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THE LAST JUDGMENT, AND WHAT WILL BE ACCOUNTED TRUE RELIGION IN THAT DAY:
Matt, vii.21— 29.
Our Lord, in drawing to the close of his discourse, is unusually solemn and impressive. He anticipates the last judgment, and places his hearers before the great tribunal. The sum of what he says is, that mere profession will avail nothing, and that real practical godliness is the only thing which in that day will be approved.
Ver. 21—23. Not every one that laith unto me, Lord, Lord, &c. The greater part of those who, in that day, will have to stand before him, has acknowledged him as their Lord; and not every one that hare will be accepted. Professions, though repeated with earnestness, will avail nothing. It is not what we say, but what we do, that will be admitted as evidence in that day. As to what we do, unless the Father's will be our will, Christ will not regard us. Such is the union between the Lawgiver and the Saviour, that each is guarantee, as it were, to the honour of the other. If the Father's wrath abide on all who believe not on the Son, the Son no less excludes from the kingdom of heaven all who obey not the Father. Many who in this.world have said, Lord, Lord, in a way of high profession, will, in that day, repeat their words with very different sensations, and with earnest importunity for admittance, but all in vain. They may plead their having been not only professing Christians, but Christian teachers, and some of them possessed of extraordinary gifts ; but all in vain. Having been workers of iniquity, whatever else they have wrought, it stands for nothing. They were never known as his friends in this world, and shall be utterly disowned in the next. Nothing will avail in that day but what is holy. Holiness is made of little account here ; shining talents carry the bell: but there the meanest Christian is approved;
while the most distinguished preacher, who has lived in sin, will be cast out.
Ver. 24—29. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, he. The regard or disregard we pay to the doctrine and precepts of Christ in this world, is here compared to building a house on a good or a bad foundation, and the issue of things at the last judgment, to a tempest that shall try our work. Still he presses the necessity of practical godliness. It is he that heareth his sayings and doeth them, whose religion will stand the test; while he that heareth them and doeth them not—he who has heard and talked about repentance, but never repented; has heard and talked about believing, but never believed; has heard and applauded the morality of the gospel, but never walked by it— bis building shall fall, and great will be the fall of it! Other losses have been repaired by time, but this will be irreparable and eternal.
There are two ways, and perhaps I may say three, in which this solemn passage has been perverted. We see here, say some, , that it is by doing, rather than by believing, that we shall stand approved! But though doing, in the article of justification, stands opposed to believing, (Gal. iii. 10—12,) yet here, being introduced as the evidence of a state of salvation, it is opposed to saying, or to mere profession, and includes believing. Faith itself is a practical persuasion of the truth of Christ's sayings, and is followed with a course of obedience to his precepts. Moreover, the doctrine of Christ's sayings is not the rock, but the building upon it.— We see, say others, that it matters but little what doctrines we believe, provided we lead a good life; it is not by what we have believed, but by what we have done, that we shall be judged? But if doing Christ's sayings, instead of being opposed to believing, includes it, this remark is altogether unfounded.—Finally: Others, overlooking the scope of our Lord, are from this passage, continually insisting on the doctrine ofjustification by faith in opposition to the works of the law, and comparing those who believe in the Saviour for acceptance with God, to the wise man who built his house upon a rock ; and those who depend upon their own righteousness, to the foolish man who built his house upon the
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sand. But this way of treating the scriptures betrays the truth into the hands of its adversaries, who, perceiving the force put upon them in supporting a favourite doctrine, conclude that it has no foundation in scripture. The truth is, our Lord is not discoursing on our being justified by faith, but on our being judged according to our works, which, though consistent with the other, is not the same thing, and ought not to be confounded with it. The character described is not the self righteous rejecter of the gospel, but one who, though he may hear it, and profess to believe it, yet brings forth no corresponding fruits.
The impressive manner in which he who will be our Judge enforces the practice of religion, reminds me of the words of that miserable man, Francis Spira, who was a fearful example of the contrary. "Take heed," said he to the spectators who surrounded his bed, "of relying on that faith which works not a holy and unblamable life, worthy of a believer. Credit me, it will fail. I have tried; 1 presumed I had gotten the right faith; I preached it to others; I had all places in scripture in memory that might support it ; I thought myself sure, and in the mean time lived impiously and carelessly; and behold now the judgment of God hath overtaken me, not to correction, but to damnation."
BRIEF VIEW OF MATT. XI. 12, 13.
And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent taketh it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
There is no doubt, I think, that the question sent by John to Jesus, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? must hare arisen from a misconception of the design of bis appearance, probably of the same kind with that which occupied the mind of Christ's disciples, as to the nature of his kingdom. It has been a question whether John himself was the subject of this misconception, or some of his disciples whom he personated. There is certainly an air of reproof contained in the answer: ver. 4—6. First: In its being indirect. Jesus would not say whether he was the Messiah, or not; but left it for his works, and their correspondence with prophecy, to determine the question. Secondly: In its implying that his outward meanness had proved an occasion of offence. Whether it were John or his disciples, some must have been offended, and sinfully too, else such language would not haw. been used.
It may be thought that John himself, like the disciples of Christ, might be infected with the notion of the kingdom of Christ being a temporal kingdom; that on his being cast into prison, he expected Christ would publicly assume his throne, and release him; and that hearing of nothing more than of his being followed up and down by a number of poor people, and by few if any of better condition, he was stumbled, and knew not what to make of things. But on reviewing the chapter, and comparing it with other things spoken of John, it seems more natural to think that the doubt belonged to his disciples. Two reasons may here be mentioned for this. First: There appears to have been a greater degree of gospel light in the mind of John, than in any of Christ's disciples, prior to his resurrection. They never seem to have understood the doctrine of his putting away sin by the sacrifice of himself till the thing was accomplished ; but he pointed his disciples to the Saviour as the Lamb of God that should take or bear away the sins of the world. And when an attempt was made to excite his jealousy, (Johniii. 25, 26.) his answer contains an exhibition of the person and work of Christ, worthy of an evangelical minister. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth on theSon hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God ubideth on him. He was a burning and a shining light, while as yet darkness covered their minds. He was not allowed to enter into the gospel rest; but he had a Pisgah's view of it beyond any of his cotemporaries. Secondly: Jesus on the departure of the messengers, vindicated him before the multitudes, and that from being a reed shaken with the wind, as the message which had been sent by him would seem to represent him.
The chief design of our Lord, however, in this his vindication of John, was to establish his ministry, and former testimonies, and by consequence that he was the Messiah. These, by the message recently sent, were in danger of suffering in the esteem of the people. It is in respect of this his ministry, as the Messiah's harbinger, rather than of his personal qualities, that he is declared to be more than a prophet, and yet less than the least in the kingdom of heaven. Thus it is that Jesus continues magnifying his own spiritual kingdom, and describing the interest which it had already excited from the time that John had proclaimed it. The pharisees and lawyers indeed refused to enter in, and did all they could to hinder others; but the common people and the publicans justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. See Luke vii. 18—30. By comparing this passage with that in question, it is manifest that this was the violence which the kingdom of heaven suffered. As the two blind men, when rebuked by the multitude, and charged to hold their peace, cried the more a great deal, and pressed towards the Saviour, so the publicans and sinners were not to be deterred by the rebukes of their leaders; but on hearing of the kingdom of God, pressed into it.
To account for the mighty effects of John's ministry, on those who believed it, and to show the inexcusableness of those who disbelieved it, his preaching is contrasted with that of Moses and the prophets. They spake of things as at a distance, but he of things as at hand. There seems to be an elipsis in ver. 13, which requires to be supplied as follows. M the prophets and the law prophesied until John, But He Did More Than Prophesy. He declared that the Messiah was now among them, and that his kingdom was at hand. Hence, the door being opened, there was a pressing into it, it was taken in a manner by force.