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LUKE IX. 18-27.
"And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am! 19. They answering, said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again. 20. He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering, said, The Christ of God. 21. And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing; 22. Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. 23. And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. 25. For, what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? 26. For whosoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels. 27. But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God."
THE passages parallel to this are in Matt. xvi. 13. and Mark viii. 27. From these two Evangelists, it appears that, though Luke introduces the information which we have now read, immediately after the account of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, some time had intervened, during which our Lord had visited various places, and wrought several miracles. But, without stopping to mention these particularly, let us observe, at once, that the circumstances stated in the passage under consideration occurred in the coasts, or district of country, connected with Cæsarea Philippi. This city is supposed to have been the same formerly called Laish, or Dan,* rebuilt and much improved by Philip the tetrarch, and called by him, Cæsarea, in honour of Tiberius Cæsar, and also Philippi, after his own name, which served to distinguish this from the other Cæsarea, a much greater city, which was on the sea coast of Phoenicia, and which is repeatedly mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles.
In Mark viii. 27, we thus read, "And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the town of Cæsarea Philippi; and by the * Josh. xix. 47; Judg. xviii. 7.
way, he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?"-according to the first verse of the passage in Luke, "And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them saying, Whom say the people that I am?" From these two accounts, we learn that, "by the way," or, during the course of this journey, as our Lord was alone," that is, apart from the multitude, and with his disciples only, he prayed with his disciples, and put to them a certain question. May not this be considered as an example to travellers to attend to the duties of prayer and edifying conversation? This, too, furnishes, as nearly as circumstances permitted, an example, on the part of our Lord, of attention to domestic religion; for the apostles, being so much with him, might be considered as his family. And, as he was the Teacher and they were the disciples, we may, from this part of his conduct, infer the general rule that it is the duty of teachers, or masters, to pray with, and for, their disciples, or scholars, and diligently to catechise, and instruct them in the knowledge of Christ.
The question which our Lord put to the disciples was, "Whom say the people that I (or, according to Matthew; that I the Son of man) am?" Though the Son of God, our Lord was also truly the Son of man, having taken on him the human nature entire, both soul and body, yet without sin. This was one of the titles by which the Saviour was to be known, according to Daniel's prophecy.* Probably, our Lord adopted this title on this occasion, as being the humblest, and the best suited to the lowly circumstances in which he was tabernacling among men. He wished his disciples to say what was the opinion entertained of him by the people, after all the opportunities of judging of him from his teaching and miracles, with which they had been. furnished. Our Lord did not, on his own account, need that the disciples should testify any thing to him on this, or on any other subject; for he knew, of himself, all things: some of the uses, however, of his putting this question, are apparent. It served to show his concern for the success of his preaching to lead the disciples to think and speak on a most important topic-to guard them against the errors relating to it into which others had fallen-and to prepare the way for his asking them what opinion they entertained of him themselves, and for Peter's interesting confession. * Dan. vii. 13.
In reply to this question, the disciples said that some (among whom, we were expressly told, was Herod) said that Jesus was "John the Baptist" risen from the dead;—that "some," mistaking the prediction that Elijah was to come to prepare the way for Messiah, and not being aware how that was fulfilled in John, said that Jesus was Elias," or Elijah;— that others, (for so we are told in Matthew) probably, from the eminence of that prophet, said that Jesus was Jeremiah; and finally, that others, without naming any individual, said that "one of the old prophets was risen again." We may here observe, that, as there were of old very different opinions among the people concerning Christ, so there are still many different opinions with regard to various religious questions, which one might think ought to be plain enough, and on which there ought to be but one opinion. Besides, as all the different opinions here stated were demonstrative of some degree, though certainly, a very inadequate degree, of respect to Christ, (for, the disciples do not here mention those who said that he was a deceiver of the people), so, there were still differences of opinion among those who are inquiring after the way of salvation, and who have some respect for religion. Now, the fact of such differences should not, as it unhappily sometimes does, stumble any man, so as to disgust, or discourage him, as if there were no truth at all in religion, or as if certainty on the subject were unattainable: for, what subject is there, in any degree involving human feeling, and depending on moral evidence, on which differences do not prevail? Error is various; but truth is one. Every wise man should seek deliverance from the former, and seek to know, embrace, and hold fast the latter. Nor are we hastily to adopt the opinions of others, because there may be in them some apparent, or real respect to Christ: for, every thing must be tried by the unerring standard of revelation. We are reminded, too, that among many who call themselves the followers of Christ, there are different shades of opinion, with regard to him, which, though professing to honour him, and being indeed complimentary to him, as far as they go, are yet quite inadequate; so that when those who hold them are called on to be more explicit, they deny the truth, and refuse him the honour which is his due. As to this particular subject of difference, the personal and official dignity of Jesus Christ, it is no matter of doubtful disputation, or of inferior importance, for, it it is clearly settled by the highest authority, and quite
essential in the Christian scheme. Whatever errors, there.. fore, might be entertained by the multitude, the disciples were now correctly instructed on this point.
Addressing himself to the disciples, our Lord said, “But whom say ye that I am?" To this question, "Peter," who was of a frank and bold temper, and who frequently spoke for them all, replied,-" The Christ of God." We have frequently occasion to mention that the word Messiah, or Christ, signifies the "Anointed One," and is an official name of the Redeemer, who is so called because he was set apart and qualified for his office, by the influences of the Holy Spirit, which were given to him without measure. The disciples, then, confessed Jesus to be not only a prophet, but that great Prophet, Priest, and King, who was to enlighten, save, and rule God's people. According to Matthew, Peter's answer at full length was, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." This title, the Son of God, was declaratory, not only of his Messiahship, but of his divine nature. He is the Son of God, in a sense peculiar to himself:-he is the only begotten and well-beloved Son of God, of the same nature with the Father, and eternally proceeding from him; and all "men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father."
Now, my friends, Jesus may be considered as putting the same question to us, which he put to the twelve, "Whom say ye that I am?" Can we, then, in light and in faith, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God?" If we can, if we do really believe that he is such a Christ, and has done such things, as the Word of God represents him to be, and to have done-if we believe in him, according to his real character and work-then are we the children of God; for, the apostle John* declares that "whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God:" and then are we delivered from the reign and wilful commission of sin, for, the same apostle also declares that "whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.""If ye believe not that I am he," saith Jesus, "ye shall die in your sins"-"but whoso believeth in me shall not abide in darkness, but shall have the light of life." Let us, then, earnestly pray that with “ our heart we may believe unto righteousness, and with our mouth make confession unto salvation:" and never let us forget that no man can thus that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost."
1 John v. 1.
In this connection, we may just notice, that, according to Matthew, our Lord now said to Peter, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona," or son of Jonas, "for flesh and blood hath not revealed it," hath not discovered to thee this great truth of my Messiahship, in this saving way, "but my Father who is in heaven." Then our Lord added: "And I say also unto thee, Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail aganist it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Without enlarging on this inviting field, which would lead us too far away from the passage before us, the following hints may be given. As Peter had spoken, not only for himself, but for the apostles in general, so our Lord, though addressing himself more immediately to Peter, spoke what, in the main, was applicable to all the apostles also. The only foundation of merit is Christ himself; other foundation, in this sense, can no man lay. In an inferior sense, and in reference to the honour conferred on the apostles, as instruments, it is said that believers, who are the church, are built upon the foundation of the apostles"-not of one apostle, but of the apostles, all the apostles-" and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." stewards, or upper servants, in great families, bore the keys, so, we are taught, that Peter, and the other apostles, were raised to high dignity in the household of faith; and, in virtue of their divine inspiration, qualified and commissioned authoritatively to declare the doctrines and precepts which were to be received, or rejected. And our Lord declared that men's present and final state should be determined according to these inspired rules and decisions of the apostles. When we think of these interesting words of our Lord, let us rejoice in the security of his church; and let us have a suitable regard to the written instructions of his inspired servants, according to which we must be either acquitted or condemned.
Referring to the declaration which Peter, for the apostles, had made of our Lord's being the Christ, Luke tells us, that Jesus "straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing." There were various satisfactory reasons for this reserve. For example, had the Jewish and
* Matt. xvi. 17.