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Besides, their dislike to his doctrine was increased by his manner of enforcing it. He spoke with authority, and sharply rebuked the hypocrisy, ignorance, ambition, and avarice of those persons who were accounted the wise and the good, who sat in Moses's chair, and had hitherto been heard and obeyed with reverence. But Jesus exposed their true characters; he spoke of them as blind guides; he & compared them to “painted sepulchres," and cautioned the people against them as dangerous deceivers. It is no wonder, therefore, that on this account they hated him with a perfect hatred.

Again : They were exceedingly. pffended with the high character he assumed as the Son of God, and the Messiah. On this account, they condemned him to die for blasphemy. They expected a Messiah indeed, who, they professed, was spoken of in the Scripture; but they understood not what the Scriptures had revealed, either concerning his divine nature, or his voluntary humiliation; that he was to be the son and lord of David, yet “a man of sorrows, and acquainted “ with grief.” They denied his divinity; and themselves unwittingly fulfilled the prophecies that spoke of his sufferings: affording by their conduct a memorable proof how fatally persons may mistake the sense of the word of God, while they profess highly to esteem it.

What farther increased their contempt of his

& Matt. xxiii, 27. Nothing is more loathsome to our senses than a corpse in a state of putrefaction, or a more striking contrast to the outside of a sumptuous ornamented monument. Perhaps the visible creation does not afford any other image that would so strongly express the true character of hypocrisy, and how hateful it appears in the sight of God, who is of purer eyes than to bebold iniquity, and before whom all things are naked and open.

claims, and contributed to harden their hearts more implacably against him, was the obscurity and poverty of his state. While they were governed by worldly wisdom, and sought not the teaching of God's Spirit, they could not but suppose an utter repugnance between the meanness of his condition, and the honours he vindicated to himself. They expected a Messiah to come in pomp and power, to deliver them from the Roman yoke. For a person truly divine, who made himself equal with God, to be encompassed with poverty and distress, seemed such profane contradiction as might justify every mark of indignity they could offer him. And this difficulty must equally affect every unenlightened mind. If man had been left to devise in what manner the Lord of the universe would probably descend to dwell awhile with poor mortals, in a visible form, they would undoubtedly have imagined such a scene (if their thougits could have reached it) as is described by the prophets on other occasions; the heavens bowing, the earth shaking, the mountains ready to start from their places, and all nature labouring to do homage to her Creator. Or, if he came in a milder way, they would, at least, have contrived an assemblage of all that we conceive magnificent; a pomp and splendour surpassing all the world ever saw. Expecting nations, crowding to welcome his arrival, and thrones of gold, and palaces of ivory, would have been judged too mean to accommodate so glorious a guest. But the Lord's thoughts and ways are different from man's. The beloved Son of God, by whom all things were made, was born in a stable, and grew up in an obscure and mean condition. Не came to suffer and to die for sin, to sanctify poverty and affliction to his people, to set a perfect

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example of patience and submission; therefore he made himself of no reputation, but took on him the form and offices of a servant. This was the appointment of divine wisdom; but so incredible in the judgment of blinded mortals, that the apostle assures us no man can say that “Jesus is the Lord;" can perceive and acknowledge his inherent excellence and authority, through the disgraceful circumstances of his humiliation, “but by the Holy Ghost.”h His enemies therefore thought they sufficiently refuted his assertions, by referring to his supposed parents, and the reputed place of his nativity.

Their envy and hatred were still more inflamed, by observing the character of his fole lowers. These were chiefly poor and illiteratė persons, and many of them had been notoriously wicked, or accounted so; publicans and sinners, whose names and professions were vile to a proverb. And for such as these, and almost these only, to acknowledge the person whom they refused, and by professing themselves his disciples, to set up for being wiser than their teachers; this was a mortification to their pride which they could not bear; especially when they found their number daily to increase, and therefore could not but fear their own influence would proportionably decline.

Once more: Mistaking the nature of his kingdom, which he often spoke of, they opposed him from reasons of state; they feared, or pretended to fear, that if they suffered him to go on, the increase of his disciples would give umbrage to the Romans, who would come and take away both their places and their nation. Some, per

i

h 1 Cor. xii. 3. i John, vii. 49; ix. 31.

k John, xi. 48.

haps, really had this apprehension; but it was more generally a pretence, which the leaders made use of to alarm the ignorant. They were, in truth, impatient of the Roman yoke, prone to tumults, and ready to listen to every deceiver who promised them deliverance, under pretence of being their expected Messiah. But, from enmity and opposition to Jesus, they became loyal at once. So they might accomplish their designs against him, they were content to forget other grievances, and openly professed they would have no other king but Cæsar.

These were some of the chief motives which urited the opposite interests and jarring sentiments of the Jewish sects against our blessed Lord. We are next to consider the methods they employed to prejudice the multitudes against him. The bulk of the common people seldom think for themselves in religious concerns, but judge it sufficient to give up their understandings and consciences to their professed' teachers. They are, however, for the most part, more unprejudiced and open to conviction than their guides, whose reputation and interest are more nearly concerned to maintain every established error, and to stop up every avenue by which truth and reformation might enter. The Jewish people, uninfluenced by the proud and selfish views of the priests and rulers, readily honoured the ministry of Christ, and attended liim in great multitudes. If they did not enter into the grand

1 This is much to be lamented; for (if the blind lead " the blind, shall they not both fall into the ditch ?” Matt. xv. 14. When the blind lead the blind, how, indeed, can it be otherwise; if the former imagine they see, and the latter are content to be led? Alas, for the people that are in such a case! alas , for the irguides !

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design of his mission, they at least gave him testimonies of respect. When Jesus caused the mdumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see, they glorified the God of Israel, saying, “ A great prophet is “ risen up amongst us, God has visited his

people.” Now, what was to be done in this case ? Would the Scribes and Pharisees stand unconcerned? No; it is said in several places, they were filled with indignation," and essayed every means to bring his person and miracles into disrepute. The methods they used are worthy of notice, having been often repeated since (as to their substance) against the servants of Christ.

1. They availed themselves of a popular mistake concerning his birth. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, according to the Scriptures; but being removed from thence in his infancy, to avoid Herod's cruelty, and his parents afterwards living at Nazareth in Galilee, he was supposed by many to have been born there. Even Nathanael was prejudiced by this mistake; but happily yielded to Philip's advice to examine for himself. But it prevented many from inquiring much about Jesus, and therefore his enemies made the most of it, and confidently appealed to the Scripture, when it seemed to decide in their favour. or Search and look, for out of Galilee “ ariseth no prophet.” It is probable, many were staggered with this objection, and thought it sufficient to invalidate all his discourses and

m Matt. xv. 31. ; Luke, vii. 16.

n It is a strong syrnptom of hypocrisy; and enmity to the Gospel, to be offended with any new and remarkable displays of divine

grace. John, vii. 42, 52.

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