mercy, and faith. If they had not been wanting in those requirements of the law, they would not have been accused of bearing, in the room of the expected grapes, wild grapes. They would not have been represented by husbandmen who refused to render to the householder the fruit of his vineyard. Nor would they have been subject to be reprimanded as wicked and slothful servants. These religious people surely did not neglect to have and maintain something that they called justice or judgment; no, see the passage quoted from Isaiah: 'And he looked for judgment, but behold oppression.' This oppression they called justice, or judgment. Why was it not acceptable? Answer, because it was that kind of judgment or justice, if it be right to call it so, in which there was no mercy, of course no righteousness. The doctrine of the Pharisees never could bring justice and mercy to agree: perhaps the reason was, they entertained the same opinion that is taught in our schools, and by our christian doctors, that the law knows no mercy! Here we come, as it were by mere accident, where the parable applies with all its force to the Christian church, as it did to that of the Jews. We have already seen the opposition which appeared between the doctrine and traditions of the Pharisees, and the doctrine and practice of Christ; and surely no argument is necessary to show the exact agreement between the doctrine and traditions of the Pharisees and the doctrine and traditions of our doctors of divinity. There certainly never could be more opposition in what passed for justice among the Pharisees, than there is in the doctrine of endless punishment contended for by our divines;
nor was it possible for them to administer what they called justice, in a more unmerciful manner, than our divines do in contending for the justice of never ending, unmerciful punishment. Those Pharisees adopted traditions as consistent with their views of the requirements of the law as possible, and our divines have done the same. Those denied the professor in Jesus the rites of the synagogue; and these deny the rites of the christian church and communion. Those devoured widows' houses and oppressed the poor; and these have done much more: not being content with taking the property of those whom they please to denounce as erroneous, they have whipped, confined, banished and murdered them! This they have called justice in this world, and never ending punishment they call justice in the next. The cries of the poor and needy, oppressed with ecclesiastical exactions, have ascended to heaven from this land of boasted religious tolerance.
Looking at the christian church in the similitude of a vineyard, it may be said, when judgment was looked for, behold, oppression. Or if we view it in the character of husbandmen to whom a vineyard was let out, it appears that in room of rendering the fruit in the season, the husbandmen have killed the servants of the householder, with a view to retain the fruits to themselves. Nor do they attack, with less fury, the son, who is the heir, than did those who hung him on a tree.
The doctrine of an unmerciful law, seems to be the chief corner stone on which our christian builders have erected their temple; for it is in strict conformity to a justice in which there is no mercy, that they endeavor to build, and although in the building of this Babel
their language is completely confounded, they uniformly retain the same words to express the form and figure of their chief corner stone.
The mind can hardly conceive of the greatness of the change which would be effected in our orthodox creed, should it be so modified as to admit of the full, free and perfect action of the three weightier matters of the law named by Christ, judgment, mercy and faith! three divine jewels of the law! In their harmony, in the point where they meet, there shine the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person. This divine law, which requires judgment, mercy and faith, as its weightier matters, is represented as entirely destitute of mercy, or of any power to support the christian faith. And indeed, this representation must be maintained, or the belief of endless, unmerciful punishment must be given up; for it is as evident as demonstration, that a law which requires mercy as one of its cardinal objects, can never punish in an unmerciful manner.
If the chief priests, the elders of the people, and the Pharisees had entertained no ideas of justice, but such as were in perfect unison with mercy, and had professed no faith but such as mercy supported, it is very evident that they would never have entertained that implacable hatred towards those whom they viewed sinners, that they did, nor would they have despised and rejected Christ for being a friend to publicans and sinners. Equally applicable are these remarks to the doctors and leaders in the christian church. If they entertained no ideas of justice, but such as are in perfect unison with mercy, and professed no faith but such as mercy supports, it is evident beyond any doubt, that they would not teach the
justice of unmerciful, endless punishment, nor faith in such a dispensation of justice. Of course, they never would have been the wicked instigators of the abominable, unmerciful persecutions which have been practised in the christian church. [It is understood that the reader is at liberty to place anti to the word christian, wherever the sense requires it.] Nor would they at this moment, when the civil authority is not only out of their hands, in this country, but absolutely forbids their oppressing or persecuting, show such a veneration for, and pay almost a divine honor to those who, when they had the power in their hands, banished and put to death those who could not believe in their antichristian creeds. As the highly esteemed hierarchy of the Jewish church finally lost its power and respectability, so must it be with that of the antichristian. Not a vestige of it will be left to dishonor the Saviour, or to seduce and deceive mankind.
As the foregoing illustration sets the character of the divine law in so different a light from what is generally believed, it may be well to show in what sense the law is represented to be a ministration of death, and in what sense it is a ministration of mercy and life. This may be seen very plainly set forth in much of the writings of St. Paul, one passage of which may here be noticed. See Rom. viii, 3, 4: For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.' This passage, as connected with the thread of the apostle's argument on this subject, shows the law to be a ministration of death in the letter, but a ministration
of righteousness and life in the spirit. This idea is corroborated by the following passages. See Rom. ii, 27, 28, 29: And shall not circumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? For he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly: and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men but of God.' Chap. vii, 6: 'But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.' 2 Cor. iii. 6: Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament, not of the letter, but of the spiit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.'
· And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.”—Matt. xxi, 44.
1. THE stone, of which Christ spake in the above verse, is that, which the builders rejected, which became the head of the corner; by which I understand Christ himself, as I have observed before on the words rock and stone, in notes on a former parable.
2. Those who fell upon this stone, and were broken, were the Jews, who stumbled at the stone laid in Zion, and were broken off through unbelief. See Rom. ix, 32: Wherefore? because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law: for