Luke 21At the door of the temple, through which all the people passed in and out, who came up three times a year at the solemn feasts, to worship Almighty God in his own house, there was a chest set, (like the poor man's box in some of our churches,) into which all persons cast their free-will offerings and oblations, which were employed either for the use of the poor, or for the service of the temple; and what was thus given, our Saviour calls an offering to God, verse 4. These of their abundance have cast in unto the offerings of God.
Thence learn, that what we rightly give to the relief of the poor, or for the service and towards the support of God's public worship, is consecrated to God, and as such is accepted of him, and ought to be esteemed by us.
Observe, 2. With what pleasure and satisfaction our Saviour sets himself to view those offerings, He beheld the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.
Thence note, that our Saviour sets himself to view those offerings, He beheld the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.
Thence note, that our Saviour sees with pleasure, and beholds with delight, whatever we have hearts to give unto him; whether for the relief of his members, or for the support of his service. Oh blessed Saviour, while now thou sits at thy Father's right hand in glory, thou sees every hand that is stretched forth to the relief of thy poor members here on earth.
Verse 2, But a certain poor widow cast in two mites. Several circumstances relating both to the person and the action are here observable: as 1. The person that offered was a widow: the married woman is under the careful provision of her husband; if she spends, he earns; but the widow has no hands but her own to work for her.
Observe, 2. She was a poor widow; poverty added to the sorrow of her widowhood, she had no rich jointure to live upon; it is some alleviation of the sorrow that attends widowhood, when the hand is left full, though the bed be left empty: this widow was needy and desolate, but yet gives; some in her circumstances would have looked upon themselves as having a right to receive what was given by others, rather than give anything themselves.
Observe, 3. Her bounty and munificence in giving; her two mites are proclaimed by Christ to be more than all the rich men's talents: more in respect to the mind and affection of the giver: more with respect to the proportion of the gift; a mite to her being more than pounds to others. Pounds were little to them; two mites were all to her, she leaves herself nothing; so that the poor woman gave not only more than any of them all, but more than they all. Christ's eye looked at once into the bottom of her purse, and into the bottom of her heart, and judged of the offering, rather by the mind of the giver than by the value of the gift.
From this instance we learn,
1. That the poorer, yea the poorest sort of people, are not exempted from good works; but even they must and ought to exercise charity according to their ability. This poor widow, that had not a pound, no, not a penny, presents God with a farthing.
2. That in all works of pious charity which we perform, God looks at the heart, the will, and the affection of the giver, more than at the largeness and liberality of the gift. It is not said, the Lord loves a liberal giver, but a cheerful giver; He accepteth the gift according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath not.
Oh, our God! The poorest of us thy servants have our two mites also, a soul and a body; persuade and enable us to offer them both unto thee: though they are thine already, yet thou wilt graciously accept them: and oh how happy shall we be in thy acceptation!
Our blessed Saviour being now ready to depart from the temple, nevermore after this entering into it, and his disciples showing him, with wonder and admiration, the magnificent structures and buildings thereof, apprehending that in regard of its invincible strength it could not be destroyed; not considering, that sin will undermine and blow up the most magnificent and famous structures; for sin brings cities and kingdoms, as well as particular persons, to their end. Not one stone, says Christ, shall be left upon another; which threatening was exactly fulfilled after Christ's death, when Titus the Roman emperor destroyed the city, burnt the temple and Turnus Rufus, the general of his army, ploughed up the very foundation on which the temple stood; thus was the threatening of God fulfilled, Zion shall be ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become an heap. Jer 26:18
1. That sin has laid the foundation of ruin in the most flourishing cities and kingdoms; Jerusalem, the glory of the world, is here by sin threatened to be made a desolation.
2. That the threatenings of God are to be feared, and shall be fulfilled, whatever appearing improbabilities there may be to the contrary. 'Tis neither the temple's strength nor beauty that can oppose or withstand God's power.
A double question is here propounded to our Savior: namely, when the destruction of Jerusalem should be, and what would be the signs of it?
From whence learn, what an itching curiosity there is in the best of men, to know futurities, and to understand things that shall come to pass hereafter; and when that hereafter will come to pass. O how happy were it if we were as forward to obey the declaration of God's revealed will, as we are to pry into the hidden counsels of his secret will: Tell us, say the disciples, when shall these things be?
Observe here, Christ does not gratify his disciples' curiosity, but acquaints them with their present duty; namely, to watch against deceivers and seducers, who should have the impudence to affirm themselves to be Christs, saying, I am Christ: some Christs personal, or the Messiah; others Christs doctrinal, affirming their erroneous opinions to be Christ's mind and doctrine: Take heed that ye be not deceived, for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ.
Observe farther, the signs which our Saviour gives of Jerusalem's approaching destruction, namely, the many broils and commotions, the civil disorders and dissensions, that should be found among the Jews immediately before: Ye shall hear of wars and commotions, and see fearful sights, and great signs from heaven. Josephus declares, that there appeared in the air chariots and horsemen skirmishing, and that a blazing star in fashion of a sword hung over the city for a year together.
Hence learn, that war, pestilence, and famine, are judgments and calamities inflicted by God upon a sinful people for their contempt of Christ and gospel grace. Ye shall hear of war, famine, and pestilence.
Our Saviour here goes on in giving farther signs of Jerusalem's destruction.
He declares, 1. The sharp persecution that should fall upon the apostles themselves, They shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you.
Learn hence, that the keenest and sharpest edge of persecution, is usually turned upon the ambassadors of Christ, and falls heaviest on the ministers of God.
He acquaints them, 2. That for preaching his holy doctrine, they should be brought before kings and rulers; but advises them not to be anxiously thoughtful, or exceedingly solicitous what they should say, for it should be suggested to them by the Holy Ghost, what they should say in that hour.
Learn thence, that though the truth of Christ may be opposed, yet the defenders of it shall never be ashamed; for rather than they shall want a tongue to plead for it, God himself will prompt them by his Holy Spirit, and suggest such arguments to them, as all their enemies shall not be able to gainsay. I will give you a mouth and wisdom.
Observe, 3. How he describes the bitter enmity of the world against the preachers of the gospel, to be such as would overcome and extinguish even the natural affection of nearest relations. Ye shall be betrayed both by parents and brethren. Grace teaches us to lay down our lives for the brethren; but corruption in general, and enmity to the gospel in particular, will put brother upon taking away the life of brother, and cause parents to hate and persecute their own bowels.
Observe lastly. Our Saviour's admonition, In your patience possess ye your souls. There are three degrees of Christian patience: the first consists in a silent submission to God's will; the second, in a thankful acceptation of God's fatherly rod; the third, in serious cheerfulness under sorrowful dispensation, rejoicing in tribulation, and counting it all joy when we fall into divers temptations: by this patience we possess our souls; as faith gives us the possession of Christ, so patience gives us the possession of ourselves: an impatient man is not in his own hand; for what title soever we have to our own souls, we have no possession of them without patience. In your patience possess ye your souls.
The sense is this: "As soon as ye shall see the Roman army appear before the city of Jerusalem, (called by St. Matthew and St. Mark, The abomination of desolation, that is, the army which is such an abomination to you, and the occasion of such desolation wherever it goes,) then let every one that values his own safety fly as far and as fast as he can, as Lot fled from the flames of Sodom: and be glad, if by flight he can save his life, though he lose all besides."
Learn thence, that when Almighty God ia pouring forth his fury upon a sinful people, it is both a lawful and necessary duty, by flight to endeavor to shelter ourselves from the approaching calamity and desolation: When ye see Jerusalem compassed with armies, flee to the mountains.
Observe farther, the dreadful relation that our Saviour here gives of those desolating calamities which were coming upon Jerusalem, partly from the Romans army without, and partly from the seditions and factions of the zealots within, who committed such outrages and slaughters, that there were no less than eleven hundred thousand Jews slain, and ninety-seven thousand taken prisoners. They that bought our Saviour for thirty pence, were now themselves sold thirty for a penny. Now did the temple itself become a sacrifice, a whole burnt-offering, and was consumed to ashes.
Observe lastly, what encouragement Christ gives to all his faithful disciples and followers: he bids them look up, and lift up their heads, when these calamities came upon others; look up with confidence and joy, for your redemption, salvation, and deliverance, then approaches. God had a remnant, which he designed should survive that destruction, to be a holy seed; these are called upon to look up with cheerfulness and joy, when the hearts of others were failing them for fear. And thus shall it be at the general day of judgment, (of which Jerusalem's visitation was a type.)
Lord, how will the glory and terror of that day dazzle the eyes, and terrify the hearts, of all the enemies of Christ; but delight the eyes and rejoice the hearts of all that love and fear him, that serve and obey him: then may the friends of Christ look up, and lift up their heads, for their full redemption draweth nigh.
In these words our Saviour declares the certainty of his coming to visit Jerusalem for all her barbarous and bloody cruelty towards himself, his prophets, and apostles; he is pleased to set forth this by the similitude of the fig-tree, whose beginning to bud declares the summer at hand; thus our Saviour tells them, that when they should see the fore-mentioned signs, they might conclude the destruction of their city and temple to be near at hand; and accordingly some of that generation, then living, did see these predictions fulfilled.
Learn, that God is no less punctual in the execution of his threatenings upon incorrigible sinners, than he is faithful in the performance of his promises towards his own people: the truth and veracity of God is as much concerned to execute his threatenings, as it is to fulfill his promises.
Here our Lord cautions his disciples against such a distemper and indisposition of mind, as may render them unfit and unready for his coming and appearance; and to take heed of two dangerous sins, namely, voluptousness and earthly-mindedness, which above any other sins will indispose us for the duty of watchfulness. There is a three-fold reason why our Saviour forewarns us of these sins, with reference to the day of judgment;
1. Because there are certain prognostics of the day of judgment approaching; As it was in the days of Noah, so shall the coming of the Son of man be.
2. Because there are certain prognostics of the day of judgment approaching, they do not only foretell, but hasten the coming of Christ, to see the world drowned in voluptousness and earthly-mindedness, in security and sensuality, is not only a sign to foretell, but a sin that hastens judgment, and pulls down vengeance upon a wicked world.
3. Christ bids us beware of these sins with reference to the day of judgment, because these sins are derisoria judicia, they beget in men a profane spirit of scoffing and deriding at the notices of Christ's appearing to judgment. In the last days there shall come scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? 2Pe 3:3,4
Our Saviour having thus warned them of these sins, he next exhorts them to watchfulness; Watch ye, therefore, for as a snare that day will come upon you; that is, very suddenly, and very unexpectedly: a snare has a threefold property, to catch suddenly, to hold sure, to destroy certainly. Our Lord's coming to Jerusalem was very unexpected, and his coming to us by death and judgment will steal upon us if we are not watchful.
Watch ye then, for our Lord will come; at what hour he will come cannot certainly be known; there is no time in which we can promise or assure ourselves, that our Lord will not come; the time of our whole life is little enough to prepare for his coming. Our preparation for, will be no acceleration or hastening of, our Lord's coming. And oh, how dreadful will his coming be, if we be found off our watch, and altogether unready for his appearance: appear we must in judgment, but shall not be able to stand in the judgment; see Christ we shall as a judge, but not behold him as a redeemer.
Our Lord had exhorted his disciples in the foregoing verses to diligence and prayer; here he sets an example of both before them. Busying himself in God's service all the day, and at night spending much time in prayer; in the day-time he was in the temple preaching, in the evening he was on the Mount of Olives praying.
Lord, what an example of indefatigable zeal and diligence hast thou set before thy ministers and members! Oh that when our Master comes, we may be found working, our people watching, and both they and we waiting for the joyful coming of our Lord and Saviour! Amen.
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