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doctrines of the Gospel upon different pretences. The man who, fond of his fancied attainments and scrupulous exactness in externals, despises all who will not conform to his rules, and challenges peculiar respect on account of his superior goodness, is a proud Pharisee. His zeal is dark, envious, and bitter; his obedience partial and self-willed; and, while he boasts of the knowledge of God, his heart rises with enmity at the grace of the Gospel, which he boldly charges with opening a door to licentiousness. The modern Sadducee (like those of old) admits of a revelation, but then, full of his own wisdom and importance; he arraigns even the revelation he seems to allow at the bar of his narrow judgement; and as the sublime doctrines of truth pass under his review, he affixes, without hesitation, the epithets of absurd, inconsistent, and blasphemous, to whatever thwarts his pride, prejudice, and ignorance. And those parts of Scripture which cannot be warped to speak his sense, he discards from his canon as interpolated and supposititious. The Herodian is the man, however denominated or dignified, who is governed by interest, as the others by pride, and vainly endeavours to reconcile the incompatible services of God and the world, Christ and Belial. He avoids the excesses of religious parties, speaks in terms of moderation, and is not unwilling to be accounted the patron and friend of sobriety and religion. He stands fair with all who would be religious upon cheap terms, and fair in his own estcem, having numbers and authority on his side. Thus he almost persuades himself he has carried his point, and that it is not so impossible to serve two masters, as our Lord's words seem to import. But the preaching of the pure Gospel, which enforces the one thing needful, and will admit of no compliances with worldly interests, inter
feres with his plans, and incurs his resentment likewise; though, perhaps, he will show his displeasure, by more refined and specious methods than the clamorous rage of hot bigotry has patience to wait for.
We now proceed. The first great cause why Jesus was rejected by those to whom he appealed, may be deduced from the tenour of his doctrine, a summary of which has been given in the former chapter. It of fended the pride of the Pharisees, was repugnant to the wise infidelity of the Sadducees, and condemned the pliant temper of the Herodians. The doctrines of free grace, faith, and spiritual obedience, were diametrically opposite to their inclinations. They must have parted with all they admired and loved if they had complied with him; but this is a sacrifice too great for any to make who had not deeply felt and known their need of a Saviour. These, on the contrary, were the whole, who saw no want of a physician, and therefore treated his offers with contempt.
Besides, their dislike to his doctrine was increased by his manner of enforcing it. He spoke with authority, and sharply rebuked the hypocrisy, ignorance, ambition, and avarice of those persons who were accounted the wise and the good, who sat in Moses's chair, and had hitherto been heard and obeyed with reverence. But Jesus exposed their true characters; he spoke of them as blind guides; he compared them
Matt. xxiii. 27. Nothing is more loathsome to our senses than a corpse in a state of putrefaction, or a more striking contrast to the outside of a sumptuous ornamented monument. Perhaps the visible creation does not afford any other image that would so strongly express the true character of hypocrisy, and how hateful it appears in the sight of God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and before whom all things are naked and open.
painted sepulchres," and cautioned the people against them as dangerous deceivers. It is no wonder, therefore, that on this account they hated him with a perfect hatred.
Again: They were exceedingly offended with the high character he assumed as the Son of God, and the Messiah. On this account, they condemned him to die for blasphemy. They expected a Messiah indeed, who, they professed, was spoken of in the Scripture; but they understood not what the Scriptures had revealed, either concerning his divine nature, or his voluntary humiliation; that he was to be the son and lord of David, yet a man of sorrows, and acquainted with 'grief." They denied his divinity; and themselves unwittingly fulfilled the prophecies that spoke of his sufferings: affording by their conduct a memorable proof how fatally persons may mistake the sense of the word of God, while they profess highly to esteem it.
What farther increased their contempt of his claims, and contributed to harden their hearts more implacably against him, was the obscurity and poverty of his state. While they were governed by worldly wisdom, and sought not the teaching of God's Spirit, they could not but suppose an utter repugnance between the meanness of his condition, and the honours he vindicated to himself. They expected a Messiah to come in pomp and power, to deliver them from the Roman yoke. For a person truly divine, who made himself equal with God, to be encompassed with poverty and distress, seemed such profane contradiction as might justify every mark of indignity they could offer him. And this difficulty must equally affect every unenlightened mind. If man had been left to devise in what manner the Lord of the universe would probably descend to dwell a while with
poor mortals in a visible form, they would undoubtedly have imagined such a scene (if their thoughts could have reached it) as is described by the prophets on other occasions. The heavens bowing, the earth shaking, the mountains ready to start from their places, and all nature labouring to do homage to her Creator. Or, if he came in a milder way, they would, at least, have contrived an assemblage of all that we conceive magnificent; a pomp and splendour surpassing all the world ever saw. Expecting nations, crowding to welcome his arrival, and thrones of gold, and palaces of ivory, would have been judged too mean to accommodate so glorious a guest. But the Lord's thoughts and ways are different from man's. The beloved Son of God, by whom all things were made, was born in a stable, and grew up in an obscure and mean condition. He came to suffer and to die for sin, to sanctify poverty and affliction to his people, to set a perfect example of patience and submission; therefore he made himself of no reputation, but took on him the form and offices of a servant. This was the appointment of divine wisdom; but so incredible in the judgement of blinded mortals, that the apostle assures us "no man can say "that Jesus is the Lord;" can perceive and acknowledge his inherent excellence and authority, through the disgraceful circumstances of his humiliation, "but "by the Holy Ghost"." His enemies therefore thought they sufficiently refuted his assertions, by referring to his supposed parents, and the reputed place of his nativity.
Their envy and hatred were still more inflamed, by observing the character of his followers. These were
1 Cor. xii. 3.
chiefly poor and illiterate persons, and many of them had been notoriously wicked, or accounted so; publicans and sinners, whose names and professions were vile to a proverb. And for such as these, and almost these only, to acknowledge the person whom they refused, and by professing themselves his disciples, to set up for being wiser than their teachers; this was a mortification to their pride which they could not bear ; especially when they found their number daily to increase, and therefore could not but fear their own influence would proportionably decline.
Once more: Mistaking the nature of his kingdom, which he often spoke of, they opposed him from reasons of state; they feared, or pretended to fear, that if they suffered him to go on, the increase of his disciples would give umbrage to the Romans, who would come and take away both their places and their nation *. Some, perhaps, really had this apprehension; but it was more generally a pretence, which the leaders made use of to alarm the ignorant. They were, in truth, impatient of the Roman yoke, prone to tumults, and ready to listen to every deceiver who promised them deliverance, under pretence of being their expected Messiah. But, from enmity and opposition to Jesus, they became loyal at once. So they might accomplish their designs against him, they were content to forget other grievances, and openly professed they would have no other king but Cæsar.
These were some of the chief motives which united the opposite interests and jarring sentiments of the Jewish sects against our blessed Lord. We are next to consider the methods they employed to prejudice the
i John, vii. 49.; ix. 34.
John, xi. 48.