صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Ann. Dom.

A. M 4037, or (as it may more literally be rendered) the fig-tree hath begun to give a flavour to &c. or 5442. her young figs, and the vines a good smell to the tender grape." Now if, in the midVulg. Ær. 33, dle of our January, the figs were so forward as then to give a flavour, it is reasonable to think, that, in so warm and fruitful a climate as Judea was, there might be ripe ones about the latter end of March, which is the precise time when our Saviour sought for them upon this fig-tree.

&c. or 31.

The truth is, there were in Judea fig-trees of different kinds; and, besides the ordinary sort (which, (a) according to our Saviour, did not put forth its leaves until the near approach of summer), the Jewish writers make mention of one early kind in particular (called by them Banoth-shuath), which never wanted leaves, and very seldom fruit. Nay, Pliny (b) tells us of some sort of fig-trees in Syria (under which name he frequently comprehends Judea) that had always leaves, and when the fruit of the preceding year was gathered, the new fruit began immediately, and was growing all the winter long; and therefore we need less wonder at what the emperor Julian asserts, viz. that, at Damascus, in Syria, there was a sort of fig-tree, whose fruit, both old and young, grew together, and lasted beyond the year: From all which we may be allowed to conclude, that there might be figs in Judea fit to eat at the time when our Saviour went to look for some on this tree: And for this reason some have (c) imagined, that without offering any great violence to the text, the original words c yap naigòs oúnwr, for where he was, or, in the place he then was in, the time of figs was come. this, by the way, is enough to vindicate our Saviour in what he did, since there could be no injustice to the owner (as some would suggest), in ridding the ground of a tree which only encumbered it, and sucked its nourishment from it, without making any return *.

And

Without entering into *2 any other solutions: If there were two sorts of fig-trees in Judea, the one much earlier than the other, and thence two seasons of ripe figs, the one much later than the other, and (as it is natural to suppose) the later much more common and plentiful than the former, the later was properly called the time of figs; and the evangelist might very truly say, that, at the time of the passover, it was not yet come, i. e. the common and ordinary season for figs was not come; though, admitting

(a) Mark xiii. 28.

(b) Natural History, lib. xiii. c. 8.
(c) Universal History, lib. ii. c. 11.

[There is, however, not the smallest occasion to
deviate from our English version, in order to vindi-
cate the conduct of our Saviour. "We are assured
by Dr Shaw, that in Barbary, and no doubt in the
hotter climate of Judea, after mild winters, some of
the more forward trees will now and then yield a few
ripe figs, six weeks or more before the full season.”
Such trees are undoubtedly known by their foliage;
and it seems to have been one of such trees that fell
under the curse of our Saviour. "Seeing (says the
evangelist) a fig tree afar off, having leaves, (unque
stionably such leaves as indicated it to be a forward
tree) he came, if haply he might find any thing there-
on,-for the time of figs was not yet." It was not
yet the season when figs were generally gathered,
and therefore there was a possibility that no ripe figs
might be found on that particular tree; but its fo-
liage indicated that it was one of those forward trees
which yield ripe figs at least six weeks before the full
season; and therefore, that if none should be found
on it then, none would be found on it afterwards, the
tree being barren.] See Shaw's Travel's, p. 142.

**There is one, however, which we must not in this place forget to mention, viz. That by "the time of figs," may well be understood "the time of gathering them," when they were full ripe, and must be ga thered, otherwise they would fall from the tree; and that the words, "for the time of figs was not yet," do not refer to those immediately foregoing, "when he came to it he found nothing but leaves," (which ought to be included in a parenthesis), but to the sen tence that went before he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon, as he might very reasonably expect, because the fig time, i. e. the season when figs were wont to be gathered, was not yet come, i. e. he came to the tree before people had gathered their figs. For we must observe farther, that on the second day of unleavened bread, i. e. about five or six days after our Saviour's coming to this tree, the first fruits of all that were then ripe were solemnly presented in the temple; nor were the owners of any trees permitted to gather in their fruits, until that day was come; and, consequently, if no fruit trees were as yet gathered, (upon supposition that this fig-tree was of the early kind) our Saviour is not to be censured for expecting to find something on it. Kidder's Demonstration of the Messiah, part ii.

this to be one of the early kind, our Lord might well expect to find something upon it, From Matth. since, by the speciousness of its leaves, it looked so promising at a distance.

xx. 19. to the end, Mark xi.

Luke xix. 45.

He, without all doubt, knew perfectly well, before he went up to it, whether it had 15. to the end. any fruit on it or no; but as he intended to work a miracle upon it, and, by its speedy to the end, and withering away, emblematically to shew his disciples the near approaching ruin of the John xii. 19. to Jewish nation, be it what it would, it answered his main end; but then it could not the end. have been so fit a type and resemblance of the Jews, had it not been barren, nor exhibited their fate in so lively a manner, had it not been cursed, and so withered away. The Jewish nation indeed, at our Saviour's coming, was, in all degrees and orders of men, sadly corrupted; but in none so much as in the scribes and Pharisees, who, pretending to be the doctors and expounders of the law, had vacated the obligation to almost all moral honesty, by the introduction of their false glosses and comments. Their great shew of outward sanctity, however, much ostentation in their prayers and piety, and punctual performance of the ceremonial part of their religion, gave them great authority among the people, and as high a conceit of themselves; insomuch that they expected a blind submission to their injunctions, and all imaginable tokens of respect and veneration, whenever they appeared in public; though, all this while, their pretended sanctity was but a veil to cover their vices, and inward impurity; an art to gain a reputation, by making the best of the shadow, while they wanted the substance of godliness.

Now, if such was the depravity of the scribes and Pharisees when our Saviour lived among them, none can doubt, but that as he was a teacher sent from God, he had a proper authority to reprove them, since, under the Mosaic law, this was a duty incumbent even on private persons, and what they could not, without a manifest breach of charity, decline: For (a)" thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him:" Where we may observe, that in the eye of this law, not to rebuke our brother is interpretatively to hate him; and therefore our Saviour stands in need of no farther apology for reproving the scribes and Pharisees, who had such a number of sins upon them, since there was no omitting that without violating his command.

In his rebukes indeed, there seems to be a spirit of severity, something that looks like anger, and several terms of diminution and disrespect. But then it should be considered, that as anger is a passion implanted in human nature, in itself, and upon all occasions, it cannot be unlawful; nay, when employed about proper and deserving matters, such as the honour of God, and reverence due to his laws, the love of virtue, and the correction of vice, it is not only innocent, but highly necessary and commendable. For there is a tameness of spirit which deserves censure; and in such cases as these, we even do well when we are angry.

(b) In like manner it may be observed, that terms of disparagement and reproach are, in some cases, allowable, and more particularly when men (as St Paul expresses it) (c)" are rebuked sharply to render them sound in the truth." From the mouth of a superior they are often of use, sometimes of necessity to rouse and awaken stupid men; to make them more effectually both sensible and ashamed of their follies; to expose the horrible absurdity of pernicious opinions, or the flagrant enormity of wicked practices, and in short, are hardly ever discommendable where charity is at the bottom, and an high authority in the reprover gives such language countenance.

Now, as none can call in question our Saviour's authority, if he thought it convenient to make use of such severity in his reproofs of a set of people that most justly deserved it; so need not any be offended at his denouncing so many woes against them, when he finds God giving the prophets of old, sent to his priests who were negligent in their (c) Tit. i. 12, 13.

(a) Levit. xix. 17.

(b) Stanhope, on the Epistles and Gospels, vol. iii.

Ann. Dom.

&c. or 31.

A. M. 4037, duty and corrupted in their morals, (just as they were now) instructions to address &c. or 5442. them in the self-same manner: (a)" Thus saith the Lord God, woe be unto the shepVulg. Fr. 33, herds of Israel that do feed themselves; should not the shepherds feed the flock? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool; ye kill them that are fed, but ye feed not the flocks, &c.". And again, (b) "Woe be unto those pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture; thus saith the Lord, ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them." And if inferior prophets were commissioned to make such denunciations, much more might this great messenger of the covenant (who was both invested with supreme power from the Father, and perfectly knew what was in every man's heart, and therefore could not miscall things) be allowed (c) "to reprove and rebuke all with authority," and without violation of that great law of charity which is so peculiarly fitted to the evangelical institution, that upon sundry accounts it may not improperly be called a new commandment.

(d) This commandment indeed of loving one another is by our Lord and Saviour so much enlarged, as to the object of it extending to all mankind, and even to our greatest enemies; is so greatly advanced and heightened, as to the degree of it, even to the laying down of our lives for one another; and is so effectually taught, so mightily encouraged, and so much urged and insisted upon, that though it was a precept delivered by Moses, yet, considering in what manner the scribes and Pharisees had perverted the sense, and confined and discouraged the practice of it, it may well enough be said to have received in our Saviour a republication. And though it was not altogether unknown to other nations before, yet it was never so taught, so encouraged; never was such an illustrious example given of it, never so much stress and weight laid upon it by any philosophy or religion that was ever before in the world.

There are three passages in the prophet Daniel, which mention (e)" the abomination that maketh desolate;" and to any of these our Saviour may be supposed to allude, for they are all predictions of the dissolution of the Jewish state, "when the sacrifice and oblations should be made to cease." It is the sense indeed that our Saviour seems more to attend to, than the words of the prophecy; and because it was the custom of the Roman armies to have an eagle for their ensign, in which they placed a kind of divinity, and to carry their emperors images along with them, to which they paid a religious adoration, and therein committed such idolatry as was highly detestable to every Jew; (f) it is hence supposed, that "the abomination standing in the holy place" means the Roman army, with these hated objects of their idolatry, besieging Jerusalem; and that it is therefore called a desolation, because it was appointed by Almighty God to lay the country, city, and temple of Jerusalem desolate and waste; for so St Luke seems to have explained it by a parallel place, (g)" When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh."

Jerusalem indeed may perhaps, in some places of Scripture (h), be called the holy place, (i) but this is a title so peculiar to the temple, that we cannot but think that our Saviour, in the application of the prophecy, intended it here; especially (k) since his disciples, by shewing the stateliness of its buildings, gave the whole rise to his discourse. But now, if we suppose the temple to be this holy place, we cannot see how the abomination here spoken of could be the Roman army and their ensigns, because neither of these were ever in the temple until the taking and sackage of the city, and could therefore, in this respect, be no presages at all. If we suppose the city of Jerusalem to be this holy place, it is certain, that this abomination was lodged in it long before the ap

(a) Ezek. xxxiv. 2, &c.

(¿) Jer. xx1ii. 1, 2.

(i) Calmet's Commentary.

(c) Tit. ii. 15. (e) Dan. ix. 27.—xi. 31.— xii. !1. (g) Luke xxi. 20. (h) Matth. iv. 5. (k) Matth. xxiv. 1, 2.

(d) Tillotson's Sermons, fol. vol. i.
(f) Whitby's and Hammond's Annotations.
1 Maccab. x. 31.

proach of Titus with his army, because the Romans had all along a strong garrison over- From Matth. against the temple, in fort Antonia, where their colours and standard were set up: Nor xx. 10 to the can we readily conceive, why the military ensigns under Titus should be thought an 15. to the end, abomination to the Jews, more than those under Pompey, Socius, and Cestius, who had Luke xix. 45. all before him besieged Jerusalem.

end, Mark xi.

to the end, and John xii. 19. to

These are some of the difficulties that attend the common interpretation; and there- the end. fore we should rather think, that "the abomination of desolation" here spoken of, should refer to that gross profanation of the temple which happened a little before the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem. While the Roman arms were in Judea, there were two contending parties in Jerusalem. (a) Some were for accommodating matters with an enemy so vastly superior to them in power, and from whom nothing less than utter ruin was to be expected at last; others again were for making no terms at all, but in hopes of some strange deliverance for standing it out to the last; and among these was a crew of ruffians and robbers, who, from their pretended concern for the honour of God, which they could not bear to see prostituted to Gentile power, were called Zealots. This gang of men seized upon the temple, and fortified it, and having got into their possession the engines which had been left in the country by Cestius Gallus, when he besieged the city about three years before; with these they shot from the battlements of the temple upon the town, whilst those in the town shot likewise at them, by which means great numbers were killed on both sides, and the temple became thereby polluted with the blood of the slain that were within it, and by which means the daily service was intermitted, and the sanctuary, according to the Jewish notion of the word, became desolate. Here then was a sign peculiar, and what never had happened at any siege before, which our Saviour gave his discipies, in order to provide for their escape. Wars, famines, murders, massacres, divisions among desperate men, and investing cities by hostile troops, are no uncommon things in cases of this nature, and what the Jews upon this occasion knew too much of by woful experience; but to have the sanctuary filled with armed men, who were after killed in the holy place, and who, by being brought into the courts of the temple, actually defiled it with the carcases and blood of the slain (which were both of them to the highest degree abominable by the Mosaic law), was the distinguishing mark of this calamity; and when this once began to appear, the disciples were cautioned to decline the approaching storm, by making the best of their way out of Jerusalem, which they could not have done so well, had they staid till the siege was formed, and the Roman army had invested the town.

(b) That it was a custom among the Jews, before our Saviour's time, and, as they themselves affirm, before the beginning of the law, to baptize as well as circumcise any proselyte that came over to them from another nation; and in case such a person had any infant-children then born to him, that they, at their father's desire, were in like manner circumcised, baptized, and admitted as proselytes, is manifest from the incontestible evidence of their writers. The incapacity of the child to declare, or promise for himself, was not looked on as a bar against his reception into the covenant, but the desire of the father to dedicate him to the true God was accounted available, and sufficient to justify his admission; and the reason they give for this is,-That the things they were admitted to were undoubtedly for their good; for "one may privilege a person, say they, though he be incapable of knowing it; but one ought not to disprivilege any one without his knowledge and consent."

Now this gives great light to our better understanding the meaning of our Saviour, when he bids his disciples "go, and teach all nations, baptizing them." Baptism, he took, as the easier rite of the two, and having converted it into an evangelical precept, made it the federal form of admission into his religion, as circumcision had been in the (a) Joseph. de Bello Jud. lib. iv.

(b) Wall's History of Infant Baptism.

Ann. Dom.

A. M. 4037, Mosaic dispensation; and as he gave his apostles no directions in their commission con&c. or 5442. cerning little children, it may justly be presumed, that, with regard to them, he left Vulg. Er. 33, them to proceed just in the same manner as the church wherein they lived had be n &c. or 31. accustomed to do, and that was, to make them proselytes to his religion by baptism.

(a) That in the Jewish church infants were part of those who engaged in covenant with God, is evident from these words of Moses to all the people; (b) "Ye stand this day before the Lord your God; you, and your little ones, that thou shouldst enter in to covenant with the Lord thy God, that thou mayest be a people to him, and he unto thee thy God:" And that, in the Christian church, children, in like manner, are under the covenant of grace, is more than intimated in St Peter's exhortation to such persons as he had converted, that they would receive baptism, in order to make their children likewise capable of it, because (c) "the promise was to them and their children,” i. e. the promise of remission of sins, and of receiving the Holy Ghost (mentioned immediately before), which appertained to the covenant, belonged to them and their children. Now, if the promise and covenant belonged to the children as well as parents, there is no question to be made, but that baptism, which is the seal of the covenant, and the visible confirmation of the promise, belongs to them likewise; and if infants have a covenanted right to baptism, we may safely infer, that Christ never intended to debar them of it; and that, consequently, though they are not expressly named, yet are they most certainly implied in the commission of baptizing all nations. For, since the universal includes all particulars, and children make up a considerable part of all nations, the words of the commission may reasonably be supposed to comprise them; nor can we forbear thinking, but that, when we read of whole families that were baptized, there must, of course, have been several children in them; because the word ones, which in this case is rendered household, according to the observation of the learned, (d) is of a large signification, and takes in every individual person of the family, women as well as men, and children as well as grown persons.

(e) The adult, indeed, before they were admitted as proselytes to the Jewish religion, were to be instructed in the fundamentals of the law, in the weight and burden of it, and in the nature of its rewards and penalties, and so profess their submission to it; but then, it must be observed, that these pre-requisites in the parent who was capable of such instruction, did not exclude the children then born from the rite of baptism; so far from this, that, by the sentence of the Sanhedrim, the church was obliged to baptize them, as having a right to the ordinance by their parents' faith. And in like manner, they who were arrived at a competent age and understanding, were to be instructed in the principles of the Christian religion, were to (ƒ) "confess with their mouth the Lord Jesus Christ, and to believe in their heart that God had raised him from the dead," before they were admitted to baptism. This was a condition required of them, because they were able to do it: But why this condition should exclude their children, any more than it did the children of Jewish proselytes, who were usually baptized together with their parents, we cannot see.

Our children indeed cannot understand the nature and end of the ordinance of baptism, but neither were the Jewish children, at eight days old, able to know what the purpose of circumcision was. They have no actual faith of their own, but the faith of those who present them in the congregation is imputed, and themselves are sanctified by being born of believing parents. They have no manner of room for repentance; but then they have innocence, which is a much better qualification; and though they cannot stipulate for themselves, yet have they proxies and sureties, of (g) early institution

(a) Hopkins's Doctrine of the two Sacraments,
(d) Edwards's Body of Divinity, vol. i.
(f) Rom. x. 9.

Matth. xxviii.

and part i. c. 4. part ii. c. 9.

(b) Deut. xxix. 10, &c (c) Acts ii. 39. (e) Whitby's Dissertation, added to his Notes on (g) Vid. Wall's Infant Baptism, Introduction, sect. 34.

« السابقةمتابعة »