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a good answer to, and often put to themselves, By what authority do I these things? For bo can men preach except they be sent? or, how can they act with comfort, or confidence, or hope success, except they be authorised? Jer. xxiii, 32.
Christ effectually ran them aground, and embarrassed them with this question, "What are you thoughts concerning the baptism of John? Was it from heaven, or of men? By what auth did John preach, and baptize, and gather disciples? Answer me. Ver. 30. Deal fairly and a genuously, and give a categorical answer, one way or the other." By the resolving of their ques into this, our Saviour intimates how near akin his doctrine and baptism were to John's; they the same original and the same design and tendency-to introduce the gospel kingdom. Cir might with the better grace put this question to them, because they had sent a committee of the own house to examine John. John i. 19. "Now," saith Christ, "what was the result of you inquiries concerning him?"
They knew what they thought of this question; they could not but think that John the Barts was a man sent of God. But the difficulty was, what they should say to it now. Men that obli not themselves to speak as they think (which is a certain rule) cannot avoid perplexing themselves If they own the baptism of John to be from heaven, as really it was, they shame themselves;i: Christ will presently turn it upon them, Why did ye not then believe him, and receive his baptisa They could not bear that Christ should say this, but they could bear it that their own conscien should say so, because they had an art of stifling and silencing them, and because what conscier said, though it might gall and grate them a little, would not shame them; and then they would ) well enough, who looked no farther than Saul's care, when he was convicted, "Honour me before this people." 1 Sam. xv. 30.
If they say," It is of men he was not sent of God, but his doctrine and baptism were inven of his own," they expose themselves the people will be ready to do them a mischief, or at bar clamour upon them; for all men counted John that he was a prophet indeed, and therefore could not bear that he should be reflected on.-There is a carnal, slavish fear, which not only war subjects but wicked rulers likewise are liable to, which God makes use of as a means to kee world in some order, and to suppress violence, that it shall not always grow up into a rod of wich ness. Now, by this dilemma to which Christ brought them, 1. They were confounded and ha and forced to make a dishonourable retreat; to pretend ignorance-We cannot tell (and that mortification enough to those proud men)—but really to discover the greatest malice and wilful What Christ did by his wisdom, we must labour to do by our well-doing-put to silence the rance of foolish men. 1 Pet. ii. 15. 2. Christ came off with honour, and justified himsel refusing to give them an answer to their imperious demand,—Neither tell I you by what awh I do these things. They did not deserve to be told; for it was plain that they contended ny truth, but victory; nor did he need to tell them, for the works which he did told them plainly the he had authority from God to do what he did; since no man could do those miracles which a unless God were with him. Let them wait but three or four days, and his resurrection sha them who gave him his authority; for by that he will be declared to be the Son of God" power, as by their rejecting of him, notwithstanding, they will be declared to be the enemies of G
1 In a parable of the vineyard let out to unthankful husbandmen, Christ foretelleth the repr tion of the Jews, and the calling of the Gentiles. 13 He avoideth the snare of Pharisees and Herodians about paying tribute to Cæsar: 18 convinceth the error f Sadducees, who denied the resurrection: 28 resolveth the scribe, who questioned of first commandment: 35 refuteth the opinion that the scribes held of Christ: 38 bid the people to beware of their ambition and hypocrisy: 41 and commendeth the poor for her two mites, above all.
AND "he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man
a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the wines and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a f 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 vineyar
a Matt. xal. 33; Luke xxi. 9.
3 And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him 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 wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They 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. 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.
b Psal. cxviii. 22. c Matt. xxi. 45, 46; Chap. xi. 18; John vii. 25, 30, 44.
Christ had formerly, in parables, showed how he had designed to set up the gospel Church; now he begins, in parables, to show how he would lay aside the Jewish Church, which it might have been grafted into the stock of, but was built upon the ruins of. This parable we had, just as we have it here, in Matt. xxi. 33. We may observe here,―
They that enjoy the privileges of the visible Church have a vineyard let out to them, which is capable of great improvement, and from the occupiers of which rent is justly expected. When God showed his word unto Jacob, his statutes and judgments unto Israel (Psal. cxlvii. 19)—when he set up his temple among them, his priesthood, and his ordinances, then he let out to them the vineyard he had planted, which he hedged, and in which he built a tower. Ver. 1. Members of the Church are God's tenants, and they have both a good Landlord and a good bargain, and may live well upon it, if it be not their own fault.
Those whom God lets out his vineyard to, he sends his servants to, to put them in mind of his just expectations from them. Ver. 2. He was not hasty in his demands, nor high, for he did not send for the rent till they could make it—at the season; nor did he put them to the trouble of making money of it, but was willing to take it in specie.
It is sad to think what base usage God's faithful ministers have met with, in all ages, from those that have enjoyed the privileges of the Church, and have not brought forth fruit answerable. The Old Testament prophets were persecuted even by those that went under the name of the Old Testament Church. They beat them, and sent them empty away (ver. 3)—that was bad; they wounded them, and sent them away shamefully entreated (ver. 4)—that was worse; nay, at length they came to such a pitch of wickedness, that they killed them. Ver. 5.
It was no wonder if those who abused the prophets abused Christ himself. God did at length send them his Son, his well-beloved; it was, therefore, so much the greater kindness in him to send him, as in Jacob to send Joseph to visit his brethren. Gen. xxxvii. 14. And it might be expected that he whom their Master loved, they also should respect and love (ver. 6),-They will reverence my son, and, in reverence to him, will pay their rent. But, instead of reverencing him because he was the son and heir, they therefore hated him. Ver. 7. Because Christ, in calling to repentance and reformation, made his demands with more authority than the prophets had done, they were the more enraged against him, and determined to put him to death, that they might engross all Church power to themselves, and that all the respect and obedience of the people might be paid to them only," The inheritance shall be ours; we will be lords paramount, and bear all the sway." There is an inheritance which, if they had duly reverenced the Son, might have been theirs a heavenly inheritance; but they slighted that, and would have their inheritance in the wealth, and pomp, and powers of this world. So they took him, and killed him; they had not done it yet, but they would do it in a little time; and they cast him out of the vineyard-they refused to admit his gospel when he was gone; it would by no means agree with their scheme, and so they threw it out with disdain and detestation.
For such sinful and shameful doings nothing can be expected but a fearful doom (ver. 9),—
What shall therefore the Lord of the vineyard do? It is easy to say what, for nothing could be done more provoking.
He will come and destroy the husbandmen, whom he would have saved. When they only denied the fruit, he did not destrain upon them for the rent, nor disseize them and dispossess them fr non-payment; but when they killed his servants and his Son, he determined to destroy them; and this was fulfilled when Jerusalem was laid waste, and the Jewish nation extirpated and made a desolation.
He will give the vineyard unto others. If he have not the rent from them, he will have it from another people; for God will be no loser by any. This was fulfilled in the taking in of the Gentils, and the abundance of fruit which the gospel brought forth in all the world. Col. i. 6. If some from whom we expected well, prove bad, it does not follow but that others will be better. Christ ecouraged himself with this in his undertaking, Though Israel be not gathered, not gathered to him, but gathered against him, yet shall I be glorious (Isa. xlix. 5, 6), as a Light to lighten the Gentiles Their opposition to Christ's exaltation shall be no obstruction to it (vers. 10, 11),—The stone which the builders rejected, notwithstanding that, is become the head of the corner—is highly advanced as the head-stone, and of necessary use and influence as the corner-stone. God will set Christ as his King, upon his holy hill of Zion, in spite of their project, who would break his bands asunder; and all the world shall see and own this to be the Lord's doing, in justice to the Jews and in compassion to the Gentiles. The exaltation of Christ was the Lord's doing, and it is his doing to exalt him in our hearts, and to set up his throne there; and if it be done, it cannot but be marvellous in our eyes.
Now, what effect had this parable upon the chief priests and scribes, whose conviction was designed by it? They knew he spoke this parable against them. Ver. 12. They could not bu see their own faces in the glass of it; and one would think it showed them their sin so very heinous, and their ruin so certain and great, that it should have frightened them into a compliance with Christ, and his gospel should have prevailed to bring them to repentance, at least to make them desist from their malicious purpose against him; but, instead of that, they sought to lay hold es him, and make him their prisoner immediately, and so to fulfil what he had just now said they would do to him. Ver. 8. Nothing restrained them from it but the awe they stood in of the people. They did not reverence Christ, nor had any fear of God before their eyes, but were afraid, if they should publicly lay hold on Christ, the mob would rise and lay hold on them, and resca him. They left him, and went their way. If they could not do hurt to him, they resolved he should not do good to them; and therefore they got out of the hearing of his powerful preaching, lest they should be converted and healed.-If men's prejudices be not conquered by the evidence of truth, they are but confirmed; and if the corruptions of the heart be not subdued by faithfai reproofs, they are but enraged and exasperated. If the gospel be not a savour of life unto life, will be a savour of death unto death.
We are all answerable for the advantages afforded to us to become fruitful in good works. The Scriptures, and faithful preachers, and the coming of Christ in the flesh, call upon us to render due praise to God in our lives. Let sinners beware of a proud, carnal spirit; if they revile or despise the preachers of Christ, they would have done so to their Master, had they lived when he was upon earth. Let us, then, seek grace from the Son of God, to render us fruitful of the works of righteousness, to the glory of his name, that our privileges be continued and our souls perfected.
13 And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians. T 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 lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not? 15 Shall we 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 he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Cæsar's. 17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him.
d Matt. xxu. 15; Luke xx. 20. Equal to sevenpence halfpenny of our money.
When the enemies of Christ, who thirsted for his blood, could not find occasion against him from
what he said against them, they tried to ensnare him by putting questions to him. Here we have him tempted, with a question about the lawfulness of paying tribute to Cæsar. We have this narrative in Matt. xxii. 15.
The persons they employed were the Pharisees and the Herodians-men that in this matter were contrary to one another, and yet concurred against Christ. Ver. 13. The Pharisees were great sticklers for the liberty of the Jews, and if he should say, It is lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, they would incense the common people against him, and the Herodians would, underhand, assist them in it. The Herodians were great sticklers for the Roman power, and if he should discountenance the paying of tribute to Cæsar, they would incense the governor against him; yea, and the Pharisees, against their own principles, would join with them in it. It is no new thing for those that are at variance in other things, to join in a confederacy against Christ.
The pretence they made was, that they desired him to resolve them a case of conscience, which was of great importance in the present juncture; and they take on them to have a high opinion of his ability to resolve it. Ver. 14. They complimented him at a high rate, called him Master, owned him for a teacher of the way of God, a teacher of it in truth-one who taught what was good, and upon principles of truth-who would not be brought by smiles or frowns to depart a step from the rules of equity and goodness,- "Thou carest for no man, nor regardest the person of men; thou art not afraid of offending either the jealous prince on one hand, or the jealous people on the other; thou art right, and always in the right, and dost in a right manner declare good and evil, truth and falsehood." If they spoke as they thought concerning Christ, when they said, We know that thou art right, their persecuting him, and putting him to death, as a deceiver, was sin against knowledge; they knew him, and yet crucified him. However, a man's testimony shall be taken most strongly against himself, and out of their own mouths are they judged; they knew that he taught the way of God in truth, and yet they rejected the counsel of God against themselves. The professions and pretences of hypocrites will be produced in evidence against them, and they will be self-condemned. But if they did not know or believe it, they lied unto God with their mouth, and flattered him with their tongue.
The question they put was, Is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not? They would be thought desirous to know their duty. As a nation that did righteousness, they ask of God the ordinances of justice, when really they desired nothing but to know what he would say, in hopes that, which side soever he took of the question, they might take occasion from it to accuse him. Nothing is more likely to ensnare ministers, than bringing them to meddle with controversies about civil rights, and to settle land-marks between the prince and the subject, which it is fit should be done, while it is not at all fit that they should have the doing of it. They seemed to refer the determining of this matter to Christ: and he, indeed, was fit to determine it; for by him kings reign, and princes decree justice. They put the question fairly, Shall we give, or shall we not give? They seemed resolved to stand to his award. "If thou sayest that we must pay tribute, we will do it, though we be made beggars by it. If thou sayest that we must not, we will not, though we be made traitors for it." Many seem desirous to know their duty, who are no ways disposed to do it; as those proud men. Jer. xlii. 20.
Christ determined the question, and evaded the snare, by referring them to their national concessions already made, by which they were precluded from disputing this matter. Vers. 15-17. He knew their hypocrisy, the malice that was in their hearts against him, while with their mouth they showed all this love. Hypocrisy, though ever so artfully managed, cannot be concealed from the Lord Jesus. He sees the potsherd that is covered with the silver dross. He knew they intended to ensnare him, and therefore contrived the matter so as to ensnare them, and to oblige them by their own words to do what they were unwilling to do; which was, to pay their taxes honestly and quietly, and yet at the same time to screen himself against their exceptions. He made them acknowledge that the current money of their nation was Roman money, had the emperor's image on one side, and his superscription on the reverse; and if so, 1. Cæsar might command their money for the public benefit, because he has the custody and conduct of the state, wherein he ought to have his charges borne,-Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's. The circulation of the money is from him as the fountain, and therefore it must return to him. As far as it is his, so far it must be rendered to him; and how far it is his, and may be commanded by him, is to be judged by the constitution of the government, according as it is, and hath settled the prerogative of the prince and the property of the subject. 2. Cæsar might not command their consciences, nor did he pretend to it. He offered not to make any alteration in their religion,-" Pay your tribute, therefore, without murmuring or disputing, but be sure to render to God the things that are God's." Perhaps he referred to the parable he had just now put forth, in which he had condemned them for not rendering the fruits to the Lord of the vineyard. Ver. 2. Many that seem careful to give to
men their due, are in no care to give to God the glory due to his name; whereas our hearts and best affections are as much due to him as ever rent was to a landlord, or tribute to a prince. All that heard Christ marvelled at the discretion of his answer, and how ingeniously he avoided the snare; but I doubt none were brought by it, as they ought to be, to render to God themselves and their devotions. Many will commend the wit of a sermon, that will not be commanded by the divine laws of a sermon.
18 Then come unto him the Sadducees, which 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. 23 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 of God? 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, I 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.
e Matt. xxii. 23; Luke xx. 27. f Acts xxiii. 8. g Deut. xxv. 5. h 1 Cor. xv. 42, 49, 52.
Exod. iii. 6.
The Sadducees, who were the deists of that age, here attack our Lord Jesus, it should seem, not as the scribes, and Pharisees, and chief priests, with any malicious design upon his person. They were not bigots and persecutors, but sceptics and infidels, and their design was upon his doctrine, to hinder the spreading of that. They denied that there was any resurrection-any world of spirits -any state of rewards and punishments on the other side of death. Now, those great and fundamental truths which they denied, Christ had made it his business to establish and prove, and had carried the notion of them much farther than ever it was before carried; and therefore they set themselves to perplex his doctrine.
See here the method they take to entangle it; they quote the ancient law, by which, if a man died without issue, his brother was obliged to marry his widow. Ver. 19. They suppose a case to happen, that, according to that law, seven brothers were, successively, the husbands of one woman. Ver. 20. Probably these Sadducees, according to their wonted profaneness, intended hereby to ridicule that law, and so to bring the whole frame of the Mosaic institution into contempt, as absurd and inconvenient in the practice of it. Those who deny divine truths commonly set themselves to disparage divine laws and ordinances. But this was only by the by; their design was to expose the doctrine of the resurrection; for they suppose that if there be a future state, it must be such a one as this, and then the doctrine, they think, is clogged either with this invincible absurdity, that a woman in that state must have seven husbands, or else with this insolvable difficulty, whose wife she must be. See with what subtlety these heretics undermine the truth. They do not deny it, nor say, There can be no resurrection; nay, they do not seem to doubt of it, nor say, If there be a resurrection, whose wife shall she be? as the devil to Christ," If thou be the Son of God." But, as though these beasts of the field were more subtle than the serpent himself, they pretend to own the truth, as if they were not Sadducees, no, not they; who said that they denied the resurrection? They take it for granted that there is a resurrection, and would be thought to desire instruction concerning it, when really they are designing to give it a fatal stab, and think that they shall do it. -It is the common artifice of heretics and Sadducees to perplex and entangle the truth, which they have not the impudence to deny.
Observe the method Christ takes to clear and establish this truth, which they attempted to darken and give a shock to. This was a matter of moment, and therefore Christ does not pass