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obedience for the time past, they must have been in despair: but when an offer came of free forgiveness, light shone in upon their darkness. "The wrath to come," and the way to "flee from it," were opened to them at the same time.
Now the guilt of the Pharisees was not so plain to themselves. It was of a different sort; less gross, but more deceiving. They kept up the appearance of religion; they observed the Sabbath with rigorous strictness; they made a conscience of paying money for sacred purposes. St. Paul bore them witness, that some at least "had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge."
Therefore they were not prepared to hear themselves condemned. What! we who keep up a respectable appearance, who "know the law," who "fast twice in the week," who would not on the sabbath pluck or rub an ear of corn; "are we blind also?" Are we to be classed with the ignorant vulgar? Are we to be told, that "except we repent, we shall all perish?"
Thus it was, that their very appearance of godliness increased their condemnation. Not because it made their state worse, for even the appearance of godliness is better than open ungodliness; but because it made them more hard to be convinced of the actual condition of their hearts, alienated from God, devoted to the world, full of pride and selfconceit, the very last disposition which is likely to be brought to repentance: which, instead of rejoicing that the hearts of the disobedient were in the way of being turned to the wisdom of the just,
3 Rom. x. 2.
made it a subject of accusation against our Lord, that he ate and drank with publicans and sinners.
But this afforded an opportunity of leaving to them, and to all future ages, that memorable declaration, I came to call sinners to repentance. I came to effect, and to proclaim, reconciliation between the penitent sinner and the offended God. "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
33. And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?
34. And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?
35. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
36. And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old.
37. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.
38. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.
39. No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.
These parables all allude to the particular circumstances of the disciples at the present time. Fasting, about which the Pharisees inquired, was a part of mourning; and fasting, whilst he was with them to cheer and support them, would be as unsuitable as mourning at a marriage. As it is in
human life in general, so it would be with them. There is a season for weeping, and a season for joy. The days would come when he in whom they now rejoiced would be taken from them; and then shall they fast in those days.
Why, too, should the ways of John's disciples be the way of the disciples of Jesus? Why should the new garment be fixed upon the old?
Why, again, should his young and weak disciples be tried with severe discipline, which they were no more able to bear, than bottles, become tender and worn with use, to bear the fermentation of new wine? They must not be deterred from following him by austerities, for which they were not prepared. So St. Paul says, that "to the weak he became as weak, that he might gain the weak;" he did not insist upon things that were not essential, "that he might by all means save some." 4
It was not, however, to be expected of human nature, that those who had long been accustomed to one mode of thinking on those things, should immediately receive another and a different mode. As the natural taste becomes settled, and no man having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: so it is with the mind; it must be treated gently and reasonably, and be gradually convinced that the old is not always better than the new. And therefore the Lord, in compassion to the weakness of his disciples, "spake the word unto them, as they were able to hear it."5"He fed his flock like a shepherd who gathers the lambs in his bosom, and gently leads them that are with young.'
41 Cor. ix. 22.
THE USE AND OBLIGATION OF THE SABBATH.
LUKE vi. 1-11.
(Matt. xii. 1-8. Mark ii. 23-28.)
1. And it came to pass, on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields: and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands.2
2. And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?
3. And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, What David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him;
4. How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shew-bread, and gave also to them that were with him; which is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?
5. And he said unto them, That the son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
David, urged by necessity, transgressed the general law, and appeased his hunger with the bread which belonged to the altar, and was appropriated to the use of the priests alone. David's doing this, would not have made an unlawful action lawful.
1 It is not clearly understood what sabbath day is signified by this phrase.
2 Deut. xxiii. 25.
But David was never blamed for this: and by the same rule, man is not to perish for the sabbath's sake, since "the sabbath was made for man:” appointed to bless, and not to destroy him.
But even if there were no such example in the Jewish history, Jesus was at liberty to set one. The Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. The Son of man has authority to correct all errors respecting that day. The Son of man, if he saw fit, might even abrogate the institution of the sabbath.
Some have supposed that he did so; and because on this, and other occasions, he refuted the unreasonable prejudices of the Pharisees, have urged that he meant to set aside the sabbath itself, together with the ceremonial part of the law of Moses.
Surely, had this been his intention, he would have declared it on some such opportunity as the present. He declared of the magnificent temple, that the time was coming, when not one stone should be left upon another. He said to the Samaritan woman, "The time cometh, when ye shall, neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father."3 And it is not probable that he would have said, The time cometh, when not the seventh day only, but every day, shall be kept holy to the Lord?
Scripture acquaints us, that, from the first, "God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it." Why, then, should we suppose that the sabbath is only a Jewish ordinance, and was done away when the Jewish law was superseded by the gospel? Doubtless, it is found among the commandments given of 3 John iv. 21.