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or perhaps. feeling the same envy and antipathy against Christ as actuated their superiors, went their way to the Pharisees, who resided, in great numbers, at Jerusalem, and reported to them what wonderful things Jesus had done in their presence. Immediately upon this, the chief priests and Pharisees called a solemn council, in which it was deliberated what should be done to stop the progress of the Galilean prophet; and as malice, if openly avowed, is apt to disgust even the most wicked of mankind, they thought it proper to cover their designs by the pretext of consulting the public safety; and resolved to persecute Jesus, lest the people should receive him as a temporal Messiah, and the jealousy of the Romans be thus excited, to the destruction of their civil and religious liberties. The members of the assembly were not, however, unanimous in their resolution of putting Jesus to death. Some of them, who were his disciples, particularly Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, urged the unlawfulness of that which was proposed, from the consideration of his miracles and innocence. But the high-priest, Caiaphas, treated Christ's friends in the council with contempt, as a parcel of weak, ignorant people, who were unacquainted with the nature of government, and did not consider that it was sometimes expedient to commit acts of injustice for the public good. Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is cxpedient for us that one man should die for th people, and that the whole nation perish not. Caiaphas undoubtedly said this from a principle of human policy; nevertheless, the evangelist assures us that his tongue was directed by the inspiration of God, with which he was honoured, though a wicked man, in consequence of his possessing the office of the high-priesthood. And this spake he not of himself, but being high-priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. The majority of the council having now resolved to put Jesus to death, he retired to a city called Ephraim, which was in the borders of the wilderness; but with the exact position of which we are not acquainted.
An importat lesson, to endure with patience the contradiction of sinners, is inculcated by the whole life of Christ, but especially by the last recorded transactions. Here we learn that the more the blessed Immanuel employed himself in contributing to the comforts of mankind, the more cruelly was he persecuted by his enemies. Let no one, therefore, of his followers. account it strange when they meet with similar treatment; but, seeking only the honour that is of God, commit their cause into his hands, and look forward with pleasing hope to that decisive day, when every secret thought shall be manifested, when the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the firmament, and when the wicked shall be clothed with shame and everlasting contempt..
FROM THE RESURRECTION OF LAZARUS, TILL OUR LORD'S PUBLIC ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM.
Our Lord describes the nature of his coming---erhorts his disciples to constancy in prayer by the example of the importunate widow, and instructs them in the proper spirit in which to address the Deity by the parable of the Pharisee and publican---the Pharisees enquire Christ's opinion concerning divorce---Jesus blesses little children---the young man whom Jesus loved--Christ points out the difficulty of a rich man's entering the kingdom of heaven--the parable of the labourers in the vineyard---Christ foretels his own sufferings the sixth time---teaches Zebedee's children that they must expect to suffer for his sake, and exhorts his disciples to beware of worldly ambition---passes through Jericho, where he cures blind Bartimeus, and visits Zaccheus the publican--the parable of the nobleman's servants who had received every one a pou ná---Christ is anointed by Mary when he sups at her house at Bethany---he makes his public entry into Jerusalem..and laments the fate of that city.
WHILE Christ resided in the little city of Ephraim, the Pharisees pressed him with enquiries concerning the coming of the kingdom of God, of which they entertained very high but mistaken opinions. Without enquiring into their motives, he informed them that Messiah's kingdom does not consist in any pompous outward form of government, to be erected in this or that particular country with the terror of arms and the confusion of war; but that it consists in the subjections of men's wills, and, in the conformity of their minds to the laws of God, to be effected by a new dispensation of religion which was already begun.
Having thus spoken, he addressed his disciples; and, in the hearing of the Pharisees, prophesied concerning the destruction of the Jewish state, whose constitution, both religious and civil, was the chief obstacle to the erection of his kingdom; for the attachment which the Jews had to their constitution was one great spring of their opposition to Christianity, and of their cruelty to its abettors. He told them first of all, that before this event took place, they and the whole nation should be in the greatest distress, and that they should passionately wish for Messiah's personal presence to comfort them under their affliction, but should not receive such a fav ur. [Luke xvii. 22.] And he said unto the disciples, the days will come when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. He next cautioned them against certain deceivers, who should pretend to be Messiah, and promise de
liverance to the people; and that they might the better distinguish between these wicked men and the Christ of God, he intimated that, after having lurked awhile in private, they would endeavour to collect forces by the diligence of their emissaries. And they shall say to you, see here, or see there; go not after them, nor follow them. My coming will be sudden and powerful. For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth to the other part under heaven: so shall also the Son of man be in his day. But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. And such shall be the dreadful stupidity of your countrymen, that as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded. But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heeven, und destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of mar is revealed The Jewish people shall be sunk in the same carnal security, and shall suffer the like exemplary punishment, at the time when God reveals to the world, by the more public diffusion of his gospel, the person who was foretold by Daniel under the denomination of the Son of man. In that day he that shall be on the top of one of those flat-roofed houses which have two staircases, one within, and the other without the house, and shall have his stuff in the house, let him descend by the outward staircase in the most expeditious manner, and not come down into the house to take his property away; and he that is in the field, let him likewise remember not to return back to his house to recover any article of property. Remember Lot's wife. Whoever shall seek to save his life, by remaining in the city, shall lose it; and whosoever, by fleeing to the country, shall seem as if he wished to lose his life, shall preserve it. And the whole of this awful affair shall be so especially directed by the providence of God, that I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken away captive by the conquerors, and the other shall be left in the possession of his liberty. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord, shall all these dreadful calamities take place; and he said unto them, wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together. As eagles find out and gather round a carcase, so wherever wicked men are, the judgments of God will pursue them; and, particularly, in whatever part of the land any number of the unbelieving Jews are, there will the Romans, the executioners of divine vengeance, be collected together to destroy them. The expression appears to be proverbial, and in this instance very beautifully applied; as the Romans bore in their standards the figure of an eagle, and as a species of fowl that fed upon carcases was reckoned, by the antients, as belonging to the family of eagles.
When times of awful calamity approach, God is the refuge of his people; and it is by prayer that they commit their cause to him, and claim his gracious protection, Christ, therefore, now delivered to his disciples a parable, to teach them that they ought not to desist from praying, though the blessing might be long delayed. There was, said he, in a certain city, a powerful and wicked magistrate, who paid no regard to the approbation of God or of man. A poor widow in the city, having been grievously oppressed, came and related her story to him, and often entreated him for justice in vain. However, she continued her applications, and at length, by mere importunity, prevailed. And shall not God avenge his own elect who cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? He will; as many of you will witness who shalı
survive the destruction of Jerusalem, and as will be more fully seen in the resurrection of the last day. Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth ? This question is understood to imply, that before the second coming of Christ, infidelity should greatly abound. And that many shall say, where is the promise of his coming; for since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
In the company of Jesus there were certain vain persons, who were confident in their own righteousness and despised others. To these he delivered a parable, in which he represented two men of very different characters going up to the temple to offer their adorations to the Deity. The first was a Pharisee, a man of the strictest sect of the Jews, and in the highest reputation for sanctity. He advanced beyond the crowd of common worshippers, and in a tone of voice which evidently indicated his self-sufficiency, began with thanking God that he was free from the vices of other men, especially of a publican who was at that time in the temple; and concluded by enumerating the many virtues which adorned his character, the frequency and severity of his fasts, and the strictness with which he applied the tenth of his property to the support of the Mosaical establishment. The other character whom our Lord pointed out, was that poor publican whom the Pharisee had insulted, even in his players. He, conscious of innumerable imperfections, remained at a greater distance from the most holy place; and, without presuming so much as to lift up his eyes to heaven, smote upon his breast. in unaffected agony, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. God, who knows the secrets of the heart, and who delights in a broken aud a contrite spirit, looked down upon this man with approbation; he received the blessing which he desired, and went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
This parable teaches us, among other things, the wonderful subtilty with which pride insinuates itself into the mind: so that, whilst we express our gratitude to God for having kept us from the practice of open and notorious sins, we must take an especial care, lest, by ascribing any thing to ourselves, we offer before him the sacrifice of fools.
A very prevalent disposition among the Jews in the time of our Lord was that to indulge themselves very freely in vice, whilst they pretended a great regard for the commandments of God: thus while, in conformity with the injunctious, of Moses, they abstained from commerce with abandoned women, they equally gratified their sensual appetites by frequently divorcing their wives on the most trivial pretexts, and marrying immediately to those who had more strongly attracted their regard. For this species of perfidious debauchery they were more infamous than any of the surrounding nations. The Pharisees hoped that on this subject they might ensnare our Lord, so that either be should irritate the people by condemning one of their favourite vices, or else should expose himself to reproach as a friend of dissolute manners, When, however, they asked him concerning the lawfulness of this kind of divorce, he referred them to the early history of the human race, and said unto them, have ye not read that he which made them (the Creator) at the beginning made them male and female. And said, for this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall leave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh Wherefor they are no more twain, but one flesh. What, therefore, God hath joined together by this indissoluble bond, let no man put asunder. They say unto him, why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away. He saith unto them, Moses, because of the hardress of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it
was not so. The hardness of the heart evidently means their passionate stubborn temper, which, had they not been permitted to divorce their wives, would have excited many of them to murder or ili treat them; as, therefore, the dispensation of Moses was intended only to prepare the way for a better, he suffered a less evil in order to prevent a greater. He then proceeded to repeat what he had before observed in the sermon on the mount, that whosoever should put away his wife, except it were for fornication, and should marry another, would be guilty of adultery; and that be who should marry her that was thus dismissed should become a perpetrator of the same crime.
The disciples, it appears, were surprised at the decision of their Master; and. after having enquired of him further, when they had returned to the house, could not help remarking, that since the law of marriage was thus rigid, that unless the woman breaks the bond by going astray, her husband cannot dismiss her, but must bear with her, whether she be quarrelsome, petulant, prodigal, deformed, foolish, baren, given to drinking, or, in a word, troublesome by numberless vices, a man had better not marry at all. Jesus answered, it is not in every one's power to live continently; yet if any man has the gift, whether by natural constitution, or by the injury of human force used upon him, which has rendered him incapable of the matrimonial union, or by an ardent desire of promoting the interests of religion, animating him to subdue his natural appetite, and enabling him to live in voluntary chastity, unencumbered with the cares of the world: such a person will not sin, though he leads a single life.
An incident soou after occurred which contributed to place the character of Jesuy in a most amiable point of view. Some persons who had Some persons who had young children brought them to Jesus that they might receive the blessing of so great a prophet, not unreasonably believing that many important blessings would follow, in consequence of his prayers for their welfare. The disciples, thinking that this was taking too great a liberty with their Master, rebuked these people, and attempted to dismiss them. But when Jesus knew it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God; a sentiment which he had formerly expressed in teaching his disciples humility after the transfiguration. Then, taking up the children in his arms, he put his hands upon them, blessed them, and departed.
When our Lord had gone forth into the way, probably, setting off in his journes toward Jerusalem, a certain young ruler of great riches, pleasant manners, and respectable character, but as deficient as his brethren in that deep sense of his own depravity which might have led him to an unconditional submission to the instruction of Christ, ran after him, overtook him, and kneeling down before him, said, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life. Jesus replied, why callest thou me good? there is none that is infallibly good but God himself; since, therefore, thou hast not that high opinion of me, to believe that I am sent forth from God, thou hast committed a great crime in bestowing upon me such an appellation. But if thou will enter into life, keep the commandments, for I find that on these thou hast fixed thy dependance. He saith unto him, which? Jesus said, thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, honour thy father and thy mother, and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Christ, probably, intended to intimate, that even these commandments had an extent beyond that to which his morality had attained. The young man said unto him, all these things have I kept from my youth up; what lack I yet? Then Jesus, beholding him, loved him, and said further, if thou wilt attain to that which is really to be perfect, go and seľ