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the end of life, through all the persecutions to which they may be exposed. But, as the same words are applied in another part of the evangelist Matthew, to the end of the Jewish state by the destruction of Jerusalem, (see Matt. xxiv. 13.) they may easily admit of the same construction here; and Christ will then refer to a well-known fact, which took place when Jerusalem was destroyed. The Christians, being warned of their danger by immediate revelation from heaven, or the preceding prophecies of Christ relating to that event, departed from the city, and were hereby preserved.---It is as if he had said; He that continueth constant in the Christian faith, to the end of the Jewish state, shall escape all further persecution from that people: their power being then at an end, and they themselves dispersed through all nations.
23. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye
into another: If ye are driven, by force or ill usage, from one city, expose not your lives to unnecessary danger, by returning thither again, and casting your pearls before swine; nor yet desist from the execution of the office imposed upon you, by retiring to some solitary place where you will be safe from danger: but depart immediately to another city, where you may again attempt to make proselytes to my doctrines by preaching the gospel.
As a motive against all unnecessary delay in this important work, he adds,
For verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over, or, as it is in the margin of your bibles, "ye shall not end,” or, “ finish,” the cities of Israel, till the son of man be come.
The inhabitants of the cities of Israel shall not be initiated into the Christian religion, or be converted to it, before the son of man come to take vengeance upon them. The coming of Christ, in these books of Scripture, is to be understood in various ways; and to be referred often not to his bodily presence, but to the proofs of his power or divine authority; among which the descent of the Holy Spirit holds the most conspicuous place. This afforded the most certain proof that his kingdom, which had been long expected, was now come; and that Christ was constituted king, with the fullest power from the Father. The ground of this opinion appears in the language of the evangelist John, who relates that Christ comforts his disciples against all the violence of impending danger, by telling them that he was about to send to them the Spirit of truth; and immediately adds, “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come unto you;" John xiv. 18. where, by the coming of Christ, is evidently signified the descent of the Spirit. By the coming of Christ, in other places, we are to understand the destruction of Jerusalem, and the total overthrow of the Jewish state; because by that event the truth of his prophecy and the certainty of his divine mission were completely established. In this sense that phrase must be taken in this verse; as if Christ had said; If you are persecuted, think not that a sufficient reason for being silent and inactive for a season; the most zealous and speedy endeavours to instruct the people are necessary: for the time for doing it is but short, and will soon be past: you will not be able, by your most strenuous endeavours, to convert the inhabitants of the cities of Israel to the Christian faith, before the son of man shall come in his glory, to punish the opposers of his reign.
24. The disciple is not above his master; nor the servant above his lord.
25. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master; and the servant as bis lord.
If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how
much more shall they call them of his houshold?
That the disciple is not above his master is a proverbial expression, employed by our Lord for different purposes; being sometimes used to teach his disciples humility, and at other times, to teach them patience under reviling language and ill usage. It is for this purpose that he uses it in the passage before us. The Jews, when they saw how Christ cured dæmoniacs, had maliciously declared that he was a confederate with Beelzebub, the prince of the possessing dæmons; and, as all possessing dæmons were supposed to be the spirits of wicked men, this insinuation was a severe reflection upon his character, as if he had formed a connection with wicked beings for some malevolent purposes. If the excellent character of the Saviour could not escape such a vile imputation, his disciples had no reason to be offended at any bad name or abusive language that might be applied to them; but every reason to apprehend the same, or worse, treatment. Accordingly, we find that Celsus calls the apostles, magicians ; and Ulpian, a celebrated Roman lawyer, calls them impostors; Tacitus, men who were convicted of hating the human race: Christians and atheists were considered as synonymous terms, or words of the same import, amongst the heathens *
26. Fear them not therefore : for there is nothing covered which shall not be revealed, and hid that shall not be known.
The sense of this verse is that the disciples ought not to dissemble the truth which had been entrusted to them, whatever opposition they might find in their ministry, because it is the design of God that the doctrine of the gospel, which Jesus Christ then taught them in secret, and which was a secret throughout the whole world, should be published in every land.
Grotius' note on this passage.
27. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light; and what
hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the house-tops.
In darkness means in private, and in the light, in public. The roofs of houses in Judæa and in other eastern countries, were flat, and used for walking upon, in the cool of the evening or morning. Christ makes known to his disciples that his intention is that they should prepare themselves to announce to all the world, openly and courageously, that which he had not then time to publish in every place, or whatever he had taught them in private.
1. In the conduct of Christ, in warning his disciples of their approaching dangers and trials, we see an instance of his wisdom and compassion: he does not scruple to tell them that they would be brought before the public tribunals, before kings and governors, on account of their religious profession; that they would be accused of capital crimes; that their nearest relations would be the most active in procuring their condemnation; that they would be regarded as the greatest enemies of mankind, and assailed by them with all the ferocity of wolves. Such kind of language, addressed to young converts not yet firmly established in their new principles, may appear to some imprudent and discouraging; they may suppose it calculated to fill their minds with unnecessary terrors about future and distant evils: but Christ did not wish to conceal from his disciples their real situation: he would not flatter them with hopes of worldly prosperity and case, for which there was no foundation, lest their attachment to his cause should appear to be the effect not of conviction of the truth of the gospel, but of ambition: he thought that the best way to prepare them for danger was to inform them of it; that they might fortify their minds with such considerations as would enable them to encounter it. This information would indeed destroy those pleasing dreams of worldly grandeur which the disciples were so ready to entertain, and give them no small degree of present uneasiness; but it would save them from the more distressing pain that must necessarily arise from afflictions and dangers which they had never been taught to expect; it was not an officious zeal to display miraculous powers, in laying before them future events; but an act of enlightened benevolence, performed with a view to save them from much trouble and disgrace, and which deserved their best thanks.
2. From the language of Christ upon
this occasion, we may learn how we ought to behave in seasons of persecution. He allows, rather than commands us to flee from it; for he knew that men's fears would lead them to adopt this measure, without any express injunction: but if he permits us to leave one place, it is only to expose ourselves to fresh dangers by pursuing the same conduct in another. Here is no intimation that his disciples are to arm themselves against their persecutors, or to resist violence by force; prudence and flight are their only weapons of defence; if these fail to afford them security, he has not authorized them to have recourse to any other.
But even these are to be used with caution; prudence is apt to degenerate into artifice and cowardice; and men may imagine that they ought to avoid all danger, because Christ allows them to run from that which is extreme: but he lets his disciples know, that the prudence which he allowed was not consistent with the concealment of the truth, and was utterly removed from all fraud. The innocence of the dove must be joined with the wisdom of the serpent: the truth, how