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The Gospel. Matt. xi. 2. Now when (h) John had heard in the prison (i) the works of Christ, he sent (k) two of his disciples, 3. and said unto him, "Art thou
(h) v. 2. "John," i. e. "the Baptist." (2) "The prison," where he was confined by Herod. See Mark vi. 17. Luke iii. 20. (k)"Sent." It is probable John sent this message not for his own sake, or to satisfy any doubts he had, but for the sake of his Apostles; he had seen the Spirit of God descending on our Saviour at his baptism, and had heard the voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I "am well pleased. Matt. iii. 16, 17." The only doubt he could have, would be, whether this was the person on whom he had seen the Spirit descend.
(l) v. 3. "He that should come." There was a general expectation at this time of the Messiah's coming: Daniel had stated expressly (Dan. ix. 25.) that from the going forth of the commandment "to restore "and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah "the Prince, should be seven weeks, and "threescore and two weeks," and this time (reckoning a day for a year, which is the method in the calculation of prophetic times) was nearly, if not fully arrived. This expectation, with the mistake that the Messiah's kingdom was to be of this world, probably occasioned the well known passages in Suetonius, Tacitus, and Josephus, that "the sacred books of the "Jews foretold, that at that time some one "from Judæa should obtain the empire of "the world." There are also passages in Virgil, which probably owe their origin to this cause. See Note on John i. 21. post, 38. and Virgil's 4th Eclogue.
(m) v. 4. "See." According to Luke vii. 21.whilst John's Disciples were with Jesus, "he cured many of their infirmities and "plagues, and of evil spirits, and unto "many that were blind he gave sight," so that he might properly refer to what they saw as well as what they might have heard. The miracles of our Saviour and his Apostles, and the effect they produced upon the persons who witnessed them, are amongst the foundations of a Christian's faith. Are the accounts then which the New Testament gives of them true accounts? The accounts of our Saviour's miracles are ascribed to Matthew and John, two constant attendants upon our Saviour; to
"he (1) that should come, or do "we look for another ?" 4. Jesus answered and said unto them, "Go "and shew John again those things "which ye do hear and (m) see:
Mark, a friend and companion of Peter's; and to Luke, a companion of St. Paul's. The accounts of the Apostles' miracles are ascribed to Luke and Paul, the former referring to those of many of the Apostles, the latter to his own only. Is then the supposition that these accounts were written by these persons, a safe and warrantable supposition? What is the evidence? The earliest writers refer to these accounts and refer to them as the works of those persons. Celsus, one of the earliest opposers of Christianity, speaks of the affairs of Jesus as written by his Disciples. The accounts bear the strongest internal marks of having been written near the times to which they relate; and though Christianity has ever met with able, acute, and virulent opponents, they have never been attributed to any other age or to any other authors. If they were not written at these times, when were they written? If they be not the accounts of these persons, whose are they? Is it possible a fraud on this point could have been practised? From the time of the crucifixion, Christians have met weekly for religious purposes. These meetings were wherever Christians dwelt. How could any spurious or questionable account be introduced so as to obtain universal adoption? Could all the churches have been deceived? Could the deception have been concealed from all the enemies of Christianity? Impossible! Could, then, the writers of these accounts have been deceived, or could they have deceived others? Many of the miracles were palpable to the senses. They could see whether the 5000 were fed with the five barley loaves and the two small fishes, or the 4000 with the seven loaves; whether the lepers were cleansed, and the sick healed; whether devils were cast out; whether Lazarus and the widow's son were raised from the dead; whether the Apostles cast out unclean spirits, and healed diseases; whether, after our Saviour's death, the power of speaking new languages, and the other gifts of the Holy Ghost, were conferred. In these particulars could the Evangelists have been deceived? Could the multitudes present at the miracles have
"5. The (n) blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the "deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. 6. And "blessed is he, whosoever shall (0) "not be offended in me." 7. And, as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, "What went ye out into "the wilderness to see? a (p) reed "shaken with the wind? 8. But "what went ye out for to see? a "man clothed in soft raiment?
been deceived? Had one questionable miracle been recorded, would none of their opponents have exposed them? would the attempt have been passed over in silence? Look at St. Paul's 1st Epistle to the Corrinthians, an Epistle noticed by Clement, a companion of St. Paul. He tells them,
i. v. 5. 7. that they "are in every thing "enriched by Jesus Christ, in all utter"ance and in all knowledge; so that they "come behind in no gift." And in c. xii. v. 8, 9, 10. he enumerates these gifts: The "word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, "faith, the gifts of healing, the working of "miracles, prophecy, the discerning of
spirits, divers kinds of tongues, the inter"pretation of tongues." Could he have made this statement to them, had they not received such gifts? How would they have treated him, his epistle, and his religion, had no such gifts been conferred! And yet the church of Corinth continued to regard him with the greatest respect and veneration. Why? because they knew he spoke true: they did possess these gifts. It may be added, that the Apostles, and the early converts, could have had no motive but conviction for professing Christianity; for it led, not to worldly benefits, but to persecution and death; and many of them gave the strongest test of their conviction. They suffered death, rather than disavow their belief. Dr. Chalmers has pressed these topics with great force in his work upon the Evidence and Authority of the Christian Revelation, and so has Bp. Marsh in his Divinity Lectures.
(n) v.5. "The blind, &c." Our Saviour refers them to his works because of their
agreement with two prophecies in Isaiah,
Fourth Sunday in Advent.
O LORD, raise up (we pray thee)
and perhaps also with the characters in Psalm cxlvi. 7. &c. In Isaiah xxxv. 4, 5, 6. the Prophet, (alluding to the times of the Messiah,) says, "Behold your God will
come with vengeance, even God with a recompence: he will come and save you: then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped, then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb "sing." And in Isaiah lxi. 1. he says, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, be"cause the Lord hath anointed me to "preach good tidings unto the meek." And is not this a strong, but indirect proof, of Christ's Divinity? Isaiah had foretold "Your God shall come, &c. and then the "eyes of the blind shall be opened, &c." The question here is, "Art thou he that "should come, &c." What is the answer? "The blind receive their sight, &c." The prophecy then is fulfilled, Your God is come, &c. and I am He.
(o) v. 6. "Shall not be offended in,” i. e. "shall boldly and firmly adhere to me, "without being deterred by persecution "or danger."
(p) v. 7. "A reed," that is, " a mere "trifle."
(q) v. 8. "In kings' houses," and therefore not in the wilderness.
(r) v. 10. Behold, &c." This is the prophecy in Mal. iii. 1. post, 69. See an able Commentary upon it, Chandler's Defence of Christianity, first ed. p. 63. The way was prepared by reforming their lives, and by that means fitting them to receive the precepts of Christianity, and to undergo all dangers and persecutions in adhering to it.
thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us, through the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord; to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
The Epistle. Phil. iv. 4. REJOICE in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. 5. Let your moderation be (s) known unto all men: The Lord is at hand. (t) 6. Be careful (u) for
(s) v. 5. “Known unto all men," not for ostentation, but to advance the interests of Christianity, by bringing it into good repute. It casts the highest credit upon religion, when its professors make a con. science of all their ways, and act as if they had God in all their thoughts - when they abstain from every appearance of evil, and put in practice the virtues their religion inculcates. We then glorify God, when in every action we consider how far it is agreeable to his will. Our Saviour, in his Sermon on the Mount, Matt. v. 16., recommends good actions with this view. "Let your light so shine before men, that "they may see your good works, and glorify "your Father which is in heaven." In Tit. ii. 1-5. St. Paul directs Titus to recommend sobriety, temperance, patience, chastity, and other virtues, to this end, "that the word of God (i. e. Christ's religion) be not blasphemed." And he inculcates certain particulars of good conduct in 1 Tim. v. 14. and vi. 1. that "occa"sion be not given to the adversary to "speak reproachfully, and that the name "of God, and his doctrine, be not blasof."
(u) v. 6. "Careful for nothing." 1 Pet. v. 7. "Cast all your care upon "him, for he careth for you."
(v) v. 7. "Passeth all understanding, i. e. either is "better than all knowledge," or greater than we can conceive, in"conceivable." See post, Eph. iii. 19. the like expression. "The love of "Christ, which passeth knowledge."
(w) v. 19. "John," i. e. "the Baptist." (x) v. 21. "Elias." The Jews expected that Elijah the prophet would appear again before the of the in con
"phemed," that is, " evil spoken to sequence of the prophecy, Mal. iv. 5.
"abstain from fleshly lusts, which war 'against the soul, and to have their con"versation honest among the Gentiles, "that whereas they speak against you as "evil-doers, they may by your good works
I will you the pro"phet, before the coming of the great "and dreadful day of the Lord." In Matt. xvii. 10. the disciples noticed this tradition to our Saviour," Why then say,
And he saith, I am not. (x) "Art thou that (y) prophet?" And he answered "No." 22. Then said they unto him, "Who art thou? "that we may give an answer to "them that sent us. What sayest "thou of thyself?" 23. He said, "I am (2) the voice of one cry
the Scribes, that Elias must first come?" And our Saviour admits that Elias was first to come, but explains to them that John the Baptist, who, according to Luke i. 17. "was to go before the Messiah in the spirit and power of Elias," was the person to whom Malachi refers.
x) "I am not," i. e. not the Elias of antient times: though he was the person to whom the prophecy referred.
(y)" That Prophet," with the article, pops; not indefinitely, therefore, "any prophet," but some prophet in particular. Middleton, 343, 344: probably the prophet foretold by Moses, Deut. xviii. 15. "The Lord thy God will raise up unto "thee a prophet from the midst of thee, "of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him "shall ye hearken." And they might be uncertain whether that might not look forward to some other person than the Messiah.
The Jews certainly expected the Messiah about this time, because the sixtynine weeks mentioned in Dan. ix. 25–27. post, 69. were expiring. Josephus, b. vii. c.12. says, "That which chiefly excited the "Jews to war with the Romans, about "forty years afterwards, was a prophecy "contained in the Holy Scriptures, that "at that time one of their own country "should have dominion over the world." Suetonius says, "Percrebuerat oriente "toto vetus et constans opinio, esse in fatis, ut eo tempore Judæâ profecti rerum potirentur;" and Tacitus, b. v. "Plu"ribus persuasio inerat antiquis sacer"dotum libris contineri, eo ipso tempore "fore, ut valesceret oriens, profecti que "Judæâ rerum potirentur." These passages correspond with the Jewish notion, that this kingdom was to be temporal, not spiritual, but they shew that this was the time it was expected. Josephus considers Vespasian as the person referred to; but he was not a descendant of Jacob, nor of the tribe of Judah, nor of the seed of David, nor did he answer to many of the
waiting for the consolation of Israel;" and when the infant Jesus was presented in the temple, the Prophetess Anna spoke of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Luke ii. 38. And Joseph of Arimathea is spoken of (Luke xxiii. 51.) as having "waited for the kingdom of God."
(z) v. 23. "I am the voice, &c." that is, "I am the person referred to by that prophecy." It was the practice of eastern monarchs, when they undertook an expedition or journey, to send messengers before to prepare all things for them, and pioneers to open the passes, level the ways, and remove all impediments; and in like manner John the Baptist was to go before our Saviour, to endeavour to prepare men's minds for his reception. Malachi had explained the means by which he should attempt to "make straight the
way of the Lord," viz. by "turning the "hearts of the fathers to the children, "and the hearts of the children to their "fathers. Mal. iv. 6." He was to remove the impediments of sin, pride, and obstinacy; to make men to be "of one mind "in a house, Ps. lxviii. 6. ;" to produce unanimity; to destroy dissensions, animosities, and ill-will. And accordingly, when he began his ministry, his preaching was, Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is " at hand.'
(a) "The Lord," the word in Isaiah is "Jehovah :" so that "Kupie" is here put for Jehovah; and it is to Christ those terms are applied. See ante, 29. note on Rom. xiii. 14.
(b) "Esaias." The passage is Is. xl. 3.
"not that Christ, nor Elias, neither | in thy Son's resurrection: Grant
"that prophet? 26. John answered "them, saying, I baptize with "water: but there standeth (c) one "among you, whom ye know not; “27. He it is, who, coming after me, " is preferred before me, (d) whose "shoe's latchet I am not worthy "to unloose." 28. These things were done in Bethabara, beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Saint Thomas the Apostle's Day.
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who for the more confirmation of the faith, didst suffer thy holy Apostle Thomas to be doubtful
(c) v. 26. "One among you," that is, "Jesus Christ."
(d) v. 27. "Whose shoe's latchet," i. e. "who is so far above me, that I am un"worthy to do even the meanest offices "for him." Would an impostor, or one who sought his own glory, thus disparage himself, and aggrandize another? Can any motive be ascribed to John's conduct, but that which the Scripture ascribes, "to "prepare the way for Christ's kingdom?" According to John iii. 28. he appeals to his disciples if he had not told them he was not the Christ, and adds, v. 30. "He "must increase, but I must decrease." See Bp. Porteus's Lecture on the Character and Conduct of John the Baptist. Matt.iii.
The gospel account of the Baptist corresponds with what is said of him by the Jewish historian Josephus, born A. Ď. 37. We learn from him that John was a very good man; that he baptized; that his doctrine was, that they should renounce their sins, and purify their souls; that divers flocked and followed him to hear his doctrine; and that he had the greatest influence over them. After mentioning a signal defeat of Herod's army, he says, (Antiquities, b. 18. c. 7. s. 2.) "Divers "Jews were of the opinion, that Herod's "army was overthrown by the just venge"ance of God, who punished him most "justly, because of the execution which "he caused to be done on John, sirnamed
us so perfectly, and without all doubt, to believe in thy Son Jesus Christ, that our faith in thy sight may never be reproved. Hear us, O Lord, through the same Jesus Christ; to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, now and for evermore. Amen.
The Epistle, Ephes. ii. 19.
Now therefore ye (e) are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the (g) saints, and of the household of God; 20. and are (h) built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself
"Baptist: for he had put to death this "man, who was endued with all virtue, "and who exhorted the Jews to addict "themselves thereto, and to practise jus"tice towards men, and piety towards "God; exhorting them to be baptized, "and telling them, that baptism should at "that time be acceptable unto God, if "they should renounce not only their sins, "but if to purity of their bodies they "should add the cleanness of their souls, "repurified by justice. And whereas it
came to pass, that divers flocked and "followed him to hear his doctrine, Herod "feared, lest his subjects, allured by his "doctrine and persuasions, should be "drawn to revolt: for it seemed that they "would subscribe in all things to his ad"vice: he therefore thought it better to "prevent a mischief by putting him to "death, than to wait till some sudden "commotion, which he might afterwards repent. Upon this suspicion, Herod "caused him to be bound, &c."
(e) v. 19. "Ye," i. e. the Ephesian converts, who were Gentiles, and therefore considered by the Jews as strangers and foreigners."
(g) "Saints," i. e. "the Jews." Before our Saviour's time the Israelites were the only people who worshipped the true God, and were called "God's people, the "Holy of the Lord."
(h) v. 20. "Built." An instance of the