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have joined with the multitude in crying, Crucify him: though, it is to be feared, many, who thus flatter themselves, have little less enmity against his person and doctrine, than his actual murderers. On this account, I shall give a detail of the true reasons why Christ was opposed in the flesh, and of the measures employed against him, in order to show that the same grounds of opposition are deeply rooted in the fallen human nature; and how probable it is, that if he was to appear again in the same obscure manner, in any country now called by his name, he would meet with little better treatment, unless when the constitution and laws of a civil government might interpose to prevent it.
But it may be proper, in the first place, briefly to delineate the characters of the sects or parties mentioned by the evangelists, whose leaders, jointly and separately, both from common and distinct motives, opposed our Saviour's ministry, and cavilled at his doctrine. These were the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians.
The Pharisees, including the Scribes (who were chiefly of this sect,) were professedly the guardians of the law, and public teachers of the people. They were held in high veneration, by the common people, for the austerity of their deportment, the frequency of their devotions, and their exactness in the less essential parts of the law. They observed the traditions of the elders, were still adding to them; and the consequence was (as it will always be in such a case,) that they were so pleased with their own inventions, as to prefer them to the positive commands of God; and their studious punctuality in trifles withdrew their regard from the most important
See Matt. xxix.; Mark, vii. 13.; Luke, xvii. 9-14.
duties. Their specious show of piety was a fair outside, under which the grossest abominations were concealed and indulged. They were full of pride, and a high conceit of their own goodness. They fasted and prayed, to be seen and esteemed of men. They expected reverence and homage from all, and challenged the highest titles of respect, to be saluted as doctors and masters, and to be honoured with the principal seats in all assemblies. Many of them made their solemn exterior a cloak for extortion and oppression; and the rest, if not hypocrites in the very worst sense, yet deceived both themselves and others by a form of godliness, when they were, in effect, enslaved by their passions, and lived according to the corrupt rule of their own imaginations.
The Sadducees, their antagonists and rivals, , were equally, though differently, remote from the true knowledge and worship of God. They not only rejected the tradition of the elders, but a great part of the Scriptures likewise, and admitted only the five books of Moses as of divine authority. From this circumstance, together with the difficulty' they proposed to our Lord, and the answer he gave them; it appears that they were persons who, professing, in general terms, to acknowledge a revelation from God, yet made their own prejudices and mistakes, under the dignified name of reason, the standard to determine what books should be received as authentic, and in what sense they should be understood. The doctrine of a resurrection did not accord with their notions; therefore they rejected it, together with those parts of Scrip
a Matt. xxii. 23.; Acts, xxiii, 8.
e That the Sadducees received only the law of Moses, is the general opinion; though I do not say that it has been ture which asserted it most expressly. Their question concerning the seven brethren, seems to have been a trite objection, which they had often made, and which had never been answered to satisfaction, till our Lord resolved it. But the whole difficulty was founded upon false principles, and when these were removed, all fell to the ground at once. From this, however, we may learn their characteristic. They were the cautious reasoners of those times, who valued themselves on examining every thing closely, refusing to be influenced by the plausible sounds of antiquity and authority.
The Herodians f were those who endeavoured to ingratiate themselves with Herod. It is most probable that they received their name and distinction, not so much from any peculiar sentiments, as from attempting to accommodate their religion to the circumstances of the times. The Pharisees, boasting of their privileges as the children of Abraham, could hardly brook a foreign yoke; but the Herodians, from motives of interest, were advocates for Herod and the Roman power. Thus they were opposite to the Pharisees in political matters, as the Sadducces were in points of doctrine. And therefore the question concerning tribute, was proposed to our Lord jointly by the Pharisees and Herodians : the former designing to render him obnoxious to the people, if he allowed of tribute; the latter to accuse him to the government, if he refused it.
either indubitably proved, or universally held. That they put their own sense upon the Scriptures (whether in whole or in part) which they did profess to receive, is manifest, from their asserting, that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit; a tenet which contradicts not one or a few texts, but the whole strain and tenour both of the law and the prophets.
* Matt. xxii. 16.; Mark, iii. 6.
From what has been said, it is evident the leading principles of these sects were not peculiar to themselves. They may rather be considered universally, as specimens of the different appearances a religious profession assumes, where the heart is not divinely enlightened and converted to the love of the truth. In all such persons, however high the pretence of religion may be carried, it cannot proceed from a nobler principle, or aim at a nobler object than self. These dispositions have appeared in every age and form of the Christian church, and are always active to oppose the self-denying doctrines of the Gospel upon different pretences. The man who, fond of his fancied attainments and scrupulous exactness in externals, despises all who will not conform to his rules, and challenges peculiar respect on account of his superior goodness, is a proud Pharisee. His zeal is dark, envious, aud bitter; his obedience partial and self-willed ; and, while he boasts of the knowledge of God, his heart rises with enmity at the grace of the Gospel, which he boldly charges with opening a door to licentivusness. The modern Sadducee (like those of old) admits of a revelation, but then, full of his own wisdom and importance, he arraigns even the l'evelation he seems to allow at the bar of his narrow judgment; and as the sublime doctrines of truth pass under his review, he affixes, without hesitation, the epithets of absurd, inconsistent, and blasphemous, to whatever ihwarts his pride, prejudice, and ignorance. And those parts of Scripture which cannot be warped to speak his sense, he discards from his canon as interpolated and supposititious. The Herodian is the man, however denominated or dignified, who is governed by interest, as the others by pride, and vainly endeavours to reconcile the incompatible services of God and the world, Christ and Belial. He avoids the excesses of religious parties, speaks in terms of moderation, and is not unwilling to be accounted the patron and friend of sobriety and religion. He stands fair with all who would be religious upon cheap terms, and fair in his own esteem, having numbers and authority on his side. Thus he almost persiades himself he has carried his point, and that it is not so impossible to serve two masters, as our Lord's words seem to import. But the preaching of the pure Gospel, which enforces the one thing needful, and will admit of no compliances with worldly interests, interferes with his plans, and incurs his resentment likewise; though, perhaps, he will show his displeasure, by more refined and specious methods than the clamorous rage of hot bigotry has patience to wait for.
We now proceed. The first great cause why Jesus was rejected by those to whom he appealed, may be deduced from the tenour of his doctrine, a summary of which has been given in the former chapter. It offended the pride of the Pharisees, was repugnant to the wise infidelity of the Sadducees, and condemned the pliant temper of the Herodians. The doctrines of free grace, faith, and spiritual obedience, were diametrically opposite to their inclinations. They must have parted with all they admired and loved if they had complied with him ; but this is a sacrifice too great for any to make who had not deeply felt and known their need of a Saviour. These, on the contrary, were the whole, who saw no want of a physician, and therefore treated his offers with contempt.