Matthew 23

* Jesus reproves the scribes and Pharisees. (1-12) Crimes of the

Pharisees. (13-33) The guilt of Jerusalem. (34-39)

1-12 The scribes and Pharisees explained the law of Moses, and

enforced obedience to it. They are charged with hypocrisy in

religion. We can only judge according to outward appearance; but

God searches the heart. They made phylacteries. These were

scrolls of paper or parchment, wherein were written four

paragraphs of the law, to be worn on their foreheads and left

arms, #Ex 13:2-10; 13:11-16; De 6:4-9; 11:13-21|. They made

these phylacteries broad, that they might be thought more

zealous for the law than others. God appointed the Jews to make

fringes upon their garments, #Nu 15:38|, to remind them of their

being a peculiar people; but the Pharisees made them larger than

common, as if they were thereby more religious than others.

Pride was the darling, reigning sin of the Pharisees, the sin

that most easily beset them, and which our Lord Jesus takes all

occasions to speak against. For him that is taught in the word

to give respect to him that teaches, is commendable; but for him

that teaches, to demand it, to be puffed up with it, is sinful.

How much is all this against the spirit of Christianity! The

consistent disciple of Christ is pained by being put into chief

places. But who that looks around on the visible church, would

think this was the spirit required? It is plain that some

measure of this antichristian spirit prevails in every religious

society, and in every one of our hearts.
13-33 The scribes and Pharisees were enemies to the gospel of

Christ, and therefore to the salvation of the souls of men. It

is bad to keep away from Christ ourselves, but worse also to

keep others from him. Yet it is no new thing for the show and

form of godliness to be made a cloak to the greatest enormities.

But dissembled piety will be reckoned double iniquity. They were

very busy to turn souls to be of their party. Not for the glory

of God and the good of souls, but that they might have the

credit and advantage of making converts. Gain being their

godliness, by a thousand devices they made religion give way to

their worldly interests. They were very strict and precise in

smaller matters of the law, but careless and loose in weightier

matters. It is not the scrupling a little sin that Christ here

reproves; if it be a sin, though but a gnat, it must be strained

out; but the doing that, and then swallowing a camel, or,

committing a greater sin. While they would seem to be godly,

they were neither sober nor righteous. We are really, what we

are inwardly. Outward motives may keep the outside clean, while

the inside is filthy; but if the heart and spirit be made new,

there will be newness of life; here we must begin with

ourselves. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was

like the ornaments of a grave, or dressing up a dead body, only

for show. The deceitfulness of sinners' hearts appears in that

they go down the streams of the sins of their own day, while

they fancy that they should have opposed the sins of former

days. We sometimes think, if we had lived when Christ was upon

earth, that we should not have despised and rejected him, as men

then did; yet Christ in his Spirit, in his word, in his

ministers, is still no better treated. And it is just with God

to give those up to their hearts' lusts, who obstinately persist

in gratifying them. Christ gives men their true characters.
34-39 Our Lord declares the miseries the inhabitants of

Jerusalem were about to bring upon themselves, but he does not

notice the sufferings he was to undergo. A hen gathering her

chickens under her wings, is an apt emblem of the Saviour's

tender love to those who trust in him, and his faithful care of

them. He calls sinners to take refuge under his tender

protection, keeps them safe, and nourishes them to eternal life.

The present dispersion and unbelief of the Jews, and their

future conversion to Christ, were here foretold. Jerusalem and

her children had a large share of guilt, and their punishment

has been signal. But ere long, deserved vengeance will fall on

every church which is Christian in name only. In the mean time

the Saviour stands ready to receive all who come to him. There

is nothing between sinners and eternal happiness, but their

proud and unbelieving unwillingness.
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