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OUR LORD'S MINISTRY, FROM THE IMPRISONMENT OF JOHN THE BAPTIST TO THE
SERMON ON THE MOUNT.
Our Lord makes many converts, who are baptized by his disciples---Christ passes through Samaria---origin of the Samaritan schism---their religious principles---their history--causes of the hatred between them and the Jews---Jacob's well---Christ's conversation with the woman of Samaria---Christ returns to Galilee---the second miracle of Cana--the sermon at Nazareth---Christ, expelled from that city, removes to Capernaum--makes the tour of Galilee---preaches the sermon on the mount.
WHILE John the Baptist was labouring and suffering in the cause of God in Galilee, our Lord was carrying on a similar work in Judea. For he continued there till the fame of his doctrine, disciples, and miracles, reaching Jerusalem, gave umbrage to the Pharisees. These men, vain and conceited, claiming it as the privilege of their sect to direct the consciences of the people, were enraged to find numbers of them acknowledging as Messiah, one whose birth and fortune so little suited the notions which they had taught concerning the great deliverer of the nation. Wherefore, to shun the effects of their malice, Jesus, who knew all that passed, retired with his disciples into Galilee, where his presence was become necessary, as the ministry of his forerunner in that country was now brought to a period. When, therefore, the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee. Various reasons have been assigned by commentators, why Christ did not himself administer the ordinance of baptism. They suppose that it was not proper for him to baptize in his own name, as that would have afforded his enemics an opportunity of alledging that he was engaged in his own cause, and not in that of the Father. He referred the office of baptizing to his apostles, thus intimating that it was of more importance to preach than to baptize, and, consequently, that a true and sincere belief of the gospel was more essential to the salvation of Christians than the submission to an outward ordinance, though it were even of divine appointment besides, it has been observed, that those who were baptized by Christ might have taken occasion to value themselves above others, as happened in the church of Corinth, where the brethren valued themselves upon the character of the persons who had baptized them. To conclude, the baptism, properly his, was that of the Holy Ghost. In his way to Galilee, Christ must necessarily, unless he took a circuitous route,
pass through Samaria, a country which was inhabited by a race of men a most equally distinguished from the Gentiles and the Jews. To judge properly of their character we must recal to our recollection, that the revolt of the ten tribes under Jeroboam was accompanied with a schism in religion. For that crafty prince soon became sensible, that if his subjects went regularly to Jerusalem to worship and offer sacrifice, as formerly, the majesty of the services of religion performed there, the address of the priests, the flatteries or threatenings of the prince, and the discourses of the people who remained loyal to the family of David, would soon induce them to return to their rightful sovereign. He therefore set up calves at Dan, the northern, and Bethel, the southern extremities of his kingdom, giving out that these images were emblems of the divine presence; for though, in our translation, they are called calves, they were like the cherubins in the sanctuary. Moreover, he instituted priests to attend these idols, and to offer sacrifice there, requiring all his subjects to worship there, and to abstain from the worship at Jerusalem.
Jeroboam's schism in religion was directly contrary to the law; yet God did not altogether cast off this part of the nation, for he raised up many prophets among them, particularly Elijah and Elisha, who, during the persecutions of Ahab and Jezebel, wrought many miracles in support of the true religion. At length, the ten schismatic tribes having filled up the measure of their iniquity, God sent Shalmaneser, who took Samaria, their capital, transplanted their tribes into the plains of Chaldea, and re-peopled the country with different nations, particularly the Cutheans. This mixed colony brought their idols into the land of Israel, and set up their worship. there. But, to punish them, God brought up wild beasts, which destroyed numbers. of them. This great calamity was, by these strangers, imputed to their having neglected to worship the God of the country. Wherefore, at their request, the king of Assyria sent them one of the Jewish priests whom he had carried away captive, to teach them the religion and sacrifices of Moses. This priest settled at Bethel, and told the idolatrous nations how they should fear the Lord. Howbeit, every nation made gods of their own. [2 Kings xvii, 28.] From this time forth there was a confused mixture of religions in the land; for the heathens who came from Chaldea joined the worship of their different idols to the worship of the true God, which, doubt, they performed after the manner of the schismatic tribes. The remnant of the tribes behaved as their fathers had done, and served God after the manner of the schism. Others walked in the statutes of the heathens, whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel. [2 Kings xvii. 8.]
The greatest part of the Samaritans being thus idolaters and strangers, it is evident that. they intruded themselves into the covenant privileges of the Israelites. Such of them as were not strangers were schismatics, who set up a different worship for the true worship established at Jerusalem, by David and Solomon, princes whose persons and writings they, for that reason, abhorred. With respect to the prophets whom God raised up in the two tribes after the separation, the Samaritans were obliged to deny their authority, otherwise they could not have persisted in the schism. Nay, they do not seem to have acknowledged the authority of the prophets raised up, by God, in the ten tribes; for they rejected the writings of the two who have left their prophecies in writing, viz. Hosea and Amos. Probably, this might be owing to the. imperfect manner in which the Samaritans had been instructed by the priest whom the king of Assyria sent to them, or to their settling in the country after the prophets were dead; so that having never prophesied unto them, they were unacquainted with. their character. Whatever was the reason, it is certain that the Samaritans, even in later times, acknowledged the authority of none of the Jewish scriptures, but the
five books of Moses, which they preserved still in their own character, affirming it to be the true genuine copy of the law. Their boast, however, is without foundation: for the Samaritan pentateuch having all the additions found in the Jewish copy, it is plain that they received it from the Jews, probably, before the canon was settled by Ezra. For, in his days, and ever after, the rancour which subsisted between the two nations was so great, that neither can be supposed to have received any thing relative to religion from the other. Perhaps the copies of the law were spread among the Samaritans, more especially when they came up to Josiah's passover [2 Chron. xxv. 18.]; for it was one of the exercises of that pious prince's zeal, to spread copies of the law among the people.
Considering the original of the Samaritan schism, and the subsequent corruption of their religion by the coming in of the idolatrous nations from Chaldea, the Samaritans could not avoid being very odious to the Jews. The latter, to express their contempt of the Samaritans, affected, on all occasions, to call the whole nation Cutheans, thereby upbraiding them with their idolatrous extraction. [2 Kings xvii. 24.] The hatred which the Jews bare towards the Samaritans was greatly heightened by the manner in which they behaved after the Jews returned from the captivity. Under the pretence of friendship they did the Jews all the mischief they could. [Neh. ii. 10. Ezra iv. 1.] They perceived that the rebuilding of Jerusalem would perpetuate the reproach of their original, by preserving the two tribes distinct from them, in respect both of religion and government. Wherefore, pretending friendship, they assured the Jews that they worshipped the same God with them, and offered to assist them in the work, probably, with a design to ruin it. [Ezra iv. 2.] But the Jews, unwilling to receive them into their commonwealth, refused the offer; upon which, the Samaritans throwing off the mask, accused them, to Artaxerxes, of rebellion, [ Ezra iv. 11.] obtained an order to stop the work, and, when it was afterwards renewed, conspired to come and fight against the builders. [Neh. iv. 8.]
The breach between the Jews and the Samaritans became still wider in the reign of Alexander the Great. Manasseh, brother to Jaddus, the Jewish high-priest, having married the daughter of Sanballet, the governor of Samaria, was required, by the Jewish elders, to put her away because she was an alien. This Manasseh refused to do, being encouraged by his father-in-law, who promised to build a temple upon the hill above Samaria, equal to that at Jerusalem, and to make him high-priest thereof. Accordingly, Manasseh retained his wife, and was, for that transgression of the law, banished both from the temple and altar of the Jews. He retired, therefore, to Samaria, and dwelt with his father-in-law, who soon after obtained leave of Alexander the Great to build a temple for him. This was the famous temple of the Samaritans on Gerizim, which so long rivalled the temple at Jerusalem. Of this temple Sanballet made Manasseh the high-priest: and to him resorted every one that was in debt, or disappointed, or in distress, or who fled from the rigour of the law, or was in any way uneasy, at Jerusalem. This new temple, the Samaritans pretended, was more holy and acceptable to God than that which was at Jerusalem. Nay, they affirmed that it was erected on the very spot which God himself chose for his worship. Thus the preference which they gave to their temple, and the numbers who apostatized to them, rendered the hatred between the two nations. more implacable than
But that which most exasperated the Jews against the Samaritans was, the letter which they wrote to Antiochus Epiphanes, whilst he was persecuting the Jews in the most barbarous manner, on account of their religion. This letter the Samaritans began with the basest flattery, for they had the impudence to call Antiochus a god.
Next, they expressly disclaimed their having any relation to the Jews, either in point of extraction or religion. Their ancestors, they said, were Sidonians, who, to remove certain plagues incident to the country, observed the festiva! which the Jews called the sabbath. That they had a temple on mount Gezirim, dedicated to the nameless God, in which they performed sacrifice. That as their temple had, hitherto, the name of no god, they begged leave of him to dedicate it to the Grecian Jupiter. A letter of this kind, wrote while the Jews were under the greatest hardships for the sake of their religion, could not fail to enrage them exceedingly against the Samaritans; and the remembrance of the injury, in all ages afterwards, continued fresh in their minds.
Passing on in his journey Christ came to Jacob's well, which received its name from its being dug by that patriarch, who gave it to his son Joseph. It is thus described by Maundrel." About one third of an hour from Naplosa, the antient Sychar, as it is termed in the New Testament, stands Jacob's well, famous, not only on account of its author, but much more for the memorable conference which our blessed Lord had there with the woman of Samaria. If it should be enquired whether this be the very place it is pretended, seeing it may be suspected to stand too remote from Sychem for the woman to come and draw water, we may answer, that, in all probability, the city extended farther in former times than it does now, as may be conjectured from some pieces of a very thick wall (the remains, perhaps, of the antient Sychem) still to be seen not far from hence. Over it stood, formerly, a large church, erected by that great and devout patroness of the Holy Land, the empress Irene. But of this, the voracity of time, assisted by the hands of the Turks, have left nothing but a few foundations remaining. The well is covered, at present, with an old stone vault, into which you are let down by a very strait hole, and then removing a broad flat stone you discover the well itself. It is digged in a firm rock, and is about three yards in diameter, and thirty-five in depth, five of which we found full of water. This confutes. a story commonly told to travellers who do not take the pains to examine the well, viz. that it is dry all the year round, except on the anniversary of that day on which our blessed Saviour sat upon it, but then bubbles up with abundance of water. At. this well the narrow valley of Sychem ends, opening itself into a wide field, which is, probably, part of the parcel of ground given by Jacob to his son Joseph. It is watered by a fresh stream running between it and Sychem, which makes it so exceedingly verdant and fruitful, that it may well be looked upon as a standing token of the tender affection of that good patriarch to the best of sons." [Gen. xlviii. 22.]
Christ being wearied with his journey sat down immediately by the side of the well, and it was about the sixth hour. Whether this hour was noon, or six o'clock in the evening, has been the subject of considerable dispute; those who entertained the former cpinion, supported it by Christ's weariness, and its conformity to the general language of scripture; while those who maintain the latter, contend that it is chiefly in the evening that the eastern women are accustomed to draw water.
While his disciples were gone into the city to purchase food, a Samaritan woman came with a bucket to draw water out of the well, and Jesus, being thirsty, desired her to give him some of it. For as he was not spirited with the passions of his countrymen, he did not think himself bound by the rules which they observed, especially when they hindered the common offices of friendship and humanity. Nevertheless, his demand surprised the woman, who, knowing him to be a Jew, either by his speech or dress, could not understand how he came to ask any good office of her who was a Samaritan. Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, how is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, who am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings, intercourses
of friendship, with the Samaritans. On this occasion Jesus shewed the greatness of his condescension and benevolence; for though this was a person of an infamous character, and though he himself was pressed with thirst, he delayed refreshing himself, that he may bring her who was spiritually dead to the waters of life. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. To understand this last verse, it is necessary to remark, that many of the eastern wells are not furnished, like ours, with a line and bucket, but travellers are obliged to carry those things with them for their own accommodation. It may surprize an English reader, unacquainted with the oriental idiom, that this woman, who appears, by the sequel, to have totally misunderstood our Lord, did not ask what he meant by living water, but proceeded on the supposition that she understood him perfectly; and only did not conceive how, without some vessel for drawing and containing that water, he could provide her with it to drink. The truth is, the expression is ambiguous. In the most familiar acceptation, living water meant no more than running water. In this sense, the water of springs and rivers would be denominated living, as that of cisterns and lakes would be called dead, because motionless. Thus Gen. xxvi. 19, we are told, that Isaac's servant digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing water. It is living water both in the Hebrew and the Greek, as marked on the margin of our Bibles. Thus, also, Lev. xiv. 5, what is rendered running water in the English Bible, is, in both those languages, living water. Nay, this use was not unknown to the Latins, as may be proved from Virgil and Ovid. In this passage, however, our Lord uses the expression in the more sublime sense for divine teaching, but was mistaken by the woman, as using it in the popular acceptation. Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Are you a person of greater power, or more in favour with God than our father Jacob, that you can procure water for yourself by supernatural means? He was obliged to dig this well, in order to provide drink for himself and his family. Can you create water? Jesus answered and said unto her, whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again; this water can allay the pain of thirst only for a little while, because, though it be drank ever so plentifully, the appetite will soon return. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst: shall, at no time, be subject to any vehement painful sensations, arising from unmortified irregular appetites ;-but in the water that I shall give him shall be a well of water, springing up into everlasting life: shall yield him divine satisfaction now, and shall be the source of his happiness to all eternity in heaven, where he shall feel none of the bodily appetites or wants so troublesome to men in this life.
Thus Jesus, under the image of living or springing water, taken from the well beside which he was sitting, as his manner was, beautifully described the efficacy of the influences of the Spirit of God; for as water quenches thirst, these, by quieting the agitation, and cooling the fervency of earthly desires, beget an unspeakable inward peace. By this image, also, he sets forth the plenitude and perpetuity of the celestial joys flowing from holy dispositions, produced by the influences of the Spirit of God. For these, by an innate power, satisfying all the capacities and desires of the soul, render it so completely happy, that it is not able to form a wish or a thought of any thing better.
The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. Some suppose that she intended this as claiming his promise; but others, that she designed only to ridicule his words; and that he, to check this impudence, shewed her that he was perfectly acquainted with her character, for he