Saturday, June 3rd, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible Coke's Commentary
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 22". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tcc/ matthew-22.html. 1801-1803.
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 22". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
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The parable of the marriage of the king's son. The vocation of the Gentiles. The punishment of him that wanted the wedding-garment. Tribute ought to be paid to Caesar. Christ confuteth the Sadducees about the resurrection, answereth the lawyer which is the first and great commandment, and embarrasseth the Pharisees about the Messias.
Anno Domini 33.
Matthew 22:1-2. And Jesus answered, &c.— The rulers being afraid to apprehend Jesus, he was at liberty to proceed in the duties of his ministry. Accordingly he delivered another parable, wherein he described, on one hand, the bad success which the preaching of the Gospel was to have among the Jews, who for that reason were to be destroyed; and, on the other, the cheerful reception which it was to meet with among the Gentiles, who thereupon were to be admitted to the participation of the privileges of the Gospel-dispensation. The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king, who made a marriage-feast for his son; Γαμος signifies not only a marriage, but the feast at a marriage, or any great entertainment whatever: in which latter sense it seems evidently to be used here. "God's gracious design in giving the Gospel to men, and the success with which the preaching of it will be attended, may be illustrated by the behaviour of a certain king, who, in honour of his son, made a great feast, to which he invited many guests." This marriage-supper, or great feast, signifies the joys of heaven, (see Revelation 19:9.) which are fitly compared to an elegant entertainment, on account of their exquisiteness, fulness, and duration; and they are here said to be prepared in honour of the Son of God, because they are bestowed on men as the reward of his obedience to the death of the cross. Our Lord is frequently represented in Scripture under the character of a bridegroom. See ch. Matthew 9:15.Luke 5:34; Luke 5:34. Joh 3:29 the notes on Luke, Luke 14:16. &c. Macknight and Wolfius.
Matthew 22:3. And sent forth his servants— It was sometimes customary to send two messages, as in the case here supposed, which represented the condescension the greater, and suited the repeated invitations given to the Jews by Christ himself during his life, and by the Apostles after his death. The invitation which preceded the call at the hour of supper, may signify the vocation of the Jews, by which they became in a peculiarsense the visible church; and, in consequence whereof, they had the call given them at that hour; that is, when the fulness of time approached, they had the Gospel, the call to the great feast of heaven, preached to them, first by John the Baptist, and next by Jesus himself: But they would not come. Though pressed and invited to enter into the kingdom of heaven, they would not obey, but rejected the Gospel.
Matthew 22:4. Again he sent forth other servants— After Christ's resurrection and ascension, the Apostles were sent to inform the Jews, that the Gospel covenant was established, mansions in heaven were prepared, and nothing was wanting, but that they should cheerfully accept of the honour designed them. It was as agreeable to the simplicity of the antient ages to mention oxen and fatlings as the chief parts of a royal entertainment. Thus, in Homer and other ancient writers, we see princes of the first rank and dignity feasting each other with nothing but the flesh of oxen, sheep, and swine. Compare Isaiah 25:6.
Matthew 22:5-6. But they made light of it, &c.— The men, all undervaluing the favour offered them, mocked at the message, and went about their ordinary business; only some of them, more rude than the rest, insulted, beat, and slew the servants who had come to call them. The success of the call, and the treatmentwhich the king's servants met with, were designed to represent the ill success which the Gospel and its ministers might expect among the Jews, who being, in a national point of view, God's chosen people, were on that account to have the first offers of the Gospel made to them. Theywould generally reject it, preferring the world and its pursuits to the practice of piety, the favour of God, and the enjoyment of heaven. Nay, to obstinacy they would add insults and cruelty, persecuting unto death the ministers who exhorted them to believe.
Matthew 22:7. When the king heard thereof, he was wroth— The invitation to the marriage-supper of his son, sent by this king to his supposed friends, was the highest expression of his regard for them, and the greatest honour which could be shown them; therefore, when they refused it for such trifling reasons, and were so savagely ungrateful as to beat, wound, and kill the servants who came with it, it was a most outrageous affront; an injurydeserving of the severest punishment. Accordingly the king, in great wrath, sent forth his armies, to destroy those murderers, and burn their city. This branch of the parable plainly predicted the destruction of the Jews by the Roman armies, called God's armies, because they were appointed by him to execute vengeance upon that once favoured, but now rebellious people. The present clause must be supposed to come in by way ofprolepsis, or anticipation; for it is plain that there could not be time before the feast already prepared was served up, to attempt an execution of this kind. It is needless to object, "that the circumstances of this parable are improbable, as it was never heard of in the world that subjects refused the invitation of the sovereign tothe marriage of his son;" for, allowing this to be so, it only aggravates the crime of the Jews the more, with respect to whom it was literally true—the honour which God offered them in the Gospel, and which they rejected, being far greater than the honour which is conferred on a subject by the invitation of his prince. Moreover, the joys of heaven to which they were called, and which they refused, do infinitely transcend the pleasures of any royal banquet. And,—to carry our reflections from them to ourselves,—how much will this consideration condemn those, who, calling themselves by the name of Christ, refuse all the gracious offers and invitations of the King of glory to the heavenly feast; while, quick to the call of earthly honour, they are forward and zealous to accept distinguished invitations to temporary fears and pleasures!
Matthew 22:8-10. The wedding is ready, &c.— The 8th verse is well explained by Act 13:46-47 which was an accomplishment of this part of the parable. In the next verse, the calling of the Gentiles is represented by the king's servants going forth, and compelling all that they met to come in, (see Luke 14:23.) whether they were maimed or halt, worthy or unworthy, good or bad; for they were to make no distinction. The phrase, διεξοδους τουν οδων, signifies the ways most frequented, the places where several streets and roads met. This intimates that the Gentiles had as little reason to expect the call of the Gospel, as common passengers and travellers to expect an invitation to a royal banquet.
Matthew 22:11. He saw there a man, &c.— It may seem strange, that, in such a number of men gathered to this feast, there was only one found who had not on a wedding-garment,andthatheshould be punished with such severity for wanting what he could not be expected to have, while he was performing a journey perhaps, or sitting begging under the hedges, as appears from Luke 14:23. Nevertheless the heinousness of the offence, and the equity of the sentence which was passed upon him, will fully appear, if we call to mind a circumstance, which, because it was common atthat time, is not mentioned in the parable. The Easterns, among whom the fashion of clothes was not changeable as with us, reckoned it a principal part of their magnificence to have their wardrobes stored with rich habits. Thus Job, speaking of the wicked, (Job 27:16.) says, Though they heap up silver as the dust, and prepare raiment as the clay. Accordingly, in Scripture, when the uncertainty of earthly treasures is spoken of, they are represented as subject not only to rust, but to moths, Matthew 6:19. James 5:2. The matter is evident likewise from Horace, who tells us, that when Lucullus, the Roman general, who had enriched himself with the spoils of the East, was asked, if he could furnish a hundred habits for the theatre? He replied, he had five thousand in his house, of which they were welcome to take part, or all. See Epist. 6: lib. 1 Matthew 22:40. We may therefore naturally suppose, that this king, having invited his guests to his feast from the highways and hedges, would order his servants to make each of them a present of splendid apparel, as a farther mark of his respect, and that they might be all clothed in a manner becoming the magnificence of the solemnity. For it cannot otherwise be understood how, among such a number collected in such a manner, only one should have been found wanting a wedding-garment, especially as we are told that they gathered together all, as many as they found, both good and bad. Besides, that the great men in the East were accustomed to make ostentation of their grandeur, and to express their respect for their peculiar friends by gifts of this kind, is evident from the presents which Joseph bestowed on his brethren in Egypt, Gen 45:22 and from the agreement which Samson entered into with the guests at his marriage-feast, Judges 14:12-13. To conclude, in the 4th Odyssey, ver. 47-51. Homer tells us, that Telemachus and Pisistratus happening to arrive at Menelaus's house in Lacedaemon, while he was solemnizing the nuptials of his son and daughter, the maids of the house washed the strangers, anointed them, dressed them, and set them down by their master at table. Without all doubt, therefore, the man who was sentenced to be bound and cast out of doors, had been offered a wedding-garment, or sumptuous apparel, along with the rest, but would not receive it; and so haughtily came in, dirty and ragged as he was. The king, looking on this as a great insult, inflicted upon theperson who was guilty of it a punishment suitable to the demerit of his offence. What Dr. Calvin says concerning the wedding-garment in the parable deserves a place here. "It is useless to dispute about the wedding-garment, whether it be faith or a pious holy life; for neither can faith be separated from good works, nor can good works proceed except from faith. Christ's meaning is only that we are called in order that we may be renewed in out minds after his image; and therefore, that we may remain always in his house, the old man with his filthiness must be put off, and a new life designed, that our life may be such as is suitable to so honourable an invitation." Dr. Doddridge observes, that this circumstance of the parable is admirably adapted to the method of God's dealing with us. For he requires repentance indeed and holiness, in order to our partaking of the happiness of heaven; but at the same time he graciously offers to work it in us by his Holy Spirit, and therefore may justly punish our neglect of so great a favour.
Matthew 22:12. And he was speechless— And he was struck speechless. This is the true import of the original word εφιμωθη, which is more expressive than the phrase in our translation, he was speechless; as an English reader might be led by our translation to conceive that the man was dumb, and so could not speak; whereas he was made dumb only by self-condemnation and conviction, even as Christ made dumb— εφιμωσε,— put to silence the Sadducees, Mat 22:34 and as Peter would have us make speechless,—put to silence, the ignorance of foolish men. See Gerhard's Continuation of Chemnitz's Harmony, on the place. This latter part of the parable represents the last judgment; teaching us, that, though the Gentiles obeyed the call of the Gospel with more alacrity than the Jews, they would not all be saved by it: Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.
Matthew 22:14. For many are called, &c.— These words are proverbial, and must be referred first to the Jews, who, though they were called in great numbers by the preaching of the Gospel, few were chosen; for they did not believe. See on ch. Matthew 20:16. They must be referred also to the Gentiles, too many of whom, though they embraced the Gospel in speculation, rejected the wedding-garment when it was offered to them, and refused the gracious inspiration of God's good Spirit to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. The parable is concluded in this manner, to shew us, that the profession of the Christian religion will avail a man nothing, unless he lives in a manner worthy of that religion; that not they who say Lord, Lord! but they who do the will of that Lord, shall enter into the joys of his kingdom. See the Inferenc
Matthew 22:15. Entangle him— Ensnare him.
Matthew 22:16. With the Herodians— These, in the Syriac version, are termed the domestics, or courtiers of Herod. "Origen and St. Jerome have, in my opinion," says Beausobre, "rightly supposed that they were men (probably of the sect of the Sadducees) who sided with Herod Antipas, who, to ingratiate himself with the emperor, was very busy and earnest in raising the taxes." They seem to have been men who distinguished themselves by their zeal for the family of Herod; and, on that account, they would be naturally zealous for the authority of the Romans, by whose means Herod was made and continued king; and it is probable, as Dr. Prideaux conjectures, that they might incline to conform to themin some particulars, which the law would not allow of; and especially in the admission of images, though not in the religious, or rather idolatrous use of them. Herod's attempt to set up a golden eagle over the eastern gate of the temple is well-known: these complaisant courtiers would, no doubt, defend it; and the same temper might discover itself in many other instances. On all these accounts, they were most diametrically opposite to the Pharisees; so that the conjunction of their counsels against Christ is a very memorable proof of the keenness of that malice, which could thus cause them to forget so deep a quarrel with each other. Thus united, they resolved to send certain of their disciples to ensnare Jesus in his words; whom they directed to feign themselves just men, Luk 20:20 men who had a great veneration for the divine law, and a dread of doing any thing inconsistent therewith; and, under that mask, to request him, for the ease of their consciences, to give his opinion whether they might pay taxes to the Romans, consistently with their regard for their religion. It seems this question was much debated in our Lord's time, one Judas of Galilee having taught the unlawfulness of paying the taxes, and gathered a numerous faction, especially among the common people. The priests, therefore, imagined that it was not in our Lord's power to decide the point, without making himself obnoxious to some of the parties, who divided upon it. If he should say it was lawful to pay the taxes, they believed that the people, in whose hearing the question was proposed, (see Luke 20:26.) would be incensed against him, not only as a base pretender, who, on being attacked publicly, renounced the character of the Messiah, which he had assumed among his friends, but as a flatterer of princes also, and a betrayer of the liberties and privileges of his country. For the notion which the generality of the Jews formed of the Messiah was, that he would deliver them from foreign servitude: If therefore he, who called himself the Messiah, recommended the paying of taxes to the Romans, they could not but think this inconsistent with his pretensions, nay, an entire renunciation of them. But, if he should affirm that it was unlawful to pay, the Herodians resolved to inform the governor of it, who they hoped would punish him as a fomentor of sedition. Highly elated, therefore, with their project, they came and proposed their question, after having first passed an encomium on the truth of his mission, and upon his courage, integrity, and impartiality, with a design, no doubt, to make him believe that they were his friends, and that he ought boldly to declare what the will of God was in this matter. See Beausobre, Prideaux, Macknight, and Calmet.
Matthew 22:18-21. Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?— Our Saviour called them hypocrites, to signify, that though they made conscience, and a regard to the divine will, their pretence for asking the question, he saw through their design, and knew that they were come to ensnare him. The Jews were so tenacious of the customs of their country, and had so high an opinion of their own holiness, that they were extremely reluctant to make use of heathen money, as appears from the business of the money-changers mentioned in the Gospels. Probably it was for this reason that the Romans insisted on having the taxes paid in their own coin, because, by making it current, they taught the Jews that they were their masters. Hence the force of our Lord's argument appears: "Since this money bears Caesar's image, it is his; and, by making use of it, ye acknowledge his authority. If so, I leave it to yourselves to judge, whether tribute ought to be paid toward the support of that government which ye have acknowledged, which ye cannot shake off, and by which your tranquillity is preserved." That this was our Lord's meaning, appears from the illative particle therefore, by which his answer is connected with the Pharisees' opinion; They say unto him, Caesar's: Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar, &c. Having thus declared the lawfulness of paying taxes to the civil powers, he ordered them at the same time to be careful to pay to God what was his due, as their Maker and Preserver: Render therefore to Caesar—and unto God the things that are God's. "In discharging your duty to the civil magistrate, you should never depart from the duty which you owe to God; but should remember, that as you bear the image of the great God omnipotent, you are his subjects, and ought to pay him the tribute of yourselves; that is, ought to yield yourselves to him, soul and body, serving him with both to the utmost of your power." The Pharisees and their adherents, under pretence ofreligion,oftenjustifiedsedition;but the Herodians, in order to ingratiate themselves with the reigning powers, made them a compliment of their consciences, complying with whatever they enjoined, though directly contraryto the divine law. Our Lord, therefore, when he returned this answer, had both in his view; exhorting them in their regards to God and the magistrate to give each his due; because there is no inconsistency between their rights, when nothing but their rights are insisted on. Dr. Lightfoot tells us, that the Jews have a tradition among them, that, to admit of the title of any prince on their current coin, was an acknowledgment of subjection to him. It is certain that their not daring to refuse this coin, when offered them in payment, was in effect a confession that they were conquered by the Romans, and consequently that the emperor had a right to their tribute.
Matthew 22:22. They marvelled, and left him— The unexpected and most wise answer of our Lord, in which he clearly confuted them on their own principles, and shewed that the rights of God and the magistrate do not interfere in the least, because magistrates are God's deputies, and rule by his authority, quite disconcerted and silenced his crafty enemies. They were astonished at his having perceived their design, as well as at the wisdom by which he avoided the snare; and went off inwardly vexed and greatly ashamed. 'Εθαυμασαν, they marvelled, might be rendered, they were struck with admiration and surprise.
Matthew 22:23. The same day came to him the Sadducees— It is generally known that Sadoc, the master of this sect, and from whom the Sadducees took their name, thought that God was not to be served from mercenary principles; that is to say, as he crudely explained it, from the hope of reward, or fear of punishment. His followers interpreted this as an implicit denial of a future state, and so imbibed that pernicious notion of the utter destruction of the soul at death;—equally uncomfortable and absurd. The story which they mention here seems to have been a kind of common-place objection, as we meet with it in the old Jewish writers. Some are of opinion, that by the resurrection which the Sadducees denied, is to be understood the resurrection of the body; others contend, that it signifies simply the existence of men in a future state: properly speaking, however, the two notions coincide, for as the Sadducees denied the immateriality of the soul, a future state, according to their conceptions of it, could mean no thing else but the resurrection of the body; and their denying the resurrection of the body, was the same thing with their denying a future state. Farther, as they had no idea of spirit, they were obliged to make use of terms relative to the body, when they spoke of a future life. Hence came the familiar use of the word resurrection in their disputes, to denote a future state simply; and this sense is notmore unusual than the meaning which they affixed to the worddead, when they made it to signify persons annihilated, or who have no existence at all. See Luke 20:38. Our Lord's reasoning in behalf of a future state, placed in this view, is clear and conclusive. See Drusius, and Lightfoot on the place.
Matthew 22:24-28. Master, Moses said, &c.— The argument by which the Sadducees endeavoured to confute the notion of a future state, was taken from the Jewish law of marriage, which, to give their objection the better colour, they observed was God's law delivered by Moses. As they believed the soul to be nothing but a more refined kind of matter, they thought if there was any future state it must resemble the present; and that men being in that state material and mortal, the human race could not be continued, nor the individuals made happy, without marriage. Hence they affirmed it to be a necessary consequence of the doctrine of the resurrection or future state, that every man's wife should be restored to him. See the next note.
Matthew 22:29-30. Jesus answered and said, &c.— Jesus confuted their argument, by telling the Sadducees that they were ignorant of the power of God, who has created spirit as well as matter, and who can make man completely happy in the enjoyment of himself. He observed further, that the nature of the life obtained in the future state, makes marriage altogether superfluous; because in the world to come, men being immortal, like the angels, ισαγγελοι, there is no need of an increase of mankind. See on Luke 20:36.
Matthew 22:31-32. But, as touching, &c.— Our Lord, having demonstrated that the Sadducees were ignorant of the power of God, proceeded to shew that they were ignorant of theScriptures likewise; and particularly of the writings of Moses, whence they had drawn their objection: for out of the law itself he demonstrated the certainty of a resurrection, at least of just men, and thereby quite overturned the opinion of the Sadducees, who, believing the materiality of the soul, affirmed that men were annihilated at death, and that the writings of Moses supported their opinion. His argument was this: "As a man cannot properly be a father without children, or a king without subjects, so God cannot properly be called in this sense God or Lord, unless he has his people, and be Lord of the living. Since, therefore, in the law he calls himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, long after these patriarchs were dead, the relation denoted by the word God still subsisted between them; for which reason theywere not annihilated, as the Sadducees pretended, when they affirmed that they were dead, but were still in being, God's subjects and glorified saints." Others choose to explain the argument thus: to be the God of any person is to be his exceeding great reward. See Genesis 15:1. Wherefore, as the patriarchs died without having obtained the promises, Heb 11:39 they must exist in another state to enjoy them, that the veracity of God may remain sure. Besides, the Apostle tells us, that God is not ashamed to be called their God, because he has prepared for them a city: Heb 11:16 which implies, that he would have reckoned it infinitely beneath him, to own his relation as God to any one to whom he had not offered a state of permanent happiness. The argument taken either way is conclusive; for which cause we may suppose, that both the senses were intended, to render it full of demonstration: accordingly, the people were most agreeably surprized, when they heard such a clear and solid confutation of the sect which they abominated, and that too in an argument where they had always thought themselves impregnable. See the next verse, Macknight, and Doddridge. Bishop Sherlock observes, that it appears from hence that our Saviour thought the law of Moses afforded good proof of a future state; which is inconsistent with the supposition that there was no evidence for life and immortality till the publication of the Gospel. See his Discourses, vol. 1: serm. 6. Beausobre and Lenfant observe very well upon this subject, that, "as the calamities and misfortunes which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob underwent in this life could not well be reconciled with the extraordinary favours that are included in the expression,
I will be thy God: it thence follows, that, when God declared himself to be their God, he consequently bound himself to reward and make them happy after this life, if faithful to his grace." See Hebrews 11:16. This argument was then already very conclusive against the Sadducees, who denied the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection of the body: but it proves at the same time the resurrection, because the souls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not being Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, themselves, it thence follows, that God could not properly be stiled their God, unless they were to rise again from the dead. There are in the Jewish writings some arguments, much like this, used to prove the resurrection. See also Grotius, and Archbishop Tillotson.
Matthew 22:35. Then—a lawyer asked, &c.— A scribe, or public teacher. See Luke 11:44. Tempting or trying him, here, does not mean that he did this with an insidious design; and indeed St. Mark's account, Mar 12:28 forbids such an interpretation; but he proposed the question with a view to make a farther trial of our Lord's skill in the sacred volume. Some of the doctors declared, that the law of sacrifices was the great commandment, because sacrifices, say they, are both the expiations of sin, and thanksgivings for mercies. Others bestowed this honour on the law of circumcision, because it was the sign of the covenant established between God and the nation. A third part yielded to the law of the sabbath, because by that appointment both the knowledge and the practice of the institutions of Moses were preserved; and, to name no more, there were some who affirmed the law of meats and washings to be of the greatest importance, because thereby the people of God were effectually separated from the company and conversation of the heathens. But Jesus, with infinitely better reason,decidedinfavourof the beauties of piety and holiness; mentioning particularly that comprehensive summary of both found in Deu 6:4-5 which was one of the sentences written on their phylacteries, and Leviticus 19:18. See Lightfoot's Hor. Heb. on Mark 12:28.
Matthew 22:37. Thou shalt love—with all thy heart, &c.— These words heart, soul, &c. though used promiscuously, yet, when thus put together, seem intended to express, after a more distinct manner, the requisite circumstances of that obedience which is the proper evidence of our love towards God. The words with all thy heart imply, that our love and obedience should be sincere, consisting not in the external act only, but likewise in the inward affections of the mind. The words with all thy soul shew, that our obedience must be universal; for he does not love God in the Scripture sense, who obeys him in some instances only, and not in all. Lastly, the words with all thy mind teach, that our obedience to God ought to be willing and cheerful.
Matthew 22:38-39. This is the first and great commandment, &c.— From this head are to be deduced all the service, worship, and honour, which we owe and pay to our Creator and Redeemer. Of the love of God, our Saviour says, that it is the first and great commandment; and the love of our neighbour he stiles the second, like unto it. Now perhaps it may hence be inferred, that the love of God, which is the first and great commandment, is a law of superior obligation to that which is only the second, and may therefore, in some instances, controul and overrule it. Whence it should follow, that we might lawfully overlook the love of our neighbour, in obedience to the superior obligation that we are under to love God: but our Saviour's saying the love of God is the first commandment, is no manner of reason to think, that it ever is or ever can be inconsistent with the second. The love of God is properly styled the first commandment, in respect to God, who is the object of the love, and because it is indeed the fountain of all religion, and the ground even of that commandment which is styled the second. But this is so far from shewing that the love of God may ever clash with the love of our neighbour, that it proves the contrary; for if the love of our neighbour is deducible from the love of God, it must ever be consistent with it. No man who thinks himself bound to love and obey God, can think himself at liberty to hurt or oppress those whom God has taken under his protection. No man who believes it his interest as well as his duty to please God, but must likewise believe it is his interest and duty to be kind and tender to those who are the children of God, and in whose happiness he is not an unconcerned spectator. For this reason the love of God is called the first commandment, and for this reason it never can be inconsistent with the love of our neighbour, which is the second.
Matthew 22:40. On these two commandment, &c.— The meaning is, that the whole reason of religion (which, in the Jewish dispensation, was included in the law and the prophets) lies in these two general commandments; that in these all particular precepts and duties are comprized: that nothing can be of any obligation in religion, but as it relates either to the love we owe to God, or the love we owe to our neighbour. The relation between God and man being once known, the first conclusion is, that we ought to love the Lord our God with all, &c. that is, with all our power; and, till this general principle be established, the particular duties owing to God cannot fall under consideration. Thereis no room to inquire after the proper instances of expressing our love to God, till the general obligation of loving God be known and admitted. The same reason holds likewise as to the other general head of religion,—the love of our neighbour. But these general principles being once established, the particular duties flow from them of course. The love of God, and the love of our neighbour, if carefully attended to, will easily grow into a complete system of experimental and practical religion. The duties of religion are all relative, regarding either God or man; and there is no relative duty which love does not readily transform itself into, upon the mere view of the different circumstances of the person concerned. Love, with regard to a superior, becomes honour and respect. With respect to equals, it is friendship and benevolence; towards inferiors, it is courtesy and condescension: if it regards the happy and prosperous, it is joy and pleasure; if it looks towards the miserable, it is pity and compassion; it is a tenderness which will discover itself in all the acts of mercy and humanity. In negative duties, this principle is no less effectual than in positive. Love will not permit us to injure, oppress, or offend our brother; it will not give us leave to neglect our superiors, or despise our inferiors; it will restrain every inordinate passion, and will not suffer us to gratify our envy at the expence of our neighbour's credit or reputation. The same may be said of our love to God; for the duties which we owe to God are founded in the relation between God and us. Were there no such relation, the perfections of God might be matter of admiration, but could not be the ground of duty and obedience. I have observed that love naturally transforms itself into all relative duties which arise from the circumstances of the persons related. Thus, in the present case, if we love God, and consider him as the Lord and governor of the world, ourlove will soon become obedience; if we consider him as wise, good, and gracious, our love will become honour and admiration; if we add to these our own weakness and infirmity, love will teach us dependence, and prompt us in all our wants to fly for refuge to our great Protector; and thus in all other instances may the particular duties be drawn from this general principle. Prayer and praise, and other parts of divine worship which are the acts of these duties, are so clearlyconnected to them, that there is no need of shewing distinctly concerning them, how they flow from this general commandment.
Matthew 22:42-45. What think ye of Christ?— The Pharisees having, in the course of our Lord's ministry, proposed sundry difficult questions to him, with a view to try his prophetical gifts; he, in his turn, now that a body of them was gathered together, thought fit to make trial of their skill in the sacred writings. For this purpose, he publicly asked their opinion of a difficulty concerning the Messiah's pedigree, arising from Psalms 110:0. The doctors, it seems, did not in general look for any thing in their Messiah more excellent than the most exalted perfections of human nature; for, though they called him the Son of God, they had no notion that he was God, and so could offer no solution of the difficulty. Yet the latter question might have shewed them their error: for, if Messiah was to be only a secularprince, as they supposed, ruling the men of his own time, he never could have been called Lord by persons who died before he was born; far less would so mighty a king as David, who also was his progenitor, have called him Lord. Wherefore, since he rules over, not the common dead only of former ages, but even over the kings from whom he was himself descended, and his kingdom comprehends the men of all countries and times, past, present, and to come, the doctors, if they had thought accurately upon the subject, should have expected in their Messiah a king different from all other kings whatsoever. Besides, he is to sit at God's right hand; till his enemies are made the footstool of his feet; made thoroughlysubject unto him. Numbers of Christ's enemies are subjected to him in this life; and they who will not bow to him willingly, shall, like the rebellious subjects of other kingdoms, be reduced by punishment. Being constituted universal judge, all, whether friends or enemies, shall appear before his tribunal, where, by the highest exercise of kingly power, he shall doom each to his unchangeable state. See Macknight. We may observe, that our Lord always takes it for granted, in his arguments with the Jews, that the writers of the Old Testament were under such an extraordinaryguidance of the Holy Spirit, as to express themselves with the strictest propriety on all occasions; How then doth David in spirit, &c. Mat 22:43 comp. John 10:35. And I look upon this, says Dr. Doddridge, as no contemptible argument for the inspiration of the New Testament; for we can never think the apostles of Christ to have been less assisted by the Divine Spirit in their writings, when they were in other respects so much more powerfully endued with it.
Matthew 22:46. And no man was able to answer him a word— None of them could offer the least shadow of a solution of the difficulty which he had proposed. Neither durst any man from that day forth, &c. The repeated proofs which they had received of theprodigiousdepth of his understanding, impressed them with such an opinion of his wisdom, that they judged it impossible to entangle him in his talk; for which reason they left off attempting it, and from that day forth troubled him no more with their captious and insidious questions.
Inferences.—How rich are the provisions of the Gospel! Matthew 22:2.—A feast indeed, becoming the dignity and majesty of the King of heaven, and proportionable to the love which he bears to his own Son, in honour of whom it is made! How wonderful is the grace which calls us to the participation of those provisions! (Matthew 22:9-10.)—Us, who were originally sinners of the Gentiles, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise! Ephesians 2:12. Yet has he graciously sent his messengers to us and invited us to his house, and his table, with the additional hope of yet nobler entertainments in reserve. May none of us reject so condescending a call;—lest we turn his goodness into righteous indignation, and treasure up to ourselves wrath against the day of wrath!
It is not everyone who professes to accept the entertainment; not every one who talks of Gospel blessings, and seems to desire a share in them, who will be admitted to it. In order to our partaking of an inheritance among the saints in light, it is necessary that we be made meet for it, by the holiness both of our hearts and lives. This is the wedding-garment (Matthew 22:11.) wrought by the Spirit of God himself, and offered to us by the freedom of his grace. And it is so necessary, that without it we must be separated from the number of his guests and friends, and, even though we had eaten and drank in his presence, must be cast into outer darkness.
How highly does it behove us frequently to think of that aweful day, when the king will come in to see his guests; when God will take a most exact survey of every soul under a Christian profession; to think of that speechless confusion which will seize such as have not on the wedding-garment, and of that inexorable severity with which they will be consigned to weeping and gnashing of teeth! To have seen for a while the light of the Gospel, and the fair beamings of an eternal hope, will but add deeper and more sensible horror to those gloomy caverns. To have heard those glad tidings of great joy, and then to hear them as it were echoed back in accents of final despair, how will it wound the ear, and pierce the heart! May God prevent it, by fulfilling in us all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in us, and we in him; when the marriage supper of the Lamb shall be celebrated, and all the harmony, pomp, and beauty of heaven shall aid its solemnity, its magnificence, and its joy!
Our Lord was indeed the person whom the artful hypocrites before him described (Matthew 22:16.); and was in that respect an excellent pattern to all his followers, and especially to his ministers. He knew no man in the discharge of his office; but, without regarding the persons of any, neither seeking their favour, nor fearing their resentment, he taught the way of God in truth, and declared the whole of his counsel.
From our Lord's decision in the present case, we may learn with readiness to render to all their dues, Matthew 22:21. Our civil magistrates, by virtue of their office, justly claim our reverent regard; and tribute is most reasonably due to those who attend continually on the service of the public, and are, under God, the pillars of our common tranquillity. Let that tribute therefore be duly rendered with honour and with cheerfulness; for he, surely, is unworthy to share in the benefits of government, who will not contribute his part towards its necessary expence. But let it also be remembered, that the Rights of GOD are sacred and inviolable. He alone is the Lord of conscience; and, when that is invaded, it is easy to judge, whether man or GOD is to be obeyed, Acts 4:19.
With what satisfaction should we read our Lord's vindication of the resurrection, that important article of our faith and hope! How easily was the boasted argument of these Sadducees unravelled and exposed, and all their pride of valuing themselves so much on that imaginary penetration which laid men almost on a level with the brutes, covered with just confusion! Indeed, objections much more plausible than theirs against the resurrection, may be answered in that one saying of our Lord's, Ye know not the Scriptures, nor the power of God. Were the Scripture doctrine of the resurrection considered on the one hand, and the omnipotence of the Creator on the other, it could not seem incredible to any that God should raise the dead. Acts 26:8. How sublime an idea does our Lord give us of the happiness of those who shall be thought worthy to attain it! They shall be equal to the angels! Matthew 22:30. Adored be the riches of that grace which redeems us from this degenerate and miserable state, in which we had made ourselves so much like the beasts that perish, to raise us to so high a dignity, and marshal us with the armies of heaven. O may we be found faithful!
Christ, we see, argues a very important point of doctrine from premises in which, perhaps, we might not have been able to have discovered it, without such a hint. Let us learn to judge of Scripture arguments, not merely by the sound, but by the sense of the words. And as our Lord chose a passage from the Pentateuch, (see Mark 12:19.) rather than from the prophets, for the conviction of the Sadducees, be it our care to study the tempers, and even the prejudices, of those with whom we converse; that so we may, if possible, let in the light of divine truth on their hearts, on that side by which they seem most capable of receiving it.
Whatever might be the design of the scribe in putting his question to Christ, Mat 22:28 we have reason to rejoice in the important answer that he received. O that it might be inscribed on every heart as with the point of a diamond!
The great commandments are the entire love of God, and of our neighbour as ourselves. But alas! what reason have we to complain of our own deficiency on both these heads! Can we say that the blessed God has the whole of our hearts? Is the utmost vigour of our faculties exerted in his service? And do we make him the end of all our actions, of all our wishes, of all our pursuits?—Do we so equitably judge between ourselves and others as to seek our own particular interests no farther than they may be subservient to, or consistent with the good of the whole? And do we make all those allowances for others, which we expect, or desire they should make for us?—But if this be not, in the main, the prevailing temper of our minds, in vain are our burnt-offerings and our sacrifices; in vain are all the solemnities of public worship, or forms of secret devotion; and by all our most pathetic expressions of duty to God, and friendship to men, we do but add one degree of guilt to another.
The Gospel of Christ has given us a key to that question of his, (Matthew 22:41, &c.) with which the Pharisees were so perplexed. Well might David in spirit call him Lord, who, according to the flesh, was to descend from his loins; inasmuch as before David or Abraham was, He is.—Let us adore this mysterious union of the divine and human natures, in the person of our glorious Emmanuel; and be very careful that we do not oppose him, if we would not be found fighters against God.
It is remarkable, that our Lord's summary of piety (Mat 22:37-40 compare Mark 12:29; Mark 12:44.) begins with an emphatical and strong assertion of the unity of God. The reason is, it is necessary that men should be deeply impressed with just notions of the object of their worship—particularly, that he is the only true God, the maker of heaven and earth, and the possessor of all perfection, to whom there is not any being equal, or like, or second;—in order that they may apply themselves, with the utmost diligence, to obey his precepts, the first and chief of which is, that they give him their heart.
The divine Being is so transcendently amiable in himself, and, by the benefits he has conferred upon us, has such a title to our utmost affection, that, in respect to the object, there is no obligation which bears any proportion to that of loving him. The honour assigned to this precept proves, that piety is the noblest act of the human-mind, and that the chief ingredient in piety is love, founded on a clear extensive view of the divine perfections, a permanent sense of his benefits, and a deep conviction of his being the sovereign good, our portion, our happiness. But it is essential to love, that there be a delight in contemplating the beauty of the object beloved, whether that duty be matter of sensation or reflection; that we frequently, and with pleasure, reflect on the benefits which the object of our affection has conferred upon us; that we have a strong desire of pleasing him, and a sensible joy in the thought of being beloved in return. Hence the duties of devotion, prayer, and praise, are the most natural and genuine exercises of the love of God. Moreover, this virtue is not so much any single affection, as the continual bent of all the affections and powers of the soul. In which light, to love God, is as much as possible to direct the whole soul towards God, and to exercise all its faculties on him as its chief object. Accordingly, the love of God is described in Scripture by the several operations of the mind, the knowledge of God, Joh 17:3 and a following hard after God, Psa 63:8 namely, by intense contemplation;—a sense of his perfections, gratitude for his benefits, trust in his goodness, attachment to his service, resignation to his providence, the obeying of his commandments, admiration, hope, fear, joy, &c. Not because it consists in any one of these singly, but in all of them together. For to content ourselves with partial regards to the Supreme Being, is not to be affected towards him in the manner we ought to be, and which the perfections of his nature claim. Hence the words of the precept are, Thou shalt love—with all thine heart, &c. that is to say, with the joint force of all thy faculties; and therefore no idols whatsoever must partake of the love and worship which are due to God.
But the beauty and excellency of this state of the mind is best seen in its effects; for the worship and obedience flowing from such an universal bent of the soul towards God, is as much superior to the worship and obedience arising from partial considerations, as the light of the sun is to any picture of it which can be drawn. For example, if we look on God only as a stern lawgiver, who can and will punish our rebellion, it may indeed force an awe and dread of him, and as much obedience to his laws as we think will satisfy him; but can never produce that constancy in our duty, that delight in it and that earnestness to do it in its utmost extent, which are produced and maintained in the mind by the sacred fire of divine love, or by the bent of the whole soul turned towards God; a frame the most excellent which can be conceived, and the most to be desired, because it constitutes the highest perfection and happiness of the creature.
The precept enjoining the love of our neighbour, is similar to that which enjoins the love of God, because charity is the sister of piety, equally the offspring of God, founded on the same authority, and produced by the influence of the same Spirit. Piety and charity consist in the like motions and dispositions of soul; and are kept alive by the same kind of nourishment. They have the same happy tendency to make those in whom they reside like God, who is God by being good and doing good; like him also in his felicity, which arises not only from the possession, but from the communication of his goodness. They are like to each other in their sublime and important nature, and of like use in the conduct of life; the one being the principle from which the whole duty we owe to God must spring, the other, that from which the whole duty we owe to man must flow. These are the features by which piety and charity are strongly marked, by which their affinity to each other is clearly proved, and by which they are rendered sister graces, and inseparable companions.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The parable contained in the first part of this chapter, is in import much the same as the foregoing, shewing the rejection of the Jewish people for their obstinate infidelity, and the calling of the Gentiles consequent thereupon.
The Gospel dispensation is compared to a magnificent entertainment made by a king on the marriage of his son; which represents the rich provision made for poor sinners, and the gracious invitation sent to them by the great Bridegroom of his church, Christ Jesus, the Son of the eternal King. We have,
1. The rich provision made on this occasion. The oxen and fatlings are killed, with all that vast abundance which became the royal table; signifying those spiritual blessings which a poor and perishing sinner needs, such as the pardon of sin, acceptance with God, a sense of his love, the comforts and graces of the Holy Spirit, spiritual supports to carry him through the journey of time, and the glorious hope of the enjoyment of God in eternity. And these afford the richest feast for a sinful soul.
2. The repeated calls sent to those who had been invited, urging their attendance. Thus in particular the Lord sent out the seventy disciples to call the Jewish people; and, when they refused to hearken, he again, after his resurrection, sent forth his apostles and evangelists, to urge with greater vehemence their coming in, having now perfected his great plan of atonement by the one oblation of himself, and obtained for every faithful soul all spiritual blessings in heavenly things. He invited them therefore once more to join themselves to the Lord, and take him as their covenant-head and glorious bridegroom. And thus in general by his ministers to the end of time, does the Lord send forth his gracious invitations to miserable sinners, entreating them to come and secure their own happiness, be reconciled to God, and partake of the Gospel feast, where all things are ready which they can wish or need; where Jesus is ready to receive them, the Father to pardon and bless them, the Spirit to comfort and strengthen them. Well therefore may we with earnestness beseech men, as they value all that is dear to them to, Come unto the marriage.
3. The folly and wickedness of those who were invited appear in striking colours; at first in a careless and insolent refusal of the favour done them; and afterwards, when expostulated with, and again intreated to comply, by a contemptuous treatment of the message, and a more cruel treatment of the messengers: some slighted and despised the offer, preferring their worldly avocations, and pretending more necessary engagements; whilst others, provoked with the importunity of the servants, not only insulted and reviled them, but even in a rage imbrued their hands in their blood. Thus it happened to the first preachers of the Gospel: the Jewish people slighted their admonitions, and, instead of hearkening to the word of salvation, were the bitter persecutors and murderers of those who preached it. Nor were they singular herein. The same invitation has ever since, to this very day, met with very much of the like treatment. Many continue to make light of Christ: negligent about the concerns of their immortal souls, their pleasures, their gains, their worldly engagements, occupy all their hearts, and they have neither leisure nor inclination to mind the concerns of religion. They are engrossed with the cares of life, and anxious about so many other things, that they pretend they cannot pursue the one thing needful. Thus thousands turn their backs on Christ; their farm and their merchandise occupy them wholly, and the calls of the Gospel find no entrance into their deaf ears. Whilst others, exasperated at being disturbed in their sinful pursuits by the zealous ministers of God, hate and revile them, and would, but for human restraints, renew the former persecutions. They who preach the Gospel must expect to suffer for it.
4. The offended monarch, in righteous wrath, to vindicate his honour, and avenge his servants' wrongs, sent forth his armies, destroyed these murderers, and burnt up their cities. The Roman armies, at God's command, thus destroyed the Jewish nation and burnt up Jerusalem, as the punishment due to them for rejecting and murdering their Messiah and his ministers. And the like vengeance awaits all that obey not the Gospel, and persecute the preachers of it: wrath will shortly come upon them to the uttermost.
5. The calling of the Gentiles into the Gospel-church was a consequence of the rejection of the Jews. God's feast shall not be prepared in vain. When they therefore who were first bidden, were, by their refusal, judged unworthy a place in his kingdom, he sent forth his servants into the heathen world, with a general invitation, to preach the Gospel to every creature: which commission they readily executed, inviting all of every rank and station, and sinners of every degree, to come to Jesus Christ, with assurances of a ready reception from him. And thus the Christian church was filled with an innumerable multitude of converts or proselytes; some who really and truly turned to God, others but false-hearted and hypocritical professors. Note; (1.) Christ will have a church and people in the world, however many reject his Gospel. (2.) The invitation is general: we therefore must preach the Gospel to every creature. (3.) Under the dispensation of grace by Jesus Christ, and in respect to the offers of mercy and pardon, all distinctions between one sinner and another are in some sense abolished; as the least sinner must eternally perish without Christ, the greatest have a full and free redemption offered in him: but the final reward of the faithful will be according to their works.
6. The discovery, conviction, and condemnation of hypocrites in the church, are represented by the king's visit to his guests; where observing one without a wedding-garment, (which was provided for each of the guests on these occasions; and therefore the neglect was highly criminal, especially if he preferred his rags of natural depravity before the bright garments of Gospel-holiness which lay ready for him) he addressed him with a startling inquiry, how he dared intrude himself there without the wedding-garment: and, struck speechless at the question, his silence confessed his guilt. Shackled therefore as a malefactor, the king commands him to be dragged from the room illuminated for the bridal feast, and thrust into the darkness without, to bewail, with unavailing expressions of bitter anguish, his presumption, sin, and folly. Where we may observe, (1.) The particular notice which the Lord takes of those who profess to believe in him: he trieth the heart. Hypocrisy may deceive men, but not God. The day will come when the false-hearted shall be detected, either by sifting providences in this world, or at the appearing of the King upon his throne. May we now so judge ourselves, that we may not then be judged of the Lord! (2.) They must needs be speechless in the day of God, who in profession have joined in the outward ordinances, while their faith has never laid hold of Christ, nor their hearts been conformed to his image. (3.) Hypocrites in the church will receive the greater damnation in eternal torments, doomed to suffer agonies unutterable and inconceivable, and filled with the most excruciating rage, horror, and despair.
7. The parable concludes with the repetition of the observation which Christ had made before, that many are called, but few chosen: an alarming notice, to examine ourselves whether we be in the faith; how we came in to the Lord's table; what garments we are clothed with; and how we can bear the Master's piercing eye.
2nd, Ceaseless in their designs of malice, the Pharisees, associated with the Herodians, endeavoured to entangle him in his talk, and, by some captious subject of dispute, to draw from him expressions whereon to found an accusation against him. So little can the purest innocence, or the most faultless integrity, screen us from the malevolence of wicked men.
The Herodians are thought to be a sect of the Jews who were the partizans of Herod, and were zealous for the Roman government and the payment of the tribute; while the Pharisees and the rest of the nation abhorred the yoke, and hardly could brook this ignominious badge of servitude. They were therefore proper instruments on the present occasion. See the Critical Notes.
1. The question they put to our Lord was, whether it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not; and they concluded this would necessarily involve him in a dilemma. Should he deny the lawfulness of paying tribute, the Herodians would immediately accuse him to the government as a rebel and incendiary: should he affirm it, the Pharisees thought he would immediately exasperate the people, and give them the wished-for opportunity to destroy him. Note; It has been the invariable practice of Satan's emissaries to lay snares for God's servants, and, by catching an unguarded expression, by wilful mistake or designed misrepresentation, to blacken and abuse them. But there is one who heareth and judgeth.
2. To cover this insidious design, they use the deepest expressions of respect; as if, conscientiously disposed to follow the path of duty, and highly venerating Christ's wisdom and piety, they desired his directions for their conduct, persuaded that, being a teacher come from God, no frowns nor fear of man would sway his determinations. Note; (1.) The fairest professions often cloke the foulest designs. (2.) Their character of Christ should be the pattern for all his ministers. Faithful and true to God themselves, no fear nor flattery must tempt them to conceal any thing of the whole counsel of God from others; but, regardless of men's persons, with zeal and simplicity they must discharge their commission, and speak the truth as it is in Jesus.
3. Christ baffles their craft and disappoints their designs. He knew the secret wickedness which they meditated, and, by his question, which shewed his knowledge of their hearts, reproved their hypocrisy: Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute-money. Out of their own mouths he would silence them, and answer them with their own confessions: for, producing to him a penny, a silver Roman coin, he demanded whose image and superscription it bore: and, they replying Caesar's, he answered, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's. As the coining of money was the royal prerogative, the circulation of such coin implied subjection to the person whose image it bore: there could be no doubt therefore but that, if Caesar's money was regarded as the current coin of the land, there could be no unlawfulness in rendering him the tribute which bore his image, in return for the protection and administration of the civil government, which they received from him. And this interfered not with their religious duties: they must render also unto God the things that are God's. Thus neither could the civil government have cause to be offended, nor the Pharisees be able to accuse him without condemning themselves. Note; (1.) When we have to deal with crafty adversaries, we need be wise as serpents, while we are harmless as doves. (2.) The mark of hypocrites, however naturally painted, cannot impose upon him who trieth the heart. Their hope of concealment is delusion; and while they tempt him, they destroy themselves. (3.) Captious questions should have a cautious answer, that, if possible, they who came to ensnare us may be confounded themselves. (4.) It is reasonable that we should pay tribute to the government from which we receive protection. Christ's servants must on principle be loyal subjects. But, though Caesar has our tribute, God must have our hearts.
4. Though confounded with his reply, they could not but admire his wisdom; and, defeated in their purpose, they retired with shame as baffled foes, unable to find the least ground for accusation against him. May the Lord ever endue his ministers with the like wisdom, and enable them to disappoint the malice of those who lie in wait for an occasion against them!
3rdly, The Pharisees and Herodians being foiled, the Sadducees next resolved to take the field of controversy against him. They utterly denied a future state, the existence of angels or spirits, and the resurrection of the dead, and thought they could propose a question to our Lord which it would puzzle him to decide.
1. They stated a case, (whether real or imaginary was not material) founded on the Mosaical institutions concerning the widow of a man who died childless, whose brother, according to the law, Deu 25:5 was obliged to marry her, and raise up an heir to the inheritance of the deceased. The question they proposed therefore was, if a woman successively married seven brothers, and, having no children by any of them, at last died herself—whose wife shall she be at the resurrection, since all could claim the same title to her? They thought thus to lead our Lord to join them in denying a resurrection, or to reduce him to own his ignorance, or to make a decision which they could prove to be absurd, and unsupported by reason or Scripture.
2. Christ rectifies their mistake, reproves their ignorance, and shews their objection against a resurrection to be fallacious: they erred, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. The Scriptures declare that there shall be a resurrection, Job 19:26., Ezekiel 37., Daniel 12:2.; and though the collection of the scattered atoms of the human body appears never so difficult, it is not beyond the almighty power of God to effect. Besides, their ideas of a future state were false and carnal. There will be no occasion there for marriage, to perpetuate inheritances, or to keep up a succession of names, or to minister to our comforts, or alleviate our cares; but all will be in heaven as the angels of God, perfectly pure and spiritual, and happy as those glorious ministers who surround the throne of God. But our Lord rests not in confuting their mistakes: he supports the truth by unanswerable arguments, drawn even from the Pentateuch, the sacred authority of which books they themselves admitted. Now, concerning the resurrection of the dead, they must needs remember what God himself declared at that memorable occasion when he appeared to Moses in the burning bush, Exo 3:6 where he said, I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though these patriarchs were long before dead. He saith not I was, but I am, he standing towards them still in the same relation; and as his being their God implies some peculiarly great and glorious advantages thence accruing, but these holy men, during all their lives, were strangers and pilgrims in the earth, exercised with various troubles and afflictions, therefore it follows that there must be a future state, where their eternal reward awaits them. Besides, God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Had these patriarchs ceased to be when their bodies died, God could not with any propriety be said to continue in the same covenant relation to them as before. He being their God proves them still alive; and the existence therefore of their souls as immortal is evident: but he was not only the God of their souls, but of the men in their whole persons. As therefore their souls now live, their bodies will be quickened also; else would he be still the God of the dead: the resurrection of the body, as well as the immortality of the soul, therefore is here supposed, and the argument conclusive against the tenets of the Sadducees. Note; (1.) The cause of all our grand errors is our ignorance of the Scriptures. (2.) Many things to the eye of sense impossible, the eye of faith, which looks to the promises and power of God, sees not only possible, but sure and certain. (3.) They who have the Lord for their God, need not wish for more, but that he may be their increasing and eternal portion and exceeding great reward.
3. The Sadducees were silenced; but the multitude were astonished: they had never before heard the eternal happiness of the righteous, the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection from the dead, so nobly defended and proved.
4thly, The Pharisees again return to the charge; and, grieved probably that he should be able to silence those whom they could not, consulted together how to put a stop to his increasing reputation, which so eclipsed their own. They who greatly shine, must expect to be greatly envied. One of their lawyers then proposed a question, probably with a good intention. See the Critical Notes on this chapter, and Mark 12:28-34.
1. The question was, which is the great commandment in the law? some esteeming it to be circumcision, others the observation of the sabbath, others the wearing the phylacteries, washings, &c. And should he determine the question in favour of any one party of disputants, the rest would probably have been offended with the decision.
2. His answer carries evidence and conviction along with it: the first and great commandment is the perfect love of God, and the next the loving of our neighbour as ourselves: these two commandments comprize the whole moral law, with all the duties enforced by the prophets; and to be obedient to these, this divine principle of love can alone engage us. These commandments still continue in full force; and in the practical exercise of these consists all vital religion: for though we are not under the law, that we should expect life from our obedience: yet are we bound to set them before us as our rule of duty and law of life, and by the Gospel-faith, which worketh by love, shall be enabled in our measure to walk as Christ also walked, humbly following his bright example. Note; (1.) We must love the Lord our God, and labour through grace to love him with all our hearts. We must first believe that he is our God, our reconciled God in Jesus Christ, and then love will be the immediate effect: this will produce a hearty obedience to his commands, and unreserved submission to his providence. The love of God will make us count none of his commandments grievous, and reckon every dispensation righteous, just, and good. (2.) The love of our neighbours follows. They must be dear to us as we are to ourselves: their persons, property, characters, be regarded as our own; and we should be ready in every good word and work to do them service, with them every blessing, and desire to act towards them, in every situation, as we could reasonably expect they should behave to us, if they were in our circumstances. The more we appear under the influence of these divine precepts, the more we shall shew of the spirit and power of true Christianity.
5thly, Having thus silenced all his opponents, our Lord is now pleased to put a question in his turn to those who had so often tempted him. And he did it when they were gathered together to consult how to ensnare him, that his triumph over them might be more distinguished.
1. The question seemed so plain that a child might answer it. What think ye of Christ? whose Son is he? And they have their reply ready, little imagining in what difficulties it would involve them. They say unto him, The Son of David. So far they were right, the Scripture had thus determined, Psalms 89:35-36., Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:1. It is a question that we should be seriously concerned to answer, What we think of his person, offices, undertaking; and whether he is a Christ to us, a Saviour to the uttermost?
2. From their answer our Lord proposes to them another question of more difficult solution. How is the Messiah's being David's Son reconcileable with his being David's Lord? for such the Psalmist acknowledges him, when, speaking under divine inspiration, Psa 110:1 he saith, The Lord, God the Father, said unto my Lord, the divine Messiah, Sit thou at my right hand, exalted to the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, till I make thine enemies thy footstool; for so long will he reign in his mediatorial kingdom, till every foe is destroyed, and the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ, and death itself be banished from his church for ever. If David then call him Lord, acknowledging him his superior, and a divine Person, how is he is son, and to descend from him as man?
3. This question quite puzzled them. They seem to have been ignorant of the divine character of the Messiah; they regarded him as a mere man, and understood not the union of God and man in one Christ; or, if they knew it, they were not willing to acknowledge his Deity, and chose to be silent, rather than reply. Perceiving now how unequal a match they all together were for his superior wisdom, they durst not encounter him with any more ensnaring questions, and avoided any farther disputes which they found must issue in their shame. Note; Many are silenced, without being convinced; and have their arguments confuted, while their hearts still remain unconverted.