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This passage has been supposed to prove that wicked men will be for ever miserable and everlastingly tormented: for all admit hence that the future life of the righteous will be strictly eternal; yet the same epithet is applied in the original, although not in our translation, to the punishment of the wicked: one must therefore be as durable as the other, i. e. everlasting; and those who are everlastingly punished must live for ever, to endure that punishment. But, to say nothing here of the utter inconsistency between the supposition of a creature's enduring eternal misery and all our ideas of the divine mercy and goodness, or of the disproportion between the offence and the punishment, upon that system, I shall only observe, that a punishment may be said to be in the strictest sense of the word eternal, although the being upon whom it is inflicted be no longer alive, if that punishment be permanent and never removed: it may likewise, in a popular and scriptural sense, be said to be eternal if it last for a very long and indefinite period. The persons who are here described as condemned to
7 this punishment, are those who, by refusing to receive the apostles and first preachers of Christianity, rejected the gospel of Christ; and those rewarded with life eternal are such as showed, by their kindness and attention to them, that they respected their character and embraced their doctrine. Hence the disciples of Christ would derive great encouragement to proceed with diligence and vigour in their work of instructing mankind; seeing that attention to them was to be so highly rewarded, and a neglect of them so severely punished.
1. The important subject which we have now been considering, should teach us ever to keep in view the grand distinction which will one day be made between
the righteous and the wicked, between those who received the gospel when offered to them, and those who reject it, or who, having received it, disregard its precepts: the one are to be separated from the other, and destined to a very different condition: to the one will be given eternal life, an existence which will never perish or decay, but in which the powers of the mind will be continually strengthening and enlarging, in which the sources of pleasure will always be increasing, so as to exceed the highest degree of intelligence and enjoyment of which we can now conceive; an existence to be spent with God and Christ, and in the society of good men assembled from every quarter of the globe. How great the goodness of God in bestowing such a life! How happy the condition of those who are destined to possess it! What is there in the fairest of human prospects when compared to this? What are all the honours, possessions and pleasures of this life? How chearfully should we sacrifice them to obtain what is of such superior value, if the sacrifice should be required !
But while we contemplate this happiness with pleasure, let us not forget the melancholy contrast which is presented to our view at the same time: to be excluded from the society of the good; to endure much pain and great distress, if not at length to be entirely destroyed, to be blotted out of the creation of God; and to lie under a sentence of destruction from which we shall never i recover. Is there no disgrace in such treatment? Is there no loss in such punishment? Those who can make light of it, and voluntarily expose themselves to its horrors for the momentary pleasures of sin, must be guilty of the highest presumption and madness.
2. Let us carefully attend to the duties by which the one may be avoided and the other obtained. If some of them be painful and difficult, let us remember the prize for which we are contending, and the dreadful alternative if we should be unsuccessful: the first contains all that is valuable; the other, the loss of every thing, or misery the extent of which we cannot calculate or conceive.
Matthew xxvi. 1----16.
1. And it came to pass when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples,
2. Ye know that after two days, or in two days, is the feast of the passover, and the son of man is betrayed, or will be delivered up, to be crucified.
Christ had foretold his own death and crucifixion many times before: he now mentions the particular time at which it would take place, at the approaching feast of the passover.
This feast was instituted in commemoration of God's passing over the houses of the children of Israel, when he destroyed the first born of the Egyptians: it was to be kept wherever the peculiar presence of God resided, Deut. xvi. 5, 7, and therefore at this time at Jerusalem. At this place all the males from every part of the kingdom were required to attend, in order to eat the paschal lamb: this circumstance rendered that season peculiarly proper for the death of Christ, as great numbers would hereby be witnesses of the event. The day on which Christ suffered was Friday, and that on which he addressed this language to his disciples, is generally supposed to have been the preceding Wednesday, when there would be two days, according to the Jewish method of reckoning, i. e. part of two days, till the passover. Our Lord's design in foretelling the time of his death, seems to have been to prepare his disciples for the trying season.
3. Then assembled together the chief priests and the scribes, and the
elders of the people, unto the palace of the bigh priest, who was called Caiaphas,
This assembly was the grand council*, called the Sanhedrim, to whom it belonged to determine what should be done with false prophets. It consisted of priests and laymen, and particularly of such priests as were the heads of their different courses t, and who were called chief priests. The high priest, at whose house they assembled, appears to have been at the head of this senate, and was probably the president.
4. And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety and kill him, rather put him to death.
5. But they said, not on the feast day, rather on the festival, which, including the days of unleavened bread, lasted eight days, sest there be an uproar among the people.
They knew that he had many friends among the people, and more among those who resided in the country than among the inhabitants of Jerusalem: they thought it not prudent therefore to attempt to put him to death while the city was full of strangers, lest an attempt might be made to rescue him, and their scheme be defeated. But Judas, one of his disciples, offering to deliver him up into their hands, they altered their
purpose. 6. Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,
Simon was still called a leper, although he had been cured of that complaint, and probably by Jesus himself. To his house Jesus retired, after he had delivered the discourses recorded in the last chapter, and returned not to Jerusalem again until the evening on which he ate the passover with his disciples.
* John xi. 47. + Luke i. 5, 8, 9.
7. There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, rather of perfumed ointment very costly, and poured it, i.e. part of it, (See John xii. 3.Jon his head, as he sat at meat.
This was done out of respect to Jesus: Matthew and Mark have not informed us of the name of this woman; but John tells us, in the passage referred to, that it was Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha.
8. But when his disciples saw it they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
9. For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
The evangelist John is more particular in relating one part of the transaction: for he says, “ Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should deliver him up, why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence,” about ten pounds of our moner, " and given to the poor? This he said not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” What is here ate tributed to Judas only, is ascribed in Matthew and Mark to others of the disciples, if not to all: but these two accounts are easily reconciled by supposing that Matthew spoke in the plural number, as is very common, when he intended only one person, or that the other disciples might feel some uneasiness at what was done, which Judas was the most forward in expressing, and therefore he only is noticed.
When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman,
for she hath wrought a good