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In this connexion, Jesus uttered the beautiful and pathetic exclamation in the two last verses of this chapter. The exclamation opens with the words, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee." He spake in the present time; and the description was applicable, indefinitely, to the past, present, and future history of the city. Retrospectively, his words were too true; for, it was there that the greater number of the prophets had been slain, though the nation generally had, in many cases, to answer for the guilt. Some particular cases of this are recorded. One case was that of Zacharias, the son of Barachias, whom the Jews, and, of course, especially the inhabitants of Jerusalem, "slew between the temple and the altar," as our Lord expresses it; or, as it is in the Old Testament history, "whom the people conspired against, and stoned with stones, at the commandment of the king, in the court of the house of the Lord." Another case was that of Urijah,† who had to escape for his life into Egypt, but king Jehoiakim sent men "and they fetched forth Urijah out of Egypt; and brought him unto Jehoiakim, the king, who slew him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people." But, not to dwell on particular instances, we read, more generally, in 2 Chron. xxxvi. 15, “And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling-place: but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy:" and briefly, in Jer. ii. 30: "O Judah," " your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion." Their persecuting spirit, at the time Jesus was speaking, showed that they approved of these atrocious deeds of their fathers: and that spirit soon broke out in similar crimes, as in the case of Stephen, the first of a host of martyrs. That holy man testified against them thus: "Ye stiff necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them who showed before of the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers. Having thus testified, Stephen paid the penalty of his life. But why go farther, * Matt. xxiii. 35; 2 Chron. xxiv. 21.
+Jer. xxvi. 23.
in proof and illustration of this charge, than the most atrocious crime that ever was perpetrated the murder, by the people of Jerusalem, of the Lord of glory? "His blood be on us, and on our children!" said they: and so, in dire vengeance, it was, and still is upon them.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee: how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” This familiar, but tender and beautiful comparison, is often used, in Scripture, to represent the shelter, comfort, and guidance which are found in the divine "As an mercy and power. eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead Israel." Boaz said to Ruth, "A full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust." This is, especially, a frequent figure in the Psalms. "Hide me under the shadow of thy wings."-" How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings." "In the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast."-"In the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice."—" He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust." In all these passages, the figure is nearly the same. Its application by our Lord here is truly beautiful. As the parent fowl, when she sees a bird of prey hovering over her scattered brood, and ready to seize some of them, gives them the well-known signal of danger, collects them together, extends her wings for their protection, and exposes herself to danger in defending them; or, as when in rain and cold, she shelters and cherishes them, and will rather perish herself than allow them to suffer: so the Redeemer, when he saw the danger to which, because of their sins, the Jews were exposed from the Roman eagle and armies, and still more from the impending wrath of God, called on them to come to him for shelter, and was ready to do and suffer every thing for their safety. How often "would" he-was he willing, was he desirous, did he endeavour, to have gathered them! How often, and how long were they called on and waited for by the instrumentality of his prophets! and how often, how perseveringly, and how earnestly had he himself called on them with his own voice, for the last three years! He would, but
they would not. They, as a body, obstinately rejected his call, and therefore, drew down on themselves the most awful calamities.
Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." Their house might here signify their dwelling-place, or residence: but, it rather seems to signify the temple. And here it is observable, that it is here called their house, and not God's house (as it was usually called), intimating that the Lord no longer dwelt in it, or acknowledged it as his. Somewhat in the same way, on the occasion of the golden calf,* “The Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down, for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves." The overthrow of the Jewish city, temple, and nation, was absolutely fixed in God's purpose, and was drawing on apace; and therefore, our Lord speaks of it as if it had already taken place. It would be premature, however, to enter on the consideration of that catastrophe here.
Our Lord then concludes in these words, "And verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." Various opinions are entertained as to the exact meaning of these words. It seems sufficiently plain that they do not refer to his triumphant entry into Jerusalem; because, though the multitude on that occasion did cry out, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord," he spoke the words in question, a second time, and after his entry, as appears from the history of Matthew, in which his entry is recorded in the 21st chapter, and words almost the same as those now under consideration are attributed to him at the end of the 23d chapter of the same Evangelist. We must, therefore, refer them to some subsequent period. Still, several difficulties attend the absolute fixing of the meaning. It is remarked that the word "until," or "till," does not necessarily imply that a thing which it is affirmed shall not happen up to a certain period, shall take place then, or afterwards; as, for example, when Job says, "Till I die, I will not remove my integrity from me;" and when Jesus says, in the parable, "Thou shalt by no means come out thence till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing." It is remarked also, that the word + rendered "shall say," may signify would say, or wish to say, or be glad to say, if ye could. There remains, too, the distinction between the * Exod. xxxii. 7.
literal and figurative meaning of the words, "see," and, 'come," whereon to ground different interpretations. Some are for referring the passage to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem: some to the readiness with which the Jews, from their desire for the coming of Messiah, according to their own ideas, were led to acknowledge false pretensions; some to the time of their general conversion to Christianity; and some to the judgment at the last day. It is certain that there are many prophetical declarations, which, while they receive a partial accomplishment in different events, are to be completely fulfilled in the consummation of all things. Without altogether setting aside, then, the idea that these words may receive, in some respects literally, and in some figuratively, a partial accomplishment in these previous events; I think we should view them as referring chiefly to Christ's coming in the great day of judgment, at the end of the world. This is the true literal sight, and coming, of which he thus spoke before the council,* "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." Then shall all his people welcome him indeed; and then shall all his enemies deeply regret that they did not welcome him before. How touching, and, at the same time, how awakening, these words, as addressed to the Jews! and what infatuation must have befallen them, when, notwithstanding such means, they continued regardless of the things which belonged to their peace, till they were for ever hid from their eyes! In improving this passage, we may,
1. Learn from it the craft and malice of the enemies of the gospel, and of our salvation. These qualities are united, and exist in great strength, in our invisible adversary, and, more or less, characterize all his emissaries. The enemies
of the truth and of our souls are like Herod, that fox. They speak peace, but mischief is in their hearts. Let us be on our guard against them. When those who, loving not the truth themselves, seek to turn us away from it, let us not give heed to their professions of friendship. "When they speak fair, let us not believe them, for there are seven abominations in their heart." Let us beware of their "cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." That we may be able to meet them, let us be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves, and commit the keeping of our souls to God in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
* Mark xiv. 62.
2. The example of Christ should teach and encourage us not to be deterred from the path of duty by any threatenings of enemies, or misgivings of weak friends. He continued to prosecute his work faithfully and boldly, notwithstanding every threat and danger. So also did many prophets and worthies. Shemaiah endeavoured to draw off Nehemiah* from the work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, saying, They will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee." But Nehemiah said, "Should such a man as I flee?"-" We are all immortal till our work is done." The place, time, and manner of our death, are in God's hand, and, like those of Christ's, are determined. Let us, then, persevere in the path of duty, believing that God will restrain the remainder of man's wrath, and bring us safely through, till our appointed time arrive. It is right, too, that we should view our time as short, that we may be diligent in our great work. And it is an encouraging view here suggested of death, as that by which believers, in conformity to Christ (so far as there can be any parallel between him who never knew any sin, and those who are distressed with its remains), are perfected. At death, the purposes of providence and grace with regard to them, are accomplished; they finish their course with joy, and join "the spirits of just men made perfect." These views may well encourage them to live faithfully, while they do live, and to die cheerfully, when they come to die.
3. Let us believe that Christ was indeed perfected by his sufferings perfected as a Saviour for us; and let us rest on him accordingly. He has done and suffered every thing necessary to purchase for us pardon and eternal life. "By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sancti.. fied." Let us beware of imagining that he has left any thing for us to do in the way of satisfying for our sins, and meriting the favour of God. Let us beware of that delusive blind which prevents so many from seeing the glory of the Saviour, and keeps so many hearts hard, and so many consciences seared. Christ's merits were not payment in part, but they were the full price of salvation. He disdains a divided honour. He rejects a partial trust. It will be in vain to found one end of our house on the rock, if the other rest on shifting sand. Let us rest on him solely. He said, "It is finished." Let him, then, be received by us withthe author and finisher of our faith."
out hesitation, as
* Neh. vi. 10.