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only to speak, but to work parables; and this action of his was typical, an emblem of Jerusalem's destruction in general, and of every person's in particular, that satisfies himself with a withered profession; bearing leaves only, but no fruit; as this fig-tree was, so are they, nigb unto cursing. From whence note, That all such as content themselves with a fruitless profession of religion, are in great danger, of having God's blasting added to their barrenness.
15 And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves; it> And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. 17 And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. 18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. 19 And when even was come, he went out of the city.
No sooner had our blessed Saviour entered Jerusalem, but his first walk was to the temple, and his first work there was to purge and reform. All reformation of manners must begin at the house of God. Yet observe, Our Lord's business at the temple was not to ruin, but to reform it only. Places dedicated to public worship, if profaned and polluted, ought to be purged from their abuses, not pulled down and destroyed, because they have been abused. But what was the profanation of the temple which so offended our Saviour? I answer, in the outward court of the temple there was a public mart or market kept, where were sold oxen, sheep, and doves, for sacrifice. Many of the Jews coming an hundred miles to the temple, it was burdensome lo bring their sacrifice so far with them; wherefore the priests ordered, that sheep and oxen, meal and oil, and such other requisites for sacrifice, should be had for money close by the altar, to the great ease of the offerer: nothing could be more plausible than this plea. But the fairest pretences cannot bear out a sin with God. Therefore our blefscd
Saviour in a just indignation whips out those chapmen, casts down their tables, and vindicates the honour and reputation of his Father's house. Learn hence, That there is a reverence due to God's house for the owner's sake, and for the service sake. Nothing but holiness can become the place where God is worshipped in the beauty of holiness. Observe lastly, The leason which our Saviour gives for this act of his, Is it not written, says he, My house shall le called the house of prayer? Where by prayer it is to be understood the whole worship and service of God, of which prayer is an eminent and principal part. That which gives denomination to an house is certainly the chief work lo be done in thai house. Now God's house being called an house of prayer, certaiuly implies, that prayer is the chief and principal work to be performed in this house. Yet take we heed, that we set not the ordinances of God at variance; we must not idolize one ordinance, and vilify another, but reverence them all.
20 And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig-tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter calling to remembrance, saith unto him, Master, behold, the figtree which thou cursedst is withered away! 22 And Jesus answering sailh unto them, Have faith in God. 23 For verily 1 say unto you, That whosoever shall say unlo this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea ; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and yc shall have them.
The blasting and sudden withering of the fig-tree at the word of Christ, plainly showed his divine power, and by this miraculous operation, our Saviour designed to show his disciples the mighty power of faith; that is, a full persuasion of the power of God, that he is able, and of the goodness of God, that he is willing, to grant whatever we ask according to his will, that has a tendency to his glory and our good. Learn hence, That faith is a necessary and principal ingredient in prayer. Praying without faith, a like to a man's shooting without a bullet; it makes a noise, but doth no execution. Secondly, That whatsoever good thing God has made the matter of his promise, shall be given to good men in a way of performance, provided they pray in faith: Whatsoever ye desire believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
23 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.
There are two qualifications requisite in prayer, if we expect to find acceptance with God, namely, faith and love; to the first Christ had spoken in the former verse, to the latter in this: When we stand praying, forgive. It was ordinary for the Jews to pray standing, yet in their solemn days of fasting they did kneel, and prostrate themselves before the Lord; but the christians usually kneeled down and prayed, Acts ix. 40. Now the command here to forgive those that offend us before we pray, shows, !. That no resentments of what our brother doth, should stick long upon our spirits, because they indispose us tor that duty we are to be continually prepared for. 2. That there is some sort and kind of forgiveness to be exercised towards an offending brother before he asks it, and though he doth not show any token of repentance and sorrow for it; because I am to pray for him out of love unto him, and must lift up pure hands, without wrath. Learn hence, That they who are suing for, and expecting forgiveness from God, must exercise forgiveness towards others, or else their prayers are a sort of imprecations upon themselves. Observe, Christ speaks indefinitely: When ye pray forgive. He doth not say, Your brethren, but, Men: Matt. vi. 14. If we forgive men their trespasses; that is, all men, good and bad, friends and enemies; if we forgive one another freely, our heavenly Father will forgive us fully. Our forgiving one another is the indispensable condition of God's forgiving us, and of hearing the prayers which are put up by us.
27 And they come again to Jerusalem; and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the
chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders, 28 And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things? 29 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and 1 will tell you by what authority, I do these things. 30 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me. 31 And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him? 32 But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John that he was a prophet indeed. 33 And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.
The Pharisees having often questioned our Saviour's doctrine before, they call in question his mission and authority now, although they might easily have understood his divine mission by his daily miracles; for Almighty God never empowered any to work miracles that were not sent by hiiii. Our blessed Saviour understanding their design, answers them one question by asking them another: says Christ, The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men . * Was it of divine institution, or human invention > Implying very plainly, that the calling of such as call themselves the ministers of God, ought to be from God: No man ought to take that honour upon him, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron, Heb. v. 4. The Pharisees reply, they could not tell whence John had his mission and authority: this was a manifest untruth. By refusing to tell the truth, they fall into a lie against the truth; one sin ensnares and draws men into the commission of many more. Such as will not speak exact truth according to their knowledge, fall into the sin of lying against their knowledge and their conscience. Our Saviour answers them,Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things He dolh not say, I cannot, or will not, tell you, but I do not, I need not tell you; because the miracles which I work before you, are a sufficient demonstration of my divine commission, that I am sent of God amongst you; for God never set the seal of his omnipotence to a lie, nor empowered an impostor to work real miracles.
CHAP. XII. A ND he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digeed a place for the wine-fat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went hito a far country. 2 And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they caught him, and beat him, and sent Aim away empty. 4 And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. 5 And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. 6 Having yet therefore one son, his well-beloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, Thev will reverence my son. 7 But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. 8 And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.
In this parable, the Jewish church is compared to a vineyard: Almighty God to an householder; his planting, pruning, and fencing his vineyard, denotes his care to furnish his church with all needful helps and means to make it spiritually fruitful; his letting it out to husbandmen, signifies his committing the care of the church to the priests and Levites, the public pastors and governors of the church; his servants are the prophets and apostles, whom he sent time after time to admonish them to bring forth fruit answerable to the cost which God had expended on them; his Son is Jesus Christ, whom the rulers of the Jewish church slew and murdered. The design and scope of the parable is to discover to the Jsws, particularly to the Pharisees,
their obstinate impenitency under all the means of grace, their bloody cruelty to wards the prophets of God, their tremendous guilt in crucifying the Son of God: for all which God would unchurch them finally, ruin their nation, and set up a church among the Gentiles that should bring forth better fruit than the Jewish church ever did. From the whole note, 1. That the church is God's vineyard. A vineyard is a place inclosed, a place well planted, well fruited, and exceeding dear and precious to the planter and the owner of it. 2. As dear as God's vineyard is unto him, in case of barrenness and unfruitfulness, it is in great danger of being destroyed and laid waste by him. 3. That the only way and course to engage God's care over his vineyard, and to prevent its being given to other husbandmen, is to give him the fruit of it: it is but r vineyard that God lets out; it is no inheritance. No people ever had so many promises of God's favour as the Jews had, nor ever enjoyed so many privileges whilst they continued in his favour as they did; yet though they were the first and the natural branches, they are broken off and we Gentiles stand by faith: let us not be high-minded, but fear, Hom. xi. 20.
9 What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. 10 And have ye not read this scripture: The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: 11 This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? 12 And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people; for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them : and they left him, and went their way.
These words of our Saviour are taken out of the cxviiith Psalm, which the Jews understood to be a prophecy of the Messiah, and accordingly Christ applies them to himself: the church is the budding intended, Christ himself the stone rejected. The rejecters, or the builders rejecting, are the heads of the Jewish church; that is, the chief priests and Pharisees. God, the great Master-builder of his church, takes this precious foundationstone out of the rubhish, and sets it in the head of the corner. Nevertheless, there are many that stumble at this stone; some through ignorance, others through malice: some are offended at his person, others at his doctrine: These shall be broken in pieces; but on whomsoever this stone shall fall, it will grind them to powder; that is, Christ himself will fall as a burdensome stone upon all them that knowingly and maliciously oppose him; and particularly to the Jews, who not only rejected, but persecuted and destroyed him. Thus Christ tells the chief priests and Pharisees their own particular doom, and also declares what will be the fatal issue of all that opposition which is made against himself and his church; it will terminate in the inevitable destruction of all its opposers: Whosoever shall fall on this stone, shall be broken; and on whomsoever tl shall fall, it will grind them to povder.
13 And they seud unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. 14 And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man; for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth; Is it Jawful to give tribute to Cesar, or not? 15 Shall wc give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. 16 And they brought it. And hesaith unto them, Whose it this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Cesar's. 17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render toCesarthe things that are Cesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him.
Observe here a grand design to entangle our blessed Saviour in his discourse. Where note, 1. The persons employed to put the ensnaring question to Christ, namely, the Pharisees and Herodians. The Pharisees were against paying tribute to Cesar, looking upon themselves as a free people, and the emperor as an usurper; but the Herodians were for it. Herod being made by the Roman emperor king over the Jews, he was very zealous for having the Jen s
pay tribute to Cesar; and such of the Jews as sided with him, particularly his courtiers and favourites, were called Herodians. Note, 2. The policy and wicked craft here used, in employing these two contrary parties to put this question to our Saviour concerning tribute, thereby laying him under a necessity, as they hoped, to offend one side, let him answer how he would: if, to please the Pharisees, he denied paying tribute to Cesar, then he is accused of sedition; if, to gratify the Herodians, he voted for paying tribute to Cesar, then he is looked upon as an enemy to the liberty of his country, and exposed to a popular odium. Thus has it all along been the practice of Satan and his instruments, to draw the ministers of God into dislike, cither with the magistrates or with the people, that they may fall under the censure of the one, or the displeasure of the other. Observe, 3. With what wisdom and caution our Lord answers them; he calls for the Roman penny, answering to seven-pence half-penny of our money, two of which they paid by way of tribute, as poll-money foreviry head, to the emperor. Christ asks them, Whose image or superscription this their coin bore? They answer, Cesar's. Render then, says he, to Cesar the things that are Cesar's. As if our Lord had said, '- Your admitting of the Roman coin among you is an evidence that you are under subjection to the emperor, because the coining and imposing of money is an act of sovereign authority; therefore you have owned Cesar's authority over you by accepting of his coin amongst you; give unto him his just dues, and render unto Cesar the things that arc Cesar's." Learn hence, 1. That our Saviour was no enemy to the magistracy and civil government; there was no truer paymaster of the king's dues, than he that was King of kings; he preached it, and he practised it, Matt. xvii. 27. 2. Where a kingdom is in subjection to a temporal prince, whether his right be by descent, election, or by conquest, the subjects ought from a principle of conscience to pay tribute to him. 3. That as Christ is no enemy to the civil rights of princes, and his religion exempts none from paying their civil dues; so princes should be as careful not to rob him of his divine honour, as he is not to wrong them of their civil rights: as Christ requires all his followers to render unto Cesar the things that are Cesar's, so should princes oblige all
unto God the
their subjects to render things that are God's.'
18 Then come unto him the Sadducees, w hich say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, 19 Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. 20 Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. 21 And the second took her, and died; neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. 22 And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. 2:) In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. 24 And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power ofGod? 25 For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry nor . are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven. 26 And as touching the dead, that they rise; have ye not read in the book of Moses how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, 1 am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.
Our blessed Saviour having put the Pharisees and Herodians to silence in the former verses, here he encounters the Sadducees. This sect derived its name from one' Sadock, who denied the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and angels and spirits. Here they propound a case to our Saviour, of a woman who had seven brethren successively to her husband; they demand whose wife of the seven this woman shall be at the resurrection? As if they had said, "If there be a resurrection of bodies, surely there will be of relations too: and the other world, if there be such a place, will be like this, in which men will marry, as they do
here, and if so, whose wife of the seven shall