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solemn address which is as it were the winding up of the Sermon on the Mount. There is nothing more instructive than to place it, that is, the vth. vith. and viith, chapters of St. Matthew, side by side with this, the xxiiird ;—which we are now examining, and to ponder on the awful words of Jesus now spoken to those who, rejecting His warnings, had heard His sayings and done them not. They had built their house upon the sand,* the storm was coming, the skies were now blackening with the tempest that would break upon it, and very soon men would write in the histories of the past, of the house of Judah, "It fell, and great was the fall of it."
Verses 23, 24. “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, (common little garden herbs,) 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.
Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.”
a common proverb among the Jews, and well expressed both the conduct and teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees. They took great credit to themselves for being exact in trifles, while their consciences were so hardened in matters of the highest importance that they committed great sins without seeming to know that they did so.
Verse 25. “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."
In the temple service, the Jews were commanded to be careful that every thing they used should pass through various wasbings, by which they were taught by outward sign the purity God requires in all who serve Him. They carried the
* Matthew vii, 26, 27.
same idea into their houses, and were exceedingly particular that each cup and platter should be washed. This was well, but what would they say if they found that while the outside had been cleansed the inside had been left stained and filthy from the dregs of whatever had been there before ? Just as great was the folly of attempting to pass for good men and true servants of God, while their hearts were full of sin. They were themselves like the cups that had been cleansed outside and left filthy within.
Verse 26. “ Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.”
If their household vessels were really properly cleansed, they would be cleansed inside, and the outside would follow as a matter of course. By this our Lord teaches that no outside reformation is of any value, but that if the heart, the will, the affections, all which forms the inner man, be purified, then will the outward life be also pure ; for if the love of God dwell in the heart it will speedily be seen in each outward action. When "judgment, mercy, and truth” rule the life, the smallest acts of obedience are not neglected.*
More and more earnest grew the words of our Lord in this his last warning. More solemn and more striking the pictures by which He shewed them how false was their condition. He had compared them to cups used in their feasts, that had been carefully cleansed outside, while left full of filthiness within. This might shew them their need of a thorough purification from the stains of their past lives; but now He speaks of more awful depths of sin, even that sin which had striven to take the spiritual life from the Law of God, and had, as it were, buried its frame-work under their hypocrisy aud self-righteousness. He said
* Verse 23.
Verse 27, 28. “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, 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.”
Some of the most beautiful buildings in the East are the tombs of the dead. Fair marble domes and pillars have been raised over the places where the great ones of the earth were laid. They are beautiful to look upon, but they can give no beauty to the buried bones they hide. Build what tomb you will, death is in the grave. So was it with those white-robed priests and solemn Pharisees, with their broad phylacteries, in all outward show the servants of the Lord, standing in his courts to do His will, but hiding in their hearts the loathsome corruption of sin.
So is it with all outside show of goodness. While the heart remains unhumbled, there is, there can be no life of the soul, it lies dead within.
Many of the tombs to which our Lord compared the Pharisees had been built by them over the graves of the holy prophets their fathers had killed. They had thought thus to clear themselves of the guilt of their blood, and to declare to the whole world that they had no share in their fathers' sins. Alas! it was not so! The same cruel and bitter hatred against all who strove to convince them of sin, burnt in their bosom, and would soon burst into a flame. They were the true children of their fathers. They were worse than they, for they were hypocrites besides.
Verses 29--35. “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! (said the Lord) 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." *
Oh what a woe was this! How fearful these words of doom, spoken by Him who, till now, had only raised His voice to warn and to entreat even His enemies to have pity upon themselves while it was yet time.
Why was this generation to bear so fearful a weight of punishment ? For this reason, they were completing the one great crime which had been carrying on from the beginning. The first blood shed upon earth had been the opening of the war of the seed of the serpent against the seed of the woman. Cain was of that wicked one and slew his brother. I Abel's sacrifice of the Lamb had been the first type upon earth of the atoning blood of Christ. It was accepted by God, and drew down the batred of sinful man. That same hatred had pursued and slain all who, like Abel, had shewn before of the coming of that just one who now stood among them, a band of Cains each thirsting for His blood, and ready to fill up the measure * 2 Chronicles xviv, 20, 21.
of Genesis iy. 4-8. # 1 John iii. 12.
of their Fathers' guilt.* It was most just that upon them should come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth; for they were about to complete the crime which had been as one long murder from the beginning. Cain lived again in each of them, and Christ bad lived in each of His servants who had died in His cause. He would still send to them ambassadors whom they would kill and crucify, and scourge in their synagogues, and persecute from city to city. Jesus saw this as though it were already done, and He saw the awful hour of vengeance, like a distant storm drawing nearer and nearer, ready to burst upon that generation. He saw , and His soul was filled with anguish ;-indignation gave way to sorrow. He looked down from the Temple-courts upon the city, and with grief of heart he said
Verses 37–39. “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 I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
No merely mortal man could thus have felt or thus have spoken. More than a thousand years had passed away since Jerusalem had first been chosen “the city of the Lord,” the place where His holy name should be established. Generation after generation of the sons of men had lived and died and been forgotten, but over them all the Saviour had watched. Now, the history of these thousand years passed before His mind as the history of one day. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen
* Acts vii. 52.