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The remote occasion of this severe reprehension was the conduct of the Scribes and Pharisees throughout our Lord's ministry. Before he had finished half his course, they twice sought to kill him for 6 heal. ing on the Sabbath ; though we have seen that he defended these acts of humanity and mercy by invincible arguments. They hardened themselves in their disbelief of him, notwithstanding the witness which God gave of him at his birth, at his baptism, and during his whole intercourse among them ; notwithstanding the testimony of his forerunner whom e all heid to be a prophet, the excellence of his doctrine, the sinless rectitude of his life, his acquaintance with all their thoughts, his appeals to Moses and the prophets whose predictions of the Messiah he was daily fulfilling, and his own great and numerous miracles : ascribing these to Satan, though designed to subvert the kingdom of Satan; and endeavouring to compass Jesus's death for the most illustrious of them, the raising of Lazarus after he had lain four days in the grave.

The immediate occasion of our Lord's asperity was, that the chief priests and scribes a questioned him by what authority he acted, with a design of putting him to death for avowing that authority ; that the Pharisees sought to e apprehend him for describing the punishment of their unbelief in a parable ; that they suborned * spies to ensnare him in his discourse, in order to deliver him up to the Ro. man governor ; and that their malice prompted a

d Mait.

• John v, 16, 18. Matt. xii. 11-14. • Matt. xxi. 26. xi. 23. e ib. p. 45, 46. Luke xx. 21.

feeble attempt to lessen his public reputation for wisdom by proposing to him difficult & questions. These, we must observe, were the preceding events of this very day.

The subject of this intrepid, eloquent, and pathetic animadversion is, the attention due to the Scribes and Pharisees as teachers of Moses's law, notwithstanding the strange inconsistency between their doctrines and practice; their rigorous exaction of traditionary observances, burdens which they refused to alleviate in the smallest degree, though they saw the people sinking under the weight of them ; their ostentation in “all their works,” pompous shew of reverence for the law, pride, 'love of reputation for religious wisdom, and of uncontrolled authority in religious decisions.

A wo is denounced against them for excluding men from the Messiah's kingdom by the terrors of h temporal punishments; for devour: ing the substance of widows, and hiding their rapacity under the cloak of superior holiness; for their unwearied zeal in making proselytes to doctrines and practices which plunged men in destruction ; for their blindness and i infatuation in deciding that oaths by the gold of the temple and by the gift on the altar were obligatory, and discharging those from all obligation, who swore by the temple and altar, to which the gold and the gift owed their sanctity; for their scrupulousness in performing the * minuter parts of

i

& Matt. xxii. 34, 35. b John ix. 22. xii. 42. Christ, a di. vine teacher, and searcher of the heart, had authority to reprove in this manner.

k This is proverbially expressed in a strong manner : They strained out a gnat, and swallowed a camel. the Eng. lish bibles of 1549, and 1599.

the law, and their flagrant guilt in omitting the weightier; for cleansing the outside of vessels, which they filled by means of rapine and injustice ; for the speciousness of their external appearance, when all within was the rankest foulness and pollution ; for honouring the memories of former prophets, and disclaiming the conduct of their forefathers who slew them, while they persecuted and crucified those of their own times. The whole concludes with a prophecy of their rancour against the Christian church, with a denunciation of present and future vengeance for their subtle and dangerous malignity, with a most affecting apostrophe to Jerusalem, an allusion to the destruction of the temple, and a prediction of the Messiah's future glorious appearance, when every knee should bow to him and every tongue confess him.

We read in the gospels that the people were astonished at our Lord's doctrine, because “he " taught them as one having authority ;" that, when he visited Nazareth the second time during his ministry, the inhabitants of that city asked, “ ° Whence hath this man this wisdom ?" and that the Jewish officers, who were sent to apprehend him, made the following remarkable confession, “P Never man spake like this man." And we further read, that, when he first preached the gospel in the synagogue at Nazareth,“ all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth ; and that two of his disciples, with whom he conversed after his resurrection, said one to another

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The true reading is αδικίας, not ακρασίας. - Mait. vii. 28, 29. o ib. siji. 54. John vii. 46.

Phil. ii. 10, 11,

9 Lake iv. 22. Luke xxiv. 32.

on his departure from them, “? Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way?” We have therefore testimonies to our Lord's eloquence, as well as to his authority and wisdom. Sublimity is inseparable from great minds and great subjects : every natural expression either of the amiable qualities of the heart, or of its stronger emotions, cannot but affect and strike us ; and the highest truths delivered with simplicity, and often with the bold ornaments of eastern metaphor proverb or parable, have a diversified beauty which the human mind is prone to acknowledge and admire in whatever shape it appears. In the mean time, the great and uniform o! ject of our heavenly teacher was to communicate religious and moral instruction, and to sanctify the heart : his ornaments are unsought, and arise out of the subject with the greatest ease and majesty.

I shall digress an instant to consider the following question: Why did not God inspire the preachers of the gospel, and the writers of the New Testament, with the most perfect language and manner ? I an. swer, that God has preferred affording internal evidence of the Christian revelation by the truth and purity of its doctrines and precepts, and external evidence of it by miracles and prophecies, perhaps for these among other reasons : that the faith of Christ's disciples "might not, originally, stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God ;” which is St. Paul's reason for not preaching “ with the persuasive words of man's wisdom :” that, in

1 Cor. ii. 4, 5.

after ages, the framing of the Christian system might not be attributed to the superior abilities of such consummate writers : that the sacred records might carry plain marks that they were written by those whose names they bear : that the attention of men might be principally turned to the authority of the law giver, and the reasonableness of his laws : and that no superfluous miracle might be wrought ; as such an interposition would not have answered any religious purpose, and mankind are equally instructed in the present way.

It is true that nothing can exceed the high poetical ornaments in many parts of the Old Testament. In the earliest times, previous to the knowledge of letters and the existence of records, poems were most likely to be remembered, admired, and sent down to posterity. And God was pleased to consecrate poetry to the service of religion occasionally in the Hebrew historians; and especially in the writings of Job, David, Solomon, and those whom the Jews call the later prophets. I conjecture that the + He. brew poets were early trained up to compositions of this kind, accompanied with music: and God seems graciously to have inspired them in the same form, to engage the attention, to impress the memory, to animate the affections, and to kindle the devotions, of a people prone to idolatry,

The recorded poetry of the New Testament occurs only in the "hymns of Elizabeth, Mary, Zacharias, and Simeon : though it appears that " " hymns

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* 1 Sam. x. 5. 2 Kings iii. 15. a Luke i. 42–5; 46-55: a. 29-32 w 1 Cor. xiv. 15, 26. Eph. v. 19. Col. ij. 16.

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