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Messiah was only to be a secular prince as they supposed, and to . over the men of his own time, he never could have been called Lord, by persons who died before he was born; far less would so mighty a prince as David, who was also his progenitor, have conferred on him that title. Since, therefore, he not only rules over thc vulgar dead of former ages, but even over the kings from whom he was himself descended, and his kingdom comprehends the men of all countries and times, past, present, and to come; the doctors, if they had thought accurately upon the subject, should have expccted in their Messiah a king different from all other kings whatever: besides, he is to sit at God's righthand, till all his enemies are made his footstool. Numbers of CH R1st’s enemies are subject to him in this life: and they who will not bow to him willingly, shall be reduced by punishment, like the rebellious subjects of other kingdoms.
He returned such clear and solid answers to the ensharing questions of his adversaries, that they gave the people an high opinion of his wisdom; and shewed them, how far superior he was to their most renowned Rabbins, whose argument to prove their opinions, and answers to the objections which were raised against him, were in general, very weak and trifling: nay, his foes themselves, from the repeated proofs they had received from the prodigious depth of his understanding, were impressed with such an opinion of his wisdom, that they judged it impossible to entangle him in his talk. Accordingly, they left off attempting it, and troubled him no more with their insidious questions from that day.
Our blessed Saviour silenced his most virulent opposers by this means; but having mentioned the final conquest and destruction of his enemies, who were to be made his footstool, agreeable to the prediction of the royal Psalmist, he turned towards his disciples, and in the hearing of the multitude, solemnly cautioned
them to beware of the Scribes and Pharisees; insinu
ating thereby, who the enemies were whose destruction
he had mentioned: The Scribes and Pharisees, said he,
sit in Moses’s seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works; for they say and do not. Matt. xxiii. 2, 3. While they teach the doctrines before delivered by Moses, observe all they say, but by no means imitate their practices; for they impose many precepts on their disciples, which they never perform themselves: For they bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men. The difficult precepts they impose on others are never regarded by these hypocrites, and any good action they may happen to perform, is vitiated by the principle from whence it proceeds: they do it only with a view to popular applausc, and not from a regard to God, far less from a love of goodness: they are proud and arrogant to excess, as is plain from their affected gravity in their clothes, from the anxiety they discover, lest they should not obtain the principal seats in the public assemblies, and from their affecting to be saluted in the streets, with the sounding titles of Rabbi and Father: “They make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.”
The proper meaning of the word Rabbi is great, and it was given to those men who had rendered themselves remarkable for the extent of their learning; it is therefore no wonder that the proud and supercilious Pharisees were so fond of a title, which gave them great authority with their disciples, and highly complimented their understandings.
because the thing signified by it belonged solely to their Master, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowlege; and because they owed no part of their knowledge to themselves, but derived it entirely from him who came down from heaven: “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even CHRIsr; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” Matt. xiii. 8, 9. Life, with all its blessings, comes from God, and men wholly depend upon him; all praise and thankfulness, therefore, should ultimately be referred to him; so that if any one teacheth rightly, not the teacher, but the wisdom of the Almighty is to be praised, which exerts and communicatcs itself by him.
The disciples of our blessed Saviour were likewise enjoined not to accept of the title of master or leader, which the Jewish doctors also courted; because in
int of commision, and inspiration, they were all cqual, neither had they any title to rule the consciences of men, except by virtue of the inspiration which they had received from their Master, to whom alone the prerogative of infallibility belonged: Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
However, our blessed Saviour did not intend by this to insinuate, that it was sinful to call men by the stations they held in the world; he only intended to reprove the simplicity of the common people, who loaded their teachers with praises, and forgot to ascribe any thing to God; and to root out of the minds of his apostles, the Pharisaical vanity, which decked itself with honours belonging solely to the Creator of the universe. Accordingly, that he might instil into their hearts hu-, mility, to dispose them to do good offices to one another, as occasion offered, he assured them, it was the only road to true greatness: for, by assuming what did not properly belong to them, they should be despised both by God and men; whereas, they should enjoy a high degree of the divine favour, who did not disdain to perform the meanest offices of love to their brethren.
The Scribes and Pharisees were greatly incensed at the above discourses; and, as they were pronounced in the hearing of many of that order, it is therefore no wonder that they watched every opportunity to destroy him: but this was not a time to put their bloody designs in execution; the people set too high a value on his doctrine to suffer any violence to be offered to his person; and, as this was the last sermon he was ever to preach in public, and as all his mild persuasions had hitherto proved ineffectual, it was necessary, that he should now use some severity.
He accordingly denounced in the most solemn manner dreadful woes against them, not on account of the personal injuries he had received from them, but on account of their excessive wickedness. They were public teachers of religion; and therefore should have used every method in their power to recommend its precepts to the people, and to have been themselves shining examples of every duty it enjoined: but, on the contrary, they abused every mark and character of goodness for all the purposes of villainy ; and, under the cloak of a severe and sanctified aspect, they were malicious, implacable, lewd, covetous, and rapacious; in a word, instead of being reformers, they were the corrupters of the people, and consequently their wickedness deserved the greatest reproof that could be given by the great Redeemer of mankind: Joe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites / for ye shut up the Kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in urselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. JPoe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites' for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make song prayers; therefore yeshall receive the greaterdamnation. JWoe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites' for ye compass sea and land to make one prose''/te, and when
You shall suffer punishment that will be terribly se
vere, because ye have given a wrong interpretation of the ancient prophecies concerning the Messiah, and donc all that is in your power to hinder the people from repenting of their sins, and believing the gospel; be
cause you have committed the grossest iniquities, and under the cloak of religion, have devoured the substance of widows and orphans, hoping to hide your vilIainics by long prayers: because ye have expressed the greatest zeal imaginable in making proselytes, not with a view to render the Gentiles more wise and virtuous, but to acquire their riches, and a command over their consciences; and instead of teaching them the precepts of virtue and the moral duties of religion, you confine their duties to superstitious and ceremonial institutions,
and hence they often relapse into their old state of heathenism, and become more wicked than before their conversion, and consequently liable to a more severe sentence.
Our Lord also mentioned, in aparticular manner, their doctrine concerning oaths; and declared in opposition to their abominable tenets, that every oath, if the matter of it be lawful, is obligatory; because when men swear by any part of the creation, it is an appeal to the Creator himself; for, in any other light, an oath of this kind is absolutely ridiculous, the object having neither knowledge of the fact, nor power to punish the perjury: ‘Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosocver shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor Ye fools and blind, whether is greater, the gold, of the temple that sanctifieth the gold 2 And, whosocver shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty Ye fools and blind, for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctificth the gift 2 Whoso therefore