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for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sancti fieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.
The Lord turns now to the Scribes and Pharisees, and directly addresses them. From speaking of them, He speaks to them. He had warned His Disciples and the people against following their example, while not rebelling against their authority; and now he proceeds to denounce woes against them for their hypocrisy. This bill of indictment He draws against them, with its several counts, and distinct charges concerning things which were notorious, and they could not deny. His Sermon on the Mount began with beatitudes, but so little had they regarded it that He is constrained to conclude with woes. It was their hypocrisy chiefly that drew these rebukes from the Searcher of hearts. Though all mercy to the penitent, He cannot endure the hypocrite. And hypocrisy was mingled with all they said and did. They were for ever acting a part. They professed to be particularly good, while they were beyond measure bad. The Lord here repeats some former charges, which they had failed to lay to heart. In their treatment of the born-blind they abused their power of excommunication. Not content with being evil themselves, they did all they could to corrupt others. They refused to enter Christ's Church and Kingdom, and hindered others from entering. He notes a particular instance of their meanness and greediness. Widows, who had lost their natural protectors, were especially marked out for a prey. There is no harm in praying long, or in long prayers, but they did it only for a pretence. Their apparent devotion was but a cloak to conceal their covetous designs. “Therefore besides the judgment due to their sin, they incurred an additional judgment for their hypocrisy. There are degrees of condemnation. The greater
I St. John ix. 34. 2 Rom. i. 32.
3 Compare St. Luke xi. 52, Lect. cxciv. * St. Mark xii. 40.
the crime the greater the condemnation. And what crime greater than this? Even their zeal was sin. They took much trouble to make men Jews, but not to make them better. So shocking was their conduct, that some of their converts relapsed to paganism, and became even worse than before;? Jewish vices being superadded to heathen ones. They professed to be “guides of the blind.”? The Lord gives them a truer title, “blind guides.” He cites a notorious instance of their casuistry. They explained away solemn obligations, and opened a way to evade the meaning of oaths; making more of the gold and the gift, than of that which alone gave it force and value in this respect. It would seem as though they bound themselves only by the Temple or the Altar when they wished to escape from an inconvenient promise, but took care to bind others by the gold and the gift. It would seem too that they had some way of evacuating an appeal to Heaven, as though it had no reference to God. The Lord points out, what must have been plain to any but the foolish and wilfully blind, that the Altar must include the gift; the Temple, Him that dwelleth therein; Heaven, the Throne of God, and so God Himself.
THE SAME SUBJECT-continued.
St. Matthew xxiii. 23–39.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith : these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Yo blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. . Woe unto you, scribes and Phari.
? Rom. ii. 19.
I St. Luke xi. 24-26.
sees, hypocrites ! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes : and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not ! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For 1 say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
The Lord refers again to their scruples about comparatively slight matters, mentioning more of those pot-herbs which cost them little, and which they were careful to tithe; mentioning too other of those weightier matters of the law they thought nothing of omitting. And He applies to this sort of conduct an apt proverb. A camel is the largest creature in that couutry; and their conduct in this respect was as absurd as that of one wbo, in straining his liquor, should be careful to take out? anything so small as a gnat,
i St. Luke xi. 42. Lect. cxcii.
(which has been strangely reproduced, for “ strain out."
while he leaves and swallows down the grossest impurities. Here too He convicts them of excess, a particular instance of the general wickedness with which He had before charged them. And, applying the matter to each man's conscience, He bids them not act as a blind man might, who should polish the outside of a vessel while still unemptied. If they first scour it within, it cannot fail but this cleansing shall extend to the outside also. He compares them to their own tombs which about that season they were in the habit of whitewashing, and on whose exterior they bestowed some pains, but which could not reach to that which was within. So their righteousness was all on the outside. It was only in appearance. Within they were full of hypocrisy, and lawlessness,” notwithstanding their apparent zeal for the law. Now too He expands a former charge. They garnished the sepulchres of those saints whom their forefathers had slain. They professed abhorrence of such conduct, and yet their own conduct showed that they succeeded to the same spirit. Soon they slew Him who was infinitely more than a Prophet. They were but adding the last drops to that cup of crime which their fathers had began to fill. He repeats the title the Baptist was constrained to apply to them, pointing out their subtlety and true parentage ; and He pauses in His address to ask how such can possibly escape sharing in the condemnation of that wicked one whose works they delighted in doing. And now, identifying Himself
' with that “Wisdom of God " He had before spoken of, He declares His intention of sending them really wise men, true scribes; some of whom He foretells they shall even crucify, stimulating (as history tells us they did) pagan persecution; some of whom they shall scourge in their synagogues, desecrating by their violence the House of God, persecuting them (as we soon hear in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles) from city to city; thus bringing upon themselves the avenger of the blood of the righteous. These are represented as a series, beginning with righteous
i St. Luke xi. 39. Lect. cxci.
* St. Matt, iii. 7.
Abel,' and ending with Zacharias son of Barachias or Jehoiada, the last mentioned in the chronicles or conclusion of their sacred history. And the persecutors are represented as a series, from Cain who was of that wicked one, down to these descendants of his in whose days the long-suspended judgment should come. This discourse He closes with an affecting repetition of His former address to barbarous and wilful Jerusalem."
THE WIDOW’S MITE.
St. Mark xii. 41-44.
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: for all they did cast in of their abundance ; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
The treasury' was a chamber in one of the courts of the Temple, where were placed certain chests to receive the contributions of the people for repairs and other purposes. Our Lord, sitting over against this and lifting up His eyes," beheld how they did this, beheld the spirit with which they offered. So “Christ even now beholds, with no less attention, the visible hand, and the invisible heart, both of the rich and of the poor.” 6 He sees the motives from which men give, and the amount of self-denial involved in their offerings; sees sometimes little in a large offering, much in 1 Heb. xi, 4.
· St. Luke xxi. 1. 2 St. Luke xiii. 34, 35. See Ps. 5 Prov. xv. 3; 1 Sa. xvi. 7. xci. 4; 2 Esdr. i. 30.
6 Quesnel, who adds, “ Christ does 3 2 Ki. xii. 9; St. John. viii. 20. not blame anything in these rich Josephus (Antt. xix. vi. 1) speaks men, to teach us, not to judge of the of Agrippa's golden chain being sus. intentions, when the action is in itself pended over it.