The Gospels

(Volume 5 of the Numerical Bible: The Fifth Pentateuch of the Bible)

F. W. Grant.

Division 4. (Matt. 13 ― 20:28.)

The Kingdom in the hands of Men.

We have now come, therefore, to that which directly appeals to us, the Kingdom as we know it at the present time, Israel while refusing the King having necessarily lost it, as the Lord declares to them (Matt. 21:43). But this involves a momentous change: for the promises concerning it, all contemplated Israel as in the central place of glory and power in that day, the law of Jehovah going forth from Zion and His word from Jerusalem, the glory of God being manifested there, and the Lord reigning openly in power to the ends of the earth (Micah 4.) These promises still belong to Israel, because His counsel shall surely stand, ― His gifts and calling are without repentance (Rom. 9:4; Rom. 11:29). But this being so, either the Kingdom itself must be delayed till Israel is brought to receive the Lord; or else, it must in the meantime come in in a different manner from that contemplated in the prophets. This last it is which has actually taken place; not, surely, as an after-thought on God's part, for there is no such thing with Him as this, but on the contrary, revealing the riches of His grace according to counsels hidden, indeed, from ages and generations past, but now to make known to principalities and powers by means of the Church the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10).

The whole time of the working out of these counsels is necessarily, therefore, a gap in Old Testament prophecy, and a time of delay as to the accomplishment of blessing for the earth, ― a blessing which is inseparably bound up with that of Israel nationally. Christianity is indeed universal in its character, the call of the gospel being world-wide ― to every creature which is under heaven;" but it is not a call to earthly but to heavenly blessings, and to strangership and pilgrim character upon earth. And this is, so far, only what the family of faith has all along confessed (Heb. 11:13-16.) Israel's inheritance nationally is another matter: and here the voices of the prophets unanimously direct us on to such a scene as we have seen Micah picture. Heaven in the prophets is the place of God's dwelling, but little is known of what is inside, even though Enoch went there, and Elijah went there, in days long since. For us it is opened and furnished; Christ has come out and gone in; and now we know it; and He is coming again to receive us to Himself. Our blessings are in heavenly places in Him; our home is with Himself.

In two different ways people get confused and confuse others, as to things as plain as this. Some, in the enjoyment of what is simple Christian truth today, read their Christianity back into the Old Testament, and can think of nothing else but a heavenly inheritance for all the saints of all times. Some, on the other hand, read the Old Testament forward into the New Testament, and make the earth the final habitation for all. Scripture is larger and more diverse than either of these understand. The Old Testament outlook is earthly unmistakably, the New Testament revelation is what our Joseph, rejected of his brethren; is telling as the "Revealer of secrets" in the ears of His Gentile bride.

These are the "mysteries," which characterize Christianity, so that the apostle bids us account of his fellow-laborers and himself "as ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1). The first great mystery is that of Christ Himself ― "the mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16). Along with this, however, and as part of it, we have His whole life here, "justified in the Spirit" ― by the descent of the Spirit of God upon Him, ― and again by His resurrection from the dead, ― "seen of angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory." It is Christ actually come, and known in His whole life down here, that is the mystery: not the prophetic picture merely, which certainly and clearly made known His Deity (e.g. Micah 5:2), but the fulfilment of this in the person of Jesus Christ. Next we may put "the mystery of God's will … to head up," as the word really is, "all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth" (Eph. 1:9-10) ― the Headship of Christ over the (new) creation. Then we have "the mystery of the Christ" ― not simply of Christ personally, but that in Him "the Gentiles should be joint-heirs, and a joint-body" (sussoma), a body formed of Jews and Gentiles brought together, ― "and joint-partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel" (Eph. 3:4, 6). Then the mystery of Christ and the Church, His Bride (Eph. 5:32). Then the mystery of "Christ in you" (Col. 1:27). The change of the living concurrently with the resurrection of the saints at the coming of Christ (1 Cor. 15:51), the present blinding of Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles is come in (Rom. 11:25), even the "mystery of iniquity" working out in Christian times, (2 Thess. 2:7), and which the woman "Babylon the Great" bears as a brand upon her forehead (Rev. 17:5), ― all these are "mysteries" connected with the Christian dispensation; hidden, therefore, in Old Testament times (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:5; Col. 1:26): secrets made known to those initiated into Christianity.

It is not the place here to inquire further into these: none of them are mentioned as such in the Gospels; but we can see that in them the essential and distinctive features of Christianity are to be found. In that part of Matthew to which we have now reached, such secrets begin to be told out; and according to what we have seen to be the theme of this Gospel, they begin with the "mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven," ― the Kingdom in the new form which it acquires by the rejection of the King, and His consequent absence from the place of His Kingdom. He reigns indeed, but on the Father's throne (Rev. 3:21), ― a higher place, and which manifests His glory as the divine Son: none could sit upon such a throne but He; still it is not His human throne as Son of man. The Kingdom is administered for Him in His absence by His servants, and the fashion of it, therefore, greatly changed. In a parable in Mark, the Lord compares it to a man casting seed into the earth, and seeing it no more till the time of harvest: it springs up and grows, he knows not how (Mark 4:26-29). This is already significant as to the possibility of failure. Left in the hands of men, we know, only too well, what man is. Divine wisdom and love cannot really be baffled; and yet we must be prepared for this seeming to be so.

These mysteries of the Kingdom speak of "things that had been hidden from the foundation of the world" (verse 35), and he that is now discipled unto the Kingdom of heaven has, therefore, in his treasures things "new" as well as "old" (verse 52). Of the bringing together of these the parables that follow here will give us decisive proof.

Subdivision 1. (Matt. 13:1-52.)

Viewed as a Whole.

The history of the Kingdom is given us before the principles. It was necessary to have clearly before the eye the character of that to which the principles apply. And more especially is this so because of the opposition between the Kingdom in its initiation and in its after-development, which the history so clearly shows, and which would naturally raise question of their application altogether, if this contradiction were not accounted for.

On the other hand, the veil of parable is thrown over the whole; and the Lord's explanation of the reason of this (verses 11-13), while applying primarily to unbelieving Jews, has in it most important principles of far wider application.

History given before-hand, as One alone is competent to give it, is given; not to gratify curiosity about the future, but as practical wisdom for the wise in heart, that the servants of the Lord may find the path wherein to walk and to serve Him (Rev. 1:1). Exercise of conscience will be needed to understand it, far more than grasp of intellect, and we need not wonder at diverse interpretations. Yet the Lord expects us to be able to see clearly through the veil (Mark 4:13); and without certainty no application can be safely made: Scripture must first of all be for "doctrine," in order that it may be for "reproof, for correction; for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16).

Matthew gives us here seven parables ― the usual number indicating completeness. In some sense, surely, they are designed to give us a perfect picture of the Kingdom, but in what sense we are not entitled to decide without examination of the whole series; which is divided by difference of place and audience into four and three, the usual division of a septenary series. Four are spoken to the multitude upon the sea-shore; the last three to the disciples in the house. The numbers concur with the circumstances to lead us to expect in the first four a more external, in the last three a more internal and spiritual view. The explanation of the second parable has its place also with the three.

Section 1. (Matt. 13:1-35.)

As left to itself, — the King absent.

The first four parables also are plainly susceptible of another division. Four is often divided in Scripture into 3 +1; and in this way is significant of what is good: the number of the creature (4) resolves itself into the numbers which speak of divine manifestation. On the other hand it may divide into 2x2, which as true division seems generally to have in it an evil significance. The four parables here divide in the latter way: the first two giving individual aspects, ― the wheat and the tares; while the last two give us the collective aspect, the seeds gathered, as it were, into one seed; the leaven permeating the meal. We shall see as we go on; the importance of these divisions.

But the character attaching to the whole four parables may first of all be emphasized. The series as a whole has been already spoken of as applying to the Kingdom in its present "mystery" form; but we shall find that in fact only the first four parables develop this, ― the fact that it is a Kingdom left to itself, the King absent. This certainly does not characterize in the same way the last three, inasmuch as in two of them we find the figure of the King Himself. The man who in the one sells all that he has to buy the "field" ― if the interpretation of the second parable hold good here ("the field is the world") ― can be no other than the Lord. And then also the similar action of the merchantman who buys the pearl must surely point out the same blessed Person. Here, then, we are in another line of thought to that of the first four parables. Of course, this waits for confirmation or disproof upon a closer examination.

1. The first two parables are in evident contrast with one another in this respect: in the first we have the various success ― as to three parts out of four we must say the ill success of the good seed. In the second we have the enemy and the bad seed. Even thus far, it seems to be a picture of decline that is before us; or at least, the scene in the meanwhile grows darker and not brighter; and the tares remain; we are authoritatively told, until the harvest. But let us now take up the parables in detail.

(1) The Lord goes out of the house and sits by the seaside. He has just declared the principle which carries Him outside of Judaism. The doers of His Father's will are now alone to be His kindred. He leaves therefore the house, the sphere of natural relationship, and takes His place by the sea, the figure of man in the restlessness and barrenness of nature, of man apart from God, and so of the Gentiles. The concourse of the multitude, instead of detaining Him, hastens His departure: He enters into a ship and sits down there ― takes His place definitively in separation from them.

He speaks to them indeed from this new place that He has taken; but He speaks in parables. The nation as such is given up to hardness of heart: there is no use in increasing their condemnation by more light. And yet the very addressing them shows that all are not given up. "Blindness in part is happened to Israel:" if there are those who have earnestness of heart to penetrate within the external form they shall find still a gracious heart that beats towards them. The national rejection leaves individual responsibility where it ever is. He that hath an ear, as the Lord tells them, still may hear.

Yet behold, a Sower is going forth to sow; and here is a decisive change. Israel had been God's vineyard planted once and enclosed and nurtured by God's unforgetting love. That had now long been given up: the fence had been taken away; the boar out of the woods had wasted it; the people had long been scattered. Still, though this were so, the end had not then been reached: after seventy years a remnant had been permitted to return to the desolate land, and a "fig-tree" had been "planted in the vineyard" (Luke 13:6). But this, too, had now failed to bring forth fruit; if such was to be found, there must be a fresh labor of the husbandman and in fresh fields: the sower must go forth to sow.

There is not now the planting of vines or fig-trees, but what better suits the character of work among the Gentiles, ― the broad-cast sowing of seed. Are we not to think also of our Lord's words, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone" (John 12:24) and to realize the new form of the gospel which would follow that death of His, now coming so plainly into sight? Its being, as the Lord in His interpretation calls it, "the word of the Kingdom" does not hinder this; for the apostle shows us in the epistle to the Romans (Rom. 10:9-13) the gospel of the Kingdom in its present form, as based fully upon the death and resurrection of Christ. Death and resurrection both we have, wherever the seed springs up; that is what we are called to watch now, where and with what final result the seed springs up. What success in its worldwide sowing is the word of the Kingdom now to have?

We are at once made aware that it is not world-wide success we are to expect from it. First of all, we see in the seed received by the wayside, the hard, unreceptive heart, hardened like the road by the constant traffic of the world, so that the seed never really finds lodgment in it. True, it is said to have been "sown in his heart," and that is a solemn thing. It is what the apostle's words imply, where he speaks of "by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor. 4:2). And yet he goes on immediately to speak of those to whom his gospel is hidden, "in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of those that believe not, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." These two things are easily reconcilable, and we can see that the case here is quite similar to the first one in the parable, where the "birds of the air" are interpreted by the Lord as "Satan." In the parable the word has first been sown in the heart: Satan could not prevent that. It has made its appeal to the conscience, commended itself as truth to it, been sown in the heart for acceptance or rejection.* Conscience commends it, but that is not faith; in which always the personal will is concerned. Conviction is not acceptance. The soul may tremble, Felix-like, before the truth, and yet refuse it: the seed after all lies outside; and now comes Satan's work, ― the god of this world blinding the minds of those that believe not, Satan catching away that which was sown in the heart, but which the heart has not accepted. Those may well tremble who have not been true to what they could not but recognize as truth: for here Satan has his opportunity with them, and he never fails to use his opportunity. Well he knows what blessedness lies for them, contained in what they so lightly refuse. His business is to prevent their knowing that, ― to hide the glory of Christ from those who might be attracted by it.

{*Compare Rom. 10:8-9: "the word is … in thy heart: that is, the word of faith which we preach that if thou … shalt believe in thy heart," etc." The "heart" in Scripture is not necessarily the affections, as we generally take it, but the man himself, the real man.}

For Christians also the same principle holds good. For every truth in the word of God has to be accepted thus in the soul or rejected, and we are tested by it as to how far we also are "of the truth:" "every one that is of the truth heareth Christ's "voice" (John 18:37). Not of mere ignorance, but by the refusal of truth, have all systems of error flourished and been built up. And how few, alas, comparatively are there who have not admitted some darkness into their souls by the lack of perfect absolute uprightness before God in every particular! And in some respect it is always the glory of Christ that is thus hidden. What need have we to be cleansed according to His mind that we may have (as He desires for us) "part with Him."

Here, then; in this first failure of the good seed, the opposition of Satan is manifest. We are at once made aware that it is in a world which lieth in the wicked one that the Kingdom of heaven (in this new phase of it) is to be found. Man's responsibility is carefully maintained; but, alas, he is a fallen being, and manifests himself as such: the world, the flesh, and the devil are but too fully united in opposition to Christ. This may be detected even in the first case: for the heart has rejected the truth, and the world's traffic has hardened the heart, and Satan has only taken away that which was unwelcome. But each element of opposition must be fully shown; and we go on to see other forms of it in the seed upon the rocky ground, and that sown among the thorns.

Rocky ground it is, not stony: bed-rock, with a slight layer of earth over it, in which the seed grows rapidly but superficially, the very cause of its destruction in a little while, operating at first to produce hot-house growth: "forthwith it sprang up because it had no depth of earth;" by and by the sun growing hotter scorched it; and, because it had no root, it withered away.

Here it is the nature of the ground that is at fault. In the case of the wayside hearer it might be urged that circumstances had made him what he was: the traffic over it had made the ground hard. Here it was the nature of the ground itself. The prophet ― or rather, God by him ― speaks of a "heart of stone" (Ezek. 36:26); and this, without any question, is exactly pictured here. Yet there is earth also, a superficial susceptibility, which promises largely at the beginning: "he heareth the word, and immediately with joy receiveth it;" this is, as the parable states it, a sign of a lack of depth. There has been no deep conviction, no true repentance: the sentiments are engaged, but not the conscience; and such an one may be warm and enthusiastic, and make rapid progress in the learning of truth; but he has not counted the cost: "when affliction or persecution ariseth because of the word, immediately he is stumbled."

This is the flesh at its fairest; capable of coming so near to the kingdom of God, and all the more manifesting its hopeless nature. There is the unbroken rock behind that never yields itself to the word, and gives it no lodgment; and the class of hearers pictured here are born of the flesh only, and so only flesh. Let things be outwardly favorable to profession; it is plain that the number of these may multiply largely, and may stick like dead leaves to a tree that has no rough blast to shake them off. But life is none the more in them.

There is still a third class of the unfruitful, and in these the influence of the world is paramount. The seed sown among thorns represents those in whom the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches choke the Word. Poverty and riches, as Agur long before noted (Prov. 30:8-9), are seen here as alike unfavorable to spiritual life. Yet riches may entice the poor, and care weigh heavily upon the prosperous rich man. The deceitfulness of riches is so great a snare that the Lord has elsewhere said that the rich man could hardly enter into the Kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:23). But He expressly guarded this from any implication of its applying to salvation; as if salvation (when men sought that) were different for different classes. Of those who realize their need of salvation there is but one class: "Christ died for sinners" covers every case. But if it be a question of men seeking after it, the more they have to satisfy themselves with here, the less real is eternity likely to appear. How many have had the interest awakening within their souls stopped by such things as these the day will declare.

And so one part alone out of four of the good seed becomes fruitful really. Not, of course, that this is to be taken as numerical proportion. One fears, indeed, that any reckoning in this way would give less satisfactory results rather than more; but we must leave this with Him who "knoweth them that are His." At any rate we know well that the success of the good seed is partial; and with those in whom it does bring forth fruit, there are still various measures of fruitfulness; "one a hundredfold, another sixty, another thirty," says our Lord. The devil, the flesh, and the world, are the unchanging, untiring foes of all that is of God, and the true people of God have no discharge in this life from this war.

In this first parable, then; we see the beginning of the Kingdom to be in the sowing of the word of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is, ideally at least, a kingdom of the truth (John 18:37). The subjects are "disciples" (ver. 52). How far the Kingdom being in the hands of men may affect this we have yet to see; but even as we find it already, we find in it unreal disciples as well as true; and this the after-parables confirm. The sphere of the Kingdom is profession; a profession which will be in due time tested by the fruit it bears. There is no undue haste to realize this: the picture is that of a field of growing wheat, as to which the harvest alone can properly decide what the fruit may be; and the harvest itself is not yet spoken of. Manifestly it is a kingdom introduced in a very different way, not merely from any Jewish conception; but from anything that the prophets had announced. Thus it is of the mysteries of the Kingdom that the Lord is speaking. Of the sower himself we do not hear: it is upon the seed that our attention is fixed, and whoever sows that is the sower. Thus it might be the Lord Himself in His work on earth, although the Kingdom does not begin till the end of the Gospel* (Matt. 28:18); it might be any one afterwards. In the sense in which the second parable speaks (ver. 37), wherever the good seed is sown, the Sower is the Son of man: personally or by His agents, it is all one sowing.

{*Which is probably the reason why this parable does not begin, as the others do, with "The Kingdom of heaven is like". The eleventh verse guards against any mistake resulting.}

(2) The second parable now shows us the work of the enemy to defeat, as far as he may, the work of Christ. Satan as the prince of the world, which has rejected and cast out the true King, will not receive now His Kingdom; and he is permitted to work without the curb of manifest power to restrain him. It is the "kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ," as the apostle at the beginning of Revelation fittingly reminds us (Rev. 1:9); and Satan remains throughout, not only the "prince of this world," but the "god" of it (2 Cor. 4:4). The expression used in the last passage is, in fact, much stronger than even this: it is "the god of this aion" or "age" which shows conclusively, therefore, what the "spirit of this age" must be. It shuts out hope of any effectual change of this until the Lord comes and Satan is shut up in that prison (Rev. 20:1-3), in which so many, who ought to be wiser, suppose him to be already, but which will be then a more effectual restraint than even these can persuade themselves is upon him now.

Yet it is not by persecution of the saints that we see Satan acting in this parable. He has practised this often enough, and always will, as far as he can realize that the time is favorable; but he knows, too, and that by plentiful experience, that the "blood of the martyrs is" apt, at least, to be "the seed of the church," and he has found for his purposes what is a better way. This is the way of imitation; "as Jannes and Jambres," in Egypt long since, "withstood Moses" (2 Tim. 3:8), counterfeiting God's miracles with lying wonders; and such is his method in the parable before us now.

The good seed has been sown and is growing up: the "word of the Kingdom" preached has developed into "sons of the Kingdom;" so far, we have just what the previous parable has put before us, the effect of sowing of the good seed only. The work of the enemy cannot be accomplished by sowing seed of the same kind: he sows darnel in the midst of it, and goes his way. Such "over-sowing" is today in the East a common piece of malice; and darnel is a poisonous kind of rye, which among the Jews was credited with being a degenerate wheat: its grain is black and bitter. Thus it is evident that we have not here false profession merely, but error and its fruit: at first, deceptive and appearing at any rate not very different from the truth, but by and by developing radical opposition. The dissemination of this is accomplished "while men slept," a thing that shows an evil state among the "children of the day," however natural it may be with others (1 Thess. 5:5-7).

Notice that, throughout the New Testament, if the flesh is opposed to the Spirit, and the world to the Father, the devil is the constant enemy of Christ, and the perversion of the Word and the denial of the Person of Christ are his special work. As Christ is the truth and the true Witness, Satan is "a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44). The tempter of Christ in the wilderness, he enters into Judas for the betrayal at a later time. He it is who "deceiveth the whole world" (Rev. 12:9), and who is cast into the bottomless pit to deceive the nations no more until a thousand years are fulfilled. At the end of this time, being let loose, he again goes out as of old to deceive, and is then cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:3, 8, 10).

The "children of the wicked one" in the parable are thus those who are the offspring of his deception, by whom he seeks to antagonize the truth. And the New Testament epistles, give us plenty of proof of such a state of things already begun a good while before the canon of inspiration was completed. It is not needed to do more than refer to this. They show us how insidiously the "mystery of iniquity" began its work (2 Thess. 2:7), which, however it might be hindered, would never cease until the "wicked one," energized by Satan; should be destroyed at the appearing of Christ (ver. 8). Thus the darnel would remain until the day of harvest, no human hands being competent to accomplish the separation of Christian profession from it. After many centuries now, we are all clear, whatever may be our standpoint, that this separation in fact never has been attained.

But we must remember, however, that it is of the Kingdom that the parable speaks, and not of the Church or Assembly, of which we have not heard, in fact, as yet. A large mass of Christians make no distinction between these, although here it should be plain that "the field is the world," ― the Kingdom in its present phase, the profession of Christianity in the world, or what men call Christendom; and we have no capacity, authority or responsibility to purify Christendom after this fashion. But, if we are truly Christians, we have responsibility to purge out from our assemblies "all things that offend, and those committing lawlessness," the thing which the angel-reapers alone can do as to the profession at large.

Rome has taken in hand, and insists upon her authority to anticipate the time of harvest; and the state-churches, following her, have feebly and spasmodically attempted the same thing. Necessarily that has followed which the Lord declared: with some darnel, they have rooted up the wheat also, and indeed this most of all. Yet the prohibition; to these Jewish disciples of the Lord, (taught as they were by the Old Testament to expect the kingdom of Messiah to be an open display of judgment upon transgressors,) would naturally be a mystery indeed; and so to those who confound the New with the Old Testament. But the Lord recognizes fully the coming of the judgment. It is only delayed, not set aside. Evil is allowed in the meanwhile to manifest itself: in the time of harvest, He will say unto the reapers, "Gather together first the darnel, and bind it in bundles for the burning; but gather the wheat into my barn."

We shall find that the Lord in His interpretation carries this further: the darnel is actually burnt, and the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. This we must look at in its own place. At present we have only the preparatory work with the darnel, which is bound in bundles with a view to its being burnt; and then the wheat is gathered into the barn. The last is clear enough: it speaks of the removal of the true saints to heaven; but the binding of the darnel in bundles is not so clear. It cannot refer to the associations now so characterizing the days in which we are, except we take the ground that harvest-time has already begun; and indeed it does begin; as is plain; before the saints are taken home. If this were true, it would show the end very nigh. The multiplication of associations, the prevalence of the principle more and more, every one must admit. We should look for it to take a form which would more and more gather the false and shut out the true, while at present true and false are sadly mixed together. With the growth of infidelity, so manifest as it is today, this might very quickly result. Even the religious associations are swallowing up the churches, and taking their work into their own hands; and all things move today with marvelous rapidity, as the stream grows quicker near the brink of the precipice.

2. The two parables that follow differ strikingly from those that have preceded them, and agree together in this, that we have no longer individuals before us but the mass. In the grain of mustard seed the many grains of the wheat-field are massed together: the "sons of the Kingdom" are no longer seen, nor indeed the "sons of the wicked one," but a general condition; believe we may add, resulting from their mixture. The "woman" of the second parable here, the common figure of the professing church, gives us in this the collective aspect, and not the leaven; nor the three measures of meal. This we must examine fully in its place; and as to both parables there has been sufficient disagreement among interpreters to make us look carefully at every step we take. Nor have we as to either of them the help in this way that the Lord gives as to the first two.

All the more thankful we may be, therefore, that the second parable has already carried us on to the time of harvest, mournful as it is to realize that it, is thus settled without possibility of successful question; that the evil result of the over-sowing of the field of profession with false doctrine never will be repaired, ― that the crop, as a crop, is very much spoiled, however much the good wheat still reproduces its own likeness. But this, at least, assures us that the parables to follow cannot alter this: they cannot take away the certainty of the failure of things in man's hands which the whole history of the past declares. We have indeed but shown ourselves all along the road the too faithful imitators of our first parents in the violation of every trust that God has committed to us. One might perhaps have hoped that, with the new power of Christianity, a new history might have begun for man; but, on the contrary, every feature of Israel's history has been reproduced in that of Christendom. It is even a proverb that "history repeats itself." Prophecy and history unite to assure us that as to this Christianity is not an exception to the rest.

(1) The parable of the mustard-seed is similar to those that have gone before it in its being the growth of a living thing that is brought before us, but that which is to be remarked in it now is its disproportionate growth, in which it seems to overstep the limits of its nature. The round seed of the mustard was used proverbially among the Jews for the smallest of things, which it was relatively to the other seeds they sowed. Its development in the East in favorable places is indeed in conspicuous contrast with its growth elsewhere. But the question is raised at once, Is the world, then; a favorable place for the growth of a kingdom "not of this world," and where the devil and the flesh unite with the world in unceasing opposition to it? Either the world must (measurably, at least,) cease to be;hat it is, or the seed must change in some respects its character, for the Kingdom of heaven to take its place among the kingdoms of the earth: and this is, in fact what the parable shows.

"And the general meaning," says Edersheim, "would be the more easily apprehended, that a tree, whose wide-spreading branches afforded lodgment to the birds of heaven, was a familiar Old Testament figure for a mighty kingdom that gave shelter to the nations. Indeed it is specifically used as an illustration of the Messianic kingdom."

He refers in the first place to Ezek. 31:3-6, where we have the picture drawn by God Himself of the Assyrian power: "Therefore his height was exalted above all the trees of the field, and his boughs were multiplied, … all the fowls of the heaven made their nests in his boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth their young, and under his shadow dwelt all great nations." In Daniel we have a similar picture of the Babylonian in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, which is interpreted by the prophet (Dan. 4:20-22): "The tree that thou sawest, which grew and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight therefore to all the earth; whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the air had their habitation: it is thou, O king, who art grown and become strong; for thy greatness is grown and reacheth unto heaven; and thy dominion to the end of the earth."

The likeness here to the "tree" of the parable cannot surely be doubted: it is a figure of earthly greatness that is pictured. And yet it cannot but be remarked that there is not in the parable after all anything like the greatness of the Assyrian or Babylonian empire. The passage in Ezek. 17 also, to which Edersheim refers as picturing the Messianic kingdom, ― in fact, the resurrection of the house of David in Messiah's day, ― still represents a cedar, the stateliest of trees, under which "dwell all fowl of every wing, and in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell." But this speaks of a future time, and a very different dispensation.

The tree of the parable is a garden shrub out-doing itself. It grows into a tree, and the birds of heaven lodge in its branches; but if you look at this as divine increase, it will naturally be asked, why then is there nothing more glorious than this? As growth it is dubious, and the mention of the birds of heaven cannot but remind us that the birds of heaven carried away the good seed in the first parable, and that the Lord's interpretation is, "Then cometh the wicked one." Great Babylon; the figure of a professing Christian body in guilty connection with the kings of the earth, becomes "a cage of every unclean and hateful bird" (Rev. 18:2). If we remember that this seed and its development give the Kingdom as a whole, and that the previous parable has shown us a mixed condition in fact, the result of the enemy's work, then the anomalous tree becomes perfectly intelligible. The state of the whole has been affected by this mixture of diverse elements. There has resulted from it what we know as Christendom today. Christianity has been more or less assimilated to the principles of the world; the world, in consequence becomes more favorable to the adulterated Christianity. The shrub grows, ― overgrows its nature, if you consider what its character is as defined at its first beginning. A people unknown by the world (1 John 3:1), and strangers in it (1 Peter 2:11), followers of One it crucified, and crucified to it by His cross (Gal. 6:14), not of it, even as He is not of it (John 17:14), become a people well-known, honored and at home in it. Nay, they acquire the right to rule, and like their predecessors at Corinth, "reign as kings" (1 Cor. 4:8), quite without fear of apostolic rebuke for it. Yet after all, the spiritual and political interests can never become so accordant that the tree shall assume the dimensions of full imperial power. The woman may ride the beast, but even so these are diverse. Alas, this political Christianity is more powerful to corrupt the Church than to elevate the world, and she that rides the beast is but a painted harlot. It passes the subtlest imagination to conceive how what is "not of the world" can become of the world and yet retain its character. The birds of the heaven are wiser: they understand their claim upon the abnormal tree for lodgment, and find it there.

The Kingdom is now, in the form it has taken; in independence of its King. To the Corinthians the apostle could say, "Ye have reigned as kings without us:" they were not in communion any longer with men "appointed to death," for their sufferings "a spectacle to the world and to angels and to men." "I would to God," he says, "that ye did reign, that we also might reign with you." If the saints reign now, they are still reigning without the apostles. Time can make no difference in this respect, so long as it is still true that all the saints are not reigning together. And that time will not come until the Lord takes His own throne as Son of man, ― a human throne that He can share with others. True, He reigns now, but on His Father's throne, which no mere man can ever sit upon (Rev. 3:21); and He reigns, distinctly, as rejected by the world: "Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thy foes Thy footstool" (Ps. 110:1). Thus the saints cannot reign now, except in unfaithfulness, in independence of their Lord Himself. The tree is thus anomalous, and the condition evil.

(2) A worse thing follows, which clearly connects with what precedes it here: "The Kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven; which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened."

Here the explanations ordinarily given are so generally in contradiction to the truth, that it will be well to look at them more particularly before attempting to develop this. Edersheim gives thus briefly the generally accepted view: ―

"To this extensive power of the Kingdom [as shown in the Mustard-seed] corresponded its intensive character, whether in the world at large or in the individual. This formed the subject of the last of the parables addressed at that time to the people ― that of the Leaven. We need not here resort to ingenious methods of explaining the 'three measures,' or seahs, of meal in which the leaven was hid … To mix three measures of meal was common in Biblical, as well as in later times (Gen. 18:6; Judges 6:19; 1 Sam. 1:24). Nothing further was therefore conveyed than the common process of ordinary, every-day life. And in this, indeed, lies the very point of the parable, that the Kingdom of God, when received within, would seem like leaven hid, but would gradually pervade, assimilate, and transform the whole of our common life."

Alford's view is similar, but he adds: ―

"Leaven has its good as well as its bad side, and for that good is used: viz., to make wholesome and fit for use that which would otherwise be heavy and insalubrious. Another striking point of comparison is that leaven; as used ordinarily, is a piece of the leavened loaf put among the new dough, just as the Kingdom of heaven is the renewal of humanity by the righteous Man; Christ Jesus."

Lange still adds: —

"The woman is an apt figure of the Church. Leaven; a substance kindred, yet quite opposed to meal, ― having the power of transforming and preserving it, and converting it into bread, thus representing the divine in its relation to, and influence upon; our natural life. One of the main points of the parable is the 'hiding,' or the mixing of the leaven in the three measures of meal. This refers to the great visible Church, in which the living gospel seems, as it were, hidden and lost. It appears as if the gospel were engulfed in the world; but under the regenerating power of Christianity it will at last be seen that the whole world shall be included in the Church."

Trench remarks: ―

"In and through the Church the Spirit's work proceeds; only as that dwells in the Church is it able to mingle a nobler element in the mass of humanity, in the world. The woman took the leaven from elsewhere to mingle it with the lump; and even such is the gospel, a kingdom not of this world, not the unfolding of any powers which already existed therein, a kingdom not rising, as the secular kingdom, 'out of the earth' (Dan. 7:17), but a new power brought into the world from above: not a philosophy, but a revelation."

This is a sufficiently full account of the most widely accepted interpretation; and, if not absolutely harmonious in detail, as presented by these different writers, it is still as much so as it would be reasonable to expect, and has in itself a very reasonable appearance. From the Scriptural point of view, however, it most be judged; and it has been often pointed out that in this way there are insurmountable difficulties to our receiving it.

In the first place, it is contrary to the general tenor of the previous parables. After all that has been before us, we do not expect a change so sudden and complete as this seems to involve. If the three measures of meal speak of humanity in general, or the world, the progress of the leaven is distinctly declared to be, "till the whole is leavened." But the other parables, from the very first one, are entirely against this; and the whole witness of prophecy as to the Christian dispensation. To apply it, as some would, simply to the work of regeneration in individuals, destroys in another way its harmony with the series of pictures of which it forms a part, all of which give us the public and general history. "Three measures of meal" seems a strange figure for the world, and the "measure" seems not realizable. Not that this would be a weighty objection with the many who deprecate any particular attention to such minutiae as they would consider this. For such, a general resemblance is all that one need expect: which would leave in result a large uncertainty of interpretation; and Scripture to the reproach of many unmeaning words.

The signification of "leaven" in every other passage in which it is used is a great difficulty also. The Lord applies it to the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (Matt. 16:12), and to their hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). He speaks also of the "leaven of Herod" (Mark 8:15); the apostle again of the "leaven of malice and wickedness" and of "the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor. 5:8). Twice we are warned how "a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (1 Cor. 5:6; Gal. 5:9). That very piece of old dough which Dean Alford interprets so strangely of the Lord's humanity, the apostle applies in quite another manner, when he bids the Corinthians "purge out, therefore, the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump," and this where he is interpreting the Old Testament feast of unleavened bread in its connection with the passover, and which must remind us how absolutely leaven was to be excluded from every "offering of the Lord made by fire" (Lev. 2:11).

It will be urged in answer to this that it is the Kingdom of heaven itself which is here compared to leaven; and the Kingdom of heaven cannot be evil. But we have to go no further than these parables themselves to perceive that this objection cannot be sustained. In the very next one, if we interpret in a similar way, the Kingdom is compared to the treasure which a man found, but in that which follows, not to the pearl which corresponds to this, but to the merchantman who seeks it. Evidently, the whole parable it is which is the similitude of the Kingdom, and not separately either treasure or finder: and this is completely confirmed upon examination.*

{*See also Matt. 18:23; Matt. 20:1.}

In this way, too, it will be seen that, while the Kingdom of heaven cannot indeed in itself be evil, it may still be in an evil condition. This series of parables have surely exhibited in it a steady growth of evil, which in that of the mustard seed affects the form which as a whole it takes. We may naturally expect, therefore, to find here this development going on; and if as Edersheim and others truly say, the leaven in contrast with the mustard-tree gives us intensive character rather than extensive growth, then we may expect to find this inward character affected now in a way corresponding to the outward form before. And this is in fact the meaning of the leaven: it is an energy, but alas, of evil from without, which transforms the character more and more of what it works upon, and completes the sorrowful picture of decline at which we have been looking. From this point of view also, all the details of the picture assume significance, and give a definiteness of meaning to the whole which vindicates the parable from the reproach of ambiguity or of useless verbiage.

The safest of rules that we can have is to let scripture be the interpreter of scripture. Now, if in carrying this out we ask ourselves, what leaven put into the meal may mean; we are at once reminded of the meat or meal-offering, as to which it is distinctly said (Lev. 2:11): "No meat-offering which ye shall bring unto the Lord shall be made with leaven: for ye shall burn no leaven … in any offering of the Lord made by fire." If then this be the application here, at once we see that the parable falls into line with the previous parables in this that it continues that thought of evil and opposition to the Word which they all more or less exhibit. The woman, is doing what the word of God prohibits: she is putting leaven into the meal-offering.

But what, then; is the significance of this? A terrible one indeed: for the meal-offering speaks, as these offerings in general do, of Christ as the food of His people, of which they partake in communion with God (see Lev. 2, notes); and thus we see that to bring in the merely natural thought (whether it be true or not) of the wholesomeness of leavened bread, as Alford does, is most misleading. God insists upon the feast being kept to Him with unleavened bread: all mixture with leaven is adulteration; and if the Church, as Trench with Lange and others rightly says, is intended by the woman, then the professing church is here seen as adulterating the pure doctrine of Christ, the bread of life, with impure admixture.

"Three measures of meal:" does that add nothing to the significance? Is it merely, as Edersheim says, the usual quantity, and is that what his texts suggest? Not, surely, to one who is accustomed to see the New Testament in the Old, and to read the histories contained in it, as the apostle does that of Abraham (Gal. 4) as types and prophecies of spiritual things. In this way it is most instructive to observe that Gideon's ephah of flour, which is the equivalent of "three measures" was offered to the Lord; and that Hannah likewise brought her ephah to the house of the Lord in Shiloh. The third case he adduces (and the only other) is still more in point: for Abraham's food with which he entertains his heavenly visitants was undoubtedly overruled, at least, to show us again Christ in His Person and work (three measures of fine meal and the calf ― life sacrificed) as the means of communion between heaven and earth:* "Three measures" are the full divine measure, God in manifestation, and that is the right measure surely of the true Meat-offering, the Man Christ Jesus.

{*These are not random or fragmentary applications, but have their place in a history completely significant throughout, in which by the significance of the whole each part is certified (see Gen. 18 notes).}

How all this brings out what is before us! Christ, the bread of life, is what the professing church has had entrusted to her for her own sustenance and for the blessing of others. The doctrine of Christ is her most precious deposit, and the maintaining this in purity her great responsibility. Alas, she has adulterated it with leaven: the Lord's own explanation of this as "the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" and the "leaven of Herod," remains still for us in Christian times as wherewith to interpret His parable of the Kingdom. Formalism, ritualism, rationalism, the corrupting tendencies of world-pandering Herodianism, have all had their share in perverting the precious doctrine of Christ. And here distinctly the "woman's" form appears in that which Scripture itself stamps as "the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth" (Rev. 17), she who, claiming to be emphatically the "CHURCH," at the same time assumes the power of adding to it her own authoritative interpretations. Doubtless she is not alone in this: others have followed her more or less distinctly, in claiming to give the "voice of the church," whether in the "catholic" or some lesser form. In whatever way this may be done it is an intrusion upon. Christ's office as the only "Master* and Lord;" and wherever it is done, some kindred evil will spring out of it. Christ's voice, and that alone, must be authoritative for the soul.

{*"Teacher" (John 13:13).}

The leaven is leavening the whole lump. No doubt, there is a present hindrance to this in the power of the Spirit working, and as long as the present purpose of God is not complete, the lump as a whole cannot be leavened. God will preserve His truth, which never has been as a whole allowed to be in the woman's hands to be leavened. Once let the true Church be removed, the truth of God will be removed with it, and the leaven of falsehood do its fatal work upon all that is left.

3. With this the parables spoken to the multitude are ended: and except in parables He did not speak to them. The prophet's word was being fulfilled in Him (Ps. 78:2): He was taking the place of another Asaph, to speak of things more deeply hidden than those of which Asaph spoke. The psalmist's words therefore are not exactly but freely quoted: his deep things were contained in a past history, the meaning of which it is given to him to utter; Christ's in a history of things to come, but which mournfully reflect in their general lesson that older story of another people. Alas, man's history does repeat itself: now, however, it was of a state of "things hidden from the foundation of the world" ― of which the prophets of the Old Testament themselves knew nothing.

Section 2. (Matt. 13:36-52.)

Faith's view.

The Lord now leaves the multitude and goes into the house: the audience is changed, and He is now with His disciples only, and able to speak out. He does now give them the explanation of the parable of the darnel, carrying it further also than the parable itself had done. But to this he adds three other parables, the third of which He partially explains, but not the others. We are left to spiritual apprehension to discern these.

Between these last three and the first four we shall find the difference which the numbers indicate. Four is the number of the world, and they are spoken in the world ― before the multitude. We find in them, in fact, what we can see to be the external aspect of things, ― the Kingdom in the form which it has taken manifestly, even though those who see it may discern little of its import. In what is said to the disciples in the house we shall find what is for those of the present time only spiritually discerned, ― what is not public fact, but either lies beyond Christian times, or else is of such a nature as only to be understood by those who have learned it from God, from His word. It is faith's view, then, that we now are to be occupied with, and it need not be a strange thing to us to find that we have very different interpretations to consider, and which it will be necessary to consider seriously, before we shall be entitled to speak with conviction upon the subject.

(1) But first of all we have what is itself an explanation. The interpretation of the parable of the darnel finds its place with the last three parables, and for this there must be some special reason. It would not be enough to say, it is an interpretation; for the Lord had before this explained that of the sower apart to His disciples, without reserving it for the after-teaching in the house. The true reason seems to be in that which is manifest in it, that it goes beyond the parable itself, and therefore beyond the end of the Christian form of the Kingdom of heaven. It presents, therefore, what must be to us as long as we are down here a matter of faith simply: and thus it comes into the second section here, and finds its place with the last three parables.

The parable ends with the gathering of the wheat into the barn. The saints of the present are removed, while the darnel, the fruit of Satan's sowing, is left in the field ― in the world; bound in bundles for the burning, but not burnt. It is noticeable that there is nothing else but this mentioned now. There are no mere lifeless professors, but only the followers of false doctrine, ― the reason for which is an unspeakably solemn one, as explained by the apostle in the second epistle to the Thessalonians: the mere professors will be swept off by that "strong delusion" which will come with the apostasy of the last days upon all that have not received the love of the truth that they might be saved" (2 Thess. 2:7-12). The public judgment here is upon those in manifest rebellion; not upon what is hidden but what is manifest. The words in the epistle are decisive as to this.

It is with what takes place after the saints are taken home that the interpretation of the parable has mainly to do: "As then the darnel is gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be at the completion of the age. The Son of man shall send His angels, and they shall gather out of His Kingdom," ― it is now His Kingdom, He is not simply sitting on the Father's throne ― "all things that offend, and those committing lawlessness, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father."

Notice the contrast: the Kingdom of the Son of man below, the Kingdom of the Father above: the righteous reign in the Kingdom of the Son of man; they shine in the Kingdom of their Father. The Sun of righteousness is risen upon the earth; and this is why the righteous shine as the Sun: they are with Him, sharers of His glory; not suns ― central, independent orbs, ― but lustrous with the glory put upon them. But this carries us, as is plain; beyond the present form of the Kingdom, as also we shall find the parable of the net does. For us, to whom all these parables of the Kingdom belong, it is a matter of faith alone. The numerical symbolism stamps this, I doubt not, as what it so plainly is, the beginning of the reign of righteousness.

2 We come now to two parables which ought, by their evident likeness to one another, to render mutual help in their interpretation ― the parables of the treasure and the pearl. They are commonly understood by Christians as portraying in somewhat different ways the value of Christianity or of Christian blessings, and the need of sacrificing all else in order to secure them. But we must take them separately.

"Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in the field, which a man having found hath hid, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field."

An old note of Luther gives what is still the common view: "The hidden treasure is the gospel, which bestows upon us all the riches of free grace, without any merit of our own. Hence also the joy when it is found, and which consists in a good and happy conscience, that cannot be obtained by works. The gospel is likewise the pearl of great price."

"True Christianity," says Lange, "is ever again like an unexpected discovery, even in the ancient Church: the best possession we can find, a gift of free grace. Every one must find and discover Christianity for himself. In order to secure possession, even of what we have found without any merit of our own, we must be willing to sacrifice all; for salvation; though entirely of free grace, requires the fullest self-surrender."

He is naturally perplexed, however, about the purchase of the field, to get the treasure. His solution of the difficulty is so strange that it can only be of value as showing to what strange methods people have to resort to interpret consistently: "If the 'field' refers to external worldly ecclesiasticism, the expression might mean that we were not to carry the treasure out of the visible Church, as if we were stealing it away, but that we should purchase the field in order to have full title to the possession hid in it. Accordingly it would apply against sectarianism." It is hardly worth while to go further.

In fact the interpretation is scarcely scriptural in any part. A man like Luther may speak of "buying" the riches of free grace, and so, no doubt, does Scripture; but it never speaks of selling all that one has to do it. God says rather, "Come ye, buy wine and milk without money and without price." And the Lord does indeed say, "Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:33); but He has taught us elsewhere how to understand all such expressions, and that the would-be disciple does not by this "buy" the grace of God, but must receive that grace first to enable for such whole-hearted discipleship. Not "whosoever will lose his life," in order to find it, but he who does so "for My sake, shall find it" (Matt. 16:25). For "though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3). Love must be the motive power, or there is nothing that can count; but then we cannot love in order to gain for ourselves by it: there is but one way of acquiring it, and that is. as flame lights flame. So love alone kindles love: "we love Him, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

To sell all that one has to buy the free grace of God is not according to the gospel: that alone wrecks this interpretation; but, if we inquire further, What is the "field" that is bought to get the treasure? the Lord has Himself answered, not with Dr. Lange that it is "external worldly ecclesiasticism" ― a strange thing indeed to buy at such a cost! ― but the "world," simply the world. That is the field in which the Word is sown; clearly; ecclesiasticism may spring up in it, but only after the sowing, and must always be a very different thing. But, if "the field is the world," are we to sell all we have to buy the world, to find the gospel in it? That is mere absurdity, of course.

This interpretation breaking down; then; it only remains to reverse the order of thought, and find in it the Saviour seeking the sinner, instead of the sinner seeking the Saviour. Divine love is first and worthiest: and then how the central figure here shines out! HE went and sold all that He had ― "emptied Himself," as the word in Philippians literally is (Phil. 2:7, R.V.): "though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might

become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9). Texts are easy enough to find in this direction, and simple enough, too, in application. Here is a view of the Kingdom which lies outside of the range of the first four parables, as the continuation of the second parable does, but antecedent, not consequent to them. But it is the foundation upon which all rests, and which could not be omitted from faith's view of things. It is the fundamental view of the Kingdom itself, and now its being the field of the world that He buys, instead of being out of place, or difficult to understand, is most exactly accordant and most perfectly intelligible. "Even denying the Lord that bought them" is said of those who bring in "damnable heresies," and bring upon themselves swift destruction (2 Peter 2:1). They are not, therefore, of His redeemed (for redemption involves the forgiveness of sins, (Eph. 1:7,) and is much more than purchase); nor of the treasure, therefore, for which He buys the field; but they are purchased, as all the world is purchased, and He is Lord over them: the word used here being not the usual title of authority, but "despot" (despotes), "owner."

The world, then; belongs to Him, and the treasure He has found in it, and for which He buys it, must be His people, who are therefore His purchased ones, the people of His possession (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 2:9, Gk.). Yet there are still points of difficulty about this parable, if we apply it to Christians now, as is usual and natural with those who accept the interpretation which we must believe to be the true one. For, according to this view, neither the (implied) first hiding, nor the finding, nor the re-hiding of the treasure is accounted for, and even the buying of the field does not seem fully explained, though the meaning of it in itself is clear enough. But beyond all this the parable that follows it, so similar, and which yet cannot be so close a repetition of it as it appears, needs explanation. We must go on; therefore, to this and compare the two together, before we can get a satisfactory view of the whole matter.

(3) Here "the Kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman; seeking goodly pearls; and when he had found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it."

Such interpretations as those of Lange need not long detain us, since they are but slight variations of what we have, in the case of the former parable, already rejected. "The following points," says Lange, "are plain: he who obtains the Kingdom of heaven is no longer represented, merely as a fortunate finder, but at the same time as an untiring searcher. He is consciously seeking and striving after goodly pearls, or precious spiritual goods. At the same time what was formerly described as a treasure is now characterized as a pearl of great price: it is presented in a concentrated form as the one thing needful, bright and glorious in its appearance, ― i.e., the person of Christ and life in Him. are now all in all. Accordingly, all former possessions are readily surrendered." Surely, one would not expect two parables to present things no wider apart than these; and the buying of Christ after this manner is an unscriptural thought. If we have had to refuse, moreover, the similar interpretation of the treasure, the parallel features in the two forbid our acceptance of dissimilar explanations for them. If Christ be the Finder of the one parable, He must be also the Seeker in the other.

But why, then; the two parables? If Christ be the central Figure in each case, there must be surely difference as to the object before Him; but the general thought of those who accept this view is that it is only one and the same object, though differently presented: "The parable of the hidden treasure," it is said, "did not sufficiently convey what the saints are to Christ. For the treasure might consist of a hundred thousand pieces of gold and silver. And how would this mark the blessedness and beauty of the Church? The merchantman finds 'one pearl of great price.' The Lord does not see merely the preciousness of the saints, but the unity and heavenly beauty of the assembly. Every saint is precious to Christ; but He 'loved the Church and gave Himself for it.'"

This, however, does not adequately distinguish between the two parables, and indeed passes over entirely some of the most conspicuous differences between them. One cannot understand, if this be all, why the "pearl" should not by itself suffice for both.

That the pearl is the Church is indeed capable of fullest demonstration. If, then; the Church, the heavenly object, be pictured in the second parable, does not this naturally raise the question whether the "treasure hid in the field" of the world is not intended to mark a contrast in this respect? If so, and in connection with the Kingdom of heaven; our thoughts are at once directed to Israel as brought before us in the treasure. Let us examine the possibility of such an application; and see whether it may not help us with regard to some of the otherwise unexplained differences between the two parables.

We have seen that the Kingdom was first announced to Israel. But they rejected the King, and on this account it passed from them. This is, no doubt, why the thought of Israel being before us here has not been more frankly entertained. The parables are "mysteries" of the Kingdom: but is not Israel's rejection from that which according to Old Testament prophecy belongs to her (and which shall be yet hers in a day to come) part of these very mysteries? The words of the apostle of the Gentiles seem to be clearly in the affirmative with regard to this. He says: "For I would not have you to be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part is happened unto Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in" (Rom. 11:25). Thus he names the very thing which has caused the rejection of Israel for the present time as among the mysteries of this time. Is it not, then, antecedently probable enough that among these parables Israel's relation to the Kingdom should be found to have a place?

When we look at the parable again; we cannot but be confirmed in this. To Israel it was promised that if they obeyed Jehovah's voice, and kept His covenant, then they should be a peculiar treasure unto Him above all people (Ex. 19:5); and the psalmist would wake up their praise by the recollection that "Jehovah hath chosen Jacob for Himself, and Israel for His peculiar treasure" (Ps. 135:4). Yet when the Lord came to His own this treasure as such was hid in the field of the world, ― as it were, lost among the nations. He discovered it, but could not possess Himself of it. He must first purchase it as at the cross, where Caiaphas, unconscious prophecy declared He would "die for the nation" (John 11:51). We see also why the field must be bought: it is in the world that Israel is yet to be displayed as Jehovah's treasure. But the purchase being made, there is nothing further done as to possession: here the parable stops; the end of this belongs not to the "mysteries;" and in the meanwhile another purpose comes into sight, and is the very thing of which the next parable certainly bears witness.

Thus the interpretation in this way fairly and fully unlocks the whole parable; and a scriptural interpretation which does this must needs be the true one; for if not, ― if two interpretations, equally consistent, could be given of the same words, then the words would not distinguish, would be defective in significance, as the Lord's words could not be. We would have no means of discerning between the true and the false: a conclusion which would be the destruction of the power and authority of Scripture: for that whose meaning cannot be known ceases by that fact to have authority.

In the pearl of great price it is no wonder that Christians should imagine the Lord to be intended. But it is the Church which is thus spoken of, and its preciousness is not only insisted on, but in measure explained also. Its value is estimated by One who knows fully what it is He values. It is now not merely a man who finds, but a merchant who is seeking goodly pearls. The thing he finds he is in pursuit of, and with the practised eye of the skilled observer. Notice, too, that it is intimated that there are other pearls. This is one, however, whose value is such that, having found it, he will sell all he has to buy it.

But what is a pearl? It is, first of all, the product of a living being: it is the only jewel, as far as I am aware, that is so; and this is the first thing, surely, that we are intended to realize in it.

A pearl is the result of injury done to the animal that produces it. Its material is the nacre, as it is called, or "mother of pearl," which lines the interior of the shell, and which is renewed by it as often as injured or worn away. A particle of sand getting between the animal and the shell, the irritation causes a deposit of nacre upon it, which goes on being deposited, layer after layer, till a pearl is formed. But "completely spherical pearls" ― and these are the valuable ones ― "can only be formed loose in the muscle or soft parts of the animal. The Chinese obtain them artificially by introducing into the living mussel foreign substances, such as pieces of mother of pearl fixed to wires, which thus become coated with a more brilliant material."

The pearl is thus, as we may say, an answer to an injury; and it is the offending object that becomes, through the work of the injured one, a precious and beauteous gem. It is clothed with a comeliness put upon it, as the objects of divine grace are, with the beauty and glory of Him we crucified! It is in truth nothing else that He sought in coming among us but objects of divine grace.

Between a common pearl and one of great price, the difference is only of degree. The size and brilliancy depend, not upon the grain of sand which may be enwrapped, but upon the number of layers of nacre which enwrap it. The greatness of the grace bestowed is the distinguishing feature in what is here. Different bestowals of grace there are, and Scripture asserts this in the fullest way. The calling of Israel is not that of the Church, which is Christ's body; and though the departed saints of former dispensations will plainly be in heaven as we shall be, Scripture again makes a difference between the Church of the first-born ones whose names are written in heaven" (Israel being the first-born upon earth) and the "spirits of just men made perfect" (Heb. 12:23). God is going "in the ages to come to show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:7).

Israel may be the treasure in the field, but the pearl speaks of personal adornment. Christ will have the Church in heaven with Himself, putting in the highest place what is to show most conspicuously the glory of His grace. It is one pearl; as the body of Christ is one. There cannot be, it is evident, another body of Christ. The "fullness" or complement "of Him that filleth all in all" admits of no other.

The treasure and the pearl both speak of what is faith's view as to the Kingdom, not the external view presented in the first four parables. In the treasure we find Israel preserved for blessing, but reserved, they having in the meanwhile rejected the only possible way in which it could be theirs. In the pearl we have that in which, during this reservation, the purpose of God as to the Church comes out. It is the first expression of it, and as yet we do not realize just what it is: as the "assembly which is His body," or even as "the house of God," it is not yet mentioned, but as people for Himself, destined to display His glory ― the glory of His grace: heavenly, therefore, not earthly, the earthly promises being Israel's still. The revelation will, of course, become fuller as we go on. The light increases to the perfect day.

(4) Israel comes no more into this picture all has been said about it that needs. The rest is told. fully in the Old Testament prophets. What we have in the last parable here concerns neither Israel nor the Church, as is plain by the interpretation which our Lord Himself gives: it is the mercy to the Gentiles, after the purpose of God as to the Church is complete. A new gathering now begins with the net cast into the sea, the figure of the Gentile nations. It gathers of every kind, and is then drawn to shore, and the sorting of the good from the bad is by angel-hands alone. This is at the completion of the age, and while coincident with the final harvesting of the wheat-field, is a different thing from it. To the present time it cannot apply: the putting the fish into denominational vessels, as some have applied it, is not a possible thought here: for we are not in the "completion of the age,"* which is, as our Lord explains, the time of harvest; and the sorting in this case is not by human but angelic hands.

{*The full explanation of this term will be given in the notes on the twenty-fourth chapter, where the whole prophecy relates to it. "The end of the world" is a wrong translation.}

The net applies to the going out of the "everlasting gospel," as in Rev. 14:6-7, after the Church is removed to heaven, and where the terms of it show at once the difference between it and the gospel at the present time. We cannot say, "Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come," and on the other hand the grace which it is ours to proclaim is infinitely fuller. The issue of what is here is, no doubt, seen in the separative judgment of the living, when the Lord appears, as shown forth in the "sheep" and "goats" of the twenty-fifth chapter. In the wheat-field of Christendom there will be at the end no separation of the wicked from among the righteous, but the righteous will be gathered first of all, and removed to heaven; after which nothing but the darnel will remain to be gathered and burnt. With the fish here and the sheep and goats in the later chapter, there is a true judicial separation of the "sheep from the goats," the wicked departing into everlasting fire, and the righteous left for blessing upon earth under the "Shepherd" rule of the Son of man now come.

This is the end of the parables of the Kingdom; and the Lord's words that follow to His disciples are self-evident in their application to them. New things have been declared and put in connection with the old; all the latter part being such an adjustment. The scribe of the old dispensation, becoming now the disciple of the new, is brought into the fullness of the whole revelation of God.

Subdivision 2. (Matt. 13:53 — 14.)

Features of a day of rejection.

We return now to the personal history of the Lord, but to find in it also the foreshadow of such things as the parables have put before us. The fact of His rejection by man is now a governing thought; and this involves rejection for His people, and a path in separation from a world in estrangement from Him. This is especially what characterises the next portion of the Gospel which developer for us the features of a day of rejection; but in which grace still works, and finds among men not its objects only but its instruments. But the world is at the same time on the one hand a desert, on the other a stormy sea. Soon He Himself also is absent, and His disciples are left in the darkness, toiling over the waters in the face of the adverse wind. But again there is a change: He is coming back to them over the waters; and faith, discerning Him and seeking to be with Him, is fain to leave the boat and at His invitation walk upon the waters too to go to Him. Here the Church's path is clearly presented to us, the boat imaging the position of that remnant of Israel which as to their hopes the disciples were, when He went away, and to which (accompanied by His heavenly people) He will again return. Then the wind ceases, and the boat having reached the shore, mercy flows out to men far and wide as it will in millennial days. Let us now seek to apprehend this in detail.

1. First of all, we have a two-fold witness to His rejection. All classes of men are concerned in this: for the reception of Christ alike wounds their pride and opposes their lust; and thus Christ Himself and he who would prepare His way must share together.

(1) First, Nazareth rejects Him, ― the place where He had been so long, and where the glory of a life to which all else was darkness had shone before their eyes. They have perforce to own His wisdom and His mighty work; but what right has He to them? They know His mother and His kindred; and these suggest no such greatness. They ought surely to have argued therefore that all this in Him was not natural but supernatural ― that there was more in Him than nature could account for: but no! they will rather discredit what they see and know, than accept such things from a carpenter's son. Divine power must not work without human credentials. The root is out of a dry ground: the plant may be anything you please, but it is a sufficient condemnation of it that the ground is dry.

That was His glory for which they despised Him. He was no creature of His circumstances; He derived not from man; He received no honor from him. Nor could He thus, on His part, put honor on man, nor accredit him who had fallen away from God. He could serve, and for this come into the lowest place, when from man He could not accept the highest. Those who had not judged aright the world or themselves, could not judge Him aright. And still the proverb) holds that a prophet may be in honor anywhere rather than among those who know him in his earthly relations best. Did not this for long dim the eyes even of His brethren (John 7:5)? and does not its influence appear even in the tender solicitude of His mother?

So Nazareth shuts itself out from the blessing which was ready to be poured out upon them: "He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief."

(2) Prince and people were alike in this; and now we hear of the murder of the Baptist at the hands of the licentious Herod. Conscience he has, enough to trouble him; religion enough to bind him to the abominable wickedness in which he is ensnared by the evil influences to which he has already surrendered himself. The spirit of uncleanness is quite ready to take to himself other spirits more wicked than himself, and with the key of the house in his hand, it is too late to shut the door upon them. Scrupulous the adulterer may be as to his oath, and for his honor before those who are at table with him, ― the poor remains of honor which are so apt to increase in value in proportion to the little left. So the death of the prophet is cheaply purchased by the dance of a light girl, and the king's oath is kept inviolate. What a world it is in every view that can be taken of it, whether in its pleasures, its morals, or its underlying passions and malignities! In such a world what an honor to be persecuted! what a reproach to be in esteem! The Spirit of God sums it up morally thus: "All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life," and adds that "it is not of the Father" (1 John 2:16). The Father has been seen and hated in the Son (John 15:23-24).

2. The Lord accepts the news of the Baptist's murder as His own rejection. He withdraws into a desert place apart; but those who are drawn to Him by their necessities flock after Him still, and He cannot withdraw Himself from the need which appeals to Him. The wilderness thus becomes a place of plenteous provision, and the Lord's grace and power are manifest for all that come. He heals all the infirm among them; and as night comes on; and the disciples remind Him of the need of the multitude there in a desert place, He casts them for all this upon the disciples themselves: "They have no need to go away," He says, "give ye them to eat." But they do not realize what this implies, and that they can avail themselves of His power for ministry such as this. They have but five loaves and two fishes: how plainly we may read ourselves in them! What use to put such a pitiful morsel even into His hand to satisfy so many with! But He does not disdain it, or set it aside, to work independently. If a miracle were in His mind, this might seem more worthy of Him; but on the contrary He will rather lower the miracle than set aside those whom He would identify with Himself and use in service. They are to find the little that they have, enough, if but His blessing be with it; and so are we.

But they are to bring it to Him first, and to receive it from Him; and then He bids the multitude recline upon the grass: His way is to give rest and then refreshment. Then He blesses and breaks, and puts it back into His disciples, hands to distribute; and they distribute it all; and there is more than enough for all the multitude. How good to know that out of that insignificant quantity there is positively enough for every one there; yea, and more than enough: "twelve hand-baskets full of fragments that remained" over and above all that had been eaten! Thus there is actually more left than they had had at the beginning; and this is constantly the way of spiritual increase, scattering and yet increasing. Would that we all and always remembered it: ― the responsibility of the possession of whatever ministers to the need of man; but above all, of that which ministers to what is truly life, ― and then the gain resulting. Every particle of truth we have, brings with it corresponding responsibility, proportionate privilege, and opportunity of greater gain. "To him that hath shall more be given; and he shall have abundantly; and from him that hath not, even that which he hath" ― hath and hath not, hath as if he had it not, without practical use or advantage ― "shall be taken away."

Such grace was still going forth in Israel: the power of Jehovah was manifesting itself among them, to satisfy her poor with bread" (Ps. 132:15). The twelve baskets full may point to the resources of power for them in the presence among them of their King; the five thousand men, the responsibility of such realized capabilities (5x10^3), which yet unbelief might make of no effect. And this is in fact the result. The stream of grace that was flowing then could not, indeed, be dammed back by all that unbelief could do, but it might be forced to flow in other channels; and this was in fact the result. The Gospel of John it is which gives us insight (John 6) into the spiritual condition of those to whom the Lord ministered here, and to whom He had to say, "Ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles," ― not because ye realized divine power in them, ― "but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled." These were they who would after this carnal manner, "have taken Him by force, to make Him a king" (ver. 15). Such was the nation; and, as such, He had to turn away from them.

3. We find Him therefore urging His disciples to re-enter the ship, and go before Him to the other side, while He Himself, having dismissed the multitudes, goes up into the mountain apart to pray. This is simple, as significant of His present place and work, Israel being in the meantime left to the consequences of their unbelief. Gone up to God, He intercedes for His own; tossed on the sea of this world, and with the wind contrary: for Satan is "the prince of the power of the air," by whom "the course of this world" is directed (Eph. 2:2). The "ship" does not represent, however, what is proper to the present dispensation; but the means by which, when faith has not Christ before it, we are sustained upon the waters. Such means are essentially Jewish, no doubt, and it was practically a Jewish remnant which the Lord left upon earth when He went up, as it will be a Jewish remnant to which He will by and by return. The question put by the disciples to the Lord immediately before His going up, "Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6) shows how little beyond the national hope they were at this time. Long after, they "walked orderly," thronged the temple, and were "zealous of the law" (Acts 21:20, 24), and Paul it is who speaks the decisive word by which the Christian company separate themselves from the Jewish ship to take the true path of faith upon the waters.

The ship speaks not properly of help given to faith, but of help to do without it. "The law is not of faith," and in the notable chapter in which Paul insists to the Hebrews upon the path in which the elders walked, and in which they obtained a good report, it is striking how little the times of walking orderly and keeping the law furnish him with examples (Heb. 11.) Faith lives in the unseen and is built up by that which is spiritual, not natural. Nay, the mighty miracles of the wilderness did not beget a generation of believers, as we well know. The law, being the trial of man; gave every assistance to man naturally: the eye, the ear, the senses generally, through these the whole sensitive being, were appealed to, ― only to end in more emphatic witness to his utter impracticability. The schoolmaster's reign, therefore, is at an end, though the lessons learnt abide: "after that faith is come, we are no longer under the schoolmaster" (Gal. 3:25).

Faith could not be more strikingly pictured than in this solitary man stepping out of the ship upon the waters to go to Jesus. And this has been in fact the Church's path ever since. True, the "ship" has come back again; with the return of Jewish principles with church establishments and the patronage of the world; but this has made the picture only a more striking one, by separating even disciples from disciples, and making the Church's path in result more absolutely the individual, isolated path, which for the saint, in character as such, it has ever been. Faith is, of necessity, personal and individual. A "Christian world" means only a corrupt and degenerate Church profession. The Church itself, as well as the open world, becomes a scene in which the word of the Lord calls for "overcoming" and more and more appeals to the individual only, ― to him "that hath an ear to hear" (Rev. 2, 3.)

Indeed, this Figure on the water is not seen except by faith; even those who are disciples may count it an "apparition" only, and fear, instead of being drawn by it. Notice, that it is to the soul that invites the invitation that the Voice says, "Come." It speaks to no other. Nor does it speak other than approvingly, though the one inviting it proves thoroughly his weakness in his response to it. But he gets no rebuke for a rash venture. The other disciples might have given him that: there are many who are in no danger of this kind of failure, who would justify themselves by it from all such attempts; but the Lord says only, "Wherefore didst thou doubt?" And surely this doubting is as foolish as disastrous. For the moment, at least, he had proved the power of Christ: he had actually walked upon the water, and why should boisterous winds put him now in fear? The power was not his own; and he might reckon on it as much for rough water as for smooth. But with the eye off Christ, one cannot reckon right. He doubts and he begins to sink; but at his cry there is a Hand outstretched to him, and he is held up. It is not the ship that rescues him, nor is he taken from the path, but supported in it. Good is it to remember and realize this as grace which acts towards us in our failure now.

Peter and his Lord come back to the ship together; then the wind ceases; and those in the ship come and worship Him with the acknowledgment, "Indeed Thou art the Son of God." This is again not difficult to understand; for when He returns to Israel, we shall be with Him still, and for them and us the wind will be at rest. Satan's power will be over, himself shut up in the bottomless pit, the power of Christ supreme over all.

4. We see now therefore in Gennesaret the mercy flowing out which will characterize this blessed time. "Gennesaret" may even mean "the protection of the prince." Sickness and distress are banished by the presence of the "Prince of life." It is but the shadow; what will the reality be?

Subdivision 3. (Matt. 15 ― 16:12.)

The heart of man manifested, and God's heart told out: the way of sanctification.

We are now shown in the teachings of Israel's leaders the blindness of man's heart, both as to man himself, and as to the way of blessing for him. The one error of course involves the other, and it is an error, not of the mind only, but of the heart as well. The heart is in fact what is in question everywhere as to man ― teacher or taught: out of the heart all evil comes, and dealing with the outside will not help it. Sanctification is not an external thing; and it can only be learnt, moreover, in the sanctuary, ― in the presence of God from whom man has deeply revolted. The prodigal must return to his Father; and God is ready to welcome him. Let him take but the place to which his need should bring him, he shall find that Heart that never has been alienated or indifferent poured out over him. This is seen in the person not of a privileged Jew, but of a Canaanitess; and then in Israel we find the table of the Lord spread, and the bounty with which He would attract wanderers to Himself. The closing section returns to that with which it began, and warns against the leaven of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

1. The question with which we begin is raised by themselves, by Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem, the headquarters of all the religious opposition to the Lord. They come to Him directly with the inquiry, which of course is an accusation; and as a charge against His disciples, impliedly against Him their teacher: "Why do Thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread." They had here what in their minds convicted the disciples indeed as very manifest sinners; for the breach of such a tradition was with these men a greater sin than the breach of the law itself; nay, by a manifest perversion of Ex. 34:27, it was argued that this oral law it was that contained the terms of God's covenant with Israel,* and not the other.

{*See Edersheim's "Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah," for much else and worse upon this subject.}

Thus here was a challenge which the Lord could not allow to go unanswered. He answers them with another question; which even to themselves would destroy the authority to which they appealed, if they could not answer it: "Why do ye also transgress the commandments of God for your tradition?" And then He takes up the commandment to which in a special way God had been pleased to attach a promise for the observance of it, a signal punishment for disobedience to it, and shows how thoroughly their tradition left the door open to any who pleased, to violate it with impunity. A man had only to say it was "corban" ― a gift to God ― that by which he might have ministered to the need of his father or mother, to be completely excused from such a duty. "Of course, the Ten Words,'" says Edersheim, "were the Holy of Holies of the Law; nor was there any obligation more rigidly observed ― indeed, carried in practice almost to the verge of absurdity, ― than that of honor to parents. In both respects, then; this was a specially vulnerable point, and it might well be argued that if in this law Rabbinic ordinances came into conflict with the demands of God's word, the essential contrariety between them must indeed be great.

"It must not be thought that the pronunciation of the votive word 'Corban,' although meaning a 'gift' or 'given to God,' necessarily dedicated a thing to the Temple. The meaning might simply be, and generally was, that it was to be regarded like Corban, ― that is, that in regard to the person or persons named, the thing termed so was to be considered as if it were Corban, ― laid on the altar, and put entirely out of their reach. For, although included under the same name, there were really two kinds of vows: those of consecration to God, and those of personal obligation ― and the latter were the most frequent.

"There can be no doubt that the words of Christ referred to such vows of personal obligation. By these a person might bind himself with regard to men or things, or else put that which was another's out of his own reach, or that which was his own out of the reach of another, and this as completely as if the thing or things had been Corban, a gift given to God. … And so stringent was the ordinance that (almost in the words of Christ) it is expressly stated that such a vow was binding, even if what was vowed involved a breach of the Law. It cannot be denied that such vows in regard to parents would be binding, and were actually made. Indeed the question is discussed in the Mishnah, in so many words, whether honor of father or mother constituted a ground for invalidating a vow, and decided on the negative against a solitary dissenting voice. And if doubt should still exist, a case is related in the Mishnah, in which a father was thus shut out by the vow of his son from anything by which he might be profited by him" (Edersheim, vol. 2 pp. 17-21).

Thus was Rabbinism convicted out of its own mouth of the most glaring substitution of its traditions for the word of God, and the moral character of these involved in hopeless condemnation. Nor has traditionalism ever escaped from such a violation of conscience and the word of God. Man being what he is, it could not be otherwise: the maintenance of the word of God in absolute supremacy is his only salvation from the grossest immorality, as the "teaching for the doctrines the commandments of men" is itself rebellion against the Source of all morality.

The Lord calls the multitude together to Him therefore, to give the most public utterance to that which may seem to us so simple, and yet to which a large mass of Christians by profession have not even yet attained; that "not that which entereth into the mouth defileth a man." The source of defilement for a man is, alas, within him; and Christianity by taking away the suppositious sources has lifted the true moral element out of all confusion, and placed it upon an immutable foundation. Brought into the clear light, such a principle commends itself to every man's conscience; but all the more would the Pharisees resent it. The disciples, in some alarm, represent this to Him; but He at once in most decisive language condemns their principles as what were no plants of His Father's planting, but as it were weeds that must be rooted up; while they themselves were but blind leaders of blind followers: they would fall into the ditch together. For man cannot escape from the responsibility which the moral faculty entails on him, and which would for the simplest, if they would listen to it, break such snares as these.

Yet, so great is the blinding force of association and habits of thought, that even the disciples, as represented by the ever foremost Peter, desire to have "this parable" explained to them; and He has to reprove them for their spiritual slowness. How constantly was there found in this the cause of this lack of understanding which we would rather even impute to mere mental feebleness. Cannot they perceive the difference between the moral and the material? Here is indeed a fountain of evil which it may pass human ability to cleanse, but it has to be reckoned with. It is an easy thing to legislate about meats and the washing of hands, and by such poor righteousness as this satisfy oneself perhaps but too well; but even this satisfaction convicts the soul of its unrighteousness and lack of truthful dealing with itself. The evil must be faced in order to deliverance; but where shall deliverance be found?

2. The answer we have in the next incident, the story of the Canaanitish woman. From the pitiable self-righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, which is but hypocrisy, the Lord withdraws into the parts of Tyre and Sidon. Here are open sinners, long since under the divine curse for their sins; but here too, as everywhere, are the needs which under God force men to reality. Thus they are mercies in disguise, ― a divine Voice, which must have mercy in it, even though this may not be recognized as such.

A woman out of these coasts comes crying after Him. With her it is need that brings her, that blessed need that in one shape or another has brought us all. But she appeals to Him by a strange title for a Canaanite ― "the Son of David," and as such she could have no claim upon Him. He answers her, therefore, not a word. With a heart full of blessing for her, He yet could not bless her on false ground: for her it would not be good; for Him it would be impossible. But to come to Christ without a claim seems also at first impossible, not knowing aright either ourselves or Him. We try to claim Him by some betterness beyond our neighbors, or by our repentance and good resolutions, or in some other way by which we may avoid the full facing of our need ― of that which has given the devil power against us. But the Canaanite under the curse is still our picture if we put it that way, and Christ is the Son of David, silent and afar off. He had, in fact, to take a far different position; in order that either Jews or Gentiles might have part in Him.

Yet she cries on, till the disciples also beg Him to dismiss her; impliedly (for they knew His grace) by granting her request. But he answers, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." He speaks, let us notice, not of what is in His heart, but in His mission; and He speaks as Son of David, not as Son of man or Saviour. But even the house of Israel were lost sheep, little as they realized it; and if they were "lost," what hope for any, save in pure and utter grace?

She takes heart, as it seems, by this, to draw near to Him: for if Israel be lost, and He has come after them, may not a lost one from outside have hope also? and will not grace be consistent with itself? can it be local merely, and limited ― not universal? how could such light shine, and not shine all round? Has he not here, in fact, supplied her with the argument which presently she uses? Did He not mean to do so, when He dropped that word, so penetrating, so assuring, into her heart?

So she comes, now worshiping, and dropping the formal title while she owns in her simple "Lord," in a more personal way, His title over her. Will He not give help to one who needs it? So she drops all other claim than this: "Lord," she says, "help me." "But He answered and said, It is not right to take the children's loaf and cast it to the dogs."

That might seem as if she had gained nothing, but she has. Again He has dropped a word for her, if she be lowly enough to take it. For the last word "dogs" is not the word for the wild houseless, offal-hunting creatures of the eastern streets, but though still "dogs," yet the "little dogs," the house or pet-dogs even; such as would look, as she was doing, for something in the house. So that the way for her into blessing has really been laid open: if only she has humility enough to take it. And indeed faith and humility ― which in a sinner is repentance ― are twin companions, never to be disjoined. He that is lowly enough to take the place of dog will soon discern God's way of grace. She sees at once the steps by which He has been leading her ― "the lost," the "dog," yet the house-dog, dependent and to be cared for in some way. And then His bounteous table! perhaps she may have heard of those baskets of fragments taken up after five thousand men had been fed at it: at any rate, she did not ask, ― had no need to ask the children's loaf: the fragments ― in her humility and faith, she says, "the crumbs" ― would be enough for her: "Truth, Lord; for the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their masters, table."

No fear of that argument failing: He himself has given it her; and He would deny His very nature did He say, He was not good enough for that. But He has no thought of this, no need of the argument, which yet, for her sake, He rejoices in: His heart leaps to His lips, as He exclaims, "O woman; great is thy faith! be it unto thee even as thou wilt." And her daughter is healed from that very hour.

Here is how a human heart is led into the sanctuary; and the holy, pure, revealing light is that of grace. What work has been done in it is plain enough, and what no cleansing of the hands could ever have effected. Here is the divine remedy for the heart's vileness, the revelation of the heart of God to it. But Pharisaism could not even understand it, and the double miracle, wrought for a Canaanite, would only have been a double offence. It is not even presented to them, therefore, but has to be done afar off, though under the eyes of His disciples, a sweet appealing picture for those that have hearts to understand it. To how many hearts has it not appealed since then!

3. So now the table of the Lord is spread, and divine fullness is poured out for man's need. The dispensational character so largely found in Matthew still characterizes what is here, and after the blessing of the Gentile in the Canaanitish woman, the Lord is here again among the Jews, and the multitudes who are witnesses and recipients of abundant goodness, glorify the God of Israel. This is all in perfect order; and the feeding of the people has in the numbers connected with it a witness that must not be despised. There are seven loaves now, and seven baskets* full of fragments, the number of perfection being thus doubly stamped on the divine bounty, and carrying us on in thought to the final blessing.

{*Larger baskets than in the former miracle: here spurides, "round, plaited-baskets; fish- or provision-baskets;" in the former case, kopsinoi, "hand- or traveling-baskets. The distinction is always preserved, as in the next chapter.}

4. A new demand is now made upon Christ for a sign from heaven; the Pharisees uniting with their constant enemies, the Sadducees, to make it. The coming together of those otherwise so opposed was but a sign of the strength of that opposition to Jesus which united them. There was not even truth in the desire they expressed; and the character of it showed the reason why they could not see in Him the reality of His claim. A sign that could work upon a carnal people was what they sought, and which would have left them a carnal people still. The faith so awakened would have had none of the moral qualities of faith in it: conscience and heart would have been alike wanting, and God so displayed would have been half dethroned. What a slight, too, would be put upon the Sign of signs, Himself, the Son of God, come in power, yet in all the grace of humanity, among men His creatures! From Him, indeed, the supernatural was natural; but on that account it could not accredit Him: He was above it, though it bore witness to Him. To those who believed on His Name when they saw His miracles, He could not commit Himself (John 2:23-25).

In fact, they were prophets of the external and could read well enough the face of the sky: the spiritual condition; which always rules in the signs of the times just because God is a moral Governor, this they could not see. Had they done so, they would have judged first their own condition and have been brought by their need to the supply provided.

But "a wicked and adulterous generation" it was that sought after a sign; and they would get none but the sign of Jonas. His death and resurrection would be a sign against them, that they had rejected the message of God and His grace, such as Nineveh had known nothing about. Already He had declared this as now inevitable, and briefly refers to it here, as to a sentence pronounced. Then He leaves them and departs.

5. But these Pharisees and Sadducees do not present an evil wholly outside of the circle of His disciples. We have all of us, alas, within us that which makes us from the side of nature but too much akin to them, and in our hearts that which offers itself as a ready and kindly soil for their most seemingly opposite errors. The Lord therefore, in that enigmatic way which He so much used, and which is so well adapted to awaken thought and searching of heart, bids His disciples "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." They can think only that it is because they have taken no bread; although it would be enigmatic enough how the ritualism or rationalism of these could affect their bread-making. But this manifested again the terrible unbelief of those who had twice so lately seen Him multiply the loaves so as to satisfy thousands. Yet they could think that He was troubled about the supply of bread! Nay, it was of the doctrine of the Jewish leaders He was speaking, and of its subtle pervasive working; by which indeed Christendom has been so largely corrupted since. We have already seen His own use of the figure in this way, and it might have prepared them to understand of what He was now speaking. They were slow to understand; but how slowly indeed does that which is .of God dawn upon us in general!

Subdivision 4. (Matt. 16:13 — 17:21.)

"The Kingdom and patience" in man's world and day.

We come now to what furnishes the ground of Peter's two epistles, ― what John speaks of as "the Kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 1:9); set up in a world of which Satan is still the prince, through the lusts by which he holds men captive. Thus the world is that which knew not Christ when He came into it, and of which the cross is the characteristic sign. The cross for the Master means, therefore, the cross for the disciple, as He declares here, if indeed we will be true to Him. The light for the path is a glory outside the world, and which is in His face whom the world has rejected and cast out. Thus we are "called," as Peter says, (2 Peter 1:3) "by glory and virtue" ― the last being the soldier's virtue, "courage," the virtue of the Church militant; and as in Colossians (Col. 1:11), "strengthened with all might, according to the power of His glory, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness."

We have in connection with this the first plain announcement of Christ's assembly, not as Paul long afterwards was given to declare it, as Christ's "body" or "bride," but rather as the house of God, "a spiritual house" of "living stones," as Peter preaches from this very text (1 Peter 2:5). Moreover the administration of the Kingdom is committed to Peter, as representative of the assembly, no doubt (comp. Matt. 18:17-18). We have already seen its history. (Matt. 13), and that the opposition of the world which is the necessary consequence of moral oppositeness, comes to be introduced within the Christian profession itself, so as to entail the need of overcoming in this way also: of which the epistles give us everywhere abundant proof, if indeed the experience of any true disciple permitted him to doubt it.

(1) It is in the coasts of Caesarea Philippi ― stamped thus doubly with the assertion of the power of the world rulers, the Caesars and the Herods, there where Israel should have been sole possessor of the land, upholding and upheld by the name of her God, ― that this revelation of the Divine purpose in the assembly is made. Israel is but as a wanderer among the nations now. Her doom is upon her, although not as yet fully carried into effect; and the world which is uniting with her in the rejection of the one hope of deliverance must still be left for Caesar and Herod to divide between them. Out of it God is going to separate a people for Himself, and in the over abounding of divine grace to give them an inheritance in heaven. But this they are to reach by His own pathway of suffering in the world, the fellowship of His sufferings being the fit training for fellowship upon the throne and in the glory.

The first point here is in the apprehension of Himself; and so He asks His disciples now. "Who do men say that I, the Son of man; am?" He uses the term by which we find Him, in the synoptic Gospels, most commonly speaking of Himself, the term so perfect in its lowliness, so tender in its intimacy, so unique in its very generality: for, just because all were "sons of men," the claim to be the Son of man would by itself be suited to awaken attention. If Daniel, and, still more, Ezekiel were addressed by the Lord as "son of man," this of course was a thing quite different. Whatever else it signified, the reminder of essential difference between the glorious Speaker and the frail instrument by whom He pleased to speak to men; was obviously in place. But, just on that very account, no prophet of them all, in speaking to other men, could have called himself the "Son of man." On the other hand, Daniel had spoken of "One like unto a son of man" coming in the clouds of heaven to receive universal dominion (Dan. 7:13-14), a passage to us abundantly clear, but which does not in fact give Messiah this title, as is plain, and by the Jews in general it does not seem to have been even applied to him.* The question put by them afterwards would apparently indicate this: "We have heard out of the Law, that Christ abideth for ever; and Thou sayest, the Son of man shall be lifted up: who is this Son of man? (John 12:34). As a title indeed, to those whose expectations of the Messiah were so different, its lowliness would not commend it to such use as the Lord constantly made of it. The form of it in Daniel (Bar Enahsh) is the very lowliest, "a son of frail, or mortal, man," so that we are naturally reminded of the "likeness of sinful flesh" (it could only be "likeness" here of which the apostle speaks, Rom. 8:3). Little fit would they be to understand the tenderness of the adoption of such an epithet as "Son of man."**

{* Edersheim in his "Life and Times of Jesus," so often referred to, in a list of Old Testament passages so applied, says of this one only: "Dan. 7:13 is curiously explained in the Talmud (Sanh. 98 a) where it is said that, if Israel behaved worthily, the Messiah would come in the clouds of heaven; if otherwise, humble, and riding upon an ass." In the "Book of Enoch" also, the Messiah appears in the clouds of heaven as a son of man," amid the angels of the divine judgment-seat; and in the Sibylline Oracles there are allusions.

** Not, however, the equivalent of Bar Enahsh, but of Ben Adam, ho huios tou anthropou, "of man" generically.}

What did they make of One who came after this manner: not emblazoning His name upon the skies, but writing it upon the hearts of those relieved by divine mercy through Him? of One who, instead of skimming over the surface of the sore of humanity, probed it to the bottom, though but to heal it effectually? "Who do men say that I, the Son of man; am?"

The answer only takes the judgment of friends into account, and this is various: "some say, John the Baptist; some Elias; some, Jeremias, or one of the prophets." But this various judgment is, in fact, but one: no one really knows; among the crowds around, and recognizing too, the best that could be said for them, the desire to do Him honor, there is yet, so to speak, no true faith. No matter as to the difference between these thoughts, compared with their amazing unanimity. Well might He say, "I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nought and in vain." Israel is surely not now to be gathered, though there is still an election of grace. He turns to the disciples with the same question: "But ye, who do ye say that I am?" And Peter breaks out with his answer for the rest: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Here, then, while Israel remains in unbelief, is the faith of the Church. It is founded on Scripture, but along with this on the knowledge of Christ Himself, ― on the revelation of Christ by the Father to him, as the Lord immediately declares. The Spirit and the Word act together, and so constantly: the Shepherd comes in by the door, and the porter opens to Him; He speaks, and the sheep hear His voice.

That the Christ would be the Son of God, Scripture had again and again declared. The second psalm expressly represents Him as rejected by men; yet owned of God as His Son by nature, yet in manhood, and to be (in spite of all opposition) King at last on Zion. And this is the Scripture which with one accord the disciples quote, after the first appearance of the apostles before the rulers of the Jews, when dismissed, they go to their own company (Acts 4:25-28).

Similarly, according to Isaiah, the virgin's Son would be Immanuel, and this no mere or hyperbolical name: the Child born, the Son given; upon whose shoulder was to be the government in Israel, would be "the mighty God, the Father of eternity, the Prince of peace" (Isa.7:14; Isa. 9:6).

His deity, though born in Bethlehem, but dose goings forth had been of old, from everlasting, Micah had borne witness to, in those words which the scribes and chief priests, so unavailingly for either, could quote to Herod.

Other scriptures there were to shame Israel's unbelief in God's marvelous grace to her, and her great glory. But Peter, taught of God, expresses his faith in a way that shows it to be personal, not traditional nor mere orthodoxy, but a divine energy within his soul. It is the Eternal Life that He has seen in Christ ― that indeed was in Him "the Light of men" (John 1:4). Thus he calls Him not simply the Son of God, but "the Son of the living God." Living power it is that he has realized in Him, the manifested Life, the incarnate, creative Word, and in the sense of this he bears witness to Him.

Striking it is, too, that John; His most intimate disciple, speaks of Life so much. And with Peter, if we look at his first epistle, we shall find that "living" is a characteristic word. A "living hope," the living word," "living stones" built up upon the "Living Stone," living unto righteousness, living according to God: all these harmonize with his confession of righteousness, here; while some of them carry us right back to the confession itself or to the Lord's words in response to it. They combine to assure us of the Presence in which he had lived and walked, and of its power over him.

The Lord answers immediately: "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father, who is heaven. And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter (Petros), and upon this rock (petra) I will build my assembly; and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it."

Peter's faith is thus a divinely given faith, the fruit of a divine revelation to his soul, and thus he is a true "bar-jona," (son of a dove,) born of the Spirit of God; and, Israel having rejected Christ, he must have a new place provided for him, and for those of like faith. Thus he becomes Peter, a stone in a new spiritual building which will be Christ's assembly. It is not yet said that this is the house of God, which in Israel, as we know, had been always a material building. Relationship to God is not yet opened up, but rather to Himself as the Builder of it. It is to be His assembly, a people "called out," as the word indicates,* to Himself and Peter himself explains it to us as consisting of living stones," who "coming to" Him, the "Living Stone," "are built up a spiritual house" (in opposition to Israel's material one). He thus very simply settles the old controversy which Rome has raised upon the Lord's words to him, ― none more competent to settle it surely than the one to whom the words were spoken; and, moreover, Rome's own chosen interpreter, whom for very shame they cannot refuse, and by refusing whom they still destroy their own interpretation: so has God doubly guarded the truth against their perversion. Peter assures us that the "Rock" upon which the assembly is founded is not Peter but Christ Himself. The Petra is not the Petros, near as these may be together: for indeed the "stone" derives all its rock-like qualities from the "rock," ― is, so to speak, quarried out of the rock upon which it is founded.

{* Ecclesia from ekkaleo, to "call out."}

There is no question here, then; to raise or to settle: the "prophetic scriptures" have settled it for us in anticipation, before it was raised. The assembly called out to Christ, is built upon Christ, and every way His assembly: relationship to Himself is now the whole question. And He being the Son of the living God, the gates of hades ― of death ― cannot prevail against it. Death has prevailed over the whole human race, but in the Son of God become Son of man, a new and eternal life has come into humanity, annulling, for those who believe in Him, him who had the power of death, that is, the devil. For these death is abolished, and life and incorruption are brought to light through the gospel.

Here, then; the assembly stands, upon the rock of resurrection; though resurrection has not yet been mentioned in connection with it. But Christ, says the apostle, is marked out Son of God by resurrection of the dead (Rom. 1:4). Life is thus not in Him simply, but in Him meets the power of death and vanquishes it: the assembly (though in the meanwhile on earth) belongs to the other side of death, yea, to heaven: the gates of hades open in vain for it.

This is not, therefore, as Rome again alleges, an affirmation of the infallibility of the Church, but rather of its continuance; and it does continue until at the coming of Christ it is removed to heaven. Of the saints of the Old Testament the apostle could speak as "the spirits of just men made perfect" (Heb. 12:23); and if by the latter expression he intimates, as he surely does, their resin, section, that still shows that, as a body, they had been removed by death. But the Church of Christ could never be spoken of in such a manner: spite of all that it has come through ― all the opposition of men and Satan through which it has come, ― the yawning jaws of the grave have never engulfed it. Though in its character an exotic, and not of earth, the power of the Spirit has maintained it here without interruption; a witness even in her failure and suffering to her absent Lord.

But under all this, and shining through it, there is a higher truth, as has been already said: the Church is that in which, first of all, the power of life over death, death itself made to minister to it and sustain it, comes out in its full character. The eternal life has come in Christ in its perfection; but in Him as a corn of wheat which, falling into the ground and dying, brings forth fruit in which it is perpetuated and multiplied. This is, of course, John's doctrine, or that of his Gospel rather, and Paul also must come in to give it full utterance; but it is wrapped up here in the Lord's first announcement of the Church to Peter.

He is going to build it. His words are as yet but prophecy, not a declaration of what He has done, or is doing, but of what He is going to do. Between that and the present lies for Him, as He begins now to declare explicitly, that awful valley of the shadow of death through which a deeper death darkens, ― an uttermost woe which He alone can bear, a depth in which no foot but His could find standing. Then the "light of life" will have come, the weight be removed from off man's heart, the cloud from his path, but more, ― the veil rent which covers the sanctuary, he will draw near to God, distance done away for ever, to where the full glory of God in a Human Face shall greet and bless and glorify him with its radiance. This is what Christianity means for us even here; and oh that one could tell it out, but it is impossible. Christ must be for Himself the Speaker, and every one must hear from His own lips, find in His own face, drink in from His own love, that else ineffable reality.

From the announcement of the assembly (or, as it is commonly called the Church*) and of Peter's place in it, the Lord goes on to speak of the Kingdom and his place in it: two things which are surely connected together, while they are different, and of which it is important to see both the connection and the difference. Here also there has been on both sides as much confusion of thought as in the former case, and far more widely spread. We shall do well therefore to examine with the more care the meaning of what is here before us.

{*While in common parlance we may still use this term, it is important in all interpretation of Scripture to keep to the true word, "assembly," which, if it had been always adhered to, would have done much of itself to prevent some of the perversion of thought which has connected itself with the other. Church, as is perfectly well known, comes from the Greek Kuriake, "of the Lord," which (as is evident) leaves out the very thing which ecclesia defines, and so permits the free substitution of other thoughts in its place.}

A common confusion is that of the Church and the Kingdom, and which has both proceeded from and led on to very serious confusion in other respects. We have already seen sufficiently what the Kingdom is, to be delivered from the possibility of any absolute identification of them. It certainly was not the Church which John the Baptist proclaimed to be "at hand." Israel was alone before him as the people of God, though needing to be purged by the Lord for entrance into His Kingdom. Even so, people and Kingdom were plainly different thoughts, however closely they might be connected together.

The Kingdom in its Old Testament character being for the time set aside, on account of Israel's rejection of the King, the "assembly" which Christ owns as His, in the day of that rejection, becomes the recognized people of God; and in the same relation to the "Kingdom and patience" that Israel will yet have in relation to His "Kingdom and glory." Still the Kingdom and the people are very different thoughts; although in any picture of the Kingdom we necessarily see the people. So it has been in that history of the Kingdom which we have had put before us in the parables of the thirteenth chapter. But there even; if we have been able to interpret them aright, the people before us in the first parables are not the same people as in the closing one at all; and the Kingdom, while changing in character at the close, goes on beyond the time of the "assembly," of which we have been speaking, altogether.

Church and Kingdom are not, then, even for the present time, the same; though it may be urged that (in the same way as with Israel) in some sense we may identify them. Yet even here, for any right interpretation of the passage before us, we must learn to discriminate. We shall surely find, if we look closely enough, that we cannot even say that (even for the present time) the limits of Church and Kingdom are practically the same: there is a difference here also which must be taken into account, although we may not be able, at the point which we have reached in the Gospel here, fully to define it.

The Kingdom, it is plain, in its mystery-form, is established in the world, not by any open act of divine power, but by the sowing of the "word of the Kingdom" in the hearts of men. It is thus not territorial, as the kingdoms of the world are, but a Kingdom of the truth, a sphere of discipleship; which may be, however, merely outward and nominal, a profession true or false, which the end will declare. This is plain by the parables that have been before us. Its blessings are thus conditional, dependent upon character and conduct, as the parable of the unforgiving servant especially declares (Matt. 18).

That it is administered by men; as representatives of the absent King, the Lord's words to Peter here are clearly in proof, for the keys of the Kingdom are committed to him: not, I believe, distinctively, but as connected with that place which the Lord had just assigned him. As his confession of Him was just that of the others ― of all true disciples, so the place of a stone in Christ's spiritual building was not Peter's alone, but that of all disciples; and the keys of the Kingdom go with this: the Church (that is) administers the Kingdom. In the eighteenth chapter, the power of binding and loosing, given here to Peter, is given to the assembly as a whole (ver. 18): and when we consider what the power of the keys implies, we shall find that in fact it is not peculiar to Peter at all. The two statements here go perfectly together, and as Peter is but a living stone founded upon the Rock, Christ Jesus, so every living stone is thus a Peter, and addressed as such through him.

After all that Rome and ritualism and even more evangelical systems have found in these keys, it may be hard to credit such a view as this; and with many it has been customary to point to Peter's eminent place on the day of Pentecost in opening the Kingdom to the Jews, as afterwards in the person of Cornelius to the Gentiles. But an eminent place may be fully allowed him in this way, while yet we deny him any exclusive place; and in fact we cannot exclude others on the day of Pentecost; nor even at Caesarea allow that this was the sole use of the key in relation to the Gentiles, any more than the use of another key than that which before had opened the Kingdom to the Jews. One act did not surely exhaust the service of the key, nor to open the door twice require two keys. Can it be thought that the door once opened simply remained open,and needed no more opening? On the contrary, I believe it can be conclusively shown that the administration of the Kingdom, which these keys stand for, is not yet over, is not all come to an end in one initial authoritative act. Men still receive and are received in; and if the power of the keys speaks of admission into the Kingdom, and the Kingdom be the sphere of discipleship, then the key is in fact but authority to disciple.

Now there are keys, not simply a key; and so, if we are right, a double way of doing this is implied. The first is what the Lord Himself speaks of as "the key of knowledge," and which He reproaches the lawyers for taking from the people (Luke 11:52). Similarly in this Gospel He denounces the Pharisees for shutting up the Kingdom of heaven against men. "Ye neither go in yourselves," He tells them, "neither suffer ye those that are entering to go in" (Matt. 23:13).

But while the key of knowledge is thus the first and fundamental form of what is here, it is not the whole. There is also an authoritative reception, which the Lord has enjoined, and which, just as submission to authority, is most suited in entering the Kingdom. Baptism is thus "unto Christ" (Rom. 6:3), and "unto the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 8:16), an open "putting on of Christ" (Gal. 3:27). It is thus a bowing to the authority of the King, as entering the Kingdom: "Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling upon the name of the Lord," says Ananias to Saul (Acts 22:16). But the Lord Himself most distinctly puts the two keys together when, after His resurrection; with all authority given to Him in heaven and earth, He sends out the eleven with the commission of the King, saying: "Go and disciple all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son; and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the completion of the age (Matt. 28:19-20).

All this is in perfect harmony with the words to Peter here, and sufficiently explains them. Thus read, they are in the highest degree appropriate to the occasion upon which they were spoken, as introducing to the new state of things which was at hand. Their very character as outlining, rather than filling in, leaving much to be explained at an after-time, is perfectly suited to their introductory position. This is not, however, all that the Lord announces here; He adds, "And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven:" words which have been perhaps as much in contention as to their meaning as any of those connected with them here.

There need be no doubt that the terms "binding" and "loosing" have reference to, and are indeed but the application; in a Christian manner, of those in use among the Rabbins, and the Lord's extension of them to the assembly in the eighteenth chapter shows absolutely that such power as is implied in them was not simply to belong to Simon Peter. Two or three gathered to Christ's name have exactly the same authority, the same sanction of their acts; in either case the Lord uses the very same words: "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth," or "loose," "whatsoever ye shall bind," or "loose, on earth shall be bound (or loosed) in heaven." If this were the communication of even apostolic power to Peter, then every two or three gathered to Christ's name have similar apostolic power. No one doubts, of course, that Peter had this; no one, I suppose, would claim it for the two or three. That is not in contention: the question is solely now of what these words convey. The same words must have the same meaning, if there is to be any certain meaning in words at all: the application, or limitation; must be found in the connection. Not even the Romanist would say that there was to be absolutely no limitation; even in Peter's case; and if any did, be would have (if he would be consistent) to say exactly the same of every little gathering to the name of Jesus. No one certainly could press a conclusion in the one case that would not have exactly the same title to be pressed in the other.

Now, if we seek the limitation in the context, that in the case of the two or three is easily seen to be to cases of discipline needed to maintain the Lord's honor in their midst. The assembly does not define doctrine, and has no right to "teach for doctrine the commandments of men." Christ alone is the authoritative Teacher, by His Spirit, and all we are brethren (Matt. 23:8). But the assembly has to maintain by a holy discipline what is due to Him who is Head and Lord, and whatsoever is truly bound in this way is bound in heaven. Here moral conditions also, in the very nature of things, impose a limitation: for to "bind" a saint to do evil cannot be authorized in heaven; and it would be wickedness to maintain this.

When we take this back with us to Simon Peter's case, we shall find similar limitations. The context does not speak of the discipline of an assembly, but of administration in the Kingdom of heaven. This is not the Church, but the sphere of individual responsibility to the Lord, and hence the individuality of the assurance, "thou" not "ye." The connection here is with the keys of the Kingdom, ― with discipling into it: here individual teachers teach, and disciples baptize. There is no limit to any class that Scripture gives us, except the limit of capacity, and no control over others recognized except as all are subject to the common discipline of which we have been speaking.

Peter, therefore, in what the Lord says to him here, is not the apostle, but the confessor of his Lord. In his faith he does not stand alone, but is the representative of others. As Peter, the living "stone," he does not stand alone either. In his use of the "keys" he is not alone; and in teaching and baptizing, the sanction of heaven is put upon what is done on earth; but nowhere apart from such necessarily implied conditions as we all own must come in in the case of two or three gathered to the Lord's name.

There is really no special difficulty in all this. The difficulties have been created for us by ecclesiastical views and claims which have grown up, as the Church, in the decline of spiritual power, came to lean upon external supports and to adopt a legal system as a refuge from license ― the boat, as easier than walking on the water. Alas, it must be confessed it is but oh, that Peter might here be suffered to speak to us of what he found in his walk upon that boisterous sea to meet His Lord, and of that Hand stretched out to meet him when the storm was beyond his strength, with the words which rebuked, not his rashness in walking there, but the little faith that had made it to appear but rashness.

(2) All this already tells of rejection of the King. Now He declares it to them in plain words such as He had not uttered yet. Those who have just expressed their faith in Him as the Christ are now told that they are not to utter this to any man. There is no hope as to the nation, and He shows them that He must "go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up." It is not atonement of which He speaks, but of rejection by men, the human side of His death, and not the divine. But this brings out in him who had been the spokesman of the apostles the working of that which was not faith but the opposite of it, and in which the Lord discerned the attack of the enemy. "Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him, saying, God be propitious to Thee, Lord: this shall never be to Thee!" But He, turning round, said unto Peter, "Get thee behind Me, Satan; for thou art an offence unto Me; for thou hast not a mind toward the things of God, but toward the things of men."

Thus quickly are the thoughts rebuked of those who would put Peter upon a throne of infallibility above all others. He is now sunk down into a mere ordinary man, with nothing but the thoughts of men; nay, an instrument of Satan to tempt the Lord Himself. Satan too would willingly have spared Him that Cross that He foresaw: for all the counsels of God hung upon it. From one side it was, indeed, but the awful wickedness of man; but from another the display of the glory of God, at once in righteousness and in love towards men. Peter knew not yet his own need, nor yet the unique place and dignity of his Master. He is praying God to be propitious to Him who is to be Himself the one propitiation for others; and to spare Him that by which propitiation could alone be wrought. Thus human wisdom may mistake its way, and human affection set itself against the path of divine love. And thus may the same man who has just now been drinking in, in faith, the revelation of God, without any consciousness of the transition, presently with equal zeal and earnestness be listening to the adversary! How we need constantly to pray, "Search me, O God, and try me!"

But the Lord not only declares His own path; He announces it as the path also of all His followers. What was peculiar to Himself in it, the cup that none but Himself could drink, He does not speak of, and here there is indeed an infinite difference; but as far as man's part in it is concerned, He warns us all, "If any one will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake shall find it." Thus the conditions of discipleship are laid down with the most decisive plainness, for all without exception. It is a world which has crucified Christ through which our path lies, and we have to make up our mind to face it. It is evident that He does not hold out any hope of the world changing, nor therefore of the path changing. The style of its opposition perhaps may change ― even in His case it varied but the opposition itself, proceeding from its unbelief in Him, could not possibly change, except by that unbelief being given up: and that would mean; of course, the world ceasing to exist, in all that which, according to Scripture, constitutes it the "world.

Its moral characteristics the apostle John describes for us, where he says that "all that is of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 John 2:16). When men are no more characterised by these things, then the world (as such) will have ceased to exist. We know that this has not taken place, however, and Scripture never contemplates such a state before the Lord comes, at least. The path still exists for us, therefore: and the conditions of the path exist.

The Lord calls upon His people, therefore, to take their life in their hand, if necessary in order to follow Him. We must not "will" to keep it, if we "will" to follow Him. That is to be the spirit of our discipleship, and with the implication; of course, that we shall be tested as to it. We know how fully the generations immediately following the days of the Lord on earth were tested ― how often the cross and the sword and the flame made His people fully understand the conditions which He here proclaims. Can we fairly refuse the application to ourselves today? or to ask whether there is not still, and for all of us, such a test remaining? or if the spirit of such discipleship must not be found with us at least in order to abide the test?

Our lot may be cast in so-called Christian times and lands, and the arm of open persecution may seem to be, if not shattered, at least so weakened, as to permit us to look upon a test of this kind, for most of us, as hardly to be made. Christian profession is mostly in repute Christians themselves are in high places of authority, the government as a whole would not wish to be considered other than Christian. The world still exists, but, as the parables we have considered show, and as we all must recognize, has changed its tactics. As Pharisees and Sadducees followed John when all the rest were doing so, so the world largely follows Christ now, after its own worldly fashion. The Church too, bids for popularity, and does not disclaim but is glad of the alliance. Amid all this, is it not possible for the spirit of discipleship any longer to find a cross, when the Church and the world unite to say, "Lord, Lord," and you are only asked not to take too seriously the things that He says?

Some way it must surely be that the Lord's words here must have to us also, if we are disciples, some present application and that straightforward obedience, in the laxest and easiest times, would (even on that very account) find penalty of some real kind in seeking to follow Christ according to His word rather than popular interpretations of it. If this be not just the losing life, this cannot make it less imperative for one to suffer it; and good it is to go back in thought to times in which men in reality "suffered the loss of all things," and even counted them but dung that they might win Christ." There can be no question that the Christ they went after in that way seemed to them unspeakably glorious; and for us it will be well indeed it; being the same Christ, He shine as bright.

The Lord closes here with that appeal to consider the soul's value which has rung through so many hearts since then "For what shall a man be profited if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" The question needs no answer: the impossibility to answer it is the answer. He adds, that it is the Son of man, soon to come in glory, who will render to every one according to his doings. Some of those standing there, moreover, should not taste of death until they saw the Son of man coming in His Kingdom.

(3) The reference made by one present at the Transfiguration (which now follows) to this as making visible "the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:16) should settle all question as to meaning of the last quoted words opinions as to which have been, however, most various. The great variety has all arisen from taking "the Son of man coming in His Kingdom" in a non-natural way as applying to the destruction of Jerusalem and the going out of the gospel and its successes, ― both entirely different things. "The Son of man coming in His Kingdom" is a plain reference to the vision of Daniel (Dan. 7:13-14), which indeed in like manner has been interpreted as applying to the "gospel dispensation," or the Kingdom in that "mystery" form in which we have seen it in the parables of the thirteenth chapter. But this is not the Kingdom of the Son of man as Daniel and the New Testament agree in representing it. We find the expression; no doubt, in the interpretation of the parable of the "tares of the field" (ver. 41) but only when in time of harvest the end of the present time is reached, and the Son of man (having come) sends forth His angels to gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend and those that work iniquity, and cast them into the furnace of fire. Then; clearly, the gospel dispensation will be over, and the Kingdom will have taken its open and millennial form.

That the Kingdom of the Son of man is not the present one, the Lord's words to the overcomer in Laodicea (Rev. 3:21) make absolutely plain; in which He distinguishes between the throne on which He had sat down with His Father where no mere man could ever sit ― and His own throne, which He will share with His people. The opening vision (Rev. 1:13) assures us that it is as "Son of man" that He is speaking here. Thus, then; the "Son of man coming in His Kingdom" cannot refer to the present period.

The second epistle of Peter again helps us as to the meaning of the transfiguration; when it speaks of our being called "by glory and virtue" (2 Peter 1:3). Glory at the end awaits us, to be reached by a pathway of trial, which necessitates "virtue" (or "courage") to endure it. The apostle evidently refers to what is recorded in the Gospel here, the transfiguration being directly spoken of in the latter part of the chapter, as we have already seen. In it he could not but realize the call of the glory. That which is at the end of the course is in it brought before the disciples at the beginning, to animate and strengthen them in view of what has just been declared as to the conditions of discipleship, and he can appeal to it in proof that "we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty: for He received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came to Him such a voice from the excellent glory, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; and this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him on the holy mount." Thus it is the goal before them that is here exhibited to them, but the glory of the Kingdom, not the still more wondrous glory of which John speaks, "the glory of the Only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father." It is the human side that is here dwelt upon; though of course one cannot be separated from the other. John does not give us the transfiguration; because the Only-begotten (as such) cannot be transfigured.

The "after six days" with which the account begins, both here and in Mark, (in Luke differently expressed as "about an eight days after,") has reference, I believe, to the final character of what the scene here pictures, after the time of labor and of overcoming is fulfilled. The three disciples whom alone the Lord takes up with Him to witness it, point out to us the need of intimacy with Him such as only the comparatively few possess, if we would enjoy such disclosures. The "high mountain" most probably was Hermon; which was near Caesarea Philippi, but it is not named, and were this certain; we could base nothing on it. Earth has in fact no knowledge of the elevations where such visions of the future may be enjoyed, though even yet it is not so poor as to be without them; and at these times and places it is still the Lord Himself who puts on special glory before the eyes of those so blest as to behold it, and who is the glorious Centre around which all else revolves. So it surely will be in the day of His coming which is here before us. His face will shine as the sun,* for with Him the day will come ― the blessed day in which the watch-night ends; and His apparel will be as the light, for it is with the light the sun apparels itself. It is God who is manifested in Him, and God is light. Earth is no more an outcast, but brought nigh.

{*Notice, that it is only Matthew who says this. Mark draws attention altogether to His garments. Luke says, His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glistering. The dispensational character of Matthew is here again strongly marked.}

Another thing takes place which strikes them with special wonder. "And behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with Him." In the two other Gospels there are slight differences which yet must have significance: Mark says, "Elias with Moses;" Luke, in evident accordance with the character of the truth as he presents it, presses the fact of men being in such a place: "two men, which were Moses and Elias." In Matthew the lawgiver and the prophet of judgment because of the broken law, are mentioned in the natural order to remind us of this relation to each other. And they are talking with Jesus: so they had been; we may say, all through the centuries. Law in its fulfilment and law in its non-fulfilment, both alike required and foretold Him whose coming as the Priest-King is the full end of them reached. With Elias judgment itself is 4n view of-restoration; and the last note of the Old Testament prophecy ends with the announcement of his preparation work. Thus Moses and Elias have each a special suitability in connection with this anticipation of the coming of the King. The ages are thus seen all through in harmony; and with power in the hand of Christ eternal harmony is perfectly secured.

Peter's voice breaks in, even here, and with words which show how he has failed to realize the meaning of the glorious vision. Terribly like his would-be followers today, he would enshrine the saints alongside of Christ, and make the Kingdom which is to come a present thing; giving, moreover, his help as if it were needed to accomplish this! But here he is stopped at once, and by an overwhelming spectacle: "There came a bright cloud and overshadowed them" the well-known token of the Divine Presence as it had led Israel of old through the desert, and dwelt in the sanctuary, ― "and behold a Voice out of the cloud which said: This is My beloved Son; in whom I am well pleased; hear Him." No wonder that, "when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces, and were sore afraid." It was, in fact, the holiest of all unveiled. They stood where, only once a year, and with covering incense and atoning blood, the feet of the high priest alone might stand. And they were but men of the people, no sacrifice in their hand, no covering incense, and the glorious Presence, which had long been absent from the temple, ― nay, had never appeared since the captivity in Babylon, ― was indeed here. He whom none could see and live, had drawn nigh to them, and they heard His voice, as the people had heard it of old, when they prayed, in their fear, that they might no more hear it.

Yet all else was changed from the time of the shaking mount. Nor was it the Law which was now proclaimed to them, a law which brought but the knowledge of sin; and was, indeed, its "strength" (1 Cor. 15:56). This Voice pointed them but to the Son of God, whom Peter had but just now confessed as this, their own gracious Master; to put Him in His rightful place, and separate Him from all their misconceptions ― from the misconceptions which, alas, have nevertheless followed Him since, and still follow Him. Moses and Elias had but been drawn thither by Him who had drawn them also, and opened heaven to them. Moses cannot open heaven; Elias brings but fire out of it, though he himself is caught away there: in Christ, the Son; the Father's Name is revealed, the object of the Father's heart is found, communion with God is attained, the throne of God becomes a throne of grace, His "Kingdom righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." (Rom. 14:17). In all this He is alone, and thus alone is to be heard.

He comes now, therefore, and touches them, and says what He alone is able to say to such as we are, "Arise, and be not afraid." And now all else has disappeared: they see no man but Jesus only.

Here we have, then; the central features of the Kingdom, as Christ Himself will introduce it. In Moses and Elias, the dead and the living saints are represented the glory in which He is seen is that of the Son of man; and the glory of His Father is also here. Thus the hearts of the disciples are strengthened in view of the cross by the knowledge of the end before them. "The knowledge of His glory" is given to sustain them by the way: "glory and virtue" are linked together as principles of the divine calling; for if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him."

(4) After all, as yet even these favored disciples know little of what is implied by this glorious vision and the rest seem not to have been prepared for it in any way, so that it is forbidden to be told them. It would not have given light, but dazzled. They themselves, as Mark tells us, did not know what the rising from the dead of which He spoke could mean; yet it was to be so soon the heart of their message. That Elias was to come and restore all things, as the scribes declared, they could not reconcile with the fact that Messiah was here, and as to the general condition nothing seemed accomplished. Elias they had just seen; but in what different connection! and the very glory of the heavenly vision only seemed, doubtless, to show the more the darkness of things on earth. They turn to Him with this question; which He answers with the assurance that Elias was indeed to come and to restore; but he had already come unrecognized, and men had treated him according to what was in their hearts. So too the Son of man was presently to suffer from them. And then they know that He has been speaking of John the Baptist.

But in fact it was difficult for them to reconcile what was so opposite: Messiah upon whom all depended for them, yet cut off and having nothing. And the divine purpose could not fail; but how could they imagine a victory by defeat, a cross as the way to glory? Israel rejecting also and rejected, and yet the promises to be fulfilled to her in spite of all. In fact, as Christians, we from another side have found it hard to keep the even balance of truth as to just these things. John was the Elias for his day, but "if they would receive it," as the Lord had already declared. It was in the wisdom of God that he should be so offered them for their acceptance, that there might be the complete trial of man thus: John being "sent to bear witness of that Light" whom he preceded, and who yet (as Light) needed no such witness, if they had had eyes to see. Alas, they had not eyes or hearts; and Elias, for the fulfilment of the message of Malachi, has yet to come, as Christ has also, to bring in the blessing of Israel to a repentant people. Meanwhile more wondrous purposes are being disclosed.

(5) The weakness and folly of man (which are but his perversity) are now exhibited among those who have received Christ, and have received from Him also a power which they are not competent to use. It is this which the case of the lunatic child is evidently intended to impress upon us. The disciples had been applied to, to cast out the demon, for which they had had authority given them by the Lord, and they had failed to do so. The father brings his child to Christ with this statement; and it is this which forces from Him the groan over a "faithless and perverse generation" by whom the love which bound Him to them was made to suffer through their unbelief. Seldom does the Lord exhibit to us so clearly the trial of uncongeniality which was His amid His chosen associates. Here it is openly exhibited, and the occasion was such as to require that the cause of a failure which had been manifest should be manifest also.

But He remained still, only the more seen as the unique dependence of His people. "Bring him to Me," is the assurance of resources that cannot be overtaxed, at the command of a love that cannot be too absolutely relied on. Accordingly the demon departs, and the child is healed. Matthew does not give us the details which we find in Mark, but leaves thus the main point clearer, the glorious power so freely used, where disciples have failed, with all else. But the failure must be searched out, and the disciples themselves inquire about it. They are not conscious of the cause of it, which the Lord had already implicitly declared, and now does explicitly: "Because of your little faith: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain; Depart hence, and it shall depart; and nothing shall be impossible to you." This implies, of course, that we are on the path of His appointment for us: for, indeed, faith is impossible for any other; and the suggestive figure of the mountain speaks clearly of the disappearance of the most firmly rooted obstacles in a path like this. In the path of self-will and self-indulgence, how vain would it be to expect anything of this kind! And this the closing words here show: for "prayer" is vain ― "we ask and have not," when we "ask amiss, to consume it upon our lusts" ― or "pleasures" (James 4:3); ― and "fasting," if it is to have any spiritual value, implies self-mortification. People often speak of having (or not having) faith for the path; the truth is, we must have the path for faith: faith for any other path than God's is plainly an impossibility.

Subdivision 5. (Matt. 17:22 ― 20:28.)

Responsibility and Reward.

The responsibilities of the Kingdom follow, by an easy transition; upon the principles of it as thus declared; closing with a view of the rewards of grace in which love will satisfy itself at the end of the way. We have here, not merely the fact that there are such, but the doctrine as to them ― a most important one ― and giving us a precious and wonderful insight into heaven itself, which is a sweet and how fitting conclusion to all this part. After this the Lord presents Himself openly to Israel, and the final scenes draw on.

1. The governing principle is what comes first before us; and this, as we have seen; is the cross. Accordingly the Lord again speaks of it to His disciples now. He does not apply it; and nothing further is connected with it here, except the exceeding grief of His disciples. But it is not difficult to trace it as in moral connection with what follows. The Son of God as Son of man passing through the world, is not discerned by the men of it. Had they possessed this wisdom, "they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." True, it was guilty ignorance, the result of being so absolutely in contrast with Him spiritually; and the followers of their Master are, just in proportion as they resemble Him, in the same way unknown. "Therefore the world knoweth us not," says the apostle, "because it knew Him not" (1 John 3:1). Being thus rejected, He accepts it without contention, and in this too calls upon His disciples to follow Him. At Capernaum those that collected the half-shekel which was the temple-tribute, come to Peter and ask him: "Doth not your Teacher pay the half-shekel?" He at once answers, in entire forgetfulness of the glory of Him whom He had confessed as the Son of God, that He did pay it. If it were the atonement-money, the dishonor done to Him would be most manifest, yet the Lord raises no question upon this ground; and, according to the institution of Ex. 30:11-16 that was only required upon the occasion of a numbering of the children of Israel. Joash, however, refers to it (2 Chron. 24:6), when urging contributions for the temple-service; but evidently as a precedent only, as the restrictions of the law were not carried out in the answer to his exhortation. "After the return from the captivity," says Farrar, "this bekah, or half-shekel, became a voluntary annual tax of a third of a shekel" ― showing it was hardly looked at as carrying out the original enactment of the law of Moses ― "but at some subsequent period had again returned to its original amount." The Lord treats it as a simple temple-tribute, but even on this ground cannot let pass the question of its claim upon Him. He does more than as such resist it for Himself: He puts His rash and forgetful disciple along with Himself, as free.

He does not wait for Peter's question, but shows His divine knowledge by anticipating it. "What thinkest thou, Simon?" He asks; "from whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? from their sons, or from strangers? There could be but one answer: "From strangers." "Surely then," the Lord replies, "the sons are free."

But, though He vindicate this liberty, in practice He does not insist upon it. Personal right one is always entitled to surrender, and the "giving offence" ― the causing spiritual injury ― to any one, by any claim of it, though misunderstood wholly, that were indeed for Him, the Lord and yet the Servant of His people's need, impossible to be thought of. "But that we may not give them offence, go to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that cometh up first; and when thou hast opened its mouth, thou shalt find a shekel: that take, and give unto them for me and thee."

Thus He veils His glory, yet declaring it in the very way in which He veils it. To summon a fish of the sea to pay the tribute for Him, guards indeed well His glory, as the Lord of that higher temple which Israel's temple figured, and which is the universe that His hands have made (Heb. 9:23-24). There is not even the appearance of compromise as to what He is, and only His grace is shown in thus stooping. Not an adversary even can cavil at it; and the weakest instead of stumbling, can find in it only measureless comfort in the realization of this union of power and grace in Him.

But not only so: as "Son over" this "house of God" (Heb. 3:1-6), He can make others free of it (John 8:36). Yea, He can set free the very slaves ― and there is no slavery in God's universe but that of sin ― and make them sons of the house of which He is Master. And this is what He shows us now in Peter, the representative disciple, as we have so lately seen him. The fish brings the tribute-money for him also, a piece which is the equivalent of two half-shekels: "For Me and thee," the Lord says; not "for us": for if He had not His unique glory, we could not have our blessing. "For Me," and so, through My grace, "for thee:" and in this (or what is implied in it) we all have part.

We, through His grace, are sons of God, and free. Yet must we be content to wait for the time when we shall be recognized as this, and in the meanwhile to pay tribute, as if we were not what we are. Not expecting recognition, and not claiming rights, and earnest to avoid giving offence by any self-assertion; our privilege, as well as our responsibility, is to walk in the steps of Him with whom the path of humiliation and of service was His choice and glory.

2. (1) This lowliness of spirit is now insisted on in the strongest way, the Lord using a little child as His text throughout, and in answer to a question proposed by His disciples which evidenced their need of such instruction. There had been a dispute among them, the other synoptists tell us, as to who among them should be the greater. The Lord's words about the keys to Peter, and His joining him with Himself in payment of the temple-tax, may have led to this; but the cause is not stated, nor is it important. The important thing was the condition of soul which the question itself revealed. Greatness was what they sought; and in that which they owned to be the Kingdom of heaven; yet which (as they are shown later) they are making but a kingdom of the Gentiles in their thoughts, a place for the gratification of ambition and self-seeking. In this a little child was capable of being their instructor. Jesus called to Him a little child, and placed him in the midst of them and said, with one of His emphatic affirmations, "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children; ye shall in no wise ENTER into the Kingdom of heaven."

The question was here a more fundamental one than that which they had started. One must enter it, in order to be great in it and ambition could not even enter. It is plain that, while merely the ordinary term is used here, which applies both to the mystery- and the final-form of the Kingdom, yet it is of the latter both the disciples and the Lord are speaking. They have in mind the time when "greatness" will be estimated by the King, and receive its reward, and the Lord states the necessary condition for even entrance into it at that time.

The word for "be converted" is simply "turn yourselves," though surely here having reference to that spiritual change, for which a compound form of it is generally used, of somewhat stronger meaning. The little child as a symbol reminds us of the way in which God has ordained that men should enter the present life, most surely in lowliness and feebleness enough. The long drill and discipline of childhood might well seem intended to "hide pride from man," and the mercy of God it is that provides for beings so helpless, the love and care which after all, in such a world as this, so generally wait upon the birth of children. So also is it with the beginning of spiritual life, which we enter not as doers of something great, but in feebleness and poverty to receive grace, not due. And the end is as the beginning: it is in grace we grow; at the end as at the beginning, it is salvation that we receive; reward at last is not claim but mercy. In this way it is as little children that the Kingdom of heaven must be entered; and in proportion to the simplicity with which this is done will the true character of the Kingdom be attained. "A little child" may, indeed, have in its heart the seed of ambition as of all other evil, but not the man who estimates himself but as that. To him no ambitious thought is possible. While the Lord in His grace identifies Himself with the least of His own; so as to assure every one that his littleness will not make him of little account to Him. This is an assurance which prevents the consciousness of nothingness becoming a distress; nay, rather, enables us only the more to realize the sweetness of a love so great.

(2) Thus it wraps itself about the objects of it, like a mother with a babe, and grows, as one might think, passionate in denouncing those who would injure them. "But whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in Me, it were better for him that a great mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and he sunk in the depth of the sea;" ― so does God care for the feeblest of His own!

But offences would come: "woe to the world because of" them; yea, "woe to the man by whom the offence cometh!" And here the Lord repeats, with more general application, what He had said in the sermon on the mount with more special reference to the seventh commandment of the law. Better to cut off hand or foot, ― better to pluck out an eye, if it caused offence, than to retain these and be cast into the hell of fire. It is the Saviour of men; He who died in His love to redeem them, who ever gives the most earnest and emphatic warning of that to which sin of necessity brings those who cleave to it.

(3) But His heart turns to what is more congenial: "See that ye despise not one of these little ones: for I say unto you that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of My Father who is in heaven." Well, then, may they be held in loving regard by men. But the doctrine of the passage has its difficulty. De Wette, as quoted by Lange, says with regard to it: "In the Old Testament we only read of guardian angels of empires (Dan. 10:13, 20). But at a later period the Jews believed also in the existence of guardian angels for individuals (Targum of Jonathan on Gen. 33:10, Gen. 35:10, Gen. 48:16). Similarly also the New Testament (Acts 12:7?)" Yet he takes it as figurative, in which way it would be hard to understand it. Meyer, approved by Lange, in opposition to this says, "The belief in guardian angels is clearly admitted by Christ." Probably most agree with this; Dr. Brown remarks: Among men, those who nurse and rear the royal children; however humble in themselves, are allowed free entrance with their charge, and a degree of familiarity which even the highest state ministers dare not assume. Probably our Lord means that, in virtue of their charge over His disciples (Heb. 1:14; John 1:51), the angels have errands to the Throne, a welcome there, and a dear familiarity in dealing with His Father which is in heaven; which on their own matters they could not assume." This, however, seems too much like the state of an earthly court, from which it is rash to draw analogies for heaven. The difficulty as to interpreting our Lord's words as referring to guardian angels is that it seems a very indecisive passage to stand alone for the doctrine, which assuredly the verses in Hebrews and in John's Gospel do not teach. Daniel more nearly approaches it, though the angels representing; the empires there seem all to be evil, and only Michael as "prince" of the Jewish people is really in any sense a "guardian" (see Dan. 10:21).

But the Lord's words seem to apply strictly to "little children," and not simply to believers as designated in that way. He is not telling His disciples not to despise believers, but certainly what might seem to them comparatively of little account, which believers as such would not. (Comp. Matt. 19:13.) On the other hand, we have no reason that I am aware of, for introducing into what is here the additional thought that there is restriction even among the unfallen angels as to seeing the Father's face. The fallen condition in which we are is that, rather, one would suppose, which makes such a restriction seem necessary or natural.

The passage in the Acts referred to, though commonly taken to imply also the Jewish doctrine of guardian angels, hardly seems capable of being reconciled with it: for why should a guardian angel assume Peter's voice, so as to be mistaken for him? and in this place Brown interprets "his angel" to be "his disembodied spirit, his ghost." The two passages in this case would strengthen one another; and the children's angels, or spirits, being permitted to behold the Father's face in heaven would be indeed an admonition not to despise them, as well as an unspeakable comfort as to the condition of an infant after death.

The next clause is omitted in some ancient MSS. and versions, and it has been thought to be an insertion from Luke 19:10; but, as others have remarked, the omission of "to seek" ― simply, "the Son of man came to save that which is lost" ― is significant. They are lost ones needing a Saviour; but seeking implies a condition of active wandering from God such as in their case is hardly begun yet.

His own joy in salvation ― the joy of the Shepherd over a lost sheep found ― the Lord then emphatically declares. It is but a glimpse of what we have in Luke poured fully out, and here without the contrast of Pharisees with "tax-gatherers and sinners," there brought out so vividly. The ninety and nine in this case seem but brought in to emphasize how the one lost has concentrated upon him in the meantime all the solicitude, and, when found, the tenderness of the Shepherd, as if there were not another. Yet this over-abounding joy does not, in fact, disparage the interest in them which is only for the moment not in the same way realized. Let any of these become the lost, they too would arouse the same anxiety and tenderness. In Luke the parable is uttered to a different audience, and in other circumstances which combine to present these ninety and nine in a manner in some respects very different from this.

Here it is the Father's will which He has come to carry out, and it is not the Father's will that one of these little ones should perish. How sweet and perfect an assurance! It is only the contrary will of man that hinders his salvation: on God's part there can be no contrary one: "As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth." Thus the little ones removed from us by death we may trust confidently to the divine love which waits on them. Our assurance as to them is rooted in the unchangeableness of the divine nature.

3. The Lord goes on to speak of holiness, which is also absolutely characteristic of God, and which must be maintained by all who are associated with His name on earth: "Let him that nameth the name of the Lord," says the apostle, "depart from iniquity." The assembly comes here, therefore, into a special place of responsibility and for the first time we find it assuming a position and exercising powers for which He has endowed it with authority as representing Him. On the other hand, in most suited connection with this, we find His people reminded of their weakness and dependence upon Him: a dependence which, when realized, brings in that assured and ready help which makes it but a means of realizing in turn the resources and nearness of the living God. The whole is crowned with the assurance of His presence in the midst, where two or three are gathered to His Name and this at once seals their commission to maintain what is due to Him under whose authority they act, and pledges Him to meet all their necessities.

But this is another text which, having been variously interpreted, calls for careful examination at our hands.

(1) The disciples having been charged to avoid what would be offence against another, and as to themselves rather to get rid of what might seem like hand or foot than go on with what was matter of offence, are now taught how to deal with sin in another.

But at once question begins: What is the sin which we have to do with here? and are we to take it as generally taken; as simply personal trespass? For some of the most ancient MSS. and some editors omit the "against thee" of the common version; and have only "if thy brother sin," which would seem to make it wider. This can however, I think, be better settled as we go on; and we may leave it for the present undecided.

But undoubtedly we are to remember that, in any case, the thing to be considered by us is what the Lord calls "sin," and we must not allow ourselves to admit practically a lighter word than that. "Sin," whether it be against oneself or not, is something which should bring up at once before us the psalmist's deep realization, "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned" (Ps. 51:4); words which only appear the more striking as we think of the dreadful character of that which he had committed against his neighbor. Sin can only be viewed rightly as against God; and to treat it so we must be before God about it. We must know how, in Old Testament language, to eat the sin-offering in the holy place.

This is the only fully effectual corrective of the danger from any personal element, wherever (as in the present case is generally taken for granted) that may be found. In the presence of God sin is truly judged, but therefore judged in ourselves first and so it is we obtain that "spirit of meekness," in which alone we are able to "restore" those "overtaken in a fault" as considering our own proneness to temptation (Gal. 6:1). That is the first thought here, and always as regarding one who has sinned ― restoration: "if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother." There is not to be the thought, as presently and plainly insisted on; of "pay me that thou owest," but of gaining a brother: of winning him back to all that belongs to Christian brotherhood. For sin means collapse, estrangement from this, ― a shadow over the glory of "what is really life," and dishonor to Christ and to God. How in the apprehension of this, could one even think of one's own things, save as one may truly find them in the thought of a "brother"!

And this governs all in this first step taken: "go and show him his fault" ― literally, "convict him," bring him to conviction ― "between thee and him alone." Let there be no needless exposure, no pain that can be spared, nothing that would arouse resentment, and so most surely hinder recovery. He is to feel that, as Elihu with Job, you desire to justify him, ― if that may not be, yet to put his case into his own hands for trial, and lift him up into the Christian place of judgeship, master of himself once more.

Grace is in anywise the only power over sin. It is not laxity, as people misconceive it, but always sin's unsparing enemy and scourge. "Sin shall not have dominion over you, because ye are not under law, but under grace." Yet how often do those who are themselves wholly debtors to grace, use the law without hesitation in their dealings with one another. Of course, they betray in this their own slight knowledge, while the fruit is reaped in failure to maintain the holiness they seek. We cannot, by our will to do it, make that which is the "strength of sin" become its antidote.

But if this, then; be the divine principle in dealing with it, it is plain that whether it is sin against myself or against another can make no difference. This does not come into consideration; and the reading which would leave it out seems practically right. If it is grace that is moving me for a brother's deliverance, it can make no difference against whom the sin is. Nay, if it is in my brother, it is against me necessarily, if not directly: it injures me, aggrieves me, as one of the family. It will in any case work the same misery: it is equally against God my Father, against Christ my Lord, and against the soul of him who has committed it while again grace requires not to find a legal title to proceed, as in my own matters, but in the needs to which it ministers finds its sufficient justification. In any case, the principle applies, wherever and so far as the circumstances permit the application there is supposed, as we see, a condition of things in which love finds its call and opportunity, and which cannot, perhaps, and need not, be further defined.

The next step to be taken; if the first be ineffectual, is to "take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established." These witnesses are not to establish the truth of the charge: for of this the one who has sinned is already "convicted," but to bring the influence of the truth to bear upon him the more by their confirmation. They are a jury of appeal to make him realize the gravity rather than the truth of his sin; ― a midway step between the private reasoning and the full publicity of the assembly. Love would yet spare the person, while it cannot spare the sin and therefore the present procedure.

The third appeal is to the assembly as a whole, which is defined in what follows as a gathering to the name of Christ. It is astonishing that any could have had the thought here of the Jewish synagogue, although it is true that the Christian assembly did not yet exist, and that the Lord is speaking anticipatively; but the same could be said in general of what is before us in all this part of Matthew. The Christian assembly has as yet only once been spoken of, and in the present case it is a local one ― a gathering," for which we must wait historically for the Acts. Here we have it strikingly for the first time as entrusted with the maintenance of holiness in connection with Christ's Name on earth. It is, as we see, the last court of appeal, and to whose acts He gives, in the most solemn way, authoritative sanction. The case is left in its hands for final decision, which is supposed to be in accordance with what has been done before; and now, "if he refuse to hear the assembly, let him be unto thee as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer."

This is the fourth step therefore: the man is now to be treated as in an outside place, as a Gentile, a "man of the nations," by itself expresses. A "tax-gatherer" adds to this the thought of having lost the place inside by his unworthiness. The outside place is manifest: of course, in the Lord's lips it could not mean any dismissal of care and thought and labor after the one so treated. It is one of that hated class ― the tax-gatherers ― who records, and alone records, this injunction: himself the most signal example of the grace that sought all such. On the other hand, while business intercourse and communications might go on, even in all this would it be but the more apparent that what was Christian had come to an end, till divine grace should restore it. The Christian in the world was to be but the reflex of his Master's mind; and as surely as He could not go on with sin; no more could those who were to act on earth for Him who had left it.

It is true that it is said here, "let him be to thee," and this is the binding of this conduct on the individual; but any proper consideration given to the matter will assure us that this could not possibly mean that this refusal of Christian fellowship was to be merely on the part of the one against whom the sin had been. Were the witnesses who had shown their sympathy up to this point with the brother who had been sinned against, now to withdraw it, and go on in fellowship with him they had condemned, because the case was not their own? Was the brother offended, and to whom at least this must apply, to act in such a way, not because of the sin; but because he himself was the person wronged? How this would destroy the whole character of discipline, as well as the spiritual character of Christian fellowship!

The assembly would be little Christian which could become partner to any thing of this sort, or look at sin as having merely a particular reference, and not being the general concern of all. The next verse also, which applies, of course, to the assembly as a whole, negatives absolutely any such conclusion. For here, in the fifth place, the numerical order certifying it as a principle of divine government in the kingdom of God at hand, ― the power of God allying itself here to human weakness ― the Lord adds, with one of His "verilies," the oath for confirmation, which is an end of all dispute: "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

The Church on earth acts for its absent Lord; and, as so acting, He gives it His authority with the broad seal of royalty attached to the commission. Without this it could not move in the regulation of such matters at all: all the authority that it has is delegated to it by the King; it is not a democracy, but a monarchy most absolute, ― a Kingdom not of man but of God.

It is plainly also in the moral sphere that the commission applies; and this at once makes known its limitations. In nothing so plainly as in the moral sphere is every thing based upon the character of God Himself. Every thing here is fixed, therefore, and unchangeable. The Church cannot so much as define what good or evil is. Every conscience here is subject to God alone, and the only appeal to it is as the appeal of light to the eye ― the appeal of self-evidence. The eye may be diseased, the conscience hardened, the appeal useless; but this is always a result of rejecting the light: the light itself is divine, not human; and brings the soul before God, not man, not the Church. The rule of conscience means in result the rule of God, just as that of the eye would mean that of the light. Though light and the eye are very different things, yet the "light of the body is the eye."

The Church is a body not legislative but executive: it does not decree what shall be, but decides upon what is. It has authority to act, but upon lines laid down for it; and authority to act does not guarantee the action. But unless the action be according to His mind, it should be plain that the Lord could not sanction it. He could not "bind" sin upon one who had not sinned, nor "loose" it where there had been no repentance. This would be to put evil for good and good for evil, and to put the Church above her Lord. Either, then; the Church's action is secured infallibly, or there are conditions implied which we shall be able to gather from the context.

In the specified case to which this assurance is appended, it is abundantly plain that it is a case of real "sin:" "if thy brother sin." Of this he is to be convicted, and witnesses brought in, and then it is to be told to the assembly. This is the case in which the assembly is authorized to act, and only in such plain cases. As far as we read here, if the case were not plain, ― if there were not, therefore, agreement about it, ― it would not be such as would give title, or (to speak better) impose responsibility, to act at all. It must be in the light, not in the dark, we walk. The fact is, that it is not here that the Church has ever realized its real difficulties, although, of course, here also there may be unfaithfulness to the Lord, and what is to be done then is not yet taken up. We are here at the beginning of things, and must expect, in this, as in other matters, to have the truth gradually unfolded to us. The point is here, that the Church is guardian of the holiness to be always associated with the profession of the name of the Lord; there is no question at present of doctrine at all, and it would be premature to speak of it yet in any explicit way; though something may be inferred in what almost immediately follows: but that is another thing.

(2) The sense of responsibility should lead ever to the sense of weakness, and this is the order of thought here. Remembering the need of His people, the Lord now assures them of the way in which they may count upon Him for the supply of all their need. And, like Him, He does not limit it to this or any particular need: "Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree together on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father who is in heaven." Above all is this assurance needed where, as the connection would imply, and in some measure the agreement also, the acting together as representatives of Christ on earth is that as to which need is realized. Here one cannot but feel the grace of this lowest possible number for consent or united action. Supposing there were no more together in a place, or that others failed to realize the need, yet here would the Lord meet those who did so. Thus, while not necessarily implying the failure of His people, He provides for it. How tender are these all-seeing Eyes that contemplate us!

(3) And He adds this assurance, the unspeakable comfort of His people ever since: "For where two or three are gathered together unto My Name, there am I in the midst of them."

It is not "in My Name," as in the common version; but "unto:" His name being thus the central point of gathering. "In His name" would be by His authority, or as representing Himself: both things, of course, true, but neither of them defining, as this does, the Christian assembly. His Name speaks of doctrine ― the truth of what He is, Himself being absent; and where He, apprehended by faith, thus draws His people together, there He promises Himself to be among them, their sufficient resource and the sanction of what they do in the manner already enjoined to maintain in love the holiness of His name.

It should be evident that more is intended here than to declare His readiness to meet the need of two or three who unite to supplicate Him in some common interest. This is simply appended to what has been before enjoined in the matter of assembly discipline, and both are sealed with this final promise of His presence where two or three are gathered to His name: words which must apply to the assembly so gathered. His presence in their midst is more directly called for by their action in the first case as representing Him than by their supplication in the second. Compare the apostle's words to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 5:3-5), though the Lord's here are so much more, as He is Himself beyond all other.

No body of people gathered to aught but the truth as to what Christ is could have any claim to the promise here, as none who fulfil this condition could be excluded. If those are admitted among the orthodox who are themselves unorthodox, and this be deliberate, then it is plain his Name ceases to be that to which such a company is gathered. The orthodoxy even of the mass cannot make up for the failure as to the gathering-point. However many the Christians there, the gathering is not Christian.

A false Christ is not Christ; deliberately held to, it is the denial of Christ; and here it is important to remember that ignorance is by no means the same thing as denial, which assumes knowledge. As to the blessed Person of the Lord His own words declare our common ignorance as to much: "No man knoweth the Son but the Father." But that which Scripture declares of Him is by that fact no longer to be beyond our knowledge, but what is committed to our trust as the vital centre of all truth and blessing. Christ is the manifestation of God, the Redeemer of men; as the Word of God, by whom and for whom all things were created, He is the Sum of all knowledge that is really such. Aberration here is quick distortion of all other things. Thus "gathered to My name" is vital to the Assembly. They are in the world as His representatives the Spirit by which they are baptized into one body is in them to glorify Him. How would every thing be lost if His Church could accept a substitute for Him; or allow the darkening of one glory of the "Light of men"!

Here, then, is the Church as it is presented to us for the second time and in living activity in the Gospel of Matthew. In no other Gospel is it presented to us at all. And here it is seen, as we may say, according to the constant character of Matthew, as in the Kingdom, and in the exercise of authority suited to the Kingdom of heaven. We have nothing as yet of the Body of Christ, or of espousal to Him; nothing of it even as indwelt of the Holy Spirit, nor explicitly as the house of God ― though it is what He builds, and Peter and such as he are "stones" in the building: a building instinct with glorious life, against which the gates of hides cannot prevail: a living Church, manifesting its life in love and holiness, finding its centre of attraction and controlling authority in Him who is its Creator and Lord, refusing all other. Such is the picture given to us in the Gospels.

Section 4. (Matt. 18:21-35.)

The failure in mercy of one who has received mercy.

We have now a solemn word upon the responsibility of showing grace in a day of grace. In His teaching as to prayer the Lord has already warned us to the same effect, in words which are almost identical with those which close the parable before us. But here the principle is shown us in the full extent of its application, and enforced in the most absolute way.

(1) The first object in dealing with a brother who has sinned is, as we have seen; restoration. If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. Forgiveness is necessarily grounded upon the "hearing," for that alone would show restoration. But Peter has a question here: how often is there to be forgiveness? The Rabbins had already decided as to this, and their limit was three times. Peter has so far appreciated the spirit of the Lord's words as to more than double this number. Seven was the perfect number: shall his forgiveness of an offending brother be "till seven times"? But the Lord answers, He has put no such limit; and then He puts one which is practically none at all: "I say not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven." I suppose it would test Christian grace in us, to go even half way to such a boundary line; but the Lord does not mean us seriously to contemplate this. Could it be a question how often I should gain my brother? Peter is after all still viewing things from the stand-point of personal rights. He must still be seeking in some measure his own; but "love seeketh not her own." Hence the personal element still rules here ― "sin against me, and I." The Lord takes up, therefore, this very side of things, but to turn it in another direction: "how oft shall I sin against God, and God forgive me?" If there be no limit here, and I am in the sense of this, how can this question of Peter be asked at all?

(2) The similitude which the Lord draws for us here is necessarily a similitude of the Kingdom of heaven. It is not after all a picture of perfect grace, such as we know it in God, although this is as nearly approached as possible for the purpose of the illustration; and, of course, it is a true presentation of God, in no wise inconsistent with the fullest grace. But the Lord will not image one of His own people in the picture that He gives of this unmerciful servant. He is one with the responsibility of such a profession; but without the real apprehension of divine grace, as his conduct shows. Hence the grace shown to him is not the unconditional grace of the gospel, but that which, in fact, is manifested in the Kingdom, as in "baptism for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38) where the grace witnessed to is manifestly conditioned, as here, upon the truth of discipleship. The Kingdom, as we see in the parables, embraces the true and the false, and in it all is governmental, conditional blessing.

The Kingdom of heaven is likened here unto a human king; which prepares us for certain points in it which we must not attribute to the divine. The king here will have a reckoning with his servants; and no sooner has he begun to reckon than there is brought to him one with an overwhelming debt, which argues in itself surely something more than any misfortune can account for. He is ordered, therefore, to be sold, with his wife and children and all belonging to him, for the debt. We see in this the "human" king, of course; yet there is this truth in it, that the sinner against God, as far as he can do it, wrecks not himself alone, but all connected with him. No man can be his own enemy only, as men sometimes assert; and we need no argument to prove how the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children in this world, although in the final account every one answers simply for his own.

So helplessly are we all indebted to the supreme King. Good it is that there is mercy with Him for which all figures fail. The debtor falls at his lord's feet with an impossible plea for mercy in his own case, ― how impossible in our own! "I will pay thee all." The king can accept no such agreement, takes no notice of it; but his heart is moved with compassion, and taking counsel of that, "he loosed him, and forgave him the debt."

(3) All this, thank God, the blessed Speaker has now made very plain to us; but the point of the parable has yet to come. "But that servant went out "out from an experience like this! ― "and found one of his fellow-servants, who owed him a hundred pence" ― denarii (about a 700,000th part of his own debt just forgiven); "and he laid hold of him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me what thou owest."

It was his own that he was demanding. Apart from the violence used, he was, as men say, quite within his rights. That was not the question; and every one at once understands that that was not the question. We too, in the exaction of our own from others, may be within our rights; and why is it that in our own case we are not as simple in judging of the real state of things as we are in the case of the man before us? We have been forgiven (if we are Christians) as well as he; and with regard to a debt in proportion to which his was as nothing. How is it that we can look upon grace or mercy shown to others as if it were anything more than the merest righteousness on our part, from the standpoint of forgiven men?

There follows an appeal, so like his own recent one, save only in its greater reasonableness and simplicity, that it should have pierced the heart of the hardened man: "Then his fellow-servant fell down and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee. But he would not, but went off and cast him into prison till he should pay the debt." It is the grace shown him that fully exposes the obduracy of his unmerciful heart.

(4) Plain as the matter seems, it is developed and enforced upon us. The grief of his fellow-servants who bring the account of it to their lord; who on his part summons the guilty man and puts before him the wickedness of his conduct with abhorrence. The close of the parable has the moral of it, that mercy fails for him with whom it fails: "his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors till he should pay all that was due" ― an impossible thing, and typical therefore of an eternal recompense.

A tremendous failure, when divine mercy fails to impress its image on the soul that has been subjected to its influence! Love that subdues not saves not, and this is, of course, the history of an unsaved soul. But the lesson that is to be learned is not to be limited by this, as the Lord's application of it shows. His government is over sinner and saint alike; and He is the same with sinner and saint in His unchanging reprobation of sin. Communion can only be in the holiness and love of the divine nature; and through all degrees of resemblance to that which has been before us, the principle applies. "So also shall My heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother, from your hearts."

Section 5. (Matt. 19:1-15.)

Nature and the Kingdom of God.

In the fifth section the Lord shows to His disciples the relation of the Kingdom to what God as the Creator had established for the blessing of man: an important matter, as to which, it is evident, there would be need of instruction; as also the history of the professing Church has made manifest how easily the mind can get astray. Here was One who had declared Himself Lord of the sabbath, and revoked with His emphatic, "But I say unto you" the sayings of ancient days. It might naturally be questioned, how the new relationships which He had proclaimed would affect those of nature. He had bidden one whom He had called to "leave the dead to bury their dead," as called into a new sphere and power of life. It was necessary to show whether and how far nature was to have a place in the Kingdom of God; and the two questions of marriage and of children are such as would throw light upon this.

In the epistles, and with the advance of knowledge as to Christian place and privilege, such things had to be expanded and given practical application also; and it is significant that it is in those two of Paul's epistles in which the position of the believer is shown at its highest (Ephesians and Colossians) in which the duties arising from natural relationships are insisted on in the fullest way.

1. (1) Here it is the Pharisees who bring up the question of marriage, or of its obligation, in order, as it has been reasonably conjectured, to seek to involve Him in the disputes between the rabbinical schools of Hillel and Shammai, who were at issue as to divorce. The question; "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" seems indeed to refer to the opinions of the former, who went as far as to decide that a wife spoiling her husband's dinner was cause enough. But in answer the Lord goes further than Shammai himself, and removing all that man had in the meantime obscured it with, finds His argument in the institution of marriage at the beginning, ― an argument which strikes at polygamy, as well as the loose holding of the marriage tie, and brings us beyond all that has come in with sin; to the first design of the Creator for His creatures.

He had made them male and female, each adapted for the other, each completed by the other; and had said as to what the union implied, "they two shall be one flesh." Two, and only two, are spoken of, as with Adam and his wife at first, where neither polygamy nor divorce could be thought of; and "one flesh" would make either polygamy or divorce abomination. Man's own voice, before sin had beclouded the mind, thus had given utterance to what the Lord speaks of as a divine utterance: for God and man were then at one. He who with true insight had before named the beasts and found among them all no helpmeet, spoke now in the joyful discernment of that helpmeet found.

(2) They have their objection from the law ready: "Why then did Moses command to give her a writing of divorcement and to put her away?" But they did not apprehend aright either Moses or themselves; and their argument is turned against them in the simplest manner: "Moses, for the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so." It was Moses himself who was furnishing the evidence, and what an evidence, of their own condition! The law, which was "weak through the flesh," could not perfect anything because of the resistance to it of a carnal people. That which they objected proved but at the same time their own evil and the hopelessness of it under law. And He turns upon them with one of those imperial sayings which put aside all power of resistance as with the lightning-flash of truth: "And I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife except for fornication, and shall marry another committeth adultery; and whoso marrieth her that is put away committeth adultery."

One cause alone is permitted for divorce; and that where the bond of marriage has already been broken through. Where not so justified, another marriage on the side of husband or of wife is but adultery. Courts of law may legalize adultery of this sort, if they will, but they cannot sanctify it, or take away the brand which the Lord here puts upon it. How evident that the grace of Christianity is as far as possible from laxity! ― that law is more tolerant here than grace can be. But the palliatives of law were only the proof that it could not heal; grace will not palliate, because it heals.

This, let us remember however, is the abstract right of the matter ― binding of course, as such, with all the authority that the Lord's words can give it upon every one of His own. He does not pursue it further, nor consider the complications that may arise in a world such as this which knows Him not, and where His people may be entangled with alliances with the unbelieving, or followed by the consequences of their conduct before conversion. This manifestly belongs rather to what concerns the discipline of the Church, and we shall find the principles applying to it in their place in the epistles. It will be the proper place, therefore, to consider them there, though for the help of souls a few words here may be in place.

We are all born in sin, and go astray naturally from the womb, except as the grace of God may prevent this. When converted to God we may have spent a large part of our lives in disobedience; the effects of which are not necessarily removed by our conversion. With the truest desire to do so, it may be absolutely impossible to return to the position in which we were before the sin was committed. Thus the Lord has Himself decided in the case of a divorced wife, after marriage to another, even though death has dissolved the newer relationship. For the former husband then to take her back again is declared to be an "abomination" to Him (Deut. 24:4); and no change of dispensation can affect what is clearly grounded in nature itself, as an ordinance of the God of nature. Hence restoration to a past state may be, and will commonly be, where divorce has taken place, a thing impracticable. We have but to accept things as they are, and rejoice in the mercy that has blotted out the past, and enables us to start afresh, with Him.

Again, there are cases in which separation may be a necessity or allowable, where divorce could not be according to God; separation leaving yet room for the mercy of God to come in and restore; and this door the apostle opens in Corinthians (1 Cor. 7:15), not too widely. Divorce he does not touch: for the Lord has decided there.

(3) To return now to our text: the disciples show out now the state of their own hearts. "If the case of the man with his wife be so," they say, "it is not good to marry." And the Lord replies: "Not all have capacity for this,* but those to whom it has been given." The word of God having pronounced from the beginning, to which our Lord has been referring us, that it is not good for man to be alone," we cannot expect that the gift to abide alone will be other than exceptional. Christianity leaves the general truth unaffected, while it may and does give power over nature where special circumstances call for this. Nature itself has imposed this necessity upon some: the cruelty of men has imposed it upon others. But the Kingdom of heaven, as a motive in the heart, may lift men above all necessity, and enable them to take this place freely. How different a thought, however, from the selfishness which had just spoken out in the disciples, and of which their Master takes no further notice. The shining of the light sufficiently reveals the darkness which it displaces.

{*"This of which ye speak," — logos being here used for the "matter of speech." The common translation here and in ver. 12 does not seem to me to give the sense: for what saying is it that all men are "not able to receive"? Certainly the Lord does not mean to agree with what they have said, that "it is not good to marry," and as certainly does not mean to apologize for the non-reception of what He has just so emphatically stated. The single state is, of course, what all have not the gift for. Choreo means both to "have room," and to "make room for;" and to "make room for oneself," so "to advance, go forward."}

2. We pass on to a different scene, and a far happier one, though still to find the painful contrast between the Master and the disciples. It is in this case so much the more so, as He has already declared the spirit of His Kingdom by the example of one of these little children who are now brought to Him, that He may put His hands on them and pray." But they seem full of nothing but of His dignity as a Rabbi, in which they found also, without doubt, their own. Of what use to bring such mere babes to Him? But the Lord answers their rebuke Himself by bidding them place Him higher in their thoughts, and recognize what the parents here more truly apprehended in Him, ― the ― the power which had all within its absolute control, the love which wielded this power. To put His hands on them and pray: would this be barren? In the Kingdom of God in Israel had there been no place for babes? And now that heaven was manifesting itself, and the Father's name being declared, in the Kingdom of heaven was there to be no place for babes? Yes; emphatically yes: for "of such" it was, and of no others. If men had to become like babes to enter it, the spirit of the babe was the very spirit of the Kingdom; and who should shut them out? "Suffer the little children," He says, "to come unto Me, and forbid them not; for of such is the Kingdom of heaven. And He laid His hands on them, and departed thence."

It is to be observed, however, that Matthew excludes, what Mark and Luke both record, the Lord's words as to moral resemblance. The latter is not here the point, but the place with Him of little children themselves, the answer to the heart's affections, given of God Himself, to those who are manifestly put in their weakness and need, to be nurtured, trained, reared amid the contrary influences of the world, to be for the glory of Him whose they are, while in it. How gracious and comforting is the assurance then, that we may come in the confession of our weakness to Him who is Lord of all, though yet the world does not own Him, and in faith still put our little ones into His hand, assured of His reception of them, and that He recognizes them, not as part of the outside world, but as subjects of His Kingdom and disciples in His school. Here is our warrant and encouragement to "bring them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4), expecting from Him the grace of the Spirit, which alone can make it effectual. For the word abides for us, if we do not through our unbelief make it barren, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (Acts 16:31).

The Kingdom of heaven was not yet come: it is only at the end of this Gospel and after His resurrection that we find the Lord announcing all authority as given to Him in heaven and on earth (Matt. 18:18). The words are, therefore, anticipative of that time, and perpetuate the value for us of His action here.

Section 6. (Matt. 19:16 ― 20:16.)

Human limitation, and how overcome.

The sixth section shows us man in his creature place, limited necessarily because of this, but still more as fallen and in his sins; but it shows us also how God, who alone can; overcomes for him the straitness of his condition, and brings him out (as the psalmist says) into a large place.

This is developed in two ways, which are in beautiful connection, while yet very different: as regards the salvation of the sinner, and as regards the reward of a saint. For rewards there are, in which divine love sovereignly displays itself, for they are "mercy" (2 Tim. 1:18) and not a claim of right; as the Lord has emphatically taught us to say, when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants: we have done but that which it was our duty to do.

Creature merit is thus impossible, ― a doctrine which destroys at once not only the supererogatory works and merits of the saints as Rome teaches them, but very much else held quite outside of Rome; while it makes eternal life for the sinner (such as we all are) only possible to grace.

But, alas! we are as naturally self-righteous, as we are absolutely without the least true claim to righteousness. If we will look around, we may quite easily find the Pharisee in the felon's coat; and nearer still, in our own hearts, the spirit of Pharisaism ready to spring out from under the shadow of the Cross itself; its God-ordained condemnation.

Here we have the beginning and the end of it, as we may say, the self-assertion of the sinner and of the saint; and in the last case creeping, if it might be, into heaven itself in the abuse of the truth as to rewards. In the glimpse of heaven which immediately follows we shall have at last a scene from which it will be perfectly and forever banished. The victory of divine grace over us will then be fully accomplished.

1. We begin here with a question addressed to the Lord, not, as so often, by one tempting or caviling, but, on the contrary, earnestly seeking the way of life: "Teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?"

It is "what good thing:" he does not doubt at all that some good thing is what is needed. Too many are on that road to allow him to doubt its being the right one. At the same time he is conscious of a lack, — not self-satisfied, and yet, as we see directly, with no conviction of sin; no thought of inability to attain his goal, if only the means were pointed out to him. Yet there were many instructors on such points whom he must, with the anxiety that he has, have sought out, but had not gained satisfaction from them. He confesses himself ignorant of the way of life, and has confidence, as it seems, that Christ can teach him. All this is encouraging, and yet he is on the broad way still with the multitude (no sign for good, that) and expecting God to give eternal life to the doer of "some good thing."

The Lord meets him, therefore, where he is: not as we might have expected, perhaps, with the gospel and the declaration of His grace, for he has as yet no need of grace. Law must do its work with him, for "by the law is the knowledge of sin." Yet He does, at the same time, intimate the result, and so had the law itself done with its unrent veil, Cod in the darkness, ― whether men realized it or not: witness and warning on God's part can never be wanting, and so here: "Why askest thou Me about that which is good? there is One good," and only One.

That blocks the way for the legalist entirely; which yet in a sense the Lord opens directly, that one who must learn by experience may do so: "but if thou desirest to enter into life, keep the commandments."

There was nothing fresh to be pointed out as to such a path. The law had long since precisely defined every thing, and not left men to search for some good thing additional or other than this. It is true they had not found life in this way, and hence resulted the uneasiness that prompted such inquiries as that of the young man now. But the law had nevertheless precisely defined all the good required: "the man that doeth these things shall live in them." True, "that which was" thus the way "to life, I found to be to death," says the apostle; and so will all true experience find it, a "ministration of death" (2 Cor. 3:7), ― the very thing man needs to shut him up to the grace of God in Christ.

But the young man has not received this ministration of death: he had no "sentence of death in himself, that he should not trust in himself, but God that raiseth the dead." He was unsatisfied; the light of God was not on his path, ― that he knew. There was no burden of sin to be lifted. He lacked, but confessedly knew not what he lacked. How many are in just such a condition! rich, and comfortably able to thank God for that; ignorant of such trials as even a Job had to learn before the depths of his heart could be made known to him, but, like him, not at rest. As to "commandments," which did the Master mean? The Lord tests him by the second table of the law, the human side, summing it all up in "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." But he is with Saul of Tarsus, "touching the righteousness which is in the law blameless." There is no shadow upon the honest face with which he turns to Him he is questioning, with the assertion; "All these have I kept; what lack I yet?" And then the bolt falls for him out of a summer sky: "If thou wouldst be perfect, sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

People ask, how could the Lord make that the condition of eternal life for him? But it was the law that had made that necessary which would have made this easy ― that he should love his neighbor as himself: and this he had declared he actually did. Why not, then; sell what he had, and give to the poor? Would it be more to him than giving it back to himself, to give to the neighbor whom he loved as himself?

Evidently the Lord is but searching out a heart that sorely needed it. He does not make it a condition of eternal life; for that is a gift which He Himself had come to acquire for us; but He speaks to the young man according to the character which he professed; adding to it that tender assurance of a heart open to him, which was ready to give him a place among His followers and intimates. "Jesus, beholding him, loved him," says Mark in connection with these very words. And this love, may we not hope, might, even spite of present failure, wake up to consciousness of its condition the heart that could now, alas! turn from it, though grieved, to enjoy in its now exposed selfishness its "great possessions."

2. But of this we have no knowledge. The Lord makes use of this case now to impress upon His disciples the difficulty, nay, the impossibility, of a rich man entering into the Kingdom of God. The camel may more easily pass through a needle's eye, He says; and we must leave these words in all their simplicity, ― the thing completely passes nature. The camel is, no doubt, the suited figure of one burdened with his possessions, after the manner of the young man here. The things of the world thus claim and control the natural man; and how often is their influence seen upon one who is through grace a Christian! Only the almighty grace of God can change this, that is, can change the nature of man; and so, when in dismay the disciples ask, "Who then can be saved?" the Lord assures them, salvation is not of self, but of God.

3. The question of Peter cannot but suggest how readily in a saint also the spirit of self-seeking can intrude into the most sacred themes and places. The Lord's answer perfectly recognizes and provides for this, which comes out presently in a more offensive form in the other two of His most privileged disciples. But we may be thankful for that which exposes what is our own need as well as theirs, and has been the occasion of such an answer to it as we find here.

"Peter answered and said unto Him, Behold, we have left all and followed Thee: what shall we have then? And Jesus said unto them, Verily, I say unto you, that ye who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." This is found only in Luke and in this Gospel, and in perfect suitability with the character of it. It shows us how literally the reign of the saints with Christ is to be taken; and in the term "regeneration" applied to the millennial Kingdom presents an instructive parallel between the work of God in the individual and in the world at large. That these are, in fact, in correspondence with one another, the first chapter of Genesis has already made us fully aware (see notes). The only other place in which we find this word "regeneration" (paliggenesia) is in the epistle to Titus (Titus 3:5) and it is there applied to the individual state: "according to His mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost." In the present state of the world sin not only dwells, but reigns; in the coming Kingdom sin exists but reigns no longer, as in the soul that has truly bowed Christ; then comes the change of the heavens and earth, as for the saint the bodily change into His likeness; and so finally for each, sin neither reigns nor exists. Thus there is a complete parallel between the ways of God in grace with the individual and with the world at large, a unity which is the stamp of the perfect workmanship of the One God in every sphere of His working, whatever may be the variety also which testifies to His infinite resources.

The Lord goes on to assure us that His love can forget nothing of whatever any disciple of His may have renounced for His name. He shall receive a hundredfold and inherit everlasting life. These distinctive rewards, whatever may be the blessing in them, we must remember always to keep apart from what is the common portion of believers, which it is good to realize, as being simply the fruit of Christ's work for us, must be by far more blessed than anything which even in divine mercy can be accorded to our own. The place of children with God, of membership in the body of Christ, ― these and such things as these are to us the fruit of divine grace alone, and have nothing whatever to do with reward of our work. This is so simple that there should be no need even of mentioning it; and yet many Christians confound, more or less, things so different as these; as even the "many mansions" of our Father's house have been taken to imply different degrees of reward, and to put the children of God at various degrees of distance from their Father, ― the very thing which assuredly is most opposite to the Lord's intention of comfort in it. But, in fact, the legality of the human heart is such as to make the whole matter of reward require the most jealous guarding from abuse; and this the Lord proceeds now to supply in the parable which follows here.

4. The meaning of the parable is given both at the beginning and the close; so earnestly is it pressed upon us. We must not allow ourselves to be carried away from this by any supposed demand of special features, as to which we are cautioned here in the same way as in the case of the previous parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18:23). There it is "a man; a king"; here, "a man, a householder." In the application we are bidden to remember that we must distinguish between the ways of men and the ways of God, even where the one may be taken to illustrate the other. God certainly does not "hire" laborers after the manner of men; where work in His vineyard is in question; but this is human misunderstanding of His way. The prodigal still afar off may talk of the "hired servants" of his father's house; but we are not to take this as a representation of the actual truth. And the very design of the parable here is to warn us by the issue against such perversions. It would seem, therefore, plain that to seek to interpret everything in it as if it stood for absolute truth would be to fall in measure into the very misconceptions from which it is intended to deliver us.

(1) The agreement with the laborers illustrates but the legality of souls who so misconstrue the Lord's gracious recompense of what is done for Him. Just so far as this is made the end for which we labor, it is clear that the character of what is done is deteriorated, and its value to Him lost. We are living to ourselves, the misery from which divine grace has delivered those that are Christ's.

We are not, therefore, to conceive of this either, as if any child of God could be a mere hireling. The principle, given broadly in the parable, is by this means put before us in its proper repulsiveness, and the picture is an ideal one solely. Were we to take it as literally exact, we should have to imagine God giving in the day of recompense some stipulated measure of reward to those who have worked for it; which, whether it were saint or sinner, would be positive error. Recognizing it as ideal only, the lesson remains, and with no perplexity.

(2) In those who are called to labor at various hours in the day, we find the thought of a stipulated agreement more and more given up, and those who go into the vineyard becoming correspondingly more dependent upon the goodness of the householder to give to them as he sees fit. To those called at the third hour it is simply said, "Whatsoever is just I will give you." At the sixth and ninth hours, "what is just" becomes a more and more slender hope. In the case of those at the eleventh hour, nothing seems to be said of this at all:* they are left entirely to the owner of the vineyard to give as he please, or not.

{*Though some ancient MSS. add a similar clause but the oldest and the drift of the parable are against it.}

(3) At the end of the day, the laborers are called and paid; and then those called at the eleventh hour receive a whole day's wages. Of those called at the intermediate hours we are told nothing, but it is implied that they all receive the same: for when the first come, expecting to receive more, they also are paid every one a penny. From this some have deduced the doctrine of an equality of reward for all; but that is not the doctrine of Scripture; and the rewards here are plainly according to the moral of the parable given to us, that the "first shall be last and the last first:" which again is not equality.

(4) It is the first alone who murmur: it would be impossible for any of the rest, one would say, to do so; for they are all, in fact, overpaid. Ah, were we not, how little would we any of us receive! In the day of reward will there be a legalist found to murmur against the amount of his recompense? Surely, not one; all is again only ideal here. And yet even the first can only complain that they have not received more than they bargained for.

(5) The answer of the householder to one of those that murmur brings before us the conditions which have determined that result of which they now so foolishly complain. They cannot say they have not received what they contracted for. They had got what was just; grace they had not trusted nor sought: how can they complain that to those who were dependent upon it it has been shown? ― and indeed in the measure in which they were dependent.

For them it was a matter of bounty, not of right; for the giver of it, had he not the right to be bountiful? What I am entitled to must be measured by what I am; what grace shall give can only be measured by what God is. Human measure and divine! put it at the best you can for man, what a difference here!

The more we think of our service, the less must we think of Him to whom the service is done; the more we imagine claim, the less must His grace appear: that the first should thus be last is absolutely simple. Think of it as the Lord once put it, a supper at which the guests take their places as they estimate themselves. No one here, however, says to another, "Give this man place." They are permitted to assign to themselves just the rank they claim. Only, when the King comes in to take His own place among the guests, He takes it at the opposite end of the table from that which they imagined! Then; of course, "the first is last and the last is first;" and yet their places are decided by their own self-measurement.

"For many are the called," says the Lord in closing, "but few the chosen ones:" words which here tell us that among the guests few are they that are according to His mind indeed. Alas! how slow we are indeed in the true judgment of self! how difficult is it for divine grace to obtain full possession of us!

Section 7. (Matt. 20:17-28.)

The perfection of the kingdom.

The seventh section; in close connection with the last, gives us a gleam of the glory of the Kingdom which displays its moral perfection; in contrast with all the kingdoms of men. The spirit of the disciples also is shown out in contrast with the spirit of their Lord, and their painful misconception of all that constitutes true glory. But it is upon the Lord Himself that the eye rests here, who is the Light and Glory, as of the heavenly City so of the earth in the blessing that it soon shall know. And with this, suitably, this fourth division of the Gospel closes.

1. We have first the Lord going up to Jerusalem, with the perfect consciousness of all that is before Him there. He takes the twelve apart in order to make known to them again what He would have them realize as to Him ― no unforeseen thing, but that for which He had come, and to which He had devoted Himself. He knew every bitter ingredient in that cup which He was going to drink: the betrayal, the condemnation by the heads of the people ― His own their delivering Him to the Gentiles, the mockery, the scourging, the crucifixion. Of all this He speaks to them, adding the blessed comfort of His resurrection also, on the third day. Mark tells us of the fear that had already fallen upon them in the way; Luke, that nevertheless they understood none of these things, but that this saying was hidden from them. No doubt, all this went together. They were dazed and stupefied with the apprehension of a great sorrow which they had no courage to face nor take in. Matthew simply speaks of the Lord's making it known to them, putting this in sharpest contrast with the appeal of the sons of Zebedee with their mother which follows next, and which shows so perfectly in which direction they were looking at that time, ― how quickly they had rallied from the unwelcome announcement of the Cross, to comfort themselves with that which, true as it was, they were soon to show they little apprehended. The glory itself they would find morally conditioned by that Cross of which it was the outcome, and from which they turned away.

2. After the will of the Master, therefore, ― a will in which self-seeking had no place, ― we come to the lust of the disciple, to see how the most precious truths can be distorted by the mirror that reflects them, were it a James and a John, the nearest intimates of the Lord on earth, who furnish the mirror. How jealous should we be of ourselves, lest we should pervert what we imagine we but receive, and turn our blessing into loss and shame!

Nature is leading here, as is evident; the mother of Zebedee's sons is a witness to us of how our natural relationships need to be watched and not suffered to intrude into the things of God. We see in the Lord's case how He refuses all control of this kind, as we see in the Popish doctrine how readily, if allowed, it will come in. "Say that these my two sons may sit, the one on Thy right hand, the other on Thy left hand, in Thy kingdom."

But the way of the Cross from which they have turned is the way of glory: "Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of The moment it presents itself to them as a personal gain, they are ready. The Lord answers, "Ye shall indeed drink of My cup; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, except to those for whom it is prepared of My Father."

He is the perfect Servant all the way through; just because ― "Serving in the joy of love."

In exaltation and in lowest humiliation; the Father's will rules for Him ― is all to Him. We have the wonderful example, in One perfect in wisdom and in goodness, of how service is the characteristic sign of love. In Him in whom all is absolute freedom, there is never a thought of anything but the Father's will. To us, what a commendation of it! What a bond of perfection for the universe will it be in all eternity, the Son of God in manhood, Himself "subject to Him who put all things under Him"!

3. But the indignation of the ten at the two brethren shows their kinship with them morally. And now the Lord lets them see their common error, and the true glory of that Kingdom which they had been thinking of as if it were but like a kingdom of the nations. What! did they imagine that in His Kingdom there would be the gratification of ambition, of the desire for lordship? or that the places of rule with Him could be such as this would imply? No: for service was the road to rule, and this could only be because rule itself would be but more ample service. Whosoever would be great among them would be their minister, and the chief among them by that very fact be but bound to serve them. Must it not be plain that the Son of man; the King, "came not to be ministered unto but to minister"? Glory might change the character of this service ― not the spirit nor the fact of it. The Cross might be lowest humiliation for Him, but it was His glory too. Could they cease to remember it? Could the love shown there be measured by aught else? Could it change or be exhausted? Would He be upon the Throne to be ministered unto or to minister? What must the places of rule be in the Kingdom of which He would be the King!