Matthew 23* Jesus reproves the scribes and Pharisees. (1-12) Crimes of thePharisees. (13-33) The guilt of Jerusalem. (34-39)1-12 The scribes and Pharisees explained the law of Moses, andenforced obedience to it. They are charged with hypocrisy inreligion. We can only judge according to outward appearance; butGod searches the heart. They made phylacteries. These werescrolls of paper or parchment, wherein were written fourparagraphs of the law, to be worn on their foreheads and leftarms, #Ex 13:2-10; 13:11-16; De 6:4-9; 11:13-21|. They madethese phylacteries broad, that they might be thought morezealous for the law than others. God appointed the Jews to makefringes upon their garments, #Nu 15:38|, to remind them of theirbeing a peculiar people; but the Pharisees made them larger thancommon, as if they were thereby more religious than others.Pride was the darling, reigning sin of the Pharisees, the sinthat most easily beset them, and which our Lord Jesus takes alloccasions to speak against. For him that is taught in the wordto give respect to him that teaches, is commendable; but for himthat teaches, to demand it, to be puffed up with it, is sinful.How much is all this against the spirit of Christianity! Theconsistent disciple of Christ is pained by being put into chiefplaces. But who that looks around on the visible church, wouldthink this was the spirit required? It is plain that somemeasure of this antichristian spirit prevails in every religioussociety, and in every one of our hearts. 13-33 The scribes and Pharisees were enemies to the gospel ofChrist, and therefore to the salvation of the souls of men. Itis bad to keep away from Christ ourselves, but worse also tokeep others from him. Yet it is no new thing for the show andform of godliness to be made a cloak to the greatest enormities.But dissembled piety will be reckoned double iniquity. They werevery busy to turn souls to be of their party. Not for the gloryof God and the good of souls, but that they might have thecredit and advantage of making converts. Gain being theirgodliness, by a thousand devices they made religion give way totheir worldly interests. They were very strict and precise insmaller matters of the law, but careless and loose in weightiermatters. It is not the scrupling a little sin that Christ herereproves; if it be a sin, though but a gnat, it must be strainedout; 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 weare inwardly. Outward motives may keep the outside clean, whilethe inside is filthy; but if the heart and spirit be made new,there will be newness of life; here we must begin withourselves. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees waslike the ornaments of a grave, or dressing up a dead body, onlyfor show. The deceitfulness of sinners' hearts appears in thatthey go down the streams of the sins of their own day, whilethey fancy that they should have opposed the sins of formerdays. We sometimes think, if we had lived when Christ was uponearth, that we should not have despised and rejected him, as menthen did; yet Christ in his Spirit, in his word, in hisministers, is still no better treated. And it is just with Godto give those up to their hearts' lusts, who obstinately persistin gratifying them. Christ gives men their true characters. 34-39 Our Lord declares the miseries the inhabitants ofJerusalem were about to bring upon themselves, but he does notnotice the sufferings he was to undergo. A hen gathering herchickens under her wings, is an apt emblem of the Saviour'stender love to those who trust in him, and his faithful care ofthem. He calls sinners to take refuge under his tenderprotection, keeps them safe, and nourishes them to eternal life.The present dispersion and unbelief of the Jews, and theirfuture conversion to Christ, were here foretold. Jerusalem andher children had a large share of guilt, and their punishmenthas been signal. But ere long, deserved vengeance will fall onevery church which is Christian in name only. In the mean timethe Saviour stands ready to receive all who come to him. Thereis nothing between sinners and eternal happiness, but theirproud and unbelieving unwillingness.
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