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prostrated themselves before him, in token of their profound respect and of their acknowledging him to be the Messiah: every inference therefore drawn hence to prove that Jesus Christ is God, falls to the ground,
But some doubted.
These were some who, on account of the distance of Jesus, or the crowd which surrounded him, could not obtain a distinct view of him, and therefore doubted whether he were not some other person and not the divine teacher with whom they were acquainted, and whom they knew to be crucified: to remove their doubts, we are told, in the next verse, Christ came near to them, and most probably permitted them to satisfy themselves, in the same manner as he had permitted Thomas, by feeling the marks of the wounds in his hands and his feet. That they were by this or some other means satisfied that he was the same Jesus who had been crucified, is evident: for they all bore testimony to the reality of his resurrection; and we never hear of their doubts any more. The fairness and integrity of the evangelist are conspicuous upon this occasion: he does not scruple to mention that some had doubts, although he knew the advantage some would take of this circumstance to question the truth of his history. The care of Jesus to satisfy his disciples that he was actually risen, also deserves notice: for, lest the surprise of a sudden and unexpected appearance should deprive them of perfect recollection, or prevent them from considering the subject coolly and deliberately, he appoints a time and place for meeting them, at sufficient distance from the time when he was first said to be risen; in order that they might have an opportunity of considering what evidence would satisfy them, and of putting to him what questions they pleased. The doubts of the disciples of Christ respecting his resurrection give additional weight to their succeeding testimony: for they show that they were not credulous, or hasty in believing.
18. And Jesus came and spake unto
them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Some have supposed Christ to mean, by these words, that universal power was given him over all beings and over all worlds; so as to be able to alter the course of the sun, if he pleased, or to change the arrangement of the stars, and to have the fates of empires on earth at his disposal: but this would be to suppose him invested with all the powers of the Almighty, which cannot be admitted. Such general expressions, when they occur in scripture, are to be limited and explained by the subject to which they refer*. When Christ, authorizing his disciples to preach the gospel in all nations, says that all power was given to him in heaven and earth, he must mean all the power that was necessary for that purpose, or that could have respect to that object, and must either refer to the miraculous gifts which he received from God, and communicated to his apostles, in order to enable them to propagate his religion in all countries, or to his being invested with a supreme power of governing the minds of men by means of his laws, both among Jews and in the heathen nations, which, in the prophetic language of scripture, are called heaven and earth.
19. Go ye, therefore, and teach, or rather make disciples of, all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, or spirit,
That is, baptize them, upon the profession of that religion which came from the Father as its author, which was communicated to the world by Jesus Christ, and confirmed by the miraculous gifts of the holy spirit: by this commission, the apostles were authorised to admit proselytes from all nations, from Gentiles as well as Jews. It seems, however, that they did not understand it in this comprehensive sense: for they confined their preaching, for some time, to the Jewish nation, John xvi. 13.-1 John, ii. 20. are passages illustrative of this remark.
until Peter was instructed, by a vision, to extend it to other nations. By the words, all nations, therefore, in Christ's commission, they must have understood Jews of all nations, who were dispersed, in considerable numbers through every part of the world. 'The administration of baptism to infants is not here mentioned: yet, as it was customary with Jews to baptize the children of proselytes to their religion as well as their parents, the apostles would consider them as included; and if Jesus had intended that they should not be baptized, he must have given an express prohibition for that purpose, of which, however, there appear to be no
20. Teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo! I am with you always, unto the end of the world.
The words here rendered end of the world, may be translated the end of the age, and may refer to the continuance of the Jewish polity, or age. During this time, Christ promises to be with his apostles, not in person, for he ascended into heaven, but metaphorically with them, by the miraculous powers of the Holy Spirit: for in like manner does he speak of the same powers, in another place: after saying, John xiv. 16, 17, 18, I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, even the spirit of truth, he adds, I will not leave you comfortless: I will come unto you: meaning no more, by promising to be with them, than that the Spirit should be with them: it was in the same manner he promised to be with them now. In confirmation of this interpretation, it has been observed, that the miraculous powers continued no longer in the church than the period of the destruction of the Jewish polity, which was indeed the period of the apostolic age: for none of them survived that event, except the apostle John.
Some of the remarks of Dr. Lardner, upon the first part of that portion of the evangelist which has been read to you, are so just, that I shall give them in his
"Sad is the condition of a people, when their rulers and teachers practise themselves, and recommend to others, falsehood and prevarication and other wickedness.
"Such conduct we see in the Jewish rulers. They had before given money to Judas, to induce him to betray into their hands an innocent and excellent person, and also sought for false witness to put him to death. Here is another like instance of their disregard to all religious obligations. Now they have to do with hea thens, Roman soldiers, and they put into their mouths a downright falsehood, and tempt them with money, and give them a large sum to say as they directed them. We may charitably hope that it was not the act of all the Jewish council, or of every one in it: but it is a deliberate thing; and there is a general concurrence in this great and aggravated wickedness. Some of the
guard come into the city, to the priests, who had placed them at the sepulchre. They convene the council; and, when they had consulted together, they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye that his disciples came by night, and stole him away whilst we slept. It is a studied falsehood, contrived by the chief priests and rulers, when assembled together. Justly did our Lord reprove the hypocrisy of these men; how must irreligion and baseness, and every evil thing, prevail and spread among a people that are under such rulers and instructors!
2. "This history may put us upon our guard against every temptation to a known falsehood, and make us very apprehensive of a lie.
"We know not what may be the consequence: the mischief is often-times wide and durable. We may say that the mischief of some lies is infinite and without end. The bad effect of this lie of the soldiers is dreadful to think of. It was the occasion of the unbelief of many of the Jewish people at that time, which also affected their posterity, and more persons than we can distinctly apprehend. "This saying," says St. Matthew, "is commonly reported among the Jews until this day." This lie was cherished and propagated by many for justifying their own infidelity, and for hardening others against the testimony of Christ's apostles, and the evidence of the many miracles wrought by them.
Every man knows when he utters a lie; for it is something contrary to his own inward persuasion: but he may not be always able to foresee the consequences. The soldiers knew the falsehood of what they said; but they did not duly consider the issue of this calumny upon the disciples. We, now, can better perceive it than they did, when they were first drawn into this prevarication. This therefore may increase our dread of a lie. We know it is not innocent; we feel it to be contrary to our own conviction: but it may be worse than we are aware of, and may have consequences which we are not aware of*."
We have now finished the exposition of the gospel of Matthew. It is not my intention to go through all the other evangelists in the same manner: for their histories are so like his, that it would be only to explain the same thing a second time. Mark, in particular, follows the language and order of Matthew, with so little variation, that some have supposed his history to
Lardner's works, vol. x. p. 359, 360, 361.